Imagens das páginas

rounded 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 discoverer, 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. Here the king and queen awaited his arrival, seated in state, with the prince Juan beside them, and attended by the dignitaries of their court, and the principal nobility of Castile, Valentia, Catalonia, and Arragon, all impatient to behold the man who had conferred so incalculable a benefit upon the nation. At length Columbus entered the hall, surrounded by a bril. liant crowd of cavaliers, among whom, says Las Casas, he was conspicuous for his stately and commanding person, which, with his countenance, rendered venerable by his grey hairs, gave him the august appearance of a senator of Rome; a modest smile lighted up his features, showing that he enjoyed the state and glory in which he came ; and certainly nothing could be more deeply moving to a mind inflamed by noble ambition, and conscious of having greatly deserved, than these testimonials of the admiration and gratitude of a nation, or rather of a world. As Columbus approached, the sovereigns rose, as if receiving a person of the highest rank. Bending his knees, he requested to kiss their hands; but there was some hesitation on the part of their majesties to permit this act of vassalage. Raising him in the most gracious manner, they ordered him to seat himself in their presence; a rare honour in this proud and punctilious court.'

In his second voyage he falls in again with the Caribs, of whose courage and cannibal propensities he had now sufficient assurance. Mr Irving's remarks upon this energetic but untameable race are striking, and we think original.

· The warlike and unyielding character of these people, so different from that of the pusillanimous nations around them, and the wide scope of their enterprises and wanderings, like those of the Nomade tribes of the Old World, entitle them to distinguished attention. They were trained to war from their infancy. As soon as they could walk, their intrepid mothers put in their hands the bow and arrow, and prepared them to take an early part in the hardy enterprises of their fathers. Their distant roamings by sea made them observant and intelligent. The natives of the other islands only knew how to divide time by day and night, by the sun and moon; whereas these had acquired some knowledge of the stars, by which to calculate the times and seasons.

"The traditional accounts of their origin, though of course extremely vague, are yet capable of being verified to a great degree by geographical facts, and open one of the rich veins of curious inquiry and speculation which abound in the New World. They are said to have migrated from the remote valleys embosomed in the Apalachian mountains. The earliest accounts we have of them represent them with their weapons in their hands, continually engaged in wars, winning their way and shifting their abode, until, in the course of time, they found themselves at the extremity of Florida. Here, abandoning the northern continent, they passed over to the Lucayos, and from thence gradually, in the process of years, from island to island of that vast and verdant chain, which links, as it were, the end of Florida to the coast of Paria, on the southern continent. The Archipelago, extending from Porto Rico to Tobago, was their strong hold, and the island of Guadaloupe in a manner their citadel. Hence they made their expeditions, and spread the terror of their name through all the surrounding countries. Swarms of them landed upon the southern continent, and overran some parts of Terra Firma. Traces of them have been discovered far in the interior of the country through which flows the Oroonoko. The Dutch found colonies of them on the banks of the Ikouteka, which empties into the Surinam, along the Esquibi, the Maroni, and other rivers of Guayana, and in the country watered by the windings of the Cayenne ; and it would appear that they have extended their wanderings to the shores of the southern ocean, where, among the aboriginals of Brazil, were some who called themselves Caribs, distinguished from the surrounding Indians by their superior hardihood, subtlety, and enterprise.

To trace the footsteps of this roving tribe throughout its wide mi. grations from the Apalachian mountains of the northern continent, along the clusters of islands which stud the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean sea to the shores of Paria, and so across the vast regions of Guayana and Amazonia to the remote coast of Brazil, would be one of the most curious researches in aboriginal history, and might throw much light upon the mysterious question of the population of the New World.

We pass over the melancholy story of the ruined fort, and murdered garrison, to which our adventurer returned on his second voyage; and of the first dissentions that broke out in his now increasing colony; but must pause for a moment to accompany him on his first march, at the head of 400 armed followers, into the interior of the country, and to the mountain region of expected gold. For two days the party proceeded up the banks of a stream, which seemed at last to lose itself in a narrow and rocky recess.

