~ language and poetry ~
- 5 -

GIUSEPPE GIOACHINO BELLI

sonnets

other subjects:

PRIESTS, FRIARS, POPES
AND THE CHURCH OF ROME


BIBLICAL THEMES



SOCIETY AND EVERYDAY'S LIFE
ER MORO DE PIAZZA NAVONA
LA PISCIATA PERICOLOSA
L'ADUCAZZIONE
LA PIGGION DE CASA
LI GALOPPINI
ER LOGOTENENTE
LA SCERTA
LA BOCCA DE-LA-VERITA'
ER COMMERCIO LIBBERO
LA DISPENZA DER MADRIMONIO
LE COSE CREATE
L'INNUSTRIA
L'ABBICHINO DE LE DONNE
LO SPAGGNOLO
ER CAFFETTIERE FISOLOFO
PIAZZA NAVONA
LI SORDATI BONI
RIFRESSIONE IMMORALE SUR CULISEO
PIAZZA NAVONA'S MOOR
THE DANGEROUS PEE
EDUCATION
THE RENT
THE SCROUNGERS
THE LIEUTENANT
THE CHOICE
THE MOUTH-OF-TRUTH
THE FREE TRADE
THE WEDDING LICENCE
THINGS THAT WERE CREATED
STRIVING
WOMEN'S ABACUS
THE SPANIARD
THE PHILOSOPHIZING BARMAN
PIAZZA NAVONA
THE GOOD SOLDIERS
MORAL REFLECTION ON THE COLOSSEUM


ER MORO DE PIAZZA-NAVONA

  Vedi ll cquela statua der Moro
c'arivorta la panza a Ssant'aggnesa?
Ebb, una vorta una Siggnora ingresa
la voleva dar Papa a ppeso d'oro.

  Ma er Zanto Padre e ttutto er conciastoro,
sapenno che cquer marmoro, de spesa,
costava pi zzecchini che nun pesa,
senza nemmanco valut er lavoro;

  je fece arrepric ddar Zenatore
come e cquarmente nun voleva venne
una funtana de quer gran valore.

  E cquell'ingresa che ppoteva spenne,
dicheno che cce morze de dolore:
lusciatti requia e scant'in pasce ammenne.

25 agosto 1830

PIAZZA NAVONA'S MOOR 1

  Can you see there that statue of a Moor
facing St.Agnes' church?
Well, once an English lady wanted to buy it
from the pope, for as much gold as it weighs.

  But the Holy Father and all the Concistory,
knowing that the marble alone
was worth more gold coins that its own weight,
without considering the work,

  had the Senator 2 reply to her
that he had no intention of selling
a fountain of such great value.

  And it is said that the English lady,
who could afford it, died of grief;
may she rest in peace, amen. 3

August 25th 1830

1. - The Fountain of the Moor is one of piazza Navona's three large ones (see the Fountains monograph).
2. - The Senators were the city's highest civil authorities.
3. - The speaker quotes the last verse of the Latin prayer for the dead: ...luceat eis, requiescant in pace; amen, corrupting the words according to how an average (uncultured) person would have pronounced them, not understanding them. Most common people knew prayers in Latin by heart, yet without understanding a single word of their meaning.


LA PISSCIATA PERICOLOSA

  Stavo a ppissci jjerzra ll a lo scuro
tra Mmadama Lugrezzia e ttra Ssan Marco,
quann'ecchete, affiarato com'un farco,
un sguizzero der Papa duro duro.

  De posta me fa sbatte er cazzo ar muro,
poi v llevamme er fongo: io me l'incarco:
e cco la patta in mano pijjo l'arco
de li tre-Rre, strillanno: vienghi puro.

  Me sentivo quer froscio d a le tacche
cor fiatone:  Tartaifel, sor paine,
pss, nun currete tante, ch ss stracche .

  Poi co mill'antre parole turchine
ciaggiontava: Vi cqu, ffijje te vacche,
che ppeveremo un pon picchier te vine .

Roma, 13 settembre 1830

THE DANGEROUS PEE

  Yesterday evening I was peeing in the dark
between Madam Lucretia and St.Mark, 1
when suddenly here comes a Swiss guard, 2
pouncing on me like a falcon, as harsh as ever.

  Suddenly, he made me bang my prick on the wall,
then he tried to take off my hat; I crammed it,
and holding the flap of my trousers, I flew past
the Three Kings Arch, crying: come and get me.

  I could hear that bloke 3 behind me saying
as he panted: Der Teufel! 4 Mr. Who-you-are,
hey, don't run so fast, I'm tired .

  And uttering a thousand incomprehensible words
he blubbered: Come here, son of a bitch,
we'll have a good glass of wine .

Rome, September 13th 1830

1. - Madam Lucretia is one of Rome's Talking Statues, located
next to St.Mark's basilica.
2. - By several churches, pope Leo XII had set a Swiss guard, who carried a halberd, so to maintain order inside, and prevent the mob from ...freeing theirselves outside.
3. - The word frocio comes from frogia ("nostril"), a nickname that northern people were addressed with, referring to the size of their nostrils, usually larger than those of an average Roman. Gradually, the meaning of the word changed into "fag", likely due to the higher frequency of homosexuality among northeners than among locals. The term is still commonly in use, and carries a disparaging meaning.
4. - Damn! (Literally: the devil!); the words spoken by the guard are a funny mixture of Roman dialect and German. Foreign languages such as French (spoken by Napoleon's soldiers), German (spoken by the Swiss guards), and English (spoken by many travellers) were commonly heard in Rome; in several sonnets Belli used an amusing linguistic blend that mimics the sound of the local dialect spoken by foreigners, or the sound of a foreign language reported by a local.


L'ADUCAZZIONE

  Fijjo, nun ribbart mmai Tata tua:
abbada a tt, nnun te f mmette sotto.
Si cquarchiduno te vi a dd un cazzotto,
l ccallo callo tu ddjjene dua.

  Si ppoi quarcantro porcaccio da ua
te sce fascessi un po' de predicotto,
dijje:  De ste raggione io me ne fotto;
iggnuno penzi a li fattacci sua .

  Quanno ggiuchi un bucale a mmora, o a bboccia,
bbevi fijjo; e a sta ggente bbuggiarona
nu ggnene f rrest mmanco una goccia.

  D'esse cristiano ppuro cosa bbona:
pe' cquesto hai da port ssempre in zaccoccia
er cortello arrotato e la corona.

Roma, 14 settembre 1830

EDUCATION

  My son, never do wrong to your dad,
take care of yourself, don't let yourself be subdued.
If someone ever hits you,
straight away, you hit him twice.

  And if any other bastard
tries to lecture you,
tell him: "I don't care a damn about these reasons:
let everybody mind his own business".

