“Vile in the meanest and rottenest possible sense of the word”


Still following the post above about the most famous Portuguese writer (1988-1935), who once wrote that “No empire justifies breaking a child’s doll” see below one of its poems (in fact a poem by Alvaro de Campos, one of his many heteronymous, 72 according to Richard Zenith):

Poem in a Straight Line

(Translation by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown)

I never knew a soul who ever took a licking.
My friends have all been champions at everything.

And I, so often vulgar, so often obscene, so often vile,
I, so deliberately parasitical,
Unforgivably filthy,
I, so often without patience to take a bath,
I, who’ve been so ridiculous, so absurd,
Tripping up in public on the carpet of etiquette,
I, so grotesque and mean, submissive and insolent,
Who’ve been insulted and not said a word,
And when putting a word in growing still more ridiculous,
I who strike chambermaids as laughable,
I who feel porters wink sarcastically,
I who’ve been scandalous about money, borrowing and not paying it back,
I, who when the time came to fight, ducked
As far as I could out of punching range,
I who go into a sweat over the slightest thing —
I’m convinced no one’s better than I at this sort of game.

No one I know, none of my speaking acquaintances,
Ever acted ridiculous, ever took insults,
Was ever anything but noble — yes, all of them princes, living their lives,
How I’d love to hear a human voice, from any one of them.
Confessing not to sins but to infamies,
Speaking not of violent but of cowardly acts!
But no, each one’s a Paragon, to hear them tell it.
Is there no one in this world who’d confess to me he’s been vile just once?
All you princes, my brothers,
Enough — I’m fed up with demigods!
Where are the real people in this world?

Am I the only scoundrel and bungler alive?

Maybe women don’t always fall for them.
Maybe they’ve been betrayed.  But ridiculous?  Never!
And I, who’ve been ridiculous but never betrayed,
How do I speak before their Highnesses without stammering?
I, who’ve been vile, literally vile,
Vile in the meanest and rottenest possible sense of the word.