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An archivist at the Ministry of Education in Rio de Janeiro, Carlos Drummond de Andrad hás provoked more passionate discussion and a wider range of differing interpretations than any other modern poet in Brazil. Certainly the most important voice in the second phase of the Modernist Movement in Brazil, and perhaps the greatest living in South America at this time,  Carlos Drummond de Andrade  was born in Itabira, Minas Gerais, October 31, 1902. Alienated, as he himself admits, form “everything in life that is open and talkative,” Drummond is hard as diamond in his sarcasm and irony: that is the Mineiro in him. Economial of means, he perseveres to heroic ends: that is his Scottish ancestry. He is grateful  for little things, wants to live and love “without mystification”: that is the Carioca he would like to become. After a generation of constant literary growth, Drummond has achieved in his poetry a perfect fusion of sensibility and reason: that is the history of this genius. Nowhere can that history be better read than in Poemas, a collection of the nine volumes of poetry that he published before 1959.

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


What kind of noise is that on the stairs?
It is love coming to an end,
It is the man who closed the door
And hanged himself in the curtains>

What kind of noise is that on the stairs?
It is Guiomar who covered her eyes
And blew her nose fortissimo.
It is the still moon upon the plates
And the cutlery shining in the pantry.

What kind of noise is that on the stairs?
It is the dripping of the water faucet,
It is the inaudible lament
Of someone who has lost his gamble
While the music of the band
Goes down, down, down.

What kind of noise is that on the stairs?
It is the virgin with a trombone,
The child with a drum,
The bishop with a bell,
And someone who pianissimos the noise
Which jumps from my heart.


 You cannot communicate poetry.
Keep still in your corner.
Do not love.

I hear that there is shooting
Within reach of our body.
Is it a revolution? is it love?
Say nothing.

Everything is possible, only I am impossible.
The sea overflows with fish.
There are men who walk on the sea
As though they walked in the street.
Do not tell.

Suppose that an angel of fire
Swept the face of the earth
And the sacrificed men
Asked for mercy.
Beg nothing.


My hand is dirty.
I must cut it off.
Useless to wash it.
The water is rotten.
Or to soap it.
The soap is no good.
The hand has been dirty
For many many years.

At first hidden
In the pocket of my trousers,
Who would know it?
People used to call me,
Offering me their hand.
Hard, I refused.
The hidden hand
Would spread its dark
Track through my body.
And I saw it was the same
To use it or put it away.
The disgust was the same.

Ah, how many nights
Way back in my house
I washed this hand,
I scrubbed it, I scoured it!
For greater contrast,
I wished I could turn it.
Into crystal or diamond,
Or even, at last,
Into a simple white hand,
The clean hand of a man,
Which you could hold
And lift to your lips
Or clasp in your own
In one of those moments
When two people confess
Without saying a word…
The incurable hand
Opened its dirty fingers.

It was a filthy dirt,
Nor dirt of earth,
not dirt of coal,
not dirt of a scab,
Not sweat of a shirt
Of one who has worked.
It was a sad dirt
Made from disease
And from mortal anguish
In the disgusted skin.
It was not black dirt —
The black so pure
In a white thing.
It was gray-brown dirt,
Gray-brown, dull, thistle.

Useless to keep
The ignoble dirty hand
Lying upon the table.
Quick, cut it off,
And through it into the sea!
With time, with hope
And is machinery,
Another hand will come,
Pure — transparent —,
And fasten itself to my arm.


In heaven also there is a melancholy hour.
A difficult hour, when doubt invades the souls.
Why did I make the world? God wonders
And answers: I did not know.
The angels at Him in disapproval.
Their feathers fall.

All the hypotheses: grace, eternity, love
Fall. They are feathers.

One feather more, and heaven is undone.
So quiet, no breaking noise tells
The moment between everything and nothing.
Tat is to say, the sadness of God.


In a corner of the drawing room was an album
         of unbearable photographs,
Many meters high and infinite minutes old,
Over which everyone leaned
To make fun and to laugh at the dead in frock coats.

