The Lusiads (tr. Mickle)/The Life of Luis de Camoens
LIFE OF LUIS DE CAMOENS.
WHEN the glory of the arms of Portugal had reached its meridian splendor, Nature, as if in pity of the literary rudeness of that nation, produced one great Poet, to record the numberless actions of high spirit performed by his countrymen. Except Osorius, the historians of Portugal are little better than dry journalists. But it is not their inelegance which rendered the poet necessary. It is the peculiar nature of poetry to give a colouring to heroic actions, and to express indignation against the breaches of honour, in a spirit which at once seizes the heart of the man of feeling, and carries with it instantaneous conviction. The brilliant actions of the Portuguese form the great hinge which opened the door to the most important alteration in the civil history of mankind. And to place these actions in the light and enthusiasm of poetry, that enthusiasm which particularly assimilates the youthful breast to its own fires, was Luis de Camoens, the poet of Portugal, born.
Different cities have claimed the honour of his birth. But according to N. Antonio, and Manuel Correa his intimate friend, this event happened at Lisbon in 1517. His family was of considerable note, and originally Spanish. In 1370, Vasco Perez de Caamans, disgusted at the court of Castile, fled to that of Lisbon, where King Ferdinand immediately admitted him into his council, and gave him the lordships of Sardoal, Punnete, Marano, Amendo, and other considerable lands; a certain proof of the eminence of his rank and abilities. In the war for the succession, which broke out on the death of Ferdinand, Caamans sided with the King of Castile, and was killed in the battle of Aljabarrota. But though John I. the victor, seized a great part of his estate, his widow, the daughter of Gonsalo Tereyro, grand master of the Order of Christ, and general of the Portuguese army, was not reduced beneath her rank. She had three sons, who took the name of Camoens. The family of the eldest inter-married with the first nobility of Portugal, and even, according to Castera, with the blood royal. But the family of the second brother, whose fortune was slender, had the superior honour to produce the author of the Lusiad. Early in life the misfortunes of the Poet began. In his infancy, Simon Vaz de Camoens, his father, commander of a vessel, was shipwrecked at Goa, where, with his life, the greatest part of his fortune was lost. His mother, however, Anne de Macedo of Santarene, provided for the education of her son Luis, at the university of Coimbra.—What he acquired there, his works discover: An intimacy with the classics, equal to that of a Scaliger, but directed by the taste of a Milton or a Pope.
When he left the university, he appeared at court. He was handsome, had speaking eyes, it is said, and the finest complexion. Certain it is, however, he was a polished scholar, which, added to the natural ardour and gay vivacity of his disposition, rendered him an accomplished gentleman. Courts are the scenes of intrigue, and intrigue was fashionable at Lisbon. But the particulars of the amours of Camoens rest unknown. This only appears: He hard aspired above his rank, for he was banished from the court; and, in several of his sonnets, he ascribes this misfortune to love. He now retired to his mother's friends at Santarene. Here he renewed his studies, and began his Poem on the Discovery of India. John III. at this time prepared an armament against Africa. Camoens, tired of his inactive obscure life, went to Ceuta in this expedition, and greatly distinguished his valour in several rencounters. In a naval engagement with the Moors, in the straits of Gibraltar, in the conflict of boarding he was among the foremost, and lost his right eye. Yet neither the hurry of actual service, nor the dissipation of the camp, could stifle his genius. He continued his Lusiadas, and several of his most beautiful sonnets were written in Africa, while, as he expresses it,
One hand the pen, and one the sword employ'd.
The fame of his valour had now reached the court, and he obtained permission to return to Lisbon. But while he solicited an establishment which he had merited in the ranks of battle, the malignity of evil tongues, as he calls it in one of his letters, was injuriously poured upon him. Though the bloom of his early youth was effaced by several years residence under the scorching heavens of Africa, and though altered by the loss of an eye, his presence gave uneasiness to the gentlemen of some families of the first rank, where he had formerly visited. Jealousy is the characteristic of the Spanish and Portuguese; its resentment knows no bounds, and Camoens now found it prudent to banish himself from his native country. Accordingly in 1553, he sailed for India, with a resolution never to return. As the ship left the Tagus, he exclaimed, in the words of the sepulchral monument of Scipio Africanus, Ingrata patria, non possidebis ossa mea! Ungrateful country, thou shalt not possess my bones! but he knew not what evils in the East would awake the remembrance of his native fields.
