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The will of the poisoned man (Il Testamento dell’Avvelenato)

Leggi in italiano

The poisoned man” is a folk ballad that inaugurates a narrative genre collected in multiple variations: the story of a dying son, because he has been poisoned, who returns to his mother to die in his bed and make a will; in all likelihood the ballad starts from Italy, passes through Germany to get to Sweden and then spread to the British Isles (Lord Randal) until it lands in America.
This is how Riccardo Venturi teaches us “This ballad may have originated very far from the moors and lochs, and very close to our home [Italy].The poison, in fact, is a very strange weapon in the fierce ballads of Britain, where they kill themselves with sword, it is a subtle, ‘feminine’ means of killing, and it is not by chance that it has always been considered, on a popular level, a really Italian thing.

Italian Versions: The will of the poisoned man

The poisoned man

L’avvelenato (The poisoned man), or Il testamento dell’Avvelenato (The will of the poisoned man), is an Italian ballad attested for the first time in a repertoire of popular songs published in 1629 in Verona by a Florentine, Camillo the Bianchino. It was then also reproduced by Alessandro d’Ancona in his essay “La poesia popolare italiana’: the author expresses the opinion that the original text was Tuscan and contains some versions from the Como area and Lucca. Translated in Folk-ballads of Southern Europe edited by Sophie Jewett, Katharine Lee Bates, 1913. (see)

almost 200 regional versions

To date there are almost 200 regional versions of The will of the poisoned man, based on the dialogue between mother (or sometimes the wife) and son who in some regions is called Henry (Enrico), in other Peppino in others, as in Canton Ticino, Guerino: other characters are the doctor, the confessor and the notary, only in the final we learn that his wife is the guilty (in some versions the sister or more rarely the mother)

Eel or snake?

The poisoning occurs by means of an eel. The eel was a very popular food in the Middle Ages, and consumed even in areas far from the sea, as it could be kept alive for a long time. But the eel has a serpentine aspect and in fact the capitone (ie the eel with the big head) is often compared, at least in Italy, to the male penis.
At first glance the poisoning could be a revenge by the wife or lover due to a betrayal and it comes a spontaneously parallel with another red thread traced for Europe ( ” the Concealed Death“) indeed these ballads could originate from the same ancient mythological source: the hero goes hunting in the woods and is poisoned by a mysterious lady, then returns home and makes his will.
According to the psychoanalytic interpretation of Giordano Dall’Armellina in archetypal key, in “The will of the poisoned man” we see the teaching-rite of passage that was given in ancient times through the telling. (see the italian text)

The will of the poisoned man

The melodies of L’avvelenato (The poisoned man) are many and range from lament to dance tunes.

Cantovivo in Il canzoniere del Piemonte (in english: The songbook of Piedmont) voice Donata Pinti
In this version the dialogue is between wife and husband; they call the notary to make a will.

Costantino Nigra #26

L’Avvelenato

“Moger l’ái tanto male, signura moger”
«Coz’ l’as-to mangià a sinha cavaliero gentil?»
«Mangià d’ün’ anguilëlla che ‘l mi cör stà mal!”
“L’as-to mangià-la tüta cavaliero gentil?»
«Oh sül che la testëta: signora mojer”
«Coz’ l’as-to fáit dla resta cavaliero gentil?»
«L’ái dà-la alla cagnëta: signora mojer”
«Duv’ è-lo la cagnëta cavaliero gentil?»
«L’è morta per la strada signora mojer”
«Mandè a ciamè ’l nodaro che ‘l mi cör stà mal!”
«Coz’ vos-to dal nodaro, cavaliero gentil?»
«Voi fare testamento: oh signur nodar»
«Coz’ lass-to ai to frateli, cavaliero gentil?»
«Tante bele cassinhe (1) oh signor notar”
«Coz’ lass-to ale tue sorele, cavaliero gentil?»
Tanti bei denari (2) oh signor notar»
«Coz’ lass-to a la to mare, cavaliero gentil?»
“La chiave del mio cuore oh signur nodar»
«Coz’ lass-to a tua mogera, cavaliero gentil?»
«La forca da impichela: oh signur nodar»
L’è chila ch’ l’à ‘ntossià-me oh signur nodar»

english translation Cattia Salto 

the poisoned man

“Oh wife, I’m in so much pain My Lady Wife”
“What did you eat for dinner, gentle knight?
“I ate a small eel, and my heart is sick.
Did you eat it all? gentle knight?”
“Oh only the head My Lady Wife”
“What did you with the leavings, gentle knight?”
“I gave them to my good hound O Lady Wife”
“Where have you left your good hound, gentle knight?”
“It fell dead in the roadway; O Lady Wife”
“Go call the notary, and my heart is sick.
“Wherefore do you need the notary? o gentle knight?
“I must make my will master notary”
“What will you leave your brothers gentle knight?”
“I leave to them all my palaces (1); master notary”
“What will you leave your sisters, gentle knight?”
“A lot of money (2) master notary”
“What will you leave your mother, gentle knight?”
“The key of my heart master notary”
“What will you leave your sweetheart, gentle knight?”
“The gallows-tree to hang her; master notary
She poisoned me master notary”

