Modern Bolognese Tongue.
The contadinesca favella Bolognese is little known in England, where Goldoni has made the witty Venetian dialect tolerably familiar. Mr. Greville (Memoirs, I, 404) simply remarks that the dialect is unintelligible, whilst Mezzofanti assured him that it is forcible and expressive. These local families, which are numerous throughout the peninsula, may hardly be compared with those of our counties, even with the difference of cultivation; they are rather what the speech of Holland is to that of Germany. Whilst we have, or rather had till late years, little, if any, written monuments, the Italian variants are rich in local literature. For example, the only book familiar to our forefathers of what the Gipsies now call the Peero‑dillin‑tem, foot giving, that is, purring or kicking county, and known to the great conversational linguist of Bologna was Thomas and Mary. This generation has done much in cultivating
the rustic muse; yet the detached private publications, as opposed to those printed by the English Dialect Society and other learned bodies, are generally confined to their own parts, or, at most, to the curious in philology.
The fact of the Italian favelle being literary and not analphabetic, containing dictionaries and classical poems, may account, to a certain extent, for their universal use even in educated and cultivated society. At home we should marvel to hear a dinner party of ladies and gentlemen suddenly lapse into the broadest Yorkshire or Somersetshire, and it is only an occasional original who persists in retaining his or her country brogue. In Italy the resident stranger is accustomed to the appearance of the local dialect whenever the company becomes excited or confidential, and he generally has the sense to learn it, as otherwise he would be utterly unintelligible to the peasantry, and partly so to the lower order of citizens.
Italians, who hold to Italia una as the first article of faith, consider the DIVERSITAS LINGVARVM to be NON ACADEMICA SED VERE BABYLONICA, and denounce the practice as an unmitigated evil. I am disposed, despite all sentiment, to agree with them. Difference
ence of dialect tends to maintain a species of bilingualism, and history tells us that bilingual peoples have done next to nothing in literature, and very little in anything else. Sometimes a genius, like Milton, may write in Latin and Italian as well as in English; a Camoens may poetise in Portuguese and Spanish, or a Swinburne may be equally happy in French and English. These are rare exceptions ‑‑ brains big enough to contain two and even three tongues. But the multitude has enough and more than enough to do with mastering one. It is not only race that has prevented Wales from producing a single writer, in verse or in prose, whose name has become a household word to the world; and sentimentalists who, like Mr. Gladstone, advocate the Eisteddfod, offer, methinks, the worst advice of their unreal and aesthetic school. The cultivation of local dialects is the strongest engine for maintaining those racial distinctions which the whole course of modern civilisation does its best to obliterate: the worst symptom in Jewish progress is their being constantly reminded of the words of Moses, separated for ever from all the people on the face of the Earth. Such a study was well for that divided land, that mere geographical expression in which the
first Lord Lytton (Last Days Of Pompeii) found the only hope of Italy. How potent the instrument may be found in political warfare, in alienating man from man, may be seen in the battle of races at Trieste. The Italianissimi party, opposed to the Tedeschi and the Pan Slavic, carefully supports half a dozen weeklies or flying sheets written in the corrupt Venetian, dashed with a few words of Friulano, [footnote 1: the borrowing from Friulano is mostly of words. For this dialect the curious reader will consult the Poesiis de Pieri Zorutt (Pietro Zorutti), published at Udine. Some of the poems are much admired and deserve translation: an especial favourite is the Anacreontic beginning: Piovesine, fine, fine] which distinguishes the city of Charles VI and Maria Theresa. Here we had or have, to mention only a few, La Baba (The Grandmother) which first appeared; El Portinajo; El Poveretto; E1 Rusignol (The Nightingale), which ceased to sing in 1873; and El Ciabiatin (The Cobbler, who also acts as house porter), which has lately become El Triestin. Its rival is at present the Gazzettino del Popolo. [Footnote 2: I know only two books of proverbs in the Triestine dialect: 1. Dialoghi Piacevoli of the (Canonico) D. Giuseppe Mainati, with map and letters of Mgr. Bonomo, which begin with the 16th century (1511), the whole translated into Italian (Trieste, G. Marenigh, 1828); and 2. Saggio di Proverbi Triestini, by Angelo C. Cassani (Trieste, Colombo Coen, 1860).]
