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Quanno nascette Ninno

A XVII century song that the popular tradition ascribes to St. Alfonso Maria de' Liguori (1696-1787). The Holy Bishop wrote the Neapolitan version of his famous Christmas carol, Tu scendi dalle stelle, in a dialect full of phonemes, onomatopoeias, in a word true poetry.

Especially charming is the comparison in the fourth stanza of the Child with a bunch of grapes, which brings us back to the ancient myths of the Mediterranean cultures (Dionysus, Adonis, Osiris, Attis). The birth of God brings nature back to Eden, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah in an image of serenity and universal peace.

The stanzas from from sixth to tenth describe the angels announcing the good news to the shepherds. In the sixteenth stanza, the author speaks in the first person to report the lullaby that Mary, the angels and shepherds sang for Baby Jesus. The lullaby - a typical folk melody very common among the people - was sung at times amid the stanzas.

In the final stanzas there is the moral teaching: people are invited to follow the example of the shepherds and to visit the manger with repentant heart for their sins, and be humble as the ox and donkey who recognize their Lord.

In the last stanza the contrast darkness/light appears: the sinner is pitch black, but if he repents, God's mercy will bring him back to the ancient splendor of the true sun. The last prayer is addressed to the Virgin Mary who, by accepting to be the Mother of God who became man, also accepted to be the mother of all sinners.

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[I] Quanno nascette Ninno, a Betlemme,
era notte e pareva miezojuorno.
Maje le stelle,
lustre e belle,
se vedètteno accussí.
e 'a cchiù lucente,
jette a chiammá li Magge a ll'Uriente.
[I] When the Child was born, in Bethlehem,
it was night and it seemed era midday.
Never the stars,
clear and beautiful,
were seen like that.
and the brightest,
went to call the Magi in the East.
 
[II] De pressa se scetajeno ll'aucielle
cantanno de na forma tutta nova:
Pe' nsi' 'agrille,
co' li strille,
e zompanno 'a ccá e da llá:
- È nato! È nato! -
- decévano - lo Dio che nce ha creato! -
[II] Soon the birds woke up
singing in a totally new form:
Also the crickets,
with their sounds,
and jumping here and there:
- He's born! He's born! -
- were saying - the God that created us! -
 
[III] Co' tutto ch'era vierno, Ninno bello,
nascetteno a migliara rose e sciure.
Pe' nsi' 'o ffieno,
sicco e tuosto,
ca fuje puosto sott'a te,
se 'nfigliulette
e de frunnelle e sciure se vestette.
[III] Though it was winter, dear Child,
in thousands roses and flowers bloomed.
Even the hay, dry and hard,
that was placed under you,
was budding
of young leaves and flowers was clothed.
 
[IV] A no paese ca se chiamma Ngadde,
sciurettero li vvigne e ascette ll'uva.
Ninno mio
sapuretiello,
rappusciello d'uva si' tu.
ca tutt'ammore,
faje doce 'a vocca e po' 'mbriache 'o core!
[IV] In a village called Engaddi,
vineyards flowered and grapes came out.
O my child, so savvy,
a small vine grape you are.
with all love,
you make the mouth sweet and the heart drunk!
 
[V] Non c'erano nemice pe' la terra:
La pecura pasceva co' 'o lione
Co' 'o capretto,
se vedette
'o liupardo pazzeá.
Ll'urzo e 'o vetiello
e, co' lu lupo, 'mpace 'o pecoriello.
[V] There were no enemies on earth:
The sheep grazed with the lion
With the little goat,
they saw the leopard playing.
The bear and the calf
and, with the wolf, in peace the lamb.
 
[VI] S'arrevotaje 'nsomma tutt' 'o munno:
lu cielo, 'a terra, 'o mare e tutt' 'i ggente.
Chi dormeva,
se senteva
'mpiett' 'o core pazzeá
pe' la prejezza;
E se sunnava pace e contentezza.
[VI] All the world was upside down:
the sky, the land, the sea and all the people.
Those asleep, felt
their hearts jump in the chect
for the great joy;
And were dreaming of peace and happiness.
 
