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FERNANDO PESSOA
Alberto Caeiro
(1889-1915)
translated by
Chris Daniels
Introduction
Alberto Caeiro da Silva was born in Lisboa on April [...], 1889, and died of tuberculosis in the
same city on [...], 1915. He spent all but his first two years living in a grange in Ribatejo and only
returned to the city of his birth in his final months. In Ribatejo he wrote nearly all his poems, those
of the book entitled Keeper of Flocks, those of the incomplete book, The Amorous Shepherd, and some
of his first poems which I myself, having inherited them for the purposes of publication with the
rest, gathered together under the designation graciously suggested by lvaro de Campos: Detached
Poems. His final poems, beginning with the one numbered [...], were written in the final period of the
authors life, after he had returned to Lisboa. The task befalls me briefly to establish a distinction.
Some of these poems reveal, by reason of the perturbation caused by illness, something new and
rather foreign in nature and direction to the general character of his work.
Caeiros life cannot be narrated: there is nothing in it to be told. His poems were the life within
him. In all else there was neither incident nor story. Even the brief, fruitless, and absurd episode
which gave rise to the poems of The Amorous Shepherd was not an incident but rather, so to speak, a
forgetting.
Caeiros work represents the absolute essence of paganism, fully reconstructed. The Greeks and
the Romans, who lived in the midst of paganism and therefore did not think about it, would have
been incapable of such a thing. Yet Caeiros oeuvre and its paganism were never thought through, nor
were they even felt. They came from something within us deeper than feeling or reason. To say any
more would be to explain, which serves no end; to affirm any less would be to lie. Every work
speaks for itself with its own voice in the language that shapes both work and voice. If you have to
ask, you will never know. There is nothing to explain. Imagine attempting to explain to someone a
language he did not speak.
Ignorant of life and nearly so of letters, practically without companionship or culture, Caeiro
created his work through a deep and imperceptible progress, like that which drives the logical
development of civilizations through unconscious humanitys conscious mind. His was a progress of
sensation, of ways of feeling, and an intimate evolution of thought derived from these progressive
sensations. Through some superhuman intuition, as one founding a religion (yet the mantle of
religious does not suit him witness his repudiation of all religion and metaphysics), this man
described the world without thinking about it, and created a concept of the universe a concept
thoroughly resistant to exegesis.
When first confronted with the enterprise of publishing these poems, I thought I would write a
long and discursive critical study of Caeiros work, its nature and natural destiny. But I found I could
make no satisfactory study.
It weighs heavily upon me, but reason has compelled me to preface the work of my Master with
a few, null words. Beyond what I have already written, I can write nothing else useful or necessary,
that had not been heartfully said in Ode [...] of Book I of my works, where I weep for the man who
was for me (as he will come to be for a great many others) the unveiler of Reality, or, as he himself

said, the Argonaut of true sensations the great Liberator, he who restores us, singing, to the
luminous nothing that we are; who draws us away from death and from life, and leaves us among
simple things which, while they last, are ignorant of life and death; who frees us from hope and
despair, so that we might neither seek groundless consolation nor find pointless sadness; so that we
might live unthinking alongside him, fellow guests of the objective necessity of the Universe.
I give you his work, whose editing was entrusted to me by the ineluctable hazard of the world. I
give it to you, and I say:
O rejoice, all you weeping
In History, our worst disease!
Great Pan is reborn!
Ricardo Reis

The Keeper of Flocks


(1911-1912)
Preface
If the critic will apply himself to a careful analysis of these apparently very simple poems, he will
find himself again and again faced with unexpected and increasingly complex elements. Taking for
axiomatic what immediately impresses him the naturalness and spontaneity of Caeiros poems
he will be surprised to find that they are at the same time rigorously unified by a thinking which not
only coordinates and links them, but which also foresees objections, anticipates criticism, and
explains away flaws by integrating these flaws into the spiritual substance of the work. Though we
think of Caeiro as an objective poet as indeed he is in four of his poems we find him
expressing entirely subjective emotions. But we are not allowed the cruel satisfaction of pointing out
his error. In the poem preceding these poems, he explains that they were written during an illness,
and therefore they must be different from his other poems, because sickness is not health. The critic
is unable to raise to his lips the cup of his cruel satisfaction. When he seeks the slightly less concrete
pleasure of ferreting out transgressions against the works own inner theory, he is confronted by
poems like Nos. [...] and [...] , where his objections have already been raised, and his questions
answered.
Only someone who reads this work patiently, and with readiness of spirit, can appraise what is
surprising about Caeiros foresight and his intellectual coherence (his coherence is in fact more
intellectual than sentimental or emotional).
Caeiros work is truly a manifestation of a pagan mind. The order and discipline of paganism
which Christianity caused us to lose, the reasoned intelligence of things, which was paganisms most
obvious attribute and no longer ours permeate his work. Because it speaks here its form, we see
the essence, not the exterior shape, of paganism. In other words, I do not see Caeiro reconstructing
the exterior form of paganism. Paganisms very substance has in fact been summoned up from
Avernus, as Orpheus summoned Eurydice, by the harmelodic magic of Caeiros emotion.
What are, by my own criterion, the faults of this work? Only two, and they do little to dim the
brightness of this brother of the gods.
Caeiros poems lack the one thing that would complete them: there is no exterior discipline to
match the strength, coherency, and order reigning in the heart of his work. He chose, as will be seen,
a poetic form which, though strongly personal as it could not fail to be is merely the free verse
of the moderns. He did not control his writing with an over-arching discipline comparable to the
discipline with which he nearly always controls his emotion, with which he always controls his ideas.
We may forgive this flaw, because we must forgive much in innovators, but we must not omit saying
that it is a flaw, and not a distinction.
Neither did he fully control the sick emotions (still slightly demi-Christian) out of which his
poets soul rose into the world. His ideas, always essentially pagan, are sometimes cloaked in illfitting emotive garb. In The Keeper of Flocks, one can follow a gradual perfection taking place.
The final poems especially the four or five preceding the last two are perfectly unified in idea
and emotion. I would forgive the poet for remaining burdened by certain sentimental accoutrements
of Christian mentality if he had never, even at the end of the work, succeeded in ridding himself of
that baggage. But since, at a certain point in his poetic evolution, he did succeed, I do chastise him,
and I chastise him severely (as I chastised him severely to his face), for not returning to his earlier
poems and adjusting them to his acquired discipline. If he had been unable to subject any of them to
this discipline, he should have crossed them out entirely. But the courage to sacrifice is a trait

seldom found in poets. It is so much more difficult to remake than it is to make for the first time.
Truly, contrary to the old saying, the last step is the hardest.
And so, I find the [...] poem, so irritating to a Christian, to be absolutely deplorable for an
objective poet in the process of reconstructing the essence of paganism. In this poem he descends
to the utter nadir of Christian subjectivism, even as deep as that admixture of the objective and the
subjective which forms the characteristic malady of the moderns from certain pages in the
intolerable work of the ill-named Victor Hugo to the near-totality of the amorphous magma which
sometimes passes for poetry among our contemporary mystics.
Perhaps I have exaggerated; perhaps I have abused. Having benefitted from the resurrection of
paganism achieved by Caeiro, and having as do all beneficiaries busied myself with the easy
secondary art of development, it is probably ungrateful of me to rail against the defects inherent in
the innovation from which I have so benefited. But, where I find defects, even if I forgive them, I
must name them as such. Magis amica veritas.
Ricardo Reis

I
Ive never kept flocks,
But its like Ive kept them.
My soul is like a shepherd,
It knows the wind and the sun
And it walks hand in hand with the Seasons,
Following and seeing.
All the peace of Nature without people
Comes and sits at my side.
But I get sad
As the sunset is in our imagination
When it gets cold down in the plain
And you feel night coming in
Like a butterfly through the window.
But my sadness is quiet
Because its natural and its just
And its what should be in my soul
When it already thinks it exists
And my hands pick flowers
And my soul doesnt know it.
Like the sound of sheeps bells
Beyond the curve of the road,
All my thoughts are peaceful.
Im just sorry about knowing theyre peaceful,
Because if I didnt know it,
Instead of them being peaceful and sad,
Theyd be happy and peaceful.
Thinking makes you uncomfortable like walking in the rain
When the wind gets stronger and it seems to rain more.
I dont have ambitions or desires.
Being a poet isnt my ambition,
Its my way of being alone.
And sometimes if I want
To imagine Im a lamb
(Or a whole flock
Spreading out all over the hillside
So I can be a lot of happy things at the same time),
Its only because I feel what I write at sunset,
Or when a cloud passes its hand over the light
And silence runs over the grass outside.

When I sit and write poems


Or, walking along the roads or paths,
I write poems on the paper in my thinkings,
I feel a staff in my hand
And see my silhouette
On top of a knoll,
Looking after my flock and seeing my ideas,
Or looking after my ideas and seeing my flock,
With a silly smile like when you dont understand what somebodys saying
But you want to pretend you do.
I greet everyone who reads me,
I tip my wide hat to them
When they see me at my door
Just as the stagecoach comes to the top of my hill.
I greet them and wish them sunshine,
Or rain, when they need rain,
And that their houses have
A favorite chair
Where they sit reading my poems
By an open window.
And when they read my poems, I hope they think
Im something natural
The ancient tree, for example,
Where they sat down with a thump
In the shade when they were kids
All worn out playing, and wiped the sweat
From their hot brows
With the sleeve of their striped cotton smocks.
(3/8/1914)

II
When I look, I see clear as a sunflower.
Im always walking the roads
Looking right and left,
And sometimes looking behind . . .
And what I see every second
Is something Ive never seen before,
And I know how to do this very well . . .
I know how to hold the astonishment
A child would have if it could really see
It was being born when it was being born . . .
I feel myself being born in each moment,
In the eternal newness of the world . . .
I believe in the world like I believe in a marigold,
Because I see it. But I dont think about it
Because to think is to not understand . . .
The world wasnt made for us to think about
(To think is to be sick in the eyes)
But for us to look at and agree with . . .
I dont have a philosophy: I have senses . . .
If I talk about Nature, its not because I know what it is,
But because I love it, and the reason I love it
Is because when you love you never know what you love,
Or why you love, or what loving is . . .
Loving is eternal innocence,
And the only innocence is not thinking . . .
(3/8/1914)

III
In the evening, leaning out my window,
Watching the fields out front from under my brows,
I read Cesrio Verdes book
Until my eyes were burning.
I felt so sorry for him! He was like a man from the country
And he walked through the city like he was out on bail.
But the way he looked at houses,
And the way he saw the streets,
And the way he had of taking things in,
Was like someone looking at trees,
Or lowering their eyes to the road where they go walking
Or taking in the flowers in the fields . . .
Thats why he had that great sadness
He could never really say he had,
But walked in the city like someone walking in the country,
Sad, like pressing flowers in books
And putting plants in jars . . .

IV
This afternoon a storm fell
Down from the sky onto the hillsides
Like a huge pile of gravel . . .
Like someone shaking a tablecloth out of a high window,
And all the scraps falling together
Make some noise when they fall,
The hissing rain rained from the sky
And darkened the roads . . .
When lightning flashes in the air
And space shakes
Like a big head saying no,
I dont know why I dont feel afraid
I start praying to Saint Barbara
Like I was somebodys old aunt . . .
Ah! its just that praying to Saint Barbara
Makes me feel even more simple
Than I think I am . . .
I feel homey and domestic
Like Ive gone through life
Tranquilly, like the wall of my yard;
I have ideas and feelings by having them
Like a flower has perfume and color . . .
It makes me feel like someone who can believe in St. Barbara . . .
Ah, to be able to believe in St. Barbara!
(Whoever believes theres a St. Barbara
Believe shes a person you can see
Or else what would they believe about her?)
(How phony! What do flowers, trees and flocks
Know about St. Barbara? . . . If a branch of a tree
Could think, it never would
Construe saints or angels . . .
It would be able to think the sun
Gives light and a storm
Is an angry bunch of
People above us . . .

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Ah, how the simplest of men


Are sick and confused and stupid
Next to the clear simplicity
And health in existing
Of trees and plants!)
And me, thinking about all this,
I became less happy again. . .
I became somber and sickened and gloomy
Like when a storm threatens all day
And even by night it doesnt come . . .

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V
Theres enough metaphysics in not thinking about anything.
What do I think about the world?
I have no idea what I think about the world!
If I get sick Ill think about that stuff.
What idea do I have about things?
What opinion do I have about cause and effect?
What have I meditated on God and the soul
And on the creation of the world?
I dont know. For me thinking about that stuff is shutting my eyes
And not thinking. Its closing the curtains
(But my window doesnt have curtains).
The mystery of things? I have no idea what mystery is!
The only mystery is there being someone who thinks about mystery.
When youre in the sun and shut your eyes,
You start not knowing what the sun is
And you think a lot of things full of heat.
But you open your eyes and look at the sun
And you cant think about anything anymore,
Because the suns light is worth more than the thoughts
Of all the philosophers and poets.
Sunlight doesnt know what its doing
So its never wrong and its common and good.
Metaphysics? What metaphysics do those trees have?
Of being green and bushy and having branches
And of giving fruit in their own time, which doesnt make us think,
To us, who dont know how to pay attention to them.
But what better metaphysics than theirs,
Which is not knowing what they live for
Not even knowing they dont know?
Inner constitution of things . . .
Inner meaning of the Universe . . .
All that stuff is false, all that stuff means nothing.
Its incredible that someone could think about things that way.
Its like thinking reasons and purposes
When morning starts shining, and by the trees over there
A vague lustrous gold is driving the darkness away.
Thinking about the inner meaning of things
Is doing too much, like thinking about health when youre healthy,
Or bringing a cup to a spring.

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The only inner meaning of things


Is that they have no inner meaning at all.
I dont believe in God because I never saw him.
If he wanted me to believe in him,
I have no doubt hed come talk with me
And come in my door
Telling me, Here I am!
(Maybe this is ridiculous to the ears
Of someone who, because they dont know what it is to look at things,
Doesnt understand someone who talks about them
With the way of speaking looking at them teaches.)
But if God is the flowers and the trees
And the hills and the sun and the moonlight,
Then I believe in him,
Then I believe in him all the time,
And my whole life is an oration and a mass,
And a communion with my eyes and through my ears.
But if God is the trees and the flowers
And the hills and the moonlight and the sun,
Why should I call him God?
I call him flowers and trees and hills and sun and moonlight;
Because if he made himself for me to see
As the sun and moonlight and flowers and trees and hills,
If he appears to me as trees and hills
And moonlight and sun and flowers,
Its because he wants me to know him
As trees and hills and flowers and moonlight and sun.
And thats why I obey him,
(What more do I know about God than God knows about himself?),
I obey him by living, spontaneously,
Like someone opening his eyes and seeing,
And I call him moonlight and sun and flowers and trees and hills,
And I love him without thinking about him,
And I think him by seeing and hearing,
And Im with him all the time.

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VI
Thinking about God is disobeying God
Because God wants us not to know him,
And so he doesnt show himself to us . . .
Lets be simple and calm,
Like brooks and trees,
And God will love us by making
Beautiful things like the trees and brooks for us,
And give us greenness in his spring,
A river for us to go to when were done . . .
Nothing else, because giving us more would take more from us.

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VII
From my village I see as much in the Universe as you can see from earth . . .
So my village is as big as any other land
Because Im the size of what I see,
Not the size of my height . . .
In the cities life is smaller
Than here in my house on top of this little hill.
In the city the big houses shut your sight with a key,
Hide the horizon, push your eyes far away from all the sky,
Make us little because they take away what our eyes can give us,
And make us poor because our only wealth is seeing.

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VIII
One noonday near the end of spring
I had a dream like a photograph.
I saw Jesus Christ come down to earth.
He came down the side of a hill
And turned into a boy again,
Running and rolling in the grass
And pulling up flowers just to throw them away,
And laughing so you could hear it far away.
He had run away from heaven.
He was like us too much to pretend
He was the second person of the Trinity.
In heaven everything was false, everything out of step
With flowers and trees and stones.
In heaven he always had to be serious
And from time to time become human again
And climb onto the cross, and start dying
With a crown of thorns all around,
And his feet skewered with a spike
And even with a rag around his waist
Like black men in engravings.
They wouldnt even let him have a father and mother
Like other children.
His father was two people
An old man named Joseph, who was a carpenter,
And who wasnt his father,
And the other father was a stupid dove,
The only ugly dove in the world
Because it was neither a dove nor of the world.
His mother didnt love a man before she had him.
She wasnt even a woman: she was the handbag
He came down from the sky in.
And they wanted him, who was born only of a mother,
And never had a father to love with respect,
To preach goodness and justice!
One day when God fell asleep
And the Holy Ghost went off flying,
He got into a box of miracles and stole three.
With the first he made it so that no one would know he had run away.
With the second he made himself a human boy forever.
With the third he created a Christ eternally crucified
And left him nailed to the cross that there is in Heaven
Where hes used as a model for other crosses.
Then he ran away to the sun

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And came down on the first ray he caught.


Today he lives in my village with me.
Hes a lovely, natural, smiling child.
He wipes his nose on his right arm,
Sloshes around in puddles,
Picks flowers and loves them and forgets about them.
He throws stones at donkeys,
Steals fruit from the orchards
And runs away yelling and crying from dogs.
And, because he knows they dont like it
And everybody else thinks its funny,
He runs around the girls
Who walk in groups along the roads
With jugs on their heads
And he lifts up their skirts.
Hes taught me everything.
He taught me how to look at things.
He shows me everything there is in flowers.
He shows me how stones are pleasing
When you hold them in your hand
And look at them for a while.
He tells me a lot of bad things about God.
He says hes a stupid, sick old man,
Always hawking on the ground
And saying nasty things.
The Virgin Mary spends her afternoons in eternity knitting socks.
The Holy Ghost picks at himself with his beak
And perches on armchairs and dirties them.
Everything in heaven is as stupid as the Catholic Church.
He tells me God doesnt understand anything
About the things he created
If its him who created them, which I doubt
He says, for example, that all beings sing his glory,
But beings dont sing anything.
If they sang theyd be singers.
All beings exist and nothing else
And thats why theyre called beings.
And afterwards, tired out from telling me about Gods wickedness,
The Boy Jesus falls asleep in my arms
And I carry him home in my arms.

He stays with me in my house on the middle of a knoll.

17

Hes the Eternal Child, the god who was missing.


Hes the human who is natural,
Hes the divinity who smiles and plays.
And thats why I know for certain
That hes the true Boy Jesus.
And the child so human hes divine
Is my daily poets life,
And its because he always walks with me that Im always a poet,
And my very smallest glimpse
Fills me with feeling,
And the smallest sound, whatever it may be,
Seems to speak to me.
The New Child who stays where I stay
Gives one hand to me
And the other to everything that exists
And so we three go along whatever road there is,
Skipping and singing and laughing
And delighting in our common secret
Which is totally knowing
Theres no mystery in the world
And everythings worth the trouble.
The Eternal Child always accompanies me.
The direction of my eyes is his pointing finger.
My happy attentive listening to every sound
Is him playfully tickling my ears.
We get along so well together
In the company of everything
That we never think about each other,
But the two of us live together
With an inner accord
Like right and left hands.
At nightfall we play jacks
On the doorstep of the house,
Gravely as is fitting a god and a poet,
And as if each jack
Were a whole universe
And because of this it would be a great danger
To let it fall on the ground.
Afterwards I tell him stories about things only people do
And he smiles, because its all incredible.
He laughs about kings and about those who are not kings,
And he feels hurt when he hears about wars,

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And commerce, and the ships leaving


Their smoke on the high seas.
Because he knows all of this lacks the truth
A flower has in its blooming
And which moves with the sunlight
Changing the hills and valleys
And making whitewashed walls hurt your eyes.
Then he falls asleep and I put him to bed.
I carry him in my arms inside my house
And lay him down, undressing him slowly
Like following a ritual all clean
And maternal until hes naked.
He sleeps in my soul
And sometimes he wakes up at night
And plays with my dreams.
He throws them around in the air,
Puts one on top of the other
And claps his hands all alone
Smiling at my sleep.