On the following day, the army toiled up this steep defile, and are rived where the gorge of the mountain opened into the interior. Here a land of promise suddenly burst upon their view. It was the same glorious prospect which had delighted Ojeda and his companions. Below


lay a vast and delicious plain, painted and enamelled, as it were, with all the rich variety of tropical vegetation. The magnificent forests presented that mingled beauty and majesty of vegetable forms known only to these generous climates. Palms of prodigious height, and spreading mahogany trees, towered from amid a wilderness of variegated foliage. Universal freshness and verdure were maintained by numerous streams, which meandered gleaming through the deep bosom of the woodland; while various villages and hamlets, peeping from among the trees, and the smoke of others rising out of the midst of the forests, gave signs of a numerous population. The luxuriant landscape extended as far as the eye could reach, until it appeared to melt away and mingle with the horizon. The Spaniards gazed with rapture upon this soft voluptuous country, which seemed to realize their ideas of a terrestrial paradise; and Columbus, struck with its vast extent, gave it the name of the Vega Real, or Royal Plain.

• Having descended the rugged pass, the army issued upon the plain, in military array, with great clangour of warlike instruments. When the Indians beheld this shining band of warriors, glittering in steel, emerging from the mountains with prancing steeds and flaunting banners, and heard, for the first time, their rocks and forests echoing to the din of drum and trumpet, they might well have taken such a wonderful pageant for a supernatural vision.

In this way Columbus disposed his forces whenever he approached a populous village, placing the cavalry in front, for the horses inspired a mingled terror and admiration among the natives. Las Casas observes, that at first they supposed the rider and his horse to be one animal, and nothing could exceed their astonishment at seeing the horseman dismount; a circumstance which shows that the alleged origin of the ancient fable of the Centaurs is at least founded in nature.'

Thus penetrating into the midst of this great island, where every scene presented the wild luxuriance of beautiful but uncivilized nature, they arrived on the evening of the second day at a chain of lofty and rugged mountains, which formed a kind of barrier to the Vega. These Columbus was told were the golden mountains of Cibao, whose region commenced at their rocky summits. The country now began to grow rough and difficult, and the people being way-worn, they encamped for the night at the foot of a steep defile, which led up into the mountains, and pioneers were sent in advance to open a road for the army. From this place they sent back mules for a supply of bread and wine, their provisions beginning to grow scanty, for they had not as yet accustomed themselves to the food of the natives, which was afterwards found to be very nutritious, and well suited to the climate.

On the next morning they resumed their march up a narrow and steep glen, winding among craggy rocks, where they were obliged to lead the horses. Arrived at the summit, they once more enjoyed a prospect of the delicious Vega, which here presented a still grander appearance, stretching far and wide on either hand, like a vast verdant lake. This noble plain, according to Las Casas, is eighty leagues in length, and from twenty to thirty in breadth, and of incomparable beauty

The natives appeared to them a singularly idle and improvident

race, indifferent to most of the objects of human anxiety and toil. They were impatient of all kinds of labour, scarcely giving themselves the trouble to cultivate the yuca root, the maize, and the potatoe, which formed the main articles of subsistence. For the rest, their streams abounded with fish ; they caught the utia or coney, the guana, and various birds; and they had a perpetual banquet from the fruits spontaneously produced by their groves. Though the air was sometimes cold among the mountains, yet they preferred submitting to a little temporary suffering, rather than take the trouble to weave garments from the gossampine cotton which abounded in their forests. Thus they loitered away existence in vacant inactivity, under the shade of their trees, or amusing themselves occasionally with various games and dances.'

• Having accomplished the purposes of his residence in the Vega, Columbus, at the end of a few days, took leave of its hospitable inhabitants, and resumed his march for the harbour, returning with his little army through the lofty and rugged gorge of the mountains called the Pass of the Hidalgos. As we accompany him in imagination over the rocky height, from whence the Vega first broke upon the eye of the Europe. ans, we cannot help pausing to cast back a look of mingled pity and ad. miration over this beautiful but devoted region. The dream of natural liberty, of ignorant content, and loitering idleness, was as yet unbroken, but the fiat had gone forth; the white man had penetrated into the land; avarice, and pride, and ambition, and pining care, and sordid labour, were soon to follow, and the indolent paradise of the Indian to disappear for ever!