A worm began to eat the indifferent frock coats,
And he ate the pages, the dedications, and even
         the dust on the pictures.

The only thing he did not eat was the inmortal
         sob of life
Which broke from those pages.


O solitude of the ox in the field,
O solitude of man in the street!
Amid cars, trains, telephones,
Amid screams, the profound aloneness.

O solitude of the ox in the field,
O millions suffering without a curse!
Whether it is night or day makes no difference,
Darkness breaks up with the dawn.

O solitude of the ox in the field,
Men writing without a word!
The city cannot be explained
And the houses have no meaning.

O solitude of the ox in the field!
The ghost ship passes
Silently trough the crowded street.
If  a love storm should blow up!
The hands clasped, the life saved…
But the weather is steady. The ox is alone.
In the immense field: the oil derrick. 


Come on, don´t cry…
Childhood is lost.
Youth is lost.
But life is not lost.

The first love is over.
The second love is over.
The third love is over.
But the hurt goes on.

You have lost your best friend.
You haven´t tried any traveling.
You won no house, ship, or land.
But you look at the sea.

You haven´t written the perfect book.
You haven´t read the best books
Nor have you love music enough.
But you own a dog.

A few harsh words,
In a low voice, have hurt you,.
Never, never have they healed.
But what about humor?

There is no resolution for injustice.
In the shadow of this wrong world
You have whispered a timid protest.
But others will come.

All summed up, you should
Throw yourself — once and for all — into the waters.
You are naked on the sand, in the wind…
Sleep, my son.


Do not make verses about happenings.
For poetry, there is no creation or death.
In her eyes, life is an unmoving sun,
Which neither warms nor lights.
The attractions, the anniversaries, the personal incidents
         do not matter.

Do not make poetry with the body.
This excellent, complete and comfortable body, so unfit
         for lyrical flow.
Your drop of gall, your face-making of pleasure or of pain
         in the dark
Are of no account.
Do not tell me your feelings,
Which capitalize on ambiguity and attempts the long journey.
What you think and feel, that is not yet poetry.

Do not sing your city, leave it alone.
The song is not the movement of the machines or the secret
         of the houses.
It is not music heard in passing; nor the sound of the sea
         in the streets near the edge of spume.
The song is not nature
Or men in society.
For it, rain and night, fatigue and hope mean nothing.
Poetry  (do not make poetry out of things)
Eliminates subject and object.

Do not dramatizes, do no invoke,
Do not investigate. Do not waste time telling lies.
Do not be anxious.
Your ivory yacht, your diamond shoe,
Your mazurkas and superstitions, your family skeletons
Disappear in the curve of time, time are worhless.

Do not resurrect
Your buried and melancholy childhood.
Do not oscillate between the mirror
And your fading memory.
If it faded, it was not poetry.
If it broke, it was not crystal.

Penetrate deftly the kingdom of words:
Here lie the poems that wait to be written.
They are paralyzed, but not in despair,
All is calm and freshness on the untouched  surface.
Here they are alone and dumb, in the state of the dictionary.
Before you write them, live with your poems.
If they are obscure, be patient. If they provoke you,
         hold your temper.
Wait for each one to actualize and to consume itself
In the power of language
And the power of silence.
Do not force the poem to come out of Limbo.
Do not pick from the ground the poem that was lost.
Do not flatter the poem. Accept it
As it will accept its own form, final and concentrated
In space.

Come closer and contemplate the words.
Each one
Has a thousand secret faces under a neutral face
And asks you, without interest in the answer,
Poor or terrible, which you will give it:
Have you brought the key?

Please note:
Barren of melody and meaning,
The words have taken refuge in the night.
Still humid and saturated with sleep,
They roll in a difficult river and turn themselves
         into despising.


The poet was drunk in a streetcar.
Day was dawning behind the backyards.
The gay boarding houses were sleeping most sadly.
The houses also were drunk.

