I was blown away by this station, this Gar do Oriente. It brings together the metro with inter-city trains with buses — that alone seems like something more than you can hope for from any station. Yet this station is also so beautiful, and I mean SO BEAUTIFUL. I could have wandered around that place for hours taking pictures, and wished to come back on a day of pure sunshine rather than pouring rain — I might have taken some pictures from the outside then. More of my low-light pictures might have come out. Or in the evening when light would spill very differently through glass panes and around towering concrete columns.
It has a fabulous open air bookshop.
This is essentially the most I could find about it:
Located in Lisbon’s Eastern zone, Oriente Station was designed as an intermodal station to support Expo’98 and was also intended as the city’s main transport interface, integrating metro, train, a road terminal and parking.
The station was designed by the distinguished Spanish architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava, who is world renowned for his unique style that combines materials such as concrete, glass and steel, achieving visibility for structures that other architects hide.
Both Lisbon and Covilhã are built on hills, and never before have I seen such an incredible infrastructure for navigating such terrain. Not that it is perfect mind, but for those with limited mobility it is quite wonderful, and that it should have been a decision to spend public moneys on such thing…brilliant. The most famous is this one, the elevador de Santa Justa from 1902, designed by Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard who was an apprentice under Gustav Eifel.
This is one victorian beauty connecting Bairro Alto to Baixa, that is therefore crammed with people and subject to long lines. We therefore did not use this elevator, but the other, secret elevator that you enter just below a bar with fake grass and lounge chairs, and that dumps you out into a shop selling beautiful purses and other goods made from cork.
We also found this funicular, although we were not able to take it, we had people to meet and cod to eat! I may actually never eat cod again.
Covilhã though, this was a whole new level of infrastructure — I mean, look at these two elevators leading to the most fantastic bridge. I’m not even sure which I loved more. Especially the ways that people greeted each other, held the elevators and etc etc. This is going down and across the valley.
Crossing the bridge and looking down and across old factories.
I loved them but first, look at these. They are beautiful going up.
We did go down another day, you know we did. More factories later, but here is a view of the bridge from below.
There are funiculars here too. Not all of them in working order, and even one that zig-zagged up the great hill from the train station (we ordered it to come and waited and it did not and I tried to converse with a friendly passer-by because in Brazil I communicated all right but in Portugal they speak a language entirely without vowels and I understand nothing so I don’t know if it was broken or simply incredibly impossibly slow). This led from the University up to the town centre.
This isn’t even all of them. I am so impressed. I haven’t even blogged the Gar do Oriente yet.
This dawn is the first the world has seen. Never before has this pink light dwindling into yellow then hot white fallen in quite this way on the faces that the windowpaned eyes of the houses in the west turn to the silence that comes with the growing light. Never before have this hour, this light, my being existed. What comes tomorrow will be different, and what I see will be seen through different eyes, full of a new vision.
Tall mountains of the city! Great buildings, rooted in, raised up upon, steep slopes, an avalanche of houses heaped indiscriminately together, woven together by the light out of shadows and fire — you are today, you are me, because I see you, you are what [you will not be] tomorrow, and, leaning as if on a ship’s rail, I love you as ships passing one another must love, feeling an unaccountable nostalgia in their passing. (227)
Luís Vaz de Camões was born in 1524 or 25, son of a ship’s captain who drowned off of Goa. He lived in Lisbon on the fringes of court writing poetry and plays, legend has it he fell in love with Catarine de Ataide (who married Vasco da Gama, the subject of the Lusiad just as she was the subject of Camões’s sonnets).
Exiled from the court, he joined the garrison in Ceuta (Morrocco) as a common solider, and it was there he lost his eye. He is always shown thus.
Between 1553-56 he sailed to India, took part in expeditions along the Malabar coast of India, in the Red Sea, along the African and Arabian coasts, visits Malacca and the Moluccas. In 1559 he was recalled to Goa, wrecked in the Mekong river where he lost everything but, legend tells us, the cantos of the Lusiads. He spent time in jail related to his post in Macau. Jailed again for debt. He kicks around until friends offer him passage back to Lisbon in 1570, and it is in 1572 the Lusiads are published. It is only then that ‘Camões [was] granted tiny royal pension for “the adequacy of the book he wrote on Indian matters (xxvi).”‘ It is not, I don’t think, what you might call a happy life.
