Born on São Miguel in the Azores, Antero de Quental (1842-1891) followed a path often taken by young Portuguese men from well-off families: he went to the University of Coimbra to study law. There he became leader of the student movement that struggled to shake Portuguese institutions out of their stagnant complacency and to incite the country’s citizens to embrace European modernity.
Among the sons of an accursed century
I took my place at the irreverent table,
Where still was heard, under all the revel,
The moan of a helpless thirst for infinity.
Like the rest, I spat onto the altar
A laugh made of blasphemy and disdain.
But one day my hardness was fatally shaken;
An alarm went off in my repentant heart!
Opening the dam to its pent-up tears,
My lonely soul, sad and weary,
Turned to God, unable to resist!
I shrouded my thinking in Belief;
In forgetting and inertia I found relief. . .
My only doubt is if God exists!