Ho Difeso il Mio Amore

By Nomadi, from the 1968 self-titled album. Lyrics by Daniele Pace
Music by Justin Hayward, originally The Moody Blues' 'Nights in White Satin'

Queste parole sono scritte da chi
Non ha visto più il sole per amore di lei
Io le ho trovate in un campo di fiori
Sopra una pietra, c'era scritto così
Ho difeso, ho difeso il mio amore, il mio amore
C'era una data - l'otto di maggio
Lei era bella, era tutta per lui
E poi venne un'altro, gliela strappò di mano
Quel che poi sia successo, lo capite anche voi
Ho difeso, ho difeso il mio amore, il mio amore
Questa è la storia e finisce così
Sopra una pietra che la pioggia bagnò
Sono tornato una notte e ho sentito una voce
Il grido di un'uomo che chiedeva perdono
Ho difeso, ho difeso il mio amore, il mio amore
Ho difeso, ho difeso il mio amore, il mio amore
Ho difeso, ho difeso il mio amore, il mio amore

Translation (mine):

I Defended my Love
These words are written by one
Who hasn't again seen the sun for love of her
I found them in a field of flowers
On a stone, there was written:
I defended, I defended my love, my love
There was a date - the eighth of May
She was beautiful, she was all for him
Then came another, tore her from his hand
That which would've followed, you too understand
I defended, I defended my love, my love
This is the story and that's how it ends
On a stone that the rain soaked
I came back one night and I heard a voice
The cry of a man that begged forgiveness
I defended, I defended my love, my love
I defended, I defended my love, my love
I defended, I defended my love, my love


The most intriguing interpretation of this song is that the story is imagined by the narrator who has simply stumbled across the (actual, or perhaps invented for the song) stone in a field with nothing more than these words:

8 maggio
Ho difeso il mio amore

Who wrote it? What did he defend his love against, and why did it merit the immortalisation on stone of the date and place? The narrator fills in the skeleton of a story - a couple in the field, interrupted by another who seeks to violently take her away. The beauty of the song is that the listener is required to fill in the rest of the story just as the narrator did for the beginning - he says that we too understand what followed, but in reality we don't. The only way to understand is to dream the story, just as he did in front of a rock with a date and a single sentence.

For what does the voice cry forgiveness? Forgiveness for slaying the intruder in defence of his love? Forgiveness for not being strong enough to stop her being taken away, or maybe 'taken' right there? Is it a solemn justification for defending her with deadly force, or a solemn reminder that he did all he could to defend her?

Is it a story of tragic valour or of tragic loss? For me, when I hear the song I dream it as one of tragic loss. It's a reminder that the good guy isn't always strong enough, and an image so much more poignant than the first - a man left alone in the rain in a field of flowers, grief-stricken, marking the spot where he did all he could... was it really all he could?... and crying for her forgiveness as she is carried away, or maybe some time later as he remembers what he saw happen to her there but was powerless to fight.

The other interpretation has its own attraction too though, particularly for how it turns on its head the glamourisation of killing the 'bad guy' that so much of our entertainment and popular culture in all ages offers. There aren't many stories in which the tragedy is nothing more than the fact of killing itself, despite the justness of the act, despite its necessity. I think - and do even hope - that not many of us would swagger away unaffected from having killed a person, like most movie characters would. A slaying in desperate defense, panic and horror, and perhaps a hasty burial with a headstone bearing for its unknown body nothing more than an explanation for whoever finds it, or even only for the unwilling killer to remember the place.

It has also been suggested that Nomadi's Italian version could be intended as a tragic epilogue to the simple saccharine love song they lifted the melody from, in which the refrain is simply "Cos I love you, cos I love you, I love you..."

But, unlike in many cases where the saying is used as an excuse for not picking up the subtle themes and links of a work, this song really does mean whatever you imagine it to mean.

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