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The Écloga dos Faunos of Luís de Camões: Imitation or Intertextuality?

Susan M. Praeder


In a humorous scholarly piece penned in the form of a prose eclogue, the commentator Manuel de Faria e Sousa debates the comparatist Lusitânia Nau on the Écloga dos Faunos by Luís de Camões. He encounters numerous imitations of other texts in the Portuguese poet’s seventh eclogue ; she focuses on intertextual processes beyond his interpretative ken and that of his readers. All this with the participation of Mato Grosso, Tasmânio, Samosata and her dog Shep, goats, sheep, and a venerable cypress tree.

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The Creek Path

1Mato Grosso and I, he with his bearded goats and I with my fleecy sheep, had topped the crest of the hill and were looking for a shady rest spot when we chanced to meet Samosata, a milkmaid of no little wit, hurrying up the creek path. Greetings, Mato Grosso! Greetings, Tasmânio! Now where was she going? At hot noontide, in the summer sun, together with her trusty mutt, whose name, if I remember, was Shep. And where had the two of them left her grandfather’s heifers? Her grandfather and Sport were tending the heifers, thank you; but hadn’t we heard? Manuel de Faria e Sousa, the famous Camões commentator from the seventeenth century, was visiting the Peninsula! He was on what might be his last Ibero-Romanian tour and at 1:30 would be disputing the Écloga dos Faunos under the cypress tree, where the old schoolhouse used to be. Now wasn’t that a sensation? Surely, it was; but no less sensational was the implication, if we had understood her correctly, that a disputant or disputants had been found; for Faria e Sousa was normally not one to share his poet or the scholarly spotlight with others. Yes, a disputant had been found. But, pray tell, who was this daring soul, this panel militant of one, this temerarious third party? A Continental, no doubt, so we smilingly surmised; surely not a Peninsulan; for we were all indebted to Faria e Sousa; for it was Faria e Sousa who had first put the Principality of Camoniania on the literary map. His allegorical readings might be farfetched, his editorial practices might fail to meet modern critical standards, but his painstaking registering of his poet’s imitations of Latin, Neo-Latin, Italian, and Spanish texts was universally regarded as a solid contribution to scholarship. Yes, a disputant had been found, and her name was Lusitânia Nau. Lusitânia Nau, the shepherdess? Lusitânia Nau, the shipwrecked sailor lass? Yes, she and no other. Faria e Sousa and Lusitânia Nau, now that, my friends, was a top twin billing! To be sure, when Lusitânia Nau first drifted to our shores, some ten years past, so I think it was, she knew little of the poetics of flocks and herds, having never been a member of the Four-H Club, or of theorists on the settled life; but she had made significant progress and was herself alone a splendid guarantee of a splendid time for all. So Mato Grosso and I went hurrying up the creek path with Samosata to the cypress tree, where the old schoolhouse used to be. The protocol called for Faria e Sousa to present first and Lusitânia Nau to reply in turn. Modern filming and recording technologies were strictly prohibited; but in our satchels Mato Grosso and I chanced to find a few scraps of birch bark, on which we endeavored to transcribe this faithful, though imperfect and unofficial, score of their words:


2Faria e Sousa, his commentary under his arm, in the attire of a Knight of the Order of the Principality of Camoniania. Over three hundred years of tradition. A list, a long one, too long to cite here in full, of the commentaries, dictionary entries, dissertations, editions, journal articles, learned essays, monographs, occasional papers, and studies founded on his epochal commentaries. Praise of Luís de Camões as the Prince of Portugal and Spain’s Heroic and Lyric Poets; self-praise as the Prince of Commentators in the Poetic Realms, seconded by a quotation from Lope de Vega’s Laurel de Apolo; praise of the Écloga dos Faunos, his poet’s seventh eclogue, as a superior pastoral invention. Imitations in the seventh eclogue; his famous preference for Sannazaro’s Salices as one such source. Shepherds and shepherdesses, I count on your continuing support!

