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Title: Brazilian Literature
Author: Goldberg, Isaac
Language: English
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                         BRAZILIAN LITERATURE



                       _BOOKS BY ISAAC GOLDBERG_

               STUDIES IN SPANISH-AMERICAN LITERATURE
               THE DRAMA OF TRANSITION
               BRAZILIAN LITERATURE



                               BRAZILIAN
                              LITERATURE

                         ISAAC GOLDBERG, PH.D.

                          WITH A FOREWORD BY

                             J. D. M. FORD

         _Smith Professor of the French and Spanish Languages,
                          Harvard University_

                  NEW YORK ALFRED · A · KNOPF MCMXXII

                          COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
                         ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC.

                     _Published, September, 1922_

    _Set up and printed by the Veil-Bellou Co., Binghamton, N. Y._
     _Paper supplied by W. F. Etherington & Co., New York, N. Y._
            _Bound by the H. Wolf Estate, New York, N. Y._

             MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



                            TO BURTON KLINE
                  of the _Philadelphia Public Ledger_


    _Dear Burton:_

    _You were, some eight years ago, my guide into the thorny mazes
    of Journalism, and printed, in the_ Boston Evening Transcript,
    _my first articles upon Spanish and Portuguese American
    letters. This is but a small return for the friendship since
    then established._

                                                            _I. G._



FOREWORD


Brazil is preparing to commemorate worthily the centenary of her
independence. The world outside is bidden to the feast, and to
beautiful Rio de Janeiro many nations are sending their envoys with
felicitations and gifts. Our own country, the United States of North
America, is mindful of her duty and her privilege on this occasion,
and accredited delegates are bearing her congratulations to her
ever-faithful associate in the promoting of peace and fraternity
throughout the Western Hemisphere. Perhaps it will not be taken amiss,
if the scholar and critic add his testimonial to the expressions of
good-will coming from all sides. What more fitting than that a scholar
and critic of our United States should join the chorus and voice an
honest appreciation of Brazilian letters?

Dr. Goldberg, who has already paid ample tribute to the literary
output of Spanish-speaking America, gives proof now of the catholicity
of his interest by surveying the whole course of literature in
Portuguese-speaking America, the vast land of Brazil, and by analyzing
the compositions of certain outstanding figures among the writers of
the region. He knows at first hand the authors and the works that he
treats; he knows what native and foreign critics have to say about
them; he expresses unreservedly his own opinion about them. He gives
praise where praise is due, and, in kindly fashion, he puts stricture
upon that which calls for stricture. On the whole, his pages contain
more laudation than censure; and this is as it should be, for very
many of the literary achievements of colonial, imperial and republican
Brazil are unquestionably of lasting worth. His laudation, moreover, is
uttered without any tinge of that condescension which European critics
deem it incumbent upon them to manifest when they pass judgment on the
culture of North or South America.

To his fellow-citizens of the United States of North America Dr.
Goldberg now presents an opportunity of viewing aspects of the soul
of a noble Southern land, their constant ally. Brazil’s political and
commercial importance they know well, but her literary significance
has not been so evident to them. If, reading his words, they conceive
respect for Brazilian effort and accomplishment in the world of
letters, his reward will be truly great; and that reward is truly
deserved.

J. D. M. FORD.



PREFACE


The plans for this book, as well as for my _Studies in Spanish-American
Literature_, were conceived during the years 1910-1912 while I was
engaged in research work under Professor J. D. M. Ford, head of the
Department of Romance Languages, Harvard University. It was not merely
that text-books were lacking in both the Spanish-American and the
Brazilian fields, for my interest is centred upon aesthetic pleasure
rather than upon the depersonalized transmission of facts. A yawning
gap of ignorance separated us then from the America that does not
speak English, nor was the ignorance all on our side. Commercial
opportunities, more than cultural curiosity, served to impart an
impetus to the study of Spanish and soon we were reading fiction not
only from Spain but from Spanish America. In so far as the mercantile
spirit was responsible for this broader literary interest, it performed
an undoubted service to art by widening our horizons, but one should
be wary about overestimating the permanent gain. Unfortunately, the
phonographic iteration of diplomatic platitudes brings continents no
nearer, unless it be for the mad purposes of war. If, then, we are, as
a people, quite as far as ever from Spanish America, what shall we say
of our spiritual distance from the United States of Brazil?

I may be pardoned if I indicate, for example, that the language
of Brazil is not Spanish, but Portuguese. And should this simple
fact come as a surprise to any reader, let him not be unduly
overwhelmed, for he errs in distinguished company. Thus, Gustave Le
Bon,--he of crowd-psychology fame, speaks of South America in his
_Lois psychologiques des peuples_ (p. 131, 12th ed., 1916) as being
predominantly of _Spanish_ origin, divided into numerous republics,
of which the _Brazilian_ is one. As late as 1899, Vacher de Lapouge,
in his book on _L’Aryen_ could describe Brazil as a “vast negro state
returning to a state of savagery,” important, like Mexico, only in a
numerical way.[1] A small return, it seems, for Brazil’s intellectual
adherence to France, yet indicative of inexcusable ignorance not only
of Brazil, but of Mexico, where the cultural life, though concentrated,
is intense and productive of results that would repay examination. By
1899 Brazil had already produced a fairly respectable array of original
creative writers, while Mexican poetry was adding to the wealth of
new Spanish verse. Where specialists stray, then, who shall guide the
innocent layman? Nor are the Brazilians without their case against
the English, as we shall presently note in the discussion of a mooted
section of Buckle’s _History of Civilization in England_, though they
owe to more than one earlier Englishman a history of their land. Robert
Southey, for notable example, after the collapse of the “pantisocratic”
plans harboured by him and Coleridge, found the time to write a
_History of Brazil_ that is read today only somewhat less frequently
than his poetry.

The history of Brazil, like Cæsar’s unforgettable Gaul, is generally
divided into three parts: (1) from the discovery by the Portuguese in
1500 to the Independence in 1822; (2) the independent monarchy, which
lasted until 1889; (3) the republic, 1889 to the present. This, then,
is the centenary year of Brazilian independence and, as no English
book has yet sought to trace the literary history of the nation, the
occasion seems propitious for such a modest introductory one as this.
The fuller volume which it precedes I hope to have ready in a few
years, as a contribution to the study of the creative imagination on
this side of the Atlantic.

If, in any part, I seem dogmatic, I can but plead the exigencies of
space, which permit of little analytic discussion. I am no believer in
clear-cut formulæ as applied to art; where facts are presented, they
are given as succinctly as possible, while opinions are meant to be
suggestive rather than--ugly word!--definitive. The first part of the
book is devoted to an outline history of Brazilian literature; this
is meant to provide the background for a proper appreciation of the
representative figures treated in the second part. Since the first
part deals largely with facts, I have aimed to give the reader not
solely a personal view--which belongs more properly among the essays
of the second--but also a digest of the few authorities that have
treated the subject. It thus forms a reasonably adequate introduction
to the deeper study of Brazilian literature that may some day interest
a portion of our student body, and will, moreover, be of aid in
rounding out the sharp corners of a general knowledge of letters. More
important still, it should help to an appreciation of the Brazilian
national personality. As to the representative figures chosen for more
individual treatment, through one trait or another they emerge from
the background as Brazil’s contributions to something more than an
exclusively national interest, or else afford striking opportunity for
studying phases of the national mind.

Though none of the text as it here appears has been printed elsewhere,
some of the matter has formed the substance of articles that have
been published, between 1914 and the present, in the _Boston Evening
Transcript_, the _Christian Science Monitor_, the _Literary Review_
of the _New York Evening Post_, the _New York Times_, the _Bookman_,
the _Stratford Journal_ and other periodicals, to the management and
editors of which I am indebted not only for permission to reprint, but
for their readiness to accept such exotic material. For bibliographical
aid and other favours I am also thankful to the Brazilian Academy of
Letters, Carlos de Laet, President; to Manoel de Oliveira Lima, of the
Brazilian Academy; Gilberto Freyre; C. J. Babcock, Librarian of the
Columbus Memorial Library, Washington, D. C.; C. K. Jones; Prof. H.
R. Lang, Yale; Dr. A. C. Potter and the Harvard Library; to Sr. Helio
Lobo, Consul General in New York for Brazil; and to my friend Professor
J. D. M. Ford of Harvard. For the index I am indebted to my wife.

ISAAC GOLDBERG.

Roxbury, Massachusetts.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] I take these examples from Senhor De Carvalho. Students of
Brazilian letters will not find it difficult to multiply instances from
their personal experience with educated friends.



CONTENTS


  FOREWORD BY J. D. M. FORD         vii

  PREFACE      ix

  PART ONE

  AN OUTLINE HISTORY OF BRAZILIAN LITERATURE

  I INTRODUCTORY--THE MILIEU AND THE RACIAL
  BLEND--PORTUGUESE TRADITION, AFRICAN
  AND NATIVE CONTRIBUTION--LINGUISTIC
  MODIFICATION--NATIONALISM AND LITERATURE--PROBLEMS
  OF THE FUTURE--PHASES
  OF BRAZILIAN LITERATURE                   3

  II PERIOD OF FORMATION (1500-1750)        28

  III AUTONOMOUS DEVELOPMENT (1750-1830)      53

  IV ROMANTIC TRANSFORMATION (1830-1870)      72

  V CRITICAL, NATURALIST REACTION, (1870-1900)
  PARNASSIANS, SYMBOLISTS, ETC.            102

  PART TWO

  REPRESENTATIVE PERSONALITIES

  I CASTRO ALVES      129

  II MACHADO DE ASSIS      142

  III JOSÉ VERISSIMO     165

  IV OLAVO BILAC        188

  V  EUCLYDES DA CUNHA      210

  VI OLIVEIRA LIMA      222

  VII GRAÇA ARANHA        234

  VIII COELHO NETTO        248

  IX FRANCISCA JULIA       261

  X THE NEWER WRITERS      227

  SELECTIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY      293

  INDEX                       299



PART ONE

AN OUTLINE HISTORY OF BRAZILIAN LITERATURE



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY

    The Milieu and the Racial Blend--Portuguese Tradition, African
    and Native Contributions--Linguistic Modification--Nationalism
    and Literature--Problems of the Future--Phases of Brazilian
    Literature.


I

Although Brazil was not discovered until the opening year of the
sixteenth century, the name had long hovered in the mediaeval
consciousness together with that of those other mysterious islands
which peopled the maps and the imaginations of the dark, fantastic
days. Down from the Greeks had come the legend of an Atlantis, which,
through the centuries assumed changing shapes, losing soon its status
as continent and becoming an island. Thus, in a map of the Atlas
Medicis, dating back to 1351, there is registered a Brazil. The name
varied from Braçir, Brazil, Brazylle to O’Brasile, and the position
shifted with equal instability; now the mythical island was near the
Azores, now near the western coast of the British Isles. Charles
Squire, in his _The Mythology of the British Islands_,[1] relates that
according to legend, the gods having lost their celestial dwelling,
deliberated upon some earthly substitute. Into their discussion came
a paradise beyond the sea,--a western island variously described as
a land of promise, of felicity and of youth, and as the “island of
Breasal” or “Hy-Breasail.” It is supposed that some of the early
discoverers, imagining that they had come upon the island Eden,
named it Brazil in much the same way that Columbus named the Indies,
considering his quest for India at last successful.

However this may be, the first name officially given to Brazil was The
Land of the True (or Holy) Cross; only later did the name Brazil, said
to have been bestowed by King Emanuel of Portugal, replace the pious
title. There is something symbolic in the change; brazil[2] is the name
of the reddish dyewood which became so important commercially that it
caused naval combats and Portuguese-French rivalry, leading to the
effective occupation of the land by the Portuguese. The beam of the
cross yielded to a humbler wood as the national designation, just as
the pious pretensions of the early colonizers quickly vanished before
their impious greed.

The early reports of the newly discovered land lived up to the
paradisical visions that had partly inspired the quest. Truly here
was a land of promise, a terrestrial paradise that made men dip their
pens in milk and honey when they wrote of its wonders. Vaz de Caminha,
in what has been called the nation’s “baptismal certificate,” grew
rhapsodical in vain; Vespucci,--he for whom the American continent was
named,--actually termed it an earthly paradise, but the Portuguese were
slow to value the new possession; the cross was not a cross of gold.
Nobrega, in 1549, exaggerated the extent of the new discovery even as
others were to exaggerate the variety and magic of its fauna and flora;
he considered that it occupied no less than two-thirds of the world’s
area. Padre Anchieta, the noble leader of the Jesuits, repeated (1585)
Vespucci’s glorification and thought the new land not inferior to
Portugal, and thus ran the litany of adoration from the topographical
pen of Gabriel Soares to the chronicler Cardim, to the pompous
Rocha Pitta, and--now with realistic modifications aplenty--down
to our own day, when Graça Aranha, by the very title of his novel
_Chanaan_, reveals his conception of his native country as the Land of
Promise. From the very beginning the new discovery had captivated the
imaginations of the Europeans; to this day its chief quality is the
imagination which Senhor Aranha, in a speech at the Sorbonne (1913)
has distinguished from the imagination of other peoples. “In Brazil,”
he explained, “the collective trait is the imagination. It is not the
faculty of idealization, nor the creation of life through esthetic
expression, nor the predominance of thought; it is rather the illusion
that comes from the representation of the universe, the state of magic,
in which reality is dissipated and is transformed into an image.… The
distant roots of this imagination may be found in the souls of the
various races that met amidst the lavishness of tropical nature. Each
people brought to the fusion its own melancholy. Each, having arrived
with a spirit full of the terror of several gods, with the anguish
of memories of a past forever lost, was possessed by the indefinable
uneasiness of the foreign land. Thus was developed that implacable
sensibility which magnifies and distorts things, which alternately
exalts and depresses the spirits, which translates anxieties and
desires; a troubled source of poetry and religion, through which we
aspire to the possession of the Infinite, only to lose ourselves at
once in the Nirvana of inaction and day-dreaming.” Benedicto Costa[3]
has likened this same imagination to the Brazilian forest, with its
“disorder and opulence, its vigour and languor; trees that last for
centuries and flowers that bloom but a few moments; lianas that live
upon the sap of other growths; the brilliancy of orchids, the voices
of birds of iridescent coloration, the heat.… There is in the soul
of every Brazilian the same contrasts that characterize the tropical
forest.”[4]

Brazil, however, is not all forest any more than, intellectually, it is
all tropical confusion. There are mountains and valleys and extensive
coasts, and each region has a distinguishing influence upon the
inhabitant. Thus the climate of the sertão[5] (interior highlands) is
less variable and far more salubrious than that of the littoral. “Man
here represents perfectly the traits of the surroundings into which he
is born and where he dwells: the _sertanejo_ (i. e., the inhabitant
of the sertão) is sombre, thin, mistrustful and superstitious, rarely
aggressive, rash in his impulses, as silent as the vast plains that
surround him, calm in gesture, laconic in speech, and, above all, sunk
in an inexpressible melancholy that is in his eyes, in his mysterious
countenance, in all the rough curves of his agile body, which is rather
slender than muscular. The man of the coast is nervous, of acute
sensibility; he can smile and laugh, he has a brilliant imagination and
is a boisterous, turbulent thinker; he is an artist, preferring colored
images to abstract ideas; he is slender, of well-proportioned lines,
speaks at his best when improvising, discusses affairs with the utmost
ease, and at times with daring, and generally respects only his own
opinions; he is almost always proud and bold. The man of the sertão,
for example, is Euclydes da Cunha; the man of the coast, Joaquim
Nabuco.”[6]

It is in connection with the climate of Brazil that her writers have
taken Henry Thomas Buckle to task; the passages responsible for the
trouble occur in Chapter II of the famous _History of Civilization in
England_, wherein the investigator considers the “influence exercised
by physical laws over the organization of society and over the
character of individuals.” I quote the original passages from Buckle,
and give the refutation, which was originally made by the indefatigable
polemist Sylvio Romero.

    The trade wind, blowing on the eastern coast of South America,
    and proceeding from the east, crosses the Atlantic ocean, and
    therefore reaches the land charged with the vapours accumulated
    in its passage. These vapours, on touching the shore, are,
    at periodical intervals, condensed into rain; and as their
    progress westward is checked by that gigantic chain of the
    Andes, which they are unable to pass, they pour the whole of
    their moisture on Brazil, which, in consequence, is often
    deluged by the most destructive torrents. This abundant supply,
    being aided by that vast river-system peculiar to the eastern
    part of America, and being also accompanied by heat, has also
    stimulated the soil into an activity unequalled in any other
    part of the world. Brazil, which is nearly as large as the
    whole of Europe, is covered with a vegetation of incredible
    profusion. Indeed, so rank and luxuriant is the growth, that
    Nature seems to riot in the very wantonness of its power.…
    Such is the flow and abundance of life by which Brazil is
    marked above all other countries of the earth. But, amid this
    pomp and splendour of Nature, no place is left for Man. He
    is reduced to insignificance by the majesty with which he is
    surrounded. The forces that oppose him are so formidable, that
    he has never been able to make head against them, never able to
    rally against their accumulated pressure. The whole of Brazil,
    notwithstanding its immense apparent advantages, has always
    remained entirely uncivilized, its inhabitants, wandering
    savages, incompetent to resist these obstacles which the very
    bounty of Nature had put in their way.… The mountains are too
    high to scale, the rivers are too wide to bridge; everything is
    contrived to keep back the human mind, and repress its rising
    ambition. It is thus that the energies of Nature have hampered
    the spirit of Man. Nowhere else is there so painful a contrast
    between the grandeur of the external world and the littleness
    of the internal. And the mind, cowed by this unequal struggle,
    has not only been unable to advance, but without foreign aid it
    would undoubtedly have receded. For even at present, with all
    the improvements constantly introduced from Europe, there are
    no real signs of progress.… These considerations explain why
    it is, that in the whole of Brazil there are no monuments even
    of the most imperfect civilization; no evidence that the people
    had, at any period, raised themselves above the state in which
    they were found when their country was first discovered.

In his _Historia da Litteratura Brasileira_,[7] Romero devotes his
third chapter to setting Buckle right. Brazil, he declares, far from
suffering excessive rainfall, is subject to calamitous and destructive
droughts. The Englishman, who never visited Brazil, errs likewise in
his conception of the country’s natural wonders, which he exaggerates
in the traditional fashion that was handed down by the earliest comers.
Despite the presence of the Amazon, the rivers in general are small,
not the largest in the world; the mountains, similarly, far from
rearing their crests into unattainable cloudy heights, are of the
fourth and fifth order when compared with their fellows of the old
world or the new. Neither are the animals in Brazil more gigantic and
ferocious than elsewhere. “Our fauna,” writes Romero, “is neither the
richest nor the most terrible in the world. We haven’t the elephant,
the camel, the hippopotamus, the lion, the tiger, the rhinoceros, the
zebra, the giraffe, the buffalo, the gorilla, the chimpanzee, the
condor and the eagle.” Buckle speaks of Brazil’s unrivalled fertility
as an impediment; the truth is that her fertility is not unrivalled,
nor is it an impediment. In conclusion, “Buckle is right in the picture
he draws of our backwardness, but wrong in the determination of its
causes.” According to Romero, three chief reasons are to be adduced;
these are (1) natural, (2) ethnic and (3) moral. To the first belongs
the excessive heat, in conjunction with the droughts in the major part
of the country, as well as the malignant fevers prevalent on the coast.
Chief among the second is the “relative incapacity” of the three races
that comprise the population. To the last belong the “historic factors
called politics, legislation, habits, customs, which are effects that
afterward act as causes.”

Ronaldo de Carvalho[8] considers Romero’s reply somewhat timid,
inasmuch as he accepts, erroneously, many of Buckle’s conclusions.
Buckle’s passage “is not, as it appeared to the illustrious Brazilian
writer, ‘true in a general sense.’ Yet it should ‘be meditated upon
by all Brazilians’, that they may see what a dangerous snare it is to
rely so much, in our inveterate fondness for things foreign, upon the
notions imported from the intellectual markets on the other side of
the Atlantic.… Buckle’s error consisted in considering the evolution
of peoples solely under the influence of physical and geographical
factors; more enduring than these are the ethnico-historical factors,
which are much more important and far more powerful than the first.”
De Carvalho adds little to Romero’s refutation, which, in substance,
he repeats. At the time that Buckle’s first volume was originally
published (1857), Brazilian literature had long entered upon an
autonomous career and was in the throes of Romanticism, which in
Brazil was an era of intense and highly fruitful production. He can
hardly be blamed for his ignorance on this score, when an authority
like Ferdinand Wolf, writing his _Le Brésil Litteraire_ some six
years later, is accused by the querulous Romero of setting down many
laughable exaggerations.


II

Three ethnic strains have combined to produce the Brazilian of today:
(1) the Portuguese, (2) the native Indian, (3) the African Negro, who
was brought in as a slave by the Portuguese.

The native element, known as the Brazilian-Guarany, at the time of the
discovery knew no metals; they possessed a rudimentary knowledge of
weaving, and some of them practised ceramics; their instruments were
of polished stone, and their fishing and hunting implements were of
the most primitive. The form of organization was rough. “Some spoke
a rich language of delicate accents and varied expression; they had
traditional customs and were skilful in the arts of war and peace;
others, however, were coarse, deficient in culture, roaming in nomadic
bands along the coast or amidst the high sertões. Some respected
certain rules of morality and religion, in which, for example, the
family ties were sacred.…”[9] Others dwelt in a certain “embryonic
socialism” which permitted free love and the participation of woman
in masculine pursuits. Ethnologists are not agreed upon the religious
status of the tribes, hovering between the hypotheses of polytheism and
anthropomorphic animism; the latter is more likely.

The Portuguese came at the height of their national glory. The
sixteenth century, famed among them for its physical prowess, is also
the epoch of Camões, Sá de Miranda, Bernardim Ribeiro and Gil Vicente.
As to the Negro, his history in Brazil is much the same as that of the
black slave in the United States, except that, owing to the proportions
of interbreeding, the “color line” is less tightly drawn in the
southern republic.

Two chief ethnic periods of formation have been distinguished in
Brazil’s development, the first from the XVIth century to the end of
the XVIIIth; the second, from the opening of the XIXth century to the
present day. In the first period there was, chiefly, a crossing of
the Portuguese with the Indian (_mameluco_), of the Portuguese with
the Negro (_mulato_) and of the Indian with the Negro (_cafuso_).
Later interbreeding becomes more complex, owing to the influx of new
immigrants from Europe (Italians and Germans in particular, and Slavs
in the south), and to the abolition of black slavery. So that the
question has arisen whether the future of the land will be in the
hands of the Luso-Brazilian or the Teuto-Italo-Brazilian. Brazilians
naturally favour the former eventuality and in order to insure
dominance by the Portuguese-Brazilian element propose new systems
of colonization as well as immigration zones. Romero reached the
conclusion that the Brazilian people did not constitute a race, but
rather a fusion. As to whether this was a good or an evil he answered,
in his “scientificist” way, that it was a fact, and that this should
be sufficient. Since the Indian is fast disappearing and as traffic in
blacks was abolished in 1851, and slavery in 1888, white predominance
seems assured. “Every Brazilian,” said Romero, “is a mestee, if not in
blood, in ideas.” So that white supremacy, never an unmixed blessing,
does not, and cannot under the circumstances, imply an unmixed
mentality.


III

What of the effect of this milieu and this racial blend upon the
nation’s tongue and its creative output? The Brazilian is by nature
melancholy, for melancholy is an attribute of each of the three
streams that flow in his blood. The peculiar, haunting sadness of
the Portuguese lyric muse is summed up in their untranslatable word
“saudade”;[10] both the conquered native and the subjected black are
sad, the first through the bepuzzled contact with superior natural
forces, the second through the wretchedness of his economic position.
It has been recognized that the climate of Brazil has resulted in a
lyrism sweeter, softer and more passionate than that of the Portuguese.
“Our language,” says Romero, “is more musical and eloquent, our
imagination more opulent.” So, too, De Carvalho: “Brazilian prosody
has more delicate accents than the Portuguese and numerous interesting
peculiarities.”

In the matter of linguistic modification, as of racial blend and
national psychology, we of the North have problems similar to those
of the Brazilians,--problems often enough obscured by unscientific,
sentimental fixations or political dogma. The simple fact is that
life, in language as in biology, is change. Whether we are concerned
with the evolution of English in the United States, of Spanish in the
cluster of Spanish-American republics, or of Portuguese in Brazil,
change is the inevitable law. For the Spanish of Spanish-America, Remy
de Gourmont, with his insatiable appetite for novelty, originated
the term neo-Spanish. It met with much opposition from the purists,
yet it recognizes the ineluctable course of speech. The noted
Colombian philologist Rufino Cuervo, in a controversy with the genial
conservative Valera, voiced his belief that the Spanish of the new
world would grow more and more unlike the parent tongue.[11] In the
same spirit, if with most unacademic hilariousness, Mencken has, in
_The American Language_,[12] indicated the lines of cleavage between
English and “American.” Brazilian scholars have naturally assumed a
similar attitude toward their own language and have, likewise, met with
the opposition of the purists. It does not matter, for the purpose of
the present discussion, whether the linguistic cleavage in any of the
instances here given will eventually prove so definite as to originate
new tongues. Such an outcome is far less probable today than it was,
say, in the epoch when Latin, through its vulgar form, was breaking
up into the Romance languages. Widespread education and the printing
press are conserving influences, acting as a check upon capricious
modification.

One of the soundest and most sensible documents upon the Portuguese
language in Brazil comes from the pen of the admirable critic José
Verissimo.[13] “As a matter of fact,” he writes, “save perhaps in the
really Portuguese period of our literature, which merely reproduced
in an inferior fashion the ideas, the composition, the style and the
language of the Portuguese (already entered upon its decadence),
authors never wrote in Brazil as in Portugal; the masters of language
abroad never had disciples here to rival them or even emulate them.…
It would be a pure absurdity, then, to expect the Brazilian, the North
American or the Spanish-American to write the classic tongue of his
mother country.”

Chaucer wrote “It am I” where we would say “It is I” and where current
colloquial usage, perhaps foreshadowing the accepted standard of
tomorrow, says “It’s me.” English changes in England; why shall it
cease to change in the United States? And justly, Verissimo asks a
similar question for Brazil. “I have always felt,” he remarks somewhat
farther on, “that the Portuguese tongue never attained the discipline
and the relative grammatical and lexical fixity that other languages
arrived at. I do not believe that among cultured tongues there is one
that has given rise to so many controversial cases, or to so many and
so diverse contradictions among its leading writers.” The fight about
the collocation of personal pronouns is waged so earnestly in Brazil
that it has become as funny, in some of its aspects, as the quarrel of
the “lo-istas” and the “le-istas” in Spain. And so true are Verissimo’s
words that as late as March, 1921, a writer could complain in the
_Revista do Brazil_[14] that “we are at the very height of linguistic
bolshevism”; the very next month, indeed, the editorial board of the
same representative intellectual organ found it necessary to comment
upon the various systems of orthography employed by its contributors
and to designate a choice.[15] Verissimo, in accordance with A. H.
Sayce, takes as his standard of grammatical correctness that which is
“accepted by the great body of those who speak a language, not what is
laid down by a grammarian.” Still more to the point, Verissimo, who was
a man of exemplary honesty and fearlessness in a milieu that easily
tempts to flattery and the other social amenities, declares that “if
we are by language Portuguese, if through that tongue our literature
is but a branch of the Portuguese, we have already almost ceased to
be such … because of our fund of ideas and notions, which were all
constituted outside of Portuguese influence.” The important thing,
then, is “to have something to say, an idea to express, a thought to
transmit. Without this, however deep his grammatical knowledge of the
language, however perfectly he apes the classics, no man is a writer.”
Platitudinous, perhaps, but how often some platitudes bear repetition!

The language of Brazil, then, is not the Portuguese of Lisbon. From
the phonological viewpoint there is less palatalization of the final
_s_ and _z_ than is customary in Portugal; Brazil has a real diphthong
_ou_, which in Lisbonese has become a close _o_ or the diphthong _oi_.
Its pronunciation of the diphthong _ei_ is true, whereas in Lisbon this
approximates to _ai_ (with _a_ as in English _above_, or like the _u_
of _cut_). Neither is the grammar identical with that of Portugal.
“The truth is, that by correcting ourselves we run the danger of
mutilating ideas and sentiments that are not merely personal. It is no
longer the language that we are purifying; it is our spirit that we
are subjecting to inexplicable servility. To speak differently is not
to speak incorrectly.… To change a word or an inflexion of ours for a
different one of Coimbra[16] is to alter the value of both in favor of
artificial and deceptive uniformity.”[17]

Brazilianisms, so-called, make their appearance very early; they are
already present in the letters sent by the Jesuits, as well as in the
old chronicles. New plants, new fruits, new animals compelled new
words. Native terms enriched the vocabulary. Of course, as has happened
with us, often a word for which the new nation is reproached turns out
to be an original importation from the motherland. One of the oldest
documents in the history of Brazilianisms appeared in Paris during the
first quarter of the XIXth century and is reprinted by João Ribeiro
as a rarity little known to his countrymen; it formed part of the
_Introduction à l’Atlas ethnographique du globe_, prepared by Adrien
Balbi and covering the races and languages of the world. The Portuguese
section was entrusted to Domingos Borges de Barros, baron and later
viscount de Pedra Branca, a warm advocate of Brazilian independence,
then recently achieved. This, according to Ribeiro, is supposed to
constitute the “first theoretical contribution” to the study of
Brazilianisms. It is written in French, and because of its documentary
importance I translate it in good measure:

“Languages reveal the manners and the character of peoples. That of the
Portuguese has the savor of their religious, martial traits; thus the
words _honnête_, _galant_, _éate_, _bizarre_, etc., possess a meaning
quite different from that they have in French. The Portuguese tongue
abounds in terms and phrases for the expression of impulsive movements
and strong actions. In Portuguese one strikes with everything; and when
the Frenchman, for example, feels the need of adding the word _coup_ to
the thing with which he does the striking, the Portuguese expresses it
with the word of the instrument alone. One says, in French, _un coup de
pierre_; in Portuguese, _pedrada_ (a blow with a stone); _un coup de
couteau_ is expressed in Portuguese by _facada_ (a knife thrust) and so
on.…

“Without becoming unidiomatic, one may boldly form superlatives and
diminutives of every adjective; this is done sometimes even with
nouns. Harshness of the pronunciation has accompanied the arrogance
of expression.… But this tongue, transported to Brazil, breathes the
gentleness of the climate and of the character of its inhabitants; it
has gained in usage and in the expression of tender sentiments, and
while it has preserved all its energy it possesses more amenity.…

“To this first difference, which embraces the generality of the
Brazilian idiom, one must add that of words which have altogether
changed in accepted meaning, as well as several other expressions which
do not exist in the Portuguese language and which have been either
borrowed from the natives or imported into Brazil by the inhabitants of
the various oversea colonies of Portugal.”

There follow some eight words that have changed meaning, such, for
example, as _faceira_, signifying lower jaw in Portugal, but coquette
in Brazil; as a matter of fact, Ribeiro shows that the Portuguese
critics who censured this “Brazilianism” did not know the history of
their own tongue. In the XVIIth century _faceira_ was synonymous with
_pelintra_, _petimêtre_, _elegante_ (respectively, poor fellow, dandy,
fashionable youth); it became obsolete in Portugal, but in Brazil was
preserved with exclusive application to the feminine. The Brazilian
words unknown in Portugal are some fifty in number upon the Baron’s
list.

Costa finds that Portuguese, crossing the Atlantic, “almost doubled its
vocabulary, accepting and assimilating a mass of words from the Indian
and the Negro. Through the influence of the climate, through the new
ethnic elements,--the voluptuous, indolent Negro and Indian, passionate
to the point of crime and sacrifice,--the pronunciation of Portuguese
by the Brazilian acquired, so to say, a musical modulation, slow,
chanting, soft,--a language impregnated with poesy and languor, quite
different from that spoken in Portugal.”[18]


IV

A new milieu and a racial amalgamation that effect changes in speech
are bound soon or late to produce a new orientation in literature. The
question whether that literature is largely derivative or independent
is relatively unimportant and academic, as is the analogous question
concerning the essential difference of language. The important
consideration for us is that the law of change is operating, and that
the change is in the direction of independence. Much has been written
upon the subject of nationalism in art--too much, indeed,--and of
this, altogether too large a part has been needlessly obscured by the
fatuities of the narrowly nationalistic mind. There is, of course,
such a thing as national character, though even this has been overdone
by writers until the traits thus considered have been so stencilled
upon popular thought that they resemble rather caricatures than
characteristics. True nationalism in literature is largely a product
of the writer’s unconscious mind; it is a spontaneous manifestation,
and no intensity of set purpose can create it unless the psychological
substratum is there. For the rest, literature belongs to art rather
than to nationality, to esthetics rather than to politics and
geography.[19] The consideration of literature by nations, then, is
itself the province of the historian of ideas; it is, however, a useful
method of co-ordinating our knowledge and of explaining the personality
of a country. If I bring up the matter here at all it is because such
a writer as Sylvio Romero, intent upon emphasizing national themes,
now and again distorts the image of his subject, mistaking civic
virtue and patriotic aspiration for esthetic values, or worse still,
deliberately exalting the former over the latter. The same Romero,
for example,--a volcanic personality who never erred upon the side of
modesty, false or true,--speaks thus of his own poetry: “… I initiated
the reaction against Romanticism in 1870.…” And how did he initiate
it? By calling for a poetry in agreement with contemporary philosophy.
Now, it is no more the business of poetry to agree with contemporary
philosophy than for it to “agree” with contemporary nationalism.
Goethe, reproached for not having taken up arms in the German War of
Liberation, “or at least co-operating as a poet,” replied that it would
have all been well enough to have written martial verse within sound of
the enemy’s horses; however, “that was not my life and not my business,
but that of Theodor Körner. His war-songs suit him perfectly. But to
me, who am not of a warlike nature and who have no warlike sense,
war-songs would have been a mask which would have fitted my face very
badly.… I have never affected anything in my poetry.… I have never
uttered anything which I have not experienced, and which has not urged
me to production. I have only composed love-songs when I have loved.
How could I write songs of hatred without hating!” Those are the words
of an artist; they could not be understood by the honourable gentleman
who not so long ago complained in the British parliament because the
poet laureate, Mr. Robert Bridges, had not produced any appropriate
war-verse in celebration of the four years’ madness.

If, then, we note the gradual resurgence of the national spirit in
Brazilian letters, it is primarily as a contribution to a study of
the nation’s self-consciousness. The fact belongs to literary history;
only when vitalized by the breath of a commanding personality does it
enter the realm of art. The history of our own United States literature
raises similar problems, which have compelled the editors of _The
Cambridge History of American Literature_ to make certain reservations.
“To write the intellectual history of America from the modern esthetic
standpoint is to miss precisely what makes it significant among
modern literatures, namely, that for two centuries the main energy of
Americans went into exploration, settlement, labour for sustenance,
religion and statecraft. For nearly two hundred years a people with
the same traditions and with the same intellectual capacities as their
contemporaries across the sea found themselves obliged to dispense with
art for art.”[20] The words may stand almost unaltered for Brazil.
It is indicative, however, that where this condition favoured prose
as against verse in the United States, verse in Brazil flourished
from the start and bulks altogether too large in the national output.
We may take it, then, as axiomatic that Brazilian literature is not
exclusively national; no literature is, and any attempt to keep it
rigidly true to a norm chosen through a mistaken identification of
art with geography and politics is merely a retarding influence. Like
all derivative literatures, Brazilian literature displays outside
influences more strongly than do the older literatures with a tradition
of continuity behind them. The history of all letters is largely that
of intellectual cross-fertilization.

From its early days down to the end of the XVIIIth century,
the literature of Brazil is dominated by Portugal; the land,
intellectually as well as economically, is a colony. The stirrings of
the century reach Brazil around 1750, and the interval from then to
1830, the date of the Romanticist triumph in France, marks what has
been termed a transitional epoch. After 1830, letters in Brazil display
a decidedly autonomous tendency (long forecast, for that matter, in the
previous phases), and exhibit that diversity which has characterized
French literature since the Romantics went out of power. For it is
France that forms the chief influence over latter-day Brazilian
letters. So true is this that Costa, with personal exaggeration,
can write: “I consider our present literature, although written in
Portuguese, as a transatlantic branch of the marvellous, intoxicating
French literature.”[21] There can be no doubt as to the immense
influence exercised upon the letters of Spanish and Portuguese America
by France. A Spanish cleric,[22] author of an imposing fourteen-volume
history of Spanish literature on both shores of the Atlantic, has even
made out France as the arch villainess, who with her wiles has always
managed to corrupt the normally healthy realism of the Spanish soul.
Only yesterday, in Brazil, a similar, if less ingenious, attack was
launched against the same country on the score of its denationalizing
effect. Yet it is France which was chiefly responsible for that
modernism (1888-) which infused new life into the language and art of
Spanish America, later (1898) affecting the motherland itself. And if
literary currents have since, in Spanish America, veered to a new-world
attitude, so are they turning in Brazil. From this to the realization
that Art has no nationality is a forward step; some day it will be
taken. As in the United States, so in Brazil, side by side with the
purists and the traditionalists a new school is springing up,--native
yet not necessarily national in a narrow sense; a genuine national
personality is being forged, whence will come the literature of the
future.

As to the position of the writer in Brazil and Spanish America, it is
still a very precarious one, not alone from the economic viewpoint
but from the climatological. “Intellectual labour in Brazil,” wrote
Romero, “is torture. Wherefore we produce little; we quickly weary,
age and soon die.… The nation needs a dietetic regimen … more than a
sound political one. The Brazilian is an ill-balanced being, impaired
at the very root of existence; made rather to complain than to invent,
contemplative rather than thoughtful; more lyrical and fond of dreams
and resounding rhetoric than of scientific, demonstrable facts.” Such a
short-lived, handicapped populace has everything to do with literature,
says this historian. “It explains the precocity of our talents, their
speedy exhaustion, our facility in learning and the superficiality of
our inventive faculties.”

Should the writer conquer these difficulties, others await him. The
reading public, especially in earlier days, was always small. “They say
that Brazil has a population of about 13,000,000,” comments a character
in one of Coelho Netto’s numerous novels. “Of that number 12,800,000
can’t read. Of the remaining 200,000, 150,000 read only newspapers,
50,000 read French books, 30,000 read translations. Fifteen thousand
others read the catechism and pious books, 2,000 study Auguste Comte,
and 1,000 purchase Brazilian works.” And the foreigners? To which
the speaker replies, “They don’t read us. This is a lost country.”
Allowing for original overstatement, the figures do not, of course,
hold for today, when the population is more than twice the number in
the quotation, when Netto himself goes into edition after edition and,
together with a few of his favoured confrères, has been translated
into French and English and other languages. But they illustrate a
fundamental truth. Literature in Brazil has been, literally, a triumph
of mind over matter. Taken as a whole it is thus, at this stage, not
so much an esthetic as an autonomic affirmation. Just as the nation,
ethnologically, represents the fusion of three races, with the whites
at the head, so, intellectually, does it represent a fusion of
Portuguese tradition, native spontaneity and modern European culture,
with France still predominant.

       *       *       *       *       *

We may recapitulate the preceding chapter in the following paragraph:

Brazilian literature derives chiefly from the Portuguese race, language
and tradition as modified by the blending of the colonizers with the
native Indians and the imported African slaves. At first an imitative
prolongation of the Portuguese heritage, it gradually acquires an
autonomous character, entering later into the universal currents
of literature as represented by European and particularly French
culture. French ascendency is definitely established in 1830, and even
well into the twentieth century most English, German, Russian and
Scandinavian works come in through the medium of French criticism and
assimilation.[23]


V

No two literary historians of Brazil agree upon a plan of presentation.
Fernandez Pinheiro (1872) and De Carvalho (1919) reduce the phases to
a minimum of three; the first, somewhat too neatly, divides them into
that of the Formative Period (XVIth through XVIIth century), the Period
of Development (XVIIIth century), the Period of Reform (XIXth century);
the talented De Carvalho accepts Romero’s first period, from 1500 to
1750, calling it that of Portuguese dominance, inserts a Transition
period from 1750 to the date of the triumph of French Romanticism in
1830, and labels the subsequent phase the Autonomous epoch. This is
better than Wolf’s five divisions (1863) and the no less than sixteen
suggested by the restless Romero in the résumé that he wrote in 1900
for the _Livro do Centenario_. I am inclined, on the whole, to favour
the division suggested by Romero in his _Historia da Literatura
Brasileira_ (1902).[24]

  Period of Formation:                        1500-1750
  Autonomous Development:                     1750-1830
  Romantic Transformation:                    1830-1870
  Critical, Naturalist Reaction, followed by
  Parnassians, Symbolists, etc.:              1870-

The fourth division allows for the decidedly eclectic tendencies
subsequent upon the decline of Romanticism.

Accordingly, the four chapters that follow will deal succinctly
with these successive phrases of the nation’s literature. Not so
much separate works or men as the suffusing spirit will engage our
attention; what we are here interested in is the formation and
development of the Brazilian imaginative creative personality and its
salient products.[25]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] London, 1905. Page 113.

[2] Cf. Spanish and Portuguese _brasa_, a live coal. Also, English
brazier.

[3] Le Roman au Brésil. Paris, 1918.

[4] Sylvio Romero (See _Litteratura Contemporanea_, Rio de Janeiro,
no date, pages 45-46, chapter upon the poet Luiz Murat) refers in
characteristic fashion to the Brazilian habit of overstating the
case of the native imagination. There is no audacious flight, he
declares; no soaring of eagles and condors. “Whether we examine the
popular literature or the cultured, we find overwhelming proof of this
assertion. Our popular novels and anonymous songs are scant in plot,
ingenious imaginings, marvelous imagery, which are so common in their
Slavic, Celtic, Greek and Germanic congeners. And the contribution
brought by the negroes and indigenous tribes are even poorer than the
part that came to us from the Portuguese. Cultivated literature … is
even inferior to the popular productions from the standpoint of the
imagination.… Our imagination, which is of simply decorative type, is
the imagination of lyric spirits, of the sweet, monodic poetry of new
souls and young peoples.”

[5] Sertão. Literally, interior, midland part. It refers here to
the plateau of the Brazilian interior. In the opening pages of his
excellent _A Brazilian Mystic_, R. B. Cunninghame-Graham suggests as a
periphrasis, “wooded, back-lying highlands.” The German _hinterland_
conveys something of the idea.

[6] Ronaldo de Carvalho. _Pequena Historia da Literatura Brasileira._
Rio de Janeiro, 1919. Pp. 13-14. For Euclydes da Cunha, see the special
chapter devoted to him in part two. Joaquim Nabuco (1849-1910) was a
distinguished publicist and writer, born in Pernambuco. In 1905 he was
ambassador to the United States.

[7] Rio. 1902. (2a Edição, melhorada pelo auctor.)

[8] Op. Cit. 16-17.

[9] De Carvalho. Op. Cit. P. 27.

[10] Saudade. Compare English _longing_, _yearning_, or German
_Sehnsucht_.

[11] Rufino José Cuervo (1842-1911) was called by Menéndez y Pelayo the
greatest Spanish philologist of the Nineteenth Century.

A species of national pride finds vent in philological channels through
the discovery of “localisms” in each of the Spanish-American republics.
At the most this is of dialectic or sub-dialectic importance, but it
illustrates an undoubted trend and supports Cuervo’s contentions.

[12] New York, 1921. Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged.

[13] Estudos de Literatura Brazileira. Sexta serie. Rio de Janeiro,
1907. Pp. 47-133.

[14] An important monthly published at São Paulo, then under the
editorship of Srs. Afranio Peixoto and Monteiro Lobato.

[15] Note, for example, the various spellings of the word _literature_
here used as in the originals.

[16] The famous Portuguese seat of learning at Coimbra.

[17] João Ribeiro. A Lingua Nacional. São Paulo. 1921.

[18] Varnhagen, in his Introduction to the _Florilegio da Poesia
Brazileira_ (Vol. I of the two volumes that appeared in Lisbon in 1850,
pages 19-20), has some interesting remarks upon the early hispanization
of Portuguese in Brazil. Among such effects of Spanish upon Brazilian
Portuguese he notes the transposition of the possessive pronouns;
the opening of all vowels, thus avoiding the elision of final _e_ or
converting final _o_ into _u_; the pronunciation of _s_ at the end of a
syllable as _s_ instead of as _sh_, which is the Portuguese rule.

[19] The wise Goethe once said to Eckermann: “The poet, as a man and
citizen, will love his native land; but the native land of his poetic
powers and poetic action is the good, noble and beautiful, which is
confined to no particular province or country, and which he seizes
upon and forms wherever he finds it. Therein is he like the eagle, who
hovers with free gaze over whole countries, and to whom it is of no
consequence whether the hare on which he pounces is running in Prussia
or in Saxony.… And then, what is meant by love of one’s country?
What is meant by patriotic deeds? If the poet has employed a life in
battling with pernicious prejudice, in setting aside narrow views, in
enlightening the minds, purifying the tastes, ennobling the feelings
and thoughts of his countrymen, what better could he have done? how
could he have acted more patriotically?”

[20] New York, 1917. P. X.

[21] Op. cit. P. 48.

[22] Julio Cejador y Frauca. _Historia de la Lengua y Literatura
Castellana_, Madrid, 1915 to the present.

[23] In their _Compendio de Historia da Literatura Brasileira_ (1909,
Rio, 2a edição refundida) Sylvio Romero and João Ribeiro point out the
existence of a certain Germanism from 1870 to 1889, due chiefly to the
constant labours of Tobias Barreto. Italian influence is very strong in
law, and that of the United States in political organization. As will
be seen in a later chapter, the United States had, through Cooper, a
share in the “Indianism” of the Brazilian Romanticists. Our Longfellow,
Hawthorne, Whitman and Poe are well known, the latter pair through
French rather than the original channels.

[24] Rio. Second edition, Revised

[25] This by no means implies acceptance of Romero’s critical
standards. See, for details, the Selective Bibliography at the back of
the book.



CHAPTER II

PERIOD OF FORMATION (1500-1750)

    The Popular Muse--Sixteenth Century Beginnings--Jesuit
    Influence--Seventeenth Century Nativism--The “Bahian”
    school--Gregorio de Mattos Guerra--First Half of Eighteenth
    Century--The Academies--Rocha Pitta--Antonio José da Silva.


I

It is a question whether the people as a mass have really created the
poetry and legends which long have been grouped under the designation
of folk lore. Here, as in the more rarefied atmosphere of art, it
is the gifted individual who originates or formulates the central
theme, which is then passed about like a small coin that changes hands
frequently; the sharp edges are blunted, the mint-mark is erased,
but the coin remains essentially as at first. So that one may agree
only halfway with Senhor De Carvalho,[1] when he writes that “true
poetry is born in the mouths of the people as the plant from wild and
virgin soil. The people is the great creator, sincere and spontaneous,
of national epics, the inspirer of artists, stimulator of warriors,
director of the fatherland’s destinies.” The people furnishes rather
the background against which the epics are enacted, the audience rather
than the performers. Upon the lore and verses of their choosing they
stamp the distinguishing folk impress; the creative inspiration here,
as elsewhere, is the labour of the salient individual.

The study of the Brazilian popular muse owes much to the investigations
of the tireless, ubiquitous Sylvio Romero, whom later writers have
largely drawn upon.[2] There are no documents for the contributions of
the Africans and few for the Tupys, whom Romero did not credit with
possessing a real poetry, as they had not reached the necessary grade
of culture. The most copious data are furnished, quite naturally, by
the Portuguese. Hybrid verses appear as an aural and visible symbol of
the race-mixture that began almost immediately; there are thus stanzas
composed of blended verses of Portuguese and Tupy, of Portuguese and
African. Here, as example, is a Portuguese-African song transcribed by
Romero in Pernambuco:

        Você gosta de mim,
        Eu gosto de você;
        Se papa consentir,
        Oh, meu bem,
        Eu caso com você.…
        _Alê, alê, calunga,_
        _Mussunga, mussunga-ê._

        Se me dá de vestir,
        Se me dá de comer,
        Se me paga a casa,
        Ob, meu bem,
        Eu moro com você.…
        _Alê, alê, calunga,_
        _Mussunga, mussunga-ê._[3]

On the whole, that same melancholy which is the hallmark of so much
Brazilian writing, is discernible in the popular refrain. The themes
are the universal ones of love and fate, with now and then a flash of
humour and earthy practicality.

Romero, with his excessive fondness for categories (a vice which with
unconscious humour he was the very first to flagellate), suggested
four chief types of popular poetry, (1) the _romances_ and _xacaras_,
(2) the _reisados_ and _cheganças_, (3) the _oraçoes_ and _parlendos_,
(4) _versos geraes_ or _quandrinhas_. In the same way the folk
tales are referred to Portuguese, native and African origin, with a
more recent addition of _mestiço_ (hybrid, mestee) material. “The
Brazilian Sheherezade,” writes De Carvalho,[4] “is more thoughtful
than opulent, she educates rather than dazzles. In the savage legends
Nature dominates man, and, as in the fables of Æsop and La Fontaine,
it is the animals who are charged with revealing life’s virtues and
deficiencies through their ingenious wiles.… To the native, as is
gathered from his most famous tales, skill was surely a better weapon
than strength.” Long ago, the enthusiastic Denis, the first to accord
to Brazilian letters a treatment independent of those of Portugal,[5]
had commented on the blending of the imaginative, ardent African, the
chivalrous Portuguese, and the dreamy native, and had observed that
“the _mameluco_ is almost always the hero of the poetic tales invented
in the country.” For, underneath the crust of this civilization flows
a strong current of popular inspiration. At times, as during the
Romantic period, this becomes almost dominant. “We all, of the most
diverse social classes,” avers De Carvalho, “are a reflection of
this great folk soul, fashioned at the same time of melancholy and
splendour, of timidity and common sense. Our folk lore serves to show
that the Brazilian people, despite its moodiness and sentimentality,
retains at bottom a clear comprehension of life and a sound, admirable
inner energy that, at the first touch, bursts forth unexpected and
indomitable.” This is, perhaps, an example of that very sentimentality
of which this engaging critic has been speaking, for the folk lore
of most nations reveals precisely these same qualities. For us, the
essential point is that Brazilian popular poetry and tale exhibit the
characteristic national hybridism; the exotic here feeds upon the
exotic.[6]


II

The sixteenth century, so rich in culture and accomplishment for
the Portuguese, is almost barren of literature in Brazil. A few
chroniclers, the self-sacrificing Father Anchieta, the poet Bento
Teixeiro Pinto,--and the list is fairly exhausted. These are no times
for esthetic leisure; an indifferent monarch occupies the throne in
Lisbon for the first quarter of the century, with eyes turned to India;
in the colony the entire unwieldy apparatus of old-world civilization
is to be set up, races are to be exterminated or reconciled in fusion,
mines lure with the glitter of gold and diamonds; a nationality,
however gradually and unwittingly, is to be formed. For, though the
majority of Portuguese in Brazil, as was natural, were spiritually
inhabitants of their mother country, already there had arisen among
some a fondness for a land of so many enchantments.

José de Anchieta (1530-1597) is now generally regarded as the earliest
of the Brazilian writers. He is, to Romero, the pivot of his century’s
letters. For more than fifty years he was the instructor of the
population; for his beloved natives he wrote grammars, lexicons, plays,
hymns; a gifted polyglot, he employed Portuguese, Spanish, Latin, Tupy;
he penned the first _autos_ and mysteries produced in Brazil. His
influence, on the whole, however, was more practical than literary; he
was not, in the esthetic sense a writer, but rather an admirable Jesuit
who performed, amidst the greatest difficulties, a work of elementary
civilization. The homage paid to his name during the commemoration
of the tercentenary of his death was not only a personal tribute but
in part, too, a rectification of the national attitude toward the
Jesuit company which he distinguished. It was the Jesuits who early
established schools in the nation (in 1543 they opened at Bahia the
first institution of “higher education”); it was they who sought to
protect the Indians from the cruelty of the over-eager exploiters;
Senhor Oliveira Lima has even suggested that it was owing to a grateful
recollection of the services rendered to the country by the Jesuits
that the separation between Church and State, decreed by the Republic
in 1890, was effected in so dignified and peaceful a manner. Lima
quotes Ribeiro to the effect that the province of Brazil already
possessed three _colegios_ in Anchieta’s time, and that the Jesuits, by
the second half of the sixteenth century had already brought at least
100,000 natives under their guidance.[7] Romero, “scientifist” critic
that he was, considered the Jesuit influence “not at all a happy one
in the intellectual and esthetic formation of the new nationality.” Of
one thing we may be quite certain, in any event: Anchieta’s position
as precursor is more secure than his merits as a creative spirit.
His chief works are _Brasilica Societatis Historia et vita clarorum
Patrum qui in Brasilia vixerunt_, a Latin series of biographies of his
fellow-workers; _Arte da grammatica da lingoa mais usada na costa do
Brasil_, a philological study; his _Cartas_ (letters); and a number of
_autos_ and poems.

Next to Anchieta, Bento Teixeira Pinto, who flourished in the second
half of the sixteenth century, is Brazil’s most ancient poet.[8]
Much ink has been spilled over the question as to whether he was the
author of the entertaining _Dialogo das Grandezas do Brazil_ and the
scrupulous Varnhagen, who at first denied Bento Teixeira’s authorship
of that document, later reversed his position. Similar doubt exists as
to the real author of the _Relação do Naufragio que passou Jorge de
Albuquerque Coelho, vindo do Brasil no anno de 1565_, a moving prose
account of a shipwreck in which figures the noble personage of the
title, but wherein the supposed author nowhere appears.

To that same noble personage, governor of Pernambuco, is dedicated
the _Prosopopéa_, undoubtedly the work of Bento Teixeira, and just
as undoubtedly a pedestrian performance in stilted hendecasyllabic
verses, ninety-four octaves in all, in due classic form. There is much
imitation of Camões, who, indeed, entered Brazilian literature as a
powerful influence through these prosaic lines of Bento Teixeira. “His
poem (i. e., the _Lusiads_ of _Camões_) is henceforth to make our
epics, his poetic language will provide the instrument of our poets
and his admirable lyrism will influence down to the very present, our
own in all that it has and preserves of sorrow, longing, nostalgia and
Camonean love melancholy.”[9]

In the _Prosopopéa_ occurs a description of the _recife_ of Pernambuco
which has been looked upon as one of the first evidences of the
Brazilian fondness for the native scene. The passage is utterly
uninspired; Neptune and Argos rub shoulders with the _barbaros_ amid an
insipid succession of verses. Verissimo sees, in the entire poem, no
“shadow of the influence of the new milieu in which it was conceived
and executed.” The earliest genuine manifestation of such nativism in
poetry he does not discover until _A Ilha da Maré_, by Manoel Botelho
de Oliveira, which, though published in the eighteenth century was,
most likely, written in the seventeenth.[10]

The chroniclers of the early colonial period present chiefly points of
historic, rather than literary, interest. Pero de Magalhães Gandavo,
with his _Historia da Provincia de Santa Cruz a que vulgarmente
chamamos Brasil_ (with a verse-letter by Luiz de Camões as preface),
published in 1576 in Lisbon, is regarded as the first in the long line
of historians; even today he is valuable as a source. Gabriel Soares
de Souza, is far better known for his _Tractado descriptivo do Brasil
em 1587_, printed in 1851 by Varnhagen and highly praised by that
voluminous investigator for its “profound observation.” … “Neither
Dioscorides nor Pliny better explains the plants of the old world than
Soares those of the new.… It is astonishing how the attention of a
single person could occupy itself with so many things … such as are
contained in his work, which treats at the same time, in relation to
Brazil, of geography, history, typography, hydrography, intertropical
agriculture, Brazilian horticulture, native materia medica, wood
for building and for cabinet-work, zoology in all its branches,
administrative economy and even mineralogy!”