When Camoens arrived in India, an expedition was ready to sail to revenge the king of Cochin on the king of Pimenta. Without any rest on shore after his long voyage, he joined this armament, and in the conquest of the Alagada islands, displayed his usual bravery. But his modesty, perhaps, is his greatest praise. In a sonnet he mentions this expedition: We went to punish the king of Pimenta, says he, e succedeones bem, and we succeeded well. When it is considered that the Poet bore no inconsiderable share in the victory, no ode can conclude more elegantly, more happily than this.
In the year following, he attended Manuel de Vasconcello in an expedition to the Red Sea. Here, says Faria, as Camoens had no use for his sword, he employed his pen. Nor was his activity confined in the fleet or camp. He visited Mount Felix, and the adjacent inhospitable regions of Africa, which he so strongly pictures in the Lusiad, and in one of his little pieces, where he laments the absence of his mistress. When he returned to Goa, he enjoyed a tranquility which enabled him to bestow his attention on his Epic Poem. But this serenity was interrupted, perhaps by his own imprudence. He wrote some satires which gave offence, and, by order of the viceroy, Francisco Barreto, he was banished to China.
Men of poor abilities are more conscious of their embarrassment and errors than is commonly believed. When men of this kind are in power, they affect great solemnity; and every expression of the most distant tendency to lessen their dignity is held as the greatest of crimes. Conscious also how severely the man of genius can hurt their interest, they bear an instinctive antipathy against him, are uneasy even in his company, and, on the slightest pretence, are happy to drive him from them. Camoens was thus situated at Goa; and never was there a fairer field for satires than the rulers of India at this time afforded. Yet, whatever esteem the prudence of Camoens may lose in our idea, the nobleness of his disposition will doubly gain. And, so conscious was he of his real integrity and innocence, that in one of his sonnets he wishes no other revenge on Barreto, than that the cruelty of his exile should ever be remembered. The accomplishments and manners of Camoens soon found him friends, though under the disgrace of banishment. He was appointed commissary of the estates of Defunct in the island of Macao, on the coast of China. Here he continued his Lusiad; and here also, after five years residence, he acquired a fortune, though small, yet equal to his wishes. Don Constantine de Braganza was now viceroy of India; and Camoens, desirous to return to Goa, resigned his charge. In a ship, freighted by himself, he set sail, but was shipwrecked in the gulf near the mouth of the river Mecon, in Cochin-China. All he had acquired was lost in the waves: his poems, which he held in one hand, while he swam with the other, were all he found himself possessed of, when he stood friendless on the unknown shore. But the natives gave him a most humane reception: this he has immortalized in the prophetic song in the tenth Lusiad; and in the seventh he tells us that here he lost the wealth which satisfied his wishes:
Agora da esperança ja adquirida, &c.
Now blest with all the wealth fond hope could crave,
Soon I beheld that wealth beneath the wave
For ever lost;———
My life, like Judah's heaven-doom'd king of yore,
By miracle prolong'd———
On the banks of the Mecon, he wrote his beautiful paraphrase of the psalm, where the Jews, in the finest strain of poetry, are represented as hanging their harps on the willows by the rivers of Babylon, and weeping their exile from their native country. Here Camoens continued some time, till an opportunity offered to carry him to Goa.—When he arrived at that city, Don Constantine de Braganza, whose characteristic was politeness, admitted him into intimate friendship, and Camoens was happy till Count Redondo assumed the government. Those who had formerly procured the banishment of the satirist, were silent while Constantine was in power; but now they exerted all their arts against him. Redondo, when he entered on office, pretended to be the friend of Camoens; yet, with the most unfeeling indifference with which he planned his most horrible witticism on the Zamorim, he suffered the innocent man to be thrown into the common prison. After all the delay of bringing witnesses, Camoens, in a public trial, fully refuted every accusation of his conduct, while commissary at Macao, and his enemies were loaded with ignominy and reproach. But Camoens had some creditors; and these detained him in prison a considerable time, till the gentlemen of Goa began to be ashamed, that a man of his singular merit should experience such treatment among them. He was set at liberty; and again he assumed the profession of arms, and received the allowance of a gentleman volunteer, a character at that time common in Portuguese India. Soon after, Pedro Barreto, appointed governor of the fort of Sofala, by high promises, allured the poet to attend him thither. The governor of a distant fort, in a barbarous country, shares, in some measure, the fate of an exile. Yet, though the only motive of Barreto was, in this unpleasant situation, to retain the conversation of Camoens at his table, it was his least care to render the life of his guest agreeable. Chagrined with his treatment, and a considerable time having elapsed in vain dependence upon Barreto, Camoens resolved to return to his native country. A ship, on the homeward voyage, at this time touched at Sofala, and several gentlemen who were on board, were desirous that Camoens should accompany them. But this the governor ungenerously endeavoured to prevent, and charged him with a debt for board. Anthony de Cabral, however, and Hector de Sylveyra, paid the demand; and Camoens, says Faria, and the honour of Barreto were sold together.