3Lusitânia Nau, her satchel of primary sources over her shoulder, in one of her blue-and-white suit-dresses of nautical inspiration, together with a neatly tied silk neck scarf.Over three hundred years of tradition and still going strong. To be sure, a commentary boasting of an uncommonly long shelf life; but was that good? Was it good that the shepherds and shepherdesses of the Principality of Camoniania had continued to depend on Faria e Sousa, producing midrashim on his midrashoth instead of researching and thinking matters through for themselves? She, for one, had been reflecting on the Écloga dos Faunos for some time now, and three questions were fermenting in her mind. First, now let’s be truthful, in Faria e Sousa’s lists of imitations, didn’t the misses outnumber the hits? Commonplaces, fits of parallelomania, rather remote reminiscences signifying nothing, together with a few certified, grade AAA imitations. Second, wasn’t the commentary form itself inhibiting and limiting? If we comment line by line, we lose sight of larger questions and the larger textual picture. Third, didn’t the notion of intertextuality, though a term of recent coinage, she knew, offer a better model for our reading of the seventh eclogue? What kind of intertextuality, you’re wondering and perhaps worrying, shepherds and shepherdesses? A universe of texts? A sixteenth-century galaxy would more than suffice. A palimpsest with its hypotext and hypertext? A kaleidoscope with its glimpses of multiple texts in shifting positions instead would be in store. A marker here, a signal there, Faria e Sousa’s poet so solicitous to please his reader? No, no, no, a thousand times no! Sixteenth-century intertextual communication wasn’t like SMSing; it required patient searching of the mind and quite likely would result in perennial uncertainty, our SOSing routinely or ultimately unheard. Shepherds and shepherdesses, will you join me? It’s time to separate Faria’s curds from Sousa’s whey!

Écloga dos Faunos VII.1-36: Dedication and Introduction

4Faria e Sousa, citing one imitation, introduces his poet’s seventh eclogue. Écloga dos Faunos, Eclogue of the Fauns, the title in all the editions; rightly so, for in it my poet features as his singers a goatish pair of satyrs whose ladies dear are nymphs of the wooded dell. Dom António de Noronha named as the eclogue’s dedicatee only in the first edition; the twenty-four-year-old’s untimely death during his first exercise of military arms, in Ceuta, North Africa, in 1553; the eclogue’s penning prior to this date, in late 1552 or early 1553, when my poet, three years his senior, would have been experienced enough to produce such a work. My poet’s praise of the dedicatee as the perfect embodiment of Apollo and Mars; his promise to spread Dom António’s immortal and universal renown; his imitation of Vergil’s dedication of his eighth eclogue to the Emperor Augustus.

5Lusitânia Nau stakes an initial intertextual claim for Garcilaso de la Vega’s third eclogue. Vergil’s eighth eclogue? Isn’t Garcilaso’s third eclogue, its dedication and introduction, your poet’s primary intertext here? Garcilaso offers to sing of four nymphs instead of the traditional pastoral crew; your poet, pouring heaping teaspoons of testosterone and the Y chromosome into this feminine brew, will write of satyrs and nymphs. Dom António, the perfect embodiment of Apollonian literary arts and Martial military arms, is what neither Garcilaso, torn between pen and sword, nor his dedicatee, a lady, might claim to be. Humble are the poets, sublime are their dedicatees, and rude are their pastoral instruments, the Portuguese’s flute and the Spaniard’s sampogna! If Garcilaso is impeded by Fortune, then Camões is opposed by Apollo and the Nine; the poetic task is snatched right out of their hands. Out of their hands but not out of their mouths, for their mute tongues will speak; and, with that, what further need have we of intertextual witnesses? But more than just Garcilaso is operating here: the dedication in Vergil’s sixth eclogue; Philomela and Progne from Ovid’s Metamorphoses; Galatea, from Ovid or Vergil, with a Petrarchan lady’s golden hair; Tityrus from Vergil’s Bucolica; perhaps a bit of Vergil’s eighth eclogue; rhetorical topoi. Take a closer look at Vergil’s sixth eclogue, it too mythological rather than pastoral. Apollo and Tityrus at odds in the dedication and introduction; its featured speech by the satyr Silenus. Now isn’t the learned and so lustful Silenus the grandsire of your poet’s Second Satyr?

