Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

a gun

They continued along their course until two in the morning, when

from the Pinta gave the joyful sigy al of land. It was first descried by a mariner named Rodrigo de Trianra; but the reward was afterwards adjudged to the admiral, for having previously perceived the light. The land was now dimly seen about two leagues distant, whereupon they took in sail, and laid to, waiting impatiently for the dawn.

“ The thoughts and feelings of Columbus, in this little space of time, must have been tumultuous and intense. At length, in spite of every difficulty and danger, he had accomplished his object. The great mystery of the ocean was revealed. His theory which had been the scoff even of sages, was triumphantly established. He had secured to himself a glory which must be as durable as the world itself.

“It is difficult even for the imagination to conceive the feelings of such a man, at the moment of so sublime a dišcovery. What a bewildering crowd of conjectures must have thronged upon his mind, as to the land which lay before him, covered with darkness! That it was fruitful, was evident from the vegetables which floated from its shores.

He thought too that he perceived in the balmy air, the fragrance of aromatic groves. The moving light which he had beheld, had proved that it was the residence of man. But what were its inhabitants ? Were they like those of the other parts of the globe; or were they some strange and monstrous race, such as the imagination in those times was prone to give to all remote and unknown regions? Had he come upon some wild island far in the Indian sea; or was this the famed Cipango itself, the object of his golden fancies? A thousand speculations of the kind must have swarmed upon him, as, with his anxious crews, he waited for the night to pass away: wondering whether the morning light would reveal a savage wilderness, or dawn upon spicy groves, and glittering fanes and gilded cities, and all the splendours of oriental civilization.”

pp. 146–8.

On his return from this wonderful enterprise, Columbus was received with unqualified and boundless applause. At Lisbon, whither he was driven by a succession of violent gales; at Palos, whence he had so lately sailed, with scarcely a cheering voice to raise the drooping spirits of his companions; at Barcelona, where he was summoned to attend the Court of Ferdinand and Isabella ; through every part of Spain, as he passed along, his progress was a continual triumph. Every voice and every heart united in his praise. Europe, in all her realms, resounded with his fame, and celebrated his voyage as opening a new era on mankind. The reception of Columbus in Spain is described by Mr. Irving with great beauty; we shall select a few passages from his eloquent narrative.

“The triumphant return of Columbus was a prodigious event in the history of the little port of Palos, where every body was more or less interested in the fate of his expedition. The most important and wealthy sea captains of the place had engaged in it, and scarcely a family but had some relative or friend among the

voyagers.

The departure of the ships upon

what appeared a chimerical and desperate cruise, had spread gloom and dismay over the place; and the storms which had raged throughout the winter, had heightened the public despondency. Many lamented their friends as lost, while the imagination lent mysterious horrors to their fate; picturing them as driven about over wild and desert wastes of water without a shore ; or as perishing amidst rocks and quicksands and whirlpools; or a prey to those monsters of the deep, with which credulity, in those days, peopled every distant and unfrequented sea. There was something more awful in such a mysterious fate, than in death itself, under any defined and ordinary form.

“ When the news arrived, therefore, that one of the adventurous ships was standing up the river, the inhabitants were thrown into great agi. tation ; but when they heard that she returned in triumph from the discovery of a world, and beheld her furling her sails in their harbour, the whole community burst forth into a transport of joy. The bells were rung, the shops shut, all business was suspended : for a time there was nothing but the burry and tumult of a sudden exultation and breathless curiosity. Some were anxious to know the fate of a relative, others of a friend; and all to learn particulars of so wonderful a voyage. When Columbus landed, the multitude thronged to see and welcome him, and a grand procession was formed to the principal church, to return thanks to God for so signal a discovery made by the people of that place; the shallow populace forgetting, in their exultation, the thousand difficulties they had 'thrown in the way of the enterprise. Wherever Columbus passed, the streets resounded with shouts and acclamations; he received such honours as are paid to sovereigns, but to him they were rendered with tenfold warinth and sincerity. What a contrast was this to his departure a few months before, followed by murmurs and execrations; or rather, what a contrast to his first arrival at Palos, a poor pedestrian, craving bread and water for his child at the gate of a convent!" pp. 260–281.

