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i tappeti stesi sotto i suoi piedi sulle aiole

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by William Stein, Aug 30, 2014.

  1. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    Ciao tutti,

    Can anybody help with this phrase between asterisks from Città Invisibili:

    Alle volte il Kan era invece visitato da soprassalti d’euforia. Si sollevava sui cuscini, ***misurava a lunghi passi i tappeti stesi sotto i suoi piedi sulle aiole***, s’affacciava alle
    balaustre delle terrazze per dominare con occhio allucinato la distesa dei giardini della reggia... (http://www.lebellepagine.it/res/site51630/res634539_Calvino-dialoghi-Kan-Marco.pdf)

    [note to the moderator: sorry if this is too long but it's really the minimum context necessary to interpret the phrase in question]

    Does that mean that the servants walk in front of Kubla Khan with a big roll of carpet that they unroll on top of the flower beds as he walks? Or that the carpet is already spread out over the flower beds? But how could carpets be spread out over the flower beds, wouldn't that kill the flowers?
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2014
  2. amatriciana Senior Member

    Venezia
    English - UK and US
    I read it as "(he) paced up and down the carpets spread out beneath his feet on the flower beds", which doesn't seem to imply that servants ran in front of him rolling and unrolling lengths of carpet. As to whether the carpets would kill the flowers, guess it depends on the flowers. Long as the carpets aren't there permanently they might not suffer as much as you'd think. Or maybe the carpets get spread somewhere different everyday, so that the flowers crushed one day just bounce back the next.
     
  3. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    I just got the idea of the servants unrolling the carpet because it seems really weird to have permanent carpets on top of flowerbeds, which would kill them for sure, but maybe they could lay them down on short notice in preparation for the Khan's walk (which would be really weird, too, since it would imply there were no aisles at all between the flowerbeds). Can "aiole" in Italian include the aisles between the flowerbeds or does it have to be the flowerbeds themselves? Also, can any native speakers tell me whether "stesi' could mean "being spread as he walked" or does it have to be the perfect tense (that had been spread). How would you normally express the "being spread as he walked?" Que venivano stesi?
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2014
  4. Mary49

    Mary49 Senior Member

    Padova
    Italian
    Hi,
    I found an English translation of this book here http://monoskop.org/images/0/0e/Calvino_Italo_Invisible_Cities.pdf and this is the text: "At other times, however, the Khan was seized by fits of euphoria. He would rise up on his cushions, measure with
    long strides the carpets spread over the paths at his feet, ...".
    As I supposed, the "aiole" are not made of flowers.
     
  5. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Hi, WS. L'aiuola è una porzione di terreno circoscritta, destinata a verde pubblico, che nei giardini viene destinata a coltivazioni ornamentali.
    E l'elemento che può far pensare che i tappeti venissero srotolati al passaggio del Khan non è la parola stesi da sola, ma l'aggiunta di "sotto i suoi piedi", cioè man mano che lui avanzava. :)
     
  6. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    Mary49: I think the translator was faced with the same embarrassing problem and just tried to avoid it.

    Hi Necsus,

    That's interesting. So auiola could be the whole enclosed garden, including the paths or aisles between the flowerbeds, like here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Villa_torrigiani_di_lucca,_aiuole_01.JPG

    Otherwise it would be like a parody of the Barbarian king who is so brutual he take walks in the middle of the flowerbeds :)


    That's interesting, too. In any case I got the same impression that the servants are unrolling the carpet beneath his feet as he moves forward -- although if he is really pacing back and forth, that might be a problem...
     
  7. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Hmm... William, in my opinion paths or aisles are not included in the aiuole, that are every enclosed meadow among them.
     
  8. TheNameOfAWind

    TheNameOfAWind Senior Member

    Rome <3
    Italian
    No, never :)
    La definizione di aiuola è Striscia di terreno di limitata estensione e forma varia risultante dal tracciato dei viali di un giardino o delle sedi stradali circostanti.
    Anzi, il concetto di aiuola esiste proprio in contrapposizione a una strada che la delimita, è il confine che crea l'aiuola. Un'espressione molto comune nei giardini pubblici è "Vietato calpestare le aiuole", per esempio, e dice precisamente di restare sui viali.

    Detto questo, la frase è interpretabile in entrambi i modi ma io l'ho interpretata come "venivano stesi al suo passaggio".
    1) perché, come fai notare tu, ha più senso :)
    2) perché in italiano "stendere un tappeto ai piedi di qualcuno" è un'espressione molto comune, e sono portata a immaginare la scena con dei servitori.
    3) infine perché, se i tappeti fossero lì da prima non ci sarebbe stato bisogno di specificare che erano "stesi sotto i suoi piedi". Sta camminando sui tappeti: è ovvio che i tappeti sono sotto i suoi piedi. Il khan poteva semplicemente "camminare sui tappeti stesi sulle aiuole". I tappeti sono invece "stesi sotto i suoi piedi", proprio dove i suoi piedi sono in quel momento.
     
