Sunday, January 19, 2014

Antônio Frederico de Castro Alves - O NAVIO NEGREIRO (with English translation)

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Antônio Frederico de Castro Alves  1847 - 1871

Antônio Frederico de Castro Alves (14 March 1847 – 6 July 1871) was a Brazilian poet and playwright, famous for his abolitionist and republican  poems. One of the most famous poets of the ”Condorism”, he won the epithet  of "O Poeta dos Escravos" ("The Poet of the Slaves").

He is the patron of the 7th chair of the Brazilian Academy of Letters .

Alves was born in the town of Curralinho (rechristened "Castro Alves" in his honor in 1900), in the  Brazilian State of  Bahia, to Antônio José Alves, a medician, and Clélia Brasília da Silva Castro, one of the daughters of Jose Antonio da Silva Castro (a.k.a. "Periquitão", Portuguese  for "Big Parakeet” ), a proeminent fighter in the 1821 - 1823 Siege of Salvador. In 1853, he was sent to study in the Colégio Sebrão, run by  Abilio Cesar Borges,  the Baron of Macaubas. There, he would meet and befriend Ruy Barbosa.

In 1862, he moved to Recife  in order to study at the Faculdade de Direito do Recife,  but he was rejected twice. He only was able to join the college in 1864, there meeting Tobias Barreto  and Jose Bonifacio the Younger  (step-grandson of famous statesman Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva).  They would heavily influence Alves' writing style, and in turn, Alves also influenced them both. His father would die in 1866, and short after, he met Portuguese actress Eugenia Camara,  and would start dating her afterwards.

In 1867, Alves returns to Bahia alongside Câmara, and there he writes his drama Gonzaga, ou A Revolução de Minas, based on the life of famous Luso-Brazilian Neoclassic  poet Tomas Antonio Gonzaga  and his participation in the failed 1789 Minas Conspiracy.  In the following year, he and Câmara would go to Sao Paulo, where Alves entered the Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de Sao Paulo  and once more would meet Ruy Barbosa. In there, he also befriended Pedro Luis Pereira de Sousa, and wrote a poem named "Deusa incruenta", based on Sousa's work "Terribilis Dea". His play Gonzaga would be performed on the end of 1868, being well received by critics and public alike, but Alves was sad because his romantic engagement with Eugênia Câmara had terminated.

During a hunting trip in the same year, Alves received an accidental springald shot in his left foot, that had to be amputated due to the menace of a gangrene.  However, a prosthesis was made for him, thus he was able to walk again (although with the use of an assistive cane). He would spend the year of 1870 in his home-State of Bahia,  trying to recover from the tuberculosis  he got while in Sao Paulo.  Also in 1870, Alves published the poetry book Espumas Flutuantes -  the only work he would publish during his lifetime. All his other works would receive a posthumous publication.

Alves' attempts to mitigate the tuberculosis were in vain; he would die on 6 July 1871, in the city of  Salvador, at 24 years old.


  • Espumas Flutuantes (1870)
  • Gonzaga, ou A Revolução de Minas (1875)
  • A Cachoeira de Paulo Afonso (1876)
  • Vozes d'África (1880)
  • O Navio Negreiro (1880)
  • Os Escravos (1883)

Alves also translated into Portuguese  many poems by Victor Hugo, and Lord Byron's  ”Darkness”   and "Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed from a Skull". They can be found on Espumas Flutuantes.

source :


PART.  1

‘Stamos em pleno mar… Doudo no espaço
Brinca o luar — dourada borboleta;
E as vagas após ele correm… cansam
Como turba de infantes inquieta.

'Stamos em pleno mar… Do firmamento

Os astros saltam como espumas de ouro…
O mar em troca acende as ardentias,
— Constelações do liquido tesouro…

'Stamos em pleno mar… Dois infinitos

Ali se estreitam num abraço insano,
Azuis, dourados, placidos, sublimes…
Qual dos dous é o céu? qual o oceano?…

‘Stamos em pleno mar. . . Abrindo as velas

Ao quente arfar das virações marinhas,
Veleiro brigue corre à flor dos mares,
Como roçam na vaga as andorinhas…

Donde vem? onde vai? Das naus errantes

Quem sabe o rumo se é tao grande o espaço?
Neste saara os corcéis o pó levantam,
Galopam, voam, mas nao deixam traço.

