It was a hundred years ago when the poet occupied the house, then belonging to Manuel Cabaço, a grape grower, who previously (precisely three years earlier, in 1883) had been associated with him in the wine business, which made possible the visit of Cesário 1 to Paris and Bordeaux. On this trip he carried in his baggage some sample bottles and in his pocket, probably a note book for jotting down his impressions of the journey, in one or two verses that would show the thrilling life of the great metropolis so beloved by the Portuguese people, so propitious to the civic inspiration of the author of The Sentiment of a Westerner. But the excursion, in regard to commerce, ended in failure and the note-book was also blank. While staying in the Quartier Latin, Cesário had tried to convince Mariano Pina that he as a poet was dead and now he "only thought of a hardworking and active life as a businessman, being deeply conversant with his speciality, knowing like any other manufacturer where a better iron could be produced, where the best tools, the files and planes of the purest steel were sold".
It is September in my calendar. The weather is unstable. Yet, in this vague gloomy autumn the light softens: The Suns's rays that scan the discoloured façade of the house I observe, shone less in the eye that day which is now remembered a hundred years ago. Well, the summer had started with the onset of dog days, with the soothing dry hot air. The carriages of the noblemen, who had magnificient mansions around the luxuriant gardens, used to pass by slowly. The elegant sweatstained horses, ("dark chargers covered with froth") raised thick red dust with their fiery hoofs. They were on their way to the "melancholic city of fast growing straight lined constructions". The fashionable women in their shining dresses, with vibrating fans and lace-trimmed parasols, smilingly looking at the showcases of goldsmiths; entering "courteous shops" "shops selling ready-made garments and resplendent fashions", where plants for decorations were drying up in showcases" and "where the satin clouds fondled tenderly, the errand boys strewing flakes of powdered rice on them with imminent suffocation".
As for the gentlemen who would recline, being tired, in the loose cushions of the carriages, they would light expensive cigars, while reading leisurely the political news, in the shade of the club: they drank a kind of syrup at marble tables of Martinho in idle gossip; cast, lion-like, greedy looks on the comings and goings of females of Chiado; such looks could also be observed during the "excellent lunches of Mata".
By dawn, at the base of S. Sebastião Chapel which lies to my left, with its beautiful and ornamented door in the manuelina style, one could also see the villagers transporting in their heavy carriages loads of fruit and vegetables, giving the impression of an assembly of vegetable gardens. The urban market was filled with an abundance of the refined and healthy flavour of verdure.
On that day of 19th July 1886, the city and the country side walked under the balcony of a house where a poet, who had cherished them lay dying in his bed.
Cesário (José Joaquim Cesário ) Verde, a native of Lisbon, was born on 25th February 1855. Pinto de Figueiredo affirms that n° 16 Rua2 da Padaria was the property of his father; but Pedro da Silveira, always careful in his research, does not agree, and for unexplained reasons consider n° 9 Rua dos Fanqueiros where his family resided, the house of the poet. For sure, we know that he was baptized in the parish of Santa Maria Madalena, in the parochial church. (This was made clear by the ultra-romantic bard Tomaz Ribeiro, in his Jew, so sadly played on the piano in secular halls: Where was he born, where did he play? It is rare to get a proper reply in Portugal if the person being questioned is an important person of our culture).
The father of Cesário, Mr. José Anastácio Verde, had a shop in front of his residence, where he used to sell hardware, clothes and cotton. He was a rich merchant, although not being patronised by the nobility, yet he was not ignored in high society, for one of his relatives, Maria Benedita Vitória had married our great plastic artist Domingos António de Sequeira, "foremost painter of the Chamber and Court".
The Verdes family were natives of Genoa and the great, great grandfather of the poet emigrated at the beginning of XVIII century to Lisbon where he already had some wealthy relatives, well established in commercial fields.
In 1856, the capital of the Kingdom was ravaged by an epidemic of cholera, which was followed a year later, by another not less terrible and deadly epidemic: the yellow-fever. Over more than 15% of the inhabitants of the "Cursed City" (in the poem entitled We, Cesário states this while recalling the calamity) died during the epidemic. The young and serious D. Pedro V3set a wonderful example. of self denial by visiting hospitals, cheering up the sick, without fear of contagion, before the scattered and frightened native population, from noblemen to the clerics to the person of the Patriarch. José Anastácio Verde was the owner of a farm inherited from his great grandfather in Linda-a-Velha.4 He fled there along with his wife and three children. Years later, the poet narrated in verses the story of this hasty lifesaving exodus. He would narrate in his "natural" personal sober style like reporters of our days, instantly, exactly without unreasonable appeal and, thereby more piercing, more emotional.
