Sicilian Poetry

Terpsichore

Giovanni Meli (1740 - 1815)

"Giovanni Meli is like a flower blooming luxuriously and spontaneously, even if the Sicilian language is sometimes disheveled, in his hands it became terse, full of delicacy and lyricism..." (Sucato, 105) This is my own free translation of Sucato's Italian text. In Sicilian the word "meli" means honey. There's a proverb in Sicilian: "nun si mancia meli senza muschi", that is to say, you don't eat honey without having flies around, so maybe some dishevelment comes with the territory.

Some of Giovanni Meli's works.
Trionfo della Ragione (The triumph of reason, 1760)
La Fata Galanti (The courteous fairy, 1762)
L'origini di lu munnu (The origin of the world, 1768)
La Bucolica (1766-1772)
Riflessioni sul meccanismo della natura in rapporto alla conservazione e riparazione dell'individui (an essay, 1777)
Lu specchiu di lu disingannu (1779)
Lu labbru (is the most famous of his odes: before 1781)
Don Chisciotti e Sanciu Panza (a parody, 1785-1787)
Anacreontiche e canzonetti(1787)
Poesi siciliani (in five volumes,1787)
Favuli murali (Moral fables, 1810-1814)
Ditirammu
Poesi siciliani (an updated edition in six volumes,1814)

Alcuni versi:

Sti silenzi, sta virdura,
Sti muntagni, sti vallati
L'ha criatu la natura
Pri li cori innamurati.

Lu sussurru di li frunni,
Di lu ciumi lu lamentu,
L'aria, l'ecu chi rispunni,
Tuttu spira sentimentu.

Dda farfalla accussì vaga,
Lu muggitu di li tori,
L'innuccenza chi v'appaga,
Tutti parranu a lu cori

Stu frischettu insinuanti
Chiudi un gruppu di piaciri,
Accarizza l'alma amanti
E ci arrobba li suspiri.

Some selected verses:

This silence and this verdant place
These valleys low and hills above
Were made for us from nature's grace
For sweethearts and their endless love

The beauty of the leafy fronds
The river's sad lament
An aria, the echo that responds
They all breathe sentiment.

The light and filmy butterfly
The cattle's low sighing
Their innocence will satisfy
The heart with hunger crying

The freshness of this feeling hovers
Holds fast the pleasures of the day
Caressing the souls of lovers
And stealing their breath away.

English translation by Arthur & Alice Dieli

This following extract was cited by Giuseppe Pitrè on page 187 of Volume II of his Proverbi siciliani raccolti e confrontati con quelli degli altri dialetti d'italia..

Nella Rinnina e lu Parpagghiuni, favola del Meli, la rondine dice:

... Ntra l'oggetti cchi¨ brillanti
Assai cc'Ŕ di superfluu e stravaganti.
Non tutti li vantaggi di apparenza
Su' tali valutÓnnusi di sustanza,
Vi dunanu di arrassu cumpiacenza,
Ma vana poi truvati l'eleganza,
E chiddu chi apparisci a nui vantaggiu
Tanti voti Ŕ molestia o disaggiu.

In The Swallow and the Butterfly, a fable by Meli, the swallow says:

... Among the more brilliant objects
There's much superfluity and extravagance.
Not all that appear desirable
Are substantially valuable,
They evoke pleasure from afar,
But then are found wanting elegance,
And that which appears to us desirable
Is often hurtful or undesirable.

English translation by Arthur Dieli


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Last updated 9/3/14