The Locomotive

Author of the image unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Locomotiva 

By Francesco Guccini 

Translated from the Italian by Duncan Riley 

 

I don’t know what he looked like, or even what his name was, 

What voice he spoke with, which voice he sung with, 

How old he was then, what color his hair was, 

But in my imagination I see his image, 

Heroes are all young and beautiful, 

Heroes are all young and beautiful, 

Heroes are all young and beautiful…

 

Instead I know the epoch of the events, what his trade was: 

The first years of the century, engine-man, railroad worker, 

The times in which he started out, the holy war of the beggars,

The train as well seemed to be a myth of progress, 

Thrown out across the continents, 

Thrown out across the continents, 

Thrown out across the continents… 

 

And the locomotive seemed to be a strange monster, 

That man dominated with thought and with the hand: 

Roaring it left behind it distances that seemed infinite, 

It seemed to have within it a tremendous power, 

The same force as dynamite, 

The same force as dynamite, 

The same force as dynamite. 

 

But then another great force spread its wings, 

Words that said “all men are equal,” 

And against the kings and the tyrants, 

The proletarian bomb burst in the streets, 

And a light shone in the air, 

The torch of anarchy, 

The torch of anarchy, 

The torch of anarchy… 

 

Every day a train passed through his station, 

A train of luxury, a distant destination:

He saw revered persons, he thought about the velvet, the gold, 

He thought about the meagre day of his people around him. 

He thought it was a train full of bosses, 

He thought it was a train full of bosses, 

He thought it was a train full of bosses. 

 

I don’t know what happened, why he made the decision, 

Maybe an ancient rage, nameless generations

That hurled a vendetta, blinded his heart: 

He forgot compassion, forgot his good-nature, 

His bomb the steam engine, 

His bomb the steam engine, 

His bomb the steam engine… 

 

And the locomotive was on the track, 

The pulsing engine seemed to be a living thing, 

It seemed to be a young colt that as soon as the break was released

Bit the rail with muscles of steel, 

WIth the blind force of lightning, 

With the blind force of lightning, 

With the blind force of lightning. 

 

It’s a day like the others, but maybe with more rage in the body, 

He thought he had the way to repair some injustice. 

He climbed up on the sleeping monster, he tried to drive away his fear. 

And before thinking about what he was about to do, 

The monster was devouring the plain, 

The monster was devouring the plain, 

The monster was devouring the plain… 

 

The other train continued on without knowing, almost without haste, 

No one imagined they were going towards a vendetta, 

But at Bologna station the news arrived in a flash of lighting: 

“News of emergency, act with urgency,

A madman has thrown himself against the train, 

A madman has thrown himself against the train, 

A madman has thrown himself against the train…” 

 

But in the meanwhile the locomotive runs, runs, runs

And the vapor whistles and it seems to be a living thing, 

And the whistle that expands in the air seems to say to the peasants bent over in the fields, 

“Brother, don’t be afraid, I’m going towards my duty!

Proletarian justice triumphs! 

Proletarian justice triumphs!

Proletarian justice triumphs!” 

 

And in the meantime it runs, runs, runs always stronger, 

And it runs, runs, runs, towards death, 

And no one now can contain the immense destructive force, 

He only waits the crash and than to reach the mantle, 

Of the great consolatrix, 

Of the great consolatrix, 

Of the great consolatrix… 

 

The story is told as if it’s over, 

The engine derailed along a dead end line… 

With its last animal cry the engine erupted lapilli and lava, 

It exploded against the sky, then the smoke lifted its veil: 

When they found him, he was still breathing, 

When they found him, he was still breathing, 

When they found him, he was still breathing… 

 

But we like to think of him still behind the motor, 

While he makes the steam engine run away, 

And may the news still reach us one day, 

Of a locomotive, like a living thing, 

Hurled like a bomb against injustice, 

Hurled like a bomb against injustice, 

Hurled like a bomb against injustice! 

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