Camoes

camoes

translated by Landeg White
Princeton University Press 2008

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Luís de Camões is world famous as the author of the great Renaissance epic The Lusíads, but his large and equally great body of lyric poetry is still almost completely unknown outside his native Portugal. In The Collected Lyric Poems of Luís de Camões, the award-winning translator of The Lusíads gives English readers the first comprehensive collection of Camões’s sonnets, songs, elegies, hymns, odes, eclogues, and other poems–more than 280 lyrics altogether, all rendered in engaging verse.

Camões (1524-1580) was the first great European artist to cross into the Southern Hemisphere, and his poetry bears the marks of nearly two decades spent in north and east Africa, the Persian Gulf, India, and Macau. From an elegy set in Morocco, to a hymn written at Cape Guardafui on the northern tip of Somalia, to the first modern European love poems for a non-European woman, these lyrics reflect Camões’s encounters with radically unfamiliar peoples and places. Translator Landeg White has arranged the poems to follow the order of Camões’s travels, making the book read like a journey. The work of one of the first European cosmopolitans, these poems demonstrate that Camões would deserve his place among the great poets even if he had never written his epic.

I’ll sing of love in a manner so svelte,
with theme and style perfectly matched,
two thousand amorous parts of speech
will make hearts feel what they never felt.

I’ll do it so love confers life,
painting its thousand delicate mysteries,
its blank rages, its heart-felt sighs,
it foolhardy courage, its remote grief.

But in writing of the highborn disdain
of your tender and fastidious eyes,
I’m content to play the lesser part.

For to sing of your face, a composition
in itself sublime and marvelous,
I lack knowledge, Lady; and wit and art.

from The Collected Lyrical Poems of Luís de Camões translated by Landeg White

Reviews

“What an occasion! What a treasure! This book makes available for the first time in English a unique body of Renaissance poetry and a great classic of Western literature. Ably translated by Landeg White, this is a truly valuable literary achievement.”

Richard Howard,
Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation

“A qualidade deste trabalho deriva do modo como foi possível sintetizar a copiosa informação erudita, a exigência do rigor ensaística e a maturidade da vocação poética do próprio tradutor, com o objectivo ambicioso de reescrever Camões e, assim, prolongar no século XXI o labor meritório de eminentes lusófilos de expressão inglesa.”

João Almeida Flor,
Romântica, no 18. 2009

“This book is a major achievement. Superbly clear and seemingly effortless, Landeg White’s translations reveal a thoroughly modern and engaging Camões, one who will undoubtedly speak to new generations of readers. White’s organization of the poems by Camões’s travels to Africa, India, and beyond makes the book read like a journey and gives a provocative vision of Camões’s range as a poet. This book sets a new standard for readers and translators of Portuguese poetry.”

José Luiz Passos,
University of California, Los Angeles

“These translations bring Camões’s genius within reach of an audience who cannot read the elegant, intricate originals. The volume is a worthy and timely addition to the classics of poetry in translation published as part of Princeton’s Lockert Library series.”

Claire Williams,
Times Literary Supplement