Columbus and Pascarella: America Rediscovered

by Hermann W. Haller
Columbus and Pascarella: America Rediscovered
Hermann W. Haller
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Columbus and Pascarella: America Rediscovered


Ma nun c'e llingua come la romana

G. G. Belli, Sonetti

he "discovery" of the New World by Christopher Columbus has fascinated and challenged scientists, anthropologists, and cultural historians for many centuries. It has also intrigued popular imagination. Not surprisingly, on the eve of its fifth centennial the Columbian voyage to the Americas continues to be a topic of critical scholarly debate. Along with a myriad ofbooks illustrating Columbus and his voyage in a historical and cultural context of Spanish expansionism and of a talented navigator's ambitions (De Madariaga, Taviani, Verlinden), other more recent books focus on the ruthless colonial practices and their traumatic effect on the conquered lands and their inhabitants. Kirkpatrick Sale's The Conquest of Paradise (1990) and Stephen Marlowe's Christopher Columbus (1987) are but two most recent cases in point.'

In Italy, the birthplace of the great explorer, the most original and most popular literary account of the Columbian journey is without a doubt the Roman dialect poem La scoperta de l'Ametica, written by Cesare Pascarella and published in 1894.2 Composed of a dramatized narrative sequence of fifty hendecasyllabic sonnets, the poem gives a humorous account of Columbus's first journeyto the West Indies. It describes the search of a sponsor, the various tribulations at sea, the discovery of new lands and encounter with the native population, and it ends with the victorious return to Castile and some comments on Italian ingenuity. The narration takes place in a tavern in Rome, where a crowd of people listens to the popolano's story, with its moods and rhythms alternating between the serious and the grotesque, between pictorial descriptions and human interaction, history and satire. The storytelling moves from lively and often distorted narration to meditation, from dramatic dialogue to moral observations; its humor is triggered by hyperboles and anachronisms, and


by reducing the historical enterprise of the voyage to the level of an everyday event. The narrator is so involved in his story that he frequently identifies with Columbus, the sailors and the natives in the newly-found land. The affable pace of the romanesco dialect gives the poem its special flavor.

La scoperta de l'Ametica belongs to the rich tradition of Italian dialect literature that spans from the sixteenth century to the present. Due to particular historical and cultural circumstances -the country's very recent unification; its political, ethnic and linguistic fragmentation throughout its history; the lack of a Standard widely used among the majority of the population-, Italian writers produced an important body of literature in dialect, that existed side by side with the official canon, even though it has gained wider recognition only in recent years. The Sicilian Giovanni Meli, the Milanese Carlo Porta and Delio Tessa, the Neapolitan Salvatore Di Giacomo, the Venetian Carlo Goldoni and the Roman Giuseppe Gioachino Belli are but a few of the best known protagonists of this tradition which is unique in extent within Western European literary culture. They all wrote simultaneously in Italian, but produced their best works in the dialect." Rome ranks among Italy's cities with a strong literary tradition in dialect. The seventeenth-century poets Giovanni Camillo Peresio [known for his Iacaccio) and Giuseppe Berneri (the author of 11 Meo Pataccasprecede with their works the greatest of them all, Belli, who set the stage with more than two thousand sonnets of Roman portrayals at the time of Pope Gregory XVI's tyrannic rule. No Roman poet will thenceforth escape Belli's influence, and Pascarella, generally considered the best poet after Belli, is no exception. Pascarella's contemporaries Luigi Ferretti, Gigi Zanazzo, or his relative Filippo Chiappini, all followed and imitated the great Roman poet closely. On the other hand, Pascarella, after his first sonnets of 1881 which already reflected a different interpretation of humanity, less pessimistic, void of the vehement Bellian political satire," moved on to a new mode, writing sonnet groups about historical events in the patriotic spirit of Risorgimento nostalgia. These poems -such as Villa Gloria, which profoundly moved Giuseppe Verdi at a recitation in Milan-, had been nurtured by the influence of one of his great admirers, Ciosue Carducci. Pascarella's poetry has a naturalistic bent; it uses the dialect to sing the glory of the new-born Italian nation and its newly chosen capital. It is an expression of strong civic beliefs, and it lends itself to recitation.

The narration of La scoperta de l'Ametica begins with Columbus making an egg stand straight up, to prove that "in this world there's a new world," and then takes us swiftly to the Iberian peninsula


where he is trying to identify a sponsor for his seafaring expedition (II-XII). It is here that Columbus approaches a skeptical kingFerdinando de Aragona-, proposing to discover America.i

[... ]

Je fece 'na parlata un po' generica, E poi je disse: -10 avrebbe l'intenzione, Si lei m'aiuta, de scoprr' I'America.

-Eh, -fece, er re, ched'era un omo esperto, -S1, v'ajuto... Ma, no pe' fa' eccezione, Ma 'sta America c'e? Ne sete certo? (II)

[He talked a bit in general, and then said: "I would have the intention, if you help me, of discovering America."

"Ah," said the king, who was an expert man, "yes, I'll help you... But, not to quarrel, does this America really exist? Are you sure of it?"}

The king decides to form a committee of ministers and experts to whom Columbus must elucidate his plans. The storyteller doesn't spare his invectives against a king who seems to lack selfdetermination, against incompetent, scorning ministers and plotting priests. Only Queen Isabel will respond to Columbus's complaints and speed up things, providing him with three ships, the necessary equipment and a crew:

Che qui fra re, ministri, baricelli, Sapienti ... , dice, e inutile a parlanne, Percui, sa, me ridia li giocarelli, Che fo tela. -Ma scusi le domanne,-

Fece lei, -lei che vo'? -Tre navicelli. -E ognuno, putacaso, quanto granne?-Eh, -fece lui, -sur genere de quelli Che porteno er marsala a Ripa granne.

