A Centenary Pessoa
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A Centenary Pessoa

Fernando Pessoa

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  2. English
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eBook - ePub

A Centenary Pessoa

Fernando Pessoa

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About This Book

Author of paradoxes as clear as water and, as water, dizzying: '... mysterious man who does not cultivate mystery, mysterious as the mid-day moon, taciturn phantom of the Portuguese mid-day - who is Pessoa?' asks Octavio Paz. This collection of the work of Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) answers that question. It is an essential introduction to the work of one of the most original European poets of the twentieth century. It includes translations of a broad selection of his poems and his extraordinary prose, and some of his original English writings. A major introductory essay by Octavio Paz, a critical anthology, two posthumous 'interviews' and illustrations from the Pessoa archive are also included, to reveal the world of Pessoa in all its richness.

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Fyfield Books


Selected and translated by KEITH BOSLEY




Ulissabon, latter-day Ithaca
to one whose name means Person, many-sided
poet for whom a humdrum job provided,
stepson of Adamastor’s Africa.
At seventeen, home from English and Natal,
he stayed and after thirty years said ‘I
do not evolve, I travel’, soon to die,
his roots in Portuguese, not Portugal.
The child was father to companions who
became pessoas, masks for speaking through –
the seer glad not to know the names of things,
the bard of roses and mortality,
the noisy engineer: beside them, he
who wonders who he is and quietly sings.
Drawing by David Levine


The Castles
Dom Sebastian, King of Portugal
Sea of Portugal
Slanting Rain
from Way of the Cross
The sudden hand of some mysterious ghost
Light, short, sweet
Poor old music!
Blank sun of useless days
Sleep upon my breast
Far off, in moonlight
Poor reaper, she is singing, singing
His Mother’s Little Boy
A Little Music
After the Fair
The stars give me a pain
I look at the dumb lake
She surprises just by being
The Final Incantation
Cat playing in the street
No: don’t say a thing!
Death is a bend in the road
Between sleep and dream
In this world where we forget
For a moment
At the Tomb of Christian Rosencreutz
To the blind and the deaf
The moon (the English say)


Drawing by José de Almada Negreiros

The Castles

Resting upon its elbows Europe lies:
Stretching from East to West it lies at gaze,
Romantic locks hang down across its eyes,
Greek, full of memories.
The elbow on the left is tucked away;
The right stands at an angle in its place.
That one, where it comes down, marks Italy;
This one marks England where it distantly
Ends in the hand, upholder of the face.
Its eyes, as fateful as the sphinx’s, fall
Westward, towards the past that is to be.
The face with gazing eyes is Portugal.

Dom Sebastian, King of Portugal1
Mad, yes, mad, for I wanted to be great,
My assurance uncontained
Within me, my design undreamed by Fate;
Hence of me on the sand
What used to be, but not what is, remained.
My madness let the others take from me
And with it all the rest;
For without madness what can mankind be
More than a healthy beast,
A corpse that breeds before its juices waste?
1 Dom Sebastian: Sebastião (1554-78), whose death in the battle of Alcácer-Quibir (Al-Qasr al-kabir), Morocco, led to the end of Portugal’s Golden Age with annexation by Spain in 1580. Rumours of his survival generated the messianic cult of Sebastianismo, which persists to this day in some educated circles.

Sea of Portugal

O bitter sea, how much of all your gall
Is b...

Table of contents