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Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Fernando Pessoa & Co.

Selected Poems

by Fernando Pessoa Edited by Richard Zenith Translated from Portuguese by Richard Zenith

“One of the great originals of modern European poetry and Portugal’s premier modernist.”—Washington Post

“Pessoa has had many English-language interpreters but none better than Richard Zenith.”—New York Review of Books

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date May 19, 1999
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3627-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9851-8
  • US List Price $17.00

Fernando Pessoa — a poet who lived most of his life in Lisbon, Portugal, and who died in obscurity there — is now recognized as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. In a newly updated and expanded edition of his celebrated 1998 Fernando Pessoa & Co., which Booklist hailed as “a beautiful one-volume course in the soul of the twentieth century,” translator and biographer Richard Zenith brings together Pessoa’s most memorable poetic works. Present here is poetry by Pessoa’s famous trio of alter egos — Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, and Álvaro de Campos — as well as a varied selection of poems signed by Pessoa’s own name. From spare minimalism to revolutionary exuberance, Fernando Pessoa & Co. showcases the seminal poet’s timeless and innovative work in all of its extraordinary depth and poetic passion.

“Like Beckett, Pessoa is extremely funny. . . . His work is loaded with delights.”—Guardian

“Pessoa would be Shakespeare if all that we had of Shakespeare were the soliloquies of Hamlet, Falstaff, Othello and Lear and the sonnets. His legacy is a set of explorations, in poetic form, of what it means to inhabit a human consciousness.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

Excerpt

 

I’ve never kept sheep,
But it’s as if I kept them.
My soul is like a shepherd.
It knows the wind and sun,
And walks hand in hand with the Seasons
Looking at what passes.
All the peace of Nature without people
Sits down at my side.
But I get sad like a sunset
In our imagination
When the cold drifts over the plain
And we feel the night come in
Like a moth through the window.

Yet my sadness is a comfort
Because it is natural and right
And is what should fill the soul
Whenever it thinks it exist
And doesn’t notice the hands that pick flowers.

Like a sound of sheep bells
Beyond the bend in the road
My thoughts are content.
My only regret is that I know they’re content,
Since if I didn’t know this,
They would be content and happy
Instead of sadly content.

Thinking is a discomfort, like walking in the rain
When the wind kicks up and it seems to rain harder.
I have no ambitions and no desires.
To be a poet is not my ambition,
It’s my way of being alone.
And if sometimes, in my imagination,
I desire to be a small lamb
(Or to be the whole flock
So that I can roam all over the hillside
As many happy things at the same time),
It’s only because I feel what I write when the sun sets
Or when a cloud passes its hand over the light
And a silence sweeps through the grass.

When I sit down to write verses
Or I walk along roads and pathways
Jotting verses on a piece of paper in my mind,
I feel a staff in my hand
And see my own profile
On top of a low hill
Looking after my flock and seeing my ideas,
Or looking after my ideas and seeing my flock,
And smiling vaguely, like one who doesn’t grasp what was said
But pretends he did.

I salute all who may read me,
Tipping my wide-brimmed hat
As soon as the coach tops the hill
And they see me at my door.
I salute them and wish them sunshine,
Or rain, if rain is needed,
And a favorite chair where they sit
At home, reading my poems
Next to an open window.

And as they read my poems, I hope
They think I’m something natural—
That old tree, for instance,
In whose shade when they were children
They sat down with a thud, tired of playing,
And wiped the sweat from their hot foreheads
With the sleeve of their striped smocks.

8 March, 1914

Translation copyright 2022 Richard Zenith. Introduction copyright 1998 Richard Zenith. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic Inc. All rights reserved.