19th Century

Álvares de Azevedo’s “Memory of Dying” [Lembrança de Morrer] | Leandro Machado (Trans.)

Translated by Leandro Machado, based in the northern part of Brazil, who is an architect, freelance translator, and teaches Portuguese as a foreign language.

Álvares de Azevedo

Manuel Antônio Álvares de Azevedo (1831–52), referred to usually as Álvares de Azevedo, was one of Brazil’s most famous Romantic poets. Yet because his works have never been translated into English, Azevedo remains largely unknown to most British and American scholars.

The son of Manuel de Azevedo and Maria Luísa Azevedo, a wealthy couple living in São Paulo, in what was then the Empire of Brazil, in 1831 and who moved to Rio de Janeiro two years later, in 1844 Álvares began attending the Colégio Pedro II. It was here that Álvares learned to read EnglishFrench, and German, became acquainted with the works of European Romantic poets and novelists. He was particularly drawn to the works of Lord Byron, Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Chateaubriand, Percy Shelley, Goethe, and Thomas Chatterton.

Machado’s translation of the following poem, titled ‘Memory of Dying’ (Lembrança de Morrer), is the first time that it has appeared in the English language.

A modern edition of Azevedo’s collection of poetry titled Lira dos Vinte Anos

Memory of Dying [Lembrança de Morrer]

No more! o never more!–SHELLEY.[1]

When in my chest the fibre bursts

That the spirit tangles[2] to the living pain 

Do not shed a single tear for me

In demented eyelid.

And do not even defoliate in the impure matter

The flower of the valley that falls asleep in the wind:

I don’t want a note of joy

To be shut by my sad passing.

I leave life like the dusty wanderer

Leaves the boredom of the desert[3]

— Like the hours of a long nightmare

That crumbles at the sound of a bell ringing.

Like the exile of my wandering soul,

Where the unwise fire consumed it:

I will miss just a thing[4] — those times

That beautified a loving illusion.

I will miss just a thing — those shadows

That I felt watching in my nights…

Thou, oh mother, poor thing

Who withers because of my sadness.

My father… my only friends,

Few — very few — who did not mock me

When, maddened by fever at night,

My pale beliefs doubted.

If a tear floods my eyelids

If a sigh in the breasts still trembles

It is for the virgin I dreamed of… Who never

Had her beautiful face touched by my lips.

Only thou gave flowers 

To the dreamy youth of the pale poet…[5]

If he lived, it was for thee! and for the hope

Of enjoying thy loves in life.

I will kiss the holy and naked truth,

I will see the friendly dream crystallises…

Oh my virgin of the wandering dreams,

Daughter of heaven,[6] I will love thee.

May my lonely grave[7] rests

In the forgotten forest of men,

Under the shadow of a cross, and write on it

— He was a poet — he dreamed — and he loved in life.—

Valley shadows, mountain nights

That my soul sang and loved so much

Protect my abandoned body,

And in the silence pour song on it!

But when the bird of the dawn preludes

And when the sky rests at midnight

Thickets of the forest, open the branches…

Let the moon mourn my stone.[8]


[1] Epigraph originally in English, quoting Percy B. Shelley.

[2] There are words with similar meaning which could be used, such as ‘entwine’, ‘enlace’ and ‘intertwine’. I choose ‘tangle’ because it expresses the idea of mixing things, joining them together as one. I think it really suits what Azevedo wants to say when he writes about the fibres – his material living form – being attached to the living pain by his spirit.

[3] The structure of these two verses had to be slightly changed in order to maintain the meaning.

[4] Saudade is a portuguese word to describe the feeling of missing something or someone, to long something or someone. When Azevedo says “Só levo uma saudade”, he is saying that he will miss something only.

[5] The structure of these two verses had to be slightly changed in order to maintain the meaning.

[6]Céu’ also means sky, but since Azevedo is talking about holiness, we can assume that the proper word to translate ‘céu’ is heaven.

[7] The word ‘leito’ is used here as an euphemism. Azevedo is talking about his last and eternal bed: his grave. I could not find an appropriate substitute in english.

[8] ‘Lousa’ means slate, or board (which you can write on). Again, it is an euphemism for gravestone. I choose to translate it as ‘stone’ only.