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The land to which he was thus triumphantly borne was the island of San Salvador, since called Cat Island, by the English; and at early dawn he landed with a great company, splendidly armed and attired, and bearing in his hand the royal standard of Castile.
• As they approached the shores, they were refreshed by the sight of the ample forests, which in those climates have extraordinary beauty of vegetation. They beheld fruits of tempting hue, but unknown kind, growing among the trees which overhung the shores. The purity and suavity of the atmosphere, the crystal transparency of the seas which bathe these islands, give them a wonderful beauty, and must have had their effect upon the susceptible feelings of Columbus. No sooner did he land, than he threw himself upon his knees, kissed the earth, and returned thanks to God with tears of joy. His example was followed by the rest, whose hearts indeed overflowed with the same feelings of gratitude.'
The natives of the island, when, at the dawn of day, they had beheld the ships, with their sails set, hovering on their coast, had supposed them some monsters which had issued from the deep during the night. They had crowded to the beach, and watched their movements with awful anxiety. Their veering about, apparently without effort; the shifting and furling of their sails, resembling huge wings, filled them with astonishment. When they beheld their boats approach the shore, and a number of strange beings, clad in glittering steel, or raiment of various colours, landing upon the beach, they fled in affright to their woods. Finding, however, that there was no attempt to pursue nor molest them, they gradually recovered from their terror, and approached the Spaniards with great awe; frequently prostrating themselves on the earth, and making signs of adoration. During the ceremonies of taking possession, they remained gazing in timid admiration at the complexion, the beards, the shining armour, and splendid dress, of the Spaniards. The admiral particularly attracted their attention, from his commanding height, his air of authority, his dress of scarlet, and the deference which was paid him by his companions; all which pointed him out to be the commander. When they had still further recovered from their fears, they approached the Spaniards, touched their beards, and examined their hands and faces, admiring their whiteness. Columbus, pleased with their simplicity, their gentleness, and the confidence they reposed in beings who must have appeared to them so strange and formidable, suffered their scrutiny with perfect acquiescence. The wondering savages were won by this benignity; they now supposed that the ships had sailed out of the crystal firmament which bounded their horizon, or that they had descended from above on their ample wings, and that these marvellous beings were inhabitants of the skies.'
Nothing is more remarkable in the journal of the great discoverer, than his extraordinary sensibility to the beauty of the scenery, and the charms of the climate, of this new world.
.«« I know not," says he, in one passage about this time, “where first to go, nor are my eyes ever weary of gazing on the beautiful verdure." At the south-west end of the island he found fine lakes of fresh-water, overhung with groves, and surrounded by banks covered with herbage. Here he ordered all the casks of the ships to be filled. “ Here are large lakes,” says he, in his journal, “ and the groves about them are marvellous, and here and in all the island every thing is green, and the herbage as in April in Andalusia. The singing of the birds is such, that it seems as if one would never desire to depart hence; there are flocks of parrots which obscure the sun, and other birds, large and small, of so many kinds and so different from ours, that it is wonderful; and be. sides there are trees of a thousand species, each having its particular fruit, and all of marvellous flavour, so that I am in the greatest trouble in the world not to know them, for I am very certain that they are each of great value. I shall bring home some of them as specimens, and also some of the herbs." Columbus was intent on discovering the drugs and spices of the east, and on approaching this island, had fancied he perceived, in the air which came from it, the spicy odours said to be wafted from the islands of the Indian seas: “As I arrived at this cape," says he, “there came thence a fragrance so good and soft of the flowers or trees of the land, that it was the sweetest thing in the world. I believe there are here many herbs and trees which would be of great price in Spain for tinctures, medicines, and spices, but I know nothing of them, which gives me great vexation."
The fish, which abounded in these seas, partook of the novelty which characterised most of the objects in this new world. They rivalled the birds in the tropical brilliancy of their colours, the scales of some of them glancing back the rays of light like precious stones; as they sported about the ships, they flashed gleams of gold and silver through the clear waves; and the dolphins, taken out of their element, delighted the eye with the changes of colours ascribed in fable to the cameleon.'
