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who reflects unequalled lustre on the literary character of his times; and who deserves to occupy our attention as long as all the other poets belonging to the Portuguese nation. We scarcely need to add, that it is to the genius of Camoens that we hasten to dedicate the labours of the ensuing chapters.
Luis de Camoens: Lusiadas.
WE next proceed to consider the merits of the illustrious man who has long been considered the chief and almost the only boast of his country. Camoens, indeed, is the sole poet of Portugal, whose celebrity has extended beyond the Peninsula, and whose name appears in the list of those who have conferred honour upon Europe. Such is the force of genius in a single individual, that it may be said to constitute the renown of a whole people. It stands in solitary greatness before the eyes of posterity; and a crowd of lesser objects disappear in its superior light.
Luis de Camoens was descended from a noble, though by no means a wealthy, family. He was the son of Simon Vas de Camoens. One of his ancestors, of the name of Vasco Perez, who had acquired some reputation as a Galician poet, quitted the service of the court of Castile, in 1370, and attached himself to that of Portugal. Simon Vas de Camoens was commander of a ship
of war, which was wrecked on the coasts of India, where he perished. His wife, Anna de Sa-Macedo, was likewise of noble birth. The exact date of the birth of their son Luis has never been ascertained. In the life prefixed to the splendid edition of his great poem, by M. de Sousa, it is supposed, agreeably to the previous conjecture of Manoel de Faria, to have taken place in the year 1525. It is certain that he pursued his studies at Coimbra, where he obtained an intimate acquaintance with the history and mythology then in repute. While still at the university he produced several sonnets and other verses, which have been preserved; but whatever degree of talent he there displayed, he failed to conciliate the friendship of Ferreira, and of other distinguished characters, then completing their studies at Coimbra. Engaged in bestowing on Portuguese poetry its utmost degree of classical perfection, they affected to look down on the ardent imagination of young Camoens with an eye of pity and contempt. After having completed his studies, he went to Lisbon, where he conceived a passion for Catharina de Atayde, a lady of the court; and so violent was the affection with which she inspired him, that for some time he is said to have renounced all his literary and worldly pursuits. We are unacquainted with the views which he at that time entertained, as well as with his means of subsistence; but it is certain
that his attachment gave rise to some unpleasant circumstances, in consequence of which he received an order to leave Lisbon. He was banished to Santarem, where he produced several of those poems which, while they served as fuel to his passion, increased the dangers of his situation. His ill success and disappointed affection at last led him to the resolution of embracing a military life, and he volunteered his services into the Portuguese fleet, then employed against the African powers. It was not without a feeling of pride that he thus united the character of a hero and a poet; continuing, in the intervals of the most arduous services, to court the attentions of the muse. In an engagement before Ceuta, in which he greatly distinguished himself, he had the misfortune to lose his right eye. He then returned to Lisbon in the expectation that his services might acquire for him the recompense which had been refused to him as a poet; but no one evinced the least disposition to serve him. All his efforts to distinguish himself in laudable enterprises and pursuits were successively thwarted, and his small resources daily became less. While his soul was the seat of lofty thoughts and patriotism, he felt that he was neglected and contemned by the country he loved. Yielding to a feeling of indignation, like that of Scipio, he exclaimed with him, Ingrata patria nec ossa quidem habebis! and came to the resolution
of leaving it once more. With this view, in the year 1553, he embarked for the East Indies. The squadron with which he set sail consisted of four vessels. Three of these foundered at sea, and that only in which Camoens sailed reached the port of Goa in safety. But our poet did not, as he had flattered himself, obtain employment even here; and he found himself compelled once more to offer his services as a volunteer in a company of auxiliaries sent by the viceroy of India to the King of Cochin. Nearly all his companions in arms fell victims, during this campaign, to the fatal insalubrity of the climate. Camoens, however, survived its effects, and returned to Goa after having contributed to the triumph of his country's ally. Still destitute of employment and resources, he next joined an expedition against the Corsairs of the Red Sea. Passing the winter in the Isle of Ormuz, he had there full leisure to indulge his poetical pursuits, and to complete a portion of his poems. Every object around him seemed to assume a poetic dress; and the love of his country revived with fresh force, while he trod those eastern scenes, rendered famous by the exploits of his countrymen. But the abuses of the government excited his strongest feelings of indignation, and instead of attempting to conciliate an administration which had yet shewn him no favour, he wrote a bitter satire on its conduct. The Disparates na