Bibliotherapy

Pessoa-Pagan Fragments

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In the work of art above by Roberta Frandino, three of Pessoa’s heteronyms, Reis, Caeiro and de Campos, stand behind the open trunk filled with his manuscripts. The papers flow out, transforming into the distinctive square cobblestones of Lisbon’s streets, which Pessoa himself is walking upon . . .

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA are excerpts from the ‘Collected Works’ of Fernando Pessoa. Christian Bourgois Editeur. Paris 1991. Our working translation from the French version, itself from the original Portuguese (!)

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‘My master Caeiro wasn’t a pagan: he was Paganism itself. Ricardo Reis is a pagan, Antonio Mora is a pagan, I am a pagan, Fernando Pessoa himself would be a pagan if he wouldn’t rather be instead a ball of thread wound from the inside. But Ricardo Reis is pagan by his character, Antonio Mora by his intelligence, myself a pagan by rebellion, that is by temperament. With Caeiro, there are no explanation for his Paganism: It was consubstantial…’

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‘Alberto Caeiro was more pagan than Paganism itself, as he was more conscious of the essence of Paganism than any pagan writer. How can a pagan be, if he conceived the essence of his psychism in opposition to a system of sensibility entirely different, like Christianism was? Ans when the conflict between Paganism and Christianism, at the time of the rise of the later, the blunt and decadent mentality of the people of the roman empire had already become Christian, preserving nothing of its pagan past.

This is what we can fully measure with the tentative reaction led by Julian. This emperor wanted earnestly to restore Paganism at a time-Oh the unfortunate! – when the essence of Paganism did not exist anymore, but only a cult of the gods that was tainted by a superstition that was in its essence what will become the characteristics of Christianity, even more than any pagan ‘genus’. This incapacity of the time to restore paganism is reflected in the ideas of Julian himself: He was, properly speaking a Mithraist-today we would say a theosophy or an occultist. His restoration of Paganism was rooted, in a completely unrealistic manner upon a fusion of Paganism with oriental elements that the mystical furor of the time had integrated within. He failed therefore, in fact, because Paganism was dead, like everything dies-except the gods and their unfathomable science, origin of our torments.’

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‘Numerous are the gods and each has his own language and this idiom is gentle; would it not be, the gods would not be the gods. Every time we hear from one of them, we believe he is the unique one and the revelation he brings the only one. We hear from another and believe of him what we did of the first one. Each is the truth of the very moment the god speaks. As we are like children, we know nothing, we live within the tales we are being told. The tale we are being told while it is being told is the history of all things; the only tale which once was truth in the world. I heard other gods and perhaps will I hear from others. The last one will always be the first, but, deep inside of me I will always be the ignorant one, dragging behind a body under the serenity of the stars.’

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‘No, the gods grant us nothing else than life. Thenceforth, let’s refuse everything that elevates us towards heights where we cannot even breathe; immutable heights they are, but deprived of flowers. May acceptation be our sole science: Therefore, as long blood will rush to our temples, and that within us love itself will not shrivel, let’s last, yes, last like windows transparent to the light letting the gloomy rain drip outside; lukewarm, not more, under the fiery sun, only shining a thin reflect.’

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‘The god Pan is not dead, every field exposed under Apollo’s smiles or to the bare breast of Ceres-sooner or later you will see in these fields the immortal god Pan rise.

No, he did not kill gods, the sad god, the Christian god. Christ was a god in addition. One that was lacking, perhaps. Pan continues to instill the sounds of his syrinx in the hollow of Ceres’ ears by the arched fields.

Yes, the gods are the same, calm and clear, always. Filled with eternity and bemused, bringing us our days, our nights, our golden harvests-not to give us day and night and wheat but according to another fortuitous divine purpose.’

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‘No, they are not dead, Neaere, the ancient gods. Every time human joy is reborn, they turn towards our nostalgia.’

Drawing by Júlio Pomar, a Portuguese Modernist painter, sitting Fernando Pessoa and some of his heteronyms at the same table.
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