« VorigeDoorgaan »
uninspired. And whatever blemishes the poem may have, it will always remain one of the world's greatest poems by reason of its magnificent lyric flights (praises of Portugal, the account of D. Inés de Castro's murder, the battle of Aljubarrota, Gama's departure from Belem, the vision of Adamastor, the island of Venus), and passages in which thought and experience and wisdom are condensed into phrases of that pregnant force and brevity for which the Portuguese language is famous, often into a single memorable line. A large part of the poem is a personal experience. The comparatively little notice given in the Lusiads to Prince Henry the Navigator (yet he is praised in viii. 37 and receives a splendid epithet in v. 4: o generoso Henrique) is held to indicate that the poem was not originally intended to be a poem of the sea. Certainly the omission was not due to the fact that the Infante Henrique, with an English mother, was only half a ‘Lusiad', since several stanzas are given to his brother, the heroic Prince
Fernando ; more probably, Camões omitted the expeditions sent out by the Duke of Viseu because they covered the same ground as the later voyage of Gama. But without Camões' own voyage the Lusiads would have lacked its abiding fascination. In passage after passage he earns Humboldt's praise as a great painter of the sea (127). The singular vividness of the descriptions goes hand in hand with the living construction of history. With an inexhaustible lyric vein Camões combined great power of concentration, and the result is that the Lusiads is crowded with unfading pictures-who could forget that of D. Lianor de Sousa inset in the vision of Adamastor ?—and a poem but half the length of the Gerusalemme Liberata nobly enshrines the whole of Portugal's history and empire.
The versification in Camões' three plays is delightfully easy. Would he have risen to Shakespearian heights in the drama had he been given some encouragement, had he been able to gather the fruits of the three E's, of which he was reasonably proud (128), and to develop his genius at leisure? There are keen observation and a true vein of comedy in Os Amphitriões, in which Jupiter takes the form of Amphitrião and Mercury that of his servant; the plot is skilfully worked out in Filodemo, in which Filodemo, orphan child of a Portuguese fidalgo and a Danish princess wrecked off the coast of Portugal, before his parentage is known falls in love with his cousin Dionysa, while Dionysa's brother, Venadoro, falls in love with
Florimena, sister of Filodemo, and the revelations of the old shepherd who had brought up Florimena provide a happy ending. But Camões' genius was not really dramatic, although, had he not left Lisbon in 1553, he would probably have produced a few more such lively comedies, with action more complicated and closely woven than any devised by Gil Vicente, with whose plays he was of course familiar before he sailed to India, although they were not published in a collected edition until nine years later. It is as a great lyric poet that Camões stands supreme. Writing probably in 1569, he tells us that misfortune had dulled his senses, and ifit is extremely improbable—the Couto MS. is right in assigning the composition of the seventy-three quintilhas beginning Sobolos rios que vão to that year, at Mozambique, they would have to be considered as the swan-song of his lyric verse. The ode written for Orta's Coloquios in 1563 is, to say the least, frigid, as is that in Gandavo's book thirteen years later, while the sonnet
attributed to him in 1569 by the Couto MS. is a truly paralytic effort. Henceforth his muse was only to be stirred to fresh magnificence by the thought of his country and his country's last hope, the young King Sebastian. The opening stanzas of the Lusiads were no doubt added just before its publication (one need not infer from stanzas seven and nine that Sebastian was still an infant). He may have written, also, one or two fine sonnets, such as that
quanto melhor é o supremo dia (no. 234, ii. 118), which, if not by Camões, at least deserves to be. But he could no longer write those wonderful lyrics which flowed up out of the abundance of his heart : 'eu não a escrevo, d'alma a trasladei' (129). Were Camões in his lyrics merely a successful imitator of Petrarca or o brando e doce Lasso, why should we read him? We look for something new in a literature unknown to us; we do not go to Lisbon to gaze into shopwindows which we can see in Paris. But the fact is that in Camões' lyrics-redon