  9. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    But don't you think it's bizarre that they would unfold the carpet over the flowers themselves rather than on the paths? I admit that if the Khan has the power of life and death over his subjects he can kill his own flowers, but it still seems strange. According to your definition it should be the whole enclosed area devoted to public greenery, so it might include the pathways, too: una porzione di terreno circoscritta, destinata a verde pubblico, che nei giardini viene destinata a coltivazioni ornamentali

     
  10. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    Hi, I think "Vietato calpestare le aiuole ="Keep off the grass". The aisles/lanes of grass (or whatever) between the flowerbeds are probably what he is walking on (sedi stadali circostanti)
     
  11. TheNameOfAWind

    TheNameOfAWind Senior Member

    Rome <3
    Italian
    Maybe this can help: the concept that "aiuola" is a delimited space separated from the path is so strong in italian that whe call "aiuola" even a traffic divider made of concrete, with no grass or flowers in it.

    Different definitions are, for example:





    Mi viene però in mente che semplicemente le aiuole in questione potrebbero non avere fiori, o avere della ghiaia insieme ai fiori, in questo caso il tappeto serve al Kan per non sporcarsi i piedi quando abbandona il vialetto. :)
     
  12. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Well, actually I read my definition in a slightly different way, that is in the gardens aiuola could be a flowerbed (with flowers = coltivazioni ornamentali), otherwise it is simply an enclosed meadow (only with grass, not flowers).
     
  13. TheNameOfAWind

    TheNameOfAWind Senior Member

    Rome <3
    Italian
    That means aiuola is what you get when you draw a path or a road: what you exclude is an aiuola. You can walk tra le aiuole or you can walk sulle aiuole. In the first case, you're on the path, in the second, you're out of it. I swear.

    edit: necsus, hai ragione, ci sono differenti definizioni (e anche modi di intenderla) ma se hai un quadrato per terra recintato con quelle ringhiere alte dieci centimetri e dentro è tutta ghiaia con una piantina, è comunque un'aiuola, non trovi? Non è che la chiamiamo "piccolo quadrato recintato con una piantina". :) Per questo esistono le espressioni "aiuola fiorita" o o "aiuola di ghiaia" o "aiuola di asfalto".
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2014
  14. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Yes, of course, Name. But in this case I don't think Calvino was referring to 'aiuole di ghiaia o di asfalto'. :)
     
  15. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    Well, if he were walking on the lawn (grass) that's just a meadow or on gravel paths, either one would be fine. The point is that he's not actually walking on top of flowerbeds, right? I mean, it would be easy to imagine a gigantic poppy field like in the Wizard of Oz where the Khan can take long walks, but in that case it wouldn't be called aiuole because there wouldn't be separate flowerbeds separated by paths and it wouldn't be a meadow, either. And if there are flower beds and paths between them, that's when it would really be barbaric to ignore the paths and walk right over the flowers.
     
  16. TheNameOfAWind

    TheNameOfAWind Senior Member

    Rome <3
    Italian
    I think most of the confusion comes from the "flower" in the english word. Italian aiuole can have flowers or grass or gravel or mixed stuff in them, I really don't think he's stepping on daisies or pansies.

    Maybe this aiuola is really big, let's say 10 meters, and in the center of it there's a very unique rose and he wants to smell it. Who knows.
     
  17. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    Right, that's the whole point. Flowerbeds are beds of flowers with nothing else so it wouldn't be a good translation (he would have to be walking on the flowers). "Garden paths" or "garden areas" would be fine. Although I just to talked to a friend who told me that in Sitges, Spain, he saw children strew the path with flowers in front of somebody in a parade. It couldn't be "tappetini di fiori", could it?
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2014
  18. TheNameOfAWind

    TheNameOfAWind Senior Member

    Rome <3
    Italian
    "tappeto di fiori" does exist. It's how you pay homage, for example, to the brides (or kings, or winners). But 1) is "un tappeto di petali", they can't be severals, and 2) you don't "stendi un tappeto di petali" but you throw it, and 3) you have to specify that it is " un tappeto di fiori", and he doesn't: this is an actual carpet.
     
  19. Necsus

    Necsus Senior Member

    Formello (Rome)
    Italian (Italy)
    Nella traduzione inglese (di William Weaver, pag.59) se la sono cavata con 'paths':

    At other times, however, the Khan was seized by fits of
    euphoria. He woud rise up on his cushions, measure with
    long strides the carpets spread over the paths at his feet
     
  20. amatriciana Senior Member

    Venezia
    English - UK and US
    This is probably the most relevant observation -- because, if you take a look at the description of Xanadu attributed to Marco Polo, it talks about a walled-in palatial estate with forest and rivers and meadows.