When I die, little boy,


Let me be a child, the littlest one.
Clutch me to your breast
And carry me inside your house.
Undress my tired and human being
And lay me down in your bed.
And tell me stories, in case I wake up,
To make me go to sleep again.
And give me your dreams to play with
Until the day comes
You know which day I mean.

19

This is the story of my Boy Jesus.


Is there any reason you see
For it not to be more true
Than everything philosophers think
And everything religions teach?

. . . the stunning dream of the Boy Jesus might be the most original thing in all modern poetry.
There seems to be in Caeiro the radical impossibility for him not to feel everything freshly. His comments are those of
one who yearns to tell the gods a few things about the origin of the world. He seems younger by centuries than all the
rest of us and is joined to us only by the deficiencies, weakness or hesitation in his fresh ideation. The interstices of his
poetic thinking are clogged with the debris of our exhausted mode of thought . . .

20

IX
Im a keeper of flocks.
The flock is my thoughts
And my thoughts are all sensations.
I think with my eyes and with my ears
And with my hands and feet
And with my nose and mouth.
Thinking about a flower is seeing and smelling it
And eating a piece of fruit is knowing its meaning.
Thats why when on a hot day
I feel sad from liking it so much,
And I throw myself lengthwise on the grass
And I shut my hot eyes,
And I feel my whole body lying on reality
And I know the truth and Im happy.

Informed that the most original and limpid poetry, the poetry most purely poetry of today would emanate from a
materialist, we ought not be led into the evil of doubt. Informed of a radically absolute materialist who nevertheless
possesses all the mystics qualities of spiritual refinement, we mustnt labor to turn our backs on that crude paradox. If
someone told us that there was a contemporary poet who would appear with an entirely new poetry, thoroughly contrary
to ours perhaps wed choose to turn our backs, almost not [ . . . ] Alberto Caeiro realizes all those contradictions.
In him we salute the most original modern poet, one of the greatest poets of all times . . .

21

X
Hey, keeper of flocks,
There by the side of the road,
What does the blowing wind say to you?
That its wind, that it blows,
That its blown before
And will blow again.
What does it say to you?
So much more than that.
It speaks to me of many other things.
Of memories and yearnings
And things that never were.
You never heard the wind blow.
The wind only talks about the wind.
What you heard from it was a lie,
And the lie is in you.

His poetry is so natural that at times there seems nothing great or sublime about it . . . It is so spontaneous and
ingenuous that we forget it is completely new, entirely original.

22

XI
That lady has a piano.
Its nice, but its not the running of rivers
Or the murmur trees make . . .
Who needs a piano?
Its better to have ears
And love Nature.

23

XII
Virgils shepherds played the pipes and other things
And they sang about love literarily.
(So they say I never read Virgil.
Why should I?)
Virgils shepherds, poor guys, are Virgil,
And Nature is beautiful and ancient and right here.
(4/12/1919)

24

XIII
Lightly, lightly, very lightly,
The wind blows very lightly
And then stops, always very lightly.
And I dont know what I think
And I dont want to know.

25

XIV
I dont bother with rhyme. Two trees
Are never, ever the same, one beside the other.
I think and write like flowers have color
But with less perfection in my way of expressing myself
Because I lack the divine simplicity
Of wholly being only my exterior.
I see and Im moved,
Moved the way water runs when the ground slopes down
And what I write is as natural as the rising wind . . .
(3/7/1914)

26

XV
The four songs following this one
Separate themselves from everything I think,
Make lies of everything I feel,
Are the opposite of what I am . . .
I wrote them when I was getting sick
And so theyre natural
And they agree with what I feel,
They agree with what they dont agree with . . .
Being sick I should think the opposite
Of what I think when Im healthy
(Otherwise I wouldnt be sick),
I should feel the opposite of what I feel
When Im healthy,
I should give the lie to my nature
Of being a creature who feels a certain way . . .
I should be all sick ideas and everything.
When Im sick, Im not sick for something else.
So these songs that deny me
Arent capable of denying me
And are the landscape of my at night,
The same in the opposite . . .

What I admire in Caeiros poetry is the strong thought yes, a kind of reason that conjoins and unites his
poems. In truth, he never contradicts himself, and when he does seem to contradict himself, there exists, in some corner
of his writing, the allegation foreseen and answered. Is it a profound coherence of the work itself, XXXXX? or is it
the profound genius of a Greek feeling and seeing all? In any hypothesis, the literary figure is enormous, even too grand
for the polychrome pettiness of our epoch.

27

XVI
If only my life could be an oxcart
That goes creaking, early mornings, along the road
And when it gets where its going, starts
Back, near dusk, along the same road.
I wouldnt have to have hopes only wheels . . .
My old age wouldnt be wrinkles or hair gone white . . .
When Im no good anymore, theyll pull off my wheels
And Ill lie broken upside-down in a ditch.
Or else theyll make me some other thing
And I wont know what I was made . . .
But Im not a cart, Im something else
And how Im different, theyll never say.

28

XVII
Salad
What a jumble of Nature on my plate!
My sisters the plants,
The companions of springs, the saints
Nobody prays to . . .
And they cut them and they come to our table
And in the hotels the noisy guests
Who come in with their strapped-up blankets
Ask for Salad, carelessly . . .,
Without thinking they demand from Mother Earth
Her freshness and her first children,
The first green words she ever said,
The first things, living and iridescent,
That Noah saw
When the waters lowered and the mountaintops
Emerged green and marshy
And in the air where the dove appeared
The rainbow was shimmering . . .

A.C.: In the seventeenth poem, we are able readily to discern Caeiros foundationary influences: Cesrio Verde and
the Portuguese neopantheists. The seventh line is pure Cesrio Verde. The tone in general is almost Pascoaes.

29

XVIII
If only I were dust on a road
And poor peoples feet were tromping on me . . .
If only I were flowing rivers
And washerwomen were on my banks . . .
If only I were poplars next to the river
And only had the sky above me and the water below . . .
If only I were a millers donkey
And he beat me and took care of me . . .
Those would be better than going through life
Looking back and feeling sorry about it . . .
(1914)

30

XIX
The moonlight when it shines on the grass,
I dont know what it reminds me of . . .
It reminds me of my old maid
Telling me fairy tales
And how Our Lady dressed like a beggar
And walked the roads at night,
Helping mistreated children . . .
If I cant believe theyre true anymore,
Why does the moonlight shine on the grass?

31

XX
The Tejo is more beautiful than the river that flows through my village,
But the Tejo isnt more beautiful than the river that flows through my village,
Because the Tejo isnt the river that flows through my village.
The Tejo has big boats
And there navigates in it still,
For those who see whats not there in everything,
The memory of fleets.
The Tejo runs down from Spain
And the Tejo goes into the sea in Portugal.
Everybody knows that.
But not many people know the river of my village
And where it comes from
And where its going.
And so, because it belongs to less people,
The river of my village is freer and bigger.
Through the Tejo you go to the world.
Beyond the Tejo is America
And the fortune you might find there.
Nobody ever thought about whats beyond
The river of my village.
The river of my village doesnt make you think about anything.
When youre at its bank youre only at its bank.

32

XXI
If I could take a bite of the whole world
And feel it on my palate
And if the earth were something to bite into
Id be more happy for a minute or so . . .
But I dont always want to be happy.
Sometimes you have to be
Unhappy to be natural . . .
Not every day is sunny.
When theres been no rain for a while, you pray for it to come.
So I take unhappiness with happiness
Naturally, like someone who doesnt find it strange
That there are mountains and plains
And that there are big rocks and grass . . .
What you need is to be natural and calm
In happiness and in unhappiness,
To feel like someone seeing,
To think like someone walking,
And when its time to die, remember the day dies,
And the sunset is beautiful, and the endless night is beautiful . . .
Thats how it is and thats how I should be . . .

33

XXII
Like someone who opens the door of their house on a Summer day
And peers at the heat of the fields with his whole face,
Sometimes, suddenly, Nature smacks me
Right in the face of my feelings,
And I get confused, worried, wanting to perceive
I dont really know how or what . . .
But whos telling me to want to perceive?
Who says I have to perceive?
When Summer runs the light, hot
Hand of its breeze across my face,
I only have to feel pleased because its a breeze
Or displeased because its hot,
However I feel it,
So I should feel it like I feel it because thats how I feel it . . .

34

XXIII
My looking is blue as the sky,
Calm as water in the sun.
Its that way, blue and calm,
Because it doesnt question and it doesnt get surprised . . .
If I did question or got surprised
New flowers wouldnt bloom in the meadows
And nothing would change in the sun in a way to make it more beautiful.
(Even if new flowers bloomed in the meadows
And the sun turned more beautiful,
Id sense less flowers in the meadow
And think the sun is more ugly . . .
Because everythings like it is and so things are what they are,
And I accept, and Im not even grateful,
So I dont seem to be thinking about it . . .)

35

XXIV
What we see of things is things.
Why would we see something if there were something else?
How could seeing and hearing be self-deceptive
If seeing and hearing are seeing and hearing?
The main thing is knowing how to see,
To know how to see without thinking,
To know how to see when you see,
And not think when you see
Or see when you think.
But this (poor us with dresses-up souls!),
This takes deep study,
An apprenticeship in unlearning,
And isolation in freedom from that convent
Where poets say the stars are eternal brothers,
And flowers are penitent nuns who only live a day,
But where stars really arent anything but stars,
And flowers arent anything but flowers,
And that why theyre called stars and flowers.
(3/13/1914)

36

XXV
Those soap bubbles that kid
Amuses himself with by blowing them from a straw
Are transparently a whole philosophy.
Clear, useless and fleeting like Nature,
Friends to the eyes like things,
They are what they are
With a little round airy precision,
And nobody, not even the kid whos making them,
Pretends theyre more than they appear to be.
Some are hard to see in the clear air.
Theyre like a breeze that blows and barely touches the flowers
And we only know its blowing
Because something lightens in us
And accepts everything more clearly.
(3/13/1914)

Or the supreme perfection of the twenty-fifth, a poem that really does seem a flying soap-bubble of his thought.

37

XXVI
Sometimes on days of perfect and exact light,
When things have all the reality they can,
I ask myself slowly
Why I even attribute
Beauty to things.
Does a flower somehow have beauty?
Somehow a fruit has beauty?
No: they only have color
And form and existence.
Beauty is the name of something that doesnt exist
I give to things in exchange for the delight they give me.
It means nothing.
Then why do I say, Things are beautiful?
Yes, even I, who live only on living,
Mens lies come to meet me
Invisibly in the face of things,
In the face of things that simply exist.
Its so hard to be yourself and see only what you can see!
(3/11/1914)

38

XXVII
Only Nature is divine, and shes not divine . . .
If I talk about her like shes a being
Its because talking about her I need to use the language of men
Which gives personality to things,
And imposes a name on things.
But things dont have a name or a personality:
They exist, and the sky is big and the earth is wide,
And our heart is the size of a clenched fist . . .
Blessed be me for everything I dont know.
This really is all I am.
I love all this like you know theres a sun.

39

XXVIII
Today I read almost two pages
In a book by a mystical poet
And I laughed like someone whod cried a lot.
Mystical poets are sick philosophers
And philosophers are crazy.
Mystical poets say flowers feel
And they say stones have a soul
And they say rivers have ecstasies in the moonlight.
But flowers wouldnt be flowers if they felt,
Theyd be people;
And if stones had a soul, theyd be living things, they wouldnt be stones;
And if rivers had ecstasies in the moonlight,
Rivers would be sick people.
You need to not know what flowers and stones and rivers are
To talk about their feelings.
Talking about the soul of stones, of flowers, of rivers,
Is talking about yourself and your false thoughts.
Thank God stones are only stones,
And rivers are nothing but rivers,
And flowers are just flowers.
Me, I write my prosy poems
And Im at peace,
Because I know I understand Nature on the outside
And I dont understand Nature on the inside
Because Nature doesnt have an inside;
If she did she wouldnt be Nature.

40

XXIX
Im not always the same in what I say and write.
I change, but I dont change a whole lot.
The color of flowers isnt the same in the sun
As when a cloud passes over
Or when night falls
And the flowers are the color of shadow.
But whoever looks right sees theyre the same flowers.
So when I seem to not agree with myself,
Watch me closely:
Sometimes when Im going right,
Maybe Ill turn left,
But its still me, standing on the same feet
Always the same, thanks to the sky and the earth
And my attentive eyes and ears
And my clear simplicity of soul . . .

41

XXX
If they want me to have some kind of mysticism, okay, Ive got one.
Im a mystic, but only with my body.
My soul is simple and it doesnt think.
My mysticism is not wanting to know.
Its living and not thinking about it.
I dont know what Nature is: I sing her.
I live on top of a knoll
In a lonely whitewashed house,
And thats my definition.

42

XXXI
If I sometimes say flowers smile
And if I say rivers sing,
Its not because I believe there are smiles in flowers
And songs in the running of rivers . . .
Its because that way I make wrong men feel more
The really real existence of flowers and rivers.
Because I write for them to read me, sometimes I sacrifice myself
To their stupidity of meanings . . .
I dont agree with myself but I forgive myself
Because I dont really take myself very seriously,
Because only I am this hateful thing, an interpreter of Nature,
Because there are people dont perceive her language,
Because its not a language at all . . .

43

XXXII
Yesterday evening some citified guy
Talked at the door of the inn.
He talked to me, too.
He talked about justice and the fight for justice
And the workers who suffer,
And constant work, and those who are hungry,
And the rich, who only turn their backs.
And, looking at me, he saw tears in my eyes
And smiled with sympathy, believing I felt
The hatred he felt, and the compassion
He said he felt.
(But I wasnt even really listening to him.
What do I care about men
And what they suffer or think they suffer?
Let them be like me then they wouldnt suffer.
All the evil in the world comes from us bothering with each other,
Good or bad, whatever.
Our soul and the sky and the earth are enough for us.
If you want more, youll just lose it and be unhappy.)
What I was thinking about
When the friend of the people talked
(And what moved me to tears),
Was how the distant clank of sheeps bells that evening
Didnt seem like bells of a tiny chapel
Where flowers and brooks were going to mass
With simple souls like mine.
(Praise be to God Im not good
And have the natural egotism of flowers
And rivers following their bed
Preoccupied without knowing it
Only with blooming and flowing.
Thats the only mission in the World,
That to exist clearly,
And to know how to do it without thinking about it.)
The man stopped talking and was looking at the sunset.
But what does someone who hates and loves want with a sunset?

44

XXXIII
Poor flowers in the beds of regimented gardens.
They look like theyre afraid of the cops . . .
But all the same theyre so good to bloom for us
And have the same ancient smile
They had for the gaze of the first human
Who saw them appear and touched them softly
To see if they could speak . . .

45

XXXIV
I find it so natural not to think
I start to laugh sometimes, all alone,
I dont really know why, but its got something to do
With knowing there are some folks who think . . .
What does my wall think about my shadow?
I ask myself that sometimes until I notice
Im asking myself things . . .
And then I get mad at myself, and feel uncomfortable
Like when my foot falls asleep . . .
What does this think about that?
Nothing thinks about anything.
Does the earth have consciousness of its stones and plants?
If it did, it would be people. . .
Why am I worrying about this?
If I think about these things,
Ill stop seeing trees and plants
And stop seeing the Earth
For only seeing my thoughts . . .
Ill get unhappy and stay in the dark.
And so, without thinking, I have the Earth and the Sky.

46

XXXV
Moonlight through high branches,
All the poets say its more
Than moonlight through high branches.
But for me, who dont know what I think,
What moonlight through high branches
Is, besides being
Moonlight through high branches,
Is being nothing else
But moonlight through high branches.
(3/11/1914)

47

XXXVI
And there are poets who are artists
And they work on their verses
Like a carpenter with boards! . . .
How sad not to know how to bloom!
To have to put verse on verse, like someone making a wall
And looking to see if its good, and tearing it apart if its not! . . .
When the only artistic house is the whole Earth
And it varies and its always good and always the same.
I think about it, not like someone thinking, but like someone not thinking,
And I look at flowers and I smile . . .
I dont know if they understand me
Or if I understand them,
But I know the truth is in them and in me
And in our common divinity
Of letting ourselves go and live on the Earth
And snuggling through the contented Seasons
And letting the wind sing us to sleep
And not have dreams in our sleep.

48

XXXVII
Like a great big blob of dirty fire
The setting sun lags among left-over clouds.
A vague whistle comes from far away in the very calm evening.
There must be a train out there.
At this moment a vague yearning comes over me
And a vague placid desire
Appears and disappears.
Also at times, on the surface of streams,
Water-bubbles form
And grow and burst
And have no meaning at all
Except that theyre water-bubbles
Growing and bursting.

49

XXXVIII
Blessed be the sun on other lands
Which makes all men my brothers
Because every man, one moment in the day, looks at it like me
And in this pure moment,
All clean and tender,
They go back tearfully
With a sigh they barely feel
To the true and primitive Man
Who saw the sun rise and didnt worship it yet.
Because thats natural more natural
Than adoring the sun and God, too
And everything else that doesnt exist.
look in other edition for highlighted lines

50

XXXIX
The mystery of things, where is it?
Where is the thing that doesnt appear
At least to show us its a mystery?
What does a river know about this and what does a tree know?
And I, who am no more than those, what do I know?
Every time I look at things and think about what men think about them,
I laugh like how a brook sounds cool on a stone.
Because the only hidden meaning of things
Is that they have no hidden meaning at all,
Its stranger than every strangeness
And the dreams of all the poets
And the thoughts of all the philosophers,
That things are really what they seem to be
And theres nothing to understand.
Yes, this is what my senses learned all by themselves:
Things dont have meaning: they only have existence.
Things are the only hidden meaning of things.

51

XL
A butterfly goes in front of me
And for the first time in the universe I notice
That butterflies dont have color or movement,
Just like flowers dont have perfume or color.
Color is what has color in a butterflys wings.
In a butterflys movement the movement is what moves.
Perfume is what has perfume in a flowers perfume.
A butterflys only a butterfly.
A flowers only a flower.
(5/7/1914)

52

XLI
Sometimes in the evening on Summer days,
Even when theres no breeze at all, it seems
Like theres a light breeze blowing for a minute . . .
But the trees keep still
In every leaf of their leaves
And our feelings have had an illusion,
Theyve had the illusion of what would please them . . .
Ah, our senses, sick beings that see and hear!
Lets be like we should be
And not hold on to this need for illusion in us . . .
It should be enough for us to sense with clarity and life
And not even think about what senses are for . . .
But thank God theres imperfection in the World
Because imperfection is a thing
And people being wrong is primordial
And there being sick people makes the world bigger.
If there were no imperfection there would be one less thing
And there should be a lot of things
So we have a lot to see and hear
(As long as our eyes and ears arent shut) . . .
(5/7/14)

53

XLII
A stagecoach went by on the road and kept on going;
And the road didnt become more beautiful or even more ugly.
Thats human action all over the outside world.
We take nothing away and we put nothing back, we go by and forget
And the suns always right on time, every day.
(5/7/14)

This calm notation on the margin of history says more about the eternal vacuity of human action than a hundred
lengthy odes by a hundred poets.

