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A simple man, described as kindness itself bay his friends, the many-faceted mulatto form the Northeast, Jorge de Lima, was the most versatile of all modern Brazilian poets. Born in União dos Palmares, Alagoas, on April 23, 1893, Lima became, after a brief period of fame as a neoParnasian, the chief representative of lyric poetry within the Northeast Regionalist Movement. A folkloric genius who could recite a vast store of tales, he nourished his natural love for all things animate and inanimate, and develop I time a super-natural charity base upon a Christian mysticism that permitted him to see the universe in the eternal sacrifice of Calvary. Celebrating the Negro as no other Brazilian poet has been able to do and creating  fantastic visions that troubled his imagination and often kept him form sleep, Jorge de Lima also wrote neo-naturalistic novels and surrealistic prose.  But so great was his poetic achievement that Brazilian criticism still finds it difficult to decide which part if his work deserves the greatest admiration: his Christian or his regional poetry. Limas´s later volumes are his most impressive: Tempo e Eternidade (in collaboration with Murilo Mendes, 1935); A Túnica Inconsútil (1938); Poemas Negros (1946); Livro de Sonetos (1949); Invenção de Orfeu (1952).

Translated , with the help of Yolanda Leite,
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962



The words have grown old inside men
And separated into islands,
The words have mummified in the mouths of legislators;
The words have rotted in the promises of tryants;
The words mean nothing in the speeches of politicians.
And Word of God is one despite the sacrilege
         of the men of Babel,
Despite the sacrilege of the men of today.
And can it be that the immortal word will sicken?
And can it be that the great Semitic word will disappear?
And can it be that the poet was not designated to give
         the word new life?
To pick it from the surface of the waters and offer it
         again to the men of the continent?
And was he not appointed to restore its essence,
         and to reconstitute its magic content?
Does the poet not see the communion of languages,
When men will reconquer the attributes lost with The Fall,
And when the nations founded after Babel will be destroyed?
When all the confusion is undone,
Will the poet not speak form wherever he is,
To all men on earth, in one single language —
         the language of the Spirit?
But should  you live sunk in time and in space,
You sill not understand me, brother!


I took wild honey from the plants,
I took salt from the waters, I took light from the sky.
Listen, my brothers, I took poetry from everything
To offer it to the Lord.
I did not dig gold from the earth
Or leech blood from my brothers.
Inn-keepers: let me alone.
Peddlers and bankers:
I can fabricate distances
To keep you away from me.
Life is a failure,
I believe in the magic of God.
The roosters are not crowing,
The day has not dawned.
I saw the ships go and return.
I saw misery go and return.

I saw the fat man in the fire.
I saw zig-zags in the darkness.
Captain, where is the Congo?
Where is the Isle of Saint Brandon?
Captain, what a black night!
Mistiffs howl in the darkness.
O Untouchables, which is the country,
Which is the country that you desire?
I took wild honey from the plants.
I took salt from the waters, I took light from the sky.
Sit down, my brothers.


Papa John withered like a rootless stick.—
         Papa John is going to die.
Para John rowed the boats. —
         He dug the earth.
         He made spring from the ground
         The emerald of leaves — coffee, cane, cotton.
Papa John dug up more emeralds
         Than pioneer Paes Leme.

Papa John´s daughter had the breasts of a cow
         For his mother´s children to suck:
         When her breasts dried up, Papa John´s daughter
         Also withered while fastened to
         a PRESSING IRON.
         Papa John´s skin stuck to the tips
         Of whips.
         Papa John´s strength stayed on the handle
         Of hoe and of scythe.
         Papa John´s wife the white
         Man stole and made her a nurse.
         Papa John´s blood dissolved in the good blood
         Like a lump of crude sugar
         In a pan of milk.—
         Papa John was a horse for his master´s children to mount.
         Papa John could tell such beautiful stories
         That you felt like crying.
         Papa John is going to die.
         The night outside is as black as Papa John´skin.
         Not one star in the sky.
         It looks like the witchcraft of Papa John.



