Friday, June 13, 2014

O Sonho Existia

No jardim das rosas 
De sonho e medo 
Pelos canteiros de espinhos e flores 
Lá, quero ver você 
Olerê, Olará, você me pegar

Madrugada fria de estranho sonho 
Acordou João, cachorro latia 
João abriu a porta 
O sonho existia

Que João fugisse 
Que João partisse 
Que João sumisse do mundo 
De nem Deus achar, Ierê

Manhã noiteira de força viagem 
Leva em dianteira um dia de vantagem 
Folha de palmeira apaga a passagem 
O chão, na palma da mão, o chão, o chão

E manhã redonda de pedras altas 
Cruzou fronteira de servidão 
Olerê, quero ver 

E por maus caminhos de toda sorte 
Buscando a vida, encontrando a morte 
Pela meia rosa do quadrante Norte 
João, João

Um tal de Chico chamado Antônio 
Num cavalo baio que era um burro velho 
Que na barra fria já cruzado o rio 
Lá vinha Matias cujo o nome é Pedro 
Aliás Horácio, vulgo Simão 
Lá um chamado Tião 
Chamado João

Recebendo aviso entortou caminho 
De Nor-Nordeste pra Norte-Norte 
Na meia vida de adiadas mortes 
Um estranho chamado João

No clarão das águas 
No deserto negro 
A perder mais nada 
Corajoso medo 
Lá quero ver você

Por sete caminhos de setenta sortes 
Setecentas vidas e sete mil mortes 
Esse um, João, João 
E deu dia claro 
E deu noite escura 
E deu meia-noite no coração 
Olerê, quero ver 

Passa sete serras 
Passa cana brava 
No brejo das almas 
Tudo terminava 
No caminho velho onde a lama trava 
Lá no todo-fim-é-bom 
Se acabou João

No jardim das rosas 
De sonho e medo 
No clarão das águas 
No deserto negro 
Lá, quero ver você 
Lerê, lará 
Você me pegar

--Antonio Carlos Jobim

Above are the Portuguese lyrics of the haunting Brazilian song "Matita Perê" by Tom Jobim.  These have served as a recurring dream and a backdrop for exploration in recent days.  It's hard to find an English translation for Jobim's "Matita Perê" online, so I have provided one below for anyone who might come searching.  It's mostly literal, but some liberties have been taken to keep the flow in English.  This translation is a crossover combination of the one found in the album notes of the original American release of the song in 1973, the transcription written by Dário Borim in the Jobim biography An Illuminated Man, and some assistance gleaned from a Portuguese-English dictionary.

The English translation of the Portuguese lyrics of "Matita Perê" by Antônio Carlos Jobim:

In the garden of roses
Of dreams and fear
By beds of thorns and flowers
There, I want to see 
Olerê, olará - if you can catch me

A cold dawn, a strange dream
João awoke, the dog was barking
João opened the door
The dream was there

And should João flee?
And should João leave?
And should João vanish?
(To where even God may not find him) - ierê

In the night's-morning, a forced journey
He starts with the advantage of a day's lead
Palm leaves clear the path
The ground, the palm of the hand, the ground, the ground

It was morning on the high rocks
He crossed the border of servitude
Olerê - I want to see

And for all sorts of wicked ways
Seeking life, finding death
By the sun's compass to the northern quadrant
João, João

Some guy named Chico, called Antonio
A bay horse that was an old burro
On the cold sand bar, already across the river
Here came Matias, whose name is Pedro
Alias Horácio, aka Simão
Also called Tião
Known as João

Receiving warning, he altered his path
North-northeast to north-north
In the half-life of delayed deaths
A stranger named João

In the glare of the waters
In the black wilderness
There was nothing more to lose
Courageous fear
I want to see you there

For seven roads of seventy fortunes
Seven hundred lives and seven thousand deaths
This one, João, João
It was a clear day
It was a dark night
And it was midnight in the heart
Olerê, I want to see

Past seven mountains
Past wild cane
In the swamp of souls
It all ended
On the old road where mud latches on
There at the all's-well-that-ends-well
It finished João

In the garden of roses
Of dreams and fear
In the glare of the waters
In the black wilderness
There, I want to see you
Lerê, lará
You caught me


Randy Gibbons said...

Thank you so much for this translation and for pointing me to other sources (the album as released in the U.S. and Helena Jobim's biography) that I can cross-check. I can read and translate some Portuguese, but as you well know Matita Perê is, shall I say dreamy, and I was rather desperate for someone else's take on it. I'm rather surprised that I can find almost no commentary on this amazing work either in Portuguese or in English.

Mozart said...

I posted this largely because so little information is available online for English-speakers looking for information on the song; I hoped that if I included enough key search terms in the text, people might find it. I'm glad to see that that's the case!

The Helena Jobim biography does not give much background on the song. I have read allusions to the political climate in Brazil (including censorship of artists) at the time of its writing serving as major inspiration. I believe the main narrative is based on the story "Duelo" by João Guimarães Rosa (you'll have to translate this or look for an English summary, but here's a link: The YouTube video linked in the post shows the general plot of the tale; however--a man catches his wife in the act of adultery and, in an act of revenge, kills the brother of his wife's lover by mistake. Terrified of the consequences of his actions, he flees. The surviving brother sets out to avenge the other, and tragedy ensues for all.

