2

When using ci as a demonstrative pronoun it replaces the object completely, for instance: Sei mai uscito con la mia sorella? Non, non ci sono mai uscito, so in the answer there is no information about the object (gender, quantity, etc), but everything is absorbed by ci. Now, if we say

noi pregheremmo lui de la tua pace, poi c'hai pietà del nostro mal perverso.

  1. Is c'hai a valid contraction of ci hai? and
  2. if we use ci then shouldn't we suppress the object to avoid redundancy? That is, isn't poi c'hai pietà enough, or poi hai pietà del nostro mal perverso enough?
2
  • 4
    I suspect in this particular case, it is a contraction of che hai (with poi che as an archaic form of the more normal poiché). But I'm not 100% sure, it's just how I always read that verse
    – Denis Nardin
    Jul 3 at 6:05
  • 1
    I agree with @DenisNardin. For 99% of the history of Italian language, “c'hai” has been the contraction of “che hai”. Using it for “ci hai” is a recent and debatable development.
    – DaG
    Jul 3 at 8:49
6

The correct way of reading the words is poi c'hai pietà del nostro mal is poi che hai pietà del nostro mal. In modern Italian, the first two words are more often written as a single one, poiché, meaning “since, due to”. Hence, the clause means simply something like “...since you have mercy on our wicked suffering” (not an actual nice translation, since English is not my mother tongue).

Out of curiosity, this is how the sentence appears in Dorothy L. Sayers's translation of Dante's Comedy:

...we would entreat Him for thy peace,
That pitiest so our pangs dispiteous!

Notice that for 99% of the history of Italian language, c'hai has been the contraction of che hai, as here. Using it for ci hai is a recent and debatable development.

4
  • Just as confirmation of what it's said in this answer. This sentence comes from the canto V of Inferno of Dante's Comedy (the famous canto of Paolo and Francesca), so it's indeed archaic Italian. And, for instance (I'm sure there are tons of paraphrasis), it's paraphrased in this way by Claudio Giunta in his book Cuori intelligenti. Mille anni di letteratura. Dalle origini al Rinascimento: "noi lo pregheremmo per la pace del tuo spirito, poiché hai pietà della nostra terribile sofferenza".
    – Charo
    Jul 3 at 12:44
  • Curiously, this verse appears in a quotation in the entrance poiché of the Grande dizionario della lingua italiana, but with the alternative spelling "poi ch'hai".
    – Charo
    Jul 3 at 19:05
  • Ah, interesting, @Charo, but if I see correctly both Petrocchi and Sapegno have "c'hai". (You're probably aware that there are no manuscripts of the Comedia in Dante's own hand, so philologists have to use various later copies to reconstruct backwards the most reliable "original" version).
    – DaG
    Jul 3 at 19:38
  • Yes, @DaG: in fact, all the editions of the Inferno I own have "c'hai", sometimes spelled "c' hai".
    – Charo
    Jul 3 at 19:50

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