Vinicius 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.
SONNET OF GREATEST LOVE
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.
Translation by John Lyons
Here is the original Portuguese text:
SONETO DO MAIOR AMOR
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.