Зображення сторінки

dies and of his first poetical efforts, is strongly marked in several of his smaller poems. From the university, he returned to Lisbon, where, noble, young, and handsome, moreover a poet, it is not to be doubted that he made liimself agreeable to the courtly circles. But it was not long before an event occurred, from which, as Mr. Adamson quaintly expresset it,' he became • convinced of the impropriety of youth remaining without

business and the evils resulting therefroin :' he fell in love, desperately and presumptuously in love, with a Dona Catherina de Atayde, one of the ladies of the palace, or maids of honour, whom he saw one Good Friday at church. He was then about one and twenty. Dona Catherina was well disposed to receive the Poet's attentions, and it is said that a reciprocal attachment took place between them ; but the parents of the lady, though they could vot object to her lover on the score of birth, were unfeeling enough to demur in consequence of his want of fortune. To prevent so disadvantageous an union, they are stated to have

urged against it the force of those laws which, at that time,

were very severe upon any one who encouraged amours within • the palace. For this reason, the only one of which we bave any ' certain account, he was exiled from the court to the Ribatejo, or the country on the banks of the Tagus above Lisbon. Here he composed an elegy, in which he compares his fate to that of Ovid, adverts to hours of remembered bliss, and invokes the Tagus to bear at least his tears to the friend from whom he is so cruelly severed. At this period, bis comedies are supposed to have been written, and the idea at least conceived of the Lusiad. The duration of his exile is altogether uncertain. One of his biographers states, that he returned to Lisbon, was a second

time discovered renewing his former indiscretion, again ba• nislied, and went to Ceuta.' That he went to Ceuta, is certain ; and also, that he went against his will. In one of his canzonets, he refers to his passage across the streights of Gibraltar, and to the wound he received in an action with the Moors in that passage, which deprived him of his right eye. Faria e Sousa states, that at the moment he was struck, he was fighting by the side of his father as commander of the vessel; but Camoens himself makes no mention of the circumstance. A campaign in Africa would seem at that period to have been a favourite specific with parents who wished to cure their sons of an inconvenient attachment. Among the comrades of Camoens in this military service, was Don Antonio de Noronha, whose father, the Conde de Linhares, on discovering an attachment which he did not approve between D. Antonio and a lady of great beauty, the granddaughter of the Conde de Abrantes, had sent him to join the Portuguese forces in Africa. In an eclogue which Camoens

composed on the death of this young man, with whom he bad formed a strong friendship, he alludes to this circunstance :

« Parental art resolved, alas ! to prove

The stronger power of absence over love.' In that fine passage in the Lusiad, in which the Poet describes the conduct of King

Alfonso IV. towards his son Pedro, on discovering his affection for Inez de Castro, he would doubtless have strongly in recollection the fate of his friend, as well as a keen sense of his own wrongs.

What military rank Camoens beld in Africa, is not mentioned by any of his biographers, but it is stated, that he conducted himself bravely in several rencounters with the enemy; and " having added military renown to his literary fame,' he returned home to demand a remuneration for bis services. But there, for want of a friend at court, experiencing nothing but cold neg. lect, which his spirit could ill brook, and despairing of bettering his condition in Portugal, be determined upon agaiu leaving the country, to follow the military profession in India, wbich he terms 'the grave of every poor honest man.' He arrived at Goa in September, 1553, to seek a living where his father had • found a grave. His passion for D. Catherina, however liopeless, remained unabated; and it is supposed to have beep with a view to the eventual attainment of the fondest object of his ambition, that he resolved to go and serve in India. In different pieces written in the East, he addresses himself to this lady; and in one passage in terms which would almost imply that she had not only been the occasion of his trying his fortunes in the Indian service, but had even imposed it upon bim as a proof of his attachinent, or had at least acquiesced in his self-banishment.

