Elio Fox

Vittorio Felini was born in Trento on October 23, 1862 from a family of very modest means, which forced him to find work at a tender age. Self-taught, he was a worker and craftsman all his life, until his death on may 23, 1920. He began to write poetry late in life and published his first book only in 1907.
Before publishing his first book, he was able to publish his first poems weekly in the daily Il Trentino. He then decided to collect them in a volume, comforted by the success he had attained with the readers. His first book, Ariete trentine, is dedicated to the "sweet memory" of his mother, who "with the language of the people had been able to express, amid life's struggles, the most delicate ideas of Christian and domestic virtues."
During those years Felini wrote a great deal and at time in an irrelevant manner. His friends realized this and so did he, who said: "I wrote too much; had I written less, I could have polished my work better..." But he explained the reasons for this frenzied output - in two years one hundred fifty poems published in two volumes (the second, titled Fiori de prà, came out in 1909), a comedy, a long poem, a one-act play - :"I wanted to take advantage of lost time." All the same, a serious critic from the region like Oddone Brentari wrote in Milan journal that Felini was "one of the best exponents of the popular soul of Trentino."
There followed a hiatus of a few years, then came Sule ròste de l'Ades, a collection of verses, in 1913. After war broke out, his writing became much more scarce. he wrote to a friend: "My poor Muse has never looked at me so askance as in the present." An excessively stern judgment, because in those years he wrote a few beautiful poems from exile. No doubt he never again wrote at the pace he had kept from 1907 to 1909 or from 1913 to 1914, the year of the publication of Sule ròste de l'Ades, the last book published by him. Yet he wrote at least a poem each month.
In the exile of Rumo in Valle di Non where he spent the war years (195-1918), his only outlet was poetry, a poetry quite different from his previous work, more melancholy and sad, pervaded by a great existential anguish, a marked introspection and a heartfelt suffering. He did not write a lot, but what he wrote was very good, very close to the feelings of the people. Some of these poems which have reached us thanks to the care taken by a friend, the painter Metodio Ottolini, are fundamental for a spiritual reading of the poet during the last years of his life.
Yet Felini did not give up poetry easily. He resumed his contribution to newspapers, but nothing went the way he wanted., and found he was no longer capable of writing his simple poetry. After the war he wrote three sonnets on the liberation of Trento and very little thereafter.
Giulio Benedetto Embert, who has studied this poet more than anyone else, knew him personally and collected his best poetry in a single volume titled Poesie dialettali, says of his work: "Not all the six-hundred printed pages are true poetry, and Felini himself knew it and said it. But some poems possess a native and primitive beauty... the dominant note in the successful poems is sadness, the regret of past years, the color is that of Autumn; thus a predilection - admirable in a self-taught worker - for the great poet of melancholy: Leopardi; thus the manifest difficulty in writing humor... Felini was not very good at evoking laughter, just as his smile was not capable of freeing itself from a certain bitterness that oppressed. him... Maybe due to the events of his youth, maybe to everyday disappointments, maybe to that irrepressible 'spleen' that is so common in the mountains."
His three books display a wide range of emotions tied to his inner life, his home, his family, and his land. To nature and the environment Felini dedicated some of his best and more deeply felt poems. Another recurrent theme is the passing of time and the changing seasons, to which Felini dedicated about fifty poems, almost twenty per cent of the total. He also is a keen observer of the traditions of the people of Trentino, some of which, like the feasts, are still followed, though the mindset of Felini's time was completely different.
Felini's work possesses a popular concreteness and retains a precise place in the culture of the people. He was a unique poet, without great flights of fancy but without great failures either. Above all, he created a kind of poetry that has inspired poets to our day, the poets who write about everyday life, the simplicity of family relationships, the small things. One of the traits of Felini's poetry is resignation for all that can happen, as a design of Providence against which nothing can be done.

