Fernando Pessoa: Álvaro de Campos
Shorter Poems and Fragments

              translations dedicated to my friend, Kent Johnson
              and to the wonderful teacher of all things Pessoan, Amélia Pinto Pais

Newton’s binomial is as beautiful as the Venus de Milo.
The trouble is, nobody cares about it.

(Álvaro de Campos)

óóóó — óóóóóóóóó — óóóóóóóóóóóóóóó

(The wind outside)

[undated couplet by Campos followed by Pessoa’s comment]

The melodious system of the Universe,
The great pagan festival of sun and moon,
The titanic dance of the seasons;
The placid rhythmic ecliptics
Ordering everything to silence
And heeding only the bright exterior universe.


To Fernando Pessoa
After Reading His Static Drama
“The Sailor” in Orpheu I

A dozen minutes
Into your play, “The Sailor” —
Where the most agile and astute
Feel like sluggish brutes —
Of meaning, not even a whiff —
One of the fine old stiffs
Says with magic langour:

       Of eternity and beauty there remains only the dream. Why are we still talking?

Now that’s just what I
Was about to ask those ladies...


My imagination is an Arch of Triumph. All Life goes by beneath it.
Today’s commercial life, cars, trucks go by.
Traditional life in outfits of certain regiments,
Every social class, every form of life,
And at the moment they go under the Arch of Triumph
Something triumphal falls upon them,
And for a moment they’re small and great.
For a moment they’re the triumph I make of them.

My Imagination’s Arch of triumph
Sits with one side settled in God and the other
In the quotidian, the paltry (as it’s called),
In hourly toil, every moment’s sensation,
Swift intentions dying before action.

Me-myself, apart from and outside of my imagination,
And part of it all the same,
I’m the triumphal figure looking down from the top of the arch,
Issuing from the arch, belonging to it.
On high, suspended, staring down at whatever goes under,
Monstrous, beautiful me.

But in my finest hours, when rectilinear
Sensation, becoming circular, whirls
Vertiginously in on itself,
The Arch disappears, sinking into the passersby,
I feel that I am the Arch, and the space it occupies,
And all the people passing through,
All the pasts of the people passing through,
All the futures of the people passing through,
All the people that will come to pass through,
And all the people that have already passed through.
I feel this, and each time I do, I’m more and more
The sculpted figure issuing from the top of the Arch,
Staring down on
The Universe going by.
But I myself am the Universe,
I myself am subject and object,
I myself am Arch and Street,
I myself hold back and let go, restrain and liberate,
Stare down from on high, and down below stare at me staring,
I go under, remaining above, I fall from the sides,
Totalize and transcend,
I realize God in the triumphal architecture
Of an arch of triumph settled in the universe,
Of an arch of triumph raised upon
All sensation of all who feel,
All sensation of all sensation...

Poetry of impetus and whirling,
Of vertigo and explosion,
Dynamic poetry, sensationist, hissing
Through my imagination in torrents of fire,
In vast flaming rivers, in great volcanoes of splendour.


Everybody’s interesting if you know how to see everybody.
What a masterpiece for a possible painter in every face that exists!
What expressions on everyone, on everything!
What marvelous profiles all profiles are!
Seen from the front, what a face, every human face!
Each human gesture, what a human gesture!


Foursquare Poem

I’ve never known anybody who’s had the crap beaten out of them.
All my aquaintances have been champions in everything.

I, so often shabby, so often swinish, so often vile,
I, so often, unforgivably, a parasite.
Inexcusably filthy I,
Who so often haven’t had the patience to shower,
I, who so often have been ridiculous, absurd,
Who have publicly wiped my feet on etiquette’s tapestry,
Who have been grotesque, paltry, servile, and arrogant,
Who have silently suffered besmirching
And when I haven’t been silent, have been even more ridiculous;
I, who have been a clown for chambermaids,
I, who have felt the winks of stevedores,
I, who have been fiscally embarassed, who have borrowed and forfeited,
I, who when the time for blows arises,
Have recoiled in advance of the possibility of blows;
I who have suffered the anguish of ridiculous little things,
I declare that in all the world I am without par.

Every one I know who speaks to me
Never did a ridiculous thing, never suffered besmirching,
Was never anything but a prince — all of them princes — in life...

If only I could hear another human voice
Confess not sin, but disgrace;
Confess not violence, but cowardice!
No, they’re all The Ideal, to hear them tell it.
Who in this great world will confess to me that even once they were vile?
O princes, my brothers,

God damn it, I’m fed up with semi-gods!
Where are there people in the world?

Am I the only vile and errant one on earth?

Women may not have loved them,
They may have been betrayed — but ridiculous, never!
And I, who have been ridiculous without being betrayed,
How can I speak to my superiors without reeling?
I who have been vile, literally vile,
Vile in the most paltry and infamous meaning of the word.


I’m gonna throw a bomb into destiny.


Ah, to have the strength to truly desert!


Lisbon Revisited (1923)

No: I want nothing.
I’ve already said I want nothing.

Don’t come to me with conclusions!
The only conclusion is death.

Don’t bring me aesthetics!
Don’t speak to me of morals!

Get out of here with metaphysics!
Don’t trumpet complete systems, don’t line up conquests
Of science (science, my God, science!) —
Of the sciences, the arts, of modern civilization!

What harm did I ever do all the gods?

If they have the truth, let them keep it!

I’m a technician, but I have technique only in technique.
Beyond that I’m crazy, with every right to be so.
With every right to be so, do you hear?

Don’t bother me, for the love of God!

Did they want me married, futile, quotidian and taxable?
Did they want me the opposite of that, the opposite of anything?
If I were another person, I would’ve done what they wanted.
The way I am, give me a break!
Go to hell without me,
Or let me go alone!
Why do we have to go together?

Don’t take me by the arm!
I don’t like being taken by the arm. I want to be alone.
I just told you: I’m alone!
Ah, what a nuisance, them wanting to keep me company!

The blue sky — the same as in my childhood —
Eternal truth, empty and perfect!
O River Tejo, glassy, ancestral, mute,
Small truth where the sky reflects itself!
O sorrows revisited, Lisbon past and present!
You give nothing, you take nothing, you’re nothing I feel.

Leave me in peace! I’m not dallying, I never dally...
And as long as the Abyss and Silence dally, I want to be alone!

(probably 1923)

The concentrated tumult of my intellectual imagination...

Making children with practical reason, like an energetic believer...

My eternal youth
Caused by living on the side of feelings, not responsibilities...

        (Álvaro de Campos, born in Algarve, educated by a grand-uncle, a priest who instilled in him
        a certain love of classical things.) (He came to Lisbon quite young...)

The capacity for thinking what I feel distinguishes me from the vulgar man
More than he distinguishes himself from a monkey.
(Yes, tomorrow the vulgar man may read me and comprehend the substance of my being,
Yes, I admit it,
But today the monkey already reads the vulgar man, already comprehends the substance of his being.)

If something was, why isn’t it anymore?
Isn’t being being?

The wildflowers of my childhood, won’t I hold them eternally,
In another way of being?
Will I lose forever the passions I had, even the passions I thought I had?
Is there anyone who has the key to the door of being, which has no door,
And can open to me, with reason, the knowledge of the world?


What there being being is, what there being beings is, what there being things is,
What there being life in plants and people is,
And the things people build —
Marvelous joy of things and beings —
Before this ignorance we’re in, of how such a thing could’ve come to be.


Ah, before this unique reality, that mystery is,
Before this single, terrible reality — of there being a reality,
Before this horrible being that there being being is,
Before this abyss of an abyss existing,
This abyss of everything’s existence being an abyss,
Being an abyss by simply being,
By being able to be,
By there being being!
— Before all this like everything men make,
Everything men say,
Everything they build, unbuild, or that builds or unbuilds itself through them,
It shrinks!
No, it doesn’t shrink, it turns into something else —
Into one tremendous, black, impossible thing,
A thing beyond the gods, God, Destiny —
The thing that makes there be gods and God and Destiny,
The thing that makes there be being so beings can be,
The thing that subsists through all forms
Of all lives, abstract or concrete,
Eternal or contingent,
True or false!
The thing that, when it encompasses everything, still remains outside,
Because when everything’s encompassed, what isn’t encompassed is why there’s an everything.
Why there’s anything, why there’s anything, why there’s anything!
My intellect becomes a heart full of dread,
And it’s with my ideas I tremble, with my selfconsciousness,
With the essential substance of my abstract being,
So incomprehensible it suffocates me,
So ultra-transcendent it crushes me,
And from this dread, from this anguish, from this danger of ultra-being,
You can’t escape, you can’t escape, you can’t escape!

Prisonhouse of being, is there no freedom from you?
Prisonhouse of thinking, is there no freedom from you?
Ah, no, none at all — not death, not life, not even God!
We, twin brothers of Destiny in us both existing,
We, twin brothers of every God of every kind,
In us being the same abyss, in us being the same shadow,
Whether we’re shadow, or whether we’re light, always the same night.

Ah, if I face life and uncertain hazard with confidence,
Smiling, unthinking, the humdrum possibility of every evil,
Unconsciously, the mystery of all things and all actions,
Why can’t I — smilingly, unthinkingly — face Death?
Do I not know? But what do I not know?
The pen I cling to, these letters I’m writing, the paper I’m writing on,
Are they mysteries lesser than Death? How, if everything’s the same mystery?
And I write, I’m writing out of a nothingless necessity?

