Cecco Angiolieri: Per sì gran somma— sonnet 81

"My laugh's in hock for such a pile of change"

My laugh's in hock for such a pile of change,
redeeming it is way beyond my scope:
The bond is more than anyone could raise,
even by selling Pisa to the pope.
I've bargained to put laughter out of mind
and you know what a word from me is worth!
They could break my bones and strike me blind
before I'd let escape a snort of mirth.

In last night's dream I was about, it seems,
to act in ways you might consider droll—
I woke with shame, I'm taken (still) aback.
And privately, until my laugh's parolled,
I wish to God it were within my means
to see that all the merry folk get whacked.


translations©2001 Leonard Cottrell

Per sì gran somma ho 'mpegnate le risa,
che io non so vedere come possa
prendere modo di far la rescossa:
per più l'ho 'n pegno, che non monta Pisa.
Ed è sì forte la mia mente assisa,
che prima mi lassarei franger l'ossa,
che ad un sol ghigno io facesse mossa,
tanto son dagli spiriti 'n recisa.

L'altro giorno voler mi parve, 'n sogno,
un atto fare, che rider valesse:
svegliàimi; certo ancor me ne vergogno.
E dico fra me stesso: - Dio volesse
ch'i' fusse 'n quello stato ch'i' mi pogno,
ch'uccidere farìa chiunca ridesse!


note: Cecco says that his laughter is in hock for more
than could be raised by selling Pisa. I have added a detail
to the hypothetical transaction by imagining the pope as the buyer.