Song texts and translations for Berio’s “Folk Songs”

Folk Songs by Luciano Berio

1. Black is the color

Black is the color

Of my true love’s hair,

His lips are something rosy fair,

The sweetest smile

And the kindest hands;

I love the grass whereon he stands.

I love my love and well he knows,

I love the grass where on he goes;

If he no more on earth will be,

’Twill surely be the end of me.

Black is the color, etc.

2. I wonder as I wander

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

How Jesus our Savior did come for to die

For poor orn’ry people like you and like I,

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow stall

With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all,

But high from the Heavens a star’s light did fall

The promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted of any wee thing

A star in the sky or a bird on the wing

Or all of God’s angels in Heav’n for to sing

He surely could have had it ’cause he was the king.

3. Loosin yelav

Loosin yelav ensareetz

Saree partzòr gadareetz

Shegleeg megleeg yeresov

Pòrvetz kedneen loosni dzov.

Jan a loosin

Jan ko loosin

Jan ko gòlor sheg yereseen

Xavarn arten tchòkatzav

Oo el kedneen tchògatzav

Loosni loosov halatzvadz

Moot amberi metch mònadz.

Jan a loosin, etc.

The moon has risen

The moon has risen over the hill,

over the top of the hill,

its red rosy face

casting radiant light on the ground.

O dear moon

with your dear light

and your dear, round, rosy face!

Before, the darkness lay

spread upon the earth;

moonlight has now chased it

into the dark clouds.

O dear moon, etc.

4. Rossignolet du bois

Rossignolet du bois,

Rossignolet sauvage,

Apprends-moi ton langage,

Apprends-moi-z à parler,

Apprends-moi la manière

Comment il faut aimer.

Comment il faut aimer

Je m’en vais vous le dire,

Faut chanter des aubades

Deux heures après minuit,

Faut lui chanter: ‘La belle,

C’est pour vous réjouir’.

On m’avait dit, la belle,

Que vous avez des pommes,

Des pommes de renettes

Qui sont dans vot’ jardin.

Permettez-moi, la belle,

Que j’y mette la main.

Non, je ne permettrai pas

Que vous touchiez mes pommes,

Prenez d’abord la lune

Et le soleil en main,

Puis vous aurez les pommes

Qui sont dans mon jardin.

Little nightingale

Little nightingale of the woods,

little wild nightingale,

teach me your secret language,

teach me how to speak like you,

show me the way

to love aright.

The way to love aright

I can tell you straight away,

you must sing serenades

two hours after midnight,

you must sing to her: ‘My pretty one.

This is for your delight.’

They told me, my pretty one,

that you have some apples,

some rennet apples,

growing in your garden.

Allow me, my pretty one,

to touch them.

No, I shall not allow you

to touch my apples.

First, hold the moon

and the sun in your hands,

then you may have the apples

that grow in my garden

5. A la femminisca

E Signuruzzu miù faciti bon tempu

Ha iu l’amanti miù’mmezzu lu mari

L’arvuli d’oru e li ntinni d’argentu

La Marunnuzza mi l’av’aiutari.

Chi pozzanu arrivòri ‘nsarvamentu

E comu arriva ‘na littra

Ma fari ci ha mittiri du duci paroli

Comu ti l’ha passatu mari, mari.

May the Lord send fine weather

May the Lord send fine weather,

for my sweetheart is at sea;

his mast is of gold, his sails of silver.

May Our Lady give me her help,

so that they get back safely.

And if a letter arrives,

may there be two sweet words written,

telling me how it goes with you at sea.

6. La donna ideale

L’omo chi mojer vor piar,

De quattro cosse de’e spiar.

La primiera è com’el è naa,

L’altra è se l’è ben accostumaa,

L’altra è como el è forma,

La quarta è de quanto el è dotaa.

Se queste cosse ghe comprendi

A lo nome di Dio la prendi.

The ideal woman

When a man has a mind to take a wife,

there are four things he should check:

the first is her family,

the second is her manners,

the third is her figure,

the fourth is her dowry.

If she passes muster on these,

then, in God’s name, let him marry her!

7. Ballo

La la la la la la …

Amor fa disviare li più saggi

E chi più l’ama meno ha in sé misura

Più folle è quello che più s’innamura.

La la la la la la…

Amor non cura di fare suoi dannaggi

Co li suoi raggi mette tal cafura

Che non può raffreddare per freddura.


La la la la la …

Love makes even the wisest mad,

and he who loves most has least judgement.

The greater love is the greater fool.

La la la la la …

Love is careless of the harm he does.

His darts cause such a fever

that not even coldness can cool it.

8. Motettu de tristura

Tristu passirillanti

Comenti massimbillas.

Tristu passirillanti

E puita mi consillas

A prongi po s’amanti.

Tristu passirillanti

Cand’ happess interrada

Tristu passirillanti

Faimi custa cantada

Cand’ happess interrada

Song of sadness

Sorrowful nightingale

how like me you are!

Sorrowful nightingale,

console me if you can

as I weep for my lover.

Sorrowful nightingale,

when I am buried,

sorrowful nightingale,

sing this song

when I am buried

9. Malurous qu’o uno fenno

Malurous qu’o uno fenno,

Maluros qué n’o cat!

Qué n’o cat n’en bou uno

Qué n’o uno n’en bou pas!

Tradèra ladèrida rèro, etc.

Urouzo lo fenno

Qu’o l’omé qué li cau!

Urouz inquéro maito

O quèlo qué n’o cat!

Tradèra ladèrida rèro, etc.

Wretched is he

Wretched is he who has a wife,

wretched is he who has not!

He who hasn’t got one wants one,

he who has not, doesn’t!

Tralala tralala, etc.

Happy the woman

who has the man she wants!

Happier still is she

who has no man at all!

Tralala tralala, etc.

10. Lo fiolaire

Ton qu’èrè pitchounèlo

Gordavè loui moutous,

Lirou lirou lirou …

Lirou la diri tou tou la lara.

Obio n’o counoulhèto

É n’ai près un postrou.

Lirou lirou, etc.

Per fa lo biroudèto

Mè domond’ un poutou.

Lirou lirou, etc.

E ièu soui pas ingrato:

En lièt d’un nin fau dous!

Lirou lirou, etc.

The spinner

When I was a little girl

I tended the sheep.

Lirou lirou lirou …

Lirou la diri tou tou la lara.

I had a little staff

and I called a shepherd to me.

Lirou lirou, etc.

For looking after my sheep

he asked me for a kiss.

Lirou lirou, etc.

And I, not one to be mean,

Gave him two instead of one.

Lirou lirou, etc.

11. Azerbaijan love song

[Transcription defies translation.]