Alvares de Azevedo

“Macário” (1850)—Scene I | Álvares de Azevedo [Trans. Stephen Basdeo]

Stephen Basdeo is a historian and lecturer based in Leeds, United Kingdom. His research specialisms include the history of Victorian popular fiction as well as the history and culture of Latin America during the nineteenth century.

What is presented below is the text of what is (as far as I can ascertain) the first English translation of Macário (1850) by the Brazilian poet Álvares de Azevedo. Heavily influenced by the German folktale of Faust, and its various iterations, Azevedo’s play, set in the lonely backwoods of Brazil, sees a young traveller named Macário meet the devil.

Alvares de Azevedo

The Life of Álvares de Azevedo

Manuel Antonio Álvares de Azevedo, the second son of Inácio Álvares de Azevedo and D. Maria Luisa Carlota Silveira da Mota, was born in the capital of São Paulo, in Rua de São Francisco, near the Faculty of Law, on 12 December 1831. Before Manuel Antonio was born the couple had a daughter, Maria Luísa, who, with the passage of years, would become Azevedo’s favourite sister.[1]

S. Paulo in the 1840s (Wikimedia Commons)

At two years of age (1833), the Azevedos moved to Rio de Janeiro. In 1835, a misfortune occurred in the Azevedo household: a death, in Niterói, of one of the couple’s young sons. Already of feeble complexion, Álvares’s health was severely damaged by an illness contracted as a result of the emotional shock he suffered on losing his brother.

From 1840 to 1844, the poet of Lira dos Vinte Anos attended classes at the Colegio Stoll, and proved himself to be a scholar of elevated, intellectual capacity, confirmed by the testimony of Professor Stoll, owner of the college, in a letter sent to his father:

“Your little Manuel enchants me ever more: it is without doubt a child of the best expectation in my college, except in gym, in which he is the last.”

And further:

“[he has] the greatest intellectual capacity that I met with in America in a boy of his age.”

In school, Azevedo cultivated a love for drawing, the French and English languages, and history and geography.

In 1844 he travelled to São Paulo in the company of his uncle, Dr José Inácio Silveira da Mota, professor in the Faculty of Law. He took French, English, and Latin exams for a course connected with the Faculty of Law, but, for want of age, did not conclude his preparations for matriculation in the law course.

He returned, in the following year, to Rio de Janeiro and matriculated in the Imperial Colegio Pedro II, where he remained until 1847, when, after examinations in all the materials in his seventh year, he acquired the degree of Bachelor of Letters. At this place of learning, he was the student of Domingo José Gonçalves de Magalhães (professor of philosophy), who, with his Suspiros Poeticas, was one of Brazil’s early Romantics. Azevedo was always a disciplined and exemplary student. However, he was possessed of a playful genius and lampooned the college’s masters and servants in a critical, scathing, and at times, irreverent, manner.

In 1848, Azevedo enrolled in São Paulo’s Faculty of Law. In the early part of his academic career he became the friend and colleague of Bernardo Guimarães, Aureliano Lessa, José de Alencar and José Bonifacio the younger. His time in São Paulo was spent living with Guimarães and Lessa in a large house situated in Chácara dos Ingleses.

In May 1848 Azevedo began his correspondence with his friend from Rio Grande do Sul, Luís Antonio da Silva Nunes, to whom he sent part of his narrative poem Conde Lopo and in whom he confessed his anxiety for not having met with a suitable lover or companion:

“Think not also that have I here some new love. No. I feel in my heart the necessity of loving, of giving one of God’s fair creatures this love that beats in my chest. But still I have not yet met here a woman—even one—with whom I could fall in love.”

Alvares stood out greatly among his peers in the course he took and, thanks to his dedication in the study of Roman law and his analysis of the Brazilian Commercial Code, was chosen to deliver the lecture on the anniversary of the foundation of Brazilian law courses, in August 1849. Hildon Rocha, in a critical-biographical study which pre-dates Azevedo’s Poesias Escolhidas, pointed out that the poet, in this speech, discussed the civilizing mission of universities, and pointed out that “the universities have exercised great influence on progress and civilization.” Azevedo, in this speech, further claimed that it will be the youth—“the representatives of the future”—who are agents of this progress. He spoke also of the “luminaries of the French Revolution” and

“the student bodies who raised in the streets and plazas of Paris the republican cry that today there flies thundering and shaking through the whole of Europe.”

