17. Patriotism, Treason, and Peregrination in Jorge de Sena

George Monteiro
Labirinto[1].jpg
"Mosaico de Conímbriga, com labirinto e Minotauro"

Sou de Europa ou de América? De Portugal ou Brasil?
Jorge de Sena (1970) [1]

A nation which does not produce traitors can hardly be said to be civilized.
Fernando Pessoa (1914-1918) [2]

[E]sse Pessoa, que, no vero pólo oposto daquele grande Camões que ele professava não admirar muito, não deixou a vida pelo mundo em pedaços repartida, como Camões, com boas razões, disse da sua mesma.
Jorge de Sena (1977) [3]

Citizen of two countries, resident alien in a third, a being who was “international” by inclination and universal by temperament, Jorge de Sena, virtually from the start, found himself spooked by the existence everywhere around him of less capacious, smaller minded, ungenerous, provincial countrymen. He distinguished himself from these uncultivated or, at best, semi-cultivated hordes.

Pois que sempre houve, em cultura, dois modos extremos de ser-se português: o afogar-se satisfeito ou irritado no confinamento literário da mesquinhez hebdomadária, sempre em angustiosa aflição de que o lugar ao sol seja roubado por outro na semana seguinte; ou o ampliar-se a todos os tempos e lugares uma visão do mundo, que às vezes se chega a supor que Portugal teve e perdeu, encolhendo-se dia a dia num empequenecer perverso. . . . Aos poetas, quanto de poesia se traduza pode ajudá-los a sentirem-se, no concreto da linguagem, mais parte de um processo milenário que nunca conheceu fronteiras apesar da diversidade das línguas, e, portanto, mais integrados nessa coisa estranha que é a humanidade.[4]

With “poetry” his unquestioned way of being, thinking, and feeling, Jorge de Sena took the high road. The vast corpus of work that he produced insistently crossed linguistic boundaries, ever questioning, in its protean nature, the putative integrity of received and seemingly established disciplines. “Uma pátria sem fronteiras seguras nem independência concreta,” as he said in a poem about that other wanderer, Chopin.[5]

Yet Jorge de Sena was also a super-patriot; and super-patriot that he was, he was, of course, something more and different. And that something more and different—a universalism, a sort of pan-nationalism—made him seem, at times, something other than a patriot, at times, possessing something of the qualities one might imagine Fernando Pessoa to have attributed to the kind of traitor native to a civilized nation.

Now, Portugal might never have entirely forgiven Jorge de Sena for having gone into exile, first in Brazil, then in the United States. The opposition to Salazar’s dictatorial regime might have been willing enough to avail itself of the exile’s outspoken, often acerbic words, uttered less in anger than sorrow, against political and social conditions in the Estado Novo. Yet things were not at all what they seemed is apparent in the way he was greeted by the first governments that took office after the Twenty-fifth of April. In the first years the newly formed ministries extended precious little recognition to him as a national political or governmental resource. He did not leave the University of California, Santa Barbara—and who could have reasonably expected him to do so? —to re-emigrate to his native land. In subsequent years there were even those, back in Portugal—some of them having themselves been immediate beneficiaries of the revolution—who questioned his sincerity and values when he did not return to Portugal to teach at a Portuguese university. This was the unequivocal position of one, then young, and now highly successful writer, who should have known better.

It is well known that Jorge de Sena openly and repeatedly expressed his fears and hopes for Portugal during the dreariest decades of the Estado Novo. Nowhere does he do it more succinctly than in the poem “Quem a tem,” from Fidelidade (1958). The poem was written on December 9, 1956.

Não hei-de morrer sem saber
Qual a cor da liberdade.

Eu não posso senão ser
Desta terra em que nasci.
Embora ao mundo pertença
e sempre a verdade vença,
qual será ser livre aqui,
não hei-de morrer sem saber.

Trocaram tudo em maldade,
É quase um crime viver.
Mas, embora escondam tudo
E me quiram cego e mudo,
Não hei-de morrer sem saber
Qual a cor da liberdade. [6]

Jorge de Sena makes an important point, apart from the hope and desire to live long enough to see the restoration of liberty and freedom for individuals in his native land, for although he knows himself to be a citizen of the world (something not everyone acknowledges to be true about himself), he cannot cease belonging to the land of his birth—certainly a basis for determining one’s patriotism and treason. Three years after writing this poem Jorge de Sena found himself in Bahia, to participate in a scholarly conference. He chose to stay in Brazil, and thus began his years of exile.

His first ten years of self-exile he spent in the Americas, divided them between the northern and southern hemispheres, between Brazil and the United States. That decade was marked at its end by the publication, in September 1969, of Peregrinatio ad loca infecta, his eighth or ninth book of poems, depending on how one considers Poesia—I. Much of the book was made up of poems that were, as he said in his preface (entitled “Isto não é um prefácio”), the poems of his American “exile.”

[O]s meus ‘exílios’ americanos (do Sul e do Norte), com tudo o que de difícil e de complexo uma tal situação implica, pela confrontação com diversas culturas (ainda que, ironicamente, elas nos sejam familiares) que, para quem não vive nelas em caracter evidentemente provisório, colocam agudamente dolorosos problemas de identidade, e nos levam a meditar diversamente sobre quem somos.[7]

His title, Jorge de Sena tells us, plays on the title of a fourth-century travel account.

O título é caricatura de Peregrinatio ad loca sancta, espécie de guia e relatório devoto, artístico e prático do peregrino da Terra Santa, que constitui um dos mais preciosos documentos existentes para o estudo do latim vulgar. Terá sido composto por Etéria ou Egéria, ou santa qualquer coisa, freira talvez de Braga, que, em 395 da nossa era, viajou à Palestina, ao Sinai, ao Egipto e a Constantinopla. Como se vê, a mania portuguesa de viajar e relatar as peregrinações feitas é antiga.[8]

The locus of Jorge de Sena’s travels is not the Near or Far East but the Americas. And while this latter-day Portuguese peregrine insists that not all of his American experiences over the decade were rosy and while he acknowledges that some of his visits are to the “‘loca infecta’ da alma,” his principal criticisms are aimed at the world as he finds it—“o nosso mundo de hoje em que brutalmente, insidiosamente, e teimosamente persiste seja em que hemisférica or regime, uma concepção do mundo e da vida como um tirânico vale de lágrimas.”[9]

Jorge de Sena divides Peregrinatio ad loca infecta into four sections—which he labels “Portugal,” “Brasil,” “Estados Unidos da América,” and “Notas de um regresso à Europa”—followed by a one-poem epilogue. The largest grouping of poems appears in the Brazil section, which is three times as long as the U.S.A. section. The U.S.A. section, in turn, runs to slightly more than twice the size of the opening Portugal section. The “return to Europe” section adds up to a unit of five pages. In their aggregate we have a record of those journeys of expatriation, exile, and repatriation taken by the poet in his post-middle-of-the-journey decade of the 1960s. Heart-felt accusations and painful recriminations mark the poetry of this period, if one is to consider the poetry to be a barely encoded record. The themes of betrayal and treason appear in several poems, sometimes centrally, sometimes peripherally or even parenthetically. Not all of the following examples are employed, to be sure, with the same authorial insistence or with the same pressure. The word “trair” (in one form or another) appears throughout. Here are some examples. In the poem “A Paul Fort” (“E eu, que sou poeta—ó Príncipe—traí-te, / como se com método e com ficha, registando apenas, / no apêndice de uma delas, que morreste”), in “Heptarquia do mundo ocidental” (“E para quê? Se tudo é só traição, / traição que trai ou que nem mesmo trai / na estreita hesitação de só trair”), in “Homenagem à Grécia” (“Os deuses, ladrões, / promíscuous, bestiais, / traiçoeiros”), in “Quem muito viu” (“Quem muito viu, sofreu, passou trabalhos, / mágoas, humilhações, tristes surpresas; / e foi traído”), in “Uma sepultura em Londres” (“um bastião do amor que nunca foi traído”), and in “À memória de Kazantzakis, e a quantos fizeram o filme ‘Zorba the Greek’“ (“traição à nossa vida amarga”).[10]