After an absence of sixteen years, Camoens, in 1569, returned to Lisbon, unhappy even in his arrival, for the pestilence then raged in that city, and prevented his publishing for three years. At last, in 1572, he printed his Lusiad, which, in the opening of the first book, in a most elegant turn of compliment, he addressed to his prince, king Sebastian, then in his eighteenth year. The king, says the French translator, was so pleased with his merit, that he gave the Author a pension of 4000 reals, on condition that he should reside at court. But this salary, says the same writer, was withdrawn by cardinal Henry, who succeeded to the crown of Portugal, lost by Sebastian at the battle of Alcazar. But this story of the pension is very doubtful. Correa, and other contemporary authors, do not mention it, though some late writers have given credit to it. If Camoens, however, had a pension, it is highly probable that Henry deprived him of it. While Sebastian was devoted to the , his grand uncle, the cardinal, presided at the council board, and Camoens, in his address to the king, which closes the Lusiad, advises him to exclude the clergy from state affairs. It was easy to see that the cardinal was here intended. And Henry, besides, was one of those statesmen who can perceive no benefit resulting to the public from elegant literature. But it ought also to be added in completion of his character, that under the narrow views and weak hands of this Henry, the kingdom of Portugal fell into utter ruin; and on his death, which closed a short inglorious reign, the crown of Lisbon, after a faint struggle, was annexed to that of Madrid. Such was the degeneracy of the Portuguese, a degeneracy lamented in vain by Camoens, whose observation of it was imputed to him as a crime.
Though the great patron of one species of literature, a species the reverse of that of Camoens, certain, it is that the author of the Lusiad was utterly neglected by Henry, under whose inglorious reign he died in all the misery of poverty. By some it is said he died in an almshouse. It appears, however, that he had not even the certainty of subsistence which these houses provide. He had a black servant, who had grown old with him, and who had long experienced his master's humanity. This grateful Indian, a native of Java, who, according to some writers, saved his master's life in the unhappy shipwreck where he lost his effects, begged in the streets of Lisbon for the only man in Portugal on whom God had bestowed those talents, which have a tendency to erect the spirit of a downward age. To the eye of a careful observer, the fate of Camoens throws great light on that of his country, and will appear strictly connected with it. The same ignorance, the same degenerated spirit, which suffered Camoens to depend on his share of the alms begged in the streets by his old hoary servant, the same spirit which caused this, sunk the kingdom of Portugal into the most abject vassalage ever experienced by a conquered nation. While the grandees of Portugal were blind to the ruin which impended over them, Camoens beheld it with a pungency of grief which hastened his exit. In one of his letters he has these remarkable words, "Em fim accaberey à vida, e verràm todós que fuy afeiçoada a minho patria, &c. "I am ending the course of my life, the world will witness how I have loved my country. I have returned, not only to die in her bosom, but to die with her." In another letter, written a little before his death, he thus, yet with dignity, complains, "Who has seen, on so small a theatre as my poor bed, such a representation of the disappointments of fortune? And I, as if she could not herself subdue me, I have yielded and become of her party; for it were wild audacity to hope to surmount such accumulated evils." In this unhappy situation, in 1579, in his sixty-second year, the year after the fatal defeat of Don Sebastian, died Luis de Camoens, the greatest literary genius ever produced by Portugal; in martial courage, and spirit of honour, nothing inferior to her greatest heroes. And in a manner suitable to the poverty in which he died was he buried. Soon after, however, many epitaphs honoured his memory; the greatness of his merit was universally confessed, and his Lusiad was translated into various languages. Nor ought it to be omitted, that the man so miserably neglected by the weak king Henry, was earnestly enquired after by Philip of Spain, when he assumed the crown of Lisbon. When Philip heard that Camoens was dead, both his words and his countenance expressed his disappointment and grief.