Without a doubt, Azevedo held liberal ideas.

In December 1849, he went to pass the holidays in the company of his [family]. At this time he read, intensely, Byron, Shakespeare, Goethe, Heine, Musset, and others. In a letter dated 1 March 1850, sent to his friend Luís, he wrote:

“I haven’t spent idly these holidays, [but] before well-worked reading I have taken them. In this little space of 3 months I wrote a romance of 200 and more pages; two poems, one in 5 and another in 2 cantos; an analysis of Jacques Rolla, of Musset; and some literary studies of the simultaneous march of civilization and poetry in Portugal, quite voluminous; a fragment of a poem in very in very ancient language, more difficult to understand than those of Sexitalhas de Frei Antão, more in the way of The Rowley by Chatterton. On this my agitated spirit overcame me at times, an invincible stagnation, hours such as these, that the sailors have, in which the calm descends on the dead sea, and the sails fall along the masts. Everyone here finds me strange this year, the taciturnity of life and the weight of distraction that haunts me. My solitary living, shut up only in my bedroom, most of the time reading without reading, writing without knowing what to write, pensive without thought—maybe some furtive tear rolled down my mother’s cheek. Poor mother!”

In May 1850, Álvares de Azevedo returned to São Paulo to attend the third year of university and helped to found the Associação do Ensaio Filosófico Paulistano, speaking in its inauguration.

At the end of the year, going to spend the holidays with his parents, he returned to São Paulo in April 1851. Arriving here, he hurriedly wrote to his mother telling her of the omens that plague him:

“My blood is cold in my heart, with all the heat of life boiling in my head: my hands are trembling.”

As was usual, Álvares went to spend the end of year holidays in the company of his family in Rio de Janeiro. In December, heading towards Itaboraí, to spend the summer at his parents’ farm. At this time, already with tuberculosis, an accident occurred which complicated his health: in March 1852, during a season in the farm, in Itaboraí, Álvares de Azevedo fell from a horse, causing a tumour in the iliac fossa which kept him in bed until his death.

Like all Romantics, Álvares de Azevedo suffered from the “evil of the century,” sensing death and translating this presentiment into poetry: “already does death’s pallor cover my face.” Of such morbid tastes Rocha stated that “the Romantic poets maintain, in relation to death, a most masochistic sentiment. They suffer and worry about funerary ideas, investing the theme with attractive and irresistible air, establishing with it an intimacy of thoughts and sentiments that almost always results in an imposing meeting.” In Azevedo’s case this was true.

On 25 April 1852 Álvares de Azevedo expired, in Rio de Janeiro, being his last words: “What fatality! My father!” He was buried in the Pedro II Cemetery in the Praia Vermelha, then reinterred, in 1854, in the cemetery of São João Batista. On his tomb can be read the verse that he himself asked to go upon his epitaph:

“He was a poet, he dreamed and loved in life.”

Principal characters in the first scene of Macário


Although archaic, the second person informal pronoun ‘thou’ has been used in this translation, for Azevedo frequently uses its Portuguese equivalent ‘Tu’ for certain characters while using the formal equivalent for ‘you’ in other situations. In certain characters’ dialogue readers will notice that some parts are in italics. This is where an interpolation has been made to render the text more readable in English.

Stephen Basdeo

The roadside tavern on the way to S. Paulo which was the inspiration behind the one depicted in Macário (see: Vicente de Azevedo’s Álvares de Azevedo Desvendado)

First Episode: In a Roadside Inn

MACÁRIO (speaking to the outside): There, barmaid! Put for me a bottle of wine in a room. Make the bed and send some supper—‘pon my word I am famished! Toss a cigar to my donkey who is as sweaty as a drunken friar! Above all: Forget not the wine!

