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Quel Mazzolin Di Fiori Posted by on Aug 21, 2017 in Culture, Music

Gathered around the old well in Ponticello, the local musician are singing Quel Mazzolin Di Fiori (That Little Bunch Of Flowers), a folk song that I loved as a child.

Composed in the second half of the nineteenth century, Quel Mazzolin Di Fiori was to become one of the Alpini’s (Italian mountain troops) favourite songs during the First World War. It is written in a mixture of standard Italian and Northern dialect.

When I was about five or six years old, I used to stand next to il giradischi (the turntable) listening to this song over and over again, but I was always puzzled by the ‘strange’ lyrics. The problem was that the recording we had of this song was performed by an all male Alpini choir. I assumed, therefore, that the person who had picked the bunch of flowers was a lad who wanted to present it to his girlfriend.

Yet why did the ‘lad’ sing: “Lo voglio dare al mio moretto” (“I want to give it to my brown haired boy” … ‘moretto????’ (‘brown haired BOY????’ …. shouldn’t it be ‘moretta‘? (‘brown haired girl’)”. Boys don’t give bunches of flowers to other boys! I said to myself.  Maybe he meant to say ‘il mio amoretto’ (‘my little love’)”, I reasoned.

So, I’d managed to find a possible explanation for the first ‘grammatical error’, but then the rest of the song became even more confusing: “lui non è venuto … è andato dalla Rosina … mi son poverina” (“he didn’t come … he went to Rosina … I’m a poor lass”) … CHE DIAVOLO!?! (WHAT THE DEVIL!?!)

Finally, more that forty years later, I realised that the person singing the song is meant to be a girl, and I could now enjoy it without puzzling over those inexplicable grammatical errors! Here are its first four verses, which are those most commonly sung today.

Quel mazzolin di fiori, che vien dalla montagna
Quel mazzolin di fiori, che vien dalla montagna,
e bada ben che non se bagna, che lo voglio regalar
e bada ben che non se bagna, che lo voglio regalar

That little bunch of flowers, which comes from the mountain
That little bunch of flowers, which comes from the mountain,
take care that it doesn’t get wet, because I want to present it
take care that it doesn’t get wet, because I want to present it

Lo voglio regalare perché l’è un bel mazzetto
Lo voglio regalare perché l’è un bel mazzetto
lo voglio dare al mio moretto, questa sera quando vien
lo voglio dare al mio moretto, questa sera quando vien

I want to present it because it’s a pretty little bunch
I want to present it because it’s a pretty little bunch
I want to give it to my brown haired boy, this evening when he comes
I want to give it to my brown haired boy, this evening when he comes

Stasera quando viene, gli fo una brutta cera
Stasera quando viene, gli fo una brutta cera
e perché sabato di sera, lui non è vegnù da me
e perché sabato di sera, lui non è vegnù da me

This evening when he comes, I’ll look sulkily at him
This evening when he comes, I’ll look sulkily at him
because Saturday evening he didn’t come to me
because Saturday evening he didn’t come to me

Non è vegnù da me, l’è andà dalla Rosina
Non è vegnù da io, l’è andà dalla Rosina,
e perché mi son poverina, mi fa pianger sospirar
e perché mi son poverina, mi fa pianger sospirar.

He didn’t come to me, he went to Rosina
He didn’t come to me, he went to Rosina,
because I’m a poor lass, he makes me cry and sigh
because I’m a poor lass, he makes me cry and sigh.

N.B. There are several variations on the lyrics but these are the most common ones.

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Comments:

  1. Patrizia Farina:

    Yes, the song is meant for a girl …..
    A small correction:

    Stasera quando ‘l viene
    sarà una brutta sera…
    Stasera quando ‘l viene
    sarà una brutta sera….
    E perchè sabato di sera
    lu non l’è vegnù da me.

    • Geoff:

      @Patrizia Farina There are no ‘correct’ lyrics to this song. The lyrics in Serena’s blog came directly from an Alpini website. Listen to the song in the video included with the blog and you’ll see that these are the lyrics that they sing.
      As Serena wrote at the end of her blog: “There are several variations on the lyrics but these are the most common ones.”
      The lyrics that you posted are one of these variations.

      Saluti da Geoff.

  2. Alexander:

    perché l’è un bel mazzetto
    because it’s a pretty little bunch
    and
    l’è andà dalla Rosina
    he went to Rosina
    I’d like you to explain why the “l” in “l’è” is there. Doesn’t the “è” signify all that is needed, i.e., “it” and “he”?

    • Geoff:

      @Alexander Ciao Alexander,
      As explained in the article, the song “is written in a mixture of standard Italian and Northern dialect.”
      You could also ask why the lyrics say “l’è andà dalla Rosina” as andà is not grammatically correct either.
      Italy has thousands of dialects, and there are many many regional word and grammar variations.
      Grammatically correct Italian is learnt in Italian classes, but is not necessarily what you’ll hear in Italy (or in poems and songs). That’s why we put a particular focus on colloquial Italian and idiosyncratic terms in our blogs.

      A presto, Geoff 🙂

      • Alexander:

        @Geoff thanks Geoff,
        so, I guess I’ll assume it’s redundant.
        either way, just want you & Serena to know I’ve learned & enjoyed so much from the two of you. you two are the best on the web.
        thanks again

  3. Joseph Breda:

    Viva l’Italia

  4. Christine Barbieri Sims:

    I remember my Ligurian Nonna singing this song when I was a little girl. My Zia Emma sang it for me very recently. I wrote the lyrics as she sang them . The 3rd line:” E guarda ben que non si bagna ” is how she sang it. It was explained to me that it means “Protect it from getting wet”. She doesn’t know the words “E bada ben “. Who is correct?
    I spoke Genovese with my 3 grandparents as a child. My Mother was raised in Lucca, Tuscany and I spoke Tuscan Italian with her. My Father, spoke American English, Genovese and Tuscan Italian at home. Now my nose hurts when I try to converse in Zeneize! 😄

    • Serena:

      @Christine Barbieri Sims Salve Christine!
      Hai delle radici molto interessanti.
      As I wrote in my post, there several versions of this very popular song, so both are correct: “e guarda ben che non si/se bagna” and “e bada ben che non si/se bagna” are two common variations and they both mean the same thing: “take care/make sure that it doesn’t get wet”.
      Saluti da Serena

  5. Robert Furletti:

    Thank you for the interpretation of the memorable song. My parents and grand parents were northern Italians actually originally Austians who lived in the northern end of lake garda. Riva. The reason I am writing is that my recollection when the song was sung around the table certain verses were sung in turn by women. None of the songs have women singing. What happened?

    • Serena:

      @Robert Furletti Salve Robert, sorry for the delay.
      I’ve never heard ‘Quel mazzolin di fiori’ sung in the way you describe. This song was written around 1870 (anonymous author). Despite not being a military song, it became the post popular song sung by the Alpini during the First World War.
      Sorry I can’t help you.
      Saluti da Serena

  6. Gary Corda:

    I am third generation Italian Swiss, the Canton Ticino aera near Lake Maggiora, born in the San Francisco Bay Area.
    I recall hearing the song sung many times particularly at a summer picnic primarily by a group of men that were drinking a lot of wine. They all tried to out do each other with the number of verses that each one knew. There are untold amount of verses and the longer they go on the more the verses became risque. That would have been 1953- the mid 1960’s.

    • Geoff:

      @Gary Corda Thanks for sharing that lovely memory with us Gary. A presto! 🙂


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