Bem feliz quem ali pode nest'hora

Sentir deste painel a majestade!
Embaixo — o mar em cima — o firmamento…
E no mar e no céu — a imensidade!

Oh! que doce harmonia traz-me a brisa!

Que música suave ao longe soa!
Meu Deus! como é sublime um canto ardente
Pelas vagas sem fim boiando à toa!

Homens do mar! ó rudes marinheiros,

Tostados pelo sol dos quatro mundos!
Crianças que a procela acalentara
No berço destes pélagos profundos!

Esperai! esperai! deixai que eu beba

Esta selvagem, livre poesia,
Orquestra — é o mar, que ruge pela proa,
E o vento, que nas cordas assobia…

Por que foges assim, barco ligeiro?

Por que foges do pavido poeta?
Oh! quem me dera acompanhar-te a esteira
Que semelha no mar — doudo cometa!

Albatroz! Albatroz! aguia do oceano,

Tu que dormes das nuvens entre as gazas,
Sacode as penas, Leviathan do espaço,
Albatroz! Albatroz! da-me estas asas.


We are on the high sea… Mad in space
The moonlight plays — golden butterfly;
And the waves run after it. . . tiring
As a band of frenzied infants.

We are on the high sea… From the firmament

The stars jump like foam of gold. . .
The sea in exchange lights phosphorescence,
— Constellations of liquid treasure…

We are on the high sea… Two infinites

There narrowed in an insane embrace,
Blue, golden, placid, sublime..
Which of the two is ocean? Which sky?…

We are on the high sea.. . Opening the sails,

To the warm breath of the maritime winds,
Sail-boat brig runs to the flower of the seas
Like the swallows brush in the wave…

From where do you come? Where do you go? Of the wandering ships

Who knows the course if the space is so immense?
On this Sahara wild horses the dust raise,
Gallop, soar, but leave no trace.

Happy the one who can there, at that hour,

Feel from this panel the majesty!
Below — the sea, above — the firmament!…
And in the sea and in the sky — the immensity!

Oh! what sweet harmony the breeze brings to me!

What soft music from distance sounds!
My God! how sublime an ardent song is
Through the endless waves drifting without destiny !

Men of the sea! Oh rude sailors,

Toasted by the sun of the four worlds!
Children who the storms lull to sleep
In the cradle of these deep abysses!

Wait! wait! let me drink

This wild, free poetry,
Orchestra — is the sea, that roars by the prow
And the wind, that whistles in the ropes.

Why do you retreat so, sprightly boat?

Why do you evade the diffident poet?
Oh! if I only could follow your course
That reflects on the sea— mad comet!

Albatross! Albatross! Eagle of the ocean,

You who sleep in the mist of the clouds,
Shake your feathers, leviathan of space
Albatross! Albatross! give me those wings.

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Que importa do nauta o berço,

Donde é filho, qual seu lar?
Ama a cadência do verso
Que lhe ensina o velho mar!
Cantai! que a morte é divina!
Resvala o brigue à bolina
Como golfinho veloz.
Presa ao mastro da mezena
Saudosa bandeira acena
As vagas que deixa após.

Do Espanhol as cantilenas

Requebradas de langor,
Lembram as moças morenas,
As andaluzas em flor!
Da Italia o filho indolente
Canta Veneza dormente,
— Terra de amor e traiçao,
Ou do golfo no regaço
Relembra os versos de Tasso,
Junto às lavas do vulcao?

O Inglês — marinheiro frio,

Que ao nascer no mar se achou,
(Porque a Inglaterra é um navio,
Que Deus na Mancha ancorou),
Rijo entoa patrias glóorias,
Lembrando, orgulhoso, históorias
De Nelson e de Aboukir.. .
O Francês — predestinado —
Canta os louros do passado
E os loureiros do porvir!

