It's the pseudonym of Carlo Alberto Salustri, born in Rome in 1871. His mother was from Bologna and his father, a waiter, from Albano Laziale. His childhood was filled with mourning and sadness, but he was perhaps too small to feel the full brunt of it. He lost his younger sister Elisabetta at the age of two and his father at the age of three. His mother was a seamstress and somewhat stern with the child, who was a poor and listless student. At sixteen he dropped out of school, but had already written his first verses.
In 1887 one of his poems came out in Il Rugantino, edited by Gigi Zanazzo, along with a prose piece signed with the pseudonym Marco Pepe. He became soon popular for a series of portraits of Roman girls he published in 1889 under the title Stelle de Roma [Roman Stars]. Immediately a dispute broke out with the Roman dialect poet Filippo Chiappini, who accused Trilussa of not knowing the dialect, taking the position of the "vernacular purist," as Claudio Rendina calls him.
The poet's popularity was almost immediate, his contributions to Il Messaggero were followed and discussed; even his drawings were well received by the mass of readers. He worked on the editorial staff of Don Chisciotte, providing images, sketches, fables, skits, vignettes and poems with that easy vein that would become a distinctive trait of his life and work.
He too, like Pascarella, traveled extensively, but through the Italian cities, which welcomed him not only as a reporter, but as a fine reciter of his own verses as well. In 1901 he even formed a trio with the poets Berto Barbarani from Verona and Alfredo Testoni from Bologna, making the rounds of the theaters of Genoa, Padua, Milan, Reggio Emilia etc.. The invitations became more and more frequent and Trilussa was constantly touring all of Italy, with evening engagements worthy of a star of the theater. People liked his poetry and they liked his recitation even more, done in a dialect everyone could understand yet possessing all the ingredients of cleverness, of wit, of irony and sarcasm.
He even went to Egypt, but perhaps in order to follow a girl he was in love with, the actress Leda Gys.
Upon his return, he began living in Maria Adelaide Street amidst a myriad souvenirs collected all over, with the same casual and haphazard spirit with which D'Annunzio had organized the Vittoriale's rooms. He was still active in evening performances and the well-to-do Roman world welcomed him and invited him. But his literary friendships were few (not counting the affectionate period spent with the author of La figlia di Jorio [Jorio's Daughter]; he saw Civinini, Bontempelli and D'Ambra and went around the cafés and the taverns dressed in eccentric garb.
During the Fascist years he wrote texts for Petrolini and for Fregoli, Mondadori published one of his books, the regime did not react to his quips, which were blunted spears and could even be useful in giving the sensation that there was full freedom of expression and the possibility of protest.
Late in life his economic conditions were very modest, and in addition he was struck by asthma and had difficulty going out for a stroll or to the taverns for his usual glass.
He died just before Christmas of 1950.
"Trilussa is an epicurean moralist," said Barberi Squarotti. And Sciascia: "Trilussa's characters really do not come out of Gogol's "Overcoat." In fact the poet does not know how to thrust deeply, he plays lightly with the foil and never takes sides clearly. "What holds him back is the lack of true indignation" against man's behavior, against his vices and his violence.
His poetry is almost always easy and flat, and skims the surface even when a sentimental, somewhat crepuscular vein filters in, only to disappear at once.

Dante Maffia

Essential bibliography: Tutte le poesie di Trilussa, ed. P. Pancrazi, with notes by L. Huetter, Milan: Mondadori, 1954; Poesie, ed. Claudio Rendina, Rome: Newton, 1992.
Criticism: G. A. Borgese, La vita e il libro, I, Bologna 1927; P. Pancrazi, introduction to Tutte le poesie, Milan 1951; M. Dell'Arco, Lunga vita di Trilussa, Rome 1951; G. Mariani, Trilussa. Storia di un poeta, Rome 1974; G. Spagnoletti, "Trilussa," in Scrittori di un secolo, I, Milan 1974; Studi trilussiani, edited by L. Felici, Rome 1977.

Er ventriloco

Se credi a questo, sei 'no scemo, scusa.
Pô sta' che un omo parli co' la gente
come se ne la panza internamente
ciavesse quarche machina arinchiusa?

Nun credo che in un'epoca che s'usa
d'aprì la bocca senza di' mai gnente
esista sto fenomeno vivente
che dice tante cose a bocca chiusa!

Parla cór ventre! Oh questa si ch'è bella!
Sortanto er poveraccio che nun magna
se sente fa' glu-glu ne le budella.

