Motherland of mine

original poem by Vinius de Moraes

PÁTRIA MINHA

A minha pátria é como se não fosse, é íntima
Doçura e vontade de chorar; uma criança dormindo
É minha pátria. Por isso, no exílio
Assistindo dormir meu filho
Choro de saudades de minha pátria.

Se me perguntarem o que é a minha pátria, direi:
Não sei. De fato, não sei
Como, por que e quando a minha pátria
Mas sei que a minha pátria é a luz, o sal e a água
Que elaboram e liquefazem a minha mágoa
Em longas lágrimas amargas.

Vontade de beijar os olhos de minha pátria
De niná-la, de passar-lhe a mão pelos cabelos...
Vontade de mudar as cores do vestido (auriverde!) tão feias
De minha pátria, de minha pátria sem sapatos
E sem meias, pátria minha
Tão pobrinha!

Porque te amo tanto, pátria minha, eu que não tenho
Pátria, eu semente que nasci do vento
Eu que não vou e não venho, eu que permaneço
Em contato com a dor do tempo, eu elemento
De ligação entre a ação e o pensamento
Eu fio invisível no espaço de todo adeus
Eu, o sem Deus!

Tenho-te no entanto em mim como um gemido
De flor; tenho-te como um amor morrido
A quem se jurou; tenho-te como uma fé
Sem dogma; tenho-te em tudo em que não me sinto a jeito
Nesta sala estrangeira com lareira
E sem pé-direito.

Ah, pátria minha, lembra-me uma noite no Maine, Nova Inglaterra
Quando tudo passou a ser infinito e nada terra
E eu vi alfa e beta de Centauro escalarem o monte até o céu
Muitos me surpreenderam parado no campo sem luz
À espera de ver surgir a Cruz do Sul
Que eu sabia, mas amanheceu...

Fonte de mel, bicho triste, pátria minha
Amada, idolatrada, salve, salve!
Que mais doce esperança acorrentada
O não poder dizer-te: aguarda...
Não tardo!

Quero rever-te, pátria minha, e para
Rever-te me esqueci de tudo
Fui cego, estropiado, surdo, mudo
Vi minha humilde morte cara a cara
Rasguei poemas, mulheres, horizontes
Fiquei simples, sem fontes.

Pátria minha... A minha pátria não é florão, nem ostenta
Lábaro não; a minha pátria é desolação
De caminhos, a minha pátria é terra sedenta
E praia branca; a minha pátria é o grande rio secular
Que bebe nuvem, come terra
E urina mar.

Mais do que a mais garrida a minha pátria tem
Uma quentura, um querer bem, um bem
Um libertas quae sera tamen
Que um dia traduzi num exame escrito:
"Liberta que serás também"
E repito!

Ponho no vento o ouvido e escuto a brisa
Que brinca em teus cabelos e te alisa
Pátria minha, e perfuma o teu chão...
Que vontade me vem de adormecer-me
Entre teus doces montes, pátria minha
Atento à fome em tuas entranhas
E ao batuque em teu coração.

Não te direi o nome, pátria minha
Teu nome é pátria amada, é patriazinha
Não rima com mãe gentil
Vives em mim como uma filha, que és
Uma ilha de ternura: a Ilha
Brasil, talvez.

Agora chamarei a amiga cotovia
E pedirei que peça ao rouxinol do dia
Que peça ao sabiá
Para levar-te presto este avigrama:
"Pátria minha, saudades de quem te ama…
Vinicius de Moraes."

MOTHERLAND OF MINE[1]

My motherland is like it was not, it's intimate
Sweetness and will to cry; a sleeping child
It is my motherland. Therefore, in exile
Watching my son asleep
I cry with nostalgia[2] of my motherland.

If one asks me what is my motherland, I will say:
Don't know. In fact, I don't know
How, why and when my motherland
But I know that my motherland is the light, the salt and the water
Which elaborate and liquefy my sorrow
In long bitter tears.

Willing to kiss my motherland's eyes
To cradle her in my arms, to run my hand through her hair ...
Willing to change the colors of her dress (golden and green!)[3] so ugly
Of my motherland, of my motherland with no shoes
And no socks, motherland of mine
such a poor thing!

