#52 – Jorge Ben – Hermes Trismegisto e sua celeste tábua de esmeralda

from A Tábua de Esmeralda (Philips, 1974)

Original lyrics:

Hermes Trismegisto e sua celeste tábua de esmeralda

Hermes Trismegisto escreveu
com uma ponta de diamante em uma lâmina de esmeralda

O que está embaixo é como o que está no alto,
e o que está no alto é como o que está embaixo.

E por essas coisas fazem-se os milagres de uma coisa só.
E como todas essas coisas são e provêm de um
pela mediação do um,
assim todas as coisas são nascidas desta única coisa por adaptação.

O sol é seu pai, a lua é a mãe.
O vento o trouxe em seu ventre.
A terra é seu nutriz e receptáculo.

O Pai de tudo, o Thelemeu do mundo universal está aqui.
O Pai de tudo, o Thelemeu do mundo universal está aqui.

Sua força ou potência está inteira,
se ela é convertida em terra.

Tu separarás a terra do fogo e o sutil do espesso,
docemente, com grande desvelo.
Pois Ele ascende da terra e descende do céu
e recebe a força das coisas superiores
e das coisas inferiores.

Tu terás por esse meio a glória do mundo,
e toda obscuridade fugirá de ti.
e toda obscuridade fugirá de ti.

É a força de toda força,
pois ela vencerá qualquer coisa sutil
e penetrará qualquer coisa sólida.
Assim, o mundo foi criado.
Disso sairão admiráveis adaptações,
das quais aqui o meio é dado.

Por isso fui chamado Hermes Trismegistro,
Por isso fui chamado Hermes Trismegistro,

tendo as três partes da filosofia universal.
tendo as três partes da filosofia universal.

O que disse da Obra Solar está completo.
O que disse da Obra Solar está completo.

Hermes Trismegisto escreveu com uma ponta de diamante em uma lâmina de esmeralda (2x).
This is the high-point on the album, the song from where the album takes its title and, yet, I won’t translate it here. Why? Because there is already a translation of this song. How? Let me explain.

I have already tried to outline of the Hermetic philosophy here and I think I’ve mentioned that it was deeply related to alchemy. Alchemy’s chief text is this piece here, known in its Latin name as the Tabula Smaragdina, or Emerald Tablet. The Emerald Tablet explains how alchemy is done.

Starting with the principle that there is a correspondence between everything in the universe, celestial and below, alchemy holds that one thing can be changed into another. Alchemy proceeds by separating the diverse elements and then adapting those different elements into different configurations. Usually this was done with some chemical apparatuses, using fire, air, or other of the primordial elements. By making this, the alchemist gathers a holding on the constitution of things, becoming a kind of a master of Nature.

There is one point of contention here — which can be seen in the translation — which is the so-called thelema, rendered by Jorge Ben as thelemeu. The thelema would be the principle that makes the transition from one element into another possible. It would be a dynamic fluid that holds all things together. The contention is if the thelema was another element besides air, fire, etc. or a completely different thing. That doesn’t seem to bother Jorge Ben too much.

Anyway, the Emerald Tablet was originally an Arabic text and then was translated into Latin and other languages. In English, it received a translation by Isaac Newton (yes, that Isaac Newton) and there is another translation in the 17th century. I’ll post both here, which are as follow:

– Isaac Newton’s translation

  1. Tis true without lying, certain & most true.
  2. That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing
  3. And as all things have been & arose from one by the mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.
  4. The Sun is its father, the moon its mother, the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth is its nurse.
  5. The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.
  6. Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
  7. Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.
  8. It ascends from the earth to the heaven & again it descends to the earth & receives the force of things superior & inferior.
  9. By this means you shall have the glory of the whole world
  10. & thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.
  11. Its force is above all force. For it vanquishes every subtle thing & penetrates every solid thing.
  12. So was the world created.
  13. From this are & do come admirable adaptations whereof the means (or process) is here in this. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world
  14. That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished & ended.

