Luis De Camões: Biography, Works, Legacy

Luis de Camões (1524-1580) was a writer and poet from the Renaissance era, considered one of the most important authors of the Portuguese language. 
Camões’s life passed between trips, military incursions and intense forbidden romances.

He was an extremely sensitive man who had to overcome challenges due to his impulsive nature and face poverty on more than one occasion. These experiences were the inspiration for the creation of his work that takes place between drama, history and comedy through poetry and theater.

François Gérard [Public domain]

His work Los Lusiada s (1572) is considered his most important contribution, an epic that narrates events in the history of Portugal, with special attention to its maritime achievements before the world.

Article index

  • one

    Biography

    • 1.1

      Education

    • 1.2

      Concerns

    • 1.3

      Military life

    • 1.4

      The Lusiadas (1572)

  • two

    Death

  • 3

    Legacy

  • 4

    References

Biography

Luis Vaz de Camões was born in 1524 in Lisbon, Portugal. He was the only child of Simão Vaz de Camões and Ana de Sá y Macedo, a couple linked to the Portuguese Court.

When King John III of Portugal moved to Coimbra in 1527 to flee an epidemic in Lisbon, the Camões continued to change their residence permanently. Little Luis was only three years old at the time.

Education

Historians cannot ensure with certainty the type of education Camões received, since the verified data on the personal life of the poet are very scarce.

Most of them agree that Coimbra was the place where Camões received his academic training, which he studied at the Santa María convent, where he was particularly interested in history, geography and literature.

It is also estimated that he studied Theology and Philosophy at the University of Coimbra, based on the type of education that a young man of his class received at that time, the place where he lived and the type of knowledge that he reflects in his work.

Concerns

In Lisbon he maintained a very active life among the aristocratic society of the capital, frequently visiting the royal court.

At 20 he was already known as a very restless and infatuated young man who wrote poems to attract the ladies of his environment.

He especially expressed his affections to the young Catarina de Ataide, daughter of a close friend of King Juan III, whom he immortalized in his poems and publicly rendered a heartfelt passion.

Military life

The death of his father left the Camões family with a modest social status and full of debts, which perhaps was the trigger for the young poet to enlist as a soldier in the service of the king and thus earn merits for military services.

However, others affirm that his love affairs with the young Catarina de Ataide were the cause of a possible exile.

Regardless of the reasons that led Camões to embark abroad, it was learned that he stayed for two years in Ceuta, where he lost his right eye during a bloody battle against the Moors.

In 1549, at the age of 25, Camões returned to Lisbon, but four years later he was imprisoned after a fight with Gonzalo Borges, an employee of the Portuguese court. For this incident, he remained behind bars for a year.

After receiving a royal pardon, he traveled to Goa, India in 1554 as part of a series of military expeditions, linked to the colonial expansion of Portugal in Asia.

The Lusiadas (1572)

At this time Camões began to write the first part of his epic poem Los Lusiadas , a work that after its conclusion was divided into ten songs with a variable number of stanzas.

Considered one of the most important literary creations in the world, Los Lusiadas describes the exploits of the Portuguese explorer, Vasca Da Gama, who drew the route between Portugal and India, mixing historical reality with mythological references.

From Goa he moved to Macao (China) where he wrote six more parts of his epic poem in progress.

His return to India was traumatic, as he nearly lost his life when the ship in which he was moving sank off the coast of Mozambique.

Scholars of his life affirm that he was detained again, but this is contested by other historians who assure that Camões simply had to remain in Mozambique because he did not have the resources to move to another place.

It was his friend Diogo do Couto, who helped him by paying him a passage to Portugal, where he finally arrived in 1570 after sixteen years in exile.

In 1572 he published  Los Lusiadas , a work that represented his greatest success and that made him worthy of a lifetime pension granted by King Sebastián I.

Camões’ work is classified within classicism, with baroque influences. He wrote poems and plays, and even some sonnets in Spanish.

The following are his most outstanding works:

-Os Luisiadas

-Love and fire that burns sem I see

-Verdes sao os campos

-That you love me, perpetual saudades

-Sobolos rivers that vao

-I want to go mother. Written in Spanish.

-Indie Occirente

-The King Seleucus (Theater)

-Auto de Filodemo (Theater)

-Host (Theater)

-Elegy for the Passion of Christ , which he dedicated to his uncle, Bento de Camões.

-Rhymes, published posthumously

Death

Many times misunderstood by society, Camões came to complain through his verses of the little recognition he received in his life. He died in Lisbon on June 10, 1580. The pension granted him by his king did not prevent him from dying in extreme poverty, far from the luxuries of the Portuguese Court or the environment corresponding to his military life. He was 56 years old.

His mother survived him and the royal pension was renewed in his name so that he would not be left helpless in the absence of her husband and son.

Camões’ mortal remains were buried near the Santa Ana convent in Lisbon, however their exact location was lost after an earthquake in 1755 that devastated the area.

Legacy

Today busts and statues of Camões are erected in various parts of the world to honor the memory of this outstanding Portuguese writer. In 1988, Portugal and Brazil agreed to create a literary award named after him.

His work remains in the taste of readers and specialized critics five hundred years after its creation with translations into Spanish, English and Hebrew.

References

  1. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2019). Luís de Camões, Portugese Poet. Taken from britannica.com
  2. Amanda Fiege. (2018). Adventures of a Portugese Poet. Taken from smithsonianmag.com
  3. The Editor of Encyclopedia. (2004). Luis Vaz de Camões. Taken from encyclopedia.com
  4. The Editors of Get Lisbon. (2018). Tracing Luis de Camões, in Lisbon. Taken from getlisbon.com
  5. Eden Flaherty. (2018). Camões: The Portugese Poet. Taken from atlaslisboa.com

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