  When you bet a jug of wine playing morra 1 , or bowls,
drink, my son; and don't let these fools
be left a single drop.

  To be a Christian is another good thing:
for this reason always keep in your pocket
a sharpened knife and a rosary.

Rome, September 14th 1830

1. - Morra was a most popular game, in which two persons rapidly showed each other a number from 0 to 5 by using the fingers of one hand, and at the same time trying to guess the total by shouting it out. It was played both in taverns and in the streets. The game very often ended in a brawl.


LA PIGGION DE CASA

  Nun pi sbajj ssi vvi. Cqu ssu la dritta,
ner comincio der vicolo de Bbranca,
doppo tre o cquattro porte a mmanimanca
te vi in faccia una pietra tutta scritta.

  Svorta er collo tra ll'oste e ll'artebbianca
e ppropio attacc'a cquella casa sfitta
ll a ppianterreno sciabbita er zor Titta
er barbiere a l'inzeggna de la scianca.

  L'hai capito m adesso indove arresta?
Bbe', ddomatina tu vvcce a cquest'ora,
ch ll'ora lui de nun trovallo cquesta.

  Di':  C' er zor Titta?" – "No". – Tu ddijje allora:
 Disce zia che a ppag vi st'antra festa
ch gglieri lei lo rifasceva fora .

Roma, 19 novembre 1831

THE RENT

  You simply can't miss it. Here on the right,
at the beginning of Branca Lane,
three or four doors further, on the left
you'll come to a stone covered with inscriptions.

  Turn your head between the tavern and the grocery
and just by that vacant house,
there on the ground floor lives Mr.Titta, 1
the barber with the leg sign 2 .

  Have you understood where it is?
So tomorrow morning go there at this time,
because this is the right time not to find him.

  Ask: "Is there Mr.Titta?" – "No". – You then say:
"Auntie says she'll come to pay on the next holiday,
as she thought that yesterday he was still away".

Rome, November 19th 1831

1. - Titta is the roman nickname for Giovan Battista.
2. - Barbers used to have a leg on their shop sign, as a reminder that they also performed blood-lettings, and other minor surgery.


LI GALOPPINI

  Jeri; a la Pulinara, un colleggiale
doppo fatta una predica in todesco,
setacci tutt'er popolo in du' sale,
e a la ppi mmejjo vorze d er rifresco.

  In cuella fesce entracce er cardinale
co l'amichi der Micco e ppadron Fiesco;
e nnell'antra la ggente duzzinale
che vviaggia cor caval de san Francesco.

  Pe sta sala che cqu de li spedati
comincionno a ppass li cammorieri
pieni de sottocoppe de ggelati.

  Ma cche! a la sala delli cavajjeri
un cazzo ciarriv: ch st'affamati
se sparinno inzinenta li bicchieri.

Roma, 5 febbraio 1832

THE SCROUNGERS

  Yesterday, at St.Apollinare College, a collegiate
after giving a lecture in German, 1
divided all the people into two rooms,
and to those of higher rank he offered refreshments.

  He let in one room the cardinal,
together with Micco's and master Fieschi's friends; 2
and in the other one the cheap people
who travel on foot 3 .

  Through the room where the 'walkers' were,
waiters began to pass,
carrying lots of ice-cream cups.

  But alas! to the gentlemen's room
nothing arrived, as these spongers
swept away even the glasses.

Rome, February 5th 1832

1. - Actually, lectures were given in Latin, but to the common people any language except their own was incomprehensible, and barely made any difference.
2. - Two well-known carriage-hirers; the high class moved around the city by coach.
3. - Literally: "Who travel by St.Francis's horse", typical ironical roman expression which means "to go on foot, for poverty or need" (as St.Francis did).


ER LOGOTENENTE

  Come intese a cciarl der cavalletto,
presto io curze dar zor Logotenente.
 Mi' marito..., Eccellenza, un poveretto...
pe ccarit... cche nun ha ffatto ggnente .

  Disce:  Mttet'a ssede . Io me sce metto.
Lui cor un zenno manna via la ggente:
po' me s'accosta:  Dimme un po' ggrugnetto,
tu' marito lo vi reo o innoscente? 

   Innoscente , dich'io; e llui:  Sci ggusto ;
e detto-fatto cuer faccia d'abbreo
me schiaffa la man-dritta drent'ar busto.

  Io sbarzo in piede, e strillo:  Eh, sor cazzeo... .
E llui:  Fjjola, cuer ch' ggiusto ggiusto:
annate via: vostro marito rreo .

Roma, 6 novembre 1832

THE LIEUTENANT

  As soon as I heard about the caning 1
I hurried to the Lieutenant:
"Your Excellency, my husband is a poor fellow...
for goodness sake...he didn't do anything wrong".

  He says: "Sit down". I sit.
He waves the other people away:
then he comes close to me: "Now tell me, pretty face,
do you want your husband to be guilty or innocent?"

  "Innocent" I say; he says: "I'm glad";
and straight away that loathsome fellow 2
tucks his right hand inside my corset.

  I jump up, and shout: "Hey you fool..."
He says: "My dear, fair is fair:
go away: your husband is guilty".

Rome, November 6th 1832

1. - The 'cavalletto' (i.e. the "threstle") was a public caning, a judicial punishment which had recently replaced the more cruel 'corda' ("rope"), a tall pole used for roughly tugging up and down the culprit tied by his wrists, often causing the dislocation of his shoulder bones. Punishment threstles were raised in several main squares (see also Piazza Navona).
2. - Literally: "that Jewish face"; for Rome's commoners, non-Christians were not human beings, but simply 'Jews', 'Turks', 'Moors', etc., and harshly discriminated. Jewish face was a rather heavy insult.


LA SSCERTA

  Sta accus. La padrona cor padrone,
volenno marit la padroncina
je portonno davanti una matina,
pe sscejje, du' bbravissime perzone.

  Un de li dua aveva una ventina
d'anni, e ddu' spalle peggio de Sanzone;
e ll'antro lo disceveno un riccone,
ma aveva un po' la testa scennerina.

  Subbito er giuvenotto de cuer paro
se fesce avanti a dd:  Sora Lusca,
chi vvolete de noi? parlate chiaro .

   Pe ddilla, me piascete voi e llui ,
rispose la zitella;  e ppijjeria
er ciscio vostro e li quadrini sui .

Roma, 21 novembre 1832

THE CHOICE

  This is how it went. My master and mistress,
wishing to have their daughter married
one morning brought in front of her
two very respectable persons to choose.

  One of the two was about twenty years old,
and had shoulders wider than Samson's;
while the other one was known as a rich man
but his hair was slightly grey.

  Straight away, the younger of the two
started saying: "Miss Lucy,
who of us do you want? speak frankly".

  "Really, I like both of you",
answered the girl 1 ; "and I would take
your tool 2 and his money".

