Monday, February 29, 2016

Luis Vaz de Camões

Luis Vaz de Camões (c.1524—1580) is the national poet of Portugal. Encyclopedia Britannica says that "Camões had a permanent and unparalleled impact on Portuguese and Brazilian literature alike..." He spent much of his life abroad. When fighting as a member of the Portuguese army in Morocco, he lost an eye. He served as a soldier in India for three years, was part of military campaigns in Arabia and East Africa, was shipwrecked on the African coast, and ended up in Mozambique — where he had to rely on the generosity of friends to help pay his passage home. In 1570 he arrived in Lisbon, having been away for seventeen years.

After his return to Lisbon he published The Lusiads (1572), an epic poem about the travels of the explorer Vasco da Gama. He also repented of the carnality of his youth, and wrote many fine poems of faith, including the following sonnets. Both of these were translated by William Baer and are from Luís de Camões: Selected Sonnets (Chicago, 2005).


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 your most desire,
no greater honor or glory has ever surpassed
humbly serving the highest Lord of Lords.

O Glorious Cross

O glorious cross, O victorious
and holy prize that encompasses everything;
O chosen miraculous sign ordained to bring
your remedy to each and every one of us.
O living font of sacred blood, expel
our sins and cure our sinful souls. In You,
O Lord, we know the almighty God, who
embodies the gentle name of mercy as well.
With you, the time of vengeance ends. A new
compassion flowers forth, forever and ever,
like after winter, when springtime blossoms again.
So vanquish all your enemies, Lord, You
who've made so many changes, yet never
cease to be exactly what You've always been.

Posted with permission of the translator.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.