The notion of betrayal also runs in poems contemporary with those published in Peregrinatio ad loca infecta but omitted from that collection (though later collected in 40 Anos de Servidão [1979]). Take, for example, “‘Nada do mundo’“: “Quanto melhor seria ter servido / alguma idea, um deus, qualquer senhor, / bem falsos ou mundanos, e traíveis / nesse fingir de crença ou lealdade / com que a miséria humana se imagina / mais rica e nobre do que o nada oculto!” or, later in the same poem, “E é tudo o que me resta e me resume, / e que de mim cá fica, odiado e inútil / (e mais que inútil—para ser traído).” From Peregrinatio he had also omitted his long poem “A Portugal,” which, studiously avoiding the obvious use of the word “traír” in any form, is unequivocally about the ways a “pátria” can betray a patriot. It begins: “Esta é a ditosa pátria minha amada. Não. / Nem é ditosa, porque o não merece. / Nem minha amada, porque é só madrasta. / Nem pátria minha, porque eu não mereço / a pouca sorte de nascido nela.”[11]

But the key text in this consideration of patriotism and treason in Peregrinatio ad loca infecta is the penultimate poem in the so-called “Brasil” section—“Em Creta, Com o Minotauro,” a signature poem for Jorge de Sena and, in my opinion, one of the strongest of twentieth-century poems. Among Portuguese poems I would rank it with Álvaro de Campos’s “Tabacaria,” and among English-language poems of the same period, I would place it with T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” with the great difference that Jorge de Sena’s voice in this poem is aggressively stoic and steely ironic, a far cry from Álvaro de Campos’s compliant resignation or Prufrock’s self-pitying complaint. “Em Creta, com o Minotauro” begins with a reference to places of birth and residence: “Nascido em Portugal, de pais portugueses, / E pai de brasileiros no Brasil, / Serei talvez norte-americano quando lá estiver.”[12]

Time and place define his nationality. He is Portuguese because he was born in Portugal and his parents are Portuguese. Then he becomes sort of Brazilian, one infers, because he fathers children who are born in Brazil, who themselves are of course inescapably Brazilian (and not necessarily Portuguese as well) because they were born in Brazil even though their father may or may not be Brazilian. But is he not Brazilian just by being there and for as long as he is there? After all, he thinks, he just might be a “norte-americano” when he goes to the United States. How will that come about? Will it be because (and when) he has children born in the United States? Will it be because just being there will make him a “norte-americano”? Does he imply that he will become an American by becoming a naturalized citizen? I entertain the possible ways, even facetious ways, of reacting to Jorge de Sena’s lines because their implications are varied and serious. The question of one’s nationality can be a slippery thing for some, complicated, confusing, contradictory, and hard to pin down. In fact, he recognizes this (perhaps boastfully) in the next three lines: “Coleccionarei nacionalidades como camisas se despem, / Se usam e se deitam fora, com todo o respeito / Necessário à roupa que se veste e que prestou service.”

The trope is brilliant. The comparison of one’s nationalities with useful and serviceable clothing, with one’s shirts—shirts that give good wear but which must sooner or later be discarded—initiates the poem’s principal subtext. In employing the shirt images metaphorically to convey his sense of what nationality means to him (and should, perhaps, mean to everyone), the poet draws on the common Portuguese expression—“virar a casaca” —literally “to turn one’s coat,” figuratively to change one’s tune, to do an about face on some matter. Hence, in short, to become a turncoat. The sudden and unexpected changing of one’s nationality is like the sudden changing of one’s “shirt.” “Virar a casaca” is, on some public level, an act of treachery. When that act is worked on the national level, it becomes an act of treason. To shed one’s nationality for another nationality may well border on treason. Hence Jorge de Sena’s use of the image of turning in one’s shirt for another shirt, in certain contexts and situations, inevitably calls up suggestions of treachery. It is probably unnecessary to recall that the political use of shirts would be especially meaningful to anyone knowing that the 1920s and 1930s saw the advent of fascist parties and factions as well as governments that chose to designates their membership by the color of their shirts—brown, black, and green—green, of course, being the color appropriated by the Brazilian and Portuguese Integralistas. Much like Camões, who left his life scattered in pieces throughout the worlds of Asia and Africa, Jorge de Sena will leave behind his shirts—his nationalities—in Portugal, Brazil, and Wisconsin. A last word on the connection between “turning one’s coat” and betrayal. While the Portuguese words trajo and trair seem not to be related etymologically, they are echoically close enough to constitute a Portuguese version of the English turncoat—treason connection, especially in the verbs trajar and trair.

To return to the expressed sentiments of the poem—the poet makes it clear that he cannot betray his nationality (or his nationalities, as it were) because, he insists, he is himself his own nationality. And, moreover, it occurs to him, “A patria / de que escrevo é a lingua em que por acaso de gerações/ nasci.” But he is careful not to present himself as being entirely in accord with these notions. For if the Portuguese language and, by extension, the Portuguese nation—are both of them the nation he writes about, it is only because by virtue of coincidence of time and place he was born into that particular language, so to speak, and no other. It is interesting to observe, moreover, that while the poet has left behind his first nation (though he will revisit it), just as he will leave behind his second one, he has not left behind in either place his native language. It has accompanied him wherever he has gone, part and parcel of mind and body, unlike so many nationalities that are like shirts that are purchased, worn, removed, and cast aside. We are now free to infer that apart from whatever citizenship his native language accords him, he cannot be said to belong nominatively or permanently to any nation or to any designated geographical place.
Enter the Minotaur. Some day when the poet will have forgotten everything—the paucity of human kindness and decency extant in this world, the desire to have this world be like the world he would have it be, though he has no belief in the existence of a world beyond this one (a notion expressed here and in the poem “Carta a meus filhos sobre os fuzilamentos de Goya”)—he will grow old. And he will do so, not in the company of an erstwhile lover, as is the case, say, with the poet in William Butler Yeats’s “Speech After Long Silence,” but shamelessly so, in Crete , in the Minotaur’s company, under the gaze of equally shameless gods.

The Minotaur also poses problems for the patriot. His “nation” is not even that of the human race, for he is half man and half beast. But even knowing that part of him, at least, comes from human stock (he is the treacherous Ariadne’s brother) would not at first help to “place” him. But it does allow the poet to redefine the term “man,” for like the Minotaur, he insists, all men are half human, half animal. The Minotaur rapes and devours his victims, as do, in one way or another, all those who are beasts.

Yet the Minotaur does have his qualities. If he is a son of a bitch, a fact that links him to all Greek heroes, he is nevertheless betrayed by his half-sister Ariadne, who, out of love, schemes with Theseus, one of those Greek heroes, to search out the Minotaur and destroy him. It is this betrayal, suffered by the half man—half beast, that makes him kith and kin with the poet. They are exiles both—the Minotaur at the center of his daedalean labyrinth, away from all human life except for the virgins sent in to satisfy his needs, and the poet set out to wander through strange and foreign lands. They have other things in common. Sunset in Crete will bring nymphs and ephebes out of the shadows swirling into coffee cups to be sweetened in the sugary mix stirred by a finger dirty with its investigations into the origins of life. All this will be swallowed down, one presumes, even as the Minotaur devoured his seemingly ever-renewable portion of virgins sent down to him in darkness.