Of less importance is the Jesuit Father Fernão Cardim (1540-1625),
whose work was made known in 1847 by Varnhagen under the geographic
title _Narrativa epistolar de uma viagem e missão jesuitica pela Bahia,
Ilheos, Porto Seguro, Pernambuco, Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, etc._
It consists of two letters, dated 1583 and addressed to the provincial
of the Company in Portugal. Father Cardim was translated into English
as early as 1625, being thus represented by the manuscript called _Do
Principo e origem dos indios do Brasil e de seus costumes, adoração e
ceremonias_, if this is, as Capistrano de Abreu has tried to prove,
really the work taken in 1601 by Francis Cook from a Jesuit bound for
Brazil. For, “it was exactly in this year … that Father Fernão Cardim,
who was returning to Brazil from a voyage to Rome, was taken prisoner
by English corsairs and brought to England.”

There is little profit in listing the men and works of this age and
character. According to Romero the chroniclers exhibit thus early the
duplex tendency of Brazilian literature,--description of nature and
description of the savage. The tendency grows during the seventeenth
century and in the eighteenth becomes predominant, so that viewed
in this light, Brazilian nativism, far from being the creation of
nineteenth century Romanticism, was rather a historic prolongation.


III

The sporadic evidences of a nascent nativism become in the seventeenth
century a conscious affirmation. The struggle against the Dutch in
Pernambuco and the French in Maranhão compelled a union of the colonial
forces and instilled a sort of Brazilian awareness. The economic
situation becomes more firm, so that Romero may regard the entire
century as the epoch of sugar, even as the succeeding century was to
be one of gold, and the nineteenth,--as indeed the twentieth,--one
of coffee. Agriculture even before the mines,--as Lima has pointed
out,--was creating the fortune of the land.[11] “The new society of
the prosperous American colony is no longer essentially Portuguese;
the mill-owners, well off and intelligent, forming a sort of rural
aristocracy, similar to that of the feudal barons, are its best-read
and most enlightened representatives. Around this tiny but powerful
nucleus revolve all the political and economic affairs of the young
nationality. Two profoundly serious factors also appear: the Brazilian
family, perfectly constituted, and a hatred for the foreigner,
nourished chiefly by religious fanaticism. The Lutheran, English or
Flemish, was the common enemy … against whom all vengeance was sacred,
all crime just and blessed.”[12]

In Brazilian literature, the century belongs mainly to Bahia, which
during the second half became a court in little, with its governor as
the center of a luxurious entourage. Spanish influence, as represented
in the all-conquering Góngora, vied with that of the poets of the
Italian and Portuguese renaissance; Tasso, Lope de Vega, Gabriel de
Castro and a host of others were much read and imitated. And in the
background rose a rude civilization reared upon slavery and greed,
providing rich material for the satirical shafts of Gregorio de
Mattos Guerra, well-named by his contemporaries the “hell-mouth” of
Bahia. In Antonio Vieira and Gregorio Mattos, Romero discovers the two
antagonistic forces of the epoch: Vieira, the symbol of “Portuguese
arrogance in action and vacuity in ideas”; Gregorio Mattos, the most
perfect incarnation of the Brazilian spirit, “facetious, informal,
ironic, sceptical, a precursor of the _Bohemios_.” As we shall
presently note, opinion upon the “hell-mouth’s” Brazilianism is not
unanimous.

The salient chroniclers and preachers of the century may be passed over
in rapid review. At their head easily stands Frei Vicente do Salvador,
(1564-1636/39) author of the _Historia da Custodia do Brasil_, which
was not published until 1888, more than two hundred and sixty years
after it was written (1627). His editor, Capistrano de Abreu, has
pointed out his importance as a reagent against the dominant tendency
of spiritual servitude to Portugal. “To him Brazil means more than
a geographical expression; it is a historical and social term. The
XVIIth century is the germination of this idea, as the XVIIIth is its
ripening.” The _Historia_ possesses, furthermore, a distinct importance
for the study of folk lore. Manoel de Moraes (1586-1651) enjoys what
might be called a cenotaphic renown as the author of a _Historia da
America_ that has never been found. Little more than names are Diogo
Gomes Carneiro and Frei Christovão da Madre de Deus Luz.

Of far sterner stuff than his vagrant brother Gregorio was the preacher
Eusebio de Mattos (1629-1692) who late in life left the Company of
Jesus. There is little in his sermons to fascinate the modern mind
or rejoice the soul, and one had rather err in the company of his
bohemian brother. As Eusebio was dubbed, in the fashion of the day, a
second Orpheus for his playing upon the harp and the viola, so Antonio
de Sá (1620-1678) became the “Portuguese Chrysostom.” Yet little gold
flowed in his speech, which fairly out-Góngora-ed Góngora himself. “His
culture, like that of almost all the Jesuits was false; rhetorical
rather than scientific, swollen rather than substantial.”[13]

The poets of the century narrow down to two, of whom the first may be
dismissed with scant ceremony. Manoel Botelho de Oliveira (1636-1711)
was the first Brazilian poet to publish a book of verses. His _Musica
do Parnaso em quatro coros de rimas portuguezas, castelhanas, italianas
e latinas, com seu descante comico reduzido em duas comedias_ was
published at Lisbon in 1705. Yet for all this battery of tongues there
is little in the book to commend it, and it would in all likelihood
be all but forgotten by today were it not for the descriptive poem
_A Ilha da Maré_, in which has been discovered,--as we have seen in
our citation from Verissimo,--one of the earliest manifestations
of nativism; Botelho de Oliveira’s Brazilianism, as appears from
his preface, was a conscious attitude, and the patient, plodding
cataloguing of the national fruit-garden precedes by a century the
seventh canto of the epic _Caramurú_; but for all this, there are in
the three hundred and twenty-odd lines of the poem only some four
verses with any claim to poetic illumination. The depths of bathetic
prose are reached in a passage oft quoted by Brazilian writers; it
reads like a seed catalogue:

        Tenho explicado as fruitas e os legumes,
        Que dão a Portugal muitos ciumes;
          Tenho recopilado
        O que o Brasil contém para invejado,
        E para preferir a toda terra,
        Em si perfeitos quatro AA encerra.
        Tem o primeiro A, nos arvoredos
        Sempre verdes aos olhos, sempre ledos;
        Tem o segunda A nos ares puros,
        Na temperie agradaveis e seguros;
        Tem o terceiro A, nas aguas frias
        Que refrescam o peito e são sadias,
        O quarto A, no assucar deleitoso,
        Que é do mundo o regalo mais mimoso;
        São, pois, os quatro AA por singuares
        _Arvoredos_, _assucar_, _aguas_, _ares_.[14]

All of which bears almost the same relation to poetry as the grouping
of the three B’s (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms) to musical criticism.
Romero found the poet’s nationalism an external affair; “the pen wished
to depict Brazil, but the soul belonged to Spanish or Portuguese
cultism.” So, too, Carvalho, who would assign the genuine beginnings of
Brazilian sentiment to Gregorio de Mattos.

Gregorio de Mattos Guerra (1633-1696) is easily the outstanding figure
of his day. Romero, who considered him the pivot of seventeenth-century
letters in Brazil, would claim for him, too, the title of creator
of that literature, because he was--though educated, like most of
the cultured men of his day, at Coimbra--a son of the soil, more
nationally minded than Anchieta and in perfect harmony with his
milieu. He reveals a Brazilian manner of handling the language;
indeed, he “is the document in which we can appreciate the earliest
modifications undergone by the Portuguese language in America.…” He
reveals a consciousness of being something new and distinct from
Europe’s consideration of the new-world inhabitants as a species of
_anima vilis_. He represents the tendency of the various races to
poke fun at one another. More important still, he betrays a nascent
discontent with the mother country’s rule. He is “the genuine imitator
of our lyric poetry and of our lyric intuition. His _brasileiro_ was
not the caboclo nor the Negro nor the Portuguese; he was already the
son of the soil, able to ridicule the separatist pretensions of the
three races.” Thus far Romero. Verissimo however--and the case may
well be taken as an instance of the unsettled conditions prevailing
in Brazilian literary criticism--takes a view antipodally apart. “The
first generation of Brazilian poets, Gregorio de Mattos included,
is exclusively Portuguese. To suppose that there is in Gregorio de
Mattos any originality of form or content is to show one’s ignorance
of the Portuguese poetry of his time, and of the Spanish, which was
so close to it and which the Portuguese so much imitated, and which
he, in particular, fairly plagiarized.”[15] Long ago, Ferdinand Wolf,
in the first history of Brazilian letters that made any claims to
completeness,[16] noted the poet’s heavy indebtedness to Lope de Vega
and Góngora, and his servile imitation of Quevedo.

Verissimo, I believe, overstates his case. That Gregorio de Mattos was
not an original creative spirit may at once be admitted. But he was
an undoubted personality; he aimed his satiric shafts only too well
at prominent creatures of flesh and blood and vindictive passions; he
paid for his ardour and temerity with harsh exile and in the end would
seem even to have evinced a sincere repentance. The motto of his life’s
labours, indeed, might be a line from one of his most impertinent poems:

        “Eu, que me não sei calar” …

        I, who cannot hold my tongue …

Nor did Gregorio de Mattos hold his tongue, whether in the student days
at Coimbra--where already he was feared for that wagging lance--or
during his later vicissitudes in Brazil. In 1864 he married Maria dos
Povos, whose reward for advising him to give up his satiric habits was
to be made the butt of his next satire. It would have been a miracle
if he were either happy with or faithful to her; he was neither. He
slashed right and left about him; argued cases--and won them!--in
rhyme; poverty, however, was his constant companion, so that, for other
reasons aplenty, his wife soon left him. Now his venom bursts forth
all the less restrained. Personal enmities made among the influential
were bound soon or late to recoil upon him and toward the end of his
life he was exiled to the African colony of Angola. Upon his return to
Brazil he was prohibited from writing verses and sought solace in his
viola, in which he was skilled.

Gregorio de Mattos’s satire sought familiar targets: the judge, the
client, the abusive potentate, the venal religious. “Perhaps without
any intention on his part,” suggests Carvalho, “he was our first
newspaper, wherein are registered the petty and great scandals of
the epoch, the thefts, crimes, adulteries, and even the processions,
anniversaries and births that he so gaily celebrated in his
verses.”[17] His own countrymen he likened to stupid beasts of burden:

        Que os Brasileiros são bestas,
        E estão sempre a trabalhar
        Toda a vida por manter
        Maganos de Portugal.[18]

There is a tenderer aspect to the poet, early noted in his sonnets;
despite the wild life he led there are accents of sincerity in his
poems of penitence; no less sincere, if less lofty, are his poems of
passion, in which love is faunesque, sensual, a thing of hot lips
and anacreontic abandon. He can turn a pretty (and empty) compliment
almost as gracefully as his Spanish models. But it is really too
much to institute a serious comparison between him and Verlaine, as
Carvalho would do. Some outward resemblance there is in the lives of
the men (yet how common after all, are repentance after ribaldry, and
connubial infelicity), but Carvalho destroys his own case in the very
next paragraph. For, as he indicates, the early Brazilian’s labours
“represent in the history of our letters, it is needful to repeat, the
revolt of bourgeois common sense against the ridiculousness of the
Portuguese nobility.” How far from all this was the nineteenth century
Frenchman, with a sensitive soul delicately attuned to life’s finer
harmonies!

I am surprised that no Brazilian has found for Gregorio de Mattos
Guerra a parallel spirit much nearer than Verlaine in both time and
space. The Peruvian Caviedes was some twenty years younger than his
Brazilian contemporary; his life has been likened to a picaresque
novel. He was no closet-spirit and his addiction to the flesh, no whit
less ardent than Gregorio’s, resulted in the unmentionable affliction.
He, too, repented, before marriage rather than after; his wife dying,
he surrendered to drink and died four years before the Brazilian, if
1692 is the correct date. As Gregorio de Mattos flayed the luxury of
Bahia, so Caviedes guffawed at the sybarites of Lima.[19]

He castigated monastic corruption, trounced the physicians, manhandled
the priests, and his snickers echoed in the high places. He knew his
Quevedo quite as well as did Gregorio and has been called “the first
revolutionary, the most illustrious of colonial poets.”[20] And toward
his end he makes his peace with the Lord in a sonnet that might have
been signed by Gregorio.

Of Gregorio de Mattos I will quote a single sonnet written in one of
his more sober moods. There is a pleasant, if somewhat conventional,
epigrammatical quality to it, as to more than one of the others, and
there is little reason for questioning its sincerity. Every satirist,
at bottom, contains an elegiac poet,--the ashes that remain after
the fireworks have exploded. If here, as elsewhere, only the feeling
belongs to the poet, since both form and content are of the old world
whence he drew so many of his topics and so much of his inspiration,
there is an undoubted grafting of his salient personality upon the
imported plant.

        Nasce o Sol; e não dura mais que um dia,
        Depois da luz, se segue a noite escura,
        Em tristes sombras morre a formosura,
        Em continuas tristezas a alegria.

        Porém, se acaba o sol, porque nascia?
        Se formosa a luz é, porque não dura?
        Como a belleza assim se trasfigura?
        Como o gosto, da pena assim se fia?

        Mas no sol, e na luz, falte a firmeza,
        Na formosura não se da constancia,
        E na alegria, sinta-se a tristeza.

        Comece o mundo, emfim, pela ignorancia;
        Pois tem qualquer dos bens, por natureza,
        A firmeza somente na inconstancia.[21]


IV

The first half of the eighteenth century, a review of which brings our
first period to a close, is the era of the _bandeirantes_ in Brazilian
history and of the Academies in the national literature. The external
enemies had been fought off the outer boundaries in the preceding
century; now had come the time for the conquest of the interior.[22]
The _bandeirantes_ were so called from _bandeira_, signifying a band;
the earliest expeditions into the hinterland were called _entradas_,
and it is only when the exploring caravans grew more numerous and
organized that the historic name _bandeirantes_ was bestowed. Men and
women of all ages, together with the necessary animals, composed these
moving outposts of conquest. This was a living epic; the difficulties
were all but insurmountable and the heroism truly superhuman. No
literature this,--with its law of the jungle which is no law,--with its
immitigable cruelty to resisting indigenous tribes, and finally, the
internecine strife born of partial failure, envy and vindictiveness.

While the _bandeirantes_ were carrying on the tradition of Portuguese
bravery--evidence of a restlessness which Carvalho would find mirrored
even today in the “intellectual nomadism” of his countrymen, as well as
in their political and cultural instability--the literary folk of the
civilized centers were following the tradition of Portuguese imitation.
At Bahia and Rio de Janeiro Academies were formed, evidencing some
sort of attempt at unifying taste and aping, at a distance, the
favourite diversion that the Renaissance had itself copied from the
academies of antiquity. The first of these, founded in 1724 by the
Viceroy Vasco Fernandez Cezar de Menezes, was christened _Academia
Brazilica dos Esqueçidos_,--that is, the Brazilian Academy of those
Forgotten or Overlooked by the _Academia de Historia_ established,
1720, at Lisbon. A sort of “spite” academy, then, this first Brazilian
body, but constituting at the same time, in a way, a new-world
affirmation. Among the other academies were that of the _Felizes_ 1736
(i. e., happy), the _Selectos_, 1752, and the _Renascidos_, 1759,
(reborn) none of which continued for long. Although the influence of
Góngora was receding, Rocha Pitta’s _Historia da America Portugueza_
is replete with pompous passages, exaggerated estimates and national
“boostings” that read betimes like the gorgeous pamphlets issued by a
tourist company. Pride in the national literature is already evident.
The itch to write epics is rife; it bites João de Brito Lima, who
indites a work (_Cezaria_) in 1300 octaves praising the Viceroy.
Gonzalo Soares de França exceeds this record in his _Brazilia_, adding
500 octaves to the score. Manoel de Santa Maria Itaparica composes
a sacred epic, _Eustachidos_, on the life of St. Eustace, in six
cantos, each preceded by an octave summary; the fifth canto contains a
quasiprophetic vision in which posterity, in the guise of an old man,
requests the author to celebrate his native isle. This section, the
_Ilha da Itaparica_, has rescued the poem from total oblivion. But the
passage possesses hardly any transmissive fervor and the native scene
is viewed through the glasses of Greek mythology.

Some wrote in Latin altogether upon Brazilian topics, as witness
Prudencio do Amaral’s poem on sugar-manufacture (no less!) entitled
_De opifichio sacchario_; the cultivation of manioc and tobacco were
equally represented in these pseudo-Virgilian efforts.

It is a barren half century for literature. Outside of the author of
the _Eustachidos_ and the two important figures to which we soon come
only the brothers Bartholomeu Lourenço and Alexandre de Gusmão are
remembered, and they do not come properly within the range of literary
history. The one was a physicist and mathematician; the other, a
statesman. The latter in his _Marido Confundido_, 1737, wrote a comedy
in reply to Molière’s _Georges Dandin_, much to the delight of the
Lisbonese audiences.

The two salient figures of the epoch are Sebastião da Rocha Pitta
(1660-1738) and Antonio José da Silva (1705-1739).

Brazilian critics seem well disposed to forget Rocha Pitta’s mediocre
novels and sterile verses; it is for his _Historia_ that he is
remembered, and fondly, despite all the extravagances of style
that mark the book. Romero regards it as a patriotic hymn, laden
with ostentatious learning and undoubted leanings toward Portugal.
Oliveira Lima’s view, however, is more scientific and historically
dispassionate. One could not well expect of a writer at the beginning
of the eighteenth century a nationalistic sentiment, “which in reality
was still of necessity embryonic, hazy, or at least, ill-defined.… In
our historian, none the less, there reigns a sympathy for all that is
of his land.”[23] And, indeed, the _Historia_, as Romero wrote, is
more a poem than a chronological narrative, cluttered with saints and
warriors, prophets, heroes of antiquity and mediaeval days.

“In no other region,” runs one of the passages best known to
Brazilians, “is the sky more serene, nor does dawn glow more
beautifully; in no other hemisphere does the sun flaunt such golden
rays nor such brilliant nocturnal glints; the stars are more benign
and ever joyful; the horizons where the sun is born or where it sinks
to rest are always unclouded; the water, whether it be drunk from the
springs in the fields or from the town aqueduct, is of the purest;
Brazil, in short, is the Terrestrial Paradise discovered at last,
wherein the vastest rivers arise and take their course.”

I am inclined to question whether Antonio José da Silva really belongs
to the literature of Brazil. Romero would make out a case for him on
the ground of birth in the colony, family influences and the nature of
his lyrism, which, according to that polemical spirit, was Brazilian.
Yet his plays are linked with the history of the Portuguese drama and
it is hard to discover, except by excessive reading between the lines,
any distinctive Brazilian character. Known to his contemporaries by
the sobriquet _O Judeu_ (The Jew), Antonio José early experienced the
martyrdom of his religion at the hands of the Inquisition. At the age
of eight he was taken to Portugal by his mother, who was summoned
thither to answer the charge of Judaism; in 1726 he was compelled
to answer to the same charge, but freed; hostile forces were at work
against him, however, not alone for his religious beliefs but for his
biting satire, and chiefly through the bought depositions of a servant
he was finally convicted and burned on October 21st, 1739. The strains
of one of his operettas fairly mingled with the crackling of the
flames. This fate made of him a national figure in Brazil; the first
tragedy written by a Brazilian makes of him the protagonist (_O Poeta
e a Inquisição_, 1839, by Magalhães); the second of Joaquim Norberto
de Sousa’s _Cantos Epicos_ is dedicated to him (1861). Still another
literature claims Antonio José, who occupies an honoured place in the
annals of the Jewish drama.[24] And it is not at all impossible that
the melancholy which Romero discovers amidst the Jew’s gay compositions
is as much a heritage of his race as of the Brazilian _modinhas_.[25]
Already Wolf had found in Antonio José’s musical farces a likeness to
the opera bouffe of Offenbach, a fellow Jew; the Jew takes naturally
to music and to satire, so that his prominence in the history of comic
opera may be no mere coincidence. Satire and melancholy, twin sisters
with something less than the usual resemblance, inhere in the race of
Antonio José.

Antonio José da Silva had in him much of the rollicking, roistering,
ribald, rhyming rogue. For long, he was the most popular of the
Portuguese dramatists after Gil Vicente. He studied Rotrou, Molière
and the libretti of Metastasio to good advantage, and for his musical
ideas went to school to the Italians. Sr. Ribeiro has repudiated any
connection between these conventionalized airs--the form of the verses
is just as conventional--and the distinctive Brazilian _modinha_; the
truth is that Romero, eager to make as good an appearance for the
national literature as possible, and realizing that the eighteenth
century in Brazil needed all the help it could receive, made an
unsuccessful attempt to dragoon Antonio José into the thin ranks.[26]
As it is, his reputation in Portugal has suffered a decline, merging
into the obscurity of the very foibles it sought to castigate. The
martyred Jew has had no creative influence upon Brazilian literature.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first phase of Brazilian letters is, then, a tentative groping,
reflecting the numerous influences across the ocean and the instability
of a nascent civilization at war on the one hand with covetous
foreigners and on the other with fractious, indigenous tribes. The
chroniclers are in the main picturesque, informative, rambling rather
than artistic; the poets are either vacuous or swollen with the pomp
of old-world rhetoric. Even so virile a spirit as Gregorio de Mattos
conducts his native satire with the stylistic weapons forged in
Europe, and the dawn of a valid nativism is shot through with gleams
of spiritual adherence to Portugal and intellectual subjection to the
old continent. Yet, as the child is father to the man, so even in
these faltering voices may be detected the dominant notes of the later
literature,--its imagination, its fondness for rotund expression, its
pride of milieu, its Oriental exuberance, its wistful moodiness, its
sensual ardor.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Op. Cit. P. 51.

[2] See his _Cantos Populares do Brasil_, _Contos Populares do Brasil_,
_Estudos sobre a Poesia Popular Brasileira_. These works he summarizes
in Chapter VII, Volume I, of his _Historia da Litteratura Brasileira,
2a Edição melhorada pelo auctor_. Rio de Janeiro, 1902.

[3] The frank, practical song, minus the African refrain, runs thus:
“You like me and I like you. If pa consents, oh my darling, I’ll marry
you.… If you’ll give me my clothes and furnish my food, if you pay all
the household expenses, oh, my darling, I’ll come to live with you.”

[4] Op. Cit. P. 58.

[5] _Résumé de l’histoire Littéraire du Portugal suivi du Résumé de
l’histoire littéraire du Brésil._ Ferdinand Denis. Paris, 1826. The
Brazilian section occupies pages 513-601.

[6] For an enlightening exposition of the Portuguese popular refrain
known as _cossantes_, see A. F. G. Bell’s _Portuguese Literature_,
London, 1922, pages 22-35. Their salient trait, like that of their
Brazilian relative, is a certain wistful sadness.

[7] Oliveira Lima. _Formación Historica de la Nacionalidad Brasileña._
Madrid, 1918. This Spanish version, by Carlos Pereyra, is much easier
to procure than the original. Pp. 35-38.

[8] See, however, on the matter of priority, José Verissimo’s _Estudos
de Literatura Brazileira, Quarta Serie_. Pp. 25-64.

[9] Ibid. P. 54. Also pp. 63-64. “To be the first, the most ancient,
the oldest in any pursuit, is a merit.… This is the only merit that
Bento Teixeira can boast.”

[10] Verissimo, always a suggestive commentator, presents an
interesting reason for these early national panegyrics. See the
essay cited in the preceding notes, pages 50-51. He attributes the
swelling chorus of eulogies to what might today be called a national
“inferiority complex.” “Having no legitimate cause for glory,--great
deeds accomplished or great men produced,--we pride ourselves
ingenuously upon our primitive Nature, or upon the opulence,--which we
exaggerate--of our soil.”

[11] Oliveira Lima, op. cit. pages 45-46, comments interestingly
upon Brazil’s lack of a national poet during the sixteenth century.
“Brazil did not possess, during the XVIth century a national poet who
could express, with all the sincerity of his soul, the passion of the
struggle undertaken by culture against nature.… And this absence of
a representative poet is evidenced throughout our literature, since,
after all, the Indianism of the XIXth century was only a poetic
convention grafted upon the trunk of the political break with the
Portuguese fatherland.… The fact is that the exploits of yesterday
still await the singer who shall chant them. The Indians were idealized
by a Romanticism in quest of elevated souls; the Africans found
defenders who rose in audacious flight, but the brave pioneers of the
conquest, men of epic stature, have not received even the same measure
of sympathy.”

[12] Ronald de Carvalho. Op. Cit. P. 87-88.

[13] De Carvalho. Op. P. 96-97.

[14] “I have explained the fruits and the vegetables that cause so
much jealousy on Portugal’s part; I have listed those things for which
Brazil may be envied. As title to preference over all the rest of
the earth it enfolds four A’s. It has the first A in its _arvoredos_
(trees), ever green and fair to gaze upon; it has the second A in its
pure atmosphere (_ares_), so pleasant and certain in temperature; it
has the third A in its cool waters (_aguas_), that refresh the throat
and bring health; the fourth A in its delightful sugar (_assucar_),
which is the fairest gift of all the world. The four A’s then, are
_arvoredos_, _assucar_, _aguas_, _ares_.”

[15] _Estudos, quarta serie._ P. 47-48.

[16] _Le Brésil Litteraire. Histoire de la Littérature brésilienne
suivie d’un choix de morceaux tirés des meilleurs auteurs b(r)ésiliens
par Ferdinand Wolf. Berlin, 1863._ See, for a discussion of this book,
the Selective Critical Bibliography at the back of the present work.

[17] Op. Cit. P. 109.

[18] The Brazilians are beasts, hard at work their lives long, in order
to support Portuguese knaves.

[19] For a good résumé of Caviedes’ labours, with valuable biographical
indications, see Luis Alberto Sánchez, _Historia de la Literatura
Peruana, I. Los Poetas de la Colonia_, Pp. 186-200.

[20] Ibid. P. 190.

[21] The sun is born and lasts but a single day; dark night follows
upon the light; beauty dies amidst the gloomy shadows and joy amid
continued grief. Why, then, if the sun must die, was it born? Why,
if light be beautiful, does it not endure? How is beauty thus
transfigured? How does pleasure thus trust pain? But let firmness be
lacking in sun and light, let permanence flee beauty, and in joy,
let there be a note of sadness. Let the world begin, at length, in
ignorance; for, whatever the boon, it is by nature constant only in its
inconstancy.

[22] “The story of Xenophon’s Ten Thousand is but a child’s tale
compared with the fearless adventure of our colonial brothers.”
Carvalho. Op. Cit. P. 127.

[23] Oliveira Lima. _Aspectos da Litteratura Colonial Brazileira._
Leipzig, 1896. This youthful work of the eminent cosmopolite furnishes
valuable as well as entertaining collateral reading upon the entire
colonial period in Brazil. The standpoint is often historical rather
than literary, yet the proportions are fairly well observed.

[24] See, for just such inclusion, B. Gorin’s _Die Geshichte vun
Yiddishen Theater_, New York, 1918, 2 vols. (In Yiddish.) Page 33,
Volume I. With reference to the Jew and comic opera, rumours of Sir
Arthur Sullivan’s partial Jewish origin still persist.

[25] Diminutive of _moda_, and signifying, literally, a new song. The
_modinha_ is the most characteristic of Brazilian popular forms, a
transformation of the troubadors’ _jácara_ and the Portuguese _fado_.
It is generally replete with love and the allied feelings.

[26] The chief works of Antonio José da Silva are _Vida do Grande D.
Quixote de la Mancha e do gordo Sancho Pança_ (1733); _Ezopaida_ ou
_Vida de Ezopo_ (1734); _Os Encantos de Medea_ (1735); _Amphytrião_
ou _Jupiter e Alcmena_ (1736); _Labyrintho de Creta_ (1736); _Guerras
do Alecrim e da Manjerona_ (1737); a highly amusing Molièresque
farce, considered by many his best; _As Variedades de Proteu_ (1737);
_Precipicio de Faetonte_ (posthumous).

The latest view of Antonio José (See Bell’s _Portuguese Literature_,
pages 282-284); whom Southey considered “the best of their drama
writers,” is that his plays would in all likelihood have received
little “attention in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had it not
been for the tragedy of the author’s life.” This probably overstates
the case against _O Judeu_, but it indicates an important non-literary
reason for his popularity.



CHAPTER III

PERIOD OF AUTONOMOUS DEVELOPMENT (1750-1830)

    Stirrings of Revolt--The Inconfidencia--Two Epics: _Uraguay_
    and _Caramurú_--The Lyrists of Minas Geraes: Claudio da
    Costa, Gonzaga, Alvarenga Peixoto, Silva Alvarenga--Minor
    figures--Political Satire--Early Nineteenth Century--José
    Bonifacio de Andrade e Silva.


I

Struggle for the territory of Brazil had bred a love for the soil
that was bound sooner or later to become spiritualized into an
aspiration toward autonomy. The _brasileiros_ were not forever to
remain the _bestas_ that the hell-mouth of Bahia had called them, nor
provide luxury for the _maganos de Portugal_. The history of colonial
exploitation repeated itself: Spain with Spanish-America, Portugal
with Brazil, England with the future United States. Taxes grew, and
with them, resentment. Yet, as so often, the articulation of that
rebellious spirit came not from the chief sufferers of oppression,
but from an idealistic band of poets whose exact motives have not yet
been thoroughly clarified by historical investigation. Few less fitted
to head a separatist movement than these lyric, idealistic spirits
who form part of the _Inconfidencia_ (Disloyalty) group immortalized
in Brazilian history through the hanging of _Tiradentes_ and the
imprisonment and exile of a number of others. These men were premature
in their attempt, and foredoomed to failure, but they lived, as well
as wrote, an ideal and thus form at once an epoch in the national
history and the nation’s letters. The freedom won by the United States,
the foreshadowing of the French revolution, inspired in them ideas of
a Brazilian republic; how surely idealistic was such an aim may be
realized when we recall that Brazil’s emancipation was initiated with a
monarchy (1822) and that, although it has been a republic since 1889,
there are a number of serious thinkers who consider the more liberal
form of government still less a boon than a disadvantage.

In 1783, Luis da Cunha de Menezes, a vain, pompous fellow, was named
Captain-General of the Province of Minas. It was against him that were
launched the nine satirical verse letters called _Cartas Chilenas_ and
signed by the pseudonym _Critillo_ (1786). Menezes was succeeded by
Barbacena (1788) who it was rumoured, meant to exact the payment of 700
_arrobas_ of gold, overdue from the province. It was this that proved
the immediate stimulus to an only half-proved case of revolt, which,
harshly suppressed, deprived Brazil of a number of its ripest talents.

From the name of the province--Minas Geraes--these poets have been
grouped into a so-called Mineira school, which includes the two
epicists, Frei José de Santa Rita Durão and José Basilio de Gama, and
the four lyrists, Claudio Manoel da Costa, Thomas Antonio Gonzaga,
Ignacio José de Alvarenga Peixoto and Manoel Ignacio da Silva
Alvarenga.


II

Critics are not agreed upon the relative non-esthetic values of Basilio
da Gama’s _Uraguay_ (1769)[1] and Santa Rita Durão’s _Caramurú_ (1781).
Wolf, with Almeida-Garrett, finds the first a truly national poem;
Carvalho calls it “the best and most perfect poem that appeared in
Brazil throughout the colonial period”; the early Denis found it not
very original, for all its stylistic amenities; Romero, conceding its
superiority to _Caramurú_ in style and form, finds it inferior in
historical understanding, terming the latter epic “the most Brazilian
poem we possess.” Verissimo, who has written an extended comparison of
the two poems,[2] is, to me, at least, most satisfying of all upon the
problems involved and the esthetic considerations implied. In both the
epics he discerns the all-pervading influence of Camões, the emulation
of whom has seemed to cast upon every succeeding poet the obligation of
writing his epic. Thus the chief initiators of Brazilian Romanticism,
Porto Alegre and Magalhães, had to indite, respectively, a _Colombo_
and a _Confederação dos Tamoyos_, and Gonçalves Dias began _Os
Tymbiras_, while José de Alencar, romantic of the Romantics, started a
_Filhos de Tupan_, “which happily for our good and his own, he never
completed.” But what renders both the _Uruguay_ and the _Caramurú_
important in the national literature is the fact that they stand out
from the ruck of earlier and later Camonean imitations by virtue of a
certain spontaneity of origin and an intuitive, historic relation with
their day. It is not known whether the authors, though contemporaries,
knew each other or read their respective works. Yet both instinctively
employed indigenous material and revealed that same “national sentiment
which was already stammering, though timorously, in certain poets
contemporaneous with them or immediately preceding, such as Alvarenga
Peixoto and Silva Alvarenga, with whom there enter into our poetry,
mingled with classical images and comparison, names and things of our
own. Though like Basilio and Durão, loyal Portuguese, these poets
speak already of fatherland with exaltation and love. The idea of the
fatherland, the national thought, which in Gregorio de Mattos is as yet
a simple movement of bad humour, vagrant spite and the revolt of an
undisciplined fellow, becomes in them the tender affection for their
native land.…”

The _Uruguay_ especially reveals this nascent nationalism as it
existed among the loyal Portuguese in the epoch just previous to the
_Inconfidencia_. “We must remember that the work of the Mineira poets”
(and here Verissimo includes, of course, the lyrists to which we
presently come) “abound in impressions of loyalty to Portugal.… Let us
not forget José Bonifacio, the so-called patriarch of our Independence,
served Portugal devotedly first as scientist in official intellectual
commissions and professor at the University of Coimbra, and then as
volunteer Major of the Academic Corps against the French of Napoleon,
and finally as Intendente Geral, or as we should say today, Chief of
Police, of the city of Porto. And José Bonifacio, like Washington, was
at first hostile, or at least averse, to independence.”

The _Uruguay_ is certainly less intense than the Caramurú in its
patriotism. The author of the first wrote it, as he said, to satisfy a
certain curiosity about Uruguay; also, he might have added, to flatter
his patron, the then powerful Pombal, who, it will be recalled, at
one time harboured the idea of transplanting the Portuguese throne to
the colony across the sea. It would be an error, however, to see in
the small epic (but five cantos long) a glorification of the native.
The real hero, as Verissimo shows, is not Cacambo, but the Portuguese
General Gomes Freire de Andrade. The villains, of course, are the
Jesuits out of whose fold the author had come,--the helpers of the
Indians of Uruguay who revolted against the treaty between Portugal
and Spain according to which they were given into the power of the
Portuguese. The action, for an epic, is thus restricted in both time
and space, let alone significance, yet thus early the liberating
genius of Basilio da Gama produced, for Portuguese literature,
“its first romantic poem.” Here is the first--or surely one of the
first--authentic evidences of what the Spanish-American critics call
“literary Americanism,”--all the more interesting because so largely
unpremeditated.

The “romanticism” of the _Uruguay_ is worth dwelling upon, if only to
help reveal our long-tolerated terminological inadequacy.[3] It begins,
not with the regular invocation, but with a quasi-Horatian plunge
_in medias res_. It does not employ the outworn octave, but sonorous
blank verse. The freedom of its style and the harmony of its verse
“announce Garrett, Gonçalves Dias[4] and the future admirable modellers
of blank verse, in the distribution of the episodes and the novelty of
language and simile.” The language is not the Gongoristic extravagance
of the Academicians; it is modern, even contemporary, grandiloquent
in the Spanish style. The “Indianism” of the poem, in which Basilio
da Gama forecasts the later Indianism of the Romantics, is not to be
confused with that later type; for it must be recalled that Basilio da
Gama did not look upon his Indians with that sentimental veneration
characteristic of the nineteenth century Brazilians. As they were
secondary to his purpose, so were they in his conception. “Two and
distinct are the features of this aspect of our literature. The first
Indianism, initiated by Basilio da Gama, continued by Durão and almost
limited to the two epics, is hardly more than a poetic artifice; the
Indian enters as a necessity of the subject, a simple esthetic or
rhetorical means. He is not sung, but is rather an element of the
song. In the second Indianism, that of the Romantics,--the loftiest
representative of which is Gonçalves Dias,--the Indian advances from
the position of an accessory to that of an essential element; he
is the subject and the object of the poem. In this first phase of
Indianism the sympathy of the poet is transferred only incidentally
to the savage.… The contrary case obtains in the second phase; the
sympathy of the poet is his entirely. So that, in the main, it is the
attitude of the poet that distinguished the two Indianisms: indifferent
in the first, sympathetic in the second.” And since choices must be
made, Verissimo is right when he finds the earlier poets nearer to the
sociological truth in preferring Portuguese civilization, with all its
defects, to the imaginary charms of indigenous life. Yet sociological
error of the Romantic Indianists proved more than poetic truth, for
it was fecund “not only for literature, but even for the development
of the national sentiment.” … “_O Uruguay_ possesses in Portuguese
literature the value of being the first poem of a freer, newer, more
spontaneous character after the series of epics derived from _Os
Lusiadas_, and in Brazilian literature that of being the initiator of
the movement which, whatever its aberrations, contributed the most to
the independence of our letters.…”

There is far less artistic pleasure in reading _O Caramurú_; it may
well be, as most agree, that it, rather than _O Uruguay_, is the
national poem, but such a distinction pertains rather to patriotism
than to poetry. The better verses of the earlier epic are a balm to
the ear and a stimulus to the imagination; those of the later lack
communicative essence. Santa Rita Durão, proclaiming in his preface
the parity of Brazil with India as the subject of an epic, thus places
himself as a rival of Camões; instead, he is an indifferent versifier
and an unconscionable imitator; his patriotism, as his purpose, is
avowed. The subject of his epic is the half-legendary figure of Diogo
Alvares Correa,[5] a sort of Brazilian John Smith, who, wrecked upon
the coast, so impressed the natives with the seeming magic of his
firearms that he was received as their chief. His particular Pocahontas
was the maiden Paraguassú, whom he is supposed to have taken with him
to France; here she was baptized--as the disproved story goes--and
at the marriage of the pair none less than Henry II and Catherine de
Medicis stood sponsor to them.

Paragussú’s chief rival is Moema, and the one undisputed passage of the
poem is the section in which, together with a group of other lovelorn
maidens, she swims after the vessel that is bearing him and his chosen
bride off to France. In her dying voice she upbraids him and then sinks
beneath the waves.

        Perde o lume dos olhos, pasma e treme,
        Pallida a côr, o aspecto moribundo,
        Com a mão ja sem vigor soltando o leme,
        Entre as salsas espumas desce ao fundo;
        Mas na onda do mar, que irado frema,
        Tornando a apparecer desde o profundo:
        “Ah! Diogo cruel!” disse com magua.
        E sem mais vista ser, sorveu-se n’agua.[6]

Yet there is a single line in _O Uruguay_ which contains more poetry
than this octave and many another of the stanzas in this ten-canto
epic. It is that in which is described the end of Cacambo’s sweetheart
Lindoya, after she has drunk the fatal potion that reveals to her the
destruction of Lisbon and the expulsion of the Jesuits by Pombal, and
then commits suicide by letting a serpent bite her.

        Tanto ere bella no seu rostro a morte!

        So beautiful lay death upon her face!

Like _O Uruguay_, so _O Caramurú_ ends upon a note of spiritual
allegiance to Portugal. It is worth while recalling, too, that the
Indian of the first is from a Spanish-speaking tribe, and that the
Indian of the second is a native Brazilian type.

And Verissimo points out that if the Indian occupies more space in the
second, his rôle is really less significant than in _O Uruguay_.


III

The four lyrists of the Mineira group are Claudio Manoel da Costa
(1729-1789); Thomas Antonio Gonzaga (1744-1807-9) the most famous of
the quartet; José Ignacio de Alvarenga Peixoto (1744-1793), and Manoel
Ignacio da Silva Alvarenga (1749-1814). Examination of their work shows
the inaccuracy of terming them a “school,” as some Brazilian critics
have loosely done. These men did not of set purpose advance an esthetic
theory and seek to exemplify it in their writings; they are children of
their day rather than brothers-in-arms. Like the epic poets, so they,
in their verses, foreshadow the coming of the Romanticists some fifty
years later; the spirits of the old world and the new contend in their
lines as in their lives. They are, in a sense, transition figures,
chief representatives of the “Arcadian” spirit of the day.

Claudio de Costa, translator of Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations,”
was chiefly influenced by the Italians and the French. Romero, in
his positive way, has catalogued him with the race of Lamartine and
even called him a predecessor of the Brazilian Byronians. A certain
subjectivity does appear despite the man’s classical leanings, but
there is nothing of him of the Childe Harold or the Don Juan. Indeed,
as often as not he is a cold stylist and his influence, today, is
looked upon as having been chiefly technical; he was a writer rather
than a thinker or a feeler, and one of his sonnets alone has suggested
the combined influence of Camões, Petrarch and Dante:

        Que feliz fôra o mundo, se perdida
        A lembrança de Amor, de Amor e gloria,
        Igualmente dos gostos a memoria
        Ficasse para sempre consumida!

        Mas a pena mais triste, e mais crescida
        He vêr, que em nenhum tempo é transitoria
        Esta de Amor fantastica victoria,
        Que sempre na lembrança é repetida.

        Amantes, os que ardeis nesse cuidado,
        Fugi de Amor ao venenozo intento,
        Que lá para o depois vos tem guardado.

        Não vos engane a infiel contentamento;
        Que esse presente bem, quando passado,
        Sobrará para idéa de tormento.[7]

The native note appears in his work, as in _A Fabula do Riberão do
Carmo_ and in _Villa-Rica_, but it is neither strong nor constant. He
is of the classic pastoralists, “the chief representative,” as Carvalho
calls him, of Arcadism in Brazil.

Of more enduring, more appealing stuff is the famous lover Thomas
Antonio Gonzaga, termed by Wolf a “modern Petrarch” (for all these
Arcadians must have each his Laura) and enshrined in the hearts of
his countrymen as the writer of their Song of Songs. For that, in a
sense, is what Gonzaga’s poems to _Marilia_ suggest. No other book of
love poems has so appealed to the Portuguese reader; the number of
editions through which the _Marilia de Dirceu_ has gone is second only
to the printings of _Os Lusiadas_, and has, since the original issue
in 1792, reached to thirty-four. Gonzaga’s Marilia (in real life D.
Maria Joaquina Dorothea de Seixas Brandão) rises from the verses of
these _lyras_ into flesh and blood reality; the poet’s love, however
much redolent of Petrarchian conventions, is no imagined passion. His
heart, as he told her in one of his most popular stanzas, was vaster
than the world and it was her abode. Gonzaga, like Claudio, was one of
the _Inconfidencia_; he fell in love with his lady at the age of forty,
when she was eighteen, and sentimental Brazilians have never forgiven
her for having lived on to a very ripe old age after her Dirceu, as he
was known in Arcadian circles, died in exile. Yet she may have felt the
loss deeply, for a story which Verissimo believes authentic tells of D.
Maria, once asked how old she was, replying: “When _he_ was arrested, I
was eighteen.…” It is sweet enough not to be true.

As Antonio José, despite his Brazilian birth, is virtually Portuguese
in culture and style, so Gonzaga, despite his Portuguese birth, is
Brazilian by virtue of his poetic sources and his peculiar lyrism,--a
blend of the classic form with a passion which, though admirably
restrained, tends to overleap its barriers. If, as time goes on, he
surrenders his sway to the more sensuous lyrics of later poets, he is
none the less a fixed star in the poetic constellation. He sings a type
of constant love that pleases even amid today’s half maddened and half
maddening erotic deliquescence. Some poets’ gods bring them belief in
women; his lady brings him a belief in God:

        Noto, gentil Marilia, os teus cabellos;
        E noto as faces de jasmins e rosas:
        Noto os teus olhos bellos;
        Os brancos dentes e as feições mimosas:
        Quem fez uma obra tão perfeita e linda,
        Minha bella Marilia, tambem pôde
        Fazer o céo e mais, si ha mais ainda.[8]

The famous book is divided into two parts, the first written before,
the second, after his exile. As might be expected; the first is
primaveral, aglow with beauty, love, joy. Too, it lacks the depth of
the more sincere second, which is more close to the personal life of
the suffering artist. He began in glad hope; he ends in dark doubt.
“The fate of all things changes,” runs one of his refrains. “Must only
mine not alter?” One unconscious testimony of his sincerity is the
frequent change of rhythm in his lines, which achieve now and then a
sweet music of thought.

“_Marilia de Dirceu_,” Verissimo has written, “is of exceptional
importance in Brazilian literature. It is the most noble and perfect
idealization of love that we possess.” (I believe that the key-word to
the critic’s sentence is “idealization.”) “Despite its classicism,
it is above all a personal work; it is free of and superior to, the
formulas and the rivalries of schools.… It is perhaps the book of
human passion, such as the many we have now in our literatures that
are troubled and tormented by grief, by doubt or despair. It is, none
the less, in both our poetry and in that of the Portuguese tongue, the
supreme book of love, the noblest, the purest, the most deeply felt,
the most beautiful that has been written in that tongue since Bernardim
Ribeiro and the sonnets of Camões.”[9]

Of the work of Alvarenga Peixoto, translator of Maffei’s _Merope_,
author of a score of sonnets, some odes and _lyras_ and the _Canto
Genethliaco_, little need here be said. The _Canto Genethliaco_ is
a baptismal offering in verse, written for the Captain-General D.
Rodrigo José de Menezes in honour of his son Thomaz; it is recalled
mainly for its “nativism,” which, as is the case with the epic-writers,
is not inconsistent with loyalty to the crown. There is a certain
Brazilianism, too, as Wolf noted, in his _Ide to Maria_.

As Gonzaga had his Marilia, so the youngest of the Mineira group,
Silva Alvarenga, had his Glaura. In him, more than in any other of the
lyrists, may be noted the stirrings of the later romanticism. He strove
after, and at times achieved a _côr americana_ (“American color”),
and although he must introduce mythological figures upon the native
scene, he had the seeing eye. Carvalho considers him the link between
the Arcadians and the Romantics, “the transitional figure between
the seventeenth-century of Claudio and the subjectivism of Gonçalves
Dias.” To the reader in search of esthetic pleasure he is not such
good company as Gonzaga and Marilia, though he possesses a certain
communicative ardour.


IV

The question of the authorship of the _Cartas Chilenas_, salient
among satirical writings of the eighteenth century, has long troubled
historical critics. In 1863, when the second edition of the poem
appeared, it was signed Gonzaga, and later opinion tends to reinforce
that claim. If the query as to authorship is a matter more for history
than for literature, so too, one may believe, is the poem itself,
which, in the figure of _Fanfarrão Minezio_ travesties the Governor
Luis da Cunha Menezes.[10]

Like Gregorio de Mattos, the author of the _Cartas_ is a spiteful
scorpion. But he has a deeper knowledge of things and there is more
humanity to his bitterness. “Here the Europeans diverted themselves by
going on the hunt for savages, as if hot on the chase of wild beasts
through the thickets,” he growls in one part. “There was one who gave
his cubs, as their daily food, human flesh; wishing to excuse so grave
a crime he alleged that these savages, though resembling us in outward
appearance, were not like us in soul.” He flays the loose manners of
his day--thankless task of the eternal satirist!--that surrounded
the petty, sensuous tyrant. There is, in his lines, the suggestion
of reality, but it is a reality that the foreigner, and perhaps the
Brazilian himself, must reconstruct with the aid of history, and this
diminishes the appeal of the verses. One need not have known Marilia
to appreciate her lover’s rhymes; the _Cartas Chilenas_, on the other
hand, require a knowledge of Luiz de Menezes’ epoch.

The lesser poets of the era may be passed over with scant mention. Best
of them all is Domingos Caldas Barbosa (1740-1800) known to his New
Arcadia as Lereno and author of an uneven collection marred by frequent
improvisation. The prose of the century, inferior to the verse,
produced no figures that can claim space in so succinct an outline as
this.


V

On January 23, 1808, the regent Dom João fled from Napoleon to
Brazil, thus making the colony the temporary seat of the Portuguese
realm. The psychological effect of this upon the growing spirit of
independence was tremendous; so great, indeed, was Dom João’s influence
upon the colony that he has been called the founder of the Brazilian
nationality. The ports of the land, hitherto restricted to vessels
of the Portuguese monarchy, were thrown open to the world; the first
newspapers appeared; Brazil, having tasted the power that was bestowed
by the mere temporary presence of the monarch upon its soil, could not
well relinquish this supremacy after he departed in 1821. The era,
moreover, was one of colonial revolt; between 1810 and 1826 the Spanish
dependencies of America rose against the motherland and achieved their
own freedom; 1822 marks the establishment of the independent Brazilian
monarchy.

Now begins a literature that may be properly called national, though
even yet it wavered between the moribund classicism and the nascent
romanticism, even as the form of government remained monarchial on its
slow and dubious way to republicanism. Arcadian imagery still held sway
in poetry and there was a decline from the originality of the Mineira
group.

Souza Caldas (1762-1814) and São Carlos (1763-1829) represent,
together with José Eloy Ottoni (1764-1851), the religious strains
of the Brazilian lyre. The first, influenced by Rousseau, is
avowedly Christian in purpose but the inner struggle that produced
his verses makes of him a significant figure in a generally sterile
era, and his _Ode ao homen selvagem_ contains lines of appeal to our
own contemporary dubiety. São Carlos’s mystic poem _A Assumpção da
Santissima Virgem_ possesses, today, merely the importance of its
nativistic naïveté; for the third Canto, describing Paradise, he makes
extensive use of the Brazilian flora. There is, too, a long description
of Rio de Janeiro which describes very little. José Eloy Ottoni,
more estimable for his piety and his patriotism than for his poetry,
translated the Book of Job as Souza Caldas did the Psalms, and with
great success.

Though these religious poets are of secondary importance to letters,
they provided one of the necessary ingredients of the impending
Romantic triumph; their Christian outlook, added to nationalism, tended
to produce, as Wolf has indicated, a genuinely Brazilian romanticism.

Head and shoulders above these figures stands the patriarchal form
of José Bonifacio de Andrade e Silva, (1763-1838) one of the most
versatile and able men of his day. His scientific accomplishments
have found ample chronicling in the proper places; quickly he won a
reputation throughout Europe. “The name of José Bonifacio,” wrote
Varnhagen, “ … is so interwoven with all that happened in the domains
of politics, literature and the sciences that his life encompasses the
history of a great period.…” His poems, in all truth but a small part
of his labours, were published in 1825 under the Arcadian name of
Americo Elysio. They are, like himself, a thing of violent passions. In
_Aos Bahianos_ he exclaims:

        Amei a liberdade e a independencia
        Da doce cara patria, a quem o Luso
        Opprimia sem dó, com risa e mofa:
        Eis o meu crime todo![11]

Yet this is but half the story, for the savant’s political life traced
a by no means unwavering line. Two years before the publication of
his poems he who so much loved to command fell from power with the
dissolution of the Constituinte and he reacted in characteristic
violence. Brazilians no longer loved liberty:

        Mas de tudo acabou da patria gloria!
        Da liberdade o brado, que troava
        Pelo inteiro Brasil, hoje enmudece,
        Entre grilhoes e mortes.

        Sobre sus ruinas gemem, choram,
        Longe da patria os filhos foragidos:
        Accusa-os de traição, porque o amavam,
        Servil infame bando.[12]

A number of other versifiers and prose writers are included by
Brazilians in their accounts of the national letters; Romero, indeed,
with a conception of literature more approaching that of sociology than
of belles lettres, expatiates with untiring gusto upon the work of a
formidable succession of mediocrities. We have neither the space nor
the patience for them here.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is during the early part of the period epitomized in this chapter
that Brazilian literature, born of the Portuguese, began to be drawn
upon by the mother country. “In the last quarter of the eighteenth
century,” quotes Verissimo from Theophilo Braga’s _Filinto Elysio_,
“Portuguese poetry receives an impulse of renovation from several
Brazilian talents.… They call to mind the situation of Rome, when the
literary talents of the Gauls, of Spain and of Northern Africa, enrich
Latin literature with new creations.”

The period as a whole represents a decided step forward from the
inchoate ramblings of the previous epoch. Yet, with few exceptions, it
is of interest rather in retrospection, viewed from our knowledge of
the romantic movement up to which it was leading.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The original title was spelled _Uraguay_. Later writers either
retain the first or replace it with the more common _u_.

[2] _Estudos._ Segunda Serie, pp. 89-129.

[3] In Portuguese literature, as Verissimo points out in his
interesting parallel between the two epics, it is no easy matter
to indicate the exact line between classic and romantic styles. A
Frenchman has even spoken of the romanticism of the classics, which is
by no means merely a sample of Gallic paradox. The Brazilian critic
considers France the only one of the neo-Latin literatures that may
be said to possess a genuinely classic period. As I have tried to
suggest here and elsewhere, we have need of a change in literary
terminology; classic and romantic are hazy terms that should, in time,
be supplanted by something more in consonance with the observations of
modern psychology. The emphasis, I would say, should be shifted from
the subject-matter and external aspects to the psychology of the writer
and his intuitive approach. The distinctions have long since lost
their significance and should therefore be replaced by a more adequate
nomenclature.

[4] Long before Verissimo, Wolf (1863) had written in his pioneer work
already referred to, “Thus José Basilio da Gama and Durão only prepared
the way for Magalhães and Gonçalves Dias.”

[5] The natives named him _Caramurú_, whence the name of the epic. The
word has been variously interpreted as signifying “dragon risen out of
the sea” (Rocha Pitta) and “son of the thunder” (Durão’s own version),
referring in the first instance to the man’s rescue from the wreck
and in the second to his arquebuse. Verissimo rejects any such poetic
interpretation and makes the topic food for fruitful observation. He
considers the Brazilian savage, as any other, of rudimentary and scant
imagination, incapable of lofty metaphorical flights. “The Indians,
infinitely less poetic than the poets who were to sing them, called
Diogo Alvares as they were in the habit of calling themselves, by
the name of an animal, tree or something of the sort. They named him
Caramurú, the name of a fish on their coast, because they caught him
in the sea or coming out of it. And to this name they added nothing
marvellous, as our active imagination has pictured.” And “this very
sobriquet as well as the epoch in which it was applied, are still
swathed in legend.”

[6] The light of her eyes is extinguished, she swoons and trembles; her
face grows pale, her look is deathly; her hands, now strengthless, let
go the rudder and she descends to the bottom of the briny waves. But
returning from the depths to the waves of the sea, which quivers in
fury, “Oh, cruel Diogo!” she said in grief. And unseen ever after, she
was engulfed by the waters.

[7] How happy were the world, if, with the remembrance of love and
glory lost, the recollection of pleasures would likewise be consumed
forever! But worst and saddest grief of all is to find that at no time
is this fantastic victory of love transitory, for always it is repeated
in remembrance. Lovers, you who burn in this fire, flee Love’s venomous
assault that it holds for you there in later days. Let not treacherous
contentment deceive you; for this present pleasure, when it has passed,
will remain as a tormenting memory.

[8] I gaze, comely Marilia, at your tresses; and I behold in your
cheeks the jessamine and the rose; I see your beautiful eyes, your
pearly teeth and your winsome features. He who created so perfect and
entrancing a work, my fairest Marilia, likewise could make the sky and
more, if more there be.