Os marinheiros Helenos,

Que a vaga jônia criou,
Belos piratas morenos
Do mar que Ulisses cortou,
Homens que Fidias talhara,
Vao cantando em noite clara
Versos que Homero gemeu…
Nautas de todas as plagas,
Vós sabeis achar nas vagas
As melodias do céu!…


What matters the sailor’s cradle,

Where from he is son, where is his home?
Loves the cadence of the verse
Which the old sea teaches him!
Sing! Because death is divine!
The brig slides the bowline
Like a fast dolphin.
Tight to the mizzen mast
A nostalgic flag signs
To the waves left behind.

From the Spanish, the canticles

Broken in a languorous dance,
Remind the dark young women,
The blooming Andalusians!
From Italy, the indolent son,
Sings a sleeping Venice,
- Land of love and betrayal,
Or from the gulf in its lap
Reminds the verses of Tasso,
By the lava of a volcano!

The Englishman - cold sailor,

Since birth in the sea,
(For as England is a ship, which
God in the Channel anchored),
Vigorous, recites his country’s glories,
Remembering, proud, histories
Of Nelson and Aboukir…
The Frenchman - predestined -
Sings the glories of the past
And the honours of tomorrow!

The Hellenic sailors,

Whom the Ionic wave created,
Beautiful dark pirates
From the sea that Ulysses crossed,
Men that Phydias engraved,
Keep on singing in the clear night
Verses that Homer moaned…
Sailors from all lands,
You know how to find on the waves
The melodies of Heaven!

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Desce do espaço imenso, ó aguia do oceano!

Desce mais… inda mais… nao pode olhar humano
Como o teu mergulhar no brigue voador!
Mas que vejo eu ai… Que quadro d'amarguras!
É canto funeral!… Que tétricas figuras!…
Que cena infame e vil… Meu Deus! Meu Deus! Que horror!


Descend from the immense space, oh ocean’s eagle!

Descend more…even more…no human glance can
Like yours, to dive into a flying brig!
But what do I see there…such a picture of sorrows!
It is a funeral chant!…what direful figures!
Such an infamy and evil scene…My God! My God! What a horror!

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PART  4.

Era um sonho dantesco… o tombadilho
Que das luzernas avermelha o brilho.
Em sangue a se banhar.
Tinir de ferros… estalar de açoite…
Legiões de homens negros como a noite,
Horrendos a dançar…

Negras mulheres, suspendendo às tetas

Magras crianças, cujas bocas pretas
Rega o sangue das maes:
Outras moças, mas nuas e espantadas,
No turbilhao de espectros arrastadas,
Em ânsia e magoa vas!

E ri-se a orquestra irônica, estridente…

E da ronda fantastica a serpente
Faz doudas espirais…
Se o velho arqueja, se no chao resvala,
Ouvem-se gritos… o chicote estala.
E voam mais e mais…

Presa nos elos de uma só cadeia,

A multidao faminta cambaleia,
E chora e dança ali!
Um de raiva delira, outro enlouquece,
Outro, que martirios embrutece,
Cantando, geme e ri!

No entanto o capitao manda a manobra,

E após fitando o céu que se desdobra,
Tão puro sobre o mar,
Diz do fumo entre os densos nevoeiros:
"Vibrai rijo o chicote, marinheiros!
Fazei-os mais dançar!…"

E ri-se a orquestra irônica, estridente. . .

E da ronda fantastica a serpente
Faz doudas espirais…
Qual um sonho dantesco as sombras voam!…
Gritos, ais, maldiçõoes, preces ressoam!
E ri-se Satanas!…


It was a Dantesque dream…the deck

With lanterns reddening the glow,
Washing with blood.
Clink of iron…snap of a whip…
Legions of men so black as the night
Hideous dancing…

Black women holding to their breasts

Tiny children, whose black mouths
Are watered by their mother’s blood;
Younger women, nude and frightened,
In the turmoil of spectres dragged
In vain anxiety and sorrow!

And the orchestra laughs, loudly

And from the fantastic round, a serpent
Makes crazy spiral…
If an old man arcs his back, if on the floor he falls,
Screams are heard…a whip snaps.
And flies more and more…

Tight on links of a single chain,

The famished crowd oscillate
And cry and dance, there!
One is delirious with anger, another gets insane
And another one, who is brutalized by tortures
Sings, moans and laughs!