Arms are my theme, and those matchless heroes Who from Portugal’s far western shores By oceans where none had ventured Voyaged in Taprobana and beyond, Enduring hazards and assaults Such as drew on more than human prowess Among far distant peoples, to proclaim A New Age and win undying fame
Kings likewise of glorious memory Who magnified Christ and Empire, Bringing rain on the degenerate Lands of Africa and Asia (1-2: 3);
As armas e os Barões assinalados Que da Ocidental praia Lusitana Por mares nunca de antes navegados Passaram ainda além da Taprobana, Em perigos e guerras esforçados Mais do que prometia a força humana, E entre gente remota edificaram Novo Reino, que tanto sublimaram.
E também as memórias gloriosas
Daqueles Reis que foram dilatando
A Fé, o Império, e as terras viciosas
De África e de Ásia andaram devastando,
The whole of Os Lusiadas in Portuguese can be found here. It is written in a style heroic, celebrating the bravery and brutality of Vasco da Gama and his sailors. There is a strange invocation of Roman Gods and nymphs, an evocation of Empire that sits easier with the Portuguese project than Christianity — it seems obvious perhaps, yet I found it strange and fascinating both that the whole of it is couched in terms of Jupiter’s support of the Portuguese cause, Bacchus’s dissent and constant meddling.
Now you can watch them, risking all In frail timbers on treacherous seas, By routes never charted, and only Emboldened by opposing winds; Having explored so much of the earth From the equator to the midnight sun. They recharge their purpose and are drawn To touch the very portals of the dawn
They were promised by eternal Fate Whose high laws cannot be brokem They should long hold sway in the seas…. (27-28:8)
«Agora vedes bem que, cometendo
O duvidoso mar num lenho leve,
Por vias nunca usadas, não temendo
de Áfrico e Noto a força, a mais s’atreve:
Que, havendo tanto já que as partes vendo
Onde o dia é comprido e onde breve,
Inclinam seu propósito e perfia
A ver os berços onde nasce o dia.
«Prometido lhe está do Fado eterno,
Cuja alta lei não pode ser quebrada,
Que tenham longos tempos o governo
Do mar que vê do Sol a roxa entrada.
Fate absolves them of everything and I love that they expect the hand of friendship wherever they go, despite their plan of conquest. This is at once a constant complaint of the lack of trust among strangers and a victorious poem of war against all unbelievers.
It is an eternal conundrum,
Unfathomable by human thought,
That those closest to God will never be
Lacking in some perfidious enemy! (71:17)
Ó segredos daquela Eternidade
A quem juízo algum não alcançou:
Que nunca falte um pérfido inimigo
Àqueles de quem foste tanto amigo!
Hilarious. Reminded me of Hugh Makesela singing ‘Vasco da Gama, he was no friend of mine‘ in Colonial Man. The other side to this whole poem, and the side to be on. But we continue.
In which they send prisoners out to reconnoiter — I’m not entirely sure of the wisdom of this, but I suppose they weren’t just going to run away? There seems to have been a choice among prisoners as well. Ah, the jolly life of the sea.
Even so, from among those prisoners
On board, sentenced for gross crimes
So their lives could be hazarded
In predicaments such as these,
He sent two of the cleverest, trained
To spy on the city and defences
Of the resourceful Muslims, and to greet
The famous Christian he so longed to meet. (7:26)
E de alguns que trazia, condenados Por culpas e por feitos vergonhosos, Por que pudessem ser aventurados Em casos desta sorte duvidosos, Manda dous mais sagazes, ensaiados, Por que notem dos Mouros enganosos A cidade e poder, e por que vejam Os Cristãos, que só tanto ver desejam.
Venus worries for them, she intercedes with Jove, he lists the many victories they will have (there are many such stomach-turning lists).
Even the tough, formidable Turks
You will see consistently routed;
The independent kings of India
Will be subject to Portugal,
Bringing, when all falls under his command,
A better dispensation to that land (46:34)
‘You will see the famous Red Sea
Turning yellow from sheer fright; (49:34)
Os Turcos belacíssimos e duros Deles sempre vereis desbaratados; Os Reis da Índia, livres e seguros, Vereis ao Rei potente sojugados, E por eles, de tudo enfim senhores, Serão dadas na terra leis milhores.
«E vereis o Mar Roxo, tão famoso, Tornar-se-lhe amarelo, de enfiado;
They will take Ormuz, Diu
‘Goa, you will see, seized from the Muslims
And come in the fullness of time to be
Queen of the Orient, raised up
By the triumphs of her conquerors.
From that proud, noble eminence,
They will rule with an iron fist
Idol-worshiping Hindus, and everyone
Throughout that land with thoughts of rebellion (51:35)
«Goa vereis aos Mouros ser tomada, A qual virá despois a ser senhora De todo o Oriente, e sublimada Cos triunfos da gente vencedora. Ali, soberba, altiva e exalçada, Ao Gentio que os Ídolos adora Duro freio porá, e a toda a terra Que cuidar de fazer aos vossos guerra.
They will take the fortress of Cannanore, Calicut, Cochin
‘As the very ocean boils with the fires
Ignited by your people, Battling
Taking both Hindu and Muslim captive,
Subduing the different nations
Until every sea-way is subservient (54:35)
«Como vereis o mar fervendo aceso Cos incêndios dos vossos, pelejando, Levando o Idololatra e o Mouro preso, De nações diferentes triunfando; … Ser-lhe-á todo o Oceano obediente.
In which da Gama gives a brief history of Portugal, ‘noble Iberia, The head, as it were, of all Europe’ (17: 51) to a Muslim Sultan. That doesn’t stop him from insulting the moors often and deeply of course, though he mentions that among them were Amazons (44:56). That’s cool.
In which Manuel the king of Portugal has a dream…
‘I am the famous Ganges whose waters
Have their source in the earthly paradise;
This other is the Indus, which springs
In this mountain which you behold.
We shall cost you unremitting war,
But perservering, you will become
Peerless in victory, knowing no defeat,
Conquering as many peoples as you meet.’ (74:91)
The king summoned the lords to council
To tell of the figures of his dream;
The words spoken by the venerable saint
Were a great wonder to them all.
They resolved at once to equip
A fleet and an intrepid crew,
Commissioned to plough the remotest seas
To explore new regions, make discoveries. (76:92)
«Eu sou o ilustre Ganges, que na terra Celeste tenho o berço verdadeiro; Estoutro é o Indo, Rei que, nesta serra Que vês, seu nascimento tem primeiro. Custar-t’ -emos contudo dura guerra; Mas, insistindo tu, por derradeiro, Com não vistas vitórias, sem receio A quantas gentes vês porás o freio.»
«Chama o Rei os senhores a conselho E propõe-lhe as figuras da visão; As palavras lhe diz do santo velho, Que a todos foram grande admiração. Determinam o náutico aparelho, Pera que, com sublime coração, Vá a gente que mandar cortando os mares A buscar novos climas, novos ares.
They asked for it you see.
But then there is an odd counterpoint, an old man calling out to them as they depart from Belem
–‘O pride of power! O futile lust
For that vanity known as fame!
That hollow conceit which puffs itself up
And which popular cant calls honour!
What punishment, what poetic justice,
You exact on sou;s that pursue you!
To what deaths, what miseries you condemn
Your heroes! What pains you inflict on them!
‘You wreck all peace of soul and body,
You promote separation and adultery;
Subtley, manifestly, you consume
The wealth of kingdoms and empires!
They call distinction, they call honour
What deserves ridicule and contempt;
They talk of glory and eternal fame,
And men are driven frantic by a name!
‘To what new catastrophes do you plan
To drag this kingdom and tehse people?
What perils, what deaths have you in store
Under what magniloquent title?
What visions of kingdoms and gold-mines
Will you guide them to infallibly?
What fame do you promise them? What stories?
What conquests and processions? What glories? (95-97:96)
‘Already in this vainglorious business
Delusions are possessing you,
Already ferocity and brute force
Are labelled strength and valour,
The heresy “Long live Death!” is already
Current among you, when life should always
be cherished, As Christ in times gone by
Who gave us life was yet afraid to die. (99:96)
‘The devil take the man who first put
Dry wood on the waves with a sail! (102: 97)
– «Ó glória de mandar, ó vã cobiça Desta vaidade a quem chamamos Fama! Ó fraudulento gosto, que se atiça Cũa aura popular, que honra se chama! Que castigo tamanho e que justiça Fazes no peito vão que muito te ama! Que mortes, que perigos, que tormentas, Que crueldades neles experimentas!
«Dura inquietação d’alma e da vida Fonte de desemparos e adultérios, Sagaz consumidora conhecida De fazendas, de reinos e de impérios! Chamam-te ilustre, chamam-te subida, Sendo dina de infames vitupérios; Chamam-te Fama e Glória soberana, Nomes com quem se o povo néscio engana!
«A que novos desastres determinas De levar estes Reinos e esta gente? Que perigos, que mortes lhe destinas, Debaixo dalgum nome preminente? Que promessas de reinos e de minas D’ ouro, que lhe farás tão facilmente? Que famas lhe prometerás? Que histórias? Que triunfos? Que palmas? Que vitórias?