The Bulgnes [Jeff Hill's footnote: Bolognese dialect] is one of the rudest of its kind, so tronco e mozzato, (truncated and elided), that at first strangers, familiar with Italian, can hardly understand a word of it, especially when spoken stretto. For instance: A n' vuoi t' m' in parl, S'gnor or M'sier (I won't have you speak to me about it, Sir) rapidly pronounced, sounds almost like one word. Again, Ai me ne seng meng brisa (io non ne so mica) with a double negative, in Italian an affirmative; and, lastly, to die is not morire, but andar in squezz (to go squash or in dissolution). Yet it has its classics, such as the works of Doctor Lotto Lotti, which run through a multitude of editions; nor are collections of local poetry disdained by the learned of the present day. In the list of modern Masters of Arts and Professors at Blogna, or Bulogna, I see that the Senator Conte Commendatore Carlo Pepoli published a Discorso Academico upon the patriotic subject Di taluni canti dei Popoli. The Professor of Italian Literature, Cav. Giosuè Carducci, has also printed, in periodicals, specimens Di alcune poesie popolari Bolognesi del Secolo XIII. inedite (Bologna, 1866), and Di alcune rime antiche ritrovate nei memoriali dell' Archivio notarile di Bologna (Bologna, 1872‑1873). There is a large quarto vocabulario, or dictionary of
Bolognese‑Italian, and Italian‑Bolognese, by Claudio Ermanno Ferrari (publisher, Nicola Zanichelli, Bologna, 1858; price 4 lire). My kind friend Professor Gian Giuseppe Bianconi gave me three volumes, whose contents may not be uninteresting to the general reader.
The oldest is a rude little duodecimo of 158 pages, entitled La Togna, Commedia Rusticale, tradotta (it was originally in the Florentine dialect) dal timido Accademico dubbioso, recitata nella Villa di Fossolo, e dedicata all' illustriss. Signora, la Signora Alexandra Bianchetti, Gambalunga, ne' Zaniboni. Con Privilegio. In Bologna, per Giacomo Monti, MDCLIV. Con licenza de' superiori. The IMPRIMATVR appears at the end, signed by the Archiep. Bonon. & Principe, and by two members of the INQVISITIONIS BONONIAE. The two opening sonnets, Felsina alla Togna, and Sunnett fatt pr Caprizzi, in lod d' la Togna, will give the measure of elision and truncation; for instance, in these lines ‑‑
E s' in Fiurenza cun fadigh, e spes (fatigue and expense)
Fu zà mustrà la gloria dal tò inzegn,
Quì in Bulogna, und i Studi han al sò Regn
T' harà gloria mazor, e piu pales (more evident),
we may remark that the pronouns me or mi; ti, lu, nù, vù, and lori or ei are used everywhere between
Dalmatia and Bologna. Mi is remarkable for occurring in so many different and far divided languages; for instance, in Slav and Teutonic, where mich is older than ich. The Bolognese use A or ai for the first person, only where it would be emphatic. The elision of the last syllable in the noun (medgh for medico), in the infinitive (guardá for guardare), and in the participle (battú for battuto) is similar on both sides of the Adriatic. We have also the same omission of the liquids, as in cavai for cavalli, and maraveia for maraviglia.
The country girl La Togna (Antonia), daughter of Barba (Gaffer) Bigh (Biagio, Giles), is loved by Minghett d' Greguor, and she loves Sandrin, whilst she, or rather her father, is proposed to by Petronio. [Footnote 1: The name is intensely Etruscan, as we learn from the tombs of the PETRUNI family at Perugia. La Togna in the fisherman's dialect of Trieste would mean a float.] The latter is a zdatin (citizen), speaking, of course, pure Italian, and compelled by the master passion to forget his morgue of the 17th century. Yet he cannot help quoting (page 108) ‑‑
Allo sprone i Caualli, al fischio i Cani
Ed al bastone intendono i Villani.
The contrast of the dialects leads, in the unsmooth
course of courtship, to such QVID PRO QVO as the following (page 36): ‑‑
Petronio ‑‑ Non vedi, come per to languisco?
Togna ‑‑ Mò, ch' vien a dir languiss? D' gli anguill? (eels?)
Petronio ‑‑ Nò, vuol dir ch' io moro!
Togna ‑‑ Un Mor (Moor) bianch', ò negr?
