"Canto IV" came out of a challenge posed to several Portuguese bands by Portugal Progressivo – Associação Cultural: to choose one of the cantos from Os Lusíadas, by Luís Vaz de Camões (a long sixteenth century epic poem in ten cantos narrating Portuguese history, with special emphasis on the maritime discoveries, which is considered the national Portuguese poem), upon which to build a song. The plan was for PP-AC to gather the resulting songs and publish a contemporary anthology of Portuguese progressive music. Although the project didn't come through, Beduínos a Gasóleo chose the fourth canto from the epic and created this suite. The band invited the artist and writer Miguel Horta to write the lyrics. The suite's structure conforms to Camões' general chronology (the canto begins in 1383, with the death of King Fernando I, and ends in 1497, with Vasco da Gama's departure from Lisbon on his voyage to India), but includes some historical facts not mentioned by the poet in Os Lusíadas.
Part 1. Death of the Handsome king
King Ferdinand I, the Handsome, dies, leaving no male heir and throwing the kingdom into violent social and political crisis. Leonor Teles, the widowed Queen, is regent. At her side is her Galician lover, the count of Andeiro.
Part 2. John of Fond Memory
In 1383, in reaction to the threat posed by the king of Castille, who had married a daughter of Ferdinand, and therefore had a claim upon the Portuguese crown, the people of Lisbon acclaim John, master of the Order of Avis, the illegitimate son of King Peter I (father of Ferdinand I), as regent and Defender of the Kingdom. The count of Andeiro is killed, and Leonor Teles flees. Two years later, John is acclaimed as king of Portugal by the Cortes (assembly of the three estates) of Coimbra.
Part 3. Aljubarrota
For John of Fond Memory, the new king, the first mission is to stop the Castilian invasion. The Portuguese forces are commanded and organized by Nuno Álvares Pereira, who obtains a decisive victory over the invading forces at Aljubarrota, in 1385.
Part 4. Ceuta
Having made peace with Castile, Portugal turns toward North Africa and the Muslim enemy. Ceuta is conquered in 1415.
Part 5. Saint Prince
However, the North African expeditions were marked by setbacks as well as conquests. In 1437, Prince Ferdinand, the son of John I, is taken prisoner in a failed attempt to conquer Tangiers. The Saint Prince lives out his remaining days in captivity.
Part 6. Tangiers to Terceira
The Portuguese position in northern Africa would not be consolidated until some decades later, in the reign of Afonso V, the African. In 1471, after two failed efforts, Tangiers is taken from the Moors, along with other fortified towns.
Part 7. Bojador
Meanwhile, the Portuguese had begun their voyages of discovery along the African coast. In 1434, the mariner Gil Eanes rounds Cape Bojador, the southern limit of terra cognita at that time.
Part 8. Navigator
The creator and conductor of the expansion was Prince Henry, another remarkable son of John I, who planned and launched systematic missions of exploration, reaching farther and farther South. He would die in 1460, the year the Portuguese caravels reached Sierra Leone.
Part 9. Toro
Henry IV, the Castilian monarch, dies. Afonso V marries his own niece, Joana, a pretender to the throne, and tries to unify the kingdoms, but is opposed by the Catholic kings, Ferdinand and Isabella. In 1476, the Battle of Toro puts an end to the king’s hegemonic ambitions. He would die five years later.
Part 10. Perfect Prince
Afonso V is succeeded by his son, John II, the Perfect Prince, who had, in fact, ruled the country during the last years of his father’s reign. John II would lend a new dynamism to the Portuguese maritime expansion. The goal was now (openly) to find a sea route to India and her spices, skirting the Muslim controlled Near East.
Part 11. Stone Cross Africa
Sailing further and further south, the Portuguese caravels reconnoiter nearly all the West African coast. Diogo Cão reaches the mouth of the river Zaire in 1483 and the Serra Parda (near Cape Cross, Namibia) in 1485.
Part 12. Over Land
Along with the maritime explorations, John sends, in 1487, Afonso de Paiva and Pero da Covilhã on an expedition to India through Egypt. Paiva was to die on the voyage, but Pero da Covilhã would not only make it to India, but also reconnoiter most of the West African coast, ascertaining its navigability. He eventually settled in Ethiopia, where he died, probably in 1530.
Part 13. Over Seas
The same year Pero da Covilhã departed, a fleet commanded by Bartolomeu Dias finally rounds the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa, and establishes the link between the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
Part 14. Egg Man
John II now knew the sea route to India, around the African coast, was navigable. But then there is a setback: Christopher Columbus, in the service of the Spanish Catholic Kings, discovers the Caribbean in 1492, and is convinced he's reached India. On his return voyage, he stops at the port of Lisbon to give John II the news.
Part 15. Tordesillas
With the new geographic world reality, Portugal and Spain sit at the negotiating table to define their respective spheres of influence. Conversations are difficult and even an intervention by Pope Alexander VI (whose specialists did not know much Geography…) does not ease the deal's conclusion. John II and the Catholic Kings finally come to an understanding in 1494, with a treaty signed in the Spanish town of Tordesillas.
Part 16. The Fortunate
John II dies in 1495, and is succeeded by Manuel I, the Fortunate. In the epic, Camões writes that the king had a dream in which the Indus and Ganges rivers appear to him, prophesizing a glorious future for Portugal. In 1497, Vasco da Gama's armada is set to depart from the Restelo dock in Lisbon, on the first sea voyage to India, around the African coast.
Part 17. Departure
At the moment of Vasco da Gama's departure, Camões brings forth the symbolic character of the Old Man of Restelo: a man who harries the navigators, asking them what further sacrifices will be demanded of the people to satisfy the greed and vanity of a few. Thus ends Canto IV of Os Lusíadas.