“ It was about the middle of April that Columbus arrived at Barcelona, where every preparation had been made to give him a solemn and magnificent reception. The beauty and serenity of the weather in that genial season, and favoured climate, contributed to give splendour to this memorable ceremony. As he drew near the place, many of the more youthful courtiers, and hidalgos of gallant bearing, together with a vast concourse of the populace, came forth to meet and welcome him. His entrance into this noble city has been compared to one of those triumphs which the Romans were accustomed to decree to conquerors. First were paraded the Indians, painted according to their savage fashion, and decorated with tropical feathers, and with their national ornaments of gold; after these, were borne various kinds of live parrots, together with stuffed birds and animals of unknown species, and rare plants sup

* In the maps and charts of those times, and even in those of a much later date, the variety of formidable and hideous monsters depicted in all remote parts of the ocean, evince the terror and dangers with which the imagination clothed it. The same may also be said of distant and unknown lands. The remote parts of Asia and Africa have monsters depicted in them which it would be difficult to trace to any originals in natural history.

posed to be of precious qualities : while great care was taken to make a conspicuous display of Indian coronets, bracelets, and other decorations of gold, which might form an idea of the wealth of the newly discovered regions. After these followed Columbus, on horseback, surrounded by a brilliant cavalcade of Spanish chivalry. The streets were almost impassable from the countless multitude; the windows and balconies were crowded with the fair; the

very

roofs were covered with spectators. It seemed as if the public eye could not be sated with gazing on these trophies of an unknown world; or on the remarkable man by whom it had been discovered. There was a sublimity in this event that mingled a solemn feeling with the public joy. It was looked upon as a vast and signal dispensation of Providence, in reward for the piety of the monarchs: and the majestic and venerable appearance of the dis coverer, so different from the youth and buoyancy that are generally expected from roving enterprise, seemed in harmony with the grandeur and dignity of his achievement.

“ To receive him with suitable pomp and distinction, the sovereigns had ordered their throne to be placed in public, under a rich canopy of brocade of gold, in a vast and splendid saloon.” Vol. i. pp. 267–268. Columbus was seated in their presence, and

gave an account of the most striking events of his voyage, and a description of the Islands he had discovered.

" He displayed the specimens he had brought of unknown birds and other animals; of rare plants of medicinal and aromatic virtue; of native gold in dust, in crude masses, or laboured into barbaric ornaments; and above all, the natives of these countries, who were objects of intense and inexhaustible interest ; since there is nothing to man so curious as the varieties of his own species. All these he pronounced mere harbingers of greater discoveries he had yet to make; which would add realms of incalculable wealth to the dominions of their majesties, and whole nations of proselytes to the true faith.

“ The words of Columbus were listened to with profound emotion by the sovereigns. When he had finished, they sunk on their knees, and, raising their clasped hands to heaven, their eyes filled with tears of joy and gratitude, they poured forth thanks and praises to God, for so great a providence. All present followed their example; a deep and solemn enthusiasm pervaded that splendid assembly, and prevented all common acclamations of triumph : the anthem of Te Deum laudamus, chaunted by the choir of the royal chapel, with the melodious responses of the minstrels, rose up from the midst in a full body of sacred 'harmony, bearing up, as it were, the feelings and thoughts of the auditors to heaven, so that,” says the venerable Las Casas, “it seemed as if in that hour they communicated with celestial delights.” Such was the solemn and pious manner in which the brilliant Court of Spain celebrated this sublime event; offering up a grateful tribute of melody and praise, and giving glory to God for the discovery of another world." Vol. i. p. 270. VOL. II.-NO. 3.

3

“Well would it be [exclaims our author a few pages afterwards) for the honour of human nature, could history, like romance, close with the consummation of the hero's wishes; we should then leave Columbus in the full fruition of great and well merited prosperity. But his history is destined to furnish another proof, if proof be wanting, of the inconstancy of public favour, even when won by distinguished services. No greatness was ever acquired by more incontestable, unalloyed, and exalted benefits rendered to mankind, yet none ever drew on its possessor, more unremitting jealousy and defamation, or involved him in more unmerited distress and difficulty. Thus it is with illustrious merit; its very

effulgence draws forth the rancorous passions of low and grovelling minds, which too often have a temporary influence in obscuring it to the world; as the sun, emerging with full splendour into the heavens, calls up by the very fervour of his rays, the rank and noxious

vapours

which for a time becloud his glory.” Vol. i. p.

