How would one translate the Italian phrase

Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate

into Latin? It is the first row from a chorus in Verdi's opera Nabucco.

In English, the phrase means:

Go, thoughts, on wings of gold

or alternatively:

Fly, my thoughts, on wings of gold

It is many years since I studied Latin and I do not dare make an attempt myself. Thank you!

  • 1
    Maybe something like "Vola, cogitatio, alis aureis."? Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 16:40

1 Answer 1


You can listen to the whole chorus being sung in Latin here (be sure to enable Latin subtitles). The performer is Roland Kadan, an Austrian Latin teacher who has published a whole Latin songbook.

He translates the first sentence thus:

Vade, mens, mota aureis alis

… which is as good a translation as any. The mota is not really necessary and not found in the Italian. Instead of vade one might have said i, which he does in fact do later in the song, but vadere is perfectly fine and evokes the well-known Italian original. Finally, mens is, in my opinion, a good choice over the more straightforward cogitatio, given the context. But perhaps most importantly, all together these choices lead to the result that the Latin text fits the metre of the original and can be sung to the same melody!

(Note: Found by guessing somebody might already have translated this chorus and googling "aureis alis".)

  • Thank you! What is the infinitive form of "i"? What would the difference in nuance be between choosing "mens" or "cogitatio"? Is it correct that the former refers more to one's mind, whereas the latter refers to one's thoughts?
    – a20
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 20:06
  • 2
    @a20 That about captures it. Ever since I knew this song (first in a German translation: "Steig, Gedanke, auf goldenen Schwingen") it has struck me as odd that a single thought is supposed to go wandering. The infinitive of i is ire - so far so good - but you will find it in the dictionary under eo because it's one of Latin's few irregular verbs. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 20:56
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    Please note that the italian world "pensiero" means both a single thought, than the complex of thoughts in a mind. One can say "il mio pensiero" o "il suo pensiero" to refer to the opinion of someone; "pensiero comune", means "common opinion". "Va' pensiero" refers to a pensiero which is more like a "train of thoughts" than to a single "train car". Source: I'm italian ;) Usually, to refer to a single thought, one would use the word "pensiero" with the article "un", like "ho fatto un pensiero" - "I made a thought". Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 15:54

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