DON BASILIO DON BASILIO
In quegl'anni, in cui val poco In those years when reason is worth little,
la mal pratica ragion, not being well practiced,
ebbi anch'io lo stesso foco, I had the same fire,
fui quel pazzo ch'or non son. I was that fool which I am no longer.
   
Che col tempo e coi perigli With time and with trials,
donna flemma capitò; Dame Common Sense turned up;
e i capricci, ed i puntigli and the whims and stubborness
della testa mi cavò. she knocked out of my head.
   
Presso un piccolo abituro To a little hut
seco lei mi trasse un giorno, she brought me with her one day,
e togliendo giù dal muro and took down from the wall
del pacifico soggiorno of that peaceful place
una pella di somaro, the skin of an ass.
prendi disse, oh figlio caro, "Take this," she said, "my dear boy."
poi disparve, e mi lasciò. Then she disappeared, and left me.
   
Mentre ancor tacito While I was still silent,
guardo quel dono, contemplating this gift,
il ciel s'annuvola the sky clouded over,
rimbomba il tuono, the thunder crashed;
mista alla grandine mixed with hail,
scroscia la piova, the rain pelted down.
ecco le membra So I covered my limbs,
coprir mi giova making use of
col manto d'asino the pelt of the ass
che mi donò. that had been given to me.
   
Finisce il turbine, The storm finished
nè fo due passi but I had hardly taken two steps
che fiera orribile when a terrifying wild beast
dianzi a me fassi; appeared before me;
già già mi tocca already I was nearly in
l'ingorda bocca, its greedy jaws.
già di difendermi Of defending myself
speme non ho. I had no hope.
   
Ma il fiuto* ignobile But the vile stench
del mio vestito of my garment
tolse alla belva took away the beast's
sì l'appetito, appetite so thoroughly,
che disprezzandomi that it scorned me
si rinselvò. and went away into the forest.
Così conoscere And that was the lesson
mi fè la sorte, taught to me by Fate,
ch'onte, pericoli, that shame, danger,
vergogna, e morte dishonor, and death
col cuoio d'asino with the skin of an ass
fuggir si può. one can escape.
   
Sources differ on this word, some giving "finto" (falsehood, disguise) and some giving "fiuto" (animal smell). In either case the overall meaning is more or less the same. The choice of words affects the directness of Basilio's language; the difference, if you will, between "I smelled awful" and "I was in such a state..." back
   
This aria contains a good deal of antiquated literary language. Corrections and suggetions via email are welcome!