[9] _Estudos._ Segunda Serie, pp. 217-218.

[10] For Romero’s strenuous attempt to prove the _Cartas_ the work of
Alvarenga Peixoto, see his _Historia_, Volume I, pages 207-211.

[11] I loved the liberty and independence of my dear sweet fatherland,
which the Portuguese pitilessly oppressed with laughter and scorn. This
is my sole crime!

[12] The glory of the fatherland is wholly gone. The cry of liberty
that once thundered through Brazil now is mute amidst chains and
corpses. Over its ruins, far from their fatherland, weep its wandering
sons. Because they loved it, they are accused of treason, by an
infamous, truckling band.



CHAPTER IV

THE ROMANTIC TRANSFORMATION (1830-1870)

    New Currents in Brazilian Poetry--Gonçalves de Magalhães,
    Gonçalves Dias, Alvarez de Azevedo, Castro Alves--Lesser
    Figures--Beginnings of the Brazilian Novel--Manoel de Macedo,
    José de Alencar, Taunay and Others--The Theatre.


I

Though usually associated with French literature, the Romanticism
of the first half of the nineteenth century, like that later
neo-romanticism which nurtured the Symbolist and the Decadent schools
of the second half, came originally from Germany, and was in essence a
philosophy of self-liberation.[1] In Brazil it is thus in part applied
suggestion rather than spontaneous creation. But national creative
production thrives on cross-fertilization and self-made literatures
are as unthinkable as self-made men. There is marked difference
between mere imitation and subjection to valid influence, and few
literary phenomena in the history of the new-world literature, north or
south of Panama, attest the truth of this better than Brazil’s period
of Romanticism; this is the richest--if not the most refined--of its
intellectual epochs. Brazilian culture is thrown open to the currents
of European thought, as its ports with the advent of João VI had been
thrown open to European commerce, and receives from romanticism, in the
words of Wolf, the “ideal consecration” of its nativism. And herein,
of course, lies the great distinction between the mere nativism which
is so easily taken for a national note, and that nationalism which
adds to the exaltation of the milieu the spiritual consciousness of
unity and independence. A national literature, in the fuller sense, is
now possible because it is the expression not solely of an aspiration
but of partial accomplishment, with a historic background in fact.
Poetry becomes more varied; the novel takes more definite form; genuine
beginnings are made in the theatre, though, despite valiant attempts
to prove the contrary, the Brazilian stage is the least of its glories.

Carvalho, selecting the four representative poets of the period, has
characterized each by the trait most prominent in his work. Thus
Gonçalves de Magalhães (1811-1882) stands for the religious phase of
Brazilian romanticism; Gonçalves Dias (1823-1864) for the naturistic;
Alvarez de Azevedo (1831-1852) for the poetry of doubt, and Castro
Alves (1847) for the muse of social reclamation, particularly the
abolition of black slavery. This group is but a solo quartet in a
veritable chorus of singers that provides a variegated setting. The
individual songs resound now more clearly, like so many strains in
the polyphonic hymn of national liberation. The salient four are
by no means restricted to the style of verse indicated by their
classification, but such a grouping helps to emphasize the main
currents of the new poetry.


II

In 1832, when Magalhães published his first collection, _Poesias_, he
was a conventional worshipper of the Portuguese classics. A visit
to Europe in 1833 converted him thoroughly to French Romanticism and
when, three years later, he issued the _Suspiros poeticos e Saudades_
(Poetic Sighs and Longings), the very title proclaimed the advent of a
new orientation. His invocation to the angel of poesy is in itself a
miniature declaration of poetic independence:

        Ja nova Musa
        meu canto inspira;
        não mais empunho
        profana lyra.

        Minha alma, imita
        a natureza;
        quem vencer pode
        sua belleza?

        De dia, de noite
        Louva o Senhor;
        Canta os prodigios
        Do Creador.[2]

The chaste virgins of Greece, as he announces in the lines preceding
this virtual, if distinctly minor _ars poetica_, have fascinated his
childhood enough. Farewell Homer; the poet will dream now of his native
land and sigh, amid the cypress, a song made of his own griefs and
longings. Nature, fatherland and God guiding humanity are the trinity
of his emblem. They are his constant thought at home and abroad.
“Nothing for me,” he exclaims in his _Deos e o Homem_, written in
the Alps in 1834, “for my fatherland all.” In these _Suspiros_ form
becomes fairly free, rhythm alters with change in the thought; it is
difficult to point to anything in them that has not already appeared in
Brazilian poetry from the earliest days, but the same outward elements
of religion, patriotism and subjectivity have been fused into a more
personal, more appealing product. _Os Mysterios_, a funereal canticle
in memory of his children, published in Paris in 1858, is in eight
cantos that sing the triumph of faith. As he wrote in his philosophical
work issued in this same year, _Factos de Espiritu Humano_: “This world
would be a horrible comedy, a causeless illusion, and human existence
a jest perpetrated by nothingness,--all would be but a lie, if there
were not a just and kind God!… That which is absurd cannot be true. God
exists and the human spirit is immortal in that knowledge.” There is
the kernel of his poetry. _Urania_, Vienna 1862, chants love through
the symbol of his wife. The epic attempt, _A Confederação dos Tamoyos_,
in ten cantos, is noteworthy not so much for lofty flights as for its
evidence of the author’s blending of the patriotic and the religious
motives. The attitude toward the Jesuit missionaries is the opposite to
the stand taken by Basilio da Gama in the _Uruguay_; they alone among
the Portuguese are worthy; the Indians yield at last to civilization,
but they are idealized into defenders of justice against the Portuguese
exploiters.

In his epic he underwent the influence of Gonçalves Dias, as did Manoel
de Araujo Porto-Alegre (1806-1879) in his _Brazilianas_ (1863). This
noted painter was also affected by the free metrical structure of the
_Suspiros_ of Magalhães, as he revealed in _A voz da Natureza_ of
1835. The boresome epic _Colombo_, seeking inspiration in the great
discoverer, is commendable for imagination rather than truly creative
poetry.

Gonçalves Dias is more lyrical in spirit than Magalhães, who was rather
the meditative worshipper. The poet of nature was the first to reveal
to Brazilians in its full significance the pride of nationality, to
such an extent, indeed, that his “Americanism” became a blind hostility
toward Europe as being only a source of evil to the new continent. In
him flowed the blood of all three races that make up the Brazilian
blend and he has celebrated each of the strains,--the Indian in
_Os Tymbiras_, _Poema Americano_, the African in _A Escrava_, the
Portuguese in the _Sextilhas de Frei Antão_. To this blend Carvalho,
not without justice, attributes the inner turmoil of the poet’s soul.
He is religious in his patriotism, just as Magalhães is patriotic
in his religion, but if his aversion to Europe is unreasoning, his
patriotism is not a blind flag-waving:

        A patria é onde quer a vida temos
          Sem penar e sem dor;
        Onde rostos amigos nos rodeam,
          Onde temos amor;

        Onde vozes amigas nos consolam,
          Na nossa desventura,
        Onde alguns olhos chorarão doridos
          Na erma sepultura.[3]

It is with the name of Gonçalves Dias that “Indianism” in Brazilian
poetry is most closely associated. As we have already seen, Verissimo
indicates an important difference between this “second” type and the
first that appeared in the epics of the Mineira poets. The native was
exalted not so much for his own sake as by intense reaction against
the former oppressors of the nation. As early as the date of Brazil’s
declaration of Independence (September 7, 1822), numerous families had
foresworn their Portuguese patronymics and adopted indigenous names;
idealization in actual life could not go much farther. In literature
such Indianism, as in the case of Gonçalves Dias, could serve the
purpose of providing a highly colourful background for the poetic
exploitation of the native scene.

Verissimo would call Gonçalves Dias the greatest Brazilian poet,
though the noted critic discovers more genius in Basilio da Gama and
in Alvares de Azevedo and even Laurindo Rabello,--more philosophical
emotion in Junqueira Freire. And before the national criticism had
awarded Gonçalves Dias that place of honour, the people had granted
it. “The history of our Romanticism will recognize that the strength
of this spiritual movement came not alone from the talent of its chief
authors, but from their communion with the milieu, from the sympathy
which they found there. Our literature was then for the first time, and
perhaps the last, social.” Gonçalves Dias, in his _Canção de Exilio_,
captured the soul of his people with a simple lyrism that the slightest
exaggeration might have betrayed into sentimental doggerel.

        Minha terra tem palmeiras,
        Onde canta o sabiá;
        As aves que aqui gorgeam,
        Não gorgeião como lá.[4]

These stanzas, set to music, became the property of the nation. “If,
like the Hebrews, we were to lose our fatherland, our song of exile
would be already to hand in the _Canção_ of Gonçalves Dias. With it
he reached and conquered the people and our women, who are--in all
respects--the chief element in the fame and success of poets. And not
only the people, but Brazilian literature and poetry. Since that time
the poet is rare who does not sing his land.

“‘All chant their fatherland,’ runs a verse by Casimiro de Abreu, whose
nostalgia proceeds directly from the _Canção_ of Gonçalves Dias. Nor
does he hide this, calling part of his verses, _Canções do Exilio_.
And to the name of Casimiro de Abreu we can add, following in the wake
of the poet of Maranhão, Magalhaes, Porto Alegre, Alvares de Azevedo,
Laurindo Rabello, Junqueira Freire and almost all his contemporaries.
In all you will find that song, expressed as conscious or disguised
imitation. Dominated by the emotion of the Song of Exile, Brazil made
of Gonçalves Dias her favorite poet, the elect of her feelings. The
nativist instinct, so characteristic of peoples in their infancy, found
also a sympathetic echo in his _Poesias Americanas_, and received as
a generous reparation the idealization of our primitive inhabitants
and their deeds, without inquiring into what there was in common
between them and us, into the fidelity of those pictures and how far
they served the cause of a Brazilian literature. His lyrism, of an
intensity which then could be compared in our language only to that
of Garrett,[5] whose influence is evident in it, found similarly a
response in the national feeling.”

Verissimo, somewhat sceptical in the matter of love as experienced
by poets, does not even care whether love in Gonçalves Dias was
imaginary or real. He counts it the distinguishing trait of the
poet that his love poems move the reader with the very breath of
authenticity. “I find in them the external theme translated into
other words, into another form, perhaps another manner, but with the
same lofty generality with which it was sung by the truly great, the
human poets. In him love is not the sensual, carnal, morbid desire of
Alvares de Azevedo; the wish for caresses, the yearning for pleasure
characteristic of Casimiro de Abreu, or the amorous, impotent fury
of Junqueira Freire. It it the great powerful feeling purified by
idealization,--the love that all men feel,--not the individual passion,
the personal, limited case.”

I am not so inclined as Verissimo to accept at full value the
statements of poets like Gonçalves Dias that they have never felt love.
It is rather that they have never found it as they have visioned it.
Indeed, this is just what Gonçalves Dias himself has written:

        O amor que eu tanto amava de imo peito
        Que nunca pude achar.

        The love that so much I loved in my innermost heart,
        And that never I could find.

The poet who wrote the lines that follow, with their refrain,

        Isso é amor e desse amor se morre

        This is love, the love of which one dies

must have been something more than the man gifted with divination that
Verissimo would make of him. I would hazard the guess that Verissimo’s
deductions are based on a certain personal passionlessness of the
critic himself, whose writings reveal just such an idealizer of love as
he would find in Gonçalves Dias.

        Amor é vida; é ter constantemente
        Alma, sentidos, coração--abertos
        Ao grande, ao bello; é ser capaz de extremos,
        D’altas virtudes, até capaz de crimes;
        Comprehender o infinito, a immensidade,
        E a natureza e Deus, gostar des campos;
        D’aves, flores, murmurios solitarios;
        Buscar tristeza, a soledade, o ermo,
        E ter o coração em riso e festa;
        E á branda festa, ao riso da nossa alma
        Fontes de pranto intercalar sem custo;
        Conhecer o prazer e a desventura
        No mesmo tempo e ser no mesmo ponto
        O ditoso, o miserrimo dos entes:
        Isso é amor e desse amor se morre!
        Amar, e não saber, não ter coragem
        Para dizer o amor que em nos sentimos;
        Temer que olhos profanos nos devassem
        O templo, onde a melhor porção da vida
        Se concentra; onde avaros recatamos
        Essa fonte de amor, esses thesouros
        Inesgotaveis, de illusoes floridas;
        Sentir, sem que se veja, a quem se adora,
        Comprehender, sem lhe ouvir, seus pensamentos,
        Seguil-a, sem poder fitar seus olhos,
        Amal-a, sem ousar dizer que amamos,
        E, temendo roçar os seus vestidos,
        Arder por afogal-a em mil abraços:
        Isso é amor e desse amor se morre![6]

Yet from Gonçalves Dias to the refined, clamant voluptuousness of
Olavo Bilac is a far cry. The reason for the difference is to be
sought rather in personal constitution than in poetic creed. Even the
Romantics differ markedly from one another, and though the Brazilian
muse is an ardent lady (a truth which, as we shall see, rendered
anything like a genuine Parnassianism fairly impossible in Brazil)
Gonçalves Dias is after all restrained in his expression of a passion
which clearly he felt. The passage just quoted, with all deference
to Verissimo, is not great poetry, and precisely because it is too
general. It is statement, not the unfolding of passion in a form
spontaneously created. It proves that Gonçalves Dias loved,--one woman
or many,--but it reveals rather a certain incapacity to generalize than
a faculty for transposing the particular into the universal.

Alvares de Azevedo is the standard-bearer of the Brazilian Byronists,
but he should not be classed offhand as a mere echoer of the
Englishman’s strophes. His _Lira dos Veinte Annos_ is exactly what
the title announces; the lyre of a twenty-year-old, which, though
its strings give forth romantic strains of bitterness and melancholy
and imagination that have become associated with Byron, Musset and
Leopardi, sounds an individual note as well. The poet died in his
twenty-first year; it was a death that he foresaw and that naturally
coloured his verses. “Eat, drink and love; what can the rest avail us?”
was the epigraph he took from Byron for his _Vagabundo_. His brief,
hectic career had no time for meticulous polishing of lines; if the
statue did not come out as at first he desired, he broke it rather
than recast the metal. Not a little of his proclamative rhyming is the
swagger of his youth, which is capable, at times, of giving to a poem
so banal a quadruplicative title as “’Tis she! ’Tis she! ’Tis she!
’Tis she!” With the frustrated ambitions of weakness he longed for
illimitable power. In the _12 de Setembro_ (his birthday) he exclaims:

        Fôra bello talvez sentir no craneo
        A alma de Goethe, e reunir na fibra
          Byron, Homero e Dante;
        Sonhar-se n’um delirio momentaneo
        A alma da creação, e som que vibra
          A terra palpitante.[7]

Like the hero of _Aucassin et Nicolette_, he prefers hell to heaven for
a dwelling-place.

        No inferno estão suavissimas bellezas,
        Cleopatras, Helenas, Eleonoras;
        La se namora em boa companhia,
        Não pode haver inferno com Senhoras![8]

he declares in _O Poeta Moribundo_.

He is Brazil’s sick child par excellence, ill, like so many after him,
with the malady of the century. But one must guard against attributing
this to the morbid pose that comes so easy at twenty. Pose there was,
and flaunting satanism, but too many of these poets in Brazil, and in
the various republics of Spanish-America died young for one to doubt
their sincerity altogether. The mood is a common one to youth; in an
age that, like the romantic, made a literary fashion of their weakness,
they were bound to appear as they appeared once again when Symbolism
and the Decadents vanquished for a time the cold formalism of the
Parnassian school.

That Alvares de Azevedo, for all his millennial doubts and despairs was
a child, is attested by the following pedestrian quatrain from the poem
of the quadruplicative title:

        Mas se Werther morreu por ver Carlotta
        Dando pão com manteiga as criancinhas,
        Se achou-a assim mais bella,--eu mais te adoro
        Sonhando-te a lavar as camisinhas![9]

Thackeray’s famous parody seems here itself to be parodied. Alvares de
Azevedo’s love, if Verissimo was right, was “um amor de cabeça,”--of
the head rather than the heart, a poet’s love, the “love of love,”
without objective reality.… “It is rather a desire to love, the
aspiration for a woman ideally beloved, than a true, personal passion.
What does it matter, however, if he give us poems such as _Anima mea_,
_Vida_, _Esperanças_, and all, almost all, that he left us?”

The boy-poet is still an appreciable influence in the national letters,
as well he might be among a people inclined to moodiness; for many
years he was one of the most widely read poets of the country, in
company of his fellow-romantics, Gonçalves Dias and Castro Alves.
Among his followers are Laurindo Rabello (1826-1864), Junqueira Freire
(1832-1855) and Casimiro de Abreu (1837-1860),--not a long lived
generation. Rabello was a vagrant soul whose verses are saved by
evident sincerity. “I am not a poet, fellow mortals,” he sings, “and I
know it well. My verses, inspired by grief alone, are not verses, but
rather the cries of woe exhaled at times involuntarily by my soul.” He
is known chiefly as a _repentista_ (improvisator) and himself spread
the popularity of his verses by singing them to his own accompaniment
upon the violin. He tried to improvise life as well as verses, for he
drifted from the cloister to the army, from the army to medicine, with
a seeming congenital inability to concentrate. Misfortune tracked his
steps, and, as he has told us, wrung his songs from him. Verissimo
calls him one of the last troubadours, wandering from city to city
singing his sad verses and forcing the laugh that must entertain his
varying audiences. The popular mind so confused him with the Portuguese
Bocage that, according to the same critic, some of Bocage’s verses have
been attributed to the Brazilian.

“My pleasures,” he sings in his autobiographical poem _Minha Vida_ (My
Life) “are a banquet of tears! A thousand times you must have seen me,
happy amidst the happy, chatting, telling funny stories, laughing and
causing laughter. Life’s a drama, eh?” He is, indeed, as his lines
reveal, a Brazilian _Pagliaccio_:

        Porque julgar-se do semblante,--
        Do semblante, essa mascara de carne
        Que o homem recebeu pr’a entrar no mundo,
        O que por dentro vai? E quasi sempre,
        Si ha estio no rosto, inverno na alma.
        Confesso-me ante vos; ouvi, contentes!
        O meu riso é fingido; sim, mil vezes
        Com elle afogo os ecos de un gemido
        Que imprevisto me chega a flor dos labios;
        Mil vezes sobre as cordas afinadas
        Que tanjo, o canto meu accompanhando
        Cahe pranto.
        Eu me finjo ante vos, que o fingimento
        É no lar do prazer prudenia ao triste.[10]

Junqueira Freire is of firmer stuff, though tossed about by inner and
external vicissitudes that are mirrored in the changing facets of his
verse.

He, too, sought--with as little fundamental sincerity as Laurindo
Rabello--solace in the monastery, which he entered at the unmonastic
age of twenty as the result of being crossed in love. Of course
he thought first of suicide, but “the cell of a monk is also a
grave,”--and a grave, moreover, whence the volatile soul of youth may
rise in carnal resurrection. Junqueira Freire was the most bookish of
children. He read his way through the Scriptures, Horace, Lucretius,
Ovid (an unbiblical trio!) and imbibed modern currents through Milton,
Klopstock, De Maistre, Herculano, Garrett, Lamartine, Hugo. His prose
critiques are really remarkable in so young a person, and one sentence
upon philosophy is wiser by far than many a tome penned by the erudite.
Philosophy he found to be a “vain poetry, not of description but of
ratiocination, nothing true, everything beautiful; rather art than
science; rather a cupola than a foundation.” Such a view of philosophy
is of course not new, though it is none too current. It is brilliant
for a mere youth of Romanticist Brazil--an intuitive forecast, as it
were, of Croce’s philosophy of the intuition.

Soon weary of the cloister walls, our poet sang his disillusionment
in lines that turn blasphemous, even as the mother in _Meu filho no
claustro_ curses the God that “tore from my arms my favorite son.…”
“We all illude ourselves!” “We conceive an eternal paradise and when
greedily we reach after it, we find an inferno.”

He is, as an artist, distinctly secondary. He is more the poet in his
prose than in his poems, and I am inclined to think that his real
personality resides there.

Casimiro de Abreu, in Carvalho’s words, “is the most exquisite singer
of _saudades_ in the older Brazilian poetry;[11] his work is a cry of
love for all that lay far away from him, his country and his family,
whom he left when but a child.”

        Meu Deus, eu sinto e tu bem ves que eu morro
          Respirando este ar;
        Faz que eu viva, Senhor! dá-me de novo
          Os gozos de meu lar!

        Quero dormir a sombra dos coqueiros,
          As folhas por docel:
        E ver se apanho a borboleta branca
          Que voa no vergel!

        Quero sentar-me a beira do riacho
          Das tardes ao cahir,
        E sosinho scismando no crepusculo
          Os sonhos de porvir!

        Dá-me os sitios gentis onde eu brincava,
          Lá na quadra infantil;
        Da que eu veja uma vez o céu da patria
          O céu do meu Brazil!

        Minha campa será entre as mangueiras
          Banhada ao luar,
        Eu contente dormirei tranquillo
          A sombra do meu lar!

        As cachoeiras chorarão sentidas
          Porque cedo morri,
        E eu sonho ne sepulcro os meus amores,
          Na terra onde nasci![12]

In his study of Casimiro de Abreu Verissimo has some illuminating
things to say of love and wistful longing (_amor e saudade_) in
connection with the poet’s patriotism in especial and with love of
country in general. “It is under the influence of nostalgia and love,
for both in him are really an ailment--that he begins to sing of
Brazil. But the Brazil that he sings in such deeply felt verses, the
Patria that he weeps … is the land in which were left the things he
loves and chiefly that unknown girl to whom he dedicated his book. The
longing for his country, together with the charms that this yearning
increased or created, is what made him a patriot, if, with this
restriction may be applied to him an epithet that from my pen is not
a token of praise. His nostalgia is above all the work of love,--not
only the beloved woman, but all that this loving nature loved,--the
native soil, the paternal house, country life.… Without these two
feelings, love and longing, the love of country is anti-esthetic. If
_Os Lusiadas_, with the intense patriotism that overflows it, is the
great poem it is, it owes this greatness to them alone. It is love and
longing, the anxious nostalgia of the absent poet and the deep grief of
a high passion that impart to it its most pathetic accents, its most
lyric notes, its most human emotions, such as the speeches of Venus and
Jupiter, the sublime episode of D. Ignes de Castro, that of Adamastor,
the Isle of Love.…”[13]

In Fagundes Varella (1841-1875) we have a disputed figure of the
Romantic period. Verissimo denies him originality except in the
_Cantico de Calvario_, “where paternal love found the most eloquent,
most moving, most potent representation that we have ever read in any
language,” while Carvalho, championing his cause, yet discovers in him
a mixture of Alvares de Azevedo’s Byronic satanism, Gonçalves Dias’s
Indianism and the _condoreirismo_ of Castro Alves and Tobias Barreto.
He is a lyrist of popular inspiration and appeal, and “one of our best
descriptive poets.…” “Varella, then, together with Machado de Assis and
Luis Guimarães Junior, is a transitional figure between Romanticism and
Parnassianism.”

The influence of Victor Hugo’s _Les Châtiments_ was great throughout
South America and in Brazil brought fruit chiefly in Tobias Barreto
and Castro Alves, the salient representatives of the so-called
_condoreirismo_; like the condor their language flew to grandiloquent
heights, whence the name, for which in English we have a somewhat
less flattering counterpart in the adjective “spread-eagle.” Barreto
(1839-1889) belongs rather to the history of Brazilian culture; he
was largely responsible for the introduction of modern German thought
and exerted a deep influence upon Sylvio Romero. Alves was less
educated--his whole life covers but a span of twenty-four years--but
what he lacked in learning he made up in sensitivity and imagination.
Though he can be tender with the yearnings of a sad youth, he becomes a
pillar of fire when he is inspired by the cause of abolition.

Romero, with his customary appetite for a fight, has, despite his
denials of preoccupation with mere questions of priority, given himself
no little trouble to prove Barreto’s precedence in the founding of the
_condoreiro_ school;[14] we shall leave that matter to the historians.
Brazilians themselves, as far as concerns the esthetic element
involved, have made a choice of Alves. He is one of the national poets.
His chief works are three in number: _Espumas Fluctuantes_, _Gonzaga_
(a play) and _O Poema dos Escravos_ (unfinished). Issued separately,
the _Poem of the Slaves_, is not, as its title would imply, a single
hymn to the subjected race; it is a collection of poems centering
around the theme of servitude. He does not dwell upon the details of
that subjection; he is, fundamentally, the orator. The abolition of
slavery did not come until 1888; on September 28, 1871, all persons
born in Brazil were declared free by law; it was such poems as Alves’s
_Vozes d’Africa_ and _O Navio Negreiro_ that prepared the way for
legislation which, for that matter, economic change was already fast
rendering inevitable.[15]


III

The Brazilian novel is a product of the Romantic movement. Such
precursors as Teixeira e Souza (1812-1861) and Joaquim Noberto de
Souza Silva (1820-1891) belong rather to the leisurely investigator
of origins. The real beginnings are to be appreciated in the work of
Joaquim Manoel de Macedo (1820-1882) and José de Alencar (1829-1877).

Macedo portrayed the frivolous society of the epoch of Dom Pedro
II. He was not so much a leader of taste as a skilful exploiter of
it. He has been called “par excellence the novelist of the Brazilian
woman”; we need look to him, then, for little in the way of frankness
or psychological depth. To the reader of today, who has been tossed
high in the waters of the contemporary novel, Macedo and his ilk are
tame, naïve, a mite insipid. Not that some of his pages lack a certain
piquancy in their very simplicity. His Rachel, for example, in _O Moço
Louro_ (_The Blond Young Man_) can talk like a flapper who has been
reading Bernard Shaw, but we know that love is to teach her better
in the end. Macedo was a writer for the family hearth; his language,
like his ideas, is simple. But our complex civilization has already
outdistanced him; it is not at all impossible that in a short while he
will join the other precursors and, with the exception of his books
_Moreninha_ (_The Brunette_) and _O Moço Louro_, be but a name to his
countrymen and even his countrywomen. The first, published in 1849,
made his reputation; it is a tale of the triumph of pure love. The
second is after _The Brunette_, his best-known novel, narrating the
hardly original tale of the virginal, dreamy Honorina and the free,
mocking Rachel who love the same youth; Honorina’s true love, as we
might expect, wins out, for Rachel sacrifices her passion without
letting the happy pair realize the extent of her abnegation.

“By no means should I say that he possesses the power of idealization
of José de Alencar, the somewhat _précieuse_ quality of Taunay or the
smiling, bitter pessimism of Machado de Assis; if we wish to judge him
in comparison with them or with the writers of today, his work pales;
his modest creations disappear into an inferior category. But accepting
him in the time for which he wrote, when the novel had not yet received
the Flaubertian esthetics that ennobled it and had not been enriched by
the realistic genius of Zola,--beside his contemporaries Teixeria de
Souza, Manoel de Almeida and Bernardo Guimarães, he seems to us living,
picturesque, colorful, as indeed he is. I esteem him because he has
contributed to the development and the wealth of our literature.”[16]

More important to the history and practice of the Brazilian novel
is José de Alencar, famous for his _Guarany_ and _Iracema_, the
first of which, in the form of an opera libretto set to music by the
native composer Carlos Gomes, has made the rounds of the operatic
world. Alencar is to the novel what Gonçalves Dias is to the poem:
the typical Indianist. But Brazilians find his Indianism superior to
that of the poet in both sincerity and majesty. “His Indians do not
express themselves like doctors from Coimbra; they speak as Nature
has taught them, loving, living and dying like the lesser plants and
animals of the earth. Their passions are as sudden and as violent as
the tempest,--rapid conflagrations that burst forth for an instant,
flaring, glaring and soon disappearing.”[17]

At his best Alencar is really a poet who has chosen prose as his
medium. He uses the Indian milieu, as Gonçalves Dias in his poetry,
for the descriptive opportunities it affords. Brazilians rarely speak
of his plots, which are simplicity itself; what fascinates them, even
today, is his rich palette, which challenges comparison even with
the opulent coloration of Coelho Netto and Graça Aranha. Chief among
foreign influences were the Frenchmen Chateaubriand, de Vigny, Balzac,
Dumas, Hugo. Our own Cooper, himself an “Indianist” contemporaneous
with Alencar, influenced the Brazilian innovator, but not in the manner
that Brazilian critics have seemed to discern. Alencar himself, in a
rare document, has sought to refute those who find his _Guarany_ a
novel in Cooper’s style. To him Cooper was, first of all, the “poet of
the sea.” As far as concerned American poetry, Alencar’s model (and
model is his own word) was Chateaubriand. “But my master was that
glorious Nature which surrounds me, and in particular the magnificence
of the deserts which I studied in early youth and which were the
majestic portals through which I penetrated into my country’s past.…
It was from this source, from this vast, secular book that I drew the
pages of _Guarany_ and _Iracema_ and many another.… From this source,
and not from the works of Chateaubriand, still less from those of
Cooper, which were only a copy of the sublime original that I had read
within my heart.

“Brazil, like the United States and most other countries of America,
has a period of conquest in which the invading race destroys the
indigenous. This struggle presents analogous characters because of the
similarity of the native tribes. Only in Peru and Mexico do they differ.

“Thus the Brazilian novelist who seeks the plot of his novel in this
period of invasion cannot escape a point of contact with the American
writer. But this approximation comes from history; it is inevitable and
not the result of imitation.

“If neither Chateaubriand nor Cooper had existed, the American novel
would have appeared in Brazil in due season.

“Years after having written _Guarany_” (Alencar wrote the book in his
twenty-seventh year, and would have it that the tale occurred to him
in his ninth year, as he was crossing the sertões of the North on the
road from Ceará to Bahia) “I re-read Cooper in order to verify the
observation of the critics, and I was convinced that it is of minor
importance. There is not in the Brazilian novel a single personage
whose type may be traced to the _Last of the Mohicans_, _The Spy_,
_Ontario_, _The Sappers and Lionel Lincoln_.… Cooper considers the
native from the social point of view and was, in the description
of indigenous customs, a realist.… In _Guarany_ the savage is an
ideal, which the writer tried to poetize, divesting him of the coarse
incrustation in which he was swathed by the chroniclers, and rescuing
him from the ridicule that the stultified remnants cast upon the almost
extinct race.

“But Cooper, say the critics, describes American nature. And what was
he to describe if not the scene of his drama? Walter Scott before him
had provided the model for these pen landscapes that form part of local
color.

“What should be investigated is whether the descriptions of _Guarany_
show any relationship or affinity to Cooper’s descriptions; but this is
what the critics fail to do, for it means work and requires thought.
In the meantime the comparison serves to show that they resemble each
other neither in genre nor style.”[18]

The Brazilian novelist, presenting thus his own case, hits precisely
upon those two qualities--sea lore and realism--for which Cooper
only yesterday, fifty years after Alencar wrote this piece of
auto-criticism, was rediscovered to United States readers by Professor
Carl Van Doren. “Not only did he outdo Scott in sheer accuracy,” writes
the critic of the United States novel, “but he created a new literary
type, the tale of adventure on the sea, in which, though he was to
have many followers in almost every modern language, he has not been
surpassed for vigour and swift rush of narrative.”[19]

Alencar is no realist nor is he concerned with sheer accuracy.
_Guarany_, the one book by which he is sure to be remembered for
many a year, is, as we have seen, a prose poem in which the love of
the Indian prince Pery for the white Cecy, daughter of a Portuguese
noble, is unfolded against a sumptuous tapestry of the national scene.
Alencar wrote other novels, of the cities, but in Brazilian literature
he is identified with his peculiar Indianism. From the stylistic
standpoint he has been accused of bad writing; like so many of his
predecessors--and followers--he plays occasional havoc with syntax,
as if the wild regions he depicts demanded an analogous anarchy of
language. Yet Costa, granting all this, adds that “before José de
Alencar the Portuguese language as written in Brazil was, without
exaggeration, a horrible affair. What man today possesses sufficient
courage to brave with light heart that voluminous agglomeration of
verses in the _Confederacão dos Tamoyos_, in _Colombo_, in _Caramurú_
or _Uruguay_? In prose … but let us rather not speak of it. It
is enough to read the novels of Teixeira de Souza and Manoel de
Almeida.”[20] This same style is viewed by others as a herald of the
nervous prose of another man of the sertões, Euclydes da Cunha, who has
enshrined them in one of the central works of modern Brazil.

_Sertanismo_ itself, however, was initiated by Bernardo Joaquim da
Silva Guimarães (1827-1885) in such works as _Pelo Sertão_, _Mauricio_,
_Escrava Isaura_. He was followed in this employment of the sertão as
material for fiction by Franklin Tavora (1842-1888) and particularly
Escragnole Taunay (1843-1899), whose _Innocencia_, according to
Verissimo, is one of the country’s few genuinely original novels.
Mérou, in 1900, called it “the best novel written in South America by
a South American,”--a compliment later paid by Guglielmo Ferrero to
Graça Aranha’s _Chanaan_. Viscount Taunay’s famous work--one might call
it one of the central productions of Brazilian fiction--is but scant
fare to the contemporary appetite in fiction, yet it has been twice
translated into French, and has been put into English, Italian, German,
Danish and even Japanese.

The scene is laid in the deserted Matto Grosso, a favourite background
of the author’s. Innocencia, all that her name implies, dwells
secluded with her father, a miner, her negress slave Conga and her
Caliban-like dwarf Tico, who is in love with Innocencia, the Miranda of
this district. Into her life comes the itinerant physician Cirino de
Campos, who is called by her father to cure her of the fever. Cirino
proves her Ferdinand; they make love in secret, for she is meant by
paternal arrangement for a mere brute of a mule-driver, Manecão by
name. Innocencia vows herself to Cirino, when the mule-driver comes to
enforce his prior claim; the father, bound by his word of honour, sides
with the primitive lover. Innocencia resists; Manecão avenges himself
by killing the doctor. A comic figure of a German scientist adds humour
and a certain poignant irony to the tale.

Students of Spanish-American letters are acquainted with the Colombian
novel _Maria_ by the half-Jew Jorge Isaacs; it has been termed
a sister work to _Innocencia_ and if it happens to be, as is my
opinion, superior to the Brazilian, a comparison reveals complementary
qualities in each. The Spanish-American work is rather an idyll,
instinct with poetry; _Innocencia_, by no means devoid of poetry,
is more melodramatic and of stouter texture. Taunay, in Brazilian
fiction, is noted for having introduced an element of moderation in
passion and characterization, due perhaps to his French provenience.
His widely-known account of an episode in the war with Paraguay was,
indeed, first written in French.

Manoel Antonio de Almeida (1830-1861) in his _Memorias de um Sargento
de Milicias_ had made a premature attempt to introduce the realistic
novel; his early death robbed the nation of a most promising figure.


IV

The theatrical literature of Brazil is poor; the origin of the modern
drama is generally attributed to Magalhães’ tragedy upon Antonio José,
1838, and to the comedies of Luis Carlos Martins Penna (1815-1848). Of
drama there is no lack; all that is needed is the dramatist. Martins
Penna stands out easily from the ruck for elementary realism, but he is
almost alone. Even today, the plays of Claudio de Souza, for all their
success upon the stage, cannot compare with the quality that may be
encountered in contemporary poetry, novels and tales.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Romantic period in Brazil is distinguished as much for activity
as for actual accomplishment; historically it is of prime importance
in the national development, while esthetically it reveals a certain
broadening of interests. The national writer, as a type, has attained
his majority; he gazes upon broader horizons. Yet take away _Guarany_,
_Iracema_, _Innocencia_, _O Moço Louro_, _Moreninha_, and what,
really, is left in prose? The poets fare better; they are nearer to
the sentient heart of things. Yet implacable esthetic criteria would
do away with much of their product as well. It is by such tokens as
these that one may recognize the secondary importance of the national
letters, for, of course, Brazilian letters do not constitute a major
literature. Here it is the salient individual that counts, and I, for
one, am inclined to think that in art such an individual, as bodied
forth in his work, is the _only_ thing that counts. The rest--genres,
evolution, periods,--is important in the annals of national
development; it is, however, sociology, history, what you will, but not
the primary concern of art.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] “True Romanticism,” says Wolf, “is nothing other than the
expression of a nation’s genius unrestrained by the trammels of
convention.” He would derive the name through the same reasoning that
called the _lingua romana rustica_ (country Roman speech) Romance, as
in the phrase Romance Languages, in opposition to the learned Latin
known as the _sermo urbanus_, or language of the city. Such liberation
as Wolf points out, was the work of German criticism. “The Germans
avenged themselves for the double servitude, political and literary,
with which the French had so long oppressed them, by at last delivering
the people from the pseudo-classic fetters.” A service they performed
a half-century later, as we have suggested, bringing a new breath to
the later pseudo-classicism of the Parnassians. The real contribution
of the so-called Romantic movement, then, was one of release from
academically organized repression,--repression in form, in thought, in
expression, which are but so many aspects of the genetic impulse, and
not detachable entities that may be re-arranged at will. The measure of
literary repression may be taken as one of the measures of classicism;
the measure of release from that repression may be taken as one of
the measures of romanticism. To argue in favour of one or the other
or to attempt to draw too definite a line between them is a futile
implication of the possibility of uniformity and, moreover, is to shift
the criteria of art from an esthetic to a moralistic basis. There are
really as many “isms” as there are creative individuals; classic and
romantic are aspects of all creative endeavour rather than definite and
opposing qualities. The observation which I translate herewith from
Wolf relates Romanticism to its originally individualistic importance
as applied to nations. “The accessory ideas that have been grafted upon
that of Romanticism as a result of its decadence,” writes the German
critic, “serve only to confuse the etymological and historical truth of
this definition. It is for the same reasons that the art of the Middle
Ages, proper to modern peoples and opposed to antiquity, has been named
Romantic, or rather, Roman. In order to re-establish the continuity of
their spontaneous development and to paralyze the modern influence of
the humanists, the reformists, classicism and rationalism, these same
peoples had to turn back and drink from the ever abundant springs of
the Middle Ages,--a brilliant epoch of development which was more in
conformity with their genius. This is another reason why the two terms
Middle Ages and Romanticism have been confused. But as this poetry and
art of the Middle Ages are bigoted, excessively idealistic, taking
pleasure in mysticism and the fantastic, these diverse acceptations
have been wrongly given to romanticism. Taking the accessory for the
central nucleus, modern romanticism has caricatured all this and
discredited true romanticism, so that the name in the realms of art has
been applied to everything that is subjective, arbitrary, nebulous,
capricious and without fixed form.”

[2] A new Muse now inspires my song. No more do I grasp the pagan lyre.
My soul, imitate nature. Who can surpass her beauty? By day, by night,
sing praises to the Lord; chant the wonders of the Creator.

[3] Our fatherland is wherever we live a life free of pain and grief;
where friendly faces surround us, where we have love; where friendly
voices console us in our misfortune and where a few eyes will weep
their sorrow over our solitary grave.

[4] My land has graceful palm-trees, where sings the _sabiá_. The birds
that warble here (i. e., in Portugal, where he wrote the poem) don’t
warble as ours over there.

[5] The critic here refers to João Baptista da Silva Leitão Almeida
Garrett (1799-1854) who together with Alexandre Herculano (1810-1877)
dominated the Portuguese Romantic epoch.

[6] Love is life; it is to hold one’s soul, one’s senses, one’s heart,
open ever to the great, the beautiful; to be capable of extremes,
of lofty virtues and lowest crimes; to understand the infinite, the
vastness, Nature and God, to enjoy the fields; the birds, the flowers,
solitary murmurs; to seek sadness, solitude, the desert, to fill the
heart with laughter and festivity; and to inundate the smiling fête,
the laughter of our soul, with fountains of tears; to know pleasure
and misfortune at the same time and to be at once the happiest and the
most wretched of mortals: This is love, the love of which one dies.
To love, and not know, not possess the courage to speak the love we
feel within us; to fear lest profane eyes cast their defiling glance
into the temple where is concentrated the best portion of our lives;
where like misers we conceal this fountain of love, these inexhaustible
treasures of flourishing illusions; to feel the presence of the adored
one, though she be not seen, to understand, without hearing her speak,
her thoughts; to follow her, without being able to gaze into her eyes;
to love her without being able to say that we love. And, fearing to
brush her garments, to burn to stifle her in a thousand embraces. This
is love, the love of which one dies!

[7] It were beautiful to feel in one’s brain the soul of Goethe, and to
unite in his body Byron, Homer and Dante. To dream in the delirium of a
moment that one is the soul of creation and the sound sent forth by the
palpitant earth.

[8] Hell contains exquisite beauties, Cleopatras, Helenas, Eleonoras;
there is where one falls in love in good company. There can’t be a hell
with ladies around!

[9] But if Werther longed to see Carlotta giving bread and butter to
the children and found her thus more beautiful than ever, I adore you
all the more when I vision you doing the laundry.

[10] Why judge from the face--the face,--that mask of flesh which man
received on entering the world,--that which goes on within? Almost
always if it is summer on one’s face, it is winter in the soul. I
confess before you; hear, contented ones! My laughter is feigned; yes,
a thousand times I stifle with it the echoes of a groan that of a
sudden rises to my lips; a thousand times upon the tempered strings I
play, in accompaniment to my song fall tears. I pretend before you, for
in the house of mirth pretence is the sad man’s prudence.

[11] The same poet, in Verissimo’s words, is the singer of “love and
saudade. These two feelings are the soul of his poetry.” _Estudos_, II,
47.

[12] Oh, Lord, I feel and well you see that I am dying as I breathe
this air; let me live, O Lord, let me feel, once again the joys of my
native hearth. I would sleep in the shade of the cocoa-trees with their
leaves as my canopy; and see whether I could catch the white butterfly
that flies in the orchard. I want to sit beside the little stream at
the fall of dusk, alone in the twilight filled with dreams of the
future. Give me the sweet spots where I romped with the other children,
let me see once again the sky of my fatherland, the skies of my Brazil.
My grave will be among the mango-trees, bathed in the light of the
moon. And there I shall sleep contentedly in the shadow of my hearth.
The waterfalls will weep in deep-felt grief because I died so soon,
while I in my sepulchre shall dream of my loves, in the land where I
was born.

[13] With respect to a related subject Verissimo has uttered words
quite as wise, in harmony with the esthetic view of nationalism.

“In no other Brazilian poets do I find, together with a banal facility
in versification, the eminent qualities of poetry.… Another salient
quality of these poets (that is, of those whom Verissimo groups into
the second Romantic generation, including Gonçalves Dias, Alvares
de Azevedo, Casimiro de Abreu, Junqueiro Freire, Laurindo Rabello)
is their nationalism. Not that factitious nationalism of duty or
erudition, in which intention and process are clearly discernible, but
the expression--unconscious, so to say--of the national soul itself, in
its feeling, its manner of speech, its still rudimentary thought. They
are not national because they speak of _bores_, _tacapes_ or _inubias_,
or sing the savages that rove these lands. With the exception of
Gonçalves Dias, none of them is even ‘Indianist.’ Casimiro de Abreu,
upon whom Gonçalves Dias made so great an impression, whose nostalgia
derives largely from the _Cançõ do Exilio_ (Song of Exile) no longer
sings the Indian. Neither do Alvares de Azevedo, Laurindo or the
others.” _Estudos_, II, Pages 19-20.

[14] See _Historia da Litteratura Brasileira_ Vol. II, pages 476-601.

[15] See, in Part Two of this book, the chapter devoted to Castro Alves.

[16] Benedicto, Costa, _Le Roman au Brésil_. P. 70.

[17] Carvalho, Op. Cit. P. 263. Yet many will refuse to believe that
Alencar’s Indians are natural. Indeed, Alencar himself has repudiated
any realistic intention.

[18] From a document first published by the author’s son, Dr. Mario de
Alencar of the Brazilian Academy, in 1893, twenty years after it was
written, under the title _Como E Porque Sou Romancista_ (How And Why I
Became a Novelist). I have translated these excerpts from the article
as reprinted in João Ribeiro’s _Auctores Contemporaneos_, 6a Edição,
Refundida, Rio de Janeiro, 1907.

[19] _The American Novel_, New York, 1921.

[20] Op. Cit. Pp. 77-78.



CHAPTER V

CRITICAL REACTION (1870-1900)

    French Background--Naturalists, Parnassians--Theophilo
    Dias, Raymundo Correia, Alberto de Oliveira, Olave
    Bilac--The Novel--Aluizio de Azevedo, Machado de Assis--The
    Decadents--Later Developments.


I

The later course of Brazilian letters follows practically the same line
traced by the reaction in France against the Romantic school. To and
fro swings the pendulum of literary change in unceasing oscillation
between dominance of the emotions and rule of the intellect. Life,
as Havelock Ellis somewhere has shown, is an eternal process of
“tumescence and detumescence”; the formula is quite true of literature.
Buds and human beings alike swell to maturity in the womb of nature and
then follows the inevitable contraction. So, in letters, the age of
full expression is succeeded by one of repressed art,--the epoch of a
blatant proclamative “ism” by an era of restraint and withdrawal. Who
shall, in _a priori_ fashion, pretend to say that this “ism” is right
and that one wrong? By their works alone shall ye know them.

If, then, Romanticism in France, as subsequently elsewhere, gave way to
a rapid succession of inter-reacting schools or groups, the phenomenon
was the familiar one of literary oscillation. The Naturalists,
nurtured upon advancing science, looked with scorn upon the emotional
extravagances of the Romantics. To excessive preoccupation with the
ego and with unreality, they opposed the critical examination and
documentation of reality. Milieu, social environment, psychology
ceased to be idealized; enthusiasm and exaltation were succeeded by
cold scrutiny. The doctrine of “impersonality” (a most inartistic and
psychologically impossible creed) was crystallized around the powerful
literary personality of Flaubert, and Romantic egolatry looked as silly
in the searching day of the new standards as last night’s flowers
without the breath of spring and the moonlight that excuse the sweet
folly they incite.

In poetry the Parnassians revolted against Romantic self-worship on
the one hand and the realistic preoccupation of the naturalists on the
other. They, too, believed themselves impersonal, impassive--terms
only relative in creative endeavour. They climbed up their ivory
towers, away from vulgar mundanity, and substituted for the musical
vagaries of their unrepressed predecessors the cult of the clear
image and the sculptural line. And fast upon them followed the
Symbolist-Decadents,--some of whom, indeed, were nourished upon the
milk of Parnassianism,--and who, in their turn, abjured the modern
classicism of the Parnassians with their cult of form and clarity,
and set up instead a new musicality of method, a new intensity of
personalism. Their ivory towers were just as high, but were reared on
subtler fancies. Suggestion replaced precision; sculpture melted into
music. In a word, already neo-classicism had swung to neo-romanticism;
the pendulum, on its everlasting swing, had covered the same distance
in far faster time. Yet each seeming return to the old norms is a
return with a difference; more and more the basic elements of the
reaction are understood by the participants in their relations to
society and to the individual. Especially is their psychological
significance appreciated and--most important of all and most
recent--their nature as complements rather than as antagonists. When
Darío, in a famous poem, asked “¿Quien quieñ es no es Romántico?” (Who
that is, is not a Romantic?) he but stressed the individualism at the
bottom of all art. Perhaps the days of well-defined “schools” in art
are over; perhaps the days of the label in criticism are gone, or going
fast, even in academic circles; all men contain the potentialities of
all things and opposites grow out of opposites. Man is thus himself
unity in variety,--the old shibboleth of the estheticists,--and the
“schools” are but phases of the multiple personality.

The reaction against Romanticism, if varied in France, was even less
disciplined in Ibero-America. And here we come upon a curious fact
in comparative literature that is deserving of investigation. In the
first place, Parnassianism in Brazil (and in Spanish America, for that
matter) was hardly ever the frigidly perfect thing it became in the
hands of the Frenchman. A certain tropical warmth is bound, in the
new-world poets, to glow in the marble veins of their sonnets. In the
second,--and this is truly peculiar,--that Symbolism (especially in
its Decadent phase) which was responsible for a fundamental renovation
of letters in Spanish America and later affected Spain itself, passed
over Brazil with but scant influence. Brazil produced some highly
interesting Parnassians (with proper reservations made in the use of
that term); Bilac, in his realm, is the peer of any Spanish American.
But the Portuguese-speaking republic shows no figure approaching the
epochal Rubén Darío, whose life and labours fairly sum up the modernist
era in Spanish America.[1]


II

The scientific spirit in Brazilian poetry was of short duration, even
though Romero, one of its chief exponents, gives himself credit for
having initiated in 1870 the reaction against Romanticism with a poetry
that sought harmony with the realistic philosophy of the day. He and
Martins Junior (whom Carvalho places at the head of the “scientific”
poets) are today considered to have troubled the waters of Brazilian
lyrism for but a passing moment. In reality, they but hastened the
advent of Parnassianism. Brazil for a while was weary of the great
Latin weakness,--eloquence. Its poetical condors had too long orated
from mountain-tops; it was high time for swans, for towers of ivory.
Besides, I believe, this answered a certain need of the national
psyche. The sensualist, too, has his moments of refinement, and he
becomes the exquisite voluptuary. Science in poetry, as exemplified
by the strophes of Martins Junior, is too often but rhymed harangue,
even as the early Brazilian versifiers presented us with rhymed
fruit-baskets, aviaries and geographies. Note the unscientific worship
of science in his lines,--that science which so prosaically he terms “o
grande agente altruista,” the great altruistic agent:

        O seculo immortal, ó seculo em que a conquista,
        A guerra, as religiões e as velhas monarchias
        Tem tombado no chão, nojentas como harpias,

        Tristes como o deserto! Eu curvo-me ante ti
        E ponho o joelho em terra afim de orar
        Ao teu busto ideal, titanico, estrellado!…[2]

The transition from Romanticism to Parnassianism in Brazil may be
studied in the poetry of Luiz Guimarães and the earlier verses of
Machado de Assis. I find it difficult to agree with either Verissimo
or Carvalho in his estimate of Machado de Assis’s poetry; Romero has
by far the more tenable view. It may be true that the _Chrysalidas_
and the _Phalenas_ of Machado de Assis, like the _Sonetos e Rimas_
of Luiz Guimarães, reveal a great refinement of form and elegance of
rhyme,--even a wealth of rhythm. But colour and picturesqueness are
hardly the distinguishing poetic traits of Machado de Assis, whose real
poetry, as I try to show in the chapter dedicated especially to him, is
in his prose.

Luiz Guimarães was, from one aspect, a Romantic with a more precise
technique; his form, in other words, was quite as transitional as
his content. In addition to French influence he underwent that of
the Italians Stecchetti and Carducci, of whom he made translations
into Portuguese. His sonnet on Venice is illustrative of a number of
his qualities,--his restrained _saudade_, his gift of picturesque
evocation, his rich rhymes, his vocalic melody:

        Não es a mesma, a flor de _morbidezza_,
        Rainha do Adriatico! Brilhante
        Jordão de amor, onde Musset errante
        Bebeu em ondas a lustral belleza.

        Já não possues, ó triumphal Veneza,
        O teu sorriso--olympico diamante,
        Que se engastou do lord bardo amante
        Na fronte heroica de immortal grandeza.

        Tua escura laguna ja não sente
        Da antiga serenata o som plangente,
        E os soluços de amor que nos teus barcos.

        Exhalava a patricia voluptuosa.…
        Resta-te apenas a canção saudosa
        Das gemedoras pombas de São Marcos.[3]

“Machado de Assis,” writes Carvalho,[4] “was a poet of greater
resources and fuller metrical invention than Luiz Guimarães. His poetry
… reveals a psychological intensity rarely attained in this country.
Possessing a firm classical education, a profound knowledge of those
humanities which in seventeenth century France were the distinguishing
characteristic of the _honnête homme_, Machado succeeded in stamping
upon his verses a truly singular impress of subtlety and discretion.
His images are, as a rule, of a perfect realism, a clearness worthy
of the old masters. His images are veritable parables.…” But, to one
foreigner at least,--and, I suspect, to more than one Brazilian,
Machado de Assis as a poet is cold, not often achieving artistic
communication; he is colourful, maybe, but his colours are seen
through a certain diaphanous mist that rubs off their bloom. What
Carvalho would find in the man’s verses I discover, strangely enough,
in his remarkable prose--his humorism, his pessimism. The themes most
certainly inhere in his verse, but they are expressed at their best,
most artistically developed, in his prose. Carvalho, seeking to rectify
the position of this great figure in the history of Brazilian letters,
would even make of him a pioneer. “This feeling of the _tragico
quotidiano_,” he asserts, “which only today is beginning to enter into
Brazilian poetry, was first revealed to our literature by Machado de
Assis. Although such notes are not frequent nor many in his work, it
is none the less true that, before him, they were completely unknown.…
Even in his poetry, his poetry that has been so unjustly judged and so
pettily understood, Machado de Assis is a pioneer, an originator of the
first order. It was natural for his art not to be to the taste of the
popular palate; it did not resound with the fireworks and the hoarse
cries of Brazil’s most loudly applauded verse-manufacturers.”[5]

Pioneering, however, is not poetry. In art, the idea belongs to him
who makes the best use of it. In Machado de Assis, the thought often
subjected the emotion; this was characteristic of the man’s peculiar
psychology. I would not be understood as denigrating his poetic memory;
far from it. But in my opinion (and I can speak for no one else) he is
in the conventional sense, only secondarily a poet, and a secondary
poet.

At the head of the true Parnassians stand Theophilo Dias, Raymundo
Correia, Alberto de Oliveira and Olavo Bilac, though Verissimo sees
in the _Miniaturas_ of Gonçalves Crespo “the first manifestation of
Parnassian poetry published here.”[6] Crespo was not out-and-out
Parnassian, however, as was Affonso Celso in his _Telas sonantes_ of
1876. The very title--Sounding Canvases, i. e., pictures that sing
their poetry--is in itself a program. Brazilian Parnassianism thus
begins, according to Verissimo, in the decade 1880-1890. _Sonetos
e Rimas_, by Luiz Guimarães, appears in 1879; Raymundo Correia’s
_Symphonias_ are of 1883, his _Versos e Versões_, of 1884; Alberto
de Oliveira’s _Meridionaes_ are of 1884, and the _Sonetas e poemas_
of 1886. In the very year that the Nicaraguan, Darío, with a tiny
volume of prose and poetry called _Azul…_ and published in Chile, was
initiating the “modernist” overturn in Spanish America, Bilac was
issuing (1888) his _Poesias_.

Brazilian Parnassianism, as we have seen, is less objective, less
impersonal than its French prototype. Poetic tradition and national
character were alike opposed to the Gallic finesse, erudition,
ultra-refinement. Pick up the many so-called Parnassian poems of
Spanish or Portuguese America, remove the names of the authors and the
critical excrescences, and see how difficult it is--_from the evidence
of the poem itself_--to apply the historical label.

Theophilo Dias is hardly the self-controlled chiseller of Greek
marbles. How “Parnassian,” for example, is such a verse as this,
speaking of his lady’s voice?

        Exerce sobre mim um brando despotismo
        Que me orgulha, e me abate;--e ha nesse magnetismo
        Uma forca tamanha, uma electricidade,
        Que me fascina e prende as bordas de um abysmo,
        Sem que eu tente fugir,--inerte, sem vontade.[7]

This is not the kind of thought that produces genuine Parnassian
poetry. How “impersonal” is it? How “sculptural”? More than one poem of
the “Romanticist” Machado de Assis is far more Parnassian.