Because I love you so much, motherland of mine, I who do not have,
a homeland, seedling sprouted from the wind
I who neither go nor come, I who remain
In contact with the pain of time, I element
Of connection between action and thought
I invisible thread in the space of every goodbye
I, the godless one!

I have you, nonetheless, in me as a flower's
moan; I have you as an expired love
To whom one was sworn; I have you as a faith
With no dogma; I have you in all I feel unfitting
In this foreign room with a fireplace
And an improper ceilling.

Oh, motherland of mine, I recall that one night in Maine, New England
When everything became infinite and nothing earth
And I saw alpha and beta of Centauri climb the hill to the sky
Many caught me standing still in the field without a light.
Waiting for the Southern Cross[4] to emerge
The one I knew, but then came the dawn...

Fountain of honey, sad creature, motherland of mine
Beloved, worshiped, hail, hail![5]
What a sweet enchained hope
It is not being able to tell you: wait...
I won't take long!

I want to see you again, motherland of mine,
and to see you I forgot everything
I was blind, crippled, deaf, mute
Saw my humble death face to face
Ripped poemas, women, horizons
Became simple, without sources.

Motherland of mine... My motherland is not a crocket[6], neither does it flaunt
A banner,[7] no; my motherland is desolation
Of paths, my motherland is thirsty land[8]
And white beach; my motherland is the great secular river
That drinks cloud, eats earth
And urinates sea.[9]

More than the most ornate (land)[10] my motherland has
A warmth, an affection, a kindness
A 'libertas quae sera tamen'[11]
That I once translated in a written exam as:
"Set free that you'll be yourself free too"
And I repeat![12]

In the wind I place my ear and listen to the breeze
That plays in your hair and caresses you
Motherland of mine, and perfumes your ground...
Such longing to fall asleep
between your sweet hills[13], motherland of mine
Mindful of the hunger in your entrails
And of the druming in your heart.

I shall not speak your name, motherland of mine.
Your name is beloved motherland, is little (sweety) motherland[14]
Does not rhyme with gentle mother[15]
You live in me as a daughter, that you are
An island of tenderness: the Island
Brazil, perhaps.[16]

Now I'll call upon my fellow lark
and ask it to ask the nightingale of the day
to ask the thrush
To deliver you promptly this birdgram:[17]
"Motherland of mine, this one who loves you misses you so...[18]
Vinicius de Moraes."



[1] The portuguese noun "pátria" evolved from the latin term "patrĭa" which means "country of birth". The meaning is still the same and even the pronounciation is very close to the original, but the latin word was in itself also a derivation from the word "pater", used for father. Therefore the portuguese "pátria" is normally translated as "fatherland" or even "homeland". There is a subtlety, however, that the poet employes not only in the title but in the poem as a whole. In portuguese, as in many other latin languages, all nouns have an intrinsic gender. i.e. the english word for "sea" would in portuguese be a masculine, "mar", while in french it would be a feminine, "mer". The same applies for the term "pátria" which is in fact a feminine noun. Hence, the translation "motherland", although uncommon is more appropriate. This notion is reinforced by the brazilian national anthem in which the country is often compared to a gentle mother who is beloved and worshiped by her children. This fact in particular will be explored by the author in many ways throughtout the text.

[2] The portuguese noun "saudade" has no propper translation in english. It is a complex emotion that can be thought of as that feeling of when one misses someone or something. As a noun, the closest in english would be "nostalgia", as in the longing for someone or something that can never return. Nonetheless, one can feel "saudade" for something that actually never happened, or that is only temporarily absent. In english some of its meaning can be conveyed by the use of the verb to miss but generally these cases are related to other portuguese nouns such as "falta" or "ausencia" both meaning "absense", so that "to miss" can become "sentir (a) falta" which transliterates to "to feel (the) absense". It is important to notice that "saudade" as a noun can be felt, carried, had, been with, etc. Therefore one can be said "to feel 'saudade' (for someone)", "to carry (in one's heart, chest, soul, ...) 'saudade' (of someone)", "to have 'saudade' (of someone)", "to be with 'saudade' (of someone)" or "to cry of 'saudade' (for someone)" . That said, I tried to opt for a translation that best captured the author's intended meaning in each case.

