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Piedmontese literature, a short history. Second part

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The mature language in XVII century
In the preceding centuries the piedmontese language was something like: "work in progress". Starting from the very beginning of the XVII century, we find a piedmontese complete, with all the characters of grammar, syntax and lexycon that it has nowadays.
To summarize the steps of its forming, at the beginning there is the Ligurian language, that after is completely mixed with Celtic. On this substrate the Latin is inserted, that brings a relevant part of the structure, even if we can notice a certain cultural isolation of the Piedmont, with respect Rome. On the contrary, being the Piedmont a "border land", many different populations pass and stay in Piedmont. Among them the most significant for the ethnic and liguistic elements brought, we mention Gots, Longobards, Franks, and Saracens. Later, also France and Spain had an influence on Piedmont.
At the beginning of the XVII century, the piedmontese is the final result of all this process. And this result is stable and valid for all the territory of the region. The literary production grows, and becomes aware to be the expression of a nation.
In this century came the "Tni", a poetical composition of satiric style, which is characteristic of Piedmont. In the Royal Library in Turin we have four of these compositions: "La canson d Madna Luchin-a, La canson dij dsbauci, La canson d la baleuria, La canson dl tramu 'd San Michel ". They are important also for the fact that they describe wery well the life of the period. We report here a very little number of lines of the "Tni" La canson dij dsbauci:
I veuj f savj stavta / a tuta la giovent / ch'as fait na bela nta / 'd soe tre prime virt / 'd putagn e l'ostara / e lo gieu ch'i-j ven apress / a-j prta la rba via / e l'onor ch' peuj 'l pess. / Cand a van a bon-e rbe / a n'vardo pa ant'and......
From another "tni": "le batiaje d'un paisan", still few lines:
Sent amp le gran batiaje / ch'a j' staje vers Mongran, / un bel d quand a l' naje / una fia d'un paisan / Cost paisan a l' 'n badla / maso dij fr Paolt / la soa fomna a f la drla / ma pr chial a l' un somt. ....
Even the duke Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy wrote some piedmontese verse, like the sonet of 1613 "A l' quel bufon dl fr", satyrical lines written for ridiculize a Bishop sent by the Duke of Mantua for resolving the question of the Monferrato. Another document can be found in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, and it is a piedmontese song written by Prospero Torello in 1678.
As already said, at the end of the century, appears a theatrical work of the marquis Carlo Giambattista Tana of Entraque: "l Cont Piolt " that had immediately a large success. This was the beginning of the true Piedmontese Theatre. Besides, in this work we find the final graphy of piedmontese.
The Piedmontese of this century is already the Piedmontese we know nowaday, with nearly all the grammar and syntax rules that are used today, even if there were not formally coded in that period. The definition of piedmontese language is, in fact, referred to the language of the '600.


The piedmontese '700
First of all we consider that this is the century in which the piedmontese language became matter of studies and the first Piedmontese Grammar appeared in 1783, as a work of the Court's doctor Maurice Pipino. We have already spoken about the attempt of "officialize" the Piedmontese, connected with the appearence of this grammar. The Piedmont was asserting itself as a nation, and the Piedmontese became its way of expressing this. Writing and reading in Piedmontese, was well spreaded between people, and then there was the need of coding this language and its rules. The Pipino's grammar was dedicated to "His Royal Highness Mary Adelaide Clotilde Saveria of France, princess of Piedmont" who wanted to learn the Piedmontese, since this was the language used at Court. We also know that in the year 1788, during the preparation of the marriage of the Duke of Aoste with Mary Therese, the Piedmontese was theahed to the bride, as a necessary thing to know at Court,
Pipino sustained that Piedmontese could wery well compete with Franch and Italian, since at Court it was always used for all kind of discussions, even if the persons od Court knew in the same way both Italian and French. Still from the same source we know that, in the period, many piedmontese Bishops encouraged their priests to preach in Piedmontese, just avoiding the local dialectal expressions, but using the classical piedmontese tongue, having all the characteristics for assuring the due respect to the God's Word, and at the same time being the only that could be understood by all without any difficulties. From that we can deduce that, in the period, there existed an official Piedmontese common to all the territory, and some dialectals forms as local variants.
Pipino thought that it was at least useful, but probably necessary, for people who did not know other languages, to be able to write and read in correct Piedmontese and, even more, that the school itself should be held in Piedmontese, in order not to oblige pupils to leard another language, foreing for them, in order to learn to write, read and count. His letters were written in Piedmontese.
