“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”
Pessoa as Ricardo reis :
Crown Me with Roses Crown me with roses, Crown me really With roses Roses which burn out On a forehead burning So soon out! Crown me with roses And with fleeting leafage. That will do. (I2.6.14)
The Roses of the Gardens of Adonis The roses of the gardens of Adonis Are what I love, Lydia, those flitting roses That in the day when they are born, Within that day, die. The light's for them eternal, because they Are born with the sun born already, and sink Before Apollo may yet leave The visible course he has. Like them, let us make of our lives one day, Voluntarily, Lydia, unknowing That there is night before and after The little that we last. (II.7.I4)
Pessoa as Àlvaro de Campos :
I Have a Terrible Cold I have a terrible cold, And everyone knows how terrible colds Alter the whole system of the universe, Set us against life, And make even metaphysics sneeze. I have wasted the whole day blowing my nose. My head is aching vaguely. Sad condition for a minor poet! Today I am really and truly a minor poet. What I was in the old days was a wish; it's gone Goodbye for ever, queen of the fairies! Your wings were made of sun, and I am walking here. I shan't get well unless I go and lie down on my bed. I never was well except lying down on the Universe. Excusez un Peu… What a terrible cold! ... it's physical! I need truth and the aspirin. (14.3.31)
Pessoa as Pessoa :
Dom Sebastião, King of Portugal Mad, yes, mad, because I would have greatness Such as Fate gives to none. No tamping down in me my sureness; Therefore, where the sand dwells, the worn Part of me stopped, not the enduring one. This my madness, accept it, those who can, Dare whatever it needs. What, without madness, is a man More than a beast after feeding, A corpse adjourned, the half-alive breeding?
All poems come from the book I have more souls than one, Fernando Pessoa, Translated by Jonathan Griffin, Penguin Modern Classics, 2000.
Who is Fernando Pessoa?
Fernando António Nogueira Pêssoa (13 June 1888 – 30 November 1935) was was born in Lisbon, Portugal. He was a 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.
His father died when Pessoa was five years old, and the family moved with his mother’s new husband, a consul, to Durban, South Africa, where Pessoa attended an English school. At thirteen Pessoa returned to Portugal for a year-long visit, and returned there permanently in 1905. He studied briefly at the University of Lisbon, and began to publish criticism, prose, and poetry soon thereafter while working as a commercial translator. (Source)
Pessoa was a prolific writer, and not only under his own name, for he created approximately seventy-five other literary personas, some of which he would return to throughout his career: Alberto Caeiro, a rural, uneducated poet of great ideas who wrote in free verse; Ricardo Reis, a physician who composed formal odes influenced by Horace; and Álvaro de Campos, an adventurous London-based naval engineer influenced by poet Walt Whitman and the Italian Futurists. He did not call them pseudonyms because he felt that this did not capture their true independent intellectual life and called them instead heteronyms.
“Pessoa published under his own name as well, but considered that work the product of an “orthonym,” another literary persona. While other notable writers of his generation used literary personas, such as Pound’s Mauberley and Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge, Pessoa alone gave his heteronyms a full life separate from his own, assigning and adopting in turn each persona’s psychology, aesthetics, and politics. Pessoa’s insistence on identity as a flexible, dynamic construction, and his consequent rejection of traditional notions of authorship and individuality, anticipated the concerns of the post-Modernist movement.
Later in life, Pessoa created the “semi-heteronym” Bernardo Soares, whose expansive, unbound fictional journal written over a period of 20 years (and assembled with little guidance after Pessoa’s death) became The Book of Disquietude, as well as philosopher and sociologist António Mora, essayist Baron of Teive, critic and Caeiro scholar Thomas Crosse and his brother/collaborator I.I. Crosse, poet Coelho Pacheco, astrologer Raphael Baldaya, and many others, for a total of at least 72 heteronyms.
Pessoa died in Lisbon in 1935 of cirrhosis of the liver, and only after his death did his work gain widespread publication and acclaim. In The Western Canon, critic Harold Bloom included Pessoa as one of just 26 writers responsible for establishing the parameters of western literature.” (source)
“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.”
― Fernando Pessoa