Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Traddutore, Traditore" by Fred Chappell

Traddutore, Traditore

Uncle Barber’s tangled tongue
           Turns his words to mush;
Vowel, consonant, diphthong
           Thicken into slush.

We know that he’s intelligent;
           The expressions of his face
Give us a hint, more than a hint,
           Dementia’s not the case.

Aunt Hannah interprets his every word,
           Yet as we follow along
Some things she says are so absurd
           She must have got them wrong.

We cannot avoid a dark suspicion:
           Isn’t there more than a tinge
In her tone of caustic, mocking derision?

           That would be her perfect revenge.

Source of the text – Fred Chappell, Family Gathering.  Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000, p. 39.

TJB: In ballad stanzas, galloping iambs, & unmetrical last line, the mistranslation is due to a wife’s ancient anger—but why misspell the title?

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