Olive Tree – The Queen of S’Ortu Mannu

2 - Sa Reina - photo AS

Guest post by Annalisa Salis

Last time I was in Sardinia we had a short visit to S’Ortu Mannu (The Large Orchard), nearby the village of Villamassargia. The site is close to the Gioiosa Guardia (Joyful Guard) castle and it’s popular because of its 700 olive trees that were grafted back in the 1300s.

I was curious to meet these incredibly old trees and was expecting to find them almost fossilized because of their age, like living stones. To my own surprise they were thriving with life. Fresh young twigs sprouted from the older ones, developing in a happy confusion of wild olive and grafted olive branches that are still making a large amount of olives. They are home to insects and lizards, they must be the only ones who know the secrets of those contorted trunks.

The oldest of them, Sa Reina (The Queen), is believed to be about 1000 years old. Here is a poem that was dedicated to her a long time ago by the poet Renato Porcu:

Sa Reina e S’Ortu Mannu

Chini T’at inzirau cun manu divina,
non criera ca diventasta aici famosa.
Bivis assoliarae majstosa,
des s’Ortu Mannu ses sa Reina.
Non ses una semplici mat’e olia,
famosa po mannaria e po beccesa.
Ma ses una matta de rara bellesa,
chi a su poeta ispiras sa poesia.
Sempri birdi portas su bistiri,
solu in s’atongiu dhu tenis murau.
Cun su fruttu pendenti dorau,
prenis s’ogu de chini ti biri.
Candu su primu soli de Beranu,
ti carignat sa folla argentara.
Sa froridura est giai cumentzara,
con tui profumat tottu s’Ortu Mannu.
Po Pori sa vida continuai,
sempri in guerra cun fogus e bentos.
De annus ndi tenis ses o setixentus,
Castiendi su truncu si podint contai.
Chi ti at bofiu biri mellus de accanta,
s’est pigau sa briga de ti misurai.
Dexi metrus a sa punta arrivai,
a girue su truncu noi metrus e coranta.
Non ses a oi essei famosa,
dhu fiast puru candu a piciocheddu.
Ti circai a s’umbra e su casteddu,
aundi t’agorrat sa guardia giojosa.
Lat a essi unu pecau a tenni dannu,
ca po Biddamassargia ses unu frori.
A sa Sardigna intera fais onori,
ca ses sa Reina e S’Ortu Mannu.

1 - S'Ortu Mannu - photo AS

La Regina di S’Ortu Mannu

Chi ti ha innestato con mano divina,
non credeva che diventassi così famosa.
Vivi solitaria e maestosa,
sei di s’Ortu Mannu la Regina.
Tu non sei un comune ulivo,
noto per vecchiaia e grandezza.
Ma una pianta di rara bellezza,
che al poeta ispiri poesia.
Sempre verde porti il vestito,
solo in autunno lo porti mutato.
Col frutto pendente dorato,
che appaga l’occhio stupito.
Quando il sole di primavera,
ti accarezza le foglie argentate.
La fioritura è ormai cominciata,
con te profuma tutto s’Ortu Mannu.
Per poter continuare a vegetare,
sempre in lotta col fuoco e col vento.
Di anni ne hai sei.. o settecento,
guardando il tronco si possono contare.
Chi a voluto osservarti meglio da vicino,
si è preso la briga di misurarti.
Dieci metri per arrivare alla punta,
attorno al tronco nove metri e quaranta.
Non sei famosa solo oggi,
lo eri anche quando da ragazzo.
Ti cercavo all’ombra del Castello,
dove ti proteggeva la gioiosa guardia.
Sarebbe un peccato perderti,
perché per Villamassargia
rappresenti un fiore.
Alla Sardegna intera fai onore,
Perchè sei la regina di s’Ortu Mannu.

5 - Sa Reina - photo AS

The Queen of S’Ortu Mannu

The one who grafted you with godlike hand,
did not think that you would become so famous.
You live solitary and majestic,
you’re S’Ortu Mannu’s Queen.
You are not an ordinary olive tree,
renowned because of its oldness and its size.
But a plant of rare beauty,
inspiring poetry to the poet.
You always wear a green dress,
only in Autumn you wear it differently.
With the dangling golden fruit,
which satiates the startled eye.
When the springtime sun,
caresses your silvery leaves.
The blossoming has already started,
the whole S’Ortu Mannu smells nice with your scent.
To keep on living,
in constant struggle with the fires and the winds.
You are six.. or seven hundred years old,
looking at your trunk it’s possible to count them.
Those who wanted to better observe you,
bothered to take your measures.
Ten meters to reach the top,
nine meters and forty around the trunk.
You are not famous just nowadays,
you were so also when I was a kid.
I used to look for you in the shade of the Castle,
where the joyful guard used to protect you.
It would be a pity to lose you,
because you’re a flower to Villamassargia.
You honour the whole Sardinia,
because you are the Queen of s’Ortu Mannu.

3 - Sa Reina - photo AS

Photo credit: Annalisa Salis

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