“A Flor e o Espinho” and “Folhas Secas”

Lyrics from “A Flor e o Espinho” by Nelson Cavaquinho, Guilherme de Brito and Alcides Caminha (1957)

Song begins at 0:55

Good Audio Version (Beth Carvalho)

Get your smile out of the way, cause I want to go by with my pain
Today for you I’m just a thorn, and a thorn doesn’t hurt a flower
I only went wrong when I joined my soul to yours
The sun can’t live near the moon

It’s in the mirror that I see my wound, my pain and my misty eyes
I was once a flower in your life, today I’m a thorn in your love

— Interpretation —

Guilherme de Brito (L) and Nelson Cavaquinho

Nelson Cavaquinho composed the tune for this samba and Guilherme de Brito wrote the lyrics during a session in Praça Tiradentes, Rio de Janeiro. Its tone is typical of the pair, who began writing music together in 1955 — mournful, dejected, pessimistic about love and life. (Meanwhile, Nelson Cavaquinho — lifelong bohemian with a scratchy voice from beer and cigarettes — could most often be found joking with friends over drinks at nearby bars and pool halls. For more on his life philosophy, see this post.)

Exceptionally, in 1973, the duo left the moroseness aside to write about their neighborhood’s samba school, Estação Primeira da Mangueira. The result, “Folhas Secas,” became one of the most cherished sambas in an extensive  repertoire of songs about Mangueira (which means “Mango tree”).  Nonetheless, even this nostalgic samba brings up death, with the singer remarking on how much he’ll miss his boyhood on Mangueira when his time comes. According to Brito, the song was written to be sung by Beth Carvalho, but was also taken to Elis Regina, and both singers’ versions ended up being released at the same time.

Lyrics from “Folhas Secas” by Nelson Cavaquinho and Guilherme de Brito (1973)


Good Audio Version (Nelson Cavaquinho)

When I step on dry leaves, fallen from a Mangueira
I think of my school, and the poets of my First Station

I don’t know how many times I went up the hill singing
With the sun burning me, and that’s how I’m wasting away
When time lets me know I can’t sing anymore
I know I’m going to feel longing, beside my guitar, for my boyhood

Nelson Cavaquinho (L) with fellow sambista from Mangueira, Cartola

Lyrics in Portuguese, “A Flor e o Espinho”

Tire o seu sorriso do caminho
Que eu quero passar com a minha dor
Hoje pra você eu sou espinho
Espinho não machuca flor
Eu só errei quando juntei minh´alma à sua
O sol não pode viver perto lua

É no espelho que eu vejo a minha mágoa
A minha dor e os meus olhos rasos d´água
Eu na tua vida já fui uma flor
Hoje sou espinho em teu amor

Lyrics in Portuguese, “Folhas Secas” 

Quando eu piso em folhas secas
Caídas de uma mangueira
Penso na minha escola
E nos poetas da minha estação primeira

Não sei quantas vezes
Subi o morro cantando
Sempre o sol me queimando
E assim vou me acabando.

Quando o tempo avisar
Que não posso mais cantar
Sei que vou sentir saudade
Ao lado do meu violão
Da minha mocidade

Main sources for this post: A Canção no Tempo by Jairo Severiano and Zuzu Homem de Mello, v. 1 and 2