-Va bene, -fece lei, -vi sia concesso. Capischi si com'e! Ie venne bene, Che je li fece da' quer giorno stesso.

E lui, sortito appena da Palazzo, Prese I'omini, sciorse le catene, E agnede in arto mare com'un razzo. (XII)

["Because here, among kings, ministers, magistrates, and expert men.. ." he says, "it's useless to discuss it,

why, I say, give me back my toys, because I steal away." "But pardon my questions,"

She said, "What is it that you want?" "Three little boats." "And suppose, how big should each one be?" "Well," he replied, "somewhat like those that carry the marsala wine to Ripa Grande."

"Fine," she said, "your wish be granted." You see how things go? He was lucky, because she gave them to him that same day.

And he, barely out of the Palace, took his men, lifted the anchors, and put out to high sea like a shot.]

After this mockingly speedy departure, the voyage across the ocean (XIII-XXIII) highlights the crew's contrasting feelings of fear, hope and despair, the cruelty of the climate with its burning sun and violent thunderstorms.

Passa un giorno... due... tre... 'na settimana... Passa un mese che gia staveno a mollo... Guarda... riguarda... Hai voja a slunga' er collo, L'America era sempre piu lontana.

E 'gni tanto veniva 'na buriana: Lampi, furmini, giu a rotta de collo, Da di': qui se va tutti a scapicollo. E dopo? Dopo 'na giornata sana

De tempesta, schiariva a poco a poco, L'aria scottava che pareva un forno, A respira' se respirava er foco.

E come che riarzaveno la testa, Quelli, avanti! Passava un antro giorno, Patapunfete: giu 'n'antra tempesta. (XIII)

[A day goes by ... two ... three ... a week . A month goes by while they were soaking . Look ... look again ... rubberneck as much as you like, America was always further away.

And every now and then a squall came down, with lightning and rain at breakneck speed, enough to say: "Here we're all going to die." And afterwards? After a whole long day

of thunderstorm, the skies would slowly clear, the air would burn so that it seemed a furnace; to breathe in was to breathe in fire.

And as soon as they raised their heads, on it went! Another day passed, crash! down came another thunderstorm.]

The storyteller shows sympathy both for the crew's doubts and despair and for Columbus who reminds the sailors of their commitment. The journey culminates in the revolt of the ship crew and their threat to go home, followed by the climactic arrival in the new world two days later:

-Eh, -je fecero, dice, -ce dispiace, Ce dispiace de dijelo davanti, Ma qui, chi pill chi meno, a tutti quanti 'Sta buggiarata qui poco ce piace.

Cosi lei pure, fatevi capace, Qui nun ce so' ne angeli ne santi, Qui 'gni giorno de pill che se va avanti Se va da la padella ne la brace.

"Avanti, avanti!" so' parole belle; Ma qui, nun ce so' tanti sagramenti, Caro lei, qui se tratta de la pelle!

Cia, speramo che lei sia persuasa, Si no, dice, dun facci' comprimenti, Vadi pure... Ma noi tornamo a casa. -(XVIII)

[... ]

Ma lui, capischi, lui la pens6fina! Lui s'era fatto gia l'esperimenti, E dar modo ch'agiveno li venti, Lui capi che la terra era vicina,

Percui, lui fece: intanto se cammina, Be', dunque, dice, famoli contenti, Che tanto qui se tratta de momenti. Defatti, come venne la matina,

Terra... Terral. .. Percristol. .. E tutti quanti Rideveno, piagneveno, zompaveno... Terra... TerraL .. Percristol. .. Avanti. .. Avanti!

E Ii, a li gran pericoli passati Chi ce pensava pill? S'abbraccicaveno, Se baciaveno... E c'ereno arrivati! (XXIII)

["Well," they said, he says, "we're sorry, we're sorry to have to say this right to your face, but here, no one -more or less- likes this craziness anymore.

So you too must realize, there are no angels or saints around here, the further we keep going every day, we jump from the frying pan into the fire.

'Go on, go on,' those words are beautiful; but this, my dear, without so many sacraments, is about life and death!

Well, we hope that you're convinced; if not, don't stand on ceremony, just go on ... but we are going home."

( ... )

But he, you see, was wily! He had already made experiments, and from the movements of the winds, he gleaned that land was near.

So he figured: let's just keep going. Well, he says, let's make them happy, because it's just a matter of moments. In fact, when morning came ...

"Land! ... Land! ... For Christ's sake!" ... And everybody laughed, cried, danced ... "Land ... Land! ... For Christ's sake! ... Go on ... go on!"

And at that point, who was still thinking of past dangers? They embraced each other, they kissed each other ... and they had arrivedl]

The asteria audience reacts as if it were on the ship with Columbus and celebrates the arrival in the new world over a glass of Frascati wine (XXIV).

The second half of the Scopetta is divided between the discoveries ashore (XXVI-XXXIX) and the return to Castile, the reception and fate of Columbus at the end of his first voyage (XL-XLV). We follow the explorers through a huge rain forest, where they see wild animals and finally meet the natives:

-E quelli! -Quelli? Je successe questa: Che mentre, Ii, frammezzo ar villutello COS! arto, p'entra' ne la foresta Rompeveno li rami cor cortello,

Veddero un fregno buffo co' la testa Dipinta come fosse un giocarello, Vestito mezzo ignudo, co' 'na cresta Tutta formata de penne d'ucello.

