Monday, August 08, 2011


More on Small Houses

From Ian Jackson:
Your latest reminds me of one of the most familiar Italian nursery rhymes, which exists in various readings. I'll give the two I remember. (For lazy people, the wonderful thing about quoting nursery rhymes is that one need not go and look them up somewhere: I am — we are all — the authority!)

Casa mia, casa mia,
Benchè piccola tu sia,
Tu mi sembri una badia!

My house, my house,
tiny though you may be,
you seem like an abbey to me!

Casa mia, casetta mia,
per piccina che tu sia,
per il brutto o per il bello
mi sei più cara del più gran castello!

My house, my little house,
small as you are,
beauty spots and warts and all,
you are dearer to me than the most magnificent castle.

The former is much the more common. And I suppose in English idiom, we'd say "palace" rather than "castle" in the second.
Eric Thomson also sent much more material on this theme, including the following from Mathias Holtzwart's Emblematum Tyrocinia (1581):

Here are my transcription and translation of the Latin verses:
Natura exemplo nobis ipsa indicat, esse
  Nil melius, propria quam latitare domo.
Cernimus ut terris serpat testudo, suamque
  Conseruet tergo sustineatque domum.
Deserit hanc nunquam, coeli dum uescitur aura,
  Dulceque subiecto corpore gestat onus,
Sic felix, partis qui nouit parcere rebus,
  Nilque alios curat, uiuat ut ipse sibi.

Nature itself by example shows us, there is
Nothing better than to hide in one's own house.
We see how the tortoise creeps on the earth and
Maintains and upholds its own house on its back.
It never leaves this house, while it feeds on heaven's air,
And it carries the sweet burden on top of its body.
Thus is that man happy, who knows how to use sparingly what he has acquired,
And who cares nothing for others, so that he may live for himself.

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