Fernando Pessoa on “Reading The Classics”

(there’s not a passage of Chateaubriand or a canto of Lamartine – passages that often seem to be the voice of my own
thoughts, cantos that often seem to have been written for me to know myself – that transports and uplifts me like a passage of Vieira’s prose,* or like certain odes by one of our few classical writers who truly followed Horace.)

I read and am liberated. I acquire objectivity. I cease being myself and so scattered. And what I read, instead of being like a nearly invisible suit that sometimes oppresses me, is the external world’s tremendous and
remarkable clarity, the sun that sees everyone, the moon that splotches the still earth with shadows, the wide
expanses that end in the sea, the blackly solid trees whose tops greenly wave, the steady peace of ponds on
farms, the terraced slopes with their paths overgrown by grape-vines.

I read as one who abdicates. And since the royal crown and robe are never as grand as when the departing king leaves them on the ground, I lay all my trophies of tedium and dreaming on the tiled floor of my
antechambers, then climb the staircase with no other nobility but that of seeing.

I read as one who’s passing through. And it’s in classical writers, in the calm-spirited, in those who if they suffer don’t mention it, that I feel like a holy transient, an anointed pilgrim, a contemplator for no reason of a world with no purpose, Prince of the Great Exile, who as he was leaving gave the last beggar the ultimate alms of his desolation.

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