[3] "Auriverde" literally means golden and green and is used in a reference to the more prominent colors of the brazilian national flag which the author seemed to dislike.

[4] The Southern Cross, or Crux, is a constelation only visible from the southern hemisphere. It is among the most easily distinguished constellations and can been seen from all the brazilian territory.

[5] Literally a verse extracted from the national anthem.

[6] In a reference to a passage in Brazil's national anthem where the country is compared to a crocket, a jewel that embelishes the new world.

[7] In a reference to a passage in Brazil's national anthem where one wishes the country's banner to be a symbol of eternal love.

[8] A clear allusion to the northeast region of Brazil, that with a semi-arid climate, is often plagued by severe droughts.

[9] A reference to the amazon river.

[10] Another reference to a passage from Brazil's national anthem where the country's fields are said to bare more flowers than be most ornate, adorned, lavish land.

[11] 'Libertas Quæ Sera Tamen' was the motto of a group of insurgents that conspired for the independence of one of Brazil's southeast provinces in the 18th century when the country was still a colony under the ruling of Portugal. One possible translation and the most accepted one is "Freedom even if belated".

[12] Here the author makes a joke with the fact that most of the latin words of the motto have false cognates in portuguese that drastically change its meaning. In fact, it is a joke most kids will hear in history classes in Brazil. Curiously, though, the altered meaning is also quite appropriate, hence, the author's position "And I repeat!"

[13] Most of the geography of Brazil's southeast region where the author lived is comprised of a succession of mountains and hills also called "sea of hills" by the geographer Pierre Deffontaines. In the passage, the author suggests a certain intimacy that can be both fraternal and sensual at the same time. The "hills" can be seen as a woman's breasts which the author would like to fall asleep in between, like a baby over his mother or a lover over his mistress.

[14] In portuguese, it is common to speak of something or someone using the diminutive form to imply affection. In these cases one generally appends a suffix (-inho/-inha) to the word, often replacing the last vowel. i.e. for "girl", in portuguese "garota"; we have "little girl", in portuguese "garotinha".

[15] Another reference to a passage from Brazil's national anthem where the country is said to be a gentle mother to the children born on its land.

[16] The author plays with a curious myth about a phantom island said to lie in the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland. Irish myths described it as cloaked in mist except for one day every seven years, when it became visible but still could not be reached. Portraited by some cartographers of the 16th and 17th century with the name Brasil it has nothing to do with the the South American country which was at first named Ilha de Vera Cruz (Island of the True Cross) and later Terra de Santa Cruz (Land of the Holy Cross) by the Portuguese navigators who discovered the land. After some decades, it started to be called "Terra Brasilis" and then "Brasil" due to the exploitation of native Brazilwood, at that time the only export of the land. In Portuguese, brazilwood is called "pau-brasil", with the word "brasil" commonly given the etymology "red like an ember", formed from Latin brasa ("ember") and the suffix -il (from -iculum or -ilium)

[17] Possibly a reference to the lark and the nightingale in Romeo and Juliet, once more suggesting this intimate relationship with the country as in a love afair. Yet, the author is also playing in between the lines with another classic poem from brazilian literature called "Canção do Exílio" (Exile Song). This poem was written by the Brazilian Romantic author Gonçalves Dias in 1843, when he was in Portugal studying Law at the University of Coimbra. The piece is a famous example of the first phase of Brazilian Romanticism, that was characterized by heavy nationalism and patriotism. It begins with "My land has palm trees/Where the thrush sings./The birds that sing here/Do not sing as they do there.". The author reinforces the fact that he is away from his beloved country by having to request a favor from two bird types that can only be found in Europe and North America.

[18] Once more the author employs the word "saudade", in this case in plural form to imply he's feeling a lot of it. However, because it's in a telegram the sentece is only a fragment (the subject is "saudades" but it lacks a verb). So I opted to provide a translation that most aproximated the meaning. A transliteration would be: "'saudades' from one who loves you..."