The Keeper of Sheep

Programme Note

The Keeper of Sheep is a cycle of five settings of poems taken from Fernando Pessoa’s O Guardador de Rebanhos (The Keeper of Sheep). Pessoa created a large number of poetic personas, which he termed heteronyms. One of the most important of these was Alberto Caeiro, of whom Pessoa wrote:

He sees things with the eyes only, not with the mind. He does not let any thoughts arise when he looks at a flower…the only thing a stone tells him is that it has nothing at all to tell him…this way of looking at a stone may be described as the totally unpoetic way of looking at it.

This way of experiencing the world is evident in the five poems I chose to set. In ‘Não me importo com as rimas’, the poet disavows poetic artifice, saying rather that his poetry is ‘natural like the stirring of the wind’. In ‘Antes o vôo da ave’, the poet admires how the flight of a bird leaves no trace, saying that ‘memory is a betrayal of nature’. In ‘O luar através dos altos ramos’, moonlight seen through branches is interpreted as meaning nothing more than than the physical fact if its existence, in contrast to more conventionally poetic readings by other writers. In contrast to the first three poems, ‘Se quiserem que eu tenha um misticismo’ allows for mysticism – but only ‘mysticism of the body’, not of the soul. Finally, in the nocturnal ‘Metome para dentro’, the poet celebrates the simplicity of life, while outside he hears ‘a vast silence like a god asleep’.

The Keeper of Sheep was written in 2008 as part of my Masters degree, and revised substantially more than a decade later in 2021.

Year: 2008
Duration: 10′
Instrumentation: Soprano, Piano

1 – Não me importo com as rimas
2 – Antes o vôo da ave
3 – O luar através dos altos ramos
4 – Se quiserem que eu tenha um misticismo
5 – Metome para dentro


2nd July 2008
Catarina Sereno (Soprano), PeiPei Hsieh (Piano)
Music Hall, Guildhall School of Music and Drama