Message
 
 
by Fernando Pessoa
 
.
  with illustrations by Carlos Alberto Santos
 
, and commentaries by João Manuel Mimoso
  .
  - About "Mensagem" (Message)
  .
 

Message is a Poem made up of 44 short poems which, in a most unusual approach, are unified by the table of contents.

The Poem is thus organized in three Parts or Cycles, the first of which, called "Brasão" (Coat-of-Arms) relates a specific poem to each of the fields and charges figuring in a XV Century Portuguese coat-of-arms. The first two poems ("The field of the castles" and "The field of the escutcheons") draw inspiration from the material and spiritual natures of Portugal. Each of the remaining 17 poems that make up "Brasão" associates to each charge a personality that in some way contributed to the establishment of Portugal as an independent nation or to its overseas expansion, or else became a martyr because of it. Ultimately they all lead to the great Age of Portuguese Exploration and to its sea-borne Empire.

The second Part, called "Mar Português" (Portuguese Sea) refers the country's Golden Age of maritime supremacy in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans that ended abruptly with the death of King Sebastian at El-Ksar el-Kebir (in 1578). The tenth poem of this Cycle, after which this part of Message is named, sums up the cost of conquering the seas in terms of human suffering and asks "Was it worthwhile?". The eleventh poem ("The last galleon") starts with King Sebastian leaving in the last galleon to an unknown fate (his death on the battleground of El-Ksar-el-Kebir was never confirmed)- maybe his ship set course to an unknown island, like King Arthur heading for Avalon... Then, in the second part of this poem, Pessoa brings the reader abruptly to the time of his writing, as if he had woken up from a dream of the past, only to fall immediately in a dream of the future: he now sees King Sebastian returning and still bent on accomplishing an Universal Empire. The twelfth and last poem of the Cycle has Pessoa appealing to God and asking him to bring back the old spirit of Portugal.

The third Cycle, called "O Encoberto" ("The Hidden One"), is the most original and disturbing part of Message. It refers to Pessoa's vision of a future world of peace and understanding, the Fifth Empire, which will come about through a Portuguese of mystical origin to which he refers by a number of names including "The Hidden One", "The King" or "King Sebastian". The Hidden One represents the fulfillment of the destiny of mankind, designed by God since before Time, and, at the same time, the accomplishment of Portugal which, in Pessoa's vision is the Chosen Nation, the one that will bear the New Messiah and lead the way towards the Fifth Empire.

  .
 

My page is not intended as a source on Fernando Pessoa or Mensagem for English-speakers: so much is lost in the translation of his rhymed poetry that the final result is indeed a sorry tribute to his genius. This page is solely intended to entice the students of Portuguese who may, through it, be tempted to have a go at Mensagem. Pessoa's vocabulary is relatively simple and the beauty of his architecture of words is beyond description and definitely well-worth the effort. The English translations I offer (after reading Prof. Harland's versions) are intended as an extra incentive for students to read the originals which I have individually explained in Portuguese.

When originally published in 1934, Mensagem was not written in standard Portuguese but rather in the orthography used before the First World War. Because this was the poet's own choice, it had to be maintained to preserve the original mood. If you are looking for words in a dictionary and cannot find them, you may want to review the poem in Modern Portuguese here.

  - Read an Introduction to the First Cycle of Mensagem: "Coat-of-Arms"
  .
 

The links below list the poems presently available in English. Elsewhere in the same pages you will find the original poem in Portuguese, illustrated by Carlos Alberto Santos and annotated by me.

-COAT-OF-ARMS: I- THE FIELDS

- First- THE FIELD OF THE CASTLES commented

- Second- THE FIELD OF THE ESCUTCHEONS commented

-COAT-OF-ARMS: II- THE CASTLES

- First- ULYSSES commented

- Second- VIRIATHUS commented

- Third- COUNT HENRY OF PORTUGAL commented

- Fourth- COUNTESS TERESA commented

- Fifth- KING AFONSO HENRIQUES commented

- Sixth- KING DINIS commented

- Seventh (I)- KING JOAO THE FIRST

- Seventh (II)- QUEEN PHILIPPA OF LANCASTER

-COAT-OF-ARMS: III- THE ESCUTCHEONS

- First- EDWARD, KING OF PORTUGAL

- Second- FERNANDO, INFANTE OF PORTUGAL commented

- Third- PEDRO, REGENT DE PORTUGAL

- Fourth- JOAO, INFANTE OF PORTUGAL

- Fifth- SEBASTIAN, KING OF PORTUGAL commented

-COAT-OF-ARMS: IV- THE CROWN

- NUNO ALVARES PEREIRA

-COAT-OF-ARMS: V- THE CREST

- The head of the griffin- PRINCE HENRY THE NAVIGATOR commented

- One of the wings of the griffin- KING JOAO THE SECOND commented

- The other wing of the griffin- AFONSO DE ALBUQUERQUE commented

-PORTUGUESE SEA

- PRINCE HENRY commented

- HORIZON commented

- PADRAO commented

- THE BOGEY-BEAST commented

- DIAS' EPITAPH commented

- THE COLUMBUS

- THE OCCIDENT

- MAGELLAN commented

- ASCENSION OF DA GAMA commented

- PORTUGUESE SEA commented

- THE LAST GALLEON commented

- PRAYER commented

-THE HIDDEN ONE: I- THE SYMBOLS

- First- KING SEBASTIAN commented

- Second- THE FIFTH EMPIRE commented

- Third- THE YEARNED-FOR commented

- Fourth- THE FORTUNATE ISLES

- Fifth- THE HIDDEN-ONE

-THE HIDDEN ONE: II- THE WARNINGS

- First- BANDARRA

- Second- FATHER ANTONIO VIEIRA commented

- THIRD commented

-THE HIDDEN ONE: III- THE TIMES

- First- NIGHT

- Second- STORM commented

- Third- CALMNESS

- Fourth- BEFORE DAWN commented

- Fifth- MIST commented

  .
   
 
Joao Manuel Mimoso (2004-01-24)
  Go to the Portuguese Table of Contents of Mensagem...
 
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