Like the virgins torn apart by the Minotaur, the poet will have left pieces of himself scattered throughout the so-called new world. Here the poet acknowledges explicitly that he has borrowed the notion from Camões, that fellow human beast whose own patriotism was at the last traduced and dismissed, it is said, by a nation who repaid him for his loyal service by allowing him to die in poverty and misery, even as the nation itself was falling into hands that would betray her.
But an even greater betrayal has befallen Camões, however. No one reads him, for no one reads Portuguese, not the Minotaur or anyone else. Who does not share in this betrayal of poets by not knowing the languages they write in? Even the Minotaur doesn’t know Greek, having lived before the time of the Greeks, before the deluge of learned merde, evacuated by those we have enslaved or by us when we ourselves have become the slaves of others, as Jorge de Sena says in a poem he will not write until he gets to the United States. He and the Minotaur, he decides, will trade complaints about their hurts in volapuk, a language neither of them knows.[13]

In the fourth section of the poem “Em Creta, Com o Minotauro,” Jorge de Sena moves up to a more inclusive loop of betrayal and treason. It is by way of nationalities (and the idea of nationalism) that individual human beings are bought and sold into slavery, and the transaction features the extraordinary twist that there are nations so costly that not belonging to them becomes a cause for shame. Hence neither the poet nor the Minotaur will belong to any nation. Instead, they shall share coffee that comes from no nation or place—not from Arabia, not from Brazil, not from Fedecam, not from Angola—but from nowhere at all. Coffee that the poet will watch as it drips from the bull’s chin on to the knees of a man who has inherited, not knowing whether from his father or his mother, those whorled horns that are older than Athens and older (who can know?) than Palestine, say, or any other touristic, and immensely patriotic, place.
The fifth and final section of the poem serves as a brief coda. When the poet finally sits down with the Minotaur in Crete, he will bring with him neither poetry nor life. He will be without nationalities or spirit. He will come, unencumbered by anyone or anything (other than his dirty finger), merely to drink coffee, peacefully and quietly.

In the year he published “Em Creta, com o Minotauro” Jorge de Sena set out from Brazil for his third and last “patria,” the United States. If he was not at the verge of “turning” his coat in 1965, he was certainly ready to cast off what had for a while been the useful shirt of Brazilian nationality. Jorge de Sena did not become a citizen of the United States when here, as it turned out, though he had become a Brazilian citizen when in Brazil. Nor did he renounce his Brazilian citizenship when he left behind the land of Santa Cruz. He was well aware that some of his Portuguese contemporaries were exorcised that he had taken up a new nationality in the first place, and now, he explained, he was retaining his acquired nationality precisely because that very fact would annoy them further. Of course he would really have annoyed virtually everyone back there—Portugal and Brazil—had he become a naturalized citizen of the United States, especially if he had taken that “treacherous” step during the years of the American war in Vietnam.

One of the poetic legacies of the deep convictions that resulted in “Em Creta, com o Minotauro” is the later poem “Noções de Linguística.”[14] Written in 1970 and published in the volume Exorcismos two years later, this poem gives the lie to those received notions about the purity of languages and their unique attributes. In the English spoken around him in Wisconsin and California by his “Portuguese” children, born elsewhere, who are not only Americans now but who have dissolved themselves in a cultural-linguistic “sea” that, in some senses, is not theirs, he sees the death of the language into which he himself was born and in which he conducts his living. The poet’s key notion occurs in lines that read: “As línguas, que duram séculos e mesmo sobrevivem / Esquecidas noutras, morrem todos os dias / Na gaguês daqueles que as herdaram.”[15]

This is true, argues the poet, even for languages that have lasted for centuries, even those that have survived when they have lain hidden in other tongues. So much for the notion that Portuguese is the extraordinary language of a chosen people. So much for the patriotic shibboleth that has been fashioned out of Fernando Pessoa’s exilic words, “minha pátria é a lingua portuguesa,” words that, to be sure, he attributed not to himself but to the Lisbon-bound semi-heteronym Bernardo Soares.[16] Here is evidence pointing to the fact, sadly, that even language itself will enable and foster treachery, for it is the instrument and master of man, the animal that betrays.