Ah, let me face Death like an animal that doesn’t even know it exists!
Let me have the deep unconsciousness of every natural thing,
Since, however much consciousness I might have, everything’s unconsciousness
Except everything having been created, and everything having been created is still unconsciousness
Because you have to exist to create everything,
And to exist is to be unconscious, because existing is it being possible for there to be being,
And it being possible for there to be being is bigger than all the Gods.


He crossed to me, he came to meet me, on a street in the Baixa,
That shabby man, a beggar by profession, you could see it in his face.
He felt drawn to me and I to him;
And in a generous, reciprocal gesture, overflowing, I gave him everything I had
(Except, naturally, what was in the pocket where I keep more money:
I’m neither a fool nor a Russian novelist, not conscientiously, anyway,
And romanticism is fine, but you’ve got to take it slowly...)

I ‘m a soft touch for those people,
Especially when they don’t deserve it.
Yes, I’m also a lazy beggar,
And, just like them, it’s all my own fault.
Being a lazy beggar isn’t just being a lazy beggar:
It’s being to one side of the social scale,
Unadaptable to mores,
Whether real or sentimental —
It’s not to be a Supreme Justice, a trusted employee, or a prostitute,
Not to be really impoverished, an exploited worker,
Or ill with an incurable disease,
Not thirsting for justice, not a cavalry captain,
Not to be, in short, those socially conscious people the novelists
Fill with fine words because they have reason to cry tears,
And rebel against society because they figure they’ve got the right to.

No: anything but having a reason!
Anything but caring about humanity!
Anything but succumbing to humanitarian feelings!
What’s the use of a feeling if there’s a reason for it outside you?

Yes, my way of being a lazy beggar
Isn’t like the way other people are lazy beggars.
To be isolated in one’s soul — that’s what being lazy is.
Having to beg the days to pass, and leave us behind — now that’s a beggar.

Everything else is as stupid as Dostoyevsky or Gorky.
Everything else is being hungry or not having decent clothes to wear.
And even though that does happen, it happens to so many people
It’s not worth the trouble to trouble yourself about the people it happens to.
I’m lazy as hell, I’m a beggar, alright, well, figuratively, of course,
And I’m wallowing in a grand self-charity.
Poor Álvaro de Campos!
So isolated in life! So heavy in feeling!
Poor guy, sewn into the armchair of his melancholy!
Poor guy, who with tears (authentic) in his eyes,
Today, in a gesture large, liberal and muscovite,
Gave everything he had in the pocket where he keeps less to that
Poor man who wasn’t poor, who had professionally sad eyes.

Poor Álvaro de Campos! Nobody cares!
Poor guy, so full of self-pity!

Pity the guy!
Pity him more than all the bums on the bum,
All the beggars begging,
Because the human soul is an abyss.

I’m the one to know it. Poor guy!

It would be so good if I could just protest at a rally in my soul!
But I’m not even a fool!
I can’t even defend myself with political opinion.
I don’t have any excuse at all, really: I’m lucid.
Don’t try to change my convictions: I’m lucid.
I’ve just said it: I’m lucid.
Don’t give me your sappy aesthetics: I’m lucid.
Shit! I’m lucid.


Laden ships heave to in melancholy shadow
Arches of bridges like great empty eyes
Enormous medieval siege towers at the castle’s high walls
(Steel helmets and cuirasses shining like scales)
Ladders thrown down in smoking ruins [...]
Grenades suddenly bloom in the air like great violent yellow flowers

(Grass grows back where your horse set its hoof, Attila
Everything is reborn and nature’s life covers
What’s left of your conquests)
Iron antennae — piked helmets — of Bismark.


Oh, Margarida,
If I gave you my life
What would you do with it?
— Get my earrings out of hock,
Marry me a blind man,
And move with him to Estrela.

But, Margarida,
If I gave you my life
What would your mother say?
(She knows me so well.)
— That there are plenty of fools in the world,
And you were just one more.

And, Margarida,
If I gave you my life
In the sense of dying?
— I’d go to your funeral,
But I’d think it was wrong
To love without living.

But, Margarida,
If this giving-you-my-life
Was only poetry?
— In that case, pal, no deal.
You’d be wasting your time.
We don’t believe in that here.

    — communicated by the Naval Engineer Mr. Álvaro de Campos while in an alcoholic stupor.


I lost hope like an empty wallet...
Destiny fleered; I gave the other side the finger,
And my revolt could have been embroidered by my grandmother at Mass
And become an heirloom in the drawing room in that old house I don’t have.
(We ate early, in another time that already seems another incarnation,
And took our tea on those quiet nights that don’t return.
My childhood, even my adolescence, is gone,
I’ve stayed sad, as if the truth had been told me,
But no truth at all was told me while I was feeling the past)


Tobacco Shop

I’m nothing.
I’ll never be anything.
I can’t wish to be anything.
Even so, I have in me all the dreams of the world.

Windows of my room,
Of my room, one of the millions in the world no one knows who owns
(And if they knew, what would they know?),
You open onto the mystery of a street crossed constantly by people,
Onto a street inaccessible to all thought,
Real, impossibly real, certain, unknowably certain,
With the mystery of things beneath stones and beings,
With death putting moisture on walls and gray hairs on men,
With Destiny driving the cart of everything down the road of nothing.

Today I’m vanquished, as if I knew the truth.
Today I’m lucid, as if I were about to die,
And had no more brotherhood with things
Than in a farewell turning that house and that side of the street
Into a row of coaches, a conductor’s whistle
From inside my head,
And a jolting of my nerves and a creaking of bones in departure.

Today I’m perplexed, like someone who’s thought and discovered and lost.
Today I’m divided between the loyalty I owe
The Tobacco Shop across the street, as a real thing outside,
And the feeling that everything’s a dream, as a real thing inside.

I’ve failed in everything.
Since I’ve proposed nothing, maybe everything was nothing.
The learning they gave me,
I used it to sneak out the back window.
I went to the country with grand intentions,
But all I found there were grass and trees,
And when there were people, they were the same as the others.
I leave the window, sit in a chair. What should I think?

How do I know what I’ll be, when I don’t even know what I am?
Should I be what I think? But I think about being so many things!
And there are so many thinking they’re the same thing — they can’t all be!

Genius? At this moment
A hundred thousand minds like mine dream themselves geniuses like me,
And history won’t remember, who knows?, not even one,
Nor will there be anything but the dungheap of future conquests.
No, I don’t believe in myself.
In every asylum there are so many nut-cases with so many certainties!
I, who have no certainties, am I more right or less right?

No, not even in myself...
In how many of the world’s garretts and non-garretts
Are there dreaming at this hour how many geniuses-unto-themselves?
So many high and noble and lucid aspirations —
Yes, truly high and noble and lucid —
Who knows if they’re plausible —
Will they ever find the light of day, the ears of people?
The world is for those who were born to conquer,
Not for those who dream they can conquer it, even if they’re right.
I’ve dreamed more than Napoleon accomplished.
I’ve clasped to my hypothetical breast more humanity than Christ ever did.
I’ve made more philosophies in secret than Kant ever wrote.
But I am, and may always be, the one in the garrett,
Even if I don’t live in one;
I’ll always be he wasn’t born for this;
I’ll always only be he had such qualities;
I’ll always be the one waiting for someone to open the door at the foot of a doorless wall,
Who sang a ditty of the Infinite in an overgrown field,
Who heard the voice of God in a closed-up well.
Do I believe in myself? No, nor in anything else.
Let Nature pour over my ardent head,
Its sun, its rain, the wind that finds my hair
And let the rest come if it comes, or is to come, or doesn’t come.
Cardiac slaves of the stars,
We conquer everything before we get out of bed;
But we wake up and it’s opaque,
We get up and it’s alien,
We go out and it’s the entire world,
And then the solar system and then The Milky Way and then the Indefinite.

(Eat chocolates, little girl:
Eat chocolates!
See, there are no other metaphysics in the world beside chocolates.
See, all religions teach no more than a candystore.
Eat, dirty girl, eat!
If only I could eat chocolates as truthfully as you do!
But I think and, tearing the silver paper, which is really only tin foil,
I drop everything on the ground, as I’ve dropped my life.)

But at least there remains from the sorrow of what I’ll never be,
The rapid calligraphy of these verses,
Portico leading into the Impossible.
At least I consecrate to myself a tearless contempt,
At least I’m noble in the grand gesture with which I toss
The dirty clothing I am, without a laundry-list, into the course of things,
And stay home without a shirt.
(You, who console, who don’t exist and so console,
Whether Greek goddess, conceived as a statue come to life,
Or Roman patrician, impossibly noble and malignant,
Princess of troubadours, most gentle and colorful,
Marquise of the eighteenth century, décolletée and distant,
Or celebrated coquette of our parent’s time,
Or something else modern — I don’t know quite what —
All of it, whatever it might be, be it, and let it inspire me if it can!
My heart is an overturned bucket.
As those who invoke spirits invoke spirits I invoke
Me to myself and encounter nothing.
I go to the window and see the street with absolute clarity.
I see the shops, I see the sidewalks, I see the cars pass by,
I see the clothed living entities who cross.
I see the dogs which also exist,
And all of it weighs upon me like a curse of banishment,
And all of it is foreign, as is everything.)