«Já que nesta gostosa vaïdade Tanto enlevas a leve fantasia, Já que à bruta crueza e feridade Puseste nome, esforço e valentia, Já que prezas em tanta quantidade O desprezo da vida, que devia De ser sempre estimada, pois que já Temeu tanto perdê-la Quem a dá:
«Oh, maldito o primeiro que, no mundo, Nas ondas vela pôs em seco lenho!
And they just sail away as he speaks. But I wondered if that were not perhaps exactly what Camões himself thought, maybe that is the heart of this epic poem, this old man railing against violence and pride. Against the colonial project. There are echoes of this throughout.
He describes Madeira — known for its great forests. Soon to be cut down and forgotten. The Numidian desert of the Berber people, a land where ostriches digest iron in their stomachs! The Senegal river, Asinarus that they have rechristened Cape Verde. The Canary Islands, once called the Fortunate Isles. It is a map, this poem. They pass Jalof province, Mandingo…
Off the River Niger, we distinctly heard
Breakers pounding on beaches that are ours
*** There the mighty kingdom of the Congo
Has been brought by us to faith in Christ,
Where the Zaire flows, immense and brimming,
A river never seen by the ancients.
From this open sea I looked my last
At the constellations of the north.
For we had now crossed the burning line
Which marks division in the earth’s design (12-13:100)
O grande rio, onde batendo soa O mar nas praias notas, que ali temos, ***
«Ali o mui grande reino está de Congo, Por nós já convertido à fé de Cristo, Por onde o Zaire passa, claro e longo, Rio pelo antigos nunca visto. Por este largo mar, enfim, me alongo Do conhecido Pólo de Calisto, Tendo o término ardente já passado Onde o meio do Mundo é limitado.
This…oh man, there is so much in here isn’t there. The view of the other, the incomparable arrogance, the initimitable violence, the begginings of this trade in beads and baubles founded on a lack of respect for a culture that cares not for forks or gold.
I saw a stranger with a black skin
They had captured, making his sweet harvest
Of honey from the wild bees in the forest.
He looked thunderstruck, like a man
Never placed in such an extreme;
He could not understand us, nor we him
Who seemed wilder than Polyphemus.
I began by showing him pure gold
The supreme metal of civilisation,
Then fine silverware and hot condiment:
Nothing stirred in the brute the least excitement.
I arranged to show him simpler things:
Tiny beads of transparent crystal,
Some little jingling bells and rattles,
A red bonnet of a pleasing colour;
I saw at once from nods and gestures
That these had made him very happy.
I freed him and let him take his pillage,
Small as it was, to his nearby village.
The next day his fellows, all of them
Naked, and blacker than seemed possible,
Trooped down the rugged hillside paths
Hoping for what their friend had obtained.
They were so gentle and well-disposed (27-30:103)
Vejo um estranho vir, de pele preta, Que tomaram per força, enquanto apanha De mel os doces favos na montanha.
«Torvado vem na vista, como aquele Que não se vira nunca em tal extremo; Nem ele entende a nós, nem nós a ele, Selvagem mais que o bruto Polifemo. Começo-lhe a mostrar da rica pele De Colcos o gentil metal supremo, A prata fina, a quente especiaria: A nada disto o bruto se movia.
«Mando mostrar-lhe peças mais somenos: Contas de cristalino transparente, Alguns soantes cascavéis pequenos, Um barrete vermelho, cor contente; Vi logo, por sinais e por acenos, Que com isto se alegra grandemente. Mando-o soltar com tudo e assi caminha Pera a povoação, que perto tinha.
«Mas, logo ao outro dia, seus parceiros, Todos nus e da cor da escura treva, Decendo pelos ásperos outeiros, As peças vêm buscar que estoutro leva. Domésticos já tanto e companheiros
They continue on, still on. And then the Cape of Storms rises up embodied before them, grotesque, and again all the contradictions in this colonial project come rising to the surface with him.
‘Because you have descrated nature’s
Secrets and the mysteries of the deep
Where no human, however noble
Or immortal his worth, should trespass
Hear from me now what retribution
Fate presrcibes for your insolence,
Whether ocean-borne, or along the shores
You will subjegaute with your dreadful wars
‘No matter how many vessels attempt
The audacious passage you are plotting
My cape will be implacably hostile
With gales beyond any you have encountered (42-3:106)
«Pois vens ver os segredos escondidos Da natureza e do húmido elemento, A nenhum grande humano concedidos De nobre ou de imortal merecimento, Ouve os danos de mi que apercebidos Estão a teu sobejo atrevimento, Por todo o largo mar e pola terra Que inda hás-de sojugar com dura guerra.
