Posted in English


This ūüĎá

Is exactly the sort of thing I love. The writer is Ricardo Ara√ļjo Pereira, comedian, columnist and all round good guy (well, as far as I know) Anyway, in the passage above, he’s describing a song I don’t know and saying that if a foreigner were to hear it, although they would rightly spot that it sounds lovely, they probably wouldn’t understand it and certainly wouldn’t notice that the last word of every line is “proparox√≠tona”* and nor would they understand that the word “proparox√≠tono” itself is proparox√≠tona**. And he’s right: it is a lovely song and when I read this in bed last night I had no clue what Proparox√≠tono meant but I knew I had to find out as soon as I woke up.

First of all, let’s hear the song

Oh my god, that is the good stuff alright. I know it’s Brazilian Portuguese, not Portuguese Portuguese but Jesus Christ it’s good. Inject it directly into my veins! There is something slightly strange about the rhythm of the verse though isn’t there? And I never would have spotted what it was.

Before I get I to it, let’s lay a bit of groundwork by thinking about where the stress falls in a Portuguese word.

The vast majority of words in Portuguese put the stress on either the final syllable (if the last letter is r, l, z, m, u, i or n) or the penultimate one (basically, all other letters). Any exceptions to the rule need an accent to be added as a hint to the reader. So for example there are a lot of words that end in – √°vel or – √≠vel that are pronounced with the stress on the a and the i respectively. If the accent wasn’t there you’d have to say incrivEL and confortavEL. But it’s pretty easy and you get used to it, and before you know it, you’re just used to the rhythm of Portuguese speech without even being conscious of it.

Proparox√≠tono means that the stress falls on the antepenultimate (last-but-two) syllable. These always have to have an accent because they break the normal rules, like b√™bado (B√ä-ba-do) and m√°gico (M√Ā-gi-co) and s√°bado (S√Ā-ba-do) and √ļltima and √ļnico and t√≠mido and… Well, and every other word he finishes a line with in the song, which is why you get this effect that’s really unusual in a Portuguese song, where the last two syllables of every line are unstressed.

Oh my god, that’s so satisfying. I love it! It’s the most value I’ve ever got out of a single paragraph, I think: a new word, a new song and a new way of noticing the rhythm of Portuguese music.

Anyway, if you want to know more, this video has some good analysis. It’s in Brazilian Portuguese too, so be warned if you’re trying to avoid the dialect. It’s worth making an exception for though.

*it has an a in the end here, unlike in the title, because its an adjective and palavra is feminine

**Now I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t that the stuff Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying think should be used to cure Covid?” Close, but no, it’s not that either.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Segue o Teu Destino

Translating one of the poems I’ve been learning. It’s by Ricardo Reis, one of Pessoa’s Hetronyms. I found it a bit inspiration-postery at first but it’s really grown on me, especially the last two lines of the first verse and the last two lines of the last:

Portuguese versionTranslation
Segue o teu destino.
Rega as tuas plantas.
Ama as tuas rosas.
O resto é a sombra
De Arvores alheias.
Follow your destiny
Water your plants
Love your roses
The rest is just the shadow
Of other people’s trees
A realidade
Sempre é mais ou menos
Do que nós queremos.
Só nós somos sempre
Iguais a nós próprios.
Is always more or less
Than we want
We alone are always
Equal to ourselves
Suave é viver.
Grande e nobre é sempre
Viver simplesmente.
Deixa a dor nas aras
Como ex-voto aos deuses.
It’s easy to live
It’s great and noble always
To live simply
Leave pain on the altar
Like a votive offering to the gods
Vê de longe a vida.
Nunca interrogues.
Ela nada podes
Dizer-te. A resposta
Está além dos deuses.
Look at life from afar
Never question it
It can’t tell you
Anything. The answer
Is beyond the gods
Mas serenamente
Imito o Olimpo
No teu coração.
Os deuses s√£o deuses
Porque n√£o se pensam.
But serenely
Imitate Olympus
In your heart
The gods are gods
Because they never think of themselves
Posted in English, Portuguese

R√ļstica – Florbela Espanca.

I mentioned a few days ago that I was trying to memorise poems in both English and Portuguese. Well, today’s is a Portuguese one: R√ļstica by Florbela Espanca. As with so many of these poems, reading it through once a couple of years ago, I was my usual poetry-reading self: “Yes yes, very poetic. Next!” But now that I’m immersing myself in them, I’m starting to get the point of poetry. Here is the original:


Ser a moça mais linda do povoado.
Pisar, sempre contente, o mesmo trilho,
Ver descer sobre o ninho aconchegado
A bênção do Senhor em cada filho.

Um vestido de chita bem lavado,
Cheirando a alfazema e a tomilho…
– Com o luar matar a sede ao gado,
Dar √†s pombas o sol num gr√£o de milho…

Ser pura como a √°gua da cisterna,
Ter confiança numa vida eterna
Quando descer √† “terra da verdade”…

Deus, dai-me esta calma, esta pobreza!
Dou por elas meu trono de Princesa,
E todos os meus Reinos de Ansiedade.

R√ļstica, Florbela Espanca, from Charneca Em Flor

Florbela Espanca

There are a few unfamiliar words in it so I’ll have a go at translating it:


To be the prettiest girl in the village
To walk contentedly on the same trail
To see descending on the cosy home*
The blessings of the Lord on every child 

A calico** dress, well-washed
Smelling of lavender*** and thyme 
With the moonshine quenching the thirst of the cattle****
Giving the doves the sun in a grain of corn

To be pure as the water in the cistern
To believe in a life eternal 
When I go down to the land of truth*****

God, give me this calm, the poverty
I’ll give them my princess throne
And all my kingdoms of anxiety

*=The word used in the original is “ninho” which means nest, but I think in this context its just a folksy way of saying home.

**=my paper dictionary says chintz, but I think chintz is made of calico (?) and that calico goes more with the vibe of the poem. But I’m not an expert in cloth, so I could easily be wrong.

***=I’ve been saying “lavandas” for lavender but I think that might be a brazilism because according to the wiki this is the word used in Portugal.

****=matar a sede means kill the thirst, literally, but quench seems better. And it’s not “a sede do gado” (the thirst of the cattle) but ao gado (to the cattle) , another example of Portuguese speakers using prepositions in a way that are just a little different to what an english speaker would expect.

*****=Descer in this sentence is the future subjunctive, not the infinitive, and I believe its “when I go down” not “when he/she/it goes down” but I can only get that from context since there no way of telling grammatically! I’m not sure what the land of truth means here either. If it’s heaven, why is she descending and not ascending? I’ve read the bible and spent a lot of time in church but this makes no sense to me I’m afraid.

Here’s an analysis I wrote of the poem, in Portuguese, for today’s writing challenge (thanks to Dani Morgenstern for the help)

O Poema de hoje √© R√ļstica de Florbela Espanca. O poema fala do anseio da poeta por uma vida mais buc√≥lica, numa aldeia onde ela seja “a mo√ßa mais linda” e o ar seja perfumado de ervas e flores.
Este desejo, esta saudade duma vida sem ansiedade e sem problemas é, no entanto, pouco realista porque a vida numa aldeia tem as suas próprias ansiedades e nem todas as moças podem ser a mais linda. Mas isso não contraria a mensagem do poema nem a vontade que todos nós temos de afastar-nos da vida moderna.
O poema tem quatro versos: dois de quatro linhas e dois de tr√™s, e tanto quanto sei, este padr√£o √© muito comum na obra desta poeta. Usa imagens da natureza (o que √© pouco surpreendente neste caso!) e temas religiosos. Ali√°s, a religi√£o n√£o √© apenas um tema: a saudade da religi√£o faz parte da saudade da vida simples. √Č como se Deus n√£o tivesse poder nenhum na cidade e s√≥ soubesse tocar o cora√ß√£o de quem vive nalguma quinta.