54

XLIII
Rather the flight of a bird that goes by and leaves no trace,
Than when an animal goes by and leaves a reminder on the ground.
A bird goes by and is forgotten and thats how it ought to be.
When its not there anymore and so no use at all, an animal
Shows it used to be there, which is no use at all.
Recollection betrays Nature
Because yesterdays Nature isnt Nature.
What was is nothing and to remember is to not see.
Pass, bird, pass, and teach me to pass!
(5/7/14)

55

XLIV
I suddenly wake up at night,
And my clock occupies the whole night.
I dont sense Nature outside.
My room is a dark thing with vaguely white walls.
Its quiet outside like nothing existed.
Only the clock goes on with its noise.
And this little thing full of gears on top of my table
Muffles the whole existence of the earth and the sky . . .
I almost get lost thinking about what it means,
But I come back, and I feel myself smiling in the night with the corners of my mouth,
Because the only thing my clock means or symbolizes
Filling the enormous night with its smallness
Is the curious sensation of the enormous night being filled
And the sensation is a little strange because its not filling the night
With its smallness.
(5/7/14)

56

XLV
A stand of trees over there on the hillside.
But what is it, a row of trees? Its just trees.
Row and the plural trees arent things, theyre names.
Sad human souls, putting everything in order,
Tracing lines from thing to thing,
Hanging signs with names on absolutely real trees,
And drawing parallels of latitude and longitude
All over the earth itself, innocent and more green and more flowering than that!
(5/7/14)

57

XLVI
One way or another,
Whether it works out or not,
Sometimes able to say what I think,
Other times saying it badly and all mixed up,
I keep writing my poems without meaning to,
As if writing werent a thing made of gestures,
As if writing were a thing that happened to me
Like the sun shining on me outside.
I try to say what I feel
Without thinking about things I feel.
I try to lean words on the idea
And not need a corridor
From thought to words.
I dont always feel what I know I should feel.
My thought crosses the river I swim very slowly
Because the suit men made it wear weighs it down.
Im trying to take off what I learned,
Im trying to forget the way of remembering they taught me,
And scrape off the paint they painted my senses with,
Unpack my true emotions,
Unwrap myself and be me, not Alberto Caeiro,
But a human animal produced by Nature.
So I write, wanting to feel Nature, not even like a man,
But like someone feeling Nature and nothing else.
So I write, sometimes well, sometimes not so well,
Sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes missing,
Falling down over here, standing up over there,
But always going my way like a stubborn blind man.
Even so, Im somebody.
Im the Discoverer of Nature.
Im the Argonaut of true sensations.
I bring a new Universe to the Universe
Because I bring the Universe itself.

58

I feel this and write this


Knowing perfectly well
And without not seeing
That its five in the morning
And the sun, which still hasnt shown its head
Above the wall of the horizon,
Can already be seen by its fingertips
Clutching the top of the wall
Of the horizon full of low hills.
(5/10/14)

59

XLVII
On a too clear day,
A day when you wish youd worked a lot the day before
So youd have no work left to do,
I glimpsed, like a road between trees,
What might be The Great Secret,
That Great Mystery wrong poets talk about.
I saw theres no Nature,
Nature doesnt exist,
There are hills, valleys, plains,
There are trees, flowers, weeds,
There are rivers and stones,
But there isnt a whole all this belongs to
And a real and true wholeness
Is a sickness of our ideas.
Nature is parts without a whole.
Maybe thats the mystery they talk about.
Thats what I hit upon without thinking or pausing,
That must be the truth
Everyones looking for and doesnt find,
And only I found it because I wasnt looking for it.

Caeiro is the Saint Francis of Assisi of the new paganism. (A. Mora)

60

XLVIII
From the highest window of my house
With a white handkerchief I say goodbye
To my poems leaving for humanity.
And Im not happy or sad.
Thats the destiny of poems.
I wrote them and I should show them to everybody
Because I cant do any different,
Like a flower cant hide its color,
Or a river hide its flowing,
Or a tree hide its fruit.
There they are, going away like in a stagecoach
And without meaning to I feel sad
Like a pain in my body.
Who knows wholl read them?
Who knows whose hands theyll go to?
Flower, my destiny plucked me for their eyes.
Tree, they picked my fruit for their mouths.
River, my waters destiny was to not stay with me.
I give in and feel almost happy,
Almost happy like someone tired of feeling sad.
Go, go from me!
A tree dies and stays, scattered throughout Nature.
A flower withers and its dust endures forever.
A river runs and flows into the sea and its water will always be what was its.
I pass and I stay, like the Universe.

61

XLIX
I go inside, and I close the window.
They bring me the lamp and they say goodnight,
And my peaceful voice says goodnight.
If only my life were always like this:
A day full of sun, or soft with rain,
Or stormy to end the world,
A pleasant evening with groups of passing people
I can watch curiously from my window,
A last friendly look at the quietness of the trees,
And then after, the window shut, the lamp still burning,
Without reading anything, or thinking about anything, or even sleeping,
A feel of life running through me like a river along its bed,
And outside a silence as big as a sleeping god.

62

The Amorous Shepherd


I am aware that these two poems are pearls of universal love poetry. We sense a new kind of
love in them, and hear a new music of amorous emotion. Caeiro may have been at times unfaithful
to his principles; he could never be anything but original. These love poems are unique in the history
of love poetry. I recognize this fact without admiration, for I hold my admiration most high and
dear. The very state of love, while natural, is hardly the proper state for the fixing of impressions we
call art. There exist rare artists who manage always to hold onto themselves, and whose intelligence
bridles their emotion; but these same artists certainly do not arrange their sexual emotions in
columns according to some or another algorithm.
Caeiros metaphysical temperament was less receptive to those amorous emotions, which,
already disturbing in themselves, would be even more disturbing to a temperament so foreign to
them. Hence the momentary abdication of his principles and his native objectivity in the two poems
of The Amorous Shepherd. How can one in love not gaze within?
The mental addiction produced by this fruitless and disturbing amorous episode, whose
details I neither know nor wish to know, ran its course in the poets mind and left a wake of
destruction. Never again, save in fleeting poetic events, would Caeiro return to that eminently
serene, godlike vision that he, as a poet, after gradually cleansing himself of the accretions of
Christian spirituality, attained along the road he called The Keeper of Flocks.
I shall dispense with further comment. In abundantly explaining the substance of Caeiros
work, I have also implicitly explained what it degenerated into, when degenerate it did. I gladly
dispense with commenting on this point, the consideration of which so aggrieves me. I urge the
reader to take my lead, and pass over these two unlikable poems, thus to arrive, with no great
increase in joy, at the many fragments, complete and incomplete, which close this collection of
Caeiros works.
Ricardo Reis

63

I
When I didnt have you
I loved Nature like a calm monk loves Christ . . .
Now I love Nature
Like a calm monk loves the Virgin Mary,
Religiously, in my way, like before,
But in another way more moving and nearer.
I see the rivers better when I go with you
Through the fields to the riversides;
Sitting at your side looking at clouds
I look at them better . . .
You didnt take me from Nature . . .
You didnt change Nature for me . . .
You brought Nature right next to me.
Because you exist I see it better, but the same,
Because you love me, I love it the same, but more,
Because you chose me to have you and love you,
My eyes stare at everything more lingeringly.
I dont regret anything I used to be
Because Im still the same.
I only regret not having loved you.
Put your hands in mine
And lets keep quiet, surrounded by life.
(7/6/1914)

64

II
The moons high in the sky and its spring.
I think of you and Im whole inside.
A light breeze runs to me through empty fields.
I think of you, I murmur your name, Im not me: Im happy.
Tomorrow youll come and go with me to pick flowers in the field
And Ill go with you through the fields to see you picking flowers.
I already see you tomorrow picking flowers with me in the fields,
But when you come tomorrow and go with me for real to pick flowers,
Itll be a real joy and a really new thing for me.
(7/6/1914)

65

III
Now that I feel love
Im interested in smells.
I was never interested in a flower having smell.
Now I sense the smell of flowers as if I were seeing something new.
I know theyve always smelled just as well as I know I exist.
Theyre things you know from the outside.
But now I know with my breathing from the back of my head.
Today flowers taste good to me on a palate that smells.
Today I wake up sometimes and smell before I see.
(7/23/1930)

66

IV
Every day now I wake up with happiness and sadness.
Before, I woke up without any feeling at all; I used to just wake up.
Im happy and sad because Im losing what I dream
And can be in reality where shes what I dream.
I dont know what to do about my feelings.
I dont know what to do with myself when Im alone.
I want her to say something to me so I can wake up again.
Whoever loves is different from who they are.
Theyre the same person without anyone.
(7/23/1930)

67

V
Love is company.
I dont know how to walk alone on the roads anymore
Because I cant walk alone anymore.
A visible thought makes me walk faster
And see less and at the same time really enjoy seeing everything.
Even her absence is a thing thats with me.
And I love her so much I dont know how to want her.
If I dont see her, I pretend I do and Im as strong as trees are tall.
But if I see her I tremble, I dont know what happens to what I feel in her absence.
All I am is some strength abandoning me.
All reality looks at me like a sunflower with her face in the middle of it.
(7/10/1930)

68

VI
I spent the whole night without knowing how to sleep, seeing her shape
And nothing else, always in a different way from when Im with her.
I make thoughts with the memory of when she talks to me,
And in every thought her look changes.
To love is to think.
And I almost forget to feel just because Im thinking about her.
I dont know what I want at all, even from her, and I dont think about anything but her.
Theres this big, animate distraction in me.
When I want to meet her,
I almost feel like not meeting her,
So I dont have to leave her afterwards.
And I prefer thinking about her, because Im afraid of her, somehow.
I dont really know what I want, and I dont want to know what I want.
All I want to do is think about her.
Im not asking for anything from anybody, not even her, except to let me think.
(7/10/1930)

69

VII
Maybe when you see really well youre not so good at feeling
And youre not so nice because youre so past etiquette.
There has to be a way for everything,
And each thing has its way, and so does love.
Whoever has a way of seeing fields by seeing their grass
Shouldnt be blind enough to make people feel.
I loved and wasnt loved back, thats what I finally saw when it was over,
Because youre not loved like being born but like it happens.
She goes on with her beautiful hair and mouth like before,
I go on like I was before, alone in the field.
Its like my head had been lowered,
Thats I think, so I keep my head up
And the golden sun dries the little tears I cant stop.
The field is so big and love is so little!
I look, and I forget, just like water dries and trees drop leaves.
I dont know how to talk because Im feeling.
Im listening to my voice as if it were someone elses,
And my voice is speaking about her as if someone else were speaking.
She has hair as blond as yellow wheat in the sun,
And when she speaks her mouth says things that arent in words.
She laughs, and her teeth are clean as river stones.
(11/8/1929)

70

VIII
The amorous shepherd has lost his staff,
And his sheep are straying on the hillside,
And he didnt even play the flute he brought to play because he was thinking so much.
No one came to him or went away. He never found his staff again.
The others cursed at him and herded his sheep for him.
No one had loved him, in the end.
When he got up from the hillside and the false truth, he saw everything:
The great valleys full of the same green as always,
The great distant mountains, more real than any feeling,
All reality, with the sky and the air and the fields, is present.
Once again the air hed missed for so long entered coolly into his lungs
And it felt like the air was opening sad freedom in his chest again.
(7/10/1930)

71

Detached Poems
(1913-1915)
Past the curve in the road
Maybe theres a pond and maybe theres a castle,
And maybe it just keeps going.
I dont know and I dont even ask.
While Im walking on the road before the curve,
I only look at the road before the curve,
Because I cant see anything but the road before the curve.
Itd do me no good to look for the other side
And at something I cant see.
Lets only care about the place where we are.
Theres enough beauty in being here and not anywhere else.
If theres someone past the curve in the road,
Let them worry about whats past the curve in the road,
Thats what the road is to them.
If we have to get there, when we get there well know.
For the time being all we know is, were not there.
Here theres only the road before the curve, and before the curve
Theres only the road without any curve at all.
(1914)

72

Clean up Matter,
Put back all the things people scattered all around
Because they didnt see what they were for . . .
Like a good lady of the house of Reality, straighten
The curtains on the windows of Sensation,
And the mats for the doors of Perception
Sweep the rooms of Observation
And wipe the dust off simple ideas . . .
Heres my life, line by line.
(9/17/1914)

73

Whats my life worth? At the end (I dont know what end)


One guy says: I made 300,000
Another guy says: I had 3000 days of glory
And another: I had a good conscience and thats enough . . .
If they show up and asked me what I did,
Ill say I looked at things, thats all.
Thats why I carry the Universe here in my pocket.
And if God asks me: what did you see in things?
Ill answer: just things. You didnt put anything else in them.
And because God has the same opinion, hell make me a new kind of saint.
(9/17/1914)

74

The astonishing reality of things


Is my discovery every day.
Each thing is what it is,
And its hard to explain to someone how much this makes me happy,
How much its enough for me.
Its enough to exist to be whole.
Ive written quite a few poems.
Ill write many more, naturally.
Each poem of mine says it,
And all my poems are different,
Because each thing there is, is a way of saying it.
Sometimes I start looking at a stone.
I dont start thinking if it feels.
I dont lose myself and call it my sister.
But I like it because its being a stone,
I like it because it doesnt feel anything,
I like it because it doesnt have any kinship with me.
Sometimes when I hear the wind blow
I feel that just hearing the wind blow makes it worthwhile being born.
I dont know what other people will think when they read this;
But I think it must be good because I think it without a struggle
Or some idea about what people would think about me;
Because I think it without thoughts;
Because I say it like my words say it.
One time they called me a materialist poet
And it made me wonder, because I didnt think
I could be called anything.
Im not even a poet: I see.
If what I write has any worth, its not me who has it:
The worth is here, in my poems.
Its all totally independent of my will.
(11/7/1915)

75

When spring comes again


Maybe she wont find me in the world anymore.
Right now, Id like to be able to think spring is a person
So I can imagine shell cry
When she sees shes lost her only friend.
But the spring isnt even a thing:
Shes a manner of speaking.
Even the flowers dont come back, or the green leaves.
There are new flowers, new green leaves.
There are other easy days.
Nothing comes back, nothing repeats itself, because everything is real.
(11/7/1915)

76

If I die young,
Without ever publishing a book,
Without seeing the face my poems have in print,
If someone wants to agitate for my cause,
I hope they dont agitate.
If it happens like that, it happens right.
Even if my poems are never printed,
They have their beauty in them, if they really are beautiful.
But they cant be beautiful and stay unprinted,
Because even though their roots are under the earth
Flowers bloom in the open air and theyre easy to see.
It has to be that way. Nothing can stop it.
If I die really young, listen here:
I was never anything but a kid playing.
I was a heathen like the sun and the water,
I had the universal religion only people dont have.
I was happy because I didnt ask for anything at all,
Or tried to find anything,
And I didnt think there was any other explanation
Than the word explanation not having meaning at all.
I didnt want anything but to be in the sun or the rain
In the sun when there was sun
And in the rain when it was raining
(And never anything different),
Feeling heat and cold and wind,
And going no farther than that.
I fell in love once. I thought she loved me,
But I wasnt loved back.
I wasnt loved for one main reason
I didnt have to be.
I consoled myself by going back to the sun and rain,
And sitting at the door of my house again.
When alls said and done, fields arent as green for people in love
As for those who arent.
To feel is to be distracted.
(11/7/1915)

77

When spring comes,


If Ive already died,
The flowers will bloom in the same way
And the trees wont be less green than they were last spring.
Reality doesnt need me.
I feel incredibly happy
When I think my death has absolutely no importance.
If I knew I was going to die tomorrow,
And spring came the day after tomorrow,
Itd be a good death, because it came the day after tomorrow.
If thats its time, when else should it come but in its own time?
I like it that everythings real and everythings right;
And I like that it would be, even if I didnt like it,
And so, if I died now, itd be a good death
Because everything is real and everything is right.
They can pray Latin over my coffin if they want to.
Its alright with me if they dance and sing all around it.
I dont have any preferences about when I wont even be able to have preferences.
What comes, when it comes, will be what it is when it comes.
(11/7/1915)

78

If they want to write my biography after I die,


There couldnt be anything simpler.
There are only two dates my birth and my death.
Between one and the other all the days are mine.
Im easy to define.
I saw like I was sentenced to see.
I loved things without any sentimentality at all.
I never wanted something I couldnt get because I never went blind.
Even hearing was never anything but an accompaniment to seeing.
I understood that things are real and all different from each another;
I understood this with my eyes, never with my thought.
If I understood it with thought I wouldve thought everything was the same.
One day I got sleepy like any kid.
I shut my eyes and slept.
Besides that, I was Natures only poet.
(11/8/1915)

79

Ive never been able to figure out how somebody could think a sunset is sad.
I guess its just because sunset isnt daybreak.
But if its a sunset, how could it ever be a daybreak?
(11/8/1915)

80

A rainy day is as beautiful as a sunny day.


Both exist, each one just like it is.
(11/8/1915)

81

When the grass grows on top of my grave,


Make that the sign for me to be totally forgotten.
Nature never remembers, thats why shes beautiful.
If they have the sick need to interpret the green grass on my grave,
Let them say I keep growing green and being natural.
(11/8/1915)

82

Its night. The night is very dark. In a house far away


The light from a window shines.
I see it, and feel human from head to foot.
Its funny that the whole life of the individual who lives there, and I dont know who it is,
Interests me only because of this light from far away.
Im sure his life is real and he has a face, gestures, family and profession.
But right now all I care about is the light coming out of his window.
Even though the lights there because he lit it,
The light is the immediate reality for me.
I never go beyond immediate reality.
Theres nothing beyond immediate reality.
If from where I am I only see that light,
Because its so far away, where I am theres only the light.
The man and his family are real on the other side of the window.
Im over here, far away.
The light goes out.
Why should I care if this guy goes on existing?
Its just some guy who keeps existing.
(11/8/1915)

83

You talk about civilization, and that it shouldnt be,


Or how it shouldnt be the way it is.
You say everybody suffers, or most everybody,
And its because humans set it up that way.
You say if things were different, wed suffer less.
You say if things were like you want them, it would be better.
I hear you. Im not listening.
Why should I want to listen to you?
Listening to you wont make me know any better.
If things were different, theyd be different: thats all.
If things were like you want them, theyd just be like you want them.
Poor you and everyone else going through life
Trying to invent a machine for making happiness!

84

Every theory, every poem


Lasts longer than this flower.
But thats like fog, which is unpleasant and damp,
And bigger than this flower . . .
Size and duration have absolutely no importance . . .
Theyre only size and duration . . .
What matters is whatever lasts and has duration . . .
(If true dimension is reality) . . .
Being real is the most noble thing in the world.
(1/11/1916)

85

Fear of death?
Ill wake up another way,
Maybe body, maybe continuity, maybe renewed,
But Ill wake up.
If even atoms dont sleep, why should I be the only one to sleep?

86

So, my poems mean something and the universe doesnt have to have meaning?
In what geometry is the part greater than the whole?
In what biology does the mass of organs
Have more life than the body?

87

Today someone read me St. Francis of Assisi.


They read it and it shocked me.
How could a man who loved things so much
Never look at them, or know what they are?
Why should I call water my sister, when its not my sister?
To sense it better?
I sense it better by drinking it than by calling it anything,
Sister, or mother, or daughter.
Waters water and thats why its beautiful.
If I ever called it my sister,
Right when I called it my sister, Id see its not
And if its water the best thing to do is call it water;
Or better yet, not to call anything,
Just drink it, feel it on my wrists, look at it,
All without any name at all.
(5/21/1917)

88

Every time I think about a thing, I betray it.


I should only think about it when its in front of me,
Not thinking, but looking,
Not with thought, but with the eyes.
A thing thats visible exists to be seen,
And what exists for the eyes doesnt have to exist for thought;
Im all there is when Im thinking, not looking.
I look, and things exist.
I think and only I exist.
(5/21/1917)

89

Id like to have enough time and quiet


To think about nothing at all,
To never feel myself living,
To only know myself in others eyes, reflected.
(5/21/1917)

90

The morning shines. No, the morning doesnt shine.


Mornings an abstract thing in other words, its not a thing at all.
We start seeing the sun, here, at that time.
If the early sun is beautiful shining on trees,
Itd be just as beautiful if we called morning Were starting to see the sun
As it would if we called it morning.
So theres no advantage to putting wrong names on things
And we shouldnt be putting names on them, anyway.
(5/21/1917)

91

A kid thinking about fairy tales and believing in fairy tales


Acts like a sick god, but like a god.
Because even though he affirms that what doesnt exist exists,
He knows how things exist, that theyre what exists,
He knows existing exists and doesnt explain,
And he knows theres no reason at all for anything to exist.
He knows being is to be at a point.
All he doesnt know is that thought isnt any kind of point.
(10/1/1917)

92

From far away I see a boat go by on the river . . .


