“Carneades! Who was he now?” famously asks Don Abbondio in the opening lines of chapter 8 of Lombard novelist, poet, and dramatist Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi (The Betrothed, first published 1827).
Some of you may ask the same of poet and moralist Giuseppe Parini (1729-1799), another literary great of Lombardy, the generation before Manzoni.
I’ve been thinking of Parini on this Valentine’s Day morning: the Enlightened (with a capital E) Lombard, author of erudite (at times pungent, at times hilarious) satire and master of Italian 19th-century prosody, reminds me of another Lombard writer, Franco Ziliani, a wine writer whose blog has inspired and informed my own, whose work ethic and ethical work have served as model for my own modest scribblings, and whose fraternal (and at times avuncular) friendship and collegiality have often guided me through the selva oscura, the dark wood (pun intended) of the world of Italian wine.
Anyone who’s been following my blog knows that Franco organized an extraordinary series of tastings for Tracie P and me (the sposi, no longer betrothed but already conjugated!) last Saturday and Sunday in Langa (they will be the subject of many posts in the next few weeks).
This morning, in Franco’s honor, I have translated a vinous stanza from Parini’s ode, “La laurea” (“The Diploma”).
- Quell’ospite è gentil, che tiene ascoso
Ai molti bevitori
Entro ai dogli paterni il vino annoso
Frutto de’ suoi sudori;
E liberale allora
Sul desco il reca di bei fiori adorno,
Quando i Lari di lui ridenti intorno
Degno straniere onora:
E versata in cristalli empie la stanza
Insolita di Bacco alma fragranza.
Noble is the host who keeps hidden
from the many imbibers
the old wine in his father’s puncheons,
the fruit of his labors.
Then, generously, he brings it
to the dinner table, adorned with flowers,
and as the Lares* smile upon him
he honors the worthy stranger.
And poured into crystal, Bacchus’s extraordinary,
life-giving fragrance fills the room.
* The Roman household deities, hence, the household.
Above: Franco took this picture of us later that afternoon, as we drove around the vineyards of Barolo.
Thank you, again, Franco, for an unforgettable visit to Langa. You are a Parini among wine writers.
Noble is the host…