Écloga dos Faunos VII.37-166: Mount Parnassus, the Nymphs, and the Satyrs

6Faria e Sousa interprets the eclogue’s characters and setting allegorically and registers his poet’s imitations, underscoring the importance of Jacopo Sannazaro’s Salices. Parnassus is the mountain home of poetry; the nymphs, nine in number, are the Muses; the satyrs are Dom António de Noronha and Luís de Camões, two poets-in-love striving to scale the same mountain’s steep slopes. Here we encounter not a few echoes and fine imitations of ancient and modern poetry. Ovid’s Metamorphoses; Girolamo Benivieni’s first and third eclogues; Garcilaso’s second and third eclogues; Sannazaro’s Arcadia and Salices. I would like to call particular attention to my poet’s imitation of the Salices, the characters, plot, and setting are similar, with this more detailed list of correspondences. Satyrs and nymphs in my poet’s eclogue; fauns, pans, satyrs, sylvans, and nymphs in Sannazaro’s elegy; lustful pursuit of the nymphs by the satyrs; two speeches seeking to persuade; a green, peaceful, well-watered Parnassus or Sarnus pleasance forming the setting. My poet’s omission of the metamorphosis of the nymphs into willows is to be understood allegorically. Poetic artistry and mastery follow naturally;  they are not possessed by force.

7Lusitânia Nau questions Faria e Sousa’s allegorical interpretation and submits his lists of correspondences and imitations to critical scrutiny.Is there a poetic allegory in this passage? I think not, and there are eight nymphs, not nine. Mount Parnassus is not only the seat of the Muses but also the site of Amor’s first alighting in this our world. With him he brings his bow and arrows, and his fateful coming is immediately followed, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, by Apollo’s lustful pursuit of Daphne, with this myth, story, and tale, open your eyes, surprise, surprise, also being portrayed on the second of the four tapestries in Garcilaso’s third eclogue! I’ve sifted through your lists of correspondences and imitations, you know. Beniveni or Benivieni is out; Ovid, Garcilaso, and Sannazaro are in; Sannazaro’s Salices isn’t the intertext of intertexts you and your faithful readers have made it out to be. You yourself knew that Garcilaso’s third eclogue and the third prose in Sannazaro’s Arcadia are operating intertextually here; your poet plays a thousand keys in a moment’s swift time, so you solemnly stated of this same passage. What an insight! You’re right! But what keys is he playing? Is there a main key? Is the whole of this passage a sustained modulation from Garcilaso to Sannazaro? From the key of Garcilaso’s nymphs to the key of Sannazaro’s satyrs? Yes, that’s it, I think; Garcilaso is your poet’s tonic, and Sannazaro is his dominant; Ovid is the subdominant, their common source, constantly in the pedal part, sometimes pulling a stop or rising up to the surface; while Vergil is an element of phrasing. A further set of questions would concern the function, point, or purpose of your poet’s imitations. Why does he go to all this trouble, shifting from text to text? Imitation for the sake of imitation? I think not. He’s a dissimulator? No doubt. He’s an emulator? That too. He’s a serious collector of lustful pursuits? Yes, I blush to tell.

Écloga dos Faunos VII.167-283: The First Satyr’s Speech, with a Transitional Stanza

8Faria e Sousa and Lusitânia Nau engage in conversation; rhymes are parried and thrust; stichomythic sparks enliven the disputation.

9Faria e Sousa. I’m in the first stanza. Nymph flesh, white meat, from Sannazaro’s Arcadia; mythological pursuits in imitation of the same poet’s Salices; Eurydice, Hesperie, and the snake in the grass from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Now how’s that for kaleidoscopic imitation?

