Born in São José dos Campos, São Paulo, on July 16, 1895, Cassiano Ricardo Leite was a member or the Green-and-Yellow Group of the Modernist Movement in Brazil. Opposed to the kind of primitivism championed by Oswald de Andrade, Ricardo favored the study of Indian contributions to the structure of Brazilian civilization and wanted to give art a social and political function. Turning form his early Parnasian verse and his combative Modernist volume, Cassiano matured into a poet of the primitive land, of the subjective world of the self, where sith a profusion of images his best poems remain —in the words of Manuel Bandira — “like snapshots taken under the raw light of mid-day”. As a nationalist who has constantly stood against all racial and cultural preconceptions and who has fought against negativism, irony, and despair in his country´s literature, Cassiano Ricardo has seen his reputation rise steadly in Bazilian criticism. His collected poetry (1947) filled three substantial volumes.
Translated , with the help of Yolanda Leite,
by JOHN NIST
MODERN BRAZILIAN POETRY, AN ANTHOLOGY
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962
Dream, the only god Who inhabits
our house — the unique memory
that we have had wings —
and who still corrects
— while we are apparently dead —
what there is of malediction in our body.
Under the aesthesia of sleep, while
we are horizontal,
as on a nocturnal
He shapes, with the chisel of a feather, the statue
that is sleeping.
So that we can still see, not only
life, which is the real thing
(the night is a cemetery of words)
but also something beyond us,
and in spite of us.
And because dream is the image of poetry
and sleep is the brotherly being of death,
Orpheus is separated from Morpheus only
by a secret M.
By an M that only the dead man knows
after he has understood nothing.
(Because it is labial, and grave.)
THE FOUR ANGELS
They are not more than four.
But they surround me, and inform me
of the harshest truth to be heard.
And they make me bow my head.
Ah, the angels who jump over the wall,
who smoke behind God´s back, who utter
obscene things, those are not
the ones who disappoint me, the angel who wept three times
before speaking, that is the one.
The angel of shining feet, who will blow again the trumpet
of Jericho, that is not the one.
These are the four angels who, perhaps accidentally,
made me cry.
And who play around me, while I weep blood,
and while the snow falls.
Just now these four angels have told me
a terrible word.
traced lines on the sand
of my desert?
What tragic drouth
is that which dehydrates
the blue windowpane
wherein I was
What ache of sand
dries out my soul,
shrivels my fingernail?
From lack of water
the clepsydra dies.
And awful gravel
glasses my eyes.
Ah, if I cannot
shed my tears,
I have bayed the moon.
that do not satisfy me.
How can I dry
if I wept
as though I did not weep?
if the moon is a wailing
that cannot be wiped?
If the white disc
has limned silver
on my map of the world
and sewn screams
onto my flight?
I have bayed the moon.
But does it avail
my having wept for her
if the dry wailing
hurts me deeper
because it is bottomless
if it is useless
to encompass the world
and still remain
in the prison of glass?
If the great tears
do not please me
because they are not mine?
If would be better for me
to be a simple fish
in the waves of the sea.
Only to have eyes
but not for weeping…
THE HIDDEN ROSE
Against the demon of lucidity the birds sing.
What I seek is not in any photograph.
It is before me, hidden from myself and the Night.
The river from which I have drunk my tears is not
on any map.
I must be on the earth for the contemplation of stars>
he who lives on the earth without seeing the stars,
he who has feet to lead his body,
full of deaf and absurd demands,
but has no hands to go pluck a rose.
THE OTHER LIFE
I do not hope for another life, after this one.
If this one is bad
why should it not please the gods,
the pain I have already suffered?
If life is good, it will cease to be good
O made wind, lash
I want to be daring bird
whose feathers you pluck
in the wild bush.
O Turkish moon, kill
without any shame,
drilling my eyes
with your silver horns.
O blind wave, take
in your fierce emerald,
as a drunkard is taken,
into the green darkness.
And the ant, which cuts
its own proper wings,
like one who contradicts himself,
stripping itself, nimbly,
of that which made it
And this need,
with which at times I inflame myself,
of getting rid
of those things which I love best?
Here they are: the pink hippopotami.
Here are the futuristic rhinoceri, the zebras
which the hand of God has striped black and silver
to give us proofs of an exact geometry.
