“Alberto Caeiro” Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935)

Translated by Timothy Adès

Fernando Pessoa is Portugal’s great modernist poet. He published almost nothing during his own lifetime, but left a trunk full of papers, many bearing different names and written in different styles. These names became known as ‘heteronyms’, which were not just names, but personalities, who produced poetry in keeping with their education, temperament, and personal philosophy. Alberto Caeiro was one of those heteronyms, for whom Pessoa provided the following biography:

Born in 1889 in Lisbon, but lived nearly all his life in the country. His parents died when he was a child, and he lived with an elderly aunt. Only primary education. Average height, fair hair, blue eyes. Professions: none. Died of tuberculosis in 1915, aged 26.

Acordo de noite subitamente,
E o meu relógio ocupa a noite toda.
Não sinto a Natureza lá fora.
O meu quarto é uma coisa escura com paredes vagamente brancas.
Lá fora há um sossego como se nada existisse.
Só o relógio prossegue o seu ruído.
E esta pequena coisa de engrenagens que está em cima da minha mesa
Abafa toda a existência da terra e do céu…
Quase que me perco a pensar o que isto significa,
Mas estaco, e sinto-me sorrir na noite com os cantos da boca,
Porque a única coisa que o meu relógio simboliza ou significa
Enchendo com a sua pequenez a noite enorme
É a curiosa sensação de encher a noite enorme
Com a sua pequenez…

Caeiro 44: English by Timothy Adès

Suddenly I wake. Tick-tock:
Night’s took over by my clock.
Nature’s muted, muffled tight,
Room is dark, walls vaguely white,
Out there, silence, nowt exists,
Only tick-tock clock persists:
Little bedside cog-device
Flatly blots out earth and skies.
Lost me, what it signifies…
No! I’ve smiled, lips puckering:
So symbolic, just one thing,
Night so big and clock so small,
So infinitesimal,
Fills it up, quite quizzical,
With its littleness: that’s all.

Caeiro XLIV: Latin by Timothy Adès

excutior somno. stillat clepsydra liquores:
  nox scatet! aure, oculo nil mihi percipitur:
intus pallor et umbra; foris, res nulla movetur,
  cuncta silent, non sunt. machina sola sonat,
terram abolet caelumque. quid hoc? movet os mihi risu:
  parvula vox vasta nocte peregit opus.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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