After this effort he started writing the long poem We, the last publication in his lifetime:
Between two Summers, the fever epidemic continued
And the Cholera too was raging in the city
For the population, frightened like a hare,
Fled the capital like being struck by the storm.
My father, after our lives were saved
(Till then we only had measles),
And as he saw us grow amongst a heap of mallows,
Fell deeply in love with the meadows!
Whenever he mentions this his forehead wrinkles up
What could always be heard was the tolling of the bells;
For even in our building, the other tenants
All of them died. Only we survived.
At the market place, the focus of epidemic,
What a panic! Not even a ship entered the harbour,
The customs stopped work, no shop opened, and the turbulent dockyard suddenly became calm.
In the morning, instead of baptism coaches,
Funeral carriages rolled by continuously.
What a sorry plight to see the warehouses closed!
Like a London Sunday deserted "City"!
Without sewage, in many distant suburbs,
Dried up refuse was being covered by fly-nets
Doctors beside priests and grave-diggers,
The last faithful ones, feared the sick.
With an oil lamp flickering in the night
A yellowish shadow tinted the dull houses,
Tar drums were burning in a manner
Like an inferno raging in the streets and thoroughfare.
When the epidemic broke out, Cesário, was hardly two years old. Nevertheless, the description is so vivid, as if his tender eyes had retained during the period of 27 years, the dreadful image of a dying city, for the poem "We" was published for the first time, in 1884, in the University Magazine "Ilustração", printed in Paris.
"Verses were composed without tradition
By taking a pen and writing
The way one speaks
Was like imitating Cesário Verde".
This was revealed by Augusto Gil5, in 1901, in his second volume of poems which was still circulating widely in Portuguese literary circles. The variety of moods had disappeared from the embarassing symbolic mixes then dropped from natural Cesarian verses and so well imitated by some contemporaries of the author of The Sentiment of a Westerner such as the lesser known poets Coelho de Carvalho, Agostinho de Campos or Xavier de Carvalho. During the period of Cesário's rustic life I know of one writer, João Verde, a fictitious discloser with a great admiration for the master of We, for his real name was José Rodrigues do Vale, a native of Monção. His book, In the village reveals to an appreciable degree that Cesário was from Minho6. Evidently, we should not consider João Verde as an imitator, but as a follower; like August Gil and others. Thinking of imitators and followers, it reminds me of the existence of a capable literary imitator who enjoyed composing poems in which he very skillfully imitated the style of original authors. He was João de Meira, a native of Guimarães born in the last century. Even in 1946, one of his "jokes" was taken up seriously by the talented critic Jorge de Sena7. I wantonly reproduce it:
In the Mundo Literário weekly of 25th November 1946, on page 29, he clearly presents an unpublished work of Cesário Verde. He had "discovered" the author of The Evidence in an old Almanaque de Lembranças by reading through its pages (I guarantee) patiently and carefully". He had gone through a dozen such almanaques and "transcribed from the album of a lady, whose name cannot be revealed", the poem, entitled Blonde, dated 1878. It was "discovered by a gentleman from Guimarães"8 who had published it in the newspaper Dia, of 19th September 1910. Sena being satisfied and convinced with this revelation writes the following commentaries: "If readers of the Literary World, appreciate the other famous poems written by Cesário Verde, then the poems are worth the candle".
"From the date in which "Blonde" was written, we see that Cesário was twenty-three years old", (continues Sena). And five years earlier in the paper "Diário da Tarde", of Porto9, Silva Pinto had edited the first work of his friend. Little had been done to draw attention to these early works of Cesário Verde and even his first published verses are clearly by the author of the "Setbacks". It is a fact, that after death, all the works of a poet are remembered but the critic very often forgets the importance of the proper chronology in which the work should be presented, since the critic's objective is to enrich human experience, and not merely report the flow of ideas.
Slowly was I going down Chiado
Stopping at all book-shop windows,
When you passed by ironically and rudely,
Hardly setting your feet on the ground.
The cloudy sky predicted rain,
Graceful people came out of the Church;
The widow costume you were wearing
Made your golden hair shine.
What a miserable worm am I, seduced
By strange comparisons, without reason,
That contrast reminded me of
Golden trimmings on a coffin cloth.
I was searching for a more lively rhyme
To end some verses in a loving mood;
You looked at me with severe indifference
Through the provocative lorgnette.
Correct and graceful dandies
Stopped to survey you,
I followed you humbly and hidden
So you could not suspect being followed.