10Lusitânia Nau. You’re getting ahead of yourself, my friend. Tell me, what kind of speech is this? What’s the occasion?

11Faria e Sousa. What’s the occasion? It’s plain to see; he chases her, and she flees him; that’s the argumentative situation.

12Lusitânia Nau. Now which imitation cited above would correspond to this act of swift-footed evasion?

13Faria e Sousa. I’m in the second stanza. Horace to Chloe in the Odes; Apollo to Daphne in Ovid’s Metamorphoses; the satyrs to the nymphs in Sannazaro’s Salices. Now he’s here, and now he’s there; my poet isn’t of any one textual persuasion.

14Lusitânia Nau. I can’t imagine Horace so fast of hoof; Sannazaro’s satyrs and nymphs aren’t running; and so the laurels go to Apollo and Daphne in Garcilaso and Ovid – but, mind you, only by process of elimination.

15Faria e Sousa. But there isn’t the slightest trace of Garcilaso in the First Satyr’s speech; so we gather from the results of my thorough investigation.

16Lusitânia Nau. I wouldn’t be so sure. Orpheus and Eurydice is the first of the four tapestries in Garcilaso’s third eclogue; the First Satyr might possibly be a mutation of Tirreno or Alcino, of one of its two shepherds; the stanzas of thirteen lines and six rhymes surely qualify as a satyric variant of Garcilasan versification!

17Faria e Sousa. Then what about the First Satyr’s philosophy of love? Don’t tell me it too is of Spanish derivation!

18Lusitânia Nau. It’s a common notion; but hasn’t it found its place on the First Satyr’s lips through Juan Boscán’s mediation?

19Faria e Sousa. Yes, I cited his Octava Rima in my compilation; but what about Lucretius, Seneca, and Vergil? Shouldn’t we trace such ideas back to their point of origination?

20Lusitânia Nau. Not in this particular argumentative situation. Two messengers of love who discourse in octaves; Venus herself having sent them off to Barcelona in Catalonia; their mission to prevail on two ladies to love and be loved. We need no further intertextual verification.

Écloga dos Faunos VII. 284-539: The Second Satyr’s Speech, with an Octave Conclusion

21Faria e Sousa counts thirty metamorphoses in the Second Satyr’s speech, which he interprets allegorically, referring to a parallel pursuit of nymphs in his poet’s Lusíadas. Many of the amorous fables in the Second Satyr’s speech are related in full in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and not a few are mentioned in passing in Petrarch’s Triumphus Cupidinis. My poet’s careful selection of thirty metamorphoses from the pages of mythology; his structuring of them in groups. Four metamorphoses, Arethusa, Acis, Egeria, and Byblis, into waters;  four, Lethaea and Olenus, Anaxerete, Echo, and Daphnis, into rocks; eight, Mulberry of Pyramus and Thisbe, Myrrha, Daphne, Cyparissus, Atys, Lotis, Syrinx, and Phyllis, into trees or trees of a different fruit color; three, Hyacinth, Adonis, and Clytie, into flowers; seven, Tereus, Progne, Philomela, and Itys, Corvus Cornix, Nyctimene, Scylla, Picus, Aesacus, Ceyx and Alcyone, into birds or birds of a different feather; and four, Hippomenes and Atalanta, Io, Callisto, and Actaeon, into beasts. Why does the Second Satyr fail to persuade the nymphs, while Lionardo in the Lusíadas is successful in his pursuit of the nymph Efire? When my poet penned his Écloga dos Faunos, he was far from finishing his Lusíadas. The nymphs in the seventh eclogue and the ninth book of his Lusíadas are the Muses; my poet had set his heart on epic mastery and finally possessed it in Efire, who is to be understood as Erato, the Muse of heroic poetry.

