Carlos Drummond de Andrade: Biography and Poems | Brazilian Poetry

Carlos Drummond de Andrade Brazilian Poet


Carlos Drummond de Andrade was a Brazilian poet and writer, considered by some as the greatest Brazilian poet of all time. Drummond was born in Itabira, a mining village in Minas Gerais in the southeastern region of Brazil. Drummond, as a writer of the modernist style, follows the writing mechanic proposed by Mário de Andrade and Oswald de Andrade; making use of free verse, and not depending on a fixed meter. In modernism, the predominant style which Drummond wrote in, styles were divided into lyrical and subjective or objective and concrete, Drummond would be part of the latter, similar to Oswald de Andrade.

Seven-Sided Poem

When was born, one of the crooked
angels who live in shadow, said:
Carlos, go on! Be gauche in life.

The houses watch the men,
men who run after women.
If the afternoon had been blue,
there might have been less desire.

The trolley goes by full of legs:
white legs, black legs, yellow legs.
My God, why all the legs?
my heart asks. But my eyes
ask nothing at all.

The man behind the moustache
is serious, simple, and strong.
He hardly ever speaks.
He has a few, choice friends,
the man behind the spectacles and the moustache.

My God, why hast Thou forsaken me
if Thou knew'st 1 was not God,
if Thou- knew'st that 1 was weak.

Universe, vast universe,
if 1 had been named Eugene
that would not be what 1 mean
but it would go into verse
Universe, vast universe,
my heart is vaster.

I oughtn't to tell you,
but this moon
and this brandy
play the devil with one's emotions.

Translated by Elizabeth Bishop


And now, José?
The party's done,
the light put out,
the people gone,
the night gone cold,
and now, Jose?
and now, yourself?
your nameless self
who cuts them dead,
you maker of verse
who loves, protests,
and now, José?

You're loverless,
no podium,
no tenderness,
drink won't go down,
smoke won't suck in,
the mouth won't spit,
the night's gone cold,
dawn hasn't come,
the bus won't come
nor laughter come
nor Utopia come
and it's all done
and it's all fled,
the white mold grows,
and now, José?

And now, José?
your gentle word,

your flash of fever,
your greeds and fasts,
your library,
your vein of gold,
your suit of glass,
your incoherences,
your hates, and now?

Key in your hand,
you want the door,
there's no more door;
you want to drown
but the sea dried up;
you want your home
—what home is that?
José, what next?

If you'd just scream,
if you'd just whine,
if you'd just play
a Viennese waltz,
if you'd just sleep
or at least get tired,
if you'd just die ...
But you won't die,
you're tough, José!

Yourself in the dark
like a beast in a den,
with no pagan gods,
with no bare wall
to lean back on,
with no jet horse
that flees at a gallop,
you march, José!
José, how come?

Translated by Virginia de Araújo.

To Love

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

Translated by Harrison Tao.

Ballad of Love Through the Ages

From the beginning of time,
I liked you, you liked me.
I was Greek, you were Trojan,
Trojan but not Helen.
I sprung from a wooden horse
to kill your brother.
I killed, we quarreled, we died.

I became a Roman soldier
persecutor of Christians.
At the catacomb door
I met you again.
But when I saw you fall
naked in the Colosseum
and the lion coming toward you,
I made a desperate leap
and the lion ate us both.

Next I was a Moorish pirate,
the scourge of Tripoli.
I set fire to the frigate
where you were hiding from
the fury of my brigantine.
But when I went to grab you
and take you as my slave,
you crossed yourself and drove
a dagger through your heart.
I killed myself as well.

Later on, in happier days,
I was a courtier at Versailles,
clever and debauched.
You dreamed of being a nun…
I vaulted over the convent wall
but difficult politics
led us to the guillotine.

These days I’m totally modern:
dancing, jogging, working out.
And I have money in the bank.
And you’re a fabulous blonde:
dancing, jogging, working out.
None of it pleases your father.
But after a thousand reversals,
I, one of Paramount’s heroes,
give you a hug, a kiss, and we marry.

Translated by Mark Strand