Posted in English

O Verso Alcan√ßando o Infinito


So ages ago, I heard Jose Jorge Letria (a poet who wrote, among other things,”Era Uma Vez Um Cravo”) read a poem called O Dia Mundial da Poesia. I mean, I thought it was called that. I thought he’d written it for world poetry day and he’d called it that because it was about poetry itself, where it comes from and how it’s made. And I spent ages looking for a printed copy because I liked it so much even though my listening skills were terrible and I could only make out about one line in five.

The poem is born of an impulse [… Blah blah blah… ] from the sonorous temptation of a metaphor [… Something something…] Afterwards, it’s writing, the work of hands on the incandescent material of syllables [… Tum ti tum…] The poem is born, finally, from the illusion that there is something left that hasn’t been said [… Etc… ]

I couldn’t catch it all. But I got enough to know I wanted more but I couldn’t find it anywhere online or in any of his books.

Anyway, as you’ve probably gathered by now, it’s not called O Dia Mundial da Poesia at all; it’s called O Verso Alcan√ßando o Infinito. So that explains why I couldn’t find it. Anyway, now I know what to plug into Google, I’ve found another recording of it here…

And if you need the lyrics (I wish I’d had access to then five years ago!) they’re here. Well, some of them are. Another one for my project to learn poetry, I think!

Posted in English


One of the things I’ve been doing in my non-portuguese life is trying to learn poems. I had some idea that it would be nice to have more poetry in amongst the clutter of my brain, and also good mental exercise now that I’m well into middle age and finding myself forgetting stuff all the time. In the last couple of weeks I have memorised two. I can now recite Weathers by Thomas Hardy or The Subaltern’s Love Song by John Betjeman by heart. I like the Betjeman best; the rhythm of it is amazing, and it really conveys the sense of being giddy and excited and in love.

Anyway, I was thinking of doing “Mar Portugu√™s” by Fernando Pessoa next. It’s shorter but I’m expecting it to be harder in anotgher language. So I was really excited to see this video drop into my Youtube recommendations today. Mar Portugu√™s is the fifth of the five poems she reads. I have been subscribed to the channel for a while but not really following it closely but I can see I am going to have to keep a closer eye on it from now on, because I like this a lot!

Posted in Portuguese

A Poesia

Today’s text was corrected by the very kind Pistaxia. Notes at the bottom as usual

Por motivo nenhum* decidi h√° duas semanas que queria aprender algo novo. Al√©m dos assuntos t√©cnicos que ando a estudar para o meu desenvolvimento profissional, e al√©m do portugu√™s que ando a aprender (e que provavelmente continuarei at√© eu ser enterrado!) apetecia-me aprender um poema. Ali√°s mais do que um. Uma por semana at√©… At√© ficar sem vontade de ler.

Na semana passada, passei umas horas a memorizar “Weathers” (“Tempos”) do poeta ingl√™s Thomas Hardy, que fala das chuvas da Primavera e do Outono (Spoiler alert: ele prefere as da Primavera).

Filme colorizada do poeta Tom Hardy a ler o seu poema Weathers

Consegui, e j√° sou capaz de recitar o poema inteiro. Ora bem, isso n√£o √© assim t√£o impressionante. S√≥ tem 18 linhas. Esta semana estou a aprender um mais comprido: “The Subaltern’s Love Song” (a Can√ß√£o do Amor do… Hum… Oh! Do Subalterno. Devia ter adivinhado!). Depois penso em experimentar alguns portugueses, tal como “Mar Portugu√™s” de Fernando Pessoa.

Porque √© que decidi encher a minha cabe√ßa com¬† rimas? Porque os poemas fazem parte dos nossos “m√≥veis mentais” e eu conhe√ßo poucos.