On his first arrival at Cuba, these raptures are, if possible, redoubled.
"As he approached this noble island, he was struck with its magnitude, and the grandeur of its features ; its high and airy mountains, which reminded him of those of Sicily ; its fertile valleys, and long sweeping plains, watered by noble rivers ; its stately forests; its bold promontories, and stretching headlands, which melted away into the remotest distance. He anchored in a beautiful river, free from rocks or shoals, of transparent water, its banks overhung with trees. Here, landing, and taking possession of the island, he gave it the name of Juana, in honour of Prince Juan, and to the river the name of San Salvador.
• Returning to his boat, he proceeded for some distance up the river, more and more enchanted with the beauty of the country. The forests which covered each bank were of high and wide-spreading trees; some bearing fruits, others flowers, while in some, both fruit and flower were mingled, bespeaking a perpetual round of fertility : among them were many palms, but different from those of Spain and Africa ; with the great leaves of these, the natives thatched their cabins.
• The continual eulogies made by Columbus on the beauty of the scenery were warranted by the kind of scenery he was beholding. There is a wonderful splendour, variety, and luxuriance in the vegetation of those quick and ardent climates. The verdure of the groves, and the colours of the flowers and blossoms, derive a vividness to the eye from the transparent purity of the air, and the deep serenity of the azure heavens. The forests, too, are full of life, swarming with birds of brilliant plumage. Painted varieties of parrots, and woodpeckers, create a glitter amidst the verdure of the grove, and hummingbirds rove from flower to flower, resembling, as has well been said, animated particles of a rainbow. The scarlet flamingos, too, seen sometimes through an opening of a forest in a distant savannah, have the appearance of soldiers drawn up in battalion, with an advanced scout on the alert, to give notice of approaching danger. Nor is the least beautiful part of animated nature the various tribes of insects that people every plant, displaying brilliant coats of mail, which sparkle to the eye like precious gems.
Such is the splendour of animal and vegetable creation in these tropical climates, where an ardent sun imparts, in a manner, his own lustre to every object, and quickens nature into exuberant fecundity. The birds, in general, are not remarkable for their notes ; for it bas been observed that in the feathered race sweetness of song rarely accompanies brilliancy of plumage. Columbus remarks, however, that there were various kinds which sang sweetly among the trees, and he frequently deceived himself in fancying that he heard the voice of the nightingale, a bird unknown in these countries. He was, in fact, in a mood to see every thing through a fond and favouring medium. His heart was full even to overflowing, for he was enjoying the fulfilment of his hopes, and the hard-earned but glorious reward of his toils and perils. Every thing round him was beheld with the enamoured and exulting eye of a discoverer, where triumph mingles with admiration; and it is difficult to conceive the rapturous state of his feelings, while thus exploring the charms of a virgin world, won by his enterprise and valour.
From his continual remarks on the beauty of the scenery, and from the pleasure which he evidently derived from rural sounds and objects, he appears to have been extremely open to those delicious influences, exercised over some spirits, by the graces and wonders of nature. He gives utterance to these feelings with characteristic enthusiasm, and at the same time with the artlessness and simplicity of diction of a child. When speaking of some lovely scene among the groves, or along the flowery shore, of this favoured island, he says, “ one could live there for ever.”—Cuba broke upon him like an elysium. “ It is the most beautiful island," he says, “ that eyes ever beheld, full of excellent ports and profound rivers." The climate was more temperate here than in the other islands, the nights being neither hot nor cold, while the birds and grasshoppers sang all night long. Indeed there is
a beauty in a tropical night, in the depth of the dark-blue sky, the lambent purity of the stars, and the resplendent clearness of the moon, that spreads over the rich landscape and the balmy groves, a charm more touching than the splendour of the day.
