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117
CAMOENS

and Camoens accompanied him to Lisbon, intending to follow him to the East in the armada which was due to sail in the spring of 1550. Reaching the capital in December, the poet almost immediately enlisted, but when the time came for departure he had changed his mind. His affection for Catherina and dreams of literary glory detained him, and he lived on in the expectation of obtaining a post on the strength of his services and wound. But month after month passed by without result, and in his disappointment he allied himself with a group of hot-blooded youths, including the ex-friar Antonio Ribeiro, nicknamed “the Chiado”, after whom the main street of Lisbon takes its name, and endeavoured to forget his troubles in their society. He took part in their extravagances and gained the name of “Trinca-fortes” (“Crack-braves”) from his bohemian companions, while there were ladies who mocked at his disfigurement, dubbing him “devil” and “eyeless face”. In the course of his adventures he had often to draw his sword, either as attacker or attacked, and he boasted that he had seen the soles of the feet of many but none had seen his. When the reply to his application came from the palace it was a negative one, and he had now nothing further to expect. His stock of money brought from Ceuta was certainly exhausted, and misery stared him in the face, making him desperate. On the feast of Corpus Christi, the 16th of June 1552, he found two masked friends of his engaged in a street fight near St Dominic’s convent, and joining in the fray he wounded one Gonçalo Borges, a palace servant, with the result that he was apprehended and lodged in gaol. This unprovoked attack upon a royal servant on so holy a day constituted a serious offence and cost him eight months’ imprisonment. In a pathetic sonnet he describes his terrible experiences, which made such an impression on him that years afterwards he recurred to them in his great autobiographical Canzon 10. When Borges’ wound was completely healed, the poet’s friends intervened to assist him, and it was arranged that on his formally imploring pardon Borges should grant it and desist from proceeding with the case. This was effected on the 13th of February 1553, and on the 7th of March the king, taking into consideration that Camoens was “a youth and poor and decided to serve this year in India”, confirmed the pardon. He had been obliged to humble his pride and enlist again, but while he complained of his troubles he recognized, in his frank, honest way, that his own mistakes were in part the causes of them.

After bidding good-bye to Catherina for the last time, Camoens set sail on Palm Sunday, the 24th of March 1553, in the “S. Bento”, the flagship of a fleet of four vessels, under Fernaõ Alvares Cabral. His last words, he says in a letter, were those of Scipio Africanus, “Ingrata patria, non possidebis ossa mea”.

He relates some of his experiences on board and the events of the voyage in various sonnets in Elegy iii. and in the Lusiads. In those days the sailors navigated the ships, while the men-at-arms kept the day and night watches, helped in the cleaning and, in case of necessity, at the pumps, but the rank of Camoens doubtless saved him from manual work. He had much time to himself in his six months’ voyage and was able to lay in a store of nautical knowledge, while tempestuous weather off the Cape of Good Hope led him to conceive the dramatic episode of Adamastor (Lusiads, canto 5). The “S. Bento”, the best ship of the fleet, weathered the Cape safely, and without touching at Mozambique, the watering-place of ships bound for India, anchored at Goa in September. It seems probable that the idea of the Lusiads took further shape on the voyage out, and that Camoens modified his plan; cantos 3 and 4 were already written, but from an historical he now made it a maritime epic. The discovery of India became the main theme, while the history of Portugal was interlaced with it, and the poem ended with the espousals between Portugal and the ocean, and a prophecy of the future greatness of the fatherland. At the time of his arrival Goa boasted 100,000 inhabitants, and with its magnificent harbour was the commercial capital of the west of India. The first viceroy had been content with a sea dominion, but the great Affonso de Albuquerque saw that this was not enough to secure the supremacy of the Portuguese; recognizing the strategic value of Goa, he seized it and made it the capital of a land empire, and built fortresses in every important point through the East. Since his death a succession of remarkable victories had made the flag of Portugal predominant, but the enervating climate, the pleasures and the plunder of Asia, began to tell on the conquerors. Corruption was rife from the governor downwards, because the ruling ambition was to get rich and return home, and the hero of one day was a pirate the next. After all, it was only human nature, for a governorship lasted but three years and Portugal was far away, so the saying went round—“They are installed the first year, they rob the second, and then pack up in the third to sail away.” Camoens was well received at first, owing to his talents and bravery, and he found the life cheap and merry, but having left his country with high ideals, the injustice and demoralization of manners he found in India soon disgusted him. He compared Goa to Babylon, and called it “the mother of villains and the stepmother of honest men.”

His first military service in the East took place in November 1553, when he went with a force led by the viceroy to chastise a petty king on the Malabar coast. The expedition only lasted two or three months, and after some trivial combats it returned to Goa. In February of the following year Camoens accompanied the viceroy’s son, D. Fernando de Menezes, who led an armada to the mouth of the Red Sea and thence up the Arabian coast to snap up hostile merchantmen and suppress piracy. Next the fleet went on to Ormuz, as was the custom with these annual cruises, and then to Bassora, where the poet helped to make some valuable prizes, and wrote a sonnet—it was ever, with him, “in one hand the sword, in the other the pen”! Returning to Goa in November he learnt of the deaths of Prince John, and of his friend and pupil the young D. Antonio de Noronha, and paid his tribute in a feeling sonnet and eclogue. In February 1555 he sailed on another pirate hunt and spent six weary months off Cape Guardafui, varied by a visit to Mombasa and by further work on his epic, and only got back to Goa in the following September. His experiences are recorded in the profound and sad 10th Canzon.

Meanwhile Francisco Barreto, an honourable and generous man, had become governor-general of India in the June of 1555, and, his appointment being popular, a reign of festivities began in Golden Goa to welcome his succession, in the course of which Camoens produced his Filodemo, a dramatized novel written in his court days. The same occasion probably gave birth to the Disparates na India (“Follies of India”), and certainly to the Satyra do Torneio (“Satire of the Tourney”), which confirmed the poet’s reputation as a sayer of sharp things and gave considerable umbrage to those whom the cap fitted. However, it was not the enmities thus aroused but military duty which compelled him to quit Goa once more in the spring of 1556. He had enlisted in Lisbon for five years, the usual term, and in compliance with the orders of the governor he sailed for the Moluccas in April and there fought and versified for two years, though nearly all is guesswork at this period of his life. He appears to have spent the time between September 1556 and February 1557 in the island of Ternate, where he wrote Canzon 6, revealing a state of moral depression similar to that of Canzon 10, and he perhaps visited Banda and Amboina. In the following year he took part in the military occupation of Macao, which the emperor of China had presented to the Portuguese in return for their destruction of a pirate fleet which had besieged Canton. The poet’s five years’ term of service was now over, and he remained at Macao many months waiting for a ship to carry him back to India. He had made some profit out of the Mercî de Viagem, granted by the governor Barreto to free him from the poverty in which he habitually lived, and he spent his money royally. At the same time he continued his epic, working in the grotto which still bears his name.

All seemed to be going smoothly with him until suddenly his fortunes took a serious turn for the worse. As the result of an intrigue the captain of the yearly ship from China to India, who acted as governor of Macao during his stay in port, imprisoned