The first group or cycle of poems from the three sections of Message views Portuguese history through its principal heroic and princely figures. Pessoa produced the work within the tradition and under the shadow of the premier epic of Portuguese literature, Os Lusíadas (1572; The Lusiads, 1655), by Luis de Camões. This poem recounted the heroic exploits around the globe during Portugal’s Age of Discoveries. The Lusiads themselves were written under the influence of the heroic national epics of Rome, the Aeneid (c. 29-19 b.c.e.; English translation, 1553), and of Greece, Homer’s Iliad (c. 750 b.c.e.; English translation, 1611) and Odyssey (c. 725 b.c.e.; English translation, 1614).
The first poem of the initial cycle of Message views Portugal as the face of Europe, which sees the future from the perspective of the past. The next poem describes the arbitrary will of the gods and observes that while a life may occupy a small amount of time, a soul extends over a much greater length. There follows a sequence of eight poems, grouped as “The Castles,” referring to the stalwart figures of the founding and development of Portugal. The first figure is Ulysses, mythical founder of Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. Myth is considered a narrative made of nothing but which suffuses...
(The entire section is 540 words.)