A VOICE: There is only aguardente, but it’s good.

MACÁRIO: Aguardente![2] Thou think’st me some sodding journalist? To travel six leagues with a thirsty throat for this! Oh—woman! I bet thou hast no water either!

THE WOMAN: Why, pure water, sir! It comes from a fountain and is as clean as glass and cold as a frosty night (leaves).

MACÁRIO: This here is the result of my long travels. A mad donkey, an empty bottle (takes a bottle from his bag) Cognac! You are a beautiful companion for a traveller. You are silent like the vicar on the road, but in the silence that you inspire me, like the moonlit nights, by raising a mysterious and enlightening song! Cognac! Those who understand thee not love thee not! Thou art unloved by those feminine mouths accustomed to the sickly honey of life, which crave not pleasures, strangers, and stronger sensations. And you here are empty—my bottle!—Empty like a dead beautiful woman! I shall sing your eulogy! And to not even have a mouthful of wine. Where there is not love, there is wine; when there is no wine, there are cigars—when there is neither love, nor wine, nor cigars, there is ‘spleen’. Oh! ‘Spleen’ incarnated in its most lugubrious form in this old tavern full of stinking aguardente!

THE WOMAN: Supper is here.

MACÁRIO: Supper! What the devil is this green food? Would it be some bundle of grass? Take it to the donkey!

THE WOMAN: It’s cabbage…

MACÁRIO: Take it to the donkey.

THE WOMAN: And fried in bacon…

MACÁRIO: Take it to the donkey or I swear I…!

(The woman throws the plate at Macário’s head. She leaves. Macário starts to eat anyway).

AN UNKNOWN (entering): Good evening, good sir.

MACÁRIO (eating): Good evening.

THE UNKNOWN: You must be hungry!

MACÁRIO: I understand thee. Wouldst thou like to eat? Sit thyself down. If thou wantest to talk, wait a little.

THE UNKNOWN (sitting down): I shall wait.

MACÁRIO (eating): It seems this is not the first time that I meet thee. Perhaps when night fell, at the top of the mountain gorge…

THE UNKNOWN: A figure in a red and black poncho rubbed his boot against your leg…

MACÁRIO: Exactly! On the mountain pass, when it was cold as a dog’s snout.


MACÁRIO: Yes … a path which stretches out into a valley full of grass. To the right a torrent cuts the front of road … and there’s a badly paved slope that’s lost in the bush.

THE UNKNOWN: There shall I meet thee again one day … By the way, wilt thou drink something?

MACÁRIO: Then thou knowest not? That evil woman only has aguardente. And I—who am capable of loving both common women as well as daughters of the aristocracy—I cannot drink the wine of the common sertanejo.[3]

THE UNKNOWN (takes a bottle from his bag and pours wine into Macário’s cup): Ah!

MACÁRIO: Wine! (drinks). I swear this is Madeira wine! Well, to your health, good sir!

THE UNKNOWN: And yours.

(Both raise a glass and take a drink)

MACÁRIO: Thine hands are most cold!

THE UNKNOWN: ‘Tis from the rain (shakes his poncho). See—I am wet through to the bones!

MACÁRIO: Alright—I’m finished eating, let us speak!

THE UNKNOWN: Thou sawest me twice. I saw thee still another time. It was in the hills, at the top of the hill. Evening fell and the horizon’s blue mists began to darken. The wind shook the mountain leaves. From here the sea was a blue line bordered the sand of the coast. In the valley—a band of white seagulls were seated on a branch. Thou wert contemplating the falling of the evening as thou wert gazing back on the city which some hours before thou hadst left. From there thine eyes withdrew towards the trees which surrounded thee to the blue-flowered, vine-reddened precipice, thence to the bottom of the abyss’s moaning torrents, wherein an immense waterfall stabbed its yellowed waters with a rain of foam on its bed’s black rocks. And thou didst gaze upon all of this with a perfectly romantic air. Are you a poet?