On this purpose Pipino asserted that the tongue of the Court is the Piedmontese in a refined and polite version, that he defined Court Piedmontese, while the common people in the cities used a language less polished, and with some differences not of lexicon but of pronunciation, called Vulgar Piedmontese. Pipino still distinguished a Plebeian Piedmontese, more rude, a Provincial Piedmontese and a Country Piedmontese, all being part of the same language.
Maurice Pipino, beyond the Piedmontese Grammar, was also the author of a quadrilingual Vocabulary (Piedmontese - Italian - French - Latin). We remember that in those times doctoral dissertations were still written in Latin). He also wrote a piedmontese Anthology. We want to add that the present piedmontese pronunciation is similar to the one of the "Court Piedmontese".
As far as the literature works are concerned in this century, the military events provided a hint for celebrative works. One of them is "L'arpa dscord", assigned to an author named Francis Tarizzo. The work celebrates the deeds of the inhabitants of Turin in the siege of the year 1706. Others are referred to war events of the middle of century, always against France. It is still well known a song that celebrates the Baron William of Leutrum, who was in service with the Savoy and ruled and defended the city of Cuneo. Nicknamed "Baron Litron" in piedmontese style, he was very loved, appreciated and respected by people, for his skill, bravery, and fidelity to the common cause. The song has been revisited few years ago by a celebrated choir of Turin. Its title is just "Baron Litron".
As far as more classical literature is concerned, the main works are in poetry, and the main author is certainly Father Ignatius Isler (parish priest in a suburb of Turin, the Crocetta, that now is included in the central part of Turin) who wrote a collection of 54 lyrics having a "Tni" style (each one about 200 lines). He was a great connoisseur of simple people, wrote a poetry very colse to the world of common persons.
The Knight Victor Amadeus Borrelli wrote some "Sonnets" and some "Tni", then he worked at Linguistical and grammae studies.
The army officer Joseph Anthony Ignatius Avventura, under the nickname of Ventura Cantiermetre produced writings of social satire that brought revolutionary unrests starting to spread in that period.
Sylvius Balbo was a religious of Cuneo who wrote with Arcadian style, modest and pleasant, some works in verse.
Continued to be alive the Holy Performance, that revisited themes and characters of its origin. Also in this period a new "Gelindo to the hut of Bethlehem" was written, where only the parts of two characters were in Piedmontese. On the subject, at the end of the century there were "Ij sermon piemontis dla "Camminata"" organized as a dialogue with one speaker in Italian and one in Piedmontese. Written by Father Joseph Mggia, they are a kind of catechetical text.
About the end of the century (year 1777) appeared three comedies, with some character speaking Italian and the others speaking Piedmontese, which are "Ël nodar onor" (The honoured notary), "L'Adelasia" and "Adelaide". We know only the nickname of the author: Pegemade.
A particular, vehement author, at the end of the century, certainly was Edward Ignatius Calvo. Relentless supporter of the revolutionary ideas coming from France, wrote violent poetry against nobles and clergy, hymning at the freedom of Piedmont. He was a enthusiast supporter of the use of the piedmontese language. The disenchantment aroused by the very bad french government in Piedmont made him to write the "Fule Moraj" (Moral Tales). In both periods he provoked to himself a lot of enemies. An anonimous theatrical work "Le ridcole ilusion dl'ann IX" (The ridiculous illusions of the year IX) is probably to be assigned to E. I. Calvo. Finally we consider (end of century) a song written by someone nicknamed Citizen C. C. having title "La bissa-coppera pr psta" having a jabobin character.
Among the authors that wrote in Piedmontese in this century we don't have to forget Victor Alfieri (celebrated writer in Italian) who wrote in Piedmontese at least two Sonnets. He also had copybooks containing notes on translation of Piedmontese words and idiomatic expressions into Italian and French.
We report the usual example, few lines taken from Isler (song l pais dla cocagna):
... S'i vol 'd rba canda / And antorn dle busson, / A l' p tabornara, / J' da fene 'd linsol; / A-i p nissun-e ronze, / Pijene pura dle car / Con man na e j'euj sar .....
