Ricordo di fanciullezza
Le gaggie della mia fanciullezza
Memory of youth
The locust tree of my youth
Translation @Matilda Colarossi 2020
Attilio Bertolucci’s strong passion for cinematography—a passion that he would pass on to his children, Giuseppe and Bernardo, both directors—is obvious in the execution of this poem. “Our eye continues to make frames: both when looking at landscapes or, similarly, the street of a big city, or a deserted room. During our day, the lights—of which someone like Storaro, for example, masterfully thinks when making a film—are the “thought” of the passing sun, the thickening of the shadows,” states Bertolucci, and the play of light is a protagonist in this brief poem, moving hand in hand with the memories of the poet’s youth.
“Ricordo di fanciullezza”, Memory of youth, is from the collection Fuochi di novembre (November fires), composed in 1934.
The theme of the entire piece is a memory of the poet’s youth, a happy memory set amidst a nature that is painted in crepuscular hues. The poet remembers the leaves of the locust tree, which were used to make music. The poem is enveloped in an oneiric mist of nostalgia: it didn’t take much to be happy then, as a child, surrounded by nature and friends.
The entire piece seems suspended between a dream and reality where things, like his friends in line 10, suddenly appear, “sputano”. The memory becomes dreamlike as reality fades with the oncoming night (v. 14); and the children run through the fields and the cool air of the night, both frightened and elated.
The language is simple, the verse free with numerous refined terms (fresche foglie, s’odono, s’ode/ ). In the Italian original the author makes this very private memory impersonal by using the “si” (si cammina/ one walks or you walk etc.—I have opted for “you” when I absolutely needed the pronoun), and only uses the first person plural in lines 4 and 14 (ci accarezza, ci colgono) to embrace the reader in the caress of the branch, and later in the oncoming night: in both cases, there is a warmth, a gentleness, the tenderness that accompanies the memories of our youth.
The poetic elements include synesthesia: vv 1-2 (sight, the tree); vv 3-7 (touch, the fervid faces, gentle and vexing branch; handful of leaves); and vv 8-10 (sound, vague illusive descriptions of the thresher and the music of the leaves). Alliteration is used as well, and the repetition of the consonants s and f to give the poem musicality: I reproduced as many of these elements as I could, careful not to change the purpose behind the poet’s words. In line 6 we find an antithesis and an oxymoron: respectively, “ramo dolce e fastidioso”, which, in fact, is not one phrase but refers to two concepts, the easiness with which the children push the branch away, “dolce”, and the vexing fact that it is always in their way, “fastidioso”; and later the “inconscia vendetta”, when, out of spite, and, therefore, in a conscious manner, the children remove all the leaves “unwittingly” from the branches that are hindering their passage. In line 13 we find an anastrophe to underline the end of the cicada’s song and the coming of night: “Quando più la cicada non si sente cantare…” (when no longer you heed the cicada singing). – M.C.
The poem is found in the book Bertolucci, Le Poesie, Garzanti (2014), p. 46.
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