Olavo Bilac, the poet of the Brazilian flag

Olavo Bilac was born in Rio de Janeiro in December 1865. Also known as the “Prince of the Poets”, by a competition organised by the magazine Fon-Fon in 1907, Bilac was a short story writer and journalist.

In poetry, he represented the Parnassianism movement in Brazil, exploring poetry in its traditional format using rich rhymes and rare words.

In 1897, he was one of the founding members of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, chair of number 15.

He published his first poems in the paper Gazeta Acadêmica in 1883. The same year, he fell in love with Amélia de Oliveira, and her family prevented him from marrying her because of his poet’s bohemian lifestyle.

Bilac created and collaborated with many newspapers and magazines in journalism, alongside important names in Brazil, such as Machado de Assis, Raimundo Correia, Coelho Neto, and Aluísio Azevedo. They also became friends and influences for political and literary spheres. 

After one year of Machado de Assis’ death, the Brazilian Academy of Letters conducted a homage to him and had Olavo Bilac as one of the speakers:

“A few words, few and loving words should be said here, so that in everything on this celebration will be dignified to this celebrated person. It would be an offence to the memory of the master any manifestation that differ from the charming sobriety and extreme modesty that governed his artistic and intimate life, also his literary theory and his style.” 

Bilac was republican and nationalist. Had intense participation in politics, undertaking public positions and having as one of his influences his father, who was an army’s surgeon. He travelled throughout Brazil campaigning in favour of literacy and compulsory military service. In 1888, his patriotism made him write the Brazilian’s Flag Hymn. 

For opposing the government of Floriano Peixoto, in 1893, he was imprisoned and exiled in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais. During his exile, he wrote “O Caçador de Esmeraldas.”

Olavo Bilac died of pulmonary oedema and heart failure in his hometown on 1918 December 28.

Salve, lindo pendão da esperança, Salve, símbolo augusto da paz! Tua nobre presença à lembrança A grandeza da Pátria nos traz.

Recebe o afeto que se encerra Em nosso peito juvenil Querido símbolo da terra,

Da amada terra do Brasil!

Em teu seio formoso retratas Este céu de puríssimo azul,

A verdura sem par destas matas, E o esplendor do Cruzeiro do Sul.

Recebe o afeto que se encerra etc.

Contemplando o teu vulto sagrado, Compreendemos o nosso dever;

E o Brasil, por seus filhos amado, Poderoso e feliz há de ser.

Recebe o afeto que se encerra etc.

Sobre a imensa Nação Brasileira, Nos momentos de festa ou de dor, Paira sempre, sagrada bandeira, Pavilhão da Justiça e do Amor! Recebe o afeto que se encerra etc.

Hino da Bandeira

Lyrics: Olavo Bilac 

Music: Francisco Braga