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Night-Columbus on the Atlantic—the Variation of
the Compass, &c.
Say who, when age on age had rolled away,
And still, as sunk the golden Orb of day,
The seaman watched him, while he lingered here,
With many a wish to follow, many a fear,
And gazed and gazed and wondered where he went,
So bright his path, so glorious his descent,
Who first adventured-In his birth obscure,
Yet born to build a Fame that should endure,
Who the great secret of the Deep possessed,
And, issuing through the portals of the West,
Fearless, resolved, with every sail unfurled,
Planted his standard on the Unknown World?
Him, by the Paynim bard descried of
And ere his coming sung on either shore,
Him could not I exalt-by Heaven designed
To lift the veil that covered half mankind!
Yet, ere I die, I would fulfil my vow;
Praise cannot wound his generous spirit now.
'Twas night. The Moon, o'er the wide wave, disclosed
Her awful face; and Nature's self reposed;
When, slowly rising in the azure sky,
Three white sails shone-but to no mortal eye,
Entering a boundless sea.
In slumber cast,
The very ship-boy, on the dizzy mast,
Half breathed his orisons! Alone unchanged,
Calmly, beneath, the great Commander ranged,
Thoughtful not sad; and, as the planet grew,
His noble form, wrapt in his mantle blue,
Athwart the deck a deepening shadow threw.
“ Thee hath it pleased–Thy will be done!” he said,
Then sought his cabin; and, their garments spread,
Around him lay the sleeping as the dead,
When, by his lamp, to that mysterious Guide,
On whose still counsels all his hopes relied,
That Oracle to man in mercy given,
Whose voice is truth, whose wisdom is from heaven,
Who over sands and seas directs the stray,
And, as with God's own finger, points the way,
Heturned; but what strange thoughts perplexed his soul,
When, lo, no more attracted to the Pole,
The Compass, faithless as the circling vane,
Fluttered and fixed, fluttered and fixed again!
At length, as by some unseen Hand imprest,
It sought with trembling energy the West!
“ Ah no!" he cried, and calmed his anxious brow.
“ Ill, nor the signs of ill, 'tis thine to show;
Thine but to lead me where I wished to go!"
COLUMBUS erred not. In that awful hour,
Sent forth to save, and girt with God-like power,
And glorious as the regent of the sun, +
An Angel came! He spoke, and it was done!
He spoke, and, at his call, a mighty Wind,
Not like the fitful blast, with fury blind,
But deep, majestic, in its destined course,
Sprung with unerring, unrelenting force,
* Herrera, dec. I. lib. i. c. 9. + Rev. xix. 17.