Rome, November 21st 1832

1. - Literaly: "Answered the spinster"; in Roman dialect "spinster" meant "young girl, unmarried girl".
2. - A dialect term for "manhood", of course.


LA BBOCCA DE-LA-VERITA'

  In d'una cchiesa sopra a 'na piazzetta
un po' ppi ss dde Piazza Montanara
pe la strada che pporta a la Salara,
c' in nell'entr una cosa bbenedetta.

  Pe ttutta Roma cuant' llarga e stretta
nun poterai trov ccosa ppi rrara.
È una faccia de pietra che tt'impara
chi ha ddetta la bbusca, chi nnu l'ha ddetta.

  S'io mo a sta faccia, c'ha la bbocca uperta,
je sce metto una mano, e nu la strigne,
la verit dda m ttiella pe ccerta.

  Ma ssi fficca la mano uno in busca,
ssi sicuro che a ttir nn a spigne
cuella mano che ll nnun vi ppi vvia.

Roma, 2 dicembre 1832

THE MOUTH-OF-TRUTH 1

  In a church, in a small square
shortly further Montanara Square 2 ,
along the road leading to the salt-works,
as soon as you enter there's something holy.

  In all Rome far and wide
you could not find something as rare as that.
It's a face of stone, which tells
who is a lier and who is not.

  If in the mouth of this statue, which is open,
I insert my hand and it does not clasp it,
consider my truth most reliable.

  But if a lier inserts his hand
be sure that, push or pull,
that hand won't come out.

Rome, December 2nd 1832

1. - The so-called "Mouth of Truth" is an old round stone featuring a grotesque face, with an oval hole as an open mouth. It was probably the cover of a roman drain. Traditionally, the stone is said to clasp the hand of any lier who inserts it in its mouth. Despite the story was mainly intended for children, a considerable number of adults believed that this would really happen, as described by the sonnet.
2. - Today the area looks quite different, but the church (Santa Maria in Cosmedin) is still there.


ER COMMERCIO LIBBERO

  Bbe'! Ss pputtana, venno la mi' pelle:
fo la miggnotta, s, sto ar cancelletto:
lo pijjo in cuello largo e in cuello stretto:
c' ggnent'antro da d? Che ccose bbelle!

  Ma cce s stat'io puro, sor cazzetto,
zitella com'e ttutte le zitelle:
e mm nun c' cchi avanzi bajocchelle
su la lana e la pajja der mi' letto.

  Sai de che mme laggn'io? n dder mestiere,
che ssara bbell'e bbono, e cquanno bbutta
nun p ttrovasse ar monno antro piascere.

  Ma de ste dame che stanno anniscoste
me laggno, che, vvedenno cuanto frutta
lo scortico, sciarrubbeno le poste.

Roma, 16 dicembre 1832

THE FREE TRADE

  What's wrong? I'm a prostitute, I sell myself:
I'm a whore, yes, I work at the window: 1
I take it in the wide and in the narrow: 2
anything else to say? Wonderful! 3

  But, dear mister fool, I too have been
a maiden like any other girl;
and now there is nobody
who has not yet visited my bed.

  Do you know what I dislike? Not the work itself,
which is fine and, if well going,
there's no pleasure like it.

  But these haughty ladies, who remain undercover
and who, having realized how profitable
this business is, steal our customers.

Rome, December 16th 1832

1. - Literally: "I work at the gate"; prostitutes used to show themselves from parlours that faced the street, and were closed by a low gate, so that the upper part of the doorway acted as a window.
2. - Obscene allusion to ...various forms of sexual intercourse
3. - Evidently argueing against a criticism.


LA DISPENZA DER MADRIMONIO

  Cuella stradaccia me la s llograta:
ma cquanti passi me sce fussi fatto
nun c'era da otten pe ggnisun patto
de potemme spos cco mmi' cuggnata.

  Io sc'ero diventato mezzo matto,
perch, ddico, ch'ed sta bbaggianata
c'una sorella l'ho d'av assaggiata
e ll'antra n! nnun ll'istesso piatto?

  Finarmente una sera l'abbataccio
me disse:  Fijjo, si cc' stata coppola,
provelo, e la liscenza te la faccio .

   Benissimo Eccellenza , io j'arisposi:
poi curzi a ccasa, e, ppe nun d una stroppola,
m'incoppolai Presseda, e ssemo sposi.

Roma, 20 dicembre 1832

THE WEDDING LICENCE

  I've worn out that damned street: 1
but in spite of all this walking
there was no way to obtain the permission
to marry my sister-in-law.

  It was driving me crazy,
because, I say, what a nonsense that
having already tasted one sister, 2
I cannot taste the other! Isn't it the same dish?

  Finally one evening the bloody abbot
told me: "My dear, if copulation has occurred,
prove it, and I'll give you the licence".

  "Very well, Excellency", I answered:
then I rushed home and, not to tell a lie,
I had sex with Praxedes 3 , and we got married.

Rome, December 20th 1832

1. - The street where notaries dealing with marriage laws had their offices.
2. - The character's late wife.
3. - The character's sister-in-law.


LE COSE CREATE

  Ner monno ha ffatto Iddio 'ggni cosa deggna:
ha ffatto tutto bbono e ttutto bbello.
Bono l'inverno, ppi bbona la leggna:
bono assai l'abbozz, mmejjo er cortello.

  Bona la santa fede e cchi l'inzeggna,
pi bbono chi cce crede in der ciarvello:
bona la castit, mmejjo la freggna:
bono er culo, e bbonissimo l'uscello.

  Sortanto in questo cqui ttrovo lo smanco,
che ppoteva, penznnosce un tantino,
creacce l'acqua rossa e 'r vino bbianco:

  perch ar meno ggnisun'oste assassino
mo nun viera co ttanta faccia ar banco
a vnnesce mezz'acqua e mmezzo vino.

Roma, 21 dicembre 1832

THINGS THAT WERE CREATED

  In this world, God created everything properly:
everything he created is good and well-done.
Winter is good, firewood even better; 1
endurance is very good, the knife is better still. 2

  Good is the holy faith and who teaches it,
better is he who takes it with a grain of salt;
chastity is good, the cunt is better,
the arse is good, the prick is excellent.

  Only in one thing I find a weak point,
that is, thinking of it a bit,
he could have created water red, and wine white.

  In this way no damned inn-keeper
could stand at the bar with a brazen face,
and sell us wine with half water in it.

Rome, December 21st 1832

1. - These verses faithfully describe the philosophy of life of an average Roman commoner.
2. - Being able to hold one's temper is good, but reacting (by pulling out a knife) is better.


L'INNUSTRIA

  Un giorno che arrestai propio a la fetta,
senz'av mmanco l'arma d'un quadrino,
senti che ccosa fo: curro ar cammino
e roppo in cuattro pezzi la paletta.