The river and the serpent are mysterious, my son.
On the top of the mountain
Were two circles of the Eternal.
One circle was the serpent.
The other circle was the river:
Both precipitated,
Both came searching for man,
One to purify him,
The other to poison him..
Down there they both found
The simple man.
One offered him the Fish to feed him,
The other offered him the fruit to intoxicate him.
The river and the serpent are mysterious, my son.
From the clowds they precipitated,
Both are crawling on the earth
Like the two ways of man,
For him to choose as his guide.
The river and the serpent are mysterious my son:
They come from the beginning of things,
They run towards the end of everything
And sometimes in the water of  the river
You will find the black serpent.
Things were simple, my son,
But they became confused:
The river that washes you
Can also drown you,
For under the appearance of the river
Slides the serpent.
The river and the serpent are mysterious, my son:
In the brightening they were two circles,
From there they came uncoiled.


It seems, Lord, that I have unfolded myself,
That I have multiplied myself.
That the rain from heaven falls into my hands,
That the noise of the world moans in my ears,
That someone husks wheat, weeping, in my naked trunk,
That cities burn within my eyesockets.
It seems, Lord, that the nights darken in my manifold being.
That I speak unwitting for all my brothers,
That I walk more and more in search of You.
It seems, Lord, that You have lengthened my arms

To reach for rare and gleaning vaults,
That you have extended my feet resting in Limbo,
That the tired birds perch on my shoulder
Without knowing that the scarecrow  is Your Image.
It seems that in my veins
Flow the nocturnal rivers
Where boatmen row against rising tides.
It seems that in my shadow
The sun rises and sets,
And my shadow and my being
Are worth one minute in You.



Stop everything that keeps me form sleep:
Those cranes in the night,
that violent wind,
The last thought of those suicides.
Stop everything that keeps me from sleep:
Those infernal ghosts that open my eyelids,
This acceleration of my hear,
This echoing of things deserted and dumb.
Stop everything that keeps me from returning
         to the sunlit sleep
That God gave me
Before He created me.


1 – The poor who possess only their poverty
      And nothing else;
      The dying who count on their end only
      And nothing else;
      The weak who possess only their weakness
      and nothing else;
      Can walk on the waters of the sea.

2 – Those who possess herds of machines,
      Those who are heavy with crimes and gold,
       Men of hatred or of pride,
       Those will sink.

3 – We will call the man whom war has almost devoured
      And to whom it has left only his knees on the ground.
      That man will run faster than light.

4 – We will call the man who blew out the life that
        God gave him,
      And whom the evil of the earth has spoiled with
         its vices,
      That man, God will give him new life.

5 – We will call the man who saw the first minute. And
         he died.

6 – The man who wanted to smile and was born without lips.

7 – These will be comforted.
      These will remain at the right hand.


Rag doll with eyes of bead,
a dress of chintz,
hair of ribbons,
stuffed with wool.

Day and night, her opened eyes,
looking at the toy soldiers that can march,
at the jacks-in-the-box that can jump.
Rag doll that falls down:
she does not break, she costs a penny.
Rag doll of the unhappy girls
who lead the cripples, who pick up
cigarette butts, who beg at the corners, poor things!
Rag doll with an impassive face like those girls.
Dirty little doll, stuffed with wool. —
The eyes of bead have fallen off. Blind
she rolls in the gutter. The garbage man takes her away,
covered with mud, naked,
Jus as our Lord had intended.



O, my Jesus, as soon as you grow
A little bit older,
Come take a walk with me,
For too am fond of children.

We shall go see the tame bests
In the zoological garden.
And on any holiday
We shall then go, for example,
To see Christ King of Corcovado.

And those who pass
Upon seeing the boy
Will certainly say: There goes the son
Of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception!

— That little boy who hoes there
(Several men will then add)
Knows more things than all of us.

— Good morning, Jesus — a voice will say.

And other voices will whisper:
— It is the handsome boy who is in the book
Of my First Communion.

— How strong he looks! — Nothing changed!
— How gentlemen will say a little later on).

But other people of different appearance
Will surely say on seeing You:
— It is the son of the carpenter!
And on seeing the custom of a working man
To take a walk on a Sunday,
They will invite us to go together
To visit our fellow workers,

And when we come back
Home, at night,
And the sinners turn to their vices,
They will undoubtedly ask me.

And I will invent subtle excuses
For You to let me go alone.
Child Jesus, have mercy on us,
Hold my hand very tight.


