Home > Uncategorized > Upton Sinclair: The lost people are those who go to be shot, killed in big war (Dante through Vanzetti)

Upton Sinclair: The lost people are those who go to be shot, killed in big war (Dante through Vanzetti)


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Upton Sinclair: Selections on war


Upton Sinclair

From Boston (1928)


“You learn little bit,” said Vanzetti, “I maka you onderstand heem Italian. No can make Engleesh, spoil beutifool sound. You hear heem – listen, Miz’ Cornella.” He began to recite, lingering over every syllable, sounding all the vowels broad and long, as the Italians do:

Per me si va nell città dolente;

Per me si va nell’ eterno dolore;

Per me si va tra la perduta gente.

Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore.

“He sadda man,” said Vanzetti; “never soocha sorrowful man live on eart’. He called it l’inferno – lika you say American, ‘hella,’ but not for curse-word, Miz’ Cornella, you know what the priesta teach, da place for punish badda men.”

“I understand.”

But you no believa da priest, it is all same hella here, what badda men maka for poor man, killa da people in war. You reada Dante, you no t-ink inferno, you t’ink Italia, you t-ink America, here, now. So he say” – and the speaker repeated the verses, and painfully worked out their English equivalent:

By me to go into da sadda city;

By me you go into da endless sorrow;

By me you go among da losta people.

Joostice it move-èd him, my great maker.

It is a fact that much great poetry has been written in the dialects of the poor and humble; it is a fact that Dante’s own dialect was that, until he made it a world-language. But Cornelia did not know this, and did not realize that the Italian ditch-digger was making good poetry of his own. She only knew that she was managing to understand what his teacher meant to him: “Perduta gente, Miz’ Cornella – it is not people what deny the priest and go hella, it is people what is poor and no got friend, go for be shot, and kill-èd in bigga war. Dat is perduta gente, losta people; for soocha people it maka me tears in da heart.”

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