Paul Archer - photo Paul Archer - poet, translator



Nasty old women

Nasty old women, good for nothing
Except to yap-yap-yap in the plaza,
Flying off, flying off, flying off the handle,
Nasty old women, cantakerous and crazy!

English translation by Paul Archer of the text of Vecchie letrose by Adriano Willaert (1490-1562). Published in Canzone villanesche alla napolitana, No. 5 1545. The composer was born in West Flanders but from the age of twenty-five until his death he lived in Italy, and held the post of Maestro di cappella at St Mark's in Venice. See the copyright notice below.

Vecchie letrose

Vecchie letrose nun valete niente
Se non a far l'aguaito per la chiazza
Tira, tira, tira, tira tir'alla mazza
Vecchie letrose, scannarose e pazze!

Recording. Marco Beasley and Accordone, from the CD Storie di Napoli. In the booklet there is a useful explanation of 'tira la mazza' which comes from a proverb that advises against adding more damage to the damage already done. As the text is in the Neapolitan dialect and Marco is from Naples, this version captures very well the spirit of the piece:

For this recording, Marco Beasley added the two verses below which he has written himself. If you wish to use these for performance or recording, please contact him via his website:

Vecchie letrose vui parlate a 'o viento
Se vuje strillate comm'a tre vajasse
Molla, molla, molla la nassa
Vecchie letrose 'nzallanute e fesse.

Vecchie letrose nun sapite niente
E sulamente 'o sbraito a vui v'azzitta.
Curre, curre, curre appriesso 'a jatta
Vecchie letrose viato a cchi ve schiatta.

English translation by Paul Archer:

Nasty old women, you talk to the wind,
Screaming like a bunch of fishwives,
Shut up, shut up, shut your traps,
Nasty old women, daft and demented.

Nasty old women, you know nothing,
And only someone tougher than you can shut you up.
Run off, run off, run off after the cats,
Nasty old women, bless him who gets rid of you.

Copyright notice. The translation is provided as an aid to musicians and audiences. Publication of the translation in print or digital formats is expressly forbidden unless permission from the author has been first obtained and acknowledgement of authorship is duly made. Permission will usually be granted so please contact Paul Archer with details of how you wish to make use of the translation.

For more translations into English of early music texts, go to:
Translations of early music texts.

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