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“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 shores of these favoured islands, he says, one could live there for ever.' Cuba broke upon him like an elysium. It is the most beautiful island 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. Charlevoix, speaking from actual observation, remarks,
the sea of those islands is commonly more tranquil than ours; but like certain people who are difficult to be moved, and whose transports of passion are as violent as they are rare, so when this sea becomes irritated, it is terrible. It breaks all bounds, overflows the country, sweeps away all things that oppose it, and leaves frightful ravages behind, to mark the extent of its inundations. It is after these tempests, known by the name of hurricanes, that the shores are found covered with marine shells, which greatly surpass, in lustre and beauty, those of the European seas.'
“It is a singular fact, however, that the hurricanes, which almost annually devastate the Bahamas, and other islands in the immediate vicinity of Cuba, have been seldom known to extend their influence to this favoured land. It would seem as if the very elements were charmed into gentleness as they approach
The people, too, of the islands first discovered, were mild and gentle, simple and virtuous in their habits, differing as well from their southern neighbours, the cannibal and ferocious Caribs, and the more generous, yet equally savage Indians of the northern Continent, as from the luxurious and sensual natives of the South Sea Islands.
The splendour of the climate, and the beauty of the natural scenery, still remain; but the soil has been stained by the vices of the avaricious Spaniard, and the retributive cruelty of the buccaneer ; and is still cursed by the existence of an imported slave population, incapable of itself, for ages, of rising to the dignity of self-government, and paralysing the energies, and degrading the moral character of its masters. In Haiti the misery has been still more complete, the measure of human wo and suffering more full. No anticipations of such results, clouded the triumph of Columbus ; and in addition to the worldly honour he antici
pated, he felt the internal satisfaction of considering himself an instrument, in the hands of Providence, for great and glorious ends. This high and devout imagination was strengthened by various collateral circumstances. He not only proposed the plan of the voyage, but, after stimulating his crew to watchfulness, by the promise of high reward, was the first to discover the promised land. When, on four several occasions, lots were cast for the performance of religious duties and pilgrimages, in case of escape from threatening dangers, the lot fell three times on Columbus himself, while that for the fourth would have diverted him from the prosecution of his second voyage. These sentiments are strongly expressed in the letter to the sovereigns, describing his feelings, when, in the prospect of immediate shipwreck while on his return, he committed a narrative of his voyage, in a cask, to the ocean. “I should have supported this evil fortune with less grief, had my person alone been in jeopardy, since I am debtor for my life to the Supreme Creator, and have at other times been within a step of death. But it was a cause of infinite sorrow and trouble to think, that, after having been illuminated from on high, with faith and certainty to undertake this en· terprise ; after having victoriously achieved it, and when on the point of convincing my opponents, and securing to your highnesses great glory and vast increase of dominion, it should please the Divine Majesty to defeat all by my death.”
The glowing anticipations of Columbus were not realized. The remainder of his life, instead of being devoted to the accomplishment of his lofty views, was spent in toil, and worn out in vexation. In the prevalent spirit of the age, he sought converts by the sword and by violence, instead of the more certain methods of persuasion. Under his own government, the oppression of the miserable natives was commenced, and although the labour imposed upon them was by no means severe, it furnished the excuse and the example for their subsequent cruel treatment. The distant and perilous nature of his enterprise, called to his banner, not the sober, the sedate, and the well-principled, but those of broken fortune, turbulent tempers, and licentious habits. To rule these under the most advantageous circumstances, would have been difficult; but, at a distance from the seat of supreme government, it required an energy and decision, an exertion of the most severe military discipline, foreign to the naturally benevolent temper of Columbus. Even in his own presence, tumults and rebellions occurred; but under the government of his deputies, they were frequent and indomitable. When, by his return, the dissensions were apparently composed, they left the seeds of discontent and enmity, which, sown in Spain, raised for him a plentiful crop of trouble. The administrators of the royal revenues, were, from the beginning, hostile ; and carefully nur
tured all the complaints against him ; and by an unjust and iniquitous act, he was forced from his government, and transported in chains to Spain. If, on his return, he received instant apparent redress from the benignant influence of Isabella, her death defeated all hopes of the restitution of his rights. The crafty and subtle Ferdinand evaded all his claims, and he died in the misery of hope deferred, and under the pressure of pecuniary embarrassment; and this, while the nation was already drawing advantages from his discoveries, that were shortly to place it first in the rank of European kingdoms, and when individuals were already rioting in the wealth acquired in the Western Indies.
