Thursday, 27 March 2014

A Day in the Diary of William Blake

                                                                             (Note: MA in Creative Writing assignment; 2011)    

               After twenty-seven long, tiring and boring days at sea, we have finally arrived at the Port of Santos, in Brazil. Had I not had my best companions with me – I mean, my writing tools – I do not believe I would have made it.
            I was told nothing about this new world. What I know I have learned from a few fellow Englishmen, who have welcomed me into their homes with English tea, English butter, cinnamon, cherries and other foods which I doubt most of the population in this place have in their own homes.
            Santos is a beautiful place; there is a long stretch of white sand and sea to which my eyes cannot find the end.  Children run free around here. They seem to spend hours enjoying the sun, a majestic blue sky, the lovely, gentle breeze. Parents just seem to forget about them, lost in their own conversations with the neighbours, sitting at the recently opened coffee house. Some of them ride their bicycles to the ice cream parlour. It is such a beautiful sight. If only they knew that this is all about to come to an end.
Progress. That is what they call it. I was invited on this trip by a dear friend, an engineer, who was redeployed to work here a few months ago. He is supposed to help build the first railway in this country, which connects the port to Sao Paulo, and will be used mostly for the transport of produce abroad. Apparently, coffee beans here are as valuable as gold. So, soon enough this place will be overflowing with workers, brought from all over the country. Soon, this amazing landscape, dream-like, nature-filled place will be permeated with concrete and steel. The sound of the waves and sea and children’s laughter will be interfered with by bangs and drilling and men’s shouting. What a shame.
            I have been told that Brazil, as a colony, has been inspired by the French Revolution and now, with the arrival of the English, they wish to be like us. They are eager for independence. It seems that the Industrial Revolution is reaching this colony of Portugal, in such a way that it has even affected the Brazilian poets. My dear friend, the engineer, who is a keen appreciator of books, has told me about this Brazilian poet called Casimiro de Abreu and one of his most famous poems, “My eight years”. My friend, in his poorly spoken Portuguese, tried to translate the poem for me. He read the words slowly, and even explained the word “saudades” to me.  I liked the sound of it so much, and when he translated it for me, I could hear Wordsworth’s words in “Tintern Abbey”. What a delight to find such ‘a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’, as Wordsworth himself would describe poetry. I note here the first part of this poem which brings such joy to my heart and at the same time such melancholy:

“Oh! que saudades que tenho
Da aurora da minha vida
Da minha infância querida
Que os anos não trazem, mais!
Que amor, que sonhos, que flores,
Naquelas tardes fagueiras
À sombra das bananeiras,
Debaixo dos laranjais!”
“Oh, how much I miss
The dawn of my life,
My darling childhood
Which the years do not bring back!
What love, what dreams, what flowers,
On those pleasant afternoons,
In the shade of the banana trees,
Under the orange orchards.”

The Potter's Shed
                                                      Foto: coleção de Werner Vana, de S.Paulo/SP

P.S. I have found out that the word “saudades” describes exactly what I feel about  my childhood days, and I believe that Wordsworth would promptly agree with me. Note to self: I must remember to tell him of my discoveries of such a naturally rich place and also such a literate brilliant mind, this Casimiro de Abreu. 


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