  Poi me l'invorto sott'a la ggiacchetta
e vvado a spasso pe Ccampovaccino
a aspett cquarche ingrese milordino
da dajje una corcata co l'accetta.

  De fatti, ecco che vvi cquer c'aspettavo.
 Signore, guardi un po' cquest'anticajja
c'avemo trovo jjeri in de lo scavo .

  Lui se ficca l'occhiali, la scannajja,
me mette in mano un scudo, e ddisce:  Bbravo! .
E accus a Rroma se pela la cuajja.

Roma, 23 dicembre 1832

STRIVING

  One day I had really gone penniless,
and had no money at all,
This is what I did: I ran to the fireplace
and broke the shovel into four pieces.

  Then I wrapped it up in my jacket,
and went walking along Campo Vaccino, 1
waiting for some posh English gentleman, 2
to swindle him really well.

  And, in fact, here comes what I was waiting for.
"Sir, would you take a look at this antique
we found yesterday while excavating?"

  He wears his glasses, examines it,
gives me a shilling and says: "Good job!"
In Rome, this is how we scrape a living.

Rome, December 23rd 1832

1. - Campo Vaccino ("Cattle Field", after the cattle market that used to be held there) was the old name of today's Roman Forum area, still largely unexcavated.
2. - The adjective milordino comes from "milord" (Italianized version of my lord); here it is used ironically for addressing anyone with a posh attire.


L'ABBICHINO DE LE DONNE

  La donna, inzino ar venti, si ccontenta
mamma, l'anni che tti ssempre li canta:
ne cressce uno oggni scinque inzino ar trenta,
eppoi se ferma ll ssino a cquaranta.

  Dar quarantuno impoi stenta e nnun stenta,
e ne disce antri dua sino ar cinquanta;
ma allora che aruvina pe la sscenta,
te la senti sart ssubbito a ottanta.

  Perch, ar cressce li fijji de li fijji,
nun potenno sse ppi ddonna d'amore,
v ffigur da donna de conzijji.

  E allora er cardinale o er monzignome,
che jj'allissciava er pelo a li cunijji,
comincia a rrescit da confessore.

Roma, 26 dicembre 1832

WOMEN'S ABACUS

  Women, till the age of twenty, if mother agrees 1
always declare their age:
they count one year every five, up to thirty,
and then they stop counting until forty.

  From forty-one onwards they barely move,
declaring two more, until they are fifty;
but then, spoilt by time,
they suddenly skip to the age of eigthy.

  Because, as the children of their children grow,
no longer being women of love,
they wish to appear as women of wisdom.

  And then, cardinals and bishops
who used to be in friendly terms with them, 2
start playing the role of confessors.

Rome, December 26th 1832

1. - Elder women would have their daughters declare a younger age, if this made their mothers appear too old.
2. - The meaning is a... rather sexually orientated friendship.


LO SPAGGNOLO

  A un Spaggnolo, che ttutto ar zu' paese
era uguale c'a Rroma, o assai ppi bbello,
gujje, colonne, culiseo, castello,
palazzi, antichit, ffuntane e cchiese,

  io vorze fajje un giorno un trucchio bbello
pe pprov dde levajje ste pretese:
aggnede a la Ritonna, e ll mme prese
un ber paro de mmnnole d'aggnello.

  Le metto in d'uno stuccio, e ppoi lo chiamo.
Dico:  Vedete voi sti du' cojjoni?
S li dua soli che ttieneva Adamo .

  A sta bbotta lui parze un po' imbriaco:
poi disse:  cuesti cqui ss rreliquioni;
ma ar mi' paese avemos er caraco .

Roma, 21 gennaio 1833

THE SPANIARD

  To a Spaniard, who claimed that in his country
everything was like Rome, or much better,
spires, columns, the Colosseum, the Castle,
palaces, antiquities, fountains and churches,

  one day I wanted to play a nice trick,
to try and cool down his pretensions:
I went to the Pantheon 1, and bought
a nice pair of sheep bollocks.

  I put them in a case, and then I called him,
telling him:  Can you see these two testicles?
They are the only ones that Adam had 2. 

  At this, he seemed quite astonished:
then he said:  These are indeed great relics;
but in my country, we hold the shaft 3. 

Rome, January 21st 1833

1. - Once in piazza della Rotonda, by the Pantheon, many shops could be found, selling several types of goods.
2. - Here Belli makes fun of the great number of relics that once used to be on display in Rome's churches (but also in those of other cities). Worshipped by the faithful, a large majority of them were fake. Because of their large number, it was not a rare occurrence that three or more churches claimed to hold the head (or similar remains) of the same saint.
3. - El carajo (Spanish, vulgar), the penis.


ER CAFFETTIERE FISOLOFO

  L'ommini de sto Monno s ll'istesso
che vvaghi de caff nner mascinino:
c'uno prima, uno doppo, e un antro appresso,
tutti cuanti per vvanno a un distino.

  Spesso muteno sito, e ccaccia spesso
er vago grosso er vago piccinino,
e ss'incarzeno tutti in zu l'ingresso
der ferro che li sfraggne in porverino.

  E ll'ommini accus vviveno ar Monno
misticati pe mmano de la sorte
che sse li ggira tutti in tonno in tonno;

  e mmovennose oggnuno, o ppiano, o fforte,
senza capillo mai caleno a ffonno
pe ccasc nne la gola de la Morte.

Roma, 22 gennaio 1833


THE PHILOSOPHIZING BARMAN

  In this world, men are the same
as coffee beans in a grinder:
one in front, one who follows, another one behind,
but all of them move towards the same destiny.

  They often change place, and often
the big coffee-bean replaces the small one,
and they all cram by the hole
where the blade crushes them into thin powder.

  And this is how men live in this world,
mingled by the hand of fate
that turns them round and round.

  And each of them moving, fast or slow,
unawares, they sink to the bottom
to drop in the jaws of death.

Rome, January 22nd 1833

PIAZZA NAVONA

  Se p ffreg Ppiazza-Navona mia
e dde San Pietro e dde Piazza-de-Spaggna.
Cuesta nun una piazza, una campaggna,
un treto, una fiera, un'allegria.

  Va' dda la Pulinara a la Corza,
curri da la Corza a la Cuccaggna:
pe ttutto trovi robba che sse maggna,
pe ttutto ggente che la porta via.

  Cqua cce s ttre ffuntane inarberate:
cqua una gujja che ppare una sentenza:
cqua se fa er lago cuanno torna istate.

  Cqua ss'arza 11 er cavalletto che ddispenza
sur culo a cchi le v ttrenta nerbate,
e ccinque poi pe la bbonifiscenza.