And still some lines of a Sonnet of Borrelli:
Sent, amor bosaron, l' temp 'd funila, / Rendme me cheur, tornme la mia rason / Romp sta caden-a, seurtme da 'n perzon / a l' trp strita, i peuss pi nen sufrla. / A tanti e tanti, i peuss contje a mila, / it l'has ms-ci l'amr con ij bombon / .......
Finally somthing coming from E. I. Calvo (Petission dij can a l'ecelensa Ministr dla poliss):
......./ la passiensa a va bin fin a na mira / as seufr fin-a ch'as peul ma al fin dij fin / dis l proverbi, a s-cianca chi trp tira: / j'oma fit nstri cont e pens bin / che pr mur a pcit feu, rusi da l'ira / ps ch'ij s-ciav ant le man dij Tunisin, / a l'era mj vireje un pch ij dent, / psto ch'un deuv mur, mur content. / .......


Piedmontese interferences with the Italian of the '700
As it was already happened for the Latin in the '400, also the Italian of the '700 that was used in Piedmont suffered some evident interferences coming from the people's natural language, the Piedmontese. Already in the times of Emanuel Philibert the Italian substituted the French in official documents, but also in documents of a given importance, we can find many piedmontese words, just a bit "italianized".
For example, in one of the budgets of thr House of Savoy we find the word "taboretti" for indicating "stools". The italian word having the same meaning should be "sgabelli", while the piedmontese word was and is "taboret" (They were ordered for the Queen's childbirth).
Another example: in the contract for the miller of Bobbio Pellice (a village - year 1702) the "miller" is called "molinero ". The italian word for "miller" is "mugnaio", while the piedmontese word is "mulin. In the same contract "to mill" is translated into "moller". In Italian it should be "macinare", while in Piedmontese the word is "meule".


Piedmontese theater from the end of the '700 to the '800
The piedmontese theater, in this period, deserves a particular attention. So we start from theater our very short review of literature in XIXth century. We have already spoken about preceding works, beginning from "l Cont Piolt ", and then "l nodar onor", "Adelasia", "Adelaide", "Le ridcole ilusion dl'ann IX", "L'Artaban baston" (not mentioned above). Between the endo of the '700 and the beginning of the '800 there were still some works not particularly relevant but anyway of interest, and among them "Fera 'd Moncal" (Moncalieri fair - year 1784)," Sur Pomponi, osia 'l segretari 'd Comunit" (Mr. Pomponi, i.e. the Community's secretary - year 1800), "Ël Cont Schizza" (The Count Schizza - year 1806). The popular theater is very lively and derived performances abundantly from repertory in Piedmontese, while the "serious" theatre, more engaged and mainly reserved to nobles and high classes, often proposed works in Italian and in French in equal measure.
The true piedmontese theater born in the first decades of the '800. In this period the ideas of the Risorgimento, certainly interested a little minority of the other Italians, but for the Piedmonteses things were different. The Piedmonteses of any social classes had to face the consequences of the was against Austria and the defeat of Novara, the problem of the exiles in Piedmont. These things were perceived and discussed. In this environment the theater became a social affair. A mainstay of this new theater was certainly John Toselli. He noticed that the italian tongue, at that time in Piedmont literary and declamatory, was a hindrance for a natural and straightforward expression and didn't allow to stage a play of real life. After a hard beginning, when he had to act the part of Giandoja (a piedmontese character) with texts usually derived from french, he had an his own theatrical company. He revisited the tragedy of Pellico "Francesca da Rimini" adn made it "democratic", countrified and modern. The result was "Cichin-a 'd Moncal" that had a big success. The Piedmontese demonstrated of being able of interpreting in deep any great feeling of the man, and even more, to arrive where the italian tongue had difficulties to arrive.
After this work ther was "Margritin dle violtte", written by Frederic Garelli, which was still an arrangement in Piedmontese of the Dame aux camelias of Dumas. Then "Guera o pas" (War or peace), allegorical comedy referred to the political situation of that moment, which was after translated also into Italian and French. The works og Garelli were about thirty, among them "La caban-a dl Re Galantm" (The hut of the honest King), "Chi romp a paga" (If you break you pay), "l cioch dl vilagi" (The bell tower of the village).
