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Fernando Pessoa – Emperor Julian’s Last Winter In Antioch

Emperor Julian’s final campaign into Persia,

to confront the Sassanid forces, would prove his downfall.

Source: f.409v, ‘Commentaries of Gregory of Nazianzus’,

Byzantine, 879-883AD, BnF Grec 510.


🌿Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is an exciting rare glimpse into Fernando Pessoa‘s wooden trunk he left after his death, which contains a wealth of un-published material (25,574 manuscript (!) and typed pages which have been housed in the Portuguese National Library since 1988). The heavy burden of editing this huge work is still in progress. An online portal mirrors this herculean work at Arquivo Pessoa, notably by professor Teresa Rita Lopes. Included in this ‘Pessoan cornucopia‘, is this life-long project around the figure of Emperor Julian Pessoa felt empathy with, but left un-revised and un-published, ‘Emperor Julian’s last winter in Antioch‘🌿Skillfully edited from scattered fragments by Carlos Pittella (a travelling scholar from Brown University, Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies & Universidade de Lisboa, Centro de Estudos de Teatro), who writes in his 2017 monograph: ‘This dossier groups, for the first time, ten poems of Fernando Pessoa attributed to the project “Juliano em Antochia”: two of them being previously unpublished, two others not included in the critical edition, and four presenting new readings in the fixation of the text. Found in three different archives, the texts reveal that, between 1916 and 1919, Pessoa dramatized, in verse, a period in the life of Roman emperor Julian (Flavius Claudius Julianus), known as “the Apostate.” Pessoa was particularly interested in the stay of Julian in Antioch, in 362-­363 CE, soon before his death: trying to restore paganism, the emperor found himself isolated and misunderstood by his Christian people. This dossier includes an introduction, a critical apparatus and a series of appendices, among them: bio- bibliographical notes of Pessoa on Julian, marginalia from the poet’s private library, and records by Fernando Távora on the provenance of the document containing the last poem.‘🌿So, we have to bear in mind that this is a composite of texts written at different times under the same project umbrella by Pessoa. They were left un-revised and not refined and unified in one final document. So we can only feel what the fragments tell in their naked and abandoned state. It is still exciting to be able to share such an attempt by Pessoa, to visit a theme that lived with him through-out his whole life and makes Emperor Julian a kind of dark and doomed twin-brother. We, at Via-HYGEIA, would like to express our gratitude to J. P. F. for accepting the difficult task to translate in English these orphaned fragments, hence offering us an overview of Julian’s last winter-as imagined by Fernando Pessoa🌿


Fragment of a sarcophagus with a Julian philosopher figure, c. 250. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number 18.108.



‘The poem symbolizes the elevated soul that, in a time of decadence, futilely struggles, fruitlessly seeks to hinder corruption and general degeneracy. The theme (which should encompass, besides this central point, other ancillary points) is Julian’s stay in the Christian and corrupt city of Antioch, and it chooses as its foundation a moment when the Emperor keenly feels the moral difference between himself and those around him and the difference in strength between his isolated personality and the entire decaying structure of the society that surrounds him and that he “governs.” In the treatment of the theme, the end of Juliano should be hinted at.’ Fernando Pessoa.

O poema simboliza a alma elevada que, num tempo de decadência, luta inutilmente, procura infrutiferamente entravar a corrupção e a degenerescência gerais. O tema (que deve envolver, à parte este ponto central, outros pontos acessórios) é a estada de Juliano na cidade cristã e corrupta de Antiochia, e escolhe para base um momento em que o Imperador sente bem a diferença moral entre si e os que o cercam e a diferença de força entre a sua personalidade isolada e a inteira estrutura decadente da sociedade que o cerca e que ele «governa». No tratamento do tema deve vir penumbrado o fim de Juliano.Fernando Pessoa.