And listen to this description, by Carvalho, of Raymundo Correia.
How “Parnassian” does it sound? “Anger, friendship, hatred, jealousy,
terror, hypocrisy, all the tints and half-tints of human illusion,
all that is closest to our innermost heart … he weighed and measured,
scrutinized and analysed with the patient care of a naturalist who was,
at the same time, a prudent and well-informed psychologist. Nor is this
all.… Raymundo is an admirable painter of our landscape, an _exquisite
impressionist_, who reflects, with delicious sentiment, the light and
shade of the Brazilian soil.”[8]

There is no denying the beneficial influence of the Parnassians upon
the expressive powers of the Brazilian poets. The refinement of style
mirrored a refinement of the thought. If I stress the difference
between the French and the Brazilian Parnassians it is not alone to
emphasize the partial inability of the latter to imitate the foreign
models, but to show how genuine personality must triumph over group
affiliations. Raymundo Correia was such a personality; his sensibility
was too responsive for complete surrender to formula. One of his
sonnets long enjoyed the reputation of being the most popular ever
penned in his country:

                               AS POMBAS

        Vae-se a primeira pomba despertada.…
        Vae-se outra mais … mais outra … enfin dezenas
        De pombas vão-se dos pombaes, apenas
        Raia, sanguinea e fresca, a madrugada.

        E á tarde, quando a rigida nortada
        Sopra, aos pombaes de novo ellas serenas,
        Ruflando as azas, sacudindo as pennas,
        Voltam todas em bando e em revoada.

        Tambem dos corações, onde, abotoam,
        Os sonhos, um por um, celeres vôam,
        Como vôam as pombas dos pombaes.

        No azul da adolescencia as azas soltam,
        Fogem … mas aos pombaes as pombas voltam,
        E elles aos corações não voltam mais.…[9]

This is the more yearnful voice of Raymundo Correia’s muse, who knows,
too, the futility of rebellion against “God, who cruelly creates us for
grief; God, who created us and who was not created.” This conception
of universal grief is his central theme, and it is significant that
when Carvalho seeks spiritual analogies he goes--to Parnassians? No. To
Leopardi, to Byron, to Pushkin, to Buddha.

Alberto de Oliveira, genuine artist that he was--and it was the fashion
at one time for the Brazilian poets, under Parnassian influence, to
call themselves artists rather than poets--maintained his personality
through all his labours. Like a true Brazilian, he renders homage to
the surrounding scene and even his sadness is several parts softness.
In the manner of the day he wrote many a sonnet of pure description,
but this represents restraint rather than predilection, for at other
times, as in his _Volupia_, he bursts out in a nostalgia for love that
proves his possession of it even at the moment of his denial.

        Fico a ver que tudo ama. E eu não amo, eu sómente!
        Ama este chão que piso, a arvore a que me encosto,
        Esta aragem subtil que vem roçar-me o rosto,
        Estas azas que no ar zumbem, esta folhagem,
        As féras que no cio o seu antro selvagem
        Deixam por ver a luz que as magnetiza, os broncos
        Penhascaes do deserto, o rio, a selva, os troncos,
        E os ninhos, e a ave, a folha, e a flor, e o fructo, e o ramo.…
        E eu só não amo! eu so não amo! eu so não amo![10]

Note how similar are these verses in content to the cries of love
denied that rise from Gonçalves Dias and Casimiro de Abreu,--two
Romantics of the movement’s height. Carvalho, too, sees that in Alberto
de Oliveira there is, in addition to the talent for description, “a
subjective poet of genuine value.”

For a long time Olavo Bilac enjoyed the sobriquet “Prince of Brazilian
poets.” It matters little that part of his posthumous book, _Tarde_,
reveals a social preoccupation. To the history of Brazilian letters,
and to his countrymen, he is first of all the resounding voice of
voluptuousness. And, as happens so often with the ultra-refined of his
kin, the taste of his ecstasies at times is blunted by the _memento
mori_ of weary thought. The world becomes a pendulum swinging between
vast contrasts, and it takes both swings to complete the great
vibration.

        O Natureza! o mãe piedosa e pura!
        O cruel, implacavel assassina!
        --Mão, que o veneno e o balsamo propina
        E aos sorrisos as lagrimas mistura!

        Pois o berço, onde a bocca pequenina
        Abre o infante a sorrir, e a miniatura
        A vaga imagem de uma sepultura,
        O germen vivo de uma atroz ruina?!

        Sempre o contraste! Passaros cantando
        Sobre tumulos … flores sobre a face
        De ascosas aguas putridas boiando.…

        Anda a tristeza ao lado de alegria.…
        E esse teu seio, de onde a noite nasce,
        E o mesmo seio de onde nasce o dia.…[11]

The theme is as common as joy and sorrow; at the very beginning of
Brazilian literature we meet it in a coarser sensualist, Gregorio
de Mattos Guerra. In Raymundo Correia, in Machado de Assis, such
rhymed homilies are common. They illustrate rather the philosophical
background of the poets than their more artistic creativeness.
Voluptuary that he was, Bilac preferred in poetry the carefully wrought
miniature to the Titanic block of marble; at his best he attains a rare
effect of eloquent simplicity. He was as Parnassian as a Brazilian may
be in verse, yet more than once, as he chiselled his figurines, they
leaped to life under his instrument, like diminutive Galateas under the
breath of Pygmalion.

        Assim procedo, Minha penna
          Segue esta norma,
        Por te servir, Deusa serena,
          Serena Fórma!

“Thus I proceed,” he declares in the poem that opens his _Poesias_,
presenting his particular _ars poetica_. “My pen follows this standard.
To serve you, Serene Goddess, Serene Form!” Yet read the entire poem;
note, as an almost insignificant detail, the numerous exclamation
points; note, too, that he is making love to that Goddess, that
he is promising to die in her service. The words are the words of
Parnassianism, but the voice is the voice of passionate personality,
romantically dedicated to Style. Indeed, for the epigraph to his entire
work one might quote the lines from Musset’s “Rolla”:

        J’aime!--voilà le mot que la nature entière
        Crie au vent qui l’emporte, à l’oiseau qui le suit!
        Sombre et dernier soupir que poussera la terre
        Quand elle tombera dans l’eternelle nuit!

Bilac’s passion at its height may replace the Creator of life himself;
thus, in _A Alvorada do Amor_, Adam, before his Eve, cries ecstatically
his triumph, despite their lost paradise. He blesses the moment in
which she revealed her sin and life with her crime, “For, freed of God,
redeemed and sublime, I remain a man upon earth, in the light of thine
eyes. Earth, better than Heaven; Man, greater than God!”

All, or almost all, of Bilac, is in this poem, which is thus one
of his pivotal creations. De Carvalho has termed him a poet of
“pansexualism”; the name might be misleading, as his verses more often
reveal the gourmet, rather than the gourmand of eroticism.[12]

The more to show the uncertain nature of Brazilian Parnassianism,
we have the figures of Luiz Delfino and Luiz Murat, termed by some
Parnassians and by others Romantics. Delfino has been called by
Romero (_Livro do Centenario_, Vol. I, page 71), “for the variety and
extent of his work, the best poet of Brazil.” The same critic, some
thirty-three pages farther along in the same account, calls Murat
deeper and more philosophic than Delfino, and equalled only by Cruz e
Souza in the penetration of the human soul. And by the time (page 110,
_Ibid._) he has reached the last-named of these poets, Cruz e Souza
becomes “in many respects the best poet Brazil has produced.”

Yet the effect of the French neo-classicists upon the Brazilian poets
was, as Verissimo has shown, threefold: form was perfected, the
excessive preoccupation with self was diminished, the themes became
more varied. “This same influence, following the example of what had
happened in France, restored the sonnet to the national poetry, whence
the Romantics had almost banished it, and on the other hand banished
blank verse, which is so natural to our tongue and our poetry.… As
to form, our Parnassian poets merely completed the evolution led in
Portugal and there by two poets who, whatever their merits, had a
vast effect upon our poetry, Antonio de Castilho and Thomaz Ribeiro.
Machado de Assis evidently and confessedly owes to the first, if
not also to the second, the advantages of his metrification and of
his poetic form in general over that of some of his contemporaries,
such as Castro Alves and Varella. Parnassianism refined this form …
with its preoccupations with relief and colour, as in the plastic
arts,--with exquisite sonorities, as in music,--with metrical artifices
that should heighten mere correctness and make an impression through
the feeling of a difficulty conquered,--with the search for rich
rhymes and rare rhymes, and, as in prose, for the adjective that was
peregrine, and if not exact, surprising. All this our poets did here as
a strict imitation of the French, and since it is the externality of
things that it is easy and possible to imitate and not that which is
their very essence, a great number of them merely reproduced in pale
copy the French Parnassians. Thus, for some fifteen years, we were
truly inundated with myriads of sonnets describing domestic scenes,
landscapes, women, animals, historic events, seascapes, moonlight … a
veritable gallery of pictures in verse that pretended to be poetry.”

Here, as everywhere else, the true personalities survive. Chief among
the Brazilian Parnassians are the few whom we have here considered.


III

The naturalistic novel in Brazil is, from the artistic standpoint, the
work of some four men,--Machado de Assis, Aluizio de Azevedo, Julio
Ribeiro and Raul Pompeia. Ribeiro’s _Carne_ (Flesh) and Pompeia’s
_Atheneu_ represent, respectively, the influence of Zola upon the
natural sensuousness of the Brazilian and the impact of complex
modernity upon that sensuousness.

The prose work of Machado de Assis is not exclusively naturalistic;
indeed, he should be considered, though of his age, a spirit apart; as
he rises above the limitations of Brazilian letters, so he is too big
for any circumscribed epoch to contain. With the year 1879 he began
a long period of maturity that was to last for thirty years. It was
during this fruitful phase that he produced the _Memorias Postumas de
Braz Cubas_, _Quincas Borba_, _Historias Sem Data_, _Dom Casmurro_,
_Varias Historias_, and other notable works. His long fiction, as his
short, exhibits the same bitter-sweet philosophy and gracious, yet
penetrating irony. In the best of his prose works he penetrates as deep
as any of his countrymen into the abyss of the human soul.

The judgment of Verissimo upon Machado de Assis differs somewhat from
that of his distinguished compatriots.

“With _Varias Historias_,” he says in his studies of Brazilian letters,
“Sr. Machado de Assis published his fifteenth volume and his fifth
collection of tales.… To say that in our literature Machado de Assis is
a figure apart, that he stands with good reason first among our writers
of fiction, that he possesses a rare faculty of assimilation and
evolution which makes him, a writer of the second Romantic generation,
always a contemporary, a modern, without on this account having
sacrificed anything to the latest literary fashion or copied some
brand-new esthetic, above all conserving his own distinct, singular
personality … is but to repeat what has been said many times already.
All these judgments are confirmed by his latest book, wherein may be
noted the same impeccable correctness of language, the same firm grasp
upon form, the same abundancy, force and originality of thought that
make of him the only thinker among our writers of fiction, the same
sad, bitter irony.…

“After that there was published another book by Sr. Machado de Assis,
_Yaya Garcia_. Although this is really a new edition, we may well
speak of it here since the first, published long before, is no longer
remembered by the public. Moreover, this book has the delightful and
honest charm of being in the writer’s first manner.

“But let us understand at once, this reference to Machado de Assis’s
first manner. In this author more than once is justified the critical
concept of the unity of works displayed by the great writers. All of
Machado de Assis is practically present in his early works; in fact,
he did not change, he scarcely developed. He is the most individual,
the most personal, the most ‘himself’ of our writers; all the germs
of this individuality that was to attain in _Bras Cubas_, in _Quincas
Borba_, in the _Papeis Avulsos_ and in _Varias Historias_ its maximum
of virtuosity, may be discovered in his first poems and in his earliest
tales. His second manner, then, of which these books are the best
example, is only the logical, natural, spontaneous development of his
first, or rather, it is the first manner with less of the romantic
and more of the critical tendencies.… The distinguishing trait of
Machado de Assis is that he is, in our literature, an artist and a
philosopher. Up to a short time ago he was the only one answering to
such a description. Those who come after him proceed consciously and
unconsciously from him, some of them being mere worthless imitators.
In this genre, if I am not misemploying that term, he remained without
a peer. Add that this philosopher is a pessimist by temperament and
by conviction, and you will have as complete a characterization as it
is possible to design of so strong and complex a figure as his in two
strokes of the pen.

“_Yaya Garcia_, like _Resurreição_ and _Helena_, is a romantic account,
perhaps the most romantic written by the author. Not only the most
romantic, but perhaps the most emotional. In the books that followed
it is easy to see how the emotion is, one might say, systematically
repressed by the sad irony of a disillusioned man’s realism.” Verissimo
goes on to imply that such a work as this merits comparison with the
humane books of Tolstoi. But this only on the surface. “For at bottom,
it contains the author’s misanthropy. A social, amiable misanthropy,
curious about everything, interested in everything--what is, in the
final analysis, a way of loving mankind without esteeming it.…

“The excellency with which the author of _Yaya Garcia_ writes our
language is proverbial.… The highest distinction of the genius of
Machado de Assis in Brazilian literature is that he is the only truly
universal writer we possess, without ceasing on that account to be
really Brazilian.”

When the Brazilian Academy of letters was founded in 1897, Machado de
Assis was unanimously elected president and held the position until
his death. Oliveira Lima, who lectured at Harvard during the college
season of 1915-1916, and who is himself one of the most intellectual
forces of contemporary Brazil, has written of Machado de Assis:
“By his extraordinary talent as writer, by his profound literary
dignity, by the unity of a life that was entirely devoted to the cult
of intellectual beauty, and by the prestige exerted about him by his
work and by his personality, Machado de Assis succeeded, despite
a nature that was averse to acclaim and little inclined to public
appearance, in being considered and respected as the first among
his country’s men-of-letters: the head, if that word can denote the
idea, of a youthful literature which already possesses its traditions
and cherishes above all its glories.… His life was one of the most
regulated and peaceful after he had given up active journalism, for
like so many others, he began his career as a political reporter,
paragrapher and dramatic critic.”[13]

With the appearance of _O Mulato_, 1881, by Aluizio Azevedo
(1857-1912), the literature of Brazil, prepared for such a
reorientation by the direct influence of the great Portuguese, Eça de
Queiroz and of Emile Zola, was definitely steered toward naturalism.
“In Aluizio Azevedo,” says Benedicto Costa, “one finds neither the
poetry of José de Alencar, nor the delicacy,--I should even say,
archness,--of Macedo, nor the sentimental preciosity of Taunay, nor
the subtle irony of Machado de Assis. His phrase is brittle, lacking
lyricism, tenderness, dreaminess, but it is dynamic, energetic,
expressive, and, at times sensual to the point of sweet delirium.”

_O Mulato_, though it was the work of a youth in his early twenties,
has been acknowledged as a solid, well-constructed example of Brazilian
realism. There is a note of humour, as well as a lesson in criticism,
in the author’s anecdote (told in his foreword to the fourth edition)
about the provincial editor who advised the youthful author to give
up writing and hire himself out on a farm. This was all the notice he
received from his native province, Maranhão. Yet Azevedo grew to be
one of the few Brazilian authors who supported himself by his pen.

Aluizio de Azevedo’s types (_O Cortiço_, _O Livro de Uma Sogra_)
are the opposite to Machado de Assis’s; they are coarse, violent,
terre-à-terre. They are not so much a different Brazilian than we find
in the poetry of Bilac, as a lower stratum of that same intelligence
and physical blend.


IV

Symbolism, even more than Parnassianism in Brazil, was a matter
of imitation, “in many cases,” as the truthful Verissimo avers,
“unintelligent. It most certainly does not correspond to a movement
of reaction, mystical, sensualist, individualistic, socialistic,
anarchistic and even classic, as in Europe,--to a movement, in short,
which is the result, on one side, of a revolt against the social
organization, proved incapable of satisfying legitimate aspirations
and needs of the individual, and on the other, of the exhaustion of
Naturalism and Parnassianism.” In poetry, the school itself centres in
Brazil about the personality of Cruz e Souza, an African with a keen
sense of the racial injustice visited upon him, and with a pride that
could not stifle his outcries. He is often incorrect, and it is true
that carping scrutiny could find ample fare in his verses, but they are
saved by a creative sincerity.

It takes but a superficial knowledge of French Symbolism to see how
far are such poets as Cruz e Souza and B. Lopez from their Gallic
brethren. Insert Cruz e Souza’s verses, without their author’s name,
among the clamorous output of the Romantics that preceded him, and see
how difficult it is to single many of them out for any qualities that
distinguish them as technique or matter. The African was a spontaneous
rather than an erudite spirit. Verissimo does not even believe that
he was conscious of his gifts. And if, at any time, he pretended to
possess a special theory of esthetics, the noted critic would have it
that the poet’s well-meaning but ill-advised friends instigated him.
He was a “good, sentimental, ignorant” soul “whose shocks against the
social ambient resulted in poetry.” De Carvalho holds a higher opinion:
“He introduced into our letters that _horror of concrete form_ of which
the great Goethe was already complaining at the close of the eighteenth
century. And such a service, in all truth, was not small in a country
where poetry flows more from the finger-tips than from the heart.”

Verissimo, indeed, does Cruz e Souza something less than justice. In
his short life (1863-1898) the ardent Negro poet succeeded in stamping
the impress of his personality upon his age and, for that matter,
upon Brazilian letters. He is incorrect, obscure, voluble,--but he is
contagiously sincere and transmits an impression of fiery exaltation.
His stature will grow, rather than diminish with time. Bernadim do
Costa Lopez (1851-1916) began as a bucolic Romanticist (in _Chromos_),
later veering to a Parnassianism (in _Hellenos_) that contained less
art than imitative artifice.

Among the outstanding spirits of the later poets are the mystical
Emilio de Menezes and the serenely simple Mario Pederneiras. The latter
(1868-1915) seems to have undergone the influence of Francis Jammes; he
is one of the few Brazilians who acquired ease in the manipulation of
free verse. Emilio de Menezes, who like Machado de Assis has translated
Poe’s _The Raven_, is best known for his remarkable trio of religious
sonnets grouped under the title _Os Tres Olhares de Maria_ (The Three
Glances of Mary).[14]


V

Later developments in Brazil, as in Spanish America, reveal no
definite tendencies that may be grouped under any particular “ism.”
Rampant individualism precludes the schools of literary memory.
Aranha’s _Chanaan_ directed attention to the Brazilian melting-pot.
One result of the recent war has been, in Brazil, to strengthen
the national spirit, and in São Paulo, particularly, a young group
headed by the industrious Monteiro Lobato seems to show a partial
return to regionalism. The directing inspiration for the more clearly
regionalistic art came perhaps from Euclydes da Cunha, whose Sertões
brought so poignant a realization that Brazil lived in the interior
as well as on the coast. As a corollary of the aspiration toward
national intellectual autonomy, there is setting in a reaction against
France, in favour of national, even local types and themes. The
literary product, if not at its highest, is upon a respectable level.
The novel is ably represented by Coelho Netto,[15] while the drama,
not so fortunate, plods along a routine path with such purveyors as
Claudio de Souza in the lead. To the São Paulo group I look for the
early emergence of some worth-while talents,--young men of culture
and vision who will bring to Brazil not merely the plethora of poesy
that gluts her eyes and ears, but a firm grasp upon the prose that
is the other half of life. Romero, years ago, said that what Brazil
needed more than anything else was a regimen for its daily life. Only
yesterday, Lobato, in his _Problema Vital_, studied the problem of
what he calls the ailment of an entire country, seeking first of all
to convince the nation that it was ill. And his initial prescription,
like that of Romero, calls for a national hygiene. To this purpose he
subordinates his activities as littérateur.

Thus conditions, though not so bad as when Verissimo studied his
problem of the Brazilian writer some thirty years ago, are still
analagous. He found the literature of his country, at that time, an
unoriginal, pupil-literature, often misunderstanding its masters, yet
endowed with certain undisputed points of originality. “The Brazilian
writer, in his vast majority of cases, does not learn to write; he
learns while writing. And it is doubtless useful to him as well as to
our letters that the critic, at times, should turn instructor. The lack
of a public interested in literary life, and capable of intelligent
choice among works and authors, makes this secondary function of
criticism even more necessary and serviceable.…”

Brazilian literature, as is highly evident, is not one of the major
divisions of world letters. It lacks continuity, it is too largely
derivative, too poor in masterpieces. Yet today, more at least
than when Wolf wrote so enthusiastically in 1863, it is true that
“Brazilian literature may justly claim consideration as being really
national; in this quality it has its place assigned in the ensemble
of the literatures of the civilized world; finally, and above all in
its most recent period, it has developed in all directions, and has
produced in the principal genres works worthy the attention of all
friends of letters.”

The finest fruits of a national literature are the salient
personalities who cross all frontiers and achieve such a measure of
universality as is attainable in this best and worst of all possible
worlds. As the region nurtures the national letters, so the national
nurtures the international. And this internationality is but the most
expansive phase of the individual in whom all art begins and in whom
all art seeks its goal. For art begins and ends in the individual.
A few such personalities Brazil has already produced, notably in
the criticism of José Verissimo, the prose of Machado de Assis, the
intellectuality of Oliveira Lima, the poetry of Olavo Bilac. They are
valuable contributions to Goethe’s idea of a _Weltliteratur_. Such as
they, rather than a roster of “isms,” “ists” and “ologies,” justify the
study of the milieu and the tradition that helped to produce them. But
precisely because they triumph over the milieu, because they shape it
rather than are shaped by it, do they rise above the academic confines
into that small library whose shelves know only one classification:
significant personality.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The so-called Modernist movement (another meaningless name!)
was really not a movement, but a scattered reaction against Spanish
academic domination. It was French in inspiration and chiefly behind
the lead of the Decadents resulted in a species of continental
affirmation. I have tried, in my _Studies in Spanish-American
Literature_, New York, 1920, to show the emergence of this affirmation,
from the romantic predecessors in the New World and the French
background, to such salient personalities as Darío, Rodó, Eguren,
Blanco-Fombona and Chocano.

[2] Oh, immortal century (i. e., the nineteenth), oh, century in which
conquest, war, religions and the ancient monarchies have crumbled to
earth, loathsome as harpies, gloomy as the desert! I bow before thee,
touch my knee to the earth, that I may pray to thine ideal titanic,
starry bust!

[3] You’re not the same, oh flower of _morbidezza_, queen of the
Adriatic! Glittering Jordan of love, where the wandering Musset
drank lustral beauty in waves. Your smile, oh triumphal Venice, is
gone--olympic diamond that was set in the heroic forehead of the lord,
bard and lover, immortally great. Your dark lagoon no longer hears
the plangent strains of the olden serenade,--the sighs of love heaved
by the voluptuous patrician in your gondolas.… There remains but the
yearnful song of San Marco’s moaning pigeons.

[4] Op. Cit P. 301.

[5] Ibid. P. 303.

[6] _Estudos_ 2a serie, P. 283. The book was published in Portugal, in
1872, and was “read and admired here in 1872. The _Miniaturas_, the
poems of which bear dates from 1867, to 1870, mention the poet as a
Brazilian, native of Rio de Janeiro. He was, in fact, such by birth, by
intention, and, what is of more importance, by intuition and sentiment,
genuinely Brazilian. We ought, then, to count this, his first book,
despite the fact that it was conceived and generated abroad, in the
roster of our Parnassianism, and perhaps as one of its principal
factors.” See, however, Afranio Peixoto’s splendid two-volume edition
of the _Obras Completas de Castro Alves_, Rio de Janeiro, 1921, for a
refutation of this opinion. (Page 15.) According to Alberto de Oliveira
there are decided Parnassian leanings in Castro Alves’s _Espumas
Fluctuantes_, 1870, in the sonnets called _Os anjos da meia noite_
(Midnight Angels.)

[7] It exercises over me a gentle tyranny that fills me with pride and
casts me down; there is in this magnetism such power, an electricity
that fascinates me and draws me to the edge of an abyss. And I, inert,
without will power, make no attempt to flee.

[8] Op. Cit. Page 307. The italics are mine.

[9] The first dove, awakened, flies off, then another and another.
Finally they leave the cote by tens, as soon as the fresh, red, dawn
appears. And at evening, when the bitter north-wind blows, fluttering
their wings and shaking their feathers, they all return to the cote in
a flock. So, from our hearts, where they burgeon, our dreams, one by
one, depart in flight like the doves from the cote. They spread their
wings in the azure of youth, and fly off.… But the doves return to the
dovecote, while our dreams return nevermore.

[10] I see that everything loves. And I, I alone, love not. This soil
I tread loves,--the tree against which I lean, this gentle zephyr
that fans my cheek,--these wings that flutter in the air,--this
foliage,--the beasts who, in rut, leave their wild lairs to gaze upon
the light that magnetizes them,--the crags of the desert,--the river,
the forest, the tree-trunks, the children, the bird, the leaf, the
flower, the fruit, the branch.… And I alone love not! I alone love not!
I alone love not!

[11] Oh, nature! O pure, piteous mother! oh, cruel, implacable
assassin! Hand that proffers both poison and balm, and blends smiles
with tears. The cradle, where the infant opens her tiny mouth to smile,
is the miniature, the vague image of a coffin,--the living germ of a
frightful end! Eternal contrast. Birds twittering upon tombs … flowers
floating upon the surface of ugly, putrid waters.… Sadness walks at
the side of joy.… And this your bosom, wherein night is born, is the
selfsame bosom whence is born the day.…

[12] See the chapter devoted to him in Part Two of this book.

[13] See Part Two for a special chapter on Machado de Assis.

[14] See, for a good study of Emilio de Menezes, Elysio de Carvalho’s
_As Modernas Correntes Esthéticas na Literatura Braziléira_. Rio, 1907.
Pp. 62-74.

[15] See Part Two for chapters on Graça Aranha, Monteiro Lobato,
Euclydes da Cunha and Coelho Netto.



PART II

REPRESENTATIVE PERSONALITIES



I

CASTRO ALVES


During the last half of the month of February, 1868, two admirable
letters were exchanged by a pair of notable men, in which both
discerned the budding fame of a twenty-year-old poet. The two notables
were José de Alencar, chief novelist of the “Indianist” school, and
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, not yet at the height of his career.
The poet was Castro Alves. His real “discoverer” was the first of these
two authors, who sent him from Tijuca to Machado de Assis at Rio de
Janeiro. In his letter of the 18th of February, José de Alencar wrote
(I quote only salient passages):

“Yesterday I received a visit from a poet.

“Rio de Janeiro does not yet know him; in a very short while all Brazil
will know him. It is understood, of course, that I speak of that Brazil
which feels; with the heart and not with the rest.

“Sr. Castro Alves is a guest of this great city, for but a few days. He
is going to São Paulo to finish the course that he began at Olinda.

“He was born in Bahia, the region of so many excellent talents; the
Brazilian Athens that does not weary of producing statesmen, orators,
poets and warriors.

“I might add that he is the son of a noted physician. But why? The
genealogy of poets begins with their first poem. And what is the value
of parchments compared with these divine seals?…

“Sr. Castro Alves recalled that I had formerly written for the theatre.
Appraising altogether too highly my experience in this difficult branch
of literature, he wished to read me a drama, the first fruits of his
talent.

“This production has already weathered the test of competent audiences
upon the stage.…

“_Gonzaga_ is the title of the drama, which we read in a short time.
The plot, centered about the revolutionary attempt at Minas,--a great
source of historical poetry as yet little exploited,--has been enriched
by the author with episodes of keen interest.

“Sr. Castro Alves is a disciple of Victor Hugo, in the architecture of
the drama, as in the coloring of the idea. The poem belongs to the same
ideal school; the style has the same brilliant touches.

“To imitate Victor Hugo is given only to capable intelligences. The
Titan of literature possesses a palette that in the hands of a mediocre
colorist barely produces splotches.…

“Nevertheless, beneath this imitation of a sublime model is evidenced
an original inspiration that will later form the literary individuality
of the author. His work throbs with the powerful sentiment of
nationality, that soul of the fatherland which makes great poets as it
makes great citizens.…

“After the reading of his drama, Sr. Castro Alves recited for me some
of his verses. _A Cascata de Paulo Affonso_, _As duas ilhas_ and _A
visão dos mortos_ do not yield to the excellent examples of this genre
in the Portuguese tongue.…

“Be the Virgil to this young Dante; lead him through the untrodden ways
over which one travels to disillusionment, indifference and at length
to glory,--the three vast circles of the _divine comedy_ of talent.”

The reply from Machado de Assis came eleven days later. He found the
newcomer quite as original as José de Alencar had made him out to be.
Castro Alves possessed a genuine “literary vocation, full of life and
vigour and revealing in the magnificence of the present the promise
of the future. I found an original poet. The evil of our contemporary
poetry is that it is imitative--in speech, ideas, imagery.… Castro
Alves’s muse has her own manner. If it may be discerned that his school
is that of Victor Hugo, it is not because he copies him servilely,
but because a related temperament leads him to prefer the poet of the
_Orientales_ to the poet of _Les Méditations_. He is certainly not
attracted to the soft, languishing tints of the elegy; he prefers the
live hues and the vigorous lines of the ode.”

Machado de Assis found in the poet the explanation of the dramatist.
_Gonzaga_, to be sure, is no masterpiece of the theatre, and Castro
Alves quickly returned from that interlude in his labours to the more
potent appeal of resounding verse. If he was fortunate, at the outset,
to find so influential a pair to introduce him into the literary
world, it was his merit alone that won him early prominence. Only a
year ago, signalizing the commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary
of his death, Afranio Peixoto prefaced the two splendid volumes of his
complete works--including much hitherto unpublished material--with a
short essay in which he calls Castro Alves _O Maior Poeta Brasileiro_
(The Greatest of Brazilian Poets). Let the superlative pass. If it is
not important to criticism--and how many superlatives are?--it shows
the lasting esteem in which his countrymen hold him. He is not only the
poet of the slaves; to many, he is the poet of the nation and a poet of
humanity as well.

       *       *       *       *       *

His talents appeared early; at the Gymnasio Bahiano, by the time he was
twelve--and this was already the mid-point of his short life--he not
only wrote his first verses, but showed marked aptitude for painting.
Long before his twentieth year he had become the rival of Tobias
Barreto, the philosopher of Sergipe, not only in poetry, it seems, but
in theatrical intrigue that centred about the persons of Adelaide do
Amaral and Eugenia Camara. While Barreto, the half-forgotten initiator
of the _condoreiro_ style, led the admirers of the first, Eugenia
Camara exercised a powerful attraction over Castro Alves, in whom
she inspired his earliest lyrics. Perhaps it was because of her that
he aspired to the dramatic eminence which he sought with _Gonzaga_,
produced on September 7, 1867, at the Theatro São João amidst scenes
of tumultuous success. It was directly after this triumph that he came
to José de Alencar. As we see from that writer’s letter, the youth was
intent upon continuing his studies; in São Paulo he rose so quickly to
fame among the students, not alone for his verses but for his gifted
delivery of them and his natural eloquence, that he was shortly hailed
as the foremost Brazilian poet of the day.

But unhappiness lay straight before him. His mistress left him; on
a hunt he accidentally shot his heel and later had to go to Rio to
have the foot amputated; the first symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis
appeared and, in 1869, he returned to Bahia to prepare his _Espumas
Fluctuantes_ for the press. Change of climate was of temporary benefit;
he went back to the capital to be received in triumph; new loves
replaced the old. He was foredoomed, however, and during the next two
years he worked with the feverish haste of one who knows that his end
is near. He died on July 6, 1871.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the history of Brazilian poetry Castro Alves may be regarded
as a figure characterized by the more easily recognized traits of
romanticism plus the infiltration of social ideas into the sentimental
content. Some would even discover in a few of his products the first
signs of the nascent Parnassianism in Brazil. Long before Carvalho
selected him as the chief exponent of social themes in the romantic
period, Verissimo had indicated that Castro Alves was “our first social
poet, the epic writers excepted. He is the first to have devoted a
considerable part of his labours not to sentimental subjectivism,
which constitutes the greatest and the best part of our poetry, but to
singing or idealizing social feeling, fact and aspiration.”

Hugo is his great god; … “nosso velho Hugo.--mestre do mundo! Sol da
eternidade!” he exclaims in _Sub tegmine fagi_. “Our old Hugo. Master
of the world! Sun of eternity!” Alves, often even in his love poetry,
seems to orate from the mountain tops. “Let us draw these curtains over
us,” he sings in _Boa Noite_ (Good Night); “they are the wings of
the archangel of love.” Or, in the _Adeus de Thereza_, if time passes
by, it must be “centuries of delirium, Divine pleasures … delights of
Elysium.…” His language, as often as not, is the language of poetic
fever; image clashes upon image; antithesis runs rife; verses flow from
him like lava down the sides of a volcano. Nothing human seems alien to
his libertian fervour. He captures the Brazilian imagination by giving
its fondness for eloquence ideas to feed upon.[1] Now he is singing
the glories of the book and education, now upbraiding the assassin of
Lincoln, now glorifying the rebel, now picturing the plight of the
wretched slaves in words that are for all the world like a shower of
sparks. In his quieter moments he can sing love songs as tender as the
cooing of any dove, as in _O Laco de fito_; he can indite the most
graceful and inviting of bucolics as in _Sub tegmine fagi_; and this
softer note is an integral part of his labours.

But what brought fame to Castro Alves was his civic, social note. From
Heine, to whom he is indebted for something of his social aspiration,
he took as epigraph for his collection _Os Escravos_, a sentiment that
reveals his own high purpose. “Flowers, flowers! I would crown my head
with them for the fray. The lyre! Give me, too, the lyre, that I may
chant a song of war.… Words like flaming stars that, falling, set fire
to palaces and bring light to hovels.… Words like glittering arrows
that shoot into the seventh heaven and strike the imposture that has
wormed into the holy of holies.… I am all joy, all enthusiasm; I am
the sword, I am the flame!…” The quotation is almost a description of
Alves’s method. Once again, for the part of _Os Escravos_ that was
published separately five years after his death, we find an epigraph
from Heine prefacing _A Cachoeira de Paulo Affonso_ (The Paulo Affonso
Falls): “I do not really know whether I shall have deserved that some
day a laurel should be placed upon my bier. Poetry, however great be my
love for it, has ever been for me only a means consecrated to a holy
end.… I have never attached too great a value to the fame of my poems,
and it concerns me little whether they be praised or blamed. It should
be a sword that you place upon my tomb, for I have been a brave soldier
in the war of humanity’s deliverance.” This, too, is a description of
Castro Alves. He was a sword rather than a lyre; certainly his verse
shows a far greater preoccupation with purpose than with esthetic
illumination, and just as certainly does he fall far short of both
Hugo and Heine in their frequent triumph over whatever purpose they
professed.

I am not sure that the Brazilians do not confuse their admiration for
Alves’s short life and its noble dedication with the very variable
quality of his poetry. Read by one with no Latin blood in his veins it
seems too often a dazzling display of verbal pyrotechnics, freighted
with a few central slogans rather than any depth of idea. I speak
now of the work as a whole and not of the outstanding poems, such as
_As vozes da Africa_ (Voices from Africa), _O Navio Negreiro_ (The
Slave Ship), _Pedro Ivo_. It is in these few exceptions that the poet
will live, but just as surely, it seems to me, will his esthetic
importance shrink to smaller proportions than the national criticism
today accords it. The ever-scrupulous, ever-truthful Verissimo, who
does not join the general chorus of uncritical admiration of Castro
Alves, indicates that even his strongest claim upon us--that of a
singer of the slaves--is injured by an evident exaggeration. What
might be called Alves’s “Africanism” is thus condemned of untruth to
artistic as well as to quotidian reality, in much the same manner as
was the “Indianism” in the poetry of Gonçalves Dias.… “The lack of
objective reality offends us and our taste, habituated as we are to
the reality of life transported to artistic representations. As I have
already had occasion to observe, Castro Alves’s defect as a poet of
the slaves is that he idealized the slave, removing him from reality,
perhaps in greater degree than art permits, making him escape--which
is evidently false--the inevitable degradation of slavery. His slaves
are Spartacuses or belong to the gallery of Hugo’s _Burgaves_. Now,
socially, slavery is hateful chiefly because of its degrading influence
upon the human being reduced to it and by reaction upon the society
that supports it.”

       *       *       *       *       *

When Castro Alves prepared the _Espumas Fluctuantes_ for publication
he already felt the hand of death upon him. In the short foreword
that he wrote for the book--in a style that is poetry, though written
as prose--he compared his verses to the floating spume of the ocean,
whence the title of the book. “Oh spirits wandering over the earth!
O sails bellying over the main!… You well know how ephemeral you are
… passengers swallowed in dark space, or into dark oblivion.… And
when--actors of the infinite--you disappear into the wings of the
abyss, what is left of you?… A wake of spume … flowers lost amid the
vast indifference of the ocean.--A handful of verses … spume floating
upon the savage back of life!…”

This mood, this language, this outlook, are more than half of the
youngster that was Castro Alves. For the most part he is not original,
either in form or idea; the majority of his verses seem to call for the
rostrum and the madly moved audience. Yet more than fifty years after
his death the numerous editions of his poems provide that rostrum, and
the majority of his literate countrymen form that audience.

When his powers are at their highest, however, he achieves the true
Hugoesque touch, as, for example, in the closing stanzas of the famous
_Voices from Africa_, written in São Paulo on June 11, 1868:

        Christo! embalde morreste sobre um monte.…
        Teu sangue não lavou da minha fronte
          A mancha original.
        Ainda hoje são, por fado adverso,
        Meus filhos--alimaria do universo,
          Eu--pasto universal.

        Hoje em meu sangue a America se nutre:
        --Condor, que transformara-se em abutre,
          Ave de escravidão.
        Ella juntou-se ás mais … irmã traidora!
        Qual de José os vis irmãos, outr’ora,
          Venderam seu irmão!

        …

        Basta, Senhor! De teu potente braço
        Role atravez dos astros e do espaço
          Perdão p’ra os crimes meus!
        Ha dous mil annos eu soluço um grito.…
        Escuta o brado meu lá no infinito,
          Meu Deus! Senhor, meu Deus!…[2]

This poem is the _Eli Eli lama sabachthani_ of the black race.

It is matched for passionate eloquence by the lashing lines that form
the finale of _O Navio Negreiro_;

        Existe um povo que a bandeira empresta
        P’ra cobrir tanta infamia e cobardia!…
        E deixa a transformar-se nessa festa
        Em manto impuro de bacchante fria!…
        Meu Deus! meu Deus! mas que bandeira é esta,
        Que impudente na gavéa tripudia?
        Silencio, Musa … chora, e chora tanto
        Que o pavilhão se lave no teu pranto!…

        Auri-verde pendão de minha terra,
        Que a briza do Brasil beija e balança,
        Estandarte que á luz do sol encerra
        As promessas divinas da esperança.…
        Tu que, da liberdade apos da guerra,
        Foste hastiado dos heroes na lança,
        Antes te houvessem roto na batalha,
        Que servires a um povo de mortalha!…

        Fatalidade atroz que a mente esmaga!
        Extingue nesta hora o brigue immundo
        O trilho que Colombo abriu nas vagas,
        Como um iris no pelago profundo!
        Mas é infamia de mais!… Da etherea plaga
        Levantai-vos, heroes do Novo Mundo!
        Andrade! arranca esse pendão dos ares!
        Colombo! fecha a porta dos teus mares![3]

As Napoleon, before the pyramids, told his soldiers that forty centuries
gazed down upon them, so Alves, in the opening poem of _Os Escravos_
called _O Seculo_ (The Century), invoking the names of liberty’s
heroes--Christ, Carnaris, Byron, Kossuth, Juarez, the Gracchi,
Franklin--told the youth of his nation that from the heights of the
Andes, vaster than plains or pyramids, there gazed down upon them “a
thousand centuries.” Even in numbers he is true to the high-flown
conceits of the _condoreiro_ school; the raising of Napoleon’s forty
to the young Brazilian’s thousand is indicative of the febrile passion
that flamed in all his work. Castro Alves was a torch, not a poem.
When he beholds visions of a republic (as in _Pedro Ivo_), man himself
becomes a condor, and liberty, like the poet’s truth, though crushed to
earth will rise again.

        Não importa! A liberdade
        E como a hydra, o Antheu.
        Se no chão rola sem forças,
        Mais forte do chão se ergueu.…
        São os seus ossos sangrentos
        Gladios terriveis, sedentos.…
        E da cinza solta aos ventos
        Mais um Graccho appareceu!…[4]

This is not poetry that can be read for very long at a time. It is
not poetry to which one returns in quest of mood, evocative beauty,
or surrender to passion. It is the poetry of eloquence, with all the
grandeur of true eloquence and with many of the lesser qualities of
oratory at its less inspiring level. Castro Alves, then, was hardly
a poet of the first order. He sang, in pleasant strains, of love and
longing; he whipped the nation’s conscience with poems every line of
which was a lash; some of his verses rise like a pungent incense from
the altars where liberty’s fire is kept burning; he was a youthful soul
responsive to every noble impulse. But his passion is too often spoiled
by exaggeration,--the exaggeration of a temperament as well as a school
that borrowed chiefly the externals of Hugo’s genius. Nor is it the
exaggeration of feeling; rather is it a forcing of idea and image,
accent and antithesis,--the failings of the orator who sees his hearers
before him and must have visible, audible token of their assent.

So that, when all is said and done, the permanent contribution of Alves
to Brazilian poetry is small, consisting of a few love poems, several
passionate outcries on behalf of a downtrodden race, and a group of
stanzas variously celebrating libertarian ideas. All the rest we can
forget in the intense appeal of the surviving lines. I know that this
does not agree with the current acceptation of the poet in Brazil,
where many look upon him as the national poet, but one can only speak
one’s honest convictions. With reference to Castro Alves, I admire the
man in the poet more than the poet in the man.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] “It has already been said,” writes Verissimo, “that the Latins have
no poetry, but rather eloquence; they confound sentimental emotion,
which is the predicate of poetry, with intellectual sensation, which
is the attribute of eloquence. There is in the poetry of the so-called
Latin peoples more rhetoric than spontaneity, more art than nature,
more artifice than simplicity. It is more erudite, more ‘laboured,’
more intellectual, and for that reason less felt, less sincere, less
ingenuous than that of the Anglo-Saxon peoples, for example. I do not
discuss this notion. We Brazilians, who are scarcely half Latin, are
highly sensitive, I know, to poetic rhetoric,--which does not prevent
us, however, from being moved by the sentimentalism of poetry--though
superficially--when it comes in the simple form of popular lyrism and
sings, as that does, with its naïve rhetoric, the sensual passions of
our amorous ardor, which is characteristic of hybrids. Examples of this
are Casimiro de Abreu, Laurindo Rabello, Varella and Gonçalves Dias
himself. When the poets became refined, and wrapped their passion, real
or feigned--and in fact rather feigned than real--in the sightly and
false externals of the Parnassian rhetoric, bending all their efforts
toward meticulous perfection of form, rhyme, metre, sound, they ceased
to move the people, or impressed it only by the outer aspect of their
perfect poems through the sonority of their verses. For at bottom, what
we prefer is form, but form that is rhetorical and eloquent, or what
seems to us such,--_palavrão_ (wordiness), emphasis, beautiful images.…”

[2] Christ! In vain you died upon a mountain.… Your blood did not erase
the original spot upon my forehead. Even today, through adverse fate,
my children are the cattle of the universe, and I--universal pasture.
Today America feeds on my blood.--A condor transformed into a vulture,
bird of slavery. She has joined the rest … treacherous sister! Like
the base brothers of Joseph who in ancient days sold their brother.…
Enough, O Lord. With your powerful arm send through the planets and
through space pardon for my crimes! For two thousand years I have been
wailing a cry.… Hear my call yonder in the infinite, my God, Lord my
God!

[3] There exists a people who lends its flag to cover such infamy and
cowardice!… And allows it to be transformed, in this feast, into the
impure cloak of a heartless bacchante!… My God! my God! but what flag
is this that flutters impudently at the masthead? Silence, Muse …
weep and weep so much that the banner will be bathed in your tears!…
Green-gold banner of my country, kissed and blown by the breezes of
Brazil, standard that enfolds in the light of the sun the divine
promise of hope.… You who, after the war, was flown by the heroes at
the head of their lances, rather had they shattered you in battle than
that you should serve as a race’s shroud!… Horrible fatality that
overwhelms the mind! Let the path that Columbus opened in the waves
like a rainbow in the immense deep, shatter in this hour the polluted
ship! This infamy is too much!… From your ethereal realm, O heroes of
the New World, arise! Andrade! Tear that banner from the sky! Columbus!
shut the fates of your sea!

[4] No matter! Liberty is like the hydra, or like Antheus. If,
exhausted, it rolls in the dust, it rises stronger than ever from the
earth.… Its bleeding members are terrible, thirsting swords, and from
the ashes cast upon the winds a new Gracchus arose!



II

JOAQUIM MARIA MACHADO DE ASSIS


Had he been born in Europe and written, say, in French, Machado de
Assis would perhaps be more than a name today--if he is that--to
persons outside of his native country. As it is, he has become, but
fourteen years after his death, so much a classic that many of his
countrymen who will soon gaze upon his statue will surely have read
scarcely a line of his work. He was too human a spirit to be prisoned
into a narrow circle of exclusively national interests, whence the cry
from some critics that he was not a national creator; on the other
hand, his peculiar blend of melancholy charm and bitter-sweet irony
have been traced to the mingling of different bloods that makes Brazil
so fertile a field for the study of miscegenation. His work, as we all
may read it, is, from the testimony of the few who knew him intimately,
a perfect mirror of the retiring personality. His life and labours
raised the letters of his nation to a new dignity. Monuments to such as
he are monuments to the loftier aspirations of those who raise them,
for the great need no statues.

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1839 and
died there in 1908; he came of poor parents and was early beset with
difficulties, yet the very nature of the work he was forced to take up
brought him into contact with the persons and the surroundings that
were to suggest his real career. As a typesetter he met literature
in the raw; at the meetings of literary men and in the book shop of
Paulo Brito he began to feel the nature of his true calling. At twenty
he commenced to write with the indifference and the prolixity of the
’prentice hand; comedies, tales, translations, poems--all was grist
that came to his literary mill. His talent, though evident, was slow to
develop; it could be seen that the youth had a gift for understanding
the inner workings of the human soul and that by nature he was an
ironist, yet his poetry, especially, lacked fire--it came from the
head, not the heart. Take the man’s work as a whole, for that matter,
and the same observation holds generally true. He is not of the sort
that dissolves into ecstasies before a wonderful sunset or rises to
the empyrean on the wings of song; for such self-abandonment he is too
critical, too self-conscious. In him, then, as a poet we are not to
seek for passion; in his tales we must not hunt too eagerly for action;
in his novels (let us call them such) we are not to hope for adventure,
intrigue, climax. Machado de Assis is, as far as a man may be, sui
generis, a literary law unto himself. His best productions, which range
over thirty years of mature activity, reveal an eclectic spirit in
whom something of classic repose balances his innate pessimism. It has
been written of him that he was “a man of half tints, of half words,
of half ideas, of half systems.…” Such an estimate, if it be purged
of any derogatory insinuations, is, on the whole, just; if Machado
de Assis seems to miss real greatness, it is because of something
inherently balanced in his make-up; he is never himself carried away,
and therefore neither are we. Yet he belongs to a company none too
numerous, and when Anatole France, some years ago, presided at a
meeting held in France to honour the noted Brazilian, he must have
appeared to more than one in the audience as a peculiarly fitting
symbol of the spirit that informed the departed man’s work.[1]

Not that Machado de Assis was an Anatole France, as some would
insinuate. But he was not unworthy of that master’s companionship;
his outlook was more circumscribed than the Frenchman’s, as was his
environment; his garden, then, was smaller, but he cultivated it; his
glass was little, like that of another famous Frenchman, but he drank
out of his own glass.

       *       *       *       *       *

The poetry of Machado de Assis appears in four collections, all of
which go to make up a book of moderate size. And, if the truth is to
be told, their worth is about as moderate as their size. If critics
have found him, in his verse, very correct and somewhat cold; if they
have pointed out that he lacked a vivid imagination, suffered from a
limited vocabulary, was indifferent to nature, and thus deficient in
description, they have but spoken what is evident from a reading of
the lines. This is not to say that a poem here and there has not become
part of the national memory--as, for example, the well-known _Circulo
Vicioso_ (Vicious Circle) and _Mosca Azul_ (The Blue Fly)--verses
of a broadly moralistic significance and of little originality. His
_Chrysalides_, the first collection, dates back to 1864; already his
muse appears as a lady desirous of tranquillity (and this at the
age of twenty-five!) while in the poem _Erro_ he makes the telltale
declaration:

                      Amei-te um dia
        Com esse amor passageiro
        Que nasce na phantasia
        E não chega ao coração.

“I loved you one day with that transient love which is born in the
imagination and does not reach the heart.” There you have the type of
love that appears in his poetry; and there you have one of the reasons
why the man is so much more successful as a psychological ironist in
his novels than as a poet. Yet close study would show that at times
this tranquillity, far from being always the absence of torment, is the
result of neutralizing forces; it is like the revolving disk of primary
hues that seems white in the rapidity of its whirling.

These early poems dwell upon such love; upon a desire for justice, as
revealed in his _Epitaphio do Mexico_ (Mexico’s Epitaph) and _Polonia_
(Poland); upon an elegiac note that seems statement rather than
feeling. “Like a pelican of love,” he writes in one of his poems that
recalls the famous image of de Musset, “I will rend my breast and
nurture my offspring with my own blood; my offspring: desire, chimera,
hope.…” But read through the verses of _Chrysalides_ and it is hard to
find where any red blood flows. The vocabulary is small, the phrases
are trite; his very muse is named _Musa Consolatrix_, bringing solace
rather than agitated emotion.

_Phalenas_ (Moths, 1870) is more varied; the collection shows a
sense of humour, a feeling for the exotic, as in the quasi-Chinese
poems, which are of a delicate pallor. But there is little new in his
admonitions to cull the flower ere it fade, and his love poetry would
insult a sensitive maiden with its self-understanding substratum of
commentary. His reserve is simply too great to permit outbursts and
like the worshipper of whom he speaks in his _Lagrimas de Cera_, he
“did not shed a single tear. She had faith, the flame to burn--but
what she could not do was weep.”[2] He is altogether too frequently
the self-observer rather than the self-giver; nor would this be
objectionable, if out of that autoscopy emerged something vital and
communicable to the introspective spirit in us all. He can sing of
seizing the flower ere it fades away, yet how frequently does he
himself seize it? There is humour in the ninety-seven octaves of
_Pallida Elvira_,--a queer performance, indeed, in which a thin comic
vein blends imperfectly with a trite philosophic plot. Romantic love,
the satiety of Hector, the abandonment of Elvira, the world-wanderings
of the runaway, his vain pursuit of glory and his return too late, to
find a child left by the dead Elvira, the obduracy of grandfather
Antero; such is the scheme. Hector, thus cheated, jumps into the sea,
which he might well have done before the poem began.

More successful is _Uma Oda de Anacreonte_, a one-act play in verse,
in which is portrayed the power of money over the sway of love.
Cleon, confiding, amorous youth that he is, is disillusioned by both
love (Myrto) and friendship (Lysias). There is a didactic tint to
the piece, which is informed with the author’s characteristic irony,
cynicism, brooding reflection and resigned acceptation. Of truly
dramatic value--and by that phrase I mean not so much the conventional
stageworthiness of the drama’s technicians as a captivating reality
born of the people themselves--there is very little.

In _Americanas_ (1875) the poet goes to the native scenes and legends
for inspiration; _Potyra_--recounting the plight of a Christian captive
who, rather than betray her husband by wedding a Tamoyo chief, accepts
death at the heathen’s hands--is a cold, objective presentation,
unwarmed by figures of speech, not illuminated by any inner light;
_Niani_, a Guaycuru legend, is far better stuff, more human, more
vivid, in ballad style as opposed to the halting blank verse of
the former; for the most part, the collection consists of external
narrative--feeling, insight, passion are sacrificed to arid reticence.

Thus _A Christã Nova_ (The Converted Jewess) contains few ideas;
neither colour nor passion, vision nor fire, inhere in it. There is a
sentimental fondness for the vanquished races--a note so common in the
“Indian” age of Brazilian letters, and in analogous writings of the
Spanish-Americans, as to have become a convention. The poem tells the
story of a converted Jewess who is betrothed to a soldier. She is met
by her betrothed after the war, with her father in the toils of the
Inquisition. Rather than remain with her lover, she chooses to die with
her parent; father and daughter go to their end together. Chiefly dry
narrative, and perhaps better than _Potyra_, though that is negative
praise. The poem is commendable for but two poetic cases: one, a very
successful _terza rima_ version of the song of exile in the Bible, “By
the waters of Babylon sat we down and wept …” and the other, a simple
simile:

                           … o pensamento
        E como as aves passageiras: voa
        A buscar melhor clima.…

                                           … Thought
        Is like a bird of passage, ever winging
        In quest of fairer climes.…

It is in the _Occidentaes_ of 1900 that we find more of the real
Machado de Assis than in the series that preceded it. The ripened man
now speaks from a pulsing heart. Not that any of these verses leap
into flame, as in the sonorous, incendiary strophes of Bilac, but at
least the thoughts live in the words that body them forth and technical
skill revels in its power. Here the essence of his attitude toward
life appears--that life which, rather than death, is the corroding
force, the universal and ubiquitous element. The _Mosca Azul_ is almost
an epitome of his outlook, revealing as it does his tender irony,
his human pity, his repressed sensuality, his feeling for form, his
disillusioned comprehension of illusions. His resigned acceptance of
life’s decline is characteristic of the man--part, perhaps, of his
balanced outlook. One misses in him the rebel--the note that lends
greatness to the hero in his foreordained defeat, raising the drama of
surrender to the tragedy of the unconquered victim. But this would be
asking him to be some one else--an inartistic request which we must
withhold.

I give the _Mosca Azul_ entire, because of its central importance to
the poetry of the man, as well as to that more discerning outlook upon
life which is to be found in his prose works.

        Era uma mosca azul, azas de ouro e granada,
          Filha da China ou da Indostão,
        Que entre as folhas brotou de uma rosa encarnada
          Em certa noite de verão.

        E zumbia e voava, e voava, e zumbia,
          Refulgindo ao clarão do sol
        E da lua,--melhor do que refulgia
          Um brilhante do Grão-Mogol.

        Um poléa que a viu, espantado e tristonho,
          Um poléa lhe perguntou:
        “Mosca, esse refulgir, que mais parece um sonho,
          Dize, quem foi que t’o ensinou?”

        Então ella, voando, e revoando, disse:
          “Eu sou a vida, eu sou a flor
        Das graças, o padrão da eterna meninice,
          E mais a gloria, e mais o amor.”

        E elle deixou-se estar a contemplal-a, mudo,
          E tranquillo, como un fakir,
        Como alguem que ficou deslumbrado de tudo,
          Sem comparar, nem reflectir.

        Entre as azas do insecto, a voltear no espaço,
          Uma cousa lhe pareceu
        Que surdia com todo o resplendor de um paço
          E viu um rosto, que era o seu.

        Era elle, era um rei, o rei de Cachemira,
          Que tinha sobre o collo nú,
        Um immenso collar de opala, e uma saphyra
          Tirado ao corpo de Vischnu.

        Cem mulheres em flor, cem nayras superfinas,
          Aos pés delle, no liso chão,
        Espreguiçam sorrindo as suas graças finas,
          E todo o amor que tem lhe dão.

