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La Notte Santa - by Guido Gozzano

La Notte Santa, written in 1914, is one among the best known Italian poems on Christmas, that in the past, - alas, no more today - was learned by heart and even performed in dialogues in elementary schools.

Gozzano wrote this poem to capture the magic of a traditional crib, with all the figurines of characters and animals - it is reported that he said to a friend: "Leave the tree to Northeners. To me, give a nice crib, with a cave, the angels singing, the comet, the ox, the donkey, the sheep, lambs, hares in the stonecrop, camels, elephants, giraffes, guinea hens, piglets and all the other people." The friend objected: "I think your crib will become Noah's ark," to which Gozzano answered: "Christmas I feel like that. Either a crib or nothing. Jesus will be persecuted, betrayed and crucified by merciless men, compassion is born among the aminals. St. Francis, the first crib maker, would agree with me."

Guido Gozzano was born in Torino on 19 December 1883 and died on 9 August 1916.

In italics, in the transcription below, the lines that are not read in the video.

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0:10
[Not part of the poem: "Vogliamo che tutte le nazioni che sono sotto il nostro dominio procedano senza indugio alcuno a farsi registrare nel paese di origine, uomini, donne e bambini, dovranno essere iscritti affinché il grande imperatore del mondo, il magnifico Cesare Augusto, conosca nome per nome, uno ad uno, tutti i suoi sudditi."]
We want all the nations that are under our rule proceed without any delay to be registered in the village of origin, men, women, and children must be registered in order that the great emperor of the world, the magnificent Caesar Augustus, knows by name, one by one, all his subjects. [The poem begins below:]
1:00
Consolati, Maria, del tuo pellegrinare!
Siam giunti. Ecco Betlemme ornata di trofei.
Presso quell'osteria potremo riposare,
ché troppo stanco sono e troppo stanca sei.
Be consoled, Mary, of your pilgrimage !
We have arrived. Here is Bethlehem adorned with trophies.
At that tavern we can rest,
because I am too tired and too tired you are.
 
Il campanile scocca
lentamente le sei.
The bell-tower tolls
slowly six hours.
1:18
Avete un po' di posto, o voi del Caval Grigio?
Un po' di posto per me e per Giuseppe?
- Signori, ce ne duole: è notte di prodigio;
son troppi i forestieri; le stanze ho piene zeppe
Do you have a little place, or you of the Grey Horse?
A little place for me and Joseph?
- Gentlemen, I am sorry it is night of wonder;
foreigners are too many, I have my rooms crammed
 
Il campanile scocca
lentamente le sette.
The bell-tower tolls
slowly seven hours.
1:30
- Oste del Moro, avete un rifugio per noi?
Mia moglie più non regge ed io son così rotto!
- Tutto l'albergo ho pieno, soppalchi e ballatoi:
Tentate al Cervo Bianco, quell'osteria più sotto.
- Host of The Moor, do you have a refuge for us?
My wife cannot hold any more and I am so broken!
- All the hotel I have full, lofts and galleries:
Try at the White Hart, that tavern below.
 
Il campanile scocca
lentamente le otto.
The bell-tower tolls
slowly eight hours.
1:44
O voi del Cervo Bianco, un sottoscala almeno
avete per dormire? Non ci mandate altrove!
- S'attende la cometa. Tutto l'albergo ho pieno
d'astronomi e di dotti, qui giunti d'ogni dove.
O ye of The White Hart, at least one subscale
do you have to sleep? Do not send us elsewhere!
- the comet is being waited for. All the hotel I have full
of astronomers and scholars, who came here from everywhere.
 
Il campanile scocca
lentamente le nove.
The bell-tower tolls
slowly nine hours.
1:58
Ostessa dei Tre Merli, pietà d'una sorella!
Pensate in quale stato e quanta strada feci!
- Ma fin sui tetti ho gente: attendono la stella.
Son negromanti, magi persiani, egizi, greci...
Landlady of the Three Blackbirds, mercy of a sister!
Think about my condition and how far I came!
- But I have people even on rooftops: waiting for the star.
They're sorcerers, Persian, Egyptian, Greek magicians...
 
Il campanile scocca
lentamente le dieci.
The bell-tower tolls
slowly ten hours.
2:12
- Oste di Cesarea... - Un vecchio falegname?
Albergarlo? Sua moglie? Albergarli per niente?
L'albergo è tutto pieno di cavalieri e dame
non amo la miscela dell'alta e bassa gente.
- Host of Caesarea ... - An old carpenter ?
Accomodate him? His wife? for nothing?
The hotel is all full of knights and ladies
I do not like the mixture of high and low people.
 
Il campanile scocca
le undici lentamente.
The bell-tower tolls
slowly eleven hours.
2:28
La neve! - Ecco una stalla! - Avrà posto per due?
- Che freddo! - Siamo a sosta - Ma quanta neve, quanta!
Un po' ci scalderanno quell'asino e quel bue...
Maria già trascolora, divinamente affranta...
The snow! - Here is a barn! - will it have room for two?
- It's cold! -We have to stop -but how much snow, how much!
A little will be warmed by that donkey and ox...
Mary already faints, divinely stricken...
 
Il campanile scocca
La Mezzanotte Santa.
The bell-tower tolls
Holy Midnight.
 
È nato! Alleluja! Alleluja!
È nato il Sovrano Bambino.
La notte, che già fu sì buia,
risplende d'un astro divino.
Orsù, cornamuse, più gaje
suonate; squillate, campane!
Venite, pastori e massaie,
o genti vicine e lontane!
He's born! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The Sovereign Child was born.
The night, which was so dark before,
shines with a heavenly star.
Come, bagpipes, more happily
play, you ring, O bells!
Come, shepherds and housewives,
O people near and far!
 
Non sete, non molli tappeti,
ma, come nei libri hanno detto
da quattro mill'anni i Profeti,
un poco di paglia ha per letto.
Per quattro mill'anni s'attese
quest'ora su tutte le ore.
Not silks, not soft carpets,
but, as in books they said
four thousand years the Prophets,
a little straw he has for a bed.
Four thousand years was awaited
this hour above all hours.
 
È nato! È nato il Signore!
È nato nel nostro paese!
Risplende d'un astro divino
La notte che già fu sì buia.
È nato il Sovrano Bambino.
He was born! the Lord was born!
he was born in our village!
shines of a divine star
The night that was so dark before.
The Sovereign Child was born.
 
È nato! Alleluja!
He was born! Hallelujah!