Antônio Gonçalves Dias was a Brazilian Romantic poet, playwright and linguist. A major exponent of the Brazilian Romanticism and of the literary tradition known as "Indianism", he is famous for writing the poem "Canção do exílio", arguably the most well-known poem of the Brazilian literature, the short epic poem I-Juca-Pirama, and many other nationalist and patriotic poems that would later give him the title of national poet of Brazil. He was also an avid researcher of the Brazilian indigenous languages and folklore.
He is the patron of the 15th chair of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
Antônio Gonçalves Dias was born in Caxias on August 10, 1823, to Portuguese João Manuel Gonçalves Dias and cafuza Vicência Ferreira. After completing his studies in Latin, French and Philosophy, he went in 1838 to Portugal to earn a degree in Law at the University of Coimbra. There, he got in contact with the Romantic ideals and wrote his critically acclaimed poem "Canção do exílio". He graduated in 1845 and returned to Brazil in the same year. He goes to Rio de Janeiro, living there until 1854. There, he wrote the drama Leonor de Mendonça in 1846 and his first poetry book, Primeiros Cantos, in 1847.
In 1848, he wrote two more poetry books: Segundos Cantos and Sextilhas de Frei Antão. In 1849 he became professor of Latin and History at the Colégio Pedro II. In 1851, he published his last poetry book, Últimos Cantos. In the same year, he travelled to Northern Brazil, planning to marry his lifelong love, 14-year-old Ana Amélia Ferreira do Vale, to whom he dedicated many of his most famous love poems, such as "Seus olhos", "Leviana", "Palinódia" and "Retratação". However, the girl's family did not allow the marriage because of Gonçalves' mestizo descent. (This inspired his famous poem "Ainda uma vez — adeus!".) Returning to Rio disappointed and with his heart broken, he married Olímpia Carolina da Costa later on, having with her a stillborn daughter.
During the period of 1854-1858, he went to Europe on special missions for the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. In 1856, at Leipzig, he published the three Cantos poetry books in one volume, wrote the first four cantos of the epic poem Os Timbiras (that he would leave unfinished) and also published a dictionary of the Tupi language. Returning to Brazil, he founded the magazine Guanabara alongside Joaquim Manuel de Macedo and Manuel de Araújo Porto-alegre in 1849, and went on expeditions to Negro and Madeira Rivers, as a member of the Scientific Commission of Exploration. In 1862, he returned to Rio de Janeiro, but soon went to Europe again, searching for a treatment to his diseases. In October 1863, he went to Lisbon, where he translated Friedrich Schiller's The Bride of Messina and some poems by Heinrich Heine.
After a short stay in France, he decided to return to Brazil in 1864, in the ship "Ville de Boulogne". However, the ship was wrecked on the shores of Guimarães, Maranhão. All the passengers but Dias survived the incident.