Two questions about Vinicius de Moraes’ poem

Poem here.


When the poet writes

Pedirei gritando
Ao mar que mate e ao vento que violente
As brancas praias de pudor tão fundo.

which I translate

Shouting, I will beseech
The sea to kill, and the winds to profane,
The white beaches so full of bashfulness.

what does he mean? As far as I know my translation is accurate (pudor can be translated a number of ways), but I can’t figure out what sense those lines make in the poem. Why are the white beaches full of bashfulness (or whatever) and why does the poet want them killed and profaned?

2. In a few places I have slid past the word êsse, literally “that, that one”. It seems to function as an intensifier or interjection, for example here:

A Mesa imensa onde, êsse, pode ver

How should that be handled?


First of all, I absent-mindedly translated violar instead of violantar. Their meanings are similar but not the same.

Violantar:  violate, force, coerce, compel, break (promise), force open, alter. (Not = violar).

Next, pudor:

Pudor:  chastity, modesty, bashfulness, shyness, propriety, shamefacedness.

Using the clue that the poet is asking the city to prepare itself for his coming by divesting itself of purity, etc., instead of cluelessly translating from the dictionary word for word, and translating matar metaphorically:

Shouting, I will beseech
The winds to violate and the sea to lay waste
The white beaches of prudishness.

“Prudishness” = thick pudor.

Published in: on May 5, 2010 at 12:04 am  Comments (9)  

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “White beaches” can be innocence and purity, right? The poet can be angry and cynical and want to see them profaned by the violent wind and sea. That doesn’t seem implausible, or very far outside of the range of things I’ve heard and felt. But I have not read the whole poem yet.

  2. (“so full of bashfulness” sounds pretty weak though.)

  3. Something like that, or maybe he’s asking for the an end to chastity.

    Yeah, bashfulness isn’t right either. There’s a range of meanings and I started off with “shame”.

  4. I don’t know if substance is preserved
    But people get the poets they deserve

    The full poem has a lot of imagery around beaches, and yes, I think it has an end-to-chastity feel. Beaches are a locus of sexuality in general, with people wearing less clothing than they normally do. White beaches at night are silent, but the poet finding kisses inside inanimate things in the second stanza, women’s buttocks and breasts inside stone in the third. And in that stanza, of course:

    I love you, woman, sleeping
    By the sea! I love you in your utter nakedness
    In the sun, and your peacefulness in the moonlight

    The beach / sexuality image is an organizing principle of the poem: later there are saints made rabid by ultraviolet light. And raising tidal waves with your duel, well, that’s another way of saying the earth moved.

  5. John,

    What is the line before the line you quote?

    “A Mesa imensa onde, êsse, pode ver”

    Usually in cases like this “esse” should be referring
    to something in a previous sentence.

    Or I suppose one can translate it as
    “The big table where it can see.”

  6. Of your last translation I would only change the last
    line. I would say something like:

    Shouting, I will beseech
    The winds to violate and the sea to lay waste
    The white beaches of prudishness so deep.

    Basically I think ignoring the “tao fundo” part
    takes away some of the punch of the ending.

  7. I’ll think about it. To me it’s something that sounds natural in Portuguese but fussy and literary in English. Somewhat the same problem as “salubrious”.

    No suggestions about the poem as a whole, or as far as that goes my transcription of the original? You’re really my only reader fluent in Portuguese, as far as I know.

    Here’s the complete translation / transcription:

  8. “Thick with prudery”

  9. In the last part of the poem Vinicius is describing the skyline of Rio, dominated, in that time as today, by the huge gnaisse rocks that countain the city sprawl. The “mesa” cited in this verse is the “Pedra da Gavea”, the last mountain of the Tijuca Range that you can see from Ipanema (what probably is the preferred viewpoint of Vinicius). The square shape of Pedra da Gavea forms a “mesa”, but also looks like an human face from some angles. The “esse” in the verse is better understood as “one”, the person who can see:

    “E mais o sul, sarcófago do Sol
    A Mesa imensa onde, êsse, pode ver
    Se acaso souber ver, no fim do dia
    A silhueta do homem primitivo”

    “Sarcofago do Sol” = “Sun´s sarcophage”

    The sunset sometimes takes place behind or near Pedra da Gavea:

    “A silhueta do homem primitivo” = “Primitive man´s silhouette”

    As I said, Pedra da Gavea can remember a face:

    Hope this is of some help.

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