Its going down the Tejo indifferently.
But not indifferently because its not concerned with me
And Im not expressing desolation with this.
Indifferently because it has absolutely no meaning
Outside the fact isolatedly boat
Going downriver without permission from metaphysics . . .
Downriver to the reality of the sea.
(10/1/1917)

93

I believe Im going to die.


But the meaning of dying doesnt move me.
I remember dying shouldnt have meaning.
Living and dying are classifications like those of plants.
What leaves or flowers hold a classification?
What life has life or what death, death?
Theyre all terms where youre defined.
The only difference is an outline, a stopping place, a distinctive color, . . . a . . .
(10/1/1917)

94

On a whitely cloudy day I get sad, almost afraid,


And I begin to mull over problems I make up.
If man were what he should be,
Not a sick animal, but the most perfect animal,
Directly animal, not indirectly,
Hed be a creature with another way of finding sense in things,
Different and true.
He wouldve acquired a sense of whole;
A sense like seeing and hearing of the entirety of things,
And not, like we have, a thought about entirety;
And not, like we have, an idea about the entirety of things.
And so wed see we wouldnt have the notion of whole or of entirety
Because the meaning of entire or of whole wouldnt come from entirety or wholeness
But from true Nature which is maybe neither whole nor parts.
The only mystery of the universe is the plus, not the minus.
We see too much in things thats whats wrong, thats why we have doubts.
What exists transcends underneath what I think exists.
Realitys just real, not thought about.
The universe isnt an idea of mine.
My idea of the universe is one of my ideas.
Night doesnt fall for my eyes.
My idea of the night is it falls for my eyes.
Outside of me thinking and having a few thoughts
Night falls concretely
And the shining of stars exists like it had weight.
Just as words fail when we want to express any thought,
So thoughts fail when we want to think any reality.
But, as the essence of thought isnt to be said but to be thought,
So the essence of reality is to be existing, not to be thought.
And so everything that exists, simply exists.
Everything else is a kind of being sleepy,
An old age coming with us since the childhood of our sickness.
A mirror reflects right; it doesnt make mistakes because it doesnt think.
To think is essentially to be wrong.
To be wrong is essentially to be blind and deaf.

95

These truths arent perfect because theyre said,


And before they were said they were thought:
But at bottom whats certain is that they negate themselves
In the negation opposed to them affirming anything.
Being is the only affirmation
And being opposed to it is what I wouldnt want for me.
(10/1/1917)

96

Night falls, the heat whelms down a little.


Im as lucid as if Id never thought
And had a root, a direct link to the earth;
Not this phony link, this secondary sense called sight
I use to separate myself from things
And near the stars or the far constellations
Im wrong: whats far isnt near
And when I near it, Im kidding myself.
(10/1/1917)

97

Im sick. My thoughts begin to be confused


But my body, touching things, enters among them.
I feel a part of things with my touch
And a great freedom begins to build up inside me,
A great solemn happiness like a heroic deed
Done all alone in a sober, hidden gesture.
(10/1/1917)

98

Accept the universe


As the gods gave it to you.
If the gods wanted to give you something else
Theyd have done it.
If there are other matters and other worlds
So be it.
(10/1/1917)

The only useful part of occultism is the scientific a verification (a bit vague and intuitive) of states
of matter other than those of which we are ordinarily aware. It is what there is.
Mora?

99

When its cold in time of cold, for me its nice out


Because my being is adjusted to the existence of things,
The naturals pleasing simply because its natural.
I accept lifes difficulties because theyre destiny,
Like I accept extreme cold deep in winter
Calmly, without complaining, like someone merely accepting,
And I find a happiness in the fact of accepting
In the sublimely scientific and difficult fact of accepting the natural as inevitable.
What are my illnesses and the harm that comes over me
But the winter of my person and my life?
Irregular winter, whose laws of appearance I dont know,
But which exists for me in virtue of the same sublime fatality
From the same inevitable exteriority to me
As the heat of the earth at the height of summer
And the cold of the earth deep in Winter.
I accept because of my personality.
I was born subject like others to errors and defects,
But never to the error of wanting to understand too much,
Never to the error of wanting to understand only with the intellect,
Never to the defect of demanding of the world
That it be anything thats not the world.
(10/24/1917)

100

Whatevers there in the center of the world,


It gave me the world outside me as an example of Reality,
And when I say This is real, even about a feeling,
I cant help seeing it in some space outside me,
Some vision outside me, not mine.
Being real means not being inside myself.
I have no notion of reality inside my person.
I know that the world exists but I dont know if I exist.
Im more certain of the existence of my white house
Than the inner existence of the owner of my white house.
I believe more in my body than in my soul,
Because my body is present in the middle of reality,
Able to be seen by others,
To touch others,
To sit and stand,
But my soul can only be defined by outer terms.
It exists for me in the moments when I believe it actually does exist
Borrowed from the reality of the World outside me.
If the soul is more real
Than the outer world, as you say, philosopher,
Why was the world outside given as the model of reality?
If its more certain I sense
Than the thing I sense exists,
Then why do I sense
And why does the thing appear independent of me
Without needing me to exist,
And me always joined to me-myself, always personal and untransmittable?
Why do I move with others
In a world where we understand each other and where we coincide
If this world is somehow wrong and its me whos right?
If the world is wrong, then its everybodys error.
And each one of us is just the error of each one of us.
Thing for thing, the World is more certain.
But why am I asking all these questions, unless Im sick?
On certain days, the outside days of my life,
My days of perfect natural lucidity,
I sense without sensing I sense,
I see without knowing I see,
And the Universe is never as real as those times,
The Universe is never (not near or far from me
But) so sublimely not-mine.

101

When I say Its obvious, do I somehow mean Its only me who sees it?
When I say Its the truth, do I somehow mean Its my opinion?
When I say There it is, do I somehow mean There it isnt?
And if this is so in life, why should it be different in philosophy?
We live before philosophizing; we exist before we know we do
And the first fact deserves precedence and respect, at least.
Yes, rather than inner, were outer,
So were essentially outer.
You say, sick philosopher, philosopher after all, that this is materialism.
But how can this be materialism, if materialism is a philosophy,
If a philosophy would be, at least if it were mine, a philosophy of mine,
And this isnt even mine, and Im not even I?
(10/24/1917)

102

I dont care very much.


What dont I care very much about? I dont know: I dont care very much.
(10/24/1917)

103

War afflicting the world with its squadrons


Is the perfect type of error of philosophy.
War, like everything human, wants to alter.
But war, more than everything, wants to alter and alter a lot
And alter quickly.
But war inflicts death
And that death is our contempt for the universe.
With death as a consequence, war proves its false.
Being false, it proves that wishing-to-alter is totally false.
Lets leave the outer universe and other men where Nature puts them.
Everything is pride and unconsciousness.
Its all wanting to hustle and bustle, make things, leave a trace.
When his heart stops, the commander of squadrons
Will go back in pieces to the universe outside.
Natures direct chemistry
Leaves no empty place for thought.
Humanity is a slave-revolt.
Humanity is a government usurped by the people.
It exists because it usurped, but its wrong because usurping means not having the right to.
Let the outer universe and natural humanity exist!
Peace to all pre-human things, even in people!
Peace to the entirely outside essence of the Universe!
(10/24/1917)

104

All the opinions there are about nature


Never made a weed grow or a flower bloom.
All the knowledge about things
Was never a thing I could hold on to like a thing;
If science wants to be truthful,
What science is more truthful than the science of things without science?
I close my eyes and the hard earth I lie down on
Has a reality so real even my back feels it.
I dont need reason I have shoulderblades.
(5/29/1918)

105

Ship leaving for far away,


Why is it that, unlike others,
I dont miss you after you disappear?
Because when I dont see you, youve stopped existing.
And if you miss what doesnt exist,
You miss it in relation to nothing at all;
We dont miss ships, we miss ourselves.
(5/29/1918)

106

Little by little the field widens and goldens.


Morning wanders around on the bumpy plain.
Im not part of what Im seeing: I see it,
Its outside me. No feeling links me to it.
And this is the feeling that links me to the coming morning.
(5/29/1918)

107

Last star to disappear before day,


I set my calm eyes on your trembling white blueness,
And I see you independently of me,
Happy because of my victory of being able to see you
And not be in any state of mind at all except seeing you.
For me, your beauty is in you existing.
Your grandeur is in you existing completely outside of me.
(5/29/1918)

108

Water tinkles in the dipper I raise to my mouth.


Its a cool sound says the person who gave it to me.
I smile. The sound is only a sound of tinkling.
I drink the water without hearing anything in my throat.
(5/29/1918)

109

Someone who heard my poems said to me: Whats new in this?


Everybody knows a flower is a flower and a tree is a tree.
But I said not everybody, nobody.
Because everybody loves flowers because theyre beautiful and Im different.
Everybody loves trees because theyre green and make shade, but not me.
I love flowers for being flowers, directly.
I love trees for being trees without my thought.
(5/29/1918)

110

Yesterday the preacher of those truths of his


Talked to me again.
He talked about the suffering of the working class
(Not about the people who suffer, who are the ones who really suffer, after all).
He talked about the injustice of some having money,
And others going hungry, but I dont know if its hunger for food,
Or hunger for someone elses dessert.
He talked about whatever gets him mad.
He must be happy if he can think about the unhappiness of others!
Hes stupid if he doesnt know other peoples unhappiness is theirs
And isnt cured from outside
Suffering isnt like running out of ink
Or a trunk not having iron bands!
There being injustice is like there being death.
I would never take a step to change
What they call the worlds injustice.
A thousand steps taken for that
Would only be a thousand steps.
I accept injustice like I accept a stone not being a perfect circle,
And a cork tree not growing into a pine or an oak.
I cut an orange in two, and the two parts cant be equal.
Which one was I unjust to I, who am going to eat them both?

You died young, as the gods desire


When they love.
Ricardo Reis

111

But why should I compare myself to a flower, if Im me


And a flower is a flower?
Ah, lets not compare anything at all; lets look.
Lets forget about analogy, metaphor, simile.
Comparing one thing to another is forgetting that thing.
Nothing reminds us of something else when we pay attention to it.
Each thing only reminds us of what it is
And its only what nothing else is.
The fact that its it separates it from every other thing
(And other things not being it).
Everythings nothing without another thing thats not it.
What? Im worth more than a flower
Because it doesnt know it has color and I do know,
Because it doesnt know it has perfume and I do know,
Because its not conscious of me and Im conscious of it?
But what does one thing have to do with another
So that it could be superior or inferior to it?
Yes, Im conscious of the plant and its not of me.
But if the form of consciousness is being conscious, whats there in that?
If a plant could talk, it could say to me: Wheres your smell?
It could say to me: Youre conscious because being conscious is a human quality
And Im not conscious because Im a flower, not a man.
I have a smell and you dont, because Im a flower . . .

112

Unrecognized dirty kid playing at my door,


Im not asking you if youre bringing me word of symbols.
I think youre charming because Ive never seen you before,
And naturally if you could be clean youd be another kid,
And you wouldnt come here.
Play in the dirt all you want!
I appreciate your presence with my eyes only.
Its worth more to see a thing always for the first time than to know it,
Because recognizing is like never having seen for the first time,
And never having seen for the first time is only to have heard tell.
The way this kid is dirty is different from the way others are dirty.
Keep on playing! When you pick up a stone that fits in your hand,
You know it fits in your hand.
What philosophy comes to greater certainty?
None, and none could ever come and play at my door.
(4/12/1919)

113

Truth, lies, certainty, uncertainty . . .


That blind man over there on the road knows those words, too.
Im sitting on the top step and I have my hands clasped
On top of my crossed knees.
Well, then, what is truth, lies, certainty and uncertainty?
The blind man stops in the road,
I unclasp my hands on top of my knee.
Are truth, lies, certainty, uncertainty the same?
Something changed in a part of reality my knees and my hands.
What science has knowledge for this?
The blind man goes on his way and I dont do anything else with my hands.
Its no longer the same time, the same people, nothings the same.
This is being real.
(4/12/1919)

114

A giggle from a girl on the road sounds in the air.


Shes laughing at something someone I dont see just said.
For now I remember I heard it.
But if they told me now about a girls giggle from the road,
Id say: no, the hills, the land in the sun, the sun, this house here,
And me who only hears the hushed sound of blood in my life of the two sides of my head.
(4/12/1919)

115

St. Johns night beyond the wall of my yard.


On this side, me without St. Johns Night.
Because St. John is where they celebrate him.
For me theres shadow from the light of bonfires in the night,
A sound of laughing people, thumping feet.
And the random shout of someone who doesnt know I exist.
(4/12/1919)

116

Book to Write
Mystic, you see meaning in everything.
Everything has a veiled meaning for you.
Theres something hidden in everything you see.
What you see, you always see it so you can see something else.
But me, thanks to having eyes only for seeing,
I see the absence of meaning in everything;
I see it and love myself, because to be a thing is to mean nothing.
Being a thing is not being susceptible to interpretation.
(4/12/1919)

117

Shepherd on the hill, so far from me with your sheep


That happiness you seem to have is it yours or mine?
The peace I feel when I see you, does it belong to you or me?
No, not to you or me, shepherd.
It belongs only to happiness and peace.
You dont have it, because you dont know you have it.
I dont have it, because I know I have it.
Its just it, and falls on us like the sun
Hits your back and warms you and you think about something else whatever ,
And it hits my face and dazes me and I just think about the sun.
(4/12/1919)

118

Ah, they want a better light than the suns!


They want meadows greener than these!
They want flowers more beautiful than the ones I see!
This sun, these meadows, these flowers are good enough for me.
But, if they somehow bothered me,
What I want is a sun more sun than the un,
What I want is meadows more meadows than these meadows,
What I want is flowers more flowers than these flowers
Everything more ideal than it is in the exact same way!
That thing over there more there than its there!
Yes, sometimes I cry about the perfect body that doesnt exist.
But the perfect body is the bodiest body there can be,
And the rest are the dreams men have,
The myopia of someone who doesnt see much,
And the way someone who doesnt know how to stand up wants to sit down.
Christianitys a big dream about chairs.
Since the soul is the thing that doesnt show,
The most perfect soul is the one that never appears
The soul made of body,
The absolute body of things,
The absolutely real shadowless existence without errors,
The exact and entire coinciding of a thing with itself.
(4/12/1919)

119

Back-folded petal of a rose other people would say is velvet.


I pick you up off the ground and contemplate you up close for quite a while.
There arent any roses in my yard: what wind brought you?
But I suddenly come from far away. I was sick for a minute.
No wind at all brought you now.
Now youre here.
What you were isnt you, or else the whole rose would be here.
(4/12/1919)

120

2:30 AM. I wake up and fall back asleep.


There was a moment of a different life between sleep and sleep.
If nobody decorates the sun for shining,
Why decorate a hero?
I sleep and wake with the same rightness
And I exist in the interval.
In that moment, when I woke up, I opened into the whole world
One great all-inclusive night,
Only outside.

121

Between what I see in a field and what I see in another field


The figure of a man goes by for a moment.
His steps go with him in the same reality,
But I look at him and them, and theyre two things:
The false and foreign man goes walking with his ideas,
And his steps go with the ancient system that makes legs walk.
I see him from far away without any opinion at all.
How perfect that he is in him what he is his body,
His true reality which doesnt have desires or hopes,
But muscles and the sure and impersonal way of using them.
(4/20/1919)

122

I enjoy the fields without looking at them.


You ask me why I enjoy them.
Because I enjoy them is my answer.
Enjoying a flower is being right next to it unconsciously
And having a notion of its perfume in your most dim ideas.
When I look, I dont enjoy: I see.
I shut my eyes, and my body, which is in the grass,
Completely belongs to the outside of someone shutting their eyes
To the fresh hardness of the fragrant bumpy earth;
And something of the indistinct noises of things existing,
And only a red shadow of light lightly loaded into my sockets,
And only something left of life is listening.
(4/20/1919)

123

Im in no hurry. What for?


The sun and moon arent in a hurry and theyre right.
Hurrying is believing people can get past their legs
Or when they jump they can land past their shadow.
No; Im not in any hurry.
If I stretch out my arm, I get exactly where my arm gets--Not even a centimeter farther.
I only touch where I touch, not where I think.
I can only sit down where I am.
And thats really silly, like all really true truths,
But whats really, really silly is us always thinking something else,
And were always outside it because were here.
(6/20/1919)

124

Yes: I exist inside my body.


Im not carrying the sun or the moon in my pocket.
I dont want to conquer worlds because I slept badly,
And I dont want to eat the world for lunch because I have a stomach.
Am I indifferent?
No, Im a child of the earth, who, if he jumps, its wrong,
A moment in the air thats not for us,
And only happy when his feet hit the ground again,
Pow! In reality where nothings missing!
(6/20/1919)

125

The green of the blue sky before the suns about to rise
And the white blue in the west where sunshine disappears.
True colors of things the eyes see
The not white but slightly blue ash moonlight.
Im glad I see with my eyes and not the pages Ive read.

126

Like a kid before they teach him to be big,


Im true and loyal to what I see and hear.

127

I dont know what understanding myself is. I dont look inside.


I dont believe I exist behind myself.

128

Am I patriotic? No, Im just Portuguese.


I was born Portuguese like I was born blond and blue-eyed.
If I was born to speak, I have to speak a language.

129

I lie down flat on the grass


And forget everything they taught me.
What they taught me never made me hotter or colder.
What they told me never changed the form of a thing for me.
What they taught me to see never touched my eyes.
What they showed me was never there: only what was there was there.

130

They were talking to me about people, about humanity,


But Ive never seen people or humanity.
Ive seen a various people almost scarily different from each other,
Separated from one another by an unpopulated space.

131

Ive never tried to live my life.


My lifes lived itself whether Ive wanted it to or not.
All I ever wanted to do was see as if I didnt have a soul.
Ive always wanted to see as if I were nothing but eyes.

132

You say live in the present;


Live only in the present.
But I dont want the present, I want reality;
I want things that exist, not time that measures them.
What is the present?
Its something relative to the past and the future.
Its a thing that exists by virtue of other things existing.
I only want reality, things without the present.
I dont want to include time in my scheme of things.
I dont want to think of things as present; I want to think of them as things.
I dont want to separate them from themselves and think of them as present.
I shouldnt even think of them as real.
I shouldnt think of them as anything.
I should see them, only see them;
See them till I cant think about them,
See them without time or even space,
See, able to get rid of everything but what you see.
This is the science of seeing, which isnt one at all.
(7/19/1920)

133

You tell me youre something more


Than a stone or a plant.
You tell me you feel, you think and you know
You think and feel.
So do stones write poems?
So does a plant have ideas about the world?
Yes: theres difference.
But its not a difference you can find
Because being conscious doesnt make me have theories about things
It only makes me be conscious.
Am I more than a stone or a plant? I dont know.
Im different. I dont know what more or less is.
Is having consciousness more than having color?
Could be and couldnt be.
I know its just different.
No one can prove that its more than just different.
I know stones are real and plants exist.
I know because they exist.
I know because my senses show me.
I know Im real, too.
I know because my senses show me,
Though with less clarity than they show me a stone and a plant.
I dont know anything else.
Yes, I write poems, and a stone doesnt write poems.
Yes, I have ideas about the world, and a plant doesnt have any.
The thing is, stones arent poets, theyre stones;
And plants are just plants, not thinkers.
However much I can say Im superior to them because of that,
I can also say Im inferior.
But I dont say that: I say about a stone, Its a stone,
I say about a plant, Its a plant,
And I say about myself, Im me.
I dont say anything else. What else is there to say?
(6/5/1922)

134

They say a hidden thing dwells in each thing.


