Bocca di rosa

Fabrizio De André (1967)

La chiamavano Bocca di rosa
metteva l’amore, metteva l’amore,
la chiamavano bocca di rosa
metteva l’amore sopra ogni cosa.

Appena scese alla stazione
nel paesino di Sant’Ilario
tutti si accorsero con uno sguardo
che non si trattava di un missionario.

C’è chi l’amore lo fa per noia
chi se lo sceglie per professione
Bocca di rosa né l’uno né l’altro:
lei lo faceva per passione.

Ma la passione spesso conduce
a soddisfare le proprie voglie
senza indagare se il concupito
ha il cuore libero oppure ha moglie.

E fu così che da un giorno all’altro
Bocca di rosa si tirò addosso
l’ira funesta delle cagnette
a cui aveva sottratto l’osso.

Ma le comari di un paesino
non brillano certo in iniziativa
le contromisure fino a quel punto
si limitavano all’invettiva.

Si sa che la gente dà buoni consigli
sentendosi come Gesù nel tempio,
si sa che la gente dà buoni consigli
se non può più dare cattivo esempio.

Così una vecchia mai stata moglie
senza mai figli, senza più voglie,
si prese la briga e di certo il gusto
di dare a tutte il consiglio giusto.

E rivolgendosi alle cornute
le apostrofò con parole argute:
“il furto d’amore sarà punito-
disse- dall’ordine costituito”.

E quelle andarono dal commissario
e dissero senza parafrasare:
“quella schifosa ha già troppi clienti
più di un consorzio alimentare”.

E arrivarono quattro gendarmi
con i pennacchi con i pennacchi
e arrivarono quattro gendarmi
con i pennacchi e con le armi.

Spesso gli sbirri e i carabinieri
al proprio dovere vengono meno
ma non quando sono in alta uniforme
e l’accompagnarono al primo treno.[1]

Alla stazione c’erano tutti
dal commissario al sagrestano
alla stazione c’erano tutti
con gli occhi rossi e il cappello in mano,

a salutare chi per un poco
senza pretese, senza pretese,
a salutare chi per un poco
portò l’amore nel paese.

C’era un cartello giallo
con una scritta nera
diceva “Addio bocca di rosa
con te se ne parte la primavera”.

Ma una notizia un po’ originale
non ha bisogno di alcun giornale
come una freccia dall’arco scocca
vola veloce di bocca in bocca.

E alla stazione successiva
molta più gente di quando partiva
chi manda un bacio, chi getta un fiore
chi si prenota per due ore.

Persino il parroco che non disprezza
fra un miserere e un’estrema unzione
il bene effimero della bellezza
la vuole accanto in processione.

E con la Vergine in prima fila
e bocca di rosa poco lontano
si porta a spasso per il paese
l’amore sacro e l’amor profano.

[1] This stanza was censored and De André was forced to rewrite it. The new version was “Il cuore tenero non è una dote / di cui sian colmi i carabinieri / ma quella volta a prendere il treno / l’accompagnarono malvolentieri.” [A soft heart is not a quality / for which the carabinieri are noted, / but on that occasion they unwillingly / accompanied her to catch the train.]

Bocca di rosa

Translated by: Francesco Ciabattoni

They called her Bocca di rosa
she put love, she put love
they called her Bocca di Rosa
she put love above everything.

As soon as she got off at the station
in the little village of Sant’Ilario
everybody knew at a glance
that she wasn’t a missionary.

There are some who make love because they feel bored,
some who choose it as their profession.
Bocca di Rosa did neither,
she made love out of passion.

But passion often leads
to the satisfaction of one’s own desires
without investigating whether the object of one’s lust
has a free heart or a wife.

And so it was that from one day to the next
Bocca di Rosa attracted
the accursed rage of the bitches
she had snatched the bones from.

However, small town wives
do not stand out for their forwardness,
and the reactions that far
were limited to invectives.

It is known that people like giving good advice,
thinking they’re like Jesus in the temple,
people like giving good advice
if they can no longer set a bad example.

