In Felice Romani's libretto Il Pirata, there is a line that I'm having trouble translating / understanding.

V'ha un Nume protettor
Della sventura.

I showed this to my native-Italian aunt (who admits she is very out of practice) and she thinks it's an archaic spelling of "va". I did a follow-up search on Treccani and Google, and I can't really find anything supporting that.

Instead, I found one source that claimed this is a form of "keep you", so the sentence would be "Un Nume protettore vi ha della sventura.", or "A protector god will keep you from misfortune."

This seems more likely, but I'm still a bit doubtful. Could someone please clarify this interesting usage of avere?

  • 1
    Just a minor piece of pedantry: technically, the author of an opera is its librettist (even if in many cases he is admittedly less important than the composer). So it would be Romani's Il pirata. I believe this dates back from when many librettos predated their music and more than one composer wrote music for, say, some Metastasio's melodramma.
    – DaG
    Dec 11, 2017 at 19:09
  • @DaG, You're absolutely right. I'll make the edit (even though it's unrelated to the question) and make sure to note that in the future. Thanks for pointing that out!
    – Marco
    Dec 11, 2017 at 19:30

1 Answer 1


It is[1] a contracted form of Vi ha, itself an archaic form for Vi è, there is. The meaning is

There is a god protector

of [those in] misfortune

Compare, a few lines below, with

più rischio non v'ha.

which means

There isn't any more risk.

[1] http://www.treccani.it/vocabolario/avere2/ significato 8. Thanks to alexjo for the refernece

  • Would you say that the God, referred to, is going to protect the people FROM misfortune, or be a "protector god" OF misfortune? The adjective placement is kind of throwing me off.
    – Marco
    Dec 11, 2017 at 19:56
  • 3
    @Marco He is the god protecting those in misfortune. It is a figure of speech in which he refers to an entity by their most prominent characteristic (in this case misfortune)
    – Denis Nardin
    Dec 11, 2017 at 20:19
  • 1
    @Marco I modified a bit the translation. Hopefully it is clearer now.
    – Denis Nardin
    Dec 12, 2017 at 9:22
  • 1
    treccani.it/vocabolario/avere2 al punto 8
    – alexjo
    Dec 25, 2017 at 19:18

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