Friday, 8 April 2016

Carlos Drummond de Andrade: An Ox Looks at Man


They are more delicate even than shrubs and they run
and run from one side to the other, always forgetting
something. Surely they lack I don't know what
basic ingredient, though they present themselves
as noble or serious, at times. Oh, terribly serious,
even tragic. Poor things, one would say that they hear
neither the song of the air nor the secrets of hay;
likewise they seem not to see what is visible
and common to each of us, in space. And they are sad,
and in the wake of sadness they come to cruelty.
All their expression lives in their eyes
and loses itself
to a simple lowering of lids, to a shadow.
And since there is little of the mountain about them
nothing in the hair or in the terribly fragile limbs
but coldness and secrecy
it is impossible for them
to settle themselves into forms that are calm, lasting
and necessary. They have, perhaps, a kind
of melancholy grace (one minute) and with this they allow
themselves to forget the problems and translucent 
inner emptiness that make them so poor and so lacking
when it comes to uttering silly and painful sounds: desire, 
        love, jealousy
(what do we know?)
sounds that scatter and fall in the field
like troubled stones and burn the herbs and the water,
and after this it is hard to keep chewing away at our truth.


Tr. Mark Strand. First published in Brazil in 1951. Impossible to see how it could be improved upon. Drummond lived a life that was outwardly uneventful but something was going on to acquire him this melancholy wisdom.