A poem about the latest technology - phonographs! The poet is Camilo Pessanha ( 1867-1926) who left Portugal for Macau in 1894. So chances are, he listened to phonographs, which reached the China coast almost as soon as they became commercially available in Europe. Pessanha went to Macau because he was fascinated by the exotic mysteries of alien cultures. In Macau, he lived as a Chinese, learning the language, collecting art and even becoming addicted to opium. His art collection isn't that great and his poetry in Chinese not nearly as good as his poetry in Portuguese, but at least he tried, like quite a few intellectuals in his time. So perhaps it's no surprise that he was fascinatedd by the possibilities of sound reproduction.
Imagine someone hearing sound technologiy for the first time, pondering on what it might mean. Pessanha describes the voice of a comedy actor, declaiming to an audience. But the actor is long since dead, and the original audience too. The odour of the crypt, and of dust, enters the air. Change the record! Now a barcarolle, suggesting lilies floating on the water, and sensual dreams evoked by the "extática corola". The record changes again. Now, the sound of a golden bugle (clarim) suggesting daffodils greeting the dawn. Then, silence. The poet thinks of Spring, morning and the scent of violets.
Vai declamando um cômico defunto. Uma plateia ri, perdidamente,
Do bom jarreta... E há um odor no ambiente. A cripta e a pó, - do anacrônico assunto.
Muda o registo, eis uma barcarola: Lírios, lírios, águas do rio, a lua... Ante o Seu corpo o sonho meu flutua Sobre um paul, - extática corola.
Muda outra vez: gorjeios, estribilhos Dum clarim de oiro - o cheiro de junquilhos, Vívido e agro! - tocando a alvorada...
Cessou. E, amorosa, a alma das cornetas Quebrou-se agora orvalhada e velada. Primavera. Manhã. Que eflúvio de violetas!