Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

35 Sonnets »

By Fernando Ant* Nogueira Pessoa

35 Sonnets


Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa

Edition 1, (November 30, 2006)


Whether we write or speak or do but look We are ever unapparent. What we are Cannot be transfused into word or book. Our soul from us is infinitely far. However much we give our thoughts the will To be our soul and gesture it abroad, Our hearts are incommunicable still. In what we show ourselves we are ignored. The abyss from soul to soul cannot be bridged By any skill of thought or trick of seeming. Unto our very selves we are abridged When we would utter to our thought our being. We are our dreams of ourselves, souls by gleams, And each to each other dreams of others’ dreams.


If that apparent part of life’s delight Our tingled flesh—sense circumscribes were seen By aught save reflex and co—carnal sight, Joy, flesh and life might prove but a gross screen. Haply Truth’s body is no eyable being, Appearance even as appearance lies, Haply our close, dark, vague, warm sense of seeing Is the choked vision of blindfolded eyes. Wherefrom what comes to thought’s sense of life? Nought. All is either the irrational world we see Or some aught—else whose being—unknown doth rot Its use for our thought’s use. Whence taketh me A qualm—like ache of life, a body—deep Soul—hate of what we seek and what we weep.


When I do think my meanest line shall be More in Time’s use than my creating whole, That future eyes more clearly shall feel me In this inked page than in my direct soul; When I conjecture put to make me seeing Good readers of me in some aftertime, Thankful to some idea of my being That doth not even my with gone true soul rime; An anger at the essence of the world, That makes this thus, or thinkable this wise, Takes my soul by the throat and makes it hurled In nightly horrors of despaired surmise, And I become the mere sense of a rage That lacks the very words whose waste might ’suage.


I could not think of thee as pieced rot, Yet such thou wert, for thou hadst been long dead; Yet thou liv’dst entire in my seeing thought And what thou wert in me had never fled. Nay, I had fixed the moments of thy beauty– Thy ebbing smile, thy kiss’s readiness, And memory had taught my heart the duty To know thee ever at that deathlessness. But when I came where thou wert laid, and saw The natural flowers ignoring thee sans blame, And the encroaching grass, with casual flaw, Framing the stone to age where was thy name, I knew not how to feel, nor what to be Towards thy fate’s material secrecy.


How can I think, or edge my thoughts to action, When the miserly press of each day’s need Aches to a narrowness of spilled distraction My soul appalled at the world’s work’s time—greed? How can I pause my thoughts upon the task My soul was born to think that it must do When every moment has a thought to ask To fit the immediate craving of its cue? The coin I’d heap for marrying my Muse And build our home i’th’ greater Time—to—be Becomes dissolved by needs of each day’s use And I feel beggared of infinity, Like a true—Christian sinner, each day flesh—driven By his own act to forfeit his wished heaven.


As a bad orator, badly o’er—book—skilled, Doth overflow his purpose with made heat, And, like a clock, winds with withoutness willed What should have been an inner instinct’s feat; Or as a prose—wit, harshly poet turned, Lacking the subtler music in his measure, With useless care labours but to be spurned, Courting in alien speech the Muse’s pleasure; I study how to love or how to hate, Estranged by consciousness from sentiment, With a thought feeling forced to be sedate Even when the feeling’s nature is violent; As who would learn to swim without the river, When nearest to the trick, as far as ever.

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