Monday, April 7, 2014

Non al denaro non all'amore nè al cielo:
   Un giudice - A Judge

Cosa vuol dire avere
un metro e mezzo di statura,
ve lo rivelan gli occhi
e le battute della gente,
o la curiosità
d'una ragazza irriverente
che vi avvicina solo
per un suo dubbio impertinente:

vuole scoprir se è vero
quanto si dice intorno ai nani,
che siano i più forniti
della virtù meno apparente,
fra tutte le virtù
la più indecente.

Passano gli anni, i mesi,
e se li conti anche i minuti,
è triste trovarsi adulti
senza essere cresciuti;
la maldicenza insiste,
batte la lingua sul tamburo
fino a dire che un nano
è una carogna di sicuro
perché ha il cuore troppo
troppo vicino al buco del culo.

Fu nelle notti insonni
vegliate al lume del rancore
che preparai gli esami
diventai procuratore
per imboccar la strada
che dalle panche d'una cattedrale
porta alla sacrestia
quindi alla cattedra d'un tribunale
giudice finalmente,
arbitro in terra del bene e del male.

E allora la mia statura
non dispensò più buonumore
a chi alla sbarra in piedi
mi diceva "Vostro Onore",
e di affidarli al boia
fu un piacere del tutto mio,
prima di genuflettermi
nell'ora dell'addio
non conoscendo affatto
la statura di Dio.

Un giudice © 1971 Fabrizio De André/Giuseppe Bentivoglio/
Nicola Piovani

"Un giudice" is based on "Judge Selah Lively."

What does it mean to be
a meter and a half in height?
The eyes reveal it to you,
and the jibes of the people,
or the curiosity
of an irreverent young girl
who approaches you only
for one of her impertinent doubts:

she wants to discover if it is true
what is said about dwarves,
that they are provided most
with the virtue least apparent,
among all the virtues,
the one most indecent.

The years pass, the months,
and if you count them, also the minutes.
It is sad to find oneself an adult
without being grown.
The taunting persists,
the tongue beats the drum
until it says that a dwarf
is a swine for sure,
because its heart is too,
too close to its asshole.

It was in the sleepless nights,
wakeful by the light of resentment,
that I prepared for the exams.
I became an attorney
to take the road
that from the benches of a cathedral
led to the vestry,
then to the desk of a court,
judge, finally,
arbiter in the land of good and evil.

And then my height
no longer dispensed good humor
to those standing at the bar
who said to me, “Your Honor.”
And to entrust them to the executioner
was a pleasure all mine,
before they kneeled down before me
in the hour of their farewell,
not knowing in the least
the height of God.

English translation © 2014 Dennis Criteser

Non al denaro non all'amore nè al cielo, released in 1971, is a concept album inspired by poems from The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, published in 1915 and translated into Italian in 1943 by Fernanda Pivano. Each poem tells the story, as an epitaph, of one of the denizens of the fictional small town Spoon River. De André read and liked the book when he was 18, and when he re-read it years later was again struck by the relevance of the stories and the lives therein. He wanted to show, with the nine poems he chose, some aspects of life related to envy, love and the failure of science. The album was an immediate success upon its release.
Judge Selah Lively – Edgar Lee Masters

Suppose you stood just five feet two,
And had worked your way as a grocery clerk,
Studying law by candle light
Until you became an attorney at law?
And then suppose through your diligence,
And regular church attendance,
You became attorney for Thomas Rhodes,
Collecting notes and mortgages,
And representing all the widows
In the Probate Court? And through it all
They jeered at your size, and laughed at your clothes
And your polished boots? And then suppose
You became the County Judge?
And Jefferson Howard and Kinsey Keene,
And Harmon Whitney, and all the giants
Who had sneered at you, were forced to stand
Before the bar and say "Your Honor" --
Well, don't you think it was natural
That I made it hard for them?

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