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Il Testamento di un Albero Posted by on Nov 22, 2011 in Literature

Il Testamento di un Albero  (The Final Testament of a Tree) is a powerful poem by the Roman poet Trilussa whose real name was Carlo Alberto Salustri (1871 – 1950). The nom de plume Trilussa is actually an anagram of Salustri’s real name. Trilussa, who’s father died when he was only three years old, lived a very poor childhood.  His poetry is mostly written in Romanesco, the Roman dialect, and it takes its inspiration from the streets and taverns of Rome. In his writing he portrays the petite bourgeoisie of the city: the housewife, the store clerk, the servant. He also used powerful satire to denounce the misdeeds of governments and the vices of rich people. Trilussa was made a life Senator on the 1st of December 1950, but died twenty days later.

Here are three versions of Il Testamento di un Albero. The first is in its original form in the Romanesco dialect, the second in standard Italian, and finally there is my translation into English.

Er testamento d’un albero
Un arbero d’un bosco
chiamò l’ucelli  e fece testamento:
”Lascio li fiori ar mare,
lascio le foje ar vento,
li frutti ar sole e poi
tutti li semi a voi.
A voi, poveri ucelli,
perché me cantavate le canzone
ne la bella staggione.
E vojo che li stecchi,
quanno saranno secchi,
faccino er foco pe’ li poverelli.
Però v’avviso che sur tronco mio
c’è un ramo che dev’esse ricordato
alla bontà dell’ommini e de Dio.
Perché quer ramo, semprice e modesto,
fu forte e generoso: e lo provò
er giorno che sostenne un omo onesto
quanno ce s’impiccò”.
Il testamento d’un albero
Un albero di un bosco
chiamò gli uccelli e fece testamento:
”Lascio i fiori al mare,
lascio le foglie al vento,
i frutti al sole e poi
tutti i semi a voi.
A voi, poveri uccelli,
perché mi cantavate le canzoni
nella bella stagione.
E voglio che gli stecchi,
quando saranno secchi,
facciano il fuoco per i poverelli.
Però vi avviso che sul tronco mio
c’è un ramo che dev’essere ricordato
alla bontà degli uomini e di Dio.
Perché quel ramo, semplice e modesto,
fu forte e generoso: e lo provò
il giorno che sostenne un uomo onesto
quando ci s’impiccò”.
The final testament of a tree
A tree of the woods
called the birds and gave his final testament:
”I leave the flowers to the sea,
I leave the leaves to the wind,
the fruits to the sun and then
all of the seeds to you.
To you, poor birds,
because you sang me songs
in the beautiful season.
And I want the sticks,
when they are dry,
to make fire for the poor.
However I say to you that on my trunk
there is a branch that must be a memorial
to the kindness of men and of God.
Because that branch, simple and modest,
was strong and generous: and it was proven
the day that it held an honest man
when he hung himself”.
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