Imágenes de páginas

fruit, but not a grain of gold. Only Cipango tents of a European encampment, with tall and could supply his need. But still he found not the slender chimneys; but by far the most marvelCroesus of Cipango, nothing but more savages ous sight to them was a tiny bit of gold, worn at Concepcion. Nevertheless, the garrulous as a nose-ring, bearing letters stamped upon it Indians of San Salvador had told him how the -a thing to be followed up, but which unforpeople of this little isle wore many and heavy tunately could not be investigated through the rings on their arms and ankles. The discov- failure of him who saw it, in the absence of erer gloomily adds, " I firmly believe they said Columbus, to beg or buy it. this as a trick to get rid of me.” Indeed, hav- At length, on October 18, he hoisted sail ing taken several Salvadoreans on board, and at daybreak and quitted Fernandina. He had an Indian found in a canoe between San Salva- found the island which the Indians declared dor and Concepcion, the poor wretches sought to be full of gold, but their tales had proved flight by swimming, despite the vigilance of the untrue. Now and then a tiny fragment had been officers and crew. For instance, one of the say- seen, but so small as to be of little worth. And ages put out in his canoe in great haste for the yet, while the sad reality seemed most to mock ships, to sell his precious ball of cotton yarn. their impatient desires, the Indians persevered When the sailors kindly invited him on board in their reports of a realm ruled by a fabulously the caravel, he obstinately refused, whereupon wealthy potentate, clad, they said, something some of them sprang overboard and seized him. after the Spanish fashion, with garments of enorThe admiral called the Indian to the quarter- mous price. For two nights Columbus had deck, and, divining the necessity of exciting awaited the apparition of this bejeweled monthe curiosity of the natives, dressed him gro- arch, to bring him gold in its native purity; but tesquely like a Venetian harlequin, and sent he saw naught but naked Indians of the same him straightway ashore. They set a gaudy cap race as those already found, painted with white on his head, beads of green glass on his wrists, and scarlet in uniform designs, some few only of pendants of gilded and jingling hawk-bells in whom bore little bits of gold in their noses, but his ears, and so they sent him back, that the so little,” says Columbus, "that it is naught.” naked inhabitants might see what manner of The sense most gratified in this expedition to men their visitors were, and what unknown Isabella was that of smell. The whole island marvels they brought.