I lived, I studied, I loved, I even believed,
And today there’s no beggar I don’t envy solely because he’s not me.

I see his tatters and his sores and his lies,
And I think: maybe you’ve never lived, studied, loved, and believed
(Because it’s possible to make reality of all this without making anything of all this);
Maybe you’ve hardly existed, like a lizard with its tail cut off,
The tail squirming just short of the lizard.

I’ve made of myself what I haven’t known,
And what I could have made of myself I didn’t.
The masquerade I wore was wrong.
They believed the mask; I didn’t contradict them, and lost myself.
When I wanted to take off the mask,
It was stuck to my face.
When I finally got it off and looked in the mirror,
I’d already aged.
I was drunk, I didn’t know how to put on a mask I hadn’t even taken off.
I threw away the mask and slept in the cloakroom
Like a dog tolerated by the management
For not making trouble
And I’m going to write this story to prove I am sublime.

Musical essence of my useless verses,
If only I could encounter you as something I’d made,
And not remain always in front of the Tobacco Shop in front of me,
Crushing underfoot the awareness of existing and existing,
Like a rug a drunkard stumbles on,
Or a doormat the gypsies stole, even though it was worthless.
But the owner of the Tobacco Shop came to the door and stayed there.
I look at him with the discomfort of a misturned neck
And the discomfort of a misunderstanding soul.
He will die and I will die.
He’ll leave his sign behind, I’ll leave my verses.
At a certain point his sign will die, and my verses will die.
After that, the street where his sign was will die,
And the language in which I had written my verses.
Then the turning planet, where all of this took place, will die.
On other satellites in other systems something like people
Will continue making things like verses and living under things like signs,
Always one thing across from the other,
Always one thing just as useless as the other,
Always the impossible just as stupid as the real,
Always the mystery of the depths just as certain as the dream of the mystery of the surface,
Always this thing or that thing or neither one thing nor another.

But a man went into the Tobacco Shop (to buy tobacco?),
And plausible reality suddenly falls on top of me.
I start up energetic, convinced, human,
And plan to write these lines where I say the contrary.

I light a cigarette while thinking about writing them
And the cigarette tastes like liberation from all thought.
I follow the smoke like a path all its own,
And enjoy, in a moment both sensitive and competent,
The freeing of all my speculations
And the awareness that metaphysics is a consequence of being cranky.
Then I sit back in the chair
And continue smoking.
While Destiny grants it me, I’ll continue to smoke.

(Maybe I’d be happy
If I married my washerwoman’s daughter.)
This sinks in. I get out of the chair. I go to the window.

The man came out of the Tobacco Shop (stuffing change into his pants pocket?).
Hey, I know him: it’s Esteves, who is without metaphysics.
(The Owner of the Tobacco Shop came to the door.)
As if by divine instinct, Esteves turned and saw me.
He waved goodbye, I shouted So long, Esteves!, and the universe
Reconstructed itself to me with neither ideal nor hope, and the Owner of the Tobacco Shop smiled.


Written In A Book Abandoned In Travel

I’ve come from around Beja.
I’m going to the middle of Lisbon.
I’m bringing nothing and I’ll find nothing.
I have the anticipated weariness of what I won’t find,
And the melancholy I feel is neither in the past nor in the future.
I leave written in this book the emblem of my final design:
I was, like weeds, and they didn’t tear me out.



Making good use of time!
But what is time that I could make use of it?
Making good use of time!
No day without a line...
Honest and superior work...
Work like Vergil’s, like Milton’s...
But it’s so difficult to be honest and superior!
It’s so unlikely to become a Milton or a Vergil!

Making good use of time!
Break the soul into precise pieces — not too big, not too small —
Build well-jointed cubes
To make accurate engravings on history
(And they’re just as accurate underneath, where you can’t see)...
Turning sensations into cardcastles, poor ink spent at night,
Laying out thoughts in domino patterns, like against like,
And the will in a difficult carom...
Images of games, solitary pastimes —
Images of life, images of lives, Image Of Life...

Yes, verbalism!
Making good use of time!
That there be no minute unexamined by consciousness...
That there be no factitious or indefinite action...
That no movement disagree with intention...
The soul’s good manners...
Grace in persisting...

Making good use of time!
My heart’s as weary as an absolute beggar.
My brain’s all set to go like that package sitting in the corner...
My song (verbalism!) is what it is and it’s pretty sad.
Making good use of time!
It’s five minutes since I began to write.
Have I made good use of them or not?
If I don’t know if I’ve made good use of them, what’ll I know about other minutes?
(Passenger who rode so many times in the compartment
With me on the suburban train,
Did you work up an interest in me?
Did I make good use of time looking at you?
What was the rhythm of our stillness on the moving train?
What was the understanding we never reached?
What was the life in it? What was it in my life?)

Making good use of time!
Ah, let me make good use of nothing!
Not time, not being, not memories of time or being!
Let me be a leaf on a tree, tickled by a breeze,
The mindless autonomous dust on a road,
The random rivulet running at rain’s end,
Tracks on the road lasting till the next wheel comes,
A trudging drifter who stops in his tracks
And sways with the same movement as the earth’s
And shudders with the same movement as the soul’s
And falls, like the gods fall, on Destiny’s floor.



Street full of empty sunlight. Walled houses, people walking.
A fearful sadness chills me.
I foresee something happening behind the façades, in the movement.

No, no, not that!
Anything but knowing what the Mystery is!
Surface of the Universe, O Lowered Eyelids,
Don’t ever raise yourselves!
The sight of Ultimate Truth couldn’t be endured!

Let me live without knowing anything, and die without coming to know anything!
The reason for being, the reason for there being beings, for everything being,
Would bring on a madness greater than the spaces
Between souls, between stars.

No, no, not the truth! Leave me these houses and these people,
Just this, nothing else, houses and people...
What cold horrible breath touches my closed eyes?
I don’t want to open them from living! O Truth, forget about me!



The day after tomorrow, yes, only the day after tomorrow...
Tomorrow I’ll start thinking about the day after tomorrow,
Maybe I could do it then; but not today...
No, nothing today; today I can’t.
The confused persistence of my objective subjectivity,
The sleep of my real life, intercalated,
Anticipated, infinite weariness —
I’m worlds too weary to catch a trolley —
That kind of soul...
                            Only the day after tomorrow...
Today I want to prepare,
I want to prepare myself for tomorrow, when I’ll think about the next day...
That’d be decisive.
I’ve already got the plans sketched out, but no, today I’m not making plans...
Tomorrow’s the day for plans.
Tomorrow I’ll sit down at my desk to conquer the world;
But I’ll only conquer the world the day after tomorrow...
I feel like crying,
I suddenly feel like crying a lot, inside...
That’s all you’re getting today, it’s a secret, I’m not talking.
Only the day after tomorrow...
When I was a kid the Sunday circus diverted me every week.
Today all that diverts me is the Sunday circus from all the weeks of my childhood...
The day after tomorrow I’ll be someone else,
My life will triumph,
All my real qualities — intelligent, well-read, practical —
Will be gathered together in a public notice...
But the public notice’ll go up tomorrow...
Today I want to sleep, I’ll make a fair copy tomorrow...
For today, what show will repeat my childhood to me?
Even if I buy tickets tomorrow,
The show would still really be the day after tomorrow...
Not before...
The day after tomorrow I’ll have the public pose I will have practiced tomorrow.
The day after tomorrow I’ll finally be what I could never be today.
Only the day after tomorrow...
I’m sleepy as a stray dog’s chill.
I’m really sleepy.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you everything, or the day after tomorrow...
Yes, maybe only the day after tomorrow...

By and by...
Yes, by and by...


Master, my dear master!
Heart of my body — intellectual and all!
Life of the origin of my inspiration!
Master, what’s become of you in this form of life?

You didn’t care if you — or anyone else — lived or died,
Soul abstract and visual to the bone,
Marvelous attention to the ever-multiple exterior world,
Refuge from yearning for all the old gods,
Human spirit of the maternal earth,
Flower riding the flood of subjective intelligence...

Master, my master!
In sensationist anxiety of all the felt days,
In the humdrum heartbreak of the mathematics of being,
I, slave to everything, like some dust in every wind,
I lift my hands to you who are far, so far from me!

My master and my guide!
Whom nothing wounded, nothing hurt, nothing disturbed,
Sure as the sun involuntarily making its day,
Natural as the day showing everything forth,
Master, my heart never learned your serenity.
My heart never learned anything.
My heart is nothing.
My heart is lost.