A slow justice was rendered by posterity, the last marked act of which, was the removal of his remains from the city of St. Domingo to the Havana, on the cession of Hispaniola to the French, in the year 1796. This translation was performed with every possible circumstance of honour and reverence. It is thus noticed by our author, in his addition to the account of the ceremonial, which forms a part of the documents appended to illustrate the history :-
“ When we read of the remains of Columbus, thus conveyed from the port of St. Domingo, after an interval of nearly three hundred years, as sacred national reliques, with civic and military pomp, and high religious ceremonial; the most dignified and illustrious men striving who most should pay them reverence, we cannot but reflect that it was from this very port that he was carried off, loaded with ignominious chains, blasted apparently in character and fortune, and fol. lowed by the revilings of a rabble. Such honours, it is true, are nothing to the dead, nor can they atone to the heart, now dust and ashes, for all the wrongs and sorrows it may have suffered; but they speak volumes of comfort to the il. lustrious, yet persecuted and slandered living, encouraging them bravely to bear with present injuries, by showing them how true merit outlives all calumny, and receives its glorious reward in the admiration of after ages.”
Posthumous reward, and the praise of posterity, are, indeed, among the most powerful incentives to exertion in noble minds. A desire for them may, perhaps, be a weakness, but it is one that is productive of innumerable benefits to the human race. If Columbus, as we can hardly doubt, in the disappointment of his views, and the cold ingratitude of Ferdinand, sought comfort in the anticipations of the fame he should enjoy in all future ages, his hopes have been most gloriously realized. The day of his birth is the epoch, whence mighty nations, occupying an entire hemisphere, will date their histories. In the fortune of his descendants also, is to be traced, if not the promised and well-merited reward of his exertions, at least such a degree of credit and prosperity, as almost any man would purchase for his children, at the expense of labours and sufferings equal to those of Columbus. His son Diego, whom we find in the early part of this work led by the hand of his father to the gate of an obscure convent, almost in the guise of a mendicant, aspired, and successfully, although still debarred of his patrimonial rights, to the hand of the daughter of the proud Duke of Alva, the cousin german of that very king, whose cold ingratitude blasted the fortunes of the father. Subsequent marriages, carried the titles and honours of Columbus into a branch of the family of Braganza; and the present Duke of Veraguas, in whose veins the royal blood of Portugal and of Castile is mingled with that of the obscure Italian mariner, justly derives more of his pride of descent from “The Admiral,” than from the united honours of those sovereign houses.
It is not our design to enter into a detailed analysis of this work. Suffice it to say now, that it is written in such a manner, as to excite curiosity and engage the attention. If the general outline of the life and voyages of Columbus, be familiar to the world, it is a mere skeleton, almost stripped of all those details of personal feeling and moral considerations, which are the real interest, and constitute the dignity of history. Irving has embodied this skeleton, and infused into it life and spirit. As we read, we enter into the views and anticipations of Columbus, stretch our eyes over the ocean, to those rich regions yet seen only by his mental vision; we glory in his success and honours; we weep for his unmerited and cruel sufferings; we breathe with him the odours of the tropical forest
“When the land wind from groves of palm,
From orange bowers and fields of balm,
Blew o'er the Haitean seas.” We hear the new melody of the birds and insects, and view the splendours of the sky, the rich plumage of the birds, and the variegated lustre of the finny tribes.
