DEL MONTE, CRESCENZO (1868–1935), Italian poet. Del Monte, who first wrote sonnets in Romanesco, the patois of his native Rome, also composed poems in the judeo-italian dialect. His aim was to preserve the folklore and language of a Jewish world that had begun to crumble after the abolition of the ghetto and the Jewish emancipation of 1870. Del Monte's sonnets resemble an impressionistic painting of the everyday life of the Roman ghetto in the 19th century, and portray the patriarchal life, religion, and superstitions of these "Romans more ancient than the Romans of today." He successfully conveyed the vitality and everyday speech of these Jews in verse notable for its powerful expression and nostalgia. His love for their dialect led Del Monte to investigate the philology of Judeo-Italian, with which he had become emotionally and artistically involved. On the assumption that Judeo-Italian constituted an early stage of the Italian language and that, unlike the Roman dialect, it had preserved the medieval character of the language, its ancient vocabulary and Latin structure, Del Monte reconstructed its grammar. He sought in the Roman prose of the 14th–17th centuries words and expressions which corresponded to those that he had used in his own poems. In this original philological research Del Monte came close to the poet Frédéric Mistral, who sought to revive Provençal. Recent studies indicate, however, that the language spoken by the Jews of Rome originated in southern Italy. Del Monte's sonnets are, nevertheless, of philological importance because of their linguistic richness. They were published in two volumes, Sonetti Giudaico-Romaneschi (1927) and Nuovi sonetti Giudaico-Romaneschi (1933). The second volume contains a Judeo-Italian grammar as well as extracts from the old Roman dialect and their translation into Judeo-Italian. A third and posthumous volume, Sonetti postumi Giudaico-Romaneschi e Romaneschi (1955), includes sonnets written in the Roman dialect and an introduction by the renowned philologist B. Terracini. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Terracini, in: RMI, 21 (1955), 499–506. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Del Monte, "Un centenario da non dimenticare; Crescenzo Del Monte, poeta romano," in: RMI, 35 (1969), 123–35; B. Garvin, "Crescenzo del Monte; poet of the Roman ghetto," in: JQ, 7:2–3 (1979), 24–27; I. Di Nepi, "Roma e una sola e te lo dico: Crescenzo Del Monte," in: Shalom, 22 (1989), 43; M. Mancini, "Crescenzo Del Monte e il giudeo-romanesco," in: Roma e Lazio (1992), 203–7; idem, "Sulla formazione dell'identita linguistica giudeo-romanesca fra tardo medioevo e rinascimento," in: Roma nel Rinascimento (1993), 53–122; M. Mazzocchi Alemanni, "I "Sonetti giudaico-romaneschi" di Crescenzo Del Monte," in: Italia Judaica, 4 (1993), 327–35; S. Debenedetti Stow, "I sonetti di Crescenzo Del Monte," in: Appartenenza e differenza. Ebrei d'Italia e Letteratura (1998), 33–42. (Joseph Baruch Sermoneta)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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