seemed to Columbus one vast fruit of intoxicatAs Columbus advanced he was gladdened ing fragrance. A thousand spice-groves exhaled by. fertile islands, a limpid sea, brilliant cliffs, sweet savors, perfuming the breeze for many balmy air, and blue sky; but he halted not for miles about. Strange vegetation, unknown these, pressing ever onward in search of virgin odors, and fruits of luscious flavor abounded gold; for all his discoveries hitherto had yielded everywhere, enchanting sight and sense, withbut a handful of bread, a gourd of water, and a out their discoverer being able in any wise to bit of red earth rubbed to powder and smeared divine their qualities or give them a name, or on a few dried leaves as an ornament in high es- even to classify or describe them with any extimation, offered by a poor savage, to whom the actness, for want of previous botanical training admiral gave honey and sweet cakes and sent – a fact he bitterly and eloquently bewails in him back to make good report of the new- accents that even now move us to pity, heightcomers among his own folk. In effect, the In- ened as they are by the long lapse of time and dians of all those islets, divining the character the magnitude of an achievement that greatens of their guests by their gifts and their behavior, with each passing century. Neither Salvador, put out in their canoes, offering an abundance nor Concepcion, nor Fernandina, nor Isabella, of fresh spring-water, which Columbus gladly nor any islet of those encountered in that tireaccepted to replenish his casks, and were well less voyage and so attentively circumnavigated, repaid with gaudy tambourines worth perhaps a answered to the phantasm of Cipango, pictured maravedí of Castile, and trinkets cheaper still, by the medieval chroniclers and seen in the and candied sweets. Keeping clear of the reefs fancy of Columbus as a fragrant paradise and that abound in the Bahamas, and ever hurrying rich storehouse where gold and gems were to on in quest of gold, Columbus circumnavigated be gathered in handfuls. So, having sailed the islands and found some Indians disposed to through those regions without finding the gold barter, who offered him cotton cloths. Singu- he sought, it seemed to him that he should no lar trees, wholly unlike those at home, thick- longer tarry there in idle enjoyment, but press stemmed and bearing masses of pods on one untiringly onward until he should chance upon side and reed-like leaves on the other; fishes of some land of greater wealth, such as the famed strangely variegated colors; and other natural Cuba, whose name was borne on every breeze objects, diverted their minds from the poignant even as it hung on every lip. regrets due to the scarcity of gold. At other One of the greatest difficulties in the displaces they saw dwellings like booths or the coverer's way was his ignorance of the several tribal dialects. He himself says that he had to rainbow colors; gorgeous insects like winged depend entirely on signs, it being utterly impos- gems of every hue; the giddy fluttering of buttersible to comprehend the spoken words. Thus flies whose wings gleamed with gold, and crimhe mistook the word bohio for a city, when it son, and azure, and every prismatic tint till they means any kind of shelter; he blundered in seemed like airy garlands; plants of a thousand supposing naca to be the Great Khan whose forms, heavy with bloom, bright to dazzle the fame ran in his mind, when it means “in the eye and fragrant to entrance the senses; thick midst of,” and he translated babeque as “empire” masses of lianas and trailers spread like Persian without thinking in his ignorance that it might carpets under foot and drooping like Oriental mean anything else under heaven. But let us tapestries from the branches overhead; the go on. At midnight of October 24 he weighed quick flight of humming-birds and parrakeets anchor, and set sail from Isabella toward the with plumage more bright than Cathayan silks; island called by the natives Cuba, but which he, the choiring of nightingales and the chirping misled by his fantastic charts, called Cipango. of crickets, unheard in our climes in the auIt rained and blew hard all that night. At dawn tumn and winter, but vocal yonder in October ; the storm lulled. A gentle breeze succeeded to the broad-leaved plantains, heavy and rich as the howling wind, and Columbus spread all the velvet hangings and borne down with rosy and canvas of his caravel. Squaresail, studdingsails, golden fruit; cocoa-palms towering skyward foresail, spritsail, mizzen, topsail - every cloth from the water's edge; tree-ferns guarding the was spread and the quarter-boat was at the portals of the trackless virgin forests that spread davits. Thus he sailed until nightfall, when the afar like a sea of verdure, in whose hollows hung wind freshened. Not knowing his bearings, and gauzy vapors; fields of maize thick with tassels fearing to run for the island in the dark because of waving gold and silken tresses; the massive of the abounding shoals and reefs on which he logwood with its deep-red sap; date-palms might be lost, he hove to and waited until and cherimoyers bearing exquisite fruit; cacti dawn. That night he barely made two leagues. towering like cedars; mahogany and ebony trees On the 25th, he sailed from sunrise until nine, of iron hardness; groves of orange and pomerunning some five leagues, when he shifted his granate; a flood of ever-varied foliage and an course to the westward, making eight knots an outpouring of animal life; heavy odors drifting hour. Ateleven, eight small islands were sighted, afar over the seas; a tangle of indescribable which he called Las Arenas, because of their vegetation; the blended murmur of the rippling sandy beaches and the shoalness of the water to streams and the trembling leafage — all this the south. On the morning of October 27 he incredible exuberance must have moved the resolutely headed in quest of Cuba, but at night- weary pilot of the worn-out world as painless fall a heavy rain forced him to lie to. On the 28th Paradise moved the sinless Adam when he arose he entered a lovely estuary, free from dangerous at the divine inbreathing to draw into his veins rocks and shoals, all the shores he skirted being the mysterious effluvia of universal life. deep and the water ofexceeding clearness. Thus Would you comprehend how this Cuba afhe reached a river, at whose mouth he found fected Columbus? Then heed not those writers twelve fathoms, and “never so fair a sight who would bound his emotions by official have I seen, the river being wholly bordered phrases remote from the spot and the time, and with trees, very beautiful and green, being ill reflecting the discoverer; go to the man himunlike ours, with fruit and flowers, each after self as he appears in his private journal. This its kind.”

