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Luis de Camões

Luis de Camões (1524-June 10, 1580) is considered by some as Portugal's greatest poet. He penned dozens of sonnets and other poems, but is best remembered for his epic work Lusiadas.

He was born in Lisbon. When he was very young, he fell in love with a lady of the court, and the King, who also liked her, sent Camões into exile. The lady died of a broken heart, and Camões thought so much of her that he never married.

After her death, he went to fight the Moors in Morocco, and in a battle an arrow put out one of his eyes.

He hoped to get some office when he returned to court, but none were given to him. Instead, he sailed for Goa in the East Indies, saying as he left Portugal "Ungrateful country, thou shall not possess my bones."

In Goa he made the Portuguese soldiers angry by a satirical poem and he was banished to Macao, where he was given an office with salary enough for his support. While living there, he wrote Lusiadas, named from the fabled hero Lusus, who is said to have come with Ulysses to what is now Portugal and called it Lusitania. The poem tells about Vasco da Gama and other Portuguese heros who sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and opened a new route to the Indies.

Eventually, Camões was recalled from exile and he set sail for home. However, he was shipwrecked, and was only saved by floating on a board.

He went to Goa again and was arrested for debt and kept in prison for eight years, when he was allowed to go to Lisbon in 1569.

For a time, the king gave him a small pension, but when the king died the pension ended and Camões lived in poverty, cared for by a servant who had followed him from India, and who begged in the streets by night to get enough for them to eat.

He finally died in Lisbon at the age of 56.

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