Álvaro de Campos [Fernando Pessoa]
English translation thru the dictionary by Moss Quanci

Translator’s Introduction

When I first read this poem in Richard Zenith’s tranlation, I thought to myself, Ah! Here is a poem that understands how I read and write poetry! When I encountered it again in the version rendered by Margaret Jull Costa and Patricio Ferrari (a version that seemed lacking in what I had found in the first), I was intrugued by the textual differences present and so brought myself back to the original text to discover what I could there. I found a very beautiful and subtle poem, captuing indeed what I had found in Zenith’s text, but with a brilliant abiguity that opened up so much more space for the reader to play in. I then set about translating it, mostly by use of Wiktionary and my knowledge of Romance languages (for this I will not apologize—there is nothing so unfairly maligned as the mechanical, over-literal translation). I present my rendering, which, it is true, falls short of the original in various points (like stars shining in a light-polluted sky), but, at least at the moment, I love it fiercely.

The source of the Portuguese text is the Arquivo Pessoa. The text is there dated to “12-10-1931?”

As always, please contact me if you have comments, suggestions, or corrections.


Meu coração é um almirante louco
Que abandonou a profissão do mar
E que a vai relembrando pouco a pouco
Em casa a passear a passear...

No movimento (eu mesmo me desloco
Nesta cadeira, só de o imaginar)
O mar abandonado fica em foco
Nos músculos cansados de parar.

Há saudades nas pernas e nos braços.
há saudades no cérebro por fora.
Há grandes raivas feitas de cansaços.

Mas — esta é boa! — era do coração
Que eu falava... e onde diabo estou eu agora
Com almirante em vez de sensação?...


My heart is a mad admiral
Who abandoned the profession of the sea
And who goes on remembering it little by little
At home pacing pacing...

In his movement (I myself dislocate me
In this chair, just from imagining it)
The abandoned sea fixes in focus
In his muscles wearied of halting.

There are pinings in his legs and in his arms.
there are pinings in his brain and for out. 
There are great rages made from exhaustions.

But — isn’t this nice! — it was of the heart
That I spoke... and where the devil am I now
With an admiral in place of sensation?...