Niccolò Còsmico (c. 1420 – 1500) was an Italian humanist and poet. Born Niccolò Lelio Della Comare in Padua, Còsmico spent his life moving from court to court; he lived in Milan, then Rome (where he had links with Pomponio Leto's academy), Florence, Mantua and Ferrara before returning to Padua, where he eventually died. He became famous among his contemporaries for playful compositions in Italian and Latin. Today he is considered only a minor author; critics judge that his (heterosexual) love poetry does not move past a Petrarchian style. They think more highly, however, of Còsmico's humorous verses in kitchen Latin.
Contemporaries accused Còsmico of sodomy, especially in an anonymous series of Italian sonnets, ‘In Cosmicum patavinum’ (partially published under the name of Antonio Cammelli, ‘Il Pistoia’, from 1436 to 1502). The author, who wrote during Còsmico's stay in Ferrara, placed the blame on the poet for the declining birthrate in the city: ‘Don't be surprised if few children / nowadays are born in Ferrara; / there is Còsmico who corners all human seed / and he looks like amusing himself in swallowing it. / No other food was ever so agreeable to him: / he likes it very much through his mouth and even more through his arse. / … / Nature is ashamed and always weeps / for bearing such an Anfisbena [a mythical snake with a head at each end], who devours her seed with two mouths’. Vittorio Rossi has also published an anonymous Latin epigram in which Còsmico is accused of sodomising the kitchen-Latin poet Tifi Odasi.
Such accusations might be considered part of a stock of insults which quarrelsome humanists habitually exchanged with each other had not Còsmico himself spoken about his homosexual experiences in a remarkably frank fashion. Thus in a long Latin composition, ‘Ad Adrastum puerum’ (‘ To the Boy Adrastus’), Còsmico addresses a black youth (perhaps the slave whom Lorenzo the Magnificent asked him to return to him in a 1483 letter). He declares that the colour of the youth's skin does not mar his beauty and pleads with Adrastus to give in to his advances, without worrying about his age, because many serious philosophers (such as Plato) also loved youths at their advanced age. In another poem, ‘Ad Ianum’ (‘ To Janus’), remarkable for its hushed and intimate tone, he addresses his former lover Janus; the poem begins with the words, ‘Janus, my crime certainly can be barely excused: / having lain with you so many nights, so many days’. (Both poems are published in Rossi.)
Còsmico's works remain partly unexplored, especially in terms of their homosexual aspects. It is hoped that further research will bring to light more insight on his life and poetry.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE