1572 | Lisbon

Epic Brag

Luís de Camões’ high hopes for Portugal.

“My lovely daughter, do not fear
For the safety of your Portuguese,
Nor that anything weighs more with me
Than those sovereign, tearful eyes;
I promise you, daughter, you will see
The Greeks and Romans far outshone
By what people of Portuguese descent
Will accomplish throughout the Orient.

“You will see, my daughter, castles,
Cities, ramparts all built at their hands;
Even the tough, formidable Turks
You will see consistently routed;
The independent kings of India
Will be subject to the king of Portugal,
Bringing, when all falls under his command,
A better dispensation to that land.

“You will watch them, in mighty Diu,
Be invincible through two sieges;
There they will show their caliber
In outstanding feats of arms;
Great Mars will swell with envy
At the ferocity of the Portuguese,
While the defeated sultan, facing death,
Will damn Muhammad with his final breath.

“In this way, my daughter, they will show
Superhuman fortitude, never matched
From the sea which drinks the Ganges
To the Atlantic in the far west,

Or from the northern passage to the Straits
Named for Magellan, who deserved better,
Never, though the world resurrect its dead
In search of braver men or better led.”

© Landeg White


Luís de Camões

From The Lusiads. The Portuguese epic celebrates Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India between 1497 and 1499. Born in Lisbon around 1525, Camões was involved in a fight that was serious enough to warrant a pardon from King John III in 1553, apparently with the implication that the poet would travel to India in his king’s service. He was gone seventeen years doing so. Historian Diogo do Couto wrote that he found “that great poet and old friend of mine” in present-day Mozambique and gave Camões money to return to Lisbon.