Lyrics of Life: 5 Italian Poems Every Learner Should Know
Do you sing along to music?
Do you memorize lyrics as if they’ll someday be the winning answer to a music lottery?
I have to admit, I do.
But do you realize that when you memorize lyrics, you’re actually memorizing poetry? That’s right—songs are pretty much poems set to music.
Most of us love singing along to our favorite tunes, so it stands to reason that if you add poems to your Italian learning routine, you’ll be adding something you already enjoy.
It’ll hardly feel like work at all!
Poems add a new dimension to learning and honestly, Italian poems are amazing.
We’re talking about the language of love, after all.
In this blog post, we’ll discover some useful tips for incorporating Italian poems in your language program and five of them you absolutely must check out. Let’s dive in!
Tips for Using Italian Poems in Your Program
Italian poems are perfect for learners of all levels.
Thanks to their short verses, they’re easy to read and memorize. They’re also easy to disassemble and translate, making them ideal for building your vocabulary.
These little chunks of literature are designed for fast learning. They’re excellent resources for pronunciation practice and reading the luxurious passages will make you feel like a real Roman!
To make the most out of your favorite Italian poems, put these tips into practice.
- Power up your speaking skills by letting all of those incredible phrases roll off your tongue. You can also record yourself reading. Once finished, listen to the recording and check your pronunciation and accent.
- Make reading Italian poems a daily practice. Every bit of exposure to Italian ideas and culture increases your understanding of the language, and with the short poems we give you below, reading one or two will take less than five minutes.
- If you’re a beginner (or just like learning with English translations), bilingual poetry books provide lots of learning potential. While it’s good to translate Italian poems word-for-word, seeing how each phrase translates into English not only teaches you colloquial phrases and idioms but also grammar structure!
Two high-quality bilingual poetry books to check out are “Introduction to Italian Poetry: A Dual-Language Book” and “The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Bilingual Edition.”
5 Italian Poems Every Learner Should Know
“Non sono in queste rive” by Torquato Tasso
This poem, written by a brilliant Renaissance poet, is a tale of love. Learners are given an opportunity to see how basic vocabulary can be used to create something truly beautiful. Notice the way the poet compares the beauty of the poem’s subject to nature!
Non sono in queste rive
fiori così vermigli
come le labbra de la donna mia,
né ’l suon de l’aure estive
tra fonti e rose e gigli
fa del suo canto più dolce armonia.
Canto che m’ardi e piaci,
t’interrompano solo i nostri baci.
English Translation: “Are Not in These Shores”
Are not in these shores
like the lips of my lady,
in the sound of the summer breeze
amidst fountains, and roses and lilies
does its song make the sweetest harmony.
Song that inflames, and pleases me,
may you be interrupted only by our kisses.
“Parola” by Ribka Sibhatu
“Parola” (word) is a perfect representation of modern poetry. In both Italian and English, readers can clearly see and feel the words that empower and give substance to the mystery of women everywhere.
terra della straniera
Tocca la figlia che
luci e ombra,
coraggio e paura.
che danno forma
a cui appartiene.
Parla parole ce
e portano l’animo
nel tempo e nello spazio.
English Translation: “Word”
land of the wandering
Touch the daughter
who walks between
shadow and light
courage and fear.
that give shape
to the world
where she belongs.
that emit a fragrance
and carry the soul
through time and through space.
“Rimani” by Gabriele D’Annunzio
Gabriele D’Annunzio was a poet, playwright and journalist who had a flair for writing romance. His poem “Stay” is a love story for the ages. In the poem, a couple begs each other not to leave, be fearful or restless. It’s a pledge to guard and watch over another, lovingly and faithfully.
Rimani! Riposati accanto a me.
Non te ne andare.
Io ti veglierò. Io ti proteggerò.
Ti pentirai di tutto fuorché d’essere venuta a me, liberamente, fieramente.
Ti amo. Non ho nessun pensiero che non sia tuo;
non ho nel sangue nessun desiderio che non sia per te.
Lo sai. Non vedo nella mia vita altra compagna, non vedo altra gioia.
Riposati. Non temere di nulla.
Dormi stanotte sul mio cuore…
English Translation: “Stay”
Stay! Rest beside me.
Do not go.
I will watch you. I will protect you.
You’ll regret anything but coming to me, freely, proudly.
I love you. I do not have any thought that is not yours;
I have no desire in the blood that is not for you.
You know. I do not see in my life another companion, I see no other joy
Rest. Do not be afraid of anything.
Sleep tonight on my heart…
“L’infinito” by Giacomo Leopardi
Many have loved this poem for its apparent simplicity. While the poet did use basic vocabulary and an uncomplicated writing style, his message certainly isn’t simple. This poem speaks to the depths of humanity and the shared feelings of all. The lyrics make it a great poem for pronunciation practice, as the words slip off the tongue effortlessly!
Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle,
E questa siepe, che da tanta parte
Dell’ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.
Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati
Spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani
Silenzi, e profondissima quiete
Io nel pensier mi fingo; ove per poco
Il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
Odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
Infinito silenzio a questa voce
Vo comparando: e mi sovvien l’eterno,
E le morte stagioni, e la presente
E viva, e il suon di lei. Così tra questa
Immensità s’annega il pensier mio:
E il naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare.
English Translation: “Infinity”
Always dear to me was this still hill,
And this hedge, which in so many ways
Of the last horizon the look excludes.
But sitting and aiming, endless
Spaces beyond that, and superhuman
Silences, and deepest quiet
I pretend in thinking; where for a while
The heart is not afraid. And like the wind
I hear rustling among these plants, I that
Infinite silence to this voice
I am comparing: and the eternal comes to my mind,
And the dead seasons, and the present
And alive, and the sound of her. So between this
Immensity drowns my thought:
And shipwreck is sweet to me in this sea.
“All’anima mia” by Umberto Saba
If you’re a fan of soul-searching and introspection, this poem will appeal to you. Language learners can benefit from seeing how the poet formulates the questions driving the poem. The ending is extra special, showing that even darkness eventually gives way to sunshine and light.
Dell’inesausta tua miseria godi.
Tanto ti valga, anima mia, sapere;
sì che il tuo male, null’altro, ti giovi.
O forse avventurato è chi s’inganna?
né a se stesso scoprirsi ha in suo potere,
né mai la sua sentenza lo condanna?
Magnanima sei pure, anima nostra;
ma per quali non tuoi casi t’esalti,
sì che un bacio mentito indi ti prostra.
A me la mia miseria è un chiaro giorno
d’estate, quand’ogni aspetto dagli alti
luoghi discopro in ogni suo contorno.
Nulla m’è occulto; tutto è sì vicino
dove l’occhio o il pensiero mi conduce.
Triste ma soleggiato è il mio cammino;
e tutto in esso, fino l’ombra, è in luce.
English Translation: “To My Soul”
You delight in your unending misery.
Such, my soul, should be the worth of knowledge,
that your suffering alone should do you good.
Or is the self-deceived the lucky one?
He who cannot ever know himself
or the sentence of his condemnation?
Still, my soul, you are magnanimous;
yet how you thrill to phantom opportunities,
and so are brought down by a faithless kiss.
To me my misery is a bright summer
day, where from high up I can make out
every facet, every detail of the world below.
Nothing is obscure to me; it’s all right there,
wherever my eye or my mind leads me.
My road is sad but brightened by the sun;
and everything on it, even shadow, is in light.
Bonus Poem! Challenge Your Italian with a Middle Ages Classic
If you’re looking for a challenge, look no further!
This early piece of Italian poetry speaks of disillusionment, despair and destruction. In many respects, it’s still a commentary that’s applicable to some modern issues. The poet portrays his actions in such vivid detail that the reader can’t help but see each line clearly.
The poem includes Italian words that date back to the Middle Ages and are rarely used today. Because of this, it presents a challenge for non-native speakers while still being beneficial for cultural and historical purposes.
“Sonetto” by Cecco Angiolieri
S’i’ fosse foco, ardere’ il mondo;
s’i’ fosse vento, lo tempesterei;
s’i’ fosse acqua, io l’ annegherei;
s’i’ fosse Dio, mandereil en profondo;
s’i’ fosse papa, sare’ allor giocondo,
ché tutti cristïani imbrigherei;
s’i’ fosse ’imperator, sa’ che farei?
a tutti taglierei lo capo a tondo.
S’i’ fosse morte, andarei da mio padre;
s’i’ fosse vita, fuggirei da lui;
similmente faría da mi’ madre.
S’ i’ fosse Cecco com’ i’ sono e fui,
torrei le donne giovani e leggiadre,
le vecchie e laide lasserei altrui.
English Translation: “Sonetto”
If I were fire, I’d burn the world;
if wind, around about it furiously I’d blow;
If water, drowning it would suit my mind;
If God, then I’d dispatch it straight below;
If I were pope, I’d have a bit of fun
By setting Christians one against another;
If emp’ror, well, what think ye I’d have done?
All heads chopped off, and so an end to bother!
I would go seek my father were I death;
But were I life from him I’d flee away;
And I’d behave the same towards my mother;
If Cecco, as I am and draw my breath,
I’d choose such ladies as are young and gay.
Leaving the old and ugly to another.
It’s widely thought that immersion is the fast-track to language learning. Cultural aspects of life, along with the language itself, shape an immersive experience.
Poetry showcases culture in a wonderful way. It offers a glimpse of love, life, history and what’s important to society. It’s a powerfully immersive experience that can power-up your Italian skills with almost no effort at all.
Add poetry—the lyrics of life—to your Italian learning program to see the world through a native speaker’s eyes.
Enjoy, and have fun!