Sunday, March 9, 2014

La Buona Novella:
   Il ritorno di Giuseppe - The Return of Joseph

Stelle, già dal tramonto,
si contendono il cielo a frotte,
luci meticolose
nell'insegnarti la notte.

Un asino dai passi uguali,
compagno del tuo ritorno,
scandisce la distanza
lungo il morire del giorno.

Ai tuoi occhi, il deserto,
una distesa di segatura,
minuscoli frammenti
della fatica della natura.

Gli uomini della sabbia
hanno profili d’assassini,
rinchiusi nei silenzi
d'una prigione senza confini.

Odore di Gerusalemme,
la tua mano accarezza il disegno
d'una bambola magra,
intagliata nel legno.

"La vestirai, Maria,
ritornerai a quei giochi
lasciati quando i tuoi anni
erano così pochi."

E lei volò fra le tue braccia
come una rondine,
e le sue dita come lacrime,
dal tuo ciglio alla gola,
suggerivano al viso,
una volta ignorato,
la tenerezza d'un sorriso,
un affetto quasi implorato.

E lo stupore nei tuoi occhi
salì dalle tue mani
che vuote intorno alle sue spalle,
si colmarono ai fianchi
della forma precisa
d'una vita recente,
di quel segreto che si svela
quando lievita il ventre.

E a te, che cercavi il motivo
d'un inganno inespresso dal volto,
lei propose l'inquieto ricordo
fra i resti d'un sogno raccolto.

Il ritorno di Giuseppe © 1970 Fabrizio De André/Gian Piero Reverberi

In "Il ritorno di Giuseppe," De André gives more weight to Joseph's journey home than is found in the apocrypha, and he softens the drama found therein upon Joseph's discovery that Maria is pregnant.






Stars, right from sunset,
compete for the sky in flocks,
lights precise
in teaching you the night.

A donkey by equal steps,
companion of your return,
scans the distance
along the dying of the day.

To your eyes, the desert,
an expanse of sawdust,
minuscule fragments
of nature's toil.

The men of the sand
have the profile of assassins,
enclosed in the silences
of a prison with no boundaries.

Smell of Jerusalem,
your hand caresses the design
of a slender doll,
carved out of wood.

“You’ll dress her, Maria,
you’ll return to those games
left behind when your years
were so very few.”

And she flew into your arms
like a swallow,
and her fingers like tears,
from your eyelashes to your throat,
suggested to your face,
once ignored,
the tenderness of a smile,
a feeling almost pleading.

And the amazement in your eyes
rose up from your hands
that, empty around her shoulders,
filled themselves by her sides
with the precise form
of a new life,
of that secret that reveals itself
when the belly rises.

And to you, who searched for the motive
of a deception unexpressed by her face,
she proposed the uneasy memory
amidst the ruins of a rapt dream.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser

First edition
Second edition
Third edition

La Buona Novella, released in 1970, was written in the thick of the student protests and social upheavals of 1968/1969 including "May 68" in France and Hot Autumn in Italy. The album is based on the Biblical apocrypha. De André reminded his compatriots that Jesus was the greatest revolutionary in history, and the album was meant to be an allegory for the times. "La Buona Novella" means The Good Book, and in Italian refers specifically to the New Testament.
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