MACÁRIO: Thou deceivest thyself. My mule was tired. I sat me down, there to relax; I waited in the cool mist so that he could regather his strength. I occupied myself in skimming stones and counting the leaps that they made.

THE UNKNOWN: An agreeable diversion.

MACARIO: No more nor less than spitting in a well, swatting flies, or looking at the smoke arising from a pipe. But—my bag! (goes to the window) Woman of the house! Hello! Woman of the house!

A VOICE (from outside): Sir!

MACÁRIO: Untie the bag from my donkey and bring me it here.

A VOICE: the donkey?

MACÁRIO: The bag! Donkey!

A VOICE: A bag with a donkey?

MACÁRIO: Tie the bag upon thy back and the donkey to the fence.

A VOICE: Sir—art thou the lad which first arrived?

MACÁRIO: Yes. But where is the donkey?

A VOICE: The one which looks like a student?

MACÁRIO: Yes. But go—fetch the bag!

A VOICE: The donkey is not here, so how should I find the bag? Thou wantest me to go searching on foot?

MACÁRIO: This devil is a fool! Go on foot—or ride a broom like your mother!

A VOICE: Relax, lad, the donkey will return, [otherwise] when morning breaks we will go and find him.

ANOTHER VOICE: It would go by the Nhô Quito road. I know the donkey …

MACÁRIO: And you’ll go find my suitcase?

A VOICE: What? dost thou see? ‘Tis raining cats and dogs!

MACÁRIO (closes the window): Damn it! (throws a chair on the floor).

THE UNKNOWN: What be the matter, good sir?

MACÁRIO: Seest not? The donkey has flown…

THE UNKNOWN: Breaking a chair shan’t bring it back…

MACÁRIO: I’m so angry!

THE UNKNOWN: Drink another glass of Madeira (they drink). Thou surely hast something precious in the bag? (smiles).



MACÁRIO: No, but…

THE UNKNOWN: A complete collection of thy letters to a lover, a fragment of a poem, or some letter of recommendation?

MACÁRIO: I wasn’t carrying anything of the sort.

THE UNKNOWN: Thy bag seemed not, to me, to be very full. I noticed something shake inside of it—some bottle of wine, perhaps?

MACÁRIO: No! No! A thousand times no! Thou canst not conceive what an immense and irreparable loss I’ve sustained—‘Twas my pipe!

THE UNKNOWN: Dost thou smoke?

MACÁRIO: What is an inkwell is without ink, a guitar without strings, a glass without wine, a night without a woman?—don’t ask such a silly question of whether I smoke or not!

THE UNKNOWN (gives him a pipe): Here is a fine pipe. The finest meerschaum. The tube is fashioned from cherry tree wood. The mouthpiece is of amber.

MACÁRIO: I’ll be damned! This is fine enough for a sultan to smoke! Thou art sure I can smoke this?

THE UNKNOWN: ‘Tis a new invention. Fill the pipe and light it on the candle there (Macário lights it).

MACÁRIO: And thou?

THE UNKNOWN: Don’t mind me (he takes another pipe and smokes).

MACÁRIO: You are a perfect traveling companion. And thy name?

THE UNKNOWN: I asked thee first?

MACÁRIO: I need to ask first for I am a student. Lazy or studious, talented or stupid—it matters little. The two most important things about me, though, are that I love smoking and I hate Roman law. I love women and I hate Romanticism.

THE UNKNOWN: Touché! A worthy lad!

MACÁRIO: I prefer a bottle of wine over a poem and a kiss more than a harmonious sonnet. As for the singing of the birds, the drowsy moonlight, and the clear nights—I find these to be extremely bland things. Birds know only one song. The moon is always the same. And this world is so monotonous as to make you die of boredom.

THE UNKNOWN: And poetry?

MACÁRIO: When it was the gold coin which ran only through the hand of the rich, it was going well. Today it is exchanged in copper coins; there is not a beggar, nor even a tavern keeper, that doesn’t have such small change. Dost thou understand me?

