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Negri, Ada: The street urchin (Birichino di strada in English)

Portre of Negri, Ada

Birichino di strada (Italian)

Quando lo vedo per la via fangosa

     Passar sucido e bello,

Colla giacchetta tutta in un brandello,

Le scarpe rotte e l’aria capricciosa,


Quando il vedo fra i carri o sul selciato

     Coi calzoncini a brani,

Gettare i sassi nelle gambe ai cani,

Gií  ladro, gií  corrotto e gií  sfrontato;


Quando lo vedo ridere e saltare,

     Povero fior di spina,

E penso che sua madre è all’officina,

Vuoto il tugurio e il padre al cellulare,


Un’angoscia per lui dentro mi serra;

     E dico: “Che farai

Tu che stracciato ed ignorante vai

Senz’appoggio ne guida sulla terra?…


De la capanna garrulo usignolo,

     Che sarai fra vent’anni?

Vile e perverso spacciator d’inganni,

Operaio solerte, o borsaiuolo?


L’onesta blusa avrai del manovale,

     O quella del forzato?

Ti rivedrò bracciante o condannato,

Sul lavoro, in prigione, o all’ospedale?…,,


… Ed ecco, vorrei scender ne la via

     E stringerlo sul core,

In un supremo abbraccio di dolore,

Di pietí , di tristezza e d’agonia;


Tutti i miei baci dargli in un istante

     Sulla bocca e sul petto,

E singhiozzargli con fraterno affetto

Queste parole soffocate e sante:


“Anch’io vissi nel lutto e nelle pene,

     Anch’io son fior di spina;

E l’ebbi anch’io la madre all’officina,

E anch’io seppi il dolor… ti voglio bene.,,

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Source of the quotation

The street urchin (English)

When in the muddy street, I see him running,

     His little shoes all worn,

His trousers ragged and his jacket torn,

His handsome face most mischievous and cunning;


And when I see him ‘mid the surging eddy

     Of carts, he steals or begs,

Now deftly throwing stones at poor curs’ legs,

Bold and corrupt, a youthful thief already;


And when I see him laugh, I can’t help thinking :

     ”His mother is all day

There in the mill; in prison his father –” nay,

Poor flower he of thorns!” –”My heart is sinking


Within me, with anxiety I wonder:

     ”What will become of thee,

Without a guide on this tempestuous sea

Of life, forlorn and ignorant? I wonder


What thou wilt be and what will be thy station

     Some twenty years from now;

An honest workman with a sunburnt brow?

A useful member of our struggling nation?


The labourer’s honest shirt shall thou be wearing

     Or convict’s garb! Or shall

I see thee wretched at the hospital,

At work, in prison, a vagabond wayfaring?”


And lo! Across the street I would run over

     And in supreme distress,

In agony, in pity I would press

Him to my heart; with kisses I would cover


His mouth, his forehead; close beside him kneeling,

     Would whisper in his ears,

Choked by compassion’s quickly rising tears,

These sacred words, full of a sister’s feeling:


“I too was born ‘mong thorns, the sky above me,

     My mother too for me

Was working hard there in the factory,

I know what want and suffering mean –” I love thee.”

Uploaded byP. T.
Source of the quotation