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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 everywhere, 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 to
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.
INSCRIBED ON THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT.
UNCLASP me, Stranger ; and unfold,
In RABIDA's monastic fane
No earthly thought has here a place,
Here tempest-worn and desolate I
One hallowed morn, methought, I felt
To me one little hour devote,
The tale within was never told ! 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.
THE ARGUMENT. 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, “ 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 in a New World. Ceremonies
2 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.
of the first interview. Rites of hospitality. The ghost of Then sought his cabin ; and, their garments spread, Cazziva.
Around him lay the sleeping as the dead, Two months pass away, and an Angel, appearing in a
When, by his lamp to that mysterious Guide, dream to Columbus, thus addresses him : “ Return to
On whose still counsels all his hopes relied, Europe; though your Adversaries, such is the will of
That Oracle to man in mercy given, Heaven, shall let loose the hurricane against you. A little
Whose voice is truth, whose wisdom is from heaven, while shall they triumph; insinuating themselves into the hearts of your followers, and making the World, which
Who over sands and seas directs the stray, you came to bless, a scene of blood and slaughter. Yet is And, as with God's own finger, points the way, there cause for rejoicing. Your work is done. The cross He turned ; but what strange thoughts perplexed of Christ is planted here; and in due time, all things shall
his soul, be made perfect!”
When, lo, no more attracted to the Pole,
At length, as by some unseen Hand imprest,
It sought with trembling energy the West !5
“Ah no!” he cried, and calmed his anxious brow. Night-Columbus on the Atlantic—the Variation of
“ Ill, nor the signs of ill, 'tis thine to show ; the Compass, &c.
Thine but to lead me where I wished to go !”
COLUMBUS erred not.6 In that awful hour, Say who, when age on age had rolled away,
Sent forth to save, and girt with God-like power, And still, as sunk the golden Orb of day, The seamen watched him, while he lingered here,
And glorious as the regent of the sun, With many a wish to follow, many a fear,
An Angel came ! He spoke, and it was done! And gazed and gazed and wondered where he went, Not like the fitful blast, with fury blind,
He spoke, and, at his call, a mighty Wind,
But deep, majestic, in its destined course,
Sprung with unerring, unrelenting force, Who the great secret of the Deep possessed,
From the bright East. Tides duly ebbed and flowed;
Stars rose and set ; and new horizons glowed ; And issuing through the portals of the West,
Yet still it blew ! As with primeval sway
Still did its ample spirit, night and day,
Move on the waters !-All, resigned to Fate,
Folded their arms and sate ;9 and seemed to wait And ere his coming sung on either shore, Him, ere the birth of Time by Heaven designed
Some sudden change; and sought, in chill suspense, To lift the veil that covered half mankind,
New spheres of being, and new modes of sense ; None can exalt
As men departing, though not doomed to die,
And midway on their passage to eternity. Yet, ere I die, I would fulfil my vow ; Praise cannot wound his generous spirit now. assurance for this enterprise-He has opened my under
standing, and made me most willing to go." See his Life
by his son, Ferd. Columbus, entitled, Hist. del Almirante *
Don Christoval Colon c. 4 & 37.
His Will begins thus: “ In the name of the most holy 'Twas night. The Moon, o'er the wide wave, Trinity, who inspired me with the idea, and who afterdisclosed
wards made it clear to me, that by traversing the Ocean Her awful face ; and Nature's self reposed; westwardly," &c. When, slowly rising in the azure sky,
4 The compass might well be an object of superstition. Three white sails shone—but to no mortal eye,
A belief is said to prevail even at this day, that it will Entering a boundless sea. In slumber cast,
refuse to traverse when there is a dead body on board.
5 Herrera, dec. I. lib. i. c. 9. The very ship-boy, on the dizzy mast,
6 When these regions were to be illuminated, says Acosta, Half breathed his orisons ! Alone unchanged, cùm divino concilio decretum esset, prospectum etiam Calmly, beneath, the great Commander 2 ranged, divinitus est, ut tam longi itineris dux certus hominibus Thoughtful not sad ; and, as the planet grew, præberetur.-De Natura Novi Orbis. His noble form, wrapt in his mantle blue,
A romantic circumstance is related of some early naviAthwart the deck a deepening shadow threw.
gator in the Histoire Gén. des Voyages, I. i. 2.
