Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Le nuvole:
    La domenica delle salme - Corpse Sunday

Tentò la fuga in tram
verso le sei del mattino
dalla bottiglia di orzata
dove galleggia Milano

non fu difficile seguirlo
il poeta della Baggina
la sua anima accesa
mandava luce di lampadina

gli incendiarono il letto
sulla strada di Trento
riuscì a salvarsi dalla sua barba
un pettirosso da combattimento

I Polacchi non morirono subito
e inginocchiati agli ultimi semafori
rifacevano il trucco alle troie di regime
lanciate verso il mare

i trafficanti di saponette
mettevano pancia verso est
chi si convertiva nel novanta
ne era dispensato nel novantuno

la scimmia del quarto Reich
ballava la polka sopra il muro
e mentre si arrampicava
le abbiamo visto tutto il culo

la piramide di Cheope
volle essere ricostruita in quel giorno di festa
masso per masso schiavo per schiavo
comunista per comunista

La domenica delle salme
non si udirono fucilate
il gas esilarante
presidiava le strade
la domenica delle salme
si portò via tutti i pensieri
e le regine del ''tua culpa''
affollarono i parrucchieri

Nell'assolata galera patria
il secondo secondino
disse a ''Baffi di Sego'' che era il primo
-- si può fare domani sul far del mattino –

e furono inviati messi
fanti cavalli cani ed un somaro
ad annunciare l'amputazione della gamba
di Renato Curcio il carbonaro

il ministro dei temporali
in un tripudio di tromboni
auspicava democrazia
con la tovaglia sulle mani e le mani sui coglioni

-- voglio vivere in una città
dove all'ora dell'aperitivo
non ci siano spargimenti di sangue
o di detersivo –

a tarda sera
io e il mio illustre cugino De Andrade
eravamo gli ultimi cittadini liberi
di questa famosa città civile
perché avevamo un cannone nel cortile
un cannone nel cortile

La domenica delle salme
nessuno si fece male
tutti a seguire il feretro
del defunto ideale
la domenica delle salme
si sentiva cantare
-quant'è bella giovinezza
non vogliamo più invecchiare –

Gli ultimi viandanti
si ritirarono nelle catacombe
accesero la televisione e ci guardarono cantare
per una mezz'oretta poi ci mandarono a cagare

-- voi che avete cantato sui trampoli e in ginocchio
coi pianoforti a tracolla vestiti da Pinocchio
voi che avete cantato
per i longobardi e per i centralisti
per l'Amazzonia e per la pecunia
nei palastilisti e dai padri Maristi

voi avevate voci potenti
lingue allenate a battere il tamburo
voi avevate voci potenti
adatte per il vaffanculo —

La domenica delle salme
gli addetti alla nostalgia
accompagnarono tra i flauti
il cadavere di Utopia
la domenica delle salme
fu una domenica come tante
il giorno dopo c'erano i segni
di una pace terrificante

mentre il cuore d'Italia
da Palermo ad Aosta
si gonfiava in un coro
di vibrante protesta

La domenica delle salme © 1990 Fabrizio De André/Mauro Pagani

"La domenica delle salme" is one of De André's most political songs, full of references not easily discernible. The second verse refers to a Milan retirement home resident who was discovered dead under mysterious circumstances. The third verse may refer to a series of murders by a neo-Nazi duo who tagged themselves as Ludwig. The fourth verse refers to the Polish refugees who came to Italy after the fall of the Soviet Union and who worked the streets cleaning car windows (i.e., redoing the makeup of the capitalists heading off to the beach). The fifth verse refers to businessmen looking to profit from the opening of the countries of the former Soviet Union, and the sixth verse refers to the neo-Nazism that subsequently raised its head. The seventh verse may refer to the need for another visible symbol for members of the left and the right to use to close their ranks after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The eighth verse depicts a state that controls its people not with guns but with a false sense of happiness. Later in the song, Renato Curcio was a founder of the radical group Red Brigades and is referred to as a "carbonaro," a member of the Carboneria, secret revolutionary societies in 19th century Italy. Curcio did not in real life have his leg amputated; that reference is to an event in a 1968 television production of an 1832 autobiographical novel, My Prisons, by Sylvio Pellico. The amputation was done without anesthesia, and afterwards the amputee gave the surgeon a rose. There's a reference to the Brazilian poet Oswald De Andrade, whose work De André admired for its anti-conformism and its sense of irony and sarcasm. You see references to the distant past (the Lombards), to a Roman Catholic religious institute (Society of Mary), to the death of communism and anarchism ("cadavers of Utopia"), and even to De André's tribe, singer/songwriters, who are cast as opportunists whose powerful voices have lost their relevance and whose message has devolved into a crude "fuck off!" In short, this song is a rich and mordant pastiche of images that create the picture of an Italy as a ridiculous tragedy where a coup d'etat of capitalism has resulted in a "terrifying peace." Note also how the title is a gruesome turn on Palm Sunday (La domenica delle palme), the celebration of which involves a procession of the faithful carrying palms. One can imagine instead a procession of the erstwhile foes of capitalism carrying the corpses of their vanquished brethren, yet ready to protest again.


