Saudade- Ramón Piñeiro

This is part of an essay by Ramón Piñeiro in his book Filosofía da Saudade.  The word is very difficult to translate.  Piñeiro says that it is not the same as angst or melancholy, although there are certainly some common elements.  He associates it strongly with Galician and Portuguese writing, especially lyrical poetry, which he says is its ultimate expression because saudade is the world experienced through feeling, not rational thought.

Saudade for Rosalía
Everyone who has written about Rosalía has spoken of saudade: everyone who has written about saudade has spoken of Rosalía.  Recently, indeed, Josés Luis Varela linked the two explicitly.  Let’s start by considering what saudade meant to Rosalía herself.

Rosalía speaks often of saudade.  She uses the terms soidade or saudade, with a preference for the first.  We know that she distinguishes different forms of saudade.  There are at least two since, referring to the poems in Follas Novas, she says: “Written in the desert of Castile, conceived and felt in the saudades of Nature and my heart…”  She clearly and insistently expresses in her poems two types of saudade: the saudade of love and thesaudade of the land.  Let’s remind ourselves of an example of each of these two manners.

Saudade of love:

Hush dove, your cooing
Makes me want to die;
Hush cricket, if you sing
Black sadness comes over me.
My man is lost
No one knows where he wanders.

From here I can see his fields
From here I see his house and his turnip patch;
And if then I was eaten up by loneliness,
Here and now I am eaten up by guilt.
I’ll leave… I’ll leave the village…
Since, without him, I am dying of sadness.
My God!  How can someone love so much
Those who only know how to forget us?


Saudade of the land or the birthplace:

She was dying of sadness,
Sighing for the village when in town,
The houses with their walls overwhelmed her,
The towers and the churches overwhelmed her.

I closed my eyes and saw…
I saw fountains, fields and meadows
Stretched out at my feet.
But when I opened them again
Dying of sadness
I killed myself with all my tears.
And I didn’t stop crying
Not until from Castile
They had to take me.
They had to take me away
So as not to bury me there.

Sometimes Rosalía uses the qualifier saudoso with a certain vague and ineffable sense, signifying delicate, or something similar.

…and without noise or complaint, nor crying or singing, soft like that and delicate, like the breath of angels.

…an exhausted wind was blowing, soft and delicate.

About Jason Preater

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