has been widely published and is familiar to Columbus was now in Cuba. The tropical many. Read it for a space, and, if possible, horizon bathed in the intense ether; the Atlan- read it in the original Spanish; which, however tic waters half azure and half opalescent, like marred by time and careless transcription, still a gigantic sheet of mother-of-pearl; the gilded breathes the first feelings of the discoverer. We reefs bright with nacreous shells ; the keys have heretofore complained of the bald narracovered with aquatic plants and swarming with tive bequeathed to us of the landing on San infusorial life; the banks of the river fringed Salvador. We said that we could glean nothing with mighty reeds like a floating garden; in the from that monkish scrivener's report to reprofar reaches mountains tinged purple and lilac duce for us that most extraordinary and solemn like crystalline masses of light; the tangled foli- moment in all history, which closed the older age forming an impassable rampart, rich with epoch and ushered in a new age for nature and

1 The journal itself is lost. As late as 1554 it seems quaint conceits of the original, was made by Samuel to have been in the possession of Luis Columbus. The Kettell, on the suggestion of George Ticknor, and was text now extant is an abridgment by Padre Las Casas, published in Boston in 1827, with the title, “ Personal and was first printed in Navarrete's “ Coleccion” in Narrative of the First loyage of Columbus to America." 1825. The only version we have in English, somewhat Copies are now scarce, even in the larger libraries. retrenched and not always happy in rendering the - TRANSLATOR.

for the spirit of man. But when Columbus comes that they hung the gay ribbons and beads to Cuba, he ceases to cramp his feelings, he about their necks and danced to show their represses not his style, he sets no bounds to his joy; poor in all things, for they went as their admiration, his thoughts break into lightning- mothers bore them; their hair thick as a horse's

а flashes like those of some inspired poet when mane and falling in long locks upon their shoulthe frenzy of inspiration is on him. The Colum- ders; shapely of body and handsome of face; bian account of Cuba may not be comparable straight of limb and slender of waist; painted in form with Milton's description of Paradise some with black, some with white, but more or Camoëns's portrayal of the ocean; but there with red, their own complexion being that of is in it a simplicity that touches the sublime, in the Canarians; so ignorant of arms that they that it lacks effort and exaggeration, so that we grasped swords by the blade, and so unused feel and know that he who penned it was the to field labor that they knew not the mattock discoverer himself, martyr to his own greatness, or the plow; some bearing scars as showing consumed by the creative fire that sheds its that man and warfare are born together, and beams on all the world around, but destroys that combat is more natural to him than toil; the unhappy possessor. Whenever Columbus without other creed than a vague belief in the praises the lands he found, he likens them supremacy and grandeur of heaven — they abto his cherished memories of gladsome Anda- sorbed the attention of Columbus, and plunged lusia and sterner Castile. Not once does he him into comparisons born of their contrast with recall his own Italy. Although born and nur- the Spaniards, and of the lot which, in his innate tured on the fair Ligurian shores, not once is prescience, he foresaw in store for them as a rehe reminded of their delectable valleys, their sult of his miraculous advent. In his observacelestial peaks, their foam-capped seas, their tions, hurriedly sketched and therefore the more marble cliffs, or their golden sands kissed by interesting, such notes as the following occur in siren-haunted waves. But he compares Cuba regard to his first visit to San Salvador: “Of with a very similar region, with that Sicily women I saw but one, a mere girl; and all the which was the theater of the divine deeds of men I saw were youthful, for none saw I of a Hellenic mythology. Its position between Italy greater age than thirty years." In another and Greece, its pellucid waters, its azure skies, place he says: “All that they had they gave its shining shores, the deep clefts of its valleys away for any trifle given to them," adding that where bloom the bay and myrtle beloved of they were “ a gentle folk enough, desiring to the olden gods, its flaming Etna shooting a fiery have anything of ours, yet fearing that naught glare through the far blue skies, and with its will be given to them unless they give someashes making fruitful the stony fields-all these thing, and having nothing they take what they natural contrasts and outward manifestations may and forthwith swim away.” And further of life lend it the rare attractiveness to which it on he adds, speaking of their ignorance of owes the choice of its soil as a fit scene for the trade: “Yet for potsherds and bits of broken divine story of Olympus. Wherefore Sicily, at glass cups were they content to sell; and even the portals of the Old World, typifies the past; have I seen sixteen balls of cotton given for whilst Cuba, at the gateway of the New World, three ceotis of Portugal, which is a blanca (half is emblematic of the future.

