Pontida (near Bergamo) to swear an oath that everynLombard — Ghibelline as well as Guelf—should unite tondefend their common liberty. I asked my friend the warnveteran if the local people, say the man who occasionallyndrove me around, preserved any memory of these events; henassured me that the fellow would know nothing at all. Butnone day on the way to Bergamo, I spotted a sign for Pontida.nI asked the driver if we were anywhere near. “Yes,” he said,n”there is the famous convent where the Lombards swore thenoath.” “Against the emperor?” “Yes, against Barbarossa, andnit was here that the Lega Lombarda held their great rally anfew months ago.”nI had read of this rally in the Italian press. Eightynthousand Lombards assembled and raised their right handsnas Senator Bossi recalled the events of eight hundred yearsnago and recommitted himself and his followers to the oath ofnPontida. There are a few Americans who are still fighting anwar that ended 125 years ago, and some of us still regard thenWars of the Roses as part of our national history; however, Incannot imagine an assembly of eighty thousand Americannconservatives swearing loyalty to Richard III or even thenHouse of Stuart.nBut Italians as a nation are mad with history, thenSoutherners even more than the Lombards. One of thenmajor living poets in Italy is Albino Pierro from Basilicata.nPierro, who now lives in Rome, began his career by writingnpoems in Italian, but as time went on he became impatientnwith this literary language he had learned in school, and fornthe purposes of his poetry, which is both highly personal andnseriously metaphysical, he began to work in the dialect of hisnvillage. To accomplish this, he had to establish the orthographynand grammar of “Tursitano,” a dialect which had nevernbefore been used for literary purposes. When I spoke withnhim, Pierro took some pains to explain to me that he is not andialect poet, i.e., some quaint figure of artificial folklore, butnsimply a poet who needed to create his own language. Itnmay be the most ambitious experiment conducted by anynpoet of this century, but — and this is typical of Italy — it isnan experiment that reaffirms the poet’s links with the historynand soil of his native place.nIf the Lombard dialect has so far produced few majornpoets, there is a widespread revival of interest in thenliterature and culture of Lombardia. A regional paper, Ventondel Nord, regularly prints a section in dialect and devotesnconsiderable space to celebrating Lombard writers of thenpast. The second principle of the Lega Lombarda — and tonmany members this may be more important than thenprinciple of federalism — calls for “reaffirmation of ournculture, history, the Lombard language, our social andnmoral values.” At party gatherings, members consciouslynadopt the Lombard dialect, which is as different fromnTuscan as Scots is from English. They have their own flag,ntheir own national anthem (in “Lumbard,” of course). Fornthis reason, they are frequendy accused of wanting to breaknup Italy into a set of warring petty states. One rightistncomplained to me that Italy could only be governed by anstrong centralized state, and a Christian Democrat in Romeninsisted that the Germans are right: in unity is strength. “Arenwe going to have to go through customs three times, everyntime we take a trip from Naples to Milan?”nThe party’s worst political gaffe so far has been SenatornBossi’s diatribe against the Italian flag. The pattern, he said,nis borrowed from the flag of the French Revolution, but thencolor green was added by the Masons. (Freemasonry is annalmost obsessive political topic among even anti-CatholicnItalians, who are very suspicious that so many AmericannPresidents have been Masons.) The party’s enemies usednthis speech as conclusive evidence that the Lega really is anseparatist movement, but a few days later Bossi — withoutntaking back his strictures — apologized for any offense henhad given, and said he would defend a flag that so manynItalians had shed their blood for.nThe first principle of the LeganLombarda’s program states that it isn’for the self-government of Lombardia,nreplacing the centralized state with anmodern federal state that knows how tonrespect all the peoples that constitute it.’nAny South Carolinian or Virginian ought to be able tonunderstand the concept of dual sovereignty and dual loyaltynin principle, but it is another thing to come face to face withnit. I had been out of Lombardy for two weeks, in Rome andnTuscany, when I was invited up to Como to attend a rally.nThe rally was in Lezzeno somewhere between Como andnBellagio, and the weather threatened rain as we drove alongnthe shore of Lake Como and stopped across from a buildingnflying what I took to be the Swiss flag. No, I was told, it is thenflag of Lombardy. About a hundred people wait for thenarrival of Senator Bossi. It is an interesting cross section:nsmall businessmen, blue-collar workers, and not a fewnprofessionals. The local party leaders range in age from laten20’s to mid-50’s, but on the whole it is a young crowd. Inspeak with an architect who tells me he supports the Leganbut that his son is wild about it and buys all the posters, pins,nneckties, and party paraphernalia that is available. “Thenyoung,” he explains, “are tired of the corrupt old system andnmany of them look to Bossi as the hope of the future.”nWhen the senator’s car is spotted, most of us rush outsidento greet him. “Look,” someone says, “still no escort.” Andndespite recent threats against his life, Bossi gets out of a smallncar accompanied only by his wife and an aide. We gather inna small courtyard and as the wind and rain intensifies, Bossindescribes how the press has been trying to get him to providenthem with sound bites on the most recent act of Mafianterrorism. He builds to a denunciation of the entire politicalnsystem and lays out the Lega’s program of reform.nThe rain eventually drives us inside, and after a round ofndrinks, I was able to talk to him for about an hour. At first,nBossi seems not even to acknowledge my presence, but asnthe interview proceeds he several times tells his followers tonbe quiet and repeatedly brushes aside the signals andnwhispers informing him that he is holding up dinner. Later,nI discover that although journalists from all over EuropennnJANUARY 1991/15n