Roma, 1 febbraio 1833

PIAZZA NAVONA 1

  Piazza Navona easily stands the comparison
with both St.Peter's and the Spanish Steps.
This is not a square, it's like the countryside,
it's a theatre, it's a fair, it's gaiety.

  It runs from Sant'Apollinare 2 to the central pathway,
and from the central pathway to Cuccagna street: 3
everywhere you find things to eat,
Everywhere you find people who buy them.

  Here three fountains stand in all their might,
here is a spire, 4 as solemn as a judgement,
here the place is flooded when summertime comes. 5

  Here the whipping-trestle is raised, 5
where those who look for trouble get thirty lashes
on their arse, and five more for charity. 6

Rome, February 1st 1833

1. - Probably Rome's most famous square, built on the site where in ancient times the stadium of emperor Domitian stood, and whose long and oval shape it has perfectly maintained. Adorned by three great fountains, one of which is a world-known masterwork, piazza Navona still incarnates the grandeur of Rome's Baroque age, to the eyes of the tourists as well as to those of the local people. The description that Belli gives of the square, by lending his verses to the citizen who speaks, depicts it as a sort of microcosm: here the common people enjoyed the awing view of the three fountains, here they found refreshment in the blazing heat of the summer and, sometimes, here they payed their dues to the papal justice (and for the public, this too represented a form of free entertainment).
2. - A square, by the northern end of piazza Navona.
3. - On the opposite side.
4. - The ancient roman obelisk that rests over the central fountain.
5. - The "threstle" was a form of public punishment for common offences, which Belli describes sarcastically as a kind of torture, believed to be necessary for the folk's buttocks.
6. - It was a common belief among the people that the executioner often exceeded the number of strokes to be administered, the extra ones being ironically said to be given 'for charity'.


LI SORDATI BONI

  Subbito c'un Zovrano de la terra
crede c'un antro j'abbi tocco un fico,
disce ar popolo suo:  Tu sei nimmico
der tale o dder tar re: ffjje la guerra .

  E er popolo, pe sfugge la galerra
o cquarc'antra grazzietta che nnun dico,
pijja lo schioppo, e vviaggia com'un prico
che spedischino in Francia o in Inghirterra.

  Ccus, pe li crapicci d'una corte
ste pecore aritorneno a la stalla
co mmezza testa e cco le gamme storte.

  E cco le vite sce se ggiuca a ppalla,
come quela puttana de la morte
nun vienissi da lei senza scercalla.

23 maggio 1834

THE GOOD SOLDIERS 1

  In this world, as soon as a king thinks that somebody
has touched the most insignificant of his properties,
he tells his own people: "You are enemies
of this king, or that one: go to war against him".

  And the people, in order to avoid jail
or some other treatment I prefer not to mention,
pick up the rifle, and travel like a parcel
that is shipped to France or to England.

  So, for the whims of a court,
these sheep come back to their pens
with a broken head and with crooked legs.

  And life is dealt with as if playing with a ball,
as if damn death did not already come by itself,
without the need of seeking for it.

May 23rd 1834

1. - Once again, in this sonnet as well as in the following one, who speaks through the words of the commoner is Belli himself, as already seen in The Philosophizing Barman.


RIFLESSIONE MORALE SUL COLOSSEO

  Queste arcate rotte che oggi i pittori
vengono a dipingere coi pennelli,
tra gli alberelli, le croci, i fiori,
le farfalle e i canti degli uccelli,

  al tempo degli antichi imperatori
erano un anfiteatro, dove costoro
correvano a vedere i gladiatori
frantumarsi le coste e i cervelli.

  Qua essi prendevano piacere
nell'udire le urla di tanti cristiani
calpestati e sbranati dalle fiere.

  Allora tante stragi e tanto lutto,
e adesso tanta pace! Oh eventi umani!
Cos' questo mondo! Come cambia tutto!

4 settembre 1835

MORAL REFLECTION ON
THE COLOSSEUM

  These broken arches that nowadays painters
Come here to depict with their brushes,
Among trees, crosses, flowers,
Butterflies and bird songs,

  By the time of the ancient emperors
were an amphiteatre where they
came to see gladiators
smash each other's ribs and brains.

  Here they took pleasure
to hear the shrieks of many christians
trampled on and mauled by wild beasts.

  In those days, so much slaughter and grief,
and now so much peace! Oh, facts of life!
What world is this! How everything changes!

September 4th, 1835



INTRODUCTION
PRIESTS, FRIARS, POPES
AND THE CHURCH OF ROME

BIBLICAL THEMES





PRIESTS, FRIARS, POPES, AND THE CHURCH OF ROME
LI FRATI D'UN PAESE
LI SPIRITI (III - IV)
LA PENALE
ER RIFUGGIO
ER CONFESSORE
LA PORTERIA DER CONVENTO
L'INFERNO
ER VOTO
LA STATUA CUPERTA
ER PATTO-STUCCO
A VOI DE SOTTO
LA VITA DA CANE
THE FRIARS OF A VILLAGE
GHOSTS (III - IV)
THE FINE
THE REFUGE
THE CONFESSOR
THE MONASTERY'S PORTER
HELL
THE RULE
THE COVERED STATUE
THE AGREED DEAL
MIND DOWN THERE
A DOG'S LIFE


LI FRATI D'UN PAESE

  Senti sto fatto. Un giorno de st'istate
lavoravo ar Convento de Ggenzano,
e ssentivo de sopra ch'er guardiano
tirava ggi bbiastime a ccarrettate;

  perch, essenno le ggente aridunate
pe ccant la novena a ssan Cazziano,
cerca cqu, cchiama ll, cquer zagristano
drento a le scelle nun trovava un frate.

  Era viscino a notte, e un pispillorio
gi sse sentiva in de la cchiesa piena,
cuanno senti che ffa Ppadre Grigorio.

  Curze a intocc la tevola de scena,
e appena che fu empito er rifettorio disse:
 Al, ffrati porchi, a la novena .

Terni, 8 novembre 1832

THE FRIARS OF A VILLAGE

  Listen to this story. During last summer, one day
I was working at the monastery in Genzano, 1
when I heard upstairs the sacristan
swearing like a trooper.

  Because while the people had gathered
to sing the novena 2 for St.Cassian,
the sexton, looking for the friars high and low,
could not find any of them in their rooms.

  Night was approaching, and a whispering
already came from the crowded church,
so listen what Father Gregory did.

  He ran to sound the dinner bell
and as soon as the refectory was full
said: "Lousy friars, hurry up to the novena!"

Terni, November 8th 1832

1. - Genzano is a small village just south of Rome.
2. - The novena is a prayer said (or sung) to ask for some special blessing. Notice how the name of the saint has been deformed to "Cazziano", a play on words between the actual spelling, Cassiano, and cazzo (dick). Jokes blending profane and religious subjects are quite popular in Roman dialect.