From the whole tenor of his life, and from that spirit which glows throughout the Lusiad, it evidently appears that the courage and manners of Camoens flowed from true greatness and dignity of soul. Tho' his polished conversation was often courted by the great, he appears so distant from servility, that his imprudence in this respect is by some highly blamed. Yet the instances of it by no means deserve that severity of censure with which some writers have condemned him. Unconscious of the feelings of a Camoens, they knew not that a carelessness in securing the smiles of fortune, and an open honesty of indignation, are almost inseparable from the enthusiasm of fine imagination. The truth is, the man possessed of true genius feels his greatest happiness in the pursuits and excursions of the mind, and therefore makes an estimate of things very different from that of him whose unremitting attention is devoted to his external interest. The profusion of Camoens is also censured. Had he dissipated the wealth he acquired at Macao, his profusion indeed had been criminal; but it does not appear that he ever enjoyed any other opportunity of acquiring independence. But Camoens was unfortunate, and the unfortunate man is viewed
———through the dim shade his fate casts o'er him:
A shade that spreads its evening darkness o'er
His brightest virtues, while it shews his foibles
Crowding and obvious as the midnight stars,
Which in the sunshine of prosperity
Never had been descried———
Yet, after the strictest discussion, when all the causes are weighed together, the misfortunes of Camoens will appear the fault and disgrace of his age and country, and not of the man. His talents would have secured him an apartment in the palace of Augustus, but such talents are a curse to their possessor in an illiterate nation. In a beautiful digressive exclamation, at the end of the Lusiad, he gives us a striking view of the neglect which he experienced. Having mentioned how the greatest heroes of antiquity revered and cherished the Muse, he thus characterizes the nobility of his own age and country:
Alas! on Tago's hapless shore alone
The Muse is slighted, and her charms unknown.
For this, no Virgil here attunes the lyre,
No Homer here awakes the hero's fire.
Unheard, in vain their native poet sings,
And cold neglect weighs down the Muse's wings.
Walks by, unconscious of the Muse's charms:
him no Muse shall leave her golden loom,
No palm shall blossom, and no wreath shall bloom.
Yet shall my labors and my cares be paid
By fame immortal———
In such an age, and among such a barbarous nobility, what but wretched neglect could be the fate of a Camoens! After all, however, if he was imprudent on his first appearance at the court of John III. if the honesty of his indignation led him into great imprudence, as certainly it did, when at Goa he satirised the viceroy and the first persons in power; yet let it also be remembered, that "The gifts of imagination bring the heaviest task upon the vigilance of reason; and to bear those faculties with unerring rectitude, or invariable propriety, requires a degree of firmness and of cool attention, which doth not always attend the higher gifts of the mind. Yet difficult as nature herself seems to have rendered the task of regularity to genius, it is the supreme consolation of dullness and of folly to point with Gothic triumph to those excesses which are the overflowings of faculties they never enjoyed. Perfectly unconscious that they are indebted to their stupidity for the consistency of their conduct, they plume themselves on an imaginary virtue, which has its origin in what is really their disgrace.—Let such, if such dare approach the shrine of Camoens, withdraw to a respectful distance; and should they behold the ruins of genius, or the weakness of an exalted mind, let them be taught to lament, that nature has left the noblest of her works imperfect."
