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Luís de Camões (1524/25) - 1580)
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Luís Vaz de Camões lived a life of adventure.  Born in the Mouraria district (1524 or 25), he attended Coimbra university.  He was said to have been banished from the royal court because of an unfortunate romance.  He became a soldier and lost an eye battling the Moors in Morocco.  After his return to Lisbon, a brawl put him in jail for a year.  He departed for India and was away for sixteen years, "experiencing the full range of adventures to be had by the Portuguese of the sixteenth century."  (Paul Buck, Lisbon (Interlink books, 2002; p. 183).  Much of his poetry was lost, but he supposedly saved The Lusiad while swimming from a shipwreck.  This is the first epic written in a European language, the story of Vasco da Gama and the discoverers of the sea route to India.  He died in 1580.  As it happens, the magazine, "First Things," is publishing a few of his poems in each issue.

Luís Vaz de Camões, national poet of Portugal


The dawn rises lovely but ill-fated
and full of grief.  For as long as heartbreaks prey
upon our tragic world, this dawning day
should be forever famous and celebrated.
Only this dawn, as her lovely lights smother
the dark, will actually see, down by the sea,
that separation that no lover can bear to see:
the parting of one love from another.
Only this dawn will see, rising above
the world, our tears flowing with burning desire, 
mingling together in a river of farewell.
Only this dawn will hear these sad words of love
which will chill even the unquenchable fire
and bring relief to all the damned in hell.

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portugese by William Baer

Drowned Lover

Dearest enemy, so often unkind,
my life was in your hands, until that wave
of the sea deprived you of an earthly grave,
depriving me, as well, of peace of mind.
The selfish drowning waters keep us apart,
enjoying your lovely beauty wihin the vast
cold sea, but as long as my broken life will last,
you'll always be alive within my heart.
And if my ragged poems can last for long
enough, your love, so spotless, will persist
forever and ever, as I, on your behalf,
will praise you always with my singing song;
as long as human memories exist
my poems will be your missing epitaph.

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)

Translated from the Portugese by William Baer

 Copyright (c) 2002 First Things 125 (October 2002): 41, 46.


Like the weary sailor, the refugee
from wreck and storm, who escapes half-dead,
and then, in terror, shudders with dread
at the very mention of the name of the sea;
who swears hell never sail again, who raves
he'll stay home, even on the calmest days,
but then, in time, forgets his fearful ways,
and seeks, again, his fortune above the waves;
I, too, have barely escaped the storms that revolve
around you, my love, traveling far away,
vowing to avoid another catastrophe,
but I can't; the thought of you breaks my resolve,
and so, I return to where, on that fateful day,
I early drowned in your tempestuous sea.

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer


Happy is he whose only problem worth
complaining about is love's audacious schemes,
since they alone can never destroy his dreams
of finding some contentment here on earth.
Happy is he who, far from home, embraces,
sadly, only his fondest memories
because, despite his isolation, he sees
and clearly comprehends the sorrow he faces.
Happy is he who lives in any state
where only fraud and love's deceits and doubt
are able to torture his heart from within.
But tragic is he who lives beneath the weight
of some unforgivable act, living without
consciousness of the damage of his sin.

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer

Dead Lovers

Happy young lovers, who've ascended together
into the heavens of Venus and of Love,
where joys, so brief on earth, will now, above
this world, endure forever and forever.
Your happy hours on earth, once undermined
only by their vexing brevity,
are now exchanged for a perfect peace that's free
from all disruptions and fears of any kind.
But sad is he, who lives on earth in vain,
still trapped in love's entanglement, whose grief
increases with love and its inexorable strife.
Sad am I, for my pain brings no relief,
and Love, just to intensify my pain
and wound me more, prolongs my useless life.

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer

Copyright (c) 2002 First Things 124 (June/July 2002): 9, 22, 36


When my fantasies, and these extreme
regrets, shut my eyes in sleep, I discover,
before me, the rising spirit of my lover,
who was, even in life, always a dream.
Then across some desert, where I can barely see
the endlessly distant horizons, I pursue
my love without success. She fades from view,
by some unseen force, and glides away from me.
I cry out, "Spirit, don't run away again!"
But her eyes meet mine, sad and soft and deep,
as if to say, "No. This can never be!"
She starts to leave. I scream: "Dina . . .," but then,
before I finish her name, I wake from sleep,
as even this brief delusion escapes from me.

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portugese by William Baer


for Dom Henrique de Menses

His formidable strength of will conforms
to his noble intellect; his ideals confirm
themselves in action, always bold and firm
even in life's tumultuous winds and storms:
unmoved by greed or vulgar riches; the most
remarkable exemplar of the truly
dignified state; and the scourge of all those unruly,
bloodthirsty peoples on the Malabar Coast.
Handsome in form and face, and pure before
the entire world, and chaste; an excellence
of noble attributes which seldom occur
in nature. All these virtues and many more,
worthy of Homer's highest eloquence,
are laid to rest beneath this sepulcher.

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer


The flaming sun rises high, to the peak
of its ascent in the sky. The goat herds shrink
away from their sweltering fields to drink
the cool refreshing waters from the creek.
The birds, burning in the scorching clare,
find shelter beneath the leaves, within the shade,
but, still, their lovely songs begin to fade,
and only the chirps of crickets fill the air.
As Liso searches for the nymph, although
he always fails, no matter how he tries,
and with a thousand sighs, bemoans his lot:
"Why do you leave the one who loves you so,
for one who loves you not?" young Liso cries,
and Echo answers softly: ". . . loves you not."

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portugese by William Baer

Ruy Dias

In this world I managed to survive
a few short years, full of misery,
before the lights of day were taken from me,
much too soon, by the age of twenty-five.
Across vast seas in distant lands, I tried
to find some remedy for life. But when
the Fates say no, despite your efforts, again
and again, you end up defeated and unsatisfied.
Raised in Portugal, in the fertile lands
of Alemquer, I die a refugee,
dead from the foreign air and its foul decay,
food for the hungry fish in a brutish sea,
that crashes against these wild Abyssinian sands,
so unlike Alemquer, and so far away

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portugese by William Baer

Copyright (c) 2002 First Things 125 (August/September 2002): 18, 37, 49, 60.


You who seek serenity in the wide
tempestuous sea of the world, cease
and abandon all hope of ever finding peace,
except in Jesus Christ, God Crucified.
If wealth absorbs your thoughts and preoccupies
your nights, God is the greatest treasure of all;
And if you're looking for beauty, always recall
that God alone is the Beauty that satisfies.
If you seek delights to set your heart on fire,
remember that God's the sweetest of all, Who rewards
His followers with victory at last;
If honor and glory are what you most desire,
no greater honor or glory has ever surpassed
humbly serving the highest Lord of Lords.

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer

Good Friday

All souls, at Mass, knelt in supplication,
in the presence of the Lord, that holy day,
within the mercy of God, to silently pray
their worship to the King of all creation.
Till then, my heart was free from every care,
and calm, according to destiny's design;
but then, those eyes, far more noble than mine,
stole my reason and left me shaken and unaware.
Her vision struck me blind with disbelief,
being such a strange and exalted state:
this new angelic presence in my heart.
Is there no way that I can find relief?
And why, at birth, does human nature create
us all so different, and so far apart?

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer

Dear Gentle Soul

Dear gentle soul, who has, too soon, departed
this life, so discontent: please rest, my dear,
forever in heaven, while I, remaining here,
must live alone, in pain, and brokenhearted.
Within your ethereal state, so high above,
if you are allowed to recall your life below,
remember what you saw, not long ago,
within my eyes, my perfect ardent love.
And if my pain has earned me some relief,
some dispensation, I wonder if you might
in prayer ask God, who took away your brief
young life, if He would soon, this very night,
give me death, and end my helpless grief,
as swiftly as He took you from my sight.

Luís de Camões (1524/25 - 1580)
Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer

Copyright (c) 2002 First Things 123 (May 2002): 7,21,40.

Copyright notice (Luís de Camões poetry)


Last updated October 5, 2002.