Another author who wrote a lot of works was Louis Pietracqua, he made comedies of social engagement, that depicted the worker environment, that he knew very well. Not everybody appreciated them, and they stired up the grudge of some well-off person. Just to mention some of them: "l cotl" (The knife), "La fija pvra" (The poor girl), "l fieul d gnun" (The son of nobody), "Spatuss e dbit" (Haughtiness and debts), "La misria" (The poverty), "Un pver parco" (A poor parish priest), "Nna Lussa" (Grandmother Lucy).
John Zoppis, a journalist and critic, wrote about twenty comedies, among them "Marioma Clarin" (Let's marry Clare), "Se i fusso sgnor" (If we were rich).
Victor Bersezio was and still is, particularly known. At the beginning he criticized writers using Piedmontese, supporting the need of adopting Italian, but then he realized that the expressive power of the Piedmontese (in Piedmont, of course) was definitely greater than the Italian. So he started to write theatrical works in Piedmontese. Among others he wrote "La sedussion" (The seduction), "La beneficensa" (The beneficence), "Un barba milionari" (a millionaire uncle). The work that gave him the celebrity was "Le misrie 'd moss Travet" (The Mr. Travet's miseries). The subject of this work hurted the Turin' society to the quick, showing the contradictions and frustrations of a little line employee, whose work, however, is the basis for the Public Administration to work. At the beginning the work obtained some protest coming from the high circles, but then it was a great success.
At the end of the XIXth century there was quite a disillusion about the Unity of Italy, that caused an impoverishment of the Piedmont, and many problems. The artistic vein weakened, even if also among "minor authors" we had some good level works like: "Ij pfer d montagna" (The mountain's fifes), "nime'd pota" (Souls of mud). Two authors came anyway in evidence. The first was Amilcare Solferini (as nickmane, the true name was Vincent Actis) who wrote "Feu e fiame" (Fire and flames), "La fam" (The hunger), "La canaja" (The scoundrel), "La pl d l'ors" (The skin of the bear) and other works. The second was Alphonso Ferrero with the work "La Regin-a d'un R" (The queen of a King). and others. We will see again these authors in the part devoted to literary works (here below).
Another theatrical work that had a great importance and that touched the public was "Ij mal nutr" (The ill-fed), a social drama of Marius Leoni, that was translated into various tongues. Still of Marius Leoni, among other works, "Ij baraba" (The rogues), "Le fomne brute" (The ugly women), etc. . Also this author was a mainstay in the piedmontese theater. We still remember the work "Drolare" (Silliness) of Fulberto Alarini. In the period in Turin worked a good number of theatrical companies, with very good actors.


The writers of the '800
First of all we remember that between the end of the '700 and the beginning of the '800 the studies continued on the piedmontese tongue, and the need of producing vocabularies. The French Revolution and the following occupation of the Piedmont brought the attempt of introducing the French as current tongue. In the occasion the Vocabulary Piedmontese - French of Louis Capello born. Among the others, the studies of Charles Denina on the Piedmontese were very important. He asserted that the Piedmontese, if the historical events had been more in favour, or if it had had more attention starting from the XV century, it would have become a distinguished tongue, having a relationship with Italian (or French) similar to the one between Spanish and Portuguese or the one between Dutch and German. The same conclusion was reached by Louis Capello.
The french occupation produced the abandonment of the idea, supported by somebody (e.g. Pipino and Calvo) to let the Piedmontese more "official" (beyond the ideas of Pipino that we already spoke about, the Calvo asserted that "in his own village each one has to speak his own language" and he himself wrote only in Piedmontese). Along the century other Vocabularies followed like the one of Casimiro Zalli (Piedmontese - Italian - Latin - French) in the year 1830, the one of the Count Victor of Sant'Albino (Piedmontese - Italian) that was a wery big work, in the year 1859, the one of Joseph Gavuzzi (Piedmontes - Italian and Italian - Piedmontese) and some other (e.g. the one of Ponza), and also some grammar was written.
There were many authors and many literary works in this century. We can distinguish three periods, whose the first is preceding the beginning of the Risorgimento (up to 1814 the Piedmont is a french territory) The second is the period of Risorgimento, The third is the period after the Unity of Italy.
In the first period a series of authors not particularly relevant wrote in poetry and prose like "Fule Moraj an prsa", "Dra grossa a l'ambrun", "Fule piemontise", and many others. Among the authors we remember Augustine Bosco, Chiaffredo Casale, Joseph Arnaud, Charles Casalis, John Ignatius Pansoya, Henry Bussolino, Vincent Andrew Peyron, and still others. The style is influenced by the new revolutionary ideas, where the middle classes and the common people are no more in a strong opposition.