“ On trouva “ Thee hath it pleased—Thy will be done !” he
dans l'ile de Cuervo une statue équestre, couverte d'un said, 3
manteau, mais la tête nue, qui tenoit de la main gauche
la bride du cheval, et qui montroit l'occident de la main 1 In him was fulfilled the ancient prophecy,
droite. Il y avoit sur le bas d'un roc quelques lettres venient annis
gravées, qui ne furent point entendues; mais il parut Secula seris, quibus Oceanus
clairement que le signe de la main regardoit l'Amérique.”
7 Rev. xix. 17.
8 The more Christian opinion is, that God, with eyes of Which Tasso has imitated in his Gierusalemme Liberata.
compassion, as it were, looking down from heaven, called Tempo verrà, che fian d'Ercole i segni
forth those winds of mercy, whereby this new world reFavola, vile, &c.
ceived the hope of salvation.-Preambles to the Decades of c. xv. 3e.
the Ocean. The poem opens on Friday the 14th of September, 1492. 2 In the original, El Almirante. “ In Spanish America,”
9 To return was deemed impossible, as it blew always says M. de Humboldt, “when El Almirante is pronounced
from home. Hist. del Almirante, c. 19. Nos pavidi-at without the addition of a name, that of Columbus is under
pater Anchises lætus. stood; as, from the lips of a Mexican, El Marchese signifies Cortes ;" and as among the Florentines, N Segretario has always signified Machiavel.
3 “ It has pleased our 'Lord to grant me faith and
An Assembly of Evil Spirits. 66 Waar vast foundations in the Abyss are there, Tho'changed my cloth of gold for amice grey As of a former world ? Is it not where
In my spring-time, when every month was May, ATLANTIC kings their barbarous pomp displayed ;
With hawk and hound I coursed away the hour,
Where things familiar cease and strange begin, Oh I was there, one of that gallant crew,
The pilot smote his breast ; the watchman cried Of his great Foes in earth and air and flood, “ Land!” and his voice in faltering accents died.'
Then uninstructed.-But my sand is run, At once the fury of the prow was quelled ;
And the Night coming and my Task not And (whence or why from many an age withheld)?
done! Shrieks, not of men, were mingling in the blast; 'Twas in the deep, immeasurable cave And armed shapes of god-like stature passed!
Of ANDES ?, echoing to the Southern wave, Slowly along the evening sky they went,
'Mid pillars of Basalt, the work of fire, As on the edge of some vast battlement;
That, giant-like, to upper day aspire, Helmet and shield, and spear and gonfalon 'Twas there that now, as wont in heaven to shine, Streaming a baleful light that was not of the sun ! Forms of angelic mould and grace divine
Long from the stern the great Adventurer gazed Assembled. All, exiled the realms of rest, With awe not fear ; then high his hands he raised. In vain the sadness of their souls suppressed; 6. Thou All-supreme in goodness as in Yet of their glory many a scattered ray power,
Shot thro’ the gathering shadows of decay. Who, from his birth to this eventful hour,
Each moved a God; and all, as Gods, possessed Hast led thy servant over land and sea,3
One half the globe; from pole to pole confessed 8 ! Confessing Thee in all, and all in Thee, Oh still ”—He spoke, and lo, the charm accurst Oh could I now_but how in mortal verseFled whence it came, and the broad barrier burst! Their numbers, their heroic deeds rehearse ! A vain illusion ! (such as mocks the eyes
These in dim shrines and barbarous symbols reign, Of fearful men, when mountains round them rise Where Plata and MARAGNON meet the Main, From less than nothing) nothing now beheld, Those the wild hunter worships as he roves, But scattered sedge—repelling, and repelled ! In the green shade of Chili's fragrant groves ;
Or warrior-tribes with rites of blood implore, And once again that valiant company
Whose night-fires gleam along the sullen shore Right onward came, ploughing the Unknown Sea. . Of Huron or ONTARIO, inland seas 10, Already borne beyond the range of thought, What time the song of death is in the breeze ! With Light divine, with Truth Immortal fraught, 'Twas now in dismal pomp and order due, From world to world their steady course they While the vast concave flashed with lightnings blue, keep,
On shining pavements of metallic ore, Swift as the winds along the waters sweep, That many an age the fusing sulphur bore, 'Mid the mute nations of the purple deep.
