#4 – Alceu Valença – Punhal de Prata

from Molhado de Suor (Som Livre, 1975)

Original Portuguese lyrics:

Eu sempre andei descalço
No encalço dessa menina
E a sola dos meus passos
Tem a pele muito fina

Eu sempre olhei nos olhos
Bem no fundo, nas retinas
E a menina dos olhos
Me mata, me aluncina

Eu sempre andei sozinho
A mão esquerda vazia
A mão direita fechada
Sem medo por garantia

De encontrar quem me ama
Na hora que me odeia
Com esse punhal de prata
Brilhando na lua cheia

Mas eu não quero viver cruzando os braços
Nem ser cristo na tela de um cinema
Nem ser pasto de feras numa arena
Nesse circo eu prefiro ser palhaço

Eu só quero uma cama pro cansaço
Não me causa temor o pesadelo
Tenho mapas e rotas e novelos
Para sair de profundos labirintos
Sou de ferro, de aço de granito
Grito aflito na rua do sossego

Sossego!

Mas na verdade é mentira
Eu sou o resto
Sou a sobra num copo, Sou subeijo
Sou migalhas na mesa
Sou desprezo
Eu não quero estar longe
Nem estou perto

Eu só quero dormir de olho aberto
Minha casa é um cofre sem segredo
O meu quarto é sem portas, tenho medo
Quando falo desdigo, calo e minto
Sou de ferro, aço e de granito
Grito aflito na rua do sossego

E o que prende demais minha atenção
É um touro raivoso na arena
Uma pulga do jeito que é pequena
Dominar a bravura de um leão

Na picada ele muda a posição
Pra coçar se depressa, com certeza
Não se serve da unha e da presa
Se levanta da cama e fica em pé
Tudo isso provando como é poderosa e suprema a natureza

E eu desconfio dos cabelos longos de sua cabeça
Se você deixou crescer de um ano pra cá
Eu desconfio no sentido ‘Stricto’
Eu desconfio no sentido ‘Lato’
Eu desconfio dos cabelos logos e desconfio do diabo a quatro
Do diabo a quatro
Do diabo a quatro…

My attempt at translating it:

I’ve always walked barefoot
Chasing the footprints of this girl
And my step’s sole
Has a very thin skin

I’ve always looked deep
Deep down in the eyes
And the pupil
Kills me, hallucinates me

I’ve always walked alone
Left hand empty
Right hand closed
Without fear for sure

Of finding the one who loves me
In the very hour he hates me
With this silver dagger
Shining in the full moon

But I don’t wanna live with arms crossed
Neither I want to be Christ in a movie screen
Nor food for the beasts on a sideshow
In this circus I’d rather be the clown

I just want a bedside to rest
Nightmares don’t scare me
I have maps and routes and ropes
To escape from deep dark labyrinths
I’m made of iron, steel and stone
I scream anxious on the street of soothingness

Soothingness!

But actually it is a lie
I’m what’s left
I’m what’s left in a glass cup, I’m excess
I’m breadcrumb on a table
I’m despair
I don’t want to be far away
Nor I want to be near

I just wanna sleep with eyes wide open
My house is a safe-box without combination
My room has no windows, I’m scared
When I say I unsay, I shut up and lie
I’m made of iron, steel and stone
I scream anxious on the street of soothingness

And what grips on my mind
Is a rageous bull on the ring
A small flea taming the lion’s braveness

When stinged he changes position
To scratch quickly
Surely he doesn’t uses his nails or his preys
He gets up and stays afoot
All this to show just how nature is powerful and supreme

And I doubt your long hair
If you let them grow since yesteryear
I doubt in the strict sense
And in the broad sense
I doubt your long hair and everything else
And everything else
Everything else…

Boy, this one was hell. Not only because it is long but also because I’ve read it over and over again and I still can’t find a sure meaning to it or at least a single meaning to it. Perhaps there isn’t, but as an amateur translator, that means I had to stick to a more word-for-word translation than before.

This is the opening track of the third Alceu Valença album, Molhado de Suor. The title translates as “sweaty” or “poured in sweat”, like when someone gets when does too much exercise under the sun or, like the main character on the track, seem to be running away indefinitely. Valença’s lyrics are almost always open-ended and like here, they more conjure up images than chew up all for the listener. I hope the translation can convey the sense of escaping and the urgency of the original track.

It’s also cool to see Alceu Valença before he lost his edge, so to speak, and become a mainstay in Brazilian TV-financed festivals. He’s still a crazy guy, but he’s somewhat tamed. His first album with Geraldo Azevedo is a lesser known psychedelic gem, check it out:

To the translation, finally. “Chasing the footprints” may seem odd, but it’s because the original has a wordplay between walking barefoot (descalço) and keeping track of someone (estar no encalço de alguém). Later, I’ve translated menina dos olhos in its literal sense because in the context he speaks about eyes. In Portuguese, though, menina dos olhos also means your pride and joy, something that it’s most dear to you, even making you jealous of other’s reactions to it. It’s another wordplay. By the middle of the lyrics, Valença says he’s got mapas e rotas e novelos. Novelo means a tread ball, so the rope isn’t formed yet. He’s in the dungeon making the instruments for his escape. And I’ve translated sossego for soothingness because of the context, as he’s going against a status quo. Sossego can also be translated by laziness or to be at easy, as Tim Maia says on his famous tracks.

Lastly, if you’re still with me, there’s a wordplay involving Valença’s name in Brazil. Alceu sounds just like “Ao seu” in Portuguese, which means “To yours”, so people can say “Ao seu Valença” and the other can reply “Ao meu Valença” (To my Valença). It’s just a little joke.

See you tomorrow. Peace!

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