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Luís de Camões

Luís de Camões was born round about 1524 or 1525, probably in Lisbon. His parents were Simão Vaz de Camões and Ana de Sá. Prior to 1550 he was living in Lisbon where he stayed until 1553. This stay was interrupted by an expedition to Ceuta during which he was wounded and lost one of his eyes.

In Lisbon, he took part, with several of his poems, in many poetic entertainments organized by the courtiers. Through this literary activity he entered into contact with ladies of a higher rank, among which Dona Francisca de Aragão (to whom he dedicates a poem preceded by a letter of refined and delicate courtship); and with noblemen from the high nobility, having entertained friendship relations with some of them. During this period, one of his plays, "El-rei Seleuco", is performed in the house of an important member of court. Around this period, Camões does not seem to have any proper way of living, and this imprudence on the edge of depravation is in accordance with the documents through which we can reconstitute the circumstances of his departure to India.

Following a turmoil occurred in Rossio, on Corpus Christi day, when he injured a certain Gonçalo Borges, he was taken to prision of Cadeia do Tronco where he stayed for several months only to leave - although with the pardon of the offended one - with the promise of embarking to India. He was a soldier during three years and took part in military campaigns which were remembered in the elegy "O poeta Simónides, falando" (expedition to Malabar in November 1553 to support the kings of Porcá) and in the song "Junto de um seco, fero, estéril monte" (expedition to the strait of Meca, in 1555).

To crown it all he was arrested on his arrival to Goa by governor Francisco Barreto. After fourteen years of unlucky life (at least he was imprisoned another time for debts), probably interrupted with easier periods, especially during the time when Dom Francisco Coutinho, count of Redondo, was viceroy (to whom he dedicated several poems fact which reflects a friendly relationship between them), he undertook his return to Portugal.

Camões arrives to Lisbon in 1569 and he publishes "Os Lusíadas" in 1572, having had exceptionally favorable critics. Notwithstanding the enormous success of the poem and the assignment of an annual pension of 15000 réis he seems to have continued to live poorly. Truthful or legendary, this is stressing note of his last years.

He died on June 10, 1580.

It is clearly stressed in his work the clear and proud conscience he slowly builds up of his geniality as a poet and of his superiority as a man. Passionate, violent, impetuous, he knows himself a great man, notwithstanding the honors and the riches he was not given and which also would not alter in anything the intrinsic value of his work and of his highly civic mission; therefore in a noble, generous way he lavishly wastes his (economic and intellectual) property earning that fame of being «liberal and magnificent».

The final image of Camões left to us is made of paradox fragments: the gallant courtier; the boemian ruffian; the resentful; the man who devotes himself to a pagan eroticism; the Christian of the highest ascetic severity. Fragments which are reflected and refracted in his work which reveals and conceals an ambiguous and deliberately enigmatic autobiographical content. Camões published just a part of his poems during his life, fact which originated a great dilemma about the setting of his work as a whole.

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