SIMON J. EVNINE

 

Fabrizio de Andrè

Fabrizio de Andrè (1940-99) is often described as an Italian Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. I have tried here to produce translations of a few of his songs that are both fairly literal and at the same time singable. If anyone is inclined actually to use them in performance, that would be fine. I would, however, greatly appreciate learning about it.

 

Index of Songs

 

The Old Town

In the streets on which
the sun the good Lord made
refuses to shine –

keeping people warm
in other parts of town
takes up all his time –

a young girl sings the song
that whores have used so long
to broadcast their charms:

what you still don't know
is something I can show
you only here between my arms.

And if, with her young years,
her competence is clearly
open to question

a little practice will
give her all the skill
she needs for perfection.

Ah by Juno how it
used to be so different
in days of yore

when a person had to
have a real vocation
just to be a simple whore.

One leg over here,
one leg over there,
bloated with wine

four retired old boys
(and one and all half-poisoned),
passing the time.

And come rain or shine,
this is where you'll find them,
always together

Bibulously guzzling,
fouly imprecating
women, government and weather.

They're just searching for
a little happiness,
inside a glass

in order to forget
the many times that they've been
kicked in the ass

Some small joy there'll be,
in their agony,
with wine on their lips

and across their face
a little smile will race,
as they all cash in their chips.

Elderly professor,
in that darkened hallway,
who comes to meet you?

Could it be the only
one who still has got
something to teach you?

The one of whom, by day,
with great contempt you say
that she's a wife-at-large;

the same one who by night,
adjusts to your delights
the prices that she's going to charge.

As you close the door,
you'll feel you need some more
if you're to get your fill,

putting off until
the last day of the month
paying the bill.

And when you cash your pension
check you'll find there's nothing
left to enjoy.

You pay 10,000 lire
just so you can hear her
tell you you're a naughty boy.

Down towards the port,
where the air is fraught
with smells of decay

thieves of every kind
and murderers you'll find,
come night or day.

And if you can brave
the narrow alleyways
along the old wharf

you'll see the crazy guy who,
for three thousand lire,
sold his mother to a dwarf.

An upright citizen's
opinion of such men
is bound to be harsh:

You'll probably think that they
should all be locked away
to die behind bars.

But if you look at them
from top to bottom then
you'll certainly see

if they're not pure inside,
they're still their mothers' pride;
they're victims of society.

 

Picture of Fabrizio de Andre

 

La città vecchia

Nei quartieri dove
il sole del buon Dio
non dà i suoi raggi

ha già troppi impegni
per scaldar la gente
d'altri paraggi,

una bimba canta
la canzone antica
della donnaccia

quello che ancor non sai
tu lo imparerai
solo qui tra le mie braccia.

E se alla sua età
le difetterà
la competenza

presto affinerà
le capacità
con l'esperienza

dove sono andati
i tempi di una volta
per Giunone

quando ci voleva
per fare il mestiere
anche un po' di vocazione.

Una gamba qua,
una gamba là,
gonfi di vino

quattro pensionati
mezzo avvelenati
al tavolino

li troverai là,
col tempo che fa,
estate e inverno

a stratracannare
a stramaledire
le donne, il tempo ed il governo.

Loro cercan là,
la felicità
dentro a un bicchiere

per dimenticare
d'esser stati presi
per il sedere

ci sarà allegria
anche in agonia
col vino forte

porteran sul viso
l'ombra di un sorriso
tra le braccia della morte.

Vecchio professore
cosa vai cercando
in quel portone

forse quella che
sola ti può dare
una lezione

quella che di giorno
chiami con disprezzo
pubblica moglie

quella che di notte
stabilisce il prezzo
alle tue voglie.

Tu la cercherai,
tu la invocherai
più di una notte

ti alzerai disfatto
rimandando tutto
al ventisette

quando incasserai
delapiderai
mezza pensione

diecimila lire
per sentirti dire
"micio bello e bamboccione".

Se ti inoltrerai
lungo le calate
dei vecchi moli

In quell'aria spessa
carica di sale,
gonfia di odori

lì ci troverai
i ladri gli assassini
e il tipo strano

quello che ha venduto
per tremila lire
sua madre a un nano.

Se tu penserai,
se giudicherai
da buon borghese

li condannerai
a cinquemila anni
più le spese

ma se capirai,
se li cercherai
fino in fondo

se non sono gigli
son pur sempre figli
vittime di questo mondo.