The Song of Exile – Gonçalves Dias

The Song of Exile
by Antônio Gonçalves Dias
translated by Nelson Ascher

My homeland has many palm-trees
and the thrush-song fills its air;
no bird here can sing as well
as the birds sing over there.

We have fields more full of flowers
and a starrier sky above,
we have woods more full of life
and a life more full of love.

Lonely night-time meditations
please me more when I am there;
my homeland has many palm-trees
and the thrush-song fills its air.

Such delights as my land offers
Are not found here nor elsewhere;
lonely night-time meditations
please me more when I am there;
My homeland has many palm-trees
and the thrush-song fills its air.

Don’t allow me, God, to die
without getting back to where
I belong, without enjoying
the delights found only there,
without seeing all those palm-trees,
hearing thrush-songs fill the air.

The original can be found here and the translation above is here.

Antônio Gonçalves Dias

Antônio (born in the state of Maranhão) was a Brazilian poet. A respected ethnologist and scholar, he lived much of the time abroad but drowned at age 41 on his way back to Maranhão. His songs, collected in First Poems (1847), More Poems (1848), and Last Poems (1851), which display both exuberance and longing, are a celebration of the New World as a tropical paradise and a glorification of the indigenous people. While in Europe, he wrote a dictionary of the Tupi language. His “Song of Exile” (Canção do Exílio, 1843) is known to every Brazilian schoolchild, and he is regarded as the national poet of Brazil.

Castro Alves – An abolitionist, a republican & a poet

Castro Alves was a Brazilian poet best remembered for his abolitionist and republican poems, and is considered one of the most important Brazilian poets of the 19th century. Alves was born on the Cabaceiras farm close to the town of Curralinho in Bahia which was renamed to the city of Castro Alves in honor of the poet.

In 1862, he entered the Law School of Recife, was involved in an affair with Portuguese actress Eugênia Câmara and wrote his first abolitionist poems: “Os Escravos” (The Slaves) and “A Cachoeira de Paulo Afonso” (Paulo Afonso’s Waterfall), reading them out loud in public events in defense of the abolitionist cause. Even though many Brazilians stood up against it at that time, slavery in Brazil was not officially ended until 1888, when Princess Isabel, daughter of Dom Pedro II, declared it extinct by means of the Lei Áurea (Golden Law).


Alves’s work stands in the late-Romantic aesthetic and is deeply influenced by the work of the French poet Victor Hugo in a movement called condoreirismo, which is marked by the introspection of the Romantic period with a social and humanitarian concern. These concerns led him to the incipient Abolitionism and Republicanism, of whose causes he was one of the foremost representatives.

His poetry is more optimistic in tone than early romantic poets, and is marked by more sensual and physical images than is usual to the Romantic Aesthetic. He was not attached to the (sometimes official) indigenism shown by José de Alencar or Gonçalves Dias, nor had the mal-du-siècle aesthetic of Álvares de Azevedo. As a result of this, his work is usually considered to be late-romantic, tending to the later Realist movement.

Among his best known works are: “Espumas Flutuantes” (Floating Foams), “Gonzaga ou A Revolução de Minas” (Gonzaga or the Revolution of Minas), “Cachoeira de Paulo Afonso”, “Vozes D’África” (Voices from Africa), “O Navio Negreiro” (The Slave Ship).

Subversive – Ferreira Gullar

by Ferreira Gullar
Translation by William Jay Smith

when she comes
respects nothing.
Neither father nor mother.
When she struggles
up from one of her abysses
she ignores Society and the State
disdains Water Regulations

like a young
in front of the Palace of Dawn*

And only later
does she reconsider: kisses
the eyes of those who earn little
gathers into her arms
those who thirst for happiness
and justice

And promises to set the country on fire.

*The Presidental Palace in Brasilia

For the poem in Portuguese, go here.

Motive – Cecília Meireles

by Cecília Meireles
Translation by John Nist

I sing because the moment exists
And my life is complete.
I am not gay, I am not sad:
I am a poet.

Brother of fugitive things,
I feel no delight or torment.
I cross nights and days
In the wind.

Whether I destroy or build,
Whether I persist or disperse,
— I don´t know, I don´t know.
I don´t know if I stay or go.

I know that I sing.
The song is everything.
The rhythmic wing has eternal blood,
And I know that one day I shall be dumb:
— Nothing more.

About the Author

Born a carioca (from Rio de janeiro) on November 7, 1901, by the time of the first phase of the Modernist Movement in Brazil, she already belonged to the Spiritualists, a group of writers who were direct descendente of the Symbolists of Paraná. Friend of the Chilean Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral, Cecilia Meireles has constantly fortered two aesthetic forces in her poetry: tradition and mistery. Perhaps the most dedicated craftsman of the generation, greatly amired in India, Israel, and the Latin countries of Western Europe, she has created a dozen of volumes of lyrics so limpid and intense as to be the envy of her male contemporaries. These volumes, collected in Obra Poética (1958), run to better than a thousand pages. The union of such quantitly with such quality is one reason why she has twice been nominated for the Nobel Prize. – Source

Things of the Earth – Ferreira Gullar

In the early days of my interests, I would go to bookstores and search for anything Brazilian. On one such occasion, I bought a bilingual Xeroxed book of Brazilian Poetry from the 1950’s – 1980’s and from it, I found the following poem. 

Things of the Earth
by Ferriera Gullar
translated by WIlliam Jay Smith

All the things I speak of lie in the city
      between heaven and earth.
All are things perishable
      and eternal like your laughter
      words of allegiance
      my open hand
or the forgotten smell of hair
      that returns
      and kindles a sudden flame
in the heart of May.

All the things I speak of are of the flesh
      like summer and salary.
Mortally inserted into time
dispersed like air
in the marketplace, in offices,
streets and hostelries. 

      They are things, all of them,
      quotidian things, like mouths
      and hands, dreams, strikes,
accidents of work and love. Things
      talked about in the newspapers
      at times so crude
      at times so dark
that even poetry illuminates them with difficulty.

      But in them I see you, new world,
still sobbing, still hopeful. 

The original can be found here.

About the Author (written in 1983)


Ferreira Gullar, poet, playwright, essayist, art critic, and journalist, was born in 1930 in São Luis de Maranhão. In 1951 he moved to Rio. His first book The Bodily Struggle (A Luta Corporal) (1954) established his reputation as a poet who could write with precision about down-to-earth matters. Until 1962 he was in the forefront of the avant-garde. He then began to concentrate more seriously on social problems. An opponent of the military regime established in 1964, he went into exile in 1971 and returned to Brazil only in 1977. In that year he published his Dirty Poem (Poema Sujo), which celebrates every aspect of his native city. He now earns his living as an art critic and as a writer for television.

On his Portuguese-only official site (also where the link for Poema Sujo directs you), there is a nice feature where you can see Mr. Gullar’s favorite pieces and as a bonus, some are narrated by him.