Se fermorno. Se fecero coraggio: -Ah quell'omo! -je fecero, -chi sete?-Eh, -fece, -chi ho da esse'? So' un servaggio.

E voi antri quaggiu chi ve ce manna?

-Ah,-je dissero, -voi 10 saperete

Quanno vedremo er re che ve commanna. -(XXIX)

[UAnd they?" Those fellows? This is what happened: While there, amidst the tall grown moss, to enter the forest they were cutting branches with their knives,

they saw a gorgeous head painted just like a toy, half naked, with acrest all made of birds' feathers.

They stopped. They plucked up courage: "Hey there, you!" they said, "who are you?" "Oh" he said, "who could I be? I am a savage man.

And who sends you down here?" "Well," they said, "you'll know when we'll meet your commanding king."]

The encounter stresses native friendliness and naivete, the explorers' unfair and exploitive trade with the Indians, growing tensions due to trysts between native women and explorers, prompting an early departure of the ships with their bounty. The storyteller makes fun of "civilized" marriage back home, commending the natural ways of the servaggi, rhapsodizing on freedom vs. institution and on contrasting moral and social behavior:

[... ]

Li invece, pe' sposassele, le pregheno, Mica e come ne I'epoca presente, Che vedi le ragazze che se spregheno.

Perche If li servaggi, 0 belli 0 brutti, Appena che I'eta ie l'acconsente, Da quele parte If sposeno tutti. (XXXVII)

[Over there instead, to marry them, they just ask. It's not at all like in our present days when you see girls who waste themselves.

For wild men, whether handsome or not,

as soon as they are of age,

they all get married in those lands.]


Ma perche! Perche! If nun c'e impostura: Che Ii, quanno er servaggio e innamorato, Che lui decide de cambia' de stato, Lo cambia co' la legge de natura.

Invece qui le carte, la scrittura, Er municipio, er sindico, er curato... Er matrimonio I'hanno congegnato, Che quanno 10 voi fa', mette pavura.

E dove lassi poi l'antri pasticci Der notaro? La dote, er patrimonio... Si invece nun ce fossero 'st'impicci,

Che te credi che ce se penserebbe? Si ar monno nun ce fosse er matrimonio Ma sai si quanta gente sposerebbe! (XXXVIII)

[But why? How come? you find no trickery there, for when the wild man falls in love, and he decides to change his status, he changes it according to the law of nature.

Here instead records and contracts, city hall, the mayor, the priest ... they have invented marriage to the point that when you're ready for it, it gives you fright.

And where do you leave the other mess with your notary? The dowry, your estate ... If instead there weren't all those troubles,

What would there be to worry about? If there were no marriage in this world just think how many people would get marriedl]

Following a description of the glorious reception of Columbus in Castile the audience is reminded that Columbus was Italian, not French, and that Italy has contributed with great inventions and artistic genius to world civilization. The poem ends with a generous and good-natured praise of Columbus:

Cusi Colombo. Lui cor suo volere, Seppe convince' l'ignoranza artrui. E come ce 'rive! Cor suo pensiere. Ecchela si com'e. Dunque, percui

Risemo sempre Ii. Famme er piacere: Lui perche la scopri? Perche era lui.

Si invece fosse stato un forestiere,

Che ce scopriva? Li mortacci sui!

Quello invece t'inventa l'incredibile: Che si poi quello avesse avuto appoggi, Ma quello avrebbe fatto l'impossibile.

Si ci aveva l'ordegni de marina Che se troveno adesso ar giomo d'oggi, Ma quello ne scopriva 'na ventina! (L)

[And so Columbus. With his will

he conquered other people's ignorance.

How did he manage? With his mind.

That's how it is. And so that's why

We're still back there. Do you mind!

Why did he discover it? Because it was him.

Yet had it been a foreigner instead,

what would he have discovered? The devil!

He instead discovers the incredible:

and if he had received support,

he would have done the impossible.

And with seafaring gadgets

you find nowadays

he would have made some twenty discoveries!]

The Scoperta was published two years after the fourth centennial of the Great Journey. Judging from the large number of publications commemorating the 1892 celebrations-more than 200 entries are listed in Simonetta Conti's bibliography--, this must have been an important occasion in recently unified Italy. At a time of economic crisis and mass emigration to the Americas, the city of Genoa organized an Esposizione Italo-Ameticatia. which opened in July, 1892, attracted more than 800,000 visitors, and became one of the centennial's high points. The event did not go unnoticed in Rome and must have inspired Pascarella." There are among the 4,000 volumes in Pascarella's library a few books which may have served as source materials during the composition of his poem on the discovery of America." We find, for example, the two-volume Italian translation of don Martin Fernandez de Navarrete's Narrazione dei quattro viaggi intrapresi da Cristoforo Colombo per la Scoperta del nuovo continente dal 1492 al1504 (corredata di varie lettere e documenti inediti estratti dagli archivi della monarchia spagnuola e pubblicati per la prima volta da Don M.F. Di Navarrete. Prima versione italiana. Prato: Giachetti 1840-41). The two volumes represent essentially a version of the Diatio de bordo, the journal of the Columbian voyage (published recently in the 1988 two-volume edition by Paolo Emilio Taviani and Consuelo Varela). We also find an edition of Columbus's Lettere autografe, reprinted by Daelli in Milan in 1863; an Italian translation of the eighteenth-century Vita, viaggi ed avventure di Cristoforo Colombo scopritore del nuovo mondo by William Robertson (Milan: Libreria di Francesco Sanvito 1858); Cesare De Lollis' classic bool<Ciistoforo Colombo nella 1eggenda e nella stoiia, published for the first time in 1892, and a copy of Washington Irving's Voyages and discoveries of the companions of Columbus (London 1831).

