The Lover Transforms

Portrait of François Truffaut by Duane Michals, 1981

 
 

TRÍPTICO

«Transforma-se o amador na coisa amada»,
com seu feroz sorriso, os dentes,
as mãos que relampejam no escuro.
Traz ruído e silêncio.
Traz o barulho das ondas frias
e das ardentes pedras que tem dentro de si.
E cobre esse ruído rudimentar com o assombrado
silêncio da sua última vida.
O amador transforma-se de instante para instante,
e sente-se o espírito imortal do amor
criando a carne em extremas atmosferas, acima
de todas as coisas mortas.

Transforma-se o amador.
Corre pelas formas dentro.
E a coisa amada é uma baía estanque.
É o espaço de um castiçal,
a coluna vertebral e o espírito
das mulheres sentadas.
Transforma-se em noite extintora.
Porque o amador é tudo, e a coisa amada
é uma cortina
onde o vento do amador bate no alto da janela
aberta.
O amador entra por todas as janelas abertas.
Ele bate, bate, bate.
O amador é um martelo que esmaga.
Que transforma a coisa amada.

Ele entra pelos ouvidos, e depois a mulher
que escuta
fica com aquele grito para sempre na cabeça
a arder como o primeiro dia do verão.
Ela ouve e vai-se transformando, enquanto dorme, naquele grito
do amador.
Depois acorda, e vai, e dá-se ao amador,
dá-lhe o grito dele.
E o amador e a coisa amada são um único grito
anterior de amor.

E gritam e batem.
Ele bate-lhe com o seu espírito de amador.
E ela é batida, e bate-lhe
com o seu espírito de amada.
Então o mundo transforma-se neste ruído áspero
do amor.
Enquanto em cima o silêncio do amador e da amada alimentam
o imprevisto silêncio do mundo e do amor.

Herberto Helder

 
 

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THE LOVER TRANSFORMS

«The lover transforms into the thing loved» with his
savage smile, his teeth,
his hands that flash in the dark.
He brings sound and silence.
He brings the noise of the cold waves
and burning stones which rage within him.
And he covers this primordial sound with the staggered
silence of his last life.
The lover transforms from moment to moment,
and it’s the moment of the immortal spirit of love
creating flesh in extreme atmospheres, wafting
over all death things.

The lover transforms. He cuts through forms to the core.
And the thing loved is an enclosed bay,
the space of a candlestick,
the backbone and spirit
of women sitting.
He transforms into extinguishing night.
Because the lover is everything, and the thing loved
is a curtain
battered by the wind of the lover on the heights
of an open window.
The lover enters through every open windows and
batters, batters, batters.
The lover is smashing hammer.
that transforms the thing loved.

He enters through her ears,
and the woman who listens
holds that shout forever in her mind
burning like the first day of summer.
She hearsand slowly transforms,
while sleeping, into that shout of the lover.
She awakens, and goes, and gives herself to the lover,
she gives him his own shout.
And the lover and the thing loved are a single shout
preceding love.

And they shout and batter.
He batters her with his lover spirit.
And she is battered and batters him
with her spirit of the beloved.
Then the world transforms into this harsh noise
of love.
While overhead the silence of the lover and the beloved feed
the surprising silence of the world and of love.

Translation by Assírio & Alvim

 
 

Luís Vaz de Camões’s sonnets are thematically far more diverse than those of Petrarch or William Shakespeare. Some are retellings of Biblical tales (Jacob) or Greek myths, often with a new twist; or they present historical or mythological figures in new scenarios, as in the sonnet which has the goddesses Diana and Venus discussing the merits of trapping animals versus ensnaring human hearts (While Phoebus was lighting up the mountains). Other sonnets take up the theme of the world’s disorderedness and the inevitability of change (Times change, desires change), and life’s brevity (Oh how long, year after year). But love, for Camões as for most Renaissance poets, is an ever-present hope and complaint, a source of pain alternating with ecstasy, a rich symbol and a chimera – an inexhaustible subject of poetic and existential exploration. Love, in the sonnets and sestina presented here, is not merely a hankering after an idealized and beatified ‘senhora’ (lady); it is a psychological territory for self-discovery. This is most blatantly the case in the celebrated Transforma-se o amador na cousa amada, a twentieth-century remake of which The Lover Transforms was produced by Herberto Helder (b. 1930).

