Bibliotherapy

Fernando Pessoa-A poem from the “Cancioneiro”: ‘Interval’

‘Muse of Lyric Poetry’, Henry Siddons Mowbray.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a poem by Fernando Pessoa, ‘Interval’, published in the ‘Cancioneiro‘. It is an clear example of Pessoa’s gift for multi-layered images. This poem’s false simplicity is hiding possible deeper meanings, unveiled by a careful reading. Our English working translation from the French Edition, itself translated from the original Portuguese by Michel Chandeigne et Patrick Quillier, in collaboration with Maria Antonia Camara Manuel and Liberto Cruz, with the participation of Lucien Kehren and Maria Teresa Leitao. Editions Christian Bourgois, Paris. 1988.

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Who whispered this secret to your ear-

Only heard by elusive goddesses-

This very love, filled with faith and fear,

Who is only true when secretly delivered?…

Who, before its time, revealed it to you?

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It wasn’t me, as I did not dare tell it to you.

It wasn’t another person either, as he couldn’t know about it.

But, then, who touched with his forehead your hair

to tell you in your ear everything he felt?

And, by the way, was it really somebody?

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Or, only you dreamt about it, me having dreamt it for you?

Was it from me only a jealousy towards you

To guess it spoiled, because I would never disclose it,

To guess it real, as I barely imagined it

In dreams that I don’t even know?

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Anyway, who did then softly come close

To your vaguely attentive ear

To talk about this love existing in me,

But who remains prisoner of my thoughts,

Burning of desire and never feeling anything?

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Was it this desire only, bodyless and mouthless,

That came slipping in your ear, of my dream of you,

The eternal, demented and undeserving phrase-

The one that the goddesses await,

Of this bliss, that, gradually, the Olympus restricts itself.

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French Translation

Qui donc te murmure ce secret à l’oreille

Entendu seulement par de rares déesses-

Cet amour-là plein de foi et de peur

Qui n’est vrai qu’en secret délivré?…

Qui, avant l’heure, te l’a révélé?

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Ce ne fût pas moi, car je n’osais te le dire.

Ce ne fût un autre, puisqu’il l’ignorait.

Mais alors qui effleura de son front tes cheveux

Pour te dire à l’oreille tout ce qu’il ressentait?

Et d’ailleur, était-ce quelqu’un, vraiment?

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Ou seulement toi qui en rêvas, moi l’ayant rêvé pour toi?

Ne fût-ce de ma part qu’une jalousie à ton égard

Pour le supposer dit, car jamais je ne le dirais,

Pour le supposer réel, car je l’ai seulement imaginé

En des rêves que je ne connais même pas.

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Quoi qu’il en soit, qui donc approcha doucement

De ton oreille alors vaguement attentive

Pour te parler de cet amour présent en moi,

Mais qui demeure prisonnier de ma pensée

Qui brûle de désir et ne sent jamais rien?

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Ce désir, sans corps et sans bouche, c’est lui seul

Qui, à tes oreilles, de mon rêve de toi vint glisser

La phrase éternelle, folle et imméritée-

Celle qu’attendent les déesses, de la félicité

A laquelle, peu a peu, se restreint l’Olympe.

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Original Portuguese

Quem te disse ao ouvido esse segredo
Que raras deusas têm escutado —
Aquele amor cheio de crença e medo
Que é verdadeiro só se é segredado?…
Quem te disse tão cedo?

Não fui eu, que te não ousei dizê-lo.
Não foi um outro, porque não sabia.
Mas quem roçou da testa teu cabelo
E te disse ao ouvido o que sentia?
Seria alguém, seria?

Ou foi só que o sonhaste e eu te o sonhei?
Foi só qualquer ciúme meu de ti
Que o supôs dito, porque o não direi,
Que o supôs feito, porque o só fingi
Em sonhos que nem sei?

Seja o que for, quem foi que levemente,
A teu ouvido vagamente atento,
Te falou desse amor em mim presente
Mas que não passa do meu pensamento
Que anseia e que não sente?

Foi um desejo que, sem corpo ou boca,
A teus ouvidos de eu sonhar-te disse
A frase eterna, imerecida e louca —
A que as deusas esperam da ledice
Com que o Olimpo se apouca.

R. Atkinson Fox, “Moonlight and Roses”.

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More about Fernando Pessoa: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Pessoa
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