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Fernando Pessoa-The Ancient Rhythmic Stomping Of Bare Feet

‘ Apollo and the Muses’, Baldassare Tommaso Peruzzi (7 March 1481 – 6 January 1536), an Italian architect and painter. From the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre Collection. UK.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a poem from Fernando Pessoa, here via his heteronym, Ricardo Reis. We share two versions of the same poem. Fernando Pessoa writes about the genesis of his ‘heteronym’: “Around 1912, if I’m not mistaken (not greatly anyway), the idea came to me to write poems of a pagan nature. So I scribbled something down in irregular verse (different to the style of Álvaro de Campos, more irregular), and abandoned the idea. It was a badly woven twilight, a blurred portrait of the person who was composing it. (I hadn’t realized it yet, but that was when Ricardo Reis was born).

Source: Pessoa at Wikimedia Commons

Fernando Pessoa writes in his letter dated Janeiro 13th 1935 to Adolfo Casais Monteiro, that Ricardo Reis was born in 1887 (although he couldn’t recall the exact date), in Oporto. He describes him as shorter, stronger and stiffer than Caeiro, besides being clean shaven. He had had a Jesuit school education, was a doctor and had lived in Brazil since 1919, from where he had been self-expatriated for being a supporter of the monarchy. He had Latin and semi-Hellenic instruction. Fernando Pessoa admits he conferred to this heteronym and excessive purity and writing as Ricardo Reis mentions he “followed an abstract deliberation which immediately took the shape of an ode“.

Source: Fernando Pessoa’s Letter to Adolfo Casais Monteiro, January 13th 1935, in Correspondência 1923-1935, ed. Manuela Parreira da Silva, Lisbon Assírio & Alvim, 1999.


Version I

English Translation

by Alessandro Palermo Funari

The ancient rhythmic stomping of bare feet,
This repetitive rhythm of the nymphs,
…………When canopied by trees
…………They beat the sound of dance,
Ye upon the white strand shall remember
How befoul’d the foam’s become; Ye, children,
…………Still dispossessed of cure
…………Of having cure, restore
The roaring wheel, while Apollo arches,
As a high bough, the gildening blue curve,
…………And the eternal tide
…………Flows, flooding or ebbing.


Version I

Another Alternative English Translation

By Dr. Joseph V. Williams II

Remember, with quick steps, on the white beach
Darkened by the foam, the ancient rhythm
That bare feet know,
That rhythm repeated
By nymphs when they tap the sound of the dance
In the shade of the trees; you, children
Not yet concerned
With concerns, revive
That noisy circle while Apollo bends,
Like a high branch, the blue curve he gilds,
And the tide, high or low,
Flows without ceasing.


Version I

Original Portuguese

O ritmo antigo que há em pés descalços,

Esse ritmo das ninfas repetido,

Quando sob o arvoredo

Batem o som da dança,

Vós na alva praia relembrai, fazendo,

Que ‘scura a ‘spuma deixa; vós, infantes,

Que inda não tendes cura

De ter cura, responde

Ruidosa a roda, enquanto arqueia Apolo,

Como um ramo alto, a curva azul que doura,

E a perene maré

Flui, enchente ou vazante.


Version II

Original Portuguese

O ritmo antigo que há nos pés descalços

Esse ritmo das ninfas copiado

Quando sob arvoredos

Batem o som da dança —

Pelas praias às vezes, quando brincam

Ante onde a Apolo se Neptuno alia

As crianças maiores,

Têm semelhanças breves

Com versos já longínquos em que Horácio

Ou mais clássicos gregos aceitavam

A vida por dos deuses

Sem mais preces que a vida.

Por isso à beira deste mar, donzelas,

Conduzi vossa dança ao som de risos

Soberbamente antigas

Pelos pés nus e a dança

Enquanto sobre vós arqueia Apolo

Como um ramo alto o azul e a luz da hora

E há o rito primitivo

Do mar lavando as costas.



Version II

French Translation

By Patrick Quillier

Le rythme antique aux pieds nus accordé,

Ce rythme-là des nymphes copié

Lorsque sous la ramée

Les sons de la danse elles frappent-

Tout au long des plages parfois, quand elle joue

Devant ces lieux où Apollon à Neptume se lie,

L’enfance la plus grande

A quelques brèves ressemblances

Avec des vers lointains dejà où notre Horace

Et d’autres,  Grecs classiques, acceptaient

La vie comme don des Dieux

Sans nulle autre prière que la vie.

Lors sur le rivage de cette mer, mignonnes,

Conduisez votre dance au son des rires,

Grecques superbement

Par vos pieds nus et par la dance.

Alors qu’Apollon sur vous fait ployer,

Telle une branche haute, l’azur et la lumière de l’heure,

Et que le rite primitif

De la mer lavant les côtes procède.


Version II

English Translation


The antic rhythm of bare feet stomping,
This very rhythm borrowed from the nymphs,
When under the canopy
The sounds of the danse they beat-

A greater childlike innocence
Sometimes manifests
Upon the shores by the places
Where Apollo and Neptune meet,
Bearing some similitude with ancient rimes,
In which our Horace and others, classical Greeks,
Consent Life as a gift of the Gods,
without any other prayer
Than a life properly lived.

Then, upon this strand, gracious Muses,
Lead your dance to the sound of laughter
Truly Greek and superb
By your bear feet
And the dance!

As Apollo makes you bend,
Like a high branch, the azure and the light of the hour,
May the primal rite of the sea
Proceed and wash the shores.

‘Four Dancing Muses’, engraving by Gian Marco Cavalli with Andrea Mantegna (School of Mantegna) , ca. 1497. New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection,”.



Sources: 🌿 🌿Portuguese Version I:🌿Portuguese Version II🌿 About Pessoa and his heteronyms: 🌿 About Fernando Pessoa:
Fernando Pessoa-The Ancient Rhythmic Stomping Of Bare Feet

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