Serpent

Inno A Satana (Hymn to Satan)

by Giosue Carducci, 1865

A Satana

To Satan
(English Translation)

Notes

A te, de l’essere

Principio immenso,

Materia e spirito,

Ragione e senso;

To you, creation’s

mighty principle,

matter and spirit

reason and sense

A toast! The poem was originally written as a dinner-party toast. It is easy to visualize the poet with glass raised as he recites the poem.

Mentre ne’ calici

Il vin scintilla

Si’come l’anima

Ne la pupilla

Whilst the wine 

sparkles in cups

like the soul

in the eye

Mentre sorridono

La terra e il sole

E si ricambiano

D’amor parole

Whilst earth and

sun exchange

their smiles and

words of love

E corre un fremito

D’imene arcano

Da’ monti e palpita

Fecondo il piano;

And shudders

from their secret embrace run down

from the mountains, and

the plain throbs with new life

A te disfrenasi

Il verso ardito,

Te invoco, o Satana

Re del convito

To you my daring

verses are unleashed,

you I invoke, O Satan

monarch of the feast.

Via l’aspersorio,

Prete, e il tuo metro!

No, prete, Satana

Non toma in dietro!

Put aside your sprinkler,

priest, and your litanies!

No, priest, Satan

does not retreat!

Against Satan, priests have no power. 

Vedi: la ruginne

Rode e Michele

Il brando mistico

Ed il fedele

Behold! Rust

erodes the mystic

sword of Michael

and the faithful

Even the Archangel Michael, who led the army of faithful angels against Lucifer’s rebels, is deplumed and left with a rusted sword.

Spennato arcangelo

Cade nel vano.

Ghiacciato e’ fulmine

A Geova in mano

Archangel, deplumed,

drops into the void.

The thunderbolt lies frozen

in Jove’s hand

Even Jehovah himself is powerless.

Meteore pallide,

Pianeti spenti,

Piovono gli angeli

Da I firmamenti

Like pale meteors,

spent worlds,

the angels drop

from the firmament

The rebel angels descent to Earth from the heavens.

Ne la materia

Che mai non dorme,

Re de I fenomeni

Re de le forme

In unsleeping

matter,

king of phenomena,

monarch of form,

Satan is king of the physical, material realm.

Sol vive Satana.

E tien ‘impero

Nel lampo temulo

D’un occhio nero,

Satan alone lives.

He holds sway in

the tremulous flash

of some dark eye,

Satan’s realm or empire (“impero”) can be perceived wherever the life-force is in evidence:

O ver che languido

Sfugga e resista,

Od acre ed umido

Pro’vochi, insista.

Or the eye which languidly

turns and resists,

or which, bright and moist,

provokes, insists.

… in the flashing eye of a woman in a state of arousal,

Brilla de’ grappoli

Nel lieto sangue,

Per cui la rapida

Gioia non langue,

He shines in the bright

blood of grapes,

by which transient

joy persists,

… in the glimmer of a glass of wine, which makes us happy,

Che la fuggevole

Vita ristora,

Che il dolor proroga,

Che amor ne incora

Which restores fleeting

life, keeps

grief at bay,

and inspires us with love

Tu spiri, O Satana,

Nel verso mio,

Se dal sen rompeni

Sfidando il dio

You breathe, O Satan

in my verses,

when from my heart explodes

a challenge to the god

…and even in the blasphemous rebllious power of the poet’s own words.

De’ rei pontefici

De’ re cruenti;

E come fulmine

Scuoti le menti.

Of wicked pontiffs,

bloody kings;

and like lightning you

shock men’s minds.

Both popes and kings - the heads of authoritarian regimes - were loathed by the republican Carducci.

A te, Agramainiio,

Adone, Astarte

E marmi vissero

E tele e carte,

Sculpture, painting

and poetry

first lived for you, Ahriman,

Adonis and Astarte,

Quando le ioniche

Aure serene

Beo’ la Venere

Anadiomene

When Venus

Anadyomene

blessed the

clear Ionian skies

Venus Andadyomene (i.e. ‘emergent’) born from the foam of the seas around Cyprus represents Greek civilization.

A te del Libano

Premean le piante,

De l’alma Cipride

Ristorto amante:

For you the trees of

Lebannon shook,

resurrected lover

of the holy Cyprian:

Adonis, the lover of Venus (‘holy Cyprian’) was killed by a boar but resurrected by Jupiter at Venus’ request.

A te ferveano

Le danze e i cori,

A te ii virginei

Candidi amori,

For you wild dances were done

and choruses swelled

for you virgins offered

their spotless love,

Carducci understands the Greek festivals of Adonis as having originated along the Syria/Lebannon coast

Tra la odorifere

Palme d’Idume

Dove biancheggiano

Le cipre spume.

Amongst the perfumed

palms of Idumea

where the Cyprian

seas foam.

and its hinterland (‘Idumea”) - the region of ancient Phoenicia.

Che val se barbaro

Il nazareno

Furor de l’agapi

Dal rito osceno

To what avail did

the barbarous Christian

fury of agape,

in obscene ritual,

He points out that the Christian fanatic destruction of Satan’s pagan temples was of no avail because the Satanic religion of

Con sacra fiaccola

I templi t’arse

E ii segni argolici

A terr sparse?

With holy torch

burn down your temples,

scattering their

Greek statuary?

rationalism, fleshly pleasure, material good, and free inquiry survived ‘underground’.

Te accolse profugo

Tra gli dei lari

La plebe memore

Ne I casolari

You, a refugee,

the mindful people

welcomed into their homes

amongst their household gods

Quindi un femineo

Sen palpitante

Empiendo, fervido

Nume ed amante,

Thereafter filling the throbbing

female heart

with your fervor

as both god and lover

La strega pallida

D’eterna cura

Volgi a soccorrere

L’egra naura.

You inspired the witch,

pallid from endless enquiry,

to succor

suffering nature

Carducci sees the origin of modern medicine in the witch’s craft which healed the sick in olden times.

Tu a l’occhio immobile

De l’alchimista

tu de l’indocile

Mago a la vista,

You, to the intent gaze

of the alchemist,

and to the skeptical eye

of the sorcerer,

He also sees the beginnings of modern science in the essentially rationalist and secular fields of sorcery and alchemy.

Del chiostro torpido

Oltre I cancelli,

riveli I fulgidi

Ciele novelli.

You revealed bright

new heavens

beyond the confines

of the drowsy cloister.

A la Tebaide

Te ne le cose

Fuggendo, Il monaco

Triste s’ascose

Fleeing from material

things, where you reside,

the dreary monk took refuge

in the Theban desert.

The Theban desert of middle Egypt was a favored ascetic suffering ground for early Coptic Christian hermits.

O dal tuo tramite

Alma divisa,

Benigno e’ Satana;

Ecco Eloisa.

To you O soul

with your sprig severed,

Satan is benign:

he gives you your Heloise.

The poet here speaks to Abelard, a 13th c. Franciscan monk whose rational philosophy angered the church. His affair with Heloise got him castrated and exiled, but his Satan-given love of her persisted.

In van ti maceri

Ne l’aspro sacco:

Il verso ei mormora

Di Maro e Flacco

You mortify yourself to no purpose, 

in your rough sackcloth: 

Satan still murmurs to you 

lines from Maro and Flaccus

Maro and Flaccus are the poets Virgil and Horace. Licoris and Glycera are beautiful women of which they wrote..

Tra la davidica

Nenia ed il pianto;

E, forme delfiche,

A te da canto

Amidst the dirge

and wailing of the Psalms;

and he brings to your side

the divine shapes,

Rosee ne l’orrida

Compagnia nera,

Mena Licoride,

Mena Glicera

Roseate amidst that

horrid black crowd,

of Lycoris

and Glycera

Ma d’altre imagini

D’eta’ piu’ bella

Talor si popola

L’insonne cella

But other shapes

from a more glorious age

fitfully fill

the sleepless cell.

Ei, da le pagine

Di Livio, ardenti

Tribuni, consoli,

Turbe frementi

Satan, from pages

in Livy, conjures fervent

tribunes, consuls,

restless throngs;

In his cell, the monk’s sleep is interrupted by Satan- inspired nightmarish visions of crowds and leaders from Livy’s history of Rome. 

Sveglia; e fantastico

D’italo orgoglio

Te spinge, o monaco,

Su ‘l Campidoglio

And he thrusts you,

O monk, with your memories

of Italy’s proud past

upon the Capitol.

For his treason against Rome’s true roots, the monk dreams, he is impaled.

E voi, che il rabido

Rogo non strusse,

Voci fatidiche,

Wicleff ed Husse,

And you whom the raging

pyre could not destroy,

voices of destiny,

Wycliffe and Huss,

John Wycliffe and Jan Huss, early reformers and martyrs of the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

A l’aura il vigile

Grido mandate:

S’innova il secolo

Piena e’ l’etate

You lift to the winds

your waning cry:

‘The new age is dawning,

the time has come’.

E gia’ gia’ tremano

Mitre e corone:

Dal chiostro brontola

La ribellione,

And already mitres

and crowns tremble:

from the cloister

rebellion rumbles

The poet alludes to the existence of secret rebels inside the church.

E pugna e pre’dica

Sotto la stola

Di fra’ Girolamo

Savonarola

Preaching defiance

in the voice of the

cassocked Girolamo

Savonarola

Savonarola was a defiant reformist monk who was burned at the stake in 1499.

Gitto’ la tonaca

Martin Lutero

Gitta ii tuoi vincoli

Uman pensiero,

As Martin Luther

threw off his monkish robes,

so throw off your shackles,

O mind of man,

The poet chooses Martin Luther as an example here explicitly because using him as an example would infuriate the church more than any other name.

E splendi e folgora

Di fiame cinto;

Materia, inalzati:

Satana ha vinto.

And crowned with flame,

shoot lightning and thunder;

Matter, arise;

Satan has won.

Un bello e orrible

Mostro si sferra,

Corre gli oceani

Corre la terra:

Both beautiful and awful

a monster is unleashed

it scours the oceans

is scours the land

Corusco e fumido

Come ii vlucani,

I monti supera,

Divora I piani;

Glittering and belching smoke

like a volcano,

it conquers the hills

it devours the plains.

Sovola ii baratri;

Poi si nasconde

Per antri incogniti,

Per vie profonde;

It flies over chasms,

then burrows

into unknown caverns

along deepest paths;

Ed esce; e indomito

Di lido in lido

Come di turbine

Manda il suo grido,

To re-emerge, unconquerable

from shore to shore

it bellows out

like a whirlwind,

The Church had proclaimed the steam-engine train to be a tool of the Devil and the poet here embraces the symbolism.

Come di turbine

L’alito spande:

Ei passa, o popli,

Satani il grande

Like a whirlwind

it spews its breath:

‘It is Satan, you peoples,

Great Satan passes by’.

He sees it as a man-made, science-derived invention that would deliver prosperity to the secular people of Italy.

Passa benefico

Di loco in loco

Su l’infrenabile

Carro del foco

He passes by, bringing blessing

from place to place,

upon his unstoppable

chariot of fire

In the new age of industry Satan (humanity’s ingenuity unfettered by the chains of church) destroys Jehova and thereby the oppressive and restricting tyranny of the Pope.

Salute, o Satana

O ribellione,

O forza vindice

De la ragione!

Hail, O Satan

O rebellion,

O you avenging force

of human reason!

Sacri a te salgano

Gl’incensi e ii voti!

Hai vinto il Geova

De ii sacerdoti.

Let holy incense

and prayers rise to you!

You have utterly vanquished

the Jehova of the Priests.

Based heavily on translation and notes found in “Selected Verse /Giosue Carducci”
by David H. Higgins (Aris & Phillips: Warminster, England) 1994.