Through the Barricades



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There is a song by Spandau Ballet that I really love: «Through the Barricades». It is the story of a young man and a young woman who love each other. They live in Northern Ireland during the period of the armed conflict in the Seventies and Eighties, and while one is a Protestant, the other is a Catholic. The story is nothing more than a modern version of Romeo and Juliet. The two families are on opposing sides, and in fact they hinder the love of the two youths, but they are not afraid to cross the barricades that mark the border and meet in the no man’s land between the two communities in struggle.

The whole song takes place at the rhythm of the drums that resemble a parade but also the armies marching at a time of war. The ending is tragic, as in the drama of Shakespeare, although it is not clear whether the two eventually kill themselves or are simply forced to leave. The song merely says that their hearts walk towards their graves.

In the web there are several translation of this song in Italian, but none satisfied me. They are generally too literal and they do not make clear the context and the true meaning of the song. So I decided to try it myself, that is, to translate the lyrics but sacrificing the precision of the literal translation to gain clarity as well as fluidity and style too. I hope I succeeded. I will enclose below both the English lyrics and the Italian translation, as well as some explanatory notes1.

ENGLISH ITALIANO
Mother doesn’t know where love has gone
She says it must be youth
That keeps us feeling strong
See it in her face, that’s turned to ice
And when she smiles she shows
The lines of sacrifice
And now I know what they’re saying
When the sun begins to fade
And we made our love on wasteland
And through the barricades
Mia madre non sa dove sia finito l’amore
Lei dice che dev’essere la gioventù
Che ci fa sentire ancora forti
Lo vedi nella sua faccia, che si è fatta di ghiaccio
E quando lei sorride mostra
Le rughe dei sacrifici fatti
E ora so cosa stanno dicendo
Quando il sole comincia a svanire
E abbiamo costruito il nostro amore sul nulla
E attraverso le barricate
Father made my history
He fought for what he thought
Would set us somehow free
He taught me what to say in school
I learned off by heart
But now that’s torn in two
And now I know what they’re saying
In the music of the parade
We made our love on wasteland
And through the barricades
Mio padre ha fatto la mia storia
Ha combattuto per quello che pensava
Ci avrebbe resi in qualche modo liberi
Mi insegnò cosa dire a scuola
L’ho imparato a memoria
Ma ora tutto ciò è andato distrutto
Ed ora so cosa stanno dicendo
Nella musica della parata
Abbiamo costruito il nostro amore sul nulla
E attraverso le barricate
Born on different sides of life
We feel the same
And feel all of this strife
So come to me when I’m asleep
We’ll cross the line
And dance upon the street
And now I know what they’re saying
When the drums begin to fade
We made our love on wasteland
And through the barricades
Nati sulle diverse sponde della vita
Proviamo gli stessi sentimenti
E sentiamo tutto di questa guerra
Quindi vieni da me quando sono addormentato
Attraverseremo il confine
E balleremo sulla strada
E ora so cosa stanno dicendo
Quando i tamburi iniziano a svanire
Abbiamo costruito il nostro amore sul nulla
E attraverso le barricate
Oh, turn around and I’ll be there
There’s a scar through my heart
But I’ll bare it again
I thought we were the human race
But we were just another border-line-case
And the stars reach down and tell us
That there’s always one escape
Oh, voltati e io ci sarò
C’è una cicatrice che attraversa il mio cuore
Ma io mi metterò a nudo di nuovo
Pensavo fossimo la razza umana
Ma eravamo solo un altro caso limite
E le stelle si protendono verso di noi e ci dicono
Che c’è sempre una via di fuga
I don’t know where love has gone
And in this trouble land
Desperation keep us strong
Friday’s child is full of soul2
With nothing left to lose
There’s everything to go
Non so dove l’amore sia andato
E in questa terra afflitta
La disperazione ci mantiene forti
I bambini che nascono di venerdì sono pieni di sentimento2
Non avendo ormai nulla da perdere
Ci sono tutte le ragioni per andarsene
And now I know what they’re are saying
It’s a terrible beauty we’ve made
So we make our love on wasteland
And through the barricades
E ora so cosa stanno stanno dicendo
Abbiamo fatto qualcosa di meraviglioso
Così costruiamo il nostro amore sul nulla
E attraverso le barricate
Now I know what they’re are saying
as hearts go to their graves3
we made our love on wasteland
And through the barricades.
Ora so quello che stanno stanno dicendo
Come cuori che vanno verso le loro tombe3
Abbiamo costruito il nostro amore sul nulla
E attraverso le barricate.

  1. I wish to thank Teng, Anja.Ann, Mary49, Elfa of Wordreference forum for their help in the understanding of the English text. Any error is left is obviously my fault.
  2. Friday’s child” probably refers to the nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child” and in particular to the verse «Friday’s child is loving and giving».
  3. It is not clear if the war finally manages to kill their love, or rather the two youths commit suicide because their families and communities do not allow them to love each other.

Comments (2) to «Through the Barricades»

  1. Andrea says:

    I testi delle canzoni dovrebbero essere tradotti tutti così. Bravo/a 😀

  2. catch says:

    Secondo me “wasteland” significa “terra non fertile”.
    Il significato è però positivo: sono riusciti a costruire il loro amore sulla terra non fertile ed attraverso le barricate.

    Anche il finale è postivo. “As” significa, in questo caso “mentre”.
    Cioè: mentre ci sono cuori che vanno verso le loro tombe, loro invece sono riusciti a costruire il loro amore anche su terra infertile ed attarverso le barricate.

    Tutto il testo, d’altra parte, predica quanto la disperazione li abbia fatti più forti, e che c’è sempre una via etc.

    Tu sei troppo tragico. Non è l’età di shakespeare questa.

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