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Born in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, on May 13, 1902, Murilo Monteiro Mendes thinks of his poems as studies that other men can develop, because He believes that “the grmen of poetry exists in all men.”  For the growth of that germ in himself, Mendes credits three events as primary in importance: the passage of Halley´s Comet in 1910, two Russina ballets featuring Nijinsky in 1916, and his own meeting with Ismael Nery in 1921. He attributes to the comet the qualities of panic and sharp clarity that characterize his poetry, and also the two planes of vision; the meeting with Nery led to Murilo´s conversion to Catholicism. The influence of Nery´s Catholic Essentialism upon Murilo Mendes´poetry may be seen in his abstraction of space and time, his incorporation of the eternal into the contingent. Dialectical in both his poetry and his religion, Mendes came to believe that the essence of truth is Christian live, dive charity. His spiritual voice speaks most movingly perhaps in the following volumes: A Poesia em Pânico (1938), O Visionário (1941), As Metamorfoses (1944), Mundo Enigma (1945), and Poesia Liberdade (1947).



Foolish virtein
Why don´t you buy oil for your lamp?
Why do you think only of immediate and finite things?
One day the Bridegroom will come,
He will give a great cry and it will be late.
You were dealing with your tractors,
You were busy only with the production of you collective farms,
And you did not notice that the Bridegroo9m was coming:
He shut Himself up in the red room with your sisters.

Sweep your houses, your parks, of culture.
Send up  in space your planes, light your reflectors,
Call your neighbors because you have found the lost ruble,
The Eternal Word that nourished you without your knowing it.
You have already scattered your goods
To seek what has existed in you since the beginning.
Return to your Father´s house, where there are many mansions.
Return to the communion of the sons of God,
O prodigal, O generous.

You will hear the great symphony of the organs, of the bells,
Mixed with the whistles of the sirens of ships and of factories,
O sister gone astray.


Your eyes will judged
With much less clemency
That the rest of your body.
Your eyes have lingered too much
On breasts and hips,
They have lingered too little
On the other eyes that exist
Here in this world of God.
They have lingered nearly nothing
On the hands of the poor
And on the bodies of the sick.
Your eyes will suffer
More than the rest of your body:
They will not be allowed to look upon
The purest creatures
Who are to be seen in the other world.


Who am I anyway?

I am the portrait of an ancestor.
I am that nightgown I wore
Many years ago.
I am the almost faded companion
Of a girl who necked with me
Many years ago.
I am a slow waltz
Itching in my ears.
I am a corpse, a grimace
That a few guys take, laughing,
Without flowers in a car.
I am reprobate waiting for the final sentence!


The woman from the world´s end
Gives food to the rose trees,
Gives water to the statues,
Gives dreams to the poets.

The woman from the world´s end
Calls the light with a whistle,
Turns the virgin into stone,
Cures the tempest,
Changes the course of dreams,
Writes letters to the rivers,
Pulls me from eternal sleep
To her singing arms.


Not only will I blame
My parents and grandparents:
I will also sue the initial egg.
Everything is at fault.
Oh, primal nebular stuff:
Giddiness of smells
Of matters movements
Of lights and endless waves.
Wrap me up in the end of the world.
Tumble creation down:
We will go in a vertigo
Without beginning middle o end.


I do not find consolation in churches.
You, monk, cannot  tell me what Christ will say.
You have gathered the least part of Him…
And His body and His blood
Do not make life circulate through my body and blood.
You, woman, a limited creature like me,
You receive the best part of my cult.
(I am aware of my error!)
I love you for your elegance, for your lie,
         for your theatrical life.
And I cannot even rest my head on the stone of your body…
Only you, Santa, never fail me for  a single moment!


I feel I am a fragment of God
As I am a remnant of a root,
A little of the water of the seas,
The stray arm of a constellation>

Matter thinks by command of God.
Matter is transformed and evolves by command of God.
Matter is varied and beautiful.
Matter is one of the visible forms of the Invisible.
Christ is the most handsome of the sons of man.
Churches are full of legs, breasts, hair
Everywhere, even on the altar itself.
There are great forces of matter on earth and in air
That intertwine, mate, and reproduce every moment
One thousand editions of the divine thoughts.
Matter is great and formidable:
Without it there is no poetry.


The Spirit of Poetry transports me
To the shapeless region where I spend long hours, motionless
In the silence before the Creation of thing, terrifying.
Suddenly I extend my right arm into space and everything incarnates.

