To the practical man, and he, in scorn,
Replied: "I am no slave of the Ideal,
But, as all men of sense, I love the Real."
Poor fool, mistaking all that is and seems!
I love the Real when I love my dreams.
Portugal’s most original poet of modern times, Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), is famous for writing under many different names, some of which he called "heteronyms". He also wrote in different languages. Although justly remembered for his Portuguese poetry, until the age of twenty he was almost exclusively an English poet. Born in Lisbon, Pessoa lived from age seven to age seventeen in the English colony of Natal, South Africa, where he received most of his formal education. With Milton, Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley as his poetic models, it was only natural that he wrote poetry in their language. And yet English was never entirely natural to him. It was in his native tongue — Portuguese — that he found his stride and became a truly great poet. But he continued to write poems in English (he also wrote a few in French) until almost his dying day.
There is much to admire in Pessoa’s English poetry, such as "Antinous", his finest love poem; his sonnets in the style of Shakespeare; the lyrical metaphysics in poems from The Mad Fiddler; and the questioning poems written under the name of Alexander Search. This volume brings together the best English poetry written by Pessoa across his entire writing career, from 1904 to 1935.
Richard Zenith, born in Washington DC, is a longtime resident of Lisbon, where he works as a writer, translator and researcher. He is responsible for many editions of Fernando Pessoa’s works in Portugal, including the Livro do Desassossego (Assírio & Alvim, 1998; 11th ed. 2013). His translations of Pessoa’s poetry and prose have won prizes in the United States and Great Britain.