Preghiera in gennaio: listen to life and you will save it

A piece of italian culture that is worth it to know

Preghiera in gennaio

Prayer. We commonly associate this term to religion. This word is usually seen as synonym of “Supplication”. We pray in order to ask. We refer to someone who, in our mind, has got the power to fulfill our wishes and hopes. However, not all prayer speak the same language. Let’s focus on “Preghiera in gennaio”, or “Prayer in January”.

Preghiera in gennaio: what’s this piece about?

We’re talking about one of the most significant songs of the Italian artist Fabrizio De André. It is contained in the album “Preghiera in gennaio- Si chiamava Gesù” (“Prayer in January- his name was Jesus”). The author, also known as Faber, wrote this song in 1967, after going through a tragedy. The loss of his friend and colleague Luigi Tenco, who committed suicide. This difficult moment drew a deep wound in the singer’s soul. So, he converted his pain in poetry. “Preghiera in gennaio” is not just a dedication to Luigi Tenco. It’s rather a reflection about death and suicide. And, of course, the way society consider this topic.

Textual analysis 

“I wrote this song for Luigi Tenco. When someone dies, it’s like sense of guilt hits those who keep breathing. So, I felt like I had to do something to pay homage to him. I did it the way it fits me better: by writing”. This is a translated extract of De André’s speech about this piece. The song’s words are insparide by the french poet Francis Jammes. This author, in his poetry “Prière pour aller au Paradis avec les ânes” (“Prayer to go to heaven with donkeys”), utilizes those animals as metaphor. Donkeys are often associated related to ignorance and stubbornness. People frequently consider them shameful creatures. Just like some kind of persons, too many times hidden in the shadow.

“Preghiera in gennaio”: fist part

“Lascia che sia fiorito
Signore, il suo sentiero
Quando a te la sua anima
E al mondo la sua pelle
Dovrà riconsegnare
Quando verrà al tuo cielo
Là dove in pieno giorno
Risplendono le stelle

Quando attraverserà
L’ultimo vecchio ponte
Ai suicidi dirà
Baciandoli alla fronte
Venite in Paradiso
Là dove vado anch’io
Perché non c’è l’inferno
Nel mondo del buon Dio”

Translation and analysis

“May blossoms adorn
his pathway, Lord,
when to you his spirit
and to the world his skin
he’ll have to hand back in,
when he comes to your heaven,
there where in broad daylight
the stars shine bright.
When he crosses
the last old bridge,
to the suicides he will say,
kissing them on the forehead,
“Come you all to Paradise,
there where I too am going,
because there’s no Hell
in the world of the good Lord”

“Preghiera in gennaio” starts with an invocation. Fabrizio De André uses the term “Lord”. By the way, he doesn’t refer to a precis God. He doesn’t mention the God who catholics or other religious people venerate. He rather wants to speak to an abstract creature. A heavenly creature who gave life to human beings. And accept them for who they are. It recognizes pain. It doesn’t judge sufference. That’s why we can easily get a critique against Catholic Church. Catholicism condemns suicide. In many cases, priests deny to celebrate funeral to suicide victims. By acting like this, this religion just misses the point. It does not consider people who commit suicide as victims. Quite the contraty, it’s essential to focus on pain. Feeling and trying to underestand someone else’s sufference is the key. The key to prevent suicide.

Second part

“Fate che giunga a Voi
Con le sue ossa stanche
Seguito da migliaia
Di quelle facce bianche
Fate che a voi ritorni
Fra i morti per oltraggio
Che al cielo ed alla terra
Mostrarono il coraggio
Signori benpensanti
Spero non vi dispiaccia
Se in cielo, in mezzo ai Santi
Dio, fra le sue braccia
Soffocherà il singhiozzo
Di quelle labbra smorte
Che all’odio e all’ignoranza
Preferirono la morte”

The Italian music history from 1979 to 1985 expressed in the book “Shock Antistatico”

Translation and analysis

“Make it so he joins You
with his tired bones,
followed by thousands
of those white faces.
Make it so he returns to You,
in contempt among the dead
who to heaven and to earth
displayed their courage.
All you right-thinking sirs,
I hope it doesn’t displease you
if in heaven, in midst of the Saints,
God, in his embrace,
will hush the sob
of those pale lips
that, over hatred and ignorance,
preferred death”

We could sum this part of “Preghiera in Gennaio” in one word: love. In all its shades. The God the author is mentioning shows its affectionion through actions. By embracing its daughters and sons who struggled on Earth. This is how it creates a safe place. A hug where every tear will be dried. In the “World of the good Lord” there’s no judgment in sufference. De André describes a real heaven. Many religions call this way the afterlife location where only those who “Used to behave properly” during their earthly life will be allowed to access. And to “Behave properly” they mean “Respecting religious canons”. The artis destroys this attidude. He rather gives the chance to enjoy afterlife to everyone. Because every single human being deserves to be loved. And to be serene.

Third part of “Preghiera in Gennaio”

“Dio di misericordia
Il tuo bel Paradiso
L’hai fatto soprattutto
Per chi non ha sorriso
Per quelli che han vissuto
Con la coscienza pura
L’inferno esiste solo
Per chi ne ha paura
Meglio di lui nessuno
Mai ti potrà indicare
Gli errori di noi tutti
Che puoi e vuoi salvare
Ascolta la sua voce
Che ormai canta nel vento
Dio di misericordia
Vedrai, sarai contento
Dio di misericordia
Vedrai, sarai contento”

Translation and analysis

“God of mercy,
your beautiful Paradise
you have made, above all,
for whoever didn’t smile,
for those who lived
with a clear conscience.
Hell exists only
for those who fear it.
None better than he
can ever show you
the errors of us all,
whom you can and do want to save.
Listen to his voice
that now sings in the wind.
God of mercy,
you will see, you will be pleased.
God of mercy,
you will see, you will be pleased”

The ones who struggle often wonder if there will ever be an end to pain. We don’t want to answer this question. We just want to consider something. In order to to end up sufference, we have to understand it. People frequently try to avoid what they call “Negative thoughts”. Believing that, acting like this, they will ease their pain. The truth is nothing is so simple. And keeping away struggling thoughts only adds fuel to fire. In other words: it makes thinks worst. On the other hand, analyzing sufference offers us they key to serenity. Sadly, dealing with hard situations is part of life. And happiness is not an aim. We could rather define it a transitional state of mind. In these verses of “Preghiera in Gennaio”, the artist exhorts us to listen those who really know pain.

A message from 1967

“None better than he can ever show youthe errors of us all, whom you can and do want to save. Listen to his voice”. With “He”, De André refers to Luigi Tenco. However, we can consider this “He” as universal. It includes all suicidal people. Everly single person who dealt with suicidal thoughts. Everyone who knows deep pain. Nowdays, we still have a bad attitude. We claim to know what’s in someone else’s mind. We judge it and belittle it. This is a toxic behaviour that conducts people to suicide. The question is: why? Why do we act this why? Why are we part of the problem, when everyone of us could be part of the solution? That’s what the author is telling us. He’s trying to talk about the importance of pain.

When someone we care about committes suicide we feel powerless. More than in front of every other kind of death. A sentence that we hear many times is: “I didn’t notice anything particular”. Referred to someon who killd his/herself. Well, this happens because we often don’t pay attention to details. We take everything for granted and don’t listen in an active way. So, is there a remedy? Yes, there is. We could save many lives by listening. By stopping to judge and belittle soemeone else’s thoughts. Just focus on feelings. Be open. Show your love. And remember: something you consider little could mean the world to other people.


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