The fresh dung of voluptuousness warms  the earth.
The fish germinate in the vastness of ocean.
The crowds rush to the public square.

Brothels and churches, lying-I hospitals and cemeteries
Stand up in air for Good and for Evil.

The diverse characters that I have encompassed
Separate from one another and found a community
Where I preside, now sad, now gay.

I am not God because I depart for Him.
I am a god because they depart for me.
We are all gods because we depart for one single end.


I will die detesting the evil I have done
And without the force to do good.
I love the guilty as well as the innocent.
O Magdalen, you who have triumphed over the power of flesh,
You are closer to us than the Virgin Mary,
Exempt, ever since eternity, from the original sin.
O my brothers, we are more united by sin than by Grace!
We belong to the great community of despair
Which will last till the end of all ages.


 A woman on the verandah
Leans over the sea
Contemplates the twin sea gulls
Expects a love letter.

The aerial cemetery shines
The clouds play a boxing game.

Girls pass by singing.

They do not know I am a poet
Or the love that is in me.


The opposite always arrives:
Everything that one has not asked for.

The invisible insists:
Nobody sees his own handkerchief.

In the deserted plain
Our ghost cries
For his life that is ruining itself.

Blue ball, it has been blown
By the evil winds.

Pure spirit.
Ripe hell.


Heads or tails?
God or the devil?
Love or desertion?
Activity or solitude?

The hand opens: tails.
God and the devil.
Love and desertion.
Activity and solitude.


I wanted to kindle the spirit of life,
I wanted to recast my own mold,
I wanted to know the truth of things, of the elements;
I rebelled against God,
Against the pope, the bankers, the ancient school,
Against my family, against my love,
Then against work,
Then against laziness,
Then against myself,
Against my three dimensions:

Then the dictator of the world
Had me imprisoned on Sugar Loaf;
Come, squads of planes,
Beak away my poor liver —
I vomit gallons of gall,
I contemplate down there the daughters of the sea
Dressed in bathing suits, singing sambas,
I see the dawns, the evenings break
— Purity and simplicity of life! —
But I cannot ask for forgiveness.





Translated by W. S. Merwin


Horses gallop over the vast plain.

Going where?

Going to look for the head of the Dauphin that is rolling

                                               down the stairs.

The spirited horses shake out their long blue manes.

One holds in his teeth the white dead actress he drew from

                                                                  the waters,

Others carry the wind's message to vanished explorers,

Others carry wheat to peoples abandoned by their leaders.

The lean blue horses whinny toward the airplane,

Pound the hard earth with their shining hooves.

They are the last of an old race, man's companion.

He will replace them with mechanical horses

And throw them into the abyss of history.

The impatient blue horses have closed off the curve of

                                                        the horizon,

Wakening trumpets in the dawn.




Homem estendido na mesa,
a roupa preta faz ele ficar maior,
os quatro tocheiros arrumados simetricamente
constroem na sala pobre um túmulo imaginário.

Os retratos de família emoldurados em pelúcia
esfregam as mãos de alegria.

A botina polida
mostra o selo novo de consumo.
As crianças pobres do vizinho
tiram retrato na botina.


         DEAD MAN

         Man stretched on the table.
         his black clothes make him larger.
         the four big candlesticks sysymmetrically arranged
         build up na imaginary tomb in the room.

         The family portraits framed in plush
         rub their hands in glee.

         His polished shoes
         show the revenue stamp.
         The neighbour’s porr children
         take a phot on the shoe.

                            Translation: Abgar Renault





I proclaim Thee great and wonderful,

Not because Thou hast made the sun to avail by day

And the stars to avail by night;

Not because Thou hast made the earth and all that is therein,
The fruits of the field, the flowers, the cinemas, the locomotives;

Not because Thou hast made the sea and all that is therein,
The animals and plants, submarines and sirens;
I proclaim Thee great and eternally wonderful
Because Thou makest Thyself tiny in the Eucharist,
So tiny that I, weak and wretched, am able to contain

                                                   Translator: Dudley Poore



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.



I give  Thee alms of all that I have suffered
Since I was born.
I give  Thee alms of all my humiliations,
Of pride vanquished and aspirations vain.
I give Thee alms of my unused desire for righteousness,
Of all the ill that I have done because Thou didst permit.
I give Thee alms of all that poetry which overflowed my poems,
Of all the lives that move me by their misery and wrong.
I give Thee alms of my own life which I accept but as a burden.


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




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