The earliest imitators in Europe of the bucolic poetry of Virgil,
were the Portuguese; and as a people they thought that the
pastoral life was the ideal model for poetry. This idea is
strongly brought out by Ribeyro in the sixteenth century.
The great number of Mocarbians that settled in Portugal infused
into them as a nation, a stronger Orientalism than is found
elsewhere in Europe, and their poetry was of an enthusiastic
order, more marked than that of the Spaniards.
Henry of Burgundy, who married a daughter of Alfonso XI of Spain,
in the eleventh century, introduced Provencal poetry. The
Cancioneros, or courtly ballads, in imitation of the Provencal,
were sung by wandering minstrels, and Portuguese poetry retained
its Provencal character until the end of the fourteenth century.
In the fifteenth century, the Portuguese invaded Africa, and
Vasco de Gama pointed out to Europe the new and unknown route to
India. Fifteen years later, toward the close of the century, a
Portuguese kingdom was founded in Hindostan, causing a strong
counter-current of Orientalism to invade Portugal. The people
awoke to a desire for greatness; and poetry and the arts
flourished. This period, extending into the sixteenth century, is
called the golden age of Portuguese literature.
The Os Lusiades, an epic poem, that has been called "one of the
noblest monuments ever raised to the national glory of any
people," was written by Luis de Camoens, a Portuguese of the
sixteenth century. It is intensely patriotic, although it is
touched by both Greek mythology, and the Italian style, which
during this epoch had been slightly blended with the Portuguese.
Portugal had little or no influence on the literature of any
nation but her own, receiving her strongest impressions from
outsiders. In the eighteenth century she was dominated both in
taste and manners by the French, and the beginning of the
nineteenth century found her a great admirer and imitator of
National songs are known to have been sung in Portugal during the
earliest times; but none of them have come down to us. They were
doubtless similar to the other bardic songs of Europe.