Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 315
The Lusiads is written in the style of ancient epic poetry. The author Luís de Camões draws direct comparisons to famous texts such as the Aeneid, the Iliad, and the Odyssey. In fact, the very first line deliberately references Virgil's work.
ARMS and the Heroes, who from Lisbon's shore, Thro' seas where sail was never spread before.
The Aeneid opens in a similar way stating, "Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc'd by fate, And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate."
In ten cantos The Lusiads depicts Portuguese history and follows the explorer Vasco da Gama as its central figure. In a similar manner to the texts it takes inspiration from, the expedition is mythologized. Roman gods take sides, assisting and opposing the sailors on their expedition. An important quotation that is worth considering is Jove's prediction. This god outlines that the Portuguese are destined for greatness.
That bold advent'rous race, the Fates declare,
A potent empire in the East shall rear,
Surpassing Babel's or the Persian fame,
Proud Grecia's boast, or Rome's illustrious name.
The Lusiads is largely patriotic towards the nation of Portugal. The poem is enthusiastic about maritime adventure as well as the glory that came with it. Vasco da Gama spends part of the poem narrating Portuguese history. He speaks of how one ruler of Portugal, Dom Manuel had prophetic dreams which lit the fires of exploration.
When, sent by Heaven, a sacred dream inspir'd
His lab'ring mind, and with its radiance fir'd:
High to the clouds his tow'ring head was rear'd,
New worlds, and nations fierce, and strange, appear'd;
The purple dawning o'er the mountains flow'd,
The forest-boughs with yellow splendour glow'd;
The expedition meets foreign monarchs, experiences betrayal, and contends with fantastical oppositions such as Neptune's storms. There are more quotations worth looking into on the legendary nature of the journey and how it intersects with history and literature.
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