NOTE
1) “cascina” is a typical agricultural structure of the Po Valley: the lands and houses of the landlord belong to the male brothers
2) the dowry

i Gufi, Lombard area

I
Dove sii staa jersira
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Dove sii staa jersira?
II
Son staa da la mia dama
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
Son staa da la mia dama.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
III
Cossa v’halla daa de cena
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Cossa v’halla daa de cena?
IV
On’inguilletta arrosto
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
On’inguilletta arrosto.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
V
L’avii mangiada tuta
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
L’avii mangiada tuta?
VI
Non n’ho mangiaa che meza
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
Non n’ho mangiaa che meza.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
VII
Cossa avii faa dell’altra mezza
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Cossa avii faa dell’altra mezza?
VIII
L’hoo dada alla cagnola,
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
L’hoo dada alla cagnola.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
IX
Cossa avii faa de la cagnola
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Cossa avii faa de la cagnola?
X
L’è morta ‘dree a la strada,
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
L’è morta ‘dree a la strada.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
XI
La v’ha giust daa ‘l veleno
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil,
la v’ha giust daa ‘l veleno?
XII
Mandee a ciamà ‘l dottore
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
Mandee a ciamà ‘l dottore.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè.
XIII
Perchè vorii ciamà ‘l dottore
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Perchè vorii ciamà ‘l dottore?
XIV
Per farmi visitare
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
Per farmi visitare.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
XV
Mandee a ciamà ‘l notaro
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
Mandee a ciamà ‘l notaro.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
XVI
Perchè vorii ciamà ‘l notaro
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Perchè vorii ciamà ‘l notaro?
XVII
Per fare testamento
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
Per fare testamento.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
XVIII
Cossa lassee alli vostri fratelli
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Cossa lassee alli vostri fratelli?
IX
Carozza coi cavalli
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
Carozza coi cavalli.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
XX
Cossa lassee alle vostre sorelle
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Cossa lassee alle vostre sorelle?
XXI
La dote per maritarle
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
La dote per maritarle.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
XXII
Cossa lassee alli vostri servi
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Cossa lassee alli vostri servi?
XXIII
La strada d’andà a messa
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
La strada d’andà a messa.
Ohimè ch’io moro, ohimè!
XXIV
Cossa lassee alla vostra dama
figliol, mio caro fiorito e gentil?
Cossa lassee alla vostra dama?
XXV
La forca da impicarla
signora mamma, mio core sta mal!
La forca da impicarla.
Ohimèèèè ch’io mooooooro, ohiiiiiiiimè!

I
“Where were you yesterevening,
Dear son so fair and noble?
Where were you yesterevening?
II
“I have been with my sweetheart;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
I have been with my sweetheart;
O woe is me! O woe is me! I die!”
III
“What supper did she give you,
Dear son so fair and noble?
What supper did she give you?”
IV
“A little a-roasted eel;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
A little eel;
O woe is me! O woe is me! I die!”
V
“And did you eat the whole, then,
Dear son so fair and noble?
And did you eat the whole, then?”
VI
“Only the half I’ve eaten;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
Only the half I’ve eaten;
O woe is me! 0 woe is me! I die!”
VII
“What did you with the leavings,
Dear son so fair and noble?
What did you with the leavings?”
VIII
“I gave them to my good hound;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
I gave them to my good hound;
O woe is me! O woe is me! I die!”
IX
“Where have you left your good hound,
Dear son so fair and noble?
Where have you left your good hound?”
X
“It fell dead in the roadway;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
It fell dead in the roadway;
O woe is me! O woe is me! I die!”
XI
“Oh, she has given you poison,
Dear son so fair and noble!
Oh, she has given you poison!”
XII
“Now call to me the doctor;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
Now call to me the doctor;
O woe is me! O woe is me! I die!”
XIII
“Why do you want the doctor,
Dear son so fair and noble?
Why do you want the doctor?”
XIV
“That he may see what ails me;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
That he may see what ails me;
O woe is me! 0 woe is me! I die!
XV
“Now call to me a lawyer [1];
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
Now call to me a lawyer;
O woe is me! 0 woe is me! I die!”
XVI
“Why do you want a lawyer,
Dear son so fair and noble?
Why do you want a lawyer?”
XVII
“My will to draw and witness;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
My will to draw and witness;
O woe is me! 0 woe is me! I die!”
XVIII
“What will you leave your brothers,
Dear son so fair and noble?
What will you leave your brothers?”
XIX
“My carriage and my horses;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
My carriage and my horses;
O woe is me! O woe is me! I die!”
XX
“What will you leave your sisters,
Dear son so fair and noble?
What will you leave your sisters?”
XXI
“A dowry for their marriage;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
A dowry for their marriage;
O woe is me! O woe is me! I die!”
XXII
“What will you leave your servants,
Dear son so fair and noble?
What will you leave your servants?”
XXIII
“The road to go to mass on;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
The road to go to mass on;
O woe is me! 0 woe is me! I die!”
XXIV
“What will you leave your sweetheart,
Dear son so fair and noble?
What will you leave your sweetheart?”
XXV
“The gallows-tree to hang her;
O Lady Mother, sick at heart am I!
The gallows-tree to hang her;
O woe is me! O woe is me! I die!”

