Castro Alves, Antônio de (1847–1871)

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Castro Alves, Antônio de (1847–1871)

Antônio de Castro Alves (b. 14 March 1847; d. 6 July 1871), Brazilian poet. Castro Alves was the last and the greatest Brazilian romantic poet. He is also remembered as a playwright and an orator. Born on a large plantation in Bahia into a family of slave owners, he developed a passionate opposition to slavery; he is called "the poet of the slaves." Castro Alves is also known as the leader of the condoreiros (condor poets), who used the condor, strong and high flying, as their symbol. Their poetry is marked by ardent sentiment and grandiloquence, abounding in daring figures of speech.

Castro Alves led a tragic life. When very young, he fell in love with an actress, Eugênia Câmara. They had an amorous liaison, but after two years Eugênia left him. His mother's early death, the insanity and suicide of his brother, and the amputation of his foot after an accident deeply affected the poet. At sixteen he contracted tuberculosis, which killed him at the age of twenty-four. He loved life and did not want to die: "To die … when this world is a paradise," he wrote in "Mocidade e morte" (Youth and Death), which appeared in the collection Espumas flutuantes (Floating Foam, 1870). "Mocidade e morte" was written during a critical point in his illness, and it marks the beginning of his great art. Grief awoke in him the supreme accents that he later would extend to the sufferings of humanity.

Castro Alves became known through poems appearing in periodicals and recited at meetings. During his lifetime only one volume of his poetry was published, Espumas flutuantes, a collection of erotic, patriotic, and plaintive lyric verses. His antislavery poems appeared posthumously in A cachoeira de Paulo Afonso (The Waterfalls of Paulo Afonso, 1876) and Os escravos (The Slaves, 1883). The latter contains some of his most celebrated poems, such as "Vozes d'áfrica" (Voices of Africa), an oration from Africa imploring God's justice, and "O navio negreiro" (The Slave Ship), a dramatic composition picturing all the horrors of an African slaver. Additional works include Obra completa (1960) and Gonzaga ou a revolução de Minas (Gonzaga or the Revolution in Minas, 1875).

See alsoLiterature: Brazil .


Jorge Amado, ABC de Castro Alves (1941).

Samuel Putnam, Marvelous Journey (1948).

Raymond S. Sayers The Negro in Brazilian Literature (1956), pp. 112-117.

Jon M. Tolman, "Castro Alves, poeta amorosa," in Luso-Brazilian Review 12 (1975): 241-262.

Ivan Cavalcanti Proença, Castro Alves Falou (1979).

Thomas Braga, "Castro Alves and the New England Abolitionist Poets," in Hispania 67 (1984): 585-593.

David T. Haberly, "Antônio de Castro Alves," in Latin American Writers, edited by C. Solé and M. I. Abreu, vol. 1 (1989), pp. 289-297.

Additional Bibliography

Matos, Edilene. Castro Alves: Imagens fragmentadas de um mito. São Paulo: EDUC, 2001.

                                  Maria Isabel Abreu

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Castro Alves, Antônio de (1847–1871)

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