– The 17th century translation published on the Theatrum Alchemicum (1613)

  1. This is true and remote from all cover of falsehood
  2. Whatever is below is similar to that which is above. Through this the marvels of the work of one thing are procured and perfected.
  3. Also, as all things are made from one, by the [consideration] of one, so all things were made from this one, by conjunction.
  4. The father of it is the sun, the mother the moon. The wind bore it in the womb. Its nurse is the earth, the mother of all perfection.
  5. Its power is perfected. If it is turned into earth,
  6. Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle and thin from the crude and [coarse], prudently, with modesty and wisdom.
  7. This ascends from the earth into the sky and again descends from the sky to the earth, and receives the power and efficacy of things above and of things below.
  8. By this means you will acquire the glory of the whole world,
  9. And so you will drive away all shadows and blindness.
  10. For this by its fortitude snatches the palm from all other fortitude and power. For it is able to penetrate and subdue everything subtle and everything crude and hard.
  11. By this means the world was founded
  12. And hence the marvelous conjunctions of it and admirable effects, since this is the way by which these marvels may be brought about.
  13. And because of this they have called me Hermes Tristmegistus since I have the three parts of the wisdom and philosophy of the whole universe.
  14. My speech is finished which I have spoken concerning the solar work

There is also the Latin translation which is the basis for all of the translations above:

  1. Verum, sine mendacio, certum et verissimum:
  2. Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius, ad perpetranda miracula rei unius.
  3. Et sicut res omnes fuerunt ab uno, meditatione unius, sic omnes res natae ab hac una re, adaptatione.
  4. Pater eius est Sol. Mater eius est Luna, portavit illud Ventus in ventre suo, nutrix eius terra est.
  5. Pater omnis telesmi[12] totius mundi est hic.
  6. Virtus eius integra est si versa fuerit in terram.
  7. Separabis terram ab igne, subtile ab spisso, suaviter, magno cum ingenio.
  8. Ascendit a terra in coelum, iterumque descendit in terram, et recipit vim superiorum et inferiorum.
  9. Sic habebis Gloriam totius mundi.
  10. Ideo fugiet a te omnis obscuritas.
  11. Haec est totius fortitudinis fortitudo fortis, quia vincet omnem rem subtilem, omnemque solidam penetrabit.
  12. Sic mundus creatus est.
  13. Hinc erunt adaptationes mirabiles, quarum modus est hic. Itaque vocatus sum Hermes Trismegistus, habens tres partes philosophiae totius mundi.
  14. Completum est quod dixi de operatione Solis.

As you can see, Jorge Ben’s song is an exact translation of the Emerald Tablet. I don’t know if he just composed the music to an already existing Portuguese translation or if he translated it himself from some modern language. It is interesting, nonetheless, to see Jorge Ben and Isaac Newton on the same page!

Jorge Ben’s song has a little introduction in which he just states that “Hermes Trismegistus wrote on an emerald tablet using a diamond stylus”.

And below you can see an artistic rendition of the Emerald Tablet from a book by Heinrich Khunrath in the 17th century.

800px-Emerald_tabletPS: you may have noticed that I’ve skipped two songs on A Tábua de Esmeralda, “Zumbi” and “Brother”. I did that because the former was already translated here, and the latter was composed in English.



#51 – Jorge Ben – O namorado da viúva

from A Tábua de Esmeralda (Philips, 1974)

Original lyrics:

Namomorarado da viúva
Namomorarado da viúva

O namorado da viúva
Passou por aqui

Apressado, pensativo, desconfiado
Olhando prá todos os lados
Pois ele soube
Que na cidade
As apostas subiram dizendo que ele
Não vai dar conta do recado

Que viúva é essa?
Que todos querem mas têm medo
Têm receio de ser dono dela
Dizem que ela tem um dote
Físico e financeiro invejável (eu quero ver!)

O namorado da viúva
Passou por aqui

Namomorarado da viúva
Namomorarado da viúva

Translated lyrics:

The widow’s lover
The widow’s lover

The widow’s lover
Passed by

In a hurry, pensive, suspicious
Looking both sides
Because he knew that in the city
The stakes are high telling
That he won’t make it

Who’s that widow
That everybody wants but everyone is afraid
They fear being her owner
They say she has an enviable
Physical and financial dowry

The widow’s lover
Passed by

The widow’s lover
The widow’s lover

I thought this song was just a strange love song, but actually it is much stranger than that. According to that interview I’ve mentioned on “O homem da gravata florida” post, this song is about another alchemist figure: Nicolas Flamel.

Nicolas Flamel was a 13/14th-century French scrivener and manuscript-seller who, according to Wikipedia (once again!), was thought after his death to have been an alchemist. One of his achievements, according to legend, was that he discovered the Philosopher’s Stone and immortality. Unfortunately, there seem to be no evidence that Flamel is in this world anymore.

Nicolas_Flamel_Histoire_critiqueThe widow in the song was his wife Pernelle, who was a rich widow who had survived already two marriages when she married Flamel. After burying two husbands, I would also be afraid to marry her.