THE UNKNOWN: I understand. Poetry, once elevated, has become vulgar. Before, it was made for high people; today people make it for commoners.

MACÁRIO (drinks): Indeed I tell thee! Where were we?

THE UNKNOWN: I know not. It seems to me that we were speaking on the Pope.

MACÁRIO: I know not either; I believe thy wine has gone straight to my head. Pah! thy pipe’s got a nasty stink to it!

THE UNKNOWN: Thou art sad, young lad … ‘Pon my word, I should love to see one of thy poems.


THE UNKNOWN: Because it would be as cheerful as a Harlequin watching his own performance…

MACÁRIO: Poems of what?

THE UNKNOWN: The light, the sky, the sea…

MACÁRIO: Firstly, the sea is a soberingly insipid thing and seasickness renders it prosaic. The words of Byron’s Corsair describe mine own thoughts on this matter: “Whose soul would sicken over the heaving wave.”

THE UNKNOWN: Dost thou become seasick when at sea?

MACÁRIO: ‘Tis the one similarity I have with Don Juan.

THE UNKNOWN: Such modesty!

MACÁRIO: Modesty? Pah! Ask the tavern keeper if I squeezed her elbow, winked at her, or put my hand on her breasts…

THE UNKNOWN: Thou dragon!

MACÁRIO: Women! All of them be the same. Those not outwardly like this are so on the inside.[4] Women are like swords; the sheath at time be of gold but the leaf is rusty.

THE UNKNOWN: Thou speakest as one disdainful life! Yet still thou hast the lips of a child. How many women’s breasts hast thou kissed beyond your wet nurse’s? How many lips apart from your sister’s?

MACÁRIO: The vagabond who sleeps in the streets, the woman who sells her body and soul—because her soul is decayed as her body—they can all tell you about my nights. Maybe many a virgin hath sighed for me! Maybe, even now, doth some maiden kneel down at her bed and pray for me!

THE UNKNOWN: There is a certain beauty in truthfulness. How old art thou?

MACÁRIO: Twenty! But my heart has beaten in these twenty years so many times that it is like a man of forty.

THE UNKNOWN: And thou hast loved much?

MACÁRIO: Yes and no. Always and never.

THE UNKNOWN: Speak clearly…

MACÁRIO: Clearer than day! If thou callest love the exchange of two temperatures, the tight weaving of two sexes, the convulsion of two arching breasts, the kiss of two trembling lips, of two beings merging … I have loved a lot and forever! If thou think’st love the chaste and pure sentiment that makes the thoughtful daydream, the lover—seeking his lover’s scent in the breeze—cry on the grass, that asks the harmonious and musical birds, in the morning, the evening, what melody is sweeter than her voice, and to his heart, what beauty is more divine than hers … I never loved. Still I do not think a woman thus. While taking my cigar and coffee I remember sometimes some divine form of a white brunette, blond, chestnut, or maybe black hair. I have seen these and they make me turn pale … my chest appears to tighten … my lips cool, my hands freezes … It seems to me then, that if such a woman as that makes me makes tremble thus, lets go of her velvet clothes and allows me to place a kiss on her lips for a moment, I would die fainting of pleasure. But after this comes another—the love undoes itself in longing and forgetting. How I tell you, never I loved.

THE UNKNOWN: To be twenty years old and never to have loved! And when do you expect love?

MACÁRIO: I don’t know. Maybe I’ll love when I’m impotent.

THE UNKNOWN: And what wouldst thou demand from the woman of thy dreams?

MACÁRIO: Little things—Beauty, virginity, innocence, love…

THE UNKNOWN: Nothing more?

MACÁRIO: I would want her to be virgin in soul as in body; that she had never felt the least emotion for anybody—neither cousin nor brother. That God had created her asleep in soul until she saw me, much like those fairy tale princesses that sleep a hundred years. I’d want an angel to cover her with its veil and wash her every night with his divine oil for to keep her in good health! … I would want her to come as a child and be transformed into a woman by my kisses.

THE UNKNOWN: Very good, young man! And you’re waiting for this woman?

