Wish – Drummond

Wish/Synthesis of Happiness
by Carlos Drummond de Andrade*

I wish for you …
Fruit from the jungle
The scent of the garden
Flirting at the front gate
Sunday without rain
Monday without a bad mood
Saturday with your love
To hear a kind word
To have a pleasant surprise
A full moon
Re-examining an old friendship
To have faith in God
Not having to hear the word ‘no’
Nor ‘never’, ‘never ever’ or ‘goodbye’.
Laughing like a child
Listening to a bird song
To write a poem of love
That will never be torn
To form an ideal pair
Bathing in the waterfall
To learn a new song
To expect someone at the station
Cheese with guava
Sunset on the farm
A feast
A guitar
A serenade
To remember an old love
To always have a friendly shoulder
Clapping with joy
A mild afternoon
To put on old slippers
Sitting in an old armchair
Play guitar for someone
To listen to the rain on the roof
White wine
Bolero by Ravel …
And my great affection.

Apparently, there are two versions, one with a little more cultural reference and the one above. Here’s the former in Portuguese, which also goes by the name “Síntese da felicidade”. Also, this is a poem that has been attributed to Drummond but lacks proper citation*.

Poem of Purification – Drummond de Andrade

Poem of purification
Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Translation: Adam

After so many battles
the good angel killed the bad angel
and threw its body into the river.

The waters became tinted
from a blood that wouldn’t discolor
and the fish all died.

But a light that no one knew
how to say from where it came
appeared to clear up the world,
and the other angel pondered the wound
of the fighter angel.

In Portuguese, here.

Love and Its Timing – Carlos Drummond

Love and Its Timing
by Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Translation by Adam

The mature are privileged to love
stretched out in the narrowest of beds
which becomes larger and grassier
touching lightly, in each pore, bodily sky

That is love: the unexpected reward,
the subterraneous and glittering prize
the reading of ciphered lightning
which, deciphered, nothing more exists

worth the pain and the terrestrial price
except for the golden minute in the watch
tiny, trembling in the twilight hours

Love is what is learned close to limit
after one files away all kinds of science
inherited, heard of. Love begins late.  

Carlos Drummond de Andrade – A Nation’s Poet

Carlos Drummond de Andrde (October 31, 1902 -August 17, 1987) was perhaps the most influential Brazilian poet of the 20th century. He has become something of a national poet; his poem “Canção Amiga” (“Friendly Song”) was printed on the 50 cruzados note.

Drummond was born in Itabira, a mining village in Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. His parents were farmers of Portuguese ancestry (and remote Scottish ancestry). He went to a school of pharmacy in Belo Horizonte, but never worked as a pharmacist after graduation. He worked in government service for most of his life, eventually becoming Director of History for the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Service of Brazil.

Though his earliest poems are formal and satirical, Drummond quickly adopted the new forms of Brazilian modernism that were evolving in the 1920s, incited by the work of Mário de Andrade (to whom he was not related). He adopted a Whitmanian free verse, mingling speech fluent in elegance and truth about the surrounding, many times quotidian, world, with a fluidity of thought.

One of Drummond’s best-known poems is his hymn to an ordinary man, “José.” It is a poem of desolation:

Key in hand,
you want to open the door –
there is no door. . .

 Although my personal favorite is called “O mundo é grande” and I will paste and translate it below

“O mundo é grande e cabe
 nesta janela sobre o mar.
 O mar é grande e cabe
 na cama e no colchão de amar.
 O amor é grande e cabe
 no breve espaço de beijar.”

“The world is large and fits
 in this window over the sea
 The sea is large and fits
 in the bed and in the mattress of love
 Love is large and fits
 in the brief space of a kiss.”

Styles & Influences

The work of Carlos Drummond is generally divided into several segments, which appear very markedly in each of his books. But this is somewhat misleading, since even in the midst of his everyday poems or his socialist, politicized poems, there appear creations which can be easily incorporated into his latermetaphysical canon, and none of these styles is completely free of the others. There is surely much metaphysical content in even his most political poems.

The most prominent of these later metaphysical poems is A Máquina do Mundo (The Machine of the World). The poem deals with an anti-Faust referred to in the first person, who receives the visit of the aforementioned Machine, which stands for all possible knowledge, and the sum of the answers for all the questions which afflict men; in highly dramatic and baroque versification the poem develops only for the anonymous subject to decline the offer of endless knowledge and proceed his gloomy path in the solitary road. It takes the renaissance allegory of the Machine of the World from Portugal’s most esteemed poet, Luís de Camões, more precisely, from a canto at the end of his epic masterpiece Os Lusíadas. There are also hints from Dante and the form is adapted from T. S. Eliot’s dantesque passage in “Little Gidding.”

Drummond is a favorite of American poets, a number of whom, including Mark Strand and Lloyd Schwartz, have translated him. Later writers and critics have sometimes credited his relationship with Elizabeth Bishop, his first English language translator, as influential for his American reception, but though she admired him Bishop claimed she barely knew him. In an interview with George Starbuck in 1977, she said:

I didn’t know him at all. He’s supposed to be very shy. I’m supposed to be very shy. We’ve met once — on the sidewalk at night. We had just come out of the same restaurant, and he kissed my hand politely when we were introduced. 

The Carlos Drummond de Andrade Memorial in Minas Gerias

Below is a short video interview of Andrade in his later years which begins with a few lines of poetry and goes into how at an early age, he was fascinated by the printed word even though he didn’t understand every word he read. The shape and the feel of the sounds and the visual of those sounds on paper was something that left its mark on him. He then speaks about his family who lived on a farm then moved to a city in the interior of Minas, where they had social importance. His immediate family was made up of his wife and his only daughter who lived in Buenos Aires. Later he goes into how moving from Minas was something that made its mark on him too, as anyone from Minas is eternally connected to it. Once in the National Library, he began to read about a lot of different subjects and it “made a salad in his spirit” (salada in Portuguese can mean a mixture). Being old and well-known, he says that lots of young people asked him for advice and counsel, even simple opinions yet he never felt quite right about giving these things, not even to himself. When he decided to move to Rio, he was happy to have his childhood friends around him because they were what connected his past with his present. The last part is a poem about Minas, where they show old pictures of him writing poetry. 

For some of his work in English, see this post!