[VII] Guardavano li ppecori, 'i Pasture.
E n'Angelo sbrannente cchiù d' 'o sole,
Comparette
e lle dicette:
"No ve spaventate, no!
Contento e riso!
la terra è arreventata Paradiso!"
[VII] Watching the sheep, the Shepherds.
And an Angel brighter than the sun,
appeared and said to them:
- Don't be afraid, don't!
There is happiness and laughter!
the Earth has become Paradise! -
 
[VIII] A vuje è nato ogge, a Bettelemme,
da 'o munno, 'o aspettato Sarvatore
Dint' 'e panne
'o trovarrite,
non potite maje sgarrá,
arravogliato
e dint'a lo presebbio corcato.
[VIII] For you was born today, in Bethlehem,
of the world the awaited Saviour
Amid cloths
you'll find him,
you cannot be mistaken,
enveloped, and inside a manger laid.
 
[IX] A meliune ll'Angiule calaro
co' chiste se mettetteno a cantare;
"Gloria a Dio,
pace 'nterra
No cchiù guerra...è nato giá
lo rre d'ammore
che dá prejezza e pace ad ogni core."
[IX] In millions the Angels came down
with this one they started to sing;
- Glory to God,
Peace on earth
No more war ... he was born
the king of love
that gives joy and peace to every heart.
 
[X] Sbatteva 'o core 'mpietto
a 'sti Pasture
e ll'uno n' 'nfaccia all'ato deceva:
"Ché tardammo?
priesto, jammo
ca mme sento ascevolí
pe' lo golío
ca tengo de vedé stu Ninno Dio!"
[X] Heart was beating in their chest
to these Shepherds
and one another they were saying:
- Why are we late?
quick, let's go
that I feel I am crazy
for the great wish
I have to see this God-Child!
 
[XI] Zompanno comm'a ciérve ferute,
correttero i pasture a la capanna
Llá trovajeno a Maria
[XI] Jumping like wounded deer,
the shepherds ran to the hut
There they found Mary
 
co' Giuseppe e 'a Gioja mia
e 'n chillo Viso
provajeno nu muorzo 'i Paraviso.
with Joseph and my Joy
and in that Face
they tasted a bit of Heaven.
 
[XII] Restajeno 'ncantate a voccapierte
pe' tanto tiempo senza di' parola
Po' jettanno,
lacremanno,
no sospiro pe' sfogá
da dint' 'o core,
cacciajeno, a migliara, atte d'ammore.
[XII] They stayed enchanted with open mouth
for a long time, not saying a word
Then they gave out,
weeping, a sigh to let out
from inside their hearts,
they showed, in thousands, acts of love.
 
[XIII] Co 'a scusa de donare li presiente
se jetteno azzeccanno chiano chiano
Ninno, no
li rifiutaje
ll'azzettaje, comm'a di',
ca lle mettette
li mano 'ncapa e le benedicette.
[XIII] With the excuse of giving presents
they went nearer little by little
The Baby did not
didn't reject them
he accepted them, as to say,
then he placed
the hands on their heads and blessed them.
 
[XIV] Piglianno confedenzia a poco a poco,
cercajeno licenza a la Mamma.
Se mangiajeno
li pedille
coi vasille, 'mprimma e po'
chelle mmanelle
e a ll'urdemo, lu musso e 'i mascarielle.
[XIV] They took more confidence little by little,
asking permission from the Mum.
They ate the small feet
with their kisses, first and then
those small hands
and finally, the face and cheeks
 
[XV] Po' 'nsieme se mettetteno a sonare
e a cantá co' ll'Angiule e Maria
co' na voce,
accossí doce,
ca Gesù facette: Aaaah - ha,
e po' chiudette
chill'uocchie aggraziate e s'addurmette.
[XV] Then together they started to play
and sing with the Angels and Mary
with a voice, so sweet,
that Jesus said: Aaaah - ha (yawned),
and then He closed
those pretty eyes and fell asleep.
 
[XVI] La nonna che cantajeno a me mme pare
ch'avett' 'a èsse' chella ca mo' dico:
Ma 'nfrattanto
io la canto,
'mmaggenateve de stá
co li pasture
vicino a Ninno bello vuje pure.
[XVI] The song they played seems to me
must have been the same I am singing now:
But while I am singing,
imagine you are
with the Shepherds
near the Darling Child you too.
 