MACÁRIO: Who knows!

THE UNKNOWN: And in the mire of whoredom thou think’st thou shalt meet her?

MACÁRIO: Maybe! ‘Tis on the ocean floor that people find pearls….

THE UNKNOWN: Thou art searching for virginity in a bad place! ‘Tis easier to find a pearl in a jeweller’s house than in the sand of the seabed.

MACÁRIO: Who knows!

THE UNKNOWN: Thou doubtest?

MACÁRIO: I always doubt. I disbelieve sometimes. This world, it seems, is a deception. Love, glory, virginity—all is an illusion.

THE UNKNOWN: Thou art correct! Virginity is an illusion! What is more virginlike? She who is deflowered while sleeping? Or the nun who, with burning tears, tosses and turns in her bed and breaks her finger through her habit while reading some impure romance?

MACÁRIO: You’re right! Virginity of soul can exist in a prostitute and not in a bodily virgin—there are flowers without perfume, and perfume without flowers. But I am not like others. I think an empty glass a forlorn thing but I wouldn’t drink even the best wine from an earthenware cup.

THE UNKNOWN: Yet thou takest love corrupted women’s clay lips!

MACÁRIO: Who told thee it was love? ‘Tis an impure hunger that must needs be satisfied. The famished body is like Count Ugolino in his tower—he would bite until whatever remained was a corpse.

THE UNKNOWN: The comparison is correct. A whore is a corpse.

MACÁRIO: Yet worthy to us, at least, so our hearts freeze not.                

THE UNKNOWN: One thing amazes me. Thou art twenty and should be pure like an angel yet art thou as debauched as a priest.

MACÁRIO: Think not that I never turn my thoughts unto heaven. The cistern also opens its lip to God, and asks him for pure water—and most of the time there is only mud. Upon my word, sometimes I want to become a friar.

THE UNKNOWN: A friar? For what?

MACÁRIO: ‘Tis one of those mad thoughts I have. Here—fill this glass. (Drinks.) ‘Pon the Virgin Mary! I’m sleepy. I’m going to sleep.

THE UNKNOWN: And me too. Good night.

MACÁRIO: Still one thing, before going to sleep—thy name?

THE UNKNOWN: Dost thou insist on this?

MACÁRIO: With all my heart, as I am the son of a woman.

THE UNKNOWN: Take my hand. I want to feel thee tremble upon hearing my name.

MACÁRIO: I swear to you that I will not, even if you were…

THE UNKNOWN: Take my hand. Repeat after me: Forever: in life and in death!

MACÁRIO: Forever: in life and in death!

THE UNKNOWN: And thy name?

MACÁRIO: Macário. If I was not a foundling, I could tell you my father’s and mother’s names. My father was certainly a libertine and from what I know was a priest or nobleman.

THE UNKNOWN: Good evening Macário. I am the Devil.

MACÁRIO: Good evening, Satan. (He goes to bed. The Unknown leaves). The Devil! A good fortune! (Aside) Ten years have I been searching for this scoundrel! Now I have him caught by the tail! The biggest disgrace in this world is to be a Faust without Mephistopheles… (To Satan) Hello, Satan!

SATAN: Macário…

MACÁRIO: When are we leaving?

SATAN: You’re not tired?


SATAN: Then forthwith!

MACÁRIO: And my donkey?

SATAN: Thou shalt be riding with me.


[1] This brief biography is translated from the preface contained in the following work: Anon. ‘A vida de Álvares de Azevedo’, in Noite na tavern e Macário, ed. by Domingo Alzugaray, Luiz Carta e Ignácio de Loyola (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Tres, 1973), pp. 1–16.

[2] Moonshine, or perhaps cachaça/pinga.—SB.

[3] ‘Sertanejo’, literally ‘countryman’, but I have kept it untranslated because in Brazil it is a recognised class of people who live in the interior.

[4] The direct translation of the succeeding sentence is ‘Some, lacking hair on the head, have hair in the heart’. I have omitted this as it makes no sense in English.