Selected Sonnets: A Bilingual Edition

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The most important writer in Portuguese history and one of the preeminent European poets of the early modern era, Luís de Camões (1524–80) has been ranked as a sonneteer on par with Petrarch, Dante, and Shakespeare. Championed by such influential English poets as William Blake and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and admired in America by Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Herman Melville, Camões was renowned for his intensely personal sonnets and equally intense adventurous life. He was banished for dueling and brawling at court, lost an eye fighting the Moors in North Africa, was shipwrecked off the coast of India, jailed in Goa, and exiled in Mozambique. Throughout these personal trials, he advanced poetry beyond the Petrarchin model of love won and lost to write of personal despair, history, politics, war, religion, and the natural beauty of Portugal.

The first significant English translation of Camões's sonnets in more than one hundred years, Selected Sonnets: A Bilingual Edition collects seventy of Camões's best—all musically rendered into contemporary, yet metrical and rhymed, English-language poetry by William Baer, with the original Portuguese on facing pages—and reintroduces the genius of a poet whom Cervantes called "the incomparable treasure of Lusus." A comprehensive selection of sonnets that demonstrates the full range of Camões's interests and invention, Selected Sonnets will prove indespensible for both students and teachers in comparative and Renaissance literature, Portuguese and Spanish history, and the art of literary translation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226092669
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

William Baer is professor of English at the University of Evansville; founder and editor of the Formalist, a magazine devoted to poetry and literary translations; and the author of two books of poems, including The Unfortunates, winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize.

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Read an Excerpt


By Luís de Camões
The University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2005

The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-09286-7

Chapter One O dia em que eu naci moura e pereça ...

O dia em que eu naci moura e pereça, não o queira jamais o tempo dar; não torne mais ao mundo e, se tornar, eclipse nesse passo o Sol padeça. Aluz lhe falte, o Sol se lhe escureça, mostre o mundo sinais de se acabar; naçam-lhe monstros, sangue chova o ar, a mãe ao próprio filho não conheça. As pessoas pasmadas, de ignorantes, as lágrimas no rosto, a côr perdida, cuidem que o mundo já se destruiu. Ó gente temerosa, não te espantes, que este dia deitou ao mundo a vida mais desventurada que se viu!


Wipe away, with death, the day of my birth; may it be forgotten forever, and never come back in the sweep of time. And if it ever returns, eclipse the sun and blacken the earth. Let all light fade and disappear. Let wild omens reveal that everything must die. Let monsters be born. Let blood rain from the sky. Let every mother not recognize her child. Let all the stunned and terrified people, with tears streaking down their faces, pale and worn, believe their world is doomed and overthrown. You, frightened people, accept these wonders and fears, for this was the wretched day on which was born the most miserable life that ever was known. * * *

Como quando do mar tempestuoso o marinheiro, lasso e trabalhado, de um naufrágio cruel já salvo a nado, só ouvir falar nele o faz medroso, e jura que, em que veja bonançoso o violento mar e sossegado, não entre nele mais, mas vai, forçado pelo muito interesse cobiçoso; assi, Senhora, eu, que da tormenta de vossa vista fujo, pro salvar-me, jurando de não mais em outra ver-me: minha alma, que de vós nunca se ausenta, dá-me por preço ver-vos, faz tornar-me donde fugi tão perto de perder-me.


Like the weary sailor, the refugee from wreck and storm, who escapes half-dead, and then, in terror, shudders with dread at the very mention of the name of the "sea"; who swears he'll never sail again, who raves he'll stay at home, even on the calmest days, but then, in time, forgets his fearful ways, and seeks, again, his fortune above the waves; I, too, have barely escaped the storms that revolve around you, my love, traveling far away, vowing to avoid another catastrophe, but I can't, the thought of you breaks my resolve, and so, I return to where, on that fateful day, I nearly drowned in your tempestuous sea.

