Castro Alves: Biography and Poems | Brazilian Poetry


Castro Alves Brazilian Poet


Antônio Frederico de Castro Alves (14 March 1847 – 6 July 1871) was a Brazilian poet and playwright, famous for his abolitionist and republican poems. One of the most famous poets of the "Condorism", he won the epithet of "O Poeta dos Escravos" ("The Poet of the Slaves"). He is the patron of the 7th chair of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

The Black Ship Part 1.

We are on the high sea… Mad in space

The moonlight plays - golden butterfly;

And the waves run after it. . . tiring

As a band of frenzied infants.

We are on the high sea… From the firmament

The stars jump like foam of gold. . .

The sea in exchange lights phosphorescence,

- Constellations of liquid treasure…

We are on the high sea… Two infinites

There narrowed in an insane embrace,

Blue, golden, placid, sublime ..

Which of the two is ocean? Which sky?…

We are on the high sea ... Opening the sails,

To the warm breath of the maritime winds,

Sail-boat brig runs to the flower of the seas

Like the swallows brush in the wave…

From where do you come? Where do you go? Of the wandering ships

Who knows the course if the space is so immense?

On this Sahara wild horses the dust raise,

Gallop, soar, but leave no trace.

Happy the one who can there, at that hour,

Feel from this panel the majesty!

Below - the sea, above - the firmament!…

And in the sea and in the sky - the immensity!

Oh! what sweet harmony the breeze brings to me!

What soft music from distance sounds!

My God! how sublime an ardent song is

Through the endless waves drifting without destiny!

Men of the sea! Oh rude sailors,

Toasted by the sun of the four worlds!

Children who the storms lull to sleep

In the cradle of these deep abysses!

Wait! wait! let me drink

This wild, free poetry,

Orchestra - is the sea, that roars by the prow

And the wind, that whistles in the ropes.

Why do you retreat so, sprightly boat?

Why do you evade the diffident poet?

Oh! if I only could follow your course

That reflects on the sea— mad comet!

Albatross! Albatross! Eagle of the ocean,

You who sleep in the mist of the clouds,

Shake your feathers, leviathan of space

Albatross! Albatross! give me those wings.

The Black Ship Part 2.

What matters the sailor’s cradle,

Where from he is son, where is his home?

Loves the cadence of the verse

Which the old sea teaches him!

Sing! Because death is divine!

The brig slides the bowline

Like a fast dolphin.

Tight to the mizzen mast

A nostalgic flag signs

To the waves left behind.

From the Spanish, the canticles

Broken in a languorous dance,

Remind the dark young women,

The blooming Andalusians!

From Italy, the indolent son,

Sings a sleeping Venice,

- Land of love and betrayal,

Or from the gulf in its lap

Reminds the verses of Tasso,

By the lava of a volcano!

The Englishman - cold sailor,

Since birth in the sea,

(For as England is a ship, which

God in the Channel anchored),

Vigorous, recites his country’s glories,

Remembering, proud, histories

Of Nelson and Aboukir…

The Frenchman - predestined -

Sings the glories of the past

And the honours of tomorrow!

The Hellenic sailors,

Whom the Ionic wave created,

Beautiful dark pirates

From the sea that Ulysses crossed,

Men that Phydias engraved,

Keep on singing in the clear night

Verses that Homer moaned…

Sailors from all lands,

You know how to find on the waves

The melodies of Heaven!

The Black Ship Part 3.

Descend from the immense space, oh ocean’s eagle!

Descend more…even more…no human glance can

Like yours, to dive into a flying brig!

But what do I see there…such a picture of sorrows!

It is a funeral chant!…what direful figures!

Such an infamy and evil scene…My God! My God! What a horror!


Translated by Mariza G. Góes