And Poetry is not only the noblest, but also not the least useful, if civilization of manners be of advantage to mankind. No moral truth may be more certainly demonstrated, than that a Virgil or a Milton are not only the first ornaments of a state, but also of the first consequence, if the last refinement of the mental powers be of importance. Strange as this might appear to a Burleigh or a Locke, it is philosophically accounted for by Bacon; nor is Locke's opinion either inexplicable or irrefutable. The great genius of Aristotle, and that of his great resembler, Sir Francis Bacon, saw deeper into the true spirit of poetry and the human affections than a Burleigh. In ancient Greece, the works of Homer were called the lesson or philosophy of kings; and Bacon describes the effects of poetry in the most exalted terms. What is deficient of perfection in history and nature, poetry supplies; it thus erects the mind, and confers magnanimity, morality, and delight; "and therefore, says he, it was ever thought to have some participation of divineness." The love of poetry is so natural to the stronger affections, that the most barbarous nations delight in it. And always it is found, that as the rude war song and eulogy of the dead hero refine, the manners of the age refine also. The history of the stages of poetry is the philosophical history of manners; the only history in which, with certainty, we can behold the true character of past ages. True civilization, and a humanized taste of the mental pleasures, are therefore synonimous terms. And most certain it is, where feeling and affection reside in the breast, these must be most forcibly kindled and called into action by the animated representations, and living fire, of the great poetry. Nor may Milton's evidence be rejected, for though a poet himself, his judgment is founded on nature. According to him, a true taste for the great poetry gives a refinement and energy to all other studies, and is of the last importance in forming the senator and the gentleman. That the poetry of Camoens merits his high character, in a singular manner, he that reads it with taste and attention must own: A Dissertation on it, however, is the duty of the Translator———
- The French Translator gives us so fine a description of the person of Camoens, that it seems to be borrowed from the Fairy Tales. It is universally agreed, however, that he was handsome, and had a most engaging mien and address. He is thus described by Nicolas Antonio, "Mediocri statura fuit, et carne plena, capillis usque ad croci colorem flavescentibus, maxime in juventute. Eminebat ei frons, et medius nasus, cætera longus, et in fine crassiusculus."
- Castera, who always condemns Camoens, as if guilty of sacrilege, when the slightest reproach of a grandee appears, tells us, "that posterity by no means enters into the resentment of our poet; and that the Portuguese historians make glorious mention of Barreto, who was a man of true merit." The Portuguese historians, however, knew not what true merit was. The brutal uncommercial wars of Sampayo are by them mentioned as much more glorious than the less bloody campaigns of a Nunio, which established commerce and empire. But the actions of Barreto shall be called to witness for Camoens.
We have already seen his ruinous treaty with Meale Can, which ended in the disgrace of the Portuguese arms. The king of Cinde desired Barreto's assistance to crush a neighbouring prince, who had invaded his dominions. Barreto went himself to relieve him; but having disagreed about the reward he required, (for the king had made peace with his enemy) he burned Tata, the royal city, killed above 8000 of the people he came to protect; for eight days destroyed every thing on the banks of the Indus, and loaded his vessels, fays Faria, with the richest booty hitherto taken in India. The war with Hydal Can, kindled by Barreto's treachery, continued. The city of Dabul was destroyed by the viceroy, who, soon after, at the head of 17,000 men, defeated Hydal Can's army of 20,000. Horrid desolation followed these victories, and Hydal Can continued the implacable enemy of Portugal while he lived. Such was Barreto, the man who exiled Camoens!
- Having named the Mecon:
Este recebera placido, e brando,
No seu regaço o Canto, que molhado, &c.
Literally thus: "On his gentle hospitable bosom (sic brando poeticè) shall he receive the song, wet from woful unhappy shipwreck, escaped from destroying tempests, from ravenous dangers, the effect of the unjust sentence upon him, whose lyre shall be more renowned than enriched." When Camoëns was commissary, he visited the islands of Ternate, Timor, &c., described in the Lusiad.
- According to the Portuguese Life of Camoens, prefixed to Gedron's, the best edition of his works, Diego de Couto, the historian, one of the company in this homeward voyage, wrote annotations upon the Lusiad, under the eye of its author. But these unhappily have never appeared in public.
