Friday, February 7, 2014

Volume III:
   S'i' fosse foco - If I Were Fire

S'i' fosse foco arderei 'l mondo
s'i' fosse vento lo tempesterei
s'i' fosse acqua i' l'annegherei
s'i' fosse Dio manderei l'en profondo

S'i' fosse papa, sare' allor giocondo
tutti i cristïani imbrigherei
s'i' fosse 'mperator sa' che farei
a tutti mozzarei lo capo a tondo

S'i fosse morte, andarei da mio padre
s'i' fosse vita fuggirei da lui
similemente farìa da mi' madre
s'i' fosse Cecco com'i' sono e fui
torrei le donne giovani e leggiadre
e vecchie e laide lasserei altrui

S'i' fosse foco arderéi 'l mondo
s' i' fosse vento lo tempesterei
s'i' fosse acqua i' l'annegherei
s'i' fosse Dio manderei l'en profondo

S'i' fosse foco music © 1968 Fabrizio De André, 13th century sonnet
by Cecco Angiolieri


While De André took inspiration and drew from poetry, "S'i' fosse foco, arderei 'l mondo" is the only poem he ever set to music. The Siennese Cecco Angiolieri was a contemporary of Dante and this sonnet is well known in Italian literature. At the time, the dominant style was Dolce Stil Novo, which emphasized an introspective approach to female beauty and divine love. The "take no prisoners" invective of Angiolieri's poem shows clearly that he rejected the Sweet New Style that was associated with Dante, its main exponent.



If I were fire, I’d burn the world down.
If I were wind, I would batter it with storm.
If I were water, I would drown it.
If I were God, I’d cast it into the depths.

If I were Pope, I would be jolly,
I'd get all the Christians in trouble.
If I were Emperor, know what I'd do?
I'd chop heads off all around.

If I were death, I'd go to my father’s.
If I were life I would flee him,
as similarly would I do from my mother.
If I were Cecco, as I am and as I was,
I would take the young, graceful women
and leave the foul, older ones to others.

If I were fire, I’d burn the world down.
If I were wind, I would batter it with storm.
If I were water, I would drown it.
If I were God, I’d cast it into the depths.

English translation© 2014 Dennis Criteser



Volume III, released in 1968 just three months after the release of Tutti morimmo a stento, included four new songs along with re-recorded versions of other songs released previously as singles. The new songs weren't originals, however: two translations of Georges Brassens songs, a 13th century Italian sonnet set to music, and a traditional 14th century French song. The lack of originals and the timing of the release points to the fact that De André's label wanted to release something on the heels of the huge success of the Mina cover of "Marinella" that was released at the end of 1967. Volume III had strong sales for two years following its release.
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