They held high council. All was silence round -And now the sound of harpy-wings they hear; When, with a voice most sweet yet most proNow less and less, as vanishing in fear !
found, And see, the heavens bow down, the waters rise, A sovereign Spirit burst the gates of night, And, rising, shoot in columns to the skies, And from his wings of gold shook drops of liquid That stand--and still, when they proceed, retire, light! As in the Desert burned the sacred fire ; Moving in silent majesty, till Night
6 Many of the first discoverers ended their days in a herDescends, and shuts the vision from their sight. mitage or a cloister.
7 Vast indeed must be those dismal regions, if it be true, 1 Historians are not silent on the subject. The sailors, as conjectured (Kircher. Mund. Subt. I. 202), that Etna, according to Herrera, saw the signs of an inundated coun- in her eruptions, has discharged twenty times her original try (tierras anegadas); and it was the general expectation bulk. Well might she be called by Euripides (Troades, v. that they should end their lives there, as others had done 222) the Mother of Mountains ; yet Etna herself is but in the frozen sea, “where St. Amaro suffers no ship to “a mere firework, when compared to the burning summits stir backward or forward.”—Hist. del Almirante, c. 19. of the Andes."
2 The author seems to have anticipated his long slumber 8 Gods, yet confessed later.-Milton. -Ils ne laissent in the library of the Fathers.
pas d'en être les esclaves, et de les honorer plus que le 3 They may give me what name they please. I am grand Esprit, qui de sa nature est bon.- LAFITAU. servant of Him, &c. Hist. del Almirante, c. 2.
9 Rivers of South America. Their collision with the tide 4 As St. Christopher carried Christ over the deep waters, has the effect of a tempest. 60 Columbus went over safe, himself and his company - 10 Lakes of North America. Huron is above a thousand Hist. c. 1.
miles in circumference. Ontario receives the waters of 5 Water-spouts.-See Edwards's History of the West the Niagara, so famous for its falls; and discharges itself Indies, I, 12. Note.
into the Atlantic by the river St. Lawrence.
MERTOx, commissioned with his host to sweep Round, at Primero, sate a whiskered band;
So Fortune smiled, careless of sea or land 4 !
Two with one soul-and, as they lived, they died)
Vasco the brave, thrice found among the slain, I.
Thrice, and how soon, up and in arms again, “ Prepare, again prepare,”
As soon to wish he had been sought in vain, Thus o'er the soul the thrilling accents came, Chained down in Fez, beneath the bitter thong, “ Thrones to resign for lakes of living flame, To the hard bench and heavy oar so long! And triumph for despair.
ALBERT of FLORENCE, who, at twilight-time, He, on whose call afflicting thunders wait,
In my rapt ear poured Dante's tragic rhyme, Has willed it; and his will is fate !
Screened by the sail as near the mast we lay, In vain the legions, emulous to save,
Our nights illumined by the ocean-spray; Hung in the tempest o’er the troubled main ? ;
And MANFRED, who espoused with jewelled ring Turned each presumptuous prow that broke the
Young ISABEL, then left her sorrowing: And dashed it on its shores again. [wave, | LERMA “the generous,' Avila “the proud 5;' All is fulfilled ! Behold, in close array,
VELASQUEZ, GARCIA, thro’ the echoing crowd What mighty banners stream in the bright track Traced by their mirth—from Ebro's classic shore,
[of day! | From golden Tajo, to return no more!
The Voyage continued.
Yet who but He undaunted could explore 6
A world of waves, a sea without a shore,
When round the Ark the birds of tempest wheeled;
One at the stern before the hour-glass stood,
Gazed for St. Elmo?; while another cried [sighed.
“ Once more good morrow!” and sate down and The Voyage continued.
Day, when it came, came only with its light. “Ah, why look back, tho' all is left behind ? Though long invoked, 'twas sadder than the night! No sounds of life are stirring in the wind.- Look where He would, for ever as He turned, And you, ye birds, winging your passage horne,
He met the eye of one that inly mourned. How blest ye are !-We know not where we roam.