Thinking from afar, sad and poor,
(Fishwives coming down the street)
How you could stand
In those high heeled boots.
Pools of water on the street
And you lively and restless as usual
Raised the skirt a little over the petticoat
Of a violet coloured texture.
Adorable! the idea of
The petticoat being lifted by the wind
To discover a seductive curve,
Made me follow more attentively.
I stopped suddenly, aware
That it was crazy to follow you with interest.
For you are noble and rich, you are someone,
And I am worthless and have nothing.
With a chill in my spine,
I looked at your profile
Like a resigned tramp
Staring at a confectioner's display.
In the passing crowd
I lost your addictive golden hair
Could not find the rhymes I searched,
But could compose this natural picture.
Alas, João de Meira was an expert in forgery! If Jorge de Sena had attempted to get more details, he would have found that the poem was a typical parody. There is a deformity regarding the characteristic outlining which the poet used to satisfy his civic inspiration, and there is too much Cesarian (otherwise beautiful) mixing in a single setting of the 5 themes: The Weak, Frigidity, Christalizations, Fascinations and Smallness of the author in his work, who abandons the cheerful episode which might have kept the angry author of Kingdom of Stupidity, so mindful of his critical influence.
But, thinking of the portraits of these reserved and courageous women that are shown in these poems, now recollected, I ask myself: Where are they, the lovers of Cesário? So vague! It is said he loved an ordinary young actress Tomásia Veloso, who died so young, perhaps of pneumonia or tuberculosis contracted as she witnessed a tragic fire in Teatro Baquet from her verandah, wearing only a shirt, in one of those cold and humid nights of Porto.
Indeed, Cesário, in the poem Christalizations, makes reference to an actress: "To the actress whom I respect/And she is attracted by me in the audience/ Her eyes so smooth as if polished". It is known that the writer frequented the theatres as it is clear in the Humiliations: "Excess of love! Dreams of a poet! To write/In a similar fashion the thing that he means" surely Cesário Verde always wrote what he felt, with - out however, giving up the misty touch of his verses, as well as the idioms used, and came so close (as analysed by Vitorino Nemésio10) to plain language. It is the mystery of the impenetrable poem!
I now turn to the clearer side of his biography. After his return to Pombal's downtown11, and after having completed his early studies (passing the examination of a primary school; learning French and English, and a few elements of commerce) Cesário, at 17 years of age, joins his father's organization as a commercial correspondent and, some times helps his austere father at the counter, in the transaction of business. But his poetic vein had been pulsating with sensibility for, in the following year, coinciding with the enrollment in the Degree Course in Arts, he somehow, manages to complete the first verses for printing. Certainly this first publication in Diário de Notícias, of Lisbon, and soon after in Diário da Tarde of Oporto, must have been the work of Silva Pinto a classmate who was a few years older than him and who was already famous among the literary assembly of young people for his novel on anti-clerical violence, then in vogue. Damned Priest had connections with the author of The Sentiment of a Westerner "a loving friendship", based on views that were shared by António Nobre12 and Alberto de Oliveira13. The publication of the Book of Cesário Verde, a year after his death, impassionately taken by Silva Pinto from the lips of poet's younger brother, Jorge, owes this friendship. There was hardly any chance of escape from the influence of the existing literary styles. The first verses of Cesário do conform to the rules: it relates to crackling passion of Baudelaire14, the French poet; the thunder of a nationalist pamphleteer Gomes Leal; the witticism of the Coimbran of d'A Folha, and the surprising style of sonnets of João Penha as always feasting over the fat ham of Lamego, and reproducing the artistic form of the outspoken fin de siècle woman. It appears to me that one of these Cesarian works was well affiliated with the realist school of the Bragan poet; and the first to see the light of the day:
Every night I embraced her
In my arms, with warm tenderness;
Every night I slept,
Feeling neglected and weak.
Every night there was a fantasy
Coming from her imaginative forehead
Every night had a passion
For that infatuating notion.
Now, almost a month, actually,
She had a most somber passion,
The original impertinent, passion
Every night she, oh shamefulness
Removed my boots and socks,
And tickled my feet.
