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In Rabida's monastic fane
No earthly thought has here a place,
Here, tempest-worn and desolate, *
A pittance for his child. * 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
'Twas here, unknowing and unknown,
One hallowed morn, methought, I felt
To me one little hour devote,
And lay thy staff and scrip beside thee; 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 that excellent History of Columbus, written by Washington Irving.
Read in the temper that he wrote,
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 guere de différence entre ce qui est, si j'ose ainsi parler, à mille ans de lui, et ce qui en est à mille lieues.