. Mas se tað longo, e misero desterro
Vos dá contentamento

Nunca me acabe nelle o meu tormento.' On his arrival at Goa, he engaged as a volunteer in the armament then fitting out in aid of the king of Cochin, against the king of Pimenta; the successful result of which he celebrates in his first Elegy. Two years after, be accompanied Manoel de Vasconcellos on a cruising expedition that had for its object to prevent the depredations committed by Moorish vessels in the straits of Mecca. Soon after his return, he had the misfortune to fall under the vindictive displeasure of the viceroy, Francisco Barreto, in consequence of a satire which he wrote, or was believed to have written, reflecting on the conduct of the good citizens of Goa, under the title of · Follies in India.' For this offence he was banished to China ; and left Goa in 1556, with the feet which was despatchod to the South by the viceroy,

loaded,' as he himself expresses it,' with his sorrows, his

"feelings, and his fortunes.' The first part of bis exile wa spent at the Molucca Islands, from whence he removed to Macho, where he was appointed to the office of Commissary for • the Effects of Deceased Persons.' For this appointment, which was rather a lucrative one, he is supposed to have been indebted to the new viceroy, Don Constantino de Bragauza, who succeeded Barreto in 1558. A grotto is shewn at Macáo, which still goes by bis name, where Camoens is traditionally reported to have employed great part of his time in the completion of his great work. When at length he obtained leave to return, his ill fortune still pursued him : the ship in which he embarked for Goa, was wrecked at the mouth of the river Mecou, and he with difficulty reached shore on a plank, 'having lost every thing but • the manuscript of his immortal poem.' To this almost overwhelming misfortune be alludes in the eightieth stanza of Canto VII.

He returned to Goa in 1561, and was graciously received by the viceroy, under whose protection be enjoyed a brief respite from bis misfortunes. On his departing for Europe, the enemies of Camoens seized the opportunity to accuse bim of malversation in the administration of his office at Macao, and on this calumnious charge he was committed to prison. When the accusation was proved to be unfounderl, he was detained for some time in custody for a trifling debt. After this, he remained for some years in India, continuing to engage in various naval and military expeditions, and filling up the intervals of military service by prosecutiog his great poem. When this was completed, he determined to return to Europe to lay it at the feet of the young king Sebastian, but was unfortunately induced by the solicitations of Pedro Barreto to accompany him to Sofala, of which he was proceeding to assume the government.

He had, however, cause to repent, having been unsuspectingly betrayed; and soon experienced the little trust to be placed in those promises which had been held out to induce him to go to Sofala. Chagrined and disappointed, he sighed to quit a situation where his dependent and unhappy state exposed him to repeated cruelty and insult; and, as if in pity to his distress, the wished-for opportunity presented itself. Diogo de Couto, tre llistorian, and some of those friends whom he had known in India, arrived in the Santa Fe, on their way to Lisbon, and found him in the greatest misery. In this vessel Camoens resolved to e nbark for Portugal. Barreto, however, was no sooner apprised of his intention, than he determined to prevent its being carried into execution ; he demanded the payment of two hundred cruzados, which he alleged he had expended on behalf of the poet; and, knowing his inability to raise the amount, fancied himself sure of his victim. The Fidalgos, who were on their return, seeing the baseness of the conduct of the goyernor, subscribed the sum to satis!y the demand, and released the debtor

from his cruel

grasp. “ For this price,” Manoel de Faria writes, “ were sold, at the same time, the person of Camoens, and the honour of Pedro Barreto."