* * *

Enquanto quis Fortuna que tivesse esperança de algum contentamento, o gosto de um suave pensamento me fez que seus efeitos escrevesse. Porém, temendo Amor que aviso desse minha escritura a algum juízo isento, escureceu-me o engenho co tormento, para que seus enganos não dissesse. Ó vós, que Amor obriga a ser sujeitos a diversas vontades! Quando lerdes num breve livro casos tão diversos, verdades puras são, e não defeitos ... E sabei que, segundo o amor tiverdes, tereis o entendimento de meus versos.


As long as Fortune dangled in my sight the hope of happiness, my wishful schemes for lasting love and all my youthful dreams compelled me to lift my pen and write. But Love, afraid I might prove indiscreet and reveal her unpleasant truth, ingeniously obscured my mind and cruelly tormented me, trying to keep my pen from exposing her deceit. But you, whom Love has also subjugated to her fickle will, if you should come across my verses, this little book of diverse songs, conceived in experience, created in truth, remember: the more you've loved and lost, the better you'll comprehend my verse.

* * *

Brandas águas do Tejo que, passando por estes verdes campos que regais, plantas, ervas, e flores e animais, pastores, ninfas ides alegrando; não sei (ah, doces águas!), não sei quando vos tornarei a ver; que mágoas tais, vendo como vos deixo, me causais que de tornar já vou desconfiando. Ordenou o Destino, desejoso de converter meus gostos em pesares, partida que me vai custando tanto. Saüdoso de vós, dele queixoso, encherei de suspiros outros ares, turbarei outras águas com meu pranto.


Gentle waters of the Tagus, you flow across the fields, nourishing the herds, the blooming plants, the flowers, and the birds, delighting the nymphs and shepherds as you go. Sweet waters of the Tagus, I don't know when I'll ever be able to come back home to you, and, anxiously, before I say adieu, I begin to doubt if I'll ever return again. Destiny, intent on finding a way to turn my joys to sorrows, now commands this difficult parting, full of regrets and fears. Still longing for you, and complaining, I sail away, to breathe my sighs in the airs of foreign lands, disturbing distant waters with my tears.

* * *

Por cima destas águas, forte e firme, irei por onde as sortes ordenaram, pois por cima de quantas me choraram aqueles claros olhos pude vir-me. Já chegado era o fim de despedir-me, já mil impedimentos se acabaram, quando rios de amor se atravessaram a me impedir o passo de partir-me. Passei-os eu com ânimo obstinado, com que a morte forçada e gloriosa faz o vencido já desesperado. Em que figura ou gesto desusado pode já fazer medo a morte irosa, a quem tem a seus pés rendido e atado?


Over these waters I sail to whatever lies ahead, to whatever the Fates desire, since I've already, somehow, managed to survive the watery tears that fell from my lover's eyes. It was time to leave: a thousand troubles were, at last, overcome on that sad departure day, but then her streams of love obstructed my way, trying to keep me from sailing away from her. But with obstinate will, I passed through her tears, like one, already doomed, who calmly foresees his death with the fearless despair of certain defeat. So how, when angry, ravenous Death appears, will he attempt to frighten me, when he's finally got me bound and prostrate at his feet?

* * *

Os vestidos Elisa revolvia que lhe Eneias deixara por memória: doces despojos da passada glória, doces, quando seu Fado o consentia. Entre eles a fermosa espada via que instrumento foi da triste história; e, como quem de si tinha a vitória, falando só com ela, assi dezia: "Fermosa e nova espada, se ficaste só para executares os enganos de quem te quis deixar, em minha vida, sabe que tu comigo te enganaste; que, para me tirar de tantos danos, sobeja-me a tristeza da partida".


Dido looks at her lovely dresses, the proud memories Aeneas has left behind, the sweet remains of their once-and-faded glory-"sweet," at least, for as long as the fickle Fates allowed. Among these things, she finds his custom-made and beautiful sword, an instrument that reeks with death. And yet, strangely confident, she speaks directly to the sharp and shimmering blade: "Beautiful Dardan sword, if you assume that you've been left behind to execute the deceitful desires of the one who loved me, then fled, be aware: it's only a vanity to presume that you're needed to end my life, his resolute betrayal is more than enough to leave me dead."