Let two final quotations, one from Jorge de Sena’s prose and another from his poetry, bring the matter to a paradoxical conclusion. “Porque ele foi, acima de tudo e dos condicionalismos da vida, un cidadão do mundo em língua portuguesa, que é uma maneira de esse mundo não saber que possui tal cidadão, e de a língua, que o possui, presa aos seus provincianismos, não apreciar a grandeza que por ela se afirma e realiza.”[17] Jorge de Sena might have been describing himself in these very terms, though actually he is eulogizing his fellow-poet Adolfo Casais Monteiro, for it was true for both of them. And yet it was equally true, as he sang out in the poem “Paráfrase de Melina Mercouri,” not without irony and some ambiguity: “Nasci português e morrerei português / Ainda que mude de nacionalidade vinte vezes.”[18]

 

Notas:

1. Jorge de Sena, “Aos cinquenta anos,” in 40 Anos de Servidão (Lisboa: Moraes, 1979), p. 116.
2. Fernando Pessoa, Pessoa Inédito, ed. Teresa Rita Lopes (Lisboa: Livros Horizonte, 1993), p. 298.
3.Jorge de Sena, “Fernando Pessoa: o homem que nunca foi,” in Fernando Pessoa & Ca Heterónima (Lisboa: Edições 70, 1982), II, pp. 184-85.
4. Jorge de Sena, “Nota de abertura,” to Poesia de 26 séculos (Coimbra: Fora do Texto, 1993), pp. 8, 9.
5. Jorge de Sena, “Chopin: um inventário,” in Arte de Música, in Poesia-II (Lisboa: Moraes, 1978), p. 192.
6. Sena, Poesia-II, pp. 44-45.
7. Jorge de Sena, Peregrinatio ad loca infecta (Lisboa: Portugália, 1969), p. xiii.
8. Sena, Peregrinatio, p. xiii n.
9. Sena, Peregrinatio, p. xv.
10. Sena, Peregrinatio, pp. 29, 35, 47, 53, 79, and 128.
11. Jorge de Sena, “A Portugal,” in 40 Anos de Servidão, p. 89.
In Fidelidade (1958) he had already broached the theme of betrayal and treachery. In “Mensagem de finados,” for example, he writes: “Não desesperarei da Humanidade. / Por mais que o mundo, o acaso, a Providência, tudo, / à minha volta fogue em lágrimas e bombas / os sonhos de liberdade e de justiça; / por mais que tudo o que a maldade busque / para encobrir-se traia o que ainda esperamos; / por mais que a estupidez rica de bens e audácia / estrangule a lucidez dos que vêem claro; / por mais que tudo caía, acabe, se suspenda; / por mais que a Humanidade volte ao bando apavorado / que os cães servis acossam aos redis avaros; / por mais que a noite desça, o frio gele / as últimas esperanças, em luar cendrado / cujo silêncio nem gritos de criança / possam trespassar— / não desesperarei da Humanidade. Em vão / me atudem, me intimidam, me destroem; / em vão se juntam todos imprecando ignaros. Não! / Podem fazer o que quiserem. Podem / tornar-me anónimo, traidor ou prostituta, / que não desesperarei” (Poesia—II, pp. 49). And later in the same poem he writes: “Mas de verdade e de erro nos unimos; / e de má-fé nos repartimos tanto / que nada resta: a própria morte more / em vossas bocas que se fecham falsas / ou se abrem falsas para mais traição. / E em vossos gestos que, medrosos, tecem / a rede vil da falsa solidão. / Como quando a nós abandonamos / e aos outros entregamos o saber incerto / do que pensamos ser; ou como quando / levados vamos pelo vento odioso/ que o mal profunda à nossa volta e em nós; / como quando não somos, além do que nos prende, / a soma derradeira que o fulgor da morte / instantânea faró no estrondo em que chegar: / eis a má-fé, eis a traição, a infâmia, / talhadas com fervor nas cómodas lembranças / de quanto é de família não amar o próximo / senão como um farrapo que se demitiu / qual nós nos demitimos não amando nele / a liberdade irridutível de ser quem / covardemente en nós não procuramos. Que mundanal solicitude a vossa! / Protestai, defendei, gritai palavras / que bocas sujas de ouro já rilharam. / Essas palavras hão de abandonar-vos, / a ver-vos-eis sem elas, nus, despidos, / ante o espelho da vida que, real, / não há-de refectir-vos essa imagem vã com que iludistes a dignidade humana / na hora em que o silêncio era a verdade / do Amor traído em suas faces todas” (Poesia—II, p. 50).