277. It is not our intention to pursue the history of Columbus through the checquered scenes, the vexations and disappointments of his subsequent life. Its general tenor is well known. For a time the novelty and splendour of his discoveries sustained the strong feeling of enthusiastic gratitude. Honours and authority were lavished upon him, and orders were issued to make preparations for a new expedition, in a style of royal magnificence. Every civilized nation appeared to take a deep interest in the events which were so unexpectedly passing before them. All turned their eyes on those exploits which were opening new realms to the enterprise of the valiant, and the researches of the wise, and which were giving to the Christian world, according to the sublime predictions of Scripture, “the Heathen for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession."

It is pleasant to contrast the feelings and situation of Columbus and his followers, when leaving Spain on his two first voyages. Our author thus eloquently describes them.

The squadron being ready to put to sea, Columbus impressed with the solemnity of his undertaking, confessed himself to the friar Juan Perez, and partook of the sacrament of the communion. His example was followed by his officers and crew, and they entered upon their enterprise full of awe, and with the most devout and affecting ceremonials, committing themselves to the especial guidance and protection of Heaven. A deep gloom was spread over the whole community of · Palos at their departure, for almost every one had some relative on board of the squadron. The spirits of the seamen, already depressed by their own fears, were still more cast down at the affliction of those they left behind, who took leave of them with tears and lamentations, and dismal forebodings, as of men they were never again to behold.” Vol. i. p. 115.

“The departure of Columbus on his second voyage of discovery, presented a brilliant contrast to his gloomy embarkation at Palos. On

#

[ocr errors]

ance.

the 25th September, at the dawn of day, the bay of Cadiz was whitened by his fleet. There were three large ships of heavy burthen,* and fourteen caravels, loitering with flapping sails, and awaiting the signal to get under way:

The harbour resounded with the well-known note of the sailor, hoisting sail or weighing anchor. A motley crowd were hurrying on board and taking leave of their friends, in the confidence of a prosperous voyage and triumphant return. There was the highspirited cavalier bound on romantic enterprise ; the hardy navigator, ambitious of acquiring laurels in these unknown seas; the roving adventurer, who anticipates every thing from change of place and distance ; the keen calculating speculator, eager to profit by the ignorance of savage tribes; and the pale missionary from the cloister, anxious to extend the dominion of the church, or devoutly zealous for the propagation of the faith. All were full of animation and lively hope. Instead of being regarded by the populace as devoted men, bound upon a dark and desperate enterprise, they were contemplated with envy, as favoured mortals, destined to golden regions and happy climes, where nothing but wealth and wonders and delights awaited them. Columbus moved among the throng, conspicuous for his height and for his commanding appear

He was attended by his two sons, Diego and Fernando, the eldest but a stripling, who had come to witness his departure,t proud of the glory of their father. Wherever he passed every eye followed him with adiniration, and every tongue praised and blessed him. Before sunrise, the whole fleet was under way; the weather was serene and propitious; and as the populace watched their parting sails, brightening in the morning beams, they looked forward to their joyful return, laden with the treasures of the new world.” Vol. i.

pp.

303-304. Columbus made four voyages to America. To the first we have already adverted; the second expedition, fitted out with great cost and the most splendid anticipations, was intended not only as a voyage of discovery, but of occupation; the third, more linnited, prepared and furnished even with reluctant bounty; the fourth, equipped on the most contracted scale, and apparently sent to rid the Court of Spain of the presence and high elaims of their great benefactor, and to exhibit him as a mere adventurer on those shores he had first made known to man.

In his first voyage, he discovered, besides the Island of Guanahani or St. Salvador, on which he first landed, several of the Islands among the group of the Bahamas, and a part of the north coasts of the great Islands of Cuba and Hispaniola or Hayti. In his second, in which a leading object was to take possession of Hispaniola, the greater part of the interior of that fertile island was explored, and the south coast of Cuba,

* Peter Martyr says they were carracks, (a large species of merchant vessels principally used in coasting trade,) of one hundred tons burthen, and that two of the caravels were much larger than the rest, and more capable of bearing decks, from the size of their masts.- Decade, 1, lib. i.

+ Hist. del Almirante, c. 44.

« AnteriorContinuar »