- Cardinal Henry's patronage of learning and learned men is mentioned with cordial esteem by the Portuguese writers. Happily they also tell us what that learning was. It was to him the Romish Friars of the East transmitted their childish forgeries of inscriptions and miracles (for some of which, see the note on p. 473.) He corresponded with them, directed their labours, and received the first accounts of their success. Under his patronage it was discovered, that St. Thomas ordered the Indians to worship the Cross; and that the Moorish tradition of Perimal (who, having embraced , divided his kingdom among his officers, whom he rendered tributary to the Zamorim,) was a malicious misrepresentation; for that Perimal, having turned Christian, resigned his kingdom, and became a monk. Such was the learning patronized by Henry, who was also a zealous patron of the inquisition at Lisbon, and the founder of the inquisition at Goa, to which place he sent a whole apparatus of holy fathers to suppress the Jews and reduce the native Christians to the See of Rome. Nor must the treatment experienced by Buchanan at Lisbon be here omitted, as it affords a convincing proof, that the fine genius of Camoens was the true source of his misfortunes. John III. earnest to promote the cultivation of polite literature among his subjects, engaged Buchanan, the most elegant Latinist, perhaps, of modern times, to teach philosophy and the belles lettres at Lisbon. But the design of the monarch was soon frustrated by the cardinal Henry and the clergy. Buchanan was committed to prison, because it was alleged he had eaten flesh in Lent; and because, in his early youth, at St. Andrew's in Scotland, he had written a satire against the Franciscans; for which, however, ere he would venture to Lisbon, John had promised absolute indemnity. John, with much difficulty, procured his release from a loathsome jail, but could not effect his restoration as a teacher. He could only change his prison; for Buchanan was sent to a monastery, to be instructed by the monks, of the men of letters patronized by Henry. These are thus characterized by their pupil Buchanan,—nec inhumanis, nec malis, sed omnis religions ignaris. "Not uncivilized, not flagitious, but ignorant of every religion." A satyrical negative compliment, followed by a charge of gross barbarism. In this confinement, Buchanan wrote his elegant version of the psalms. Camoens, about the same time, sailed for India. The blessed effects of the spirit which persecuted such men, are well expressed in the proverb, A Spaniard, stript of all his virtues, makes a good Portuguese.
- According to Gedron, a second edition of the Lusiad appeared in the same year with the first. There are two Italian and four Spanish translations of it. An hundred years before Castera's version, it appeared in French. Thomas de Faria, Bishop of Targa in Africa, translated it into Latin, and printed it without either his own or the name of Camoens: a mean, but vain, attempt to ass his version upon the public as an original. Le P. Niceron says, there were two other Latin translations. It is translated also into Hebrew, with great elegance and spirit, by one Luzzatto, a learned and ingenious Jew, author of several poems in that language, and who, about thirty years ago, died in the Holy Land.
- Camoens has not escaped the fate of other eminent wits. Their ignorant admirers contrive anecdotes of their humour, which in reality disgrace them. Camoens, it is said, one day heard a potter singing some of his verses in a miserable mangled manner, and by way of retaliation, broke a parcel of his earthen ware. "Friend, said he, you destroy my verses, and I destroy your goods." The same foolish story is told of Ariosto; nay, we are even informed, that Rinaldo's speech to his horse, in the first book,
Ferma Baiardo mio, &c.
was the passage mistuned; the injured poet replied, "I have only broken a few base pots of thine, not worth a groat; but thou hast murdered a fine stanza of mine, worth a mark of gold." But both these silly tales are borrowed from Plutarch's life of Arcesilaus, where the same dull humour is told of Philoxenus. "He heard some brickmakers mistune one of his songs, "and in return he destroyed a number of their bricks."
- The political evils impending over his country, which
Camoens almost alone foresaw, gave not, in their fulfillment, a stronger proof of his superior abilities, than his prophecy of
Don Francisco de Gama—
Nem as Filhas do Tejo, que deixassem
As tellas douro fino, e que o cantassem.
No Nymph of Tagus shall leave her golden embroidered web, and sing of him—affords of his knowledge of men. Camoens was superior to a mean resentment; he most undoubtedly perceived that ignorance, unmannerly arrogance, and insignificance of abilities, which 18, and 38 years after his death, disgraced the two viceroyalties of his hero's grandson. Justice to the memory of Camoens, and even to the cause of polite literature itself, requires some short account of this nobleman, who appears to have treated our author with the most mortifying neglect. He was named Don Francisco de Gama, Count de Vidigueyra. Facts will best give his character: He had not one idea, that the elegant writer who immortalized his ancestor had the least title to his countenance. Several years after the death of Camoens, he was made viceroy of India, by the king of Spain. Here he carried himself with such state, says Faria, that he was hated by all men. When he entered upon his government, he bestowed every place in his gift upon his parasites, who publicly sold them to the best bidders. And though Cunnale, the pirate, who had disgracefully defeated Don Luis de Gama, the viceroy's brother, had surrendered, upon the sole condition of life, to the brave Furtado, Cunnale, his nephew Cinale, and 40 Moors of rank, were brought to Goa. But the Moors were no sooner landed, than the lawless rabble tore them in pieces, and Cunnale and his nephew were publicly beheaded, by order of the viceroy. And thus, says Fana, government and the rabble went hand in hand in murder and the breach of faith. Over the principal gate of Goa stood a marble statue of Vasco de Gama. This, in hatred of the grandson, the enraged inhabitants broke down, in the night, and in the morning the quarters were found gibbeted In the most public parts of the city. And thus the man who despised the wreath with which Camoens crowned his grandfather, brought that grandfather's effigies to the deepest insult which can be offered to the memory of the deceased. Nor were his own effigies happier. On his recall to Europe, the first object that struck him, when he went on board the ship appointed to carry him, was a figure hanging by the neck at the yard arm, exactly like himself in feature and habit. He asked what it meant; and was resolutely answered, It represents You, and these are the men who hung it up. Nor must another insult be omitted. After being a few days at sea, he was necessitated to return to the port from whence he had sailed, for fresh provisions, for all his live-stock, it was found, was poisoned. After his return to Europe, he used all his interest to be reinstated in India, which, in his old days, after twenty years solicitation at the court of Madrid, he at last obtained. His second government, is wrapped in much obscurity, and is distinguished by no important action or event.
