Decrepit Rigmarole (To be Sung on Rainy Days, while Pinching One’s Nose with Two Fingers)


Shown here is a satirical drawing of a boat called Quistione Italiana (Italian Issue), sailing in the “Conference Sea,” carrying Italian prime minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, British prime minister David Lloyd George, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, and French prime minister Georges Clemenceau, the Big Four of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Orlando is at the tiller and pleads with the others to wake up. The cabin boy on the mast symbolizes the “Jackass Slavs” and points to Fiume, the Adriatic port claimed both by Italy and the newly-established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The lyrics of a lullaby appear below the image: “Once upon a time there was a tiny ship / Once upon a time there was a tiny ship / Once upon a time there was a tiny ship / That could not, could not sail any more. / 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 weeks passed… / 8,9,10,11,12,13,14 weeks passed… / 15,16,17,18,19,20,21 weeks passed… /  The sea itself was starting to … dry out.” A note below the song suggests that the verses may be repeated at will, depending on the stamina of the singer, and always while holding the nose. The poster and the lyrics reflect the national frustration and outrage felt in Italy in the spring of 1919, as it became clear that Italian expectations of gaining territory along the Adriatic as a result of sacrifices in World War I would not be met. This situation was exploited by the rising nationalist movements in Italy with talk about a “crippled victory” and ultimately culminated in the seizure of Fiume on September 12, 1919 by a force of Italian irregular soldiers led by the nationalist writer Gabriele D'Annunzio  (1863–1938).

Last updated: April 13, 2016