Poet, playwright and man of letters born in Palermo, after studying philosophy and medicine Meli worked as a doctor in Cinisi (Palermo) -where he was called “Abbot Meli” because dressed as a priest without having received the priestly orders. It was during this early period of his life that he discovered the bucolic poets and the poetic worth of his native Sicilian which he used thereafter in all of his literary works.
Meli was considered one of the so-called “four little crowns”, together with Carlo Porta , Carlo Goldoni , Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (to be attached to the “triple crown” of classic Italian literature of Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio). He reached fame all over Italy. His style was a personal interpretation of the classic canons with the addition of Sicilian as his language of expression.
His poetic debut, which happened when he was only fifteen years old, was so appreciated by the exclusive and demanding circle of literati in Palermo that a he was nominated as member of the “Academia del Bon Gusto” (Academy of the Good Taste), a circle of literary members where people gathered to recite verses and debate on cultural issues. Mali gradually moved up to more exclusive and fashionable circles of nobility. Celebrity arrived in 1762 with the poem “La Fata Galatea” (The Gallant Fairy) in which Meli imagines to meet a fairy, allegorical figure of the imagination, who suggests him, in the form of mythological tales, philosophical/social issues.
His first published piece, La Bucolica (1766-1772), inspired by “Arcadia” of Jacopo Sannazaro, was written while he was still working as a doctor in Cinisi. He returned to Palermo soon after, already widely known as a scientist and poet. He dedicated the rest of his life to both collecting works of Sicilian poetry, but most importantly, writing and publishing his own works which were published in 1787 (five volumes), and 1814 (six volumes).
1. Wikipedia, https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Meli