One of the beauties of spiral galaxies is bursts of blue-and-red hydrogen light from newly-born clusters of stars. In the 19th century a poetically similar outburst of creativity occurred in Naples, which not only transformed Italian popular music, but propelled by recordings of Enrico Caruso and Mario Lanza among others, has since warmed hearts across the globe.
La Canzone Napoletana is understood to have taken off in 1835 with the song Te voglio bbene assaie by Raffaele Sacco (1787 –1872), who as well as being a poet was also an inventor of optical instruments. The particular song I am focusing on today is Vieni sul mar* by Aniello Califano (1870-1919). I cannot date it precisely, but let us, for purposes of argument, date it to 1900. The refrain goes:
|Italian||English Translation||English song to same tune|
|Vieni sul mar|
Vieni a vogar,
Del tuo marinar!
|Come to the sea|
You will feel the thrill
Of your sailor man.
|Two lovely black eyes|
Oh, what a surprise!
Only for telling a man he was wrong
Two lovely black eyes.
Alas, I am not a fluent speaker or reader of languages (some may say that includes English!) but being a reluctant traveller, learning songs in the languages of Europe and sometimes beyond is my form of linguistic tourism. To help me, I sometimes put the words through Google Translate, and then sort out the inconsistencies. Taking the words of the present song, I did this to
Ma tu dormi, e non pensi al tuo fido,
ma non dorme chi vive d’amor;
But you sleep and [do] not think about your own credit limit,Che colpo! It is clear enough what has happened here. “Fido” originally meant “faithful one”, and in Italy and Britain it is still a well-known name for a dog. Well known in America also, as a certain cartoon from the New Yorker illustrates:
but [he does] not sleep who lives with love;
Scene 1: Man falls in lake. Calls to his dog “Quick, Fido! Get help!”
Scene 2: Dog is lying on couch, with analyst / therapist sitting and taking notes
What has happened? Have we all become mercenary, or is it simply that the dream has died?
* For the words and music of this lovely song, you can go to http://www.italiamerica.org/Vieni_sul_mar.htm.