        Mudos, graves, de pé, cem ethiopes feios,
          Com grandes leques de avestruz,
        Refrescam-lhes de manso os aromados seios,
          Voluptuosamente nus.

        Vinha a gloria depois--quatorze reis vencidos,
          E emfim as pareas triumphaes
        De tresentas nacões, e os parabens unidos
          Das coroas occidentaes.

        Mas o melhor de tudo é que no rosto aberto
          Das mulheres e dos varões,
        Como em agua que deixa o fundo descuberto,
          Via limpos os corações.

        Então elle, estendo a mão calloso y tosca,
          Affeita a só carpintejar,
        Com um gesto pegou na fulgurante mosca,
          Curioso de examinar.

        Quiz vel-a, quiz saber a causa do mysterio.
          E fechando-a na mão, sorriu
        De contente, ao pensar que alli tinha um imperio,
          E para casa se partiu.

        Alvoroçado chega, examina, e parece
          Que se houve nessa occupação
        Mudamente, como um homem que quizesse
          Dissecar a sua illusão.

        Dissecou-a, a tal ponte, e com tal arte, que ella,
          Rota, baca, nojenta, vil,
        Succumbiu; e com isto esvaiu-se-lhe aquella
          Visão fantastica e subtil.

        Hoje, quando elle ahi vae, de áloe e cardamono,
          Na cabeça, com ar taful,
        Dizem que ensandeceu, e que não sabe como
          Perdeu a sua mosca azul.[3]

As one reads this, a fable comes to mind out of childhood days. What
is this poem of the fly, but the tale of the man who killed the goose
that laid the golden eggs, retold in verses admirable for colour,
freshness,--for everything, indeed, except originality and feeling?
Those critics are right who find in Machado de Assis a certain
homiletic preoccupation; but he is never the preacher, and his light
is cast not upon narrow dogmas, with which he had nothing to do, but
upon the broad ethical implications of every life that seeks to bring
something like order into the chaos we call existence,--a thing without
rhyme or reason, as he would have agreed, but what would you? Every
game has its rules, even the game of hide and seek. And if rules are
made to be broken, part of the game is in the making of them.

Companioning the search for roots of illusion is the theme of eternal
dissatisfaction. This Machado de Assis has put into one of the most
quoted of Brazilian sonnets, which he calls _Circulo Vicioso_ (Vicious
Circle):

        Bailando no ar, gemia inquieto vagalume:
        --“Quem me dera que fosse aquella loura estrella
        Que arde no eterno azul, como una eterna vela!”
        Mas a estrella, fitando a lua, com ciume:

        --“Pudesse eu copiar o transparente lume,
        Que, de grega columna á gothica janella,
        Contemplou, suspirosa, a fronte amada e bella!”
        Mas a lua, fitando o sol, com azedume:

        --“Misera! tivesse eu aquelle enorme, aquella
        Claridade immortal, que toda a luz resume!”
        Mas o sol, inclinando a rutila capella:

        --“Pesa-me esta brilhante aureola de nume.…
        Enfara-me esta azul e desmedida umbella.…
        Porque não nasci eu um simples vagalume?”[4]

Between the loss of illusion and eternal dissatisfaction lies the
luring desert of introspection; here men ask questions that send back
silence as the wisest answer, or words that are more quiet than silence
and about as informing. The poet’s tribute to Arthur de Oliveira is
really a description--particularly in the closing lines--of himself.
“You will laugh, not with the ancient laughter, long and powerful,--the
laughter of an eternal friendly youth, but with another, a bitter
laughter, like the laughter of an ailing god, who wearies of divinity
and who, too, longs for an end.…” This world-weariness runs all through
Machado de Assis; it is one of the mainsprings of his remarkable prose
works. It is no vain paradox to say that the real poet Machado de
Assis is in his prose, for in his prose alone do the fruits of his
imagination come to maturity; only in his better tales and the strange
books he called novels does his rare personality reach a rounded
fulfilment. Peculiarly enough, the man is in his poetry, the artist in
his prose. The one is as revelatory of his ethical outlook as the other
of his esthetic intuitions. What he thinks, as distinct from what he
feels, is in his verse rather than in his novels or tales.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was haunted, it seems, by the symbol of a Prometheus wearied of his
immortality of anguish,--by the _tedium vitae_. This world-weariness
appears in the very reticence of his style. He writes, at times, as if
it were one of the vanities of vanities, yet one feels that a certain
inner pride lay behind this outer timidity. His method is the most
leisurely of indirection,--not the involved indirection of a Conrad,
nor the circuitous adumbration of a Hamsun. He has been compared, for
his humourism, to the Englishman Sterne, and there is a basis for the
comparison if we remove all connotation of ribaldry and retain only
the fruitful rambling. Machado de Assis is the essence of charming
sobriety, of slily smiling half-speech. He is something like his own
Ahasverus in the conte _Viver!_, withdrawn from life not so much
because he hated it as because he loved it exceedingly.

In that admirable dialogue, wherein Prometheus appears as a vision
before the Wandering Jew, the tedium of existence is compressed into a
few brief pages.

We have come to the end of time and Ahasverus, seated upon a rock,
gazes for a long while upon the horizon, athwart which wing two eagles,
crossing each other in their path. The day is waning.

                               AHASVERUS

    I have come to the end of time; this is the threshold of
    eternity. The earth is deserted; no other man breathes the air
    of life. I am the last; I can die. Die! Precious thought! For
    centuries I have lived, wearied, mortified, wandering ever, but
    now the centuries are coming to an end, and I shall die with
    them. Ancient nature, farewell! Azure sky, clouds ever reborn,
    roses of a day and of every day, perennial waters, hostile
    earth that never would devour my bones, farewell! The eternal
    wanderer will wander no longer. God may pardon me if He wishes,
    but death will console me. That mountain is as unyielding as my
    grief; those eagles that fly yonder must be as famished as my
    despair.

Whereupon Prometheus appears and the two great symbols of human
suffering debate upon the life everlasting. The crime of the Wandering
Jew was great, Prometheus admits, but his was a lenient punishment.
Other men read but a chapter of life, while Ahasverus read the whole
book. “What does one chapter know of the other? Nothing. But he who
has read them all, connects them and concludes. Are there melancholy
pages? There are merry and happy ones, too. Tragic convulsion precedes
that of laughter; life burgeons from death; swans and swallows
change climate, without ever abandoning it entirely; and thus all is
harmonized and begun anew.” But Ahasverus, continuing the tale of his
wanderings, expresses the meaninglessness of immortality:

    I left Jerusalem. I began my wandering through the ages. I
    journeyed everywhere, whatever the race, the creed, the tongue;
    suns and snows, barbarous and civilized peoples, islands,
    continents; wherever a man breathed, there breathed I. I never
    laboured. Labour is a refuge, and that refuge was denied me.
    Every morning I found upon me the necessary money for the
    day.… See; this is the last apportionment. Go, for I need you
    no longer. (_He draws forth the money and throws it away._) I
    did not work; I just journeyed, ever and ever, one day after
    another, year after year unendingly, century after century.
    Eternal justice knew what it was doing: it added idleness
    to eternity. One generation bequeathed me to the other. The
    languages, as they died, preserved my name like a fossil. With
    the passing of time all was forgotten; the heroes faded into
    myths, into shadow, and history crumbled to fragments, only two
    or three vague, remote characteristics remaining to it. And I
    saw them in changing aspect. You spoke of a chapter? Happy are
    those who read only one chapter of life. Those who depart at
    the birth of empires bear with them the impression of their
    perpetuity; those who die at their fall, are buried in the
    hope of their restoration; but do you not realize what it is
    to see the same things unceasingly,--the same alternation of
    prosperity and desolation, desolation and prosperity, eternal
    obsequies and eternal halleluiahs, dawn upon dawn, sunset upon
    sunset?

                              PROMETHEUS

    But you did not suffer, I believe. It is something not to
    suffer.

                               AHASVERUS

    Yes, but I saw other men suffer, and in the end the spectacle
    of joy gave me the same sensations as the discourses of an
    idiot. Fatalities of flesh and blood, unending strife,--I saw
    all pass before my eyes, until night caused me to lose my taste
    for day, and now I cannot distinguish flowers from thistles.
    Everything is confused in my weary retina.

As Prometheus is but a vision, he is in reality identical with
Ahasverus; and as Ahasverus here speaks, according to our
interpretation, for Machado de Assis, so too does Prometheus.
Particularly when he utters such sentiments as “The description of
life is not worth the sensation of life.” Yet in Machado de Assis,
description and sensation are fairly one; like so many ironists, he
has a mistrust of feeling. The close of the dialogue is a striking
commentary upon the retiring duality of the writer. Ahasverus, in his
vision, is loosening the fetters of Prometheus, and the Greek addresses
him:

    Loosen them, new Hercules, last man of the old world, who shall
    be the first of the new. Such is your destiny; neither you nor
    I,--nobody can alter it. You go farther than your Moses. From
    the top of Mount Nebo, at the point of death, he beheld the
    land of Jericho, which was to belong to his descendants and the
    Lord said unto him: “Thou hast seen with thine eyes, yet shalt
    not pass beyond.” _You_ shall pass beyond, Ahasverus; you shall
    dwell in Jericho.

                               AHASVERUS

    Place your hand upon my head; look well at me; fill me with the
    reality of your prediction; let me breathe a little of the new,
    full life … King, did you say?

                              PROMETHEUS

    The chosen king of a chosen people.

                               AHASVERUS

    It is not too much in recompense for the deep ignominy in which
    I have dwelt. Where one life heaped mire, another life will
    place a halo. Speak, speak on … speak on … (_He continues to
    dream. The two eagles draw near._)

                              FIRST EAGLE

    Ay, ay, ay! Alas for this last man; he is dying, yet he dreams
    of life.

                             SECOND EAGLE

    Not so much that he hated it as that he loved it so much.[5]

So much for the weariness of the superhuman,--an attitude matched among
us more common mortals by such a delirium as occurs in a famous passage
of Machado de Assis’s _Braz Cubas_, one of the mature works of which
_Dom Casmurro_ is by many held to be the best. What shall we say of the
plots of these novels? In reality, the plots do not exist. They are the
slenderest of strings upon which the master stylist hangs the pearls
of his wisdom. And such a wisdom! Not the maxims of a Solomon, nor the
pompous nothings of the professional moralist. Seeming by-products
of the narrative, they form its essence. To read Machado de Assis’s
central novels for their tale is the vainest of pursuits. He is not
interested in goals; the road is his pleasure, and he pauses wherever
he lists, indulging the most whimsical conceits. For this Brazilian is
a master of the whimsy that is instinct with a sense of man’s futility.

Here, for example, is almost the whole of Chapter XVII of _Dom
Casmurro_. What has it to do with the love story of the hero and
Capitú? Nothing. It could be removed, like any number of passages from
Machado de Assis’s chief labours, without destroying the mere tale. Yet
it is precisely these passages that are the soul of the man’s work.

The chapter is entitled The Worms (_Os Vermes_).

    “ … When, later, I came to know that the lance of Achilles also
    cured a wound that it inflicted, I conceived certain desires
    to write a disquisition upon the subject. I went as far as to
    approach old books, dead books, buried books, to open them,
    compare them, plumbing the text and the sense, so as to find
    the common origin of pagan oracle and Israelite thought. I
    seized upon the very worms of the books, that they might tell
    me what there was in the texts they gnawed.

    “‘My dear sir,’ replied a long, fat bookworm, ‘we know
    absolutely nothing about the texts that we gnaw, nor do we
    choose what we gnaw, nor do we love or detest what we gnaw; we
    simply go on gnawing.’

    “And that was all I got out of him. All the others, as if
    they had agreed upon it, repeated the same song. Perhaps this
    discreet silence upon the texts they gnawed was itself another
    manner still of gnawing the gnawed.”

This is more than a commentary upon books; it is, in little, a
philosophical attitude toward life, and, so far as one may judge from
his works, it was Machado de Assis’s attitude. He was a kindly sceptic;
for that matter, look through the history of scepticism, and see
whether, as a lot, the sceptics are not much more kindly than their
supposedly sweeter-tempered brothers who dwell in the everlasting grace
of life’s certainties.

Machado de Assis was not too hopeful of human nature. One of his most
noted tales, _O Infermeiro_ (The Nurse or Attendant) is a miniature
masterpiece of irony in which man’s self-deception in the face of his
own advantages is brought out with that charm-in-power which is not the
least of the Brazilian’s qualities.

A man has hired out as nurse to a testy old invalid, who has changed
one after the other all the attendants he has engaged. The nurse seems
more fortunate than the rest, though matters rapidly approach a climax,
until “on the evening of the 24th of August the colonel had a violent
attack of anger; he struck me, he called me the vilest names, he
threatened to shoot me; finally he threw in my face a plate of porridge
that was too cold for him. The plate struck the wall and broke into a
thousand fragments.

“‘You’ll pay me for it, you thief!’ he bellowed.

“For a long time he grumbled. Towards eleven o’clock he gradually fell
asleep. While he slept I took a book out of my pocket, a translation
of an old d’Alancourt novel which I had found lying about, and began
to read it in his room, at a small distance from his bed. I was to
wake him at midnight to give him his medicine; but, whether it was due
to fatigue or to the influence of the book, I, too, before reaching
the second page, fell asleep. The cries of the colonel awoke me with a
start; in an instant I was up. He, apparently in a delirium, continued
to utter the same cries; finally he seized his water-bottle and threw
it at my face. I could not get out of the way in time; the bottle hit
me in the left cheek, and the pain was so acute that I almost lost
consciousness. With a leap I rushed upon the invalid; I tightened my
hands around his neck; he struggled several moments; I strangled him.

“When I beheld that he no longer breathed, I stepped back in terror. I
cried out; but nobody heard me. Then, approaching the bed once more,
I shook him so as to bring him back to life. It was too late; the
aneurism had burst, and the colonel was dead. I went into the adjoining
room, and for two hours I did not dare to return. It is impossible
for me to express all that I felt during that time. It was intense
stupefaction, a kind of vague and vacant delirium. It seemed to me that
I saw faces grinning on the walls; I heard muffled voices. The cries of
the victim, the cries uttered before the struggle and during its wild
moments continued to reverberate within me, and the air, in whatever
direction I turned, seemed to shake with convulsions. Do not imagine
that I am inventing pictures or aiming at verbal style. I swear to
you that I heard distinctly voices that were crying at me: ‘Murderer;
Murderer!’”

By one of the many ironies of fate, however, the testy colonel has left
the attendant sole heir to his possessions; for the invalid has felt
genuine appreciation, despite the anger to which he was subject. Note
the effect upon the attendant, whose conscience at first has troubled
him acutely:

    “Thus, by a strange irony of fate, all the colonel’s wealth
    came into my hands. At first I thought of refusing the legacy.
    It seemed odious to take a sou of that inheritance; it seemed
    worse than the reward of a hired assassin. For three days this
    thought obsessed me; but more and more I was thrust against
    this consideration: that my refusal would not fail to awake
    suspicion. Finally I settled upon a compromise; I would accept
    the inheritance and would distribute it in small sums, secretly.

    “This was not merely scruple on my part, it was also the desire
    to redeem my crime by virtuous deeds; and it seemed the only
    way to recover my peace of mind and feel that the accounts were
    straight.”

But possession is sweet, and before long the attendant changes his mind.

    “Several months had elapsed, and the idea of distributing the
    inheritance in charity and pious donations was by no means
    so strong as it first had been; it even seemed to me that
    this would be sheer affectation. I revised my initial plan; I
    gave away several insignificant sums to the poor; I presented
    the village church with a few new ornaments; I gave several
    thousand francs to the Sacred House of Mercy, etc. I did not
    forget to erect a monument upon the colonel’s grave--a very
    simple monument, all marble, the work of a Neapolitan sculptor
    who remained at Rio until 1866, and who has since died, I
    believe, in Paraguay.

    “Years have gone by. My memory has become vague and unreliable.
    Sometimes I think of the colonel, but without feeling again
    the terrors of those early days. All the doctors to whom
    I have described his afflictions have been unanimous as
    regards the inevitable end in store for the invalid, and were
    indeed surprised that he should so long have resisted. It is
    just possible that I may have involuntarily exaggerated the
    description of his various symptoms; but the truth is that he
    was sure of sudden death, even had this fatality not occurred.…

    “Good-bye, my dear sir. If you deem these notes not totally
    devoid of value reward me for them with a marble tomb, and
    place there for my epitaph this variant which I have made of
    the divine sermon on the mount:

    “‘Blessed are they who possess, for they shall be consoled.’”

I have omitted mention of the earlier novels of Machado de Assis
because they belong to a romantic epoch, and he was not of the stuff
that makes real romantics.[6] How could he be a genuine member of
that school when every trait of his retiring personality rebelled
against the abandonment to outspokenness implied in membership? He is
as wary of extremes, as mistrustful of superlatives, as José Dias in
_Dom Casmurro_ is fond of them. “I wiped my eyes,” relates the hero
of that book, when apprised of his mother’s illness, “since of all
José Dias’s words, but a single one remained in my heart: it was that
_gravissimo_, (very serious). I saw afterward that he had meant to say
only _grave_ (serious), but the use of the superlative makes the mouth
long, and through love of a sonorous sentence José Dias had increased
my sadness. If you should find in this book any words belonging to the
same family, let me know, gentle reader, that I may emend it in the
second edition; there is nothing uglier than giving very long feet to
very short ideas.” If anything, his method follows the reverse order,
that of giving short feet to long ideas. He never strains a thought
or a situation. If he is sad, it is not the loud-mouthed melancholy
of Byronic youth; neither is he the blatant cynic. He does not wave
his hands and beat his breast in deep despair; he seems rather to sit
brooding--not too deeply, for that would imply too great a concern with
the silly world--by the banks of a lake in which the reflection of the
clouds paints fantastic pictures upon the changing waters.

The real Machado de Assis stands apart from all who have written prose
in his country. Senhor Costa, in his admirable book upon the Brazilian
novel, has sought to present his nation’s chief novelist by means of an
imagery drawn from Greek architecture; Aluizio Azevedo thus becomes the
Doric column; Machado de Assis, the sober, elegant Ionian column; Graça
Aranha, the Corinthian and Coelho Netto the composite. Sobriety and
elegance are surely the outstanding qualities of the noted writer. His
art, according to Costa, is the secret of _suggesting_ thoughts; this
is what I have called his indirect method.

       *       *       *       *       *

Machado de Assis belongs with the original writers of the nineteenth
century. His family is the family of Renan and Anatole France; he is
their younger brother, but his features show the resemblance.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The occasion was the _Fête de l’Intellectualité Brésilenne_,
celebrated on April 3, 1909, at the Sorbonne in the Richelieu
amphitheatre. Anatole France delivered a short, characteristic speech
upon _Le Génie Latin_, emphasizing his disbelief in the idea of race.
“Je dis le génie latin, je dis les peuples latins, parce que l’idée de
race n’est le plus souvent qu’une vision de l’orgueil et de l’erreur,
et parce que la civilization hellénique et romaine, comme la Jérusalem
nouvelle, a vu venir de toutes parts à elle des enfants qu’elle n’avait
point portés dans son sein. Et c’est sa gloire de gagner l’univers.…
Latins des deux mondes, soyons fiers de notre commun heritage. Mais
sachons le partager avec l’univers entier; sachons que la beauté
antique, l’éternelle Hélène, plus auguste, plus chaste d’enlèvement en
enlèvement, a pour destinée de se donner à des ravisseurs étrangers, et
d’enfanter dans toutes les races, sous tous les climats, de nouveaux
Euphorions, toujours plus savants et plus beaux.”

[2] “I do not like tears,” he says, in his last novel, _Memorial de
Ayres_, “even in the eyes of women, whether or not they be pretty; they
are confessions of weakness, and I was born with an abhorrence for the
weak.”

[3] It was a blue fly, with wings of gold and carmine, daughter of
China or of Hindustan, who was born on a certain summer’s night amid
the petals of a red, red rose. And she buzzed and flew, and flew and
buzzed, glittering in the light of the sun and the moon--brighter than
a gem of the Grand Mogul. A humble toiler saw her, and was struck with
amazement and sadness. A humble toiler, asking: “Fly, this glitter that
seems rather a dream, say, who taught it to you?” Then she, flying
around and about, replied: “I am life, I am the flower of grace, the
paragon of earthly youth,--I am glory, I am love.” And he stood there,
contemplating her, wrapt like a fakir, like one utterly dazed beyond
power of comparison or reflection. Between the wings of the insect, as
she flew in space, appeared something that rose with all the splendour
of a palace, and he beheld a face that was his own. It was he,--he
was a king,--the king of Cashmire, who wore upon his bare neck a huge
necklace of opals, and a sapphire taken from the body of Vishnu. One
hundred radiant women, a hundred exquisite _nayras_, smilingly display
their rare graces at his feet upon the polished floor, and all the
love they have they give to him. Mute, gravely on foot, a hundred ugly
Ethiopians, with large ostrich fans, refresh their perfumed breasts,
voluptuously nude. Then came glory,--forty conquered kings, and at
last the triumphal tribute of three hundred nations, and the united
felicitations of western crowns. But best of all is, that in the open
face of the women and the men, as in water that shows the clear bottom,
he saw into their hearts. Then he, extending his callous, rough hand
that was accustomed only to carpentry, seized the glittering fly,
curious to examine it. He wished to see it, to discover the cause of
the mystery, and closing his fist around it, smiled with contentment
to think that he held there an empire. He left for home. He arrives in
excitement, examines and his mute behaviour is that of a man about to
dissect his illusion. He dissected it, to such a point, and with such
art, that the fly, broken, repellent, succumbed; and at this there
vanished that fantastic, subtle vision. Today, when he passes, anointed
with aloes and cardamom, with an affected air, they say that he went
crazy, and that he doesn’t known how he lost his blue fly.

[4] Dancing in the air, a restless glow-worm wailed, “Oh, that I might
be that radiant star which burns in the eternal blue, like a perpetual
candle!” But the star: “Oh, that I might copy the transparent light
that, at the gothic window of a Greek column the beloved, beautiful one
sighingly contemplated!” But the moon, gazing at the sun, peevishly:
“Wretched I! Would that I had that vast, undying refulgence which
resumes all light in itself!” But the sun, bowing its rutilant crown:
“This brilliant heavenly aureole wearies me.… I am burdened by this
vast blue canopy.… Why was I not born a simple glow-worm?”

[5] The excerpts from _Viver!_ and _O Infermeiro_ are taken from my
_Brazilian Tales_, Boston, 1921.

[6] See Part One of this book, Chapter V, § III, for the more romantic
aspects of Machado de Assis.



III

JOSÉ VERISSIMO


It was a favourite attitude of Verissimo’s to treat of the author as
the author appears in his work, rather than as he may be constructed
from his biography and his milieu. Some of the national critics have
referred to this as if it were a defect; it is, on the contrary, in
consonance with the finest work now done in contemporary esthetic
criticism and places Verissimo, in my opinion, at the head of all
critics who have treated in Brazil of Brazilian letters. It is in
precisely such a spirit that I shall try to present him to an alien
audience,--doubly alien, shall I say?--in that criticism itself,
wherever practised, is quite alien to the surroundings in which it is
produced. Verissimo was what the Spaniards call a _raro_; he was as
little Brazilian, in any restrictive sense, as was Machado de Assis. A
conscientious reading of the thousands of pages he left fails to reveal
anything like a hard and fast formula for literary appreciation. He
was an intellectual freeman, truly in a spiritual sense a citizen of
the world. In a country where even the more immediately rewarded types
of creative endeavour were produced under the most adverse conditions,
he exercised the least rewarded of literary professions; in a nation
where the intellectual oligarchy was so small that every writer could
have known his fellow scribe,--where the very language betrays one
into the empty compliment and a meaningless grandiloquence,--he served,
and served with admirable scruple, gentility and wisdom, the cause of
truth and beauty. His manner is, with rare interludes of righteous
indignation, generally serene; his approach is first of all esthetic,
with a certain allowance for social idealism that never degenerates
into hollow optimism; his language, which certain Brazilian have
seen fit to criticize for lack of stylistic amenities, is to one
foreigner, at least, a source of constant charm for its simplicity, its
directness, its usually unlaboured lucidity.

And these various qualities seem but so many facets of the man’s
unostentatious personality. He was not, like Sylvio Romero, a nature
compelled, out of some seeming inner necessity, to quarrel; his pages,
indeed, are restful even when most interesting and most alive with
suggestion and stimulating thought. His Portuguese, surely, is not so
beautiful as the Spanish of his twin-spirit of Uruguay, José Enrique
Rodó, but there is something in both these men that places them apart
from their contemporaries who practised criticism. They were truly
modern in the better sense of that word; they brought no sacrifices to
the altar of novelty, of sensation, of an unreasoned, wholesale dumping
of the past. They did not confuse modernity with up-to-date-ness; they
did not go into ecstasies for the sake of enthusiasm itself. They would
have been “modern” in any age, and perhaps for that very reason a
certain classic repose hovers over their pages. Each knew his classics;
each knew his moderns. But I doubt whether either ever gave himself
much concern over these really futile distinctions,--futile, that
is, when mouthed merely as hard and fast differences, as if restless,
“romantic” spirits did not exist among the ancients, and as if, today,
no serene soul may dwell in his nook apart, watching the world roll
on. Such a serenity lives in the pages of the Uruguayan and of the
Brazilian; like all things born of human effort, they will lose as the
years roll on, but something of permanence is there because Verissimo,
like Rodó, possessed the secret of seizing upon something universal in
whatever he choose to consider.

That Europe, with its ancient culture, its aristocratic intellectual
circles and its concentrated audiences, should have produced great
critics, is not, after all, so much to be wondered at,--surely,
hardly more to be marvelled at than the emergence of the great
playwright, the great novelist. That the United States, in recent
years, reveals the promise of notable criticism, is somewhat more a
cause for congratulation in that here we lack--or up to yesterday,
lacked--inspiring intellectual leaders. But at least we possessed the
paraphernalia, the apparatus, the national wealth. We had publishers,
we had printing-presses, we had a generally literate populace, whatever
the use to which the populace put those capabilities. Our young
writers did not have to seek publishers abroad, whence alone could
come likewise, literary consecration. That a Rodó should arise in
Spanish America--and more than one notable critic had preceded him--or
that a Verissimo should appear in Brazil, is fairly a triumph of mind
over matter. It is true that such an event would have been impossible
without the influence--and the decided influence--of European culture;
but it is a triumph, none the less. And it is the sort of triumph that
comes from the sacrifice of material boons to values less tangible,
yet more lasting. I do not mean that Verissimo went about deploring
the humble position of the artist and the true critic in Brazil; I am
a mite mistrustful of self-analytic martyrs, of whom we are not exempt
in these United States. He exercised a deliberate choice. Much of his
work first appeared in the newspapers, and this alone must stand as a
tribute to the organs that printed his critiques. For the rest, his
life and labours serve to prove that south of the Rio Grande, no less
than north, economic materialism and the life of the spirit are at
everlasting grips with each other, and that there are men (again on
both sides of that stream) who are masters rather than slaves of the
chattels they possess.

He was not religious (remember that I am treating him as he treated
his own subjects--as he is revealed in his writings); he was not
intensely emotional; he looked love and death straight in the eyes,
as much with curiosity as with any inner or outer trembling before
either. He was, in his realm, what Machado de Assis was in his,--a
spirit of the Limbo, shall we say? His motto, if he would have accepted
the static connotation of mottoes, might have been Horace’s _medio
tutissimus ibis_, only that he sought the middle path not so much
through desire of safety as out of a certain philosophical conviction.
But there again I use a word that does not harmonize with Verissimo’s
intellectual elasticity, for words are almost as hard and cold as
the type that prints them, while thoughts rather resemble the air
that takes them into space. And Verissimo is especially sensible to
this permanence-in-transiency. “As to permanence,” he wrote in an
interesting essay on _Que é Literatura_[1] (What is Literature?),
“it might be said, in a sort of paradox, that it is precisely the
transitoriness of the emotion that makes a book of lasting interest.
It is an essential difference between knowledge and emotion that the
first is lasting and the second transitory. A fact learned remains,
is added to the sum of our knowledge. We may forget it, but such
forgetting is not in the nature of things necessary, and the truths
that are contained in a book of science that we have read join our
permanent intellectual acquisitions. The emotions are by very nature
fleeting,--they are not, like the facts we learn, added to and
incorporated into one another; they are a series of experiences that
change constantly. Within a few hours the emotion aroused by the
reading of a poem is extinguished; it cannot endure. It may be renewed,
by the re-reading of the poem or by resorting to memory, and, if it be
a masterpiece, successive readings and recollection will not blunt its
power to move us.”

He commits himself to no definite esthetic system, thus suggesting his
affinities to the French impressionists and to that Jules Lemaître whom
he so much admired. “No meio não está só a virtude, mas a verdade,”
he writes; “not only virtue, but truth, lies in the middle.” This,
as I have said, is not a wish for the Horatian safety of the middle
course, but rather an innate mistrust of extremes. To the ancient
apophthegm that there is nothing new under the sun--and it would be
just as true to say that there is nothing old under it, or that all
things under the sun are new--he composes a variant that might well
stand as the description of the best in our newer criticism: “Nada ha
de definitivo debaixo do Sol”; “there is nothing definitive under the
sun.” In United States criticism there is a lapidary phrase to match
it, and from a spirit who, allowing for all the modifications of time,
space and temperament, is kin to Verissimo. I refer to a brief sentence
that occurs in the Introduction to Ludwig Lewisohn’s _A Modern Book
of Criticism_, in a paragraph devoted to demonstrating the futility
of absolute standards, as represented in the important work of Paul
Elmer More.… “Calmly oblivious of the crumbling of every absolute
ever invented by man,” writes Mr. Lewisohn, “he (i. e., Mr. More)
continues in his fierce and growing isolation to assert that he knows
what human life ought to be and what kind of literature ought to be
permitted to express its character. That a form of art or life exists
and that it engages the whole hearts of men makes little difference
to him. He knows.… And what does he know? Only, at bottom, his own
temperamental tastes and impulses which he seeks to rationalize by
an appeal to carefully selected and isolated tendencies in art and
thought. And, having rationalized them by an artifice so fragile, he
seeks to impose them upon the men and the artists of his own day in the
form of laws. I know his reply so well. It is this, that if you abandon
his method, you sink into universal scepticism and undiscriminate
acceptance. The truth is that I believe far more than he does. For I
love beauty in all its forms and find life tragic and worthy of my
sympathy in every manifestation. I need no hierarchical moral world for
my dwelling-place, because I desire neither to judge nor to condemn.
_Fixed standards are useless to him whose central passion is to have
men free._ Mr. More needs them for the same inner reason--infinitely
rarified and refined, of course,--for which they are necessary to the
inquisitor and the militant patriot. He wants to damn heretics.… I
do not. His last refuge, like that of every absolutist at bay, would
be in the corporate judgment of mankind. Yes, mankind has let the
authoritarians impose upon it only too often. But their day is nearly
over.…”[2]

This is one of the most important passages in contemporary United
States criticism,--doubly so because the men thus ranged against each
other are both accomplished scholars and thus rise to symbols of the
inevitable contest between the intellect that dominates the emotions
and the intellect that has discovered wisdom in guidance rather than
domination. Verissimo was no Lewisohn; he possessed many of that
critic’s signal qualities, but in lesser degree. His language is not
so instinct with human warmth, his culture not so wide nor so deep,
his perceptions not so keen; but he belongs in company of such rare
spirits. He is as unusual amidst the welter of verbose opinions that
passes for criticism in Spanish and Portuguese America as is Lewisohn
amidst our own colder but equally vapid and empty reviewers and as
was Rodó in the milieu that but half understood him. Neither Rodó
nor Verissimo, for that matter, had a firm grasp upon the budding
intellectual life of these States; each died a trifle too early for the
signs of hope that they would have been happy to discern. As it is,
they possessed the somewhat stencilled view of the United States as the
country of the golden calf; a view none too false, more’s the pity, but
too “absolute” in the sense that we have just seen discussed. There is,
for all the truth in Rodó’s famous _Ariel_, a certain half-concealed
condescension that might not have appeared were that essay written
today.[3] The younger Spanish Americans and Brazilians who have come
north to study at our universities and to acquaint themselves with
the newer phases of our culture, have been quick to respond to such
spirits as Van Wyck Brooks, Henry L. Mencken, Ludwig Lewisohn, Joel
Elias Spingarn. During the next decade, as these young men rise to
power in their own intellectual world, their books will doubtless
reveal a different attitude toward the attainments of their Northern
neighbours,--unless--and there is always that unless,--political
happenings should contort their views and our scant spiritual
population should once again suffer, as so often in the past, for the
misdoings of our diplomats.

Verissimo, then, is the critic-artist. The drum-beat of dogma that
pounds over the pages of Sylvio Romero is never heard in his lines.
Though he holds that art is a social function--a form indispensable to
the existence of society--he realizes its individual import, without
carrying his belief to the point of that mystifying esoterism so
beloved of certain latter-day poets and dramatists.

To him, criticism was an art, and, reduced to its essential elements,
is practised by any one who expresses an opinion or a feeling
concerning a work of art. His mind was open to every wind of doctrine
that blew, but this was hospitality rather than indiscrimination.
“Let us not rebel against the new poetic tendencies,” he wrote in a
controversy with Medeiros e Albuquerque, “for we must understand that
they are all natural, the result of poetry’s very evolution. Let us
not, on the other hand, accept them as universal and definitive. There
is nothing definitive under the sun.… Schools, tendencies, fashions,
pass. Poetry remains, invariable in its essence, despite the diversity
of its form.”

It is possible, however, that the conditions under which he wrote
prevented his work from attaining the heights that often it suggests.
His Brazil needed a teacher rather than a critic,--a policeman of the
arts, as it were,--and he had to supply the deficiency. Perhaps it is
one’s imagination that detects in his lines a certain all-pervading
sadness,--a sadness that seems sister to serenity. Only when stirred
to just combat--as in his controversy with Sylvio Romero--does he
abandon his unruffled demeanour, and ever here he is more restrained
than Sylvio could be in his moments of calm. Verissimo,--and again he
suggests Rodó for a similar quality,--is ever a mite melancholy. His
thought and its expression at their best are like a beautiful landscape
seen in the afterglow of sunset; a sort of intellectual twilight,
most natural to one who found truth and virtue in the middle. Yet
is there much Truth and Virtue in Verissimo,--whoever that lady and
gentleman may be? He sought to bring no eternal verities; his aim,
like Rodó’s, was to instil rather the love of truth than any specific
truth itself. He is a dispassionate analyst. Hence his tolerance
(another quality of the middle, it will be noted), his diffidence, his
sincerity. After Verissimo, Brazilian criticism is confronted with
new standards,--flexible, it is true, but all the more exigent. As
Machado de Assis belongs to the company of Anatole France, so Verissimo
belongs with Lemaître. At a proper distance, to be sure, but within the
circle of the elect. He was not deceived by theories, for he looked
to the creation itself; neither was he deceived, and for the same
reason, by men and women. By their works he knew them, as by his work
we know him. It was his attitude as much as his accomplishment that
made of him the national glory he has become. And no little of that
glory is his because his sincerity transcended the narrower claims of
nationalism,--a nationalism in Brazil as elsewhere too often identical
with unthinking pride, puerile boastfulness and the notions of whatever
political party happens to be predominant.

       *       *       *       *       *

With Sylvio Romero he shares pre-eminence as the foremost modern
Brazilian critic of letters. A passing glance at the controversy
between these contrasting personalities will bring out not only their
divergent qualities, but more than one sidelight on the problems of
Brazilian culture and literature. I give it as it may be seen through
Verissimo’s eyes, because I think that he sums up the case with his
characteristic sincerity and modesty.

Romero’s notable work, _Historia da literatura brasileira_, was first
published, in two volumes, in the year 1888, and brought the history
of the nation’s letters down to the year 1870. A second edition
appeared in 1902-3, revised by the author. It was upon the appearance
of this second edition that Verissimo estimated the qualities of
the work in terms that should meet with the approval of all but the
blindest of partisans. He noted not only its value as research, its
solid qualities, but its contradictions, incoherencies and abuses of
generalization as well. He called it “one of the most original, or
at least personal, most suggestive, most copious (in opinions and
ideas), most interesting” of books and noted, what the most superficial
must note at once, the man’s polemical temper. “The source of our
literary history,” he wrote, “is the Introduction by Varnhagen to his
_Florilegio_ of Brazilian poetry (Lisbon 1850, I and II vols., Madrid,
1853, III). It was he who laid in those pages the corner stone of the
still unfinished edifice of our literature.… Wolf, Norberto Silva,
Fernandes Pinheiro and others merely followed his lead, and if they
improved upon him, it was according to his indications. And, if not by
its philosophic spirit and critical method, Sylvio Romero’s _Historia_
derives in its general design from the _Introduction_ or Varnhagen.…”

The review, short as it was, revealed Verissimo’s intellectual
contrast to Romero. He is calm, even, logical, somewhat cold, clear,
French,--while Romero is the born fighter, impassioned, rambling, eager
to embrace his vast subject, crowding into his history a mass of names
and works wholly without pertinence to the field, lacking in literary
grace.

In 1906 Verissimo was obliged to take up the subject once more, this
time in less dispassionate terms, forced into a distasteful controversy
when further silence would have been tantamount to cowardice. Romero,
in that year, published together with Sr. Dr. João Ribeiro, a
_Compendio de historia da literatura brazileira_ in which Verissimo was
acrimoniously attacked, “not only in my opinions as a critic, which
does not offend me, nor in my qualities as a writer, which it would be
ridiculous to enter the field and defend, but in my literary probity,
which compels me to this refutation.…

“Sylvio Romero cannot suffer--and this is a proof of a certain moral
inferiority--contradiction and criticism, and must have unconditional
admiration.…” The voluminous historian was vain. “It is an absolutely
certain fact, and most easily verified, that in no country, in no
literature, has any author quoted himself so much as (I do not say
more than) Sylvio Romero.… Despite the fact that there was never a
break or even a difference in our relations, which for my part I prized
and which he did not seem to disdain, I felt, despite his praise and
his verbal animation--that of a master toward his pupil--that my poor
literary production contended with his and therefore, in short, I was
not agreeable to him. It was evident to me that there were two things
that my friend could not pardon me for: my small esteem (small in
relation to his) for Tobias Barreto and my great appreciation for a
writer whose highly justified glory has for some time seemingly robbed
the great critic of sleep.”

“I continue to maintain,” wrote Verissimo, “and all the documents
support me, that Varnhagen was the father of our literary history,
principally of that history as it is conceived and realized by Sylvio
Romero in his _Historia da literatura brazileira_, whose inspiration
and economy derive far more from the studies of Varnhagen than from
the generalizations … of Fernand Denis or Norberto Silva … I know
perfectly well … what was accomplished before him by Norberto Silva
and Fernand Denis, Bouterwek and Sismondi, etc.… The oldest of these
writers is the German Bouterwek. But I doubt whether Sylvio Romero
ever read him. In fact this author concerns himself only in passing
fashion with Brazilian literature.…” And in turn Verissimo takes up the
work of Denis, Silva and other predecessors of Varnhagen, rectifying
the position of the investigator whose merits have been so unjustly
slighted by the dogmatic “Pontifex Maximus of Brazilian letters,” as
Romero was called by Eunapio Deiró.[4]

“A disciple of the French through Sainte-Beuve and Brunetière, and
of the English through Macaulay,” says Carvalho in his recent work
upon Brazilian literature, “Verissimo was what might be called an
objective critic. Versed in many literatures, even erudite, he lacked,
in order to be a great writer, a finer taste for beautiful things, and
likewise, the spirit, or rather, the fineness of understanding and
sensibility. His _Historia da Literatura Brazileira_ which is, we will
not say a perfect, but an honest synthesis of our literary evolution,
shows the primordial defect of its method, which was that of seeking
the individual to the detriment of the milieu, the personal work to
the prejudice of the collective. Verissimo, who possessed a direct
observation that could appreciate isolated values keenly, lacked on
the other hand a deep intuition of universal problems; he was content
to point them out in passing; he did not enter into them, he circled
prudently around them.…”[5]

What Carvalho points out as a defect I consider Verissimo’s chief
contribution to Brazilian criticism,--his primary concern with the
individual. True, this may lessen his value as a literary historian,
but it makes of him one of the very few genuine esthetical critics
that have appeared on this side of the Atlantic. It renders him easily
superior to Romero and Carvalho, the latter of whom is much indebted to
both Verissimo and Romero, as is every one who seeks to write of the
nation’s letters.

Verissimo has put into a very short essay his general outlook upon
Brazilian literature. It is instinct with the man’s honesty of outlook,
his directness of statement, his fidelity to fact, his dispassionate
approach. For that reason I translate it almost entire as the best
short commentary available. It is entitled _O Que Falta á Nossa
Literatura_ (What Our Literature Lacks).

    “What I know of American literature--and in truth it is
    very little--authorizes me to say that ours is perhaps the
    oldest of the continent.[6] From the literary standpoint
    our nationality seems to have preceded the other American
    nations. It is clear that I am not here insisting upon a
    strict question of date; it is possible that in Mexico, and
    even in Peru,--I haven’t at hand the means for verifying the
    facts,--some writers may have arisen earlier than our own,
    poets necessarily. Chronology, in literature, however, though
    of considerable importance, cannot alone serve to establish
    priority. A literature is a grouping, and cannot in fact exist
    through a single poet or an isolated book, unless that poet
    or that book resume in eminent degree the entire thought or
    feeling of a people who is already in some manner conscious of
    itself. This is the case of Homer, if that name stands for an
    individual.

    “Since the XVIIth century we reckon in our midst poets
    and prosers. This would prove that the necessity of
    reporting oneself, of defining oneself,--which creates
    literature,--already existed amongst us, no sooner than we were
    born. The work of Gabriel Soares may, and I believe should, be
    excluded from a history of Brazilian literature, because such
    a history can be only that of literature published and known
    in its day,--literature that could have influenced its time
    and those who came after. But it comprises part of a history
    of the civilization, thought and spiritual progress of Brazil,
    showing how already in that century a native of the country,
    sequestered upon his plantation in the sertão, not only
    possessed sufficient culture to write of matters pertaining to
    his country, but felt also the necessity of writing it down.
    It is certain that he was inspired likewise by interest and
    that his work is a memorial to the Sovereign, seeking personal
    concessions. But, on account of the thoroughness and the
    breadth with which it is done, and, above all, because of the
    general, disinterested spirit in which it is accomplished,--the
    variety of its aspects and the national breath that animates
    it, it far exceeds the nature of a simple memorial. In the same
    position are the _Dialogues upon the Grandeurs of Brazil_ and
    their author, whoever he may be. Preoccupation with history
    is the surest token of a reflective national consciousness.
    This preoccupation awoke early in Brazil, and not only as a
    means of information with which the religious orders tried
    to instruct themselves concerning the lay of the land and to
    glorify themselves by publishing their own deeds, but also in
    this same more general, more disinterested spirit. Frei Vicente
    do Salvador is thus early a national historian and not a simple
    religious chronicler.

    “Two things occur to produce this development in Brazilian
    literary expression, at the very beginning of civilization in
    this country: the vigor of literary expression in Portugal and
    the Jesuit _collegios_. Whatever be the value of Portuguese
    literature, it is beyond dispute that no literature of the
    smaller peoples rivals it in wealth and variety. When Brazil
    was discovered, only a small part of Italy, France, Spain
    and Portugal possessed a literary life. England was scarcely
    emerging into it, with the predecessors of Shakespeare, who
    had not yet been born and whose first works date from the end
    of the century. Germany, from the literary standpoint, did not
    exist.

    “Portugal, for already a century, had possessed a language
    solidly constructed and policed, and in this respect the labor
    of Camões is incomparably less than that of Dante. Portugal
    was in its golden age of literature, which already possessed
    chroniclers such as Fernão Lopes, novelists like Bernardim
    Ribeiro, historians like João de Barros, dramatists like Gil
    Vicente, poets such as those of the _cancioneiros_ and a line
    of writers of all kinds dating back to the fourteenth century.
    Despite the rusticity of the people, Portugal, in the epoch of
    Brazil’s colonization, is one of the four countries of Europe
    that may be called intellectual. The identification of the
    colony of Brazil with the mother-country seems to me one of
    the expressive facts of our history, and this identification
    rendered easy the influence of Portuguese spiritual life upon
    a wild region, so that it was possible to obtain results
    which, given other feelings between the court and the colony,
    would not have been forthcoming. Since gold was not at once
    discovered here, and those mines that were discovered proved
    relatively few and poor, Brazilian life soon took on, from
    Reconcavo to Pernambuco, where it was first lived, and later
    in Rio Janeiro and even--though less--in S. Vicente, a modest
    manner,--what today we should call bourgeois,--more favourable
    to literary expression, to the leisure needed for writing, than
    the agitated, adventurous existence of the colonizers of mine
    lands.

    “The collegios of the Jesuits, established with higher studies
    as early as the XVIth century, and later--in imitation of
    them--the convents of the other religious orders, infiltrating
    Latin culture into the still half-savage colony, favoured the
    transmigration hither of the powerful literary spirit of the
    metropolis.

    “Soon, then, perhaps sooner than any other American nation,
    and certainly sooner than, for example, the largest of them
    all, the United States, we had a literature, the written
    expression of our collective thought and feeling. Certainly
    this literature scarcely merits the name of Brazilian as a
    regional designation. It is Portuguese not only in tongue
    but in inspiration, sentiment, spirit. There might perhaps
    already exist, as in the author of the _Dialogos das grandezas_
    or in Gabriel Soares, a regional sentiment, the love of
    the native soil, a taste for its traits, but there was no
    national sentiment other than the selfsame Portuguese national
    sentiment. Even four centuries later, I hesitate to attribute
    to our literature the qualification of Brazilian.… For I do
    not know whether the existence of an entirely independent
    literature is possible without an entirely independent language
    as well. Language is the constituent element of literatures,
    from the fact that it is itself the expression of what there
    is most intimate, most individual, most characteristic in a
    people. Only those peoples possess a literature of their own
    who possess a language of their own. In this sense, which seems
    to me the true one, there is no Austrian literature or Swiss or
    Belgian literature, despite the existence in those peoples of a
    high culture and notable writers in all fields.[7]

    “Therefore I consider Brazilian literature as a branch of
    the Portuguese, to which from time to time it returns by the
    ineluctable law of atavism, as we may see in the imitations
    of the literary movements in Portugal, or better still, in
    the eagerness--today almost universal in our writers--to write
    Portuguese purely, according to the classic models of the
    mother literature. This branch, upon which have been engrafted
    other elements, is already distinguished from the central trunk
    by certain characteristics, but not in a manner to prevent one
    from seeing, at first glance, that it is the same tree slightly
    modified by transplantation to other climes. It is possible
    that new graftings and the prolonged influence of milieu will
    tend to differentiate it even more, but so long as the language
    shall remain the same, it will be little more--as happens in
    the botanical families--than a variety of the species.

    “A variety, however, may be very interesting; it may even be,
    in certain respects, more interesting than the principal type,
    acquiring in time and space qualities that raise it above the
    type. Brazilian literature, or at least poetry, was already
    in the XVIIth century superior to Portuguese. It is by no
    means patriotic presumption, which I lack completely, to judge
    that, with the development of Brazil, its probable politic and
    economic greatness in the future will give to the literary
    expression of its life supremacy over Portugal, whose historic
    rôle seems over and which, from all appearances, will disappear
    in an Iberic union. If this country of ours does not come
    apart and split up into several others, each a ‘patria’ with a
    dialect of its own, we shall prove true to the prophecies of
    Camões and Fr. Luiz de Souza, becoming the legitimate heirs
    of Portugal’s language and literature. If such a thing should
    happen, it would give us an enormous moral superiority to the
    United States and the Spanish-American nations, making of us
    the only nation in America with a truly national language and
    literature.

    “But this literature of ours, which, as a branch of the
    Portuguese already has existed for four centuries, possesses
    neither perfect continuity, cohesion, nor the unity of the
    great literatures,--of the Portuguese, for example. The
    principal reason, to explain the phenomenon in a single word,
    is that it depended ever, in its earliest periods, rather upon
    Portugal and later upon Europe, France especially, than upon
    Brazil itself. It always lacked the principle of solidarity,
    which would seem to reveal lack of national sentiment. It
    always has lacked communicability,--that is, its writers,
    who were separated by vast distances and extreme difficulty
    of communication, remained strangers one to the other. And I
    refer not to personal communication, which is of secondary
    importance, but to intellectual communication that is
    established through books. The various influences that can be
    noted in all our important literary movements are all external.
    What is called improperly the Mineira School of the XVIIIth
    century, and the Maranhão pléiade of the middle of this (the
    XIXth) received their inspiration from Portugal, but did not
    transmit it. As is said in military tactics, contact was never
    established between the writers or between their intellects.

    “This lack of contact continues today (Verissimo wrote the
    essay toward the end of the XIXth century) and is greater now
    than it was for example during the Romantic period. There
    was always lacking the transmitting element, the plastic
    mediator of national thought, a people sufficiently cultured
    to be interested in that thought, or, at least, ready to be
    influenced by it. In the construction of a literature the
    people plays simultaneously a passive and an active rôle: it
    is in the people that the inspiration of poet and thinker has
    its source and its goal. Neither the one nor the other can
    abstract himself, for both form an integral part of the people.
    Perhaps only during our Romantic period, from 1835 to 1860,
    may it be said that this condition of communicability existed,
    limited to a tiny part of the country. The sentiment of a
    new nation co-operated effectively in creating for writers a
    sympathetic public, which felt instinctively in their work an
    expression of that nationality. Then we learned a great deal of
    French, some English and Italian, a smattering of German and
    became intellectually denationalized. A success such as that of
    Macedo’s _Moreninha_ is fairly inconceivable today. Success in
    literature, as in clothing, comes ready made from Paris.

    “Do not take me for a nationalist, and less still, for
    a nativist. I simply am verifying a fact with the same
    indifference with which I should perform the same office in
    the domains of geology. I am looking for the explanation of a
    phenomenon; I believe I have found it, and I present it.

    “So that, from this standpoint, it may be said that it was
    the development of our culture that prejudiced our literary
    evolution. It seems a paradox, but it is simply a truth.
    Defective and faulty as it was, that culture was enough to
    reveal to our reading public the inferiority of our writers,
    without any longer counterbalancing this feeling by the
    patriotic ardor of the period during which the nationality
    was being formed. The general cultural deficiency of our
    writers of all sorts in Brazil is, then, one of the defects
    of our literature. Doing nothing but repeat servilely what
    is being done abroad, without any originality of thought or
    form, without ideas of their own, with immense gaps in their
    learning, and no less defects of instruction that are today
    common among men of medium culture in the countries that we try
    to imitate and follow, we cannot compete before our readers
    with what they receive from the foreign countries at first
    hand, by offering them a similar product at second.

    “In addition to study, culture, instruction, both general and
    thorough, carried on in time and with plenty of time, firm
    and substantial, our literature lacks at present sincerity.
    The evident decadence of our poetry may have no other cause.
    Compare, for example, the poetry of the last ten or even
    fifteen years, with that produced during the decade 1850-1860,
    by Gonçalves Dias, Casimiro de Abreu, Alvares de Azevedo,
    Junqueira Freire, Laurindo Rabello, and you will note that
    the sincerity of emotion that overflowed the verses then is
    almost completely lacking in today’s poetry. And in all our
    literary labors, fiction, history, philosophy, criticism, it is
    impossible for the careful reader not to discern the same lack.
    Perhaps it is due to a lack of correlation between milieu and
    writer.… To aggravate this, there was, moreover, lack of ideas,
    lack of thought, which reduced our poetry to a subjectivism
    from which exaggerated fondness for form took emotion, the
    last quality that remained to it; it reduced our fiction to a
    copy of the French novel, which obstructed the existence of a
    dramatic literature, which sterilized our philisophic, historic
    and critical production. This lack, however, is a consequence
    of our lack of culture and study, which do not furnish
    to brains already for several reasons naturally poor the
    necessary restoratives and tonics. And the worst of it is that,
    judging from the direction in which we are moving, this very
    culture, as deficient and incomplete as it is, threatens to be
    extinguished in a widespread, all-consuming, and, anyway you
    look at it, coarse preoccupation with politics and finance.”[8]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Many cultured Brazilians know English literature in the original.
The essay here referred to was suggested to Verissimo by the book of a
United States professor, Winchester, on _Some Principles of Literary
Criticism_.

[2] _A Modern Book of Criticism_, New York, 1919. Page iii. The italics
are mine.

[3] Mr. Havelock Ellis, writing in 1917 upon Rodó, (the article may be
found in his book entitled _The Philosophy of Conflict_), expressed an
opinion that comes pat to our present purpose. “ … Rodó has perhaps
attributed too fixed a character to North American civilization, and
has hardly taken into account those germs of recent expansion which
may well bring the future development of the United States nearer
to his ideals. It must be admitted, however, that if he had lived
a few months longer Rodó might have seen confirmation in the swift
thoroughness, even exceeding that of England, with which the United
States on entering the war sought to suppress that toleration for
freedom of thought and speech that he counted so precious, shouting
with characteristic energy the battle-cry of all the belligerents,
‘Hush! Don’t think, only feel and act!’ with a pathetic faith that
the affectation of external uniformity means inward cohesion.… Still,
Rodó himself recognised that, even as already manifested, the work
of the United States is not entirely lost for what he would call the
‘interests of the soul.’”

[4] For this discussion, which is of primary importance to students of
Brazilian letters, see Verissimo’s _Estudos_, 6a serie, pages 1-14, and
his _Que é Literatura_, Rio de Janeiro, 1907, pages 230-292.

[5] _Pequena Historia da Literatura Brasileira._ 2a Ed. Revista e
augmentada. Rio, 1922. Pp. 344-345.

[6] This opinion he later rectified.

[7] In _Studies in Spanish-American Literature_ (pages 98-99) I have
discussed briefly this attitude of Verissimo’s. I do not believe the
entire question to be of primary _literary_ importance. It is the
noun _literature_ that is of chief interest; not the adjective of
nationality that precedes it.

[8] Verissimo was born at Belem, Para, on April 8, 1857. He initiated
his career as a public official in his native province, but soon made
his way to the directorship of the Gymnasio Nacional, and then the
Normal School of Rio de Janeiro. For a long time, concurrently with
his scholarly labors, he edited the famous _Revista Brasileira_. His
_Scenes of Life on the Amazon_ have been compared to the pages of
Pierre Loti for their exotic charm. He died in 1918.



IV

OLAVO BILAC


His full name was Olavo Braz Martins dos Guimarães Bilac; he is one
of the most popular poets that Brazil has produced; his surroundings
and his person, like the poetry that brought him his fame, were
exquisite,--somewhat in the tradition of the French dandies and the
Ibero-American versifiers who imitated them--yet in him the note was
not overdone. He passes, in the history of the national letters, for
one of the Parnassian leaders, yet he is one of their most subjective
spirits. Toward the end of his life, as if the feelings that he had
sought so long to dominate in his poetry must at last find vent,
he became a sort of Socialist apostle, preaching the doctrine of
education. “Brazil’s malady,” he averred, “is, above all, illiteracy.”
And like so many of his creative compatriots, he set patiently about
constructing text-books for children. In his early days he found
inspiration in the Romantic Gonçalves Dias and the Parnassian Alberto
de Oliveira; very soon, however, he attained to an idiom quite his
own which lies somewhat between the manner of these two. “He is the
poet of the city,” one critic has written, “as Catullus was of Rome
and as Apuleius was of Carthage.” He has been compared, likewise, to
Lucian of Samosata. Most of all, however, he is the poet of perfumed
passion,--not the heavy, drugged perfumes of D’Annunzio, which weigh
down the votaries until they suffer amidst their pleasures, but--and
again like some of his Spanish-American brothers in the other nations
of the continent--a faun in frock coat, sporting with naiads in silk.
Bilac has his ivory tower, but its doors stand ajar to beauty of body
and of emotion. His is no withdrawal into the inner temple; his eyes
are always peering into the world from which he supposedly stands
aloof, and his heart follows them.

