The first Milanese folksong that has reached us goes back to the days of Frederick Barbarossa and was written by the Humiliati of Brera, after the destruction of the city by the Emperor (1162). The words appear in the historical novel of Margherita Pusterla (1838) by Cesare Cantù: «Come diruto Mediolano – de Barbarossa com la mano. – Li militi se botano a Maria – ke laudata sia». Dante mentions the terrible destruction of Milan in Purgatory when, having arrived in the circle of the slothful, the two poets meet an abbot who tells them that he had been the prior of the Veronese monastery of San Zeno at that very time (Purgatory, XVIII, 118-120):
Io fui abate in San Zeno a Verona
sotto lo ‘mperio del buon Barbarossa,
di cui dolente ancor Melan ragiona.
These verses, in the Milanese translation of Ambrogio Maria Antonini, sound like this:
Mi son staa abaa in San Zen, quell de Veròna
sotta al reamm di Svev del Barbarossa
e per el qual Milan ancamò el tròna.
Here are the same lines in the English version of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
I was San Zeno”s Abbot at Verona,
Under the empire of good Barbarossa,
Of whom still sorrowing Milan holds discourse.