To multiply quotations, would give unfair, because mutilated specimens of the powers of the author, while it would perhaps pall the appetite of the reading public. One extract, however, we will venture to add to those we have already made; it is that in which he closes his estimate of the character of his hero:
“A peculiar trait in his rich and varied character, remains to be noticed ; that ardent and enthusiastic imagination, which threw a magnificence over his whole style of thinking. Herrera intimates, that he had a talent for poetry, and some slight traces of it are on record, in the book of prophecies, which he presented to the Catholic sovereigns. But his poetical temperament, is discernible throughout all his writings, and in all his actions. It spread a golden and glorious world around him, and tinged every thing with its own gorgeous colours. It betrayed him into visionary speculations, which subjected him to the sneers and cavillings of men of cooler and safer, but more grovelling minds. Such were the conjectures formed on the coast of Paria, about the form of the earth, and the situation of the terrestrial paradise ; about the mines of Opbir, in Hispaniola, and of the Aurea Chersonesus, in Veragua ; and such was the heroic scheme of a crusade, for the recovery of the holy sepulchre. It mingled with his religion, and filled his mind with solemn and visionary meditations on mystic passages of the scriptures, and the shadowy portents of the prophecies. It exalted his office in his eyes, and made him conceive himself an agent sent forth upon a sublime and awful mission, subject to impulses and supernatural visitations from the Deity; such as the voice he imagined spoke to him in comfort, amidst the trou
Irving's Life of Columbus.
bles of Hispaniola, and in the silence of the night, on the disastrous coast of Ve. ragua.
“He was decidedly a visionary, but a visionary of an uncommon and successful kind. The manner in which his ardent imagination and mercurial nature was controlled by a powerful judgment, and directed by an acute sagacity, is the most extraordinary feature in his character. Thus governed, his imagination, instead of wasting itself in idle soarings, lent wings to his judgment, and bore it away to conclusions at which common minds could never have arrived; nay, which they could not perceive when pointed out.
“ To his intellectual vision it was given, to read in the signs of the times and the reveries of past ages, the indications of an unknown world, as soothsayers were said to read predictions in the stars, and to foretel events from the visions of the night. "His soul,' observes a Spanish writer, was superior to the age in which he lived. For him was reserved the great enterprise to plough a sea which had given rise to so many fables, and to decipher the mystery of his time.'
“With all the visionary fervour of his imagination, its fondest dreams fell short of the reality. He died in ignorance of the real grandeur of his discovery. Until his last breath, he entertained the idea, that he had merely opened a new way to the old resorts of opulent commerce, and had discovered some of the wild regions of the east. He supposed Hispaniola to be the ancient Ophir which had been visited by the ships of Solomon, and that Cuba and Terra Firma, were but remote parts of Asia. What visions of glory would have broke upon his mind, could he have known that he had indeed discovered a new continent, equal to the whole of the old world in magnitude, and separated by two vast oceans from all of the earth hitherto known by civilized man; and how would his magnanimous spirit have been consoled, amidst the chills of age and cares of penury, the neglect of a fickle public, and the injustice of an ungrateful king, could he have anticipated the splendid empires which were to spread over the beautiful world he had discovered, and the nations and tongues and languages which were to fill its lands with his renown, and to revere and bless his name to the latest poste. rity!"
ART. IX.-Sketches of the War in Greece, in a series of Ex
tracts from the Correspondence of Philip James GREEN, Esqr. late British Consul for the Morea; with Notes, by R. L. GREEN, Vice-Consul; and an Appendix, containing Official Documents, relating to the Affairs of Greece. London. 1827.
Many causes have combined, to give to the contest now raging between the Greeks and the Turks, an interest which its intrinsic importance, perhaps, does not merit. With the name of Greece is associated the recollection of arts, science, literature, and liberty. Throughout all Christendom, there reigns, and has reigned for centuries past, a profound sentiment of veneration for that country, whence scholars have derived their knowledge, poets their inspiration, and patriots their most illustrious examples. Ages of insignificance and slavery have not divested Greece of that mantle of glory, which antiquity threw over her; and still we estimate her, not by the standard of her present ignoranct: