Francesco “Cecco” Angiolieri was an Italian poet from Siena who lived in the 13th and 14th century, and was a contemporary of Dante Alighieri. The Italian language was standardized on the basis of the Tuscan dialect, the same dialect both Dante and Cecco spoke and wrote in; thus, Italian speakers today have the great luck and pleasure to be able to read works from that period in their original form without too much strain. One such gem that wasn’t lost in time is Cecco’s sonnet “If I were fire, I would consume the world” (S'i' fosse foco, arderéi 'l mondo). In 1968, the sonnet was put into a song by the great Italian singer-songwriter Fabrizio de André.

If I were fire - English 

If I were fire, I would consume the world;
If I were wind, then I would blow it down;
If I were water, I would make it drown;
If I were God, t'would to the depths be hurled.

If I were Pope, I'd have a lot of fun
with how I'd make all Christians work for me;
If I were emperor, then you'd really see -
I'd have the head cut off of everyone.

If I were death, then I'd go to my father;
If I were life, I'd not abide with him;
And so, and so, would I do to my mother.

If I were Cecco - as in fact I am -
I'd chase the young and pretty girls; to others
Would I leave the lame or wrinkled dames.

translation by Evnine, Simon J.


S'i' fosse foco - Italian

S'i' fosse foco, arderéi 'l mondo;
s' i' fosse vento, lo tempesterei;
s'i' fosse acqua, i' l'annegherei;
s'i' fosse Dio, mandereil'en profondo;

s'i' fosse papa, sare' allor giocondo,
ché tutti cristïani imbrigherei;
s'i' fosse 'mperator, sa' che farei?
A tutti mozzarei lo capo a tondo.

S'i fosse morte, andarei da mio padre;
s'i' fosse vita, fuggirei da lui:
similemente farìa da mi' madre.

S'i' fosse Cecco, com'i' sono e fui,
torrei le donne giovani e leggiadre:
e vecchie e laide lasserei altrui.