Camoens arrived at Lisbon in 1569, at a time that the plague was raging in that city, worn down in health, after sixteen years service in India absolutely pennyless, bis fondest hopes blasted, (for his mistress was dead,) and his spirit broken by misfortune. One hope, one object of interest and ambition, remained to bind him to life, and to sustain his exertions; the poem which was to crown himn with fame, if not to prove a source of opulence. It was, however, two years before the Lusiad was given to the world: the royal alvara or grant of copyright bearing the date of September 4, 1571. Cainoens dedicated it to the King, whom, in Canto 1, he compliments with a prophecy that was never to be fulfilled; but that'generous' prince, or his ministers, thought the author of the poem that was to reflect honour on the country, sufficiently rewarded by a pension of 15,000 reis, or about four guineas of our money; the grant being burthened with the conditions, that Camoens should reside at court, and that a new alvara or decree for its payment should be obtained every six months. The design of this last condition it is difficult to conjecture, if it was any thing more than the usual form of grants during pleasure, instead of for life; unless it was intended to keep him in a state of servile dependence on the court. At all events, he appears not long to have enjoyed this mockery of royal munificence. The death of Sebastian deprived bim at once of bis patron and his pension; for, in the confusion and derangement of public affairs consequent upon the disastrous issue of the campaign in Africa, it was in vain for him to apply for the continuance of the conditional grant. The death of the king is said to have deeply affected the mind of Camoens, and to have increased the malady under which he was suffering. He

felt not only for himself, but, with truly patriotic concern, for : bis country. In a letter which is supposed to have been his last

composition, dictated a short time before his death, occur these words : 'At last I shall finish my life; and all shall see that I

loved my country so much, that not only I was contented to die . in it, but also to die with it. What sum of money be derived from the sale of his poem, or whether he obtained any remuneration for it, we are not informed. "That the impression which it

made was considerable,' remarks his present Biographer, is • clearly shown by the reprint of it in the same year in which it

was published.' And Mr. Adamson adds, on the authorities of Manoel Correa and Machado, that a contemporary poet of some celebrity, Pedro da Costa Perestrello, a secretary of the king, who had composed a poem on the same subject, relinquished, after perusing the Lusiad, his intention to publish his

own work. Whatever profits Camoens might obtain from the sale of the Lusiad, were at all events expended long before the termination of his sufferings. He survived his return to Lisbon eight years, living in the knowledge of many, and in ' the society of few.'

. For some time previous to his death, he was in so abject a state of poverty as to be dependent for subsistence upon the exertions of a faithsul servant. Antonio, a native of Java, whom he had brought with him from India, was accustomed to beg by night for the bread which was to save his wretched master from perishing by want the next day.

• Camoens was applied to, during his last days of affliction, by a Fidalgo named Ruy Dias da Camara, who came to his miserable dwelling to complain of the non-fulfilment of a promise,

made him by the bard, of a translation of the penitential Psalms. To this complaint, urged with an anxiety at which the ingenuous mind of Camoens revolted, the suffering poet replied : “ When I wrote verses, I was young, bad “ sufficient food, was a lover, and was beloved by many friends and by “ the ladies; therefore I felt poetical ardour: now I have no spirits, no

peace of mind : behold there my Javanese, who asks me for two pieces to purchase coals, and I have them not to give him."

Camoens, when death at last put an end to a life which misfortune and neglect had rendered insupportable, was denied the solace of having bis faithful Antonio lo close his eyes. Having survived the publication of his poem seven years, and aged only fifty-five, he breathed his last in the Hospital to which he had been taken, and to which the poor were usually removed for cure. This event occurred in 1579, but so little regard was paid to the comfort or memory of this great man, that the sheet in which they shrouded him was obtained from the house of Dom Francisco de Portugal, and the day and month in which he expired must remain for ever unknown...... After his decease, his body was removed to the church of Santa Anna, where it was consigned to the tomb without any record to mark the place of his sepulture.

Sixteen years after, Dom Gonçalo Coutinho caused a marble slab to be laid over the supposed place of his interment, inscribed with this epitaph: 'Here lies Luis de Camoens, the prince of

the poets of his time. He lived poor and miserable, and so he died, in the year MDLXXIX. The church itself, however, perished in the earthquake of 1755; and, to the eternal disgrace of his countrymen, no other monument has ever yet been reared to his memory. "A subscription bas, indeed, been recently set on foot in Lisbon, which has been aided by contributions in London and Paris, for the purpose of wiping off this dishonour from the nation ; but bitherto, the Portuguese have not thought it worth while to pay even this tardy and empty tribute to the fame of the Author of the Lusiad.

« НазадПродовжити »