Another zintilhuomin, also a citizen pour rire, is Cintio Musico, who writes songs for his friend; and the valet Malgaratin, the seruitore del cio di Petronio. There are two ridiculous old women, Ze Drathie (Aunt or Gammer Dorothy), and Ze Betta (Elizabeth), who recite sympathetic verses when La Togna faints under her troubles. After the usual PERIPETICAE of love and crosslove, caused by the Diaul dl' Infern, the conclusion is happy. Petronio is forbidden by his family to wed a rustic: Minghett, after attempting suicide, consoles himself with Flippa, whose Padr or Par is Barba Pasqual. There is a general song and dance lasting through six pages, and Sandrin dismisses the audience before living happily with La Togna ever after. Here, evidently, we have a preshadowing of Goldoni in Florentine and Bulgnes, instead of in Venetian.
The next is a more ambitious production, and Professor Bianconi considers it the most correct in point of orthography ‑‑ a trifle which, as in
Milton's day, has hardly been placed upon a settled basis. It is entitled La Liberazione di Vienna assediata dalle armi Ottomane, Poemetto giocoso; e la Banzuola, dialoghi sei, del Dottore Lotto Lotti, in lingua popolare Bolognese (no date but 1746 in the last plate). We gather from the preface that the work of this citizen, a good Catholic, has often been reprinted, despite the poetical licence of certain sentiments. It is an old fashioned octavo of 248 pages, with 12 copperplates, including a burlesque frontispiece, where Fame flogs a kicking Pegasus: the illustrations are curious enough for the costumes and views of the city in the last century. The dialect is mixed: in those days there were various phrases, pronunciation, accent, and proverbial sayings in the several quarters of the city, especially in those which, being nearest to, had most intercourse with, Romagna, Lombardy, and Tuscany. Moreover, the filatoglieri (silkworkers) had their own variety. Similarly we find at Venice two distinct dialects, one in the Canavecchio (Old Canal) to the north; the other in that peculiar region the Castello, south: the same is the case even in Rome, where the Trasteverini do not speak like their eastern fellow citizens.
The first part (pages 1‑88) is entitled in Bolognese Ch' n' ha cervell ava gamb (who hath no brains has legs), o sia La Liberazione di Vienna. It is preceded by the normal sonnet Dal Sgnor Duttor Jacm' Antoni Buzzichell, which ends thus: ‑‑
Dla tò penna mì ammir la gran furtuna
Ch' sà in t' un medesm temp, grav e burlesca,
E battr sod (to hit hard), e andar sbactand la LUNA (to chaff the moon,
that is, the Crescent.)
The poemetto, relating the attack of Sulayman the Magnificent with his 300,000 men, is divided into five cantos, each preceded by its argument; and the following is a specimen of the first stanza, which opens like Ariosto: ‑‑
A cant la stìzza, al fugh, gl' arm, e la rabbia
D' qlor ch' in t' al nostr vlen cazzar i pj,
D' qla zent qsì dsprpustà, ch' sempr s' arrabbia:
O pr dir mìi d' qla maledetta znj
Ch' aveva fatt pinsir d' grattarz la scabbia
Ben ch' a n' aven' scador, prch' Damndj
Ch' è sempr in nostr ajut, e in nostra dfsesa,
I ammurtò la candela ch' era impresa.
[Footnote 1: I sing the wrath, the fire, the arms, and the rage
Of those who would thrust their feet into our country,
Of that folk so inconsequent, which is always in a fury:
Or, better to say, of that accursed brood
Which had thought to have scratched its itching,
Although without much chance, for the Lord (Dominiddio)
Who is ever in our aid and our defence,
Put out the candle which they had lit.]
In stanza 4 of the same canto we have an expression which has lately been made world famous by Prince Bismarck: ‑‑
E ch' la s' avè da frìzr in t' al sò grass.
[Footnote 1: And which had to fry in its own grease.]
