[Translated poetry] A Brazilian sonnet by Eduardo Guimaraens

Ciarán Hinds as Captain Frederick Wentworth in PERSUASION (1995). Like the speaker in this sonnet, a character who thought that going to sea would make him forget a heartbreak — and came back years later to find that some feelings won’t die.

As a change from our last two English posts, which were about etymology, I thought I’d share here my translation of a sonnet by Brazilian symbolist poet Eduardo Guimaraens (1892-1928). It is very nearly a literal translation, so the sonnet form is lost (I don’t think I could translate it keeping the original form anyhow!); but I endeavoured to give it some rhythm by making all verses dodecassyllables and using rhymes and assonances where possible. I made a point of keeping the phrase “turbid lament”, as it is a very patent example of the symbolist use of synaesthesia – the mixture of sensations from different sensorial organs (here, sight and hearing).

In case you can read some Portuguese, you will also find the original below.

Sonnet

 I’m back! Saw thee anew! And the spell I seek not
now to ‘scape rekindles what had here met its end;
I ache, again, from the same strange pain
of the hour I left thee, the moment when I went.

I’ve wished to forget thee. Harked to wind, looked on sea;
I dreamt, lived eagerly! In vain. I forgot not.
And with dullness I recall the turbid lament
of the waves I furrowed and the songs I heard!

To what avail, then? Under the heavens wide,
better it were to drift aimless, to the slow rhythm
of water, which moans by night, and smiles in sunlight!

And forget forever this old despondency!
And this sick man's pining! And this lethal torment!
And the desire of death! And the longing for thee!

*

Voltei. Vi-te de novo. E o encanto, a que não tento
fugir agora, aviva o que findara aqui;
dói-me, outra vez, o mesmo estranho sofrimento
da hora em que te deixei, do instante em que parti.

Quis esquecer-te. Olhando o mar, ouvindo o vento,
sonhei. Vivi com ânsia! Em vão. Não te esqueci.
E é com tédio que lembro o túrbido lamento
das ondas que sulquei e das canções que ouvi!

De que valeu então? Sob o amplo firmamento,
fora melhor vogar sem rumo, ao ritmo lento
da água que, à noite, geme e, à luz do sol, sorri!

E olvidar para sempre o antigo desalento!
E este anseio de enfermo! E este letal tormento!
E o desejo da morte! E a saudade de ti!

*

How did you find the translation? Did you enjoy this Brazilian poem? Are there other Brazilian poems you would like to see translated into English? Let us know in the comments!

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