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Drowned Lover

Young men dream in the garden of the dead, with flowers growing from their heads, photo by Duane Michals

 
 

Cara minha inimiga, em cuja mão
pôs meus contentamentos a ventura,
faltou-te a ti na terra sepultura,
porque me falte a mim consolação.
Eternamente as águas lograrão
a tua peregrina fermosura;
mas, enquanto me a mim a vida dura,
sempre viva em minh’alma te acharão.
E se meus rudos versos podem tanto
que possam prometer-te longa história
daquele amor tão puro e verdadeiro,
celebrada serás sempre em meu canto;
porque enquanto no mundo houver memória,
será minha escritura teu letreiro.

Luís Vaz de Camões

 
 

________________________________

 
 

Dearest enemy, so often unkind,
my life was in your hands, until that wave
of the sea deprived you of an earthly grave,
depriving me, as well, of peace of mind.
The selfish drowning waters keep us apart,
enjoying your lovely beauty within the vast
cold sea, but as long as my broken life will last,
you’ll always be alive within my heart.
And if my ragged poems can last for long
enough, your love, so spotless, will persist
forever and ever, as I, on your behalf,
will praise you always with my singing song;
as long as human memories exist,
my poems will be your missing epitaph.

Translation by Richard Zenith

Lost From Sight and Lost From Hope

Photo series by Duane Michals

 
 

Oh! como se me alonga, de ano em ano,
a peregrinação cansada minha!
Como se encurta, e como ao fim caminha
este meu breve e vão discurso humano!

Vai-se gastando a idade e cresce o dano;
perde-se-me um remédio, que inda tinha;
se por experiência se adivinha,
qualquer grande esperança é grande engano.

Corro após este bem que não se alcança;
no meio do caminho me falece,
mil vezes caio, e perco a confiança.

Luís Vaz de Camões

 
 

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Oh how long, year after year,
my weary journey has kept on going!
How short a space until my brief
and useless human rambling ends!

Time wastes away and my ruin increases;
a remedy I used to have is gone.
If we can judge from past experience,
every large hope is a grand illusion.

I chase some good that can’t be had:
when halfway there, I’ve lost the trail;
falling a thousand times, I despair.

It flees, I lag; and if, in my lagging,
I look up to see if it’s still there,
it’s lost from sight and lost from hope.

Translation by Richard Zenith

The Lover Becomes The Thing He Loves

Photo by Duane Michals

 
 

Transforma-se o amador na cousa amada
Por virtude do muito imaginar;
Não tenho logo mais que desejar,
Pois em mim tenho a parte desejada.

Se nela está minha alma transformada
Que mais deseja o corpo alcançar?
Em si somente pode descansar,
Pois com ele tal alma está liada.

Mas esta linda e pura Semidea
Que como o acidente em seu sujeito,
Assi com a alma minha se conforma;

Está no pensamento como ideia;
E o vivo, o puro amor de que sou feito,
Como a matéria simples busca a forma.

Luís Vaz de Camões
1595

 
 

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The lover becomes the thing he loves
by virtue of much imagining;
since what I long for is already in me,
the act of longing should be enough.

If my soul becomes the beloved,
what more can my body long for?
Only in itself will it find peace,
since my body and soul are linked.

But this pure, fair demigoddess,
who with my soul is in accord
like an accident with its subject,

exists in my mind as a mere idea;
the pure and living love I’m made of
seeks, like simple matter, form.

