« ПретходнаНастави »
THE PORTUGUESE IN THE EAST, AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE SEA ROUTE TO INDIA.
THE map of the world, until the end of the fifteenth century, exhibited only one hemisphere, and even that not completely. The general outlines of Europe and Asia were correctly laid down, with the exception of the north-east corner of the latter, which. was still a blank. The shores of Africa which are washed by the Mediterranean and Red Sea were well known, as was also the Atlantic coast as far down as Cape Non. The remainder of the continent was a blank, which the geographers filled in at pleasure with dragons, serpents, and all manner of strange monsters. It was not without an indefinable terror that European mariners spoke of the mysterious regions to the south which lay beyond their ken. "He who would pass Cape Non," said a current proverb, "will either return or not;" implying that if he had not the good sense to turn before he reached the cape, he would never have the chance of doing so afterwards. And so for long years the dreaded promontory stretched out into the waves, and all ships were careful to keep well to the north of it.
It was reserved for Portugal to tear aside the veil which hung over the greater part of Africa. Confined to a narrow strip of coast, isolated from the Mediterranean by its position outside of the Straits of Gibraltar, it was natural that this little kingdom should turn its attention to the navigation of the Atlantic. Thanks to the wise provisions of various sovereigns, and to its admirable situation at the mouth of the greatest river in the Peninsula, Lisbon had, before the end of the fourteenth century, become an important seat of commerce, much frequented by Italian, and especially by Genoese vessels. As the native navy became more expert and enterprising, it monopolized both imports and exports, and all foreign flags were rigorously banished from the coast. The Portuguese visited England and the Netherlands, and also some parts of Africa. A strong desire, however, possessed them to
find a new route to India. The Moors had familiarized them with the luxuries of the East; but when a religious crusade was declared against the dusky heathens, that source of supply was cut off. At the same time that this want was felt, great improvements were being made in the art of navigation.
The phenomenon of the magnet had long been known, but it was only about this period that it became more than a scientific toy, and was rendered useful for practical purposes in the shape of the mariner's compass. Armed with this simple little instrument, the seaman could now steer his course even when the stars, which had hitherto been his only guides, were hidden-he ceased to be afraid of venturing out of sight of land. The impulse which this invention gave to navigation was sudden and direct. "The compass twinkling on its card," it has been said, "was a beam from heaven. That tiny magnet was given as a seniory of earth and sky. Like a new revelation, the mysteries of an unknown world were unveiled; like a new illapse, the bold and noble were inspired to lead the way. Diaz doubles the Cape of Storms; de Gama finds his course to the East Indies; Columbus treads the Bahamas; and twelve years do not separate these discoveries."
Don Henry, "the Navigator," as he is usually called, the fifth son of King John of Portugal, enthusiastically promoted the exploration of Africa. Impressed with a strong conviction that the continent did not end at Cape Non, as represented on the maps, he organized repeated voyages of discovery, and taking up his abode on the promontory of Sagres, in the south of Portugal, he watched the white specks of sails sink below and rise above the horizon, as they went and came on their adventurous mission.
The first expeditions were despatched about 1415. It took twelve years to discover the Island of Madeira and explore the African coast as far as Cape Bojador. In 1441 Nuno Tristan reached Cape Blanco, and shortly afterwards the Isle of Arguin, whence he brought back gold dust, and the first negroes who were ever seen at Lisbon. In 1446 Denis Fernandez discovered Cape Verd and the adjoining group of islands; and this was the furthest point explored when Prince Henry died,
in 1463. For no less than fifty-two years that enlightened man had devoted almost the whole of his time, thoughts, and revenues to this work; and yet the only fruit within his lifetime was the discovery of about fifteen hundred miles of coast. None of his captains got within six or eight degrees of the Equator. He had, however, given an impulse to maritime discovery in that direction, which some years later led to great results.
Gradually creeping on from headland to headland along the coast, the Portuguese, under Bartholomew Diaz, in 1486, seeking the land of Prester John, unconsciously doubled the southern extremity of Africa, and did not learn their success until they were returning disheartened, under the belief that their voyage had been a failure. Landing in Table Bay, Diaz planted the banner of St. Philip. In order that future explorers might not be deterred by the name of Cape of Storms, which Diaz had conferred on the promontory, King Emanuel changed it to Cape of Good Hope.
The circumnavigation of the continent and the direct voyage to India were not accomplished till ten years later. Vasco de Gama, sailing from Lisbon with six ships on 8th July 1497, on the 20th May of the following year arrived at Calicut, on the coast of Malabar.
The problem of a new route to the East was now solved, and the Portuguese for a time entered on a brilliant career of conquest and commercial prosperity. In the short space of fifteen years they established their authority in India over the whole coast from Ormuz to Ceylon, from Cape Comorin to the Moluccas, and the entire commerce of the East was almost exclusively in their hands.
The foreign empire of Portugal was brilliant but brief. A single century saw its rise, culmination, and decline. Internal factions and revolts; the want of discipline; neglect of defences; a shameful system of rapine, by which individuals were enriched at the expense of the State; pride, selfishness, and avarice; religious intolerance and persecutions, were among the chief causes of its decay. J. H. FYFE.
DEATH OF NAPOLEON AT ST. HELENA.
MAY 5, 1821.
As if to mark a closing point of resemblance betwixt Cromwell and Napoleon, a dreadful tempest arose on the 4th of May, which preceded the day that was to close the mortal existence of this extraordinary man. A willow, which had been the exile's favourite, and under which he often enjoyed the fresh breeze, was torn up by the hurricane; and almost all the trees about Longwood shared the same fate. The 5th of May came amid wind and rain. Napoleon's passing spirit was deliriously engaged in a strife more terrible than that of the elements around. The words "tête d'armée," the last which escaped his lips, intimated that his thoughts were watching the current of a heady fight. About eleven minutes before six in the evening, Napoleon, after a struggle which indicated the original strength of his constitution, breathed his last. SCOTT's Life of Napoleon.
Again Marengo's field was won,
He dreamed that the Frenchmen's sword Again the world was over-run,