Ao longo da viola morosa
Vai adormecendo a parlenda,
Sem que, amadornado, eu atenda
A lengalenga fastidiosa.
Sem que o meu coração se prenda,
Enquanto, nasal, minuciosa,
Ao longo da viola morosa,
Vai adormecendo a parlenda.
Mas que cicatriz melindrosa
Há nele, que essa viola ofenda
E faz que as asitas distenda
Numa agitação dolorosa?
Ao longo da viola, morosa...
Viola Chinesa by
Camillo Pessanha (1867-1926) Pessanha, a Portuguese poet, who lived
in Macau, acculturating as Chinese, though never fully integrated. In
this poem he describes a "Chinese viola" playing a nasal yet meticulous
melody which lulls into strange reverie. What is this "mournful
agitation" ? Why are foreigners hypnotized by these strange
imaginings? The poem was dedicated to Wenceslau de Moraes, Pessanha's
friend who lived the same dream, but in Japan, the two of them outsiders
wherever they went. In the above photograph, Pessanha is dressed as a
Chinese peasant, while sitting in the gardens of the Villa Leitão in
Macau, owned by the Leitão family, once wealthy and powerful in that
city, now dispersed all over the world, the villa itself long gone. The
photo below shows Pessanha and Moraes on a visit to Hong Kong in 1895.
Pessanha's descedants still live in Macau, and are related to the Jorge family, who are distantly related to my ancestors. One of the Jorges amassed a huge
collection of Chinese antiques, which covered nearly every inch of his
own villa. My grandmother, who visited often, said that real Ming and Qing
porcelains covered nearly every surface in the villa, all over the
walls, in even the washrooms. In the 1860's, the Jorge family rescued
treasures looted from the Summer Palace in Beijing in the Second Opium
War. They met the troop ships returning from the north, offering the
soldiers beer for the wonders they'd stolen. The collection was photographed,
catalogued and printed in a book by Vincente Jorge, printed in 1940,
which I found in an antique shop and gave my father. A limited edition,
the frontispiece hand painted in water colours (sprays of wisteria). That
book is now lost, too, as is the Jorge collection, supposedly destroyed
when the ship carrying it out of Macau was sunk by pirates in the late
1940's . The photo below shows the Villa Leitão c.1890, published by a
family collaterally related to my own. And so past glories, past dreams, disappearing into nothing......to live for the moment, and to live well, while you can.