However, hurriedly, the satirical style of this poem, slightly an anecdote, of a cynicism well appreciated by the gypsies of coffee shop Martinho, who would sit down for a plate of fried liver and a jar of strong tinted wine to the "green wine" (like the dandyism of Anto compared with the poisonous Parisian liquor); soon disappear from the inspiration of Cesário, which starts taking off dazzingly with the aim of travelling through modern districts, in the salutary hours of bright mornings, in guessing "plastered rooms" with shining porcelains on luncheon tables, "an easy life with plenty" in that bourgeois city, in contrast with the young village girls clad in rags who, nevertheless, "happy and jovial" exhibit the wealth and the "vegetal elegance" of its large cauliflowers. An inspiration that appears courageous, not tired at the door of her father's flourishing shop; observing with interest the excitement of passersby; appreciating the sensuality of "household angels" that "move in verandahs" wearing summer linen clothes; and noticing the quick rhythm of public cabs, following the beat of a multitude of caulkers, and diminishing slowly at the lighting of the gas lamps on streets and in the "fashionable hotels". He observes with a feeling of indignation the false splendour and misery of a poor but proud capital of an ancient and noble kingdom. It was this inspiration that had inspired one of the masterpieces of Portuguese poetry: the epic poem The Sentiment of a Westerner, written in 1880 and published in a special number of Journey Log of Oporto which was founded to celebrate in this fashion, the tricentenary of Camões15,commemorated on that date, assuming the greatness of a civic salutation with pompous and "patriotic" speeches. There is, in fact, in the verses of Cesário only a vague mention of the author of Os Lusíadas16 (Camões, floating in the south fighting to save a poem; An epic poet of old rises up"...), but it is an adequate homage, in the efficacy of the thrilling poem absolutely Portuguese, where a dark and vile sadness is found in the given hand with an evocation of past glories: "I then, remember the naval chronicles/Moors, vessels/heroes, all risen up/(...) superb vessels" that set sail and the exaltation of a strong heroic race. In this noble era of heroes Camões is considered to be one of the greatest by Pinto Figueiredo.
They came shaking off their splendid buttocks!
Their strong bodies remind me of pilasters;
Some, with baskets on their heads,
Rock their babies until they meet a tragic future.
The same biographer rightly warns: "Besides reproducing Camões, these verses remind us even more of Fernando Pessoa17. Alvaro de Campos18 then wrote. "Superb vessels that set sail will never be seen again" as inspired through Maritime Ode. I try to remember all the rhythms of The Sentiment of a Westerner that, rigorously and with unexceeding beauty illustrate the civic Cesário Verde, the always severe analyst of Lisbon, "beautiful and ugly", as acknowledged by the best follower of the poet in our present era, Fernanda de Castro. As it normally happens with exceptional, new and innovating work. The Sentiment of a Westerner, was misunderstood, and ignored by the common reader and friends of Cesário. This indifference deeply saddened the poet who took pains to create a unique text. On the silence around his creation of the most perfect image of XIX century Lisbon he lamented, in a letter written to his affectionate friend António de Macedo Papança this man was later on honoured for his affection and comradeship by King Luís I with the tittle of Viscount and, afterwards, with the tittle of Count of Monsaraz. Cesário wrote: "A recent poem of mine, published in a well printed paper, was a failure not even attracting a look, a smile, scorn, or an observation. Nobody wrote or spoke or commented in the news section. Nobody even spoke about it; no one said anything good or bad about it".
Cesário would have certainly preferred to this unjust indifference, the ridicule (even coming from the great critic Ramalho Ortigão) that merrily followed the publication of his first verses, Splendid, In a Modern Quarter and Childhood, were grotesquely analysed by several common writers like the "citize ness" Angelina Vidal, a republican versifier of the time, writing under the pen name Juvenal Pigmeu, who published a volley of insults to the poet. Refusing to believe he was being attacked by a woman, he prepared to take vengeance by recourse to arms. As her disguise was disclosed by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro19 in his António Maria, Cesário had no other alternative but to swallow the insult. The author of Humiliations was far from being a coward and in times of severe criticism, hurt by the blemishing mental attitude of Chiado20 or any kind of confrontation and empty pistol shots as reprehension for literary dishonour, the poet faced energetically the outrageous slanderer, with the debility of his frail body and the firmness of his arrogant pen or with his promptly crushing answer. There is the recollection of that pleasant scene which exemplifies the brilliant spirit of the poet, and his capacity for prompt satirical replies. That is what happened with Dantas Baracho, on a beautiful day in a street. Wanting to make a mockery of Cesário's surname, he welcomed him with this salutation:- "Goodbye, oh Blue Cesário!21 And, immediately the poet retorted, silencing the "witty person": - "Goodbye, oh botcher".
Certainly Cesário had been suffering from the indifference towards his original and sublime work of great value. Yet, he revealed in the verse of his poem Setbacks that such contempt and injustice stimulated the poetic rage even if it distorted the epigram and the "solemn pride":
The obstacle stimulates, makes us perverse:
Now I feel full of cold bitterness,
For a journal rejected sometime ago
The publication of my verses.
