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X Agosto and the unsolved murder that haunted one of the most beloved Italian poet

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In the countryside of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, About 20 km from the Adriatic Sea, near the town of Cesena, a mosaic horse marks an unsolved 19th-century murder.
The artwork, made from enameled Venetian glass pieces, stands near a narrow rural road which runs right alongside the highway that cuts through a patchwork of tilled farmland, auto wrecking yards, industrial chicken hatcheries, and even centuries-old estates.
It commemorates the assassination of Ruggero Pascoli, father of Italy’s celebrated poet, Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912).
Ruggero was gunned down on this place on August 10, 1867, as he rode home to San Mauro in a horse-drawn carriage, and the man behind this crime was never brought to justice.
The gray mare pulling the carriage, following the murder, continued along what was then a dirt road, arriving at the family’s residence with the corpse and two dolls, gifts intended for her daughters, Giovanni’s sisters, who was not even 12 when his father was killed.
But it this wasn’t enough, over the next few years, he also lost his mother and three of his seven siblings.
The resulting trauma helped to define the poet himself.

In fact to Giovanni, who went on to prestigious teaching positions, the family deaths felt like an expanding universe with the initial loss of his father at its core, and his grief moved ever outward, influencing his creativity.
In 2017, to mark the 150th anniversary of Ruggero’s assassination, students from the Ravenna Academy of Fine Arts created the mosaic monument as a visual interpretation of Giovanni’s two most anthologized poems: “X agosto” (“The Tenth of August”) and “La cavalla storna” (“The Dappled Gray Mare”).
The memorial depicts the mare looking backward in contemplative fashion against a nighttime sky, and the image then becomes fragmented, disintegrating into the darkness.
A shattered carriage wheel suggests the broken cycles of life evoked in the poems.
Various civic and private institutions pooled their resources to make the monument a reality.
Giovanni Pascoli’s hometown of San Mauro Pascoli—renamed for him in 1932—teamed up with Accademia Pascoliana, a local scholarly organization dedicated to his poetry.
As the murder took place near what’s now the municipalities of Longiano and Sogliano al Rubicone, representatives from those governments also participated in the initiative, which helped solicit additional funds and sponsors.
Beside the mosaic a plaque includes two of the poems by Pascoli that inspired its design.

In Italy, August 10 is celebrated as the Feast of San Lorenzo, or the night of the shooting stars.
Even today, particularly in cities with ties to Giovanni Pascoli, people often recite “X agosto” on that day.
In the poem, the poet compares the horse’s arrival, bringing his father’s corpse and the dolls, with a swallow being shot while delivering food to its young.
Tension develops between the microcosm of intimate loss and the macrocosm of the universe.
Crying stars flood the sky and profound questions about the nature of evil remain unanswered.
Also “La cavalla storna,” a more rhythmic poem, relates the story of Ruggero’s murder, yet in more explicit detail.
In a refrain known to millions of Italians, Giovanni Pascoli’s mother speaks to the mare: “Oh cavallina, cavallina storna, you who carried the one who will not return.”
As cars zoom past on the highway, the mosaic stands as a monument both to a murdered man and to the ability of his son, Giovanni Pascoli, to transform grief into poetry.
He never recovered from his father’s death, but he made his life and his work a monument to it in many different ways, and on many different levels.

Images from web – Google Research

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