Master, I would have been like you only if I had been you.
How sad the great day when I first saw you!
Since then, everything’s weariness in this subjectivized world,
Everything’s struggle in this world where things are desired,
Everything’s a lie in this world where things are thought,
Everything’s another in this world where everything’s felt.
Since then, I’ve been like a beggar left out in the dew
By the whole village’s indifference.
Since then, I’ve been like torn-out weeds,
Left sheaved in patternless patterns the wind ruins,
Since then, I’ve been me, yes, me, to my disgrace,
And, to my disgrace, I’m not me nor anyone else at all.
But then why did you teach me to see clearly,
If you couldn’t teach me how to have the soul to see that clarity of sight?
Why did you call me to the mountaintops,
If I, a child of lowland cities, didn’t know how to breathe?
Why did you give me your soul if I didn’t know what to do with it,
Like somebody loaded down with gold in the desert,
Or singing with a divine voice among ruins?
Why did you awaken me to sensation and the new soul,
If I’ll never know how to feel; if my soul’s the same as always?
It would’ve pleased the unknown God if I’d remained forever that
Decadent poet, stupidly pretentious,
Who one day might have been able at least to amuse,
If the dreadful science of seeing hadn’t arisen in him.
Why did you turn me into me?
If only you’d left me human!

Happy the apprentice man,
Who has his ordinary daily task, just as easy as it is hard,
Who has his ordinary life,
For whom pleasure is pleasure and fun is fun,
Who sleeps sleep,
Who eats food,
Who drinks drink, and so he’s happy.

The calm you had, you gave to me, and for me it was distress.
You freed me, but human destiny is to be a slave.
You woke me, but being human means being asleep.


Sometimes I meditate,
Sometimes I meditate, and I meditate more deeply, and even more deeply,
And the whole mystery of things seems like oil on the surface,
And the whole universe is an ocean of faces with their open eyes on me.
Each thing — a streetlight on the corner, a stone, a tree,
Stares at me from an incomprehensible abyss,
And every god marches through my head, and every idea about the gods.

Ah, there being things!
Ah, there being beings!
Ah, there being a way for there being beings to be,
For there being there being,
For there being there being as being,
For there being...
Ah, existing, the abstract phenomenon — existing,
There being consciousness and reality,
Whatever that means...
How can I express the horror all this causes in me?
How can I say what it’s like to feel like this?
What’s the soul of there being being?

Ah, the awful mystery of the tiniest thing’s existing is awful
Because it’s the awful mystery of there being anything at all...
Because it’s the awful mystery of there being...


At sunset, over Lisbon, in the tedium of passing days,
I stare on the tedium of the day that’s permanently passing,
I dwell in passive vigil
Like a lock locking nothing at all.
My passive heart impulsively
Washes up among destitute sphinxes
In consequences and ends, [waking up?] in the [beyond?]...


On The Last Page Of A New Anthology

So many good poets!
So many good poems!
They’re really good and all alike,
With so much concurrency not one stays with you,
Or they endure by chance, posterity’s lottery,
Gaining place by the Empresario’s whim...
So many good poets!
What am I writing poems for?
When I write them they seem to me
What my sensation, with which I write them, seems to me —
The only big thing in the world —
The universe outside swells with my largess.
Afterwards, written, right there, readable...
Well, now... And in this anthology of minor poets?
So many good poets!
What is genius, finally; how does one distinguish
Genius from dexterity, good poets from bad?
I have no idea if you can really distinguish...
It’s better to sleep...
I shut the anthology more weary of it than I am of the world...
Am I vulgar?...
So many good poets!
Holy God!...


At the wheel of a Chevrolet on the road to Sintra,
Through moonlight and dreams, on the deserted road,
I drive alone, drive almost slowly, and it almost
Seems to me, or I almost force myself to think it seems,
That I’m going down another road, another dream, another world,
That I’m going on without having left Lisbon, without Sintra to go to,
That I’m going on, and what is there to going on except not stopping, but going on?

I’ll spend the night in Sintra because I can’t spend it in Lisbon,
But, when I get to Sintra, I’ll be sorry I didn’t stay in Lisbon.
Always this groundless worry, no purpose, no consequence,
Always, always, always,
This excessive anguish for nothing at all,
On the road to Sintra, on the road to dreams, on the road to life...

Alert to my subconscious movements at the wheel,
Around me, with me, leaps the car I borrowed.
I smile at the symbol, at thinking of it, and at turning right.
In how many borrowed things do I move through the world?
How many borrowed things do I drive as if they were mine?
How many borrowed things — oh God — am I myself?

To my left, a hovel — yes, a hovel — by the roadside.
To my right an open field, the moon far off.
The car, which seemed just now to give me freedom,
Is now something I’m shut up in,
That I can only drive shut up in,
That I can only tame if I include it, if it includes me.

To my left, back there, that modest, that more than modest hovel.
Life must be happy there: it’s not mine.
If someone saw me from the window, they’d think: Now that guy’s happy.

Maybe a child spying at the upstairs window
Would see me, in my borrowed car, as a dream, a fairy tale come true.
Maybe, for the girl who watched me, hearing my motor out the kitchen window,
On packed earth,
I’m some kind of prince of girls’ hearts,
And she’ll watch me sideways, out the window, past this curve where I lose myself.
Will I leave dreams behind me? Will the car?
I, the borrowed-car-driver, or the borrowed car I drive?

On the road to Sintra in moonlight, in sadness, before the fields and night,
Forlornly driving the borrowed Chevy,
I lose myself on the future road, I disappear in the distance I reach.

And in a terrible, sudden, violent, inconceivable desire
I speed up,
But my heart stayed back on a pile of rocks I veered from, seeing without seeing it,
At the door of the hovel —
My empty heart,
My dissatisfied heart,
My heart more human than me, more exact than life.

On the road to Sintra, near midnight, in moonlight, at the wheel,
On the road to Sintra, oh my weary imagination,
On the road to Sintra, ever nearer to Sintra,
On the road to Sintra, ever farther from me...



On a sad day, my heart sadder than the day...
Moral and civil obligations?
The complexity of duties, of consequences?
No, nothing,
The sad day, the lack of a will for anything...

Others travel (I’ve travelled, too), others are in the sun
(I’ve been in the sun, too, or supposed I was),
They all have a reason, or life, or synthetic ignorance,
Vanity, joy, and sociability,
And they emigrate to come back, or to not come back
In ships that simply transport them.
They don’t feel the death in every departure,
The mystery in every arrival,
The horror in everything new...
They don’t feel: that’s why they’re senators and bankers,
They dance and have jobs in commerce,
They go to all the theaters and know people there...
They don’t feel: why should they feel?

Cattle dressed in the corrals of the Gods,
Let them go garlanded to sacrifice
Under the sun, sprightly, living, content to feel themselves so...
Let them go, but oh, I go with them
Ungarlanded to the same destiny!
I go with them without the sun I feel, without the life I have,
I go with them without their ignorance...

On a sad day, my heart sadder than the day
On a sad day, every day...
On such a sad day...


Nocturne by Day

... No, what I have is my sleepiness.
What’s that? Such weariness caused by responsibilities,
Such sorrow caused by maybe not being celebrated,
Such development of opinions on immortality...
What I have is my sleepiness, old friend, sleepiness...
Let me at least have that; who knows what else I’ll ever have?


The Times

He sat down drunk at the table and wrote
At the bottom of a page of the Times, clear, unclassifiable, legible...,
Supposing (poor guy!) that he had influence in the world...
Dear God... Maybe he did!


Song to the Englishwoman

I cut relations with the sun and stars, wrote a full stop on the planet.
I brought everything I know so well along in a knapsack.
I traveled, buying the useless, finding the uncertain,
And my heart’s the same as it’s always been, sky and desert.
I failed in what I was, in what I wanted, in what I know.
I don’t have a soul anymore for light to wake or darkness to rob.
I’m nothing but nausea, nothing but brooding, nothing but yearning,
I’m something far away from myself, out there, turning,
Simply because my being’s more comfortable than my not,
Stuck to one of the world’s wheels, like a gobbet of snot.


Almost without wanting to (as if we knew!) great men rise out of common men
Sergeant to emperor by imperceptible transitions
In which accomplishment mixes
With the dream of accomplishments to come,
And the road goes by invisible degrees, swiftly.
Oh, those who from the beginning see the end!
Oh, those who aspire to climb the stairway!
The conqueror of every empire has always been an assistant book-keeper

Every king’s lover — even those already dead — is a pensive, caring mother,
If I could see the souls inside, like the bodies outside.

Ah, what inmates, the Angels!
What a madhouse, the meaning of life!


Neighborhood Gazette

Babylon’s Lloyd Georges left
No trace on history.
Briands of Assyria or Egypt,
Trotskys of some Greek
Or Roman colony gone by —
All dead names, even written.

Only foolish poets, madmen
Who made their philosophies,
And judicious old geometrists
Have survived that anterior,
Miniscule darkness —
Even history’s not history.

Oh great men of the Moment!
Oh great seething glories
Obscurity flees!
Take it all unthinking!
Pad your fame and bellies —
Tomorrow’s for the madmen of today!


I have no sincerity at all to give you.
If I speak to you, I instinctively adapt my phrases
To a meaning I forget to have.


Not a minute too soon... this is perfect...
There it is!
There’s my madness, right there in my head!

My heart exploded like a cardboard bomb
And sent shockwaves up my spine right into my brain...

Thank God I’m nuts!
Thank God everything I ever did came back to me as trash,
Like I was spitting in the wind,
And spattered all over my face!
That everything I ever was got tangled underfoot
Like excelsior for shipping precisely nothing!
That everything I ever thought is sticking its finger down my throat
And making me want to puke on an empty stomach!
Thank God, because, like being drunk,
This is a solution.
How do you like that... I found a solution, but I had to use my stomach!
I found a truth, I felt it in my guts!