Everything was beyond repair.
Nobody knew the word was going to end
(Only a child guessed it but kept silent),
That the world was going to end at 7:45.
Last thoughts! final telegrams!
Joseph, who had mastered his pronouns,
Helen, who loved men,
Sebastian, who was bankrupting himself,
Arthur, who said nothing,
Set all for eternity.

The poet is drunk, but
He listens to an invitation in the dawn:
Shall we all go dancing
Between the streetcar and the tree?

Between the streetcar and the tree
Dance, my brothers!
Although there is no music
dance, my brothers!

Children are being born
With such spontaneity.
How marvelous is love
(Love and other products).
Dance, my brothers!
Death will come later,
Like a sacrament.


Id not want any longer the maternal adoration
Which finally exhausts us and then flashes in panic,
Neither do I want the feeling of a precious find
Like that of Katherine Kippenburg at the feet of Rilke.

And I do not want the love, under silly disguises,
Of that same nymph desolate in her hermitage,
Nor the constant search of thirst rather than of lymph
And neither do I want the simple rose of sex,

Hidden, meaningless, in the hostels of the wind,
Just I do not want the geometric friendship
Of souls who elected one another in a proud cultivation,
An overlapping, perhaps? of melancholy needs.

I aspire rather to a faithful indifference
But poise enough to sustain life
And, in its indiscrimination of cruelty and diamond,
Able to suggest the end without the injustice of prizes.



Edited, with introduction, by Elizabeth Bishop and Emanuel Brasil
Sponsored by the Academy of American Poets

Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1972



Quando nasci, um anjo torto

desses que vivem na sombra

disse: Vai, Carlos, ser gauche na vida.


As casas espiam os homens

que correm atrás das mulheres.

A tarde talvez fosse azul

não houvesse tantos desejos.


0 bonde passa cheio de pernas:

pernas brancas pretas amarelas.

Para que tanta perna, meu Deus, pergunta meu coração.

Porém meus olhos

não perguntam nada.


0 homem atrás do bigode

é sério, simples e forte.

Quase não conversa.

Tem poucos, raros amigos

o homem atrás dos óculos e do bigode.


Meus Deus, porque me abandonaste

se sabias que eu não era Deus

se sabias que eu era fraco.


Mundo mundo vasto mundo,

se eu me chamasse Raimundo,

seria uma rima, não seria uma solução.

Mundo mundo vasto mundo.

Mais vasto é meu coração.


Eu não devia te dizer,

mas essa lua

mas esse conhaque

Botam a gente comovido como o diabo.





         Translated by Elizabeth Bishop


When 1 was born, one of the crooked

angels who live in shadow, said:

Carlos, go on! Be gauche in life.


The houses watch the men,

men who run after women.

If the afternoon had been blue,

there might have been less desire.


The trolley goes by full of legs:

white legs, black legs, yellow legs.

My God, why all the legs?

my heart asks. But my eyes

ask nothing at all.


The man behind the moustache

is serious, simple, and strong.

He hardly ever speaks.

He has a few, choice friends,

the man behind the spectacles and the moustache.


My God, why hast Thou forsaken me

if Thou knew'st 1 was not God,

if Thou- knew'st that 1 was weak.


Universe, vast universe,

if 1 had been named Eugene

that would not be what 1 mean

but it would go into verse


Universe, vast universe,

my heart is vaster.


I oughtn't to tell you,

but this moon

and this brandy

play the devil with one's emotions.





Meu pai montava a cavalo, ia para o campo.

Minha mãe ficava sentada cosendo.

Meu irmão pequeno dormia.

Eu sozinho menino entre mangueiras

lia a historia de Robinson Crusoé.

Comprida historia que não acaba mais.


No meio-dia branco de luz urna voz que aprendeu

a ninar nos longes da senzala — e nunca se esqueceu

chamava para o café.

Café preto que nem a preta velha

café gostoso

café bom.


Minha mãe ficava sentada cosendo

olhando para mim:

— Psiu . . . Não acorde o menino.

Para o berço onde pousou um mosquito.

E dava um suspiro . . . que fundo!