So an old wench who’d never been a wife,
never had children and had no more desires
took the pain and certainly the pleasure
of giving everyone else the rightful advice.

She addressed the cuckolded women
with  clever words:
“the theft of love shall be punished
– she said- by the institution’s authorities.”

And the bitches went to the chief of police,
saying, without mincing their words,
“That dirty woman has already too many clients,
even more than a food shop”.

And four guards arrived
with their plumes with their plumes
and four guards arrived
with their plumes and their weapons.

Often cops and carabinieri
fail to discharge duty,
but never when they’re wearing full dress uniforms
so they accompanied her to the first train.

Everybody was at the station, from the
chief of police to the sacristan
everybody was at the station
with red eyes and hats in their hands.

To say goodbye to someone who for a little while,
without pretention, without pretention,
to say goodbye to someone who, for a little while,
brought love to their village.

There was a yellow bill board
with black writing on it, saying:
“Farewell Bocca di Rosa
you’re taking spring time away with you”.

But unusual news
doesn’t need a newspaper:
it quickly flies from mouth to mouth
as the arrow shoots from the bow.

And at the following station were
many more people than when she left
some blowing a kiss, some throwing a flower,
some booking a couple of hours.

Even the priest who doesn’t despise,
Between a miserere and the last rites,
the ephemeral gift of beauty,
wants her near him in the procession.

And with the Virgin at the front
and Bocca di rosa close by
he leads through the village
love both sacred and profane!

By Marianna Orsi (University of Manoa, Honolulu)

It’s hard for us to imagine what life was like in a small Italian village in the early 1960s.

There would be only one store – usually selling outdated clothes; one or two grocery stores; a couple of cafés frequented by old men playing cards; a church; a school; a Carabinieri station; maybe a movie theater. People would watch TV at night at the local café, bringing chairs from home to sit in. Only a few villagers have a phone at home, while the rest of them make and receive calls at the village bar or grocery store.

With nothing to do, there were a few clear rules: get a job, get married, pay your bills, respect the elders, no meat on Fridays, and go to church on Sundays. There wouldn’t be many occasions for transgressions: losing money playing cards, getting drunk at a friend’s wedding party, staring a bit too much at someone else’s girlfriend, pestering a woman to dance at a party.

 

Then, one day, off the train steps a beautiful woman, the type which Guido Gozzano would call a “cattiva signorina”: best not to talk to her. The way she dresses, her hairstyle, her makeup, so different from the modest style of the village women, make her all the more noticeable.

 

To the original audience of De André’s 1967 song, the mere word paesino was enough to evoke all that.

 

The song portrays Bocca di rosa’s arrival, the effects of her presence, the reactions of the villagers, and her eventual departure. Bocca di rosa emanates sensuality yet the lyrics do not describe her physically — the author treats her like an ethereal creature, very much in the spirit of the rhetorical and literary tradition of ‘reticence.’ Bocca di rosa is portrayed as a mystical character; like a fairy in chivalric romance, she casts a spell to awaken spring and conjure up love in the village, attracting men like Circe (who enchanted Ulysses’ companions) or Armida (the sorceress in Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata). The wrath of the village wives, (“l’ira funesta – evoking the sorrow and rage of Achilles), with the help of two officers, armed and ceremonial like knights, successfully banish her; their move represents the arrival of legitimatized power and the return to established order.

 

The song is characterized chiefly by contrasts: the cheerful melody, the fairy-tale tone, and the poetic expressions (the comparison with spring, the emotional farewell with kisses and flowers) clash with more explicit suggestions (“the cuckolded women,” “the bitches,” the “dirty woman” with too many “clients,” “some booking a couple of hours,” etc.), and ironic the religious references (the missionary, the priest, the procession, the Virgin); thus the mocking intent of the song is clear. Indeed, De André ridicules the hypocritical moralism of Catholic conformists (“Even the priest who doesn’t despise…”) that position themselves as defenders of public morality, often accusing the marginalized members of society simply because they “must no longer set a bad example.”