LI SPIRITI

III

  Tu cconoschi la mojje de Fichetto:
bb, llei ggiura e spergiura ch'er zu' nonno,
stanno una notte tra la vejj'e 'r sonno,
se sent ff un zospiro accapalletto.

  Arz la testa, e nne sent un siconno.
Allora lui cor fiato ch'ebbe in petto
strill:  Spirito bbono o mmaledetto,
di' da parte de Ddio, che ccerchi ar Monno? .

  Disce:  Io mill'anni addietro era Bbadessa,
e in sto logo che stava er dormitorio
cor un cetrolo me sfonnai la fessa.

  Da' un scudo ar piggionante, a don Libborio,
Pe ffamme li sorcismi e d una messa,
Si me vi libber dar purgatorio .

Roma, 17 novembre 1832

GHOSTS 1

III
  You know Fichetto's 2 wife:
well, she swears that her grandfather
one night while half-asleep
heard a sigh coming from his bedhead.

  He raised his head, and he heard a second one.
So with all his breath
he cried: "Good or evil spirit,
tell me for God's sake; what are you looking for?"

  It replied: "A thousand years ago I was an Abbess,
and in this place where the dormitory stood
I was penetrated by a gherkin. 3

  Give one shilling to Father Liborio, the lodger,
to perform an exorcism and to say mass,
if you want to free me from purgatory".

Rome, November 17th 1832

1. - This is the third sonnet from a group of five featuring the same title, written between November 16th and 22nd. In Catholic culture, November is a month dedicated to the dead.
2. - Fichetto is a nickname.
3. - The literal translation is a bit stronger: "I had my cunt pierced with a gherkin." Note that 'gherkin' is clearly one of the many nicknames for 'penis'. Again, a religious character (the Abbess) showing a rather... unholy behaviour.


LI SPIRITI

IV

  Un mese, o ppoco ppi, ddoppo er guadagno
de la piastra, che ffesce er zanto prete,
venne pasqua, e 'r gabbiano che ssapete
cominci a llavor de scacciaragno

   Ch'ed? Un buscio ar zolro! Oh pprete cagno ,
fesce allora er babbeo che cconoscete:
 eccolo indove vanno le monete!
V cche lo scudo mio scerca er compagno? .

  Doppo infatti du' notte de respiro,
ecchete la Bbadessa de la muffa
a ddajje ggi cor zolito sospiro.

   Sor Don Libborio mio, bbasta una fuffa ,
strill cquello; e lle messe, pe sto ggiro,
si le volete d, dditele auffa .

Roma, 21 novembre 1832

GHOSTS 1

IV
  About one month, or slightly more, after
the holy priest had earned that shilling,
Easter came, and the aforesaid fool
began cleaning his house 2 .

  "What's this? A hole in the ceiling! Oh, damned priest",
said the fool you know:
"This is where my money goes!
I bet that my shilling is looking for a friend". 3

  And after two nights of rest, actually,
there goes the old Abbess again
whith the usual sigh.

  "Father Liborio, one trick's enough"
he cried; "and this time,
if you want to say mass, do so for free".

Rome, November 21st 1832

1. - This is the fourth sonnet of the series.
2. - Approaching Easter, a typical roman tradition is to give the house a good cleaning, a practice known as "Easter cleaning". In those days, this was really the only occasion through the year in which roman houses were cleaned up. The literal translation is: "He began working the spider-swatter", a tool made of a bundle of feathers attached to the end of a long cane, for dusting the ceiling.
3. - Meaning "I'll soon lose another shilling in the same way".


LA PENALE

  Li preti, ggi sse sa, ffanno la caccia
a 'ggni sorte de spesce de cuadrini.
Mo er mi' curato ha mmesso du' carlini
de murta a cchi vv dd 'na parolaccia.

  Tocc a mm ll'antra sera a la Pilaccia:
che ggiucanno co ccerti vitturini,
come me vedde vince un Lammertini,
disse pe ffoja  Eh bbuggiar Ssantaccia! .

  Er giorn'appresso er prete ggi informato
mann a ffamme chiam ddar Chiricone,
e mm'intim la pena der peccato.

  Sur primo io vorze d le mi' raggione;
ma ppoi me la sbrigai:  Padre Curato,
bbuggiaravve a vvoi puro: ecco un testone .

Roma, 3 dicembre 1832

THE FINE

  A well-known fact is that priests go hunting
for money of all sorts and kinds.
Now my vicar has decreed a sixpence fine 1
for anyone who speaks a foul word.

  It was my turn, the other night at the Pilaccia inn:
as I was gambling with some coach drivers,
when I lost a silver coin
I said in anger: "Fuck Santaccia!" 2

  On the following day the priest, already informed,
sent out the sexton for me,
and inflicted me the penalty for that sin.

  At first I tried to put forward my reasons,
but then I cut it short: "Father Vicar,
fuck yourself too, here's a shilling". 3

Rome, December 3rd 1832

1. - For practical reasons, in the English version the original coin values have been changed.
2. - Santaccia was a renowned prostitute who "worked" in Rome.
3. - Exactly twice the sixpence fine.


ER RIFUGGIO

  A le curte, te vi sbrig d'Aggnesa
senza er risico tuo? Bbe', ttu pprocura
d'ammazzalla viscino a cquarche cchiesa:
poi scappa drento, e nnun av ppavura.

  In zarvo che tu ssei doppo l'impresa,
freghete der mannato de cattura;
ch a cchi tte facci l'ombra de l'offesa
una bbona scommunica ssicura.

  Lassa f: staccheranno la liscenza:
ma ppe la grolia der timor de Ddio
c' ssempre cuarche pprete che cce penza.

  Tu nun ze' un borzarolo n un giudio,
ma un cristiano c'ha pperzo la pascenza:
duncue, tu mmena, curri in chiesa, e addio.

Roma, 5 dicembre 1832

THE REFUGE

  In short: do you want to get rid of Agnes
without any risk? What you have to do
is to kill her near a church:
then run inside, and do not worry. 1

  Once you're safe after the action,
don't care about the warrant of arrest;
because anyone trying to harm you
would be surely excommunicated.

  Let them do: they'll issue the warrant:
but for the glory of the fear of God
there's always a priest who will care.

  You're not a thief nor a Jew, 2
you're a human being 3 who lost his temper:
so, strike and run inside: that's it.

Rome, December 5th 1832

1. -The right of immunity, by means of which nobody could be arrested or taken away from inside a church, was still in use. Later in time, the bishops had this law modified, so that the many thieves and criminals who sought refuge in sacred buildings could be captured; for a long time, though, these rules still gave bishops the right to decide whether letting the offenders be taken away or not.
2. - Much heavier guilts, of course!
3. - In the informal language, "Christian" is often used with a meaning of "human being" (therefore, only Christians had full civil rights!).