La longe meu pai campeava

no mato sem fim da fazenda.


E eu não sabia que minha historia

era mais bonita que a de Robinson Crusoé.





         Translated by Elizabeth Bishop


My father got on his horse and went to the field.

My mother stayed sitting and sewing.

My little brother slept.

A small boy alone under the mango trees,

1 read the story of Robinson Crusoe,

the long story that never comes to an end.


At noon, white with light, a voice that had learned

lullabies long ago in the slave-quarters — and never  forgot —

called us for coffee.

Coffee blacker than the black old woman

delicious coffee

good coffee.


My mother stayed sitting and sewing

watching me:

Shh — don't wake the boy.

She stopped the cradle when a mosquito had lit

and gave a sigh . . . how deep!

Away off there my father went riding

through the farm's endless wastes.


And 1 didn't know that my story

was prettier than that of Robinson Crusoe.


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.





There comes a time when you can no longer say. My God.

A time of ultimate catharsis.

A time when you can no longer say, My love.

Because love has shown itself futile.

And your eyes refuse to weep.

And your hands will only go about their rough work.

And your heart is dry.


In vain women knock on your door; you will not open.

You are alone and the lamp has gone out,

But your eyes shine enormous in the dark.

You are full of certainty and suffer no more.

And you hope for nothing from your friends.


It does not matter if old-age comes, what is old-age?

Your shoulders hold up the world

And it weig'hs no more than a child's hand.

Wars and famines and discussions in clubs

Onlly prove that life goes on

And that not all have freed themselves yet.

Some, finding the spectacle barbarous

Prefer (the faint of heart) to die.


A tune has come in which it does not help to die.

A time has come in which life is an order.

Life unadorned, without mystifications.





There was in a corner of the drawing-room an album[of terrible photos.

Many metres high and infinite minutes old,

At wihich everyone went to look

For the joy of mocking the dead in their frock-coats.


A worm. began to gnaw at the indifferent frock-coats And gnawed the pages, the dedications and even the dust[of the portraits.

Alone it did riot gnaw the sob of life which burst

Which burst from those old pages.








 Na noite lenta e morna, morta noite sem ruído, um menino chora.
 O choro atrás da parede, a luz atrás da vidraça
 perdem-se na sombra dos passos abafados, das vozes extenuadas.
 E no entanto se ouve até o rumor da gota de remédio caindo na

 Um menino chora na noite, atrás da parede, atrás da rua,
 longe um menino chora, em outra cidade talvez,
 talvez em outro mundo.

 E vejo a mão que levanta a colher, enquanto a outra sustenta a
 e vejo o fio oleoso que escorre pelo queixo do menino,
escorre pela rua, escorre pela cidade (um fio apenas).
E não há ninguém mais no mundo a não ser esse menino chorando.





In the slow, warm night, dead noiseless night, a child weeps.
Its weeping behind the wall and the light behind the window-pane
vanish away in the dark of silent steps, of worn-out voices.
Yet, one hears the soft sound of the drops of medicine as the drip
                                                                 into the spoon.

A child weeps in the night, behind the wall, behind the street,
a child weeps away, perhaps in another town,
perhaps in another world.

And I see the hand that lifts the spoon and the hand that props
                                                                  its head;
and the oily drops that flow down in the child’s chin;
flow down the street, flow across the town (only a few drops).
And there is no one else in the world but this child weeping.






ANTHOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY LATIN-AMERICAN POETRY.  Edited by Duddley Fitts.  Norfolk Conn. A New Directions Book, 1942.  667 p. Capa dura revestida de tecido.  Inclui os poetas brasileiros: Jorge de Lima, Ismael Nery, Murilo Mendes, Manuel Bandeira, Ronald de Carvalho,     Menotti del Picchia, Carlos Drummond de Andrade.  


Translation by Dudley Poore




In a sky of methylene blue
the moon, ironical, diuretic,

composes a print for the dining room.


Guardian angels on nocturnal rounds
keep watch over adolescent dreams
scaring mosquitoes

from the curtains and garlands of the bed.