While some passages of Pascarella's poem contrast with the Diatio, others are indeed reminiscent of it.? Although it is clear that Pascarella's poem does not aim at historical accuracy-the first journey is known to have been rather calm, and the climate is continuously compared to that of Andalucia in April or May ("Y era e1tiempo como por abtil en e1Anda1uzia" 16 Sept. 1492), while the storyteller talks of thunderstorms alternating with tropical heat (XIII) -, one comes across striking similarities in contents with the Diaiio: the relatively brief and uneventful description of the journey, except for the protest of the crew two days before landing ("Aqui 1a gente ya no 10podia cuiiii: quexdvase de11argo viaie, pero e1A1mirante los esiorco lo mejot que pudo . . ." 10 Oct. 1492); the rather general descriptions of nature (liEs de muchos arboles y muy verdes y muy grandes" 19 Oct., IILa yerva era grande, como en e1 Anda1ucia por abtil y mayo" 28 Oct., "dize que hallo arboles y [tutas de muy matavilloso sabor" 29 Oct.], the meeting with the natives ("1uego se ayunt6 a11i mucha gente de la isla [ ... ]nos tuviesen mucha amistad [ ]nos traian papagayos y hilo de algodoti [ ... ]y otras cosas muchas " 11 Oct.). One might even hypothesize similarities of style slipping in from the Diatio or its Italian translation. The Spanish text of the Diaiio is riddled, for example, with repetitions ([gente] IIde muyfermosos cuerpos y muy buenas catas" 11 Oct., passim; "gente. .. asi desnuda" 17 Oct., passim) and hyperboles (lies maravi11a" 14 Oct., lila isla [ ... ] es 11ena de motitaiias muyhermosas [ ... ]y toda la otra tierra es alta de la itianera de Cecilia' 28 Oct.). If indeed he did read the Diarioand there is no clear evidence to this claim except for the existence of the Navarrete edition in his library-, Pascarella may have unwittingly and rather successfully transferred some of the original flavor of the Diatio into his poem.

However, the Columbian theme was congenial to Pascarella in more than one way, even if there had been no 1892 centennial celebrations. In fact, La scopetta de l'Ametica can be interpreted as the place of a symbiosis between Pascarella's world and that surrounding Columbus and the journey across the ocean, as well as a place of contrasts and conflicts between new hopes for progress and critical skepticism both in Europe's late fifteenth century and in Italy at the tum of the last century. An attempt will be made to substantiate this symbiosis from various vantage points.

    An avid traveler himself, the poet of the Scoperta must have harboured strong admiration for Columbus's adventurous enterprise. Pascarella travelled all his life, from the time of his bohemian years at the Caffe Greco to old age, visiting all continents, and developing a passion particularly for Africa. He sailed to India in 1885, leaving the famous note on his door ("vado un momento in India e torno subito."]!? He visited Uruguay and Argentina in 1899, Abyssinia in 1902, India for a second time in 1929, China and Japan in 1930, the United States in 1932, Australia in 1933. But he also traveled on foot, crisscrossing the Italian peninsula. Pascarella seems to have been particularly fond of going to places that had been visited by individuals he cherished, such as those places mentioned in Dante's Commedia,11 or Petrarch's Avignon. His trips to Argentina, Uruguay and the United States may have been inspired by Garibaldi's. On a more personallevel, his life seems to have gone through similar phases as that of Columbus, moving from fame-due particularly to the Scoperta which he recited in front of audiences throughout Italy-to solitude and reversal of fortune: he never completed his grand design of Stoiia Nostra, which was published posthumouslywithout critical acclaim.

    Columbus's journey was an economic and religious mission at the time of Spain's consolidation of power and colonial expansion. It symbolizes a belief in discovery, but also ruthless and disastrous colonial exploitation. Pascarella is nostalgicfor the revolutionary achievements of the Italian Risorgimento, his work affably but often also half-heartedly promotes bourgeois patriotism and pride in a young nation that stands for great artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, all rooted in Roman civilization, and epitomized by Columbus. The "erudite" storyteller-obviously not aiming at historical precision-reminds the Scoperta's audience that even though they are in a tavern, they are part of history, that they are history:

Vedi noi? Mo noi stamo a fa' bardoria: Nun ce se pensa e stamo all'osteria, Ma invece stamo tutti ne la storia. (V)

[Take us for instance: we are carousing now, one doesn't think of it, we're at the tavern; but instead we're all part of history.]

Rome as the new capital and historic center of Italy is present throughout the poem by way of delightful anachronisms and synchretisms: the size of the ships Columbus needs is compared to that of the cargo ships transporting Marsala wine which he had seen in Rome's harbour at Ripa Grande (sur genere de quelli / Che porteno er matsala a Ripa granne XII); the West Indian elephants resemble the one carrying the obelisk at Piazza Minerva (E ce bazzica pure l'elioiante, /

