The Fernando Pessoa Way of Looking at Things

Four Short Poems by Fernando Pessoa

Here are four short poems by Fernando Pessoa, one of  my favorite intelligent fellows.  Fernando Pessoa (1888 – 1935) was a poet from Lisbon, Portugal who besides writing many brilliant poems, wrote “The Book of Disquietude” which has been described as “a factless autobiography” and is one of the landmarks of the twentieth century.  It might be a good idea to approach Fernando Pessoa with some care rather than jumping into “The Book of Disquietude”.  Besides reading his short poems, another approach to Pessoa is to read Jose Saramago’s novel ‘The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis’ which led me to become a full-scale Fernando Pessoa addict.

 

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This Morning I Went Out Very Early

    This morning I went out very early,
    Because I woke up even earlier
    And had nothing I wanted to do.
    I didn’t know which way to go,
    But the wind blew hard to one side,
    And I followed in the way it pushed me.
    So has my life always been, and so would I like it always to be –
    I go where the wind takes me and don’t need to think.

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I Lie Down in the Grass

    I lie down in the grass
    And forget all I was taught.
    What I was taught never made me any warmer or cooler.
    What I was told exists never changed the shape of a thing.
    What I was made to see never touched my eyes.
    What was pointed out to me was never there: only what was there  was there.

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To See the Fields and the River

    To see the fields and the river
    It isn’t enough to open the window.
    To see the trees and the flowers
    It isn’t enough not to be blind.
    It is also necessary to have no philosophy.
    With philosophy, there are no trees, just ideas.
    There is only each one of us, like a cave.
    There is only a shut window, and the whole world outside,
    And a dream of what could be seen if the window were opened,
    Which is never what is seen when the window is opened.

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Your Eyes Go Sad

    Your eyes go sad. You’re not
    Listening to what I say.
    They doze, dream, fade out.
    Not listening. I talk away.
    I tell what I’ve told, out of listless
    Sadness, so often before…
    I think you never listened,
    So you’re away you are.
    All of a sudden, an absent
    Stare, you look at me, still
    Immeasurably distant,
    You begin a smile.
    I go on talking
    You go on listening – your own
    Thoughts you listen to,
    The smile as good as gone,
    Until, through the loafing
    Afternoon’s waste of while,
    The silence self-unleafing
    Of your useless smile.
 

5 responses to this post.

  1. Well, I have never heard of Pessoa but these are great. I like his way of thinking. It seems almost counter-intuitive and yet I love the sense he makes. The first three in particular made me laugh, wryly, but laugh nonetheless.

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    • Hi Whisperinggums,
      Yes, with so many poets I find myself reading many poems just to find a few that I like. With Pessoa, nearly every line I like. You may not have heard of Fernando Pessoa, but I’m sure you are familiar with Jose Saramago, author of ‘Blindness’. It was his early novel ‘The Death of Ricardo Reis’ that introduced me to Pessoa.

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  2. Have you seen the Pessoa’s Trunk site? ( http://www.disquiet.com/pessoa.html ) They give you multiple translations of one of the poems, and let you compare them side by side — extending that idea of heteronyms. Now it’s not only Pessoa-who-is-other-people, it’s other-people-who-are-Pessoa.

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    • Interesting, I bookmarked the site. The translations that i used in this post were all by Richard Zenith which I should have pointed out. They are all from the book ‘Fernando Pessoa & Co. – Selected Poems’. Richard Zenith is one of the translators listed at the above site. I didn’t try to explain the idea of heteronyms in the post – I was more interested in the poems.

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