Monday, April 12, 2010

Cinque Favole-Numero Tre: L'Estate Di San Martino

The third story from Beginning Readings In Italian is an early description of Martin of Tours, a 4th century Roman soldier who became St. Martin, patron saint of France and of soldiers.  This version of the story tells how he met two beggars on the road. In other versions, Martin meets only one beggar who is revealed in a dream to be Jesus who says to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me."

According to the Wiki:
During the Middle Ages, the relic of St. Martin’s cloak, (cappa Sancti Martini), conserved at the Marmoutier Abbey, near to Tours, one of the most sacred relics of the Frankish kings, would be carried everywhere the king went, even into battle, as a holy relic upon which oaths were sworn. The cloak is first attested in the royal treasury in 679, when it was conserved at the palatium of Luzarches, a royal villa that was later ceded to the monks of Saint-Denis by Charlemagne, in 798/99.  The priest who cared for the cloak in its reliquary was called a cappellanu, and ultimately all priests who served the military were called cappellani. The French translation is chapelains, from which the English word chaplain is derived. 
Here is the story (in italics ) with my translation following:
L'Estate Di San Martino* 

Nei primi giorni di novembre, San Martino è in viaggio per paesi molto freddi.
Il Santo passa sul suo cavallo coperto dal suo mantello.
      Due poveri mendicanti, mal coperti nei loro poveri cenci estivi, domandano al forte e bel cavaliere la carità.
      Egli sen'altro si leva il mantello, lo taglia con la spada in due parti e ne porge una al mendicante più vicino.
      --E a me?--domanda l’altro mendicante--non date nulla signore?"
      Martino allora, con la spada, taglia la metà rimasta del mantello e porge al mendicante la quarta parte del mantello intero.
      Il primo mendicante ha metà del mantello, il Santo e l’altro mendicante un quarto del mantello ciascuno e così il sacrificio del Santo è inutile perchè, col freddo che fa, nessuno è ben riparto e tutti soffrono.
      Allora il buon Dio comanda a Novembre di rasserenare il cielo e di mitigare l’aria per tutta la durate del viaggio di Martino.
      E siccome Dio non ritira piu il suo ordine, i primi giorni di novembre sono sempre rallegrati da un tepido sole. Noi chiamiamo quest’epoca l’estate di San Martino.
*The title, L'Estate di San Martino, translates directly into English as Indian Summer.

In early November, Saint Martin travels to countries that are very cold.
The Saint is on horseback covered by a cloak.
Two poor beggars, ill-clothed in poor summer rags, beg (lit. ask for charity) from the strong and handsome rider.
Without hesitation he takes off his cloak, and with his sword he cuts the cloak into two parts and gives half to the nearest beggar.
And the other beggar asks-"And to me sir--you give me nothing?
Then Martin, again with his sword, cuts the remaining half of the cloak and gives the second beggar a quarter of the whole mantle.
The first beggar has half of the mantle; the second beggar and the saint each have the other quarter of the mantle and so the Saint's sacrifice is useless because, with the cold, no one is well-suited and everyone suffers.
Then God commanded November to brighten the sky and to mitigate the air for the entire duration of Martin's travel.
And since God does not rescind his orders, the first days of November are always cheered by a warm sun. We call this season Indian Summer.*


  1. I only know of St. Martin from the song, "Martin Said To His Man." This, in ancient sheet music; and a recording here (third from the top). (How odd that so much of this music is archived on a Vietnamese site.) Thanks.

  2. Hector: Are you sure that's related?

    I do see a connection in the 6th verse to Il Sorcetto. :)

  3. Not sure, it's just tradition that Martin in the song is St Martin … but …

    I suspect the "who's the fool" motif comes from this: "the Saint's sacrifice is useless because, with the cold, no one is wel-suited and everyone suffers." Which makes Martin a holy fool, no? So it may well be a point of contention between him, who has cut up his cloak so small that the pieces are useless, and his servant, who has an eye on the practical nature of things, as to which is the fool. Martin, being an aristocrat, naturally thinks that he is the wiser; the servant, or in the versions you cite, pauper met on the road, takes a contrary view, especially after watching the cloak being cut so small.

    The song is fun to sing, anyway, and after filling a few cups and cans, theology and hagiography recede into the bronze distance.