22Lusitânia Nau, ignoring Faria e Sousa’s allegorical interpretation, arithmetic, and onomastics, poses some larger questions.Thank you, Faria e Sousa; your mythological glosses are a great help; but why does your poet portray the Second Satyr as an Ovid trivia master? Carefully selected metamorphoses, grouped in natural kinds, proceeding from the insensible to the sensible. Isn’t this a creation account? Isn’t the Second Satyr arguing that love is everywhere, in the waters, rocks, trees, flowers, birds, and beasts, that love makes the world go round? Now, tell me, since you were a little vague on this point, just who is being imitated here? Ovid is your poet’s primary source for this who’s who of metamorphosis; from time to time we encounter a formulation or turn of phrase straight out of Ovid; but the Second Satyr isn’t an Ovidian storyteller; his medium is the octave. One, two, or three metamorphoses to the octave; one, two, or three octaves to the metamorphosis; that’s his standard rate and quota. Now where do we find similar catalogues? I’ve already mentioned, I know, the satyr Silenus in Vergil’s sixth eclogue; he too is a creation expert and cites a series of myths. Petrarch’s Triumphus Cupidinis is too concise; so are the Marqués de Santillana’s  El Triunphete de Amor and El Infierno de los Enamorados; but what about good old Francisco de Sá de Miranda? I hope you’ll pardon the mention of his name; I know you’re not his greatest fan. His Andrés concludes with the dancing and singing of satyrs, fauns, and sylvans, thus the first and second editions, or of sylvans and fauns, thus manuscript D, among other witnesses, and these woodland gods cite a series of myths in octaves, thus curing the title figure of love’s madness. Then, of course, you’ve guessed it, there’s Garcilaso and his third eclogue. It’s in octaves; the source of the subjects of the first three tapestries, Orpheus and Eurydice, Apollo and Daphne, and Venus and Adonis,  is Ovid’s Metamorphoses;  Garcilaso allots three octaves each to the first three tapestries; the fourth tapestry, in nine octaves, presents the story of Nemoroso and Elisa. Camões is on to Garcilaso and lets him have it with his some thirty Ovidian myths; the Portuguese has searched the Ovidian scriptures; your poet throws the Ovidian book at Garcilaso. The Spaniard focuses on tales of true love beyond the tomb; your poet sets the mythological record in proper perspective;  and there’s one fateful pattern that keeps repeating itself, that of lustful pursuit. My ten top picks are as follows: Arethusa, a huntress surprised by Alpheus while bathing in the woods, then running for her life like your poet’s nymphs; Polyphemus the Cyclops crooning for Galatea and spelling the premature doom of her dear sweet Acis, the scion of Faunus and a nymph; Echo and Narcissus, she seeks him in the woods, he flees and hides, a stranger to passion; Apollo and Daphne, she too a huntress, the prototypical pursuit, he goes for Amor’s gold, her heart is of lead; Priapus, a garden gnome on hormones, creeping up to the sleeping Lotis, unfurling his red flag; Pan’s unsuccessful pursuit of Syrinx, fashioning the reed pipe as his consolation prize; Tereus, Progne, Philomela, and Itys, metamorphosis for the whole family, the mute-tongued nightingale’s story, by the way, told on a tapestry; Picus and Circe, he so true to his Canens, the sorceress so smitten, this too transpiring in the woods; Io lured by Jupiter into the woods, her transformation into a heifer; Callisto, hapless huntress, fooled so sadly by the same god, this time posing as her lady. Ovid as bedside reading for satyrs, the complete edition; your poet hasn’t missed a cue; the outdoing and undoing of Garcilaso, his nymphs flee, surrendering their pretty little tapestries. Now what might all of this tell us about your poet’s philosophy of love? Satyrs, I think, are unlikely to succeed as poster boys, official spokesmen, or traveling salesmen for Neoplatonism and Petrarchism. Isn’t the Second Satyr’s speech a series of pictures at an exhibition of amor ferinus, carnal passion, and pure hedonism? Doesn’t it feature, in miniature, in reproduction, the intertextual tradition of which your poet’s Écloga dos Faunos so spectacularly forms a part?