* * *

Vós, Ninfas da gangética espessura, cantai suavemente, em voz sonora, um grande Capitão, que a roxa Aurora dos filhos defendeu da noite escura. Ajuntou-se a caterva negra e dura, que na áurea Quersoneso afouta mora, para lançar do caro ninho fóra aqueles que mais podem que a ventura. Mas um forte Leão, com pouca gente, a multidão tão fera como nécia destruindo castiga e torna fraca. Pois, ó Ninfas, cantai; que claramente mais do que fez Leónidas em Grécia, o nobre Leonis fez em Malaca.

For Leonis Pereira

Nymphs of the Ganges jungle sing sweet and light yet vibrantly of that mighty captain whom the purple goddess, Dawn, has saved from doom, helping him survive the sons of the darkest night. The Achém king had amassed his mob of possessed and wild Malaccan natives, determined to drive Leonis from his fortress, dead or alive, along with his bold warriors from the west. But the mighty lion attacked the mob, though severely outnumbered, with his loyal Portuguese, leaving his enemy destroyed-and weaker than ever before. So all you lovely nymphs, sing out clearly: since even more than Leonidas did in Greece, the noble Leonis did on the Malaccan shore. * * *

A fermosura desta fresca serra e a sombra dos verdes castanheiros, o manso caminhar destes ribeiros, donde toda a tristeza se desterra; o rouco som do mar, a estranha terra, o esconder do sol pelos outeiros, o recolher dos gados derradeiros, das nuvens pelo ar a branda guerra; enfim, tudo o que a rara natureza com tanta variedade nos of 'rece, me está, se não te vejo, magoando. Sem ti, tudo me enoja e me avorrece; sem ti, perpetuamente estou passando, nas mores alegrias, mór tristeza.


The beauty of the sweet, fresh mountains here, the shade of the green chestnut trees, the pace of all the gently crawling streams, this place where all one's sadness seems to disappear. The hoarse sounds of the sea, the lands that lie below, the sun hiding near the hills, the last of the lingering cattle slowly moving past, the clouds still gently warring in the sky. But, finally, all these beauties of nature, pouring forth their various splendors, only create harsh fresh wounds since you're not here with me. Without you, everything is disgusting, and boring; without you, I feel, even within this great natural happiness, the greatest possible misery.

* * *

Quando o sol encoberto vai mostrando ao mundo a luz quieta e duvidosa, ao longo deua praia deleitosa, vou na minha inimiga imaginando. Aqui a vi os cabelos concertando; ali, co a mão na face, tão fermosa; aqui, falando alegre, ali cuidosa; agora estando queda, agora andando. Aqui esteve sentada, ali me viu, erguendo aqueles olhos tão isentos; aqui movida um pouco, ali segura; aqui se entristeceu, ali se riu ... enfim, nestes cansados pensamentos, passo esta vida vã, que sempre dura.

On the Beach

As the hazy sun, caught in the clouds above, casts its light over the world below, I wander this beach, in the gentle, muted glow of the sun, thinking of the lady I love. Sometimes, over there, I watched her combing her hair, and over there, I saw her touch her face. Sometimes she worried, but mostly she spoke with grace and charm-sometimes standing, sometimes roaming the beach; sometimes, sitting right there, she'd gaze at me, raising her gentle luminescent eyes-often content, sometimes in pain, or sadness, although, at other times, she'd amaze me with her laugh. So now, caught in all these incessant dreams, I waste away my life in vain.

* * *

Amor é um fogo que arde sem se ver, é ferida que dói, e não se sente; é um contentamento descontente, é dor que desatina sem doer. É um não querer mais que bem querer; é um andar solitário entre a gente; é nunca contentar-se de contente; é um cuidar que ganha em se perder. É querer estar preso por vontade; é servir a quem vence o vencedor; é ter, com quem nos mata, lealdade. Mas como causar pode seu favor nos corações humanos amizade, se tão contrário a si é o mesmo Amor?


