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"O Uraguai" is the story of the Guaranitic Wars, more exactly its end and has a focus on the slavery of the guarani Indians imposed by the Society of Jesus represented in the poem by the priest Balda, which contradicted the catholic Church's own order. These wars started because of the Madrid Treaty.
This epic poem is considered, by most, unique because of the treatment given to the characters. In most of the epic poems there is a hero that is, usually, courageous and always victorious at the end. In this epic we don't see such a thing. The Indians are exalted but almost all of them are dead at the end of the poem. Gomes Freire de Andrada is shown as a sad person because of the war he sees and tha is criticized by the author in the following part:
"Vinha logo de guardas rodeado - Fonte de crimes- militar tesouro Por quem deixa no rego o curvo arado O lavrador,que não conhece a glória; E vendendo a vil preço o sangue e a vida Move,e nem sabe por que move, a guerra"
In English: "He soon came rounded by guards - Fountain of crimes- military treasury For those who leaving their work the farmer,who doesn't what glory is; And selling by vile price his blood, his life Moves, and doesn't even know why, the war"
As seen, the author criticizes the wars that are moved by economical interests such as the Guaranitic Wars, that ended with most of the Indians killed and the survivors being used as slaves. Another interesting fact is that,during the battles described in the poem there is no influence of the Christian God or any other gods for that matter.
This epic, different from the others, doesn't start with the tradicional dedication of the poem or the proposition. In the first Canto of the poem the author shows us a battlefield filled with wreckage and corpses, mainly Indian, and, coming back in time the poet presents the passage of the luso-Hispanic army, which is commanded by the general Gomes Freire de Andrada.
In the second part of the poem the Indian chiefs, Sepé and Cacambo, try to negotiate with the Portuguese general on the margin of the Uruguai River. The agreement is impossible once the Portuguese jesuits denied to accept the Spanish domain over their lands. After this the Indians, led by Sepé, bravely fight the Portuguese army but they are subjugated by the Portuguese's fire weapons. Sepé dies in this battle and Cacambo leads the withdrawal of the guarani army.
The deceased Sepé appears, in a dream, to Cacambo suggesting him to set fire in the enemy camp. Cacambo succeeds in following Sepé's suggestion but is murdered when he gets back to the jesuit camp by the order of the priest Balda, which wants to turn his own son, Baldetta, into the chief of the tribe, place which belongs to Cacambo.
In this part the poet shows the march of the luso-Hispanic army over the jesuit camp, where is being prepared the marriage of Baldetta and Lindóia. Lindóia, besides, prefers death. The poem, then, presents a part of rare lyrical beauty:
"Inda conserva o pálido semblante Um não sei que de magoado e triste Que os corações mais duros enternece, Tanto era bela no seu rosto a morte!"
In English it means:
"Still maintains the pale face Something of hurt and sad That even the hardest heart touches So beautiful was in that face the death"
After the arrival of the Portuguese troops, the Indians withdraw after burning the village.
The poet, at the end of the epic shows his opinions about the jesuits blaming them by the massacre of the Indians by the Portuguese troops. In this same part of the poem it is paid homage the Portuguese general Gomes Freire de Andrada, which protects and respects the surviving Indians.