Camoens (Port. Camoes), Luiz de, a Portuguese poet, born in Lisbon in 1524, died there in 1579. His father was a sea captain, and was shipwrecked in 1552 on the coast of Goa. The son commenced his studies in 1538 at the university of Coimbra, which he left with a high literary reputation; but a passion which he conceived for a lady of the court, Catarina de Atayde, blighted his prospects in the very commencement of his career. The lady's family discountenanced his suit; and the king, John III., himself supposed to have been in love with the young lady, banished him from the capital. Catarina could not bear the separation from her lover, and died of a broken heart. He survived her about 30 years, but never married. In his despair at her loss he joined the Portuguese expedition against Morocco, and lost one of his eyes, which disfigured him for life. On his return to Lisbon in 1552 he was disappointed in his expectation of employment at court, and in the following year proceeded to Goa. There he gave offence to the authorities by a satirical poem, Disparates na India, in which he says of the Portuguese officeholders in India, " Honor and self-interest are never found in the same sack" (Pois honra e proveito nao cabe num saco). He was banished to Macao, where he received the appointment of provedor dos defunctos (administrator of the effects of the deceased), and the small salary connected with this office was sufficient for his support.
The great discoveries which had disclosed to Portugal the Cape of Good Hope and the key to the Indies, the stirring conflicts with the Moors, the efforts of missionaries to Christianize, while explorers strove to colonize, and, above all, the general impetus which at this time pervaded Europe, exerted a powerful influence upon the ardent imagination of Camoens. He resolved to do for Portugal what Homer had done for Greece, and wrote his "Lusiad" (Os Lusiadas), so called after the mythological hero Lusus, who, in company with Ulysses, is said to have visited Portugal and founded the city of Lisbon under the name of Ulyssipolis. This great epic was completed by Camoens during his stay in Macao, where a grotto is still pointed out to which the poet frequently resorted to write. In 1561 he received permission to return to Goa. But here one calamity after another befell him. First stripped of everything he possessed by a shipwreck, he was thrown into prison, for debt immediately after his arrival, and detained till 1569, when he returned to Lisbon, where the rest of his life was spent in poverty. King Sebastian granted him a pension of 15,000 reis (equivalent to $21) a year; and even this pittance was subsequently withheld.
For some time he was supported by a Javanese servant, Antonio, who collected alms for him during the night and nursed him during the day; and afterward he was removed to the hospital, where he died. After his death he was called the Apollo Portuguez, Camoes o Grande, a monument was erected to his memory, and medals were struck in his honor. His "Lusiad " was translated into foreign languages, and warmly praised by both Tasso and Lope de Vega. Tieck founded a novel upon the poet's death (Tod des Dichters); Mtinch-Bel-linghausen (Friedrich Halm) a drama, Camoens; and Portuguese and foreigners still flock to the Lusiad grotto at Macao. Besides the " Lusiad," he wrote sonnets, which are devoted to love, chiefly to his love for Catarina, to the celebration of virtue, and to friendship. The sonnets written shortly before his death breathe the purest imagination. The most celebrated of his Pedondilhas is that suggested to him by his escape from shipwreck. He also wrote Cangaos on the model of Petrarch's Canzoni, odes, sex-tinas, elegies, stanzas composed in ottava rima, eclogues, and three comedies: El Rey Selevco, founded upon the anecdote of the king who resigns his wife, Stratonice, to his son An-tiochus; Filedemo; and Os Amphitryoes, his most valuable contribution to the Portuguese stage.
His fame, however, rests upon his "Lusiad." Patriotism is the leading sentiment of this national poem, which abounds in picturesque descriptions of storms and scenery, and in pathetic allusions to Portugal's influence in extending the area of Christendom. The most remarkable passages are those referring to the tragic end of Inez de Castro, and to Adamas-tor, the mythological tuler of the sea, who uses his supreme influence for the purpose of stopping the progress of Vasco da Gama. The first edition of the " Lusiad " appeared in 1572. A magnificent edition was published by Didot in 1817. His complete works were edited by Barreto Feio and Monteiro (Hamburg, 1834). The best English translation is that of Mickle (first ed., 1775). The Spanish translators are Gomez de Tapia, Garzes, and Lamberto Gil. It has been translated into French by Millie; into German by Donner (1833), Booch-Arkossy (1854), and Eitner (1869); into Italian by Nervi; and into Polish by Przybylski. See "Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Luiz de Camoens," by Adamson (2 vols., London, 1820).