Sunday, March 14, 2010

Amar (To Love) - C. Drummond de Andrade


Portuguese is a language whose musicality is apparent to anyone who has heard the lyrics to The Girl From Ipanema.   

However strung together, words in Portugues have a natural lilt and a cadence that makes the most ordinary speech song-like because Brazilians speak with passion, regardless of subject. Combine that expressive spirit with the tropical abundance of sensual possibilities, and everyone is a poet.  (I've read that, during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries, there was an expectation that any self-respecting educated person would have penned a volume of poetry!)   Brazil is also a country, unlike the U.S., where poets are celebrated household names and where poetry is as present at a party as food, drink and music.  Of these poets, Carlos Drumond de Andrade's (1902-1987) is generally considered to have been one of the greatest, not just for his poetry but for his influence on poets of his - and later - generations.  He has been translated into English, most notably by the American poet Elizabeth Bishop (who lived in Brazil for many years) and others.  The translation below is mine.  (I spent my "Wonder Bread Years" - 4-14 - in Brazil.)

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Amar     (To Love)
                                          transl. from Brazilian Portuguese - Harrison Tao

What can one creature do,
Among his fellow creatures, if not love?
Love and forget,
Love and mis-love,
Love, unlove, love?
Always, even to eyes gone glassy, love?

What else, I ask, can a loving being do,
Alone in a rotating universe, if not
To turn too, and love?
Love what the sea brings ashore,
Love what it buries and what, in the sea-breezes,
Is salt, or love’s yearning, or plain anguish?

To love solemnly the desert palms,
Love what is surrendered or pregnant with demands,
Love the barren, the unpolished,
A flowerless vase, an iron floor,
The inert breast, the street seen in a dream, a bird of prey.

This is our destiny: to love without accounting,
Distributing it to the faithless and the hollow,
An unlimited donation to complete ingratitude,
And, still from the emptied shell, the nervous, patient
Scrounging out of more and more love.

To love even our own lack of love, and in our parched state
To love the implicit water, the implied kiss, the infinite thirst.
                                                                                                         
Carlos Drumond de Andrade (Brazilian)



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