Love is a fire that burns, but is never seen; a wound that hurts, but is never perceived; a pleasure that starts a pain that's unrelieved; a pain that maddens without any pain; a serene desire for nothing, but wishing her only the best; a lonely passage through the crowd; the resentment of never being content with one's contentment; a caring that gains only when losing; an obsessed desire to be bound, for love, in jail; a capitulation to the one you've conquered yourself; a devotion to your own assassin every single day. So how can Love conform, without fail, every captive human heart, if Love itself is so contradictory in every possible way?

* * *

Ditoso seja aquele que somente se queixa de amorosas esquivanças; pois por elas não perde as esperanças de poder n'algum tempo ser contente. Ditoso seja quem, estando absente, não sente mais que a pena das lembranças; porque inda que se tema de mudanças, menos se teme a dor quando se sente. Ditoso seja, enfim, qualquer estado onde enganos, desprezos e isenção trazem o coração atormentado. Mas triste quem se sente magoado de erros em que não pode haver perdão, sem ficar n'alma a mágoa do pecado.


Happy is he whose only problem worth complaining about is love's audacious schemes, since they alone can never destroy his dreams of finding some contentment here on earth. Happy is he who, far from home, embraces nothing but his long-lost memories, because when new problems arise, he sees them clearly, comprehending the sorrow he faces. And happy is he who lives in any state where only fraud and love's deceits and doubt, are able to torture his heart from within. But tragic is he who lives beneath the weight of some unforgivable act, living without consciousness of the damage of his sin.

* * *

Ditosas almas, que ambas juntamente ao céu de Vénus e de Amor voastes, onde um bem que tão breve cá lograstes estais logrando agora eternamente. Aquele estado vosso tão contente, que só por durar pouco triste achastes, por outro mais contente já o trocastes, onde sem sobressalto o bem se sente. Triste de quem cá vive tão cercado, na amorosa fineza, de um tormento que a glória lhe perturba mais crescida! Triste, pois me não vale o sofrimento, e Amor, pera mais dano, me tem dado pera tão duro mal, tão larga vida!

Dead Lovers

Happy young lovers, who've ascended together into the heavens of Venus and of Love, where joys, so brief on earth, will now, above this world, endure forever and forever. Your happy hours on earth, once undermined only by their vexing brevity, are now exchanged for a perfect peace that's free from all disruptions and fears of any kind. But sad is he, who lives on earth in vain, still trapped in love's entanglement, whose grief increases with love and its inexorable strife. Sad am I, for my pain brings no relief, and Love, just to intensify my pain and wound me more, prolongs my useless life.

* * *

Correm turvas as águas deste rio, qua as do céu e as do monte as enturbaram; os campos florecidos se secaram, intratável se fez o vale, e frio. Passou o verão, passou o ardente estio, uas cousas por outras se trocaram; os fementidos Fados já deixaram do mundo o regimento, ou desvario. Tem o tempo sua ordem já sabida. O mundo, não; mas anda tão confuso que parece que dele Deus se esquece. Casos, opiniões, natura e uso fazem que nos pareça desta vida que não há nela mais que o que parece.


When the turgid waters of the river flow by, they bring the muddied runoff from the mountains; nearby the once-flowering fields are parched and dry, and the valley is cold and unproductive. The spring and the heats of summer are gone. The transition of things into other things continues. But it seems as though the Fates have abandoned their usual schemes, forsaking this world to its mostly disordered condition. Time, of course, has order, and it never breaks its rules, but not this world, whose chaotic strife seems almost forgotten by God. The uncertainty of customs, events, opinions, and nature makes it always seem as though this life is nothing more than what it seems to be.


