Myth is the nothing that is everything



Legend has it that Ulysses founded Lisbon (originally called Ulyssippo) on his way back from the Trojan war.

The myth is recounted in the epic poem Os Lusiadas by Luís de Camões (c. 1524-1580), a poet of such great importance that Portuguese is often referred to as “the language of Camões”.

In more recent times, Fernando Pessoa (1988-1935), while recognising that the legend is untrue, argues at the same time that it is real because it exists in the minds of the people as one of the pillars of the Portuguese nation.

His poem reads:


Myth is the nothing that is everything.

The very sun that breaks through the skies

Is a bright and speechless myth–

God’s dead body,

Naked and alive.


This hero who cast anchor here,

Because he never was, slowly came to exist.

Without ever being, he sufficed us.

Having never come here,

He came to be our founder.


Thus the legend, little by little,

Seeps into reality,

Spreading and enriching it.

Life down below, half

Of nothing, perishes.


Original in Portuguese:


O mytho é o nada que é tudo.

O mesmo sol que abre os céus

É um mytho brilhante e mudo –

O corpo morto de Deus,

Vivo e desnudo.


Este, que aqui aportou,

Foi por não ser existindo.

Sem existir nos bastou.

Por não ter vindo foi vindo

E nos creou.


Assim a lenda se escorre

A entrar na realidade,

E a fecundal-a decorre

Em baixo, a vida, metade

De nada, morre.



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