Transcendental poetry — already done it!
Grand lyric rapture — strictly old hat!
Organizing various poems by decreasing vastness of subject —
No news at all.
I need to throw up, to throw up my self...
I’m so nauseated that if I could eat the universe just to spew it into the sink, I’d do it.
It’d be a struggle, but there’d be a purpose to it.
At least there’d be a purpose.
The way things are, I don’t have a purpose, or even a life.


The sly glance of the stupid worker at the crazy engineer —
The loopy engineer no longer engineering...
The smile I feel shared behind my back when I’m among the normals —
(When they look me in the face, I don’t feel them smiling).



My heart broke like an empty vase.
It fell outrageously downstairs.
A careless maid dropped it.
It fell and shattered into more pieces than there was china in the vase.

Asinine? Impossible? How should I know?
I have more feelings than I did when I felt like me.
I’m a scattering of shards glittering on a rug.

When it fell it made a noise like a breaking vase.
What gods there are lean over the bannister,
Staring at the splinters their maid made of me.

They’re not angry at her.
They forgive her.
What was I but a broken vase?

They look at the absurdly conscious shards —
Conscious of themselves, they’re conscious of them —
They look and they smile.
They’re smiling forgivingly at their harmless maid.

Scattered on the great stairway strewn with stars.
A bright shard, turned away from the lustrous exterior, among heavenly bodies.
My work? My one and only soul? My life?
A shard.
And the gods are watching it closely because they don’t know what it’s doing there.



I can’t sleep, and I don’t expect to sleep —
I don’t even hope to sleep — not even in death.

Insomnia vast as the stars awaits me,
And a world-wide, useless yawn.

I can’t sleep; I can’t read when I lie awake at night,
I can’t write when I lie awake at night,
I can’t think when I lie awake at night —
My God, I can’t even dream when I lie awake at night!

Ah, the opium of being any other person!

I can’t sleep, here I lie, a corpse awake, feeling,
And my feeling is an empty thought.
They rush through my head in a jumble, things that happened to me —
I regret them, and blame myself —
They rush through my head in a jumble, things that didn’t happen to me —
I regret them, and blame myself —
They rush through my head in a jumble, things without meaning —
I even regret and blame myself for them, and I can’t sleep.
I don’t have the strength to find the energy to light a cigarette.
I stare at my bedroom wall as if it were the Universe.
Outside, there’s the silence of this whole thing.
A great appalling silence at any other time,
At any other time when I might be able to feel.

I’m writing really nice poems —
Poems saying I have nothing to say,
Poems insisting on saying it,
Poems, poems, poems, poems, poems...
So many poems...
And all truth, all life outside of them and me!

I’m tired, I can’t sleep, I’m feeling, and I don’t know what to feel about it.
I’m a sensation without a corresponding person,
An abstraction of self-consciousness with nothing inside
Except what’s necessary to feel the consciousness,
Except — I have no idea except what!
I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep.
Enormous sleepiness throughout body and mind, covering my eyes, all through my soul!
The only thing not sleeping is my inability to sleep!

O daybreak, you’re so late... Come...
Come, uselessly,
Bring me a day just like today, and a night just like tonight...
Come bring me the happiness of this sad hope,
Because you always bring happiness and hope,
According to the old literature of the senses.
Come, bring hope, come, bring hope.
My exhaustion sinks into my mattress.
My back hurts because I’m not lying on my side.
If I were lying on my side, my back would hurt from lying on my side.
Come on, daybreak, come!

What time is it? I don’t know.
I don’t have the energy to reach for the clock,
I don’t have the energy for anything, not even for nothing...
Only for these lines, written the day after.
That’s right, the day after.
Poems are always written the day after.

Absolute night, absolute quiet, outside.
All Nature at peace.
Humanity rests to forget its sorrow.
Humanity forgets its joys and sorrows.
That’s what they say.
Humanity forgets, yes, humanity forgets,
But even when it’s awake, Humanity forgets.
Exactly. But I can’t sleep.


Ah, open another reality to me!
I want to be like Blake, visited by angels:
I want to have visions for breakfast.
I want to meet fairies in the street!
I want to imagine myself out of this raked-together world,
This jerry-rigged civilization.
I want to live like a banner in the breeze,
Some symbol of something fluttering above something else!

Then bury me wherever you want to.
My true heart will go on keeping watch —
Sphinx-emblazoned sail —
Atop the mast of visions
In Mystery's four winds.
North — what everybody needs
South — what everybody desires
East — where everything comes from
West — where everything ends
— The four winds of civilization’s mystic air
— The four ways of unreason, and of learning the world.


Marinetti, Academician

Here they all come, here comes everybody...
Any day, unless there’s a sale on, I’ll arrive, too...
All said, everyone was born for this...

I can’t get out of it except by dying beforehand,
I can’t get out of it except by climbing the Great Wall...
If I stay here, they’ll socialize me...

Here comes everybody, because they were born to This,
And you only arrive at it by being born to it...

Here comes everybody...
Marinetti, academic...

The Muses will avenge themselves with electric lamps, old friend,
In the end they’ll set you up in footlights in an old cellar,
And your dynamic, always a bit Italian, f-f-f-f-f-f................


Poem of the Song About Hope


Give me lilies, lilies,
And roses too.
But if you have no lilies
Or roses to give me,
At least have the desire
To give me lilies
And roses too.
The desire’s enough,
Your desire, if you have it,
To give me lilies
And roses too,
And I’ll have lilies —
The best lilies —
And the best roses
Without receiving anything
Except the gift
Of your desire
To give me lilies
And roses too.


The dress you’re wearing
Is a memory
For my heart.
Someone else wore it long ago —
I never saw her,
But I remember.
Everything in life
Works by memory.
Some woman moves us
With a gesture that recalls our mother.
Some girl makes us happy
By talking like our sister.
A child tears us from distraction
Because we loved a woman like her
When we were young, and never spoke to her.
Everything’s like that, more or less.
The heart moves in jolts.
Living means not meeting up with yourself.
At the end of it all, if I’m tired, I’ll sleep.
But I’d like to meet you and for us to speak.
I’m sure we’d get along well, you and I.
But if we don’t meet, I’ll keep the moment
In which I thought we might.
I keep everything —
All the letters I’m written,
All the letters I’m not written,
Good Lord, people keep everything whether they want to or not,
And your little blue dress, my God, if I could use it
To draw you to me!
Well, anything can happen...
You’re so young — so youthful, Ricardo Reis would say —
And my vision of you explodes literarily,
And I lie back on the sand and laugh like an elemental inferior
Damn it, feeling’s exhausting, and life’s warm when the sun is high.
Good night in Australia!


Don’t worry about me: I have the truth, too.
I’ve got it coming out of my pockets like a prestidigitator.
I belong, too...
No one gets anything done without me, of course,
And being sad is having ideas about these things.
O my capers on aristocratic terraces,
You eat porridge in shirt-sleeves in my heart.


Ah, in the terrible silence of my bedroom,
The clock with its sound made of silence!
Won’t someone give me back my lost childhood?
Won’t somebody help me find it by the side of God’s road —
It’s utterly lost, like a hanky on the train.


Oh, I know it’s human nature, but
I still have a heart!...
Goodnight and shit!
(Crack, my heart!)
(Shit for all humanity!)

In the house of the mother whose son was run over,
Everybody’s laughing, everybody’s having a great time.
There’s all this noise of horns and nobody remembers
There are other sons waiting to be run over!
Money makes you forget.
Baby = X.

They got their compensation:
Baby = X!
They’re enjoying X right now.
They’re eating and drinking the dead baby.
Bravo! That’s people for you!
Bravo! That’s humanity!
Bravo! Brava! Fathers and mothers!

The baby died, but what survived is ten thousand cruzeiros.
Yeah, Ten grand.
You can do a lot (poor baby!) with ten grand.
You can pay your debts (dear little baby)
With ten grand.
Make things right
(Pretty little boy who died) with ten grand.
Ten grand.
Oh, you know it’s so sad
(ten grand.)
A kid of ours got run over
(ten grand.),
But but when you think about remodeling the house
(ten grand.),
Renovating the den
(ten grand.)
Well, that makes you forget (we’re crying and crying!),
(ten grand!) doesn’t it?
It must have been God’s will
(ten grand).
Poor slaughtered baby!
Ten grand.
You could wallpaper a house.
You could pay the last installment on the furniture.
Poor little baby.
But if he hadn’t been run over, what would our bills be?
Yes, we loved him so.
Yes, he was so dear to us
And he died.
Life goes on. He died!
It’s such a pity. He died!
But he left what you pay bills with
And that’s something.
(Of course, it was a disgrace.)
But the bills got paid.
(And, of course, that poor little boy
Got smashed to a pulp)
But now at least we don’t owe the grocer.
(Yes, it’s a shame, but there’s always a good side to things.)


De la Musique...

Ah, little by little, among the ancient trees,
Her figure emerges, and I stop thinking...

Little by little I myself emerge from my own anguish...

The two figures meet in the clearing by the lake...

... The two dreamed figures,
For this was all moonlight and one of my sadnesses,
And a supposition of something else,
And the result of existing...