     
  21. TheNameOfAWind

    TheNameOfAWind Senior Member

    Rome <3
    Italian
    ancora meno probabile, però, che chiami "aiole" i vialetti (ma su questo siamo d'accordo, mi sa :) ) Per me sono semplicemente aiuole d'erba, magari con i fiori ma non ovunque, alla fine i giardini orientali non sono mica distese di violette, no?
    A quanto ho capito però il problema è come dirlo in inglese visto che lì la parola "flower" è veramente aggressiva.

    Un generico "garden" o "prato"? Meno bello di aiuole, meno sbagliato di "paths".
     
  22. amatriciana Senior Member

    Venezia
    English - UK and US
    Here's what it says in Il Milione (the italian version of Marco Polo's travels) about Giandu (Xanadu):

    "E atorno a questo palagio è uno muro ch'è grande 15 miglia, e quivi àe fiumi e fontane e prati assai."

    ("Prati" was translated into "meadows" in English translations of the story.)
     
  23. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    He would rise up on his cushions, is very strange, too. That suggests that he might be riding in a palanquin and sit up to look down at the path below (which they spread carpets over anyway).
    "Paths" is okay as a translation since it could be garden paths but I'm just trying to visualize what's really going on, I don't have to translate it (for once!).
     
  24. CPA Senior Member

    Rome
    British English/Italian biling
    I'd say the "aiole" are areas of grass with flowering shrubs and trees. The Anglo-Saxon concept of "flower beds" didn't really exist in Italy at the time Calvino was writing. Wouldn't know about China in Kublai Khan's day, though.

    As for "rising up on his cushions", "sollevarsi" simply means he pulled himself up from a reclining to a sitting position.
     
  25. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    But how could he do that while he was walking? I think Calvino may have been inspired by this: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-mogul-emperor-babur-indian-school.html

    For those of you who don't read Farsi, it says "Destined to inspire the future Italian novelist Italo Calvino" (just kidding :)
     
  26. CPA Senior Member

    Rome
    British English/Italian biling
    As I read it, those are three separate and distinct examples of his bouts of euphoria. Sometimes he sits up suddenly, sometimes he strides across the lawns, sometimes he leans over the balustrade. It would be a bit hard to do that all at once, wouldn't it? :D
     
  27. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    Maybe, but "sitting up on the cushions" doesn't sound like a great expression of a bout of euphoria, to me (whoppee, I'm so excited I think I'll sit up on my cushions!). What is your explanation of the carpets? Look at the picture, he's sitting up on his cushions and looking down as the servants unfold carpets before him (I'm not sure whether that contraption is a palanquin or not, but the emperor probably couldn't be bothered actually walking on his own power). It's true that looking over the balustrade would probably form a separate action, but he could do that in a palanquin, too.
     
  28. CPA Senior Member

    Rome
    British English/Italian biling
    I'm sure you can sit up in excitement. Also "misurare a grandi passi" definitely means to stride. The carpets were probably laid before him whether he walked or was carried.
     
  29. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    Getting back to the original quote in combination with the picture:
    Alle volte il Kan era invece visitato da soprassalti d’euforia. Si sollevava sui cuscini, ***misurava a lunghi passi i tappeti stesi sotto i suoi piedi sulle aiole***, s’affacciava alle
    balaustre delle terrazze per dominare con occhio allucinato la distesa dei giardini della reggia.

    It could mean that Marco Polo was telling his stories to the Khan sitting on his cushions, and when he got excited he jumped off the platform and started pacing on the carpets. The garden could be terraced, and the thing at the bottom of the picture could be the balustrade, so he could look out over that balustrade at the levels below.


     
  30. amatriciana Senior Member

    Venezia
    English - UK and US
    I guess the idea of terraced gardens is the one that makes the most logical sense, especially since everything is plural (balaustre, terrazze, giardini). Could "aiuole" in that case just be translated as "terraces"? Each aiuola being the "garden" enclosed in/demarcated by the limits of a terrace? So literally,

    "There were times when the Khan was visited instead by bursts of euphoria. He would raise himself up on his cushions, stride up and down the carpets laid beneath his feet on the terraces, turn towards the balustrades and survey, with hallucinated eye, the gardens of his dominion spread out before him."

    Presumably he was otherwise reclining on his cushions, relaxing, so that raising himself up would be a sign of agitation.
     
  31. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    Right, we won't win any speed-reading prizes for that sentence but I think we finally nailed it. Thanks everyone!
     

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