Ritmo bellunese

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The Ritmo bellunese or Cantilena bellunese is a brief vernacular Italian passage in an anonymous fragment of a medieval Latin chronicle of events in the history of Belluno between 1183 and 1196. From circa 1198, it is the earliest securely datable text in an Italian vernacluar.[1] It is preserved in manuscript in the Catalogo de Vescovi (bishops' catalogue) of the Museo Civico (civic museum) in Belluno.

The Ritmo consists in a single hendecasyllabic quatrain surrounded by prose. The German historian Phillipp August Becker argued that it was not in fact verse, and Carlo Salvioni believed it was composed of alexandrines. It is not strictly syllabic, but the rhyme scheme is clear.[2] It forms part of the narration of the war Belluno and its ally Feltre waged against Treviso, in which they acquired territory in the proximity of the latter (1193). There is no transition between prose and verse, nor between Latin and vernacular. The four lines describe the destruction of Casteldardo, a Trevisan outpost near Trichiana, which was dismantled and its parts thrown into the river Ardo. The capture of six Trevisan knights is also boasted:

De Castel d'Ard havi   li nostri bona part:
i lo zetta tutto   intro lo flumo d'Ard:
e sex cavaler   de Tarvis li plui fer
con sé duse   li nostri cavaler.[3]
Of Castel d'Ardo got   ours a good part:
they threw it all   into the river Ardo:
and six knights   of Treviso the strongest
alongside themselves escorted   our knights.[4]

Linguistically, the text is in a form of Venetian (in which it is called the Ritmo Belumat or Belunéxe), as indicated by the conjugation of the third person masculine with the clitic i (as in i lo zetta, which in modern Venetian would be i lo ga getà or i l'à getà) and the northern tendency to lose final vowels (as in Ard, part, cavaler). The preterite tense, now all but disappeared in Italian, is used (as in duse).[5]


  1. ^ Ireneo Sanesi dated it no later than 1196, cf. Angelo Monteverdi, "Melius est submergi quam mori: Storia di un motto satirico del sec. XII",Giornale storico della letteratura italiana, 90:268/269 (1927), 209.
  2. ^ Giulio Bertoni, "La più antica versificazione italiana", Giornale storico della letteratura italiana, 113:339 (1939), 260.
  3. ^ Giambattista Pellegrini's transcription looks like this:
    De Castel d'Ard av li nost bona part.
    i lo getàtut intro lo flum d'Ard.
    sex cavaler de Tarvis li pui fer
    con sé dusé li nostre cavaler.
  4. ^ Translated from Italian translation at Wikisource.
  5. ^ Arrigo Castellani, I più antichi testi italiani: edizione e commento (Bologna: Pàtron, 1973), cited in the Italian Wikipedia article.


  • In Rime giullaresche e popolari d'Italia. Vincenzo de Bartholomaeis, ed. Bologna: Zanichelli, 1926.
  • In Carlo Salvioni. "Ancora del Cavassico: la cantilena bellunese del 1193". Nozze Cian=Sappa-Flandinet. Bergamo: 1894.