Che sarebbe er Purcin de la Minerva XXVIII); in the narrator's fantasy Columbus risks being locked up at the Longara, Rome's insane asylum (Edopo aveiemessole catene, / Vo1eva fa110 chiude' a1aLongara XLII). The Scoperta's concluding sonnets remind us of the Pincio's viali, alongwhich we can admire Italy's great thinkers and artists. Just as the Columbian journey is portrayed nonchalantly as an everyday event, Rome is casually presented as the center and universe of action and inspiration. It is no coincidence if Columbus is presented as an Italian, with no regionalistic reference to his birthplace Genoa (XLVII). Yet the general tone of enthusiasm is attenuated also by more ominous episodes: in an anti-clerical bout, reminiscent of Belli, the storyteller lashes out against the ptetacci suspected of plotting to prevent the Columbian voyage (Che tnettetelo in testa, che er pretaccio / E' stato sempre lui, sempre 10 stesso. / Er prete! e stato sempre quell'otnaccio / Nimico de 1apatria e der progress0 IX), evoking the threat of Inquisition and the burning of Giordano Bruno in Rome (IX). The government is dealt with cynically; the ministers are all of one setta, corrupt, not trustworthy (Eli mitiistri de qua1unque Stato / So' stati sempre tutti de 'tia setta. /lrre otte, te porteno in barchetta, / E te fanno contento e coionato VII) [And the ministers of any State / have always been a special breed. / Shilly shally, they take you on a boat trip / and make you happy and a jerk].

3. Pascarella chose to write his poem in the dialect of Rome. This shrewd choice not only situates him in the Roman literary context, but connects him symbolically to the history of Rome -and to Roman history-with its illustrious past. It also allows him to mediate between social classes. Outside Tuscany, Rome was the only city where Standard Italian, based on literary Tuscan, had been widely used for a long time. This was due to the immigration of monolingual dialect speakers from allover the country beginning already in the Middle Ages, making the use of a spoken koine obligatory. This fortunate and privileged situation was also enhanced by Rome's status as an international centerwith a cultivated elite that acted to promote literacy among the popular classes. Structurally, among the Southern dialects, Roman is closest to Tuscan.12 Belli had already made clear that the Romanesco used in his poems was an exclusively plebeic form of speech. In fact, during the years of unification, many Romans claimed not to speak the dialect anymore.13 Despite some exaggeration in this claim, the various factors outlined above explain why through time Romanesco underwent strong Italianization.!" A comparison of the language used in the sonnets written by Belli, Pascarella and Trilussa clearly illustrates the dialect's progressive similarity with Standard Italian.IS It comes as no surprise that in an 1895 interview with Ugo Ojetti Pascarella states that "la lingua parlata del popolano romanesco non e un dialetto nel senso in che si chiamano dialetti i linguaggi del popolo di Milano, di Venezia 0 di Napoli. Esso e la stessa lingua italiana pronunciata differentemente.Y'" While this statement has only limited validity-more than in its lexicon, Romanesco is in fact dialectal in its syntax, and in some phonemes-,17 Italianized Romanesco turned out to be a fortuitous medium for Pascarellian poetics: not only did it allow the poet to bring the popular classes (and their languages) into history, but it made the Scoperta's diffusion possible in towns and cities outside Rome, where recitations in front of large audiences could be easily understood, thus turning ideals into action, and making some contribution to linguistic unification.18

4. Yet the Scoperta de l'Ametica is foremost a purposefully hybrid text. It is full of humor, affability, and skepticism, with the Roman narrator claiming to believe in history yet satirizing it simultaneously. Although written in the dialect, a socially marked form of speech, with popular features, including a basically monotonous sonnet rhyme structure (abab abab cdc ede), the Scoperta is a carefully composed literary text. Pascarella, who grew up bilingually!" and had a broad literary culture, reading classical authors in several languages ranging from Creek and Latin to French, Spanish, English-a multilingualism somewhat not unlike that of Columbus himself-v->, took great pains in introducing rhetorical devices and elaborating the various narrative planes. Not only does the storyteller alternate between identifying with the characters of his account and commenting on their fate or drawing didactic conclusions, Pascarella also makes use of a literary frame, consisting of the audience at the tavern with its critical or emotional reactions, and of three symmetrically arranged interactions (in sonnets IV-XXIV-XLVI), adding to the realism and human touch of the story.

The hybridity of the text lies in the contrast and blending of popular and literary modes. Pascarella frequently resorts to rhetorical devices such as repetitions that serve to imitate the endless monotony of the ocean crossing (Che li mica te giova esse' sapiente. .. I Che li tu hai da iiitette', co' 1amente. .. I Che li poi cammina' quanto te pare. . . XVI). Alliterative parallelisms (the chiasmic sequence Lei trova tanto sugo e tanta coccia / Lei trova tanta terra e tanto mare III; sempre 10stesso / sempre quell'omaccio IX) and word plays (Ma, dico, dimme un po', chi 10 direbbe. . . XV) have a similar effect. Humor-one of the key ingredients in the Scoperta-, derives from imagery of grotesque exaggerations and comical anachronisms: among the natives there could be cannibals who would eat you co' tutti 1i carzoni (XXVIII); the American chicory plants are so tall that they reach sopra la testa (XXVI); the trees are so tall that they breal< through the sky (sfonneno er celo XXVII). The natives live in America but don't even know it (Te basta a di' che li c'erano nati / Ne l'America, e manco 10 sapeveno XXX); and Columbus asks the Spanish queen for three ships the size of Roman wine cargo boats (XII). Diminutives and peioratives abound (navice11i XII;1itrattaveno comeregazzini XXXII;specchietti, pezzetti ib., pretaccio, omaccio IX),and there is no shortage of curses (sto porco de paese II; mannaggia 1amiseria XXXV;1ipiu boia tradimenti XLII) and exclamations (Eh, sammarco! I; Dio satvete, [ratellol VIII; Dio ne scampi IX).Similes and hyperboles (E agnede in arto mare com' un razzo XII; e ritornorno a casa in d'un momento XXXIX; Columbus is treated come er zimbello VIII by the same people who after his success will behave come 1iserpenti XLI), as well as antonyms and the paradox (te fanno contento e coionato VII; Si at monno nun ce fosse er matrimonio / ma sai si quanta gente sposerebbe! XXXVIII; vadi pure ... Ma noi tornamo a casa XVIII) contribute to a caricatural effect. The frequent alternating questions and answers, the alliterative plays (freschetto fino fino XV; 1esto e presto XXXIX), onomatopoeia (pdffete I, patapimiete XIII; irre orre VII), or the ritornello effect with its capfinida arrangement of stanzas of the first two sonnets (Eh, sammarco! ce cominciorno a crede' 1.14/ Ce cominciorno a ctede', sissignora 11.1) add to the liveliness of the narration. A comical effect is also created by the learned words used in their popularized forms: angonia (XLVI), ipotise (XLIX), 1etricismo (ib.).