What a bad humour! I tore a forgotten epic poem
At the bottom of a drawer. What does the study produce?
More than an editor, those praising everything.
Have turned their backs on me.
The criticism of Taine
Has no quality. I have thrown into the fire
Numerous unpublished works.
The press deserves a solemn contempt.
At last, there echoes in my open ears, "The Sentiment of a Westerner", which has fortunately escaped the destruction of "intense passion of bad humour":
Streets at nightfall are filled
With such fear and melancholy,
That the shadows, murmur, the river Tagus,
the low tide
Arise in me an absurd desire of suffering.
When he wrote, The Sentiment of a Westerner, Cesário Verde, had already been residing for the past two years at Linda-a-Pastora22, to-day de S. Domingos House. The house belonged to his uncle João Baptista and was beautifully portrayed by Sequeira. "A homely house, of a typically loving couple" elegantly and majestically standing in the centre with two close storeys perfectly demarcated. Behind one of the nine windows whose façades have been restored after the trail of that dreadful fire which reduced to ashes all the literary assets of the poet, there lies a tombstone with the name of Cesário Verde engraved on it, in remembrance of his death and the place where he composed his poems and worked for his country. Cesário lived in this property and worked as an agriculturist through months and months, dedicated with enthusiasm and understanding to the setting-up of a new commercial activity entered upon by the Verde family, i. e. the exportation to foreign countries, England and Brazil, of grapes, apples, tomatoes and onions which the vast humid fertile farm was producing in abundance and of excellent quality.
On one Sunday morning of 28th May 1822, close to the property, there was a miraculous apparition of the image of Senhora da Rocha. It was seen by a group of seven youths who were chasing a rabbit. The news of the veneration of Senhora da Conceição da Rocha quickly spread to the Court, and among the main and fervent devotees were the Royal Family themselves. By initiative of the poet Tomaz Ribeiro23, the image was removed to the main Cathedral, until a sanctuary was built at Carnaxide24, the place of apparition. Its triumphal return took place in 1883, with the creation of "Real Irmandade de Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Rocha25". Well among the foremost brothers, which consisted of the founders (read the work of Padre Francisco dos Santos Costa, on the Sanctuary of Rocha) there figures the name of José Anastácio Verde. What is my purpose in making this reference? Because it casts doubt on what, as was written by João Pinto de Figueiredo that Cesário's father was a free-thinker, an uncompromising unrepentant atheist. In fact, I don't see this austerity, in religious matters incorporated with the brother of Confraria, who was naturally wearing with compassion the habitual dress on the Sacred Lausperene day, or in a religious procession. (Similarly though Cesá-rio's remarks about "the dark and dismal dishonour of the clergy", yet he praises "the edifying christian love"). He further writes.
"Sometime later the poet moved to Linda-a-Pastora. He frequented the Capital, where the talented and innovating assembly of plastic artists periodically used to meet at the beershop of Leão de Ouro, situated on Rua do Príncipe, to-day called Rua 1° de Dezembro", close to the great Rossio Square. The refectory, so to speak, was patronized by an enthusiastic organizing personality with great cultural interest, Alberto de Oliveira. (I, at least am not confusing him with the poet of Oporto of the same name, the devoted friend of Anto, whom I became acquainted with on my way to the elegant Cabanas Convent, to visit the family of Homem de Mello26, in the luxuriant Afife27 of Minho). He figures prominently on the Columban set up which is a factor for the group of naturalists of the future.
It is he, with an excellent shine to his high hat, who is glancing over a foreign magazine and listening to the explanation of his artist friends on New Esthetics. It is he who preceded, soon after posing for the famous picture, to the unworthily patriotic march of protest against the English Ultimatum. Well, around the painting of "Grupo do Leão" in which the pallet of Silva Porto reproduced serene and azure and lively scenes, it was he who decided for the presidency, and allowing also several attentive literates less qualified in fine arts: Fialho, Abel Botelho, Ramalho, Mariano Pina, Gualdino, D. João de Câmara to be seated at the meeting. And Cesário? He (as in prose, Fialho de Almeida)28 was equally a brilliant imaginative painter in Verse. He sensibly confessed, claiming to know only the "drawings of compass and set square": "He paints pictures by letters and signs". And he really painted. Almost all his poems are immeasurable; A large panel, where the drawing is strict and glaring, sometimes with a light stroke of water-colours, sometimes with a violent slice of oil paint; Chiding with happy tunes, and muffled in shady places, here and there the subtilities of shades, the sensibilities are already expressed avant-la-lettre and in the surrealism of the anthropomorphic illusion of that wide itinerary of In a Modern Quarter:
Suddenly,- What a vision of an artist!
