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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 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,

Inearly drowned in your tempestuous sea.

—Luís de Camões (1524/25–1580)

Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer


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,

sadly, only his fondest memories

because, despite his isolation, he sees

and clearly comprehends the sorrow he faces.

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.

—Luís de Camões (1524/25–1580)

Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer

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.

—Luís de Camões (1524/25–1580)

Translated from the Portuguese by William Baer

Image by Francesco Salviati licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped.