Tuesday, 3 April 2018

The Lusiad (extract from Book X: The Maldives) - Luís Vas de Camões

Beneath the spreading wings of purple morn,
Behold what isles these glistening seas adorn!
Mid hundreds yet unnamed, Ternat behold;
By day her hills in pitchy clouds enrolled,
By night like rolling waves the sheets of fire
Blaze o’er the seas, and high to heaven aspire.
For Lusian hands here blooms the fragrant clove,
But Lusian blood shall sprinkle every grove.
The golden birds that ever sail the skies,
Here to the sun display their shining dyes,
Each want supplied, on air they ever soar;
The ground they touch not till they breathe no more.
Here Banda’s isles their fair embroidery spread
Of various fruitage, azure, white, and red;
And birds of every beauteous plume display
Their glittering radiance, as from spray to spray,
From bower to bower, on busy wings they rove,
To seize the tribute of the spicy grove.
Borneo here expands her ample breast,
By Nature’s hand in woods of camphire dressed;
The precious liquid weeping from the trees
Glows warm with health, the balsam of disease.
Fair are Timora’s dales with groves arrayed;
Each rivulet murmurs in the fragrant shade,
And in its crystal breast displays the bowers
Of sanders, blessed with health-restoring powers.
Where to the south the world’s broad surface bends,
Lo, Sunda’s realm her spreading arms extends.
From hence the pilgrim brings the wondrous tale,
A river groaning through a dreary dale,
For all is stone around, converts to stone
Whate’er of verdure in its breast is thrown.
Lo, gleaming blue o’er fair Sumatra’s skies,
Another mountain’s trembling flames arise;
Here from the trees the gum all fragrance swells,
And softest oil a wondrous fountain wells.
Nor these alone the happy isle bestows,
Fine is her gold, her silk resplendent glows.
Wide forests there beneath Maldivia’s tide
From withering air their wondrous fruitage hide.
The green-haired Nereids tend the bowery dells,
Whose wondrous fruitage poisoned rage expels.
In Ceylon, lo, how high yon mountain’s brows!
The sailing clouds its middle height enclose.
Holy the hill is deemed, the hallowed tread
Of sainted footstep marks its rocky head.
Laved by the Red-Sea gulf, Socotra’s bowers
There boast the tardy aloe’s clustered flowers.
On Afric's strand, foredoom'd to Lusian sway,
Behold these isles, and rocks of dusky gray;
From cells unknown here bounteous ocean pours
The fragrant amber on the sandy shores.
And lo, the Island of the Moon displays
Her vernal lawns, and num'rous peaceful bays:
The halcyons hov'ring o'er the bays are seen,
And lowing herds adorn the vales of green.

Luís Vas de Camões (c. 1524–1580) Portugal
Translated by W. J. Mickle
Source: The Lusiad, by Luís de Camões, George Bell & Sons, 1877 [Project Gutenberg]
This section of the poem deals with The Maldives, p. 347-349

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