IN undertaking, at the publishers’ request, the function of editor of Mickle’s Lusiad, I have compared the translation with the original, and, in some places, where another translation seemed preferable to, or more literal than, Mickle’s, I have, in addition, given that rendering in a foot-note. Moreover, I have supplied the arguments to the several cantos, given a few more explanatory notes, and added a table of contents.
"The late ingenious translator of the Lusiad," says Lord Strangford, * "has portrayed the character, and narrated the misfortunes of our poet, in a manner more honourable to his feelings as a man than to his accuracy in point of biographical detail. It is with diffidence that the present writer essays to correct his errors; but, as the real circumstances of the life of Camoëns are mostly to be found in his own minor compositions, with which Mr. Mickle was unacquainted, he trusts that certain information will atone for his presumption."
As Lord Strangford professes to have better and more recent sources of information regarding the illustrious, but
unfortunate, bard of Portugal, I make no apology for presenting to the reader an abstract of his lordship’s memoir. Much further information will be found, however, in an able article contained in No. 53 of the Quarterly Review for July, 1822, from the pen, I believe, of the poet Southey. "The family of Camoëns was illustrious," says Lord Strangford, "and originally Spanish. They were long settled at Cadmon, a castle in Galicia, from which they probably derived their patronymic appellation. However, there are some who maintain that their name alluded to a certain wonderful bird, * whose mischievous sagacity discovered and punished the smallest deviation from conjugal fidelity. A lady of the house of Cadmon, whose conduct had been rather indiscreet, demanded to be tried by this extraordinary judge. Her innocence was proved, and, in gratitude to the being who had restored him to matrimonial felicity, the contented husband adopted his name." It would appear that in a dispute between the families of Cadmon and De Castera, a cavalier of the latter family was slain. This happened in the fourteenth century. A long train of persecution followed, to escape which, Ruy de Camoëns, having embraced the cause of Ferdinand, removed with his family into Portugal, about A.D. 1370. His son, Vasco de Camoëns, was highly distinguished by royal favour, and had the honour of being the ancestor of our poet, who descended from him in the fourth generation. Luis de Camoëns, the author of the Lusiad, was born at Lisbon about A.D. 1524. His misfortunes began with his birth--he never saw a father’s smile--for Simon Vasco de Camoëns perished by shipwreck in the very year which
gave being to his illustrious son. The future poet was sent to the university of Coimbra--then at the height of its fame,--"and maintained there by the provident care of his surviving parent."
"Love," says Lord Strangford, "is very nearly allied to devotion, and it was in the exercise of the latter, that Camoëns was introduced to the knowledge of the former. In the Church of Christ’s Wounds at Lisbon, on 11th April, 1542, Camoëns first beheld Doña Caterina de Atayde, the object of his purest and earliest attachment . . . and it was not long before Camoëns enjoyed an opportunity of declaring his affection, with all the romantic ardour of eighteen and of a poet." The peculiar situation of the lady, as one of the maids of honour to the queen, imposed a restraint upon her admirer which soon became intolerable; and he, for having violated the sanctity of the royal precincts, was in consequence banished from the court. Whatever may have been the nature of his offence, "it furnished a pretext to the young lady’s relations for terminating an intercourse which worldly considerations rendered highly imprudent."
But Love consoled his votary: his mistress, on the morning of his departure, confessed the secret of her long-concealed affection, and the sighs of grief were soon lost in those of mutual delight. The hour of parting was, perhaps, the sweetest of our poet’s existence.
Camoëns removed to Santarem, but speedily returned to Lisbon, was a second time detected, and again driven into exile. *
The voice of Love inspired our poet "with the glorious resolution of conquering the obstacles which fortune had
placed between him and felicity." He obtained permission, therefore, to accompany King John III. in an expedition then fitting out against the Moors in Africa. In one of the engagements with the enemy our hero had the misfortune to lose "his right eye, by some splinters from the deck of the vessel in which he was stationed. Many of his most pathetic compositions were written during this campaign, and the toils of a martial life were sweetened by the recollection of her for whose sake they were endured. His heroic conduct at length procured his recall to court," but to find, alas, that his mistress was no more.
Disappointed in his hope of obtaining any recognition of his valiant deeds, he now resolved, under the burning sun of India, to seek that independence which his own country denied. "The last words I uttered," says Camoëns, "on board the vessel before leaving, were those of Scipio: ‘Ungrateful country! thou shalt not even possess my bones.’" "Some," says Lord Strangford, "attribute his departure to a very different cause, and assert that he quitted his native shores on account of an intrigue in which he was detected with the beautiful wife of a Portuguese gentleman. Perhaps," says Lord Strangford, "this story may not be wholly unfounded." On his arrival in India he contributed by his bravery to the success of an expedition carried on by the King of Cochin, and his allies, the Portuguese, against the Pimento Islands; and in the following year (1555) he accompanied Manuel de Vasconcelos in an expedition to the Red Sea. Here he explored the wild regions of East Africa, and stored his mind with ideas of scenery, which afterwards formed some of the most finished pictures of the Lusiad.
On his return to Goa, Camoëns devoted his whole attention to the completion of his poem; but an unfortunate satire which, under the title of Disparates na India, or Follies in India, he wrote against the vices and corruptions
of the Portuguese authorities in Goa, so roused the indignation of the viceroy that the poet was banished to China.
Of his adventures in China, and the temporary prosperity he enjoyed there, while he held the somewhat uncongenial office of Provedor dos defuntos, i.e., Trustee for deceased persons, Mickle has given an ample account in the introduction to the Lusiad. During those years Camoëns completed his poem, about half of which was written before he left Europe. According to a tradition, not improbable in itself, he composed great part of it in a natural grotto which commands a splendid view of the city and harbour of Macao. An engraving of it may be seen in Ouseley’s Oriental Collections, and another will be found in Sir G. Staunton’s Account of the Embassy to China.
A little temple, in the Chinese style, has been erected upon the rock, and the ground around it has been ornamented by Mr. Fitzhugh, one of our countrymen, from respect to the memory of the poet. The years that he passed in Macao were probably the happiest of his life. Of his departure for Europe, and his unfortunate shipwreck at the mouth of the river Meekhaun, * in Cochin China, Mickle has also given a sufficient account.
Lord Strangford has related, on the authority of Sousa, that while our poet was languishing in poverty at Lisbon, "a cavalier, named Ruy de Camera, called on him one day, asking him to finish for him a poetical version of the seven penitential psalms. Raising his head from his wretched pallet, and pointing to his faithful Javanese attendant, he exclaimed, ‘Alas, when I was a poet, I was young, and happy, and blest with the love of ladies; but now I am a forlorn, deserted wretch. See--there stands my poor Antonio,
vainly supplicating fourpence to purchase a little coals--I have them not to give him.’ The cavalier, as Sousa relates, closed both his heart and his purse, and quitted the room. Such were the grandees of Portugal." Camoëns sank under the pressure of penury and disease, and died in an alms-house, early in 1579, and was buried in the church of Sta. Anna of the Franciscan Friars. Over his grave Gonzalo Coutinho placed the following inscription:--
"HERE LIES LUIS DE CAMOËNS.
HE EXCELLED ALL THE POETS OF HIS TIME.
HE LIVED POOR AND MISERABLE, AND HE DIED SO.
The translator of the Lusiad was born, in 1734, at Langholm, in Dumfriesshire, where his father, a good French scholar, was the Presbyterian minister. At the age of sixteen William Julius Mickle was removed, to his great dislike, from school, and sent into the counting-house of a relation of his mother’s, a brewer, where, against his inclination, he remained five years. He subsequently, for family reasons, became the head of the firm, and carried on the business. It is not to be wondered at, however, that with his dislike to business in general and to this one in particular, he did not succeed; and it is quite reasonable to suppose that the cause of his failure, and subsequent pecuniary embarrassments, arose from his having devoted those hours to his poetical studies which should have been dedicated to business. Mickle obtained afterwards the appointment of corrector of the Clarendon Press in Oxford, and died at Wheatly, in Oxfordshire, in 1789.
Southey speaks of Mickle (Quarterly Review, liii. p. 29) as a man of genius who had ventured upon the chance of living by his literary labours, and says that he "did not over-rate the powers which he was conscious of possessing, knew that he could rely upon himself for their due
exertion, and had sufficient worldly prudence to look out for a subject which was likely to obtain notice and patronage." His other poems, Pollio, Sir Martyn, etc., with the exception of his Cumnor Hall, are not held in high estimation.
Describing the several poetic versions of the Lusiad, Mr. Musgrave says, * of Fanshaw’s version, that "its language is antiquated, and in many instances it travesties the original, and seldom long sustains the tone of epic gravity suited to the poem. It is, however," says he, "more faithful than the translation of Mickle, but it would be ungenerous," he adds, "to dwell on the paraphrastic licences which abound in Mickle’s performance, and on its many interpolations and omissions. Mr. Mickle thought, no doubt," says Musgrave, "that by this process he should produce a poem which in its perusal might afford a higher gratification. Nor am I prepared to say that by all readers this would be deemed a miscalculation. Let it not be supposed, however, that I wish to detract from the intrinsic merit of his translation. It is but an act of justice to admit, that it contains many passages of exquisite beauty, and that it is a performance which discovers much genius, a cultivated taste, and a brilliant imagination. Many parts of the original are rendered with great facility, elegance, and fidelity. In poetical elegance I presume not to enter into competition with him."
For his own performance Musgrave claims the merit of greater fidelity to the original; but in respect of harmony, in true poetic grace, and sublimity of diction, his translation will bear no comparison with Mickle’s version; for even Southey, in the article before quoted, though very hard upon his interpolations, admits that, "Mickle was a
man of genius . . . a man whom we admire and respect; whose memory is without a spot, and whose name will live among the English poets." (Quarterly Review, liii. p. 29.)
It only remains for me to say, that in order to place the reader in a position to judge of the merits of this sublime effort of genius, I have distinguished Mickle’s longer interpolations by printing them in Bk. i. p. 24, in Italics, and in the first 300 lines of Bk. ix. by calling the attention of the reader to the interpolation by means of a footnote. The notes are, in general, left as written by the translator, except in some cases where it seemed advisable to curtail them. Original notes are indicated by the abbreviation "Ed."
vii:* Poems of Luis de Camoëns, with Remarks on his Life and Writings. By Lord Viscount Strangford. Fifth edition. London, 1808.
viii:* The Camaõ. Formerly every well-regulated family in Spain retained one of these terrible attendants. The infidelity of its mistress was the only circumstance which could deprive it of life, This odious distrust of female honour is ever characteristic of a barbarous age.
ix:* The laws of Portugal were peculiarly severe against those who carried on a love-intrigue within the palace: "they punished the offence with death. Joam I. suffered one of his favourites to be burnt alive for it.--Ed.
xi:* The Maekhaun, or Camboja.--Ed.
xiii:* Thomas Moore Musgrave’s translation of The Lusiad is in blank verse, and is dedicated to the Earl of Chichester. 1 vol. 8vo. Murray: 1826.