November 2 marks the 42nd anniversary of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s death. The motives for his homicide have never been satisfactorily ascertained or revealed. The young man who confessed to his killing was sentenced to nine years in goal and then spent the rest of his life on the wrong side of the tracks. He died this year carrying the truth with him.
Pasolini (1922-1975) was one of the foremost intellectuals of the 20th century, but also a controversial figure. He held left-wing views and frequently challenged authorities (both political and religious, accusing them of hypocrisy.
He was a poet (composing in Friulian as well as Italian), a novelist, an essayist, a film director and a painter. His best-known films are The Decameron and The Gospel According to St. Matthew.
Pasolini used to spend his summer holidays at his mother’s small town of Casarsa, in Friuli. He loved the place and the people. He taught at the Valvasone junior high school for a few years and composed many of his early poems in Friulian. The following poem is from the Series Poesie a Casarsa, published as part of the collection Bestemmia I. The translation into Italian is found in the collection while the English translation is mine and therefore simply literal.
Ciant da li ciampanis
Co la sera a si pièrt ta li fontanis
il me paìs al è colòur smarìt.
Jo i soj lontàn, recuardi li so ranis,
la luna, il trist tintinulà dai gris.
A bat Rosari, pai pras al si scunìs:
jo i soj muàrt al ciant da li ciampanis.
Forèst, al me dols svualà par il plan,
no ciapà pòura: jo i soj un spirt di amòur
che al so paìs al torna di lontàn.
Canto delle campane
Quando la sera si perde nelle fontane
il mio paese è di colore smarrito.
Io sono lontano, ricordo le sue rane,
il triste tremolare dei grilli.
Suona Rosario, e si sfiata per i prati:
io sono morto al canto delle campane.
Straniero, al mio dolce volo per il piano,
non aver paura: io sono uno spirito d’amore
che al suo paese torna di lontano.
The song of the bells
When the evening loses itself in the fountains
my village is a faint colour.
I am far away, I remember its frogs, its moon,
the sad quivering of the crickets.
The bells ring for the Rosary, they are breathless in the fields:
I am dead to the song of the bells.
Stranger, do not be afraid of my sweet flight over the plain: I am a spirit of love
who returns to his village from afar.