The captain, commands the manoeuvre,

And after staring at the sky which unfolds
So pure above the sea,
He speaks from the soot between a dense fog
“Sway hard the whip, sailors!
Make them dance more!”

And the orchestra laughs, loudly

And from the fantastic round, a serpent
Makes crazy spirals…
Screams, moans, courses, prayers resound!
And Satan laughs!

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Senhor Deus dos desgraçados! 
Dizei-me vós, Senhor Deus! 
Se é loucura… se é verdade 
Tanto horror perante os céus?! 
O mar, por que nao apagas 
Co'a esponja de tuas vagas 
De teu manto este borrao?… 
Astros! noites! tempestades! 
Rolai das imensidades! 
Varrei os mares, tufao! 

Quem sao estes desgraçados 

Que nao encontram em vos 
Mais que o rir calmo da turba 
Que excita a fúria do algoz? 
Quem sao?  Se a estrela se cala, 
Se a vaga à pressa resvala 
Como um cumplice fugaz,   
Perante a noite confusa… 
Dize-o tu, severa Musa, 
Musa libérrima, audaz!… 

Sao os filhos do deserto, 

Onde a terra esposa a luz. 
Onde vive em campo aberto 
A tribo dos homens nus… 
Sao os guerreiros ousados 
Que com os tigres mosqueados 
Combatem na solidao. 
Ontem simples, fortes, bravos. 
Hoje miseros escravos, 
Sem luz, sem ar, sem razao. . . 

Sao mulheres desgraçadas, 

Como Agar o foi também.   
Que sedentas, alquebradas, 
De longe… bem longe vêm… 
Trazendo com tibios passos, 
Filhos e algemas nos braços, 
N'alma — lagrimas e fel… 
Como Agar sofrendo tanto, 
Que nem o leite de pranto 
Têm que dar para Ismael. 

Lá nas areias infindas, 

Das palmeiras no pais, 
Nasceram crianças lindas, 
Viveram moças gentis… 
Passa um dia a caravana, 
Quando a virgem na cabana 
Cisma da noite nos véus… 
… Adeus, ó choça do monte, 
… Adeus, palmeiras da fonte!… 
… Adeus, amores… adeus!… 

Depois, o areal extenso… 

Depois, o oceano de pó.. 
Depois no horizonte imenso 
Desertos… desertos só… 
E a fome, o cansaço, a sede… 
Ai! quanto infeliz que cede, 
E cai p'ra nao mais s'erguer!… 
Vaga um lugar na cadeia, 
Mas o chacal sobre a areia 
Acha um corpo que roer. 

Ontem a Serra Leoa, 

A guerra, a caça ao leao, 
O sono dormido à toa 
Sob as tendas d'amplidao? 
Hoje… o porao negro, fundo, 
Infecto, apertado, imundo, 
Tendo a peste por jaguar… 
E o sono sempre cortado 
Pelo arranco de um finado, 
E o baque de um corpo ao mar… 

Ontem plena liberdade, 

A vontade por poder… 
Hoje… cúum'lo de maldade, 
Nem sao livres p'ra morrer. . 
Prende-os a mesma corrente 
— Férrea, lúgubre serpente — 
Nas roscas da escravidao. 
E assim zombando da morte, 
Dança a lúgubre coorte 
Ao som do açoute… Irrisao!… 

Senhor Deus dos desgraçados! 

Dizei-me vós, Senhor Deus, 
Se eu deliro… ou se é verdade 
Tanto horror perante os céus?!… 
O mar, por que nao apagas 
Co'a esponja de tuas vagas 
Do teu manto este borrao? 
Astros! noites! tempestades! 
Rolai das imensidades! 
Varrei os mares, tufao?… 


God of the unfortunates!

You tell me God,
If it is madness…if it is the truth
So much horror below the skies?!
Oh sea, why don’t you erase
With the sponge of your waves
From your mantle, that blot?
Stars! Nights! Tempests!
Roll down from the immensities
Sweep the seas, typhoon!

Who are those unfortunates

Who don’t find in you
More than the calm laugh of the crowd
Which incites the fury of the torturer,
Who are they? If the star silences,
If the hasty wave slides
Like an ephemeral accomplice,
Before the confused night…
You tell me, oh severe Muse
Freed audacious Muse!

