Olavo Bilac

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Olavo Bilac

Olavo Braz Martins dos Guimarães Bilac (December 16, 1865December 28, 1918) was a Brazilian poet of the Parnassian school.

Considered one of the greatest poets ever to write in Portuguese, Bilac was a master at sculpting verses with carefully measured metre and rhythm while at the same time protecting them from appearing artificial. His poems look natural and inspired even though they were carefully crafted for balanced shape and rhyme.



Bilac was born in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He studied medicine at a university but quit in the fourth year. He also tried a course of law, which he also quit, in its first year. Thereafter Bilac turned to journalism and literature, to which he had dedicated his energies from an early age.

A political activist — among his beliefs were the support for mandatory military service and the abolition of slavery — Bilac was chased during the government of Floriano Peixoto, the second president of Brazil. Bilac is the patrone of the Brazilian Military Service.

Bilac was a founding member of the Academia Brasileira de Letras, the Brazilian Academy of Literature. Bilac was known for reading the most important literary works at the time and declaiming his own poems at social events. At the peak of his fame, he was one of the most popular authors of his country, having won the title of "Prince of Brazilian poets" in a contest launched by a magazine in 1907. He was also a formidable public speaker.

A school in São José dos Campos, in the state of São Paulo, is named after him.


Bilac's most recurring poetic theme is undoubtedly stars. He was fascinated by the beauty of a starry sky, which is evident in a quite a number of his pieces. His hundreds of poems — most of which are in sonnet form — also speak about love, God, erotica, heroes, bandeirantes, Brazil, time, Greek mythology, and a plenitude of other themes.

Bilac was also the author of the lyrics for the Brazilian Flag Anthem.

A few of Bilac´s poems, among with English translations, can be found here ().


  • Olavo Braz Martins dos Guimarães Bilac has exactly twelve syllables- which makes it an alexandrine verse. Fervent fans see in this that Bilac was pre-destinated to poetry.
  • His last words, as newspapers of the time show, were "Give me coffee! I´m going to write!"

External links

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