Fridays with Fernando: Mar Português

Fernando Pessoa statue in the Jardim das Poetas. Oeiras, Portugal. Fernando Pessoa stencil in the Bairro Alto. Lisbon, Portugal.

My blog’s tagline is “Things I know and love include: Portugal, quidditch, books & brews, and my life in San Jose.” But even though Portugal is first in that sentence, I write about quidditch way more.

As much as I’ve invested a lot of myself into the sport, that’s not all who I am or all I want to be known for. That’s is why I’ve been trying to diversify my writing lately. While I may not have written as much Portuguese content, my culture is a big part of who I am. If you’re reading this, I’m probably your token Portuguese friend. You know, the person who comes to mind when you come across anything Portuguese related.

If you’ve heard me talk about anything Portuguese for any length of time, I’ll eventually start gushing about my literary boyfriend: Fernando Pessoa. I’ve written about his work from time to time but I wanted to make a regular feature out of it. So, Fridays with Fernando was born.

I’ll save a tl;dr post about his life and work for another week. For today, I want to give you a taste of why this man’s words are always on my lips.

I’m not very good at being content with where I am. Not in the sense of physical place, because I’m a bit of a homebody, but in the sense of where I am in life and what I’ve accomplished.

“I could have done better.” “I could be doing more.” These are the thoughts that drive me. At my best, I’m happiest when those thoughts are pushing me towards achieving something new. But at my worst, those thoughts trick me into over-committing myself or punishing myself for not being good enough (whatever that means).

Then I remember the words I put on my cap when I graduated from San Jose State. The words that jumped off the page years ago, when I was messing around in my community college poetry class looking for a Portuguese poet to translate for shits and giggles. The words that made me fall in love with Fernando Pessoa.

Tudo vale a pena graduation

Finally graduating was definitely worth it.

Translation? Everything is worth it if the soul is not small. These words aren’t just something you slap on a pretty background and post to your Instagram for some easy Instagram inspiration. (Though considering that they could fit on my graduation cap, you totally could if you wanted to.) While these two lines from the poem “Mar Portugues” describe Portugal’s fraught relationship with the sea, they can describe any endeavor that makes you even as it breaks you.

Everything, even failing (because at least I tried), is worth it because it helps me grow. My soul is not small because it grows every day that I push myself to be better… including being better to myself.

Here’s the poem in full, followed by my somewhat literal, somewhat embellished translation.

Mar Português

Ó mar salgado, quanto do teu sal
São lágrimas de Portugal!
Por te cruzarmos, quantas mães choraram,
Quantos filhos em vão rezaram!
Quantas noivas ficaram por casar
Para que fosses nosso, ó mar!

Valeu a pena? Tudo vale a pena
Se a alma não é pequena.
Quem quere passar além do Bojador
Tem que passar além da dor.
Deus ao mar o perigo e o abismo deu,
Mas nele é que espelhou o céu.

Portuguese Sea

Oh salty sea, how much of your salt
Are the tears of Portugal?
So that we might cross you, how many mothers wept,
How many sons prayed for their lives in vain,
How many brides went unwed,
For you to be ours, oh Sea?

Was it worth it? Everything is worth it
If the soul is not small.
To pass the perils of Cape Bojador,
You must sail past pain and grief.
God to the sea gave the perils of the abyss,
But he also made it the mirror of Heaven.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Dia de Portugal 2017

  2. Pingback: Poetry with Professora Elizabeth: Mar Português

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