Nor is Jorge de Sena's obsession with notions of treachery absent in Metamorphoses (1963). In “Cabecinha Romana de Milreu” he writes of “povos que foram massacrados e traídos”; in “Pieta de Avignon” he writes that the painting: “[que] não traia a esperança ou traia aquele amor/ que escorre lívido pelo cadáver”; in “A morte, o espaço, a eternidade,” he writes of his fear that “vamos/ traindo esta ascensão, esta vitória, isto / que é ser-se humano, passo a passo, mais”; and, later in the same poem, of his further fear: “O estado natural é complacência eterna, / é uma traição ao medo por que somos, / àquilo que nos cabe: ser o espírito/ sempre mais vasto do Universo infindo” (Poesia—II, pp. 71, 88).
In “Tão complicados,” another poem from the same years, but published only in 40 Anos de Servidão, Jorge de Sena attacks the actions of the recently embourgeoised: “a primeira coisa que, fazeis, / rapada a casca de miseria pura, / ter gravata e graxa, ir morar / nos bairros chiques, trair o povo/ que ainda tendes nas veias. Traí-lo, / mais do que ao povo ao que seria vero / na vossa mesquinhez de hipotecados” (p. 120). On the other hand, in “Boris Godunov,” in Arte de Música, he writes of the “povo que não sabe nunca / quem trai ou salva” (Poesia—II, p. 200).
On translation Jorge de Sena writes: “Quem traduza consciente do tempo em que eles viveram não poderá nunca traí-los, se se ativer ao que escreveram, embora uma tradução, para ser viva, deva ser um compromisso entre o estilo da época e do autor e a linguagem do nosso tempo.” (“Introdução à primeira parte,” Poesia de 26 séculos, p. 19)
12. Jorge de Sena, “Em Creta, com o Minotauro,” in Peregrinatio, p. 110.
13. It would not be surprising to learn that Jorge de Sena was aware that in his last years Sir Richard Burton, the English writer-traveler who not only wrote a book about Camões, but also translated both his lyric poetry and Os Lusíadas, was studying volapuk.
14. Somewhat confusingly, there is an earlier poem bearing the title “Noções de Linguística” (1962), which appears in Peregrinatio ad loca infecta. This first poem can be seen as being less about the betrayal of language than about its failings when confronted with matters such as the “fumo” “das chaminés dos campos de concentração” and of the “fogo dos fuguetes nucleares.” (p. 84)
15. Jorge de Sena, “Noções de Linguística,” in Poesia—III (Lisboa: Moraes, 1978), p. 147.
16. Bernardo Soares, Livro do Desassossego, organized by Jacinto do Prado Coelho (Lisboa: Ática, 1982), I, p. 17.
17. Quoted in Eugénio Lisboa, “Breve perfil, de Jorge de Sena,” in Estudos Sobre Jorge de Sena, ed. Eugénio Lisboa (Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, 1984), p. 42.
18. Jorge de Sena, “Paráfrase de Melina Mercouri,” in 40 Anos de Servidão, p. 128. It is precisely through its irony and ambiguity that this poem evades the danger Jorge de Sena warns about in the patriotic poem: “Toda a poesia patriótica do mundo, se não atinge o mais alto plano de um esclarecido amor da pátria, fica ridiculíssima, como merece, em tradução” (Poesia de 26 Séculos, p. 20)

 

George Monteiro is Adjunct Professor, Professor Emeritus of English and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University (Providence, RI), USA

* in Para Emergir Nascemos... Estudos em Rememoraçao de Jorge de Sena, ed. Franciso Cota Fagundes e Paula Gândara. Lisboa: Salamandra, 2000, pp. 245-58.