Really, did the two figures meet
In the clearing by the lake?
(...What if they don’t exist?)

...In the clearing by the lake... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...


I go by, in the night of a suburban street,
I’m coming back from a conference with other experts like me,
I’m coming back alone, a poet without expertise or engineering,
Human to the sound of my solitary shoes in night’s beginning
Where in the distance the last shop to close has covered its door with shutters.
Ah, the sound of dinner in happy houses!
I go by, and my ears go inside the houses.
My natural exile softens in the darkness
Of the street my home, of the street my being, my blood.
To be an economically guaranteed child,
With a pillowy bed, the sleep of childhood, a maid!
O my underprivileged heart.
My feeling of exclusion!
My extreme sorry for being me!

Who used my cradle for firewood?
Who washed the floor with my baby sheets?
Who covered the rinds and lint
In the trashcans of the world
With my lacy baptismal gown?
Who sold me to destiny?
Who traded me in for me?

I come from speaking precisely in positive circumstances.
I made concrete points, like a mechanical numerator.
I was as right as a scale.
I said what I knew.

Now, on my way to the trolley at the station where you go back to the city,
I walk, a metaphysical bandit, under pools of light from the kerosene lamps,
And in the shadow between two lamps, I feel a great inclination to stay put.
But I’ll catch the trolley.
The little bell will ring twice at the end of its invisible cord
The conductor pulls with the thick fingers on his barber’s hands.
I’ll catch the trolley.
Poor me; in spite of it all I’ve always caught the trolley —
Always, always, always...
I’ve always gone back to the city,
I’ve always gone back to the city, after speculations and diversions,
I’ve always gone back to the city wanting to eat dinner.
But I never sat to the dinner sounding through the persiennes
Of happy houses in the outskirts you come back from by trolley,
Those households in life's normality!
I push the fare between the bars,
And the conductor walks by me like I’m the Critique of Pure Reason...
I paid the fare. I did my duty. I’m vulgar.
You can’t even cure those things with suicide.


Great are the deserts, and everything is desert.
A few tons of rock with bricks on top
Won’t disguise the ground, the very ground that everything is.
Great are the deserts, and the souls deserted and great —
Deserted because they’re crossed only by themselves,
Great because from there you see everything, and everything’s dead.

Great are the deserts, my soul!
Great are the deserts.

I never got a ticket for life.
I chose the wrong door of feeling.
There wasn’t a wish or a chance I didn’t lose.
Today there’s nothing left to me, the night before the trip,
With my open suitcase still waiting to be packed,
As I sit on the chair with the pile of shirts that won’t fit in,
Today there’s nothing left (aside from the discomfort of sitting here)
But knowing this:
Great are the deserts, and everything is desert.
Great is life, and life’s not worth the trouble.

I’ll pack the suitcase better with an eye toward thinking of packing
Than I would by packing it with my fake hands (I believe I’ve made myself clear).
I light a cigarette to put off the trip,
To put off all trips,
To put off the whole universe.

Come back tomorrow, reality!
That’s enough for today, folks!
Come back later, absolute present!
It’s better not to have to be like this.

Buy chocolates for the child I replaced by mistake,
And take off the wrapper, because tomorrow is forever.
But I have to pack the suitcase,
I definitely have to pack the suitcase,
The suitcase.
I can’t take my shirts in a hypothesis and my suitcase in reason.
Yes, all my life I’ve needed to pack the suitcase.
But also, all my life, I’ve been sitting in the corner on a pile of shirts,
Chewing — like a bull who never became Apis — destiny’s cud.
I have to pack the suitcase of being.
I must exist packing suitcases.
My cigarette ash falls on the top shirt of the mountain.
I glance at it and verify: I am asleep.
I only know that I have to pack the suitcase,
And that the deserts are great and all is desert,
And some parable about this, but I already forgot it.

Suddenly I rise like all Caesars.
Once and for all, I’m going to pack the suitcase.
Damn it, I’ll pack it and close it;
I’ll see it taken out of here;
I’ll exist independently of it.

Great are the deserts and everything is desert —
Unless, of course, I’m mistaken.

Poor human soul with the only oasis in the desert next door!

It’s better to pack the suitcase.
The end.



In the days when they used to celebrate my birthday,
I was happy and no one was dead.
In my old house, even my birthday was tradition for centuries,
And everyone’s happiness, even mine, was upheld like a religion.

In the days when they used to celebrate my birthday,
I had the health that comes from not seeing anything at all,
From being knowledegable only within my family,
And from not having the hopes the others had for me.
When I came to have hopes, I no longer knew how to have hopes.
When I came to look at life, I’d lost the sense of life.

Yes, what I was by my own supposing,
What I was by heart and parentage,
What those long evenings in the provinces made me,
What them loving me and me being their boy made me,
What I was — oh, my God!, until today, I didn’t know what I was...
So distant!...
(Not even an echo...)
The days when they used to celebrate my birthday!

What I am today is dampness in the back hall,
Making things sprout on the walls...
What I am today (and the house of those who loved me shimmers through my tears),
What I am today is they’ve sold the house,
And all of them are dead.
What I am today is outliving myself like a cold match...

In the days when they used to celebrate my birthday...
That love of mine was like a person, those days!
Physical desire of the soul to meet itself there another time,
On a voyage both metaphysical and fleshly,
With the duality of I and me,...
Wolfing the past like bread, without time like butter in your teeth!

I see everything again so clearly it blinds me to what’s right here...
There’s the table set with more places than usual, more of our best china, more cups,
The over-loaded side-board — sweets, fruit, more in shadow under the shelf — ,
My old aunts, all my different cousins, and everything for my sake,
In the days when they used to celebrate my birthday...

Stop, my heart!
Don’t think! Leave thinking to the brain!
O my God, my God, my God!
Today I don’t have birthdays.
I last.
The days add themselves to me.
I’ll be old when I get there.
Nothing else.
Damn me for not keeping the past purloined in my pocket!

The days when they used to celebrate my birthday!


I’m tired of intelligence.
Thinking wreaks havoc on the emotions.
There are horrible side-effects.

You suddenly weep, and all your dead aunts start making tea again,
In your old house with it’s older yard.
Stop, my heart!
Silence, factitious hope!
If only I were nothing but the boy I was...
I slept well because I was simply tired and had no ideas to forget!
My horizon was the yard, the beach,
And my end before my beginning!

I’m tired of intelligence.
If at least I could perceive something with it!
But all I perceive is deep-down weariness,
Like the swirling lees left in goblets,
Those curves wine has that give the wine its body.


My poor friend, I don’t have any compassion to give you.
Compassion’s costly, especially when it’s sincere, and on a rainy day.
I mean, there’s a price to be paid for feeling on a rainy day.
So let’s feel the rain and leave psychology to another kind of sky.

So, it’s a sexual preoccupation?
But when you’re older than fifteen that’s indecent.
Preoccupation with the, let us say, opposite sex and its psychology,
But this is stupid, sonnyboy.
The opposite sex exists to be sought after, not to be discussed.
The problem exists to be resolved, not to be worried about.
Wanting to worry about it is to be impostent.
And you shouldn’t reveal so much of yourself.
“La Colère de Samson,” do you know it?
“La femme, enfant malade et []”
But it’s not like that at all.
Stop making me feel sorry for you, it’s so boring!
Look: it’s all literature.
It comes to us from outside, like the rain.
In a way we’re pages of novels come to life —
Translations, sonnyboy.

You know why it’s so sad? It’s because of Plato,
Who you never read.
Your Italian sonnet (you never read Petrarch) came out wrong,
And that’s just the way life is.

Roll up the sleeves of your civilized shirt
And dig in exact soils!
That’s worth more than bothering with someone else’s soul.

We’re nothing but phantoms’ phantoms,
And the landscape isn’t helping much today.
It’s all geographically outer.
The rain falls because of natural law
And humanity loves because it’s been told about love...


I’d love to love to love.
Just a second... hand me a cigarette
From the pack on top of the night-stand.
Go on... You were saying
That something got lost
In the development of metaphysics
Between Kant and Hegel.
I agree, absolutely.
I was really listening.
Nondum amabam et amare amabam (Saint Augustine).
What a curious thing, these associations of ideas!
I’m worn out from thinking about feeling something else.
Thanks. Let me light up. Go on. Hegel...



It started raining today.
This morning the sky was pretty blue, though.
It started raining today.
I’ve been a little sad all day.

Anticipation? Sadness? Neither?
I don’t know; I woke up feeling sad, that’s all.
It started raining today.
I know overcast days are elegant.
I know the sun oppresses elegant people because it’s so ordinary.
I know that being susceptible to changing light isn’t elegant.
But who’s telling the sun and everything else I want to be elegant?
They gave me the blue sky and a sun I can see,
Mist, rain, shades of gray — I’ve got those things inside me.

All I want today is peace and quiet.
I’d even love a hearth, as long as I didn’t have one!
I’ve gotten sleepy from wanting peace and quiet.
Let’s not exaggerate!
I am, in fact, sleepy — I don’t have to explain myself.
It started raining today.

Caring? Affection? They’re memories...
Only kids have them...
My lost dawn, my only real blue sky!
It’s raining today.

