Saudade (singular) or Saudades (plural) (pronounced [sawˈdade] in Galician, pronounced [sawˈdadɨ] in European Portuguese and [sawˈdadʒi] or [sawˈdadi] in Brazilian Portuguese) is a Galician and Portuguese word for a feeling of nostalgic longing for something or someone that one was fond of and which is lost. It often carries a fatalist tone and a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might really never return.

The word saudade was used in the Cancioneiro da Ajuda ( XIII century), Cancioneiro da Vaticana and by poets of the time of by King Denis of Portugal. [2] Some specialists say the word may have originated during the Great Portuguese Discoveries, giving meaning to the sadness felt about those who departed on journeys to unknown seas and disappeared in shipwrecks, died in battle, or simply never returned. Those who stayed behind—mostly women and children—suffered deeply in their absence; the state of mind has subsequently become a “Portuguese way of life”: a constant feeling of absence, the sadness of something that’s missing, wishful longing for completeness or wholeness and the yearning for the return of that now gone, a desire for presence as opposed to absence—as it is said in Portuguese, a strong desire to “matar as saudades” (lit. to kill the saudades).

The same feeling is also found in Brazil, the destination of immigrants and African slaves who never saw their homelands again. The feeling was so much ingrained into the Brazilian mind that virtually every immigrant settled there learned this notion and incorporated it (even people from radically different mindsets, like Germans and Japanese, soon understood it). Another permanent source of saudades for the Brazilians is the vastness of the country itself, which in the past caused most people to feel alone almost everywhere.

In the latter half of the 20th century, saudade became associated with the feeling of longing for one’s homeland, as hundreds of thousands of Portuguese-speaking people left in search of better futures in North America and Western Europe.

Besides the implications derived from an emigratory trend from the motherland, saudade is historically speaking the term meant to describe the decline of Portugal’s role in world politics and power. During the so called ‘Golden Age’, synonymous with the Era of discoveries, Portugal had undeniably risen to the status of a world power, its monarchy one of the richest in Europe at the time.

Since then, with the rise of competition from other European nations, the country went both colonially and economically into a prolonged period of decay. This period of decline and resignation from the world’s cultural stage marked the rise of saudade, aptly described by a sentence of its national anthem – ‘Levantai hoje de novo o esplendor de Portugal’ (Let us once again lift up the splendour of Portugal).

Saudade and music

As with all emotions, saudade has been an inspiration for many songs and compositions. “Sodade” (“saudade” in Cape Verdean Creole) is the title of the Cape Verde Morna singer Cesária Évora’s most famous song; French singer Étienne Daho also produced a song of the same name.

The Good Son, a 1990 album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was heavily informed by Cave’s mental state at the time, which he has described as saudade. He told journalist Chris Bohn that “when I explained to someone that what I wanted to write about was the memory of things that I thought were lost for me, I was told that the Portuguese word for this feeling was “saudade”. It’s not nostalgia but something sadder.”

Portuguese American singer/songwriter Jorge Ferreira recorded in 1992 the song “Saudade” from his album Regresso Prometido. A large number of songs of this emigrated artist speaks in majority about the feeling of saudade.

The usage of saudade as a theme in Portuguese music goes back to the 16th century, the golden age of Portugal. Saudade, as well as love suffering, is a common theme in many villancicos and cantigas composed by Portuguese authors; for example: “Lágrimas de Saudade” (tears of saudade), which is an anonymous work from the Cancioneiro de Paris.

Fado is a Portuguese music style, generally sung by a single person (the fadista) along with a Portuguese guitar. The most popular themes of fado are saudade, nostalgia, jealousy, and short stories of the typical city quarters. Fado, and Saudade are two key and intertwined ideas in Portuguese culture. The word fado comes from Latin fatum meaning “fate” or “destiny”. Fado is a musical cultural expression and recognition of this unassailable determinism which compels the resigned yearning of saudade, a bittersweet, existential yearning and hopefulness towards something over which one has no control.


Saudade poems& musics

Sodade – Cesaria Evora

Quem mostra’ bo
Ess caminho longe?
Quem mostra’ bo
Ess caminho longe?
Ess caminho
Pa São Tomé

Sodade sodade
Dess nha terra Sao Nicolau

Si bô ‘screvê’ me
‘M ta ‘screvê be
Si bô ‘squecê me
‘M ta ‘squecê be
Até dia
Qui bô voltà

Sodade sodade
Dess nha terra Sao Nicolau


En ce mai de fous messages, j’ai un rendez-vous dans l’air
Inattendu et clair, déjà je pars à ta découverte
Ville bonne et offerte
C’est l’attrait du danger qui me mène à ce lieu
C’est d’instinct qu’tu me cherches et approches
Je sens que c’est toi
C’est l’aube que se ferment tes prunelles marine
Sous quel méridien se caresser, dans mes bras te cacher
Dans ces ruelles fantômes ou sur cette terrasse où s’écrase un soleil
Tu m’enseignes le langage des yeux, je reste sans voix
Les nuits au loin tu cherches l’ombre
Comment ris-tu avec les autres
Parfois aussi je m’abandonne
Mais au matin les dauphins se meurent de saudade
Où mène ce tourbillon, cette valse d’avions

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