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INSCRIBED ON THE ORIGINAL
UNCLASP me, Stranger; and unfold,
If yet, alas, a leaf endure.
In RABIDA's monastic fane
I cannot ask, and ask in vain.
No earthly thought has here a place, The cowl let down on every face;
Yet here, in consecrated dust,
Here, tempest-worn and desolate,*
We have an interesting account of his first appearance in Spain, that Country which was so soon to be the theatre of his glory. According to the testimony of Garcia Fernandez, the Physician of Palos, a sea-faring man, accompanied by a very young boy, stopped one day at the gate of the Convent of La Rábida and asked of the porter a little bread and water for his child. While they were receiving this humble refreshment, the Prior, Juan Perez, happening to pass by, was struck with the look and manner of the stranger, and, entering into conversation with him, soon learnt the particulars of his story. The stranger was Columbus; the boy was his son Diego; and, but for this accidental interview, America might have remained long undiscovered: for it was to the zeal of Juan Perez that he was finally indebted for the accomplishment of his great purpose, See Irving's History of Columbus.
'Twas here, unknowing and unknown, He stood upon the threshold-stone.
But hope was his-a faith sublime,
That triumphs over place and time;
And here, his mighty labour done,
Awhile as more than man he stood,
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
His name no more
Inquire not now.
Near the lights that ever shine
Before ST. MARY'S blessed shrine.
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;
The book-worm thro' and thro' has gone.
Oh haste-unclasp me, and unfold;
The tale within was never told!
PREFACE TO THE SECOND
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