Fernando António Nogueira PessoaJune 13, 1888 – November 30, 1935), commonly known as Fernando Pessoa, was a Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher and philosopher, described as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language. He also wrote in and translated from English and French.
Pessoa was a prolific writer, and not only under his own name, for he dreamed up approximately seventy-five others. He did not call them pseudonyms because he felt that did not capture their true independent intellectual life and instead called them heteronyms. These imaginary figures sometimes held unpopular or extreme views.
Whether we write or speak or do but look
We are ever unapparent. What we are
Cannot be transfused into word or book.
Our soul from us is infinitely far.
However much we give our thoughts the will
To be our soul and gesture it abroad,
Our hearts are incommunicable still.
In what we show ourselves we are ignored.
The abyss from soul to soul cannot be bridged
By any skill of thought or trick of seeming.
Unto our very selves we are abridged
When we would utter to our thought our being.
We are our dreams of ourselves, souls by gleams,
And each to each other dreams of others' dreams.
If that apparent part of life's delight
Our tingled flesh-sense circumscribes were seen
By aught save reflex and co-carnal sight,
Joy, flesh and life might prove but a gross screen.
Haply Truth's body is no eyable being,
Appearance even as appearance lies,
Haply our close, dark, vague, warm sense of seeing
Is the choked vision of blindfolded eyes.
Wherefrom what comes to thought's sense of life? Nought.
All is either the irrational world we see
Or some aught-else whose being-unknown doth rot
Its use for our thought's use. Whence taketh me
A qualm-like ache of life, a body-deep
Soul-hate of what we seek and what we weep.
When I do think my meanest line shall be
More in Time's use than my creating whole,
That future eyes more clearly shall feel me
In this inked page than in my direct soul;
When I conjecture put to make me seeing
Good readers of me in some aftertime,
Thankful to some idea of my being
That doth not even my with gone true soul rime;
An anger at the essence of the world,
That makes this thus, or thinkable this wise,
Takes my soul by the throat and makes it hurled
In nightly horrors of despaired surmise,
And I become the mere sense of a rage
That lacks the very words whose waste might 'suage.
I could not think of thee as piecèd rot,
Yet such thou wert, for thou hadst been long dead;
Yet thou liv'dst entire in my seeing thought
And what thou wert in me had never fled.
Nay, I had fixed the moments of thy beauty--
Thy ebbing smile, thy kiss's readiness,
And memory had taught my heart the duty
To know thee ever at that deathlessness.
But when I came where thou wert laid, and saw
The natural flowers ignoring thee sans blame,
And the encroaching grass, with casual flaw,
Framing the stone to age where was thy name,
I knew not how to feel, nor what to be
Towards thy fate's material secrecy.
How can I think, or edge my thoughts to action,
When the miserly press of each day's need
Aches to a narrowness of spilled distraction
My soul appalled at the world's work's time-greed?
How can I pause my thoughts upon the task
My soul was born to think that it must do
When every moment has a thought to ask
To fit the immediate craving of its cue?
The coin I'd heap for marrying my Muse
And build our home i'th' greater Time-to-be
Becomes dissolved by needs of each day's use
And I feel beggared of infinity,
Like a true-Christian sinner, each day flesh-driven
By his own act to forfeit his wished heaven.
As a bad orator, badly o'er-book-skilled,
Doth overflow his purpose with made heat,
And, like a clock, winds with withoutness willed
What should have been an inner instinct's feat;
Or as a prose-wit, harshly poet turned,
Lacking the subtler music in his measure,
With useless care labours but to be spurned,
Courting in alien speech the Muse's pleasure;
I study how to love or how to hate,
Estranged by consciousness from sentiment,
With a thought feeling forced to be sedate
Even when the feeling's nature is violent;
As who would learn to swim without the river,
When nearest to the trick, as far as ever.
Thy words are torture to me, that scarce grieve thee--
That entire death shall null my entire thought;
And I feel torture, not that I believe thee,
But that I cannot disbelieve thee not.
Shall that of me that now contains the stars
Be by the very contained stars survived?
Thus were Fate all unjust. Yet what truth bars
An all unjust Fate's truth from being believed?
Conjecture cannot fit to the seen world
A garment of its thought untorn or covering,
Or with its stuffed garb forge an otherworld
Without itself its dead deceit discovering;
So, all being possible, an idle thought may
Less idle thoughts, self-known no truer, dismay.
