Some translations from Belli

Since somebody seems to think Belli is due a revival, I dragged up some translations of his work I did years ago. Somebody might like them.

The Lord’s Circumcision

About seven days later in the birthing room,

Wrapped up for warmth in a pile of old hay,

Lay Mary the virgin, undefiled ’til this day,

With the beasts of the field and her blessed son.

Joseph, who to her assistance had come,

When she’d found herself in the family way,

said “Chop, chop, now, we’re off. Today is the day

When we throw a small scrap to the synagogue doves.”

John the Baptist presided in thirty years time.

In the Jordan His soul was washed bright and clean.

Swept away were original sin and earth’s grime.

Some shout “Hosanna”—they make me quite sick—

That He became Christian. I can’t toe the line.

He was a turncoat. I rate Him a prick.

The finest trade

I worked in a greengrocer’s for a start,

Then sold encyclopedias door to door.

I decided to move, as my feet were too sore,

Into human resources and the whoremonger’s art.

In this, I confess, my hand on my heart,

I raked in the shekels, made a million or more.

Clerics in collars lined up at my door

To enter communion with my sweet young tarts.

PPs and bishops and plastered saints,

Married and widowed and spinsters too

Never were known to leave with complaints

Because I am honest and don’t try to screw

them. My women are pretty and free of all taints.

My men are well-born and not short of a sou.

The sacrifice of Abraham

The Bible, which is a sort of history,

Says that between the first and second ark,

It fell to Abraham, a good Patriarch,

To make a holocaust in God’s honour. He

Thus took a donkey grazing in the park,

A humble beast content and in no hurry

To finish eating clover and fresh chicory

Before the house of Abraham like a monarch.

Then he called Isaac saying `Make a pack,

Put on your coat and tell the stable boy

To put the things upon the donkey’s back

Bring my hat and kiss your ma goodbye,

Tomorrow we’ll be taking fire and axe

To sacrifice a lamb to God on high.’


After taking an early morning snack,

Cornetto, cappucino and some hay

The pious four walked, praying, down the track

To Mount Moriah, one hundred miles away.

`We’re here’, he said, unshouldering his pack

`Take out the things, we’ll do the job today’

And, turning to the stable boy, `Relax,

You’ll stay to see the donkey doesn’t stray.’

`But Da’, said Isaac, `we’ve had a wasted ride,

We’ve got the fire and wood but there’s no lamb.’

Abraham said `My son, God will provide’.

When they came upon the spot where he’d to do

The deed that God directed, Abraham

Said `Sorry son, face down, the lamb is you.’


`Wait’ said Isaac, face down on the altar,

As his father raised the axe, but Abraham,

Hell-bent and heaven sent on his son’s slaughter,

Raised his arm to sacrifice the lamb.

`Lay not thine hand upon him’ came the order

`You’ve passed the test God set so stay thine arm’

And they saw the angel hiding in a corner

And in a bush—baah, baah—a horn-held ram.

The tale is almost over and it’s late,

So I’ll recount the outcome and go home:

The ram, not Isaac, ended on a plate

While if you care to see the altar stone,

The slab where Isaac dodged a grisly fate

It’s in a church in Borgo-novo, here in Rome.

The creation of the world

The year Jesus Christ began kneading the past-

ry, for pastry there was and lots to be found,

He wanted to make a world to his taste

Like a fine watermelon, big, green and round.

Sun, stars and moon, he set in their place,

Ran up a map for each village and town,

Threw in some beasts of appropriate race,

Said “Now I’m done”, lit a fag and sat down.

I omitted to mention the creation of Man,

Shaped (Woman too) from a a handful of muck,

God said “no apple or else you’ll be damned.”

But he roared when he saw them reach out to pluck

The fruit he’d forbidden, upsetting his plan:

“Men yet to come, know this—you’re all fucked!”

St. Thomas

The apostles got together without Judas

To talk of the alleged resurrection

But from the side there came the voice of Thomas

“You’re all talking bollocks: it’s a put-on.”

It was at this point the unholy fracas

Was subject to a holy interruption

For entering, through the keyhole, the discussion

And standing there before them was Christ Jesus.

“Here’s the empty hole, now have a poke,

You fucking Jacobin, you want to know the score?

If I’m risen from the dead or it’s a joke.”

Then Saint Thomas slunk across the floor

Felt the wound, fell to his knees and spoke

An act of penance, and doubted God no more.

God said to Noah: “Listen, Patriarch,

You and your sons would do a lot better

To leave the ungodly and go build an ark

Upon my design. Then get a

Canopy, cover the barque

Just like the one at Porto di Ripetta

And after you’ve tarred it, then set a

Course round the world, gather beasts and embark.

Then there will be a great downpour,

To make the great Tivoli fountain

Look like a squirt in a pissoir.

When you see the rainbow, proceed

To make your way down the mountain.

There poke the earth, spread your seed.


Mighty the arm of the Lord! sending a gosson

Against that great Philistine blackguard

Who showed so little regard

For a boy that he thought he could piss on.

But he fell and God taught a lesson

To those who would live by the sword

That devotion to Jesus our Lord

Lets you take on the highest of persons.

On seeing the shepherd boy come with a sling,

Goliath jumped up and cried out “Fuck it!

This time, my son, you’ve done the wrong thing.”

But the poor boy lined up his target and struck it.

Thanks to our Lady and a stone and a string,

He chopped the giant down like a puppet.


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