S'ì fosse foco, arderei 'l mondo

"... Finally the older worker, a quiet, almost timid railroad clerk-statistician, concluded with vehemence: 'If I had the power?' Then he quoted Dante, an old Italian poet: 'Se fossi foco brucerei il mondo.  Were I a fire I'd burn the world.'"

[from the old Seeds in the Snow BR history.  Oddly, the line isn't from Dante, far as I can tell.  It's a version of the line from Cecco Angiolieri ("S'ì fosse foco, arderei 'l mondo"), who had a had a correspondence with Dante, evidently not on the best terms,  i.e.:

Dante Alighier, i' t'averò a stancare 
ch'eo so lo pungiglion, e tu se' 'l bue  

Dante boy, I'll simply wear you out:  
since I'm the cattle-prod that drives your ox.

Whole sonnet worth quoting (not my translation below, bit formal, though still basically a misanthropic rap boast, especially by the end)

S'i fosse foco, arderei 'l mondo,
S’i’ fosse vento, lo tempesteri;
S’i’ fosse acqua, io l’annegherei;
S’i’ fosse Dio, mandareil in profondo.

S’i’ fosse papa, sare’ allor iocondo,
Che tutt'i cristiani imbrigherei;
S’i’ fosse emperator, sa’ che farei?
A tutti mozzarei lo capo a tondo.

S’i’ fosse morte, andarei da mio padre;
S’i’ fosse vita, fuggirei da lui;
Similemente faria da mi’ madre.

S’i’ fosse Cecco com’i’ sono e fui,
Torrei le donne giovani e leggiadre,
E zoppe e laide lascerei altrui.

If I were fire, I'd burn up the world,
If I were wind, I'd storm it,
If I were water, I'd drown it,
If I were God, I'd hurl it to the depths,

If I were the Pope, I'd be please
To harass all the Christians,
If I were Emperor, know what I'd do?
I'd cut everyone's head right off.

If I were death, I'd go to my father,
If I were life I'd flee from him,
And I'd do the same for my mother,

If I were Cecco as I am and have been,
I'd take all the young, graceful women,
And leave the ugly and lame to others.


Giovanni Tiso said...

Yep, it's Angiolieri for sure - a poem right up your alley if I've ever heard one!

ECW said...

Yeah, it's pretty remarkably my sort of thing.

marsh Leicester said...

You might enjoy looking at some of the Provencal poets who excelled in this sort of boasting poem -- called a "gap" -- Guillaume IX, Marcabru (another your sort of guy) Arnaut Daniel