Va' Pensiero

Note: There are 2 versions of this song. The first is the "pop" version. 

Below it is the Original Opera Version By Giuseppe Verdi.

Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate
Attraversa le montagne e vola
Sugli oceani.
Raggiungi la terra, trova il luogo
Dove vanno tutti i bambini
Ogni notte dopo aver sentito questa ninnananna.

Lì troverai i loro eroi vivi
Che proteggono la loro innocenza
Benedicili tutti perchè il loro animo semplice
è tanto puro e meraviglioso.

Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate
Fai continuare questo sogno bellissimo
Per tutta la notte.

Presta loro le tue ali dorate
Tutte le paure voleranno via
Prendili per mano
Aiutali a trovare una strada facile
Riportali alla luce, riportali alla luce
Alla quale appartenevano un tempo
Dove possono restare
Bambini per tutto il tempo che vogliono.

Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate
Attraversa le montagne e vola
Sugli oceani.
Raggiungi la terra, trova il luogo
Dove vanno tutti i bambini
Ogni notte dopo aver sentito questa ninnananna.
Ogni notte dopo aver sentito questa ninna nanna.

English version

Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate
Cross the mountains and fly
Over the oceans.
Reach the land find the place
Where all children go
Every night after listening to this lullaby.

There you'll find their heroes alive
Protecting their innocence
Bless them all 'cause their simple soul
is so pure and wonderful.

Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate
Let this beautiful dream carry on
For all night long.

Lend them your golden wings
Every fear will fly away
Take them by the hand
Help'em find an easy way
Lead them back to the light,
back to the light
Where they once used to belong
Where they can remain
Children as long as they want.

Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate
Cross the mountains and fly
Over the oceans.
Reach the land find the place
Where all children go
Every night after listening to this lullaby
Every night after listening to this lullaby.

Va' Pensiero

From the Opera "Nabucco"
by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Verdi's first successful opera, Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar), was written in 1842.  It relates the Biblical story of the captivity of the Hebrews in Babylon in the 6th century B.C. 

In the opera, the chorus "Va, pensiero" (a paraphrase of Psalm 137) is sung by the exiles on the banks of the Euphrates, lamenting the loss of their homeland.  

The piece soon became a popular anthem for the Italian people, expressing their own longing for political freedom from Austria.  

When Verdi's coffin was carried to its final resting place a month after his death in 1901, the crowd of over 25,000 people along the route spontaneously began singing this stirring chorus.

Va', pensiero, sull'ali dorate.
Va', ti posa sui clivi, sui colli,
ove olezzano tepide e molli
l'aure dolci del suolo natal!
Del Giordano le rive saluta,
di Sionne le torri atterrate.
O mia Patria, sì bella e perduta!
O remembranza sì cara e fatal!
Arpa d'or dei fatidici vati,
perché muta dal salice pendi?
Le memorie del petto riaccendi,
ci favella del tempo che fu!
O simile di Solima ai fati,
traggi un suono di crudo lamento;
o t'ispiri il Signore un concento
che ne infonda al patire virtù


Fly, thoughts, on wings of gold; 
go settle upon the slopes and the hills,
where, soft and mild, 
the sweet air of our native land smells fragrant! 
Greet the banks of the Jordan
and Zion's toppled towers.
Oh, my country so lovely and lost! 
Oh, memory so dear and despairing! 
Golden harp of the prophetic seers,
why do you hang mute upon the willow?
Rekindle our heart's memories and speak of times gone by! 
Mindful of the fate of Jerusalem,
either sound a song of sad lamentation, 
or else let the Lord give us the strength to bear our sufferings!

Another translation:

Va Pensiero

Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate; Go, my thoughts on golden wings;
Va, ti posa sui clivi, sui colli Go, settle on the cliffs and the hills.
Ove olezzano tepide e molli, Where the sweet breezes bring
L'aure dolci del suolo natal! The warm, soft fragrances of the native land.
Del Giordano le rive saluta, From Jordan, the river of salvation, and
Di Sionne le torri atterrate. From the desolate towers of Zion.
Oh, mia patrie si bella e perduta! Oh my homeland so beautiful and lost!
Oh, Membrenza si cara e fatal! Oh memories, so dear and so lethal.
Arpa d'or del fatidici vati, Golden Harps of our prophets and poets,
Perché muta dal salice pendi? Why do you hang silently from the willow?
Le memorie nel petto raccendi, You awaken the dreams of the heart
Chi favella del tempo che fu!  Which speaks of the time which was!
O simile di Solima ai fati Either like Solomon to the fates,
Traggi un suono di crudo lamento, you make a sound of crude lament.
O t'ispiri il Signore un concento Or the Lord inspires in you a song
Che ne infonda al patire virtu!  Which takes courage into the depths.


As you can see, there are two versions of this song. This eclectic and extremely touching piece from Giuseppe Verdi has been stylized and performed by a multitude of amazing singers and Professional Choirs, in styles ranging from pop to opera.

A small sample of the artists who performed this song include Albano Carisi, Dame Jane Sutherland, Lucio Dalla and Luciano Pavarotti (duet) and Zucchero and Sinead O'Conner (duet).

More information

Late in the 1800's, Austria occupied Northern Italy, Lombardy specifically. They apparently understood little as they were bemused by the pre-occupation Italians had with music, in particular Verdi's 'Va Pensiero'. They thought is was quaint and did not attach much importance to it at the time. 

On the streets, the walls, they would find scrawled or painted the word VERDI. And so they thought everyone was in love with the composer. In fact, that word was a call to nationhood and  spoke to Italian patriotism, but perhaps more to Lombardy re-unification. Because it was not just the song - it was because the name of Verdi was also an acronym for Vittorio Emmanuele Re d'Italia. (Vittorio Emmanuele, King of Italy).

Special thanks to Historian Marzio Apolloni for this intriguing information. 

December, 2003

More interesting information

Recently, we received an interesting email from a visitor. Here's the email: 

Hello! I would like to inform you that your second translation has an error. The words...."perche muta del salice pendi?" mean simply "Why do you hang silently from the willow?" and nothing else. By the way: for all readers of these words it may be helpful to explain, why at the times of Jewish prisonership harps are hanging from certain trees. I don't know it either!

Yours sincerely


Naturally, we looked into it. First, we fixed the line in the second Italian version of Va Pensiero (thanks MS!) and then and we did a little research. It turns out that during the time the Jewish people were slaves, they would rather not play the harp than give the beauty of its sound to their captors. So they hung the harps on willow trees. It was also a sign of mourning. You will notice, as we did, that it's no coincidence that the tree they chose to hang their golden harps was the weeping willow. It's a beautiful, yet sad looking tree. I always thought it represented the accumulation of all the frustration of Mother Nature, and her head hanging down was the result of her breakdown. She's beautiful but sad. The weeping willow is the only tree whose leaves drop so dramatically. It's not by chance that an enslaved people would put away their most prized possessions, the beautiful music of the harp...on a weeping tree.

Also, it turns out that the text of Va Pensiero is very similar to Psalm 137.




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