Up the spiral staircase, they say, the foolish virgins, embodied in the milky way, glimmer like fireflies.


Through a chink

the devil peers with a squinting eye.


The devil has a telescope
that sees for seven leagues
and his ears are as fine
as a violin's.


Saint Peter sleeps
and the clock of heaven mechanically snores.

The devil peers through a chink.

Down there,

crushed lips are sighing.

Sighing prayers ? They sigh lightly

with love.


And the entwined bodies
twine more closely still
and love invades love.


God's will be done!

Two or three may be spared,

the rest are all going to hell.





No azul do céo de methyleno
a lua irónica
compõe uma gravura de sala de jantar.

Anjos da guarda em expedição nocturna
velam somnos púberes
espantando mosquitos
dos cortinados e grinaldas.

Pela escada em espiral
diz que tem virgens tresmalhadas,
incorporadas á via-lactea,

Por uma frincha
o diabo espreita com o olho torto.

Diabo tem uma luneta
que varre léguas de sete léguas
 e tem o ouvido fino
que nem um violino.

S. Pedro dorme
e o relógio do céo ronca mecânico.

Diabo espreita por uma frincha.

Lá em baixo
suspiram boccas machucadas.
Suspiram rezas? Suspiram manso,
de amor.

E os corpos enrolados
ficam mais enrolados ainda
e a carne penetra na carne.

Que a vontade de Deus se cumpra!
Tirante dois ou tres
o resto vae para o inferno.



SWAYING greenery.
Caressing music of wáter
flowing between geometrical roses.
Elysian winds.
Sleek turf.
Garden so little Brazilian, and yet so lovely.

Landscape without depth.
It cost the earth no pain to yield these flowers.
Landscape without echoes.
Each moment that passes
unfolding in unpremeditated bloom.
Too pretty. Too inhuman.
Too literary.

(Poor gardens of the wilds of my country
beyond the Serra do Curral!
With neither cool fountains, nor languid pools,
with no running water, no appointed gardeners.
 Only the dry thicket, carelessly growing among
         tarnished evergreens
and the forlorn face of a girl tearing the daisy petals apart.)

Garden in Liberty Square
Versailles among streetcars.

In the frame of the brooding Ministries
the conscious grace of the lawns
composes a revery of green.

Perhaps it were better to say:
The watchful Prefecture
stands guard ver the slumber of the grass-blades.
And the black clock of the watchman is a banner
         in the night starred with guards.

Suddenly a negro brass band,
sweating in pure vermilion,
bresaks into a rousing military march
in the stillness of the garden.

Startled fountains take flight.



Verdes bolindo.
Sonata cariciosa da agua
fugindo entre rosas geométricas.
Ventos elysios.
Jardim tão pouco brasileiro ... mas tão lindo.

Paisagem sem fundo.
A terra não soffreu para dar estas flores.
Sem resonancia.
O minuto que passa
desabrochando em floração inconsciente.
Bonito demais. Sem humanidade.
Literário demais.

(Pobres jardins do meu sertão
atrás da Serra do Curral!
Nem repuxos frios nem tanques langues,
nem bombas nem jardineiros officiaes.
Só o matto crescendo indifferente entre semprevivas
e o olhar desditoso da moça desfolhando malmequeres.)

Jardim da Praça da Liberdade,
Versailles entre bondes.

Na moldura das Secretarias compenetradas
a graça inteligente da relva
compõe o sonho dos verdes.

Talvez fosse melhor dizer:
A Prefeitura vigilante
véla a somneca das hervinhas.
E o capote preto do guarda é uma bandeira na
          noite estrellada de funccionarios.

De repente uma banda preta
vermelha retinta suando
bate um dobrado batuta
na doçura do jardín.

Repuxos espavoridos fugindo.


Metadados: Metampoemas /metapoems
Página publicada em janeiro de 2009
; ampliada em agosto de 2015. Ampliada em agosto de 2016; ampliada em dezembro de 2016.





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