A few thoughts on Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen’s "Os Navegadores"

January 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Eles habitam entre um mastro e o vento. 

Têm as mãos brancas de sal
E os ombros vermelhos de sol.

Os espantados peixes se aproximam
Com olhos de gelatina.

O mar manda florir seus roseirais de espuma. 

No oceano infinito
Estão detidos num barco
E o barco tem um destino
Que os astros altos indicam.

They live between a mast and the wind.

They have salt-whitened hands
And shoulders reddened by the sun.

The frightened fish approach
With gelatin eyes.

The sea sends its rosebushes of foam.

In the infinite ocean
They are held on a boat
And the boat has a destination
Which the stars on high indicate.

Any errors in the English translation are my own.  I just finished reading Portuguese poet/writer Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen’s Mar, an anthology of her poetry that focuses on the sea and its real and metaphorical impact on people.  In reading “Os Navegadores” (“The Navigators”), I found myself thinking of old dreams, dreams of the wind, sea, and stars, of venturing forth into the unknown, surprising other life just as our ancestors were surprised in turn at what they discovered.  The imagery of the “salt-whitened hands” and “shoulders reddened by the sun” create a physical “realness” against the more ethereal “rosebushes of foam.”  Add to this the more stock connections of ocean/stars being symbols of destiny/destination and this is a poem that appeals to the more Romantic side of me.


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