Transforma-Se O Amador Na Coisa Amada: Hegelian Recognition in a Sonnet by Camoes

By Newcomb, Robert Patrick | Romance Notes, May 2011 | Go to article overview

Transforma-Se O Amador Na Coisa Amada: Hegelian Recognition in a Sonnet by Camoes


Newcomb, Robert Patrick, Romance Notes


Transforma-se o amador na cousa amada, por virtude do muito imaginar; nao tenho, logo, mais que desejar, pois em mim tenho a parte desejada.

Se nela esta minha alma transformada, que mais deseja o corpo de alcancar? Em si somente pode descansar, pois consigo tal alma esta liada.

Mas esta linda e pura semideia, que, como um acidente em seu sujeito, assi co a alma minha se conforma,

esta no pensamento como ideia; e o vivo e puro amor de que sou feito, como a materia simples busca a forma.

The lover becomes the beloved, through much imagining; I need, then, only desire and I have in me that which is desired.

If my soul is transformed within her, what more should the body desire? It can only find repose in her, for with her that soul is joined.

But this fine and pure semi-goddess, that, as an accident to its subject, conforms to my soul,

is in my thought as an idea; and the living, pure love of which I am made, like simple matter searches for its form. (1)

PORTUGUESE poet Luis de Camoes (c. 1524/25-1580), though best known for his epic Os Lusiadas (1572), produced a notable body of lyric poetry in traditional peninsular and Italianate forms. Since its initial publication in 1595, Camoes's lyrical work has been praised for its formal rigor, conceptual sophistication, and clarity of expression. Further, Camoes's presentation of life as an estranha condicao, as he remarked in the fourth canto of Os Lusiadas (137), in which the individual is assailed by concrete dangers, metaphysical doubts, overwhelming passions, and melancholy regret, has led generations of readers to view Camoes as an uncannily contemporary writer, one who presciently anticipated later literary and intellectual trends, particularly Romanticism. (2) Indeed, in an 1872 article Antero de Quental--himself an innovative Portuguese sonneteer--praised Camoes's "prophetic imagination," his "presentiment of a new moral world," and his anticipation of "the moral revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries" (230-31).

On the other hand, significant critical effort has been expended in placing Camoes in the literary and intellectual context of sixteenth-century Portugal, Iberia, and Europe. Perhaps no other composition by Camoes seems to compel such a historicized reading as does the sonnet Transforma-se o amador na coisa amada, whose first line glosses Petrarch's Trionfi d'Amore, part III, verse 62 ("l'amante ne l'amato se trasforme"), (3) as well as Dante and Castiglione, (4) whose vocabulary of "ideas," "matter" and "forms" is suggestive of Plato, (5) and whose discussion of love recalls questions addressed by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica. (6) At the same time, the sonnet's presentation of a lover in dialectical confrontation with his beloved, seeking to define the terms of their interaction, is suggestive of the philosopher G.w.F. Hegel (1770-1831), and particularly his ideas on recognition and mutually constitutive self-consciousness. (7) It would, of course, be willfully anachronistic to argue that Camoes was a proto-Hegelian, particularly given his sonnet's panoply of classical, late medieval and Renaissance intellectual references, and Camoes's use of poetic figures similar to those found in peninsular contemporaries such as Juan Boscan, Garcilaso de la Vega, and Bernardim Ribeiro. For instance, Boscan presents the idea of the lover and beloved standing in for each other in his sonnet Puesto me ha amor al punto, do esta el medio: "De tanto amar, qual debe ser lo amado? / Vean a mi, y entenderan a ella; / Yo doy entera fe de su traslado" (196). Regarding the transformative character of love, Garcilaso remarks in a cancion of how his lover has made "mi natura en todo ajena / de lo que era primero" (188). And reflecting on the notion of mutua inhLsio (mutual indwelling), Ribeiro writes in a cantiga: "[N]a alma vos recebi, / onde estareis para sempre, / [...

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