Shoulders bear the weight of the world

Comes a time when we no longer say: my God.
A time of absolute stripping to the bone.
A time when we no longer say: my love.
Because love turned out to be useless.
And the eyes don’t cry.
And the hands only weave coarse work.
And the heart is dry.

Women knock at the door in vain, you won’t open it.
You were left alone, the light goes out,
and your eyes shine enormous in the dark.
You’re full of certainty, can suffer no more
And you expect nothing from your friends.

That old age approaches matters little, what’s old age?
Shoulders bear the weight of the world
and it weighs no more than a child’s hand.
Wars, famines, and conflicts in buildings
Merely confirm that life goes on
And not everyone has yet broken free.
Some, finding the spectacle barbarous,
Would prefer (the sensitive ones) to die.
Time has come when there’s no point in dying.
Time has come when life is an imperative.
Mere life, without perplexity.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade
(translation by John Lyons)

corrected version


Vinicius de Moraes – the poet from Ipanema

vinicius-de-moraesVinicius de Moraes, (1913-1980) was a Brazilian dramatist, journalist, poet and composer. He is most famous for having written the words to the immortal bossa nova song, “Girl from Ipanema”, with music by Tom Jobim.

In 1938 Vinicius was an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied English Literature. There he also wrote a series of playful and amorous sonnets, one of which is translated below.

His success as a lyricist has overshadowed his reputation as a very fine poet but perhaps in years to come the balance will be redressed. The Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, was a great friend of Vinicius and an admirer of his poetry.


No greater nor no stranger love than mine
exists, that seeks not to soothe the beloved
And on sensing she is happy, grows sad
Yet seeing her distressed, rejoices.

For it only finds peace if the beloved’s heart
resists it, and so takes more pleasure
from the perpetual adventure it pursues
than from an ill-adventured life.

My crazy love, which wounds with its caress
And quivers when it wounds, but would rather
Wound than die – and lives randomly

True to its law of living for the moment
Fearless, crazy, delirious – wrapt
In a passion for all and for itself.

Oxford, 1938

Translation by John Lyons

Here is the original Portuguese text:


Maior amor nem mais estranho existe
Que o meu, que não sossega a coisa amada
E quando a sente alegre, fica triste
E se a vê descontente, dá risada.

E que só fica em paz se lhe resiste
O amado coração, e que se agrada
Mais da eterna aventura em que persiste
Que de uma vida mal-aventurada.

Louco amor meu, que quando toca, fere
E quando fere vibra, mas prefere
Ferir a fenecer – e vive a esmo

Fiel à sua lei de cada instante
Desassombrado, doido, delirante
Numa paixão de tudo e de si mesmo.

Oxford, 1938