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Sicilian poet, b. at Palermo, 4 March, 1740, d. 20 Dec., 1815. He was the son of a goldsmith of Spanish origin, and received his first education from the Jesuits. He afterwards studied natural science and medicine, and practised as a physician in the hamlet of Cinisi and later at Palermo itself, where for nineteen years he held the chair of chemistry at the university. Towards the end of his life he took minor orders. In childhood he had been let to poetry by reading Ariosto, and in poetical exposition founded relief from domestic unhappiness. His poems are written in the Sicilian dialect, and as a vernacular poet of this kind he has no rival in Italian literature. His longer works, "La Fata Galanti", "Don Chisciotti e Sanciu Panza", "L'origini di lu Munnu", are fantastic poems in ottava rima in imitation of Berni. The "Buccolica", eclogues and idylls of the four seasons of the year, is full of Sicilian colour, and has won him the title of "the modern Theocritus". Meli was a staunch supporter of the Bourbon regime, and among his lyrics "Anacreontiche" and "Odi", is an ode in honour of Nelson, which however, he is said to have suppressed after the latter's execution of the Neapolitan patriots. His last work, the "Favuli morali" is a collection of Esopian fables in verse with an underlying allegorical or satirical meaning.
Opere di GIOVANNI MELI (Palermo, 1857); La Buccolica, la Lirica, le Satire, e l'Elegie di GIOVANNI MELI ridotte dal sicilano in italiano da AGNOSTO GALLO (Salerno, 1858); NAVANTARI, Studio critico su Giovanni Meli (Palermo, 1904).
Edmund G. Gardner