Portuguese epic on the capture of Malacca
Poema heroico por Francisco de Saa de Menezes. Lisbon Paolo Craesbeeck 1658
Second edition. 8vo (18.5 x 13.5), pp.[xii], 396. A very good copy bound in contemporary limp vellum, with remnants of original ties. Spine worn. Several sections of text browned, with occasional spotting. Early paper label on front pastedown, inscribed "Ex.e completo." Later stamp on front free endpaper: ABF Infante.
Barbosa Machado 2, 250. We locate seven copies outside of Portugal, at the British Library, Cornell, Illinois, Lilly Library, Oxford, National Library Board of Singapore, and National Library of Spain. We trace no copies at auction.
A landmark of European literary engagement with Southeast Asia, the Portuguese epic poem Malaca conquistada (The Conquest of Malacca) describes the capture of Malacca by the Portuguese adventurer Afonso de Albuquerque in 1511. As Portuguese literature it ranks with the Lusiad; as history, it provides an important narrative of the events which opened Southeast Asia to the Portuguese empire. Meneses begins his poem with the ill-fated Portuguese trading expedition to Malacca in 1509, led by Diogo Lopes de Sequeira. The Sultan of Malacca's uncle urged a surprise attack on the Portuguese, who had aroused the hostility of the merchant community in Malacca. Some of the Portuguese were killed; some, including Sequeira, escaped to India; and some were captured, including João Viegas and Ruy de Araújo. Viegas and seven other prisoners escaped from Palacca to Pedir, where Albuquerque found them, while Araújo was only freed when Albuquerque captured Malacca. The poet charts the twisting course of events which culminated in Albuquerque's capture of Malacca in great detail. He includes the narratives of the Portuguese prisoners Viegas and Araújo, together with a wealth of information on the Southeast Asian allies of the Portuguese, not found in other European or Asian histories. He had access to printed European sources, including Albuquerque's own narrative. Meneses may well have supplemented these sources with oral traditions amongst the Portuguese descendants of the expedition, and unpublished manuscript material now lost. The first edition was published at Lisbon in 1634; this second edition was the poet's final revision. Meneses amended his text in response to the Portuguese revolt against Spanish rule in 1640 and the Dutch capture of Malacca in 1641. He added eighty-eight verses to the 1658 edition, including a few mournful lines about the city's loss, and re-dedicated the poem to Afonso VI, the new King of Portugal. Meneses wrote of a Portuguese Golden Age already vanished and sought to spur the King to recapture Malacca and Portugal's vanished glory.