There is something to us inexpressibly pleasing in these passages; but we are aware that there are readers to whom they may seem tedious—and believe, at all events, that we have now given a large enough specimen of the kind of beauty they present. For persons of a different taste we ought to have extracted some account of the incredible darings, and romantic adventures, of Alonzo de Ojeda, or of the ruder prowess and wild magnanimity of the cacique Caonabo, who alone of the island chieftains dared to offer any resistance to the invaders. When made prisoner, and carried off from the centre of bis dominions, by one of the unimaginable feats of Ojeda, Mr Irving has reported that

• He always maintained a haughty deportment towards Columbus, while he never evinced the least animosity against Ojeda for the artifice to which he had fallen a victim. It rather increased his admiration of him, as a consummate warrior, looking upon it as the exploit of a master-spirit to have pounced upon him, and borne him off, in this hawk. like manner, from the very midst of his fighting-men. There is nothing that an Indian more admires in warfare, than a deep well.executed stratagem.

Columbus was accustomed to bear himself with an air of dignity and authority as admiral and viceroy, and exacted great personal respect. When he entered the apartment therefore where Caonabo was confined, all present rose, according to custom, and paid him reverence. The cacique alone neither moved, nor took any notice of him. On the contrary, when Ojeda entered, though small in person and without external state, Caonabo immediately rose and saluted him with profound respect. On being asked the reason of this, Columbus being Guamiquina, or great chief over all, and Ojeda but one of his subjects, the proud Carib replied, that the admiral had never dared to come personally to his house and seize him, it was only through the valour of Ojeda he was his prisoner ; to Ojeda, therefore, he owed reverence, not to the admiral.'

The insolent license of the Spaniards, and the laborious searches for gold which they imposed on the natives, had at last overcome their original feelings of veneration ; and, trusting to their vast superiority in numbers, they ventured to make war on their heaven-descended visitants. The result was unresisted carnage and hopeless submission. A tax of a certain quantity of gold dust was imposed on all the districts that afforded that substance, and of certain quantities of cotton and of grain on all the others-and various fortresses were erected, and garrisons stationed, to assist the collection of the tribute.

. In this way,' says Mr Irving, 'was the yoke of servitude fixed upon the island, and its thraldom effectually ensured. Deep despair now fell upon the natives, when they found a perpetual task inflicted upon them, enforced at stated and frequently recurring periods. Weak and indolent by nature, unused to labour of any kind, and brought up in the untasked idleness of their soft climate and their fruitful groves, death itself seemed preferable to a life of toil and anxiety. They saw no end to this harassing evil, which had so suddenly fallen upon them; no escape from its all-pervading influence; no prospect of return to that roving independence and ample leisure, so dear to the wild inhabitants of the forest. The pleasant life of the island was at an end; the dream in the shade by day; the slumber during the sultry noon-tide heat by the fountain or the stream, or under the spreading palm-tree ; and the song, the dance, and the game in the mellow evening, when summoned to their simple amusements by the rude Indian drum. They were now obliged to grope day by day, with bending body and anxious eye, along the borders of their rivers, sifting the sands for the grains of gold which every day grew more scanty; or to labour in their fields beneath the fervour of a tropical sun, to raise food for their taskmasters, or to produce the vegetable tribute imposed upon them. They sunk to sleep weary and exhausted at night, with the certainty that the next day was but to be a repetition of the same toil and suffering. Or if they occasionally indulged in their national dances, the ballads to which they kept time were of a melancholy and plaintive character. They spoke of the times that were past before the white men had introduced sorrow and slavery, and weary labour among them; and they rehearsed pretended prophecies, handed down from their ancestors, foretelling the invasion of the Spaniards ; that strangers should come into their island, clothed in apparel, with swords capable of cleaving a man asun

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