a maravedi] of Castile, and therein was more Of all his discoveries, Cuba aroused in than an arroba (25 pounds] of spun cotton.” Columbus the deepest emotions. In the Lu- Again he says: “In the eastern part of the cayan Bahamas he was struck by the primitive island saw I many women, and old men and innocence of their inhabitants — a rare and children which I saw not at my first landing”; strange thing, in truth - more than by the as- and to give an idea of their simple nature he pects of nature, less gigantic and less beautiful tells how “some brought us water, others than in Cuba. His pristine discoveries were things to eat; others, when they saw that I mere islets, very unlike the two greater islands went not ashore, leaped into the sea, swim. found at the close of this first voyage and hur- ming, and came, and as we supposed asked riedly explored before his return to Spain. us if we were come from heaven; and there After leaving the Lucayos he came, as we have came an old man into the boat, and all, men seen, to the uninteresting group of Las Arenas. and women, in a loud voice cried — Come Yet even here Columbus studied man in natu- and see the men who came from heaven; ral preference to all things else. These naked bring them food and drink.'” And elsewhere, tribes, more amenable to the influences of kind- speaking of the natives of Fernandina, he ness than to the sway of force; amazed at see- says: “These folk are like those of the other ing a gaudy cap or hearing the tinkle of a islands, and of the same speech and customs, hawk-bell or a tambourine; so kindly disposed save that these seem to me something more that they swam out to the caravels, bearing domesticated and better traders and keener, cotton thread and parrakeets; so light-hearted for I see that they have brought cotton and

other things, and that they better know how nor can the Ogygian growths compare with to chaffer for the price thereof.”

