Fernando Pessoa – A Poem

I’m currently reading The Surprise of Being which is a collection of poems by Fernando Pessoa. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I am ashamed to say it’s been a good few years since I settled down to read some poetry. During my degree years, my favourite writers were the romantics: Wordsworth, Shelley and Blake. I like poetry that makes me think and which has an edge of darkness to it.

This collection of Pessoa’s work seems to me to paint a picture of someone who spent much of his life questioning who he was and what others thought him to be. There is certainly the element of the ‘suffering poet’ etched within his words. That said, I cannot possibly think of him as ‘miserable’ because there are such flashes of inspiration and delicate beauty. There is sadness and perhaps a hint of saudade. Reading Pessoa is like walking into another’s dream and seeing the landscape they built with their thoughts, only to watch it shift into a place you almost recognise. It’s like deju-vu on a rainy day and curiously recognising a stranger.

Here is my favourite poem so far: –

O que me dói não é
O que há no coração
Mas essas coisas lindas
Que nunca existirão…

São as formas sem forma
Que passam sem que a dor
As possa conhecer
Ou as sonhar o amor.

São como se a tristeza
Fosse árvore e uma a uma,
Caíssem suas folhas
Entre o vestígio e a bruma


What hurts me is not
What is in the heart
But those beautiful things
Which will never be.

They are the forms without form
That go by without pain
Being able to know
Or love to dream them

They are as if sadness
Were a tree and one by one,
Its leaves were falling
Between the trace and the mist.

8 comments for “Fernando Pessoa – A Poem

  1. December 10, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Lindíssimo! You can virtually feel a hint of saudade by reading this poem. Obrigado.

  2. Lily
    December 10, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    It’s a lovely poem isn’t it. I certainly want to read more by Pessoa now. Obrigada x

  3. December 14, 2007 at 7:03 pm


    I like your website (I really do). Great articles here and the presentation is really nice.
    I also added a link from my weblog.

    Sorry for the late visit 🙂

    Best regards,

  4. Lily
    December 14, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Hi Peter
    Obrigada 🙂
    Thankyou so much for your visit and comment. I thoroughly enjoy your website too! Many thanks for the link x

  5. boubekeur
    March 12, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Ola Lily!
    I like your blog, and I recently discovered Pessoa.
    Would you know a good source of onlinr poems; either translated or in beautiful portuguese.
    muito obrigado por sua ayuda.

  6. Lily
    March 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Ola! Thank you for your comment 🙂
    I love Pessoa’s work but need to read much more myself.
    Here’s a few links:-

    This one is interesting as it has pictures of some of the work that was found in a trunk after he died.
    http://purl.pt/1000/1/index.html (in Portuguese)

    This one has lots of translations of the same poem (and the original) so you get to see the differences – really interesting.

    And this site has some poems in both Portuguese and English and a couple of articles too with further links x

  7. Terrence
    October 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I just discovered your blog – I have been to Portugal & Lisbon once – but I listen to Fado & Madredeus all the time!!! I live in WASH DC area & I attend all the Portugese & Bossa Nova acts that arrive in the area! Mariza is awesome!!! I also love Euro-Poetry . I read about the Poetic Conference- I wish I could attend – Funny I discovered your site today as I was trying to write a poem about Lisbon this morning! I felt a gentle haunting as I walked the streets of Lisboa- perhaps I can join when I make my transition and softly sing my saudade as I stroll the banks of the Tejo.

  8. richard taylor
    November 5, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    I like some of Pessoa’s sayings: for instance, something about getting up early and taking an hour or two getting ready to exist! Also something about the chores for the day and it being hopeless and his soul growing cold as he was on his way to waste another day! I can understand this, alas!

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