oriental smile ©papa osmubal
— camilo pessanha
When I’d walk in the garden
What a scent of jasmine
How white she was with moonlight.
Look I have her with me,
Won over, mine at last,
After dreaming her so long.
Why do I feel sad?
It wasn’t her, it was
(what I wanted to hold)
The hour in the garden,
The scent of the jasmine
Light flooding from the moon.
bird cage and caged bird ©papa osmubal
— camilo pessanha
When I went back, I found my footsteps
still fresh in the moist sand,
and I reinvoked that fleeting hour,
alive again, in my eyes gone dark
eyes blurred with tears held back.
Wretched footsteps, why did you go mad,
veering astray, and why did you return
to the moment of our first farewell?
Where did you go, crazed, in the swirling wind
round and round like birds in a cage
until their languid wings aren’t up to flying?
And all that enormous trek– for what?
— if the tide wipes you out, when it comes up,
along with the tracks of the new trail now beginning.
Camilo Pessanha, Clepsydra; text from Rubim 2000: 41.
Camilo Pessanha (1867-1926) was born the illegitimate son of a law student and a maid on September 7, 1867 in Coimbra, Portugal. He later followed his father’s footsteps and took a degree in Law at the prestigious Universidade de Coimbra. In 1894, after having graduated from Coimbra and suffering from a failed love-affair, Pessanha re-located to the Portuguese colony of Macau were he took a position as a Philosophy teacher at the newly formed Macau Lyceum. In 1900 he was nominated as public defender, and later judge. To pass his time, besides composing poetry, he immersed himself in the local culture, collected Chinese art and became a respected China authority in the colony. Pessanha died on March 1, 1926 due to complications aggravated by his chronic opium use. He was survived by a son and a concubine.