My Lord Jesus, this century is rotten.
Where shall I seek for poetry?
I must take off all the cloaks,
The beautiful cloaks that the world has given me.
I must take off the cloak of poetry.
I must take off the purest cloak.
My Lord Jesus, this century is sick,
This century is rich, this century is fat.
I must take off what is beautiful, I must take off poetry,
I must take off the purest cloak
Which time has given me, which life gives me.
I want Your road to be light.
Even what is beautiful is heavy on my shoulders,
Even poetry above the world,
Above time, above life,
Mashes me on the earth, binds me to things.
I want a voice stronger than the poem,
Stronger than hell, stronger then death:
I want a power closer to You.
I want to strip myself of my voice and my eyes,
Of the other senses, of the other prisons;
I cannot, Lord: the age is sick.
The cries of the earth, of suffering men
Bind me, pull me — give me Your hand.





         Translated by June Jordan


Inside the nighttime of the storm,

the mystery caravel goes there.

Time moves, and waters crest,

the wind weeps ugly loud.

The mystery caravel goes there.

Above this ship

what hand is that more huge

even than the sea?

Hand of the pilot?

Whose hand?

The caravel plunges,

the sea stands dark,

time moves.

Above this ship

the large hand

is bleeding.

The caravel goes there.

The sea spills,

land vanishes,

stars fall.

The caravel continues and

above this ship

the eternal hand

is there.



From  AN ANTHOLOGY OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY BRAZILIAN POETRY, edited with introduction by Elizabeth Bishop... Middletown, Cunn.: Westeyan Univesity Press, 1972


AN INTRODUCTION TO MODERN BRAZILIAN POETRY. Verse translations by Leonard S. Downes.  [São Paulo]: Clube de Poesia do Brasil, 1954.  84 p.  14x20 cm.  “ Leonard S. Downes “ Ex. Biblioteca Nacional de Brasília


Imagem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W_39dFystc



Now it happened that there carne

(this was very long ago.)

to my grandfather's farm

a nigger girl whose name

was Fulo, that nigger Fulô.


That nigger Fulô!

That nigger Fulô!


O Fulô! O Fulô!

('Twas the Mistress ,waá calling)

— Will you go and make my bed,

will you help me to undress

come here at once, Fulô!


          That nigger Fulô!


That nigger girl Fulô!

She was taken into service

to look after her young Mistress

and to iron the Master's clothes.


          That nigger Fulô!

          That nigger Fulô!


O Fulô! O Fulô!

('Twas the Mistress was calling)

for I´m feeling much too hot

come and scratch my back for me

run your fingers through my hair

come and swing me in my hammock

come and tell me a nice story

to send me off to sleep, O Fulô!


          That nigger Fulo!


"Once upon a time was a fair princess

who lived in a lordly castle

and she wore a beautiful sillken dress

made of all the fish in the sea.

Into the leg of a duckling she Went

out of the leg of a chicken she came

by my Lord the King's self I was sent

to tell you five more of the same".


          That nigger Fulô!

          That nigger Fulô!


O Fulô? O Fulô?

Go at once, Fulo, and see

that the children are in bed!

"By my mother I was curled

by my stepmother interred

by the figs of the twisted fig-tree

nibbled by the Sabiá bird".


          That nigger Fulô!

          That nigger Fulô!


O Fulô? O Fulô?

('Twas the Mistress was calling

—for the nigger girl Fulô)

Where's my perfume, I would know,

that your Master gave to me?


— O 'twas you wfho were the thief!

O 'twas you who were the thief!


The Master went to see

that nigger girl whipped.

The nigger girl stripped.

The Master said: Fulô!

(And his look was as black

as the nigger girl Fulô)


          That nigger Fulô!

          That nigger Fulô!


O Fulô? O Fulô?

Where's my kerchief of fine lace,

where's my sash, where's my brooch,

where's my necklace, I would know,

that your Master gave to me?

O 'twas you who were the thief.

O 'twas you who were the thief»


          That nigger Fulô!

          That nigger Fulô!

The Master went alone

to whip that nigger girl Fulô.

The nigger girl took o f f her skirt,,

took off her smock as well,

and out of it there jumped,

bare-naked, that nigger Fulô.


          That nigger Fulô!

          That nigger Fulô!


O Fulô? O Fulô?


Where's your Master, I would know,

that the Good Lord gave to me?

Was it you who were the thief,

was it you, O nigger Fulô?


          That nigger Fulô!



Página publicada em janeiro de 2009; página ampliada e republicada em agosto de 2015.




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