The Last Flower of Lazio

I read this poem today and really took to the first line which speaks of the ‘last flower of Lazio’, refering to how Portuguese was the last of the latin languages to be born out of Vulgar Latin and that it originated out of the Italian region of Lazio (where modern day Rome is).

Língua Portuguesa
by Olavo Bilac

Última flor do Lácio, inculta e bela,
És, a um tempo, esplendor e sepultura:
Ouro nativo, que na ganga impura
A bruta mina entre os cascalhos vela…
Amote assim, desconhecida e obscura,
Tuba de alto clangor, lira singela,
Que tens o trom e o silvo da procela
E o arrolo da saudade e da ternura!
Amo o teu viço agreste e o teu aroma
De virgens selvas e de oceano largo!
Amo-te, ó rude e doloroso idioma,
Em que da voz materna ouvi: “meu filho!”
E em que Camões chorou, no exílio amargo,
O gênio sem ventura e o amor sem brilho!

The Portuguese Language
translated by Austin Stranger

The last flower of Lazio, uncultivated and beautiful,
you are, at the same time, splendor and sepulcher:
native gold, that in impure minerals
the brute mine amid gravel hides…
I love you like this, unknown and obscure.
Tube of high resonance,  simple lyre,
You have the rumble and the hiss of the storm,
the longing and tenderness of a lullaby!
I love your rustic vigor and your fragance
of virgin woods and large ocean!
I love you, oh rude and painful language,
from which I heard of maternal voice “my son!”
from which Camões cried, in bitter exile,
the genius without fortune and the love without brilliance!

The poem inspired other takes on the same subject such as the poem “Língua”, by Gilberto Mendonça and “Língua Portuguesa”, by Caetano Veloso. The latter, I am familiar with and I am quite taken with it as well. Fernando Pessoa has also written (in PT) on the subject in his famous ‘Book of Disquiet’.

More Info

An Analysis of Bilac’s poem (in PT)
Olavo Bilac on Wikipedia


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