Tempra tu de' cori ardenti, tempra ancora lo zelo audace.


Senior Member
Buon giorno,

Would anyone please help me translate the following sentence into English: "Tempra tu de' cori ardenti, tempra ancora lo zelo audace"? It's part of the canvatina "Casta Diva" from Bellini's Norma, in which the title role is praying to her Goddess:

"Tempra, o Diva
Tempra tu de' cori ardenti,
tempra ancora lo zelo audace.
Spargi in terra quella pace
Che regnar tu fai nel ciel."

The grammar of the sentence is a bit of a puzzle to me, especially the word "de'". Anyway, my first attempt is: "(Please) quench the ardent hearts, subdue the still audacious zeal." Any suggestions or explanations would be great help.

  • catb

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Hi Lovely!

    I found this on the net:

    Temper, oh Goddess,
    the hardening of you ardent spirits
    temper your bold zeal,
    Scatter peace across the earth
    Thou make reign in the sky...

    See if this can work for you.


    Senior Member
    Ciao, grazie per la risposta.

    However, I'm trying to get a plain, literal translation to start with and make clear of the grammar here. Then more elegant English will come later. Anyone could give me a hand please?


    New Member
    Italy Italian
    The grammar of the sentence is a bit of a puzzle to me, especially the word "de'".

    Hi Lovelybeauty.
    that de' is a poetic form and means dei (= of the).

    The words of the second and third lines should be put in order as follows:
    Tempra tu, tempra ancora lo zelo audace de' (=dei) cori (=cuori) ardenti.

    I hope this can be useful. (I love Bellini's Norma :))



    Senior Member
    British English/Italian - bilingual
    Here's another translation found on the net:

    Temper, o Goddess,
    The brave zeal
    Of the ardent spirits,
    Scatter on the earth the peace
    Thou make reign in the sky.


    Senior Member
    Grazie a tutti per le vostre risposte,

    I don't think quench and subdue are the right verbs for 'temprare' in this case. See this definition (#2) for it. Maybe 'harden' or 'toughen' are closer, but the meaning is only positive here.

    @luway, as far as I know about the libretto of the opera, "Casta Diva" is a prayer of peace from Norma. She, alone among her people, wants to avoid the war against Rome because of her love for Pollione, the Roman proconsul in Gaul. As a result, in the recitatives right before this cavatina, she makes a prophecy that Rome will fall due to its own vices but not at the hand of her people:

    "Ella un giorno morrà,
    ma non per voi.
    Morrà pei vizi suoi,
    Qual consunta morrà."

    Even the last sentence of Casta Diva shows Norma's desire for peace: "Spargi in terra quella pace che regnar tu fai nel ciel." That's the reason I think "tempra" in this case can not be translated to "harden" or "toughen", though I have seen these in a number of translations. Norma does not want to strengthen the will for war, it's totally the other way around: she wants peace. Therefore, I have been trying to find a proper verb to for "tempra(re)" and come up with "quench" and "subdue", although I know these are not very precise.

    So, would any Bellini expert be so kind to assist me on this? ^_^

    Grazie ancora.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    Hello Lb :)
    I could get that, so I understand what you say. Here's my opinion:
    I think that when the verb 'temprare' is used figuratively, it usually means making something (eg. will, heart, mind, body,...) stronger (through discipline/exercise/etc). Which also means that, for example, a 'cuore temprato' is able to bear hard times, difficulties without reacting impulsively, without searching for revenge when facing injustice, and so on. But I noticed that the translations given for this verb were not always about this effect, on the contrary, they underlined the fact that what you 'tempri' becomes 'harder/tougher/indifferent', and so with my comment I simply wanted to say that I don't think in this stanza the intention was to say that what Norma would like to gain could be peace through hearts made thougher (then, not able to feel compassion anymore). If you 'tempri' yourself, your spirit, you become able to face adversity without bringing out your worst side, hence my saying that I'd avoid any possible negative meaning/translation.

    However, if 'temper' in English is meant as here in 2.1, I'd say you might just use it.
    Quench could be an option if it means 'calmare/spegnere un desiderio', but not 'estinguere', and subdue if it means 'tame' (domare), but not 'soggiogare/sottomettere/sopprimere'.. After all, you don't want to get rid also of the ability of hearts and spirits to feel, right?, only of blind rage, hatred, etc.

    Hope this made clearer my previous post :)


    New Member
    Italy Italian

    Actually in Italian the verb "tempra" means, figuratively, "invigorate, harden". But Norma wants peace, then here "tempra" is the contracted and poetic form of "tempera" (imperative form of the Italian verb "temperare" that means "to temper, to quench". You can see here (#2b)
    I hope I was clear, my English is not so good :)
    Ancora ciao!


    Senior Member
    @luway e denebola, thanks for your replies, which help me a lot in my attempt to understand the libretto thoroughly. As denebola pointed out, "tempra" here is the imperative form of "temperare", which can be translated as "to temper" or "to quench". However, these two verbs do not seem to make the meaning very clear to me. I have been thinking of alternatives such as "to soothe", "to calm down" or probably just "to calm". For instance, "Oh Goddess, please soothe/calm the daring zeal of the ardent hearts". What do you think?



    New Member
    Italy Italian

    I think your translation is basically correct. However English is not my native language, so I do not take the little differences in the meaning of the verbs that you propose. Sorry :eek:
    Ciao :)


    Senior Member
    Lb, it's the same for me. My feeling is that we'd need sort of a 'mixture' of them, in order to convey what that verb says in Italian, but my awarness of English is not enough to choose which one could be better...


    New Member
    Spanish/ English
    Such an interesting discussion, but it seems to me that if you take the verb to be the same as the English "to temper" (in the imperative form) as in to moderate and calm, it all makes very clear sense. Norma prays the goddess temper the ardent hearts and the daring zeal.


    Senior Member
    UK English
    A native BE speaker's view : 'temper' is fine (as Lejfieg says). It has in English to this day the alternative meanings of modern temprare and temperare, but the context leaves us in absolutely no doubt what is intended. Luway's link in #5 makes clear that temprare in the past included the meanings of temperare ('temprare : Variante di temperare, che nella lingua ant. e letter. si trova usata, con maggiore o minore frequenza, in tutti i sign. definiti alla voce temperare'). The translation quoted in #6 does use 'temper' but appears to understand it wrongly, for which reason, along with several others, it should be ignored.

    [By the way, though 'cavatina' is certainly correct (allowing for the typo), I just mention that it wouldn't be used by the average English-speaking opera fan, who's quite happy with the more general 'aria'. In the UK 'Casta Diva' is one of the best-known operatic arias, loved by many people who wouldn't know a cavatina from a cafeteria. It may be different in AE.]