The housekeeper’s daughter’s beautiful mouth...
Pulp of a heart’s fruit for eating...
When was that? I don’t know...
This morning, when the sky was blue...

It started raining today.


I have a terrible cold,
And everybody knows how terrible colds
Change the whole system of the universe,
Make you angry at life —
You even sneeze metaphysically.
I’ve wasted the day blowing my nose.
I have a fuzzy headache.
Sad condition for a minor poet!
Today I truly am a minor poet.
Once upon a time I was a desire.
It came undone.

Farewell forever, fairy-queen!
You had wings of sunlight, and here I am walking.
I won’t get well unless I lie down in bed.
I’ve never been well except when I’ve been lying down on the universe.
Excusez du peu... My God, I’m so stuffed up!
I need truth and aspirin.


Yes, I’m me, myself, just as I’ve resulted from everything,
A kind of accessory, my own spare part,
Irregular environs of my sincere emotion,
I’m I here in me, I’m me.

Whatever I was, whatever I wasn’t, all that’s me.
Whatever I wanted, whatever I didn’t want, all that formed me.
Whatever I loved or stopped loving, it’s the same yearning in me.

And, at the same time, the impression, a little inconsequential,
Like a dream formed out of mixed realities,
Of having left myself, to myself, on a trolley bench,
To be found by chance when someone comes along and sits on it.

And, at the same time, a little distant,
Like a dream you’d want to remember in the penumbra you wake up to,
Of there being better than me in me.

Yes, at the same time, the impression, a little painful,
Of a waking into a day full of creditors,
Of having failed everything like you trip over a doormat,
Of having wrapped everything up like in a trunk that hasn’t been brushed out,
Of having substituted something for my self somewhere in life.

Enough! The impression’s more or less metaphysical,
Like the sun for the last time on the window of a house you’re leaving,
Of it being worth more to be a child than to want to understand the world,
The impression of bread and butter and toys,
Of a great quiet having nothing to do with the Gardens of Proserpine,
Of good will toward life leaning its forehead on the window,
With the sound of rain outside,
And not the grownup tears so hard to swallow.

Enough, yes, enough! I’m I myself, the trade-in,
The emissary with neither card nor credentials,
The unsmiling clown, the fool in someone else’s oversized suit,
With a tinkling in his head
Like little bells ringing the servants upstairs.

I’m myself, the syncopated charade
No one can figure out at a party in the provinces.

I’m myself, what a relief!


Oxford Now

I want good, I want evil, and in the end I want nothing at all.
I’m uncomfortable lying on my right side, uncomfortable on my left,
And uncomfortable lying on my conscious existence.
I’m universally uncomfortable, metaphysically uncomfortable,
But the worst thing is I’ve got a headache.
That’s more serious than the meaning of the Universe.

Once, near Oxford, on a country walk,
From the curve in a road, I saw, in the near distance,
A steeple rising above village houses.
I have a photographic recall of that null event,
Like a tranverse fold wrecking the crease in your trousers,
And here comes the punchline...

From the road I saw age-old spirituality
In that steeple, and assiduous charity.
From the town, when I got there, the steeple was a steeple,
But most of all, it was there.

You’d be happy in Australia, as long as you didn’t have to go there.


The human soul is as filthy as an asshole
And the Advantages of Crookdom loom large in many imaginations.

It’s all so nauseating — as if my heart were another stomach.
The Round Table was sold by weight,
And King Arthur’s biography — a journalist wrote it...
But the Cavalry’s scrap iron
Still reigns in our souls, like a distant profile


I want to end among roses, since I loved them in childhood.
The chrysanthemums that came after, I shredded without a thought.
Speak little, slowly.
Don’t let me hear you, especially in thought.
What did I want? My hands are empty,
Clenched mournfully on some far-off coverlet.
What did I think? My mouth is dry, abstract.
What did I live? It was so nice to sleep!


And the splendor of maps, abstract road to concrete imagination,
Letters and random strokes opening on wonder.
What dreaming in dusty bindings
And signatures, so complex (or so simple and graceful), of old books.

(Distant, discolored ink, here beyond death,
Time’s visible enigma, living nothing that we are!)
What we forget daily, and comes back in drawings,
What certain engraved announcements accidentally announce.

Everything suggesting or expressing what it doesn’t express,
Everything saying what it doesn’t say,
And the soul dreams on, different and distracted.


Fog of all memories together
(Blond schoolteacher in placid gardens)
I remember the golden sun and silken paper...
And a child’s arrow flashes by, just missing me...


O night serene!
O pale moonlight!
O little boat dancing
In the sea at night!

Suavely, the past — what was here in Lisbon — comes to me:
The third floor full of aunts, the peace back then,
All kinds of peace,
Childhood, with no future dreamt,
Apparently endless noise of their sewing machines,
And everything fine and on time
With a fineness and on-time-ness now dead.

My God, what did I do with my life?

O night serene!
O pale moonlight!
O little boat dancing
In the sea at night!

Who was it used to sing that?
It was right here.
I remember but I forget.
And it hurts, it hurts, it hurts...

For the love of God, stop the noise in my head!



When will this internal night, the universe, pass,
And I, my soul, have my day?
When will I wake up from being awake?
I don’t know. The high bright sun,
Impossible to stare at.
Cold blinking of stars,
Impossible to count.
Alien pulsing heart,
Impossible to hear.
When will it end, this theaterless drama,
This dramaless theater,
And I return to my home?
Where? How? When?
Cat fixing me with eyes of life,
Who do you hold in their depths?
It is He! It is he!
He who like Joshua will order the sun stand still and I will wake.
Then it will be day.
Smile, sleeping soul!
Laugh, my soul, it will be day!


This old anguish,
This anguish I’ve held for centuries in me,
Overflowed its vessel
In tears, in grand imaginations,
In dreams the style of terrorless nightmares,
In great sudden senseless emotions.

How will I ever get through life
With this unease putting creases in my soul?
If I’d at least gone truly mad!
But no: it’s this being in between,
This almost,
This being able to be...

Someone committed to an asylum is at least someone.
I’m committed to an asylum without an asylum.
I’m clear and crazy,
I’m coldly insane,
I’m apart from everything and equal to all:
I’m in a waking sleep dreaming dreams that are
Insane because they’re not dreams.
That’s how it is with me...

Poor old house of my lost childhood!
Who’s there to tell you I’ve become so unprotected?
What’s become of your boy? He’s gone mad.
What’s become of the one sleeping softly under your provincial ceiling?
He’s gone mad.
Whose who was I? He’s gone mad. Today he’s who I am.

If I at least had religion, any religion!
If I believed, for example, in that fetish
I had in that house, in that one brought from Africa.
It was the ugliest thing, it was grotesque,
But it had the divinity of everything believed in.
If only I could believe in a fetish —
Jupiter, Jehovah, Humanity —
Any at all would do for me,
Because what is everything, besides what we think of it?

Crack, heart of painted glass!


Wouldn’t it be better
Not to do anything?
To drop everything and go pell mell down through life
To a waterless shipwreck?

Wouldn’t it be better
Not to pick anything
Off the rosebush in your dreams,
And lie quiet, thinking of the exile of others,
In springtimes to be?

Wouldn’t it be better
To renounce, like the bursting of a toy balloon
In an atmosphere of open markets,
Yes, everything,
Absolutely everything?


They’ve stuck a lid on me —
The whole sky.
They’ve stuck a lid on me.
Such grand aspirations!
Such mighty plenitude!
Even a few truths...
But over all they’ve
Stuck a lid on me.
Like one of those old chamberpots —
Out in the provincial backwaters...
A lid.


But I don’t have problems; I only have mysteries.

All cry my tears, because my tears are everything.
All suffer in my heart, because my heart is everything.


Tripe Porto Style

One day, in a restaurant, outside space and time,
They served me love as cold tripe.
I delicately told the emissary from the kitchen
That I preferred it hot.
That tripe (and it was Porto style) is never eaten cold.

They got impatient with me.
You’re never right, not even in a restaurant.
I didn’t eat, I didn’t ask for anything else, I paid the bill,
Went outside, and walked up and down the street.

Who knows what this means?
I don’t know, and it happened to me.

(I know very well that in everyone’s childhood there was a garden,
Private or public, or the neighbor’s.
I know very well that our playing was its keeper,
And that sadness is today’s.)

I know this many times over,
But, if I asked for love, why did they bring me
Cold Porto tripe?
It’s not a dish you can eat cold,
But they brought it cold.
I didn’t complain, but it was cold.
It should never be eaten cold, but it came cold.


I took off the mask and looked in the mirror...
It was the kid from so many years ago...
He hadn’t changed a bit...

That’s the advantage to knowing how to take off the mask.
You’re always the kid,
The revenant past,
The kid.

I took off the mask, and put it back again.
It’s better that way.
That way I’m the mask.

And I get back to normal, like at the end of the line.


Lisbon with its houses
Of many colors,
Lisbon with its houses
Of many colors,
Lisbon with its houses
Of many colors...
So different, it can only be monotonous,
Just like, from feeling so much, I can only think.

If, at night, lying awake
In the useless lucidity of sleeplessness,
I want to imagine one thing,
And another comes up (because I’m sleepy,
And where there’s sleep, there’s always a bit of dream)
I want to see farther into the vista I glimpse
Through great fantastic palms,
But all I see
Against some kind of screen inside my eyelids,
Is Lisbon with its houses
Of many colors.