- This passage in inverted commas is cited, with the alteration of the name only, from Langhorne's account of the life of William Collins.
- Burleigh, though an able politician, and deep in state intrigue, had no idea, that to introduce polite literature into the vernacular tongue, was of any benefit to a nation; though her vernacular literature was the glory of Rome when at the height of empire, and though empire fell with its declension. Spenser, the man who greatly conduced to refine the English Muses, was by Burleigh esteemed a ballad-maker, unworthy of regard. Yet the English polite literature, so greatly indebted to Spenser, is at this day, in the esteem which it commands abroad, of more real service to England, than all the reputation or intrigues of Burleigh. And ten thousand Burleighs, according to Sir W. Temple, are born for one Spenser. Ten thousand are born, says Sir William, with abilities requisite to form a great statesman, for one who is born with the talents or genius of a great Poet. Locke's ideas of poetry are accounted for in one short sentence: He knew nothing about the matter. An extract from his correspondence with Mr. Molyneux, and a citation from one of his treatises, shall demonstrate the truth of this assertion.
- Molyneux writes to Locke:
- Mr. Locke answers:
- Molyneux replies:
The constellations shine at his command;
He form'd their radiant orbs, and with his hand.
He weigh'd, and put them off with such a force
As might preserve an everlasting course.
"I doubt not but Sir R. Blackmore, in these lines, had a regard to the proportionment of the projective motion of the vis centripeta, that keeps the planets in their continued courses.
"I have by me some observations, made by a judicious friend of mine on both of Sir R. Blackmore's poems. If they may be any ways acceptable to Sir R., I shall send them to you."
- Mr. Locke again replies:
"Though Sir R. B.'s vein in poetry be what every body must allow him to have an extraordinary talent in; and though, with you, I exceedingly valued his first preface, yet I must own to you, there was nothing I so much admired him for, as for what he says of hypotheses in his last. It seems to me so right, and is yet so much out of the way of the ordinary writers and practitioners in that faculty, that it shews as great a strength and penetration of judgment, as his poetry has shown flights of fancy."
As the best comment on this, let an extract from Locke's Essay on Education fully explain his ideas.
"If he have a poetic vein, 'tis to me the strangest thing in the world that the father should desire or suffer it to be cherished or improved. Methinks the parents should labour to have it stifled and suppressed as much as may be; and I know not what reason a father can have to wish his son a poet, who does not desire to have him bid defiance to all other callings or business; which is not yet the worst of the case; for if he proves a successful rhymer, and gets once the reputation of a wit, I desire it may be considered, what company and places he is like to spend his time in, nay, and estate too; for it is very seldom seen, that any one discovers mines of gold or silver in Parnassus. 'Tis a pleasant air, but barren soil, and there are very few instances of those who have added to their patrimony by any thing they have reaped from thence. Poetry and Gaming, which usually go together, are alike in this too, that they seldom bring any advantage but to those who have nothing else to live on. Men of estates almost constantly go away losers; and 'tis well if they escape at a cheaper rate, than their whole estates, or the greatest part of them. If therefore you would not have your son the fiddle to every jovial company, without whom the sparks could not relish their wine, nor know how to pass an afternoon idly; if you would not have him to waste his time and estate to divert others, and contemn the dirty acres left him by his ancestors, I do not think you will much care he should be a poet."