Io stesso, speciarmente a fin de mese,
me sento che lo stomaco se lagna . . .
Ma sai ched'è? La voce der Paese!


da I sonetti, 1922

Il ventriloquista Se credi a questo, sei uno scemo, scusa. / Può essere che un uomo parli con la gente / come se nella pancia internamente / avesse qualche macchina rinchiusa? // Non credo che in un'epoca in cui s'usa / aprire la bocca senza dire mai niente / esista questo fenomeno vivente / che dice tante cose a bocca chiusa! // Parla col ventre! Oh questa sì ch'è bella! / Soltanto il poveraccio che non mangia / si sente fare glu-glu nelle budella. // Io stesso, specialmente a fin di mese, / mi sento che lo stomaco si lagna... / Ma sai cos'è? La voce del Paese!

(Traduzione di Luigi Bonaffini)


Ventriloquist means stomach speaker. It's Latin.
If you believe in him, by God, you're gullible
as if the stomach were a place to chat in
or speech could come from swallowing a syllable.

I can't believe that in an age like ours
when everybody's mouth is open, but but
when nothing is said, anyone's got the power
of saying anything with his mouth shut.

His stomach talk! What is he trying to tell me?
Only a poor beggar who hasn't once
eaten today hears "glub glub" in his belly.
Matter of fact, especially when the month's
almost out, my guts grumble and grate
Know whose voice it is? The voice of the State!


(Translated by John Du Val)

Er porco e er somaro

Una matina un povero Somaro,
ner vede un Porco amico annà ar macello,
sbottò in un pianto e disse. Addio, frate:
nun ce vedremo più, nun c'è riparo!

Bisogna esse filosofo, bisogna.
je disse er Porco via, nun fa' lo scemo
ché forse un giorno se ritroveremo
in quarche mortadella de Bologna!

da Le favole, 1922

Il porco e il somaro Una mattina un povero Somaro, / vedendo un Porco amico andare al macello, / sbottò in un pianto e disse. Addio, fratello: / non ci vedremo più, non c'è rimedio! // Bisogna essere filosofo, bisogna. / gli disse il Porco via, non fare lo scemo / ché forse un giorno ci ritroveremo / in qualche mortadella di Bologna!

(Traduzione di Luigi Bonaffini)

The Pig and the Donkey

A poor, lean donkey stood and watched his friend,
the pig, hauled to the slaughterhouse. "Dear brother!"
the donkey brayed, "farewell, farewell It's over.
We'll never meet again. This is the end!"

The pig replied, "Now, don't act like an ass
Be philosophical: life is a passage.
For all we know it may yet come to pass
we'll meet again in some bologna sausage."

(Translated by John Du Val)

Er gatto e er cane

Un Gatto soriano
diceva a un Barbone.
Nun porto rispetto
nemmanco ar padrone,
perché a l'occasione
je sgraffto la mano;
ma tu che lo lecchi
te becchi le botte.
Te mena, te sfotte,
te mette in catena
cor muso rinchiuso
e un cerchio cor bollo
sull'osso der collo.
Seconno la moda
te taja li ricci,
te spunta la coda . . .
Che belli capricci!
lo, guarda. so' un Gatto,
so' un ladro, lo dico.
Ma a me nun s'azzarda
de famme ste cose.
Er Cane rispose.
Ma io... je so' amico!

da Le favole, 1922

Il gatto e il cane Un Gatto soriano / diceva a un Barbone. / Non porto rispetto / nemmeno al padrone, / perché all'occasione / gli graffio la mano; / ma tu che lo lecchi / ti becchi le botte. / Ti picchia, ti sfotte, / ti mette in catena / col muso rinchiuso / e un cerchio col bollo / sull'osso del collo. / Secondo la moda / ti taglia i riccioli, / ti spunta la coda... / Che bei capricci! / Io, guarda, sono un Gatto, / sono un ladro, lo dico. / Ma a me non s'azzarda / a farmi queste cose. / Il cane rispose. / Ma io... gli sono amico!

(Traduzione di Luigi Bonaffini)

The cat and the Dog

The cat said to the dog,
"Look at it this way.
you'll never see me pay
any respect to the man
In fact, if I'm in the mood,
I scratch him on the hand.
But you, you fetch his slippers,
lick his boots and slobber.
What does it get you? A kick!
He chains you to a stick
and chokes you with a collar,
or keeps you in a kennel,
then crimps your ears and tags you,
bobs your tail and clips you,
because it's the latest fad,
and, brother, you've been had!
Look at me. I'm a cat!
l've stolen again and again,
but the man's never tried
to keep me muzzled or penned"
The dog replied,
"But I'm his friend."