He made a break for it on the tram
around six in the morning,
from the bottle of orgeat
where floats Milan.

It wasn’t difficult to follow him,
the poet of the Baggina.
His fired-up soul
sent out the glow of a light bulb.

They torched his bed
on the road to Trent.
He managed to save himself by the hair on his chin,
an attack robin.

The Poles didn’t die immediately
and, bowed over at the last traffic lights,
they redid the makeup on the whores of the regime
launching off towards the sea.

Traffickers of soap bars
fattened themselves to the east.
Whoever converted in ‘90
was excused in ’91.

The ape of the fourth Reich
danced the polka on top of the Wall,
and while it clambered up
we saw its entire bare ass.

The pyramid of Cheops
wanted to be rebuilt on that day of celebration,
boulder by boulder, slave by slave,
Communist by Communist.

Corpse Sunday –
no gun shots were heard,
laughing gas
was defending the streets.
Corpse Sunday
carried away all thoughts,
and the queens of “it's your fault”
filled the hair salons.

In the sun-drenched state prison,
the second prison guard
said to “Greasy Mustache,” who was the first,
“It can be done tomorrow at daybreak.”

And emissaries were dispatched,
infantrymen, horses, dogs and a donkey,
to announce the amputation of the leg
of Renato Curcio, the Carboneria member.

The Minister of Storms,
in an exultation of trombones,
wished for democracy
with a napkin on his hands and his hands on his balls.

“I want to live in a city
where when it’s time for aperitifs
there’s no shedding of blood
or of detergent.”

Late in the evening,
I and my distinguished cousin De Andrade
were the last free citizens
of this famous civilian city,
because we had a cannon in the courtyard,
a cannon in the courtyard.

Corpse Sunday –
no one got hurt,
everyone following the casket
of the fallen ideal.
Corpse Sunday –
one felt like singing
“How beautiful youth is,
we don’t want to get older anymore.”

The last wayfarers
retreated to the catacombs.
They turned the TV on and watched us singing
for half an hour, then they sent us off to shit.

“You who have sung on stilts and on bended knee
with pianos over your shoulders, dressed as Pinocchio,
you who have sung
for the Lombards and for the Centrists,
for the Amazon and for the money,
in corporate-named arenas and Marist Fathers' places,

you had powerful voices,
tongues trained to beat the drum.
You had powerful voices
well-suited for the ‘Fuck off!’”

Corpse Sunday –
the people in charge of nostalgia
accompanied, amid the flutes,
Utopia's cadaver.
Corpse Sunday
was a Sunday like so many others.
The day after, there were signs
of a terrifying peace

while the heart of Italy
from Palermo to Aosta
swelled in a chorus
of quivering protest.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser


It took six years after the tremendous success of Creuza de mä for De André to release his next studio album, Le nuvole (The Clouds). In the meantime, he and Mauro Pagani explored several avenues of musical collaboration which did not come to fruition. De André had this to say about Le nuvole: "I realized that people are just pissed off, and since Le nuvole is a symbol of this dissatisfaction, the transference, the intermediary for this general discontent, I would say that the album was welcomed almost as a banner, like an emblem of the anger in the face of a nation that is going to the dogs, and certainly not through any fault of the citizens." Additionally, Mauro Pagani said the album was a fantastic description of Italy in the 1980s, with parallels to Europe in the early 1800s: "Italy in the early 1980s was like Europe in 1815: the Congress of Vienna, the fall of the Napoleonic empire, the sharing of the goods among the winning powers, social classes built on wealth instead of aristocracy, a society of fake Christianity . . ." The title of and inspiration for the album came from the comedy of the same name by Aristophanes, whom De André greatly admired.


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