Vain Desires by Florbela Espanca


- translated from the Portuguese by Carlo Matos

I wanted to be the sea’s proud bearing,
laughing and singing vast expanses.
I wanted to be a stone, unthinking,
a stone path, rude and strong.

I wanted to be the sun’s immense light,
humble and good and without ill will.
I wanted to be a tree, rough and dense,
mocking the vain world and even death.

But the sea also sorrows...
and trees pray,
opening their arms to heaven like believers.

And the haughty and powerful sun, after one day,
cries bloody tears in its agony.
And the stones... those... they tread down everyone...


FLORBELA ESPANCA (1894-1930) was a Portuguese poet noted for the revolutionary eroticism and feminism of her work, notorious for her proclamations of “free love” in her sonnets and for public exposure of a condition of declining mental health, which ended her turbulent life in suicide at the age of 36.