35 Sonnets – Fernando Pessoa

Whether we write or speak or do but look
We are ever unapparent. What we are
Cannot be transfused into word or book.
Our soul from us is infinitely far.
However much we give our thoughts the will
To be our soul and gesture it abroad,
Our hearts are incommunicable still.
In what we show ourselves we are ignored.
The abyss from soul to soul cannot be bridged
By any skill of thought or trick of seeming.
Unto our very selves we are abridged
When we would utter to our thought our being.
We are our dreams of ourselves, souls by gleams,
And each to each other dreams of others’ dreams.
II.
If that apparent part of life’s delight
Our tingled flesh-sense circumscribes were seen
By aught save reflex and co-carnal sight,
Joy, flesh and life might prove but a gross screen.
Haply Truth’s body is no eyable being,
Appearance even as appearance lies,
Haply our close, dark, vague, warm sense of seeing
Is the choked vision of blindfolded eyes.
Wherefrom what comes to thought’s sense of life? Nought.
All is either the irrational world we see
Or some aught-else whose being-unknown doth rot
Its use for our thought’s use. Whence taketh me
A qualm-like ache of life, a body-deep
Soul-hate of what we seek and what we weep.
[pg 002]
III.


When I do think my meanest line shall be
More in Time’s use than my creating whole,
That future eyes more clearly shall feel me
In this inked page than in my direct soul;
When I conjecture put to make me seeing
Good readers of me in some aftertime,
Thankful to some idea of my being
That doth not even my with gone true soul rime;
An anger at the essence of the world,
That makes this thus, or thinkable this wise,
Takes my soul by the throat and makes it hurled
In nightly horrors of despaired surmise,
And I become the mere sense of a rage
That lacks the very words whose waste might ‘suage.
IV.
I could not think of thee as piecèd rot,
Yet such thou wert, for thou hadst been long dead;
Yet thou liv’dst entire in my seeing thought
And what thou wert in me had never fled.
Nay, I had fixed the moments of thy beauty–
Thy ebbing smile, thy kiss’s readiness,
And memory had taught my heart the duty
To know thee ever at that deathlessness.
But when I came where thou wert laid, and saw
The natural flowers ignoring thee sans blame,
And the encroaching grass, with casual flaw,
Framing the stone to age where was thy name,
I knew not how to feel, nor what to be
Towards thy fate’s material secrecy.
[pg 003]
V.
How can I think, or edge my thoughts to action,
When the miserly press of each day’s need
Aches to a narrowness of spilled distraction
My soul appalled at the world’s work’s time-greed?
How can I pause my thoughts upon the task
My soul was born to think that it must do
When every moment has a thought to ask
To fit the immediate craving of its cue?
The coin I’d heap for marrying my Muse
And build our home i’th’ greater Time-to-be
Becomes dissolved by needs of each day’s use
And I feel beggared of infinity,
Like a true-Christian sinner, each day flesh-driven
By his own act to forfeit his wished heaven.
VI.
As a bad orator, badly o’er-book-skilled,
Doth overflow his purpose with made heat,
And, like a clock, winds with withoutness willed
What should have been an inner instinct’s feat;
Or as a prose-wit, harshly poet turned,
Lacking the subtler music in his measure,
With useless care labours but to be spurned,
Courting in alien speech the Muse’s pleasure;
I study how to love or how to hate,
Estranged by consciousness from sentiment,
With a thought feeling forced to be sedate
Even when the feeling’s nature is violent;
As who would learn to swim without the river,
When nearest to the trick, as far as ever.
[pg 004]
VII.


Thy words are torture to me, that scarce grieve thee–
That entire death shall null my entire thought;
And I feel torture, not that I believe thee,
But that I cannot disbelieve thee not.
Shall that of me that now contains the stars
Be by the very contained stars survived?
Thus were Fate all unjust. Yet what truth bars
An all unjust Fate’s truth from being believed?
Conjecture cannot fit to the seen world
A garment of its thought untorn or covering,
Or with its stuffed garb forge an otherworld
Without itself its dead deceit discovering;
So, all being possible, an idle thought may
Less idle thoughts, self-known no truer, dismay.
VIII.
How many masks wear we, and undermasks,
Upon our countenance of soul, and when,
If for self-sport the soul itself unmasks,
Knows it the last mask off and the face plain?
The true mask feels no inside to the mask
But looks out of the mask by co-masked eyes.
Whatever consciousness begins the task
The task’s accepted use to sleepness ties.
Like a child frighted by its mirrored faces,
Our souls, that children are, being thought-losing,
Foist otherness upon their seen grimaces
And get a whole world on their forgot causing;
And, when a thought would unmask our soul’s masking,
Itself goes not unmasked to the unmasking.
[pg 005]

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