« PreviousContinue »
'Twas here, unknowing and unknown,
One hallowed morn, methought, I felt As if a soul within me dwelt! But who arose and gave to me The sacred trust I keep for thee, And in his cell at even-tide
Knelt before the cross and died
Inquire not now. His name no more
To me one little hour devote, And lay thy staff and scrip beside thee; Read in the temper that he wrote, And may his gentle spirit guide thee!
My leaves forsake me, one by one ;
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
THERE is a spirit in the old Spanish Chroniclers of the sixteenth century that may be compared to the freshness of water at the fountain-head. Their simplicity, their sensibility to the strange and the wonderful, their very weaknesses give an infinite value, by giving a life and a character to every thing they touch; and their religion, which bursts out every where, addresses itself to the imagination in the highest degree. If they err, their errors are not their own. They think and feel after the fashion of the time ; and their narratives are so many moving pictures of the actions, manners, and thoughts of their contemporaries.
What they had to communicate, might well make them eloquent; but, inasmuch as relates to Columbus, the Inspiration went no farther. No National Poem appeared on the subject; no Camoëns did honour to his Genius and his Virtues. Yet the materials, that have descended to us, are surely not unpoetical; and
a desire to avail myself of them, to convey in some instances as far as I could, in others as far as I dared, their warmth of colouring and wildness of imagery, led me to conceive the idea of a Poem written not long after his death, when the great consequences of the Discovery were beginning to unfold themselves, but while the minds of men were still clinging to the superstitions of their fathers.
The Event here described may be thought too recent for the Machinery ; but I found them together. * A belief in the agency of Evil Spirits prevailed over both hemispheres ; and even yet seems almost necessary to enable us to clear up the Darkness,
And justify the ways of God to Men.
* Perhaps even a contemporary subject should not be rejected as such, however wild and extravagant it may be, if the manners be foreign and the place distant-major è longinquo reverentia. L'éloignement des pays, says Racine, répare en quelque sorte la trop grande proximité des temps; car le peuple ne met guère de différence entre ce qui est, si j'ose ainsi parler, à mille ans de lui, et ce qui en est à mille lieues.
COLUMBUS, having wandered from kingdom to kingdom, at length obtains three ships and sets sail on the Atlantic. The compass alters from its ancient direction; the wind becomes constant and unremitting; night and day he advances, till he is suddenly stopped in his course by a mass of vegetation, extending as far as the eye can reach, and assuming the appearance of a country overwhelmed by the sea. Alarm and despondence on board. He resigns himself to the care of Heaven, and proceeds on his voyage.
Meanwhile the deities of America assemble in council; and one of the Zemi, the gods of the islanders, announces his approach. “In vain,” says he,
“ In vain," says he, “have we guarded the Atlantic for ages. A mortal has baffled our power; nor will our votaries arm against him. Yours are a sterner race. Hence! and, while we have recourse to stratagem, do you array the nations round your altars, and prepare for an exterminating war.” They disperse while he is yet speaking; and, in the shape of a condor, he directs his flight to the fleet. His journey described. He arrives there. A panic. A mutiny. Columbus restores order; continues on his voyage; and lands