«Sabe que quantas naus esta viagem Que tu fazes, fizerem, de atrevidas, Inimiga terão esta paragem, Com ventos e tormentas desmedidas;
The spirit describes the Portuguese need to atone for ‘his bloody crimes, the massacre | Of Kilwa, the leveling of Mombasa (45:107).
Unexpected. These are celebrated later on but only after this first mention, the cost of what they are doing, its criminal aspect. The more I look at the poem the more I am intrigued by this very slender thread of self-knowledge of crimes inflicted against man and earth.
Sail on and sail on. Past a succession of sultans who lie and cheat the Portuguese until they come to Mozambique, where finally the Sultan fulfills his promise to give them guides. There is a meeting of the gods under the sea, summoned by Triton. And I love this passage
The hairs of his beard and the hair
Falling from his head to his shoulders
Were all one mass of mud, and visibly
Had never been touched by a comb;
Each dangling dreadlock was a cluster
Of gleaming, blue-black mussels.
On his head by way of coronet, he wore
The biggest lonbster-shell you ever saw.
His body was naked, even his genitals
So as not to impede his swimming,
But tiny creatures of the sea
Crawled over him by the hundreds;
Os cabelos da barba e os que decem Da cabeça nos ombros, todos eram Uns limos prenhes d’ água, e bem parecem Que nunca brando pêntem conheceram. Nas pontas pendurados não falecem Os negros mexilhões, que ali se geram. Na cabeça, por gorra, tinha posta Ũa mui grande casca de lagosta.
O corpo nu, e os membros genitais, Por não ter ao nadar impedimento, Mas porém de pequenos animais Do mar todos cobertos, cento e cento:
They are becalmed, and the strangest tale told of Magrico, in which John of Gaunt who has been allied with King Joao summons twelve Portuguese knights to represent the ladies in a joust for their honour and the knights win of course…I suppose it is just to tie Portugal closer to their English allies, but so curious.
Canto 7 — A last listing of Portuguese possessions after an excoriation of the infighting between Christians — the Reformation I imagination, he is particularly upset at the Germans. Canto 8, the treachery of the Muslims. Chapter 9 finally they head home, with reflections on all they had won — lands mapped, men and spices pillaged and plundered.
He sailed by the south coast, reflecting
He had laboured in vain for a treaty
Of friendship with the Hindu king,
To guarantee peace and commerce;
But at least those lands stretching
To the dawn were now known to the world,
And at long last his men were homeward bound
With proofs on board of the India he had found.
For he had some Malabaris siezed
From those dispatched by the Samorin
When he returned the imprisoned factors;
He had hot peppers he had purchased;
There was mace from the Banda Islands;
Then nutmeg and black cloves, pride
Of the new-found Moluccas, and cinammon,
the wealth, the fame, the beauty of Ceylon. (13-14:179)
Parte-se costa abaxo, porque entende Que em vão co Rei gentio trabalhava Em querer dele paz, a qual pretende Por firmar o comércio que tratava; Mas como aquela terra, que se estende Pela Aurora, sabida já deixava, Com estas novas torna à pátria cara, Certos sinais levando do que achara.
Leva alguns Malabares, que tomou Per força, dos que o Samorim mandara Quando os presos feitores lhe tornou; Leva pimenta ardente, que comprara; A seca flor de Banda não ficou; A noz e o negro cravo, que faz clara A nova ilha Maluco, co a canela Com que Ceilão é rica, ilustre e bela.
And then Venus, who owns many of these islands, prepares one for these heroes. She fills it with nymphs who are theirs for the taking.
There she intended the sea nymphs
Should wait upon the mighty heroes
–All of them lovely beyond compare,
So with redoubled zeal, each would endeavour
To please her beloved mariner, whoever…(22: 181)
But make way, you steep, cerulean waves
For look, Venus brings the remedy,
In those white, billowing sails
Scudding swiftly over Neptune’s waters;
Now ardent loving can assuage
Female passion… (49: 186)
Ali quer que as aquáticas donzelas Esperem os fortíssimos barões (Todas as que têm título de belas, *** Pera com mais vontade trabalharem De contentar a quem se afeiçoarem.