Yes, its itself, the thing without being hidden,
That dwells in it.
But I, with consciousness and sensations and thought,
Am I like a thing?
Whats more or less in me?
Id be happy and good if I were only my body
But Im something else, too, more or less than only that.
What thing more or less am I?
The wind blows without knowing it.
A plant lives without knowing it.
I live without knowing it, too, but I know Im alive.
But do I know Im alive, or do I just know I know?
I was born, Im alive, Ill die by a destiny I have no say in,
I feel, I think, I move through some force outside me,
So who am I?
Am I, body and soul, the exterior of some interior?
Or is my soul the universal forces consciousness
Of my body being different from other bodies?
In the middle of everything where am I?
My body will die,
My brain will fall apart
Into abstract, impersonal, formless consciousness,
Ill no longer feel the I I have,
Ill no longer think with my brain the thoughts I feel are mine,
Ill no longer move by my will my hands I move.
Will I end up like that? I dont know.
If I have to end up like this, feeling bad about it
Sure wont make me immortal.
(6/5/1922)

135

Its not enough to open the window


To see the fields and the river.
Its also not enough to not be blind
To see the trees and the flowers.
Also, you have to not have any philosophy at all.
With philosophy there arent any trees, there are only ideas.
Theres only each of us, like a wine-cellar.
Theres only a shut window and the whole world outside it;
And a dream of what you could see if the window were open,
Which is never what you see when you open the window.
(1923-4)

136

Put on my gravestone
Here lies
Alberto Caeiro
Without a cross
Who went off to look for the gods . . .
Whether the gods are alive or not, thats on you.
To me, I leave their welcome.
(8/13/1923)

137

The snow puts a quiet blanket over everything.


You dont feel anything except what goes on in your house.
I wrap myself in my covers and dont even think about thinking.
I feel an animal delight and I think aimlessly,
And I fall asleep, no more useless than all the actions in the world.

138

I went out really early in the morning today


Because I woke up even earlier
And there was nothing I wanted to do . . .
I didnt know which way to go
But the wind blew strong,
And I went where the wind pushed at my back.
Thats how my life has always been, and thats how Id like it all the time
Go where the wind pushes me
And dont let myself think.
(6/13/1930)

139

First sign of a storm coming the day after tomorrow.


The first white clouds hover low in a dimming sky.
Do they belong to a storm coming the day after tomorrow?
Im sure of it, but being sure is a lie.
To be sure is to not be seeing.
There is no day after tomorrow.
This is what there is:
A blue sky, a little gray, some white clouds on the horizon,
A little dirty underneath like they might turn black later on.
Thats what there is today,
And since todays all there is for now, thats everything.
Who knows if Ill be dead the day after tomorrow?
If Im dead the day after tomorrow, the storm coming the day after tomorrow
Will be another storm than if I hadnt died.
Of course I know storms dont fall because I see them,
But if I werent in the world, the world would be different
Itd be minus me
And the storm would fall on a different world and wouldnt be the same storm.
Whatever happens, whats falling is whatll be falling when it falls.
(7/10/1930)

140

Penultimate Poem
to Ricardo Reis
I know how to make conjectures, too.
In everything theres something it is and it animates it.
In a plant its on the outside and its a little nymph.
In an animal its a distant being inside.
In a man its the soul that lives with him and is him.
In the gods it has the same size
And the same space as the body
And its the same thing as the body.
Thats why they say the gods never die.
Thats why the gods dont have a body and soul
But just a body and theyre perfect.
For them the body is the soul
And their consciousness is in their own divine flesh.
(5/7/1922)

141

Last Poem
(dictated by the poet on the day of his death)
This could be the last day of my life.
I greeted the sun by raising my right hand,
But I didnt really greet it or say good-bye, either.
I just showed I still like seeing it, thats all.
(before 1920)

142

Variant Poems

The Keeper of Flocks


XI
That lady has a piano.
Its pretty to hear, but its what she makes it do.
She makes a made music,
Not the thin, watery sound of narrow creeks
Or the far-off sound tall trees make.
Its better not to have a piano
And only listen to things born making noise.
(1/1/1930)

Unattached Poems
Im in no hurry: the sun and the moon arent, either.
Nobody goes faster than the legs they have.
If where I want to go is far away, Im not there in an instant.
(6/20/1919)

143

144

Yes, maybe theyre right.


Maybe something hidden lives in each thing,
But that hidden thing is the same
As the thing without being hidden.
In a plant, in a tree, in a flower
(In everything that lives without speech
And is a consciousness but not with what makes it a consciousness),
In the woods that isnt trees but woods,
Total of the trees without a sum,
There lives a nymph, the exterior life inside
That gives it life;
That flowers with their flowering
And is green with their greenness.
It enters into the animal and the man.
Its an already inside outside,
The philosophers say its the soul
But its not the soul: its the animal or the man itself
In its way of existing.
And I think that maybe there are beings
Where the two things coincide
And theyre the same size.
And that these beings would be the gods,
That exist like that because they completely exist,
That dont die because theyre the same as themselves,
That can lie because they have no division
Between who they are and who they are,
And maybe they dont love us, or want us, or appear to us
Because whats perfect doesnt need anything.
(6/4/1922)

145

Fragments
If you have flowers, you dont need God.

And everything felt directly brings new words.

Different from everything, like everything

Maybe the nymph is the future of the tree or of the river.

146

Interview With Caeiro


Of the many experiences in the arts I owe to the city of Vigo, Im most grateful for the meeting
Ive just had with our most recent and doubtless most original poet.
Friendly hands in Portugal sent me Alberto Caeiros book to soften my exile, perhaps. I read
it here at this window, as he would have wanted it, with Vigos [...] bay before my enchanted eyes.
And I cannot see it as anything but providential that happy circumstances allowed me the
opportunity to make the acquaintance of the glorious poet so shortly after reading his book.
A mutual friend introduced us. That night, over dinner at the [...] Hotel, I had a conversation
with the poet. I told him I intended to write it up as an interview.
I told him how much I admired his work. He heard me with the air of one receiving what is
rightfully his, with that fresh, spontaneous pride which is one of the most attractive things in this
man who, by all appearances, recognized what is rightfully his. And no one recognizes his right more
than I, do; it is his extraordinarily his.
Over coffee our conversation turned to intellectual matters. I easily led Caeiro to the only topic
that interested me: his book. I herein transcribe his opinions as I heard them, and while of course it
is not the entire conversation, it very much represents what he said.
The poet spoke of himself and his work with a kind of a religious feeling, a natural elevation that
might seem frankly insupportable in others with less of a right to speak in such a way. He spoke
always in objective sentences, excessively synthetic, censuring or admiring (the latter rarely) with
absolute despotism, as if he werent voicing an opinion, but intangible truth itself.
I think it was when I expressed my initial confusion when faced by the novelty of that the
conversation took on that aspect which I prefer to transcribe here.
The friend who sent me your book told me it was renascent, that is, part of the Portuguese
Renaissance movement, but I dont think so . . .
You think right. If theres anything different from my work, its theirs. Your friend insulted me
without even knowing me when he compared me to those people. Theyre mystics. The last thing I
am is a mystic. Whats there between them and me? Not even the fact of being poets, because
theyre not. When I read Pascoaes I laugh so hard, Ive never been able to finish anything of his.
These people look for hidden meanings in stones, human feelings in trees. They turn sunsets and
dawns into people and souls. Its like this Belgian idiot Verhaeren. A friend of mine made me read
him and I stopped talking to the guy for a while. Its unbelievable.
Doesnt Junqueiros Hymn to Light belong to that movement?
It couldnt help but be: its bad enough. Junqueiros not a poet. He just arranges sentences.
Everythings rhythm and meter to him. His religious feeling is a reading. His admiration of Natures
another reading. How could anybody take a guy seriously who says hes a hymn of mysterious light
gravitating in Gods orbit? It doesnt mean anything. All this meaningless stuff, all this stuff that
means too much nothing thats what poetrys been made of up till now. We need to stop all that.
What about Joo de Barros?
Whos he? Contemporary poets dont interest me. [...] The only good thing in anybody is what
they dont know.

147

Are you a materialist, Sr Caeiro?


No way. Im not a materialist or a deist or anything else. Im the guy who opened the window
one day and discovered a really, really important thing: Nature exists. I saw it was true that trees,
rivers, and stones are things that really exist. Nobody ever thought that way before.
I dont intend to be anything but the greatest poet in the world. I made the greatest discovery
ever. No one made it before me and next to it every other discovery looks like one of those dopey
games kids play. I turned to the universe. The Greeks with all their clear-sightedness didnt do as
much as me.
Id even say Im the first poet who remembered that Nature exists. Other poets have sung
Nature like she was below them and they were gods. I sing Nature like Im her slave because
nothings ever shown me Im superior to her. After all, she includes me, I was born by her and [...]
My materialism is spontaneous. Im perfectly and consistently an atheist materialist. Theres
never been an atheist materialist like me, thats a fact but its only because materialism and
atheism found their poet in me.
Alberto Caeiro stressed that I and that me in a way that oddly revealed his deep conviction.

148

Letter from lvaro de Campos


Dear Caeiro,
What I adore in your poems isnt the philosophical system they say can be drawn from them: its
the philosophical system that cant be drawn from them. Its the freshness, the clarity, the
primordiality of sensation. Its precisely the lack of a system. Your poems dont make me think, they
make me feel; they dont make me feel love or hate or passion marketable emotion : they make
me feel things as if I were watching them with high interest and attention.
I believe that love poetry, sentimental poetry, patriotic poetry, nature poetry, and [...] poetry are
exhausted all poetry about such things or any other such thing is exhausted. Only poetry of
sensation isnt exhausted. Sensations are individual and individualities never repeat. I believe we
should try to give our sensations the most complete possible expression. Our individual sensations
arent those of love, hatred, or [...] these are too similar in all people, and can be varied only in
expression, by which process art becomes fatally formalized, excessively plasticized. What are really
ours in sensations, the sensations that are really ours, are direct sensations, those which have no
social character, those that come directly from seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting; and
sensations that come from lives previously lived, which come from a past that is that is ours and only
ours. Each of us has his sensations to himself, however contradictory, absurd, inhumane they may
be.
Thats why I say there are no poets of love, of the fatherland, of [...], or any other thing in the
social order. Poetry is individual. Poetry isnt for expressing social emotions. Social emotions are
expressed by action, and each social emotion has its relative action. Poetry exists to express what
action and gesture cant.
In your poetry, my dear Master, its the realization of this I appreciate, not the oft-attributed
quality of singing who knows what pagan virtues. Paganism interests me about as much as
Christianity, or anything else thats not me and my sensations. Your disdain for current social and
artistic doctrine is enough to fill me with enthusiasm.
Theyll say, no doubt, that art shouldnt be made of individuality, because other people wont be
able to feel it. Thats nonsense. As soon as something is expressed in words, another person can feel
it, as long as theyre not stupid or of another order of sensibility provided theyre alive. Those
foreign emotions that cant be expressed . . . if they cant be expressed, then how is it that others will
have to understand them or stop understanding them? As long as a thing fits into language, it fits
into the understanding of others. Of course this understanding is never perfect because were all
different and feel things in our own ways, but its understanding and thats enough for me.
Ill try to explain myself a little better. Everyone faced with a beautiful day feels a sensation they
call happiness. This emotion is authentic, because it serves no social function, nor can it be
translated into an act, an action we can see the day and enjoy it, but its emotion in another sense.
Appreciating a beautiful woman or anything else beautiful is already something else and therefore
despicable for comparison might be motivated by an attempt at full and more direct expression
notice I say more direct.
Ive been told there are landscapes before which one can only howl with joy. So we howl, if
thats how you express joy. If it can be said, say it.

149

But its all over, for once and for all social or patriotic poetry, poetry of love or hate, [...].
If someone has fits of humanitarianism, they should teach school, or be a nurse, or something like
that. Humanitarianism is felt by many people, because its of the socio-emotional order.
Lifes a journey some people make as traveling salesmen, others on honeymoon ships, and
others, like me, as tourists. I go through life to look at it. Everythings landscape to me, as it is to any
good tourist countryside, cities, houses, factories, lights, bars, women, miseries, joys, doubts, wars
[...]. To make the best of my journey, I want to feel the greatest number of things in the shortest
possible time; to feel everything in every way, love everything with every form of love, to touch and
see things without nailing them down, to pass them by and never look back that seems to me the
only worthwhile destiny for a poet.
The freshness of impression, the direct way of feeling I learned from your poems Ive applied
it in other ways, to a different order of Nature. For me, a machine is just as natural because just
as real (and being natural is what being real is, when you get right down to it) as a tree; and a city
is as natural as a village. The essential thing is to feel things directly, ingenuously tree or machine,
city or countryside. My sensibility predisposes me to feel machines more than trees, cities more than
countryside. This doesnt deny me the right to call myself a poet. The most important thing is to feel
directly and simply, and I do feel directly and simply. If I directly and simply feel complexities,
abnormalities and artificialities, well, then, its my way of feeling. As long as I feel them
spontaneously, Im where I belong, where Nature, who made me what I am, put me. I do my duty.
They call me deviant, but Im not. [...] I neither deviate from myself nor from [...]. I was made to
feel things simply, just like you; but I wasnt made to feel only simple things the way you do. If Im
me, not you, why should I write the way you write? I write how [...] is in me to be me. How can I be
deviant by being who I am?
For me, the only way to deviate is to create or belong to a system. There are times of day when
Im a materialist, others when Im ultramontane, utterly ultramontane. It depends on how Im
feeling. That seems natural to me.
If, like the great majority of poets, I ran on straight rails, if I were a pantheist, a spiritualist, a
Protestant, a Catholic [...], anything that knows what it is and can self-define, Id deserve to be called
deviant. Nobodys born belonging to a religion or a philosophical system were born belonging
to a brain and a nervous system, and these have ways of feeling, not religion, aesthetics, or some
kind of morality.
Yours always,
lvaro de Campos

150

Notes for the Recollection of my Master Caeiro


lvaro de Campos
I met my master Caeiro in exceptional circumstances exceptional in that all circumstances in
life are exceptional, especially those which are nothing in themselves and come to be everything in
their results.
Id left Glasgow about three-quarters of the way through my studies in naval engineering. Id
traveled in the Orient; on returning, after disembarking at Marseilles, I felt that life on board had
become unbearably dull, and so went on to Lisboa by land. A cousin of mine met me one day on a
side trip to Ribatejo. He knew one of Caeiros cousins, and had business with him. In this cousins
house I met the man who was to be my master. There is no more to tell, because this, like all
fecundations, is a small thing.
I see him still, with a soulful clarity that the tears of remembrance cannot dull, because the vision
is not outward. I see him before me, and perhaps I will eternally see him as when I met him. First,
the blue eyes of a fearless child; then, the slightly prominent cheekbones, the slightly pale coloring,
and the strange Greek air, which came from within; it was an impression of inward, not outward
calmness; it was caused neither by his expressions nor by his features. His rather thick hair was
blond, but it seemed darker in the shade. He was of medium height, but would have been taller if he
hadnt stooped; his shoulders were rounded. His gestures were blank, his smile was as it was, his
voice the same, projected in the tone of one who seeks to say nothing but what he is saying
neither loud nor soft, but clear, free of intent, hesitation, and timidity. His blue eyes couldnt stop
staring. If I found anything odd about him, it was this: his forehead, without being high, was
formidably white. It was this whiteness, which seemed greater than that of his pale face, which lent
him majesty. His hands would have been delicate, were his palms not so wide. The expression of his
mouth, the last thing I noticed, was as if speaking were, for this man, less than existing. It was the
same smile his poems attribute to beautiful inanimate things, simply because they please us
flowers, fields, water in sunlight. It was a smile of existence, not of speaking to us.
My master, my master, lost so young! I see him again in the shadow I am in me, in the memory I
keep of what is dead in me . . .
It was during our first conversation . . . How it came up, I dont know, but he said, Theres this
guy, Ricardo Reis youd like to meet him because hes very different from you. And then he
added, Everythings different from us. Thats why everything exists.
That sentence, said as if it were a tellurian axiom, came over me like a tremor in the earth and,
like all first possessions, went to the foundations of my soul. But, unlike material seduction, the
effect in me was one of sudden reception in all my sensations of a virginity Id never possessed.

Once, referring to the direct conception of things (so characteristic of Caeiros sensibility), I
quoted, with friendly perversity, how Wordsworth described an insensitive man:
A primrose by the rivers brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.

151

I translated it (omitting an exact translation of primrose, because I dont know the names of
flowers or plants): A flower on the riverbank was a yellow flower to him, and nothing else.
My master Caeiro laughed: That dummy got it right: a yellow flower isnt really anything but a
yellow flower.
But then suddenly he became thoughtful.
Well, there is a difference, he continued. It all depends on whether you think of that yellow
flower as one of many yellow flowers, or only that one particular yellow flower.
Then he went on:
This is what your English poet means. For men like that a yellow flower is an everyday
experience, or a known thing. Now, this is not so good. Everything we see, we should see it for the
first time, because it really is the first time we see it. So then each yellow flower is a new yellow
flower, even if we say its the same one we saw yesterday. We arent the same and the flower isnt the
same. Even the yellow itself cant be the same. Its a pity people dont have the right eyes for
knowing it; otherwise, wed all be happy.

My master Caeiro wasnt a pagan: he was paganism. Ricardo Reis is a pagan, Antonio Mora is a
pagan, Im a pagan; even Fernando Pessoa would be a pagan, if he werent such a tangled skein, all
inside-out. But Ricardo Reis is a pagan by character, Antonio Mora is a pagan by intellect, and Im a
pagan by rebelliousness that is, by temperament. There was no explanation for Caeiros
paganism; it was consubstantiation.
Ill define this the way one defines the indefinable by the cowardice of example. One of the
things that most clearly distinguishes us from the Greeks is the absence of the concept of infinity in
Hellenic thinking. One might even say that the Greeks were repelled by the concept of infinity.
Now, my master Caeiro had that same conception, or, I should say, lack of conception. I will relate,
I believe with great exactitude, the surprising conversation in which he revealed it to me.
Referring to one of his poems in The Keeper of Flocks, he told me that someone I dont
know who had called him a materialistic poet. Without finding the phrase applicable, since my
master Caeiro could never be defined by any phrase, I nevertheless told him I didnt think that
calling him a materialistic poet was by any means absurd, and I explained classical materialism to
him, more or less well.
Caeiro listened closely with a pained expression and then said bluntly, Thats really stupid.
Thats something for priests without the excuse of religion, even.
Stunned, I pointed out all the various similarities between materialism and his doctrine (but not,
of course, his poetry based on that doctrine). Caeiro protested.
But what youre calling poetry is what everything is. Its not even poetry its seeing. These
materialists are blind. You told me they say space is infinite. Where do they see that in space?
And I, disconcerted: But dont you think of space as infinite? Cant you conceive of space as
infinite?
I dont conceive of anything being infinite. How could I ever conceive of anything being
infinite?
But, man, I said, Imagine space. Beyond that space is more space, and beyond that more, and
then more, and more . . . It never ends . . .

152

Why? asked my master Caeiro.


I suffered a mental earthquake. Well, suppose it did end! I shouted. What would come after?
If it ended, nothing would come after, he answered.
This type of argumentation, at once infantile and feminine, and therefore irrefutable, tied up my
brain for several moments. But is that really what you believe? I blurted out.
Do I believe things have limits!? Of course! Nothing exists that doesnt have limits. Existing
means theres always something else, and so everything has limits. Why is it so hard to conceive of a
thing being a thing, and not always something else farther on?
At that moment I felt in my bones not that I was talking to a man, but to another universe. I
tried one last time, from another angle, which I felt compelled to consider legitimate.
Look, Caeiro . . . think about numbers . . . Where do they end? Take any number say 34.
Past it we have 35, 36, 37, 38 there can be no end to it. There is no number so big that there is no
number larger . . .
But thats just numbers, protested my master Caeiro.
And then, looking at me with his formidable, childlike eyes:
Whats 34 in reality, anyway?