We are not to look to him, then, for either impersonality or
impassivity. Even when he wrote of the Iliad, of Antony, of Carthage,
he had his native Brazil in mind, as he revealed in his final poems.
“We never really had a literature,” he said shortly before his death.
“We have imitations, copies, reflections. Where is the writer that does
not recall some foreigner,--where is the school that we can really call
our own?… There are, for the rest, explanations of this fact. We are a
people in process of formation, in which divers ethnical elements are
struggling for supremacy. There can be no original literature until
this is formed.…”

Again: “We regulate ourselves by France. France has no strife of
schools now, neither have we; France has some extravagant youths, so
have we; it shows now an even stronger tendency,--the humanitarian,
and we begin to write socialistic books.” He spoke of poets as “the
sonorous echo of Hugo’s verse, between heaven and earth, to transmit
to the gods the plaints of mortals,” yet only in the end do any of his
poems ring with such an echo, and the plaints that rise from the poems
of Bilac that his countrymen most love are cries of passion. “Art,”
he said, as if to bely the greater part of his own life’s work, and
with something of repentance in his words, “is not, as some ingenious
visionaries would have it, an assertion and a labor apart, without
filiation to the other preoccupations of existence. All human concerns
are interwoven and blend in an indissoluble manner. The towers of gold
and ivory in which artists sequestered themselves, have toppled over.
The art of today is open and subject to all the influences of the
milieu and the epoch. In order to be the most beautiful representation
of life, it must hear and preserve all the cries, all the complaints,
all the lamentations of the human flock. Only a madman or a monstrous
egoist … could live and labor by himself, locked under seven keys
within his dream, indifferent to all that is happening outside in the
vast field where the passions strive and die, where ambition pants and
despair wails, where are being decided the destinies of peoples and
races.…”

This is, as we shall presently be in position to note, fairly a
recantation of his early poetic profession of faith. Which is
right,--the proclamative self-dedication to Form and Style that
stands at the beginning of his _Poesias_, or this consecration to
humanity? Both. For at each stage of his career, Bilac was sincere and
filled with a vision; in art, for that matter, only insincerity and
inadequacy are ever wrong. And perhaps not in art alone. M. Gsell, who
lately wrote an altogether delightful book made up of notes taken at
Anatole France’s retreat at Villa Saïd, quotes this little tale from
the master, who was reminded of it by a portrait of Paolo Uccello
in Vasari. “This is the painter,” said France, “whose wife gently
reproached him with working too slowly.

“‘I must have time,’ the artist said, ‘to establish the perspective of
my pictures.’

“‘Yes, Paolo,’ the poor woman protested, ‘but you are drawing for us
the perspective of destitution and the grave.’

“She was right,” commented France, “and he was not wrong. The eternal
conflict between the scruples of the artist and harsh reality.”

Bilac’s seeming recantation at the end was the result of just such
a clash between artistry and harsh reality. Had he chosen, in the
beginning, to devote his poetic gifts to humanity, he might have been
remembered longer as a man, but it is doubtful whether he would have
achieved his standing as an artist. And Brazil would have been the
poorer by a number of poems that have doubtless enriched the emotional
life of the nation. I wonder whether, in his later days, Bilac did not
in a manner confuse art with social service. There are souls in whom
the human comedy kindles the fires of song; such as they sing,--they do
not theorize. Bilac was not one of them. There was nothing to prevent
his serving humanity in any of the countless ways in which man may be
more than wolf to man. But he himself, as an artist, was not fashioned
to be a social force. He was the born voluptuary.

“Art,” he said, “is the dome that crowns the edifice of civilization:
and only that people can have an art which is already a people,--which
has already emerged triumphant from all the tests through which the
character of nationalities is purified and defined.…” Here again,
his practice excels his theory. There is in him little Brazilianism,
and even when he uses the native suggestion, as in his brilliant
_O Caçador de Esmeraldas_ (The Emerald-Hunter, an epic episode of
the seventeenth-century sertão) he is, as every poet should be,
first of all himself. “Perhaps in the year 2500 there will exist
diverse literatures in the vast territory now comprising Brazil,”
he prophesied, in disapproval of that sectionalism in letters which
several times has tried to make a definite breach in the national
literature. But is not all literature psychologically sectional? If
the ambient is not filtered through the personality of the individual,
is the product worth much more as art than a county report? In our own
country, of late, there has been much futile talk of Chicago literature
and New York literature, and other such really political chat. “Isms”
within “isms,” which make good “copy” for the newspapers and magazines,
and which, no doubt, may have a certain sociological significance. But
when you or I pick up a book or a poem, what care we, after all, for
the land of its origin or even the life of its author, except as both
are revealed in the work? Was not one of Bilac’s own final admonitions
to his nation’s youth to “Love your art above all things and have
the courage, which I lacked, to die of hunger rather than prostitute
your talent?” And “above all things” means above the unessential
intrusion of petty sectionalism, partisan aim, political purpose, moral
exhortation, national pride. I have no quarrel, then, with Bilac’s
hopes for a national literature, with his aspirations for our common
humanity. But I am happy that he was content to leave that part of him
for public life rather than contriving to press it willy-nilly into
the service of his only half Parnassian muse.

Bilac was, on the whole, less a Parnassian than was Francisca Julia.
She transmuted her passion into cold, yet appealing, symbols; Machado
de Assis’s feelings do not quite fill his glass to the brim; Olavo
Bilac’s passion overflows the banks of his verse. Yet he remained as
true as so warm a nature as his could be to the vows of his _Profissão
de Fe_, with its numerous exclamation points that stand as visible
refutation of his avowed formalism. The very epigraph of the poem--and
the poem itself stands as epigraph to the collection that follows--is
taken from none other than that ardent soul, Victor Hugo, with whom at
first the very opponents of the Romantic movement tried to maintain
relations. So true is it that we retain a little of all things that we
reject.

        Le poète est ciseleur,
        Le ciseleur est poète.

Bilac’s would-be Parnassian _Profession of Faith_, beginning thus
inconsistently with a citation from the chief of the Romantics (a
citation, it may be added, that is not all consistent with Hugo’s own
characteristic labours) is the herald of his own humanness. Let us
now leave the “isms” to those who love them, and seek in Bilac the
distinctive personality. His _Profissão de Fe_ is a bit dandified,
snobbish, aloof, with a suggestion of a refined sensuality that is
fully borne in his work.

        Não quero a Zeus Capitolino,
          Herculeo e bello,
        Talhar no marmore divino
          Com o camartello.

        Que outro--não eu!--a pedra córte
          Para, brutal,
        Erguer de Athene o altivo porte
          Descommunal.

        Mais que esse vulto extraordinario,
          Que assombra a vista,
        Seduz-me um leve relicario
          De fine artista.

        …

        Assim procedo. Minha penna,
          Segue esta norma,
        Por te servir, Deusa serena,
          Serena Fórma!

        …

        Vive! que eu viverei servindo
          Teu culto, e, obscuro,
        Tuas custodias esculpindo
          No ouro mais puro.

        Celebrarei o teu officio
          No altar: porem,
        Se inda é pequeno o sacrificio,
          Morra eu tambem!

        Caia eu tembem, sem esperanca,
          Porém tranquilo,
        Inda, ao cahir, vibrando a lança,
          Em prol de Estylo![1]

The _Poesias_[2] upon which Bilac’s fame rests constitute but a
book of average size, and consist of the following divisions:
_Panoplias_ (Panoplies); _Via Lactea_ (The Milky Way); _Sarças de
Fogo_ (Fire-Brambles); _Alma Inquieta_ (Restless Soul); _As Viagens_
(Voyages); _O Caçador de Esmeraldas_ (The Emerald-Hunter).

The inspiration of the panoplies derives as much from the past as from
the present; there is verbal coruscation aplenty,--an admirable sense
of colour, imagery, fertility, symbol. Even when reading the Iliad,
Bilac sees in it chiefly a poem of love:

        Mais que as armas, porém, mais que a batalha,
        Mais que os incendios, brilha o amor que ateia
        O odio e entre os povos a discordia espalha:

        Esse amor que ora activa, ora asserena
        A guerra, e o heroico Paris encadeia
        Aos curvos seios da formosa Helena.[3]

In _Delenda Carthago_ there is the clash of rutilant arms and the
sense of war’s and glory’s vanity; this is the typical motif of the
voluptuary, whether of love or of battle. It is not, however, the
sorrowful conclusion of the philosopher facing the inevitable,--“the
path of glory leads but to the grave.” Rather is it the weariness of
the prodded senses. Scipio, victorious, grows mute and sad, and the
tears run down his cheeks.

        For, beholding in rapid descent,
        Rolling into the abyss of oblivion and annihilation,
        Men and traditions, reverses and victories,
        Battles and trophies, six centuries of glory
        In a fistful of ashes,--the general foresaw
        That Rome, the powerful, the unvanquished, so strong in arms,
        Would go perforce the selfsame way as Carthage.…
        Nearby, the vague and noisy crackling
        Of the conflagration, that still roared furiously on,
        Rose like the sound of convulsive weeping.

It is perhaps in _Via Lactea_ that the book--and Bilac’s art--reaches
its apex. This is a veritable miniature milky way of sonnet gems; all
claims to objectivity and impersonality have been forgotten in the
man’s restrained, but by no means repressed passion. His love is not
the ivory-tower vapouring of the youthful would-be Maeterlinckian that
infests verse in Spanish and Portuguese America; it is of the earth,
earthy. When he writes of his love he mingles with the idea the thought
of country, and when he writes of his country it is often in terms of
carnal passion. Verissimo has noted the same phenomenon in some of
the poets that preceded Bilac and, of course, it is to be verified
repeatedly in the singers of every land; indeed, is not Liberty always
a woman, as our national coinage proves for the millionth time, and
when soldiers are urged to fight and die _pro patria_, is it not a
beautiful lady that hovers over the fields and trenches? In these
sonnets he becomes the poet-chiseller of Hugo’s distich; into a form
that would seem to have lost all adaptability to new manipulation he
manages to pour something new, something his own. There is, in his
very attitude, a preoccupation with form for its own sake that enables
him to employ the sonnet without loss of effect. His devotion to the
cameo-like structure is not absolute, however. In none of these poems
does one feel that he has cramped his feelings in order to mortise
quatrain into tercet. When, as in _A Alvorada de Amor_, he feels the
need of greater room, he takes it.

He is the lover weeping over gladness:

        Quem ama inventa as penas em que vive:
        E, em lugar de acalmar as penas, antes
        Busca novo pezar com que as avive.

        Pois sabei que é por isso que assim ando:
        Que e dos loucos sómente e dos amantes
        Na maior alegria andar chorando.[4]

He is ill content to feed upon poetic imaginings of kiss and embrace,
or to dream of heavenly beatitudes instead of earthly love:

                        XXX

        Ao coração que soffre, separado
        Do teu, no exilio em que a chorar me vejo,
        Não basta o affecto simples e sagrado
        Com que das desventuras me protejo.

        Não me basta saber que sou amado,
        Nem só desejo o teu amor: desejo
        Ter nos braços teu corpo delicado,
        Ter na bocca a doçura do teu beijo.

        E as justas ambiçoes que me consomem
        Não me envergonham: pois maior baixeza
        Não ha que a terra pelo céo trocar;

        E mais eleva o coração de um homem
        Ser de homem sempre e, na maior pureza,
        Ficar na terra e humanamente amar.[5]

So runs the song in his more reflective mood, which is half objection
and half meditation. There are other moments, however, in _Alma
Inquieta_ when a similar passion bursts out beyond control and when, in
his pride of virility, he rejects Paradise and rises superior to the
Lord Himself.

The sonnet that follows this in _Via Lactea_ is notable for its
intermingling of love, country and _saudade_:

                        XXXI

        Longe de ti, se escuto, porventura,
        Teu nome, que uma bocca indifferente
        Entre outros nomes de mulher murmura,
        Sobe-me o pranto aos olhos, de repente.…

        Tal aquelle, que, misero, a tortura
        Soffre de amargo exilio, e tristemente
        A linguagem natal, maviosa e pura,
        Ouve falada por estranha gente.…

        Porque teu nome é para mim o nome
        De uma patria distante e idolatrada,
        Cuja saudade ardente me consome:
        E ouvil-o é ver a eterna primavera
        E a eterna luz da terra abençoada,
        Onde, entre flores, teu amor me espera.[6]

_Sarças de Fogo_, as its name would imply, abandons the restraint of
_Via Lactea_. In _O Julgamento de Phryné_ beauty becomes not only
its own excuse for being, but the excuse for wrong as well. Phryne’s
judges, confronted with her unveiled beauty, tremble like lions before
the calm gaze of their tamer, and she appears before the multitude “in
the immortal triumph of Flesh and Beauty.” In _Santania_ a maiden’s
desires rise powerfully to the surface only to take flight in fright
at their own daring. _No Limiar de Morte_ (On The Threshold of Death)
is the voluptuary’s _memento mori_ after his _carpe diem_. There is a
touch of irony borrowed from Machado de Assis in the closing tercets:

        You, who loved and suffered, now turn your steps
        Toward me. O, weeping soul,
        You leave behind the hate of the worldly hell.…

        Come! for at last you shall enjoy within my arms
        All the wantonness, all the fascinations,
        All the delights of eternal rest!

This is impressed in far superior fashion by one of the best sonnets
Bilac ever wrote: _Sahara Vitae_. Here, in the image of life’s desert,
he conveys a haunting sense of helpless futility such as one gets only
rarely, from such sonnets, say, as the great Shelleyan one, _Ozymandias
of Egypt_.

        Lá vão! O céo se arqueia
        Como um tecto de bronze infindo e quente,
        E o sol fuzila e, fuzilando, ardente
        Criva de flechas de aço o mar de areia.…

        Lá vão, com os olhos onde a sêde ateia
        Um fogo estranho, procurando em frente
        Esse oasis do amor que, claramente,
        Além, bello e falaz, se delineia.

        Mas o simun da morte sopra: a tromba
        Convulsa envolve-os, prostra-os; e aplacada
        Sobre si mesma roda e exhausta tomba.…

        E o sol de novo no igneo céo fuzila.…
        E sobre a geração exterminada
        A areia dorme placida e tranquila.[7]

For the clearness of its imagery, for the perfect progress of a symbol
that is part and parcel of the poetry, this might have come out of
Dante. It is not often that fourteen lines contain so complete, so
devastating a commentary. Side by side with _Beijo Eterno_ (Eternal
Kiss) it occurs in the _Poesias_, as if to reveal its relation as
reverse to the obverse of the poet’s voluptuousness. _Beijo Eterno_,
like _A Alvorada de Amor_, is one of the central poems of Olavo
Bilac. It is the linked sweetness of Catullus long drawn out. It is
the sensuous ardour of the poet inundating all time and all space,
while _Sahara Vitae_ is the languor that follows upon the fulfilment
of ardour. They are both as much a part of the poet as the two sides
are part of the coin. The first and last of the ten stanzas of _Beijo
Eterno_ epitomize the Dionysiac outburst; they are alike:

            Quero um beijo sem fim,
        Que dure a vida enteira e aplaque a meu desejo!
        Ferve-me o sangue. Acalma-o com teu beijo,
            Beija-me assim!
          O ouvido fecha ao rumor
        Do mundo, e beija-me querida!
        Vive so para mim, só para a minha vida,
          Só para o meu amor![8]

In less amorous mood he can sing a serenade--_A Canção de
Romeu_--(Romeo’s Song) to which any Juliet might well open her window:

          As estrellas surgiram
          Todas: e o limpio veo
        Como lirios alvissimos, cobriram
            Do ceo.
          De todas a mais bella
          Não veio ainda, porem:
        Falta uma estrella.… És tu!… Abre a janella,
            E vem![9]

And if, in the closing piece of this section--_A Tentação de
Xenocrates_--(The Temptation of Xenocrates) the courtesan’s charms seem
more convincing than the resistance of the victorious philosopher, it
must be because Bilac himself subtly sided with the temptress, and
spoke with her when she protested that she had vowed to tame a man,
not a stone. If, in the manner of the Freudians, we are to look upon
the poem as a wish that the poet could on occasion show such scorn of
feminine blandishments, it is doubly interesting to note that, though
the moral victory lies with Xenocrates, the poet has willy-nilly made
the courtesan’s case the more sympathetic. What, indeed, are the fruits
of a philosophy that denies the embraces of a Laïs?

Just as Olavo Bilac’s voluptuousness brings to him inevitably thoughts
of death, so does his cult of form lead him at times to a sense of the
essential uselessness of all words and all forms. He has expressed this
nowhere so well as in the sonnet _Inania Verba_ from the section _Alma
Inquieta_:

        Ah! Quem ha-de exprimir, alma impotente e escrava,
        O que a bocca não diz, o que a mão não escreve?
        --Ardes, sangras, pregada á tua cruz, e, em breve,
        Olhas, desfeito em lodo, o que te deslumbrava.…
        O Pensameto erve, e é um turbilhão de lava:
        A Fórma, fria e espessa, é um sepulcro de neve.…
        E a Palavra pesada abafa a Idéa leve,
        Que, perfume e clarão, refulgia e voava.

        Quem o molde achara para a expressão de tudo?
        Ai! quem ha-de dezir as ansias infinitas
        Do sonho? e o céo que foge a mão que se levanta?

        E a ira muda? e o asco mudo? e o desespero mudo?
        E as palavras de fé que nunca foram ditas?
        E as confissões de amor que morrem na garganta?[10]

Alma Inquieta reaches its climax with _A Alvorada de Amor_ (The Dawn
of Love). It is important enough to be quoted in full, as one of the
sincerest and most passionate outbursts of the Brazilian muse, in which
Olavo Bilac’s countrymen find mirrored that sensual part of themselves
which is the product of climate, racial blend and the Adam and Eve in
all of us.

        Um horror grande e mudo, um silencio profundo
        No dia do Peccado amortalhava o mundo.
        E Adão, vendo fechar-se a porta do Eden, vendo
        Que Eva olhava o deserto e hesitava tremendo,
        Disse:
          Chega-te a mim! entra no meu amor,
        E á minha carne entrega a tua carne em flor!
        Preme contra o meu peito o teu seio agitado,
        E aprende a amar o Amor, renovando o peccado!
        Abençóo o teu crime, acolho o teu desgosto,
        Bebo-te, de uma em uma, as lagrimas do rosto!

        Ve! tudo nos repelle! a toda a creação
        Sacóde o mesmo horror e a mesma indignação.…
        A colera de Deus torce as arvores, cresta
        Como um tufão de fogo o seio de floresta,
        Abre a terra em vulcões, encrespa a agua do rios;
        As estrellas estão cheias de calefrios;
        Ruge soturno a mar; turva-se hediondo o céo.…

        Vamos! que importa Deus? Desate, como um véo,
        Sobre a tua nudez a cabelleira! Vamos!
        Arda em chammas o chão; rasguem-te a pelle os ramos;
        Morda-te o corpo o sol; inuriem-te os ninhos;
        Surjam féras a uivar de todos os caminhos;
        E vendo-te a sangrar das urzes atravez,
        Se enmaranhem no chão as serpes aos teus pés.…
        Que importa? o Amor, botáo apenas entreaberto
        Ilumina o degredo e perfume o deserto!
        Amo-te! sou feliz! porque do Eden perdido,
        Levo tudo, levando o teu corpo querido!

        Póde, em redor de ti, tudo se anniquilar:
        Tudo renascerá cantando ao teu olhar,
        Tudo, mares e céos, arvores e montanhas,
        Porque a Vida perpetuo arde em tuas entranhas!
        Rosas te brotarão da bocca se cantares!
        Rios te correrão dos olhos, se chorares!
        E se, em torno ao teu corpo encantador e nú,
        Tudo morrer, que importa? A Natureza és tu,
        Agora que és mulher, agora que peccaste!
        Ah! bemdito o momento em que me revelaste
        O amor com o teu peccado, e a vida com a teu crime!
        Porque, livre de Deus, redimido e sublime,
        Homem fico na terra, á luz dos olhos teus,
        --Terra, melhor que o Céo! homem, maior que Deus![11]

So, in _Peccador_ (Sinner) he presents the figure of a proud,
unrepentant sinner--it might be the amorous Don Juan himself,--who
“accepts the enormousness of the punishment with the same countenance
that he wore when formerly he accepted the delight of transgression!”
He is no less sincere, doubtless, when in _Ultima Pagina_ (Final Page)
he exclaims

        Carne, que queres mais? Coração, que mais queres?
        Passam as estações, e passam as mulheres.…
        E eu tenho amado tanto! e não conheço o Amor!

        Flesh, what would you more? What would you more, my heart?
        The seasons pass and women, too, pass with them.…
        And I have loved so much, yet know not what is Love!

_Tedio_ (Ennui) is the voluptuousness of Nirvana after the
voluptuousness of Dionysus; like all sinners, he comes for rest to a
church. “Oh, to cease dreaming of what I cannot behold! To have my
blood freeze and my flesh turn cold! And, veiled in a crepuscular glow,
let my soul sleep without a desire,--ample, funereal, lugubrious, empty
as an abandoned cathedral!…”

The section _As Viagens_ (Voyages) consists chiefly of twelve admirable
sonnets--a form in which Bilac’s blending of intense feeling with
artistic restraint seems as much at home as any modern poet--ranging
from the first migration, through the Phoenicians, the Jews, Alexander,
Cæsar, the Barbarians, the Crusades, the Indies, Brazil, the precursor
of the airplane in Toledo, the Pole, to Death, which is the end of all
voyages. At the risk of overemphasizing a point that has already been
made, I would quote the sonnet on Brazil:

        Pára! Uma terra nova ao teu olhar fulgura!
        Detem-te! Aqui, de encontro a verdejantes plagas,
        Em caricias se muda a inclemencia das vagas.…
        Este é o reino da Luz, do Amor e da Fartura!
        Treme-te a voz affeita ás blasphemias e as pragas,
        Ó nauta! Olha-a, de pé, virgem morena e pura,
        Que aos teus beijos entrega, em plena formosura,
        --Os dous seios que, ardendo em desejos, afagas.…

        Beija-a! O sol tropical deu-lhe a pelle dorada
        O barulho do ninho, o perfume da rosa,
        A frescura do rio, o esplendor da alvorada.…

        Beija-a! é a mais bella flor da Natureza inteira!
        E farta-te de amor nesse carne cheirosa,
        Ó desvirginador da Terra Brasileira![12]

What is this, indeed? Part of some ardent Song of Songs? Note how
the imagery is exclusively that of burning passion. Brazil becomes
a fascinating virgin who falls to the fortunate discoverer. In that
sonnet, I should say, is concealed about one half the psychology of the
narrower patriotism.

_O Caçador de Esmeraldas_ is a splendid episode in four parts,
containing some forty-six sextets in all, filled with movement, colour,
pervading symbolism and a certain patriotic pantheism. More than a mere
search for emeralds the poem recounts the good that man may work even
in the vile pursuit of precious stones,--the vanity of all material
quest. For sheer artistry it ranks with Bilac’s most successful
accomplishments.

       *       *       *       *       *

“His inspiration,” wrote Verissimo, considering the verse of Bilac,
“is limited to a few poetic themes, all treated with a virtuosity
perhaps unparalleled amongst us … but without an intensity of feeling
corresponding to the brilliancy of the form, which always is more
important in him. This is the characteristic defect of the Parnassian
esthetics, of which Sr. Bilac is our most illustrious follower, and
to which his poetic genius adjusted itself perfectly and intimately.”
I believe that Verissimo was slightly misled by Bilac’s versified
professions. There is no doubt that Bilac’s temperament, as I have
tried to show, was eminently suited to some such orientation as was
sought by those Parnassians who understood what they were about;
there is as little doubt, in my mind, that his feeling was intense,
though not deep. He may have spoken of the crystalline strophe and
the etcher’s needle--which, indeed, he often employed with the utmost
skill,--but there were moments when nothing but huge marbles and the
sculptor’s chisel would do. It was with such material that he carved _A
Alvorada de Amor_. “If Sr. Machado de Assis was,” continues Verissimo,
“more than twenty years previous to Bilac, our first artist-poet,--if
other contemporaries or immediate predecessors of Bilac also practised
the Parnassian esthetics, none did it with such manifest purpose, and,
above all with such triumphant skill.…”

I am not sure whether Verissimo is right in having asked of Bilac a
more contemporary concern with the currents of poetry. The critic
grants that Bilac is perhaps the most brilliant poet ever produced
by his nation, “but other virtues are lacking in him without which
there can be no truly great poet. I do not know but that I am right in
supposing that, conscious of his excellence, he remained a stranger
to the social, philosophical and esthetic movement that is today
everywhere renewing the sources of poetry. And it is a great pity; for
he was amongst us perhaps one of the most capable of bringing to our
anaemic poetry the new blood which, with more presumption than talent,
some poets--or persons who think themselves such--are trying to inject,
without any of the gifts that abound in him.”

Bilac, as we have seen, did, toward the end of his life, become a more
social spirit. But this was not necessary to his pre-eminence as a
poet. He was, superbly, himself. Rather that he should have given us
so freely of the voluptuary that was in him--voluptuary of feeling, of
charm, of form, of language, of taste--than that, in a mistaken attempt
to be a “complete” man, he should sprawl over the varied currents of
the day and hour. For it is far more certain that each current will
find its masterly spokesman in art, than that each artist will become a
masterly spokesman for all of the currents.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] I have no wish to chisel the Capitoline Zeus, Herculean and
beautiful, in divine marble. Let another--not I!--cut the stone to
rear, in brutal proportions, the proud figure of Athene. More than by
this extraordinary size that astounds the sight I am fascinated by the
fragile reliquary of a delicate artist. Such is my procedure. My pen,
follow that standard. To serve thee, serene Goddess, serene Form! Live!
For I shall live in the service of thy cult, obscurely sculpturing thy
vessels in the purest of gold. I will celebrate thine office upon the
altar; more, if the sacrifice be too small, I myself will die. Let me,
too, fall, hopeless, yet tranquil. And even as I fall, I’ll raise my
lance in the cause of Style!

[2] Published originally in 1888, and ending, in its first form, with
_Sarças de Fogo_.

[3] More than arms, however, more than battle, more than
conflagrations, it is love that shines here, kindling hatred between
peoples and scattering discord. That love which now incites, now abates
war, and chains the heroic Paris to the curved breasts of Helen the
beautiful.

[4] He who loves invents the pangs in which he lives; and instead of
soothing these griefs, he seeks a new care with which he but rekindles
them. Know, then, that this is the reason why I go about so. Only
madmen and lovers weep in their greatest joy.

[5] For the heart that suffers, severed from you, in this exile that
I weep, the simple and sacred affection with which I shield myself
against all misfortunes is not enough. It is not enough to know that I
am loved; I would have your delicate body in my arms, taste in my mouth
the sweetness of your kiss. Nor am I shamed by the just ambitions that
consume me. For there is no greater baseness than to change the earth
for the sky. It more exalts the heart of a man to be a man ever, and,
in the greatest purity, remain on earth and love like a human being.

[6] Far from you, if peradventure I hear your name, murmured by an
indifferent mouth amidst other women’s names, the tears come suddenly
to my eyes.… Such is he who suffers in bitter exile and sadly, hears
his native tongue, so pure and beautiful, spoken by foreign lips.… For
your name is to me the name of a distant, worshipped fatherland, the
longing for which consumes me. And to hear it is to behold eternal
springtime, and the everlasting light of the blessed land, where,
amidst flowers, your love awaits me.

An excellent example of a similar identification of sweetheart and
fatherland occurs in the sonnet _Desterro_ (Exile), in the section
_Alma Inquieta_, in which his beloved is called “patria do meu desejo”
(land of my desire).

[7] There they go! The sky arches over like an endless burning roof of
bronze, and the sun shoots, and shooting, riddles with arrows of steel
the sea of sand. There they go, with eyes in which thirst has kindled a
strange fire, gazing ahead to that oasis of love which yonder, clearly
rises in its deluding beauty. But now blows the simoon of death: the
shattering whirlwind envelops them, prostrates them; sated, it rolls
upon itself and falls in exhaustion.… And once again the sun shoots in
the fiery sky.… And over the exterminated generation the sand sleeps
its peaceful, tranquil sleep.

[8] I want an endless kiss, that shall last an entire life and sate my
desire! My blood seethes. Slake it with your kiss, kiss me so! Close
your ears to the sound of the world, and kiss me, beloved! Live for me
alone, for my life only, only for my love!

[9] The stars have all come out, and have broidered the pure veil of
heaven with the whitest of lilies. But the most beautiful of all I do
not yet see. One star is missing. It is you!… Open your window and come!

[10] Ah, who can express, enslaved and impotent soul, what the lips do
not speak, what the hand cannot write. Clasping your cross, you burn,
you bleed, only soon to behold in the mire that which had dazzled you.…
Thought seethes; it is a whirlwind of lava: Form, cold and compact,
is a sepulchre of snow.… And the heavy word stifles the fragile Idea
which, like perfume and light, flew glittering about. Who can find
the mould in which to cast expression? Ah! who can speak the infinite
anxieties of our dreams? The heavens that flee from the hand that is
raised? And mute ire? And this wretched world? And voiceless despair?
And the words of faith that were never spoken? And the confessions of
love that die in one’s throat?

[11] A vast, mute horror, a deep silence shrouded the world upon the
day of Sin. And Adam, beholding the gates of Eden close, seeing Eve
gaze in hesitant trembling at the desert, said: “Come to me! Enter
into my love, and surrender to my flesh your own fair flesh! Press
your agitated breast against my bosom and learn to love Love, renewing
sin. I bless your crime, I welcome your misfortune, I drink, one by
one, the tears from your cheeks! Behold! Everything rejects us! All
creation is shaken by the same horror and the same indignation.… The
rage of the Lord twists the trees, ravages the heart of the forest like
a hurricane of flame, splits the earth into volcanoes, curls the water
of the rivers; the stars are aquiver with shudders; the sea mutters
with fury; the sky is dark with anger.… Let us go! What matters God?
Loosen like a veil your tresses over your nakedness! Let us be gone!
Let the earth burn in flames; let the branches rend your skin; let the
sun bite your body; let the nests harm you; let wild beasts rise on all
the roads to howl at you; and seeing you bleed through the brambles,
let the serpents entangle themselves upon the ground at your feet.…
What matters it? Let love, but a half-open bud, illumine our banishment
and perfume the desert! I love you! I am happy! For from the lost Eden
I bear everything, having your beloved body! Let everything crumble
to ruin about you; it will all rise new born before your eyes,--all,
seas and skies, trees and mountains, for perpetual life burns in your
bowels! Roses will burgeon from your mouth if you sing! Rivers will
flow from your eyes, if you weep! And if, about your enchanting, nude
body, all should die, what matters it then? You are Nature, now that
you are woman, now that you have sinned! Ah, blessed the moment in
which you revealed to me love with your sin and life with your crime!
For, free from God, redeemed and sublime, I remain a man upon earth, in
the light of your eyes,--Earth, better than Heaven! Man, greater than
God!”

[12] Hold! A new land shines before your eyes! Stop! Here, before the
green shores, the waves’ inclemency turns to caresses.… This is the
kingdom of Light, of Love and Satiety! Oh, mariner! Let your voice,
accustomed to blasphemies and curses, tremble! Gaze at her standing
there, a dark, pure virgin who surrenders to your kisses, in the
fulness of her beauty, her two breasts which, burning with desire,
you soothe.… Kiss her! The tropical sun gave her that gilded skin,
the nest’s content, the rose’s perfume, the coolness of the river,
the splendour of dawn.… Kiss her! She is the fairest of all Nature’s
flowers! Sate yourself with love in this fragrant flesh, oh first lover
of the Brazilian Land!



V

EUCLYDES DA CUNHA


_Os Sertões_, which first appeared in 1902--a happy year for Brazilian
letters, since it witnessed the publication of Graça Aranha’s _Chanaan_
as well--is one of the outstanding works of modern Portuguese
literature. At once it gave to its ill-fated author a fame to which
he never aspired. His name passed from tongue to tongue, like that
of some new Columbus who with his investigation of the sertão had
discovered Brazil to the Brazilians. His labour quickened interest in
the interior, revealed a new source of legitimate national inspiration
and presented to countrymen a strange work,--disturbing, illuminating,
disordered, almost a fictional forest, written in nervous,
heavily-freighted prose. Yet this is harsh truth itself, stranger than
the fiction of Coelho Netto, wilder than the poetry of Graça Aranha,
though instinct with the imagination of the one and the beauty of the
other. The highly original work struck a deep echo in English letters
and if Englishmen have neglected to read Richard Cunninghame-Graham’s
remarkable book called _A Brazilian Mystic: The Life and Miracles of
Antonio Conselheiro_--a book that would never have been written had not
Euclydes da Cunha toiled away in obscurity to produce _Os Sertões_--it
is their loss rather than their fault. It is a hurried and a harried
world. Who, today, has time for such beauty of thought and phrase as
Richard the wandering Scots sets down almost carelessly in his books
and then sends forth from the press with mildly mocking humour for his
prospective, but none too surely anticipated readers? Yet it is not the
least of Euclydes da Cunha’s glories that he was the prime cause of
Mr. Cunninghame-Graham’s _A Brazilian Mystic_. Not a fault of English
readers, surely; but none the less their loss.

       *       *       *       *       *

The author of _Os Sertões_ was born on January 20, 1866, in Santa Rita
do Rio Negro, municipality of Cantagallo. Losing his mother when he
was three years old, he went first to Theresopolis to an aunt, and
thence, after two years, to São Fidelis to another aunt, with whom he
remained until his first studies were completed. His father retiring to
Rio de Janeiro in 1876, Euclydes was transported to the capital, where
he attended in due course the _collegios_ called Victorio da Costa,
Anglo-Brasileiro and Aquino. Naturally, he went through his baptism
of verse, preparing a collection called _Ondas_ (Waves); since every
Brazilian early suffers an attack of this literary measles--it would be
almost impolite not to indite one’s obligatory number of sonnets--the
notice is without any importance to a man’s later career. It was at
the Escola Militar da Praia Vermelha, which he entered at the age of
twenty, that he laid the foundations of his scientific studies, and it
is the scientist in Euclydes da Cunha that solidifies _Os Sertões_.

The man--as his mature prose testifies--was of nervous temperament, and
was led into one political scrape after another. At the very beginning
of his career, carried away by the propaganda of Benjamin Constant, he
committed an act of indiscipline against the Minister of War which has
become famous in the annals of Brazilian politics, having required the
benevolent intervention of the Emperor.

His journalistic labours began in 1888; the following year found him at
the Escola Polytechnica of Rio de Janeiro, finishing his course as an
engineer, but the proclamation of the Republic interrupted his studies
and he returned to the army.

The material for his famous book was gathered while in the service
of the important newspaper _Estado de São Paulo_, for which he went
into the wilds to report the government campaign against the fractious
inhabitants of the sertão.

The campaign, as taught in the Brazilian schools, marked another stage
in the establishment, the consolidation, of the Brazilian republic. It
took place during the presidency of Prudente de Moraes (1894-1898) and
brought within the folds of the new régime the rebellious sertanejos,
who had rallied round the leadership of Antonio Vicente Mendes Maciel.
Maciel was born circa 1835 in Ceará and had, since 1864, attracted
attention because of his strange religious notions, his queer garb,
his legendary personality. Accused of crime, he was vindicated and
went off toward the interior of Bahia, wandering in every direction
over the sertões and reaching, at last, a tiny hamlet of Itapicuru,
which he christened with the name Bom Jesus (Good Jesus) on November
10, 1886. The Archbishop of Bahia objecting, Maciel was ousted in
1887 as a preacher of subversive doctrines. His followers accompanied
him, however, to Canudos, an old cattle ranch which, in 1890 was an
abandoned site with some fifty ramshackle ruins of cottages. Thither
came flocking an army of devotees and riff-raff, so that, when Maciel
resisted the government that was intent upon collecting its taxes, he
had a respectable number to heed his cry of insurrection.

At first the new republic tried religious methods, sending a Capuchin
friar to win over the rebels to the Church and the Law. The monk
despaired. Then followed four expeditions against the mystical Antonio;
the first in November of 1896, the second during December-January of
1896-1897, the third during February and March of 1897, the last from
April to October of the same year. “The sad chronicle of the tragedy of
Canudos, the most important civil war in the history of the country,”
concludes one popular text-book account,[1] “indicated the immediate
necessity of the unification of the country.… It revealed, furthermore,
the great resources of strength and virility among the sertanejos, who,
though conservative and little disposed to lend themselves easily to
novelty, possess none the less qualities important to the development
of the country, once they are in fact bound to the national life.”

Euclydes da Cunha’s revelatory book opened the doors of the Brazilian
Academy of Letters to him in 1903. He produced other books, one on
the eternal question of Peru versus Bolivia, in which he sides with
Bolivia; he became known for his speeches. The end of his life, which
occurred through assassination on the 15th of August, 1909, was caused
by a sexual snarl in which the corruptors of his domestic happiness
added crime to betrayal.

       *       *       *       *       *

The plan of _Os Sertões_ is that of a scientific spirit at the same
time endowed with the many-faceted receptivity of the poet. Before
approaching the campaign of Canudos itself, the author studies the land
and the man produced by it; he is here, indeed, as Verissimo early
indicated, the man of science, the geographer, the geologist, the
ethnographer; the man of thought, the philosopher, the sociologist,
the historian; the man of feeling, the poet, the novelist, the artist
who can see and describe. But nowhere the sentimentalist. From one
standpoint, indeed, the book is a cold confirmation of the very law
against whose operative details the author protests:--“the inevitable
crushing of the weak races by the strong.”

Though a sertanejo school of fiction had existed before _Os Sertões_,
the book brought to Brazilians a nearer, more intimate conception of
the inhabitants of those hinterlands.

“The sertanejo,” writes the author in Chapter III of the section
devoted to the man of the sertão, “is first of all a strong man. He
does not possess the exhaustive rachetism of the neurasthenic hybrids
of the coast.

“His appearance, however, at first blush, reveals the contrary. He
lacks the impeccable plasticity, the straightness, the highly correct
structure of athletic organisms.

“He is graceless, seemingly out of joint, crooked. Hercules-Quasimodo,
he reflects in his appearance the typical ugliness of the weak. His
loose gait, curved, almost waddling and tortuous, suggests the
manipulation of unarticulated members. This impression is aggravated
by his normally abject posture, in a manifestation of displeasure that
gives him an appearance of depressing humility. On foot, when standing
still, he invariably leans against the first door-post or wall that he
finds; on horseback, if he reins in the animal to exchange a few words
with a friend, he at once falls upon one of the stirrups, resting upon
the side of the saddle. Jogging along, even at a rapid trot he never
traces a straight, firm line. He advances hastily in a characteristic
zig-zag, of which the meandering tracks of the sertão seem to be the
geometric pattern.…

“He is the everlastingly tired man.…

“Yet all this seeming weariness is an illusion.

“There is nothing more amazing than to see him disappear all of a
sudden.… It takes only the arising of some incident that requires the
unleashing of his dormant energy. The man is transfigured.…”[2]

And it is this same powerful denizen of the Brazilian hinterlands
that is a prey to the most primitive of superstitions, so that it was
an easy matter for his resistance to a distant seat of government to
become coupled in his mind with a resurgence of Sebastianism as newly
incarnated in the person of Antonio Maciel.

“This feeling of uneasiness in regard to the new government,” writes
Cunninghame-Graham, “the mysticism of the people as shown in the
belief in the return to earth of Dom Sebastian, and the fear that
the government meant the destruction of all religion, tended to make
the dwellers in the sertão especially susceptible to any movement,
religious or political alike, during the time between the abdication of
the Emperor and the firm establishment of the new government. Out of
the depths of superstition and violence, Antonio Conselheiro arose to
plunge the whole sertão into an erethism of religious mania and blood.”

As relatively late as 1837 the region had witnessed a veritable orgy
of sacrifice. A fanatic had mounted the so-called _pedra bonita_
(pretty stone) and preached the coming of King Dom Sebastian, “he who
fell at the field of Alcazar-el-Kebir. He foretold that the stone would
be cut into steps; not cut with any earthly tools, but smoothed away by
the shedding of the blood of children. Up these steps, so miraculously
to be prepared, surrounded by his guard of honour, dressed in armour,
the King, who had been dead three hundred years, should ascend and
come into his own again, reigning in Portugal and in Brazil, and
bountifully rewarding those who had been faithful to him and by their
faith contributed to his disenchantment.… A multitude of women, all a
prey to the mysterious agitation … came through the mountain passes,
followed the trails through the virgin forests and assembled to hear
the word preached at the wondrous pulpit made by no earthly hands.
Unluckily they brought their children with them. Then, roused to a
religious frenzy beyond belief, as they stood listening to the words of
the illuminated _cafuz_ or _mamaluco_--for history has not preserved
his name--women strove with one another who should be the first to
offer up her child, so that its blood should split the rock and form
the sacred stair, by which the King, the long lamented Dom Sebastian,
should ascend in glory, bringing back peace and plenty upon earth.… A
common-sense historian (Cunninghame-Graham refers to Araripe Junior’s
_Reino Encantado_) says that for days the rocks ran blood.…”

Further incident is unnecessary to a notion of the sertanejos’ mystic
habit of mind and action. The Brazilian government became in their eyes
a rule of dogs, and their favourite phrase for the republic was _a lei
do cão_ (the law of the dog). In the popular quatrains that Euclydes da
Cunha collected are found merged the hatred of the sertanejos for the
governing class of Brazil, their millenial hope in Dom Sebastian and
their faith in Antonio surnamed Conselheiro (i. e., the Councillor) as
the deliverer from all evil.

        O Anti-Christo nasceu
        Para o Brazil governar
        Mas ahi esta O Conselheiro
        Para delle nos livrar.

        Antichrist was born
        To govern poor Brazil,
        But God raised up our Councillor
        To save us from that ill.[3]

        Garantidos pela lei
        Aquelles malvados estão.
        Nos temos a lei de Deus
        Elles tem a lei do cão.

        Protected by the law
        Are those wretches in their lairs.
        Ours is the law of God,
        The law of the dog is theirs.

        Visita nos vem fazer
        Nosso rei D. Sebastião.
        Coitado daquelle pobre
        Que estiver na lei do cão!

        Our good King D. Sebastian
        Comes to visit us.
        Pity the poor wretch
        Who supports the law of the dog!

Cunninghame-Graham, like Euclydes da Cunha, and like the better of
the Brazilian’s critics, feels a strong sympathy for the man in whom
the new hopes of the sertanejos were centred. It is a sympathy,
moreover, born of the understanding without which all knowledge is as
fruit turned to ashes in the mouth. The Scot, like the Brazilian, is
a psychologist. “Antonio Conselheiro himself did not so much rebel
against authority as against life, perhaps expecting from it more
than it had to give upon the spiritual side, not understanding that a
fine day, with health to enjoy it, is the most spiritual of pleasures
open to mankind,” he writes, in his amiable, worldly-wise (and
heavenly-wise) way. And later: “When all is said, it is impossible not
to sympathize to some extent with the misguided sectaries, for all they
wanted was to live the life they had been accustomed to and sing their
litanies. Clearly Antonio Conselheiro had no views on any subject under
heaven outside his own district. His dreams were fixed upon a better
world, and his chief care was to fit his followers for the change that
he believed was to take place soon.”

It is Verissimo, who, with his almost unerring insight, extracts from
his countryman’s book its central significance. Here is a volume that
is a remarkable commentary upon the formation of all religions,
“without excepting our own Christianity. In another milieu, under other
conditions, Antonio Conselheiro is a Christ, a Mohammed, a Messiah, one
of the many Mahdis, creators of religions in that fecund soil of human
belief which is Asia. In the sertão, friends and enemies and even the
constituted authorities, hold him (i. e., Antonio Maciel, the people’s
councillor) as a good, honest, upright man, despite the legend--and
is it only a legend?--which attributes to a tragic matricide his
transformation from a business man into a religious preacher, his life
as a saint and a missionary of the sertão.”

       *       *       *       *       *

I find that I have spoken as much of Cunninghame-Graham as of the
Brazilian in whom he found his most important source; that is because
the Scotsman’s book is the best possible revelation in English of the
remarkable account given by Euclydes da Cunha.

_Os Sertões_ stands alone in the nation’s literature; we, in ours, have
no book to parallel it in spirit, purport or accomplishment. Yet even
today there are regions to which a similar method might be applied,
for Verissimo’s words about Asia seem to cover the United States as
well,--in less degree, of course, but for our purpose with equal
patness. More, a close reading of the government’s application of force
to a situation that might have yielded to less warlike methods,--or,
at least, that might have been managed without the necessity of the
final massacre--could teach something to all governmental departments
that are brought into contact with alien or extra-social groups which
must be incorporated into the national entity. _Os Sertões_ is the
best answer to the young Brazilian regionalists who have made the
book a rallying-point. Here is a volume--and a thick, compact volume
it is--dealing in quasi-reportorial spirit with a brief incident in
the most hidden recesses of the national interior; it was not written
with belles-lettres in mind; it is strewn with terms and processes
of thought that baffle the ordinary reader. Yet the man who composed
it was a vibrant personality, and whether knowingly or unwittingly,
he made the book a symbol,--a symbol of uncomprehending persecution,
of human fanaticism, of religious origins, of man’s instinctive
seeking after something higher. It is true that the persecution was
in part necessary, that the aspect of fanaticism here revealed is
most repugnant, that the spectacle of religious origins does not
flatter our unctuous, supposedly civilized, superior souls. But it is
true, likewise, that we must gaze into such depths as these to remind
ourselves occasionally that we dwell in these inferiors. Such is the
wisdom of Euclydes da Cunha, of Richard Cunninghame-Graham, of José
Verissimo.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] _Resumo da Historia do Brazil._ Maria G. L. de Andrade. Edição
Ampliada, 1920, Pages 277-278.

[2] “This struggle for existence,” writes Cunninghame-Graham in _A
Brazilian Mystic_ (pages 17-18) “amongst plants and animals presents
its counterpart amongst mankind. The climate sees to it that only those
most fitted to resist it arrive at manhood, and the rude life they
subsequently lead has forged a race as hard as the Castilians, the
Turks, the Scythians of old, or as the Mexicans.

“No race in all America is better fitted to cope with the wilderness.
The sertanejo is emphatically what the French call ‘a male.’ His Indian
blood has given him endurance and a superhuman patience in adversity.
From his white forefathers he has derived intelligence, the love of
individual as opposed to general freedom inherent in the Latin races,
good manners, and a sound dose of self-respect. His tinge of negro
blood, although in the sertão it tends to disappear out of the race, at
least in outward characteristics, may perchance have given him whatever
qualities the African can claim. Far from demonstrative, he yet feels
deeply; never forgets a benefit, and cherishes an insult as if it were
a pearl of price, safe to revenge it when the season offers or when the
enemy is off his guard.

“Centaurs before the Lord, the sertanejos do not appear (almost alone
of horsemen) to have that pride in their appearance so noticeable in
the gaucho, the Mexican and in the Arabs of North Africa. Seated in his
short, curved saddle, a modification of the ‘recao’ used on the Pampas
of the Argentine, the sertanejo lounges, sticks his feet forward, and
rides, as goes the saying, all about his horse, using, of course, a
single rein, and the high hand all natural horsemen affect. Yet, when
a bunch of cattle break into a wild stampede, the man is suddenly
transformed. Then he sits upright as a lance, or, bending low over his
horse’s neck, flies at a break-neck pace, dashing through the thick
scrub of the _caatingas_ in a way that must be seen to be believed.
Menacing boughs hang low and threaten him. He throws himself flat on
the horse’s back and passes under them. A tree stands in his way right
in the middle of his headlong career. If his horse, highly trained and
bitted, fails to stop in time, he slips off like a drop of water from a
pane of glass at the last moment, or if there is the smallest chance of
passing on one side, lies low along his horse’s flank after the fashion
of an old-time Apache or Comanche on the war-path.”

[3] I quote the translation of this quatrain from Cunninghame-Graham.
The third quatrain, here given as I find it in _Os Sertões_, 1914,
fifth edition, differs in a single unimportant spelling from that used
by the author of _A Brazilian Mystic_, who translates it: “Our King,
Dom Sebastian, will come to visit us and free us from the reign of the
dog.” I do not think this is correct, as the two final lines are a
threat to the other side.



VI

MANOEL DE OLIVEIRA LIMA


Oliveira Lima belongs, more than to the history of Brazilian letters,
to the history of Brazilian culture. He is an integral part of
that culture and his life, coincidentally, runs parallel with the
emergence of Brazil into an honoured position among the nations of the
world. Once, in a happy phrase, the Swedish writer Goran Björkman, a
corresponding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, characterized
him aptly as “Brazil’s intellectual ambassador to the world,” and
the phrase has stuck because it so eminently fitted the modest,
indefatigable personality to whom it was applied. In a sense Oliveira
Lima has been, too, the world’s intellectual ambassador to Brazil; he
has seen service literally in every corner of the globe,--in Argentina
as in the United States, in Japan as in France, Belgium, Sweden and
Germany. Wherever he has come he has torn aside the dense veil of
ignorance that has hidden Brazil from the eyes of none too curious
foreigners; from wherever he has gone he has sent back to his native
land solidly written, well considered volumes upon the civilization of
the old world and the new. In both the physical and the intellectual
sense he has been, largely, Brazil’s point of contact with the rest
of the world. And the nation has been most fortunate in that choice,
for Manoel de Oliveira Lima, most “undiplomatic” of diplomats, is the
most human of men. He is, in the least spectacular sense of the word,
an inspirer, not of words but of deeds. Trace his itinerary during
the past twenty-five years and it is a miniature map of a double
enlightenment. If diplomacy is ever to achieve anything like genuine
internationality, it must travel some such path as this. And I dare say
that Senhor Oliveira Lima is one of the rare precursors of just such a
diplomacy. The example of his career has helped to raise that office
from one of sublimated social hypocrisy to the dignity of lofty human
intercourse.

Manoel de Oliveira Lima was born on December 25th, 1867, in the city
of Recife, Pernambuco,--that state of which Silveira Martins has
strikingly declared that the Brazilian gaucho--indomitable defender
of the nation’s frontiers--was simply a Pernambucan on horseback. He
was sent early to Portugal to complete his education, becoming one of
the favourite students of the noted historian Oliveira Martins; at the
age of twenty-one he received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and
Letters from the University of Lisbon and set out, after a couple of
years, upon his career of diplomacy, into which he was initiated by
Carvalho Borges and the Baron de Itajubá.

“Oliveira Lima never wrote verses,” declared Salvador de Mendonça once
in a speech of welcome. “I believe that, with the exception of the
_Lusiads_, all poems are to him like the _Colombo_ of Porto Alegre to
the readers of our literature, an unknown land awaiting some Columbus
to discover it. Like an old philosopher friend of mine, who doesn’t
admit monologues or asides in the theatre because only fools or persons
threatened with madness converse with themselves, so Oliveira Lima
finds it hardly natural for people to write in verse, for the language
of seers was never the spoken tongue. His spirit is positive and
direct; only curved lines are lacking for him to be a geometer. His
characteristic trait is sincerity; he says only what he thinks is true,
and says it without beating about the bush, in the explicit form of his
conviction. I believe that he is but a lukewarm admirer of music, and
prefers, to the contemplation of nature, the study of social phenomena
and the examination of the human beehive.”

For a Brazilian never to have written verses is indeed almost a
violation of the social code, and it may be that Senhor Lima’s
lukewarmness toward music helps to explain a certain lack of musicality
in his clear but compact prose. But lack of poetic appreciation should
not be inferred from his friend’s lines; one has but to go through
one of Lima’s earliest and most solid works, _Aspectos da Litteratura
Colonial Brazileira_, to discover, in this original contribution, a
deep, unostentatious feeling for those beautiful emotions we call
poetry.

His literary career, as we have seen, is closely identified with
his numerous peregrinations. It opened with a historical study of
his birthplace: _Pernambuco, seu Desenvolimento historica_ (1894),
followed two years later by the _Aspectos_. Thereafter is pursued,
rather closely, the travels of Lima, resulting in _Nos Estados Unidos_
(1899), a work of uneven value upon the United States, _No Japão_,
(1903), a more mature volume upon the land of the rising sun, countless
speeches and series of lectures delivered in the universities of both
hemispheres--now at the Sorbonne, now at the University of Louvaine, at
Harvard, Yale, Stanford University and lesser institutions--and always
upon his favourite theme: the history of Brazilian and Latin-American
culture. Out of these lectures have arisen more than one of his books,
some of them originally delivered in English and French; for Lima is
an accomplished linguist, employing English and French with ease and
speaking German, Italian and Spanish as well.

It is history that forms his main interest; even when he makes a single
attempt--and not a highly successful one--at the drama, his _Secretario
d’El Rey_ (The King’s Secretary, 1904) turns upon the historic figure
of Alexandre de Gusmão in the days of 1738. It is worth while noting,
as a commentary upon Lima’s unfanatic patriotism, that he justly
considers this work a Brazilian drama, though the action takes place
in Portugal. For, “in the first place, our historic period anterior
to the Independence necessarily involves so intimate a connection of
the colony with the court that it is almost impossible, treating of
the one, to lose the other from sight. Material communication and
above all moral relations established a sort of territorial continuity
between both sides of the Atlantic, which formed a single fatherland.
Besides, the action of the piece could hardly have been made to take
place in Brazil, since the protagonist of the play, perhaps the most
illustrious Brazilian of the XVIIIth century, and one whose personality
merited, as few others, consecration upon the stage, lived in Europe
from his earliest youth. For identical reasons the action of _O Poeta e
a Inquisção_ (The Poet and the Inquisition) by Domingos de Magalhães,
our first national tragedy, takes place in Lisbon. And finally the
author would remind his reader that the spirit of his piece is entirely
Brazilian, trying to symbolize--and more direct pretension would be
anachronistic--the differentiation which had already begun between the
mother country and its American colony, which was destined to continue
and propagate its historic mission in the new world, and the economic
importance of which was daily becoming more manifest.”

It is in history that, with a few exceptions, Lima’s most enduring
work has been performed. He has recreated the figure of Dom João VI
(_Dom João no Brasil_, 2 vols.); he has thrown light into dark places
of the national narrative, particularly in the period beginning with
the French invasion of Portugal that sent John VI to Brazil in 1808
and thus made the colony a virtual kingdom, and ending with 1821. “Dr.
Lima’s investigations in hitherto unused sources also led to a revision
of judgment,” wrote Professor P. A. Martin, “of many personages
and events of the period; an instance of which is his successful
rehabilitation of the character of Dom John VI. This sovereign, treated
with contempt and contumely by the bulk of the Portuguese historians
who have never forgiven him for deserting his native land, now appears
in a new and deservedly more favorable light. The author makes it
clear that John’s rule in Brazil was as liberal and progressive as was
desirable in a country in which all thorough-going reforms must of
necessity be introduced gradually. And these same reforms, especially
the opening of the chief Brazilian ports to the commerce of all
friendly nations, not only redounded to the immediate benefit of the
country, but what was infinitely more important, paved the way for
ultimate independence.”[1] So well, indeed, that the year following
John’s departure is the year of Brazil’s complete emancipation.

