Symphony of a Sleepless Night.



“The clock in the back of the deserted house (everyone’s sleeping) slowly lets the clear quadruple sound of four o’clock in the morning fall. I still haven’t fallen asleep, and I don’t expect to. There’s nothing on my mind to keep me from sleeping and no physical pain to prevent me from relaxing, but the dull silence of my strange body just lies there in the darkness, made even more desolate by the feeble moonlight of the street lamps. I’m so sleepy I can’t even think, so sleepless I can’t feel.

Everything around me is the naked, abstract universe, consisting of nocturnal negations. Divided between tired and restless, I succeed in touching – with the awareness of my body – a metaphysical knowledge of the mystery of things.

Sometimes my soul starts fading, and then the random details of daily life float on the surface of consciousness, and I find myself entering amounts while floundering in sleeplessness. At other times I wake up from the half-sleep I’d fallen into, and hazy images with poetical and unpredictable colours play out their silent show to my inattention. My eyes aren’t completely closed. My faint vision is fringed by a light from far away; it’s from the street lamps that border the deserted street down below.

 To cease, to sleep, to replace this intermittent consciousness with better, melancholy things, whispered in secret to someone who doesn’t know me!… To cease, to be the ebb and flow of a vast sea, fluidly skirting real shores, on a night in which one really sleeps!… To cease, to be unknown and external, a swaying of branches in distant rows of trees, a gentle falling of leaves, their sound noted more than their fall, the ocean spray of far off fountains, and all the uncertainty of parks at night, lost in endless tangles, natural labyrinths of darkness!…

To cease, to end at last, but surviving as something else: the page of a book, a tuft of disheveled hair, the quiver of the creeping plant next to a half-open window, the irrelevant footsteps in the gravel of the bend, the last smoke to rise from the village going to sleep, the wagoner’s whip left on the early morning roadside… Absurdity, confusion, oblivion – everything that isn’t life…

 In my own way I sleep, without slumber or repose, this vegetative life of imagining, and the distant reflection of the silent street lamps, like the quiet foam of a dirty sea, hovers behind my restless eyebrows.

I sleep and unsleep…”

—Excerpt taken from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet.


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