ER CONFESSORE

   Padre... .  Dite il confiteor .  L'ho ddetto .
 L'atto di contrizione?   Ggi l'ho ffatto .
 Avanti dunque .  Ho ddetto cazzo-matto
a mmi' marito, e jj'ho arzato un grossetto .

   Poi?   Pe una pila che mme rppe er gatto
je disse for de m: "Ssi' mmaledetto";
e ccratura de Ddio! .  C' altro?   Tratto
un giuvenotto e cce s ita a lletto .

   E ll ccosa ssucesso?   Un po' de tutto .
 Cio? Sempre, m'immagino, pel dritto .
 Puro a rriverzo... .  Oh che peccato brutto!

  Dunque, in causa di questo giovanotto,
tornate, figlia, cor cuore trafitto,
domani, a casa mia, verso le otto .

Roma, 11 dicembre 1832

THE CONFESSOR

   Father... .  Say the Confiteor .1  I did .
act of contrition ?  1  I've already made it .
 Well then .  I called my husband a prickhead,
and I stole from him a silver piece .

   What else?   When the cat broke a pot
I shouted to her in rage: "Curse on you";
she is God's creature! .2  Anything else?   I'm having
an affair with a young man, and I slept with him .

   And what happened there?   A bit of everything .
 You mean always frontwards 3 , I suppose .
 Also backwards... .  Oh what a nasty sin!

  So, by reason of this young man
come, my dear, with a grieving heart,
to see me at home, tomorrow around eight o'clock .

Rome, December 11th 1832

1. - Both of them are prayers to be said before a confession. This brilliant sonnet, like a few others, is based on the contrast between the naive woman, who speaks in dialect, and the hypocritical priest who uses a rather stylish Italian, blames the woman for her sins, and then tries to take advantage of her.
2. - In popular culture, all living beings are considered 'God's creatures'.
3. - A clear reference to sexual intercourse.


LA PORTERIA DER CONVENTO

  Dico:  Se p pparl ccor Padr'Ilario? .
Disce:  Per oggi no, pperch cconfessa .
 E ddoppo confessato?   Ha da d mmessa .
 E ddoppo detto messa?   Ci er breviario .

  Dico:  Fate er servizzio, Fra Mmaccario,
d'avvisallo ch' ccosa ch'interessa .
Disce:  Ah, cqualunque cosa oggi ll'istessa,
perch nnun p llass er confessionario .

   Pascenza , dico:  j'avevo portata,
pe cquell'affare che vv'avevo detto,
ste poche libbre cqui de scioccolata... .

  Disce:  Aspettate, fijjo bbenedetto,
pe vvia che, cquanno ppropio una chiamata
de premura, lui vi: mm cciarifretto .

Roma, 30 dicembre 1832

THE MONASTERY'S PORTER

  I said: 1  May I speak to father Hillary? 
He said:  Not today, because he administers confession .
 And after confession?   He must say mass .
 And after saying mass?   He'll say the breviary .

  I said:  Do me a favour, friar Maccario,
tell him it's something that should interest him .
He said:  Today nothing could make any difference,
because he can't leave the confessional .

   Never mind , I said:  because of that business
I had mentioned to you, I had brought him
these few pounds of chocolate... .

  He said:  Wait, my dear,
because when it's really an urgent matter
he does come, I'll think about it .

Rome, December 30th 1832

1. - In Roman dialect the expressions dico: ("I say:") and dice: ("he/she says:") are common interjections, still used in the spoken language, for introducing direct speech when reporting a conversation.


L'INFERNO

  Cristiani indilettissimi, l'inferno
una locanna senza letto e ccoco,
ch'er bon Iddio la frabbic abbeterno
perch sse popolassi appoco appoco.

  Cuanti Santi, in inzoggno, la vederno,
dicheno che ssibb ppiena de foco,
nun c' un'ombra de lusce in gnisun loco,
e cce se trema ppi cche ffussi inverno.

  Sur porton de sta casa de li guai
sce sta a llettre da cuppola un avviso,
che ffora disce sempre, e ddrento mai.

  Gges mmio bbattezzato e ccirconciso,
arberghesce li turchi e bbadanai,
e a nnoi dcce l'alloggio in paradiso.

Roma, 29 gennaio 1833

HELL 1

  My dear Christians, hell
is a tavern without bed nor cook,
that God almighty created for ever and ever,
to be inhabited little by little.

  All the Saints who saw it in their dreams,
say that, despite being full of fire,
there is no speck of light, nowhere,
and one shivers worse than in winter.

  On the doorway of this house of sorrows
there is a notice written in huge letters,
that outside says always, and inside says never.

  Oh Jesus, baptized and circumcised, 2
let the Turks and Jews be kept in there,
and let us dwell in paradise.

Rome, January 29th 1833

1. - A bitter satire about the attitude of the Church of Rome towards other religions. These words may have likely been spoken during a preech.
2. - Belli remarks ironically that Jesus, having been circumcised, was in fact a Jew himself.


ER VOTO

  Senti st'antra. A Ssan Pietro e Mmarcellino
sce stanno scerte Moniche bbefane,
c'aveveno pe vvoto er contentino
de maggn ttutto-cuanto co le mane.

  Vedi si una forchetta e un cucchiarino,
si un cortelluccio pe ttajjacce er pane,
abbi da offenne Iddio! N'antro tantino
leccaveno cor muso com'er cane!

  Pio Ottavo per, bbona-momoria,
che vvedde una matina cuer porcaro,
je disse:  Madre, e cche vv dd sta storia?

  Sete state avvezzate ar Monnezzaro?!
Che vvoto! un cazzo. A ddio p ddsse groria
puro co la forchetta e ccor cucchiaro. 

Roma, 2 febbraio 1833

THE RULE

  Listen to this. At San Pietro e Marcellino's church
there are such horrible nuns,
who, as a rule, had the bad habit
of eating food using their bare hands. 1

  Just imagine if a fork and a spoon,
a small knife for cutting bread,
could be an offence to God! They almost
licked the dish like dogs!

  But the late Pius the Eighth,
who one day saw that filth,
told them: "Mother, what does all this mean?

  Have you been brought up in a dump?
Damn that vow! God can be praised
even using a fork and a spoon".

Rome, February 2nd 1833

1. - The rules of some religious orders included a number of weird duties and prohibitions.


LA STATUA CUPERTA

  Ha osservata, monz, llei ch' ffrancese,
cuella statua c'arresta da sta mano
drent'in fonno a Ssan Pietr'in Vaticano,
sott'ar trono de Pavolo Fernese?

  La fanno d'un pittore de Milano,
e ttanta bbella, ch'un ziggnore ingrese
'na vorta un zampietrino sce lo prese
in atto sconcio e cco l'uscello in mano.