‘Emperor Julian’s last winter in Antioch’

A Poem Cycle in X parts


I-circa. 3-­6-­1916

O Julian-that some call the Apostate –
What kind of bond binds me to who you were,
Emperor sombre and calm, who
In us both is the same someone?
For I feel your touch on my arm
In my life your death.
Who were you, who today knows me so well
That I was you. Why do I remember
Your serious countenance, your august command,
Your calm and the just bearing of your soul,
As the May to June sterile weeping
When is it December?
Emperor, accepted by the people
Of your empire, in prisons of you desire,
bent over the books,
I want to raise again the dead gods.


Original Portuguese

1. [BNP/E3, 42-­‐‑26r]-circa. 3-­6-­1916

Ó Juliano Apostata, que laço
É esse que me prende a quem tu foste,
Imperador sombrio e calmo, quem
É que em nós ambos é o mesmo alguem?

Porque sinto eu teu gesto no meu braço
Na minha vida tua morte.
Quem foste tu, que hoje me sabes tanto
A eu ter sido tu. Porque é que lembro
Teu vulto serio, o mando teu augusto,
Teu porte de alma, calmo e – e justo,
Como o por Maio a Junho steril pranto
Quando é Dezembro?
Imperador acceite pelas gentes
Do teu Imperio em prisões de te qu’rer,
Sobrio, vergado sobre os livros,
Agora, renascido,
Quero outra vez erguer os deuses mortos.


II-circa. 3-­6-­1916

I close mine eyes, I meditate
And, if I invoke, I live anew
In a moment, my being is infinite
In the time between me and what I was
I then stagnate, and my dead and fearful being
A vast river through me flows.


Original Portuguese

2. [BNP/E3, 42-­‐‑26r]-circa. 3-­6-­1916

Fecho os olhos, medito
E, se invoco, revivo.
Um momento meu ser é infinito
No intervallo entre mim e o que fui
Depois estagno, e o meu ser morto e esquivo
Rio vasto por mim flue.


III-circa 3-­6-­1916

At the empire’s twilight,
I Julian the Apostate ordered
That the temples of my Gods be re-erected.
It was not my time.
It was your era, O Christ.


Original Portuguese

3. [BNP/E3, 42-­‐‑26v]-circa 3-­6-­1916

No crepusculo do Imperio,
Eu, Julião o Apostata, mandei
Os templos dos meus Deuses reerguer.
Não era minha a Hora.
Tua era, ó Christo, e.



At times, when I go forth divided and uncertain
Through my confused being
I seek to see, feel, to read without eyes
Dawning in my consciousness
that I’m the reincarnation of a previous human presence.

Thus, in the eyes of what I dream while beholding
My own form, another rises and I know
That I was in a great sunset of people
Between dreams among confluent souls
Someone with gesture and command,
Emperor or king.

Sad, deeply sad, calm
Yes, calm as death, I wished to do
Not knowing which land would live anew
A beautiful dead cult, an uncertain harvest.


Original Portuguese

4. [BNP/E3, 42-­‐‑26v]3-­6-1916

Ás vezes, quando scismo, e incerto vou
Atravez do meu ser em confusão
Procuro vêr, sentir, sem olhos lêr
Na minha consciencia a alvorecer
De que anterior Presença humana sou
A reincarnação.
Então, aos olhos com que sonho olhando,
Meu proprio vulto outro se ergue, e eu sei
Que fui, num grande occaso de – gentes
Entre sonhos nas almas confluentes
Alguem com gesto e mando,
Imperador ou rei.
Triste, profundamente triste, calmo
Sim, calmo como a morte, eu quiz fazer
Com que em não sei que terra revivesse
Um bello culto morto, a incerta messe.



In an azure afternoon moves the Christian hymn
With sold kisses
Little by little Cesar descends
Decayed steps
The temple was ruined, and Christ finally triumphed
The land is thus a God.


Original Portuguese

5. [BNP/E3, 42-­‐‑47r]-23-­11-­1918

No azul da tarde o hymno christão se mexe
Com os beijos vendidos
Pouco a pouco – o Cesar desce
Os degraus denegridos…
O templo ruiu e Christo emfim venceu
A terra é um Logo-­Deus.



To act, knowing
That action is vile, and the effort is for naught
Urging forward for duty’s sake, but seeing
That there is no road.
Re-erecting altars and dead temples
To the Gods, without forgetting
That the souls are now Christ’s, and there are other

Futile efforts done for duty’s sake
And an unacceptable love for truth
Stoic temerity in having to be.

You have vanquished, O Galilean. But nothing proves
The truth of your triumph
Ever is the world renewing itself
One day is the day of evil.

Woe unto those who are born in absurd duty
To conquer the moribund through death
To speak to a deaf empire
And to give the world strange laws
When the corruptible body does not know
For health’s sake if not the good that sickens
And what is natural repels, for it is not
In its nature, for power has power to ensure that

At least, my doomed effort
At the exile of success, Fate
Renaissance may come upon a better
Time, more benign to the old gods.

So spake with the voice I bring today
One thousand and a half years ago the Emperor
If I should rise and gaze at my soul, with the gaze
With which I behold myself.

And my life’s meaning
Is an ancient, re-erected statue
From the bottom of a lake.

Gardens are filled with the shadows of other gods.
What use is it to not believe in them, if they came?
And if the gods, in us who are dead
Took what was theirs to the abyss
Love for life which they gave us
Today only love is loving.

The sun only shines on hermits’ houses
What does it matter if one doesn’t want the hermitage?
What newly came fills the contrite
Souls, and the very dream is of Christ
You cry? Why do you mourn life’s
past glories?

Garlands are woven for dead love,
Not only poppies or clear flowers.
Violets are sought, and in the abandoned garden
See if you can pick gloom’s flowers –
Unscented flowers like these loves
Flowers, like these hedges, bereft of beauty.

And when, composed of garlands
Only left to give it its purpose, and a purpose to kisses
With slow hands, undo it
Penelope left without a husband
Undo it as you do wishes
When attaining them.

And thus, in the useless work you make
Not even for the fields, the flowers
Which you cautiously place in garlands
And carelessly keep placing,
Keep living, dreaming of such loves
For in my dream of you I’ll keep weaving.

And one day, whether it’s the gods’ or the Beyond’s
That into other bodies the new soul returns
In what pain our consciousness has
If between other gardens.

Perhaps strangers to one another we
May cross each other on the path and for but a moment
Gazing at each other, there may come a sudden, swift
And authentic fright and fear
An emotion in our thought
A secret’s occult truth

And could that nothing be love at last
For which this dead garland is made;
And one and the other, weighing ourselves in the soul
We ask: what was there now within me?
But we already ceased….


Original Portuguese

6. [BNP/E3, 43-­‐‑47 e 43-­‐‑48]-22-­‐‑5-­‐‑1919

Agir, sabendo
Que a acção é vil e o exforço nada.
Ir para a frente por dever, mas vendo
Que não ha strada.
Tornar a pôr altares, templos mortos
Aos deuses reerguer, sem ignorar
Que as almas são de Christo já, e ha outros
Homens –
O exforço inutil feito por dever
E o amor á verdade inacceitavel,
A teimosia stoica em dever ser

Venceste, Galileu. Mas nada prova
Da verdade de tu teres vencido.
Constantemente o mundo se renova
Um dia é o dia do mal .

Ai de quem nasce no dever absurdo
De conquistar á morte um moribundo,
De fallar – a um imperio surdo
E dar ao mundo leis stranhas ao mundo
Quando o corrupto corpo não conhece
Por saude senão o bem que adoece
E o natural repugna porque não
Lhe é natural, por – a razão,
Que força tem a força para –

Que ao menos ao meu exforço condemnado
Ao exilio do exito, o Destino
Renascimento dê num melhorado
Tempo aos antigos deuses mais benigno.
Assim fallou com a voz que hoje trago
Ha mil annos e meio o Imperador.
Se ergo de olhar para a minha alma o olhar
Com que commigo encaro e –
E o sentido da minha vida
É uma statua antiga reerguida
Do fundo de um lago –
A sombra de outros deuses enche os hortos.
Que vale não crer n’elles, se elles vieram?
E se os deuses, em nós mortos,
Levaram para o abysmo o que era seu –
O amor á vida, que – nos deram
Hoje só o amor a amar .
Bate o sol só em casas de eremitas.
Que importa não querer o ermiterio?
O que de novo veiu enche as contritas
Almas, e o proprio sonho é já de Christo.
Choras? Para que choras as avitas
Glorias da vida.

