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  • Spencer Low

Not all Portuguese were excited about the Discoveries

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

Why pass so many storms, and life and times so sore, forever at death's door? I'd give up pepper without qualms.
Par passar tanta tormenta, Tempo e vida tão forte, E tão perto da morte, Antes não quero pimenta. Bras da Costa

In the 1400s, as the Portuguese expansion in the Atlantic and then the Indian Ocean is taking place, there was a current of opposition to the Crown's ambitions. Historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam reminds us that "not all Portuguese were enthused by their compatriots' maritime exploits, preferring instead a 'bucolic' vision of the present and future."

When Vasco da Gama sailed to India, or when Afonso de Albuquerque appealed in desperation for men and money to enable him to maintain his conquests, Aubrey Bell's account of Portuguese Literature notes the following:

"...the Court poets were versifying on an incorrectly addressed letter, a lock of hair, a dingy head-dress, a very lean and aged mule, the sad fate of a lady marrying away from the Court in Beira, a quarrel between a tenor and soprano, a courtier's velvet cap or hat of blue silk, a button more or less on a coat, the length of spurs, fashions in sleeves : themes, as Jose Agostinho de Macedo might say, ' prodigiously frivolous'. When news reached Lisbon of the tragic death of D. Francisco de Almeida and of the defeat of Afonso de Albuquerque and the Marshal D. Fernando de Coutinho before Calicut, with the death of the latter, Bras da Costa wrote to Garcia de Resende that at this rate he would prefer to have no pepper, and Resende answered that for his part he certainly had no intention of embarking."
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