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ALTHOUGH Camões is the Portuguese poet best known to fame, it is doubtful if he has been widely read outside Portugal. Englishmen know, of course, that he was praised by Byron, and that he soothed an exile’s grief with sonnets (1). To most lovers of literature he is a splendid name, but they perhaps suspect that his poetry is rather dull and that he is a second-rate Petrarca or Garci Lasso, who attempted an academic exercise in epic poetry out of its due time. If Virgil as an epic poet is so greatly inferior to Homer, what can we expect of an epic in the sixteenth century, in full Renaissance? Curious as these views may seem to those who have read Camões in the original, it must be admitted that there are a good many reasons for his neglect. In the first place, three and a half centuries after his death there is no good text of his poems. That of Juromenha, published in six large volumes in 1860-9, is the best (to this edition the references in this volume are made : thus, iv. 21 means Obras de Luiz de Camões, ed. Visconde de Juromenha, vol. iv, p. 21), but it is not a critical text and, moreover, about one-fifth of the whole consists of poems falsely attributed to Camões, including a verse translation and prose commentary of Petrarca's Trionfi. It is not always easy to discriminate between the genuine and the false, since the poetry known to have been written by Camões is of unequal merit, and we cannot reject a poem simply on the score of its being inferior to his masterpieces. Camões has suffered from indiscreet admirers, and the poison of Faria e Sousa still works. In order to swell Camões' poetry at the expense of other writers, and sometimes to pass off verses of his own as the work of the master, he added largely to the bulk of Camões' compositions, and to the troubles of subsequent critics. This was treachery indeed, and Camões has also been betrayed by his translators. The only satisfactory version of the whole of his works is that by Dr. Wilhelm Storck (6 vols., Paderborn, 1880-5), with important notes and distinction between the genuine and apocryphal poems. The first English translation of the Lusiads, by Sir Richard Fanshawe (1655), appeared three-quarters of a century after the poet's death. In the following century came William Julius Mickle's version (1776) in heroic couplets, with a life of Camões, and in the nineteenth century those of Musgrave (1826) in blank verse, Quillinan (the first five books, 1853), Mitchell (1854), Aubertin (1872; 2nd ed., 2 vols., 1884), Duff (1880), and Burton (1880). Burton made a fine poem out of his translation, but it has perhaps as much of himself as of Camões. A few years later he published "The Lyricks' (Sonnets, Canzons, Odes, and Sextines), 2 vols., 1884.
Aubertin's translation of seventy of the sonnets appeared in 1881.
The same uncertainty that surrounds the text of Camões obscures his life, ‘one of the most romantic and adventurous of an age of adventure and romance' (2). Fate heaped misfortunes on Camões, and biographers, to whom genius in adversity is always a fruitful subject, have outdone fate. They afflict him with a stepmother, a cruel nurse, many venomous enemies, a banishment from Coimbra, two or three banishments from Lisbon, arrest at Macao, at Malacca, at Mozambique, two or three imprisonments at Goa, two shipwrecks. He has had to endure, moreover, the thunders of erudition. If he falls head over ears in love with a girl all gold and white at Coimbra, the critics bear down upon him with Petrarca, Plato, Aristotle, and Juda Abrabanel. Vestibulum ante ipsum primisque in faucibus stand the voluminous and confused works of the Portuguese critic, Dr. Theophilo Braga, as liable to divert sympathy from Camões