This ignorance of poetry is even worse than the Dutch idea of it. But this, and his opinion of Blackmore, fully prove, that Locke, however great in other respects, knew no difference between a Shakespeare, that unequalled philosopher of the passions, and the dullest Grub-street plodder; between a Milton and the tavern rhymers of the days of the second Charles. But Milton's knowledge of the affections discovered in the cultivation of the Muses an use of the first importance. A taste formed by the great poetry, he esteems as the ultimate refinement of the understanding. "This (says he, in his Tractate on the Education of Youth) would make them soon perceive, what despicable creatures our common rhymers and play writers be; and shew them what religious, what glorious and magnificent use might be made of poetry, both in divine and human things. From hence, and not till now, will be the right season of forming them to be able writers and composers in every excellent matter... whether they be to speak in parliament or council, honour and attention would be waiting on their lips. There would then also appear in pulpits other visages, other gestures, and stuff otherwise wrought, than what we now sit under."——Milton evidently alludes to the general dulness of the furious sectaries of his own time. The furious bigots of every sect have been as remarkable for their inelegance as for their rage. And the cultivation of polite literature has ever been found the best preventive of gloomy enthusiasm, and religious intolerance. In Milton, and every great poet, the poet and sublime philosopher are united, though Milton was perhaps the only man of his age, who perceived this union or sameness of character. Lord Clarendon seems to have considered poetry merely as a puerile sing-song. Waller, he says, addicted himself to poetry at thirty, the time when others leave it off. Nor was Charles I. less unhappy in his estimate of it. In the dedication of Sir John Denham's works to Charles II. we have this remarkable passage: "One morning, waiting upon him (Charles I.) at Causham, smiling upon me, he said he could tell me some news of myself, which was that he had seen some verses of mine the evening before, and asking me when I made them, I told him two or three years since; he was pleased to say, that having never seen them before, he was afraid I had written them since my return into England, and though he liked them well, he would advise me to write no more, alleging, that when men are young, and have little else to do, they might vent the overflowing of their fancy that way; but when they were thought fit for more serious employments, if they still persisted in that course, it would look as if they minded not the way to any better." Yet this monarch, who could perceive nothing but idle puerility in poetry, was the zealous patron of architecture, sculpture, and painting; and his favourite, the Duke of Buckingham, laid out the enormous sum of 400,000l. on paintings and curiosities. But had Charles's bounty given a Shakespeare or a Milton to the public, he would have done his kingdoms infinitely more service than if he had imported into England all the pictures and all the antiques of the world.
The reader who is desirous to see a philosophical character of the natural and acquired qualifications necessary to form a great poet, will find it delineated in a masterly manner, in Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, an Eastern tale, by Dr. Johnson.
- These lines, however, are a dull wretched paraphrase of some parts of the Psalms.
His high idea of poetry is thus philosophically explained by the great Bacon:
"So likewise I finde, some particular writings of an elegant nature, touching some of the affections, as of anger, of comfort, upon adverse accidents, of tendernesse of countenance, and other. But the poets and writers of histories are the best doctors of this knowledge; where we find painted forth with the life, how affections are kindled and incited, and how pacified and refrained; and how againe contained from act and farther degree: how they disclose themselves, how they worke, how they vary, how they gather and fortify, how they are inwrapped one within another, and how they doe fight and encounter one with another, and other the like particularities; amongst the which this last is of special use in moral and civile matters."
Here poetry is ranked with history; in the following its effect on the passions is preferred.
"The use of this fained history (Poetry) hath been to give some shadowe of satisfaction to the mind of man in those points in which nature doth deny it: the world being in proportion inferior to the soul: By reason whereof there is agreeable to the spirit of man a more ample greatnesse, a more exact goodnesse, and a more absolute variety than can be found in the nature of things. Therefore, because the events of true history have not that magnitude which satisfieth the mind of man, Poesy fayneth acts and events greater and more heroicall; because true history propoundeth the successes and issues of actions not so agreeable to the merits of virtue and vice; therefore Poesy faynes them more just in retribution, and more according to revealed Providence: because true History representeth actions and events more ordinary and less interchanged; therefore Poesy endueth them with more rarenesse, and more unexpected and alternate variations. So as it appeareth that Poesie serveth and conferreth to magnanimity, morality, and delectation: and therefore it was ever thought to have some participation of divinenesse, because it doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting the shews of things to the desires of the mind; whereas reason doth humble and bow the mind unto the nature of things."