Once in Lisbon

I Know, I Alone

By Fernando Pessoa (*)
(translated by J.Griffin)

I know, I alone
How much it hurts, this heart
With no faith nor law
Nor melody nor thought.

Only I, only I
And none of this can I say
Because feeling is like the sky -
Seen, nothing in it to see.
Poem's source: [link]
(*) Fernando Pessoa (1888 - 1935) is the most celebrated Portuguese poet, who had a major role in the development of modernism in his country. Pessoa was a member of the Modernist group Orpheu; he was its greatest representative. He wrote under several "heteronyms", literary alter egos, who supported and criticized each other's works. During his lifetime Pessoa was virtually unknown and he published little of his vast body of work. He lived most of his life in a furnished room in Lisboa, and died in obscurity there.

Fernando Pessoa was born in Lisbon. His father died when Fernando was young. His mother married the Portuguese consul in Durban in South Africa, where he lived from 1896 to 195l. During these years Pessoa became fluent in English and developed an early love for such authors as William Shakespeare and John Milton. He also used English in his first collections of poems. Pessoa was educated in Cape Town and in Lisbon. Soon after 1905 he gave up his studies, and got a job as a business correspondent.

Pessoa earned a modest living as a commercial translator, and wrote to avant-garde reviews, especially to Orpheu, which was a forum for new aesthetic views. His praising articles of the saudosismo (nostalgia) movement provoked polemics because of their extravagant terms. Pessoa's first book, ANTINOUS, appeared in 1918, and was followed by two other collections of poems, all written in English. It was not until 1933 that he published his first book, MENSAGEM, in Portuguese. However, it did not attract attention.

The bulk of Pessoa's work was published in literary magazines, especially in his own Athena. Under his own name Pessoa wrote poems that are marked by their innovations of language, although he used traditional stanza and metrical patterns. The poetical technique for which Pessoa has become especially noted is the use of heteronyms, or alternative literary personae, resembling the verse personae of Ezra Pound. Ricardo Reis is an epicurean doctor with a classical education, Álvaro Campos, an engineer, represents the ecstasy of experience in the spirit of Walt Whitman, and Alberto Caeiro, a shepard, is against all sentimentality. Each persona has a distinct philosophy of life. Pessoa even wrote literary discussions among them.

In 'Toward Explaining Heteronomity' Pessoa criticized distinction of three generic types or classes of poetry - epic or narrative, in which the narrator speaks in the first person, drama, in which the characters do all the talking, and lyric, uttered through the first person. "Like all well conceived classifications, this one is useful and clear; like all classifications, it is false. The genres do not separate out with essential facility, and, if we closely analyse what they are made of, we shall find that from lyric poetry to dramatic there is one continuous gradation. In effect, and going right to the origins of dramatic poetry - Aeschylus, for instance - it will be nearer the truth to say that what we encounter is lyric poetry put into the mouths of different characters."

Pessoa died on November 30th, 1935 in Lisbon. He had avoided social life and the literary world, but his poetry started to gain wider audience in the 1940s. Several of his collections have been published posthumously and translated into Spanish, French, English, German, Swedish, Finnish, and other languages. Among the most important works are POESIAS DE FERNANDO PESSOA (1942), POESIAS DE ÁLVARO DE CAMPOS (1944), POEMAS DE ALBERTO CAEIRO (1946), and ODES DE RICARDO REIS (1946).

Known above all as a poet, Pessoa also wrote short essays, several of which were briefly sketched or unfinished. His LIVRO DO DESSOSSOGEGO (The Book of Disquiet), the "factless autobiography", written under the name Bernardo Soares, appeared for the first time in 1982, almost 50 years after the author's death. The Book of Disquiet is a collection of prose manuscripts, written in the style of an intimate diary. Its protagonist is troubled by alienation and the absence of meaning: "And I, truly, I am the centre that doesn't exist except as a convention in the geometry of the abyss; I am the nothingness around which this movement spins..."

© 2008 - Ben Heine
Last Trams

By Kenneth Slessor

THAT street washed with violet
Writes like a tablet
Of living here; that pavement
Is the metal embodiment
Of living here; those terraces
Filled with dumb presences
Lobbed over mattresses,
Lusts and repentances,
Ardours and solaces,
Passions and hatreds
And love in brass bedsteads
Lost now in emptiness
Deep now in darkness
Nothing but nakedness,
Rails like a ribbon
And sickness of carbon
Dying in distances.

THEN, from the skeletons of trams,
Gazing at lighted rooms, you'll find
The black and Röntgen diagrams
Of window-plants across the blind
That print their knuckleduster sticks,
Their buds of gum, against the light
Like negatives of candlesticks
Whose wicks are lit by fluorite;
And shapes look out, or bodies pass,
Between the darkness and the flare,
Between the curtain and the glass,
Of men and women moving there.
So through the moment's needle-eye,
Like phantoms in the window-chink,
Their faces brush you as they fly,
Fixed in the shutters of a blink;

Poem's source : [link]

(I took the 2 pictures in Lisbon, Portugal)