I smile, because, here, stretched out, it’s something else.
It’s so monotonous, it can only seem different.
And I’m so much me, I can only sleep and forget I exist.

All that’s left, without the forgotten, sleeping me,
Is Lisbon with its houses
Of many colors.


        In memory of Swami Jenyns,
        remembered after the poem was written

Sometimes I have felicitous ideas,
Sudden felicitous ideas, in ideas
And in words in which they naturally detach themselves...

After writing, I read...
Why did I write this?
Where did I find this?

Will we be in this world only the pen and ink
Someone uses to write for real what we trace here?...


No: slowly.
Slowly, because I don’t know
Where I want to go.
Between me and my steps,
An instinctive divergence.

Between what I am and what I’m being,
A wordly difference
Corresponding to reality.

Yes, slowly...
I want to think about what
Slowly means...

Maybe there’s too much haste in the world.
Maybe ordinary souls want to get here sooner.
Maybe the impression of the moments is very near...
Maybe all of it...
But what’s worrying me is this word: slowly...
What is it that has to go slowly?
Maybe it’s the universe...
Truth sends God down to say himself.
But what did anyone tell God about it?


For more than half an hour
I’ve been sitting at my desk
With the sole intent
Of looking at it.

(These verses are outside my rhythm.
I’m outside my rhythm, too.)
Inkwell, large, in front of me.
Pens and nibs a little in front of it.
Closer to me, very clean paper.
To my left, a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica,
To my right —
Ah, to my right! —
My paperknife — yesterday
I didn’t have the patience to use it to finish cutting
An interesting book I’ll never read.

If only I could hypnotize all this!


The ancients invoked the Muses.
We invoke ourselves to ourselves.
I don’t know if the Muses appeared —
That would have depended on what was invoked, and how —
But I know we don’t appear.

So often I’ve leaned over the well I suppose myself to be,
And bleated “Hey!” to hear an echo,
And haven’t heard anything more than I’ve seen —
The dim whiteness of the shining water
Down in the useless depth.
No echo back to me...
Only a vague face, which must be mine because it couldn’t be anyone else’s,

Almost invisible,
A faintly dirty luminescence
There at the bottom...
In the silence and false light of the bottom...

What a Muse!

(1/3/35 — on ms., in English: “First this year”)

After I stopped thinking of after
My life became more calm —
I.e., less a life.
I’ve become my own muted accompanist.

I look, from the top of a low window,
At the girls dancing and playing in the street.
Their ineluctable destiny
Hurts me.
I see a dress half-unbuttoned at the back, and it hurts me.

Great steam-roller, who tells you to roll
This road paved with souls?

(But your voice interrupts me —
High voice, outside the garden there, a girl —
And it’s like I’d let a book
Fall irresolutely on the floor.)

My love, don’t we wear, in this dance of life
Made of our natural playing,
The same unbuttoned neckline
And the same décolleté showing skin above a dirty dress?


I, me myself...
Me full of wearniess,
As much as the world can give me...

In the end, everything, because everything is me,
Even the stars, as far as I can tell,
Dropped from my pocket to dazzle children...
What children, I don’t know...

Imperfect? Unknown? Divine?
I don’t know.

Did I have a past? No doubt...
Do I have a present? No doubt...
Will I have a future? No doubt,
Even if it ends in a little while...
But me, me...
I’m me,
I’m still me,


Ah! To be indifferent!
It’s from the height of the power of their indifference
That the bosses’ bosses run the world.

To be other, even to one’s self!
It’s from the height of this estrangement
That the saint’s masters run the world.

To be forgotten by whatever exists!
It’s from the height of thinking about this forgetting
That the gods’ gods run the world.

(I didn’t hear what you were saying...
I only heard the music, and I didn’t even really hear that...
Were you playing and talking at the same time?
Yes, I think you were playing and talking at the same time...
With whom?
With someone in whom everything was ending in the sleep of the world...)


I Come Back Home

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a sonnet,
But that doesn’t matter, I’ll just write one now.
Sonnets are a childhood, and at this hour,
My childhood’s nothing more than a big black spot,

Throwing me off the train that’s always been me
Onto a useless and immobile track;
And a sonnet is like someone looking back
These last two days over everything I see.

Thank God I still know there always are
Fourteen lines to fit together well
So people reading will know where they are.

Where people are, or where I am, I don’t know...
I don’t want to know anymore about anything else
And it’ll be pure bullshit when I do.


[at the time it was written, apparently intended to be Campos’ last poem: note by title: “(end of the book)”. Álvaro de Campos’ sonnets are characterized by looseness and a distinct tendency toward doggerel. There is a very famous poem of the same title — Regresso Ao Lar — by Guerra Junqueiro, in which the poet asks his old nanny to sing him a lullaby and bring him back to his idyllic Portuguese childhood.]

Yes, everything’s all right.
Everything’s perfectly all right. The problem is,
It’s all wrong.
I know very well this house is painted gray,
I know very well what this house’s number is —
I don’t know, but I could know, how they’d appraise it
In the offices that exist to do such things —
I know very well, I know very well...
But the sad thing is there are souls inside there
And the Finance Office couldn’t protect
The next-door neighbor from the death of her son.
The Bureau of Whatever couldn’t stop
The upstairs neighbor’s husband from running away with his sister-in-law...
But everything’s all right, of course...
And, except for it being all wrong, that’s how it is: all right...


I’m tired, of course,
Because at a certain point people have to be tired.
What I’m tired of, I don’t know.
It’d do me no good to know,
Since the tiredness will stay with me all the same —
Wounds hurts because they hurt,
Not as a function of whatever causes them.
Yes, I’m tired,
And smiling a little
Because this is all my tiredness is —
A will to sleep in the body,
A desire for not-thinking in the soul,
And over everything the lucid tranquility
Of my retrospective understanding...

And as for that mute luxury — no longer having hope?

I’m intelligent: that’s all there is.

I’ve seen a lot and understood a lot of what I’ve seen,
And there’s a certain pleasure even in the tiredness it’s all caused me.
I mean, your head’s always good for something, isn’t it?


I’m not thinking about anything
And this central thing, which isn’t even a thing,
Is as agreeable to me as the night air,
Fresh to me in contrast with the hot summer of day.

I’m not thinking about anything, how fine!

Not thinking about anything
Is having your soul whole and to yourself.
Not thinking about anything
Is living intimately
The flux and reflux of life...

I’m not thinking about anything.
Except, it’s like I’m lying down uncomfortably.
A pain in the back, or in the side of the back:
There’s a bitter taste in my soul:
It is, ultimately,
That I’m thinking about nothing,
But really, about nothing,


The sleep falling over me,
The mental sleep falling physically over me,
The universal sleep falling individually over me —
This sleep
Appears to others the sleep of sleeping,
The sleep of the will to sleep,
The sleep of being asleep.

But it’s more, more from within, more from above;
It’s the sleep of the sum of all disillusion,
It’s the sleep of the synthesis of every despair;
It’s the sleep of holding the world here within me
Without having contributed anything to it.

This sleep falling over me
Is nevertheless like every sleep.
The languor is soothing, at least,
The dejection is at least calming,
The surrender is at least the end of effort,
The end is at least no longer having to wait.

At the sound of a window opening
I turn my head indifferently to the left
And I look over the shoulder that feels it
Through my half-open window.
A girl from the second floor in front
Leans out, with her blue eyes searching for someone.
For whom?,
Asks my indifference.
All this is weariness.

My God, what weariness!...


I’m dizzy,
Dizzy from so much sleep or so much thought —
Maybe even both.
What I know is I’m dizzy
And I honestly don’t know if I should get up out of my chair
Or even how to do it.
Let us stay with this: I’m dizzy.

In the end
What life have I made of my life?
All interstices,
All approximations,
All a function of the irregular and the absurd,
All nothing.
That’s why I’m dizzy...

These days
Every morning I get up

Yes, truly dizzy...
Without knowing myself, my name,
Without knowing where I am,
Without knowing what I was,
Without knowing anything.

But if that’s how it is, that’s how it is...
I let myself stay in my chair.
I’m dizzy.
Fine, I’m dizzy.
So I remain seated
And dizzy,
Yes, dizzy...


All love-letters are
They wouldn’t be love-letters if they weren’t

I’ve also written love-letters in my time,
Like the others,

Love-letters, if love there is,
Have to be

But, in the end,
Only creatures who never wrote
Love-letters —
They’re what’s

Oh, for the time when I wrote —
Without even thinking —
Those love-letters that were

The truth is, today
My memories
Of these love-letters
Are what’s really

(All extravagant words,
Like all extravagant sentiments,
Are naturally


[Campos’ last poem, written nine days before Pessoa died on November 30, 1935; in the last stanza, extravagant translates esdrúxulas, which means extravagant, eccentric, overblown and proparoxytone, dactylic.]


First posted by Berkeley Neo-Baroque Gang of One, 3.12.2006
Under continual revision and augmentation
Translation based on the critical edition by Teresa Rita Lopes
Reproduction rights granted upon request
Many, many thanks to Dana Stevens, Rovena Mafouz and so many more...

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