April 18, 2018

Meridiunalata II: A Bilingual Offering of Duosiciliano Poetry

Inspired by Cav. Charles Sant'Elia's Meridiunalata/ Southernade,* an evocative bilingual (Neapolitan / English) collection of poetry written between 1989 and 2010, we offer the reader an accessible introduction to vernacular (Neapolitan, Sicilian, et al.) verse with the aim of awakening enthusiasm for contemporary and historical poesia Duosiciliano.

In this installment we're featuring the Neapolitan poetry of Totò (Antonio De Curtis) and Luciano Somma.

‘A Cchiù Sincera
Di Totò (Antonio De Curtis)

Tengo na 'nnammurata
ca è tutt' 'a vita mia.
Mo tene sittant'anne, povera mamma mia!
Cu chella faccia 'e cera,
sotto 'e capille janche,
me pare na sant'Anna
cu ll'uocchie triste e stanche.
Me legge dint' 'o penziero,
me guarda e m'anduvina
si tengo nu dulore
si tengo quacche spina...

The Most Sincere Lady
By Totò (Antonio De Curtis)

I have a girl friend
that is my whole life.
Now she’s sixty years old, my poor mom!
With that waxen face,
beneath that white hair,
she looks like a Saint Anne to me
with those sad and tired eyes.
She reads me in her thoughts,
she looks at me and divines
whether I’m in pain
whether I have some thorn…

Translated by Cav. Charles Sant’Elia

Core Analfabbeta
Di Totò (Antonio De Curtis)

Stu core analfabbeta
tu ll'he purtato a scola,
e s'è mparato a scrivere,
e s'è mparato a lleggere
sultanto na parola:
"Ammore" e niente cchiù.

Illiterate Heart
By Totò (Antonio De Curtis)

You brought to school
this illiterate heart of mine,
and it learned how to write,
and it learned how to read
just one word:
“Love” and nothing more.

Translated by Cav. Charles Sant’Elia

‘A Speranza D”O Cardillo
Di Luciano Somma

Ddoje segge ‘e paglia rotte,
nu tavulo tarlato,
na branda militare,
na gatta spellacchiata;
na pianta ‘e rose rrosse
cu’ nu cardillo dint’a na cajola:
chisto è ‘o ritratto ‘e stu vascio.
E dint’a chistu vascio
nu vicchiariello,
nu poco rimbambito e assaje malato,
nun ce vo’ cchiù restà
e aspetta sulo ‘o juorno
ca ‘o putarria purtà all’eternità.
Pure ‘o cardillo aspetta, cu’ pacienza,
povera bestia cova sta speranza,
pe’ se gudè nu poco ‘e cielo azzurro
pe’ piglià ‘o cielo, pe’ turnà a vulà,
e intanto canta
pecché sente vicino ‘a libertà.

The Goldfinch’s Hope
By Luciano Somma

Two broken straw chairs,
a worm-eaten table,
an army cot,
a mangy cat;
a red rose plant
with a goldfinch in a cage:
this is the portrait of this flat.
And in this flat
a little old man,
a bit senile and rather sick,
he doesn’t want to remain there
and waits only for the day
that could carry him off to eternity.
Even the goldfinch waits, with patience,
poor creature he harbors this hope,
to enjoy for himself a little bit of blue sky
to take the sky, to continue flying,
and in the meantime he sings
because he feels freedom nearby.

Translated from Cristo Napulitano by Cav. Charles Sant’Elia

* Self-published in 2010, Meridiunalata/Southernade is a treasury of poems gleaned from Cav. Sant'Elia's previous collections (Nchiuso dint''o presente, 'A cuntrora, and 'O pino e l'éllera), which were circulated among friends in New York City and Naples. Special thanks to Cav. Sant'Elia for allowing us to reprint his poetry and translations.