There are unexpected sentences, deep because they come from the depths, which define a man,
or rather, with which a man defines himself without trying to do so. Ill never forget a sentence with
which Ricardo Reis once defined himself for me. We were talking about lies, and he said, I abhor a
lie, because it is an imprecision. All of Ricardo Reis past, present, future is in that sentence.
My master Caeiro, since he only spoke what he was, could be defined by any one of his
sentences, written or spoken, especially after he was about halfway finished writing The Keeper of
Flocks. But, among his many published sentences and the many he said to me which I either have
or have not related, the sentence which contains the most simplicity is one he said in Lisboa. I dont
remember exactly what we were talking about most likely, as usual, something to do with each
persons relation to themselves. I suddenly asked my master Caeiro, Are you at peace with
yourself? and he answered, Nope, just at peace. It was like the voice of the earth, which is
everything and no one.

I never saw my master Caeiro unhappy. I dont know if he was unhappy when he died or in the
days before his death. It would be possible to know these things, but to tell the truth Ive never
dared ask those who sat with him anything about his death or how it went for him.
In any case, it was one of my lifes anguishes one true anguish amid so many fictitious that
Caeiro died without me at his side. Its stupid, but its human, and thats how it is.
I was in England. Even Ricardo Reis wasnt in Lisboa: hed returned to Brasil. Fernando Pessoa
was there, but he might as well not have been. Fernando Pessoa feels things but he isnt moved by
them, not even inside himself.
Nothing can console me for having been away from Lisboa on that day, except for the
consolation of thinking spontaneously of my master Caeiro, or of his poems. No one is inconsolable
at the feet of Caeiros memory, or of his poems; and the idea of nothingness the most terrifying

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of all ideas, when thought feelingly possesses, in my dear masters work and in my memories
of him, something as high and luminous as sunlight on snowy, unscalable peaks.

Since it was first said, its been widely held that to understand a philosophical system, its
necessary to understand the philosophers temperament. Like all widespread notions with an air of
certainty, this is rather silly; if it werent silly, it wouldnt be widespread. Philosophy gets confused
with its formation. My temperament could lead me to say that two plus two is five, but the assertion
that two plus two is five is false independent of my temperament, whatever it may be. It might be
interesting to know how I could have come to assert that falsehood, but that has nothing to do with
falsehood itself, only with the reason for its appearance.
My master Caeiro was a temperament without philosophy; therefore, his philosophy which
he had, like all people isnt even susceptible to these games of intellectual journalism. Theres no
doubt that, being a temperament i.e., a poet my master Caeiro expressed a philosophy, a
conception of the universe. However, his conception of the universe is instinctive, not intellectual; it
cant be criticized as a concept, because theres none there, and it cant be criticized as temperament,
because temperament cant be criticized.
The organically hidden ideas in the poetic expression of my master Caeiro have had their
attempts at definition, with more or less logical felicity, in certain theories of Ricardo Reis, in certain
theories of mine, and in the perfectly defined philosophical system of Antonio Mora. Caeiro is so
fertile that each of us, owing all the thought in our minds to our common master, produced an
interpretation of life entirely different from the other two. It really wouldnt be right to compare my
metaphysics with Ricardo Reiss, which is a mere poetic vagueness trying to clarify itself (unlike
Caeiro, whose soul was made of poetic certainties not even trying to become clear), or with Antonio
Moras, which is really a system, not an attitude or a reworking. But while Caeiro affirmed things
that, being altogether certain (as we all saw already) in a logic that exceeds as a stone or a tree
our comprehension, they were not coherent in their logical surface, Reis as well as myself (Im not
speaking of Mora, who is far superior to us in this sort of thing), were trying to find a logical
coherency in what we thought, or supposed we thought, about the World. And what we thought or
supposed we thought about the world, we owe to Caeiro, who discovered the souls we then
colonized.
Properly speaking, Reis, Mora and I are three organic interpretations of Caeiro. Reis and I, who
are fundamentally, if differently, poets, still interpret Caeiro with besmirching temperament! Mora, a
pure intellectual, interprets with reason; if he has sentiment, or temperament, theyre going
incognito.
The concept of life formed by Ricardo Reis is seen very clearly in his odes. Whatever his defects,
Reis is always clear. His conception of life is absolutely nil. Caeiros is also nil, but in an entirely
opposite direction. For Reis, nothing can be known about reality except whats given us as a real
material universe. Without necessarily believing in this universe, we must accept it as such because
none other was given us. We have to live in this unmetaphysical, amoral universe without sociology
or politics. We adhere to the external universe, the only one we have, as wed adhere to the absolute
power of a king without discussing whether its good or bad, but simply because it is what it is. We
should reduce our action to the minimum, enclose ourselves as much as possible in the instincts we
were given, and utilize our instincts in a way that will produce the least discomfort in ourselves and
others. Were all equally entitled to avoid discomfort. Its morality, but its clear. We eat, drink, and
love (without being sentimental about food, drink and love, since that would later bring on elements

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of discomfort); life is a day, and night always falls; we should do neither good nor evil we
dont even know what good and evil are, and we dont know whether or not were doing one or the
other. The truth, if it exists, is with the Gods, or with the forces that shape or create or govern the
world. Their actions violate all our ideas of morality or immorality. Their actions are patently beyond
any concept of good and evil, and there is nothing to be hoped for from them, either for good or ill.
Nothing: a landscape, a glass of wine, a little loveless love, and the vague sadness caused by our
understanding nothing and having lost the little were given. Ricardo Reis philosophy is Caeiro
ripened and falsified by stylization. But its absolutely Caeiro, in another way: the concave side of the
arch of which Caeiro is the convex side, the turning toward ones self of that thing which in Caeiro
was turned toward Infinity the very same infinity he denied.
This fundamentally negative concept of things gives Ricardo Reis poetry its hardness, its chill
which no one will deny, no matter how much they admire the poetry; and those few who admire it,
do so precisely because of that chill. Caeiro and Reis would actually be coeval, but Caeiros chill has
no hardness; Caeiro, who is the philosophical childhood of Reis attitude, has the chill of a statue or
a snowy peak, and Reis has the chill of a beautiful mausoleum or a marvelous boulder in shadow,
untouched by even a speck of moss. And this is why Reis poetry, rigorously classical in form, is
totally destitute of vibration even more so than Horaces poetry, despite its greater emotional and
intellectual content. Reis poetry is intellectual (and therefore cold) to such an extent, that no one
can understand a single one of his poems (a typical situation, given his excessive compression)
without learning its rhythm.
What happened to me was much the same thing that happened to Reis, but he and I are
antipodal. Reis is an intellectual. He possesses the minimum sensibility necessary for his intelligence
not to be merely mathematical, the minimum a human being needs so that it can be proven with a
thermometer that hes not dead. Im exasperatingly sensitive and exasperatingly intelligent. In this, I
seem to myself to be rather like Fernando Pessoa (with a bit more sensibility and a bit less
intelligence); but, whereas in Fernando Pessoa sensibility and intelligence interpenetrate, sink into
one another, intersect, in me they exist in parallel or, better, in superimposition. Theyre not of a
piece; theyre more like bickering twins. So I formed my philosophy spontaneously from that part of
Caeiros teaching from which Reis took nothing. I mean that part of Caeiro integrally contained in
his line, And my thoughts are all sensations. Ricardo Reis owes his soul to the line Caeiro forgot
to write: My sensations are all thoughts. When I called myself a sensationist or a sensationist
poet I didnt mean to use the term as the name of a school of poetry (holy God, schools of
poetry!); I meant the word philosophically.
I dont believe in anything except the existence of my sensations; I have no other certainty, not
even of the exterior universe that these sensations present to me. I dont see the exterior universe, I
dont hear the exterior universe, I dont touch the exterior universe. I see my visual impressions; I
hear my auditory impressions; I touch my tactile impressions. I dont see with my eyes, but with my
soul; I dont hear with my ears, but with my soul; I dont touch with my skin, but with my soul.
If you asked me what my soul is, Id tell you its me. Heres my fundamental divergence from the
intellectual foundation of Caeiro and Reis, but not from the instinctive and sensual foundation of
Caeiro. For me the universe is only one of my concepts, a dynamic projected synthesis of all my
sensations. I make sure, or take care to make sure, that my sensations agree with the myriad
sensations in other souls. This agreement is what I call the exterior universe, or reality. This proves
nothing about the absolute reality of the universe because it exists as a result of collective hypnosis.
Ive seen a great mesmerist oblige a crowd of people to see the same wrong time on clocks that were
perfectly right. From that I extrapolate the existence of a supreme Mesmerist; I call him God

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because he succeeds in imposing his suggestion on the mass of souls however, I have no idea
if he did or didnt create these souls, because I have no idea what creating is, but its possible he
created them, each unto itself, just as a mesmerist could convince me Im someone else or that I feel
pain I cant say I dont feel, because I do feel it. For me, being real consists in being available to
the experience of all souls, not only real souls, but also possible ones. Im also an engineer which is
to say, I have no morality, politics, or religion independent of the real measurable reality of
measurable things, and of the virtual reality of immeasurable things. And Im a poet. My aesthetic
exists in and of itself. It has nothing to do with whatever philosophy or morality I ascribe to, or the
politics or the religion Im sometimes forced to don.
As for Antonio Mora, he got Caeiros message in its totality, and is making a real effort to
translate it into philosophy through a process of clarification, rethinking, readjusting, altering here
and there. I dont know if Moras philosophy would have been Caeiros if my master had had one.
But I do accept that it would be Caeiros philosophy had he not been, as a poet, unable to have a
philosophy. As seeds becomes plants, and as plants arent magnified seeds, but something entirely
different in form, so from the germ contained in the totality of Caeiros poetry, there naturally flows
the very different and complex corpus of Moras philosophy. But Ill leave the exposition of Moras
philosophy to the next section. Im tired of wishing I understood.

One of the most interesting conversations with my master Caeiro occurred in Lisboa, when we
were all together. Somehow, we got to talking about the concept of Reality.
If I remember correctly, that part of the conversation began with FPs offhand observation
about something that had been said. He said, The concept of Being does not allow for parts or
gradations; a thing either is or is not.
Im not sure thats quite right, I objected. Youd have to analyze this concept of being. It
seems to me its a metaphysical superstition, at least up to a point . . .
But the concept of Being is not susceptible to analysis, responded FP. That is the whole basis
of its indivisibility.
The concept might not be, I replied, but its value is.
F. responded: But what is the value of a concept independent of the concept itself? A concept,
that is, an abstract idea, is not susceptible to more or less, which means that it is not subject to
value, which is always a question of more or less. There might be value in its use or its application,
but that is the value of its use or its application, not the value of the concept itself.
At this point my master Caeiro, who with his eyes had been deeply listening to this transpontine
discussion, interrupted. Where there cant be more or less, theres nothing.
Thats a good one. Why not? asked FP.
Because everything thats real can be more or less, and except for whats real, nothing exists.
Give us an example, Caeiro, I said.
Rain, answered my master. Rain is a real thing. Thats why it can rain more and it can rain
less. If you said to me: this rain couldnt be any more or less, Id answer, then this rain doesnt
exist. Unless, of course, you mean the rain exactly as it is at that moment: that rain is what it is, and
if it were any more or less, itd be a different rain. But what I mean is something else . . .
Thats OK, I understand perfectly, I cut in.

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Before I could go on to say I no longer remember what, FP turned to Caeiro: Tell me


something pointing with his cigarette : what do you consider a dream? Is a dream real or is
it not?
I consider a dream like I consider a shadow, answered Caeiro, with his usual divine,
unexpected promptness. A shadow is real, but its less real than a rock. A dream is real if it
werent, it wouldnt be a dream but less real than a thing. Thats what being real is like.
FP has the advantage of living more in his ideas than in himself. He forgot not only what he was
arguing, but even the truth or falsehood of what he was hearing: he was excited by the metaphysical
possibilities of this sudden theory, [...]
Thats an admirable idea! And completely original! It never occurred to me (that never
occurred to me so ingenuously suggestive of the natural impossibility of anything occurring to
someone else that had never occurred to Fernando) . . . It never occurred to me that reality could
be considered as subject to degrees. In fact, this is the equivalent of considering Being not as an
abstract idea but as a numerical idea . . .
Youre sort of losing me there, hesitated Caeiro, but I think thats it, yes. What I mean is
being real means other things are real, because you cant be real alone; and since being real is being a
thing thats not anything else, it means being different from everything else. And since reality is
something like size and weight if it werent, there wouldnt be reality and since everythings
different, there are no two things alike in reality, just like there arent any two things alike in size and
in weight. There always has to be a difference, even if its really small. Thats what being real is.
This is even more peculiar! exclaimed FP. Thus, you consider reality as an attribute of things;
so it would seem, since you are comparing it to size and weight. But tell me something: what is that
thing of which reality is an attribute? What lies behind reality?
Behind reality? repeated my master Caeiro. Theres nothing behind reality. Just like theres
nothing behind size, and nothing behind weight.
But if something has no reality it cannot exist, and it can exist without having size or
weight . . .
Not if its a thing that has size and weight by nature. A rock cant exist without size, and a rock
cant exist without weight. But a rock isnt size and a rock isnt weight. A rock cant exist without
reality, too, but a rock isnt a reality.
All right, answered F., somewhere between impatient, grasping at uncertain ideas, and having
the rug pulled out from under him. But when you say a rock has reality, you distinguish rock from
reality.
Yes, I am: a rock isnt reality, it has reality. A rocks just a rock.
And what does that mean?
I dont know; its just there. A rock is a rock and it has to have reality to be a rock. A person
isnt a face, but you have to have a face to be a person. I dont know why its like that. I dont even
know if theres a why for that or anything else . . .
F. reflected. You know, Caeiro, the philosophy that you are elaborating is a little contrary to
what you think and feel. You are making a kind of Kantism all your own creating a noumenonrock, a rock-in-itself. Ill explain, Ill explain . . . He began to explain the Kantian thesis and how
what Caeiro had said conformed with it or didnt. Then he noted the difference; or what he thought
was the difference: For Kant, such attributes as weight and size not reality are concepts
imposed upon the rock-in-itself by our senses, or, better, by the fact that we observe it. You seem to
be saying that these concepts are just as much things as the actual rock-in-itself. Now that is what

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makes your theory hard to understand, while Kants theory, true or false, is perfectly
comprehensible.
My master Caeiro listened to all this with the utmost attention. He blinked his eyes once or twice
as if to shake off ideas, the way youd shake off a dream. After thinking a bit, he responded:
I dont have any theories. I dont have any philosophy. I see, but I dont know anything. I call a
rock a rock to distinguish it from a flower or a tree, or anything else thats not a rock. Of course,
every rock is different from every other rock, but not because its not a rock; because its a different
size and a different weight and a different color. And a different thing, too. I call some things rocks
because they resemble each other in the things that make us call a rock a rock. But what we should
really do, is give each rock a different proper name, like we do with people; if we dont, its because
itd be impossible to find so many words, not because itd be wrong . . .
FP cut in: Tell me one thing, by way of clarification: do you admit to rockness, so to speak, as
you admit to size and weight, just as you say, this rock is bigger that is, it has more size than
that one, or this rock has more weight than that other one? In other words, could you say, this
rock has more rockness than that one?
Yes, sir, I could, and I do, my master quickly answered. Im always saying, this rock is more
rock than that rock. I always say it if its bigger than the other, or weighs more, because a rock
needs size and weight to be a rock . . . but mainly if it has those attributes (as you call them) that
make a rock a rock more completely than another rock.
And what do you call a rock you see in your dreams? and F. smiled.
I call it a dream, said my master Caeiro. I call it a dream of a rock.
Fernando nodded. I understand. You how would I say it philosophically? you do not
distinguish substance from attributes. A rock is something made up of a certain number of attributes
those necessary to the composition of that which we call rock and of a certain quantity of
each attribute which gives a rock a certain size, a certain hardness, a certain weight, a certain color,
which distinguish it from other rocks, even though both of them are rocks, for they possess the
same attributes, even when they possess those attributes in differing quantities. Now this is like
denying the real existence of the rock: a rock becomes simply a sum of other real things. . .
But its a real sum! Its the sum of a real size and a real weight, etc. And thats why a rock,
besides having weight, size, etc., has reality too . . . It doesnt have any reality as a rock: it has reality
because its a sum of attributes (as you call them), all of them real. Since each attribute has reality,
the rock has it too.
Let us return to the dream, said F. You say that a rock which you see in a dream is a dream,
or, at most, a dream of a rock. Why do you say of a rock? Why use the word rock?
For the same reason that when you see a picture of me, you say thats Caeiro without meaning
its me in flesh and blood.
We all burst out laughing. I understand and I give up, said Fernando, laughing with us. Les
dieux sont ceux qui ne doutent jamais. I never understood that phrase of Villiers de lIsle Adam as well as
then.
This conversation remained engraved on my soul; I believe Ive reproduced it with a clarity not
far from tachygraphia, just shy of tachygraphia itself (I have that intense and clear memory
characteristic of certain kinds of madness). And this conversation had a great result. Of course it was
inconsequential, like all conversations, and it would be easy to prove, through rigorous logic, that the
only ones who didnt contradict themselves were the ones who didnt speak. In my master Caeiros
always interesting affirmations and responses, a philosophical mind could find reflections of what

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are in fact different systems. But, even as I concede this, I dont believe it. Caeiro must have been
right, even where he wasnt.
But this conversation did have a great result. It was during it that Antnio Mora drank in his
inspiration for the two most awe-inspiring chapters of his Prolegomena the chapters on the idea of
Reality. Throughout the course of the conversation, Antonio Mora was the only one who said
nothing. He limited himself to hearing, with his eyes turned inwards on himself, the ideas discussed.
The ideas of my master Caeiro, exposed in this conversation with the intellectual chaos of instinct,
and therefore necessarily imprecise and contradictory, were converted, in the Prolegomena, into a
coherent and logical system.
I dont intend to diminish the very real value of Antonio Mora. But, just as the base of his entire
philosophical system was born, as he himself says with abstract pride, from a simple phrase of
Caeiro, Nature is parts without a whole, so a part of this system the marvelous concept of
Reality as a dimension, and the derived concept of degrees of reality was born, precisely,
from this conversation. To every man what is his, and everything to my master Caeiro.

While Im very moved to be a disciple of my master Caeiro, Im a disciple with my intelligence,


and therefore critically. He wouldnt have wanted to be followed in any other way: he didnt believe
in having pets.
Ive never accepted one of Caeiros most original judgements that there is some distinction
between the natural and the artificial. There is no such distinction, because both are real. I
understand the distinction between dreams and life, while yet conceding that a good metaphysics
can confound it. But the distinction between a tree and a machine has always seemed false to me. It
seems to me a tree and a machine are distinct because the first is a natural product and the second is
a product which appeared by the intermediation of human intelligence. But, in reality, every product
is mediated: the tree appears through its seed, the machine through intelligence. And intelligence is
just as much an element of reality as a seed. When we allow that the tree rises out of the seed and
the machine out of the mind, weve reduced everything to material terms and have established the
equal rights of matter.
No, Ive never accepted Caeiros criterion for the artificial, nor Caeiros criterion for
humanitarianism. Caeiro disdained the artificial because it is not born of the earth, and he disdained
humanitarianism because it is not born of egoism. But a trees flower isnt born from the earth, and
the love of humanity isnt born from egoism, but from the relaxation of egoism. Everything is
natural, but with a greater circumference.
I still hear, in my hearts memory, that cold and placid voice yet so filled by all the inner
warmth of reality! tell me, lvaro de Campos, I believe in what I have to accept. How imbued
with simplicity was Caeiros voice. Ive adopted that sentence to the letter. I believe in a machine
because I have to accept it as I accept a tree.
I know very well that Nature is the refuge, that the countryside swaddles the consumptive in allembracing shelter, that the wind blowing through foliage, etc., etc.. But Ive isolated myself in a great
factory, among its noises; Ive fled from the world to a grand international caf. Ive long been a
hermit in the wilderness where nobody knows who I am, in a provincial villa whose name I dont
know and never will.

