He was born 493 years ago to wealthy parents and had a life with frequent access to exclusive literature of the time including classical Greek, Roman and Latin works. He could read, speak and write in Latin, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. His life was full of loves lost, raised by a single mother, being imprisoned, sailing all over the world, losing an eye, becoming a recluse and eventually dying a lonely death at the age of 56 in his beloved Portugal. Only after his death did the world come to love his poems and he is celebrated and loved beyond measure in Portugal and by Portuguese around the world. His name was Luís de Camões and his story continues here with a bit of my modern day take on it.
“You Sir, in the back row, I don't believe you are on the list of students for this class!” Luís replied, “No, I am indeed not registered with this fine institution, however, my uncle Bento is the Chancellor and I do so love to crash your course in Humanities!” And he remained seated in his favorite spot at the University of Coimbra.
Luís was a hopeless, crazy romantic, an idealist and absolutely loved writing poetry. When he was about 24 he fell in
lust love with the Queen of Portugal's
lady in waiting Catherine and thinking he could get away with having
another woman at the same time, he was also hooking up with King John
III's daughter, the Princess Maria! One day, the King said to Luís,
“Be gone with you when the sun sets on Lisbon this day!” Or
something like that!
By my calculations, it took him about a day to walk to a friend's house from Lisbon where he flopped on their straw couch for six months. His friends got tired of him always moping around, eating their salted cod, potatoes and drinking all the wine and coffee. So, they sat him down for an intervention. “Hey, Lou, you really need to get your life together man!” So he joined Portugal's overseas military and went to Ceuta which is currently a Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa.
During a battle with the Moors he lost his right eye. He must have been one tough guy because there were no drugs except herbs and opium back then! Being away from Lisbon was a time of mega-stress so when he returned he decided to become a
hippie bohemian and just go with the flow. He was tired of kale and wheatgrass juice and thought it would be fun to check out a nearby
religious festival. In what was probably a moment of mouthing off to
the wrong guy, he injured Gonçalo a member of the royal stables.
The guards slapped cuffs on him and tossed him in the slammer until
they could decide what to do with him.
When he was a young boy his papa left to sow his oats in Goa, India never to be seen from again. Luís was probably a Momma's boy because when she found out he was in the dungeon, she went to see the Royals and Gonçalo's family to ask for his release. I can only imagine how that conversation went. Momma wins out and Luís is released but has to pay some money and is ordered to serve 3 years with the Portugal military in the Orient. He spent his time in Goa fighting along the trade routes between Egypt and India. He wrote letters home for the sailors on the ship maybe sending them by seagull?
After his time spent in service, he was given a job managing the personal properties of missing and deceased soldiers. Like any government worker, he found time to work on his epic poem “Os Lusíadas” in a secret grotto where he thought no one knew where he was. The boss found out he
thieved, pilfered, helped himself to the things belonging to the dead
guys and was told to show up to court in Goa.
He went back to the grotto to pick up his Chinese lover Dianmene and they hopped on the boat to India. Somewhere along the Cambodian coast in the Mekong Delta the driver crashed the boat. Luís lost his love but managed to swim to shore holding his unfinished manuscript in the air above his head.
From word of mouth passed down hundreds of years, it appears he skipped out on meeting the judge in Goa for coffee. Luís wandered the oceans popping up in various countries where, in Mozambique, an old friend stumbled upon him, maybe literally, to see he was without food or coin and kindly paid for his trip back to Portugal.
Lisbon was in the midst of dealing with the Plague when he got back. He probably avoided dying because of his dislike of being around people when he was writing. Two years later he finished “Os Lusíadas” manuscript and was given permission to publish it where he received some royal money for his military service and some people in power finally saw something in his writing that was worth recognition.
"Os Lusíadas" is regarded as Portugal's national epic where Luís portrays the voyage of Vasco da Gama in a fantastical interpretation. It is a very long story with twists and turns full of deception, intrigue, and of course like any good story....sex.
Bacchus asks Neptune to whip up a storm to sink Vasco's ships but at the last minute Venus sends beautiful naked women to sing their siren song to calm down the wind, thus saving the ships! Women to the rescue!
Once they reach India, jealous big mouth Bacchus spreads rumors and Vasco has to convince the priests that they are traders and not pirates. The priests cut a deal to let them go if they leave all of the goods from the ships with them....who's the pirates now?
Venus shows up again and guides Vasco's ships to “Love Island” so the crews can “rest”. Her son Cupid asks all the Sea Nymphs to hook up with the sailors but to make it look like it was the sailors idea, the nymphs made a pretense of running away from the sailors and then the party really got started!
After stuffing himself on grapes, wine, fish and whatever else was on the buffet menu Vasco's lover Tethys, the daughter of Gaia takes him for a “trip” around the island showing him visions of how the universe operates....Wow, what was in that wine?
Luís de Camões is one of the great European poets of love and his words are so treasured by the Portuguese that because his birth date is not known, the date of his death June 10th is celebrated every year as Portugal Day, a National Holiday.
His works have been immortalized around the world in books, bronze medallions, songs, stamps, paintings, statues and even in comic book style.
True recognition would come only after his death, Today, his remains are buried in the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon near his idol Vasco da Gama. Again, my imagination goes to the guys standing by the grave trying to decide what to write....”Hey Dude, what about this?”......"Here Lay Luís de Camões, Prince of the poets of his time. He lived poorly and miserably and thus died." Glass of wine in hand they toast Luís with a hearty “Saúde”
The work of Camões is still widely studied throughout the world and the work "Os Lusíadas" is considered one of the most important and valuable poetic documents of universal literature. More than immortalizing the Portuguese homeland, Camões continues to give a new glow to the Portuguese language and soul.
Moral Of The Story......
No matter what is happening in your life, do the best you can and you might just find your face on a coin in 500 years!
Here is his famous poem of love.
Love is a Fire that burns without seeing itself
Love is a fire that burns without seeing itself;
It is a wound that hurts, and it does not sit;
It is discontented contentment;
It is pain that fights without hurting.
It is a not wanting more than good to want;
It's a lonely walk among us;
It is never content and contented;
It is a care that wins in getting lost;
It is wanting to be bound by will;
It is to serve the conqueror, the conqueror;
It's having someone who kills us, loyalty.
But how can cause your favor
In human hearts friendship,
If so contrary to itself is the same love?
Luís Vaz de Camões, in "Sonetos"