The first canto marshals the Christian and the infidel forces, including Mustafà prim Visir, the Bassàs of various places ‑‑ Mesuputamia, Bosnia, Damasc, and Alepp ‑‑ Msìr Agha of the Gianizr, and others. In the second there is a dialogue between the Devil (Diavl or Belzebù), the Rè Pluton, and Povr Macumett, who is called to relate in presence of l' Deità ch' assìstn ai argumìnt why the Turk attacks Leopold Imperator. Mohammed is opposed by a certain Squìzimbraga, un duttor ‑‑ the doctor, professor, or savant is, of course, a favourite gibe with the town VERSVS gown, and the historic duttòur Balanzon, who was a real personage of that name, still appears at every carnival. Macumett so pleases Pluto that he receives as a gift una furcà antigh, antigh. In Canto 3 we have the siege and the sufferings of i povr Chstian; the 4th shows the relieving army of Sobieski (1683) guided by Gabriell Anzlìn Bndett
appearing in s' la muntagna d' Kalembergh, and putting the Ottomans to flight. The Quint Cant sings the triumph of the Christians.
E i Bulgnis al sò solit in dardella
Con al fugh portn' al cil l' ovra sì bella.
[Footnote 1: And the Bolognese, after their fashion, in great excitement
By their fiery valour raise their noble work to the sky.]
The loot is also carefully enumerated. The Poemetto has its merits, but it can hardly compare with the Rape of the Tub, by Tassoni, whom Dickens (Italian Notes) confounded with Tasso. La Secchia Rapita proposed for itself the patriotic task of ridiculing petty feuds about nothing between neighbouring cities; and its admirable wit, intermingled with charming poetical descriptions, found a worthy echo in some of Byron's latest masterpieces.
The second part (pages 93‑248) is entitled Remedi per la Sonn, da lezr alla Banzola, [footnote 2: the banzuola or banzola is quite Bolognese, and corresponds with the SCAMNVM or low stool of the Romans; it is also used for a bench] Dialogh Sj (Cures For Sleep, To Be Read On The Bench Or Footstool, 6 Dialogues). It is addressed Alle Oneste Cittadine di Bologna, [Jeff Hill's footnote: To The Honest Citizens Of Bologna] by the Vecchietto, Lotto Lotti, who quotes for their benefit Marc' Aurelio's
saying: The retired life of women bridles the tongues of men. The author was induced to collect the various bizzarie of sentiment, savings, and proverbs, by the example of Signor Carlo Maria Mazzi, who published learned and amusing comedies in the Milanese dialect. All the dialogues are in irregular verse, rhymed and unrhymed; the persons, men and women, vary from two to six. They have also their moral: Number I, Al Servitor, teaches to distrust servants who are apt to chatter about the secrets of the house. Number II, Gropp' e macchia [footnote 1: Far gropp' e maccia (not macchia), that is, to do knot and stain, is still a saying at Trieste when a man finishes off a business at once] [Jeff Hill's footnote: 'Gropp,' e macchia PRO 'Gropp' e macchia'] is a warning against gadding about. Number III, La Cantatriz, encourages mothers to teach their daughters music and singing, but warns them against the cupidity of husbands who would make their children professionals. The music lesson (page 159) is good: ‑‑
Crìcca (the Mestr) ‑‑ Ossù, sgnora, ch' la vìgna
Zà dsen sù: fa, fa.
Sandrina (Alessandrina, the pupil) sings: ‑‑ L' empio oggetto da me abborito
Trovi scherno, e non pietà!
Cricca. ‑‑ O vj sù alligrament.
Sandrina ‑‑ E‑e‑e‑e non pietà.
Crìcca. ‑‑ Pietà, sol, dò.
Number IV dialogue, La Miseria, bids the gudewife save money against a rainy day, as husbands often go to ruin. Al Bagord (Le Noceur), Number V, illustrates the saying of Dione Filosofo, that la Donna civile non solo dev' essere onesta, ma non deve dar cagione alcuna, che in lei si sospetti mai cosa disonesta ‑‑ familiar to England through Caesar's wife. Number VI and last is L' ippucondria, in which the wife is taught how to treat a hypochondriac husband: Scannacapon ammalà is relieved by the contrivances of Bunifazia, sò mujer and Madò Pira, the servant woman, rather than by the medgh (medico) and spzial (pothecary). FINIS is preceded immediately by: ‑‑
Scann. } Baslaman a Sgnerj.
The author has succeeded in fulfilling the difficult promise of his preface (page 96). In tale imitazione però ho proccurato, per quanto ho potuto, di scansare certi equivoci sporchi, ed indecenti di parole, the la favella Bolognese suol partorire, perchè, tolti da voi (to the citizenesses), verrei ad offendere la vostra modestia, ed a svegliarvi quella verecondia, che sul vostro volto è la Rocca della vostra bellezza.