this harvest of strange products to nourish the These races, so foreign to the ideas and be- human race and increase its powers an hunliefs of the time, which admitted of no varia- dredfold. Another epic, the immortal story of tion from the biblical account of the Adamitic Æneas, may excel our discoverer's narration descent of man, would have still more aston- in literary merit, but it sinks beneath it in hisished Columbus had he known in what part torical and social interest. Although Virgil has of the globe he was, and not supposed that therein aimed to mingle the combats of the all the scattered ocean-lands he met belonged “Iliad” and the voyage of the “Odyssey," its to Asia. But in Cuba nature diverts his at- epic subjects cannot compare with that pretention from man. The disemboguing of its sented by the coral reefs which at the mighty rivers in the sea; the surface of its streams spell of Columbus arise under the beams of a strewn with the showered petals of the my, new sun from the Shadowy Sea, filled with unriad flowers that festoon their banks, and known races, and destined not only to enlarge the trees whose interlocked branches gently the bounds of earth, but the mind of man as shadow their current; the palm-trees, unlike well. The waters plowed by Æneas in that those of Guinea or of Spain; the giant leaves far-off age had already been cloven by many thatching the tiny huts, the grass long and prows, whilst the virgin waters which Columbus rank as in Andalusia's April- or May-time; sailed, save for a few frail canoes that ventured the strange sorts of wild purslane and ama- not out of sight of land, had never felt keel ranth; the beautiful mountain-ranges, whereof upon their vast and wayless surface, nor borne none stretch far, but are very high; the swell- the navies and the arms of a great and advanced ing rivers to which he gave the names of the navigation. “Seas" and the “Moon"; the gay-plumaged No poet of the Old World or the New so birds; the chirp of the crickets as with us in gifted as Camoëns to sing the epic of sea dissummer; the precipices like the “ Lovers' coveries. The motive of his“ Lusiad” has much Cliff” in Andalusia, with yet other crags rise in common with our discoverer's journal. Poring above them with such regularity as to ap- tugal anticipated and kept pace with us in pear from a distance like some great Moorish expanding ocean's bounds and finding vast temple; the cool and fragrant groves; the continents. Whilst Spain was exploring the spices and aromatic plants; the farinaceous unknown seas whence the new world of America tubers called iñames, that taste like sweet arose, the explorations of Portugal found their chestnuts; the bright-colored and delicious reward in the olden lands of Asia. That teembeans; the abundance of cotton growing wild ing era of Lusitania brought forth alike the on the hills, and bearing all the year round, pilot-discoverers and the poet to sing their for he saw both blossoms and opening bolls deeds. A living poem in sooth was that apparion the same bush; the mastic-gum, far better tion of the Indies regained for Europe by the than that abounding in the Grecian archipel- sea-Alexanders of the West. Camoëns begins ago; the inexhaustible aloes, the tufted grasses, his poem by declaring that the fame of his and the tobacco; the trees wounded to extract Vasco shall forever dim Æneas's glory. How their resins and gums; all these, appealing to marvelous to behold, in the Rome of Leo X., his senses, excited him to an enthusiasm which bound in the golden chains of Portugal, the would assuredly have been deeper could he elephants and leopards that in bygone days have foreseen the innumerable benefits to flow had filled the arenas of the Cæsars in token to mankind from his discoveries, and the riches of the subjection of all earth to the Eternal far beyond gold which they threw open to the City. Oriental pearls and rubies, Moluccan world's trade.

cloves, Sumatran gold, the cinnamon of SimaHis journal, during the fortnight in which hala, the camphor of Ormuz, the indigo of he describes Cuba and its scenes, reads like a Bombay, amazed all Christendom at the same poem- and to be convinced of this you have time that the poesy of Portugal grew strangely only to set it by the side of similar descriptions exalted and exuberant. Camoëns possessed found in the greatest of the world's epics. The the stature to produce, like a fabled Titan, the oldest narrative of this sort is that told by cyclopean epic that sang the new birth of the Ulysses to Arethea in her royal palace. Though globe, and to be fit compeer of the colossal heightened by the rhythmic flow ofthe Homeric Vasco da Gama, who, modern though he be, verse, the “Odyssey” cannot even remotely seems like some mythical deity by his marvelcompare in interest with the tale of Columbus. ous discovery of the East Indies. But the traits The magical dwelling of the enchantress Ca- of the Renaissance enfeebled Camoëns. A true lypso finds no parallel in these Antillean seas, son of his age, he saw all things through the