I'm far from an expert; just a fan with the an understanding of Portuguese about 20 notches shy of rudimentary.

Randy Gibbons said...

Thanks for pointing me to Guimarês Rosa's Duelo, which additional searching I've done makes clear was the basis for Pinheiro's lyrics (as you undoubtedly know, for this song Jobim partnered with the poet and lyricist Paulo César Pinheiro). In fact I now see in the liner notes that Jobim dedicated this song to the Brazilian literary figures Guimarês Rosa, Carlos Drummond, and Mário Palmério.

In fact in hindsight I guess I had a clue about Guimarês Rosa's role, because in a search on the phrase manhâ noiteira I found it in a short story of Rosa's called O burrinhoo pedrês ("Para ser um dia de chuva, só faltava mesmo que caísse água. Manhã noiteira, sem sol, com uma umidade de melar por dentro as roupas da gente."). I take noiteira by the way to be an adjective Rosa coined from noite ('darkish morning'), since I don't find noiteiro/a in any dictionary.

My Portuguese is also about 20 notches shy of rudimentary! Though as a one time Classics major I do have a pretty good grounding in Latin and the other romance languages.

I do have a couple questions about your really excellent translation.

First, I see you translate "quero ver você ... você me pegar" in the opening verse as "I want to see if you can catch me" and in the closing lines as "you caught me." I suppose the literal translation would be "I want to see you catch me." I'm curious if you're translation is based on your understanding of the narrative and/or the transcriptions you found in the U.S. version of the album or in the English translation of Helena Jobim's biography (I don't have either, though I happen to have Helene'a biography in the original Portuguese). I guess one's understanding of these lines also depends on who you take the narrator of the song to be.

Second, you translate the verse "Que Joâo fugisse ... partisse ... sumisse ..." as a series of questions. My understanding grammatically at least is that these past subjunctives would be "Would that [some governing verb is implied] Joâo had fled, that he had departed, that he had vanished ...". Same question, that is, is your translation based on one of your sources, or on your understanding of who the narrator is?

Of course I understand that the lyrics are intentionally and brilliantly elusive.

My apologies if I'm dragging you back into something you thought you finished a couple years ago!

Mozart said...

Here is another online translation:

The translation from Helena's book (presumably by Borim) follows; to be honest, I'm not particularly fond of it. Nor was I very fond of the American album translation, but unfortunately that one is no longer in my possession to share.

In the rose garden
Where dream and fear reside
Along patches of thorns and flowers
I dare you
Olerê, Olará, to catch me if you can

In the cold wee hours of outlandish dreams
João woke up to the dog's loud barking fright
He gathered his wits and opened the door
João's dream was indeed alive and would not cower

Perhaps João should disappear
Perhaps João should depart
Perhaps João should dive into darkness
Where not even God could ensnare him

Between the late night's dye and the early morning's light,
The trip begins as he passes us by one day ahead of time
Palm leaves in the meantime cover up his footpath
The ground on the palm of his hand is just the ground

And on that round morning of tall boulders lying on his way
He crossed the boundaries of servitude
Olerê, I dare you

And on the brink of perdition
Seeking life and encountering death
All around the north quadrant of the compass
João, João

A certain Chico actually named Antonio
Was riding a swarthy horse that was nothing but an old ass
On the cold sand bar, already across the river
There came Matias whose true name was Pedro
In fact Horácio a.k.a. Simão
A certain Tião in that neck of the woods
Who was named João

In the rose garden
Where dreams and fear reside
Over there, I dare you,
Lerê, lará
To catch me if you can

After getting informed he swayed his way
From the north to the northeast, from the north to the north
Witnessing the half-lives of the postponed dead creatures
There he was, a very strange João

In the clear light of the waters
In the blackness of the desert
With nothing else to lose
That's where I want to see you,
Undaunted fear

Through seven pathways leading to seventy destinies
Seven hundred lives and seven thousand deaths
There was that one, João, João
And a clear day broke out
And a dark night fell
And midnight hit his heart
Olerê, I dare you

He crossed over seven mountains
He traversed thick sugarcane stalks
The whole trip would finish up
On the old path where deep mud trapped you
Over there, at the all's-well-that-ends-well
João is gone

In the rose garden
Where dreams and fear reside
In the clear light of the waters
In the blackness of the desert

Mozart said...

To be honest, most of my choices were stylistic, especially when I could not glean a good understanding using online translators (I have a very basic knowledge of Spanish plus the background in Latin necessary for a medical professional, and these have been about all that carried me through, although Google Translate is becoming increasingly sophisticated and useful). This was an exercise in amusement for me only; I stumbled across the song (and Jobim's other works), fell in love, and passed the time by doing some research, making some art, and (for the past year, on and off) attempting to write a short story that echoes the narrative. My interpretation ignores the inspiration of the Duelo story and instead focuses on the character João, a sad and dying old man haunted by his old misdeeds who, at the end of his life, is pursued by madness and hallucinations of the matita perê (the embodiment of his sins and their impending retribution). So, I have chosen my phraseology in light of this. I wish I had a better explanation or some real justification....but that's it.

Here is the other piece I drew to illustrate (my interpretation of) the song:

Glad to 'meet' someone else who shares an interest in this phenomenal song!