LOPHIUS - Bore Poddighe, a Poet Censored

Poddighe’s best informed biographer so far is Giampaolo Mura (Sa Mundana Cummedia, a cura di Giampaolo Mura, Editrice Sarda Artigiana, Cagliari, 1980). Most of the following derives from his book.

Salvatore (‘Bore’) Poddighe was born in Sassari on 6 January 1871 and – as any Sardinian biographer will stress – was brought as soon as possible to his family village Dualchi to become Bore Poddighe ‘su Dualchese’. He lived in the village until his eighteenth year. His father, Bachisio, was a farm hand who enjoyed some fame as a poet. Among other poems an ode to his fiancée and future wife has been preserved.
A cousin taught Salvatore to read and to write. He remained a great reader throughout his life, but was mocked by some poets in their traditional contests for his lack of education.
Once eighteen he moved to Iglesiente, in the South of Sardinia, to work in the mines. By this time he had already become a well-known poet and improvisator at country fairs and he was able to supplement his miner’s income by selling his own work. In 1910 he tried his luck in Turin, but had to return to the island, as his wife was unable to overcome homesickness and fell ill. He may have participated, as so many desperate jobseekers, in a “cultivation” project in Tunisia.
The first part of the Mundana Cummedia was finished in 1917. It was published by Tipografia Varsi in Iglesias, in an edition of 1000 copies. In 1924 all three parts were published, also by Varsi, in 3500 copies, an extraordinarily large edition.

Anticlericalism was a common feature among Sardinian poets, ungodly verses as usual as the gosos (religious poetry), says Mura, who however points out Poddighe’s originality in not contrasting religious theory with practice, but rejecting the whole idea outright. Just fairy tales, meant to hide the truth, being that paradise is now - provided the abolishment of private ownership. Poddighe was a socialist. Some verses (I, 55 e.v.), Mura says, have probably been inserted to avoid being taken for an anarchist. At the end of the Cummedia the poet appeals to the rich to return to the friendship they once – in their youth – shared with the poor kids. Clearly evidencing his rural background, is the biographer’s comment.

In 1932 the fascists, instigated by the council of Sardinian bishops, took on the island’s popular poets. In 1935 Poddighe became the victim of an ordine di sequestro dell’opera. The quaestor of Cagliari, Laudadio (the name means ‘Praise God’), prohibited the distribution of his work. The meaning of one more life had been cancelled. Poddighe descended into depression and after three years he ended his life. His youngest son, Virgilio (Virgil was Dante’s guide in the Divina Commedia ) was 21 at the time of his death. In the Fifties Virgilio succeeded after many efforts to have an expurgated reprint of the Mundana Cummedia published.

Currently the book is not available in the bookshops, nor is Mura’s edition and biography. Several publications of the Cummedia have however appeared on the Web. Thank goodness for Internet.


For the Dutch and English translation of the Cummedia I used the text of the “Popular Publication”, an A6-size booklet with a paper cover I bought at the Nuoro bus station from the publisher, Antonio Cuccu, himself. I checked the text with the version published on the excellent Sardinian poetry site Ichnussa (http://www.poesias.it/). Main deviations, verses II, 12 and II, 42 have been so indicated.

I did my best to translate as literally as possible. Sardinian poems are meant to be sung with a sympathetically growling choir falling in at well-defined intervals. At particularly elegant variations of well-known themes, or after a well-served clause, the public applauds. At parties it may also whistle or even scream. The translation does not render any of this. The enjambements, very important for the delivery of the point, I preserved as far as syntax allowed it - and often also beyond syntactical limits, bringing the masterpiece down to the level of a Dutch St. Nicholas-rhyme. A wished-for advantage may be that the reader will turn her attention to the source and may learn her first sardo vocabulary and grammar, comparing words between the two columns.

Furthermore, I want to make an appeal to the readers. When you find an error or think up some improvement, please let me know (via the e-mail address below). Your contribution will be acknowledged with a footnote.