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Luķs de Camões
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Monument to Luķs de Camões, Lisbon

Luķs Vaz de Camões (sometimes rendered in English as Camoens) (1524June 10, 1580) is generally considered Portugal's greatest poet. His mastery of his art is only comparable in greatness to Virgil, Dante or Shakespeare. He penned dozens of sonnets and other poems, but is best remembered for his epic work Os Lusķadas.

His life remains a mystery, for few remaining documents of the time refer directly to him. He was suposedly born in Lisbon, although Coimbra is also a possibility, around 1524, son to Simćo Vaz de Camões and Anna de Sį e Macedo, a family from the northern portuguese region of Chaves.

He probably studied Humanities in Coimbra, where his uncle D. Bento de Camões was a priest at the renowned Monastery of Santa Cruz, although no document registers Camões' permanence there (he does refer to Coimbra in a poem). The refined culture he displays in his writings had to be acquired somewhere, so Portugal's only university of the time was the likeliest place.

When he was very young, legend says, he fell in love with a lady of the court. The lady had also caught the king's eye, however, and so Camões was sent into exile. The lady died of a broken heart, and Camões thought so much of her that he never married.

After her death, he went to fight the Moors in Morocco, and in a battle an arrow put out one of his eyes.

He hoped to get some office when he returned to court, but none were given to him. Instead, he sailed for Goa in the East Indies, saying, as he left Portugal: "Ungrateful country, thou shall not possess my bones."

In Goa he made the Portuguese soldiers angry with a satirical poem and he was banished to Macao, where he was given an office with salary enough for his support. While living there, he wrote Os Lusķadas, named from the fabled hero Lusus, who is said to have come with Ulysses to what is now Portugal and called it Lusitania. The poem tells about Vasco da Gama and other Portuguese heroes who sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and opened a new route to the Indies.

Eventually, Camões was recalled from exile and he set sail for home. However, he was shipwrecked, and was only saved by floating on a board.

He went to Goa again and was arrested for debt and kept in prison for eight years, when he was allowed to go to Lisbon in 1569.

For a time, the king gave him a small pension, but when the king died the pension ended and Camões lived in poverty, cared for by a servant who had followed him from India, and who begged in the streets by night to get enough for them to eat.

He finally died in Lisbon at the age of 56.


Camões wrote several poetries and texts (including some in Spanish), the most known being the epic The Lusiads (1572).

The following plays are dated as of 1587:

In addition, three letters that he wrote are known to have survived.

External links

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