I share my birthday with Roberto Augusto Henriques de Mesquita, a symbolist poet born on June 19, 1871, in Santa Cruz on Flores. Mesquita rarely left his home island, preferring the solitude and isolation of the landscape to the busier life on the larger islands. He lived quietly, worked as a government clerk, and married a woman he did not love. His work was published in small periodicals and newspapers but his manuscript, Almas Cativas, wasn’t published until 1931, eight years after his death. His talent went unrecognized until 1939, when the respected Azorean novelist Vitorino Nemesio published an article about Mesquita and his writing in Journal de Portugal. Since then hundreds of articles have been written about Roberto de Mesquita, his body of work and his contribution to Azorean literature. His pessimistic view of life and the insistence on a past that suggests only misfortune and decay are common themes in his poems but one can sense how much this Florentine poet was captivated by the mysterious and otherworldly beauty of his beloved island.
Expira a tarde; o mar entorpecido
Tem um canto monótono que embala,
Um como que nostálgico gemido
Que do Ausente, do Além me fala…
Desmaia o horizonte elanguescido,
Com frouxos tons de pérola e de opala,
Neste esvair de luz que doce exala
Um mágico amavio indefinido…
E eu sinto errar na tarde de veludo
Uma alma que medita, esparsa em tudo,
Um ser espiritual que não descubro.
É um ser feminil, num sonho imerso,
Que como vago aroma, anda disperse
Neste tarde meiguissíma de Outobro…
The afternoon expires: the benumbed sea
Sings a monotonous song that lulls,
A song which talks to me, like moaning
Nostalgia, of Absence, of the Beyond.
The weakened horizon faints
With feeble tones of pearl and opal,
In this swooning of light that sweetly
Exhales an indefinite magic potion.
And I sense on this velvet afternoon a wandering
Soul that meditates, sparse in everything,
A spiritual being I cannot discover.
It’s an effeminate being immersed in dream,
That, like a vaporous aroma, wafts through
This mildest afternoon in October.