The graceful giraffes, with such long necks
that can reach the blooms of a palm tree,
if a palm tree should blossom, and the coarse elephants
whose trunks sport with objects in the air.
In spite of their cubic bodies and rhomboid feet.
(So tame that on their backs pigeons coo,
so dense that night lives in their eyes.)
And the white bears, that have contemplated,
happier than we, a polar star.
Some give the impression of a ferocity
fully pervasive and, therefore, tranquil, others demand
of the onlookers a deeper thought about origin.
Of where they came from to this arrival — the black mystery
of which they are the long-ago and far-away bearers.
Others so ornamental that they look rather like
immerse lilies for a class
in botany, or in photography,
or of anything human that may exist in a cage.
I think of the animals which Noah took
into his ark, in that wild and Biblical time,
when the men and the animals were flowers, or,
at least, the lived together in one and the same
comradeship — Biblical time that has passed
but — who knows? (I think) has not yet died.
I think of the scene of Daniel among the lions,
of Saint Francis, who called the wolf his brother.
And I ask again: why doesn´t man,
who today is made more of wing then of belly,
come and contemplate them, kike the children
for whom all the beasts are toys
and all the serpents colorful and tame?
(For me, nothing more logical than a zoo
whose only sadness is that of flightless birds.)
Why doesn´t he come and contemplate them, before
the geometric bird drops a star upon the earth?
(Because the children who today peer through the grates
at the russet beasts are already orphans of this war.)
Why doesn´t he come and contemplate them (if not for this)
at least in order to compare his own ferocity
with that of those beasts today so serene,
under the mysterious joy of those colors
with which they adorn the world — the world now deaf
and absurd — where a zoological garden
is like an island, a golden marvel
where wild animals are flowers — pathetic flowers
that the uranium sun will make innocent.
For what is today a zoological garden, finally,
what is it but a lesson of universal love?
In my bedroom,, silence
and a lamp that cuts me in two.
My bathroom is poorer than Job´s:
two of me and one single lamp.
In the drawing room of my neighbor,
who has not invited me, the white table;
and the guests drinking a sad wine.
Could that be the blood of Orpheus? Lachrima-Christi?
But if the wine is sad,
there are liquid stars in tall glasses
that shine, like geometric lilies,
lifted in air at the hour of delirium.
I fell good, thus,
uninvited, because I do not drink stars
or blood; I am a stepson of joy.
Sadness is may daily bread.
At the party I would be
an insult to the others, something comic.
A stone for those who have wings on their shoulders.
A lump of coal when everything there is aflame.
I feel good, because
I am a cactus with leaves of silence.
I would not trade my nocturnal and submarine
being for any swallow of wine.
Therefore let me hear only
the tinkle of the glasses, the confused
trilling of the Bacchantes. It only pleases me
to drink — rose in a tumbler — the dawn.
Ah, if they all knew
the good they have done me by exclusion
from the banquet — the most logical of oversights —
they would extend a toast to the uninvited>
The landscape is mine
merely because I have eyes.
The bird is mine
only because I have ears.
I love with my hand the things
which my being here has given me.
In the universal green,
I am my being, I am not myself.
In my lyrical lexicon
exist only two words,
and one is sister to the other:
the morning and the morrow.
I feel that space is life
and that time is death.
And I place between one and the other
my flock of stars.
THE SONG OF THE WILD DOVE
Translated by Jean R.Longland
Deep within the backlands I walked along the road,
the coffee plantation was far away.
It was then I heard your song
sounding like the endless sobbing of distance …
The longing for all that is tall like palm trees.
The yearning for all that is long like rivers …
The lament for all that is purple like dusk …
The weeping of all that weeps because it is far away …
very far away.
Translated by Barbara Howes
Friends, I sang as a bird sings
at daybreak. In full agreement
with one single world.
But how could one live in a world
where things had a single name?
Then, I made up words.
And words perched, warbling, on the head
of objects. ,
Reality, thus, carne to have
as many heads as words.
And when I tried to express sadness and j(
words settled upon me, obedient
to my slightest lyrical gesture.
Now I must be mute.
I am sincere only when I am silent.
So, only when I am silent
do they settle upon me — words —
a flock of birds in a tree
AN ANTHOLOGY OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY BRAZILIAN POETRY. Sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1972.
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