"Arms are my theme, and those matchless heroes Who from Portugal's far western shoresBy oceans where none had ventured Voyaged to Taprobana and beyond."
So begins Landeg White's excellent new translation of one of the greatest epic poems of the Renaissance, Camoens' The Lusiads, which tells the story of the creation of the Portuguese Empire through the feats of one of its greatest voyagers, Vasco da Gama, as he recounts his voyage to India in 1497.
As its opening lines suggest, Camoens' poem drew on the classical heritage of Homer and Virgil in fashioning a poem of national and imperial identity. The geographical scope of the poem is truly epic as it surpasses its classical forebears, taking in West Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, the Indian Ocean and the Far East, and culminating in Camoens' extraordinary global vision of the world in Canto 10. Yet as White points out in his excellent introduction, the tone of the poem is also deeply elegiac; published in 1572, the poem is written at the point of the waning of the Portuguese Empire to which Camoens' was so passionately committed.
White's translation should be complimented for rescuing the poem from the indifferent prose version of William Atkinson's 1952 translation. In retaining the power of Camoens' octavos, White avoids always rhyming his couplets, which prevents the sense of lines becoming mangled. This is a fine translation, which provides a new and accessible version of the epic of Portuguese nationhood. --Jerry Brotton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Landeg White is Former Director, Centre for Southern African Studies, University of York and former editor of Journal of Southern African Studies (OUP); published poet and author of works on colonialism, Apartheid and African poetry. His latest book is Bridging the Zambezi: a Colonial Folly (Macmillan 1993)