If I could transform the plain vegetables,
At the Sun light, the brilliant painter,
In human being that moves and exist,
Full of beautiful sensual forms?
I would re-build by anatomy,
A new organic body, in pieces,
Finding colours and shapes. I'd discover
A head in a watermelon,
And in the full breast of cabbages.
The olives, which give us oil,
Black and clustered, between green leaves,
Are trusses of hair that is arranged;
And the turnips - bare bones, of white colour,
And the cluster of grapes - the rosary of the eyes.
There are laps, shoulders, mouths, a resemblance
In the position of certain fruits. And among
The vegetables, tumid, fragrant,
Like someone who loves to eat
There appears a watermelon which reminds me of a womb.
And like a foetus, that finally stretches,
I saw temptingly the fleshy vegetables
The brilliant scarlet blood in the cherries,
With goodness vibrating in tomatoes
Upright fingers, ruby-red in carrots.
This panel of sketches and images is almost crude and aggressive. It is different from the delicate sketches in water-colours by Cesário, called In the Afternoon a name suggestive of the naturalist painter on canvas, of a light loosing its brightness in the mornings by pointing lyrically to the light shades. The impression is all blue and red: the cold and the heat being brought together joyfully in the gallant bourgeoisie fin-de-siècle episode. I can see with open eyes that the intense rays of the sun do not hurt:
In that bourgeois "pic-nic"
There was a thing simply beautiful
And without having any history or greatness,
Could in any case be painted.
Alighting from a young donkey
You went to collect, without cheating
In a blue madder grove of chic-peas
A reddish bough of poppy.
Soon after, on the top of some cliffs
We camped, the sun was still up
There were slices of melon, damson,
And sponge-cake soaked in grapes
But, purple, emerging from laces
Of its two bosoms like two doves,
It was the supreme delight of the snack
The reddish bough of the poppy.
The picture shows the sensuality of a rural outing in the rustic region near the Verdes' farms. Thus it turns out to be in Linda-a-Pastora showing eagerness on part of the poet, in the selection of his fruitful business. And, similarly, he does so in composing his verses. I quote from the poem In Summer: "On the field, I find poetical animation that encourages me, I find clarity, endurance, and action". Therefore, he finds poetry and work. Excellent! From here originates, arrogantly, his great poem "We" that at that time substantiated with the pointed criticism of Afonso Lopes Vieira 29 revealing that everything is a modern pastoral poem. Note the following stanza:
Jack, British sailor, you are right
When, anchoring in ports like ours,
The oranges with skins and seeds
You eat with greed.
The more beautiful stanzas appear to me to be based on imagination. They are, however, a small number of verses, with lofty inspiration praising the rustic landscape and the rural life, in contrast to the mechanical roughness of the dirty factories of the great industrial centres of northern Europe:
In the meantime, there is no better pleasure
Than in the quietness of two o'clock
Listening and Matching, among the creak of the water chain,
The water flowing abundantly in a large tank!
Down there, between secular elm trees
The river is drying up! After three months of drought,
Its bed is a sideway access,
Full of stones between two places.
How its pebbles and roundish rubble
Shine! Climbing the hillside
Rows of agave americana, from Africa,
Grow up tall like aloes!
Although a little distant, the mountains
With stubble field and lashing-like hills,
Remind of wonderful and thick heads
Of fleckered grey hair, closely-cut.
Contrast, in the valleys in general,
Like a glass of a huge greenhouse,
Everything is attracted, imposed, expanded and swollen,
With an equatorial vigour!
Anglo-Saxons, you must envy!
Rich suicidal people, look at yourselves!
Here, everything's spontaneous, happy, rude,
Easy, clear and healthy!
Compare the wine regions
To your hills of scum, brand new
And the hectic noisy factories
To our manual weaving and windmills.
Oh mining counties! Expansions
Carboniferous! Deep tunnels!
Steam factories! Cutleries!
And sad mechanics of spinning mills!
I am aware of your perfection in the manufacture
Of steel and silk, blades and upholstery;
The most ductile and softest.
Or the hardest and most resistant materials!
But your life is false, mechanical,
Lifeless, like a circle or a square,
With that manufacturing perfection
Without the beat of life and reality.