The convergence between popular and cultivated modes is highlighted by a few unobtrusive literary reminiscences that appear from time to time. They are typically those that are well known amongItalian popular classes: the line Lassate ogni speranza (XXI) or the description of the forest (se trovorno / Davanti a 'ria foresta da nun ciede', / Dove che ma1appena che c'entrorno, / Se ritrovorno in mezzo a 10 stravede! XXVI) call to mind the beginning episodes of Dante's Inferno. The numerology in the drinking scene (Sette . .. e tie! Fanno dieci. Ah, Nino, beve XXIV) reminds us of the Decameron's brigata and cornice. And the suggestive description of the sea (Eppure er mare . .. er mare, quann'e bello, / Che vedi quel'azzuito der turchino XV), which underlines the painter in Pascarella,

evokes Belli's poem Er tempo bbono (Una ggiotnata come stammatina, / senti, eun gran pezzo che nnun z'e piii ddata. / Ah bbene mio! te senti aiiiiata: te s'apte er core a nnun su: ppiu in cantina!). Proverbial or idiomatic phrases (Tanti galli a caiita'<n se fa tnai giorno XI; Qui p'et vicinato / se sente un po' de puzza d'abbtuciato X; anna' in gattaccia XXXV), as well as popular forms such as ce bazzica . .. l'eliofante XXVIII,[atevi capace . . . XVIII) underline the popular tone and humor of the poem. Frequent coordination (e. ..e. ..e ... / rna rna. .. ma. . .), as well as syntactic segmentation ('st'atgomento nu' l'avevo inteso tnai IV; que1i ciurcinati. . .bisogna compati11i XX)or doubling of enclitics (a doveie. ..daie retta VII)are typical features of spoken language and evoke the speech style of the poem's characters.

Pascarella reveals himself as a fine sociolinguistic observer, nuancing speech styles according to social level or to the nature of his characters' interaction. Polite language is used when Columbus addresses the king (co' chi ho discorso VI);stronglanguage characterizes instead the ship crew's speech i'si'occidente qui XVII, 'Sta buggiatata XVIII). Nuancing occurs also in the use of allocutive pronouns: the king is addressed by Columbus normally as Lei, with voi when less respect is observed (Ma voi chi sete! VI),and with tu when he imagines speaking to him in anger (Ma come! Dopo tanto e tanto bene / .... / Me ttatti come fossi un assassino! XLIII). When the discoverers meet the natives, they mix formal address with the informal verb form: ....vorressimo sapere / si lei siete 0 nun siete americana (XXX), attesting to the situation's ambiguity. Linguistic creativeness becomes evident in the miming of the natives' pidginized forms of speech [lack of article; use of infinitive): Vo1er controcambiare vostri oggetti! (XXXII).21


The Scoperta was an immediate success. Edoardo Scarfoglio described it in 11 Mattino on April 26, 1894, as "una di quelle felici creature che passano direttamente dalle mani paterne nella storia letteraria di un paese, e vi restano inalterabili, valide, fresche, malgrado il mutar del tempo e del gusto".22 The poem was published in many successive editions, some clandestine. In 1895, Carducci introduced Pascarella's reading of the Scoperta at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna with words of praise.F' Subsequently, the poem was read in many cities, including Trieste, where parts were censured by the Austrian police.>'

The poem's success is also documented by several translations: into German by Paul Heyse (1907), French by Lucie Janson (1908), and Spanish by Jose Picchetti (Buenos Aires 1935). It was translated and adapted into various Italian dialects, first into Milanese by Policarpo Campagnani (1897; La scoperta de l'America. Sonitt de Ceser Pascarella vestii in lengua meneghina) and into Venetian by Giovanni Cristofferi (1902, unpublished), later into Faentino dialect by Ugo Piazza (1930). Predictably, several adaptations are in the Genoese dialect. The most noteworthy are those by the Genoese poets Aldo Acquarone (1932; A scoverta dell'America) and Edoardo Firpo (1946; A vea scoverta de l'Americai-" Acquarone's rendition consists of a caricatural Genoese adaptation of Pascarella's poem, with references made to Genoa instead of Rome. Some descriptions seem more exotic or flowery than Pascarella's, and it also alternates between dialect and Standard idiom according to the context of speech. The reference to the role of religion in Columbus's mission, his Genoese origin, all absent in Pascarella, are given particular emphasis. Edoardo Firpo's A vea scoverta de l'America on the other hand is a lengthy poem, adapting Pascarella's text freely, while introducing modern characters, and with the discovery originating and ending in Genoa.

