Thursday, 17 March 2011

One hundred and fifty

Just a couple of lines tonight. This isn't much of a post, but I just wanted to celebrate the anniversary of someone very special: my country of birth. :)

Italy became officially 150 years old today. Since 1861 we've had monarchies, dictatorships, republics and media regimes. Since before that date we've had... sheesh. No point even in recounting it all. The fall and rise of empires, religions, cultures. At least two golden ages of literature (Latin and Medieval), more art than you can begin to quantify, luminaries of all sciences (Copernicus, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci), three hundred years of music of all types, some of the greatest explorers in history (Marco Polo, Columbus). And then the supposedly lesser things, the ones which don't really get into the history books: the food, the climate, the enormous and yet (mostly) internationally obscure traditions in sports, comics and song-writing (how many know, for instance, that 70% of Walt Disney's global comic publications are produced in Italy?).

Italy has a typical reputation for triviality: our country is seen as amiable and benign, and Italians are the guys who make it into Japanese videogames with the name of Mario or into American films as fat guys saying Mamma Mia. It's seldom associated with notions of greatness.

I'm not going to claim otherwise - though it wouldn't be hard to put up an argument, if one wanted - especially because of the situation we're floundering in now. It's hard to explain what loving one's country means to people whose greatest idea of a political crisis is an inefficient President. Perhaps it is the shame that I am forced to bear on account of my motherland, as our international image is constantly reduced to mud by the scoundrels who are ruling us, that makes me feel so tender towards all the good things that there are in it. History goes by ups and downs. The last great down lasted twenty years, and it was called fascism. The present one has gone on for a similar period of time, and it's the age of Berlusconi. I have hope that it will end soon.

Time passes and takes away the houses and the cities, the empires and the myths. It will take away this generation of inept rulers as well, and then I'll finally be able to feel proud about being Italian again (in truth, I can't wait). In the meantime, Happy 150th Birthday, Italia. May the 200th fall under better days, as there are people who believe in it. Like me.

Never let it be said that I'm not going to close with a flourish. Here's an old sonnet I wrote a few years ago. Enjoy!

To Italy

There is a vine that binds us, made of rose
And olive leaves, and figs and spikes of pine;
It is entwined with sunlight, grain and wine,
The song that is our language lets it close
Around our wrists and waists, and we are led
As one into the ribcage of the self.
A monumental doorway, clean like health,
Bears these old words once Polyphemus said:
Who. Are. You. – I don’t speak, air goes amiss.
Italia, sacred no-one, earth and mother,
This question (cryptologically spelt, 'bliss')
Was only made by Time to break or smother
The heart in me, the flag in you. And this
Is why we’re bound: we answer for each other.

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