Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe
On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
LE ROUX, Schalk W. and FERREIRA, O.J.O.. Camões in Afrikaans: A translation of the section in Os Lusíadas relating to the southern tip of Africa. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2008, vol.48, n.1, pp. 95-110. ISSN 2224-7912.
During its "golden age" Portugal amazed the world with its great voyages of discovery. It was therefore appropriate that an epic poet of the time should record the achievements of his contemporaries for posterity. That poet was Luís Vaz de Camões (c. 1524-1580), the creator of the timeless epic Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads). In this heroic poem Camões, through his brilliant depiction of Adamastor, created an enduring myth. There are different theories about Camões's motivation in creating the Adamastor myth. Vasco da Gama's battle against the howling south-easter off the Cape in November 1497 undoubtedly inspired the poet more than half a century later. The similarity between Camões's fatal love for a lady-in-waiting at the royal court in Lisbon and his consequent exile to the East and that of Adamastor's love for Thetis and his exile to the southern tip of Africa seems to be more than mere coincidence. When the Sao Bento, in which Camões sailed to the East in 1553, rounded the Cape, the sea was particularly stormy and the south-easter caused heavy clouds to hang over Table Mountain. This frightening personal experience had a profound effect on Camões, and thus the giant Adamastor probably took shape in his agitated mind. Camões was eminently suited to being the writer of the epic of Portugal because he not only knew the history of his country but was also well versed in Greek and Roman mythology, which must have inspired the creation of Adamastor. In Os Lusíadas Camões depicts both the glory and the decline of the Portuguese empire. The essence of the narrative is Vasco da Gama's voyage to India, but the poet has ingeniously woven the earlier history of Portugal into the course of the narrative by making Da Gama relate the history of his people to the friendly king of Malindi on the eastern coast of Africa. In Canto V, stanzas 37 to 61, Camões tells the story of Adamastor. When Da Gama's fleet approaches the Cape a terrifying cloud appears overhead, taking the shape of a powerful, monstrous being. The misshapen, bearded figure threatens the mariners who sail the seas over which he has long held solitary sway. He has a grudge against the Portuguese because he envies them their freedom of movement, their boldness and their excellence. He predicts disasters, shipwrecks and loss of life for those who dare to sail round the Cape of Storms. Adamastor tells of his revenge on Dias for being the first to sail these waters, the grave he has prepared for De Almeida, and the fate that will overtake Sousa de Sepúlveda and other castaways on the South African coast. While Adamastor continues his prophecies about the misfortunes awaiting the Portuguese, Da Gama interrupts him brusquely and asks him who in fact he is. Adamastor with a mighty roar and in a voice heavy with bitterness replies that he is the great hidden cape called the Cape of Storms by the Portuguese. He is one of the giants, a child from the marriage of Uranus and Earth, who rebelled against the gods of Olympus. He tells them the pitiful tale of his love for Thetis, the sea nymph whom he wooed but who spurned him because of his repulsive appearance. Because of his rebellion against the gods and his illicit love for Thetis, Adamastor was punished by the gods. They changed him into a rugged mountain at the southern tip of Africa, where he has to guard the southern seas and bring death to the sons of Luso who want to sail past him. In Adamastor Camões created a new mythological figure, the only great figure added to mythology since the classical period. By placing him at the Cape of Storms the poet brought southern Africa into the realm of the classical gods. According to the South African author Stephen Gray the figure of Adamastor is at the root of all subsequent white semiology invented to cope with the African experience. Adamastor is ominous and hostile and is observed across a divide: he belongs to an older but conquered culture and may annihilate the new European enlightenment if he is allowed within its borders. Vasco da Gama and Adamastor, as depicted by Camões, were therefore, in Gray's view, the beginning of the racist mythology on which white supremacy in South Africa is based. The Portuguese author António Figueiredo differs from this viewpoint and points out that Os Lusíadas and the Adamastor legend are above purely human and racial antagonisms and that they serve rather as a symbol of man's defiance of the elements. The Adamastor myth represents the triumph of the Portuguese over the untamed forces of nature as well as their reward which lay in their becoming the rulers of the oceans. Os Lusíadas has been translated into many languages. Although parts of it were translated into Afrikaans by André P. Brink, D.P.M Botes and René Immelman, it has never been done in verse form. The section relating to Adamastor (Canto V, 37-61) was translated for this article.
Keywords : Adamastor; Luís Vaz de Camões; myths; Portuguese epic; translation.