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Coimbra Night

Summer 2014 - Vol. 56, No. 3


This poem appears in the Summer 2014 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe now, go here.


Enchanted night! Everything is white,
as though bathed in the pallor of opal. With lulling ease,
the Mondego River seems to fall asleep tonight
and dream beneath the caressing sighs of the breeze.
Tonight, warm with love, everything’s at rest,
and yet, the silvery moon wishes it knew
why it’s uneasy, why it’s distressed,
why it’s languid and cold in the faded blue.
In the garden of the sleeping palace, where
the serenading nightingales sing
their love to the flowers, the moon paints everything white,
while, near the fountain, in the sighs of someone there,
who’s conjured the dead: Pedro, the son of the king,
kisses Inês de Castro in the Coimbra night.

Cecília Meireles (1901–1964) is generally considered the most important female poet in Brazilian history. Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, she was a public school teacher for most of her life, writing books for children and founding the Biblioteca Infantil, the first children’s library in Brazil. Her poetry was published widely in Brazil and other countries, and her work was collected in Obra poética (1958).

William Baer, a recent Guggenheim fellow, is the author of sixteen books, including “Bocage” and Other Sonnets (recipient of the X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize) and The Unfortunates (recipient of the T. S. Eliot Poetry Award). A former Fulbright in Portugal, his poems have been published in Ploughshares, Poetry, the Kenyon Review, the American Scholar, and the Hudson Review, among other journals.