Through hybrid poetics and subtly subversive synchretic processes Pascarella's Scoperta takes the reader on a re-discovery of America. The encounter between fantasy and historical accounts, between late fifteenth-century Europe and late eighteenth-century Italy, between Pascarella the traveler and Columbus the sailor, yields a sense of humorous distance from serious events that dramatically changed the world. Timeless human feelings and reactions come alive, whether among Romans listening to a storyteller in a tavern, or among a crew of sailors embarked on'an adventurous voyage to the new world. The non-heroic yet affably sympathetic portrayal of Columbus makes the Scoperta appealing to a modern audience. A linguistic reading of the poem with its blending of different speech styles and linguistic registers leads to a deeper appreciation of the artistic resourcefulness of Pascarella as a dialect poet.



1Kirkpatrick Sale, The Conquest of Paradise. Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy. New York: Knopf, 1990; Stephen Marlowe, The Memoirs of Christopher Columbus. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1987. From among the rich bibliography on Christopher Columbus see, e.g., Salvador De Madariaga, Vida del muy magnifico senor Cristobal Colon. Buenos Aires, Editorial Sudamericana, 1947; Cesare De Lollis, Cristofaro Colombo nella leggetida e nella stotia. Florence: Sansoni, 1969 (1st ed.: Milan: Treves, 1892). Paolo Emilio Taviani, Cristofaro Colombo. La genesi della grande scopetta. Novara: Istituto Geografico De Agostini, 1986 [Engl. trans.: Christopher Columbus: The Grand Design. London: Orbis, 1985]; Charles Verlinden, Christoph Colomb. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1971; and also Marco Polo, 11 milione. Con le postille di Cristoforo Colombo. Rome: Edizioni Paoline, 1985. For the Columbian Journal of the voyage see Cristoforo Colombo, 11 giottiale di bordo. Libto della prima tiavigazione e scoperta delle Indie. Introduzione, note e schede di Paolo Emilio Taviani e Consuelo Varela. 2 vols., Rome: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, 1988.

2The poem was first printed by the Roman publisher Voghera. In 1930, Societa Tip. Editrice Nazionale of Turin published an edition that had been corrected by Pascarella. Following the first Mondadori edition of the sonnets in 1942, a group of scholars (Emilio Cecchi, Alfredo Schiaffini, Pietro Paolo Trompeo, Luigi Huetter) prepared the definitive edition under the auspices of the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome. The present observations are based on this edition (Opere, vol. 1, Milan: Mondadori, 1955). La scoperta de l'Ametica e altti sonetti (introduced by Anna Maria Moroni, Milan: Mondadori, 1972, reprinted in 1989 with an introduction by Franco Brevini) is based on the 1955 edition.

For an introduction to Pascarella and his work see Emilio Cecchi's preface to the above Mondadori edition, and his article "Due poeti dialettali: Cesare Pascarella e Salvatore Di Giacomo" (in Emilio Cecchi and Natalino Sapegno [eds.], Stotia della letteratura italiatia. Vol. 9: 11 Novecento. Milan: Garzanti, 1969, 101-118); Gaetano Mariani, "Pascarella nella letteratura romantico-veristica" (in Ottocento romantico e vetista. Naples: Giannini, 1972,531-595), and the same author's entry on P. in Vittore Branca (ed.), Diziotiario ciitico della letteratura italiana, vol. 3, Turin: UTET, 1986, 355-365; Giovanni Orioli, "P." (in Letteratura italiatia. I mitiori. vol. 4, Milan: Mondadori, 1962,3257-64); id., "P. e i suoi critici", (Studi romani 10, March-April 1962, 151-166; Luigi Russo, "I sonetti di Pascarella" (in Scrittoti poeti e sctittoti letterati. Bari: Laterza, 1945,226-234); as well as the two biographies by Edoardo Bizzarri, Vita di Cesare Pascarella. Bologna: Cappelli, 1941, and FabrizioSarzani, Vita di Cesare Pascarella. Rome: Casini, 1957.

3Fora comprehensive discussion see the Introduction in my book The Hidden Italy. A Bilingual Edition of Italian Dialect Poetry. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986, 31-48, and my article "Lingua, societa e letteratura dialettale in Italia," Rivista dell'lstituto Veneto (forthcoming). Cfr. also the recent essay by Marcello Aurigemma, "DaPascarellaaDell'Arco: IIromanescoletterario,"inPietro Mazzamuto(ed.),La 1ettetatuia dia1etta1e in ltalia. Palermo: Annali della Facolta di Lettere e Filosofia delI'Universita di Palermo 1984, 513-542.

4Ettore Paratore, however, ("L'influsso belliano ne La Scoperta de l'Ametica," in Spigolatute romane e romanesche. Rome: Bulzoni, 1967, 307-334) demonstrates in lengthy detail Belli's influence on Pascarella, attenuating Pascarella's originality excessively. He also suggests as a source of the Scoperta Giovanni Fattori's Linostti nonni atitichi (Rome 1882).

5The translations of the various passages cited are my own. An English translation by John DuVal has recently been published by the University of Arkansas Press (1991). 6Simonetta Conti, Un seco1odi bibliografia co1ombiana, 1880-1985. Genoa: Cassa di Risparmio di Genova e Imperia, 1986.

7For more information on the extent of the 1892 celebrations see Mario Bottaro, Genova 1892e1ecelebrazioni colombiane. Prefazione di Paolo Emilio Taviani. Genoa: Pirella Editore 1984. According to Bottaro, there was an incident of a brawl in Rome between Pro-Columbian Catholics who wanted to carry a wreath to the Columbus bust on the Pincio, and the liberals who chanted "Viva Giordano Bruno!" (30-31).