Besides, the poet exhibits his physical energy, in the boastful verses of We:
Oh! What a great satisfaction I get when
I am one of them! And without talent
I perform a passionate technical work,
Singing, cursing, fighting.
Even so (or who knows but himself!) Cesário is ill. Tuberculosis separated him from the love and friendship of a sister and a brother. It is the hereditary illness that is affecting him now. The first signs of tiredness appear, the first troublesome cough. In time he consults the famous Dr. Souza Martins, presenting himself as an ordinary "Mr. Verde, employed in a commercial firm". But, later on, with the legitimate pride of his talent, he requests a friend to make it known to the illustrious Doctor that the said "employee of the commercial firm" was none other than, the poet Cesário Verde. Dr. Souza Martins, a cultured man, accustomed to be in the company of scholars recognises perfectly the identity of the sick person (a lost case) who consulted him. In search of a relief for his chest ailment, Cesário secluded himself in a small rural house, in the region of Caneças30 where pure air and pure water was available, thus, avoiding the humidity of Linda-a-Pastora almost a sea town. In his subsequent letter that he writes to Macedo Papança, his faithful friend and master, he describes his plain house: "My small house is self-sufficient and is most rural and picturesque; From the window of my room I can stretch my arm, and touch the branch of the wild fragrant pine tree. All around are thick and murmuring pine trees". It is an ideal place for the treatment of pulmonary illnesses. In the meantime the sufferings of the poet are not lessening, instead they are pushing ahead rapidly till the end. Cesário, despite feeling weak, still shows some bright hope for a cure; although being aware of the fact that it would keep a sorrowful image of him. The letter written to Monsaraz ends thus: "Can I cure myself! May be. But how do I stand? A useless person, an old outworn horse; a large torn basket, and a rain-soaked severed body".
In that frenzied desire for reverent which attacks the T. B. patients fighting against ill-health, Cesário leaves Caneças and searches out a place closer to the Capital. He finds his new home where he tries to recover. He remains there emotionally, in this fragrant home. Cesário's last days were calm, in a continuous slumber. On 19th July, his brother Jorge, who kept watch during his agonizing days was surprised by a slight disturbance. He asked him: - "Do you wish anything?" The poet stammers: - "No nothing. Let me sleep". And he slept for ever. The "so-called" great press dedicated hardly half a dozen dull and vulgar lines on the death of Cesário. Besides the family, two or three of his friends mourned the death, acknowledging his intellect while reading with devotion his poems. Among the mourners, Silva Pinto felt a very great loss.
In the following year, in 1887, at his own expenses he edited "Book of Cesário Verde", which contained the important works of the poet, and a preface in ultra-romantic Camilian31 style.
The soul still felt truly touched by his sincerity and despair. One can listen to the sorrowful heart and forget the dismal ecstasies of musty prose:
"The new house of Cesário is of stone and it has an iron door, with a cross like vent; - on street n° 7 of the cemetery Prazeres. At the door there is a shrub of a kind of cypress tree - in memory of my departed friend. I planted a palm tree but on account of the wind it was uprooted on the third day, hence I had to choose a kind of lugubrious and strong new tree. The small tree is green and firm, and from far it serves as a forlorn hope to my pleasant spiritual friendship. From afar I ask our tree: - Is our friend alright? And the trunk bending its small branches with solemnity replies: Alright; there wasn't any news the whole night... (...) And in one of these evenings, a few days after his death, I came close to the iron gate, feeling lost and excited. I looked inside the grave where several coffins were well placed, and discovering correctly the coffin of Cesário, sobs disturbed my throat in a great and cruel anguish. And it was then the feeble hoarse voice of Cesário could be heard clearly from inside the coffin: - Do you remember this voice? - Be natural, my friend; be natural!"
"It was Cesário's voice; it was his sweet and trembling voice, oh sacred and unfair suffering! I leant over the door of the grave and begged in anguish: "Speak! Say! Speak again, my friend" No repetition of the distressing charm. There was only a kind of mild agitation, a slow movement of withering leaves - and the departed was resting in peace!"
But, by and by, Cesário Verde re-emerges from oblivion. His personal voice (the one which Silva Pinto carefully heard inside the grave of Prazeres), always imposing, confirms that he is one of the greatest poets of the Portuguese language. The critical review of Fernando Pessoa, has already categorically affirmed the mission of Cesário in the evolution of our poetry: "There were in Portugal, in XIX century, only three poets who can legitimately be classified as masters. They are in chronological order, Antero de Quental, Cesário Verde and Camilo Pessanha. With the exception of Antero, whose works are still open for dicussion, they suffer the natural destiny of masters - the incomprehension in life, as much as those (like in Byron, deriving from Wordsworth and disagreeing with) whom they exercised their influence.
