Wednesday 19 April 2023

Dante's Inferno, Canto#1a: "DANTE'S SONG"

ORIGINAL SONG: "Your Song", Elton John, 1970.
ORIGINAL POEM: "Inferno" by Dante Alighieri, the first of 3 books constituting "The Divine Comedy" or "La Divina Commedia".
PARODY COMPOSED: Giorgio Coniglio, April 2015.

Although Dante Alighieri wrote these poetic lines 700 years ago, they have received very little play on various parody-sites. Dante was a forerunner in his use of vernacular language (rather than Latin); based mainly on Tuscan dialect, his writings were critical in the development of modern Italian. To make the poetic lines singable, I had to take down Dante’s hallmark “terza rima” rhyming scheme (aba, bcb, cdc….), and rearrange it to a simpler aabb format. Other than this rearrangement, which leaves out some original lines, the lyrics for the beginning of the first Canto are primarily Dante’s. My English translation follows the Italian, with some adaptations for modern readers. Endless kudos are owing to the Pinsky translation, which inspired this effort.

Inferno, Canto#1a: DANTE'S SONG

(to the tune of "Your Song")

"Dark Wood"
detail of Dore engraving

Put down words to “Commedia” sev’n centuries past,
My take on Life and after- seemed to take hold and last
Died exiled in Ravenna, but I guess I did well,
My gift is what we all think about Heav’n and Hell………

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita,
Che la diritta via era smarrita
Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, a dir
Quanto e qual era è cosa dura.

It’s a little bit funny, but in the midst of life’s road,
I got lost on the path where I’d easily strode,
Found myself without money in a dark gloomy wood –
I’d use a GPS if only I could.

Questa selva selvaggia ed aspra e forte
Tanto è amara, che poco è piu morte –
Era tanto pien di sonno com’io v’entrai
Che la verace via abandonnai.

This unyielding woodland is wild and perverse
No place to get coffee, only death might be worse
Can’t say how I got here, seems I’ve used up my stash
That I’d thought of smoking near the jogging path.

Ma dove terminava l’orribile valle
Vidi vestite di raggi le spalle d’un colle
La paura cheta, un poco cheta
Dopo notte di pièta
Per ogne calle mena dritto questa pianeta

I spotted a billboard for a roadside motel
Where a fearsome trench ended at the foot of a hill
I’d had a bad night, my credit’s quite tight,
If I had enough cash
I’d get out of this sunlight, I need a place to crash.

E come quei che con lena affannata
Si volge all’acqua perigliosa e guata;
Uscito fuor del pelago alla riva,
       Dante nella Selva
Cosi l’animo mio ancor fuggiva.

Like an agent who’s landed and stripped off scuba-gear
007, no tuxedo, proceeding out of fear,
From depths to some hostile shore is what I really mean,
That’s the way that my soul appeared to be fleeing.

Si volse indietro, l’animo mio
Che ancor fuggiva,
A rimirar lo passo che non lasciò persona viva.

Fearing what to find, my passing-lane mind
Checked the rear-view mirror, then hurtled
Peering back at the passage that leaves the living world.


Canto 1A: Dante’s Song (see below)
Canto 6: Dante, Go and See (Crayfish Étouffée)


(Click on any chord-chart slide to advance to 'presentation/singalong' mode.)

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