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JOÃO DA CRUZ E SOUSA
Translation by Rosaliene Bacchus
Way of the
No one felt your obscure convulsion,
Oh to be humble among lowly beings.
Drunk, giddy from pleasure,
The world for you was dark and cruel.
You passed by in somber silence
Life bound to tragic duties
And you came to know of high learning
Making you simpler and more pure.
No one saw your uneasy feeling,
Afflicted, concealed and frightening, secret,
That in the world your heart is battered.
But I who have always followed your footsteps
Know what infernal cross bound your arms
And how profound was your breath!
The true [Brazilian] national poetry began with Cruz e
Sousa and Alphonsus…
Otto Maria Carpeaux (1960)
[I]f they should ask me who is the most pathetic,
tragic and humanly universal personality of
[Brazilian] literature, I would answer without
hesitation: [Cruz e Sousa], the author of “O
Tristão de Athayde (1975)
[In] many respects the best poet that Brazil has
produced, [because] he is our pure Symbolist, the
king of suggestive poetry… It’s a pleasure for a critic
to meet with such a man, an honest and noble spirit…
Prominent in all of his compositions are an uplifting of
the soul, nobility of sentiments, delicacy of affections,
[and] dignity of character that never contradict itself,
never weaken… Inspired by nature, the infinite
scenery of the outer world, or by the travails of life,
frictions of society, or by the intimate pains of his
heart, his verses are always simple, spontaneous,
sincere, like the Confessions of a clean and dignified
Sílvio Romero (1981)
SOURCE: Cruz e Sousa, Obra Completa, Volume 1: Poesia
Organization and Study by Lauro Junkes, President Santa Catarina
Academy of Letters, Brazil, 2008 [PDF format, 612 pages]
Translation by Rosaliene Bacchus.
JOÃO DA CRUZ E
SOUSA is considered
Born in Florianópolis,
Santa Catarina, the
son of freed slaves - in
Brazil, slavery officially
ended in 1888 - Cruz e
Sousa was protected
and educated by their
Owing to his humble
origins, he faced
violent racial prejudice,
common during that
period in Brazil's
In 1881, he became
the director of the
Tribuna Popular. Two
years later, his
nomination for the
post of prosecutor in
his home state was
rejected because he
To escape the racism
in Santa Catarina, he
moved to Rio de
Janeiro where he
worked at jobs
beneath his capacity
and education level.
In 1893, he published
his poetry collections
Missal and Broquéis,
beginning of the
Symbolist Movement in
Other works, published
after his death,
Faróis (1900), and
Últimos sonetos (1905).
At the age of 36 years,
he died an indigent of
Audio in Portuguese
DURATION: 6:31 MINUTES
João da Cruz e Sousa
Ninguém sentiu o teu espasmo obscuro,
Ó ser humilde entre os humildes seres.
Embriagado, tonto dos prazeres,
O mundo para ti foi negro e duro.
Atravessaste num silêncio escuro
A vida presa a trágicos deveres
E chegaste ao saber de altos saberes
Tornando-te mais simples e mais puro.
Ninguém te viu o sentimento inquieto,
Magoado, oculto e aterrador, secreto,
Que o coração te apunhalou no mundo.
Mas eu que sempre te segui os passos
Sei que cruz infernal prendeu-te os braços
E o teu suspiro como foi profundo!
Poem from Últimos Sonetos, published posthumously by
Nestor Vítor dos Santos (Symbolist poet and critic, closest and
most trusted friend of Cruz e Sousa), 1905
Located in South
CATARINA has the
nation's highest levels
of income, education,
and public health.
Of an estimated
population of 6.7 million
(2014), over 79 percent
are of European descent:
Germany, Austria, Italy,
Russia, Spain, France,
Afro-Brazilians make up
is the state capital.
|JOÃO DA CRUZ
DE LÁ PRA CÁ
Audio in Portuguese
DURATION: 25:27 MINUTES
NOTE: While I was unable to preserve the rhyme of Cruz e Sousa's
Italian-style sonnet, I sought to capture what I perceived as his
tormented life along the road to Calvary: the Way of the Cross of a