Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dante to Dianne Hales -love poetry and popular sayings

    Years ago  while I  was a young teacher  at one of Rome’s prestigious  international schools,  I  found myself  teaching   Beginning Italian to a  class of  adolescents.   As newcomers to Italy, they were  learning the language by osmosis and not  just in the classroom.

 Juicy, descriptive  expletives were learned daily on the soccer field while dialogues  pertaining  to  food  and transport  were  next  in order of importance  as these  teenagers  went out to  explore  the Eternal City and interact with   their Italian counterparts, especially those of  the genteel sex.
 But what about   “la bella lingua”  Dianne Hales describes  in her  bestseller ? What about  a bit of culture and history?  
  Italian actor  Roberto Benigni ‘s successful  theatrical  readings  of  La Divina Commedia  are proving  to modern audiences  that  la lingua di  Dante  has  never  gone  out of  fashion.  Hopefully  my former  students  are  still  using   this poem they learned    to impress  the ladies.  

Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare
la donna mia, quand'ella altrui saluta,
ch'ogne lingua devèn, tremando, muta,
e li occhi no l'ardiscon di guardare.
Ella si va, sentendosi laudare,
benignamente d'umiltà vestuta,
e par che sia una cosa venuta
da cielo in terra a miracol mostrare

Mostrasi sì piacente a chi la mira
che dà per li occhi una dolcezza al core,
che 'ntender no la può chi no la prova;

e par che de la sua labbia si mova
un spirito soave pien d'amore,
che va dicendo a l'anima: Sospira.

 If  you  are not up to memorizing  a quatrain   or two  in the   13th century Tuscan dialect  which later became   Italian,  you can settle  for   a few of these   simple   rhyming   quotations  to impress your friends  with  your knowledge  of  Italian language  and culture.

Here are  a few popular sayings   still  in daily use among  my neighbors here in central Italy.  Perhaps  few city dwellers  remember  or use  these  snippets of country wisdom, but  in  the Viterbo   province also known as Etruria or Tuscia, they are still understood and used…for  country wisdom  is   graphic and  funny  as well as  being  time-less.   

·         Quando Montefogliano mette il cappello, non uscire senza l’ombrello
When  Montefogliano  (local  hill)  puts on  its hat (clouds), don’t go out  without an umbrella.

·         Il gatto nella dispensa quello che non fa, pensa
What  the cat  doesn’t do in  the larder, he thinks about.

·         Il letto è una rosa, chi non dorme si riposa
The bed is  a rose  (comfy),  if you don’t  sleep, you  rest.

·         Latte e vino, veleno fino
Milk  together  with wine  is  a fine poison.
(in other words, no cappuccino  after  a meal with wine)

·         La scolatura alla più bella di natura
The last drop of wine   - to the most beautiful
(in  homage  to  a beautiful dinner companion, while emptying   the wine bottle )

·         Il mondo  è fatto a scale: chi li scende e chi li sale
The world is   like a staircase,  some  go down and some go up.

·         Monache, preti e polli non sono mai satolli
Nuns,  priests  and chickens are  never  full  /satiated.

And, since  it  is August,  
·         Ad agosto, moglia mia non ti conosco

1 comment:

  1. Italian poetry is one of the most beautiful in the world... Dante was a friend of Guido Guinizelli, the beginner of "Dolce Stil Novo", and he continued this new sweet style and became the best italian writer..

    @Mary Jane Your work in italy is very great... you are promoting our culture in the world through article that let dream the people our country!! Thank you!! Keep it up!!