Translation by Richard Zenith

May Love Seek Out New Arts

A morte de Camões (Death of Camões), Domingos Sequeira, 1825

 
 

Busque Amor novas artes, novo engenho,
para matar-me, e novas esquivanças;
que não pode tirar-me as esperanças,
que mal me tirará o que eu não tenho.

Olhai de que esperanças me mantenho!
Vede que perigosas seguranças!
Que não temo contrastes nem mudanças,
andando em bravo mar, perdido o lenho.

Mas, conquanto não pode haver desgosto
onde esperança falta, lá me esconde
Amor um mal, que mata e não se vê.

Que dias há que n’alma me tem posto.
um não sei quê, que nasce não sei onde,
vem não sei como, e doi não sei porquê.

Luís Vaz de Camões

 
 

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May Love seek out new arts, devise a plot
to kill me, and discover new disdain;
for robbing me of hope will be in vain,
since it can scarcely take what I’ve not got.

Behold the kind of hopes on which I stand!
And see how perilous my certainties!
For I fear neither change nor enmities,
ploughing the sea, lost far from any land.

And yet, although one cannot pay grief’s toll
where hope is gone, still Love has hidden there
for me an ill, that kills and can’t be seen;

how long ago did Love place in my soul
I don’t know what, born I don’t know where,
come I don’t know how, nor why it aches so keen.

Translation by Richard Zenith

Love Is a Fire That Burns Unseen

Flaming June, Frederic Leighton, 1895. Ponce Museum of Art (Puerto Rico).
It is thought that the woman portrayed alludes to the figures of sleeping nymphs and naiads the Greeks often sculpted. The (toxic) Oleander branch in the top right, symbolizes the fragile link between sleep and death

 
 

“Amor he hum fogo que arde sem se ver;
He ferida que doe e não se sente;
He hum contentamento descontente;
He dor que desatina sem doer;

He hum não querer mais que bem querer;
He solitario andar por entre a gente;
He hum não contentar-se de contente;
He cuidar que se ganha em se perder;

He hum estar-se preso por vontade;
He servir a quem vence o vencedor;
He hum ter com quem nos mata lealdade.

Mas como causar póde o seu favor
Nos mortaes corações conformidade,
Sendo a si tão contrário o mesmo Amor?

 
 

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“Love is a fire that burns unseen,
A wound that aches yet isn’t felt,
An always discontent contentment,
A pain that rages without hurting,
A longing for nothing but to long,
A loneliness in the midst of people,
A never feeling pleased when pleased,
A passion that gains when lost in thought.

It’s being enslaved of your own free will;
It’s counting your defeat a victory;
It’s staying loyal to your killer.

But if it’s so self-contradictory,
How can Love, when Love chooses,
Bring human hearts into sympathy?”

Luís Vaz de Camões

Rimas (translated by Richard Zenith)

How Do I Love Thee?

Idyll, Frederic Leighton, c. 1880-81

 
 

NUMBER 43

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sonnets from the Portuguese

 
 

Sonnets from the Portuguese, written ca. 1845–1846 and first published in 1850, is a collection of 44 love sonnets written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The poems largely chronicle the period leading up to her 1846 marriage to Robert Browning. The collection was acclaimed and popular in the poet’s lifetime and it remains so today.

Barrett Browning was initially hesitant to publish the poems, feeling that they were too personal. However, her husband insisted that they were the best sequence of English-language sonnets since William Shakespeare‘s time and urged her to publish them. To offer the couple some privacy, she decided that she might publish them as translations of foreign sonnets. Therefore, the collection was first to be known as Sonnets from the Bosnian, until Robert suggested that she change their imaginary original language to Portuguese, probably after her admiration for Luís Vaz de Camões and his nickname for her: “my little Portuguese.” The title is also a reference to Les Lettres portugaises. By far the most famous poems from this collection, with one of the most famous opening lines in the English language, are numbers 33 and 43.