Then sunk his generous spirit, and He wept. We go,” they cried, “ go to return no more;
The friend, the father rose; the hero slept. Nor ours, alas, the transport to explore
Palos, thy port, with many a pang resigned, A human footstep on a desert shore !”
Filled with its busy scenes his lonely mind ; -Still, as beyond this mortal life impelled
The solemn march, the vows in concert given,' By some mysterious energy, He held
The bended knees and lifted hands to heaven, His everlasting course. Still self-possessed,
The incensed rites and choral harmonies, High on the deck He stood, disdaining rest;
The Guardian's blessings mingling with his sighs; (His amber chain the only badge he bore,
While his dear boys-ah, on his neck they hung, His mantle blue such as his fathers wore)
And long at parting to his garments clung. Fathomed, with searching hand, the dark profound,
4 Among those who went with Columbus, were many And scattered hope and glad assurance round;
adventurers, and gentlemen of the court. Primero was Tho', like some strange portentous dream, the Past
the game then in fashion.-See Vega, p. 2, lib. iii. c. 9. Still hovered, and the cloudless sky o'ercast.
5 Many such appellations occur in Bernal Diaz, C. 204. At day-break might the Caravels 3 be seen, 6 Many sighed and wept; and every hour seemed a year, Chasing their shadows o'er the deep serene ; says Herrera.-I. i. 9 and 10. Their burnished prows lashed by the sparkling
7 A luminous appearance of good omen. tide,
8 His public procession to the convent of La Rábida on
the day before he set sail. It was there that his sons had Their green-cross standards waving far and wide.
received their education; and he himself appears to have
; And now once more to better thoughts inclined,
passed some time there, the venerable Guardian, Juan The sea-man, mounting, clamoured in the wind.
Perez de Marchena, being his zealous and affectionate The soldier told his tales of love and war;
friend.—The ceremonies of his departure and return are "The courtier sung- sung to his gay guitar.
represented in many of the fresco-paintings in the palaces
of Genoa. 1 La plûpart de ces îles ne sont en effet que des pointes 9 « But I was most afflicted, when I thought of my two de montagnes ; et la mer, qui est au-delà, est une vraie sons, whom I had left behind me in a strange country mer Méditerranée.--BUFFON.
before I had done, or at least could be known to have 2 The dominion of a bad angel over an unknown sea, done, anything which might incline your highnesses to infestandole con torbellinos y tempestades, and his flight remember them. And though I comforted myself with before a Christian hero, are described in glowing language the reflection that our Lord would not suffer so earnest an by Ovalle.-Hist. de Chile, IV. 8.
endeavour for the exaltation of his church to come to 3 Light vessels, formerly used by the Spaniards and nothing, yet I considered that, on account of my unworPortuguese.
thiness," &c.—Hist. c. 37.
Oft in the silent night-watch doubt and fear 'Twas the mid hour, when He, whose accents Broke in uncertain murmurs on his ear.
dread Oft the stern Catalan, at noon of day,
Still wandered thro' the regions of the dead, Muttered dark threats, and lingered to obey ; (MERION, commissioned with his host to sweep Tho' that brave Youth—he, whom his courser From age to age the melancholy deep) bore
To elude the seraph-guard that watched for man, Right thro' the midst, when, fetlock-deep in gore, And mar, as erst, the Eternal's perfect plan, The great Gonzalo1 battled with the Moor, Rose like the Condor, and, at towering height, (What time the ALHAMBRA shook-soon to unfold
of plumage sailed, deepening the shades Its sacred courts, and fountains yet untold,
of night. Its holy texts and arabesques of gold)
Roc of the West! to him all empire given ! 4 Tho' ROLDAN, sleep and death to him alike, Who bears Axalhua's dragon-folds to heaven ; 5 Grasped his good sword and half unsheathed to His flight a whirlwind, and, when heard afar, strike.