The second period is the one of the Risorgimento's literature, that supports ideas of freedom for all the italian peoples. Among these writers the Count Caesar of Saluzzo, Caesar Balbo, Maximus D'Azeglio who did, in Piedmontese, works of patriotic inspiration. The two most relevant authors in piedmontese of this period were Angelo Brofferio and Norberto Rosa.
Brofferio had a revolutionary spirit, democratic and republican. He was a journalist and a lawyer and he was Deputy in Parliament. He was more than once sent to jail due to his revolutionary vehemence. In Piedmontese he wrote a big Collection of Piedmontese lyrics in which he passed from lyric to sarcasm about the life's events, up to the political caustical satire.
Rosa was a journalist with a style similar to the one of Brofferio, but more peaceful. His verses were published, along 18 years, on the magazine Parnas piemontis, almanac of piedmontese poetry and literature. He also wrote the two little poems "Ij cativ mdich" (The bad doctors) and "Don Chissit. Cant Prim".
In the third period there was an initial decay, probably caused by the reduced role of Turin in the new Italy, accompained by a certain disappointment. Then there was the prosperity of piedmontese theater, the development of the fiction in piedmontese, the birth of many literary magazines in piedmontese. Some of these magazines had a short life, while others became important and had a long and vivid life. A group of piedmontese writers published their literary works on the magazine "l birichin". Among them Michael Fornelli who published "Rime piemontise pr l popol" (Piedmontese verses for people), Louis Pietracqa, Johni Casalegno, Oreste Fasolo ("Carsse e sgrafignon"), John Gastaldi ("Chitarade") and many others.
There was a series of authors who could be called "minors", due to the not large or not so relevant production, as for example Stephen Mina. At the end of the century and at the beginning of the '900, there were, instead, two remarkable authors: Amilcare Solferini (true name: Victor Actis) and Alphonso Ferrero. We have already seen the two speaking about the theater.
Amilcare Solferini wrote, among other works, "Mentre la tra a gira" (While the earth turns), "Soris e smrfie" (Smiles and grimaces) e "Sont e rime" (Sonnets and Rymes). And the theatrical works that we have seen above. His works were deep and endured.
The same suffering permeated the works of Alphonso Ferrero, who wrote in verse, in prose and for the theater (as we've seen). Contestant about nearly all wrote in prose "Basin vend" (Sold kisses), and the collection of lyrics "Ltere a Mim e utre poese" only published in this form in the year 1970.
For the narrative we remember Charles Bernardino Ferrero (brother of Alphonso) who wrote novels describing the world of castaways, the world of whom had to overwork for make the family hardly survive, pushed by poverty into tragical situations. The style is a strong realism. These works came at the end of the century. Among them: "La cracia, romans dal ver" (The dirtiness, novel from life) ; "Ij mrt 'd fam, romans social" (The down-and-out, social novel); "La bassa Russia, scene 'd Prta Palass" (The low Russia, scenes od Prta Palass - a slum of Turin -); "'L delit 'd via dla Palma" (The crime of la Palma street) and some others.
At the end of the century (year 1895) in Turin six magazines in Piedmontese were published: 'L birichin, Compare bonm, La birichin-a, 'L Falabrach, La sartira, La sartoirtta.
We have still to speak about the work of Albert Virgilio, who wrote poetry (Vita sgair, etc.), the booklet "Ij fransis a Turin" (The French in Turin), but mainly he published interesting researches on the history of Turin in all its little, popular aspects. He also studied the piedmontese language and experimented all its expressive capabilities.
As a final note we remember that in the year 1836 the Waldesians translated into Piedmontese the New Testaments and the Book of Psalms to make them accessible to everybody.
Now a few lines of Angelo Brofferio:
Varda che bianca lun-a, / varda che cel seren: / dun-a mia cara, dun-a / ven, Carolin-a, ven. / Una tranquila aritta / sent, a consola 'l cheur / Ven, ven su la barchtta / dl'amor e dl boneur.......
And, still from him:
Destin bcco fot / 't l'has prpi famla grisa / a s-cidme patan / sot n'erbo al mis dla bisa. / Dagi ch'a t' vn 'l tich / 'd smneme dzor un brich / prch, crudl destin, / nen fme ravanin?.......


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