Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An Addendum: Mantua

Virgil was born in Mantua, in Northern Italy. And Dante was born in—and exiled from—Florence, located just to the south and east of Mantua, hence, no doubt, he felt more than merely a poetic kinship to the figure he appointed to be his guide in Hell and Purgatory. The map shows these two locations: these days, obeying a new interest in geography, I just go and look.

As I was writing the last post, a German phrase kept playing in my head, over and over again: Zu Mantua in Banden… I turned to Brigitte to enlighten me, and she produced more of the verse. The line comes from a poem celebrating a Tyrolean rebellion against Napoleon led by Andreas Hofer. His rebellion failed; he was executed in Mantua. And years later Julius Mosen wrote a poem titled Andreas Hofer, but better known in Germany, where we used to sing it as well, by the phrase that I remembered. I managed to find an English translation of the poem here—thus saving me a couple of hours of difficult translation. I could not pin down the translator’s name beyond the fact that it is W. The first verse in German, then in Latin, follows.

At Mantua, in fetters,
The Faithful Hofer lay;
To death, to death in Mantua,
Bears him the foe away;—
His brothers’ hearts they beat and bleed;
All Deutschland lies in shame and need;
And with it—land Tyrol.

Zu Mantua in Banden
Der treue Hofer war,
In Mantua zum Tode
Führt ihn der Feinde Schar.
Es blutete der Brüder Herz,
Ganz Deutschland, ach in Schmach und Schmerz.
: Mit ihm das Land Tirol,
Mit ihm das Land Tirol. :

En Mantuae e vinclis
Fidelem Hoferum
Ad mortem, vae, ducebat
Caterva hostium;
Divulsa est Germania
Dolore, ignominia
Et una Tyrolis.
Et una Tyrolis.

Oh. I should have humbly noted somewhere above, near the names of Virgil and Dante, that I too once lived in Mantua. It was, to be sure, just a development in Fairfax Virginia, but that name does sort of cling even to casual minstrels wandering the wilderness.

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