23Faria e Sousa praises his poet and issues a series of warnings to the shepherds and shepherdesses of the Principality of Camoniania. Only a few poets had scaled Mount Parnassus, and his poet was one of them. Homer, Vergil, Ovid, and Horace in Rome; Dante, Petrarch, Sannazaro, Ariosto, Guarino, and Tasso in Italy; and Garcilaso and Camões in Portugal and Spain. What did she, Lusitânia Nau, have to contribute to his poet’s posthumous fame and glory? Nothing; he, Faria e Sousa, had the facts; she had nothing to offer but questions and then more questions. Were the shepherds and shepherdesses of the Principality of Camoniania, on searching their hearts and minds, ready for intertextuality? For over three hundred years the peaceful, quiet, and secure life of imitation had been theirs. Would the opening of their borders to intertextuality be good for them and their flocks and herds? Who was Lusitânia Nau? An outsider, not a genuine shepherdess; a happy-go-lucky shipwrecked sailor lass who had come and soon would go; a stranger without proper respect for our traditions or a true understanding of the Principality of Camoniania. Solid scholarly findings were not known to exist beyond the borders of the line-by-line commentary; the wider world of intertextuality was a godless realm of idle and useless speculation. Imitation was a concept with which his poet would have been familiar; how could intertextuality be so important to him if he had never heard of the word?

24Lusitânia Nau responds to Faria e Sousa’s objections and senses a historic turning point in the life of the Peninsula.It was a historic moment in the life of the Peninsula; future generations of shepherds and shepherdesses would look back to the disputation on the Écloga dos Faunos as a watershed. The Principality of Camoniania was indeed peaceful, quiet, and secure. She had thought of it by day in all her comings and goings; it was the only home she had ever known; she wept for it on her pillow by night. But was a life spent in ignorance of the outside world, within the borders of the line-by-line commentary, the good life? She didn’t think so. Did she really have nothing to contribute to his poet’s posthumous fame and glory? Today wasn’t his poet’s fame and glory to be measured by his worldwide readership? Who read his poet outside the Peninsula? And even among readers of the Principality of Camoniania his poet’s Lusíadas no longer occupied the top of the charts. She had seen the outside world; they had nothing to fear if they joined with her in opening their borders to intertextuality. Camões was a global pastoral player; he had not spent his life within Portugal’s national borders; he would more than stand the test of international intertextual perusal and study. Over three hundred years in the thralldom of Faria e Sousa; a man who didn’t have the facts; a man who didn’t know his poet; a man who kept them from knowing their poet; it was time for them to cast off their chains; it was time for a change.

The Ocean Fog

25The ocean fog had drifted into the green vales, the sun was setting in the west, and the first pale stars of twilight were twinkling in the skies. Mato Grosso and I retired to our hillside cottages but slept not a wink throughout the night, thinking of all that we had heard, seen, and written. For two or three weeks the Écloga dos Faunos remained one of the foremost topics in and on the minds of the shepherds and shepherdesses of the Peninsula. Some said that Manuel de Faria e Sousa had been and always would be their man; others thought that Lusitânia Nau had sunk the ship of imitation once and for all; while still others were left wondering what the long-term impact of intertextuality would be on the national character and traditional ways of the Principality of Camoniania.

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Susan M. Praeder, « The Écloga dos Faunos of Luís de Camões: Imitation or Intertextuality? », TRANS- [En ligne], 6 | 2008, mis en ligne le 07 juillet 2008, consulté le 17 février 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/trans.301

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Susan M. Praeder

B.A., M.A, Ph.D, studied ancient history, literature, philosophy, and religion at Harvard University and the Graduate Theological Union and University of California at Berkeley and was a professor at Boston College. She has been a freelance editor, translator, and writer in Munich since 1987 and has taught at the University of Munich since 2002. Her comparative dissertation project in Romance philology is entitled The Eclogue in Renaissance Portugal : Intertextuality and Literary History in Bernardim Ribeiro, Francisco de Sá de Miranda, Luís de Camões, António Ferreira, and Diogo Bernardes

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