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CAMOENS

de Montemayor, the author of Dianá, who was then studying music. He seems to have imbibed much of that encyclopaedic instruction to which the humanists aspired, for his writings show a very extensive reading, and his scientific knowledge and faculty of observation compelled the admiration of the great Humboldt. The thoroughness of his teaching is apparent when we remember that he wrote his epic in the fortresses of Africa and Asia, far from books, and yet gave proof of acquaintance with universal history, geography, astronomy, Greek and Latin literature, and the modern poetry of Italy and Spain. Much of the credit for this learning must be attributed to the encouragement of D. Bento, now prior of Santa Cruz, who became chancellor of the university the very year when Camoens entered it. There is a tradition that this uncle destined him for the church and caused him to study theology. The poet’s knowledge of dogma and the Bible, his friendly intercourse with the Lisbon Dominicans at the end of his life, and the share he is said to have taken in their disputations, make the hypothesis a likely one, but he made his own choice and preferred a lay life. We have very little verse of his Coimbra time, but it seems that he began in the Italian manner, following the new classical school of Sá de Miranda (q.v.), and that, though attached to the popular muse and well acquainted with the national songs and romances, legends and lore, his poetry in the old style (medida velha) is mostly of later date. An exception may perhaps be found in his Auto after the manner of Gil Vicente (q.v.), The Amphitryons, a Portuguese adaptation from Plautus which was very well received. At the age of eighteen Camoens left Coimbra, bidding adieu to the old city in verses breathing the most tender saudade. Lisbon, which impressed Cervantes so much as to draw from him a classic description in the novel Persiles y Sigismunda, made an even greater impression on the youthful Camoens, and the Lusiads are full of eulogistic epithets on the city and the Tagus.

Arriving in 1543, it has been conjectured that he became tutor to D. Antonio de Noronha, son of the great noble D. Francisco de Noronha, count of Linhares, who had lately returned from a French embassy to his palace at Xabregas. The poet’s birth and talents admitted him to the society of men like D. Constantine de Braganza, the duke of Aveiro, the marquis of Cascaes, the count of Redondo, D. Manoel de Portugal and D. Gonçalo da Silveira, son of the count of Sortelha, who died a Christian martyr in Monomotapa. At Xabregas Camoens must have met Francisco de Moraes (q.v.), who had served as secretary to the count of Linhares on his embassy, and there he probably read the MS. of Palmeirim; this would explain the origin of two of his roundels which are clearly founded on passages in the romance. Camoens had had a youthful love affair in Coimbra, but on Good Friday of the year 1544 he experienced the passion of his life. On that day in some Lisbon church he caught sight of D. Catherina de Ataide (daughter of D. Antonio de Lima, high chamberlain to the infant D. Duarte), who had recently become a lady-in-waiting to the queen. This young girl, the Nathercia of his after songs, counted then some thirteen years, and was destined to be his Beatrice. To see more of her, he persuaded the count of Linhares to introduce him to the court, where his poetical gifts and culture ensured him a ready welcome, and his fifth idyll, addressed to his patron on this occasion, paved the way for his entrance. Though inferior to his later compositions, it excels in harmony any verse previously written in Portuguese. At first his suit probably met with few difficulties, and if Catherina’s family regarded it seriously, their poverty, combined with the fact that the poet came of a good stock and had the future in his hands, may have prevented any real opposition. It was his own imprudence that marred his fortunes, and his consciousness of this fact gave his muse that moving expression, truth and saudade, which are lacking in the somewhat artificial productions of the sentimental Petrarch. But while Camoens gained protectors and admirers, his temperament and conduct ensured him envious foes, and the secret of his love got out and became the subject of gossip. All was not smooth with the lady, who showed herself coy; now yielding to her heart, she was kind; and then listening to her friends, who would have preferred a better match for her, she repelled her lover. Jealousy then seized him, and sick of court life for the moment, he gladly accompanied his patron to the latter’s country house; but once there he recognized that Lisbon was the centre of attraction for him and that he could not be happy at a distance. His verses at this time reveal his parlous condition. He oscillates between joy and depression. He passes from tender regrets to violent outbursts, which are followed by calm and peace, while expressions of passionate love alternate with bold desires and lofty ambitions. It is clear that there was an understanding between him and Catherina and that they looked forward to a happy ending, and this encouraged him in his weary waiting and his search for a lucrative post which would enable him to approach her family and ask for her hand. From this period date the greater part of his roundels and sonnets, some of the odes and nearly all the eclogues.

His fifth eclogue shows that he was seriously thinking of his patriotic poem in 1544; and from the fourth it seems likely that the Lusiads were in course of composition, and that cantos 3 and 4 were practically completed. He had by now established his fame and was known as the Lusitanian Virgil, but presently he had a rude awakening from his dreams of love and glory. He had shown his affection too openly, and some infraction of court etiquette, about which the queen was strict, caused the tongue of scandal to wag; perhaps it was an affair with one of Catherina’s brothers, even a duel, that led to the decree which exiled him from Lisbon.

Camoens’s rashness, self-confidence and want of respect for the authorities all contributed to the penalty, and the composition of the play El Rei Seleuco would aggravate his offence in the eyes of John III. Produced in 1545 and derived from Plutarch, the plot was calculated to draw attention to the relations between the king and his stepmother, and to recall the action of D. Manoel in robbing his son John III. of his intended bride. Camoens composed it for a wedding festivity in the house of Estacio da Fonseca, and some of the verses refer so openly to his passion, that if, as is likely, he spoke them himself, emphasizing them with voice and gesture so as to publish his love to the world, this new boldness, combined with the subject of the piece, must have rendered his exile a certainty. All we know definitely, however, is that the court was henceforth closed to him, and in 1546 he had to leave Lisbon, the abode of his love and the scene of his triumph. Tradition says that he went to the Ribatejo and spent seven or eight months with his mother’s relatives in or near Santarem, whence he poured out a number of his finest poems, including his Elegy of Exile and some magnificent sonnets, which, in vigour of ideas and beauty of expression, exceeded anything he had hitherto produced. Poets cannot live on bays, however, and pressed by necessity he determined to become a soldier.

One of his best modern biographers thinks that he petitioned the king for liberty to commute his penalty into military service in Africa; but whether this be so, or whether he merely went there to gain his spurs, certain it is that in the autumn of 1547 he proceeded to Ceuta. For the next two years, the usual period of service there, he lived the routine life of a common soldier in this famous trade emporium and outpost-town, and he lost his right eye in a skirmish with the Moroccans, though some writers make the incident occur on the voyage across the straits when his ship was attacked by Sallee rovers. Elegy ii. and a couple of odes date from his stay in Ceuta. He is full of sadness and almost in despair, but is saved from suicide by love and memory of the past. He has intervals of calm and resignation, even of satirical humour, and these become more frequent as the term of his exile draws near, and in one of them he wrote his prose letter to a “Lisbon friend.” The octaves on the Discontent of the World, which breathe a philosophic equanimity and lift the reader out of the tumult of daily life, go to show that his restless heart had found peace at last and that he had accustomed himself to solitude.

In November 1549 the aged governor of Ceuta, D. Affonso de Noronha, was summoned to court and created viceroy of India,