Cordel Literature Posted by on Jan 25, 2012 in Literature

Cordels are an important Brazilian cultural form that come from the Northeast. A cordel is a string, and these poems, songs, or novels get their name from the way they are hung on a string at street fairs. They are typically printed in black and white with woodcut-style illustrations. While this folk literature comes from literary traditions in Portugal and Spain, it’s one of the oldest living literary traditions of its kind. Cordels are especially well known in Pernambuco, Ceará, and Paraíba. Some of the most famous cordels tell the story of outlaws, like “A Chegada de Lampião no Inferno” by José Pacheco. Read more about cordels in this article from The New York Times.

So, let’s read an excerpt from a cordel! This is “A Chegada de Lampião no Inferno,” about the famous Brazilian outlaw, Lampião.

Um cabra de Lampião
por nome Pilão Deitado
que morreu numa trincheira
um certo tempo passado
agora pelo sertão
anda correndo visão
fazendo malassombrado.

E foi quem trouxe a notícia
que viu Lampião chegar
o inferno nesse dia
faltou pouco pra virar
incendiou-se o mercado
morreu tanto cão queimado
que faz pena até contar

Vamos tratar na chegada
quando Lampião bateu
um moleque ainda moço
no portão apareceu:
Quem é você, cavalheiro?
Moleque, eu sou cangaceiro:
Lampião lhe respondeu.

– Moleque não, sou vigia
não sou seu pareceiro
e você aqui não entra
sem dizer quem é o primeiro:
– Moleque, abra o portão
saiba que sou Lampião
assombro do mundo inteiro.

Read the rest of the cordel here.

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  1. Délio Pereira Lopes:

    When we talk about “cordel” it’s important to make clear that this kind of set of verses are created to transmit part of folklore that says a lot of people of some Brazilian regions. Beyond the beauty of the verses and their sounds combination there is a rich narrative process that is able to seduce and make the reader dives in its deep structure of marvelous message and each line of the poems drives the reader to a world always full of surprises,

  2. Délio Pereira Lopes:

    It’s almost a miracle to note that The Cordel literature are thin chapbooks printed on cheap paper that sell by the thousands among people who scarcely can afford to buy them – or read them. So, the verses get living and talk about people the history of Brazilian Northeast with its regional tradition.