The third is a little octavo of 96 pages, Poesí in Dialètt Bulgnèis D' Camell Nùnzi: Bulògna, Stamparí Militar, 1874. It consists of sonnets, of various pieces, epigrams, and so on, and, finally, of the sayings of Zé‑Rudèll. Of the sonnets, the most amusing are the Matrimoni ed Iusfètt con la Rusalí and the Pensir ed Iusfètt per la nascita d' un fiol d' zeinqu mis. The unfortunate Balanzòn also appears on two occasions, Pr' una strenna dèl Duttòur Balanzòn, and Dscòurs fatt pr' al Duttòur Balanzòn. Zé Rudèll discourses on various themes, such as in Lod dla Pulèint (In Praise Of POLENTA, or Porridge); in Mort d' un Toc (tacchino, or turkey); in Mort d' un Oca, and on the Manira d' cunzar l' insalâ (To Prepare A Salad). The third (page 58) begins with: ‑‑
DIES IRAE, DIES ILLA.
L' Oca e Morta e più non strilla
S' finé l' oli in dla luzerna,
Pace a lei, REQVIEM eterna!
[Footnote 1: The goose is dead and no more hisses,
Ended the oil in its lantern,
Peace to its MANES, REQVIEM eternal!]
In a rhyme (page 61), addressed all' Illustrissem Sgnor Commendatòur Professòur Franzèsc Rizzol, we find the following sharp political allusions (1866): ‑‑
Arcurdav ch' fra i amalâ (he perceived) (sick)
Che l' Italia ha un mal in dl' ùter,
Ch' l' an s' andass mai a .....
Mo sperain ch' l' ha finirá
E d' sta pèsta guarirá (will be cured of this evil),
Tolt da Ròmma al mal Franzèis (MORBVS GALLICVM)
L' amalâ l' sintrá manc pèis (will not feel the worse).
The following is a specimen of the epigrams (page 27): ‑‑
Un Muntanar mandó a Bulògna un fiol (figliuolo),
Per cavari un Duttòur, mo l' imparó (but he learned)
Dòp zeinqu ann, che lù fava al lardarol: (that he was a charcutier)
Non ostant con al tèimp, al s' rassegnó,
Digand (saying), le mei (better) ch' al seppa frá i salam (salami)
Che un Asen (asino) frá i Duttur ch' as' mor ed fam.
In these extracts from the Rem Bulgnèisi it would appear that the modern dialect is growing broader, with more of the singsong. For instance, duttòur, with emphasis on the penultimate vowel, takes the place of duttor; ztadein of ztadin; Bulògna of Blogna; and so forth. The same is noticeable in the prose; for instance, in the first sentences of the preface: Tùtt i liber dèl mònd hann una prefaziòn, e la vrev (vorrei) avèir anca me. Le bèin vèira ch' an (that I do not) so da ch' banda em prinzipiar (on what side to begin). A diró che la prefaziòn la fa l' effètt dèl Wermutt, dl' assèinzi, dl' amaròn e dl' antipast premma dèl dsnar (before dinner), ch' i preparen
al stamg (stomach) a dar una bona magna (good feed).
My kind friend, Doctor Bianconi, further obliged me with the following Detti popolari in dialett Bolognese: ‑‑
1. La più trista roda del car (carro) l' è quella qu' zirla (strida) ‑‑ said of the bad workman who complains of his tools, of much cry and little wool, and of the noisy and pushing mediocrity.
2. L' è sempre mei (meglio) rusgar (rossichiare, to gnaw) un os (osso) che un baston. So the Triestines say: Meyo rosigar un osso che un baston.
3. Quel sgnor l' a fatt tant armesa (armaggio, or preparations), e pó al s' en anda con el piv in tal sac. So the Triestines, who must be visited in the highly Conservative quarter called La 'Rena (from the Roman ARENA or amphitheatre), have it: El xe andà colle pive in sacco. The piva is the bag, the zampogna is the pipe, of the bagpipe, and when the former is not distended, the latter sinks into it. The meaning is our popular saying he shut up.
