Wednesday, March 5, 2014

La Buona Novella:
   Via della Croce - Way of the Cross

Poterti smembrare coi denti e le mani,
sapere i tuoi occhi bevuti dai cani,
di morire in croce puoi essere grato
a un brav'uomo di nome Pilato.

Ben più della morte che oggi ti vuole
t'uccide il veleno di queste parole,
le voci dei padri di quei neonati,
da Erode, per te trucidati.

Nel lugubre scherno degli abiti nuovi
misurano a gocce il dolore che provi.
Trent'anni hanno atteso, col fegato in mano,
i rantoli d'un ciarlatano.

Si muovono curve, le vedove in testa,
per loro non è un pomeriggio di festa;
si serran le vesti sugli occhi e sul cuore
ma filtra dai veli il dolore:

fedeli umiliate da un credo inumano
che le volle schiave già prima di Abramo,
con riconoscenza ora soffron la pena
di chi perdonò a Maddalena,

di chi con un gesto soltanto fraterno
una nuova indulgenza insegnò al padreterno,
e guardano in alto, trafitti dal sole,
gli spasimi d'un redentore.

Confusi alla folla ti seguono muti,
sgomenti, al pensiero che tu li saluti:
A redimere il mondo, gli serve pensare,
il tuo sangue può certo bastare.

La semineranno per mare e per terra
tra boschi e città la tua buona novella,
ma questo domani, con fede migliore,
stasera è più forte il terrore.

Nessuno di loro ti grida un addio
per essere scoperto cugino di Dio:
gli apostoli han chiuso le gole alla voce,
fratello che sanguini in croce.

Han volti distesi, già inclini al perdono,
ormai che han veduto il tuo sangue di uomo
fregiarti le membra di rivoli viola,
incapace di nuocere ancora.

Il potere, vestito d'umana sembianza,
ormai ti considera morto abbastanza
e già volge lo sguardo a spiar le intenzioni
degli umili, degli straccioni.

Ma gli occhi dei poveri piangono altrove,
non sono venuti a esibire un dolore
che alla via della croce ha proibito l'ingresso
a chi ti ama come se stesso.

Son pallidi al volto, scavati al torace,
non hanno la faccia di chi si compiace
dei gesti che ormai ti propone il dolore
eppure hanno un posto d'onore.

Non hanno negli occhi scintille di pena,
non sono stupiti a vederti la schiena
piegata dal legno che a stento trascini,
eppure ti stanno vicini.

Perdonali se non ti lasciano solo,
se sanno morire sulla croce anche loro,
a piangerli sotto non han che le madri,
in fondo, son solo due ladri.

Via della Croce © 1970 Fabrizio De André/Gian Piero Reverberi

The Way of the Cross refers to the Stations of the Cross, the artistic representations in Roman Catholic churches depicting Christ carrying his cross to his crucifixion. "Via della Croce" is De André's description of the Procession to Calvary. The Herod reference in the second verse relates to the Massacre of the Innocents in the Gospel of Matthew.

An 1894 print by Jean Béraud

Third edition
Being able to dismember you with teeth and hands,
knowing your eyes drunk by the dogs,
for dying on the cross you can be grateful
to a good man by the name of Pilate.

Even more than the death that wants you today
the poison of these words kills you,
the voices of the fathers of those newborns
slaughtered by Herod for you.

In the funereal mockery of the new clothes
they measure in drops the suffering you experience.
Thirty years they waited, with the liver in hand,
for the last gasps of a charlatan.

They move, heads turned down, the widows in the lead,
for them it's no afternoon party;
the robes bunch tight over the eyes and the heart,
but sorrow filters out from the veils:

humble followers from an inhumane belief
that wanted them slaves already before Abraham,
with gratitude now they suffer the pain
of the one who pardoned Magdalena,

of the one who, with a gesture merely fraternal,
taught a new forgiveness to the eternal Father.
And they look up, pierced by the sun,
at the spasms of a redeemer.

Confused in the crowd they follow you, mute,
anguished at the thought that you salute them:
to redeem the world, they need to think,
your blood will certainly suffice.

They’ll sow the seeds by land and by sea
among the forests and the cities of your Gospel.
But this future, with the best faith . . .
tonight the terror is stronger.

Not one of them shouted to you a farewell
for being discovered a cousin of God:
the apostles closed their throats to their voices,
brother who bleeds on the cross.

They have relaxed faces, already prone to pardon,
now that they've seen your human blood
adorning your members in trickles of purple,
unable to do any more harm.

The power, dressed in human semblance,
by now considers you dead enough
and already looks toward descrying the intentions
of the humble, of the beggars.

But the eyes of the poor ones cry elsewhere.
They didn’t come to display a sorrow
that prohibited entrance to the way of the cross
to anyone who loved you as himself.

They are pale in the face, with sunken chest.
They don’t have the look of someone pleased
with the gestures that suffering now proposes for you,
yet still they have a place of honor.

There’s not a hint of pain in their eyes,
they’re not surprised to see your back
turned from the wood that you can barely drag,
yet they stay near to you.

Pardon them if they don’t leave you alone,
if they too know how to die on the cross.
To mourn them below they have none but their mothers.
After all, they're only two thieves.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser

First edition
Second 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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