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History of Portuguese Literature Origins of Portuguese Literature The Portuguese Language Oral Literature Fiction Lyricism
Travel Literature Cantigas de amigo Historiography Doctrinal Prose


Baroque and Mannerism Classics Existentialism Experimentalism Enlightenment Modernity


Neo-Realism Post-Modernism Realism Romanticism Saudosismo Symbolism




"O Castelo" ou "Auto-Retrato Profético" (“The Castle” or “Prophetic Self-Portrait” 1952) by Eurico Gonçalves [b. 1932]

The first national expression of lyricism was in poesia trovadoresca (troubadour poetry), whose main genres were: cantigas de amor (love songs, which could be likened to the Provençal poetics, in which the poet expresses a strong admiration and submissiveness in relation to his beloved), cantigas de amigo (characterised by the fact that they were expressed by the woman), cantigas de escárnio e maldizer (satires and jests), albas (aubades or dawn songs, expressing the regret of parting lovers at daybreak), bailias (for use with dances) and barcarolas (sea songs, dealing with maritime themes or themes related with the water of rivers).

Mediaeval lyricism had its very own poetics, highly codified in its versification and strophic groups, and clearly very distinct from the evolution that poetry would later follow, especially as a result of the Renaissance and the imitation of the poets of classical antiquity, maintaining the rigours of poetic modification, but at the same time substantially altering it.

Lady, so sad are my eyes
to leave when they see you, my dear,
that never have you seen eyes
so sad for anyone before.

So sad, so longing,
so sick from leaving,
so tired, so full of tears,
desiring death one hundred
times more than life.
They leave so sad, my sad eyes,
so far removed from waiting patiently
that never have you seen eyes
so sad for anyone before.

João Roiz de Castelo-Branco, Cancioneiro Geral

"Erotismo e Morte" (Eroticism and Death, 1985) by Graça Morais [b. 1948]

This is why Garcia de Resende’s Cancioneiro Geral (General Songbook, 1516) is usually referred to as a transitional collection, in which Renaissance authors such as Bernardim Ribeiro (a cultivator of traditional metres, expressing a modern view of the amorous experience and of the associated feelings of disappointment and disillusion) and Sá de Miranda (generally linked to a more conventional view of the world, but programmatically and formally a supporter of the classicist school) appear on an equal footing. But the system of genres is changed: elegies are cultivated, as well as odes, satires, epistles, epigrams, songs (which are very similar to elegies) and sonnets, a more recent form, but one that was widely adopted in western European literature. Camões work was to provide proof of this system’s fertility.

But Romanticism was to free poetic expressiveness from the formal restrictions that had been in force until then, especially with José Anastácio da Cunha and Garrett, and later Symbolism, together with Modernism, paved the way for a freeing of the language of poetry, which thereafter became suitable for variable discourses, ranging from Cesário Verde to Camilo Pessanha, Fernando Pessoa and, more recently, Herberto Helder. In this way, the poetic language would be prepared for a dialogue with the world on the basis of its simultaneously implied and autonomous creation.


 © Instituto Camões, 2001