"I wanted to leave a monument to the Roman plebe."
December 30, 2014 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Giuseppe Gioachino Belli was a 19th Century poet who lived in Rome and wrote sonnets in the Romanesco dialect spoken by the poor of his native city. An accountant by trade, he wrote from the perspective of working class Romans living in the theocratic Papal States, and has been referred to as the voice of Rome. Translating his work has caused translators some difficulty, with many opting for equivalent dialects, such as Peter Dale who used working class speech of his native Melbourne as a model. Anthony Burgess made his Belli Mancunian, while Mike Stocks rendered Belli into something closer to standard English. Collections of translated sonnets by Belli can be read on Andrea Pollett's Virtual Roma website and on Maurizio Mosetti's site about Belli.
posted by Kattullus (4 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
One of Burgess's:

You know the day, the month, even the year.
While Mary ate her noonday plate of soup,
The Angel Gabriel, like a heaven-hurled hoop,
Was bowling towards her through the atmosphere.
He crashed a window. Mary, without fear,
Saw him come through the hole in one swift swoop,
A lily in his fist, his wings adroop,
“Ave”, he said, and after that, “Maria.

“Rejoice, because the Lord’s eternal love
Has made you pregnant – not by orthodox
Methods, of course. The Pentecostal dove
Came silently and nested in your box”.
“A hen?” she blushed. “For I know nothing of –”
The angel nodded, knowing she meant cocks.

That's wonderful.
posted by kenko at 9:55 AM on December 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

Excellent post and I wish I would have found that Romanesco primer 16 years ago when I was first teaching myself Italian here.
posted by romakimmy at 10:26 AM on December 30, 2014

This is fantastic. The sonnets in Strine are doing something to me; trying to reconcile my class prejudices about tone and register with the tight form.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:42 PM on December 30, 2014

Well done, Katullus.

A few more brief lessons and a video on Romanesco/Romanaccio.
posted by BWA at 4:02 PM on December 30, 2014

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