Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet is strange. It consists of hundreds of sections, stuffed in an envelope, edited by others. We do not know what order they should be in, or whether any particular section should be included. They are beautiful. I summarised twenty sections in 26 lines, and included a reference to the death of Newton.
to pass the time as we wait for death
(A well, staring at the sky)
I dream, and act, detesting both.
Feeling is pain.
I am the half-deserted streets
where a scary army drifts
I write pebbles by the Sea of Unknowing.
I am great!
A clerk at my ledger, a monk meeting Christ
I want to be the ordinary man I am.
My ledger records the world’s worth.
No poet enters it.
I imagine seeing, but do not see.
Everything is denied me.
My negligible genius embodies the hopeless hopes of millions.
I love my desk and inkstand.
Everyone lives to be exploited.
I dream of knights and princesses.
Vasques- the boss.
A brute, a God, he will fill all my life.
The street of the gilders contains everything: Life, and Art:
I escape oppression only to oppress myself.
I see and hear everything about you, except your words.
A hundred years later, this is me.
It is good to be seen. It is good to be not seen.
Seen, I clasped a mask in terror
I could not take it off.
Alone, unseen, I start to dance.
Not seen, I wriggle in delight
in light, I might
become myself, not tight, set loose
juicy, a goose flying, crying, mystifying
soaring, a fountain pouring forth
I am the light, the source,
no mists or silks obscure the pure
So much better than a mask,
a task of pleasing or fitting in,
being useful, submerged, subsumed
not accepting what I felt
Only if I can hold the grief and pain
can I hold all the joy and delight.
Now, having found the world entire, the fire
the crier and the cry, the heart, the dart
all mine, my desire
is to see and be seen,
naked and unashamed.
I am here. Now.
Art recently has been by Gerard ter Borch, who painted skirts really well. This shows he could also paint faces. There are several versions: