The Lusiads

the_lusiads

translated by Landeg White
Oxford World’s Classics 2001

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1998 is the quincentenary of Vasca da Gama’s voyage via southern Africa to India, the voyage celebrated in this new translation of one of the greatest poems of the Renaissance. Portugal’s supreme poet Camões was the first major European artist to cross the equator. The freshness of that original encounter with Africa and India is the very essence of Camões’s vision. The first translation of The Lusiads for almost half a century, this new edition is complemented by an illuminating introduction and extensive notes.

Arms are my theme, and those matchless heroes
Who from Portugal’s far western shores
By oceans where none had ventured
Voyaged to Taprobana and beyond,
Enduring hazards and assaults
Such as drew on more than human prowess
Such as drew on more than human prowess
Among far distant peoples, to proclaim
A New Age and win undying fame;

Kings likewise of glorious memory
Who magnified Christ and Empire,
Bringing ruin on the degenerate
Lands of Africa and Asia;
And others whose immortal deeds
Have conquered death’s oblivion
– These words will go whereever there are men
If art and invention steer my pen.

Boast no more about the subtle Greek
Or the long odyssey of Trojan Aeneas;
Enough of the oriental conquests
of great Alexander and of Trajan;
I sing of the famous Portuguese
To whom both Mars and Neptune bowed.
Abandon all the ancient Muse revered,
A loftier code of honour has appeared.

And you, nymphs of the Tagus, who
First suckled my infant genius,
If ever in my rustic verses
I celebrated your companionable river,
Return me now a loftier tone,
A style both grand and contemporary;
Be to me Helicon. Let Apollo choose
Your water as the fountain of my muse.

Fire me now with mighty cadences,
Not a goatherd’s querulous piping
But the shouts of a battle trumpet,
Stirring the heart, steeling the countenance;
Give me a poem worthy of the exploits
Of the heroes so inspired by Mars,
To propogate their deeds through space and time
If poetry can rise to the sublime.

from The Lusiads translated by Landeg White

Reviews

“Admirably done, being neither rumbustious nor boastful but shrewdly suited to the spirit of a modern readership.&#8221

London Review of Books

“This is the best translation of Os Lusíadas in English and, as it succeeds in bringing it alive as a poem to be read in our time, it is a major literary event.”

Portuguese Studies

“As fine an example of rendering for our time as Fanshawe’s was for his. A great European poem is at last available to us.”

Times Literary Supplement