  Allora er Papa ch'era Papa allora
je fesce f ccor bronzo la camiscia
che cce se vede a ttempi nostri ancora.

  Cuantuncue sce s ccerti c'hanno detto
che nnun fussi un Milordo su sta sciscia
de pietra a smanic, mma un chirichetto.

Roma, 10 maggio 1833

THE COVERED STATUE 1

  Sir, since you are French, have you noticed
the statue that is located in this direction, 2
inside St. Peter's in the Vatican, at the bottom,
below the throne of Paul Farnese? 3

  It is said that an artist from Milan made it, 4
so beautiful, that once an Englishman
was caught there by one of the church's wardens 5
doing something obscene, with his dick in hand.

  So the Pope who was Pope at that time
had a bronze shirt made for it,
the same one that can be seen today.

  However, some said
that it was not a gentleman who masturbated
on this beauty made of stone, but an altar-boy. 6

Rome, May 10th 1833

1. - The memorial monument of Paul III, by Guglielmo della Porta (built in 1575), featuring a seated bronze statue of the pope, on whose sides are two marble allegories of Justice and Charity. It is said that the former female figure was carved after the pope's own sister, Giulia Farnese. The figure was originally naked; after some time its lively bust was covered with bronze parts.
2. - Showing the direction with a wave of the hand.
3. - Alessandro Farnese, pope Paul III (1534-49).
4. - The artist was from Como.
5. - Romans calls anybody working in St.Peter's (wardens, masons, decorators, restorers, etc.) sanpietrini; the same name is also given to the square cobblestones with which almost every street in Rome is paved.
6. - This was the actual version of the story known in Belli's days.


ER PATTO-STUCCO

  Sto prelato a la fijja der zartore,
che cciannava a stirajje li rocchetti,
je fesce vede drent'a un tiratore
una scitola piena de papetti,

  discennoje:  Si vvi che tte lo metti,
s ttutti tui e tte li do dde core .
E llei fesce bbocchino e ddu' ghiggnetti,
eppoi s'arz er guarnello a Mmonziggnore.

  Terminato l'affare, er zemprisciano
pe ppagajje er noleggio de la sporta,
pijj un papetto e jje lo messe in mano.

  Disce:  Uno solo?! e cche vvor d sta torta?
Ereno tutti mii!...     Fijjola, piano ,
disce,  s ttutti tui, uno pe vvorta .

Roma, 16 ottobre 1833

THE AGREED DEAL

  The priest I told you, showed the tailor's daughter,
who goes to his house to iron his cassocks 1,
a bowl full of coins 2
that he kept inside a drawer,

  telling her:  If you accept to have sex with me, 3
they are all yours, I'll give them to you with all my heart .
She pulled a face, made a slight grin,
and in the end she lifted her gown for Monsignore.

  Once the treat was over,
to pay her the due rent of the hamper, 3
the humbug picked up a coin and gave it to her.

  She said:  Only one?! what is this hoax?
They were all mine!...      Take it easy, my dear ,
said the priest,  they are all yours, one at a time .

Rome, October 16, 1833

1. - A kind of robe worn by the clergy.
2. - The "papetto" was a very popular coin; see the page Scudi, Testoni, Paoli for details.
3. - A metaphor with a clear anatomical reference.
4. - Obviously, the hamper is an obscene metaphor.


A VVOI DE SOTTO

  S'aricconta c'un frate zzoccolante,
grasso ppi der compar de sant'Antonio,
ner concrude una predica incarzante
sull'obbrighi der zanto madrimonio,

  stacc er Cristo dar prpito, e ggronnante
de sudore strill ccom'un demonio:
 Eccolo, e vve lo dico a ttutte quante,
eccolo su sta crosce er tistimonio.

  Io m lo tiro in testa inviperito
a cchi ss' ppresa er ber gusto, s' ppresa,
de temper ppi ppenne a ssu' marito .

  A cquell'atto der frate 'ggni miggnotta...
'ggni donna, vorzi d, cche stava in chiesa,
arz le mano pe ppar la bbotta.

23 dicembre 1837

MIND DOWN THERE 1

  It is said that once a friar
fatter than St.Anthony's companion, 2
at the end of a relentless preech
about the duties of the holy marriage,

  removed Christ's cross from the pulpit and, covered
with sweat, cried out as loud as he could: 3
Here he is, I'm telling each of you,
here on this cross is the witness.

  Now I'll bang this in anger on the head
of she who had the nerve 4
to cuckold her husband more than once .

  As soon as the friar moved, every slut...
I mean, every woman who was in the church
held up her hands to parry the blow.

December 23, 1837

1. - The title mimics the old cry of Rome's coachmen mind in front!, i.e. "mind the carriage, get out of the way". Here Belli cuts like a knife: he jokes on women's lack of honesty, as he had already done in the sonnet Er companatico der paradiso, and likens the fat friar to a pig and then to a demon.
2. - Fatter than a pig. St.Anthony is traditionally featured together with a pig, that faithfully follows the saint.
3. - Literally: cried out like a demon; in Roman dialect "to do something like a demon" means "with great intensity". But here Belli uses this expression to create an ironic contrast, as it is a friar who acts "as a demon".


LA VITA DA CANE

  Ah sse chiam'ozzio er zuo, bbrutte marmotte?
Nun fa mmai ggnente er Papa, eh?, nun fa ggnente?
Accus vve pijjassi un accidente
come lui se strapazza e ggiorn'e nnotte.

  Chi pparla co Ddio padr'onnipotente?
Chi assorve tanti fijji de miggnotte?
Chi mmanna in giro l'innurgenze a bbotte?
Chi vva in carrozza a bbinid la ggente?

  Chi jje li conta li quadrini sui?
Chi l'ajjuta a ccre li cardinali?
Le gabbelle, pe ddio, nnu le fa llui?

  Sortanto la fatica da facchino
de strapp ttutto l'anno momoriali
e bbuttalli a ppezzetti in ner cestino!

31 dicembre 1845

A DOG'S LIFE

  So, would you call this idleness, you loathsome idiots?
The Pope never does anything, huh? anything?
May you be damned
as much as he overworks, day and night.

  Who speaks to God almighty?
Who absolves so many sons o'bitches?
Who sends out boatloads of indulgences?
Who rides in a carriage to go and bless the people?

  Who counts his own money?
Who helps him to appoint cardinals?
By god, aren't taxes imposed by him?

  And what about the heavy job,
all over the year, of tearing up written pleas
and throwing the shreds in the wastebin!

December 31st 1845





INTRODUCTION
SOCIETY AND
EVERYDAY'S LIFE

BIBLICAL THEMES



BERNERI

PASCARELLA

ZANAZZO

TRILUSSA

FABRIZI