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ken of his commanding person, his elevated demeanour, bis air of authority, his kindling eye, and the persuasive intonations of his voice. How must they have given majesty and force to his words, as, casting aside his maps and charts, and discarding for a time his practical and scientific lore, his visionary spirit took fire at the doctrinal objections of bis opponents, and he met them upon their own ground, pouring forth those magnificent texts of scripture, and those mysterious predictions of the prophets, which, in his enthusiastic moments, he considered as types and annunciations of the sublime discovery which he proposed.” pp. 79-80.
For seven years, the time, the patience, the talents of Columbus were wasted in these mortifying negotiations. It seems scarcely credible now, that two small vessels, and about three thousand crowns, were all that he required, and even of this small equipment, he offered himself to defray one eighth part of the expense.
Tired of so much delay and so many disappointments, he at last left the Court of Spain in disgust, and was actually on the road to France, when he was overtaken by a courier sent to inform him that Isabella, in her separate capacity, as Queen of Castile, had finally assented to his proposals.
The great obstacles were now surmounted—but difficulties still arose to retard the expedition. It was found at first almost impossible, even under the royal mandate, to procure men willing to embark in what seemed to the public generally, so mad and desperate an adventure. Some months were thus consumed, and it was to the family of Pinzon, in Palos, three of whom personally engaged in the voyage, that Columbus was in a great measure indebted for the means of preparing his armament.
It was on the 3d of August, 1492, that Columbus set sail on his first voyage of discovery, and it is difficult to find in romance a situation more novel or more full of deep and mysterious interest. Fortune, life and character were staked on the result. He touched at the Canary Islands to repair the damage that one of his vessels had sustained, and took his final passage from Gomera on the 6th of September. We must extract some passages from our author's account of this momentous voyage.
-Fortunately, a breeze sprang up with the sun, their flagging sails were once more filled, and in the course of the day the heights of Ferro gradually faded from the horizon.
“On losing sight of this last trace of land, the hearts of the crews failed them. They seemed literally to have taken leave of the world. Behind them was every thing dear to the heart of man; country, family, friends, life itself: before them every thing was chaos, mystery, and peril. In the perturbation of the moment, they despaired of ever more seeing their homes. Many of the rugged seamen shed tears, and some
broke into loud lamentations. The admiral tried in every way to soothe their distress, and to inspire them with his own glorious anticipations. He described to them the magnificent countries to which he was about to conduct them; the islands of the Indian seas teeming with gold and precious stones; the regions of Mangi and Cathay, with their cities of unrivalled wealth and splendour. He promised them land and riches, and every thing that could arouse their cupidity, or inflame their imaginations. Nor were these promises made for purposes of mere deception; Columbus certainly believed that he should realize them all.” p. 125.
Every thing seemed to alarm them in this untried navigation.
“ Even the favourable wind, which seemed as if providentially sent to waft them to the new world, with such bland and gentle breezes, was now conjured by their ingenious fears into a singular cause of alarm ; for they began to imagine that the wind, in those seas, always prevailed from the east, and if so, would never permit them to return to Spain." p. 132. Even calms filled them with anxiety.
The crews, however, became uneasy at the calmness of the weather. They observed that the contrary winds which they experienced, were transient and unsteady, and so light as not to ruffle the surface of the sea, which maintained a sluggish calm like a lake of dead water. Every thing differed, they said, in these strange regions from the world to which they had been accustomed. The only winds which prevailed with any constancy and force, were from the east, and they had not power to disturb the torpid stillness of the ocean ; there was a risk, therefore, either of perishing amidst stagnant and shoreless waters, or of being prevented by contrary winds from ever returning to their native country.” p. 134.
“The situation of Columbus was daily becoming more and more critical. In proportion as he approached the regions where he expected to find land, the impatience of his crews augmented. The favourable signs which had increased his confidence, were now derided by them as delusive; and there was danger of their rebelling, and obliging him to turn back, when on the point of realizing the object of all his labours. They beheld themselves with dismay still wafted onward, over the boundless wastes of what appeared to them a mere watery desert, surrounding the habitable world. What was to become of them should their provisions fail? Their ships were too weak and defective even for the great voyage they had already made; but if they were still to press forward, adding at every moment to the immense expanse which already divided them from land, how should they ever be able to return, having no port where they might victual and refit.” p. 136.
At length, after many discouragements and unceasing anxiety, Columbus, on the evening of the 11th October, saw a light, at first steady, afterwards at intervals, as if in the hands of persons moving along a shore, and concluded that he was approaching an inhabited coast.
“They continued along their course until two in the morning, when a gun from the Pinta gave the joyful sigi 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 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 discovery. 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 shorés. 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 agitation; 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 hurry 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 warmth 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. 260–21.
“ 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 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.
u 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.