NOTE
english translation *
1) notaio= notary, solicitor

Monica Bassi & Bandabrian the version from the Veneto (sorrowful interpretation and beautiful black and white images)

La Piva dal Carner (later become BEV, Bonifica Emiliana Veneta), 1995. The Emilia version. Here the protagonist is a gallant knight named Enrico

Musicanta Maggio (Emilia area) in which also a dog dies poisoned for eating a piece of eel.

Angelo Branduardi in Futuro Antico III

Piva del Carner
I
Dov’è che sté ier sira, fiól mio Irrico?
Dov’è che sté ier sira, cavaliere gentile?
Sun ste da me surèla, mama la mia mama
sun ste da me surèla che il mio core sta male.
II
Che t’à dato da cena, fiól mio Irrico?
Che t’à dato da cena cavaliere gentile?
Un’anguillina arosto, mama la mia mama
un’anguillina arosto che il mio core sta male.
III
Dove te l’ha condita, fiól mio Irrico?
Dove te l’ha condita, cavaliere gentile?
In un piattino d’oro, mama la mia mama
in un piattino d’oro che il mio core sta male.
IV
Che parte è stè la tua, fiól mio Irrico?
Che parte è stè la tua, cavaliere gentile?
La testa e non la coda, mama la mia mama
la testa e non la coda che il mio core sta male.
V
Andè a ciamèr al prete, mama la mia mama
andè a ciamèr al prete che il mio core sta male.
Sin vot mai fèr dal prete, fiól mio Irrico?
sin vot mai fèr dal prete, cavaliere gentile?
VI
Mi devo confessare, mama la mia mama
Mi devo confessare, che il mio core sta male
m’avete avvelenato mama la mia mama
m’avete avvelenato e il mio core sta male.

english translation from here
I
Where were you yesterday evening, my son Enrico?
Where were you, o gentle knight?
I went to see my sister, o mother
I went to see my sister and my heart is sick.
II
What did she give you for dinner, Enrico my son?
What did she give you for dinner, o gentle knight?
A small roasted eel, o mother
A small roasted eel and my heart is sick.
III
Where did she prepare it, my son Enrico?
Where did she prepare it, o gentle knight?
In a gold saucer, o mother
In a gold saucer, and my heart is sick.
IV
Which part was yours, Enrico my son?
Which part was yours, o gentle knight?
The head and not the tail, o mother
The head and not the tail and my heart is sick.
V
Go call the priest, o mother
Go call the priest and my heart is sick.
Wherefore do you need the priest, Enrico my son?
Wherefore do you need the priest, o gentle knight?
VI
I must be confessed, o mother
I must be confessed, and my heart is sick.
You poisoned me, o mother
You poisoned me and my heart is sick.

Another version comes from Riolunato sung with the idiom of Fanano (Mo)
Francesco Benozzo in Terracqueo 2013

SOURCES
http://www.nspeak.com/allende/comenius/bamepec/multimedia/saggio2.htm
https://igiornicantati.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/ballata-narrativa/

Translation 
https://mudcat.org/detail.cfm?messages__Message_ID=3938306
https://mudcat.org/detail.cfm?messages__Message_ID=3938482

The poisoned man -Lord Randal

SCOTTISH VERSIONS
Lord Randal (Child # 12)
-Scottish version
Ciod è a ghaoil a tha ort
– scottis gaelic version
Lord Ronald, my Son (Robert Burns)
Croodin doo (nursery rhyme)

IRISH VERSIONES
Henry my Son (Irish version)
Amhrán na hEascainne (gaelic irish version)

OTHER VERSIONS
The Wild, wild Berry (english version from Shropshire)
Billy Boy (sea shanty)
“Il testamento dell’avvelenato” (Italian version)
Jimmy Randal (John Jacob Niles)

Pubblicato da Cattia Salto

Amministratore e folklorista di Terre Celtiche Blog

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