Dai lugar, altas e cerúleas ondas, Que, vedes, Vénus traz a medicina, Mostrando as brancas velas e redondas, Que vêm por cima da água Neptunina. Pera que tu recíproco respondas, Ardente Amor, à flama feminina,
the sailors land and go chasing their nymphs through the forest — Tethys takes da Gama to the mountain to show him ‘the still-unmapped continents’ and ‘seas unsailed’ and ‘There they passed the long day | In sweet games and continuous pleasure.’ It seems to me all one elaborate metaphor of rape that he explains thus:
For the ocean nymphs in all their beauty,
Tethys, and the magic painted island,
Are nothing more than those delghtful
Honours, which make our lives sublime.
Those glorious moments of pre-eminence (89:194)
Que as Ninfas do Oceano, tão fermosas, Tétis e a Ilha angélica pintada, Outra cousa não é que as deleitosas Honras que a vida fazem sublimada. Aquelas preminências gloriosas,
It makes me feel sick really, this treating as parable what these European sailors in reality took as divine right and with violence wherever they landed.
This canto contains the great summation of death and destruction the Portuguese will wreck upon the world from the lips of Venus. I’ve just pulled some of the highlights out, more feeling sick:
The goddess sang that from the Tagus,
Over the seas da Gama had opened,
Would come fleets to conquer all the coast
Where the Indian Ocean sighs;
Those Hindu Kings who did not bow
Their necks to the yoke would incite
The wrath of an implacable enemy,
Their choice to yield or, on an instant, die (10:199)
Pacheco will not only hold the fords,
But burn towns, houses, and temples;
Inflamed with anger, watching his cities
One by one laid low, that dog
Will force his men, reckless of life,
To attack both passages at once, (16:200)
Together, by the power of arms,
They will castigate fertile Kilwa,
Driving out its perfidious princeling
To impose a loyal and humane King
‘Mombasa too, furnished with such
Palaces and sumptuous houses,
Will be laid waste with iron and fire,
In payment for its former treachery (26-27:202)
But it is Emir Hussein’s grappled fleet
Bears the brunt of the avenger’s anger,
As arms and legs swim in the bay
Without the bodies they belonged to;
Bolts of fire will make manifest
The passionate victors’ blind fury (36:204)
But what great light’“ do I see breaking,’
Sang the nymph and in a higher strain,
‘Where the seas of Malindi flow crimson
With the blood of Lamu, Oja, and Brava? (39:205)
‘That light, too, is from Persian Ormuz
From the fires and the gleaming arms
Of Albuquerque as he rebukes them
For scorning his light, honourable yoke. (40:205)
‘Not all that land’s mountains of salt
Can preserve from corruption the corpses
Littering the beaches, choking the seas
Of Gerum, Muscat, and Al Quraiyat,
Till, by the strength of his arm, they learn
To bow the neck as he compels
That grim realm to yield, without dispute,
Pearls from Bahrain as their annual tribute. (41:205)
Renowned, opulent Malacca!
For all your arrows tipped with poison,
The curved daggers you bear as arms,
Amorous Malays and valiant Javanese
All will be subject to the Portuguese (44:205)
Having cleared India of enemies
He will take up the viceroy’s sceptre
For all fear him and none complain,
Except Bhatkal, which brings on itself
The pains Beadala already suffered;
Corpses will strew the streets, and shells burst
As fire and thundering cannon do their worst.(66:210)
Cantava a bela Deusa que viriam
Do Tejo, pelo mar que o Gama abrira,
Armadas que as ribeiras venceriam
Por onde o Oceano Índico suspira;
E que os Gentios Reis que não dariam
A cerviz sua ao jugo, o ferro e ira
Provariam do braço duro e forte,
Até render-se a ele ou logo à morte.
Já não defenderá sòmente os passos,
Mas queimar-lhe-á lugares, templos, casas;
Aceso de ira, o Cão, não vendo lassos
Aqueles que as cidades fazem rasas,
Fará que os seus, de vida pouco escassos,
Cometam o Pacheco, que tem asas,
A Quíloa fértil, áspero castigo,
Fazendo nela Rei leal e humano,
Deitado fora o pérfido tirano.
«Também farão Mombaça, que se arreia
De casas sumptuosas e edifícios,
Co ferro e fogo seu queimada e feia,
Em pago dos passados malefícios.
«Mas a de Mir Hocém, que, abalroando,
A fúria esperará dos vingadores,
Verá braços e pernas ir nadando
Sem corpos, pelo mar, de seus senhores.
Raios de fogo irão representando,
No cego ardor, os bravos domadores.
