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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV. 1876–79.

Central and Southern Africa: Cape of Good Hope

The Spirit of the Cave

By Luís de Camões (c. 1524–1580)

(From The Lusiad)
Translated by W. J. Mickle

I SPOKE;—when, rising through the darkened air,

Appalled we saw an hideous phantom glare;

High and enormous o’er the flood he towered,

And thwart our way with sullen aspect lowered.

An earthly paleness o’er his cheeks was spread;

Erect uprose his hairs of withered red;

Writhing to speak, his sable lips disclose,

Sharp and disjoined, his gnashing teeth’s blue rows;

His haggard beard flowed quivering on the wind,

Revenge and horror in his mien combined;

His clouded front, by withering lightnings scarred,

The inward anguish of his soul declared;

His red eyes glowing from their dusky caves

Shot livid fires; far echoing o’er the waves

His voice resounded, as the caverned shore

With hollow groan repeats the tempest’s roar.

Cold-gliding horrors thrilled each hero’s breast;

Our bristling hair and tottering knees confessed

Wild dread; the while, with visage ghastly wan,

His black lips trembling, thus the fiend began:—

“O you, the boldest of the nations, fired

By daring pride, by lust of fame inspired;

Who, scornful of the bowers of sweet repose,

Through these my waves advance your fearless prows,

Regardless of the lengthening watery way,

And all the storms that own my sovereign sway;

Who, mid surrounding rocks and shelves, explore

Where never hero braved my rage before;

Ye sons of Lusus, who with eyes profane

Have viewed the secrets of my awful reign,

Have passed the bounds which jealous Nature drew

To veil her secret shrine from mortal view:

Hear from my lips what direful woes attend,

And bursting soon shall o’er your race descend!

“With every bounding keel that dares my rage

Eternal war my rocks and storms shall wage;

The next proud fleet, that through my drear domain,

With daring search, shall hoist the streaming vane,—

That gallant navy, by my whirlwinds tossed,

And raging seas, shall perish on my coast;

Then he, who first my secret reign descried,

A naked corse wide floating o’er the tide

Shall drive. Unless my heart’s full raptures fail,

O Lusus, oft shalt thou thy children wail;

Each year thy shipwrecked sons shalt thou deplore,

Each year thy sheeted masts shall strew my shore.”


He paused, in act still further to disclose

A long, a dreary prophecy of woes;

When, springing onward, loud my voice resounds,

And midst his rage the threatening shade confounds:

“What art thou, horrid form, that rid’st the air?

By heaven’s eternal light, stern fiend, declare!”

His lips he writhes, his eyes far round he throws,

And from his breast deep, hollow groans arose;

Sternly askance he stood: with wounded pride

And anguish torn, “In me, behold,” he cried,

While dark-red sparkles from his eyeballs rolled,

“In me the Spirit of the Cave behold,—

That rock by you the Cape of Tempests named,

By Neptune’s rage in horrid earthquakes framed,

When Jove’s red bolts o’er Titan’s offspring flamed.

With wide-stretched piles I guard the pathless strand,

And Afric’s southern mound unmoved I stand;

Nor Roman prow, nor daring Tyrian oar,

E’er dashed the white wave foaming to my shore;

Nor Greece nor Carthage ever spread the sail

On these my seas to catch the trading gale;

You, you alone, have dared to plough my main,

And with the human voice disturb my lonesome reign.”

He spoke, and deep a lengthened sigh he drew,

A doleful sound, and vanished from the view;

The frightened billows gave a rolling swell,

And distant far prolonged the dismal yell;

Faint and more faint the howling echoes die,

And the black cloud dispersing leaves the sky.

High to the angel host, whose guardian care

Had ever round us watched, my hands I rear,

And heaven’s dread King implore,—“As o’er our head

The fiend dissolved, an empty shadow, fled;

So may his curses by the winds of heaven

Far o’er the deep, their idle sport, be driven!”