8Pascarella's private library is now incorporated into the collections of the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome. I have attempted to track down in that library hypothetically relevant sources of the Scoperta, since the information is missing in Antonio Bruer's article ("La biblioteca di Cesare Pascarella," Nuova Antologia, 16 agosto 1941,386395). Apart from the few Columbian sources, the many volumes of dialect poetry (e.g., Belli, Russo, Di Giacomo, Porta), of macheronic literature (Folengo and G. G. Alione),

and of Roman history well illustrate Pascarella's diversified interests directly or indirectly related to the composition of the poem. "Ouotations are from I1giornale di bordo. Libra della prima navigazione e scoperta delle Indie (see above, n. 1).

lOFora description see the Taccuini (Opere, vol. 2, Milan: Mondadori 1961).

11Antonio Bruers ("La biblioteca di Cesare Pascarella") lists a copy of the Divine Comedy where Pascarella noted the dates of his visits next to the respective passages.

12See Tullio De Mauro, "Per una storia linguistica della citta di Roma," in Tullio De Mauro (ed.), I1romanesco di ieri e oggi. Rome: Bulzoni, 1989. For a history of the Italian language following unification with a sociological foundation see De Mauro's Storia linguistica dell'Italia unita. Bari: Laterza, 1986 (1963 1).

13This is what Attilio Zuccagni Orlandini notes about the Roman dialect in his attempt to record it in the mid-eighteenth century. See Tullio De Mauro, "Per una storia linguistica della citra di Roma," in Tullio De Mauro (ed.), I1romanesco di ieri e oggi,


14Romanesco refers to the dialect of Rome; Roman to the system of dialects in the Lazio region. For further linguistic illustrations see Ugo Vignuzzi, "Aree linguistiche

VII. Marche, Umbria, Lazio," in Gunter Holtus, Michael Metzeltin and Christian Schmitt (eds.), Lexikon der romanistischen Linguistik. Vol. 4: Italienisch. Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1988, 606-642.

IsDe Mauro gives some statistical evidence of Italianization. Based on a few sonnets, in Belli 60% of words are identical to Italian, in Pascarella this figure goes up to 700/0 (Storia linguistica dell'Italia unita, 157). For a discussion see also Lucio Felici, "11 romanesco di Pascarella," in Tullio De Mauro (ed.), I1romanesco ieri e oggi, 193


16Ugo Oietti, Alla scoperta dei letterati italiani (ed. by Pietro Pancrazi. Florence: Le Monnier, 1946, 239-248). In his interview Pascarella claims to have worked eight years on the Scoperta de l'America (245).

17Much difference can be noted in the phoneme structure between Belli and Pascarella. In P. we note particularly rotacism of L > t (comprimenti I, bardoria V, furmini XIII, atbeii XXVI, carzoni, berva XXVII, setvaggi XXIX, musurmano XXX, etc.], assimilation of N + D > nn (manna I, annate VI,mannaveno VII),R + L > 11 (dubitallo III), R+ N > nn iparlanne XII), etc. Unlike in Belli's sonnets, syntactic gemination is absent in P. A study by G. Senes, Anatomia [ilologica del dialetto romanesco [atta sulla "Scopetta dell'America'' di Cesare Pascarella, Florence 1900, is cited in Paolo D' Achille -Claudio Giovanardi, Laletteratura volgare ei dialetti di Roma e del Lazio, vol. I, Rome: Bonacci, 1984, 141, but listed as "irreperibile."

18Itcan be reasonably assumed that Pascarella followed Ascoli's moderate position on linguistic norm that his friend E. Scarfoglio had espoused from Bonghi. On Bonghi cfr. De Mauro, Storia linguistica dell'It.alia unita, 325.

19His mother was Piedmontese, his father was Ciociarese. Thus Pascarella must have heard a popular Roman flavored koine very early on, before gaining the command of Standard Italian.

20Columbus grew up speaking Genoese, then learned Latin and grew fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, the language he used predominantly and not always correctly. For more information on Columbus's linguistic background, see R. Menendez Pidal, La lengua de Cristobal Colon. 4th ed. Madrid 1958, and the various contributions of the Roundtable on "Le lingue di Cristoforo Colombo," Colombeis (Genoa: Darciflet) 2, 1987, 7-39.

21The use of the infinitive is frequent, e.g., also in the speech of Italian immigrants to Switzerland. 22See Edoardo Bizzarri, Vita di Cesare Pascarella, 88.

23See Giosue Carducci, "Presentazione di Cesare Pascarella." Discorso del 5 aprile 1895. Gazzetta dell'Emilia, 7 aprile 1895; also in Opere. Edizione Nazionale XXVIII. Bologna: Zanichelli, 1938, 215-216.

24TheAustrians censured the Scoperta before its recital by Pascarella in Trieste in 1902, and in fact P. was not allowed to read the last terzina of sonnet VIIIand sonnet IX about the church; sonnet XXXVIII about marriage; the second quartina and second terzina of sonnet XLIII (see A. Bruers, "La biblioteca di Cesare Pascarella," 386-95). During the recitals, Pascarella would pause for long moments at the passages to be omitted, prompting rousing applause.

2SAcquarone's text was published in Genoa by Degli Orfini (with a 1959 edition by the Societa Commerciale Libraria], Firpo's version appeared in Genoa by Libreria Internazionale Di Stefano. Otherversions are by Giuseppe Flecchia (1943), Ernestina Carbone Lascar (s.d. but 1930), and by Giuseppe Boccaleone (1930; unpublished).

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