[la ninna nanna può essere inserita a questo punto]

[the lullaby is sometimes inserted at this point]
 
[XVII] Cantanno po' e sonanno, li Pasture,
tornajeno a le mantre n'ata vota:
ma che vuó
che cchiù arrecietto
non trovajeno 'int'a lo pietto
a 'o caro Bene,
facevano ogne poco 'o va' e biene
[XVII] Singing then and playing, the Shepherds,
they came back to the sheep again:
but you know
they found no more rest
in their hearts
And for the dear Child,
they every now and then went and came
 
[XVIII] Lo 'nfierno solamente e 'e peccature
'ncocciuse comm'a isso e ostinate
se mettettero
appaura,
pecché a 'o scuro vonno stá
li spurtagliune,
fujenno da lu sole, li briccune.
[XVIII] Only hell and the sinners
stubborn like it and obstinate
were frightened,
because in the dark want to stay
the bats,
flying away from the sun, the rascals.
 
[XIX] Io pure sóngo niro peccatore
ma non boglio èsse' cuoccio e ostinato
Io non boglio
cchiù peccare.
voglio amare, voglio stá
co' Ninno bello
comme nce sta lo voje e ll'aseniello.
[XIX] Me too, I am a black sinner
but I won't be stubborn and obstinate
I don't want to sin any more.
I want to love, I want to be
with the darling Child
as the donkey and ox are with him.
 
[XX] Nennillo mio Tu si' sole d'ammore!
Faje luce e scarfe pure 'o peccatore.
Quanno è tutto
niro e brutto
comm'a pece, tanno cchiù
lo tiene mente
e 'o faje addeventá bello e sbrennente.
[XX] O my little Child you are a love sun!
You make light and warm the sinner too.
When everything is black and ugly
as pitch, all the more
You look at him
and make him become fine and shining.
 
[XXI] Ma tu mme diciarraje ca chiagniste
acciò chiagnesse pure 'o peccatore!
Aggio tuorto!
Ahje! fosse muorto
n'ora primma de peccá!
Tu mm'haje amato
e io, pe' paga, t'aggio maltrattato.
[XXI] But you will tell me that you wept
so that the sinner too would weep!
I am wrong! Alas! I wish I died
an hour before I sinned!
You loved me
and I in reward mistreated you.
 
[XXII] E vuje uocchie mieje, doje fontane
avit' 'a fá, de lacreme, chiagnenno.
pe' lavare,
pe' scarfare,
li pedille de Giesù
chisá, placato,
decesse: "Via, ca t'aggio perdonato!"
[XXII] And you, o my eyes, two fountains
must make, of tears, for weeping.
so as to wash, so as to warm,
the small feet of Jesus
who knows, appeased,
will say: "Come on, that I have forgiven you!"
 
[XXIII] Viato a me si aggio 'sta fortuna!
Che maje potesse cchiù desiderare?
O Maria,
speranza mia
mentr'io chiagno, prega tu;
penza ca pure
si' fatta mamma de li peccature.
[XXIII] I will be blessed if I have this luck!
What more can I wish for?
O Mary, my hope
while I weep, please pray;
think that you were also
made mother of sinners.
 

[NINNA NANNA]
Viene suonno da lo Cielo

Viene suonno da lo Cielo,
Viene e adduorme 'sso Nennillo;
Pe pietà, ca è peccerillo,
Viene suonno e non tarda'.


[LULLABY]
Sleep comes from heaven

Sleep comes from heaven,
comes and makes the child sleep;
Please, he is a small baby,
Come, sleep, don't be late.

 
Gioia bella de 'sto core,
Vorria suonno arreventare,
Doce, doce pe' te fare
'Ss'uocchíe bell'addormenta'.
fine joy of this heart,
I'd like to burn sleep,
sweetly, sweetly to make
these fine eyes sleep.
 
Ma si Tu p'esser'amato
Te sí fatto Bammeníello,
Sulo ammore è o sonnaríello
Che dormire te pò fa'.
But if to be beloved
you became a little child
only love is the sleep
that can make you rest.
 
Ment'è chesto può fa nonna,
Pe Te st'arma è arza e bona.
T'amo, t'a'... Uh sta canzona
Già t'ha fatto addobea'!
while this can Grandma do,
for you this soul is burning.
I love you I l... Uh this song
already made you asleep!
 
T'amo Dio - Bello mio,
T'amo Gíoja, t'amo, t'a'...
I love you God, my beautiful
I love you, Joy, I love you I l...










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