One thing I didn’t know was that the cover to A Tábua de Esmeralda comes from a hieroglyphical book attributed to Nicolas Flamel. Actually, when I saw his name on that interview I noticed that on the cover there is the inscription “Figures de N. Flamel”. Actually, it comes from a drawing took from some figures — so it seems to be — from the Cemitère des Innocents in Paris, which existed from the Middle Ages until the 18th century. I read once that during the 14th and 15th centuries, Paris had a shortage of land to bury people because of the plague, so they started exhuming the bodies and placing the bones on the catacombs, which became full. The so-called hieroglyphs from this cemetery,  recorded by Nicolas Flamel or later, can be seem as an interesting source for knowing this lost cemetery.

The original drawing for the Tábua de Esmeralda album is as follows.


#46 – Jorge Ben – O homem da gravata florida

from A Tábua de Esmeralda (Philips, 1974)

Original lyrics:

Lá vem o homem da gravata florida
Meu deus do céu… que gravata mais linda
Que gravata sensacional
Olha os detalhes da gravata…
Que combinação de côres
Que perfeição tropical
Olha que rosa lindo
Azul turquesa se desfolhando
Sob os singelos cravos

E as margaridas, margaridas
De amores com jasmim
Isso não é só uma gravata
Essa gravata é o relatório
De harmonia de coisas belas
É um jardim suspenso
Dependurado no pescoço
De um homem simpático e feliz
Feliz, feliz porque… com aquela gravata

Qualquer homem feio, qualquer homem feio
Vira príncipe, simpático, simpático, simpático
Porque… com aquela gravata
Êle é esperado e bem chegado
É adorado em qualquer lugar
Por onde ele passa nascem flores e amores
Com uma gravata florida singela
Como essa, linda de viver
Até eu, até eu, até eu, até eu, até eu…

Translated lyrics:

There comes the man with the floral tie
Oh my God what a beautiful tie
What marvelous tie
Look at its details
How the colors combine
What tropical perfection
Look at this beautiful pink
This turquoise blue leaving its leaves
Under the simple cloves

And the daisies, the daisies
In love with the jasmin
That’s not only a tie
This is a report on the harmony
Of beautiful things
It’s a hanging garden
Suspended on the neck
Of a joyful and good-natured guy
Happy, and happy because…

With that tie any ugly man, any ugly man
Becomes a prince, is charming, friendly, and pleasant
Because…with that tie
He is awaited for and welcome
And worshipped anywhere
And wherever he goes flowers and lovers bloom
With a simple floral tie like this
Like this, deadly beautiful
Even myself, even myself, even myself

This is one of the craziest lyrics I know. I mean, how come one could have such an epiphany just looking at the floral tie someone was wearing? Those guys were crazy on acid by that time for sure.

I think there isn’t much to talk about the lyrics. They are kinda simple, as they describe the colors, the types of flower, and the general effect the referred tie has on the narrator. Whenever I think about the song one image that comes to mind is some of Romero Britto’s shameful works, but it is kind of sacrilegious to compare Romero Britto and Jorge Ben.

According to one brief interview I read, the man with the floral tie actually is the German physician, botanist, and alchemist Paracelsus. According to Wikipedia, Paracelsus rejected the ancient theory of the four humors (melancholy, cholera, phlegm, and sanguineous) in favor of a tripartite explanation of the world and the diseases affecting the body which comprised an combustible element (sulphur), a changing element (mercury) and a solid element (salt). The different combination of these three elements explained differences in behavior, alterations in humor etc.

In some way, maybe, the floral pattern of the tie reflects this general Parecelsus philosophy. One should note, however, that even though he rejected the earlier theory of four humors and was considered later an exponent of scientific thinking, because of all the experimental approach he had to biology and medicine, Parecelsus maintains the overall scheme of a correspondence between what is located higher and what is below. After all, the three elements are both in the world and within the human body.

This is the general thought scheme from alchemy, as we shall see later, and it was also a feature of ancient medicine and astrology. It is a principle that continued during the Middle Ages, as one can see in the famous Zodiacal Man from Les Très riches heures du Duc de Berry, an early 15th-century illuminated manuscript. One of the masterpieces of its era. In the picture, the Zodiacal signs are located both in the Sky and in the human body, corresponding to specific places and, even further, specific organs.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Cosmological correspondences aside, you can see a picture of the floral-tied man Jorge Ben himself below and here’s a link to that interview from where I got some of the information and the picture.