Excerpted from SELECTED SONNETS by Luís de Camões Copyright © 2005 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Selected Sonnets
24 - O dia em que eu naci moura e pereça... - Curse
26 - Como quando do mar tempestuoso... - Shipwreck
28 - Enquanto quis Fortuna que tivesse... - Reader
32 - Brandas águas do Tejo que, passando... - Tagus
34 - Por cima destas águas, forte e firme... - Tears
36 - Os vestidos Elisa revolvia... - Dido
38 - Vós, Ninfas da gangética espessura... - For Leoni Pereira
40 - A fermosura desta fresca serra... - Nature
42 - Quando o sol encoberto vai mostrando... - On the Beach
44 - Amor é un fogo que arde sem se ver... - Amor
46 - Ditoso seja aquele que somente... - Sin 
50 - Ditosas almas, que ambas juntamenta... - Dead Lovers
52 - Correm turvas as águas deste rio... - Confusion
54 - Todas as almas tristes se mostravam... - Good Friday
56 - Presença bela, angélica figura... - Green Eyes
58 - Quen jaz no grão sepulcro, que descreve... - Sepulcher
60 - ó gloriosa cruz, ó victorioso... - O Glorious Cross
62 - Um mover d'olhos, brando e piadoso... - Magic
64 - Na metade do Céu subido ardia... - Natércia
66 - No mundo, poucos anos e cansados... - Pero Moniz
68 - Aquela triste leda madrugada... - Dawn
70 - Mudam-se os tempos, mudam-se as vontades... - Time
72 - Cá nesta Babilónia, donde mana... - Exile
76 - Debaixo desta pedra está metido... - Dom Fernando
78 - Doces águas e claras do Mondego... - Mondego
80 - Que modo tão sutil da Natureza... - Escape
82 - "Que levas, cruel Morte?" "Um claro dia"... - Dona Maria
84 - Senhor João Lopes, o meu baixo estado... - Senhor João Lopes
86 - Orfeu enamorado que tañía... - Orpheus
88 - Sempre, cruel Senhora, receei... - Cruel Senhora
90 - Tornai essa brancura à alva açucena... - Essence
92 - O cisne, quando sente ser chegada... - Swan
94 - Os reinos e os impérios poderosos... - Dom Teodósio
96 - Ilustre e dino ramo dos Meneses... - Dom Fernando de Meneses
98 - Erros meus, má fortuna, amor ardente... - Doom
100 - Lindo e sutil trançado, que ficaste... - Ribbon
102 - Num bosque que das Ninfas se habitava... - Sybil
104 - Dizei, Senhora, da Beleza ideia... - Perfection
106 - Senhora já dest' alma, perdoai... - Punishment
108 - Se pena por amar-vos se merece... - Destruction
110 - Enquanto Febo os montes acendia... - Diana
112 - Fiou-se o coração, de muito isento... - Hippolytus
114 - Esforço grande, igual ao pensamento... - Epitaph
116 - Se os capitães antigos colocados... - Conquistadors
118 - Tu que descanso buscas com cuidado... - Refuge
120 - Verdade, Amor, Razão, Merecimento... - Belief
124 - Porque a tamanhas penas se oferece... - The Passion
126 - Alma minha gentil, que te partiste... - Dear Gentle Soul
128 - Eu cantarei de amor tão docemente... - Song of Love
130 - árvore, cujo pomo, belo e brando... - Rose-Apple Tree
132 - Está o lascivo e doce passarinho... - Little Bird
136 - Vencido está de Amor meu pensamento... - For Caterina
138 - Quando de minhas mágoas a comprida... - Dinamene
140 - Na ribeira do Eufrates assentado... - Euphrates
142 - Aquela que, de pura castidade... - Lucretia
144 - Que vençais no Oriente tantos reis... - Luís de Ataíde
146 - Sete anos de pastor Jacob servia... - Jacob
148 - Debaixo desta pedra sepultada... - Caterina
150 - O céu, a terra, o vento sossegado... - The Wind
152 - Em prisões baixas fui um tempo atado... - Prison
154 - Julga-me a gente toda por perdido... - Recluse
156 - Quando da bela vista e doce riso... - Paradise
160 - Para se namorar do que criou... - The Virgin Mary
162 - Dece do Céu imenso, Deus benino... - Incarnation
164 - Cara minha inimiga, em cuja mão... - Drowned Lover
168 - Com o generoso rostro alanceado... - Sebastião
170 - Se a Fortuna inquieta e mal olhada... - To One Who's Praised Me
172 - Crecei, desejo meu, pois que a Ventura - Affirmation
174 - Dos Céus à terra dece a mór beleza... - Nativity Scene
176 - Como podes, ó cego pecador... - Sermon 
Selected Bibliography
Index of Titles and First Lines

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