Oliveira Lima’s internationalism--employing that word in a broader
sense than it is usually given in political discussion--is thus at once
territorial and spiritual. He knows his own country too well to glorify
it in the unthinking patriotism of a Rocha Pitta; he knows the rest
of the world too well to harbour faith in the exclusivistic loyalties
that patriotism everywhere connotes. His very books, as if to symbolize
his universal attitude, trace the amplification of his interests and
of his cosmopolitan spirit. He began with a study of his birthplace;
he continued with a study of his nation’s colonial letters; he then
initiated a series dealing with national, historical figures and
events, in conjunction with books upon the four corners of the world.
Latterly, as if to round out the whole, he has completed a _History of
Civilization_, intended chiefly for use in Brazil’s higher centres of
education; but it is far more than a mere text-book. It is the natural
outgrowth of a dignified lifetime,--the work of a man who, early placed
in the diplomatic service, outgrew the confines of that profession
because, in simple words, he was too human for it.

“In fact,” he himself once declared in a speech, “to be a good diplomat
is to be able to deceive wisely.” And Lima has been wiser in goodness
than in deceit.

It is easy enough now, with the distance of a few years between us
and the end of a war that need never have been fought, to proclaim a
humanistic spiritual world-unity. It was not easy for Lima while the
war was going on; perhaps he, as well as any other, recognized the
futility of his efforts to keep at least the western hemisphere of
the world sane during the carnage; perhaps this was but an example of
what one of his youthful disciples has called his “quixotism.” It was,
together with these things, a simple, if striking, example, of the
man’s devotion to the truth he sees.

“Through love of the truth,” he said, at a banquet given to him in
Rio Janeiro in 1917, “I became a diplomat, who did not correspond to
the ideal of the type, despite the remark of a departed friend of
mine who used to say that I had spent my life lying, in Europe, Asia
and America, saying, in foreign countries and to foreign audiences,
that Brazil possesses a dramatic history, a brilliant literature, a
promising economy,--in short--all the characteristics of a civilization
…, of which my friend, apparently, was sceptical.

“Through love of the truth, I am now a journalist who ought to
correspond to the ideal of the type, and if I do not, it is for the
simple reason that in a certain sense, truth is the most burdensome
luggage a person can carry through life, for it is always getting into
our way. I don’t see why it should be inculcated with such arduous
effort--and, paradoxically, a sincere effort--into the souls of
children, since, in their future life it can cause so much trouble to
those of us who continue to invoke and apply what was taught us as a
virtue.”

If Lima has been an undiplomatic diplomat, he is an unjournalistic
journalist. As another paradox in his life, this man of Brazilian
birth, Portuguese education and tri-continental wanderings has settled
down in Washington, D. C., having presented his remarkable library to
the Catholic University. Back from his present home he sends, to be
sure, political chronicle and such chat, but also literary letters that
are read with avidity by a youth whom he is strongly influencing. This
is the stuff out of which a number of his books have grown; it is the
sort of journalism that Bernard Shaw has boasted about, because of its
intimate relation to significant, immediate life.

That he has chosen the United States for his permanent home
sufficiently indicates a predilection early evidenced in his book upon
this country; but that preference is neither blind nor unreasoned, any
more than his Pan-Americanism is the hollow proclamation that deceives
nobody less than alert South Americans. In his attitude to our nation
he is candid, direct, with the reserve of a Martí, a Rodó, a Verissimo,
only that he knows us more intimately than did those sterling spirits.
At the end of a series of lectures dedicated to the then President of
Leland Stanford Junior University, John Casper Branner, “distinguished
scientist, eminent scholar and true friend of Brazil,” and delivered
at that university, as well as others of this country, Lima declared
that “The filiation and evolution of Portuguese America are separate
from those of Spanish America; not infrequently, nay frequently
rather, was this evolution hostile to that of Spanish America; but
today they have common, identical interests, and a desire for a closer
approximation appears so reciprocal that this movement becomes every
day more pronounced and more firmly rooted. For Pan-Americanism to be
complete, it would be necessary for the United States to ally itself
with Latin America, with the importance, the influence, the prestige,
the superiority to which its civilization entitles it--it would not be
human to do otherwise--but without any thought, expressed or reserved,
of direct predominance, which offends the weaker element and renders it
suspicious.

“It is this which those who, like myself, know and esteem the United
States,--and the best way of showing one’s esteem is not by praising
unreservedly,--are hoping will come as the result of the great
university movement which is gradually crystallizing in this country.
Here idealism is a feature of the race (nor would you without it
belong to a superior race), an ideal so noble and elevated as that of
respect for the right of others, as that of human solidarity through
the unification of culture. The great statesman who now presides over
the destinies of the Argentine Republic, proclaimed at the First
Pan-American Conference, at Washington, that America belonged to all
humanity, not to a fraction of it; and indeed America is and will
continue to be more and more the field for the employment of European
capital, of study for European scholars, of commerce for European
merchants, of activity for European immigration. Only thus will the
New World fulfil its historical and social mission and redeem the debt
contracted with Europe, which has given it its civilization.”[2]

This is an example of that “Spirit of peace and concord to which I have
ever subordinated my spiritual activity.”[3]

As an investigator, Lima has always gone to the sources; he has the
born historian’s patience with detail, and if he lacks the music of a
seductive prose, he compensates for this more purely literary grace
with a gift for vivifying the men and events of the past. Thus, if
his sole venture into the historical drama has been unproductive
of dramatic beauty, his historical writings abound in passages of
colourful, dramatic power. Carlos Pereyra, himself a prolific writer
upon American history, has, in his Spanish translation of Lima’s
_Historic Formation of the Brazilian Nationality_, compared him to such
painters of the soul as Frans Hals. “Oliveira Lima paints portraits
in the fashion of Hals. Thus we behold his personages not only in the
ensemble of the canvas and in the external perfection of each figure,
but in that mysterious prolongation that carries us into the intimate
shadows of the personality.…”

Lima’s eclecticism is but the natural result of his residence in many
parts of the world; it is also an aspect of a spiritual tolerance
which is a trait of his personality, and which despite his “historic
Catholicism” evokes, even from an unbeliever, the simple tribute which
in this modest essay I seek to render as much to that personality as
to any of its products.

As for his growing influence upon the youth of Brazil, I will let one
of the most promising of those young men speak for his colleagues.
Writes Senhor Gilberto de Mello Freyre,[4] “This independence of view
and attitude explains the fascination that he exercises over the
intellectual youth of Brazil.… He is generous toward the newcomers,
without for that reason being easy with his praise. On the contrary, he
is discreet. His generosity never reaches the extremes of indulgence.
His intellectual hospitality has been great; he has been a sort of
bachelor uncle to the nation’s ‘enfants terribles.’ He was one of the
first to proclaim the powerful, strange talents of Euclydes da Cunha.
He has sponsored other youthful intellects whose brilliant future he
can foresee, such as Sr. Assis Chateaubriand, Sr. Antonio Carneiro
Leão, Sr. Mario Mello, Sr. Annibal Fernandes.”

There are men whose lives are the best books they have written; to this
company Manoel de Oliveira Lima belongs. He has identified himself so
completely with the cultural history of his nation that, as I said at
the beginning, he is an integral part of it, and if his works were
removed from the national bookshelf, a yawning gap would be left. That
is the better nationalism, to which he has devoted an unchauvinistic
career of the higher patriotism. He has, on the other hand, become
so essentially cosmopolitan as to have earned the rare title of
world-citizen. If more diplomats have not been able to reconcile
these two supposed “opposites,” it is not because such a patriotism
is incompatible with the international mind, but because under their
ceremonial clothes they hide the age-old predatory heart and serve the
age-old predatory interests. Lima has not labelled others, and I am not
going to label him; men, like countries, must remain ever different.
But countries, like men, may bridge the gulf of difference by patient
understanding, and the rivers of blood that flow under those bridges
must be the blood of human tolerance and aid, not the blood of barter
and battle. It would be easy to point out a certain “conservatism” in
Lima, as in more than one other, and yet, if it be possible for us to
live in anything but the present, he is a man of the future, for he
has always dwelt above boundaries, above battles, above most of the
sublimated childishness which we grown-ups pompously call “the serious
business of the world.”

FOOTNOTES:

[1] See Introduction to _The Evolution of Brazil compared with that
of Spanish and Anglo-Saxon America_. Stanford University, California,
1914. The introduction, by Professor Percy Alvin Martin, should be read
with care, as it assigns Lima’s year of birth erroneously to the year
1865, and gives wrong dates for the _Aspectos_ (1896, not 1906) and
_Pernambuco_ (1894, not 1895); moreover, it ascribes to Björnstjerne
Björnsen, instead of to Goran Björkman, the bestowal upon Lima of the
epithet “intellectual ambassador of Brazil.”

[2] Lima here refers to Dr. Roque Saenz-Peña, inaugurated 1910. The
citation is from Lecture VI (and last); the series was delivered in
English.

[3] See Preface to his book on Argentina (1920, Spanish version, Buenos
Aires).

[4] In a recent letter to me.



VII

GRAÇA ARANHA


Graça Aranha, like Euclydes da Cunha (from whom in so many other
respects he is so different), is a man virtually of a single book.
And, as _Os Sertões_ in 1902 created so profound an impression upon
Brazilian letters as to suggest a partial reorientation of the national
literature, so, in the same year, did the appearance of Aranha’s
_Chanaan_ work a profound change in the Brazilian novel. Much ink has
been spilled about it and often, if not generally, in that exalted
rhetorical mood for which the Ibero-American critic does not lack
models abroad; upon the strength of _Chanaan_ alone, Senhor Costa (and
not entirely without justice) has created a new phase of the national
novel: the critico-philosophical; Guglielmo Ferrero, the noted Italian
historian, a corresponding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters,
made it known to Europe with his fulsome praise of it as the great
American novel,--a term that had already been applied to _María_ (by
the Colombian Jorge Isaacs) and Taunay’s _Innocencia_. There is a
distinct basis for comparison between _Innocencia_ and the more famous
tale from Colombia; between these and _Chanaan_, however, there is
little similarity, if one overlooks the poetic atmosphere that glamours
all three. Aranha’s book is of far broader conception than the other
two; it adds to their lyricism an epic sweep inherent in the subject
and very soon felt in the treatment. It is, in fact, a novel difficult
to classify, impregnated as it is with a noble, Tolstoian idealism,
yet just as undoubtedly streaked with an unrelenting realism so often
coupled with the name of Zola. Yet one does not perceive too plainly an
inept mingling of genres; the style is a mirror of the vast theme--that
moment at which the native and the immigrant strains begin to merge in
the land of the future--the promised land that the protagonists are
destined never to enter, even as Moses himself, upon Mount Nebo in the
land of Moab, beheld Canaan and died in the thrall of the great vision.

Aranha seems truly to have been called to this task rather than to have
chosen it. He is cosmopolitan by culture as well as training. Himself
a descendant of an old family, he has not been hampered by the false
aristocracy of the family, else how could he have composed the epic
of Brazil’s melting-pot? He has served his nation at home and abroad,
having been secretary to Joaquim Nabuco when that diplomat went to
Italy to settle before the king the boundary dispute between Brazil
and Great Britain in the matter of British Guiana; he was Brazilian
minister at Christiania, and later Plenipotentiary for Brazil at The
Hague. He is philosophically, critically inclined; he knows not only
the Latin element of his nation, but the Teutonic as well; his native
exuberance has been tempered by a serenity that is the product of
European influence, in which may be reckoned a tithe of English.

_Chanaan_ is of those novels that centre about an enthralling idea.
The type that devotes much attention to depictions of life and customs,
to discussions of present realities and ultimate purposes, is perhaps
more frequent among Spanish and Portuguese Americans than among our
own readers, who are too apt to be over-insistent in their demands
for swift, visible external action. Yet, in the hands of a master, it
possesses no less interest--for myself, I freely say more--than the
more obvious type of fiction. Ideas possess more life than the persons
who are moved by them.

The idea that carries Milkau from the Old World to the New is an
ideal of human brotherhood, high purpose and dissatisfaction with the
old, degenerate hemisphere. In the State of Espirito Santo, where
the German colonists are dominant, he plans a simple life that shall
drink inspiration in the youth of a new, virgin continent. He falls in
with another German, Lentz, whose outlook upon life is at first the
very opposite to Milkau’s blend of Christianity and a certain liberal
Socialism. The strange milieu breeds in both an intellectual languor
that vents itself in long discussions, in brooding contemplation,
mirages of the spirit. Milkau is gradually struck with something wrong
in the settlement. Little by little it begins to dawn upon him that
attributes akin to the Old-World hypocrisy, fraud and insincerity are
contaminating this supposedly virgin territory. Here he discovers
no paradise à la Rousseau--no natural man untainted by the ills of
civilization. Graft is as rampant as in any district of the world
across the sea; cruelty is as rife. His pity is aroused by the plight
of Mary, a destitute servant who is betrayed by the son of her
employers. Not only does the scamp desert her when she most needs
his protection and acknowledgment, but he is silent when his equally
vicious parents drive her forth to a life of intense hardship. She is
spurned at every door and reduced to beggary. Her child is born under
the most distressing of circumstances and devoured by a pig before her
very eyes, as she gazes helplessly on.

Mary is accused of infanticide, and since she lacks witnesses, is
placed in an extremely difficult position. Moreover, the father of
her child bends every effort to loosen the harshest measures of the
community against her, whereupon Milkau, whose heart is open to the
griefs of the universe, has another opportunity to behold man’s
inhumanity to woman. His pity turns to what pity is akin to; he effects
her release from jail, and together they go forth upon a journey
that ends in the delirium of death. The promised land has proved a
mirage--at least for the present. And it is upon this indecisive note
that the book comes to a close.

Ferrero,[1] in his introduction to the book is substantial and to the
point. It is natural that he should have taken such a liking to the
novel, for Aranha’s work is of intense interest to the reader who
looks for psychological insight, and Ferrero himself is the exponent
of history as psychology rather than as economic materialism. “The
critics,” he says, “will judge the literary merits of this novel. As
a literary amateur, I will point out among its qualities the beauty
of its style and its descriptions, the purity of the psychological
analysis, the depth of the thoughts and the reflections of which the
novel is full, and among its parts a certain disproportion between
the different parts of the book and an ending which is too vague,
indefinite, and unexpected. But its literary qualities seem to me to
be of secondary importance to the profound and incontrovertible idea
that forms the kernel of the book. Here in Europe we say that modern
civilization develops itself in America more freely than in Europe, for
in the former country it has not to surmount the obstacle of an older
society, firmly established as in the case of the latter. Because of
this we call America ‘the country of the young,’ and we consider the
New World as the great force which decomposes the old European social
organization.” That idea is, as Ferrero points out, and as Milkau
discovered for himself, an illusion due to distance. Ferrero points
out, too, that here is everywhere “an old America struggling against
a new one and, what is very curious, the new America, which upsets
traditions, is formed above all by the European immigrants who seek
a place for themselves in the country of their adoption, whereas the
real Americans represent the conservative tendencies. Europe exerts on
American society--through its emigrants--the same dissolving action
which America exerts--through its novelties and its example--on the old
civilization of Europe.” The point is very well taken, and contains
the germ of more than one great novel of the United States. And just
as _Chanaan_ stands by itself in Brazilian literature, so might such a
novel achieve pre-eminence in our own.

“It is probable,” says Milkau to Lentz during one of their numerous
discussions, in words that may have suggested this criticism to Ferrero
and that may be applicable to our own nation,--“it is probable that
our fate will be to transform this country from top to bottom, to
substitute another civilization for all the culture, religion and
traditions of a people. It is a new conquest, slow, dour, peaceful in
its means, but terrible in its ambitious schemes. The substitution must
be so pure and luminous that upon it may not fall the bitter curse of
devastation. In the meantime we are a dissolvent of the race of this
country. We soak into the nation’s clay and soften it; we mix ourselves
with the natives and kill their traditions, and spread confusion among
them.… No one will understand anyone else; there is a confusion of
tongues; men coming from everywhere--bring with them the images of
their several gods; they are all alien to each other; there is no
communion of thought; men and women do not make love to each other in
the same words.… Everything is disintegrating; one civilization falls
and is transformed into an unknown one.… The remodelling of the nation
is being set back. There is tragedy in the soul of a Brazilian when
he feels that his race will not last for evermore. The law of nature
is that like begets like.… And here tradition is broken; the father
will not transmit his own image to his son; the language is dying; the
old aspirations of the race, the deep-rooted desires for a distinct
individuality, will become dumb; the future will not understand the
past.”[2]

Ferrero is quite right in indicating the great non-literary importance
of the novel; indeed, Brazilian criticism, as a whole, has in the
consideration of _Chanaan_ been so dazzled by the language and the
social implications of the novel that it has overlooked or condoned
its structural defects as a work of art. But not all readers will
agree with Ferrero, I imagine, as to the excessive vagueness of the
end. Hardly any other type of ending would have befitted a novel that
treats of transition, of a landscape that enthralls, of possibilities
that founder, not through the malignance of fate so much as through the
stupidity, the cupidity, the crassness of man. There is an epic swirl
to the finale that reminds one of the disappearance of an ancient deity
in a pillar of dust. For an uncommon man like Milkau an uncommon end
was called for.

In this novelized document upon Brazil’s racial problems and popular
customs a certain and facile symbolism seems to inhere. Milkau is, as
we have seen, the blend of Christianity and Socialism,--two concepts
which, for all their recent historic enmity, are closely related,
though by no means identical, in philosophical background. Lentz is
the apostle of Nietzscheanism. Mary is the suffering land, a prey
to the worse elements. The pot that melts the peoples melts their
philosophies. So are they fused in this book, which terminates in a
cloud, as of the first smoke to rise from the crucible.

_Chanaan_ is not, for all its novelty and substantiality, the “splendid
alliance of artistic perfection and moral grandeur” that one of its
countless panegyrists has discovered it to be. Neither does it contain
that mixture of Ibsen, Tolstoi, Zola, Sudermann, Maeterlinck and
Anatole France which was found in it by an editorial writer in the
_Jornal do Commercio_. Even Verissimo, it seems to me, exaggerated the
artistic importance of the novel in his enthusiasm--a rare thing in
Verissimo--over the newness and the social significance of the book.
He speaks of its drama as being “curto, rapido e intenso,” yet surely
there is nothing “brief” or “rapid” in the telling of _Chanaan_,
though intense it undoubtedly is. “New in theme,” he wrote, “new in
inspiration and conception, new in style, _Chanaan_ is the first and
only manifestation worthy of appreciation among the new spiritual and
social currents that are everywhere influencing literature and art.
This novel brought to literature, not only Brazilian but Portuguese as
well, human and social preoccupations, and modern forms of expression.…
It may well be that chronologically some other came before him, but
in art excellency is more important than priority.… This is the first
novel of its kind in Brazil or Portugal. One may note the lack of
action, that is, a more or less complicated plot.… _Chanaan_, then,
belongs in the category of contemporary literature. The intense
drama that animates it is chiefly internal, but the feelings, the
sensations, the ideas vibrate in it like deeds.” Like deeds, in truth,
for feelings, sensations and ideas are the raw material of action;
more, the motive power itself of “action.” Verissimo is not so much
blind to the artistic deficiencies of _Chanaan_ as he is unmindful of
them. He readily grants that “not all the episodes adjust themselves
perfectly to the central action of the novel or even to the general
fact that it presents.… In a detailed analysis of the architecture of
the book perhaps other objections would be possible, but contemplating
the structure as a whole--and this is how a work of art should be
viewed--the impression is one of solid beauty. _Chanaan_ is truly a
work of talent in the most noble acceptation and the rarest application
of that word. With its generous inspiration, its penetrating symbolism
and its moving lyricism … with its wealth of ideas and sensations and
its rare emotional sincerity, what is perhaps most admirable in Graça
Aranha’s novel is the difficult union--intimate and perfect in this
book--of the loftiest idealism and the most inviting realism.”

Costa, as we have seen, has centred a new epoch of the Brazilian novel
around this one work, which he considers to have fixed the moment of
transition that is so eloquently suggested in the passage from Milkau
given above. “The problem of immigration was disquieting,” he writes.
“Moreover, as reaction against French culture,” (a reaction that
is now again to the fore) “the only culture that dominated without
rivalry in Brazil, our men of letters began to read the German authors:
Goethe, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche. It was a moment of mental
elaboration,--an élan, a great hope, a fertile stirring of ideas, and,
at the same time, there was doubt as to one’s powers of resistance,
incertitude, puerile indecision, vague, formless aspirations,--that
state of semi-lethargy, with acute intermittent crises of vitality,
which characterizes the periods of transition amongst individuals and
nations, the burgeoning of the youthful intelligence of a new people,
the first attempts at independence, the will to learn and to produce,
to affirm and to acquire the consciousness of one’s worth as a nation
amongst the nations. It was in this period that there took place the
most memorable event in the intellectual life of Brazil: the foundation
of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.… Graça Aranha is, perhaps, the
fusion of two different cultures.” This is evident in _Chanaan_, I
may add in passing, without any reference to the known facts of the
man’s life and his education. And though it may be _studied_ in his
book, from him it flowed into the narrative out of his very nature.
He is, again in Costa’s words, “the focal point of two vigorous and
independent Brazilian thinkers: Tobias Barreto and Joaquim Nabuco.
The mysterious power of the race, its abandon, its sensual basis, its
curiosity for learning--revealing a little the rudimentary traits of
the mixed breed--the power of conception, the absolutist tendency, that
make and are the strength of Tobias Barreto, encounter, in the manner
of the law of compensation, a moderating force, a stabilization of
values in the Apollonian genius of Joaquim Nabuco, in the Aryan clarity
of his ideas, the Hellenic grace of his concepts, the brilliancy of his
rhythmic style, so elegant, delicate and noble,--in the loftiness of
his thoughts, in his civilized relativism. There are not in Brazil two
spirits, two esthetics, that are more different from, more antagonistic
to, each other. The first, despite his vast learning, his admiration
for and bedazzlement before European thought, is in every attitude,
every phrase, every gesture, an American, Brazilian, an exuberant son
of the tropics, sensual and barbarous; the second, despite his love
of his native land, despite his devotion … is, in his thought, in
manner, in tastes, in soul, in ideas and affections, in pleasures and
in style, a European, a Latin, a descendant in direct line of Greek
culture. Graça Aranha, by a phenomenon that I discover in his style,
has succeeded,--at the same time retaining complete independence,--in
effecting an alliance between two opposite poles, the harmonious
conjunction of these two different principles, the integration into a
single beautiful and lofty form of these two contradictory esthetics.
He has transformed the sensualism of Tobias Barreto into voluptuousness
and the eloquence of Joaquim Nabuco into poetry.”

Costa has stated the case with tropical luxuriance of phrase and
feeling; perhaps one must be a Brazilian to see all this--_as art_--in
the novel to which it is applied. Take up the book in and for itself,
as a product of a sensitive imagination transmuting the elements
of experience into a new reality, and it contains, surely, all the
qualities that its most intense admirers discover, but in less degree.
Milkau is really the only character in the novel; he is the soloist.
Too many of the beautiful thoughts remain here as isolated by-products
of conversation rather than living emanations of interplay of emotions.
There is a certain hesitancy as to form, which is now the frank
dialogue of the stage, now the exaltation of a nativist hymn in a
manner recalling, though of course not repeating, Rocha Pitta. Milkau
himself, speaking doubtless for Aranha, says that “man is not governed
by ideas; he is governed by feelings,” yet, so like the wise men who
discover that simple truth, continues to expatiate upon the ideas.
Could his sentence, indeed, have originated in one of simple feelings?
The very recognition that feeling dominates us is a token that it has
ceased to dominate entirely. This is another excellent reason for that
indecisive close of the book to which Ferrero objected, for Milkau is
caught in a mesh of indecision. It reveals, in the author, one of the
sources of his own indecision as to form; but in the novel something
of that uncertainty is felt in the telling, and interferes with one’s
complete enjoyment in the epoch-making book. Yet, strangely enough,
out of the weakness of the separate parts is forged a strength of the
whole. Once again, the book becomes the mirror of the folk who people
it, for out of the weakness of the individual would Milkau make the
strength of human solidarity. “My eyes cannot reach the limits of the
Infinite,” he cries at the very end. “My sight is limited to what
surrounds you.… But I tell you, if this is going to end so that the
cycle of existence may be repeated again elsewhere, or if some day
we will be extinguished with the last wave of heat coming from the
maternal bosom of earth, or if we be smashed with it in the Universe
and be scattered like dust on the roads of the heavens, let us not
separate from each other in this attitude of hatred.… I entreat you
and your innumerable descendants, let us reconcile ourselves with each
other before the coming of Death.…”

To sum up the artistic aspect of the case, I would say--with all
admiration for the novel _Chanaan_ and its countless fascinating
moments of speech, attitude and vision--that the book itself is even
in this respect a mirror, a symbol, of its people and its problems: it
is a high promise rather than the perfect fulfilment that so many of
its critics would see in it. It ascends the literary Mount Nebo, gazes
toward the Promised Land, but does not enter. It is one of the peaks of
Brazilian literature, both artistically (for detail) and historically
(as a whole), but I dare say that its artistic importance will diminish
as its historic significance increases. One’s sharper critical
examination of the book is a tribute to its disturbing qualities and
its peculiar individuality among the products of the modern novel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Its historic importance is less to be questioned, though it has
not created a school. Costa’s very characterization of it as a
critico-philosophical novel contains a criticism, which is further
brought out in his short concluding chapter upon his personal theory
regarding the Brazilian novel. For here he suggests as the coming type
what he calls the _esthetico-social_ novel,--“the theory of art for
art’s sake employed in representing the social moment of a people.” I
am not concerned with this inartistic theory; inartistic because it
would choose the subject for the artist, who alone has the right to
select and combine his materials. Neither am I concerned with Costa’s
uncomprehending attitude toward the Russian novel, in which he can find
only folly, cruelty and delirium! It is a large world, and we must each
write what is in ourselves, not what preceptive critics would order
to fit in with their clamping theories. But I wish to point out that
Costa’s employment of the word _esthetic_ in his term for the novel of
Brazil’s future indicates, for all his praise of the Aranha book, a
sense of something lacking in _Chanaan_.

“The philosophy of Graça Aranha, … is a philosophy of hope, of
intoxication, before the glorious majesty of nature; it is like a
magnificent flower of dream, life, desire, aspiration toward happiness,
which returns incessantly to the august bosom of the eternal Pan. Man
passes on; he is a particle of dust that is blown for a moment across
the earth. His whole struggle aims to merge him with nature, through
religion, through love, through philosophy. It is this unceasing
anxiety to dissolve into something superior to ourselves that produces
the great mystics, the great lovers or the great philosophers; yet, at
bottom, life in itself is worth what the dust is worth that glitters
for an instant in the sun’s rays.… Such surely is the philosophy of
Graça Aranha; a sunflower gilded by thought, it turns eternally toward
fleeting happiness, in a perpetual desire to merge with it and drink
in the light through its petals.… Flower of serene, victorious life,
but with distant roots in the banks of the Ganges, nurtured by a vague
pessimism, in nihilism, in incipient anarchy, in the everlasting
beatitude of Nirvana.…”

This is the poetry of criticism, as _Chanaan_ is the poetry of the
novel,--a poetry not unlike Alencar’s _Guarany_, yet as unlike as
Alencar was to Aranha. Like Aranha’s novel, so this criticism, for all
its preoccupation with Brazilianism, is the result of European culture
acting upon the native spirit. It is but another revelation of the
literary axiom that renaissance springs from the impact of foreign
influences; parthenogenesis is as rare in literature as in life.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] See, for citations from Ferrero and _Chanaan_, the English version
of the book (Boston, 1920) by M. J. Lorente.

[2] In such passages as these Senhor Aranha seems to fall into the
exaggeration of that very imagination which he has sought to interpret
to foreigners. Araripe Junior, in a study of Gregorio Mattos, coined
the word _obnulation_ to signify the transformation worked upon early
settlers by their new surroundings,--a retrogressive subsidence into
the savage state. Here Milkau seems at once to fear and prophesy a new
“obnulation.”



VIII

COELHO NETTO


As Bilac is the poet of Brazilian voluptuousness, Coelho Netto is its
novelist. But there is this essential difference: Bilac etches his
lines while Netto splashes the colours over his canvas with unthinking
prodigality. Bilac is the silver stream glittering along through the
landscape that it reflects with the transmuting touch of its own
borrowed silver; Netto is the gushing torrent that sweeps everything
along in its path, part and parcel of the surrounding exuberance.

“Our literature lacks original character,” says the talkative Gomes
in _A Capital Federal_, one of Netto’s earliest novels (1893),--less
a novel, indeed, than a series of impressions in which not the
least element is the fairly unceasing chatter of its persons. “It
is not really a national literature because, unhappily, nobody
concerns himself with the nation. The eyes of our poets scan the
constellations of other heavens, the waters of other rivers, the
verdure of other forests.” Again: “We are still a people in process
of formation,--still at the beginning of life and yet, at the age
when Greece was lyrical, in the youthful days in which all men try to
compose poems of religion and hope for the shelter of the soul, we
despair, we are pessimistic.… By conviction? Because of suffering?
Absolutely not. Scarcely by imitation. We lament in the cradle and ask
for death, Nirvana. We begin reading with the Book of Job. Show me
our Romantic period, which is, so to speak, the adolescence of Art,
in its second phase, after the renaissance. We had none. We leaped
into naturalism, which is analysis, and already we are headed for the
cachexy of decadentism.…” There is much to be said against the plaints
of this citation, whether one consider its nationalistic implications
or its insinuation that Brazil’s Romantic period lacked genuineness.
I quote it, however, to show that at the very beginning of his career
Netto intended a conscious reorientation of the Brazilian novel away
from the naturalism of Azevedo in the direction of what we may term
neo-romanticism. Both men are concerned with what blurred thinking so
readily calls the baser passions; both are sensualists, each envisaging
life not so much through a different theory as through a different
temperament.

Netto is the Anselmo Ribas of his early books, wherein already appears
the voluptuary, the creature of extravagant language and unbridled
imagination, the weaver of tangled imagery, the wielder of a copious
vocabulary that has been estimated at as high as 20,000 words. And
that voluptuary appears everywhere, in the images, the narrative,
the thoughts. “Amber-hued wine that seems to sing in its glasses a
dithyramb of gold,--impatient wine that seethes and foams,--wine that
rages like the mighty ocean,--ambrosia of a new era,--live, intelligent
wine,--wine with a soul.” Such is the wine that is drunk by Ribas
and his friend Gomes, who has his scents for each colour, sound and
feeling. When the silks of a lady rustle, the noise is comparable to
the sounds “made by the flocks of wild pigeons when they raise their
flight on the riverbanks of my native province.” In his work, as in
this simile, his sensuousness is mingled with the primitivity of mother
earth. He has written much of the city life, and has traveled with his
pen through all the forms, but he is strongest when closest to that
primitive urge. I prefer him, for short tales, in such an early work
as _Sertão_; for the novel, in such a concise miniature masterpiece as
_Rei Negro_.

Henrique Maximiano Coelho Netto was born on February 21, 1864, in the
city of Caxias, department of Maranhão, of a Portuguese father and an
Indian mother. In 1870 the family moved to Rio de Janeiro. From his
slave attendant Eva he imbibed a wealth of Brazilian folk lore; from
Maria, the Portuguese housekeeper, he drank in (and with what avidity
his later work reveals) the common heritage of Oriental tales. Another
powerful influence (and this, too, is duly chronicled in _A Capital
Federal_) was his uncle Rezende, a book-keeper with a taste for the
Portuguese and Latin classics. For the fundamental traits of Netto
as a creative spirit one need hardly go farther than these childhood
impressions. Here we have his mixed blood, his predilection for the
native lore and exotic artistry, his preference for the ancient writers
and a fondness for the Portuguese classics that reveals itself in his
not infrequently archaic language. Some of his pages, Verissimo has
shown, would be better understood in Portugal than in Brazil.

Though his early education lacked method, already at the age of eight
he read Cicero; he pursued his studies at various institutions, never
remaining through the complete number of years. Like most Brazilians,
he began with a sonnet, followed by a number of poems which
fortunately, he never issued; his newspaper experience commenced in the
_Gazeta da Tarde_, 1887. Unlike most Brazilians he wrested a living
from the nation by his pen, and 1892 found him teaching the history of
the arts. His restlessness, however, seems to keep him flitting from
place to place and from interest to interest. In 1900 he is found in
Campinas teaching literature, remaining for three years. In 1909 he is
back in Rio at the Gymnasio Nacional, lecturing upon letters. From that
year until 1917 he represents the state of Maranhão in the national
assembly. Today finds him busily at work revising the long list of his
labours and issuing them with as keen an interest as if they were the
first fruits of his imagination.

“Even to this day,” he confessed to an interviewer a few years ago, “I
feel the influence of the first period of my life in the sertão. It was
the histories, the legends, the tales heard in my childhood,--Negro
stories filled with fear, legends of _caboclos_ palpitant with sorcery,
tales of white men, the phantasy of the sun, the perfume of the forest,
the dream of civilized folk.… Never did the mixture of ideas and
race cease to predominate, and even now it makes itself felt in my
eclecticism.… My imagination is the resultant of the soul of Negro,
_caboclo_ and white.” The criticism is born out by a study of his many
books, most of which, as the author himself would be the first to
agree, will be speedily forgotten in the excellence of the salient few.

Neo-romantic though he be, Netto is no believer in the false Indianism
that for a time held sway in the native letters. His affection for the
Portuguese tongue, which he considers the most plastic of languages,
does not preclude a belief in a Brazilian literature. Asked whether
he was religious--and here again reading of his representative books
bears witness to his self-knowledge--he replied, “Very. I don’t know
whether I believe in Lord Christ, or in Lord Nature, but I believe in
the immanent principle of divinity. And perhaps, for this reason, I am
one of the rare men who hope.”

“One may say of him,” writes Costa, “what Taine said of Balzac: ‘he is
a sort of literary elephant, capable of bearing prodigious burdens,
but slow of gait.’” And before Costa, Netto said of himself that he
was a “Trappist of labor,--what the French call a _bête de somme_.”
Better than any one else Verissimo, upon whom Costa largely draws for
his consideration of Netto, has defined the qualities of the prolific
polygraph. Netto has tried all the styles; he has from the first
revealed that exuberance which makes of him a splashing colourist, a
vivid describer of externals, an expert in word pageantry; his prose is
often a wild cataract, a tangled forest. He is not a writer of ideas,
but of sensations. Erroneously he has termed himself a Hellenist and a
primitive, unmindful, as the scrupulous Verissimo has indicated, that
these terms in themselves are contradictory. Much of his labour is
“literature”; many of the novels are spoiled by their evident origin in
the desires of newspaper readers; his fondness for archaisms offends
linguistic common sense; even his descriptions, according to the
testimony of compatriots, are largely invented, no truer to the native
scene than are some of his characters to the native life. His defects,
notably carelessness in structure, are the defects of improvisation.
And yet--for all that his critics so justly note, he compels the
reader with the peculiar fascination that is his own--the attraction of
a volcano in eruption, of a beauty whose very exoticism draws even as
it repels.

He is that rare flower of the literary life,--a personality. His
rôle has been that of a minor Balzac, pouring forth volume after
volume in disconcerting and damaging confusion, coupled with that of
a Mæcenas-Hugo, encouraging the youth of his nation to ardent effort
in the arena of letters. “He reproduced,” says Costa, “unconsciously
in his own country what was being practised in France consciously by
the neo-romantics, the idealists,--all those who revolted against the
ever-increasing asperities of agonizing naturalism.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Much of what is best in Netto is concentrated in one of his earliest
books, _Sertão_, published in 1896 at Rio de Janeiro. This is a
collection of some seven tales notable for atmosphere, power, poetry.
In _Praga_ (Curse), we are plunged deep into the past of superstition
and sensuality that lies in the sertanejo’s breast. Even burning with
fever, Raymundo wants Lucinda. In his delirium he recalls how he tried
to rob, and murdered, Mãi Dina the year before, the crime being laid
to gipsies; the murdered woman visits him in his visions and he has a
terrific battle with her; rushing forth from his cabin he encounters
a colt and mounting it, makes a mad dash, like a Mazeppa of the
sertão, for the salvation that he feels lies in flight. He exhausts
his mount and then makes his wandering way to Mãi Dina’s grave; in
a frenzy he begins to slash right and left with his knife, when a
misdirected blow sends him rolling off into a swamp, where he meets
his end. Not her curse but his conscience has wrought retribution.
This is a strange mingling of reality with fancy,--a sultry realism
sprinkled with scientific terms and heavy with tropical luxuriance of
phraseology; but there is poetry, too,--poetry of the indigenous mind,
as in the tale that follows: _O Enterro_ (The Burial). This account
of the burial of the Indian witch Tecai, a pagan for whom the pious
Christians of Itamina refuse even to give a coffin, is really a poem.
So too, largely, is _A Tapera_, a tale of mingled legend, wild dream
and virgin forest, in which the hermit of Santa Luzia recounts to the
teller, the tale of his beautiful wife Leonor. Within a year she proved
unfaithful and was discovered by her husband’s black foster-mother
Eva. On the night of the discovery she is slain by Eva and together
they bury her. The husband goes mad, taking it into his head that a
certain tree follows him vengefully about. Under that tree one day he
digs her up and morbidly caresses the skull. After hearing the tale,
the narrator dashes off on his horse at a mad gallop and is told,
three days later, that he must have dreamed all this in a fever. This
is strained situation, no doubt, but Netto knows how to produce the
Poesque thrill of horror, not merely by accumulation of detail but by
adroit manipulation of it. That he may at times achieve simplicity is
shown in _Firmin, O Vaqueiro_, in which the aged cattleman dies amidst
the songs and the animals that he loved and dominated so well, even
as he did the girls of his early hey-day. The song of the story might
serve as the epigraph to much of what Netto has written:

        No coração de quem ama
        Nasce uma flor que envenena.
        Morena, essa flor que mata,
        Chama-se paixão, morena.

        In the heart of him who loves
        Is born a flower with poison laden.
        Dark-brown maiden, that flower which slays,--
        They call it passion, dark-brown maiden.

For sex in Coelho Netto is at once the Fate that snares man and woman
and the Furies who pursue them. Take _Céga_ (Blind), one of the best
things he has done; it is a powerful tale, instinct with a deep human
pity, yet with no trace of preceptiveness. Life here goes and comes
with the radiant indifference of the sun that shines over all and of
the crickets that shrill their monotonous accompaniment. Anna Rosa,
married to Cabiúna, loses her sight at the birth of her child Felicia;
then, through the fever of the sertão, she loses her Cabiúna; then she
loses Felicia herself, because the maiden has kept her approaching
motherhood a secret until it is too late. The grandchild lives on as a
token of the continuity of life’s urge, which brooks no restraint of
human laws. Rarely does Netto attain such proportion in description,
narrative, psychology; here Nature may smile upon her folk, but
humour, gladness do not dwell for long amongst them. Even when humour
comes, it is the smiling face of fear, as in the account of _Mandoví_,
the _caboclo_ whose superstitious fancy was lashed into terror by a
forest bird that seemed to be calling his name and by a wraith-like
palm-leaf swaying in the moon. Most gruesome of all, yet of undeniable
fascination, is the concluding tale, _Os Velhos_, (The Aged Couple),--a
study in obsession that is passed on by an old husband to his faithful
wife. He suffers from a sort of catalepsy and fears that some day,
while in the death-like state, he will be buried alive. At last his
final attack slays him, but she, fearing lest he be not really gone,
lets him rot in his hut until the stench rises beyond endurance and the
village populace take matters into their own hands. It is harrowing,
repelling, morbid, but done with something of the skill that a Poe
attains in such a piece as _The Fall of the House of Usher_. The motif
of the ominous urubus--the black vultures of the southern continent--is
most artistically handled, as is that of the contagious obsession as
it grows upon the aged husband. Even here we discover evidence of
the author’s voluptuousness, inverted to be sure, until it becomes
a species of olfactory sadism. Few tales display such an effective
treatment of the sense of smell made into an inevitable, primary
attribute of the story itself.

_Rei Negro_ (The Black King) belongs to the maturity of the writer’s
career, having appeared in 1914. It is told in straightforward,
uninterrupted manner, without an entangling opulence of words or a
dazzling series of irrelevant descriptions. Equally at home in the
desert sertão, the glitter of life in the capital, or the _fazenda_
that is a link between the two, the author in this novel, presents as
background the lively, multifarious life upon a large plantation, and
as persons, the proprietors above and the virtual serfs below. The
bare plot is simplicity itself; a favourite slave, Macambira, marries
one of the black belles of the _fazenda_; the son of the proprietor,
indulged since his birth and sensuous with the double unrestraint of
climate and assumed racial prerogatives, attacks and overcomes the
prospective bride. Fright seals the woman’s lips, but when, after her
happy marriage, the child is born white, the truth must come out. The
proprietor’s efforts to hide his son’s misdeed--for the child is born
during a prolonged absence of the woman’s husband--prove abortive and
Macambira wreaks vengeance by slaying his wife’s assailant. The wife
has died in the agony of her knowledge and the birth; the husband, once
his revenge is accomplished, disappears beyond the mountains.

This is no common slave, however; Macambira, from the lips of the
old Balbina, hears thrilling accounts of his regal provenience. Here
he is but a humble black; among his own tribe, yonder in the African
wilds, he is a king, a black king. His wrongs are more than matters
of individual care; his slaying of Julinho is more than a personal
vengeance. It is the vengeance of a tribe, the assertion of a race, the
proclamation of human dignity. The greater to heighten the contrast
between black and white, Netto has made Macambira a chaste, Herculean
figure, proof against the temptations of mind and milieu to which
Julinho succumbs and is ultimately sacrificed. The environment is
drawn with swift, but effective strokes; the minor characters really
live; there is genuine pathos in the common situation out of which
the author draws uncommon results; there is poetic beauty, as well as
psychological power, to the legendary evocations of old Balbina as she
whispers the tale of greatness into the black king’s ears and arouses
his spirit to what to him is a mighty deed.

I have singled out, for more than passing comment, but two works of
some threescore and a half that range from short tales and newspaper
fragments to the novel, the drama, the text-book, speeches and essays
upon the education of women. For such early novels as _A Capital
Federal_ and such later ones as _A Conquista_ I can feel no literary
interest; they are, together with more than one other of their fellows,
valuable for a study of the day in which they were written and for
the instable temperament that produced them. Similarly, _Esphinge_, a
novel of exotic mystery that begins with high promise soon descends to
the helpless confusion which threatens all dallying with other-worldly
themes, particularly when the author would maintain contact with
external reality rather than plunge frankly and fearlessly into the
unseen realms. As to the short stories, one may open any collection
quite at random; the good will be strangely mixed with the bad. Now
the tale is a mere excuse for commentary, usually upon men and women
and passion, with Netto in cynical mood; nature becomes a luxuriant,
inciting procuress, as witness the long titular story in the collection
called _Agua de Juventa_ (Fountain of Youth),--a tale that, like more
than one of Netto’s, belongs rather to the liquor and cigars of stag
parties than to literature. Not, understand, because it is “immoral,”
but because it lacks the texture, the illumination, the significance,
of art. That he can be sentimental he shows in _Epithalamio_ of the
same collection; the propaganda impulse is so strong that it overflows
into tale after tale. And over it all, the fructifying ardour of his
voluptuousness, as prodigal as nature itself, which scatters myriad
seeds where only one can take root and thrive.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Naturalism,” writes Costa, “with Aluizio de Azevedo was the epic of
the race’s sexual instincts; with Coelho Netto, neo-romanticism will be
the eternal praise of Nature,--the incessant and exaggerated exaltation
of the landscape.” Both “isms,” I believe, are but the reflection of
the authors’ temperaments; in Netto, Nature is but one of the symbols
of sex, one of the means of representing, expressing the superabundant
vitality. It is his imagination that works upon Nature rather than
Nature upon his imagination; he is a distorting mirror; he has not
created character, he has not invented situation, so much as he has
utilized men, places and events in the presentation of his overflowing
personality.

As a historical phenomenon, Coelho Netto represents veritably a
period in the national letters; literature becomes a self-supporting
profession--it had already been that with Aluizio de Azevedo--and the
production of a steady stream of novels for avid metropolitan readers
is as systematized as ever in our own supposedly more materialistic
nation. As an artist Netto is less significant; haste, disorientation
and constant supply of a none too exigent demand rendered him less
exacting with himself,--something that by nature he has never been in
any case, though he can view his labours objectively and note their
demerits. A spontaneous, not a premeditative artist, achieving, at
his most happy moments, a glowing union of creature and creation,--a
creation truly Amazonian in its prodigality of scene and sense, with
creatures as unreal, yet as fascinating as itself. This is no small
accomplishment, for it makes of the reader a participant, and that is
what all art, major or minor, must do. Netto here expresses not only
the ardent Brazilian dwelling amidst a phantasmagoria of the senses;
this overflow of primitive instincts is a human heritage that, with
its torch of life, makes us no less than the one touch of nature, kin
to the rest of the world. “The Colonel’s lady and Mary O’Grady are
sisters under the skin,” sang Kipling, to whom Netto has been rashly
compared. And changing the genders, the Colombian poet Silva has sung
in the poem Egalité of his _Gotas Amargas_ (Bitter Drops)

        Juan Lanas, el mozo de la esquina,
        es absolutamente igual
        al Emperador de la China:
        los dos son el mismo animal.

“Juan Lanas, the street-corner loafer is on absolute terms of equality
with the Emperor of China. They both are the selfsame beast.”



IX

FRANCISCA JULIA


Women have played an interesting, if necessarily minor part in the
material and cultural development of the South American republic.
The name of the world’s largest river--the Amazon, or, more exactly
speaking, the Amazons--is supposed to stand as a lasting tribute to
the bravery of the early women whom the explorer Orellana encountered
during his conquest of the mighty flood; according to this derivation,
by many considered fanciful, he named the river in honour of the
tribes’ fighting heroines, though a more likely source would be the
Indian word “amassona” (i. e., boat-destroyer, referring to the tidal
phenomenon known as _bore_ or _proroca_, which sometimes uproots trees
and sweeps away whole tracts of land). Centuries later, when one by
one the dependencies of South America rose to liberate themselves from
the Spanish yoke, the women again played a noble part in the various
revolutions. The statue in Colombia to Policarpa Salvarieta is but
a symbol of South American gratitude to a host of women who fought
side by side with their husbands during the crucial days of the early
nineteenth century. One of them, Manuela la Tucumana, was even made an
officer in the Argentine army.

If women have enshrined themselves in the patriotic annals of
the Southern republics, they have shown that they are no less the
companions of man in the agreeable arts of peace. When one considers
the great percentage of illiteracy that still prevails in Southern
America, and the inferior intellectual and social position that has
for years been the lot of women particularly in the Spanish and
Portuguese nations, it is surprising that woman’s prominence in the
literary world should be what it is. Yet the tradition--if tradition
it may be called--boasts a remarkable central figure in the person of
Santa Teresa, of sixteenth century Spain. “A miracle of genius” was
that famous lady, in Fitzmaurice-Kelly’s fulsome words, … “perhaps the
greatest woman who ever handled pen, the single one of all her sex who
stands beside the world’s most perfect masters.” In the next century,
Mexico produced a personality hardly less interesting in Sor Juana Ines
de la Cruz, (who only yesterday was indicated as her nation’s first
folklorist and feminist), blazoned forth to her audience as “la Musa
Decima mexicana,”--nothing less than the tenth muse, if you please, who
happened then to be residing in Mexico. And we of the North, in the
same century, ourselves boasted a tenth muse in the English-born Anne
Bradstreet of Massachusetts Colony, whose book of verses was published
in London, in 1650 (ten years after the original Massachusetts edition)
with the added line, “The Tenth Muse, lately sprung up in America.”[1]

The most distinguished Spanish poetess of the nineteenth century,
Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, was a Cuban by birth, going later to
Spain, where she was readily received as one of the nation’s leading
literary spirits. Her poetry is remarkable for its virile passion; her
novel “Sab” is the Spanish “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” She was a woman of
striking beauty, yet so vigorous in her work and the prosecution of it
that one facetious critic was led to exclaim, “This woman is a great
deal of a man!” This, too, is in the tradition, for had not Sor Juana
Ines de la Cruz, as a girl, been so eager for learning that she begged
her parents to send her to the University of Mexico in male attire? She
was hardly more than eight at the time, to be sure, but the girl is
mother to the woman no less than the boy is father to the man.

South America has its native candidate for the title of Spanish
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and this, too, is the work of a woman. Clorinda
Matto’s _Aves Sin Nido_ (Birds Without a Nest) is by one of Peru’s
most talented women, and exposes the conscienceless exploitation of
the Indians. In Peru, it would seem, fiction as a whole has been
left largely to the pens of women. Such names as Joana Manuele
Girriti de Belzu, Clorinda Matto and Mercedes Cabello de Carbonero
stand for higher aspiration rather than achievement, but they reveal
an unmistakable tendency. The latest addition to their number is
the youthful Angélica Palma, daughter of the famous author of the
_Tradiciones Perruanas_.

Brazil has not yet produced any woman who has secured the recognition
accorded to Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz or to Gómez de Avellaneda; it
has, however, added some significant names to the Ibero-American
roster. To poetry it has given Narcisa Amalia, Adelina Vieira, Julia
Lopes d’Almeida, Zalina Rolim, and lastly Francisca Julia da Silva.
They are sisters in a choir that boasts choristers in every nation
of the Ibero-American group,--now a civic spirit like the Dominican
Salomé Ureña, who belongs to the latter half of the nineteenth century,
now such a more passionate continuator as the lady who writes in
Puerto Rico under the pseudonym of La Hija del Caribe (The Daughter
of the Carribees),--again the Sapphic abandon of Alfonsina Storni
of Argentina, the domestic charm of Maria Enriqueta of Mexico, the
pallid perfection of the Uruguayan Juana de Ibarbourou, the apostolic
intensity of Gabriela Mistral (Lucilla Godoy) of Chile, and the
youthful passion of Gilka Machado, youngest of the new Brazilians.

These women do not, as a rule, and despite some too broad assumptions
in South America as to the exclusively materialistic spirit of the
United States, enjoy the advantages of culture that are possessed by
our lady poets. There is no Amy Lowell among them to revel in the
smashing of canons and amuse herself with the erection of new ones
for others to smash. There is no atmosphere of Bohemianism and night
life in metropolitan cafés. Facile analogies might be drawn, but not
too much faith should be placed in them. Thus Maria Enriqueta would
suggest Sara Teasdale; Alfonsina Storni would similarly suggest Edna
St. Vincent Millay, who is indubitably her superior. Over them all,
except in the rare and welcome moments of spiritual rebellion, hovers
an air of domesticity, as if, upon venturing into the half-forbidden
precincts of art,--which means perfect expression and therefore is
“unwomanly,”--they carried with them something of that narrower home
and hearth which only now they are abandoning.

“It is not easy,” wrote Verissimo upon the consideration of a volume of
poetry by Sra. D. Julia Cortines, “to speak freely of women as authors,
since, however much as writers they detach themselves from their sex,
the most elementary gallantry requires us to treat them solely as
women. I, who am very far from being a feminist (which is perhaps not
quite consistent with my social opinions), do not deny absolutely the
intellectual capacities of womankind, and, with the same impartiality
(at least, so I presume) I cannot discover in them any exceptional
qualities of heart or mind.… It may have been for this reason that the
Muse, who is a woman, never deigned to endow me with her favors and
denied me the gifts of poesy.… Happily, Brazilian poetesses are few
in number; unhappily, they are not good poets. Almost all, past and
present, are mediocre. There has been none up to this time who might
dispute a place with the half dozen of our best poets of the other sex.
I could never understand, or I understand it in a manner that could
hardly brook explanation, since woman according to current opinion is
far richer in matters of feeling than man, she has never given anything
really notable or extraordinary in art, which is chiefly feeling.… One
of the forces of art is sincerity, and woman, either because her own
psychological organism forbids it, or because the social organization
that limits her expansion has never consented to it, has never
been able to be sincere without endangering her privileges or even
declassifying herself.” Love, he continues, being the chief of lyric
themes, and woman prevented by social custom from really expressing
herself, the virtual silence of woman in art is inevitable.[2]

Some such reasoning as this explains the domesticity of the women
poets. It explains, too, I believe, why Francisca Julia, for whom a
number of Brazilian critics would claim a respectable place with the
men of her nation, embraced the Parnassian cult during the few years
that were vouchsafed her. She was, if her poems tell anything, an
ardent spirit; her passions were too great for the routine of civic
and domestic verse; she would do something more than merely transfer
her “kitchen, church and children” into homiletic poems. Lacking
either the courage or the temperament of an Alfonsina Storni, she
could express herself through an apparently cold and formal imagery.
Her early impassivity may have been the defence reaction of a highly
sensitive compassionate nature. Throughout her work she is, if we
must use terms, more “Parnassian” than a number of avowed men of that
cult, which had reached its crest in Brazil at the time Francisca
Julia was emerging from adolescence. She was little more than twenty
when her first collection, _Marmores_, appeared in 1895, and it is
common knowledge that she had been writing then for some six years for
such organs as the _Estado de São Paulo_ (one of the most important,
and the oldest, of Brazilian newspapers), the _Correio Paulistano_,
the _Diario Popular_, the _Semana_. Between _Marmores_ and the next
book, _Esphinges_, intervened some eight years. Late in 1920 she died,
and perhaps the crown of her recognition--for her ability had been
recognized with the publication of her first book--was the phrase from
the speech by Umberto de Campos in the Brazilian Academy of Letters,
on November 4th, several days after her burial. “If the Academy of
Letters, upon its establishment, had permitted the entrance of women
into its body,” declared the youngest of its members, “it would in this
hour be mourning a vacant chair.”[3]

As her poetry was cold imagery of her ardent inner life, so are the
titles of Francisca’s two books of verse symbols of her artistic aims.
_Marmores_ and _Esphinges_: the first, the marble of the statue,
external aspect of impassivity; the second, the silent sphinx, symbol
of internal passionlessness. She was a vestal tending the eternal
flame, but the fire was carved out of stone. Her artistic life traces
a curve from religious serenity and impassability to compassion,
thence to a sort of indifferentism. All this was inherent in her early
paganism, to which in later life she really returns. Her mastery of
form is, one feels, a mastery of her emotions; much of her poetry is
impassive, chiefly _a fior di labbra_, as the Italians would say,--on
the rim of her lips. Not that she is insincere. For, as there is a
sincerity of candour, so is there a sincerity of silence. The sphinx,
a poetic figure, cannot, from its very muteness, be a poet, though
its speechlessness lends itself to poetry. Francisca Julia, however
much she would be the sphinx, more than once gives the answers to her
own questionings. It is then that she is most at one with her art,
producing some of the finest poetry that has come out of modern Brazil.

Her _ars poetica_ is summed up in the two sonnets grouped under the
title _Musa Impassivel_ (Impassive Muse) and serving as the motto of
the collection _Marmores_.