«Mas oh, que luz tamanha que abrir sinto
(Dizia a Ninfa, e a voz alevantava)
Lá no mar de Melinde, em sangue tinto
Das cidades de Lamo, de Oja e Brava,
«Esta luz é do fogo e das luzentes
Armas com que Albuquerque irá amansando
De Ormuz os Párseos, por seu mal valentes,
Que refusam o jugo honroso e brando.
«Ali do sal os montes não defendem
De corrupção os corpos no combate,
Que mortos pela praia e mar se estendem
De Gerum, de Mazcate e Calaiate;
Até que à força só de braço aprendem
A abaxar a cerviz, onde se lhe ate
Obrigação de dar o reino inico
Das perlas de Barém tributo rico.
Opulenta Malaca nomeada.
As setas venenosas que fizeste,
Os crises com que já te vejo armada,
Malaios namorados, Jaus valentes,
Todos farás ao Luso obedientes.»
«Tendo assi limpa a Índia dos imigos,
Virá despois com ceptro a governá-la
Sem que ache resistência nem perigos,
Que todos tremem dele e nenhum fala.
Só quis provar os ásperos castigos
Baticalá, que vira já Beadala.
De sangue e corpos mortos ficou cheia
E de fogo e trovões desfeita e feia.
A reminder that in it all, it is the women who are always promised as plunder.
This was not the crime of incest
Nor the violent abuse of a virgin,
Still less of hidden adultery
For this was a slave, anyone’s woman. (47:206)
All these heroes, and others worthy
In different ways of fame and esteem,
Performing great feats in war
Will taste this island’s pleasures,
Their sharp keels cutting the waves
Under triumphant banners, to find
These lovely nymphs (73:211)
Não será a culpa abominoso incesto
Nem violento estupro em virgem pura,
Nem menos adultério desonesto,
Mas cũa escrava vil, lasciva e escura,
«Estes e outros Barões, por várias partes,
Dinos todos de fama e maravilha,
Fazendo-se na terra bravos Martes,
Virão lograr os gostos desta Ilha,
Varrendo triunfantes estandartes
Pelas ondas que corta a aguda quilha;
E acharão estas Ninfas …
And then she bids Portugal look West, not just East. Don’t, you say. Don’t. But of course they did. This is the monument in Belem that marks where all of these conquerors set out with their swords. Hardly surprising it was built under the dictator Salazar, and rises above a great cartographic rose given them by the apartheid state of South Africa.
I read Henry Fielding’s Journey to Lisbon on a whim before we ourselves traveled to Lisbon, and became ever more annoyed with this wealthy, incredibly crochety old man. I expected better from the author of Tom Jones, the founder of the Bow Street Runners. I yearned only to know of the city I have so looked forward to visiting, but this book is entirely and very tediously about getting there. Forget about that saying that it is not the destination but the journey.
Of travel writing, Fielding says
To make a traveler an agreeable companion to a man of sense, it is necessary, not only that he should have seen much, but that he should have overlooked much of what he hath seen.
I shall lay down only one general rule; which I believe to be of universal truth between relator and hearer, as it is between author and reader; this is, that the latter never forgive any observation of the former which doth not convey some knowledge that they are sensible they could not possibly have attained of themselves.
I suppose the difficulties of traveling as a privileged male in the early 1750s while suffering from gout, asthma and cirhosis of the liver would be entirely new knowledge to me, but surely given his expectations of readership, he has written his rule only to immediately break it.
But this story was most wonderful:
A most tragical incident fell out this day at sea. While the ship was under sail, but making as will appear no great way, a kitten, one of four of the feline inhabitants of the cabin, fell from the window into the water: an alarm was immediately given to the captain, who was then upon deck, and received it with utmost concern and many bitter oaths. He immediately gave orders to the steersman in favor of the poor thing, as he called it; the sails were instantly slackened, and all hands, as the phrase is, employed to recover the poor animal. I was, I own, extremely surprised at all this; less indeed at the captain’s extreme tenderness than at his conceiving any possibility of success; for if puss had had nine thousand instead of nine lives, I concluded they had been all lost. The boatswain, however, had more sanguine hopes, for, having stripped himself of his jacket, breeches, and shirt, he leaped boldly into the water, and to my great astonishment in a few minutes returned to the ship, bearing the motionless animal in his mouth. Nor was this, I observed, a matter of such great difficulty as it appeared to my ignorance, and possibly may seem to that of my fresh-water reader. The kitten was now exposed to air and sun on the deck, where its life, of which it retained no symptoms, was despaired of by all. The captain’s humanity, if I may so call it, did not so totally destroy his philosophy as to make him yield himself up to affliction on this melancholy occasion. Having felt his loss like a man, he resolved to show he could bear it like one; and, having declared he had rather have lost a cask of rum or brandy, betook himself to threshing at backgammon with the Portuguese friar, in which innocent amusement they had passed about two-thirds of their time. But as I have, perhaps, a little too wantonly endeavored to raise the tender passions of my readers in this narrative, I should think myself unpardonable if I concluded it without giving them the satisfaction of hearing that the kitten at last recovered, to the great joy of the good captain, but to the great disappointment of some of the sailors, who asserted that the drowning a cat was the very surest way of raising a favorable wind; a supposition of which, though we have heard several plausible accounts, we will not presume to assign the true original reason.
The other highlight of the voyage, of actual interest to me, was the story of the great shark, who tried to take a side of beef
together with a great iron crook on which it was hung, and by which he was dragged into the ship. I should scarce have mentioned the catching this shark, though so exactly conformable to the rules and practice of voyage-writing, had it not been for a strange circumstance that attended it. This was the recovery of the stolen beef out of the shark’s maw, where it lay unchewed and undigested, and whence, being conveyed into the pot, the flesh, and the thief that had stolen it, joined together in furnishing variety to the ship’s crew.
That is cool.
Fielding definitely includes quite a bit of old-rich-man ranting about the laziness of the poor, particularly sailors, and a bit of political economy. Rich coming from a man waited on hand and foot and continually describing the extreme lengths to which he demands those who serve him go to provide for his own comfort. He was winched in and out of boats, sent for numerous doctors and dentists from numerous towns as they travelled down the Thames, complained endlessly about the quality of food, bedding, service. Was constantly demanding the boat stop so he could buy some more provisions. He writes this:
I at first intended only to convey a hint to those who are alone capable of applying the remedy, though they are the last to whom the notice of those evils would occur, without some such monitor as myself, who am forced to travel about the world in the form of a passenger. I cannot but say I heartily wish our governors would attentively consider this method of fixing the price of labor, and by that means of compelling the poor to work, since the due execution of such powers will, I apprehend, be found the true and only means of making them useful, and of advancing trade from its present visibly declining state to the height to which Sir William Petty, in his Political Arithmetic, thinks it capable of being carried.
As if any decline in trade were the fault of the poor.
I find the early barriers to movement and travel quite interesting — Fielding obviously had no fear he wouldn’t be allowed in to Portugal, but he definitely had to jump some hoops, essentially a quarantine. He writes:
it is here a capital offense to assist any person in going on shore from a foreign vessel before it hath been examined, and every person in it viewed by the magistrates of health, as they are called,
And he gives a sense of the first view of it when approached from the sea.
Wednesday.— Lisbon, before which we now lay at anchor, is said to be built on the same number of hills with old Rome; but these do not all appear to the water; on the contrary, one sees from thence one vast high hill and rock, with buildings arising above one another, and that in so steep and almost perpendicular a manner, that they all seem to have but one foundation. As the houses, convents, churches, &c., are large, and all built with white stone, they look very beautiful at a distance; but as you approach nearer, and find them to want every kind of ornament, all idea of beauty vanishes at once. While I was surveying the prospect of this city, which bears so little resemblance to any other that I have ever seen…
It ends here, with his disgust for this beautiful city, unlike any he has seen before.
About seven in the evening I got into a chaise on shore, and was driven through the nastiest city in the world, though at the same time one of the most populous, to a kind of coffee-house, which is very pleasantly situated on the brow of a hill, about a mile from the city, and hath a very fine prospect of the river Tajo from Lisbon to the sea. Here we regaled ourselves with a good supper, for which we were as well charged as if the bill had been made on the Bath-road, between Newbury and London.
Born 1707, he died in 1754. He wasn’t, in fact, very old at all. When visiting the Pessoa museum we chanced across another English cemetery — much bigger than the one on Vis. It is a reminder built into cenotaphs and monuments of the close trading relationships between England and Portugal in previous ages of empire. We wandered in, as you do. The first thing to meet our eyes was a big sign pointing to Henry Fielding’s tomb, and I suddenly realised that he had died here…
It might have made this a bit more poignant in retrospect, but… no. Really I just love the story of the shark and the kitten. Another memento mori from the cemetary might be in order though.
Just communities. Just cities. Just connections between country and city. Also, the weird and wonderful.