The Lusiads (tr. Burton)

The Lusiads (tr. Burton)  (1880) 
by Luís de Camões, translated by Richard Francis Burton

Os Lusíadas - cover.jpg


















H. I. M.



Constitutional Emperor, and Perpetual Defender




the Man rather than the Monarch

this Version of a Poem,

so dear to the heart of every Brazilian,

is offered


his Imperial Majesty's

most obedient

humble Servant,


Il far un libro è meno che niente,
Se il libro fatto non rifà la gente.

Place, riches, favour,
Prizes of accident as oft as merit.

Ora toma a espada, agora a penna
(Now with the sword-hilt, then with pen in hand).

Cam., Sonn. 192.

Bramo assai,—poco spero,—nulla chiedo.

Tout cela prouve enfin que l'ouvrage est plein de grandes
beautés, puisque depuis deux cents ans il fait les délices d'une
nation spirituelle qui doit en connôitre les fautes.

Voltaire, Essai, etc.



(Tu se' lo mio maestro, e' l mio autore).

Great Pilgrim-poet of the Sea and Land;
Thou life-long sport of Fortune's ficklest will;
Doomed to all human and inhuman ill,
Despite thy lover-heart, thy hero-hand:
Enrollèd by thy pen what marv'ellous band
Of god-like Forms thy golden pages fill;
Love, Honour, Justice, Valour, Glory thrill
The Soul, obedient to thy strong command:
Amid the Prophets highest sits the Bard,
At once Revealer of the Heav'en and Earth,
To Heav'en the guide, of Earth the noblest guard;
And, 'mid the Poets thine the peerless worth,
Whose glorious song, thy Genius' sole reward,
Bids all the Ages, Camoens! bless thy birth.

R. F. B.


I felt that I had no light task before me when I undertook to edit my Husband's Translation of Camoens "Lusiads." The nearer I come to that work the more mountainous does it appear, instead of dispersing as most work does when one sets one's shoulder to the wheel.

Yet, I feel that no other than myself should do this office for him; for I shared his travels in Portugal, his four years up country in Brazil, learnt the language with him, and I have seen for nineteen and a-half years the Camoens table duly set apart—the bonne bouche of the day. I have been daily and hourly consulted as to this expression, or this or that change of word, this or that peculiarity of Camoens.

What, then, are those difficulties, you, the reader, will ask me? Let me try to explain. So many enterprising poet-authors have translated Camoens, and received their meed of praise and popularity. In old times, Fanshawe, the best because so quaint; then, Messrs. Mickle, Musgrave, and Mitchell; latterly, Mr. J. J. Aubertin, Mr. Duff, and Mr. Hewitt.

But this translation stands apart from all the rest—as far apart as the Passionspiel of Ober-Ammergau stands apart as a grand dramatic act of devotion from all the other Miracle-plays, now suppressed. This translation is not a literary tour de force done against time or to earn a reputation; it is the result of a daily act of devotion of twenty years from a man of this age who has taken the hero of a former age for his model, his master, as Dante did Virgil; and between whose two fates—Master and Disciple—exists a strange and fatal similarity.

What I tremble for in its publication is, that it is too aesthetic for the British Public, and will not meet with its due meed of appreciation as the commoner translations have done. If a thousand buy it, will a hundred read it, and will ten understand it? I say to myself; but then I brighten at the thought that to those ten it will be the gem of their library.

It stands in poetry where Boito's "Mefistofele" stands in music. He was not appalled by Gounod, nor Spohr, nor Wagner, nor Meyerbeer, and in the opinion of many musicians has distanced them all. The first hearing of his opera takes away your breath—that is, if you are a musician—if not, it was a sin to occupy the place which would have been a seventh heaven to a musician. You don't understand it, nor pretend to do so, but you long to go again, and you do go night after night, each time unfolding new beauties in each separate passage, until you know by heart and have dissected the whole, nor even then do you tire, but enjoy it all the more.

In this translation, whenever my Husband has appeared to coin words, or to use impossible words, they are the exact rendering of Camoens; in every singularity or seeming eccentricity, the Disciple has faithfully followed his Master, his object having been not simply to write good verse, but to give a literal word-for-word rendering of his favourite hero. And he has done it to the letter, not only in the words, but in the meaning and intention of Camoens.

To the unaesthetic, to non-poets, non-linguists, non-musicians, non-artists, Burton's Lusiads will be an unknown land, an unknown tongue. One might as well expect them to enjoy a dominant seventh or an enharmonic change in harmony. To be a poet one must be a musician; to be a musician or a painter one must have a poetic temperament, or the poetry or the music will have a hard metallic sound, and become a doggerel, a scherzo; the painting a sign-post!

With this little explanation, I commend this grand work to the study of the public. The Commentaries will interest all alike.


Trieste, July 19th, 1880.


The most pleasing literary labour of my life has been to translate "The Lusiads." One of my highest aims has been to produce a translation which shall associate my name, not unpleasantly, with that of "my master, Camoens."

Those who favour me by reading this version are spared the long recital of why, how, and when Portugal's Maro became to me the perfection of a traveller's study. The first and chiefest charm was, doubtless, that of the Man. A wayfarer and voyager from his youth; a soldier, somewhat turbulent withal, wounded and blamed for his wounds; a moralist, a humourist, a satirist, and, consequently, no favourite with King Demos; a reverent and religious spirit after his own fashion (somewhat "Renaissance," poetic, and Pagan), by no means after the fashion of others; an outspoken, truth-telling, lucre-despising writer; a public servant whose motto was,—strange to say,—Honour, not Honours; a doughty Sword and yet doughtier Pen; a type of the chivalrous age; a patriot of the purest water, so jealous of his Country's good fame that nothing would satisfy him but to see the world bow before her perfections; a genius, the first and foremost of his day, who died in the direst poverty and distress: such in merest outline was the Man, and such was the Life which won the fondest and liveliest sympathies of the translator.

Poetas por poetas sejam lidos;
Sejam só por poetas explicadas
Suas obras divinas;
(Still by the Poets be the Poets read
Only be render'd by the Poet's tongue
Their works divine);

writes Manuel Correa. Mickle expresses the sentiment with more brevity and equal point. None but a poet can translate a poet; and Coleridge assigns to a poet the property of explaining a poet. Let me add that none but a traveller can do justice to a traveller. And it so happens that most of my wanderings have unconsciously formed a running and realistic commentary upon "The Lusiads." I have not only visited almost every place named in the Epos of Commerce, in many I have spent months and even years. The Arch-poet of Portugal paints from the life, he has also the insight which we call introvision; he sees with exact eyes where others are purblind or blind. Only they who have personally studied the originals of his pictures can appreciate their perfect combination of fidelity and realism with Fancy and Idealism. Here it is that the traveller-translator may do good service with his specialty.

Again, like Boccaccio, Camoens reflects the Lux ex Oriente. There is a perfume of the East in everything he writes of the East: we find in his song much of its havock and all its splendour. Oriental-like, he delights in the Pathetic Fallacy; to lavish upon inanimates the attributes of animate sensation. Here again, the student of things Eastern, the "practical Orientalist," may be useful by drawing attention to points which escape the European, however learned.

There are many translators of Camoens yet to come. We are an ephemeral race, each one struggling to trample down his elder brother, like the Simoniacal Popes in the Malebolge-pit. My first excuse for adding to the half-dozen translations in the field, must be my long studies, geographical and anthropological: I can at least spare future writers the pains and penalties of saddling the exactest of poets with bad ethnology and worse topography. These may be small matters, but in local colouring every touch tells.

My chief qualifications for the task, however, are a thorough appreciation of the Poem and a hearty admiration for the Poet whom I learned to love in proportion as I learned to know him. His Lusiads has been described as une lecture saine et fortifiante. I would say far more. The Singer's gracious and noble thoughts are reviving as the champagne-air of the mountain-top. His verse has the true heroic ring of such old ballads as:—

S'en assaut viens, devant ta lance,
En mine, en échelle, en tous lieux,
En prouesse les bons avance,
Ta dame t'en aimera mieux.

And with this love and sympathy of mine mingles not a little gratitude. During how many hopeless days and sleepless nights Camoens was my companion, my consoler, my friend;—on board raft and canoe; sailer and steamer; on the camel and the mule; under the tent and the jungle-tree; upon the fire-peak and the snow-peak; on the Prairie, the Campo, the Steppe, the Desert!

Where no conversable being can be found within a march of months; and when the hot blood of youth courses, through the brain, Ennui and Nostalgia are readily bred, while both are fatal to the Explorer's full success. And, preferring to all softer lines the hard life of Discovery-travel:—

Where things that own not man's dominion dwell,
Where foot of mortal man hath never been;—

a career which combines cultivation and education with that resistless charm, that poetry-passion of the Unknown; whose joy of mere motion lightens all sorrows and disappointments; which aids, by commune with Nature, the proper study of Mankind which enlarges the mental view as the hill-head broadens the horizon; which made Julian a saint, Khizr a prophet, and Odin a god: this Reiselust, I say, being my ruling passion, compelled me to seek a talisman against homesickness and the nervous troubles which learned men call Phrenalgia and Autophobia.

I found this talisman in Camoens.

And, if it be true that by virtue of his perfect affection and veneration for Homer, whom he loved as a second self, Chapman was enabled to reflect a something of the old Greek's magic force and fire, I also may be permitted to hope that complete sympathy with my Poet will enable me to present the public with a copy not unworthy of Camoens' immortal work.

After all, to speak without undue modesty, my most cogent reason for printing this translation of my Master is, simply because I prefer it to all that have appeared. Others will think otherwise; and there is a Judge from whose sentence lies no present appeal. I have spared no labour on the work; I have satisfied myself if not Malebouche; and I repeat my motto: poco spero, nulla chiedo. If a concurrence of adverse trifles prevent my being appreciated now, the day will come, haply somewhat late, when men will praise what they now pass by.


Cairo, May 1, 1880.


Contrary to custom, I begin with my translation of the Poem, and end with what usually comes first, the Commentary. This Introduction, now converted to a postscript, is necessary for the full comprehension of an Epic upwards of three centuries old. But, believing in the "liberty of foot-notes," I have appended a few, which will save many readers the mortification of consulting the conclusion.

The following synopsis of The Lusiads shows the raison d'etre of my commentary:—

Canto I. The Voyage, in ... stanzas 106, lines 848
" II. " " ... " 113, " 904
" III. Historical " ... " 143, " 1144
" IV. " " ... " 104, " 832
" VI. The Voyage and geographical 113, " 904
" VI. " " ... " 99, " 792
" VII. Geographico-historical " 87, " 696
" VIII. Historical " ... " 99, " 792
" IX. Romantic " ... " 95, " 760
" III. Geographico-ethnographico-historical 156, " 1248
Totals ... ... 1,102 " 8,816
The text of the Poem is immediately followed by the 79 estancias desprezadas, or stanzas, which, omitted by Camoens, were printed from manuscripts after his death. Of these 632 lines many were rejected for special reasons, and not a few deserve translation: they are here offered to the public for the first time.

Thus my Commentary falls naturally into IV. Chapters.

Chap. I. Biographical; with three Sections: § 1. Essay on the Life of Camoens; § 2. Camoens the Man; and, § 3. Camoens the Poet.

Chap. II. Bibliographical; with five Sections: § 1. On translating The Lusiads; § 2. English translators, with specimens; § 3. Notices of English translators; § 4. Minor partial and miscellaneous English translations; and, § 5. The present version.

Chap. III. Historical and Chronological; with four sections: § 1. Portugal before the reign of D. Joam II.; § 2. D.D. Joam III. and Manoel; § 3. The reign of D. Joam III.; and, § 4. The Annals of his Country till the death of Camoens.

Chap. IV. Geographical; with four sections: § 1. Preliminary; § 2. The Voyage of Da Gama; § 3. The Travels and Campaigns of Camoens in the nearer East; and, § 4. In the further East. I make no apology for the length of this topographical essay; the subject has been much neglected by modern commentators.
Chap. V. Annotative. I have here placed explicatory

and philological details which illustrate the ten Cantos, concluding with three tables borrowed from various sources. No. 1. Editions of the works of Camoens ; § 2. Tables of Translations of the works, especially The Lusiads ; and, § 3. Contents of The Lusiads, which may serve as an

index of subjects.

In conclusion, I have to thank Messrs. Wyman for the care and trouble they have taken in printing the Translation.

Trieste, July 10, 1880.


Page line for read
xii 15 full stop colon after "point":
19 note Now Here
38 6 for—that for-that (hyphen, not dash).
40 8 affordeth. affordeth!
63 2 hate bate.
64 8 Meliosdanian Melindanian
69 note Monday, April 5 Sunday, April 15,
71 9 the Olympus Olympus
16 she Wanderer's the Wanderer's
77 12 galore galore.
80 3 To thee In thee
90 note Erzgebrige Erzgebirge
105 11 Leïria Leiría
113 21 fast close
23 fast forth
134 3 Alcmena Alcmené
140 20 Astyánax Astyanax
144 12 scorn scorn?
179 14 thousand hundred
194 note Almeido Almeida
215 19 Mombasah Melindé
244 5 deign fain
245 6 dreadful fearful
8 Elements
275 22 sweet sweat
290 21 Who have we Whom, etc
304 1 must most
309 7 rude nude
320 11 Diego Diogo
331 23 New new
345 22 The the
358 15 rights riches
364 19 courses course
382 7 for far
399 2 Jaqueta Jaqueté
404 16 adult'erous th' accursèd
423 14 when, where where, when

Cantos (not listed in original)