Like thunder, or the distant din of war! “ Oh born to wander with your flocks,” he cried, Mountains and seas fled backward as he passed “ And bask and dream along the mountain-side; O’er the great globe, by not a cloud o’ercast To urge your mules, tinkling from hill to hill; From the ANTARCTIC, from the Land of Fire 6 Or at the vintage-feast to drink your fill,
To where Alaska's wintry wilds retire ;? And strike your castanets, with gipsy-maid From mines of gold, and giant-sons of earth, Dancing Fandangos in the chestnut shade- To grots of ice, and tribes of pigmy birth Come on,” he cried, and threw his glove in scorn, Who freeze alive, nor, dead, in dust repose, “ Not this your wonted pledge, the brimming horn. High-hung in forests to the casing snows.9 Valiant in peace! Adventurous at home!
Now ’mid angelic multitudes he flies, Oh, had ye vowed with pilgrim-staff to roam ; That hourly come with blessings from the Or with banditti sought the sheltering wood,
skies; Where mouldering crosses mark the scene of Wings the blue element, and, borne sublime, blood !-"
Eyes the set sun, gilding each distant clime; He said, he drew; then, at his Master's frown, Then, like a meteor, shooting to the main, Sullenly sheathed, plunging the weapon down. Melts into pure intelligence again.
A Mutiny excited.
What though Despondence reigned, and wild WAR and the Great in War let others sing,
AffrightHavoc and spoil, and tears and triumphing ; Stretched in the midst, and, thro’ that dismal night, The morning-march that flashes to the sun, By his white plume revealed and buskins white, 10 The feast of vultures when the day is done ; Slept Roldan. When he closed his gay career, And the strange tale of many slain for one ! Hope fled for ever, and with Hope fled Fear. I sing a Man, amid his sufferings here,
Blest with each gift indulgent Fortune sends, Who watched and served in humbleness and fear; Birth and its rights, wealth and its train of friends, Gentle to others, to himself severe.
Star-like he shone! Now beggared and alone, Still unsubdued by Danger’s varying form, Danger he wooed, and claimed her for his own. Still, as unconscious of the coming storm, He looked elate ; and, with his wonted smile, inganno, credo che sia questo il crusero di che Dante parló On the great Ordnance leaning, would beguile nel principio del Purgatorio con spirito profetico, dicendo, The hour with talk. His beard, his mien sublime,
I'mi volsi a man destra, e posi mente Shadowed by Age—by Age before the time,?
All'altro polo, e vidi quattro stelle,” &c.
It is still sacred in the eyes of the Spaniards. “ Un senFrom many a sorrow borne in many a clime,
timent religieux les attache à une constellation dont la Moved every heart. And now in opener skies
forme leur rappelle ce signe de la foi planté par leurs anStars yet unnamed of purer radiance rise !
cêtres dans les déserts du nouveau monde.” Stars, milder suns, that love a shade to cast,
4 Le Condor est le même oiseau que le Roc des Orientaux. And on the bright wave fling the trembling mast! BUFFON. “ By the Peruvians,” says Vega, "he was anAnother firmament! the orbs that roll,
ciently worshipped; and there were those who claimed Singly or clustering, round the Southern pole! their descent from him.” In these degenerate days he still Not yet the four that glorify the Night
ranks above the Eagle.
5 As the Roc of the East is said to have carried off the Ah, how forget when to my ravished sight, The Cross shone forth in everlasting light !3
Elephant. See Marco Polo.—Axalhua, or the Emperor, is the name in the Mexican language for the great serpent
of America. I Gonsalvo, or, as he is called in Castilian, Gonzalo
6 Tierra del Fuego. Hernandez de Cordova ; already known by the name of 7 Northern extremity of the New World. See Cook's The Great Captain. Granada surrendered on the 2nd of
last Voyage. January, 1492. Columbus set sail on the 3rd of August
8 Mines of Chili; which extend, says Ovalle, to the following.
Strait of Magellan. I. 4. 2 Hist. e. 3,
9 A custom not peculiar to the Western Hemisphere. 3 The Cross of the South ; “ una Croce maravigliosa, e The Tunguses of Siberia hang their dead on trees; “ pardi tanta bellezza,” says Andrea Corsali, a Florentine, ceque la terre ne se laisse point ouvrir."-M. Pauw. writing to Giuliano of Medicis in 1515, “ che non mi pare
10 Pizarro used to dress in this fashion; after Gonzalo, ad alcuno segno celeste doverla comparare. E s' io non mi whom he had served under in Italy.