*=oof, straight out of the gate with my first error. I wrote “sem motivo qualquer” (literally “without any reason”) but its better as “por motivo nenhum” (“through no reason at all”)

The rest of it wasn’t so bad or so interesting. Just errors of carelessness really.

Posted in English

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Homem

At work the other day, in an effort to make my tasks stand out better in the planning software, I decided to swap my default icon from the orange disc with LC on it to a picture. Usually I use a small picture of someone waving the Bandeira portuguesa* but I couldn’t find it so I opted for this instead.

Fernando Pessoa

So far, so whatever, but the next day when I was arriving at work, my email pinged and when I looked at the company email app, there was the six-year-old Fernando Pessoa looking at me, from the corner of the screen. As it turns out, the software is part of office suite and they’re all linked together, so the picture had become my official photograph on the intranet. I got rid of it later that day but a few people were curious as to what had happened.

I sort of miss it actually. It was the only black and white icon there which made it really easy to spot. One of those times when professionalism and efficiency are in opposition.

*I suppose I should really say “The Flag of the Portuguese Republic” since there are still monarchists who insist that the old royalist flag, a blue cross on a white background, is the real Portuguese flag.

Ou√ßa 9. The Flag de HIST√ďRIAS DE PORTUGAL de Saudade e Outras Coisas #np na #SoundCloud

Ou√ßa 9. A Bandeira de HIST√ďRIAS DE PORTUGAL de Saudade e Outras Coisas #np na #SoundCloud

Posted in Portuguese

√Č Tudo Uma Quest√£o de Tempo – Jos√© Jorge Letria

47586435_756354014698324_6635581299585187840_nMais uma tentativa de apreciar a poesia portuguesa… Gosto muito de Jos√© Jorge Letria desde ouvi um poema dele num podcast. Foi a primeira vez (e continua a ser quase a √ļnica vez!) que gostei de um poema portugu√™s. Lamento que ainda falte paci√™ncia para ler poesia em qualquer l√≠ngua, e o problema fica ainda pior quando tenho de alcan√ßar o dicion√°rio a cada 4 linhas! Mas de vez em quando uma luz penetra a escurid√£o da minha ignor√Ęncia e consigo ver a beleza da escrita. √Äs vezes reli os poemas mais de uma vez para aumentar a experi√™ncia.

Posted in English, Portuguese

Dia Mundial da Poesia

jose_letriaVerso Alcançando o Infinito РTradução

O poema nasce de um impulso,
The poem is born of an impulse
de uma febre, da tirania de uma miragem,
from a fever, from the tyranny of a mirage
da tentação sonora de uma metáfora,
from the sonorous temptation of a metaphor
do vazio que teme transformar-se em nada.
from the emptiness that fears becoming a void
Depois é a escrita, é o trabalho da mão
Then comes the writing, the work with the hand
sobre a matéria incandescente das sílabas.
on the incandescent material of syllables.
E, quando damos por nós, é de corpo inteiro
And when we discover ourselves, it’s the whole body
que estamos na fragilidade do poema
that we are in the fragility of the poem
como se tivéssemos ousado cavalgar numa nuvem
as if we had dared to ride on the back of a cloud
para desafiar todos os poderes do céu.
to challenge all the powers of heaven
Quem ousará explicar este sortilégio?
Who dares explain this sorcery?
Nem sequer os deuses, pois esses
Not even the gods, because they
nasceram da própria erupção do verbo,
were born in their own verbal eruption
da explos√£o da prece fingindo ser capaz
from the explosion of prayer that claims to be capable
de vencer o sofrimento e o assombro.
of conquering suffering and dread.
O poema nasce, afinal, da ilus√£o
The poem is born, after all, from the illusion
de que ainda resta algo para ser dito
that there still remains something to be said
e de que o silêncio é um cativeiro fugaz
and that silence is a brief captivity
em que as palavras se amotinam
in which the words rebel
para de novo voltarem a ser voz.
to return to being a voice again.

José Jorge Letria, O Livro Branco da Melancolia (2001)