An apprenticeship in unlearning

Poem 24 from the New Directions The Complete Works of Alberto Caeiro (Caeiro being one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms).

As an eccentricity of librarianship – I occasionally do guest cataloging on items in languages no proper cataloger is comfortable with. The rule is to err on the side of expansiveness – for example, provide multiple transliterations of an author’s name or a work’s title if there’s ever a chance people will be searching such variations. So it’s odd to me that no record I’ve found for any title by a heteronym of Pessoa’s includes mention of that heteronym as co-author or even contributor. I know nearly everyone will search Pessoa’s name so maybe the real point here is that it seems somehow disrespectful to leave those names out given how dedicated Pessoa was to the fiction of his heteronyms.

What we see of things are the things themselves.
Why would we see one thing if there were another?
Why would seeing and hearing be an illusion
If seeing and hearing are just seeing and hearing?

The essential thing is knowing how to see,
Knowing how to see without thinking,
Knowing how to see when you see,
And not thinking when you see
Nor seeing when you think.

But this (alas for those of us whose soul wears clothes!),
This requires long study,
An apprenticeship in unlearning
And a solitude within the freedom of that convent
Of which the poets say the stars are its eternal nuns
And the flowers devout penitents for a single day,
But where, after all, the stars are just stars
And the flowers are just flowers,
Which is why we see them as stars and flowers.


O que nós vemos das cousas são as cousas.
Porque veriamos nós uma cousa se houvesse outra?
Porque é que ver e ouvir seriam iludirmo-nos
Se ver e ouvir são ver e ouvir?

O essencial é saber ver,
Saber ver sem estar a pensar,
Saber ver quando se vê,
E nem pensar quando se vê
Nem ver quando se pensa.

Mas isso (tristes de nós que trazemos a alma vestida!),
Isso exige um estudo profundo,
Uma apprendizagem de desapprender
E uma sequestração na liberdade d’aquelle convento
De que os poetas dizem que as estrellas são as freiras eternas
E as flores as penitentes convictas de um só dia,
Mas onde afinal as estrellas não são senão estrellas
Nem as flores senão flores,
Sendo por isso que as vemos estrellas e flores.

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