C'ERA UNA VORTA UN RE ... ONCE UPON A TIME ...
Giuseppe Belli tr. Leonard Cottrell
(from the Roma dialect)
C'era una vorta un Re cche ddar palazzo
manno ffora a li popoli st'editto:
"Io so io, e vvoi nun zete un cazzo,
sori vassalli bbuggiaroni, e zzitto.
Io fo ddritto lo storto e storto er dritto;
pozzo venneve a ttutti a un tant' er mazzo;
Io, si vve fo impicca, nun ve strapazzo,
che la vita e la robba Io ve l'affitto.
Chi abbitta a sto monno senza er titolo
o dde Papa, o dde Re, o dd'Imperatore,
quello nun po ave mmai vosce in capitolo."
Co st'editto anno er boja pe ccuriero,
interroganno tutti in zur tenore;
e arisposeno tutti: E vvero, e vvero.
Once upon a time, a king saw fit
to send this proclamation through the land:
"I am I, you vassals aren't worth shit -
that's how it is, so kiss my royal hand!
I'll have you as I want you, straight or bent,
or sell you off in lots, so much a pair,
and if I have you hanged, it's only fair -
you never owned your lives, you only rent.
Shut up and bow - there isn't any hope
I'd listen to some turkey-brain like you
unless he's Emperor, or King, or Pope."
And then he had his hangman take a poll
to see how folks reacted, on the whole.
And all the people said: It's true, it's true.

For more of this translator's work see: http://planck.com/rhymedtranslations/versetrans.htm

Trans. copyright © Leonard Cottrell 1999


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