Popular poet and singer João Melchíades Ferreira da Silva was born in Bananeiras, Paraíba, on 7 September 1869.
Son of small landowners,he lost his father at very young age and never attended school. He learned to read with the beato (blessed) Antônio Simão, who preached Catholicism and taught adults and children to read and write, under the orders of Father Ibiapina.
He joined the Army at 19, and five years later he was promoted to sergeant. He fought the partisans of Antônio Conselheiro in the Canudos War in 1897, and participated in campaigns in Acre, in the territorial dispute between Brazil and Bolivia in 1903.
In 1904, after retiring from the Army, he returned to live in the capital of Paraiba, where he got married and had four children, becoming a popular poet and singer. According to some, he was more a popular poet than a singer, not quite fitting in the natural-bornsinger category.
He was called the ‘Cantor da Borborema’ (Borborema Singer), and is mentioned, name and alias, in Ariano Suassuna’sbook A Pedra do Reino (The Romance of the Kingdom’s Stone).
He was the author of the pamphlet A guerra de Canudos (The War of Canudos), the first cordelabout Antonio Conselheiro published in the early twentieth century which, despite not having been signed, was identified as his work by researcher José Calasans.
His brochures were mostly revised and printed athis friend Francisco das Chagas Batista’s printing press.
Considered one of the great popular poets of the first generation of ‘cordelistas’ (cordel poets) in Northeast Brazil, Melchíades was already publishing brochures regularly in 1914.
He was a poet-chronicler of his region of origin, especially the Borborema Range, narrating the stories and deeds of its inhabitants, pious, heroes and the brave, as well as describing their ways and customs.
It is estimated that he is the author of 36 cordel poems. From his work, the following can be highlighted:A Guerra de Canudos (The Canudos War),O Pavão Misterioso (The Mysterious Peacock); História do valente sertanejo Zé Garcia (The Story of the Brave Frontiersman Zé Garcia); As quatro órfãs de Portugal ou o valor da honestidade (The Four Orphans from Portugal or the Value of Honesty); Combate de José Colatino com o Carranca do Piauí (The Fightbetween JoséColatinoand Carranca from Piauí); História de Rosa Branca de castidade (The Story of the White Rose of Chastity); História de Antonio Silvino(The Story of Antonio Silvino); A história de Carlos Magno e os 12 pares de França (The Story of Charlemagne and the Twelve Peers of France); Peleja de Joaquim Jaqueira com João Melquíades (The FightofJoaquim JaqueiraagainstJoão Melquíades); História do Rei do Meio Dia e a moça pobre(The Story of the Midday King and the Poor Girl); História sertaneja(Hinterland Story); Quinta peleja dos protestantes com João Melquíades (The Fifth Battlebetween the Protestants and JoãoMelquíades); História do viadinho e a moça da floresta (Story of the Small Deer and the Girl from the Forest); O príncipe Roldão no Leão de Ouro(Prince Roldão in the Golden Lion); A besta de sete cabeças (The Beast with Seven Heads); As quatro moças do céu: fé, esperança, caridade e formosura (The Four Young Women from Heaven: Faith, Hope, Charity and Beauty).
João Melchíades Ferreira da Silva died in Joao Pessoa on 10 December 1933.
Recife, 15 december 2008.
(updated on 28 august 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2012.
ALMEIDA, Átila Augusto F. de; ALVES SOBRINHO, José. Dicionário bio-bibliográfico de repentistas e poetas de bancada. João Pessoa: UFPB, Editora Universitária; Campina Grande: Centro de Ciências e Tecnologia - UFPB, 1978. v. 1.
BENJAMIM, Roberto. João Melchíades Ferreira: biografia. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 5 dez. 2008.
GRILLO, Maria Ângela de Faria. A arte do povo: histórias na literatura de cordel (1900-1940).255 f. 2005. Tese (Doutorado em História).-
Instituto de Ciências Humanas e Filosofia, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, RJ, 2005.
JOÃO Melchíades Ferreira: poeta popular. Disponível em:. Acesso em: 5 dez. 2008.
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Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. João Melchíades Ferreira. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009