Poetry by Ricardo Reis (Fernando Pessoa)

Note: These poems do not have titles. They are separated by an asterisk.


Pan, the god, is not dead;
Every meadow bearing
To smiling Apollo
The bare bust of Ceres —
Will sooner or later
Witness the appearance
Of Pan, god immortal.

Other gods were not killed
By the glum Christian god.
Christ is just another, –
A missing god, perhaps.

Pan continues to toot
The tunes of his panpipes
To the ears of Ceres
Recumbent on the fields.

The gods are still the same,
Ever so clear and calm,
Filled with eternity
And contempt for ourselves;
Issuing day and night
And ripe golden harvests –
Callous as to granting
Us day and night and wheat,
But on other divine
And casual purpose.


No finer fate than to know oneself is
Savored by the savvy. It’s best to know
*******You’re nothing than ignore:
*******Nothing within nothing.
If I hold not the power to surmount
The Parcae three and myriads to come,
*******Then grant me now, O gods,
*******Power to perceive it;
And let me reap Beauty – unfeasible
By my dole –, given and overt, mirrored
*******Within my passive eyes,
*******Lagoons which death dries out


The ostracized gods –
Siblings of Saturn –
Sometimes, at twilight,
Come pry in on life.

They bring about their
Remorse and longing
And their false feelings.
It is their presence,
Gods whose exile made
Them spiritual –
Of expired, distant,
Inactive matter.

They, futile forces,
Come beseech by us
The pains and fatigues
Which seize from our hands –
As from a dull drunk –
The goblet of joy;

Come to make us think,
Rancorous ruins
Of primitive force,
The world is wider
Than what’s seen and touch’d,
So that we offend
Jove and Apollo.

Thus, to the earthly
Brink of horizon,
Hyperion weeps
For his chariot,
Thieved by Apollo.

And dusk is hued of
Pangs of far-off gods,
And one hears whimpers
Off beyond the spheres…

And this is the way the gods cry.


The Summer new brings the seeming
New flowers anew, and renews
*******Th’ancient verdant hue
*******Of rekindled leaves.
No more, from the barren abyss, –
Which mutely quaffs our ill-formed selves –
*******Shall living soul rove
*******By supernal light.
No more; his brood, to whom he gave
Life of reason, hails him in vain
*******From th’nine locks of Styx
He, godlike amongst all singers,
He, hailed by voices Olympic,
*******In heeding them, heard,
*******And grasped, is now naught. –
Wreathe, withal, those yonder garlands
Whom would you crown, if not for him?
*******Set these votives down,
*******Mournful and unsung.
Fame is free from fateful Orcus;
And you, by Ulysses founded,
*******‘Pon your seven hills,
*******Take motherly pride,
For you’re equal to the seven
Contenders for Homer, or Thebes
*******Seven-gated, or
*******Alcaic Lesbos.


Neaera, stroll by mine side
Solely for us to recall it…
In time, when we’re both old
And not even the gods can
Blush our cheeks of beige,
Nor refurbish our bosoms,
Let us reminisce, at hearthside,
A wee bit filled with grief
Upon the fractured thread –
Let us reminisce, Neaera,
Upon that one day we lived
And nor you or I have loved…


Snow-leaden peaks shine afar by the sun,
But it feels soothing by the calm chill air
*******Which tightens and tapers
*******The darts of the tall sun.
Today, Neaera, let us show ourselves; –
We both want nothing, for we are nothing.
*******We’ve no expectations
*******And quiver by the sun. –
But, such as it is, let us seize the day, –
Solemn in joyfulness, delicately,
*******Kindly stopping for Death
*******As if for an old friend.


Master, placid
Are all moments
Which we last through,
If, in lasting,
As in a jar,
We place flowers.

Neither sorrows
Nor elations
Are there in life.
Thus, let us learn –
Misled savants –
Not how to live,

But how to flow,
Tranquil, placid,
Having children
As our masters
And the eyes filled
Wide with Nature…

At riverside,
At roadway side,
As comes to be,
Ever in the
Same soft respite
Of existing.

Time wears on and
Tells us nothing.
Our years go by.
Let us, quasi
Feel ourselves go.

All our gestures
Are inutile.
One resists not
The gruesome god
Whose own offsprings
Ever devours.

Gath’ring flowers –
Let us softly
Move our hands through
Calm rivulets,
So as to learn
Calmness ourselves.

We – sunflowers
Towards the sun –
Shall leave this life
With tranquil climes,
Of having lived.


Ricardo Reis (a heteronym of Fernando Pessoa)

Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) was born in Lisbon and is arguably Portugal’s greatest poet. One of the most prolific minds in the history of poetry, Pessoa created several heteronyms under which he wrote in different styles. His most famous heteronyms were  Alberto Caeiro, Álvaro de Campos, Bernardo Soares, and Ricardo Reis, a neopagan “Greek Horace who writes in Portuguese,” as he once put it. Pessoa was also a translator, having masterfully translated into Portuguese Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” among other works.

Alessandro Palermo Funari

Alessandro Palermo Funari (b. 1986) is earned his bachelor's degree in history from Universidade de São Paulo and has worked as a translator since 2010. He is currently working on a master’s degree project on translating Wallace Stevens’s Harmonium (1923) into Portuguese. He can be reached at [email protected].

English translation copyright (c) Alessandro Palermo Funari, 2018.