"The celebrity rarely admits his special talents with which he has been gifted. (...)
"As for Cesário Verde his objective poetry has been established though it took very long".
It is late afternoon. It is getting cold. How long am I here in this natural province of Paço do Lumiar32 haunted by the lightning recollection of Cesário Verde which made my soul shine? The house has grown weak from blemish, it turns to be more intimate with an open heart. Cesário's presence is almost visible in that fine twinkling of white curtain, beyond one of the windows with the inclined verandah in front of me. And suddenly the poem! The poem that excites my pleasant feeling. For it is the follower of Cesário, certainly the most humble, limited and modest that, overcoming the shyness, takes the word in an attempt to pray, before that glorious, rising divine figure. I deserve to be here on the ground; and he on the top as far as my eyes can see. Each person gives as much as he can in the ecstasy of gratitude, even if it is a trifle. My homage to Cesário Verde, is, oh dear me! A handful of these poor rhymes:
The spontaneous rhyme
That suddenly is kept, sometimes lost
In the search of accurate images
Of a Western sentimentality
It was he who enlightened me, Mr Verde,
Employed in the hardware trade
One of the greatest poets of Portugal.
Here is the rhyme surrounded, squeezed
And forgotten by the dark, gloomy
And obscure city's anguish,
The rhyme is eager to assimilate in clarity
The sour juices of bygone orchards
In a healthy and lively colour of his name.
Oh! tender rhyme, virile. I think it
capable of celebrating, with perfection,
A land of hope,
Bordered by the sea, its fate;
Honestly sowing the bread;
Raising a child from the ground up to the sun.
I know it like that, wise for its subtleness,
That's why I chose it to be coloquial,
With a plain wording that rejuvenates me.
The tender and virile rhyme,
That the last handful of cruel lime
Won't dry in my grave.
Translated by João Libano
Speech made in Macau on 15th December at Cultural Centre, at the invitation of Cultural Institute of Macau, to commemorate the I Death Centenary of Cesário Verde, which had the collaboration of actor Amilcar Martins who read the whole poem of "The Sentiment of a Westerner" and two stanzas of the poem "We".
1- Cesário Verde-Portuguese Poet (1855-1886).
2 - Rua-Street/Road.
3 - D. Pedro V - 30th King of Portugal.
4 - Linda-A-Velha- Town near Lisbon.
5 - Augusto Gil - Portuguese poet (1873-1929).
6 - Minho - Portugal's Northern province.
7 - Jorge de Sena- Portuguese poet.
8 - Guimarães - Portuguese Northern city.
9 - Porto - O Porto (Known as the capital of the North of Portugal.
10 - Vitorino Nemésio - Portuguese historian and writer (1901~-1978).
11 - Pombal's Downtown - Area in Lisbon re-built during the Marquês de Pombal office after the 1755 earthquake.
12 - António Nobre - Portuguese poet (1867-1900).
13 - Alberto de Oliveira- Portuguese writer (1873-1940).
14 - Baudelaire-French poet (1821-1867).
15 - Camões - The most important Portuguese poet of all time (1524-1580).
16 - Os Lusíadas - Epic poem written by Camões. It tells the History of Portugal and in particular the discoveries.
17 - Fernando Pessoa - Portuguese poet and writer (1888-1935)
18 - Álvaro de Campos - One of Fernando Pessoa's three fictitious names.
19 - Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro - Portuguese caricaturist and humourist (1846-1905).
20 - Chiado - Lisbon's district.
21 - Blue Cesário - The joke was addressed to Cesário Verde. 'Verde' means green. The purpose of Dantas Baracho was to play with words.
22 - Linda-A-Pastora - Village close to Lisbon.
23 - Tomás Ribeiro - Portuguese poet and politician (1831 - 1901).
24 - Carnaxide- Village close to Lisbon.
25 - Real Irmandade da Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Rocha, religious institution.
26 - Homem de Mello, Pedro - Portuguese professor and poet, (1904).
27 - Afife - Portugal's coastal town (North).
28 - Fialho de Almeida-Portuguese writer (1857-1911).
29 - Afonso Lopes Vieira - Portuguese poet and literary researcher (1887-1946).
30 - Caneás-Small town in the North of Lisbon.
31 - Camilian - Camilo Castelo Branco - Portuguese romanticist writer (1825-1890).
32 - Paço do Lumiar -Lisbon's district.
*Poet, dramatist, essayist and historian of Portuguese Literature.
start p. 43