Ariete trentine, Trento: Tipografia del Comitato Diocesiano, 1907
Fiori de prà, Trento: Tipografia del Comitato Diocesiano, 1909
El pensier del quartier, Trento: Tipografia del Comitato Diocesiano, 1908
Sule ròste de l'Ades, Trento: Tipografia del Comitato Diocesiano, 1913
Poesie dialettali, edited by G. B. Emert, Trento: Arti Grafiche Tridentum, 1927

E. Fox, "Vittorio Felini," in Tempi e Cronache, Anno I, n. 6, June 1973
R. Francescotti, "Profilo della poesia dialettale trentina," in UCT Uomo Città Territorio, Anno III, nn. 25-26, Trento, February 1976
E. G. Benedetto, "Poesia dialettale di Vittorio Felini, preface to Poesie dialettali, 1927

Poems translated by Rina Ferrarelli

L'efèt che fa do bei ociéti

V'è mai tocà de véder passar via
de nòt, per la campagna scura scura
en mèz a tuta quanta la verdura,
en pressa, come 'n lamp, la ferovia?

De colpo no se sa còssa che 'l sia:
se sente da lontan che la sussura,
se vede do fanai che fa paura
lusenti come i òci de la stria.

E quando la è passada, sti do ocioni
i resta come 'l fuss na lanternota
seanca no se vede pu i vagoni.

L'istés l'è se me varda la Carlota
con quei ocieti mori tanto bei!
Per en gran pèz mi vedo demò quei.

L'effetto che fanno due begli occhietti - Vi è mai capitato di vedere passar via / di notte, nella campagna scura scura / in mezzo a tutto quel verde / in fretta, come un lampo, la ferrovia? // Di colpo non si sa che cosa sia. / si ode da lontano un sussurro., / si vedono due fanali che fanno paura / lucenti come gli occhi di una strega. // E quando è passata, questi occhioni / rimangono come fossero una piccola lanterna / anche se i vagoni non si vedono più. // Lo stesso succede se mi guarda la Carlotta / con quegli occhietti scuri tanto belli! / Per molto tempo io vedo solo quelli.

The Effect of Two Beautiful Eyes

Did you ever happen to see the train
at night, going through the fields in the dark,
speeding by like a lightning streak
in the middle of all that vegetation?

You don't know what it is at first:
You hear a hum, a whisper out of reach,
see two big frightening lights coming,
getting closer, shining like the eyes of a witch.

And when the train has passed, these eyes remain,
large, glowing, hovering in the air like a lantern,
even when the cars can no longer be seen.

The same thing happens when Emily
looks at me with her small eyes. Long after
I see only them, so dark and lovely.


Che levade de sol, che bei tramonti,
che ziél senza na nùgola, turchin;
come se vede ciar via per i monti,
el par che ghe sia tut vezin, vezin.

De ste giornade chi, de sti orizonti
celesti, da no véderghe la fin,
co' le stagìon che è na, no gh'è confronti;
le ven adèss, en la stagìon del vin.

E pur con tut sto ciar de ste giornade,
me sento drént de mi na gran tristezza,
e penso a tante storie zà passade.

Penso a na roba che no torna pù,
che làssa chì 'n del còr na gran fredezza
a quela che mi ò pèrs: la zoventù!

Malinconie - Che aurore, che bei tramonti, / che cielo senza una nuvola, turchino; / come sì vede con chiarezza sui monti lontani, / quasi da sembrare che tutto sia molto vicino. // Con queste giornate, con questi orizzonti / celesti, da non vederne la fine, / non ci sono confronti con le stagioni già passate; / esse vengono ora, nella stagione dei vini. // Eppure con tutto il chiarore di queste giornate, / mi sento dentro una grande tristezza. / e penso a tante storie ormai passate. // Penso ad una cosa che non torna più, / che lascia qui nel cuore un grande freddo / a quella che ho perduto: la gioventù!.


Such risings, such lovely settings of the sun,
and a sky without clouds, blue-indigo;
so clearly do we see over the distant mountains
that every thing seems near, so very near.

With day after day like this, with such fine
sky-blue horizons, and no end in sight,
there is no comparison to past seasons;
these come now in the season of wine.

Still, despite the great clear light of these days
I feel a deep sadness within me
remembering many stories long past.

I remember one thing that will never
return, that leaves my heart so bitter cold,
what I have lost: my youth, gone forever.

Ne nòvi vezìni

Sempre da sta stagion, sera e matina,
quando che 'l sol no 'l dà quel gran calor,
sul cornison via lì ogni an se bina
i rondinei da nif, eri zima a l'or.

I fa ogni tant na bela sgoladina,
dopo i se posta e dopo i sgóla ancor,
ma sempre pòch lontani, a la vezina,
prché dal nif i è giust vegnudi for.

Sempre da sto temp chi se 'n vede via.
S'ciapade su per tut quel cornison
che i pòlsa o i se spolina lì a l'ombrìa.

De tut quel regiment de rondinei
ogni an se cambia la generazion,
ma a mi me par de véder sempre quei.

I miei nuovi vicini - Sempre in questa stagione, la sera e la mattina, / quando il sole non è più così caldo, / sul cornicione di fronte ogni anno si radunano / le piccole rondini da nido, sul bordo. // Fanno di tanto in tanto in piccolo volo, / poi sostano, e poi volano ancora, / ma sempre poco lontani, sempre vicino, / perché sono appena usciti dal nido. // Sempre in questo periodo si vedono. / A gruppi lungo tutto il cornicione / che riposano o si spollinano all'ombra. // Di tutto quel reggimento di piccole rondini / ogni anno cambiano le generazioni, / ma a me sembra di vedere sempre le stesse.

My New Neighbors

Always during this season, evenings
and mornings, when the sun is not too hot,
the little nestling swallows gather
every year on the eaves across the street.

Now and again they go for brief flights, then rest,
then fly off once more, but never go too far
from the tip of the ledge, they always stay near
because they've just come out of their nest.

You can always see them around this time
sitting in groups up and down the cornice,
dozing in the shade, or preening their feathers.

In that regiment of little swallows
every year it's a new generation
but I think I see the same congregation.

I òci de le dòne

I òci de le dòne i è tramadi
de ròba che l'è tut en ziél e mar:
bassòti mèzi averti o spalancadi,
i è fazili a punir e a perdonar.

Ensieme l'è orìzonti sconfinadì,
l'è mari con fondezze da tremar!
Per strade che nessunì è mai passadi
i va zo 'n fond ai còri a sfodegar.

Ma guai se qualchedun en de na prèssa,
cossì, per en cicin endovinar,
a penetrarghe drént el se azardéssa!

Enveze de 'n bel ziél e de 'n gran mar,
preciso, propri live a l'istéss sito
el troverìa do tòchi de granito.

Gli occhi delle donne - Gli occhi delle donne sono intrecciati / dì cose che sono tutte cielo e mare: / abbassati.. mezzi aperti o spalancati / hanno facilità nel punire o nel perdonare. // Assieme sono orizzonti sconfinati, / sono mari con profondità da far tremare! / Per strade che nessuno ha mai percorso / vanno giù in fondo nei cuori a rovistare. // Ma guai se qualcuno, senza riflettere, / così, per giocare all'ìndovino, / si azzardasse a penetrarli! // Invece di un bel cielo e dì un gran mare, / all'istante, proprio queglì stessi occhi / diventerebbero due pezzi di granito.

The Eyes of Women

The eyes of women are interwoven
with things that are all sky and sea:
lowered, half-open, wide-open, they have
the facility to punish or forgive.

Together they are horizons without end,
they are seas with depths to make you shudder!
Along roads that no one has ever taken,
they go ransacking the bottom of your heart.

But woe to the one who without reflection,
like so, as if guessing, playing a game,
looked deep into them, dared penetration!

Instead of a fair sky and a great fair ocean,
in an instant those very same eyes
would become hard, two pieces of stone.