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Caeiros work should be divided not only in his book, but organically into three parts
The Keeper of Flocks, The Amorous Shepherd, and that third part to which Ricardo Reis set the authentic
title, Detached Poems. The Amorous Shepherd is a fruitless interlude, but those few poems are among the
worlds greatest love poems, because theyre love poems about love, not about being poems. The
poet loves because he loves, not because love exists. Thats what those poems say.
The Keeper of Flocks is Caeiros mental life up to the point when the coach tops the hill. In
Unattached Poems, its descending. Ill use myself to make a distinction: there are things in Unattached
Poems I can imagine having written. No turn of the imagination would even let me dream of being
able to write anything in The Keeper of Flocks.
In Unattached Poems fatigue occurs, and therefore difference. Caeiro is still Caeiro, but hes an
ailing Caeiro. Not always ailing, but at times ailing. The same man, slightly self-estranged. This
applies most of all to the middle poems in this third part of his work.

I always treated my master Caeiro as a human being: simply as Caeiro. I never called him master
to his face: such things are said but never spoken: in other words, written but left unsaid.

My master Caeiro was a master of all people able to have a master. No one close to Caeiro, who
spoke with him, who had the physical opportunity to share his mind, didnt come back changed
from that only Rome from whence one cant return the way one was unless that person wasnt
such a person; that is to say, unless that person was, like most people, incapable of being an
individual except by being a body in space, separated from other bodies, symbolically damaged by
the human form.
No inferior man can have a master, because the master has nothing to be master of. Thats why
definite, strong temperaments are easily hypnotized, and ordinary men are hypnotized with relative
ease, but idiots, imbeciles, weaklings and scatterbrains cant be hypnotized. To be strong is to be
capable of feeling.
As will have been inferred from these pages, there were mainly three people around Caeiro
Ricardo Reis, Antnio Mora, and myself. Im not doing any favors, not even to myself, when I say
we were and are three individuals absolutely distinct from ordinary animal humanity (in spirit, at
least). All three of us owe the better part of the souls we have today to our contact with my master
Caeiro. Since passing through the filter of that fleshly intercession of the Gods, all three of us are
other in other words, truly ourselves.
Ricardo Reis was a latent pagan. He misunderstood both modern life and the ancient life to
which he should have been born. He misunderstood modern life because his intelligence was of a
different quality. He misunderstood ancient life because you cant sense whats not here. Caeiro, the
reconstructor of Paganism, or, better, its founder, brought to Reis the missing substance of his
sensibility. And so Reis discovered in himself the pagan he was before he discovered himself. Before
meeting Caeiro, Ricardo was 25 years old, and hadnt written a single line. After meeting Caeiro, and
hearing The Keeper of Flocks, Ricardo Reis began to realize he was organically a poet. Some
physiologists say its possible to change sex. I dont know if thats true, because I dont know if
anythings true. But Ricardo Reis certainly stopped being a woman to be a man, or stopped being

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a man to be a woman as you like when he came into contact with Caeiro.
Antnio Mora was a shadow of speculative velleities. Hed spent his life gnawing on Kant, trying
to see with that thought if life had meaning. Indecisive, like all strong men, he hadnt found the
truth, or what could have been the truth for him (the same thing, as far as Im concerned). He met
master Caeiro and he met the truth. My master Caeiro gave Mora the soul he never had. Caeiro set a
center within the periphery Mora had always been. And the outcome was the reduction of Caeiros
instinctive thought to a truly logical system.
The triumphal results were those two tracts, The Return of the Gods, and the Prolegomena to a
Restructuring of Paganism, both of which are marvels of originality and thought.
As for me, before meeting Caeiro, I was a nervous machine for making nothing at all. I met my
master Caeiro a little later than Reis and Mora, who had met him in 1912 and 1913, respectively. I
met Caeiro in 1914. Id already written poems three sonnets and two longish poems (Carnival
and Opiator). Those poems and sonnets show me at loose ends. Soon after meeting Caeiro, I
became myself. I returned to London and immediately wrote Triumphal Ode. And Ive been
myself ever since, for better or worse.
Even more curious is the case of Fernando Pessoa, who, properly speaking, doesnt exist. He
met Caeiro a little before me on March 8, 1914, according to him. Caeiro came to Lisboa to
spend a week. Fernando met him, and heard him read The Keeper of Flocks. Fernando went home in a
fever (as was his wont) and wrote Oblique Rain in one go the six poems in one sitting.
Oblique Rain doesnt seem in the least like one of my master Caeiros poems, except in a
certain straightforwardness of rhythmic movement. But Fernando Pessoa would have been
incapable of drawing those extraordinary poems out of his inner world if he hadnt met Caeiro.
Moments after meeting Caeiro, he underwent the spiritual upheaval that produced those poems. It
was a swift process. Fernando has an overly quick sensibility coupled with an overly quick
intelligence. There was no delay in his reaction to the Great Vaccination the vaccination against
the stupidity of the intelligentsia. And the most admirable thing in Fernando Pessoas works is that
sequence of six poems, Oblique Rain. There may be, or may come to be, better things in his work,
but there wont ever be anything more original, anything newer, and for that reason I dont know if
hell ever do anything better. There will never be anything more really Fernando Pessoa, more
intimately Fernando Pessoa. How could he better express his always intellectualized sensibility, his
intense, heedless attention, the hot subtlety of his cold self-analysis, than he did in those
intersection-poems, where state of mind is two at once, where subjective and objective are joined,
yet are separate; and where real and unreal are confused, because they remain so very distinct? In
those poems Fernando Pessoa took the definitive photograph of his very soul. In one moment, in a
single stroke, he achieved the individuality hed never had; and hell never have it again, because it
isnt his.
Viva my master Caeiro!

Fernando Pessoa wrote, in one go in one human go those [...], complicated poems.
Fernando Pessoa, who, when he writes a quatrain, employs strenuous industrial organization to see
how he has to arrange through it the seventeen ratiocinations (he feels obliged by law to do this);
who, when he feels something, sets to cutting it up with shears made of five critiques and fixates on
the second line containing a disyllabic conjunction and, as at that point in the poem whether
would be bad grammar, hell work it so while is pronounced bi-syllabically.

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This man, so fruitlessly well-endowed, living constantly in the parabulia of his complexity,
had at that moment even he his liberation. If some day forgetting himself to the point of
publishing a book, if that book were a book of poems, and the little poems were dated, one would
see that there is something different about those poems dated after March 8, 1914.

I marvel at Antnio Moras doctrine, and show my dissent with a delicate gesture of withdrawal.
The bad thing about those men Ricard Reis, Antnio Mora, Fernando Pessoa, and even, because
Im outside idolatry (Eng. original], even my master Caeiro is that they only see reality. They all see
clearly in their way; theyre all objectivists, even Fernando Pessoa, whos a subjectivist as well. But I
dont just see reality I touch it. Those men are more or less declared polytheists. Im a monotheist.
The world considered with sight has an essential diversity. Considered with touch, it has no diversity
at all. Those men are all in their own ways more intelligent than me, but Im more deeply practical
than them. So I believe in God. Sometimes I think Milton could only attain his sublime
understanding of Divinity when, bereft of sight, he returned to the great primordiality of touch, the
great unity of matter. And Satan himself (who is nothing but God in His own deformed shadow),
ejected from the light of appearance, couldnt understand powerfully until his eyes became night.
The variety of the world is not variety except by perceived contraposition to any unity. And this
divined unity is God.

All of ancient pagan civilization (the blood of Caeiros very soul) was, and is, for Reis, a dear
childhood memory the education that drove him into being.

Ricardo Reis was listening, but he seemed less attentive to what Caeiro was saying than to some
far-off manifestation, some echo of these words. After reading what Reis wrote, I understood.
Sunlight was breaking against the cornices of ancient temples, and blood was draining from the dry
sacrifice made by the haruspices in his soul. In some earlier incarnation lived or metaphorical
the ancient gods had been a reality to that being; he was seeing the gods again, now, revealed by a
grown-up child, and Ricardo knew they were real.
In his own way, R. Reis was also waking up.

This man first disoriented me by joyfully singing things, whether believed or taken for granted,
that give everybody nothing but pain or horror materiality, death, the nothing beyond. Then he
disoriented me by not only saying all of it with joy, but also by making others feel that joy of his.
When Im depressed, I read Caeiro hes my fresh air. I become very calm, content, faithful
yes, I find faith in God, and in the souls transcendent living smallness, after reading the poems by
that godless anti-humanist unsurpassed on earth.
Why? Because of the personality behind the work, the elan vital, and where they plainly manifest

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themselves. Its the poet we love in Caeiro, not the philosopher. What we really get from these
poems is a childlike sense of life, with all the direct materiality of the childs mind, and all the vital
spirituality of hope and increase that exist in the body and soul of nescient childhood. Caeiros work
is a dawn that wakes us up and quickens us; a more than material, more than anti-spiritual dawn. Its
an abstract effect, pure vacuum, nothingness.
Above and beyond all that, Caeiros work has a critical effect. These poems of the direct
sensation in his soul dead set against our unnatural concepts, our artificial mind-made civilization
tabulated in double columns and stuffed into filing cabinets these poems strip us of all our
tatters, and chemically scour our faces and bellies. Its a pharmaceutical effect he comes into our
house and shows us that a wooden table is wood, wood, and wood. He shows us that a table is a
necessary hallucination of our industrial will.
If even for an instant in our lives we were able to see the table as wood, to sense the table as wood
to see the tables wood without seeing the table wed be happy. Wed go back to knowing
its a table, but for all our lives wed never forget its wood. And wed love the table that much more,
just for being a table.
Such was Caeiros effect on me. I never stopped seeing the appearance of things, the human or
divine integrity in matters material soul. I remained free. Ive been like a Rosicrucian ever since, one
who, according to legend or truth, while outwardly similar to every human and conforming with the
customs and manners of the workaday world, yet bears the secret of the Universe, and always knows
the location of the escape hatch and the magic of essenciation.

The complexity of Caeiros simplicity is very curious. The evolution of his concept of the
universe, or, I should say, his concept of the lack of universe, is also very curious. Being an absolute
sensationist, his sensations are his intellect, with a reason and a critical power all their own. Starting
out as a kind of faithless St. Francis of Assisi bursting through obstacles, he crept through the
thicket of what hed learned which was, happily, very little. In the end he appeared in his
nakedness. It was the culmination of The Keeper of Flocks, of the poems so new on the surface of
the most ancient function of the world! of The Amorous Shepherd and the non-anomalous poems in
his Unattached Poems. The anomalous poems are deaths invasion of truth. In some of them his vision
is disturbed. The naked man tries on his shroud. But if we take his work as a whole, its nudity itself:
his suit barely covers him and the shroud covers nothingness.
His commentary on St. Francis says it all. Once I read him a part of Fioretti, rapidly translating as
I went along. I couldnt read more than a small part of it because Caeiro, indignant, or nearly so,
crankily interrupted me. Hes a good man, but hes drunk, said my master Caeiro. At the time, this
seemed to me an inappropriately expressed impulse; but, shortly afterward, I saw the deliquescence
of the Saints compassion in the innocence of his soul, and I recognized what lay behind it as one
would recognize a photograph.

One day Caeiro said something incredibly astonishing to me. We were speaking, or, rather, I was
speaking of the souls immortality. I told him I thought the concept, even if false, was necessary for
existence to be supported intellectually, to be seen as something other than a more or less conscious

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pile of stones.
I dont know what being necessary is, said Caeiro.
I answered without answering. Tell me something. What are you to yourself, Caeiro?
What I am to myself? Caeiro repeated. Im one of my sensations.
Ill never forget how that sentence crashed into my mind. Its useful for many things, including
things contrary to Caeiros intention. But it was mostly spontaneous, a beam of sunlight, illuminating
with no intention at all.

I never revise, my master Caeiro once told me. If I write some way its because thats how I
feel, and the fact that I feel differently today doesnt mean a thing to me. Sure, my poems contradict
themselves all the time, but so what, if I dont contradict me? There are things in some of my
poems, you know?, I could never write now, not any time. But I wrote them then, in the time when
I wrote them. So I let them be.
At my questioning, he gave an example:
Well, just look at my poem about the Boy Jesus. Today I could never say the direction of my
eyes is his pointing finger not even if I were distracted. I could never say he plays with my
dreams, throws his legs in the air and puts my dreams one on top of the other, and other stuff like
that. I couldnt even write that poem today, anyway. Thats the only thing that has any meaning.
I defended the poem, the very sentences Caeiro was incriminating.
No, no, theres no excuse. Theyre just lies, thats all. The direction you look isnt a finger, its a
direction you look. You dont play with dreams like you play with jacks or empty matchboxes. Its a
whole lot of nothing, anyway. It was one of my distractions. I exist in my distractions, too, even
though Im distracted.
I perfectly remember why I wrote that poem. Father B was sitting there in my house talking
to my aunt and he was saying things that bothered me so much I had to write the poem so I could
breathe. Thats why its outside my usual breathing. But a state of irritation isnt a real state in me
and thats why that poem isnt really mine, but my irritations, and also the persons who most feels
the same kind of irritation I felt when I felt it.
Today, if I were irritated thats doesnt happen much, these days I wouldnt write
anything. Id let the irritation irritate. Afterwards, when I felt the need to write, Id write. Id let the
writing write.
Even today, sometimes I write poems I dont agree with. But I write them anyway. I think
people are interesting because theyre not me, so sometimes Im interested in a moment when Im
not me. Anyway, today its impossible for me to pull as far from myself as I did when I wrote my
poem about the Boy Jesus. I can still pull away from myself, but I cant pull away from Reality
anymore.
Caeiro was silent for a few moments. Then he went on:
The lstest poem where I pull away from myself the most is the one I wrote last month after
that conversation Ricardo Reis and Antonio Mora had about paganism and the gods. (He was
referring to Unattached Poems, number . . . )
I was listening to them, and I started imagining how it would be if I imagined a religion. And it
came to me how it had to be. Thats how I wrote the poem, not as a poetic act, but as an act of the

164

imagination . . . Yeah, like telling a story. I had to put I know how to makes fairy tales, too at the
beginning but only once, of course . . .
Theres another of your poems thats a little like that, I said. Caeiro looked at me
questioningly. Its the one in which you speak of a man in a lit-up house, far away, and you say that
when you stop seeing the man, he stops existing.
I dont say he stopped being real. I say he stopped being real for me. I dont mean hed stop
being visible to someone who was where they could see him. He stopped being visible to me. He
might as well have died.
Then you admit to two kinds of reality?
Many more than two, my master Caeiro unexpectedly replied. Look . . . that chairs a chair
and that chairs wood and that chairs the substance woods made of I dont know what a chemist
would say and that chair is maybe definitely many other things besides. But its all of them
at once. If I look at it, its basically a chair; if I touch it, its basically wood, if I bite it and taste the
flavor of the wood, its basically what woods made of. Its like the left and right and front and back
sides of something. Each and every one of its sides is real. The man I stopped seeing could have
been real, but I was on the other side, away from him. Because I wasnt on his side, he stopped
being real for me.

If children dont understand adults otherwise, theyd have nothing to understand because
theyd all be the same, and nothing exists thats the same as something else , its more certain that
adults dont understand children. To be adult is to forget that you were once a child; therefore,
parents punish their children for doing what they themselves did at the same age. When parents
remember what they were, and dont punish their children, its because theyre proceeding rationally:
if they remember what they were, they believe they shouldnt punish their children. In reality they
dont remember. If they remembered, theyd still be children.
This apropos the appalling result that, in a certain aspect, Caeiros influence had on the
susceptible Ricardo Reis. The absence of metaphysical preoccupation in Caeiro, natural in one who
thinks like a child, became, in Reis adult interpretation, a monstrous thing. Like Caeiro, Ricardo
Reis faced life and death naturally, but, unlike Caeiro, he thought about it. It gave his poems an
anguished materiality, even for he who wrote them. When Reis speaks of death, he seems to foresee
being buried alive. He considers it nothing, except for the dispensable effect of feeling moist earth
piled on, and other equally suffocating ways of saying the same thing. The sentiment which in
Caeiro is an empty field, for Reis is an empty tomb. He adopted Caeiros nothingness but didnt
know how to keep it free of decay.
For Reis, growing old and dying seem to be the sum and sense of life. For Caeiro, there is no
aging, and dying is over there, by the hills. This comes apropos of influences, I believe.
Reis has no metaphysics. He adopted Caeiros, and such was the result. I dont deny his aesthetic
importance; I do deny that one can decently read him. We ought to have our own metaphysics; each
of us is each of us. If we take on influences, lets take them in our rhythms, our images, in the
structure of our poems. Lets not take them into our very own souls.

165

The woman Caeiro fell in love with. I have no idea who she was, and I intend to never find
out, not even out of curiosity. There are things of which the soul refuses to lose its ignorance.
Im perfectly aware no ones obliged to reciprocate love, and great poets have nothing to do with
being great lovers. But theres a transcendent spite . . .
Let her remain anonymous even to God!

166

Fragments, Perhaps Intended for


Notes for the Recollection of my Master Caeiro

My master Caeiro hated ambition. One day I told him I wanted to be the freest person in the
world. lvaro de Campos, he said, youre just what you are and nothing else.

My master Caeiro detested supposition. Now suppose, I once began to say, but he cut me off.
Whats there to suppose with? The eyes? The ears? I answered, smiling, The mind. My master
answered, [...]

My master Caeiro once told me that while the material world has one and only one advantage, its
one and only advantage is its visibility. Each time I think of that dictum, I feel it more deeply, in
spite of its simplicity. Think how hard it is to be a charlatan in the material world. If someone told
me he had God in his pocket, I dont know how I could possibly prove or refute that claim. But if
he told me he weighed five pounds, the proof would be the simplest thing in the world. In spiritual
matters were all able to lie at will. All told, the physical is worth more than the metaphysical.

To go blind! To go blind!, my master Caeiro howled disconsolately.


Youd prefer . . .
Anything but going blind, cried Caeiro.
But . . .
If they take away my testicles, theyre only taking away the possibility of all women. If they
take away my eyes, theyre taking the whole universe from me.
So spoke the childlike demigod.
His organically childlike, divine judgement couldnt conceive of the complexities of virile
humanity. Yes. My master didnt know that when our testicles are taken from us, so is our chastity
the very chastity that was meant to be preserved.
My master Caeiro couldnt see the spiritual ramifications of spermatic fluid.

My master Caeiro taught me clarity and balance. He taught me to be organic in delirium and in
hallucination; and to seek to have no philosophy at all, but with soul.

If I knew English, I wouldnt be me, Id be someone else, answered my master Caeiro.

167

Superior poets say what they really feel. Mediocre poets say what they decide to feel. Inferior
poets say what they think they should feel.
This has nothing to do with sincerity. In the first place, no one knows what they really feel: its
possible to feel relief at the death of a loved one and suppose its grief because thats what we think
we should feel on such occasions. Most people feel conventionally, though with the greatest human
sincerity; what they dont do is feel with any kind or degree of intellectual sincerity, and thats what
matters in a poet. So much so, that I dont believe that there have been, in all the long history of
poetry, more than four or five poets who say what they really and truly feel. Some very great poets
never said it; they may have been incapable of saying it. In so many poets there are certain passages
where they say what they feel. Coleridge said it once or twice: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and
Kublai Khan are more sincere than all Milton put together. Id even say more than all Shakespeare.
Hardly a reservation when it comes to Shakespeare: he was essentially and structurally factitious, so
much so that his constant insincerity became constant sincerity. Thus his enormous grandeur.
When inferior poets feel, they always feel by rote. They may be emotionally sincere, but what
does that matter if theyre not poetically sincere? There are poets who spew line after line about
what they feel: they never check to see whether theyre feeling it or not. Cames bewails the loss of
his gentle soul; ultimately, its Petrarch crying. If Cames had had one emotion that was sincerely
his, he would have found new forms, new words anything but the sonnet or decasyllabic verse.
No: in verse he was a sonneteer, as in life, a whiner.
My master Caeiro was the worlds only entirely sincere poet.