They are the sons of the desert,

Where the earth marries the light.
Where living in open field
The tribe of nude men…
They are the audacious warriors
Who, with the spotted tigers
Fight in the solitude.
Yesterday simple, strong, braves
Today miserable slaves,
With no light, no air, no reason…

They are unfortunate women

Like Hagar was too
Whom thirsty, broken,
From far… very far come
Bringing with feeble steps,
Children and chains in the arms,
In the soul - tears and bitterness…
Like Hagar suffering greatly,
That even no milk of lament
Have they to offer Ishmael.

There on the infinite sands

From the palms of a land,
Beautiful children were born,
There, lived a gentle maiden…
One day a caravan passes by
When the virgin in a cabin
Apprehensive of the night’s veils
…Goodbye mountain hut
…Goodbye palms of the fountain
…Goodbye loves…goodbye!

After, the extensive sands

After, the ocean of dust
After in the immense horizon
Deserts…deserts only
And the hunger, the tiredness, the thirsty…
Ai! So many unfortunates give up,
And fall to rise no more!
A free place in the cage,
But the jackal on the sand
Finds a body to gnaw.

Yesterday the Sierra Leone

The war, the lion hunting,
The sleep, slept without worries
Under the tents of the amplitude!
Today… the dark basement, deep
Infected, crowded, gross,
Housing the plague instead of a jaguar
And the sleep always interrupted
By the sudden pull of a deceased,
And the crashing of a body into the sea…

Yesterday plain freedom,

The will for power…
Today immense cruelty
Even not free to die…
Fastened at the same chain
- Ironed, dismal serpent -
In the links of slavery.
And so, mocking from the death,
Dance the dreadful cohort
At the sound of the lash…Disdainful!

God of the unfortunates!

You tell me God,
If it is madness…if it is the truth
So much horror below the skies?!
Oh sea, why don’t you erase
With the sponge of your waves
From your mantle, that blot?
Stars! Nights! Tempests!
Roll down from the immensities
Sweep the seas, typhoon!

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Existe um povo que a bandeira empresta 
P'ra cobrir tanta infâmia e cobardia!… 
E deixa-a transformar-se nessa festa 
Em manto impuro de bacante fria!… 
Meu Deus! meu Deus! mas que bandeira é esta, 
Que impudente na gavea tripudia? 
Silêncio.  Musa… chora, e chora tanto 
Que o pavilhão se lave no teu pranto!… 

Auriverde pendao de minha terra, 

Que a brisa do Brasil beija e balança, 
Estandarte que a luz do sol encerra 
E as promessas divinas da esperança… 
Tu que, da liberdade após a guerra, 
Foste hasteado dos heróis na lança 
Antes te houvessem roto na batalha, 
Que servires a um povo de mortalha!… 

Fatalidade atroz que a mente esmaga! 

Extingue nesta hora o brigue imundo 
O trilho que Colombo abriu nas vagas, 
Como um iris no pélago profundo! 
Mas é infâmia demais!… Da etérea plaga 
Levantai-vos, heróis do Novo Mundo! 
Andrada! arranca esse pendao dos ares! 
Colombo! fecha a porta dos teus mares!


A people exist who lean the flag

To cover such infamy and cowardice!..
And let it change at this feast
Into an impure mantle of a cold bacchante!
My God! My God! But which flag is this,
That imprudent on the topsail sways?
Silence. Muse…cry, and cry so much
That the flag be washed with your tears!

Gold-green flag of my land,

That the breeze from Brazil kisses and sways,
Flag that in the sunlight captures
The divine promises of hope…
You, who in the liberty after the war,
Were raised on the hero's lance
Rather had you been torn in the battle,
Then to serve as shroud to the people!

Atrocious fatality that the mind crushes!

Extinguish now the dirt brig,
The track that Columbus opened in the waves,
Like an iris in the deep abyss!
But this is too much infamy!.. of the ethereal land
Rise, heroes of the New World!
Andrada, rip that flag of the air!
Columbus, close the door of your seas!

Translated by Mariza G. Góes

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