How many masks wear we, and undermasks,
Upon our countenance of soul, and when,
If for self-sport the soul itself unmasks,
Knows it the last mask off and the face plain?
The true mask feels no inside to the mask
But looks out of the mask by co-masked eyes.
Whatever consciousness begins the task
The task's accepted use to sleepness ties.
Like a child frighted by its mirrored faces,
Our souls, that children are, being thought-losing,
Foist otherness upon their seen grimaces
And get a whole world on their forgot causing;
And, when a thought would unmask our soul's masking,
Itself goes not unmasked to the unmasking.
We are born at sunset and we die ere morn,
And the whole darkness of the world we know,
How can we guess its truth, to darkness born,
The obscure consequence of absent glow?
Only the stars do teach us light. We grasp
Their scattered smallnesses with thoughts that stray,
And, though their eyes look through night's complete mask,
Yet they speak not the features of the day.
Why should these small denials of the whole
More than the black whole the pleased eyes attract?
Why what it calls «worth» does the captive soul
Add to the small and from the large detract?
So, put of light's love wishing it night's stretch,
A nightly thought of day we darkly reach.
Like a bad suitor desperate and trembling
From the mixed sense of being not loved and loving,
Who with feared longing half would know, dissembling
With what he'd wish proved what he fears soon proving,
I look with inner eyes afraid to look,
Yet perplexed into looking, at the worth
This verse may have and wonder, of my book,
To what thoughts shall't in alien hearts give birth.
But, as he who doth love, and, loving, hopes,
Yet, hoping, fears, fears to put proof to proof,
And in his mind for possible proofs gropes,
Delaying the true proof, lest the real thing scoff,
I daily live, i'th' fame I dream to see,
But by my thought of others' thought of me.
We never joy enjoy to that full point
Regret doth wish joy had enjoyèd been,
Nor have the strength regret to disappoint
Recalling not past joy's thought, but its mien.
Yet joy was joy when it enjoyèd was
And after-enjoyed when as joy recalled,
It must have been joy ere its joy did pass
And, recalled, joy still, since its being-past galled.
Alas! All this is useless, for joy's in
Enjoying, not in thinking of enjoying.
Its mere thought-mirroring gainst itself doth sin,
By mere reflecting solid life destroying,
Yet the more thought we take to thought to prove
It must not think, doth further from joy move.
My love, and not I, is the egoist.
My love for thee loves itself more than thee;
Ay, more than me, in whom it doth exist,
And makes me live that it may feed on me.
In the country of bridges the bridge is
More real than the shores it doth unsever;
So in our world, all of Relation, this
Is true--that truer is Love than either lover.
This thought therefore comes lightly to Doubt's door--
If we, seeing substance of this world, are not
Mere Intervals, God's Absence and no more,
Hollows in real Consciousness and Thought.
And if 'tis possible to Thought to bear this fruit,
Why should it not be possible to Truth?
When in the widening circle of rebirth
To a new flesh my travelled soul shall come,
And try again the unremembered earth
With the old sadness for the immortal home,
Shall I revisit these same differing fields
And cull the old new flowers with the same sense,
That some small breath of foiled remembrance yields,
Of more age than my days in this pretence?
Shall I again regret strange faces lost
Of which the present memory is forgot
And but in unseen bulks of vagueness tossed
Out of the closed sea and black night of Thought?
Were thy face one, what sweetness will't not be,
Though by blind feeling, to remember thee!
Thought was born blind, but Thought knows what is seeing.
Its careful touch, deciphering forms from shapes,
Still suggests form as aught whose proper being
Mere finding touch with erring darkness drapes.
Yet whence, except from guessed sight, does touch teach
That touch is but a close and empty sense?
How does mere touch, self-uncontented, reach
For some truer sense's whole intelligence?
The thing once touched, if touch be now omitted,
Stands yet in memory real and outward known,
So the untouching memory of touch is fitted
With sense of a sense whereby far things are shown
So, by touch of untouching, wrongly aright,
Touch' thought of seeing sees not things but Sight.
My soul is a stiff pageant, man by man,
Of some Egyptian art than Egypt older,
Found in some tomb whose rite no guess can scan,
Where all things else to coloured dust did moulder.
