Although Leopardi is merely a nineteenth century ""name"" to most, he is, after Dante and Petrarch, Italy's greatest poet. Very little of his work has heretofore been available in English, so the collection under review, a highly representative sampler, constitutes an important publishing event. A penurious aristocrat, an asthmatic hunchback, dead at thirty-nine, Leopardi epitomized the deepest gloom of the Romantic era and its most melancholy yearning for the ultimo orizzonte, the farthest horizon, the magical liberation of thought and feeling. Lucretius, Pascal, Holderlin, perhaps Proust--these are the doleful geniuses with whom he can be compared. The poetry is musical yet austere, a ""landscape transfigured by moonlight,"" contemplative, grieving, fatalistic, but charged with a paradoxical life-giving sensuosity, the poignancy of remembered innocence as well as the crippling betrayals of manhood. John Heath-Stubbs' translations, while faithfully rendering message and imagery, follow neither the beautiful rhyme schemes nor adequately convey, the lyric cadence, without which a good deal of Leopardi, alas, sounds somewhat trite. The selections from the Zibaldone and other prose works are ample and excellently phrased, a remarkable record of an inventive, sharp, aphoristic mind, full of brilliant philosophical dialogues and startling ideas.