Os Lusíadas, usually known by the title «The Lusiads» in English, is a Portuguese epic poem by Luís Vaz de Camões – sometimes spelled Camoens in English – and is considered one of the most important works of World literature.
Written in Homeric fashion («Iliad» and «Odyssey»), the poem – in ten Chants/X Cantos – focuses mainly on a fantastical interpretation of the Portuguese voyages of discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.
The poem is often regarded as Portugal's national epic, much in the way as Virgil's «Æneid» was for the Ancient Romans.
It was first printed in 1572, three years after the poet returned from the Orient.
In the fifth Chant – Canto V – the story moves on to the King of Melinde (eastern Africa), describing the journey of the Armada from Lisbon to Melinde.
During the voyage, the sailors see the Southern Cross, St. Elmo's Fire or the Maritime Whirlwind, and face a variety of dangers and obstacles such as the fury of a monster in the episode of the Giant Adamastor.
The Canto ends with the poet's censure of his contemporaries that despise poetry.
The Giant Adamastor is a Greek-type mythological character invented by Camões, as a symbol of the forces of nature Portuguese navigators had to overcome on their discovery travels:
"Chill the flesh and the hairs
To me and all [the others] only by listening and seeing him".
"Arrepiam-se as carnes e os cabelos
A mim e a todos só de ouvi-lo e vê-lo".
This is intended to convey pure fear, the imminent threat of annihilation. The evil demigod is preceded by a black cloud, which appears above the heads of the sailors.
Expressing the surprise he experiences, Gama quotes himself:
"Oh divine power – [I] said – sublimated,
What divine threat or what secret
This clime and this sea presents to us
That seems a bigger thing than a storm?"
"Ó potestade – disse – sublimada,
Que ameaço divino ou que segredo
Este clima e este mar nos apresenta,
Que mor cousa parece que tormenta?"
As a "strange Colossus"/"estranhíssimo Colosso", "Rude son of the Earth"/"Filho aspérrimo da Terra", Adamastor became the Spirit of the Cape, a hideous phantom of unearthly pallor:
"Even as I spoke, an immense shape
Materialised in the night air,
Grotesque and enormous stature
With heavy jowls, and an unkempt beard
Scowling from shrunken, hollow eyes
Its complexion earthy and pale,
Its hair grizzled and matted with clay,
Its mouth coal black, teeth yellow with decay."
"Não acabava, quando uma figura
Se nos mostra no ar, robusta e válida,
De disforme e grandíssima estatura;
O rosto carregado, a barba esquálida,
Os olhos encovados, e a postura
Medonha e má e a cor terrena e pálida;
Cheios de terra e crespos os cabelos,
A boca negra, os dentes amarelos."
Such emphasis on the appearance of the Adamastor is intended to contrast with the preceding scenery, which was expressed as "seas of the South" ("mares do Sul"):
"The winds blowing favourably
When one night, being careless
In the cutting bow watching,"
"Prosperamente os ventos assoprando,
Quando uma noite, estando descuidados
Na cortadora proa vigiando,"
Camões gave his creation a history as one of the Giants of Greek mythology who had been spurned by Thetis, now appearing in the form of a threatening storm cloud to Vasco da Gama and threatening ruin to anyone hardy enough to pass the Cape and penetrate the Indian Ocean, which was Adamastor's domain.
Cape Point: the tip of the Cape Peninsula where the Atlantic and Indian oceans come together
«Eu sou aquele oculto e grande Cabo
A quem chamais vós outros Tormentório,
Que nunca a Ptolomeu, Pompónio, Estrabo,
Plínio e quantos passaram fui notório.
Aqui toda a Africana costa acabo
Neste meu nunca visto Promontório,
Que para o Pólo Antárctico se estende,
A quem vossa ousadia tanto ofende.»
«I am that one occult and great Cape
That you others call Tormentor,
That never by Ptolemy, Pomponius, Strabo,
Pliny and many before was known.
Here the entire African coast I finish
In this mine never seen Promontory,
That to the Antarctic Pole extends,
To whom your boldness so much offends.»
Thus it represents the dangers Portuguese sailors faced when trying to round the Cape of Storms, henceforth called, in consequence of the resultant success in despite thereof, Cape of Good Hope.
Adamastor has figured in much poetry of the Cape.
It is also mentioned in the opera «L'africaine» (1865) about Vasco da Gama by the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer. The slave Nelusko sings a song about Adamastor while he deliberately steers the ship into a storm and it sinks.
In «The First Life of Adamastor», a novella by André Brink, the writer refashioned the Adamastor story from a 20th-century perspective.
A popular gathering place in Lisbon is also known by the name «Adamastor» because of the large stone statue of the mythical figure which presides over the space, officially called the «Miradouro de Santa Catarina». This vista point offers visitors some of the most breathtaking views of the Tagus, the 25th of April Bridge and the Cristo Rei monument.
RIC & Wikipedia
I dedicate this post to my blogger friend Cape Town Musician.
No especial honour to him, for sure, just a gentle thought of mine…