(Translated by John Du Val)

La maschera

Vent'anni fa m'ammascherai pur'io!
E ancora tengo er grugno de cartone
che servì p'annisconne quello mio.
Sta da vent'anni sopra un credenzone
quela Maschera buffa, che'è restata
sempre co' la medesima espressione,
sempre co' la medesima risata.
Una vorta je chiesi E come fai
a conservà lo stesso bon umore
puro ne li momenti der dolore,
puro quanno me trovo fra li guai!
Felice te, che nun te cambi mai!
Felice te, che vivi senza core!
La Maschera rispose. E tu che piagni
che ce guadagni? Gnente! Ce guadagni
che la gente dirà. Povero diavolo,
te compatisco ... me dispiace assai...
Ma, in fonno, credi, nun j'importa un cavolo!
Fa' invece come me, ch'ho sempre riso.
E se te pija la malinconia
coprete er viso co' la faccia mia
così la gente nun se scoccerà...
D'allora in poi nascónno li dolori
de dietro a un'allegria de cartapista
e passo per un celebre egoista
che se ne frega de l'umanità!

da Le favole, 1992

La maschera Vent'anni fa mi mascherai pure io! / Ed ancora ho il grugno di cartone / che servì per nascondere quello mio / Sta da vent'anni sopra un credenzone / quella Maschera buffa, ch'è restata / sempre con la medesima espressione, / sempre con la medesima risata. / Una volta le chiesi E come fai / a conservare lo stesso buon umore / anche nei momenti di dolore, / anche quando mi trovo in mezzo ai guai! / Felice te, che non cambi mai! / Felice te, che vivi senza cuore! / La Maschera rispose E tu che piangi / che ci guadagni? Niente! Ci guadagni / che la gente dirà. povero diavolo, / ti compatisco... mi dispiace assai... / Ma in fondo, credi, non gliene importa un cavolo! / Fa' invece come me, che ho sempre riso. / E se ti prende la malinconia / copriti il viso con la faccia mia / così la gente non si scoccerà... / D'allora in poi nascondo i dolori / dietro un'allegria di cartapesta / e passo per un celebre egoista / che se ne frega dell'umanità!

(Traduzione di Luigi Bonaffini)

The mask

Twenty years back I went to a masquerade,
and ever since, the mask has had its place
there on the dresser, a cardboard funny face
I used to hide my own. For a long while
it stared at me with the same buffoonish smile.
One day I asked my mask point blank, "Now how
have you managed to keep your spirits high
even when I'm feeling low down,
when sit and cry is all I want to do.
You never change. You get by
without a heart. Lucky, lucky you."
But then the mask answered, "Man, what does
complaining do for you? Nothing or it gets people to saying,
Oh, I'm so sorry! Really I am.
Poor guy! Listen, I wish there was something...'
But deep down, they don't give a damn
Why don't you be like me? You can laugh.
When gladness goes and grief takes its place,
nobody will guess
hide your unhappiness behind my face."
So ever since that time I hide my grieving
behind a cardboard happiness
and pass for someone who couldn't care less
about the human race.

(Translated by John Du Val)


Mentre me leggo er solito giornale
spaparacchiato all'ombra d'un pajaro,
vedo un porco e je dico. Addio, majale!
vedo un ciuccio e je dico. Addio, somaro!

Forse ste bestie nun me caperanno,
ma provo armeno la soddisfazzione
de potè di' le cose come stanno
senza paura de fini in priggione.

da Giove e le bestie, 1932

All'ombra Mentre mi leggo il solito giornale / disteso all'ombra di un pagliaio, / vedo un porco e gli dico. Addio, maiale! / vedo un asino e gli dico. Addio, somaro! // Forse queste bestie non mi capiranno, / ma provo almeno la soddisfazione / di poter dire le cose come stanno / senza paura di finire in prigione.

(Traduzione di Luigi Bonaffini)

In the Shade of a Hay Rick

I read my paper, back propped against the hay
Here comes a hog, so I look up and say,
"Goodbye, Pig!" And then across the grass
here comes a donkey; I say, "Goodbye, ass!"

No way of telling if they've understood.
Whether they have or not, it does me good
to call things what they are without the dread
of having to go to jail for what I've said.

(Translated by John Du Val)