Grinaldas tece para o amor que é morto

Nem só papoulas põe ou claras flores.
Violetas busca; e no deixado horto
Vê se colhes as flores da tristeza –
Flor’s sem perfume como estes amores,
Flores, como estas sebes, sem belleza.
E quando, de grinalda já composta
Só restar dar-­lhe o uso e ao uso os beijos,
Com lentas mãos desfal‑a –
Penelope sahira sem marido
Desfal-­‐‑a como aos – desejos
Quando realizal-­os –
E assim na inutil obra em que compões
Sem mesmo ser para os campos, as flores
Que com cuidado nas grinaldas pões
E sem cuidado continuas pondo,
Vae vivendo a sonhar esses amores
Que em meu sonho de ti eu vou compondo;
E um dia, se é dos deuses, ou de além,
Que em outros corpos volta a nova alma
Em que esta dôr nossa consciencia tem,
Se entre outros hortos –
Talvez que extranhos um ao outro nós
Cruzemos no caminho e um só momento
Olhando-­nos, venha um subito e veloz
E autentico assombro e – medo
Uma emoção no nosso pensamento
Uma occulta verdade do segredo.
E será esse nada o amor emfim
Por que esta grinalda morta é feita;
E um e outro, pesando-­‐‑nos na alma,
Perguntamos: que houve agora em mim?
Mas já parámos…


VII-1919 (?)

Who reigns farthest but gestures?
Who can command more than Fate?
Mithras, my father.

Useless regent of a defunct empire,
Corpse bearer over me
My will dies in the vicinity
Of my soul, with no equal soul
My decrees are water, just as a
Man can only cast it
Onto a country’s fire. None
Saves what cannot be saved within themselves
My voice does not fall on any soul
My work is for naught and ordinary
I lead my effort through calamities.


Original Portuguese

7. [BNP/E3, 43-13r]-1919 (?)

Quem governa mais longe que só os gestos?
Quem pode mandar mais do que o Destino?
Mithras, meu pae –
Regente inutil de um imperio extincto,
Portador de um cadaver sobre mim,
Minha vontade morre no precincto
Da minh’alma, sem alma alguma affim.
Meus decretos são agua tal qual um
Homem só a consegue arremessar
Sobre o incendio de um paiz. Nenhum
Salva o que a si se não pode salvar.
Minha voz em nenhuma alma calha,
Meu trabalho por nada e vil trabalha,
Passeio o exforço meu entre desastres.


VIII- c. 1919 (?)

“But ah, that one so vile and miserly
Stranger to virtue and intelligence
May thus put to lowly disarray
The edifice of our science!

I study you and hate with disdain and anguish
Plebeian of the sexes, devoid of modesty and science
Unstable and mutable like water
Incapable of justice and conscience
Worthless in affection and dedication
And in goodness too, accursed angel

You exploit, mocking everything
And if you fool yourself when you lie
You don’t fool as (lacuna)

Ah, against a soul that learned,
In uncertain fate and the ill coarseness of life
To have a firm (lacuna)

Let your nets be worth as much,
As your own suspected charm

For knowing you is worthless,
Despising you is as naught, as is seeing you
You cause to like you those who do not wish to do so,
Whosoever sees the thorns on your rosy road
Doesn’t in the least follow the road he sees
A being of perdition, forgetting it on account of seeing you

What weakness if being strong is strength
What strength, if being strong is weakness
Enslaves our feet

We can despise you and not even want to
Use the gestures with which we despise

Vain madness is it to seek to resist you
Futile power not wishing to be your servant
Without strength or art you succeed
And every streak in every one of our nerves
Clamors against reason’s rule
If the mere arm feels your hand

Against Venus Minerva build not
Armours that last longer than a kiss
Does not Jove have justice that subdues
Then insolent rebellion of desire
If your mouth speaks, it silences all
In us knowing what in us hears your speech

Between the book, wherein science is read, and the mind
The image is interposed through your affection
Eternally on the road to Olympus
Your shade arises, Circe, from the path.
Between us and the ambition that seeks to upraise us
Your tender human eyes long.

And with your tender embrace, yet dreamed.
The soul weakens, science is cold and hurts.

Not having all your favour utterly destroys.
All, save reason, in us desires you.
Everything, except…

Perennial weight of matter within us,
Eternal symbol of imperfect life
Which, taken is evil, and not having been takenis atrocious,
You hurt, whether possessed (owned) or not
Which, if the body has you, the mind falls ill
If it doesn’t, suffers as a result

What superhuman strength is needed
To firmly and constantly reject you,


If you love me, do not love me. Leave alone
Those who want but glory and immortal life
Seek whomever wants you, having pity
What evil did I do to you that you love me,
What hatred have you for my life to love me
And the night that awaits you
And the dawn, brief spring.


Original Portuguese

8. [BNP/E3, 44-­‐‑5 e 44-­‐‑6r]-c. 1919 (?)

Mas ah que um ente vil e tão mesquinho,
Extrangeiro á virtude e á intelligencia,
Assim ponha em submisso desalinho
O edificio – da nossa sciencia!
Studo-­te e odeio com desprezo e magua.
Plebe dos sexos, sem pudor nem sciencia,
Instavel e amoldavel como a agua,
Incapaz de justiça e de consciencia.
Vil no proprio carinho dedicado,
E na propria bondade anjo malvado.
Tu aproveitas, tudo ao goso chamas.
E se a ti mesmo enganas quando mentes,
Não tanto enganas que –
Ah que contra uma alma que aprendeu
Na incerta sorte e rudez má da vida
A ter a firme.

Possam as tuas redes valer tanto,
Tanto o teu proprio suspeitado encanto.
Porque de nada vale conhecer-­‐‑te,
De nada desprezar-­te e ver-­te nada.
Fazes querer-­‐‑te a quem não quer querer-­te,
Quem vê os spinhos na tua rosea strada
Não menos segue a strada que vê ser
Da perdição, esquecendo-­‐‑a por te ver.
Que fraqueza se é força sermos fortes,
Que força, se ser fortes é fraqueza,
Nos dá scravos aos pés –
Podemos desprezar-­te e nem queremos
Fazer os gestos com que desprezamos.
Van loucura buscar te resistir!
Inutil força querer não ser teu servo!
Sem força ou arte sabes conseguir.
E cada stria em nós de cada nervo
Clama contra o dominio da razão
Se o mero braço sente a tua mão.
Contra Venus Minerva não construe
Armaduras que durem mais que um beijo.
Não tem Jove justiça que subdue
A revolta insolente do desejo.
Se a tua bocca falla, tudo cala
Em nós saber o que em nós te ouve a falla.
Entre o livro, onde a sciencia é lida, e a mente
A imagem se interpõe do teu carinho.
Na ‘strada para o Olimpo eternamente,
Teu vulto surge, Circe do caminho.
Entre nós e a ambição que quer erguer-­nos
Anseiam teus humanos olhos ternos.
E com teu meigo amplexo, inda sonhado,
A alma fraqueja, a sciencia é fria e doe.

Não te ter todo o agrado e bem destroe.
Tudo, salvo a razão, em nós te quer.
Tudo, a não ser –
Perenne peso da matéria em nós,
Symbolo eterno da imperfeita vida,
Que, havido é o mal, e não havido é atroz,
Que tanto does tida como não tida,
Que se o corpo te tem, a mente adoece,
Se te não tem, de te não ter padece.
Que força sobrehumana é que é precisa
Para, firme e constante, rejeitar-­te,

Se me amas, não me ames. Deixa só
Quem não quer mais que a gloria e a immortal vida
Busca quem possa qu’rer-­te, tendo dó
Que mal te fiz para que tu me ames,
Que odio me tens á vida para amar-­me

E a noite que nos – e nos spera –
E a madrugada, breve primavera.