4. An s' i pó diri una parola ch' el salta a la graná (alla granata, that is, in furore, or si stizza).
Trieste prefers Che ghe (gli) vegna (venga) la mosc' al naso (the fly to his nose) ‑‑ said of a man who has a peppery temper.
5. Fiol car (figlio caro) quand a' s' vol combinar un' affair, b' sogna dar un colp à la bott (a blow to the barrel) e un alter al serc (al cerchio, to the hoop) ‑‑ a cooper's metaphor for AGE QVOD AGIS.
6. Eh! la srà abilità anch questa, d' mudar el rason cmod s' fa al bisacc (bisaccia, scrip or satchel). This vulgar saying means that a man should be able to change his intentions as easily as he carries or deposes his (travelling) bag.
7. Avedi pazienzia (abbiate pazienza): al ien beli rason (they are good reasons), ma non caven un ragn (ragno, a spider) d' in t' un bus (dal buco). The Triestine form is Nol caveria una maladeta (that is, cosa, not worth a damn) dal muro: so the latter, who make no difference between singular and plural verbs, say: ‑‑
E anche questi ve dig' in confienza (confidence)
No i gaveva (essi non avevano) studià una maladeta.
8. Lù al dsiör mei (parla meglio) qu' un liber stiazzà (stracciato, lacero). This chaff to a man who talks like a (torn) book becomes in Triestino Lù (or el) parla meyo de un libro strazzà.
9. Al s' l' è giccia (egli se l' è gettata) dri dal spal (dietro le spalle) e bona nott; in Trieste, El se lo ga buttà drio le spalle, e buona notte, Siori! (Signori); applied to a man who gets rid of a business.
10. Cos' è mai sta pladour (rumore) ò a fai? (What's the meaning of all this row?) The Triestines say: Cossa xe 'sto baccan (that is, baccanale) che fe? In the terminal nunnation the stranger must be careful to pronounce the third liquid rather after the French nasal fashion (bombon), than the Italian and English (man): it most approaches the Spanish.
11. An basta aver rason, b' sogna trauer chi v' la daga; in Trieste, No basta aver razor, ma bisogna trovar chi vi la daga ‑‑ it's not enough to be in the right, you must find people to believe it.
Since my last visit to Bologna, Professor Bianconi informs me that he has found one of the greatest rarities produced by Bolognese typography of the fifteenth century; it is one of the two only copies, the other being in Rome. The subject of the poem is the jousting, or tournament, [footnote 1: from the Trattato sopra le Gioste ed i Tornei del Senatore Berlingiero Sessi, printed in the volume containing the Prosi degli Accademici gelati (Manolessi, Bologna, 1671), we learn that the first tournament known in Italy took place at the old Etruscan capital in AD 1147] held at the venerable
city on October 4, AD 1470, by order of Giovanni (?) Bentivoglio, Signore della Città. The author, Francesco Cieco of Florence, writes his 204 octaves in rather rude and rustic Italian. He enters into the minutest details concerning the sport; he describes the Piazza and the stockades with which it was provided; he records the various cities that supplied combatants; he relates how on one side the Bentivoglio chose 60 knights, whilst as many were opposed to them by Antonio Trotti di Alessandria, Capitano dei Bolognesi; he names the combatants; he notes the various modes of weapons, the harness, and the devices of the cavaliers, together with the ornaments of the fair dames, whose beauties he compares with the most famous charmers of antiquity; he narrates the order of the several gests, and finally he leaves the victory with the parte Bentivolesca. This famous tournament was also described by Giovanni Sabbattino degli Ariendi (see Giordani's Almanacco Storico‑Archeologico Bolognese, 1836; and Antonio Bertolini's Eccitamento, November, 1838, page 683).
The Bolognese copy of Francesco Cieco, a small quarto, wants frontispiece, pagination, and index: the experts remember that about 1470 the
printing press was introduced into Bologna by Baldazzarre Azzoguidi, and, remarking that the types are those adopted by this artist in his edition of Ovid (AD 1471), they have concluded that the poem was printed in the early part of the same year, or shortly after the tournament was held. Prudential reasons may be attributed to the suppression of the printer's name.
I here end my study of the venerable excapital of northern Etruria, with the hope that readers will take kindly into consideration the circumstance under which it was written.
Richard F. Burton.
Watson's Hotel, Bombay: February 15, 1876.
Etruscan Bologna, A Study