As he told me once: Only prose gets revised. Verse should never be revised. Prose is artificial.
Verse is natural. We dont speak prose. We speak verse. We speak unrhymed, unmetered verse.
Pauses happen in conversations that cant happen in prose. Yeah, we speak in verse, in natural verse,
and thats verse without rhyme or meter, but its full of pauses from breath and feeling.
My poems are natural because theyre written that way.
Rhyming, metered verse is bastard, illegitimate.

168
A. Caeiro
In placing before the English-reading public my translations of these poems, I do so with the full confidence that I
am making a revelation. I claim, in all confidence, that I am putting before Englishmen the most original poetry that
our young century has as yet produced -- a poetry so fresh, so new, untainted to such a degree by any kind of
conventional attitude, that the words a Portuguese friend said to me, when speaking of these very poems, are more
than justified. Every time I read them, he said, I cannot bring myself to believe that they have been written. It is
so impossible an achievement...! And so much more impossible, that is of the simplest, most natural and most
spontaneous kind.
II
Alberto Caeiro -- that is not his whole name, for 2 names are suppressed -- was born in Lisbon in August 1887. He
died in Lisbon in June of the past year.
...
The Keeper of Sheep remains one of the highest works of all time, hard-bound upon a sense of nature or spirit, so
spontaneous, so fresh and so natural that it is astonishing that any one should have had it.
...
The Keeper of Sheep is both a series of solitary [?] poems and a philosophical [...]; hence its strength, its unity and
its power. The later poems, even allowing for the fact that they are mere fragments, are weak even in form, in
comparison with that great achievement. Exception must be made for the two love poems. But thereafter his tone
suffers. It does not become garrulous or, properly speaking, weak. But it loses its intellectual keenness, it becomes
uncertain, even tentative. Each thing must have cost him effort to write, and he seems to have been tired of things to
write it.
***
Caeiro has created (1) a new sentiment of nature (2) a new mysticism (3) a new simplicity, which is nether a
simplicity of faith, nor a simplicity of sadness (as in [...]s case), nor a simplicity of abdication from things and ( ).
Much as he likes to prove his irrationalism, he is a thinker and a very great thinker. Nothing is so ennobling as this
faith that declares the senses superior to the intellect, that speaks of intellect as a disease.
He has contradictions very slight, but he is conscious of all of these and has forewarned his critics. His
contradictions are of 3 kinds: (1) in his thought, (2) in his feeling, (3) in his poetical manner.
...
But the most astonishing circumstance is that C possesses in an extraordinary degree that metaphysical subtlety
which is generally, if not universally, considered as associated with spiritualistic and transcendentalist doctrines.
This pure ad absolute materialist, who admits no reality outside things as he feels them, writes, quite in accordance
with his theory of things, [...]
There is something not less than scholastic and [...] in the exterior subtlety of his metaphysics. Yet no one can ignore
that it is natural from beginning to end.
As the astonishing final verse of the ( ) poem
Things are the only occult meaning of things
The only occult meaning of things is the things themselves.

169
A verse of which it is not too much to say that it opens new roads for philosophical meditation.
Caeiro is the only poet of nature. In a sense, he is Nature: he is Nature speaking and being vocal.
He has neither interest in mankind, nor in any human activity, not even in art. All these things are to him unnatural.
Only Nature is divine and it is not divine.
(unsigned)
***
But Caeiro displaces all our mental habits and puts all our notions out of drowsing.
He does it, first of all, by the philosophy which can hardly be said to be simply at the bottom of his poetry,
because it is both at the bottom and at the top of it.Whatever a mystic may be, he s certainly a kind of mystic. But he
is, not only a materialistic mystic, which is already strange enough, but still can be imagined, for these is some sort
of modern precedent in Swift and of an ancient one in some poets, but a non-subjectivist mystic, which is quite
unworldly. [...] but it is so difficult to discover a recent modern being precisely like a primitive greek, that we are
not at all aided by the very analogy that does at first seem to help us.
Caeiro puts us out, next, by the secondary aspects of his philosophy. Being a poet of what may be called the
absolute Concrete he never looks on that concrete otherwise than abstractly. No man is more sure of the absolute,
non-subjective reality of a tree, of a stone, of a flower. Here it might be thought that he would particularize, that he
would say an oak, a sacred stone, a marigold. But he does not: he keeps on saying a tree, a stone, a
flower.
All these observations will be better understood after reading the poems.
But, if the matter is this perplexing, the manner is more perplexing still.
The intellectual manner, to begin with. There is nothing less poetic, less lyrical than Cs philosophical attitude. It is
quite devoid of imagination, of vagueness, of sympathy with things. Far from feeling them, his mental
process, a hundred times explicitly put, is that he does not feel them, or feel with them.
Again, his simplicity is full of intellectual complexity. He is a poet purely of sense, but he seems to have his intellect
put out his senses.
Then, again, he is absolutely self-conscious. He knows every possible unconscious of his. Where there may be a big
fault, he hastens to the rescue with a simple and direct argument. Where ( )
This man, so purely or anciently a primitive greek that he is unworldly, is quite modern at the same time.
...
It is this man of contradictions, this lucidly unworldly personality that gives him his complex and intense originality
-- an originality, in every way, scarcely ever attained by any poet: certainly never before attained by any poet born in
a worn and sophisticated age.
Thomas Crosse

170
Beyond Another Ocean
Notes by C. Pacheco
To the memory of Alberto Caeiro
In a fevered feeling of being beyond another ocean
There were positions of a living more clear and limpid
And apparitions of a city of beings
Not unreal but livid with impossibility, sacred in purity and in nudity
I was the gateway to the null vision and the feelings were but the desire to have them
The notion of thing beside thing, each with its own inwardness
All were living in the life of remnants
And the mode of feeling was in the mode of living
But the form of those faces had a dews placidity
Their nudity was a silence of forms without means of being
And there was wonder at all reality being only this
But life was life and only life
Often my thought works in silence
As smoothly as a greased machine moves without a sound
I feel good when it moves thus and I immobilize
To keep unbroken the equilibrium allowing it to occur in me
I foresee my thought as clear in these moments
But I do not hear it and it works stealthily and in silence
Like a greased machine driven by a belt
And I can hear nothing but the serene slide of parts at work
As I recall at times, other persons must feel the way I do
But they say it gives them a headache or causes dizziness
This recollection came to me as could any other
As for example my recollection of people not feeling the slide
And they do not think things they do not feel
In this old hall where panoplies of gray armor
Form an armature supporting signs of other ages
My materialized gaze wanders and pulls out from hiding in suits of armors
That soul secret causes my living
If I fix upon the panoply my mortified gaze which desires not to see
All the ferric structure of this armature I know not why I foresee
Takes possession of my feel of it like a bolt of lucidity
There is sound in the equal state of two helmets noticing me
The shadow of the lances of being clearly marks the indecisiveness of words
Distichs of uncertainty dance incessantly above me
I hear the coronations of heroes who will come to celebrate me
And hovering over this addiction to sensing I find myself in the same spasms
Of the same gray dust on the arms adorned with signs of other ages
When I enter a great naked hall at the hour of twilight
And everything is silence it has for me the structure of a soul
It is vague and dusty and my steps echo strangely
Like those which echo in my soul when I walk
Through their sad windows, the sleeping light enters from without
And projects shadows and penumbras on the dark wall ahead
A great empty hall is a silent soul
And dust-pushing air currents are thoughts
A flock of ewes is a sad thing

171
For we shouldnt be able to associate it with other ideas not sad
And because it is so and only because it is so because it is the truth
We should associate sad ideas with a flock of ewes
And for this reason and only for this reason ewes are sad in fact
I steal for pleasure when I am given an object of value
And I give in return a few bits of metal. This idea is neither common nor banal
For I face it differently and there is no relation between a bit of metal and another object
If I were to buy tin and paid with lettuce I would be arrested
I used to like hearing anyone expose and explain
How one can stop thinking one thinks anything is done
So as to lose the fear I have of some day knowing
How my thinking about things and thinking are nothing but a material and perfect thing
The position of a body is not unimportant to its equilibrium
And the sphere is not a body because it has no form
If it is so and if we all hear a sound in any position
I infer it must not be a body
But those whom intuition tells a sound is not a body
Were not following my reasoning and thus this notion is of no use to them
When I remember there are persons who play with words in displays of wit
And they laugh about it and tell personal stories about their own lives
So to brighten their spirits and they find circus clowns amusing
And they become annoyed when a drop of olive oil falls on their new suits
I am glad there are so many things I do not understand
In the art of each worker I see a whole generation at labor
And therefore I do not understand any craft and only see the generation
The worker does not see anything of a generation in his craft
And therefore he is a worker and knows his craft
My physique often causes a deep depression in me
I know I am a thing and as I am no different from any other thing
I know other things must be like me and I have to think I am a common thing
And thus if it is so then I do not really think but only believe I think
And this my way of conditioning myself is good and it comforts me
I love alamedas full of curving shady trees
And walking through wide alamedas delightful to my gaze
Alamedas my gaze fashions without my knowing how
They are doors opening out into my incoherent being
And it is always alamedas I sense when the shock of so being makes me known

172
Often I take shelter from my own sensations and inclinations
And then they vary and are in accord with those of others
But I do not feel them and also I do not know I am fooling myself
Feeling poetry is the supposed way for one to live
I do not feel poetry not because I do not know what it is
But because I cannot live supposedly
And if I managed it I would have to follow another way of conditioning myself
The condition of poetry is not to know how it is one senses it
Certain beautiful things are beautiful in themselves
But the inner beauty of feelings mirrors itself in things
And if they are beautiful we do not feel them
In the sequence of steps I cannot see more than the sequence of steps
And they follow as if I saw them really following one another
By the fact of them being so equal
And as no sequence of steps is not
I see no need to illude ourselves about the clear meaning of things
Otherwise we would have to believe in an inanimate body feeling and seeing differently from us
And by being too admissible this notion would be uncomfortable and futile
If we are able to cease movement and speech when we think
Is it necessary to suppose things do not think
If this manner of seeing them is incoherent and easy on the wit?
We ought to suppose this the true way
We think by the fact of our being able to do so without moving or speaking
As do inanimate things
When I feel isolated the need to be any person arises
And eddies around me in oscillating spirals
This way of speaking is not figurative
And I know it eddies around me like a moth around a light
In it I see symptoms of weariness and am horrified when I think it will fall
But as this never quite succeeds, it happens at times when I am isolated
There are those affected by scratching on walls
And others not affected
But scratching on walls is always the same
And the difference comes from the persons. But if there is a difference within this sensing
There will have to be personal difference in the sensing of other things
And when all think the same of a thing it is because it is different for each
Memory is the faculty by which we know we must live
And therefore amnesiacs cannot know they live
But like me they are unhappy and I know I am living and must live
An object attained, a fear one has
Are all manners of being alive for others
I would like to live or to be within myself as spaces are or live

173
After eating so many persons sit in rocking chairs
They arrange themselves on the cushions close their eyes and allow themselves to live
There is no struggle between living and the will not to live
Or else and this is horrid to me if there really is a struggle
They kill themselves with a pistol shot having first written letters
To abandon oneself to living is as absurd as speaking in secret
Circus performers are superior to me
For they know how to leap about and make deadly moves on horseback
And they leap about only for the sake of leaping about
And if I leapt about I would have to know why I leapt about
And not leaping about would sadden me
They are not able to say how it is they leap about
But they leap as only they know how to leap
And never ask themselves if they really leap about
And as for myself, when I see something
I do not know if it has happened or not nor can I know it
I know only for myself that it is as if it happens because I see it
But I cannot know if I would see things if they did not happen
And if I would see them I would also be able to suppose they had taken place
A bird is always beautiful because it is a bird
And birds are always beautiful
But a featherless bird is as ugly as a toad
And a mound of feathers is not beautiful
I do not know how to induce anything from this fact so bare in itself
And I feel there must reside in it some great truth
What I think at one point can never be the same as what I think at another
And hence I live so others know they live
Sometimes at the foot of a wall I see a mason working
And his mode of existing and ability to be seen is always different from what I believe
He works and there is a directed incitement moving his arms
How is it he works by a will he has for it
And neither do I work nor do I have the will to do so
Nor have an understanding of such a possibility?
He knows nothing of these truths and yet surely he is no more happy than I
Treading dry leaves on paths of other parks
Sometimes I dream I exist for myself and I have to live
But the seeing myself as illusion never ends
For in the end I see myself on the paths of this park
Treading dry leaves as they listen back at me
If at least I could hear the dry leaves crackle
Without it being me who treads on them or them seeing me
But the dry leaves whirl around and I have to tread on them
If only like all people I had someone on this journey

174
A masterpiece is nothing more than a piece of work
And therefore any piece of work is a masterpiece
If this reasoning seems false then my desire for its truth
Is not false which is enough for the uses of my thinking
What matter if an idea is obscure so long as it is an idea
And one idea cannot be less lovely than another
For there can be no difference between two ideas
And it is so because I see it must be so
A dreaming brain is the same as a thinking
And dreams cannot be incoherent for they are nothing but thoughts
Like any others. If I see someone looking at me
I begin to think like all people without meaning to
And this is just as painful as if my soul were branded by a red-hot iron
But how can I know if it is painful to brand the soul with a red-hot iron
If red-hot iron is for me an incomprehensible idea
I am moved by the wrong turn taken by my virtues
It afflicts my conscience when I sense my ability to note their absence if I wish
I would like it if my fulfilling virtues were delectable
But only to be able to possess them and for those virtues to be mine
There are persons who say they feel their hearts torn to pieces
But they do not so much as glimpse the good
In feeling our hearts being torn to pieces
This is something hardly felt
But it is not the reason why it would be happiness to feel the heart torn to pieces
In a shadowed noble hall tiled with azulejos
In which blue azulejos color the walls
And the floor is dark and tinted and covered with jute runners
At times I enter all too coherent
I am within the hall like any person
But the ceiling is concave and the doors are off the mark
The sadness of stained glass in transoms over doors
Is an uneven sadness made of silence
Through reticulated windows amidst light during the day
And it numbs glass in transoms and mounds blackness in recesses
At times windy chill runs through broad corridors
But there is an odor of old cracked varnishes in the corners of halls
And everything aches in this manor-house of antiques
At times I become happy for a moment to think I will die
And be buried in a coffin made of resinous wood
My body surely melt into shocking liquids
My features come undone in multicolored rot
And a laughable skull come gradually to light down there
So dirty and tired and blinking away

175
TRANSLATORS NOTES
I dedicate these translations to my friends and family.
***
A number of people have helped along the way. To list them all would take a whole page, but I must express my
gratitude to Ben Hollander, Kent Johnson, Rovena Mafouz, Erin Moure, Pat Reed and Dan Strongin.
***
A heteronym is a fictional author who may or may not reflect or refract some aspect or aspects of the personality, beliefs
and aspirations of the inventing author, who is not trying very hard, if at all, to hide the fact that the heteronym is fictive.
A huge amount of criticism though little in English has been devoted to heteronymy, but its not at all difficult to
understand. Imagine a vast novel about a coterie of writers in a very particular time and place. All the writers have
different styles and concerns and social backgrounds and they write all different kinds of things: belle-lettrist prose,
poetry, philosophy, political analysis, light humor, jokes, crossword puzzles, fiction, plays, journalism. The novel includes
all of their writings. Excise the narrative trappings of a traditional novel and leave only the writings of the fictional
charaters. Thats the easiest way to understand heteronymy.
Of course, one can conceive of a heteronym who appears in the world as the author of a real and traditionally
constructed novel . . .
[Pessoa understood that] if a real identity is built the same way as a fictional one, there is no point in depriving oneself
of multiplicity. (Mnica de la Torre)
***
Ive tried to adhere strictly to the manuscript record. Contradictions have not been reconciled; even the most obvious
gaps have not been filled in by me. The texts in italics below various poems occur on manuscripts (mosty typewritten) of
those poems. These brief texts can be found conveniently in the notes to the Zenith-Martins critical edition of the
complete Caeiro.
The unsigned introductory text and the text signed by Thomas Crosse were written in English. Bracketed ellipses denote
illegible text. Unfilled parentheses denote blanks in the manuscript.
In Poem XVII of The Keeper of Flocks, strapped-up blankets is a direct lift from Richard Zenith. Richard answered a
dozen or so questions very early on and cleared up doubts and confusion. I have used his and Martins edition of Caeiro
as a final guide and have mostly, but not always followed their readings (Ive omitted two poems that they ascribe to
Caeiro). Richards knowledge and generosity have touched every single word in this book.
***
AS Bessa helped immeasurably with the translation of Beyond Another Ocean. I have taken most of his suggestions.
In the original Portuguese, this poem is almost devoid of punctuation. I have followed the original, but have added
punctuation in the one or two places where I felt it to be necessary, not to clarify, but to avoid ambiguity where it does
not exist in the Portuguese.
In the Nova Aguilar (Brasil) single-volume edition of Pessoas complete poetry (which is quite incomplete!), the title of
this poem is Para Alm Doutro Oceano de C[oelho] Pacheco: Beyond Another Ocean by C[oelho] Pacheco.
Para Alm Doutro Oceano was meant to appear in the third issue of the journal Orpheu, the literary organ of Pessoa
and his circle. The issue was destroyed by censors. As far as I know, there is no manuscript record of this poem. The
original exists only in a set of proofs. I have translated directly from a facsimile of those proofs.

176
Among Pessoas acquaintances was one J. Coelho Pacheco, a businessman who loved poetry and probably wrote
poetry. He may have written this poem; indeed, some critics believe that he did; thus, C. Pacheco cannot be a
heteronym. On the other hand, Pacheco is a very common surname, and C could stand for Cristina or Claudio, or
any other common Portuguese given name beginning with C.
While I do not know the truth of the matter, I feel that any complication of Fernando Pessoas contradictory game of
masks his drama in people is extremely desirable.
***
Dana Stevens helped me in the beginning. For a long time, I planned to credit her as co-translator, but its been such a
long time, the translations have changed so much in so many ways and all the final decisions and onerous labor have
been mine. That said, there is no way to thank her enough.
***
Any errors are my own. Most are deliberate.
***
Earlier versions of some of these translations have appeared in journals. Many, many thanks to the editors of Antenym
(Steve Carll), Five Fingers Review (John High and Thoreau Lovell), Prosodia, -Vert (Andrew Felsinger), Fascicle (Tony Tost)
and especially Roberto Harrison and Andrew Levy of Crayon for their support and friendship over the years.
***
Editions consulted
1. Poetry
Fernando Pessoa Obra Potica, ed. Maria Alhete Galhoz, Nova Aguilar, Rio de Janeiro, 1960
Poemas Completos de Alberto Caeiro, ed. Teresa Sobral Cunha, Editorial Presena, Lisboa, 1994
Poesia Completa de Alberto Caeiro, ed. Fernando Cabral Martins & Richard Zenith, Companhia das Letras, So Paulo,
2005
Orpheu I-III, edio facsimilada, Contexto, Lisboa, 1989
2. Prose
Poemas Completos de Alberto Caeiro, ed. Teresa Sobral Cunha, Editorial Presena, Lisboa, 1994
Notas Para a Recordao do Meu Mestre Caeiro, ed. Teresa Rita Lopes, Editorial Estampa, Lisboa, 1997
Pessoa por Conhecer, v. 2, ed. Teresa Rita Lopes, Editorial Estampa, Lisboa, 1990

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