1 Yams, not sweet potatoes as most writers explain. enduring traditions of the classic Muse. There-TRANSLATOR.

fore, Olympus is the supernatural mainspring of his poem, and ancient art gives it form. of the emotions of Columbus on beholding But the spirit of ancient art was dead, and in Cuba. its stead the Church ruled the human soul, so The only place where I find aught approachthat a poem in which the Greek gods moved ing the description of Cuba by Columbus is in and acted could at best be only archæological the English Roundhead poem of “ Paradise and erudite, although it becomes popular and Lost." Adam's self-communings in Eden have epic when it sings the story of Lusitania in by- in them somewhat of our pilot's artless tale of gone days and in that Renaissance time. More the splendid tropical life of Cuba; but I disgenuinely poetical appear to me the mass cele- cern therein a defect which also mars the “Lubrated in that Franciscan convent on the high siad.” As the garden to which Vascoleads Venus headland of La Rábida; the “Ave Maria” is cut and trimmed in the style of Virgil or heard along the shores of Guadalquivir and Theocritus, so the Eden of Milton is like a smug Cadiz on the evening of the day the discoverer English park of the seventeenth century. sailed from the mouth of the Odiel toward the Shadowy Sea; the hymns to the Virgin on the HAVING thus contemplated the feelings becaravel's deck as the first stars twinkled in the gotten in Columbus by the wondrous sum of west or the full moon flooded the rippled sea; Cuba's aspects, let us follow him step by step the echoes of the “Ave maris Stella” blending in his explorations. Let us not lose sight of with the voices of ocean; the “Te Deums” the fact that the discoverer at one and the sung on sighting land and on disembarking, same time tells of his impressions of the naand the sublime thanksgiving of Columbus for tives, and of the impressions formed by them the happy end of his voyage, than the appari- of their visitors — heaven-sent, as they imation of Mercury to Vasco to warn him against gined in their innocence. In this regard the the perils awaiting him at Mombaza, the fabu- Spaniards did not inspire the native Cubans lous rising of Venus among the isles of India, with such a blind trustfulness as the other or the presence of any gods dead for a thou- islanders had shown. Far from thronging to sand years to human conscience and powerless them in adoration, they fled and hid away, as to rekindle with poetic fire the cold ashes of from evil spirits. Although they possessed caworn-out beliefs. On the other hand, Ca- noes of considerable capacity, they concealed moëns is epic in the highest degree, worthy them in the cane-brakes. But Columbus, beof a place beside Homer, often superior to ing a born explorer, did not yield to such Virgil, more natural than Tasso and Milton, tokens of fear; rather was he stimulated to when, as his forerunner Dante had evoked seek the cause of this troubled apprehension. the supernatural world of the middle ages, he He landed on the shores of the bay where his evokes the world of nature, new-born in that ships lay anchored, and made careful search paschal time of the Renaissance, and offers in every quarter. The first two dwellings he in lofty strains the story of Lusitania, the de- found were deserted by their timid inhabitants, scription of the races discovered by his fel- but filled with household articles showing their low-countryman, and, therewithal, the poesy recent occupancy. Like the huts of the islands of the sea; now picturing the making ready and previously visited, they were built of plaited the launching forth to face peril and trial, amid palm-fronds in the shape of tents. Fishing-nets, the tears of those on shore; now the cleansing barbed harpoons, worn hooks of bone, all the of the hulls from weeds and barnacles in the implements of fishery he saw, led him to supports; now the waves pallid beneath the light- pose himself in a cleanly and tidy fishing setning glare; now the waterspout whirling madly tlement, like those of some European shore. aloft, and bearing thick floods in its vast bosom. Their large size and ample hearths, indicatIf Camoëns prevails and endures among the ing rudimentary culture, caused him to form epic poets of the Renaissance above the de- optimistic anticipations touching the region lirious Ariosto, the artificial Tasso, and the where he had landed. Some kind of mystical satirical Pulci, it is because he sings nature, notation seemed to exist, since to the repeated rejuvenated by the discoveries of Portugal. To inquiries of Columbus about the empire of what heights might he not have risen, had Cathay and the Great Khan, the Indians anhe not been circumscribed by the narrow pa- swered that the land was watered by ten great triotism of his Portuguese nature, and had rivers, and that ten days' sail separated them he, inspired aright by the glory of the whole from the mainland. But, as Padre Las Casas peninsula, given us the incredible discovery acutely remarks, either Columbus misunderof America by the mighty genius of Colum- stood these Indians, or they lied to him, for bus! Recognizing his merits as I do, I aver the mainland now called Florida lay less than that there is not in all his verse, polished and five days distant. It was, however, impossible inspired though it be, any utterance of Vas- to cruise in search of other lands without asco's so deeply human as the unstudied record certaining somewhat of their position and

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