Translation: “Il Cantico del Bene” by St. Joseph of Cupertino

St. Joseph of Cupertino, a Franciscan poet? Yes, there’s more to our favorite flying saint than levitation, bilocation, and miscellaneous wonderworking! He also wrote poetry, according to his hometown’s website. In fact, his hometown — which prefers the spelling “Copertino” — apparently sells some kind of CD of musical settings or music-backed recitations of his poetry.

Here’s one of his most famous works, the “Canticle of the Good” (“Il Cantico del Bene”), along with my attempt at a translation. I don’t speak Italian and have relied on Google Translate, so ‘attempt’ is the word.


Chi fa ben sol per paura
non fa niente e poco dura.

Whoever does good ’cause he’s too scared not to
Does nothing hard, though he really ought to.

Chi fa ben sol per usanza
se non perde, poco avanza.

Whoever does good ’cause good habits stayed,
Won’t get lost, but no progress made.

Chi fa ben come per forza
lascia il frutto e tien la scorza.

Whoever does good only when forced to it
Eats rind, leaves fruit to rot where he threw it.

Chi fa ben qual sciocco a caso
va per l’acqua senza vaso.

Whoever does good with a random flail
Goes to fetch water without a pail.

Chi fa ben per parer buono
non acquista altro che suono.

Whoever does good to look good to friends
Buys himself nothing but noise in the end.

Chi fa ben per vanagloria
non avrà già mai vittoria.

Whoever does good just for empty pride
Has made himself play on the losing side.

Chi fa ben per avarizia
cresce sempre più in malizia.

Whoever does good only out of greed
Makes his malice grow and lets it feed.

Chi fa ben con negligenza
perde il frutto e la semenza.

Whoever does good in a careless way
Will lose both fruit and the seed, I’d say.

Chi fa bene all’indiscreta
senza frutto mai s’acquieta.

Whoever does good to the indiscreet
Gets no peace and no fruit that’s sweet.

Chi fa ben per solo gusto
mai sarà santo né giusto.

Whoever does good just for his own pleasure
Will become just and a saint — When? Never.

Chi fa ben sol per salvarsi
troppo s’ama e non sa amarsi.

Whoever does good just for his salvation
Loves none but himself in God’s whole Creation.

Chi fa ben per puro amore
dona a Dio l’anima e il cuore
e qual figlio servitore
sarà unito al suo Signore.
Gesù dolce Salvatore
sia lodato a tutte l’ore
il supremo e gran Motore
d’ogni grazia donatore.

Whoever does good purely out of love
Gives heart and soul to his God above.
And what’s the servant son’s reward?
To be united with his Lord.
O Jesus, sweet Savior,
Each hour may we praise your favor,
O great, supreme Mover,
Of every grace the Giver.

St. Giuseppe Desa of Copertino, pray for us!


Filed under Translations

2 responses to “Translation: “Il Cantico del Bene” by St. Joseph of Cupertino

  1. warren

    That’s brilliant. I’ll share it with my SFO fraternity next meeting.


  2. Maureen, that’s an awesome translation! Keep it up!

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