Cortesia cortesia cortesia chiamo

di Folgòre da San Gimignano

Cortesia cortesia cortesia chiamo

e da nessuna parte mi risponde,

e chi la dèe mostrar, sì la nasconde,

e perciò a cui bisogna vive gramo.


Avarizia le genti ha preso all’amo,

ed ogni grazia distrugge e confonde;

però se eo mi doglio, eo so ben onde:

di voi, possenti, a Dio me ne richiamo.


Ché la mia madre cortesia avete

messa sì sotto il piè che non si leva;

l’aver ci sta, voi non ci rimanete!


Tutti siem nati di Adamo e di Eva;

potendo, non donate e non spendete:

mal ha natura chi tai figli alleva.

       Generosity generosity generosity I call

by Folgòre da San Gimignano

Generosity generosity generosity I call

and to my plea no man responds

and he who ought to show it, absconds,

and those in need can barely survive at all.


Greed takes hold of every individual

all one’s kindness it destroys and confounds;

so if I mourn, I know well on what grounds:

to God I complain of you, you successful.


Since it is generosity, my mother

on which you tread so that she may not ascend;

your riches remain, and you instead expire!


We are all born of Eve and of Adam;

and yet you who can, neither spend nor deliver:

it is an evil nature that rears such children.


Translation ©Matilda Colarossi

Folgóre da San Gimignano, pseudonym of Giacomo di Michele (c. 1270 – c. 1332) was an Italian poet. His poem denounces the “new” custom, introduced by the merchant classes, of making and hoarding money.  «Cortesia», which essentially meant largesse (using one’s riches for the needy, to enjoy in the company of others, or to sponsor the arts) had come to an end, and as a poet he, like others, suffered from this lack of generosity. The new Bourgeoisie were more attached to their money, less generous, almost convinced that they could take their riches with them, and he mocks them for it: “your riches remain, and you instead expire!”

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