Tuesday 5 February 2013

The Rediscovered Skeleton

I was reading Belli's sonnets yesterday and I found this gem (Sonnet No. 1010). I couldn't resist translating it because of the topicality of the subject (the digging-up of Richard III's bones).

1010. The rediscovered skeleton

What a spectacle – dear God – what a spectacle!
Only today you see this kind of thing!
People bothering so much about
four paltry fleshless and skinless bones!

And you hear this sing-song all the time:
“It’s him – it’s not him – they’re his – no, they’re not –
it’s Raphael – no, it’s not Raphael…
and the Pantheon bursts with people every day.

Of course this is something very important,
because there’s such a shortage of bones in Rome, isn’t there,
in all its twenty or thirty graveyards!

You find a skeleton in dug-up ground?
Well, then, without being so solemn about it,
just chuck it back into its grave.

[Translated by Alessandro Gallenzi]

1st November 1833 (All Souls’ Day)

This poem was written by the Romanesco poet Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (1791–1863) on the discovery of bones – purported to be those of Raffaello Sanzio – in the Pantheon.

Original 1010. Er corpo aritrovato *

È una sscèna, per dio, propio una sscèna.
Ma ttutte ar tempo mio s’ha da vedelle!
Pe quattr’ossacce senza carn’e ppelle
s’ha da pijjà la ggente tanta pena!

E ttutti fanno sta cantasilèna: 1
È llui: nun è: ssò cquelle: nun zò cquelle:
è Rraffaelle: nun è Rraffaelle...
E ttutt’er giorno la Ritonna 2 è ppiena.

Certo, nun dubbità, ssò ccasi serj!
Come c’a Rroma sciamancassin’ossa 3
tramezz’a un venti o un trenta scimiteri!

Trovi uno schertro 4 in de la terra smossa?
Ebbè, ssenza de fà ttanti misteri,
aribbuttelo drento in de la fossa.

1° novembre 1833

* Le ossa di Raffaele Sanzio. 1 Cantilena. 2 Rotonda. 3 Ci mancassero ossa. 4 Scheletro.

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