Shadow of Life

Texeira de Pascoes (1877-1952)

Shadow of life, speak! Come tell me
your eternal secret.
O Cosmic shadow
shine out. I want to find myself
on your intimate, suffering breast.
I want to see you and get to know you, O life!
I want to touch your divine essence.
I want to see you in person and not
by means of lies and mere appearances.
Ah, tell me the very last word,
the magical word, that has been
a pallid, scarcely perceptible murmur,
an indeterminate vocal reflex
more a living, light-struck silence,
in the mouthes of prophets and saints…
and a mechanical, dull whisper
in the dry, arid mouth of the wise…
and perfume in the opening flower.
and the vagueness of mist, water on the lips,
the avid and mute verb on rough rock
and soft sound of light on soft sand.
gorgeous song of the seven choirs
and the Rainbow where divine love exists,
Feverish scream in the mouth when the sun burns
and sepulchral pallor in the sad moonlight.
It is what I, afflicted, say to the dark shadow
of life. And the dark shadow awoke
and a nocturnal voice, in my ears,
grew resounding splendidly, and spoke like this:

Listen to your heart if you want
to know the eternal living essence
which is bound up in transitory forms
where I was a little blind girl and a captive
in those forms I cried with tragic bitterness,
I suffered death, exile and misery
until one day, I was freed at last
from the brute density of matter.

Behold, look at the melancholy spirit,
the original: see the huge shadow
that was torn from top to bottom like
the black temple veils.

And from this formless
strange, cosmic shadow emerged
a scarcely visible ghostly glowing,
a faint form that little by little opened
its eyes in a Nebulous look.

And then the ethereal Mist wanted
to be a star and break apart in light
and the shining star wanted to be a frozen world
bathed in the blood of Jesus.

Then the bright chilled star
on the lips of dawn which impregnated it
turned itself into a tender green plant
which afterwards became, miraculously,
a creator also…

Texeira de Pascoes (1877-1952) was born in Amarante. He was the founder of the “saudesista” movement, which explores “saudade” in all its forms. Here is his definition of “saudade”:
Saudade is yearning for a loved thing or person, made painful by absence.

He says that “saudade” was born of the fusion of Roman and Semitic blood and is, therefore, both pagan and Christian at the same time.

I think you can appreciate in the poem the mythological thinking that goes into making the shadow of life an expression of saudade.

About Jason Preater

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