from Lloyd Schwartz:
“So interesting to compare Strand’s translation of ‘Don’t Kill Yourself” with Bishop’s. They actually overlap in several lines. They are both very close to Drummond (my preference too). Personally, I prefer Bishop’s (it’s actually in a number of places more colloquial), but I think Strand’s is better in a couple of places.”
DON’T KILL YOURSELF
Carlos, keep calm, love
is what you’re seeing now:
today a kiss, tomorrow no kiss,
day after tomorrow’s Sunday
and nobody knows what will happen
It’s useless to resist
or to commit suicide
Don’t kill yourself. Don’t kill yourself!
Keep all of yourself for the nuptials
coming nobody knows when,
that is, if they ever come.
Love, Carlos, tellurian,
spent the night with you,
and now your insides are raising
an ineffable racket,
saints crossing themselves,
ads for a better soap,
a racket of which nobody
knows the why or the wherefore.
In the meantime you go on your way
You’re the palm tree, you’re the cry
nobody heard in the theatre
and all the lights went out.
Love in the dark, no, love
in the daylight, is always sad,
sad, Carlos, my boy,
but tell it to nobody,
nobody knows nor shall know.
trans. Elizabeth Bishop
SB to LS: I like her colloquialism, especially the contractions, but I prefer Strand’s diction: wedding, terrible racket, earthy, upright.
Lloyd: Drummond’s “Cancao amiga” was extremely famous and popular. It was not only on the money (the Brazilian equivalent of the dollar bill), with a picture of Drummond leaning over his desk and writing the poem on the other side of the bill, it was also set to music and recorded by the great Brazilian jazz singer Milton Nascimento. My own translation–my first translation of a Brazilian poem–was the opening poem in Cairo Traffic:
FRIENDLY SONG (Canção Amiga) by Carlos Drummond de Andrade I'm working on a song in which my own mother sees her image, everyone's mother sees her image, and it speaks, it speaks just like two eyes. I'm traveling along a roadway that winds through many countries. My old friends—if they don't see me, I see them, I see and salute them. I am giving away a secret like someone who loves, or smiles. In the most natural way two caresses reach each other. My whole life, all of our lives make up a single diamond. I've learned a few new phrases— and to make others better. I'm working on a song that wakes men up and lets children sleep. Translated from the Portuguese by Lloyd Schwartz