IX-circa 1919 (?)

It brought silence, subservient to unknown fate
Throughout all of Antioch,
At dusk where forms accumulate
In a mingled murmur of wail and hymn
Orgies and orisons back and forth
So has always been, and ever shall be, man.


Original Portuguese

9. [EMN, sem cota]c. 1919 (?)

Calou, submisso ao incognito destino
Por toda Antiochia,
No escurecer onde se as fórmas somem,
Num mixto murmuro de pranto e de hymno,
Revezavam-­se as preces e a orgia.
Assim foi sempre, e será sempre, o homem.


X- 1919 (?)

And the purpose ever delayed
Vain urge ever divided


All that rot is the future…
(The Orgiastic murmur, vague and impure.
In that rot is the future)

Of a whole era of living people
That remains in the memory of ages
In the inherited memory?
A million men? Of souls, a million?
No: an ode….a song…
A page filled with anxieties…
Just one fleeting melody.

Those who loved, flourished and suffered
Gave the earth the living nothing that they were.
Those who reigned and waged war
The haughty nothing that they lived, they gave
To that same changed and renewed earth.

But from the forgotten scribe the manuscript
In the faraway tomorrow of other times,
Unfolds itself, abased, and ritually reads,
But from the poet whom none beheld
All behold the severe pages.
What remains is what remained.


Original Portuguese

10. [CFT, sem cota]c. 1919 (?)

E o proposito addiado sempre,
A vã vontade sempre dividida…

Toda essa podridão é o futuro…
(O orgiaco murmurio vago e impuro.
É nessa podridão que stá o futuro…)
De toda uma epocha de gente viva
Que fica na memoria das edades,
Na herdada retentiva?
Um milhão de homens? De almas um milhão?
Não: uma ode…, uma canção…
Uma pagina cheia de ansiedades…
Uma só melodia esquiva…
Os que amaram, fruiram e soffreram,
Deram á terra o nada vivo que eram.
Os que reinaram e fizeram guerra
O nada altivo que viveram deram
Á mesma muda e renovada terra.
Só do esquecido scriba o manuscripto,
No amanhã longinquo d’outras eras,
Se desdobra submisso, e lê com rito,
Só do poeta que ninguem olhou
Todos olham as paginas severas.
Foi o que fica o que ficou.

O FiM🌿The End

Fernando Pessoa & Emperor Julian.



Carlos Pittella’s

2017 monograph

Fernando Pessoa’s trunk of writings.


About the translator

J. P. F. (b. 1982) is the Praemonstrator of the Horus-Hathor temple (Order of the Golden Dawn) in Montreal, Canada. He also heads the Canadian lodge of the Hermetic Federation, an order that explores Greco-Egyptian magic. He has written for the Journal of the Western Mystery tradition, the Hermetic Tablet, The Light Extended, Conjure Codex, and A Silver Sun and Inky Clouds: A Devotional for Djehuty and Set.

He began his esoteric journey at the age of 13 after stumbling across the occult section of his local library. He remained a solitary practitioner until the age of 22 when he was initiated into the Golden Dawn, subsequently making forays into other fields, such as Hoodoo & Martinism. His current practices & research revolve around the Golden Dawn, the Greek Magical Papyri, and Jewish mysticism.


About Emperor Julian:🌿More about Fernando Pessoa:🌿The ‘Pessoa Archiva’ Project with some of the Julian fragments:🌿Another great online ressource:🌿Carlos Pittella’s website:🌿J. P. F. translations and scholarly works can be found here:ãoFeliciano
Fernando Pessoa – Emperor Julian’s Last Winter In Antioch

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