• In the sweet smell of the woods, and the odour of the flowers, which loaded every breeze, Columbus fancied he perceived the fragrance of oriental spices; and along the shores he found shells of the kind of oyster which produces pearls. From the grass growing to the very edge of the water, he inferred the peacefulness of the ocean which bathes these islands, never lashing the shore with angry surges. Ever since his arrival among these Antilles, he had experienced nothing but soft and gentle weather, and he concluded that a perpetual serenity reigned over these happy seas. He was little suspicious of the occasional bursts of fury to which they are liable.'
Hispaniola was still more enchanting. • In the transparent atmosphere of the tropics, objects are descried at a great distance, and the purity of the air and serenity of the deep blue sky, gave a magical effect to the scenery. Under these advantages, the beautiful island of Hayti revealed itself to the eye as they approached. Its mountains were higher and more rocky than those of the other islands; but the rocks reared themselves from among rich forests. The mountains swept down into luxuriant plains and green savannas, while the appearance of cultivated fields, with the numerous fires at night, and the columns of smoke which rose in various parts by day, all showed it to be populous. It rose before them in all the splendour of tropical vegetation, one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and doomed to be one of the most unfortunate.'
The first interview with the friendly cacique Guacanagari, as well as his generous attentions on the wreck of one of their vessels, are described with great beauty. But we can only find room for the concluding part of it.
The extreme kindness of the cacique, the gentleness of his people, the quantities of gold which were daily brought to be exchanged for the veriest trifles, and the information continually received of sources of wealth in the bosom of this beautiful island, all contributed to console the admiral for the misfortune he had suffered.
The shipwrecked crew also, living on shore, and mingling freely with the natives, became fascinated with their easy and idle mode of life. Exempted by their simplicity from the painful cares and toils which civilized man inflicts upon himself by his many artificial wants, the existence of these islanders seemed to the Spaniards like a pleasant dream. They disquieted themselves about nothing. A few fields, cultivated almost without labour, furnished the roots and vegetables which formed a great part of their diet. Their rivers and coasts abounded with fish ; their trees were laden with fruits of golden or blushing hue, and heightened by a tropical sun to delicious flavour and fragrance. Softened by the indulgence of nature, a great part of their day was passed in indolent repose, in that luxury of sensation inspired by a serene sky and a voluptuous climate ; and in the evenings they danced in
their fragrant groves, to their national songs, or the rude sound of their sylvan drums.
Such was the indolent and holiday life of these simple people ; which, if it had not the great scope of enjoyment, nor the high-seasoned poignancy of pleasure, which attend civilization, was certainly destitute of most of its artificial miseries.'
It was from this scene of enchantment and promise, unclouded as yet by any shadow of animosity or distrust, that Columbus, without one drop of blood on his hands, or one stain of cruelty or oppression on his conscience, set sail on his return to Europe, with the proud tidings of his discovery. In the early part of his voyage he fell in with the Carribee Islands, and had some striking encounters with the brave but ferocious tribes who possessed them. The distresses which beset him on his home passage are well known; but we willingly pass these over, to treat our readers with Mr Irving's splendid description of his magnificent reception by the court at Barcelona.
• The fame of his discovery had resounded throughout the nation, and as his route lay through several of the finest and most populous provinces of Spain, his journey appeared like the progress of a sovereign. Wherever he passed, the surrounding country poured forth its inhabitants, who lined the road and thronged the villages. In the large towns, the streets, windows, and balconies, were filled with eager spectators, who rent the air with acclamations. His journey was continually impeded by the multitude pressing to gain a sight of him and of the Indians, who were regarded with as much astonishment as if they had been natives of another planet. It was impossible to satisfy the craving curiosity which assailed himself and his attendants at every stage with innumerable questions ; popular rumour, as usual, had exaggerated the truth, and had filled the newly-found country with all kinds of wonders.
• 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 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, supposed 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 give an idea of the wealth of the newlydiscovered regions. After this, followed Columbus on horseback, sur