La collina (English translation)

  • Artist: Fabrizio De André
  • Song: La collina 7 translations
  • Translations: English #1, #2, #3, #4, French, German, Portuguese

The Hill

Versions: #1#2#3#4
Where has Elmer gone,
he who let himself die from fever?
Where is Herman, burned in a mine?
Where are Bert and Tom,
the former killed in a brawl,
and the other one who came out of jail already dead?
And what will be of Charley,
who fell while he was working,
and from the bridge plummeted, plummeted to the street?
They are sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
They are sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where are Ella and Kate,
both dead by mistake,
one from abortion, one from love?
And Maggie, killed in a brothel
by the caresses of a brute?
And Edith, consumed by a strange sickness?
And Lizzie, who pursued her life
far away, and from England
was brought back to this tiny stretch of land?
They are sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
They are sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where are the generals,
who, in battles, emblazoned themselves
with graveyards of crosses on their chests?1
Where the sons of war,
who left because of an ideal,
a fraud, a love story that came to a bad end?
They sent their remains back home
wrapped up in flags,
tightly tied so that they would seem to be all in one piece.2
They are sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
They are sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where is fiddler Jones,3
who was caught by surprise by his ninety years,
and who would have liked to keep playing with life?
He who turned his face to the wind,
his throat to wine, but [he] never [turned] his mind
neither to money, nor to love, nor to heaven?
It’s almost as if we can indeed hear him
still babbling about the junk
eaten on the streets at wrong times;
it’s almost as if we can still hear him
telling the liquor merchant
«You who sell it, what are you buying that’s better than it?»
  • 1. Double meaning on the cross-shaped tombstones and the cross-shaped medals of honor.
  • 2. Dead soldiers are honored with funerali di Stato (State’s funerals), where the coffin are covered with the Italian flag, politicians assist and everybody pay them a salute. It’s a display of hypocrisy rather similar to the one that takes place in the US.
  • 3. For metric reasons, Old Fiddler Jones became a flute player (in another song) and suonatore {(instrument) player} here, instead of violinista. Also, it looks like he was a roaming musician barely making a living out of music, and violinista has in no way the meaning of fiddler as loafer, layabout; this might not be the original meaning either, but it certainly wouldn’t displease De André. In fact, he was fond of Old Fiddler Jones and identified himself with him, being a singer, a kind of a layabout (or seen as one), not well into the “respectable” society, and more inclined to take life and happiness as they come rather than being concerned about grand things.
    Also, De André had a very serious problem with alcohol until his father died in 1985, so the last lines of the song (not present in Masters’ version) are not that surprising.
You can use my translations however you like.
“Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
Submitted by Stefano8Stefano8 on Mon, 25/12/2017 - 08:07
Author's comments:

Non al denaro non all’amore né al cielo {Neither to money, nor to love, nor to heaven} is a concept album that was inspired by Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology.
The book is a collection of poems, each one serving as an epitaph on the grave of a dead person. Masters took inspiration from the graveyard of his own town and the stories of the people there. Many characters could be recognized in his poems, and his fellow townsmen weren’t always very happy about it. The stories told by the epitaphs sometimes cross into one another, and they narrate stories of life, death, social problems, emargination, abuse, relentlessly depicting the (good and) bad of that early 1900s American life, which is, after all, not that different from today’s.
De André took some of the poems and turned them to music, usually elaborating a bit more on the subject of each of them. Throughout the album, there is the attention – typical of De André – towards the outcasts and the less “respectable” figures, without ever being judgmental, just narrating them and trying to understand them.
De André came to know Spoon River Anthology thanks to the Italian translation by Fernanda Pivano.
You can find Spoon River Anthology on Project Gutemberg.
The poem The Hill is also the introduction of the book.
All the dead people of the village are now together, buried on the hill, no matter how disparate their lives and their fates were. In the following songs, they are going to tell about their lives.
Next: A Madman (Behind Every Fool There Is A Village)


La collina