The introduction to Camões: Made in Goa, a brand-new publication by Landeg White from Under the Peepal Tree press.
Camões arrived in India in November 1553, disembarking in Goa after a voyage of seven months. He arrived not as a Viceroy or Governor or Admiral, not as an authority figure of any kind, but as a convict soldier, sentenced to military service after being convicted of brawling in Lisbon. At the Corpus Christi festival in 1550, he had wounded a court official with a sword thrust, his subsequent prison sentence being commuted to a fine of 4,000 reis and three years military service in India.
It is hard to over-emphasis the scale of this personal disaster. Camões was 28, possibly 29 years of age. He was born into the lower ranks of the nobility, and all his ambitions had been focused on the Portuguese court, where he hoped his skills as a poet would secure him an appointment – the sixteenth century equivalent of a government job. The poems he wrote in pursuit of this were accomplished but conventional, versions of Petrarch whose sonnets in vernacular Italian had swept Europe with their celebrations of unrequited love, and pastoral eclogues featuring shepherdesses who were thinly disguised portraits of ladies at the Portuguese court. Suddenly, that ambition was shattered.Read More