ANALYSIS of the Italian National Anthem: INNO DI MAMELI(the verses that nobody knows!)

After the pubblication of the video dedicated to the history and analysis of the first verses of the Inno di Mameli, the Italian national anthem, many of you asked us to publish a second part in which we explain the meaning of the remaining verses. Therefore, in this article we will talk about those verses of the Italian national anthem that nobody knows!

“Il Canto degli Italiani” -“The Song of Italians”

What does Mameli’s Anthem mean?

In the last video we analysed the first three stanzas of the national anthem, the ones that are always sung during sport competitions and official events. Today, however, we will focus on the stanzas that are a little less… known! Let’s analyse them:

Noi siamo da secoli -> We were for centuries

Calpesti, derisi, -> downtrodden, derided,

Perché non siam popolo, -> because we are not one people

Perché siam divisi. -> because we are divided.

Raccolgaci un’unica -> Let one flag, one hope

Bandiera, una speme: -> gather us all.

Di fonderci insieme ->the hour has struck

Già l’ora suonò. -> for us to unite.

[Stringiamci a coorte -> Let us join in a cohort

Siam pronti alla morte -> we are ready to die

L’Italia chiamò. -> Italy has called.]

In this stanza, Mameli points out the need to form a single, united Italy.

At the time the anthem was written, Italy was divided into seven states: the Kingdom of the two Sicilies (which included today’s Abruzzo, Molise, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, the whole Sicily, Campania except Benevento, eastern Lazio, southern Lazio and Pelagosa’s archipelago), the Papal State (today’s Lazio, Benevento, Umbria, the provinces of Bologna, Ferrara, Forlì and Ravenna), the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Grund Duchy of Tuscany, the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia (Lombardy, Veneto and Friuli), the Duchy of Parma and the Duchy of Modena and Reggio.

Mameli points out the fact that for centuries Italians have been crushed (calpestati) by the enemy and have been mocked precisely because, in the 19th century, they were still not a united people.

In this stanza he also talks about the hope (“speme”) of seeig Italy united under one flag (“raccogliaci un’unica bandiera”), thus not only a “fusion” on a geographical-political level, but also on a cultural level, coming under the same ideals.

It is now time (“già l’ora suonò”), Mameli reminds us.

Uniamoci, amiamoci, -> Let us unite, let us love one another,

l’Unione, e l’amore -> Union and love

Rivelano ai Popoli ->Reveal to the peoples

Le vie del Signore; ->The ways of the Lord.

Giuriamo far libero -> Let us swear to set free

Il suolo natìo: ->The land of our birth:

Uniti per Dio -> United, by God,

Chi vincer ci può? -> Who can overcome us?

[Stringiamci a coorte -> Let us join in a cohort

Siam pronti alla morte -> we are ready to die

L’Italia chiamò. -> Italy has called.]

In this stanza Mameli recalls the ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini: the Italian politician believed that a non-unified Italy was a weak Italy. Therefore his “Giovine Italia” project, which was presented in the homonymous newspapers, included the creation of a unitary democratic republic on the Italian territory. “Giovine Italia” was an insurrectional politcal organisation that aimed to establish a republic based on the principles of unity, indipendence and freedom.

Mameli then recalls Mazzini’s politics, claiming that a united Italy is impossible to defeat (“chi vincer ci può?”). He also reminds us that an invicible people is not only united, but is also bound by a feeling of love, because this is the only thing that can lead us to God. He then incites Italians to liberate their land in the name of God (“per Dio”): in this case “per Dio” is not an imprecation, but it refers to the strenght that only God, as the supporter of the oppressed peoples.

Dall’Alpi a Sicilia -> From the Apls to Sicily

Dovunque è Legnano, ->Legnano is everywhere,

Ogn’uom di Ferruccio -> Every man hath the heart

Ha il core, ha la mano, -> and hand of Ferruccio

I bimbi d’Italia -> The children of Italy

Si chiaman Balilla, -> Are all called Balilla,

Il suon d’ogni squilla ->Every trumpet blast

I Vespri suonò. -> soundeth the Vespers

[Stringiamci a coorte -> Let us join in a cohort

Siam pronti alla morte -> we are ready to die

L’Italia chiamò. -> Italy has called.]

We then come across four historical references and major uprisings in Italian history: Legnano, Ferruccio, Balilla e Vespri.

The first (Legnano) refers to the battle of Legnano in 1776 in which the Lombards, under the guidance of Alberto da Giussano, defeated the emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who had to give up his authority and give it to the Lombard provincees in 1183.

The second one, Ferruccio, refers to Fracesco Ferrucci. Between 12 October 1529 and 12 August 1530, the Republic of Florence was besieged by the imperial army of Charles V, and during the heroic defence, captain Francesco Ferrucci was mortally wounded. The coup de grace was given to him by Francesco Marmoldo, to whome Ferrucci said the following words “tu uccidi un uomo morto(you’re killing a dead man). This is why the name Marmoldo has become, in the Italian language, a synonym for ‘cowardly’. After a year of siege, Charles V’s army surrendered and Florence was handed back to the Medici.

The third refernce recalls the young man who started the revolution in Genoa. In 1746, the people of Genoa rebelled against the Austro-Piedmontese coalition: it is said that this rebellion was started on the 5th of February by a young boy known as Balilla (it is assumed that his real name was Giambattista Perasso) who threw a stone at an officer, starting the battle that liberated the city.

At the end of this stanza there is a reference to the Sicilian Vespers, the uprisings in which Sicily rebelled against the French rule and freed itself from it. “Il suon d’ogi squilla” means the sound of every bell: during the hour of the vespers (the sunset) on 31 March 1282 bells began to ring in Palermo, inciting the people to rise up against the French.

Through his references, Mameli incites all the Italians, from the north to the south, to fight to free Italy from the Austrian rule, to rebel in exactly the same way as their ancestors did.

“Dall’Alpi a Sicilia” recalls the two geographical extremes of the peninsula, but not only: it becomes a metaphor for unity, as all Italians have fought to free themselves from oppressors. Another reason to unite and rise up. 

Son giunchi che piegano -> The mercenary swords

Le spade vendute: -> Are feeble reeds.

Già l’Aquila d’Austria -> Already the Eagle of Austria

Le penne ha perdute. -> Hath lost its plumes.

Il sangue d’Italia, -> The blood of Italy,

Il sangue Polacco, -> the Polish blood

Bevé, col cosacco, -> It drank, along with the Cossack,

Ma il cor le bruciò. -> But it burned its heart.

[Stringiamci a coorte -> Let us join in a cohort

Siam pronti alla morte -> we are ready to die

L’Italia chiamò. -> Italy has called.]

In this last stanza, Mameli draws a parallel between the Italian and Polish people, calling on all Italians to rise up against a weakened Austria.

“Le spade vendute” refers to all the mercenaries of the Austrian army, and the following verses are a metaphor to symbolise Austria’s weakness: the eagle is the Austrian symbol, but it is now an eagle that has lost its feathers.

The parallelism occurs in the last verses, in which Mameli mentions the invasion of Poland on behalf of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russia (here the “cosacco”) between 1772 and 1795: the blood of a people can become a poison capable of burning one’ s heart (“il cor le bruciò”) the moment it gets rid of its oppressors.

Now that we’ve analysed together the meaning of “the Song of Italians”, it is easier to undestand why this anthem has become a symbol of patriotism: it explains the importance of unity, it helps us remember our ancestors and it gives us strenght!

If instead you are studying Italian and want to know why you can’t speak it fluently, you should watch the video on the most common obstacles for anyone learning Italian!

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