Sonnet I by 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.
– 35 Sonnets (1918, public domain)
I ran across Fernando Pessoa’s work less than a year ago while browsing the biography section of the library. The Penguin Classic’s cover photo of The Book of Disquiet drew me in, but I wasn’t prepared for the two minds of Pessoa contained within. Arguably Lisbon’s most beloved writer of all time, he invented the term “heteronym” as a way to write as an imaginary character (ultimately creating over 70 of them in his lifetime), each having his own style and voice. But aside from this unique aspect of Pessoa’s writing, the concepts he explores are what strike me most. I typically do not grasp the cadence and meaning of popular poetry; it’s a relief to read someone like Pessoa who uses simple language to describe the thoughts that pour out of him, literally as ink on paper.