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)  

Vinicius de Moraes: The Return of the Prodigal Son

A Volta do Filho Pródigo

(Tentative translation, corrections and suggestions welcome).

I will waken the birds who, for fear of darkness,
Have gone silent in the nighttime branches
And sleeplessly await the break of dawn.
I will rouse the drunkards in the doorways,
The sleepwalking dogs, and the ambient mysteries
Which fill the night. Shouting, I will beseech
The winds to violate and the sea to lay waste
The white beaches thick with prudery.
With laughter and song I will torch
God’s habitual nighttime silence,
So intimidating to man. May the city
Put a lunar shawl over its face
And come out to receive its poet
With jasmine branches and memories.

This hour is for beauty. In every stone,
In every house, in every street, in every
Tree there still lives a kiss made
For me: me, the urban lover,  more than
Urban, superhuman, in the wild nighttime city.
Probably I won’t come mounted
On any horse, nor in armor, since this — Poetry —
Will protect me best of all, with its chain mail
Of silence. Very possibly I’ll arrive drunk,
And if it’s January, wearing a sports coat.

What’s important is the arrival, the unity
Of me and the city, the city and me —
And to hear once more the sea shattering
On rocks, or roaring in the ocean,
Lonely like a god…. Beloved Rio,
Woman petrified into buttocks and breasts
And knees of millennial stone, with green
Pubis and armpits and unbound hair,
Fresh and scented with chlorophyll —
I love you, woman, sleeping
By the sea! I love you in your utter nakedness
In the sun, and your peacefulness in the moonlight.
I feel you next to me — your light
Does not harm my silence, my silence
Is yours. I know that, protected
By the beings moving within your arms
Your eyes have visions of other spaces
Past and future. Just as at times
Above the moonlit Niemeyer street,
Amidst the clamor of the whipped waves
The mountains will ponder. What silence
Can be heard settling there, what solemnity
Of nature! I know, and it’s the truth,
That under the Sun, Rio is completely bright,
All too bright, and without mystery.
I know that in the glare of January
Secrets die the way birds die, gladly.
I know all of this.

Now I see with these my tireless eyes
Ideas exploding like flowers
In the rays of the sun, now I see
Mathematical castles collapsing like cards,
Philosophical systems losing their daytime logic
At night, unfinished works of art getting lost
In fron of a sweaty armpit, in the noise of creation,
And crowds of saints made rabid by
The healthful properties of ultraviolet light.

Whoever has the nighttime habit,
Whoever lives in intimacy with silence,
Whoever is able to hear the music of darkness
When life reproduces itself there —
For them, the city offers itself
As a common zone of eternity
In counterpoint to the movement of the sea
And the millennial metamorphoses of the rock,
In its infinity of infinities….

For them, Dos Irmãos tells an astonishing
Story, a story of forces erupting
From the earth, producing sudden forms:
Viúva! Pão de Açúcar! Corcovado!
Further south is the tomb of the Sun —
The huge mesa, where can be seen
At sunset, should you be able to see,
The silhouette of primitive man
(The same who, even today, transformed,
Crosses the mosaic of the Avenue)
And even, who knows?, fan clubs of Nature
In their rows of seats, watching
Sea serpents in blind struggle
Rouse tidal waves with their duel
In the natural stadium of Guanabara….


Published in: on May 2, 2010 at 8:46 pm  Comments (8)  

What is Urianismo?

Vinicius de Moraes, Obra Poetica, Jose Aguilar, 1968

Vinicius de Moraes, Gedichte und Lieder, Piper,1989

Poema desentranhado da história dos particípios

(Do urianismo dos verbos ter e haver)

A partir do século XVI
Os verbos ter e haver esvaziaram-se de sentido
Para se tornarem exclusivamente auxiliares
E os particípios passados
Adquirindo em conseqüência um sentido ativo
Imobilizaram-se para sempre em sua forma indeclinável.

–Vinicius de Moraes


Poem deciphered from the history of participles

(On the urianism of the verbs ter and haver)

Starting from the 16th century
The verbs ter and haver were emptied of meaning
To become exclusively auxiliaries
And the past participles
Acquired consequently an active sense
Immobile for ever in their undeclinable forms.

(Translation by Dylan in the comments, correcting mine) (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2010 at 1:00 am  Comments (12)  

Sonnet on the Final Hour

Vinicius de Moraes Saravá,
Gedichte und Lieder,
Serie Piper, 1989

It will be like this, dear friend — one day
we’ll be watching the sunset
when we suddenly feel on our faces
a light kiss of cold air.

You’ll look at me silently
and I’ll do the same,  remembering….
then dazzled with poetry, we’ll pass through
the door open before us, to the darkness.

Crossing the border of the Secret
I will softly say, “Don’t be afraid”
And you will say, “Be strong”.

And like two ancient lovers
mournfully entwined in the night
together we’ll enter the gardens of death.


Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm  Comments (2)  

Blindfold test: the author function &c*

At some point I will translate his powem about the bad boy and the crocodile.

As gold breeds misery
Misery breeds light
That makes the stones glare
for the pauper’s delight.

Light is but the pauper’s gold
Stones are but rocks
That pave the way where run
God’s miserable flocks.

The world has many rocks
God has many flocks
God’s a shepherd, I was told
God is made of gold.

Probably a naive author — a child who can be expected to grow out of it, or a populist with a rhyming dictionary. (But maybe this is a trick question, maybe it’s  Blake or Dickinson or D.H. Lawrence or Stephen Crane or someone undiscovered sort of  like them. Don’t jump too soon. How important is authorship anyway? And who’s that guy in the photo?)

(Answer below the fold)


Published in: on April 5, 2010 at 2:39 pm  Comments (2)