Luis Vaz de Camões (c. 1524 d. June 10, 1580) was one of Europe’s great poets. His works has been compared to that of Homer, Virgil, Dante and Shakespeare. Portugal’s national day, June 10, is celebrated on the day that Camões died. Were he only remembered for his love sonnets, he would be regarded as great, but he is most remembered for his 10 Canto epic Os Lusíadas, named for the mythical founder of Portugal, Lusus. Here, the hero is not simply the protagonist Vasco da Gama, but the people of Portugal as da Gama and his crew struggle on an epic voyage to open a new route to the Indies. Os Lusíadas is considered one of the a major epic poems of modern times. The epic poem gives us brief glimpses of the poet as well, whose tragic life is juxtaposed to that of his cousin, da Gama. In Canto 3 of this often translated epic, da Gama tells a distant prince of his homeland - and we see the soul of Camões, broken, ill, and homesick, yearning to return to the place of his birth:
“Here, like a crown on Europe’s head,
Is the Lusitanian kingdom.
Where the land ends, and the sea begins,
This is my blessed home, my first love.
And, would it that Heaven my prayer answer,
And grant me a safe return, with my task accomplished,
That I would gladly breath my last.”