                           I

        Musa! um gesto siquer de dor ou de sincero
        Lucto, jamais te afeie o candido semblante!
        Deante de um Job, conserva o mesmo orgulho, deante
        De um morto, o mesmo olhar e sobrecenho austero.

        Em teus olhos não quero a lagrima; não quero
        Em tua bocca o suave e idyllico descante.
        Celebra ora um phantasma anguiforma de Dante,
        Ora o vulto marcial de um guerreiro de Homero.

        Dá-me o hemistichio de ouro, a imagem attractiva,
        A rima, cujo som, de uma harmonia crebra,
        Cante aos ouvidos d’alma; a estrophe limpa e viva;

        Versos que lembrem, com os seus barbaros ruidos,
        Ora o aspero rumor de un calháo que se quebra,
        Ora o surdo rumor de marmores partidos.

                           II

        O’ Musa, cujo olhar de pedra, que não chora,
        Gela o sorriso ao labio e as lagrimas estanca!
        Dá-me que eu vá comtigo, em liberdade franca,
        Por esse grande espaço onde o impassivel mora.

        Leva-me longe, ó Musa impassivel e branca!
        Longe, acima do mundo, immensidade em fóra,
        Onde, chammas lançando ao cortejo da aurora,
        O aureo plaustro do sol nas nuvens solavanca.

        Transporta-me de vez, numa ascenção ardente,
        A’ deliciosa paz dos Olympicos-Lares
        Onde os deuses pagãos vivem eternamente;

        E onde, num longo olhar, eu possa ver comtigo
        Passarem, através das brumas seculares,
        Os Poetas e os Héroes do grande mundo antigo.[4]

This is genuine aristocracy of comportment; it is genuine attitude
rather than absence of feeling. Note that the poet’s Muse is not to
reveal the sign of her emotions lest they sully the beauty of her
countenance; the emotions, however, are there, and tears, at times,
fall from the stony eyes. Such emotion, in her finer work, is most
artistically blended with the aloofness that Francisca Julia sought.
Impassivity is a meaningless word for poets, since it cannot by very
nature seek to express itself, being the antithesis of expression;
withdrawal, however, is a legitimate artistic trait, and she exhibits
it in as successful a degree as has been attained by any poet of her
country. So much a part of her nature is her coyness, that even when
conquered by feminine pity she conveys her mood through an imagery none
the less effective for its indirection; as in _Dona Alda_:

        Hoje Dona Alda madrugou. Ás costas
        Solta a opulenta cabelleira de ouro,
        Nos labios um sorriso de alegria,
        Vae passear ao jardim; as flores, postas
        Em longa fila, alegremente, em coro,
            Saúdam-n’a: “Bom dia!”
        Dona Alda segue … Segue-a uma andorinha:
        Com seus raios de luz o sol a banha;
            E Dona Alda caminha.…
        Uma porção de folhas a acompanha.…
        Caminha.… Como um fulgido brilhante
            O seu olhar fulgura.
        Mas--que cruel!--ao dar um passo adeante,
        Emquanto a barra do roupão sofralda,
        Pisa um cravo gentil de lactea alvura.…
        E este, sob os seus pés, inda murmura:
            “Obrigado, Dona Alda.”[5]

This is not poetry that shakes one to the depths, nor does it come from
one who was so shaken; but there is artistry in ivory as well as in
marble, and Francisca Julia here has caught the secret of the light
touch that stirs the deep response.

There is a remarkable sonnet that opens the collection _Esphinges_,
and I wonder whether it is not, in symbolized form, the keynote to the
woman’s poetic aloofness.

Read for the first time the _Dança de Centauras_ (Dance of the
Centaurs, and note that these centaurs are females); a sonnet of
sculptural, plastic beauty, you are likely to tell yourself, as vivid
as a bas-relief come suddenly to life. Read it again, more slowly, and
its impassivity seems to melt into concrete emotion; this is virgin
modesty hiding behind verse as at other times behind raiment. The poet
herself is in the dance of the centaurs and leads them in their flight
when Hercules appears. It is worth noting, too, that the poem does not
reach its climax until the very last words are spoken; the wild rout is
a mystery until the very end. Form and content thus truly become the
unity that they are in the artist’s original conception.

                          DANÇA DE CENTAURAS

        Patas dianteiras no ar, boccas livres dos freios,
        Núas, em grita, em ludo, entrecruzando as lanças,
        Eil-as, garbosas vêm, na evolução das danças
        Rudes, pompeando á luz a brancura dos seios.

        A noite escuta, fulge o luar, gemem as franças,
        Mil centauras a rir, em lutas e torneios,
        Galopam livres, vão e veem, os peitos cheios
        De ar, o cabello solto ao léo das auras mansas.

        Empallidece o luar, a noite cae, madruga.…
        A dança hyppica pára e logo atrôa o espaço
        O galope infernal das centauras em fuga:

        E’ que, longe ao clarão do luar que impallidece,
        Enorme, acceso o olhar, bravo, do heróico braço
        Pendente a clava argiva, Hercules apparece.[6]

It is the twilight and the night that bring to her lines their more
subjective moods; but even here, rarely do present emotions invade
her. It is as if she must feel by indirection, even as she writes--now
harking back to a longing, now looking forward unmoved, to the
inevitable end. Yet there are moments when the impassive muse forgets
her part; she strides down from her pedestal and cries out upon Nature
as a “perfidious mother,” creator, in the long succession of days and
nights, of so much vanity ever transforming itself. This Parnassianism
then, is the mask of pride. And in such a sonnet as _Angelus_ the mask
is thrown off:

        Oft, at this hour, when my yearning speaks
        Through the lips of night and the droning chimes,
        Chanting ever of love whose grief o’erwhelms me,
        I would be the sound, the night, full madly drunk
        With darkness,--the quietude, yon melting cloud,--
        Or merge with the light, dissolving altogether.

This pantheism is paralleled, in _Vidas Anteriores_ (Previous Lives)
by her consciousness of having lived, in the past, a multiplicity of
lives. It may be said, in general, that as a modern pagan she is far
more real than as the rhyming Christian she reveals herself in her few
attempts at religious poetry.

Shortly before her death she wrote a sonnet called _Esperança_ (Hope),
that is clear presentiment. She did not weaken at its approach; she
was, as near as is humanly possible, the impassive muse of her own
sonnets:

        I know it’s a kindly road and the journey’s brief.

Her didactic works, _Livro da Infancia_, published in 1899, consisting
of prose and verse, and _Alma Infantil_, written in collaboration
with Julio Cesar da Silva, 1912, for school use, do not belong to her
major productions. It is significant of the status of the Brazilian
text-book, as well as of the varied tasks thrown upon the shoulders of
the educated in a continent where the major portion of the population
has been thus far condemned to illiteracy, when we see how frequently
even the major creative spirits of the country turn to the writing
of text-books. Yesterday Olavo Bilac, fellow Parnassian of Francisca
Julia, spared time for the labour; today Coelho Netto, Oliveira
Lima, Monteiro Lobato do so. Again and again is one reminded what a
sacrifice, what a luxury, is the creative life in a land that lacks
anything like the creative audience. And how much better off are we,
who are only on the threshold of a truly national literature?

       *       *       *       *       *

It is not impossible that the fame of Francisca Julia da Silva will
grow with the coming years. She will be recognized not only as a gifted
woman who was one of the few to carry on, worthily, the difficult
perfection of Heredia, Leconte de Lisle, Theophile Gautier and their
fellows, but as the equal, when at her best, of Brazil’s foremost
Parnassians. There are not many sonnets in the poetry of Olavo Bilac,
who so generously received her, to match the sheer artistry of her
_Dance of the Centaurs_, her _Argonauts_, her _Impassive Muse_. Indeed,
compare the _Impassive Muse_ with Bilac’s over-ardent _Profissão de
Fe_ (Profession of Faith) and see whether the woman has not in the
very words and images and tonality of the piece exhibited the inner
and outer example of that Parnassianism which Bilac here expresses in
words rather than attains in spirit. Bilac, as we have seen, was too
passionate a nature not to warm all his statues to life; in Francisca,
as João Ribeiro said in his preface to _Marmores_, we find “ecstasy
rather than passion,”--a cold ecstasy, one might add, like the upper
regions of the atmosphere, which, though flooded with the sunlight, are
little warmed by its passage through them.

The same commentator suggests, as a possible reason for her acute
auditive sense, the short-sightedness from which she suffered. Her
poetry, indeed, is a hearing poetry, but a seeing one as well. The
few superior pieces she has left are among the rare productions of
Brazilian verse; they are, in that province, unsurpassed for their
blend of the proportion that we usually call classic with that
harmonious sensitivity which is supposedly the trait of refined
modernity. If in art it is the individual rather than the literature
that counts, and if in that individual’s labour it is only what we
consider best that really matters, I should venture the seemingly rash
statement that Francisca Julia da Silva is the equal, as a personality
in verse, of Machado de Assis. He, too, was a cold poet, even as
a Romantic, yet never attained the ecstasy of her salient pieces.
He, too, was withdrawn, aloof, and might have signed such a poem as
Francisca Julia’s _O Ribeirinho_ (The Streamlet), without any one being
the wiser. Yet his aloofness--speaking solely of his work in verse--was
on the whole lack of emotion, while hers is suppression, domination,
transmutation of it. She can be as banal as Wordsworth, and has written
in her _Inverno_ (Winter) probably two of the most prosaic lines of
verse that Brazilian poetry knows:

        Das quatro estaçoes de todas,
        O inverno é a peor, de certo.

        Of all the four seasons
        Winter’s certainly the worst.

She committed her childhood indiscretions, as do we all, though in less
abundance. At her best, however, (and neither is this too abundant)
she should rank with the few Brazilian creators who have produced a
charm that is sister to Keats’s eternal joy. She has no landscapes
labelled native; her longing is no mere conventional _saudade_; she
formed no preconceived notion of Brazilianism; she simply wrote, amidst
her labours, some two or more score lines that cannot be omitted from
any consideration of Brazilian poetry, because they enriched it with a
rare, sincere artistry that may find appreciation wherever the language
of men and women is beauty.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] These Tenth Muses are relatively common. In Portuguese letters,
among others, there are Soror Violante do Ceo (1601-93) and Bernarda
Ferreira de Lacerda (1595-1644).

[2] Mr. Havelock Ellis, with his customary lucidity and serenity,
discusses _The Mind of Woman_ (See _The Philosophy of Conflict_) in a
manner to suggest fruitful pursuit of the problem that Verissimo poses.
Had the Brazilian critic been more conversant with the newer poetry
by women--I refer to increasing frankness rather than to increasing
worth--he might have changed his mind as to the prohibitive influences
of social custom. The next fifty years will probably witness some
startling changes; among them some salutary ones.

[3] At least one Academician in Brazil has argued sensibly in favor of
woman’s admission to that body.

[4] Muse! Let not ever even a gesture of grief or of sincere feeling
spoil your serene countenance! Before a Job, preserve the same pride,
before a corpse, the same gaze, the same austere brow. I would have no
tears in your eyes; no soft, idyllic song upon your lips. Celebrate
now the serpent-like phantasm of a Dante, now the martial figure of
a Homeric warrior. Give me the hemistych of gold, the attractive
image, rhyme whose sound, like a compact harmony, sings to the ears of
the soul; the limpid, living strophe; verses that recall with their
barbarous accents now the rasping noise of breaking flint, now the
muffled sound of cracking marble.… Oh, Muse, whose stony eye that never
weeps freezes the smile upon the lip and stanches the flow of tears!
Let me go with you, in utter liberty, through those vast spaces where
the Impassive dwells. Take me far, oh white impassive Muse! Far above
the world into the immensity where, launching flames at the dawn’s
procession, the golden wain of the sun swings through the clouds.
Transport me in a flaming ascension, to the delicious peace of the
Olympic-Hearth where the pagan gods dwell eternally; and where, in a
long look, I may in your company watch pass by across the secular haze
the poets and the heroes of the great ancient days.

[5] Dona Alda rose early today. Her rich tresses flowed loosely golden
over her sides; on her lips a joyful smile; she goes for a walk in the
garden. The flowers, ranged in a long row, gleefully in chorus salute
her: “Good day!” Dona Alda continues.… A swallow follows her: the sun
bathes her in his light; and Dona Alda walks on.… A whirl of leaves
accompanies her.… She walks on.… Her glance glitters like a brilliant
flash. But--how cruel!--as she steps forward, holding up the hem of her
dress, she treads upon a tender carnation of lily whiteness.… Yet the
flower, beneath her feet, still murmurs, “Oh, thank you so much, Dona
Alda!”

[6] With their forefeet raised in the air, their mouths free of reins,
naked, interlacing their lances as they shout in their play, here
they come in all their beauty, tripping the mazes of their dance,
rudely displaying to the light the whiteness of their breasts. The
night hearkens, the moonlight shines, the tree-tops moan; a thousand
she-centaurs, laughing, playing, struggling, gallop freely on, go and
come, their bosoms filled with air, their tresses free to the blowing
of the zephyrs. The moonlight pales, night falls, and now dawn comes.…
The hyppic dance is stopped, and soon all space thunders with the mad
dash of the centaurs in flight; for, from afar, in the light of the
moon grown pale,--huge, with his eyes aflame, brave, with Argive club
hanging from his heroic arm, Hercules has appeared.



X

MONTEIRO LOBATO


Among recent literary currents that present several interesting phases
one should not overlook the nationalistic tendencies in Brazil,
championed so ardently and with such immediate effect by the most
active of the “new” spirits, Monteiro Lobato. Lobato is but little over
thirty-five and has at hand for his purpose an influential publishing
house in São Paulo; he is thus able to make himself heard and read as
well as felt; he seems to be, in the intellectual sense of the word,
a born propagandist; certainly he does not lack ink or courage and
whatever one may think of his ideas, he makes highly entertaining and
instructive reading. First and foremost he is the champion of the
national personality. And by that same token he becomes the enemy of
undue foreign influence upon the nation. As one reads his numerous
short stories, his crisp and vigorous criticisms and his essays, one
comes to the realization that, as far as Lobato is concerned, foreign
influence is chiefly French and in large measure to be condemned.

The profound effect of French literature upon Spanish and Portuguese
America is as undeniable as it is occasionally deleterious, but it
is possible to overstate the case against the French influence in
Brazil and, as one strikes in Lobato the same protest reiterated
time and again, one begins to feel that he is somewhat afflicted with
Gallophobia. Yet this is, after all, on his part, the over-emphasis of
earnestness rather than an absolute error in values. He is not lacking
in appreciation of the great Frenchmen; he does not seem to scorn the
use, as epigraph to one of his children’s books, a quotation in French
from Anatole France; he does not object to having some of his short
stories mentioned in the same breath with de Maupassant and, above all,
he recognizes the creative power of imitation, however paradoxical that
may sound. “Let us agree,” he writes, in the preface to his stimulating
collection of critiques, _Idéas de Jéca Tatú_, “that imitation is, in
fact, the greatest of creative forces. He imitates who assimilates
processes. Who copies, does not imitate; he steals. Who plagiarizes
does not imitate, he apes.” The whole book he presents as “a war-cry
in favor of personality.” At the bottom of Lobato’s nationalism is the
one valid foundation of art: sincerity. If he occasionally overdoes his
protest, he may well be forgiven for the sound basis of it; it is part
of his own personality to see things in the primary colors, to play the
national zealot not in any chauvinistic sense--he is no blind follower
of the administrative powers, no nationalist in the ugly sense of cheap
partisan drum-beating--but in the sense that true nationalism is the
logical development of the fatherland’s potentialities. A personally
independent fellow, then, who would achieve for his nation that same
independence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The beginning of the World War found Monteiro Lobato established upon
a _fazenda_, far from the thoughts and centres of literature. It was
by accident that he discovered his gifts as a writer. The story is
told that one day, rendered indignant by the custom of setting fire to
the fields for cleansing purposes, and thus endangering the bordering
inhabitants, he sent a letter of protest to a large daily in São Paulo.
It seems that the letter was too important, too well-written, too
plainly indicative of natural literary talent, to be relegated to the
corner where readers’ jeremiads usually wail, and that, instead, it was
“featured” upon the first page. From that day the die was cast. The
episode, in my opinion, is far more important than it appears. For,
whatever form in which the man’s later writings are published, they
are in a more important degree just what this initial venture was: a
protest, a means of civic betterment, a national contribution. Turn
this letter and its mood into a short story and you have, say, such a
tale-message as _O Jardineiro Timotheo_, in which even a garden may
be transformed into a mute, many-hued plea for the native flora; make
politics of it, and you get such a genuinely humorous product as _A
Modern Torture_, from that strange collection called _Urupês_. Indeed
is not the piece _Urupês_ itself a critique and an exposition of the
indigenous “cobrizo”?

       *       *       *       *       *

It was with the collection _Urupês_ that Monteiro Lobato definitely
established himself. In three years it has reached a sale that for
Brazil is truly phenomenal: twenty thousand copies. It has been
extravagantly praised by such divergent figures as the uncrowned
laureate Olavo Bilac (who might have had more than a few words to say
about legitimate French influence upon Brazilian poetry) and the
imposing Ruy Barbosa, who instinctively recognized the fundamentally
sociological value of Lobato’s labours. For of pure literature there
is little in the young Saint-Paulist. I fear that, together with a
similar group in Buenos Aires, he underestimates the esthetic element
in art, confusing it, perhaps, with the snobbish, aloof, vapoury
spirits who have a habit of infesting all movements with their neurotic
lucubrations. Yet such a view may do him injustice. His style, his
attitude, his product, are directly conditioned by the ambient in which
he works and the problems he has set out to solve. Less unjust, surely,
is the criticism that may be made against him when his earnestness
degenerates into special pleading, when his intense feeling tapers off
into sentimentality and when what was meant to be humour falls away
to caricature. From which it may be gathered that Lobato writes--or
rather reprints--too much; for plenty of good journalism should be left
where it first appeared and not be sent forth between covers. Also,
in an appreciable amount of his work, his execution lags behind his
intention, owing in no small measure to a lack of self-discipline and
an artistically unripe sincerity.

_Urupês_ was soon followed by _Idéas de Jéca Tatú_, his Jéca Tatú
being a fisherman of Parahyba, a “cobrizo,” first introduced in the
preceding book and symbolizing the inertia of the native. In the second
book, however, the ideas are anything but those of inertia; Lobato has
got into the skin of the fisherman and produced a series of admirable
essays and critiques. Of similar nature are the chapters embodied in
_Cidades Mortas_. _Negrinha_ is a collection of short stories. In
addition to being the author of these books, he is the editor of a
splendid magazine, _Revista do Brazil_, the publisher of volumes by
the rising generation of literary redeemers, instructor to his nation
in hygiene, and his energies flow over into yet other channels. He is
also the writer of several books for children. The best known of these
is _Narizinho Arrebitado_ or, as who should say _Little Snub-Nose_, and
with an appropriate blush I confess that the little girl’s adventures
among the flowers and creatures of her native land were responsible for
the theft of some hours from the study of fatter, less childish, tomes.
As one who would renovate the letters of his nation, Lobato naturally
has much to say, inside of Brazil and outside, of the former and
present figures of the country’s literature. His work in every phase is
first of all an act of nationalism.

From the exclusive stylistic standpoint Lobato is terse, vigorous,
intense, to the point. The chapters devoted to the creation of a style
(in _Jéca Tatú_) form a valid plea for a genuinely autochthonous art,
and it is instructive to see how he treats the question in its relation
to architecture. Brazil has native flora, fauna and mythology which
its writers are neglecting for the repetition of the hackneyed hosts
of Hellas. (Yet Lobato nods betimes and sees the Laocoön in a gnarled
tree.) He is an “anti-literary” writer, scorning the finer graces, yet,
besides betraying acute consciousness of being a writer, he employs
situations that have been overdone time and again, and worse still, in
plots that are no more Brazilian than they are Magyar or Senegalese.
Thus, in _O Bugio Moqueado_ we encounter a tale of a woman forced daily
to eat a dish prepared by her vindictive husband from the slain body of
her lover. It is characteristic that the Brazilian author heaps the
horror generously, without at all adding to the effect of the theme as
it appears in Greek mythology or in the lore of old Provence.

The truth would seem to be that at bottom Lobato is not a teller of
stories but a critic of men. His vein is distinctly satiric, ironic; he
has the gift of the caricaturist, and that is why so often his tales
run either into sentimentality or into the macabrous. When he tells a
tale of horror, it is not the uncannily graduated art of a Poe, but
rather the thing itself that is horrible. His innate didactic tendency
reveals itself not only in his frankly didactic labours, but in his
habit of prefixing to his tales a philosophical, commentative prelude.
Because he is a well-read, cosmopolitan person, his tales and comments
often possess that worldly significance which no amount of regional
outlook can wholly obscure; but because he is so intent upon sounding
the national note he spoils much of his writing by stepping onto the
pages in his own person.

At his best he suggests the arrival in Brazilian literature of a fresh,
spontaneous, creative power. Tales like _A Modern Torture_ (in which a
rural dabbler in politics, weary of his postal delivery “job,” turns
traitor to the old party and helps elect the new, only to be “rewarded”
with the same old “job”) are rare in any tongue and would not be out
of place in a collection by Chekhov or Twain. Here is humour served
by--and not in the service of--nation, nature and man. Similarly
_Choo-Pan!_ with its humorous opening and gradual progress to the
grim close, shows what can be done when a writer becomes the master
and not the slave of indigenous legend. A comparison of this tale
with a similar one, _The Tree That Kills_, may bring out the author’s
weakness and his strength. In the first, under peculiar circumstances,
a man meets his death through a tree that, according to native belief,
avenges the hewing down of its fellow. In the second, the _Tree That
Kills_ is explained as a sort of preface, then follows a tale of human
beings in which a foster-child, like the _Tree That Kills_, eats his
way into the love of a childless pair, only first to betray the husband
and then, after wearying of the woman, to attempt her life as well.
The first story, besides being well told, is made to appear intimately
Brazilian; the death of the man, who is a sot and has so bungled his
work that the structure was bound to topple over, is natural, and
actual belief in the legend is unnecessary; it colours the tale and
lends atmosphere. _The Tree That Kills_, on the other hand, is merely
another tale of the domestic triangle, no more Brazilian than anything
else, with a twist of retribution at the end that must have appealed
to the preacher hidden in Lobato; the analogy of the foster-son to the
tree is not an integral part of the tale; the story, in fact, is added
to the explanation of the tree parasite and is itself parasitical.

Lobato’s attitude toward education may be gleaned from his child’s book
_Little Snub-Nose_ and the epigraph from Anatole France. He wishes to
cultivate the imagination rather than cram the intellect. And even
in this second reader for public schools--refreshingly free of the
“I-see-a-cat” method--one can catch now and then his intention of
instructing and satirizing the elder population.

To this caustic spirit, the real Brazil--the Brazil that must set to
work stamping its impress upon the arts of the near future--lies in
the interior of the country. There he finds the genuine Brazilian,
uncontaminated by the “esperanto of ideas and customs” characteristic
of the centres that receive immigration from all over the world.
There he discovers the raw material for the real national art, as
distinguished from cities with their phantasmagoria of foreign
importations. And for that art of the interior he has found the great
precursor in Euclydes da Cunha--a truly remarkable writer upon whom
the wandering Scot, Richard Cunninghame-Graham, drew abundantly, as we
have seen, in his rare work upon that Brazilian mystic and fanatic,
Antonio Conselheiro. “It was Euclydes da Cunha,” writes Lobato in
his _Idéas de Jéca Tatú_, “who opened for us, in his _Sertões_, the
gates to the interior of the country. The Frenchified Brazilian of the
coast cities was astonished. Could there, then, be so many strong,
heroic, unpublished, formidable things back there?… He revealed us
to ourselves. We saw that Brazil isn’t São Paulo, with its Italian
contingent, nor Rio, with its Portuguese. Art beheld new perspectives
opened to it.”

       *       *       *       *       *

To present a notion of Monteiro Lobato’s style and his general outlook,
I shall confine myself to translating an excerpt or two from his most
pithy volume, _Idéas de Jéca Tatú_.

One of the pivotal essays is that entitled _Esthetica Official_
(Official Esthetics). “The work of art,” it begins, “is indicated by
its coefficient of temperament, color and life--the three values that
produce its unity, deriving the one from man, the other from milieu,
the third from the moment. Art that flees this tripod of categories and
that has as its human-factor the _heimatlos_ person (the man of many
countries brought into evidence by the war); that has as _terroir_ the
world and as epoch all Time, will be a superb creation when volapuk
rules over the globe: until then, no!

“Whence we derive a logical conclusion: the artist grows in proportion
as he becomes nationalized. The work of art must reveal to the quickest
glance its origin, just as the races denote their ethnological group
through the individual type.”

Yet note how Lobato, for all his nationalism, in the very paragraph
that opens his somewhat uncritical critique, employs a German word,
soon followed by a French, and all this a few seconds before ridiculing
volapuk! Not that this need necessarily vitiate his argument, which
has, to my way of thinking, far stronger points against it. But it does
serve to indicate, I believe, that the world has grown too small for
the artificial insistence upon a nationalism in literature which only
too often proves the disguise of our primitive, unreasoned loyalties.
Lobato’s unconscious use of these foreign terms provided, at the very
moment he was denying it, a proof of the interpenetration of alien
cultures. He has, too strongly for art as we now understand it, the
regional outlook; for him Brazil is not the Brazil that we know on
the map, or know as a political entity; it is the interior. His very
nationalism refers, in this aspect, to but part of his own nation,
though, to be fair, it is his theory that sins more seriously than his
practice.

“Nietzsche,” he says elsewhere in the book, “served here as a pollen.
It is the mission of Nietzsche to fecundate whatever he touches.
No one leaves him shaped in the uniformity of a certain mould; he
leaves free, he leaves as _himself_. (The italics are Lobato’s.) His
aphorism--_Vademecum? Vadetecum!_--is the kernel of a liberating
philosophy. Would you follow me? Follow yourself!” Now this, allowing
for the personal modifications Nietzsche himself concentrates into
his crisp question and answer, is the attitude of an Ibsen, a Wagner;
in the new world, of a Darío, of a Rodó, and of all true leaders, who
would lead their followers to self-leadership. And once again Lobato
answers himself with his own citations, for he himself, showing the
effect of Nietzsche upon certain of the Brazilian writers--a liberating
effect, and one which helped them to a realization of their own
personalities--produces the most telling of arguments in favour of
legitimate foreign influences.

His characteristic attitude of indignation crops out at every turn.
In an essay upon _A Estatua do Patriarcha_, dedicated to the noble
figure of José Bonifacio de Andrade, he gives a patient summary of the
man’s achievements--as patient as his nervous manner and his trenchant
language can accomplish. As he approaches his climax, he becomes almost
telegraphic:

“He (that is, Bonifacio) works in the dark.

“His strength is faith.

“His arms, suggestion.

“His target, the cry of Ipiranga.

“The work that he is then accomplishing is too intense not to sweep
aside all obstacles thrust in his path; his power of suggestion is too
strong not to conquer the Prince Regent; his look too firm for the shot
not to hit the bull’s eye.

“He conquered.

“The fatherland went into housekeeping for itself and it was he who
ordered the arrangement of all the furniture and the standards of a
free life.

“This is José Bonifacio’s zenith. He is the Washington of the South.[1]

“Less fortunate, however, than Washington, he afterwards sees the
country take a direction that he foresaw was mistaken.

“He starts a struggle against the radical currents and against evil men.

“He loses the contest.…

“Brought to trial as a conspirator, he was absolved.

“He betook himself to the island of Paquetá and in 1838 died in the
city of Nitheroy.

“There you have José Bonifacio.”

There, incidentally, you have Monteiro Lobato, in the quivering vigour
of the phrase, in the emotional concentration. But all this has been
but the preparation for Lobato’s final coup.

“José Bonifacio is, beyond dispute, the greatest figure in our history.

“Very well: this man was a Paulist, (i. e., a native of São Paulo).
Born in Santos, in 1763. It is already a century since the Paulists
were struck with the idea of rearing him a statue. Not that he needs
the monument. In a most grandiose manner he reared one to himself
in the countless scientific memoirs that he published in Europe, the
greater part in German, never translated into his own tongue,--and in
his fecund political action in favour of the _fiat_ of nationality.

“It is we who need the monument, for its absence covers us with shame
and justifies the curse which from his place of exile he cast upon the
evil persons of the day.…”

Now, Monteiro Lobato’s nationalism, as I try to show, is not the narrow
cause that his theoretical writings would seem to indicate. It is, as
I said at the beginning, really an evidence of his eagerness for the
expansion of personality. But it is contaminated--and I believe that
is the proper word--by an intense local pride which vents itself, upon
occasion, as local scolding. The entire essay upon José Bonifacio was
written for the sake of the final sting. Not so much to exalt the great
figure as to glorify São Paulo and at the same time excoriate the
forgetful, the negligent Paulistas. It is such writing as this that
best reveals Lobato because it best expresses his central passion,
which is not the cult of artistic beauty but the criticism of social
failings.

This is at once a step backward and a step forward. Forward in the
civic sense, because Brazil needs the unflattering testimony of its own
more exigent sons and daughters,--and is Brazil alone in this need?
Backward in the artistic sense, because it tends to a confusion of
values. It vitiates, particularly in Lobato, the tales he tells until
it is difficult to say whether the tale points a moral or the moral
adorns the tale.

That Lobato is alive to the genuineness of legitimate foreign
influence he himself shows as well as any critic can for him, in the
essay upon _A Questão do Estylo_ (The Question of Style), in a succinct
paragraph upon Olavo Bilac’s poem _O Caçador de Esmeraldas_. “The poet
… when he composed The Emerald-Hunter, did not take from Corneille
a single word, nor from Anatole a single conceit, nor a night from
Musset, nor a cock from Rostand, nor frigidity from Leconte, nor an
acanthus from Greece, nor a virtue from Rome. But, without wishing it,
from the very fact that he was a modern open to all the winds that
blow, he took from Corneille the purity of language, from Musset poesy,
from Leconte elegance, from Greece the pure line, from Rome fortitude
of soul--and with the ancient-rough he made the new-beautiful.”

But what, he asks, shall we say of a poem composed of ill-assimilated
suggestions from without,--“in unskilled adaptations of foreign verses,
and with types of all the races? The ‘qu’il mourût’ of Corneille
in the mouth of a João Fernandez, who slays Ninon, mistress of the
colonel José da Silva e Souza, consul of Honduras in Thibet, because an
Egyptian fellah disagreed with Ibsen as to the action of Descartes in
the battle of Charleroi?…”

Even such a mixture does Lobato discover in the architecture of
latter-day São Paulo. But more to our present point: note how, as long
as Lobato sticks to actual example, his nationalism is a reasoned,
cautious application. As soon as he deserts fact for theory he steps
into caricature; nor is it, perhaps, by mere coincidence that the
longest essay in the book is upon Caricature in Brazil.

There can be no question as to the dynamic personality of this young
man. There can be little question as to the wholesome influence he
is wielding. Thus far, however, he is weakest when in his rôle as
short-story writer--with the important exceptions we have noted--and
strongest as a polemical critic. His personal gifts seem destined to
make of him a propagandist of the ironical, satirical sort, with a
marked inclination for caricature. One may safely hazard the opinion
that he has not yet, in the creative sense--that of transforming
reality, through imagination, into artistic life--found himself fully.
He is much more than a promise; it is only that his fulfilment is not
yet clearly defined.[2]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Another “Washington of the South,” according to some Spanish
Americans, is Marshal Sucre Bolívar’s powerful associate. Bolívar
himself has been compared to Washington, perhaps most illuminatingly by
the notable Equatorian, Juan Montalvo, in his _Siete Tratados_.

[2] Some time after writing the article of which the above is an
amplification, I received from Senhor Lobato a letter which is of
sufficient importance to contemporary strivings in Brazil, and to the
life and purpose of Lobato himself, to merit partial translation. I
give the salient passages herewith:

“I was born on the 18th April, 1883, in Taubate, State of São Paulo,
the son of parents who owned a coffee estate. I initiated my studies
in that city and proceeded later to São Paulo, where I entered the
department of Law, being graduated, like everybody else, as a Bachelor
of Laws. Fond of literature, I read a great deal in my youth; my
favourite authors were Kipling, Maupassant, Tolstoi, Dostoievsky,
Balzac, Wells, Dickens, Camillo Castello Branco, Eça de Queiroz
and Machado de Assis … but I never let myself be dominated by any
one. I like to see with my own eyes, smell with my own nose. All my
work reveals this personal impression, almost always cruel, for, in
my opinion, we are the remnant of a race approaching elimination.
Brazil will be something in the future, but the man of today, the
Luso-Africano-Indio will pass out of existence, absorbed and eliminated
by other, stronger races … just as the primitive aborigine passed. Even
as the Portuguese caused the disappearance of the Indian, so will the
new races cause the disappearance of the hybrid Portuguese, whose rôle
in Brazilian civilization is already fulfilled, having consisted of the
vast labour of clearing the land by the destruction of the forests. The
language will remain, gradually more and more modified by the influence
of the new milieu, so different from the Lusitanian milieu.

“Brazil is an ailing country.” (In his pamphlet _Problema Vital_,
Lobato studies this problem, indicating that man will be victorious
over the tropical zone through the new arms of hygiene. The pamphlet
caused a turmoil throughout Brazil, and sides were at once formed, the
one considering Lobato a defamer of the nation, the other seeing in
it an act of sanative patriotism. As a result, a national program of
sanitation was inaugurated. This realism of approach, so characteristic
of Lobato, made of his figure Jéca Tatú a national symbol that has
in many minds replaced the idealized image of _Pery_, from Alencar’s
_Guarany_. _Jéca_ thus stands for the most recent critical reaction
against national romanticism.)

“I recognize now that I was cruel, but it was the only way of stirring
opinion in that huge whale of most rudimentary nervous system which is
my poor Brazil. I am not properly a literary man. I take no pleasure
in writing, nor do I attach the slightest importance to what is called
literary glory and similar follies. I am a particle of extremely
sensitive conscience that adopted the literary form,--fiction, the
conte, satire,--as the only means of being heard and heeded. I achieved
my aim and today I devote myself to the publishing business, where I
find a solid means of sustaining the great idea that in order to cure
an ailing person he must first be convinced that he is, in fact, a sick
man.”

Here, as elsewhere, Lobato’s theory is harsher than his practice. He
is, of course, a literary man and has achieved a distinctive style; but
he knows, as his letter hints, that his social strength is his literary
weakness.



SELECTIVE CRITICAL BIBLIOGRAPHY


As the purpose of this book is largely introductory, the works listed
below have been chosen carefully as a miniature critical library for
the student. Numerous other volumes are mentioned in the footnotes of
the text. I have not considered it necessary to include here a number
of works that possess importance chiefly for the specialist.

FERDINAND DENIS. _Resumé de l’histoire littéraire du Portugal, suivi du
Resumé de l’histoire littéraire du Brésil._ Paris, 1826.

The chapters upon Brazilian letters occupy pages 513 to 601 of this
16mo book. The French cleric, with a style inclining toward eloquence,
makes highly pleasant reading, and the century that followed upon his
work has borne out more than one of his expectations. He realized, thus
early, the effect of the racial blend upon the imaginative output,
indicating the African for ardour, the Portuguese for chivalry, the
Indian native for dreaminess. As a resident upon the spot, he noted
the several-month droughts which Buckle, much to Romero’s indignation,
later failed to take into account. “America,” wrote Denis, “sparkling
with youth, ought to think thoughts as new and energetic as itself;
our literary glory cannot always illumine it with a light that grows
dim on crossing the seas, and which should vanish completely before
the primitive inspiration of a nation vibrant with energy.” Denis,
in his prophetic strain, even predicted that America would some day
visit Europe as Europe today visits Egypt, to witness the scenes of a
departed civilization. In general, he favours a distinctive, national
note. He is cursorily informative rather than critical, and susceptible
to few aesthetic values.

FERDINAND WOLF. _Le Brésil Littéraire. Histoire de la littérature
brésilienne suivie d’un choix de morceaux tires des meilleurs auteurs
b(r)ésiliens._ Berlin, 1863.

The quarto volume is dedicated to the Emperor of Brazil. Wolf, of
course, was a German; the book was translated into French at the
publisher’s request, in order to reach a larger audience. Its author
regarded it as “the first and only one to appear in Europe on the
subject.” Since Denis’s treatment forms a sort of appendix to his
Portuguese section, Wolf’s statement, understood as referring to an
independent volume upon Brazil, may be allowed to pass. The book is
chiefly one of facts and analyses of works. Of criticism in the higher
sense there is little, and what there is, is of the conventional sort.
There is a moral, anti-French outlook; a Teutonic preoccupation with
data; no glimmer of aesthetic criticism. Wolf’s style is far from the
amenable style of Denis.

FRANCISCO ADOLPHO DE VARNHAGEN. _Florilegio da Poesia Brasileira._
(Vols. I and II, Lisbon, 1850. Vol. III, Madrid, 1853.)

It is the _Introduction_ preceding the first volume of these noted
selections, together with the prefatory notes to the selections
themselves, that virtually begins the writing of Brazilian literary
history. Without this work Ferdinand Wolf could not have written his
_Le Brésil Littéraire_. All later investigators and critics have really
built upon Varnhagen’s foundations, tearing a stone away here and there
and substituting another, but leaving the structure fundamentally the
same.

SYLVIO ROMERO. _Historia da Litteratura Brasileira. 2a edição,
melhorada pelo auctor._ Rio Vol. I, 1902, Vol. II, 1903.

Romero is one of the most picturesque literary figures of the
nineteenth century. He was a born fighter, with all the traits
of the ardent polemist. Throughout a lifetime that was rife with
self-contradiction, self-repetition, and self-glorification, he fought
for Brazilian independence in the literary, scientific and political
fields. He was by no means blind to esthetic beauty, but he insisted
overmuch upon the national element and was easily lost in fogs of
irrelevancy. He was a great admirer of German methods, and--justly,
to my way of thinking--a believer in Anglo-German culture as a
complement to Latin. As his life sought to cover almost every field of
intellectual activity, so does his History of Brazilian Literature,
which was left incompleted, seek to cover altogether too much ground.
His book might more properly have been named a history of Brazilian
culture. Such, indeed, was his conception of literature, which to him,
as he states in his very first chapter, possessed “the amplitude given
to it by the critics and historians of Germany. It comprises all the
manifestations of a people’s intelligence:--politics, economics, art,
popular creations, sciences … and not, as was wont to be supposed,
in Brazil, only those entitled _belles lettres_, which finally came
to mean almost exclusively _poetry_!…” A knowledge of this important
work--important despite the list of objections that might be raised
against it--is indispensable to the student.

SYLVIO ROMERO and JOAO RIBEIRO. _Compendia da Literatura Brasileira._
2a edição refundida. Rio, 1909.

A useful compendium and condensation. The authors here consider art “a
chapter of sociology,” laying down a belief in the “consciousness of
the identity of human destinies,” which is, “in our opinion, the basis
of all sociology and morality.”

JOSÉ VERISSIMO. _Estudos de Literatura Brazileira._ Six series,
published at Rio de Janeiro and Paris, between 1901 and 1910. These
largely formed the basis for his _Historia da Literatura Brazileira_,
Rio, 1916.

Verissimo, in my opinion, is the leading critic of letters Brazil has
thus far produced, and one of the country’s greatest minds. His whole
life was a beautiful attitude,--a serene, usually unruffled spirit
open to anything that proceeded from creative sincerity. He is, as
I have tried to show in the text, the spiritual opposite of Romero.
If the student has time only for a limited reading of Brazilian
criticism, he should approach Verissimo before he goes any farther.
Verissimo had learned, or perhaps had been born with, the secret that
beauty owed allegiance to no flag; he was not bogged, as was Romero so
often, by extraneous loyalties; he erected no pompous structures of
“scientificist” criticism. He was, what every significant critic must
be, an artist.

RONALD DE CARVALHO. _Pequena Historia da Literatura Brasileira._ Rio,
1919, 1922. The book was awarded a prize by the Brazilian Academy--as
was the same author’s book of poetry _Poemas e Sonetos_--and appeared
later in a revised, augmented edition. De Carvalho is a brilliant young
man on the sunny side of thirty. His book--as, for that matter, every
other recent one upon the subject--is under great debts to Romero and
Verissimo, but it reveals an independent personality and an agreeably
cosmopolitan conception of literature.

For the facts--as distinguished from opinions--in my own book I have
relied largely upon the works of Romero, Verissimo, Lima and Carvalho.
The number of lesser books that may be read is far greater than their
individual worth. I would suggest, merely as a starting-point for more
individual delving, such informative books as the following:

VICTOR ORBAN. _Le Brésil Litteraire._ Paris, no date. An anthology with
many illustrations of authors.

M. GARCIA MEROU. _El Brasil Intelectual._ A highly diverting account by
an Argentine who was once Minister to the United States.

ENRIQUE BUSTAMANTE Y BALLIVIAN. _Poetas Brasileros._ Rio, 1922. A
translation into Spanish of a number of poems representing the various
movements since (and including) Romanticism. Bustamante is a Peruvian
poet of worth and has added short notes to his selections.

LIVRO DO CENTENARIO. Rio, 1900. As part of the celebration of the 400th
anniversary of Brazil’s discovery, the government has sponsored the
publication of four tomes, which covered the culture of the nation.
Volume I contains a resumé of Brazilian literature by the ubiquitous
Romero, in which he slashes through the field in characteristic fashion.

Very little has been translated into English from the Brazilian
authors, particularly in the United States. As an example of the
novel, there is, however, Aranha’s _Chanaan_, issued as _Canaan_ in
Boston, 1919. In Boston, too, 1921, was issued _Brazilian Tales_,
containing short stories from Machado de Assis, Coelho Netto, Medeiros
e Albuquerque and Carmen Dolores. Coelho’s fine novel _Rei Negro_ (The
Black King), may be procured in a good French translation under the
title _Macambira_.



INDEX


  Abreu, Capistrano de, 36, 38

  Abreu, Casimiro de, 79, 80, 85, 88-90, 113, 134, 186

  Æsop, 30

  Alencar, José de, 55, 92, 94-98, 121, 129, 131, 132, 247, 291

  Alencar, Mario de, 97

  d’Almeida, Julia Lopes, 263

  Almeida, M. de, 94, 99

  Alvarenga Peixoto, I. J. de, 54, 56, 62, 66, 67

  Alves, Castro, 74, 85, 91, 92, 109, 117, 129-141

  Amalia, Narcisa, 263

  Amaral, A. de, 132

  Amaral, P. de, 48

  Anchieta, Jose de, 5, 31, 32, 41

  Andrade, M. G. L. de, 213

  d’Annunzio, 189

  Apuleius, 188

  Aranha, Graça, 5, 95, 98, 124, 164, 210, 234-247

  Araripe Junior, 217, 239

  Azevedo, Aluizio de, 117, 121, 122, 164, 258, 259

  Azevedo, Alvares de, 74, 78, 79, 80, 83-85, 90, 91, 186


  Bach, 40

  Balbi, A., 17

  Balzac, 95, 252, 253, 290

  Barbacena, 54

  Barreto, Tobias, 26, 91, 92, 132, 176, 243, 244

  Barros, João de, 181

  Basilio da Gama, J., 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 78

  Beethoven, 40

  Bell, A. F. G., 31, 51

  Bilac, 82, 109, 113-116, 126, 188-209, 248, 273, 274, 279

  Björkman, Goran, 222, 227

  Björnsen, B., 227

  Blanco-Fombona, 105

  Bonifacio, de Andrade, Jose, 56, 69-70, 286, 287, 288

  Borges, Carvalho, 223

  Borges de Barros, D., 17

  Botelho de Oliveira, M., 34, 39

  Bouterwek, 177

  Bradstreet, Anne, 262

  Braga, Theophilo, 71

  Brahms, 40

  Branner, J. C., 229

  Bridges, Robert, 21

  Brito Lima, J. de, 47

  Brito, Paulo, 143

  Brooks, Van Wyck, 172

  Brunetière, 177

  Buckle, Thomas, 7, 9, 10

  Buddha, 112

  Byron, 83, 112, 140


  Cabello de Carbonero, Mercedes, 263

  Caldas Barbosa, 67

  Camara, Eugenia, 132

  Camões, 11, 34, 35, 55, 59, 62, 66, 74, 77, 183

  Campos, Umberto de, 267

  Cardim, 5, 35, 36

  Carvalho, Elysio de, 1, 24

  Carvalho, Ronald de, 7, 10, 13, 26, 30, 31, 37, 40, 43, 44, 46, 55,
                       63, 88, 91, 94, 105, 106, 107, 108, 110, 113,
                       123, 133, 177, 178

  Carducci, 107

  Carnaris, 140

  Carneiro, Leão, A., 232

  Castello Branco, C., 290

  Castilho, Antonio de, 116

  Castro, G. de, 37

  Catherine de Medicis, 60

  Catullus, 188, 201

  Caviedes, 44

  Cejador y Frauca, Julio, 23

  Celso, Affonso, 109

  Cezar de Menezes, V. F., 47

  Chateaubriand, Assis, 232

  Chateaubriand, René, 95, 96

  Chaucer, 14

  Chekhov, 282

  Chocano, 105

  Christ, 140, 220, 252

  Cicero, 250

  Comte, A., 25

  Cook, F., 36

  Cooper, Fenimore, 26, 95, 96, 97

  Corneille, 289

  Correa, Diogo Alvares de, 60

  Correia, Raymundo, 109, 110-112, 114

  Cortines, Julia, 265

  Costa, Benedicto, 6, 19, 23, 94, 97, 121, 164, 234, 242, 243, 246,
                    252, 258

  Costa, Claudio M. da, 54, 61, 64, 66

  Crespo, Gonçalves, 109

  Croce, Benedetto, 88

  Cruz e Souza, 116, 122-123

  Cuervo, Rufino, 14

  Cunha, Euclydes da, 7, 98, 124, 210-221, 234, 284

  Cunninghame-Graham, R., 6, 210, 211, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220,
                          221, 284


  Dante, 62, 84, 131, 200

  Darío, Rubén, 104, 105, 110, 286

  Deiró, E., 177

  Delfino, Luiz, 116

  Denis, Ferdinand, 30, 55, 177

  Deus Luz, Fr. Chr., da M., 38

  Dias, Gonçalves, 55, 58, 66, 74, 77-83, 85, 90, 94, 113, 134, 136,
                   186, 188

  Dias, Theophilo, 109, 110

  Dickens, 290

  Dioscorides, 35

  Dostoievsky, 290

  Dumas, 95

  Durão, Fr. J. Santa Rita de, 54, 55, 56-59, 60


  Eckermann, 20

  Eça de Queiroz, 121, 290

  Eguren, J. M. de, 105

  Ellis, Havelock, 102, 172, 266

  Emanuel, King, of Portugal, 4

  Enriqueta, María, 264


  Fernandes, A., 232

  Ferrero, G., 98, 234, 237, 238, 240

  Ferreira de Lacerda, B., 262

  Fitzmaurice-Kelly, 262

  Flaubert, 103

  France, Anatole, 144, 164, 174, 190, 191, 240, 278, 283

  Franklin, 140

  Freire, Junqueira, 78, 79, 80, 85, 87-88, 90, 186

  Freyre, Gilberto, 232


  Garrett, 58, 80, 87

  Gautier, Th., 274

  Girriti de Belzu, Joana Manuela, 263

  Godoy, Lucilla, _see_ Mistral, G.

  Goethe, 19, 21, 84, 123, 242

  Gomes Carneiro, D. de, 38

  Gómez de Avellaneda, 262, 263

  Góngora, 39, 42, 47

  Gonzaga, Thomaz Antonio, 54, 61, 63-66, 67

  Gorin, B., 50

  Gourmont, Remy de, 13

  Gracchi, 140

  Gsell, 190

  Guimarães, Bernardo, 94, 98

  Guimarães Junior, Luis, 91, 106, 109

  Gusmão, A. de, 48, 225

  Gusmão, B. L. de, 48


  Hals, Frans, 231

  Hawthorne, 26

  Heine, 136

  Henry II, (France), 60

  Herculano, A. de, 80, 87

  Heredia, 274

  Homer, 84, 179

  Horace, 87, 168

  Hugo, 87, 91, 95, 130, 131, 133, 136, 141, 193, 196, 253


  Ibarbourou, Juana de, 264

  Ibsen, 240, 286

  Ines de la Cruz, Sor Juana, 262, 263

  Isaacs, Jorge, 99, 234


  João, Dom, 68, 73, 226, 227

  Juarez, 140

  Julia, Francisca, 193, 261-276


  Kant, 242

  Keats, 275

  Kipling, 260, 290

  Klopstock, 87

  Körner, T., 21

  Kossuth, 140


  La Fontaine, 30

  Lamartine, 87

  Leconte de Lisle, 274

  Lemaître, 169, 174

  Leopardi, 83, 112

  Lewisohn, Ludwig, 170, 171, 172

  Lima, M. Oliveira de, 33, 36, 37, 49, 120, 126, 222-233, 273

  Lobato, Monteiro, 15, 124, 125, 273, 277-291

  Longfellow, 26

  Lope de Vega, 37, 42

  Lopez, B., 122, 123

  Lopez, Fernão, 181

  Lorente, M. J., 237

  Lowell, Amy, 264

  Lucian, 188

  Lucretius, 87


  Macaulay, 177

  Macedo, J. M. de, 92-94, 98, 121, 185

  Machado, Gilka, 264

  Machado de Assis, J. M. de, 91, 93, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 114, 116,
                              117, 118-121, 122, 123, 126, 129, 131,
                              142-164, 165, 168, 174, 193, 208, 275, 290

  Maciel, A., 212, 213, 216, 218, 219, 220

  Maeterlinck, 240

  Maffei, 66

  Magalhães, Gandavo, Pero de, 35

  Magalhães, Gonçalves de, 50, 55, 58, 74-77, 79, 100, 226

  Maistre, De, 87

  Martí, 229

  Martin, P. A., 226

  Martins Junior, 105

  Martins, Oliveira, 223

  Martins Penna, L. C., 100

  Martins, Silveira, 223

  Matto, Clorinda, 263

  Mattos, E. de, 38

  Mattos Guerra, Gregorio de, 38, 40-45, 52, 56, 67, 114, 239

  Maupassant, 278, 290

  Medeiros e Albuquerque, 173

  Mello, Mario, 232

  Mencken, H. L., 14, 172

  Mendonça, S. de, 223

  Menéndez y Pelayo, R., 14

  Menezes, E. de, 123

  Menezes, L. da Cunha de, 54

  Mérou, García, 98

  Metastasio, 51

  Milton, 87

  Miranda, Sá de, 11

  Mistral, Gabriela, pseud. of L. Godoy, 264

  Mohammed, 220

  Molière, 51

  Montalvo, Juan, 287

  Moraes, Manoel de, 38

  Moraes, Prudente de, 212

  More, P. E., 170, 171

  Murat, Luiz, 116

  Musset, 83, 145


  Nabuco, J., 7, 235, 243, 244

  Napoleon, 56, 140

  Netto, Coelho, 24, 25, 95, 124, 164, 210, 248-260, 273

  Nietzsche, 242, 286

  Nobrega, 4

  Norberto de Sousa, J., 50, 92

  Norberto Silva, 175, 177


  Offenbach, 50

  Oliveira, Alberto, 109, 110, 112-113, 188

  Ottoni, José Eloy, 68, 69

  Ovid, 87


  Palma, Angélica, 263

  Pederneiras, Mario, 123

  Pedro II, Dom, 93

  Peixoto, Afranio, 15, 109, 131

  Pereyra, Carlos, 33, 231

  Petrarch, 62, 63

  Pinheiro, F., 26, 175

  Pliny, 35

  Pocahontas, 60

  Poe, 26, 123, 256, 282

  Pombal, 57, 61

  Pompeia, Raul, 117

  Porto-Alegre, M. A. de, 55, 77, 79, 223

  Pushkin, 112


  Quevedo, 42, 44


  Rabello, Laurindo, 78, 79, 85-87, 90, 134, 186

  Renan, 164

  Ribeiro, B., 11, 66, 181

  Ribeiro, João, 17, 26, 33, 51, 97, 176, 274

  Ribeiro, Julio, 117

  Ribeiro, Thomaz, 116

  Rocha Pitta, 5, 47, 48, 60, 227, 244

  Rodó, 105, 166, 167, 171, 172, 173, 174, 229, 286

  Rolim, Zalina, 263

  Romero, Sylvio, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 20, 21, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30,
                  33, 36, 38, 40, 41, 49, 50, 55, 62, 67, 70, 91, 106,
                  116, 125, 166, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178

  Rotrou, 51

  Rousseau, 69, 236


  Sá, Antonio de, 39

  Saenz-Peña, R., 231

  Sainte-Beuve, 177

  Salvador, Fr. V. de, 38, 180

  Salvarieta, Policarpa, 261

  São Carlos, 68, 69

  Sánchez, L. A., 44

  Santa Maria Itaparica, M. de, 47

  Sayce, A. H., 16

  Schopenhauer, 242

  Scott, 97

  Sebastian, Dom (King), 217, 218

  Shaw, B., 92

  Shelley, 200

  Silva, A. J. da, 48, 49-51, 64

  Silva Alvarenga, M. I. de, 54, 56, 62, 66

  Silva, Francisca Julia da, _See_ Julia.

  Silva, José Asunción, 260

  Silva, J. C. da, 273

  Sismondi, 177

  Smith, John, 60

  Soares de França, G. de, 47

  Soares de Souza, Gabriel, 5, 35, 179, 182

  Souza, Claudio de, 100, 124

  Souza Caldas, 68, 69

  Souza, Fr. Luiz de, 183

  Spingarn, Joel Elias, 172

  Squire, Charles, 3

  Stecchetti, 107

  Storni, Alfonsina, 264, 266

  St. Vincent Millay, Edna, 264

  Sucre, 287

  Sullivan, Sir Arthur, 50


  Taine, 252

  Tasso, 37

  Tavora, Franklin, 98

  Taunay, Viscount Escragnole de, 98-99, 121

  Teasdale, Sara, 264

  Teixeira e Souza, 92, 94, 98

  Teixeira Pinto, Bento, 31, 33, 34

  Thackeray, 85

  Tolstoi, 240, 290

  Tucumana, Manuela la, 261

  Twain, 282


  Uccello, P., 190

  Ureña, Salomé, 264


  Valera, 14

  Van Doren, Carl, 97

  Varella, Fagundes, 91, 117, 134

  Varnhagen, 19, 33, 35, 69, 175, 177

  Vasari, 190

  Vaz de Caminha, 4

  Verissimo, Jose, 14, 15, 16, 33, 34, 39, 41, 42, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59,
                   60, 61, 64, 65, 71, 78, 80, 81, 83, 86, 88, 89, 90,
                   91, 98, 106, 109, 116, 118, 120, 123, 126, 133, 134,
                   136, 165-187, 208, 214, 219, 220, 221, 229, 240, 241,
                   250, 252, 265

  Verlaine, 43

  Vespucci, 4, 5

  Vicente, G., 11, 181

  Vieira, Adelina, 263

  Vieira, Antonio, 38

  Vigny, de, 95

  Violante do Ceo, Sor, 262

  Virgil, 131


  Wagner, 286

  Washington, 287

  Wells, 290

  Whitman, 26

  Winchester, 169

  Wolf, 10, 26, 42, 50, 55, 58, 63, 66, 69, 72, 125, 175

  Wordsworth, 275


  Zola, 94, 117, 121, 235, 240





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