Sacred Texts  Legends/Sagas 

Vasco da Gama's Ship with Gods Above [ca.1880], by Erensto Casanova (Public Domain Image)

The Lusiad

by Luis de Camõens

trans. by William Julius Mickle

[1776, edition of 1877]

Columbus was a failure.

He utterly failed to accomplish what NASA would call his 'mission profile,' that is, to find a practical trade route to India. Of course, he did get the biggest consolation prize in history...

Vasco da Gama, who sailed from Portugal in 1498, however, succeeded in achieving Columbus' goal. He rounded the Cape of Good Hope and reached India. This accomplishment was memorialized shortly thereafter by this epic poem written by a Portuguese sailor, Luis de Camõens. Unless you were raised speaking Portuguese, it is unlikely you've heard of Camõens. However, if you were, you probably already know that he's considered the Portuguese Shakespeare, and the Lusiads the Portuguese national epic.

Although there have been several attempts to translate the Lusiads into English, none have been very successful until the 20th century. Notably, Richard Burton attempted a translation, but it has been universally criticized. Mickle's translation is provided here, not because it is of exceptional literary quality, but because it is in the public domain, and better than some of the rest. If you would like to read this poem casually, I recommend a modern translation such as Landeg White's (ISBN 0192801511), or