Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Some poems by Ruy Belo

Ruy Belo (1933-1978) was a Portuguese essayist, translator (of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Blaise Cendrars, Raymond Aron, Montesquieu, Jorge Luís Borges, and Federico García Lorca), editor, teacher and poet. His brief poetic career, nowadays collected in three volumes, or about 800 pages, left a mark and nowadays he’s considered a major figure of the second half of 20th Portuguese poetry.

I don’t know much about him besides this. I’ve been leafing through his collections and reading his poets in a rather careless way, but I’ve liked what I’ve read so far. Belo had a thickness to his language that appeals to me, and some of his verses are hard to understand let alone translate. I figured you’d like to read a few:


Lo she comes plenteous numerous chosen
secret full of thoughts devoid of cares
She comes sitting in the new spring
surrounded by smiles on her bosom lilies
eyes made of shade wind and moment
oblivious to these days that I can never
Time bites on her face laughter’s roots
beyond her it begins to be faraway
The beloved is good childhood come see me
There are ancient birds in the limpid paths
and deaths as before never more
Lo since she stretches wide like a fatherland
on the threshold of our indifference
Our halls are for her solitary feet
We have all forgotten our parent’s houses
she fills with days our empty hands
Pain is in her until god begins
in her the heel of love I do feel
What does it matter us being of a single morning and around us
No tree exiting more wind-whipped?
What does it matter us leaving on a collapse of sunsets?
Sadder even the life where others will pass through
multiplying it its absence what does it matter
if where we put our feet it’s spring?


I know that you wait for me by the mouth
of the round day upon you like a desire
and that when all the landscape is pointless
you’ll protect me with your rain of lines

And yet appareled with ideas of circumstance
perhaps I’ll look at myself on other mirrors and admit
concepts aerated like rugs forgetting
that you continue to climb up from the sepulcher of my days
like the first dew that the lady
happy for having the possibility of being seen outside
receives on her face on opening the window

But if tomorrow you look at me your look will rise
clouds of centuries upon my path of dust
Leaves at least are as natural as words
and the radical tree where they immolated you had been
although wrought vegetable and green


We are the great island of God’s silence
Whether seasons rain winds blow
they shall never get beyond the riverbanks
Let even a boot fall upon
the great redoubt of God and it won’t succeed
in erasing the primitive footprint
This is the great humility the small
And poor greatness of man


I sing the solar man who steps on the snow
The word confirms itself in silence
metaphors go up metaphors go down
Man is desire and not work
that is in fact one of his definitions
all earthly paradises are based on the present
but on killing death they kill pleasure
What have I done with my youth?
he asks saddened once finished the sortilege
that him to isolde the blonde and of the bright face
I sing that ago that time today impossible to us
when rivalen marc’s subject
with the furor of cornish lovers
fell in love by blanchefleur marc’s sister
and thus started a tale of love and death
Isolde loved tristan with mad love
and heard his singing the way the nightingale
alone sings when summer ends
Both sheltered in the woods of morois
they see the warm season arrived a third time
as beautiful and immobile like statues but
marc tristan’s naïve uncle
instead of reality saw appearances and
how much torture love must have caused
Man’s only happy time must have been the neolithic
when the moment triumphed upon the future
He who later devoted himself to edifying tomorrow’s house
was victim of the present time’s portrait

This poem, by the way, goes on for another 15 pages; Belo liked his poems lengthy and wordy, with long verses. He got himself cured of that vice with age, as one of his poems towards the end of his life attests:


In the past I wrote long poems
Nowadays I have four words to make a poem
They are: listlessness prostration desolation letdown
And I almost forgot one: quitting
It occurred to me before the closing of a poem
and in part sums up what I think of life
after the eight day of each month
Of these five words I surround myself
and from them comes the necessary music
to continue. To reiterate this:
quitting listlessness prostration desolation letdown
In the past when the gods were grand
I always had at hand many verses
Nowadays I just have five words five small pebbles

However his short poems contain some of my favourite ones, like this one:


He walked around the days’ mirrors
his clandestine joys
which were no sooner reflected than gone.

And this one:


All the poets gazed upon death
and later got together in a laughing assembly
to forget who they were
But death was the only way out

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