Whate'er its sense may mean, its age is twin
To that of priesthoods whose feet stood near God,
When knowledge was so great that 'twas a sin
And man's mere soul too man for its abode.
But when I ask what means that pageant I
And would look at it suddenly, I lose
The sense I had of seeing it, nor can try
Again to look, nor hath my memory a use
That seems recalling, save that it recalls
An emptiness of having seen those walls.
Even as upon a low and cloud-domed day,
When clouds are one cloud till the horizon,
Our thinking senses deem the sun away
And say «'tis sunless» and «there is no sun»;
And yet the very day they wrong truth by
Is of the unseen sun's effluent essence,
The very words do give themselves the lie,
The very thought of absence comes from presence:
Even so deem we through Good of what is evil.
He speaks of light that speaks of absent light,
And absent god, becoming present devil,
Is still the absent god by essence' right.
The withdrawn cause by being withdrawn doth get
(Being thereby cause still) the denied effect.
I do not know what truth the false untruth
Of this sad sense of the seen world may own,
Or if this flowered plant bears also a fruit
Unto the true reality unknown.
But as the rainbow, neither earth's nor sky's,
Stands in the dripping freshness of lulled rain,
A hope, not real yet not fancy's, lies
Athwart the moment of our ceasing pain.
Somehow, since pain is felt yet felt as ill,
Hope hath a better warrant than being hoped;
Since pain is felt as aught we should not feel
Man hath a Nature's reason for having groped,
Since Time was Time and age and grief his measures,
Towards a better shelter than Time's pleasures.
I am older than Nature and her Time
By all the timeless age of Consciousness,
And my adult oblivion of the clime
Where I was born makes me not countryless.
Ay, and dim through my daylight thoughts escape
Yearnings for that land where my childhood dreamed,
Which I cannot recall in colour or shape
But haunts my hours like something that hath gleamed
And yet is not as light remembered,
Nor to the left or to the right conceived;
And all round me tastes as if life were dead
And the world made but to be disbelieved.
Thus I my hope on unknown truth lay; yet
How but by hope do I the unknown truth get?
When I have sense of what to sense appears,
Sense is sense ere 'tis mine or mine in me is.
When I hear, Hearing, ere I do hear, hears.
When I see, before me abstract Seeing sees.
I am part Soul part I in all I touch--
Soul by that part I hold in common with all,
And I the spoiled part, that doth make sense such
As I can err by it and my sense mine call.
The rest is wondering what these thoughts may mean,
That come to explain and suddenly are gone,
Like messengers that mock the message' mien,
Explaining all but the explanation;
As if we a ciphered letter's cipher hit
And find it in an unknown language writ.
He that goes back does, since he goes, advance,
Though he doth not advance who goeth back,
And he that seeks, though he on nothing chance,
May still by words be said to find a lack.
This paradox of having, that is nought
In the world's meaning of the things it screens,
Is yet true of the substance of pure thought
And there means something by the nought it means.
For thinking nought does on nought being confer,
As giving not is acting not to give,
And, to the same unbribed true thought, to err
Is to find truth, though by its negative.
So why call this world false, if false to be
Be to be aught, and being aught Being to be?
Happy the maimed, the halt, the mad, the blind--
All who, stamped separate by curtailing birth,
Owe no duty's allegiance to mankind
Nor stand a valuing in their scheme of worth!
But I, whom Fate, not Nature, did curtail,
By no exterior voidness being exempt,
Must bear accusing glances where I fail,
Fixed in the general orbit of contempt.
Fate, less than Nature in being kind to lacking,
Giving the ill, shows not as outer cause,
Making our mock-free will the mirror's backing
Which Fate's own acts as if in itself shows;
And men, like children, seeing the image there,
Take place for cause and make our will Fate bear.
Good. I have done. My heart weighs. I am sad.
The outer day, void statue of lit blue,
Is altogether outward, other, glad
At mere being not-I (so my aches construe).
I, that have failed in everything, bewail
Nothing this hour but that I have bewailed,
For in the general fate what is't to fail?
Why, fate being past for Fate, 'tis but to have failed.
Whatever hap-or stop, what matters it,
Sith to the mattering our will bringeth nought?
With the higher trifling let us world our wit,
Conscious that, if we do't, that was the lot
The regular stars bound us to, when they stood
Godfathers to our birth and to our blood.