52 Ancestors: An Italian Lullaby

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

I am not sure why but as soon as I saw that this week’s theme was Music, I immediately thought of the lullaby that my Italian grandmother used to sing to me when I was a baby. Of course, she sang it to me in Italian. I don’t know why I even remember it, as I was so very young. The first two lines and the melody run through my head whenever I think about it. I knew I had to write about this lullaby.

So how do I search for something that I only know an imprecise phonetic reproduction of what I thought were the first two lines? Today’s search engines are amazing. After numerous tries, I finally came up with some results that gave me the rest of the lyrics. Of course, in Italian. It is titled “Nina Nana Bel Popin.” Now I had to find an English translation. Success!

“Nina Nana Bel Popin” is one of those folk or traditional songs that can have many variations to both the words and the music. I also discovered that what I thought was the second line is the official third line of the lullaby. My grandmother never sang the accepted second line, and now I know why. I have such fond memories of this lullaby, but when I read the English translation, I was stunned. I suspect that she may have reworded it a bit to suit herself.

The first source below was exported from Wikisource on 26 June 2018. We are requested to report any errors on their website at https://it.wikisource.org/wiki/Segnala_errori
Source: https://it.wikisource.org/wiki/Nina_nana_bel_popin

Nina Nana Bel Popin by Anonymous

Nina nana bel popin
pien de caca e de pissìn
fa la nana sul cossìn
su ‘n te ‘l pra’ de me cosìn.

Mé cosìn no ‘I vol che bala
perché è mort la so cavala
perché è mort el so bobò
per dispeto balerò.

Traduzione [Traditional]

Ninna nanna bel bambino
pieno di cacca e di pipì
fa la nanna sul cuscino
su nel prato di mio cugino.

Mio cugino non vuole che balli
perché è morta la sua cavalla
perché è morto il suo cane
per dispetto ballerò.

This next source provided the English translation. I could not find a link to Monique, but I noticed that a Monique was a frequent responder to many of the questions asked by site visitors. Monique has my heartfelt thanks for providing this translation.

Source: https://www.mamalisa.com/blog/need-help-with-some-italian-nursery-rhymes-and-songs/, then then scroll down to the post from Nick dated June 18th, 2010 at 12:56 am

English Translation by Monique

Sleep sleep pretty baby
full of poo and pee
sleep on the cushion
in my cousin’s meadow.
My cousin doesn’t want me to dance
because his mare died
because his dog died
but nevertheless, I will dance.

Finally, I discovered the music for this lullaby on YouTube. Strangely all the lullabies that I found which used the words above did not use the tune I remembered. The video whose link I have here is the melody that my grandmother used but, although still a lullaby, the Italian words are very different.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5UAkqAr4SY

This week’s post was fun to research and write, and it brought back many fond memories of my grandmother, Anna Furlani nee Bianchi.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Music.

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