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The Legend Of Christopher Columbus - Poem by Joanna Baillie
Is there a man, that, from some lofty steep,
Views in his wide survey the boundless deep,
When its vast waters, lined with sun and shade,
Wave beyond wave, in seried distance, fade
To the pale sky;--or views it, dimly seen,
The shifting skreens of drifted mist between,
As the huge cloud dilates its sable form,
When grandly curtain'd by th' approaching storm,--
Who feels not his awed soul with wonder rise
To Him whose power created sea and skies,
Mountains and deserts, giving to the sight
The wonders of the day and of the night?
But let some fleet be seen in warlike pride,
Whose stately ships the restless billows ride,
While each, with lofty masts and bright'ning sheen
Of fair spread sails, moves like a vested Queen;--
Or rather, be some distant bark, astray,
Seen like a pilgrim on his lonely way,
Holding its steady course from port and shore,
A form distinct, a speck, and seen no more,--
How doth the pride, the sympathy, the flame,
Of human feeling stir his thrilling frame!
'O Thou! whose mandate dust inert obey'd!
'What is this creature man whom thou hast made!'
On Palos' shore, whose crowded strand
Bore priests and nobles of the land,
And rustic hinds and townsmen trim,
And harness'd soldiers stern and grim,
And lowly maids and dames of pride,
And infants by their mother's side,--
The boldest seaman stood that e'er
Did bark or ship through tempest steer;
And wise as bold, and good as wise;
The magnet of a thousand eyes,
That on his form and features cast,
His noble mien and simple guise,
In wonder seem'd to look their last.
A form which conscious worth is gracing,
A face where hope, the lines effacing
Of thought and care, bestow'd, in truth,
To the quick eyes' imperfect tracing
The look and air of youth.
Who, in his lofty gait, and high
Expression of th' enlighten'd eye,
Had recognis'd in that bright hour
The disappointed suppliant of dull power,
Who had in vain of states and kings desired
The pittance for his vast emprise required?--
The patient sage, who, by his lamp's faint light,
O'er chart and map spent the long silent night?--
The man who meekly fortune's buffets bore,
Trusting in One alone, whom heaven and earth adore?
Another world is in his mind,
Peopled with creatures of his kind,
With hearts to feel, with minds to soar,
Thoughts to consider and explore;
Souls, who might find, from trespass shriven,
Virtue on earth and joy in heaven.
'That Power divine, whom storms obey,'
(Whisper'd his heart,) a leading star,
Will guide him on his blessed way;
Brothers to join by fate divided far.
Vain thoughts! which heaven doth but ordain
In part to be, the rest, alas! how vain!
But hath there liv'd of mortal mould,
Whose fortunes with his thoughts could hold
An even race? Earth's greatest son
That e'er earn'd fame, or empire won,
Hath but fulfill'd, within a narrow scope,
A stinted portion of his ample hope.
With heavy sigh and look depress'd,
The greatest men will sometimes hear
The story of their acts address'd
To the young stranger's wond'ring ear,
And check the half-swoln tear.
Is it or modesty or pride
Which may not open praise abide?
No; read his inward thoughts: they tell,
His deeds of fame he prizes well.
But, ah! they in his fancy stand,
As relicks of a blighted band,
Who, lost to man's approving sight,
Have perish'd in the gloom of night,
Ere yet the glorious light of day
Had glitter'd on their bright array.
His mightiest feat had once another,
Of high Imagination born,--
A loftier and a nobler brother,
From dear existence torn;
And she for those, who are not, steeps
Her soul in woe,--like Rachel, weeps.
The signal given, with hasty strides,
The sailors climb'd their ships' dark sides;
Their anchors weigh'd; and from the shore
Each stately vessel slowly bore.
High o'er the deeply shadow'd flood,
Upon his deck their leader stood,
And turn'd him to the parted land,
And bow'd his head and waved his hand.
And then, along the crowded strand,
A sound of many sounds combin'd,
That wax'd and wan'd upon the wind,
Burst like heaven's thunder, deep and grand;
A lengthen'd peal, which paused, and then
Renew'd, like that which loathly parts,
Oft on the ear return'd again,
The impulse of a thousand hearts.
But as the lenghten'd shouts subside,
Distincter accents strike the ear,
Wafting across the current wide,
Heart-utter'd words of parting cheer:
'Oh! shall we ever see again
'Those gallant souls re-cross the main?
'God keep the brave! God be their guide!
'God bear them safe thro' storm and tide!
'Their sails with fav'ring breezes swell!
'O brave Columbus! fare thee well!'
From shore and strait, and gulph and bay,
The vessels held their daring way,
Left far behind, in distance thrown,
All land to Moor or Christian known,
Left far behind the misty isle,
Whose fitful shroud, withdrawn the while,
Shews wood and hill and headland bright
To later seamen's wond'ring sight,
And tide and sea left far behind
That e'er bore freight of human kind;
Where ship or bark to shifting gales
E'er tack'd their course or spread their sails.
Around them lay a boundless main
In which to hold their silent reign;
But for the passing current's flow,
And cleft waves, brawling round the prow,
They might have thought some magic spell
Had bound them, weary fate! for ever there to dwell.
What did this trackless waste supply
To soothe the mind or please the eye?
The rising morn thro' dim mist breaking,
The flicker'd east with purple streaking;
The mid-day cloud thro' thin air flying,
With deeper blue the blue sea dying;
Long ridgy waves their white mains rearing,
And in the broad gleam disappearing;
The broaden'd blazing sun declining,
And western waves like fire-flood shining;
The sky's vast dome to darkness given,
And all the glorious host of heaven.
Full oft upon the deck, while other's slept,
To mark the bearing of each well-known star
That shone aloft, or on th' horizon far,
The anxious Chief his lonely vigil kept;
The mournful wind, the hoarse wave breaking near,
The breathing groans of sleep, the plunging lead
The steer's man's call, and his own stilly tread,
Are all the sounds of night that reach his ear.
His darker form stalk'd through the sable gloom
With gestures discomposed and features keen,
That might not in the face of day be seen,
Like some unblessed spirit from the tomb.
Night after night, and day succeeding day,
So pass'd their dull, unvaried time away;
Till Hope, the seaman's worship'd queen, had flown
From every valiant heart but his alone;
Where still, by day, enthron'd, she held her state
With sunny look and brow elate.
But soon his dauntless soul, which nought could bend,
Nor hope delay'd, nor adverse fate subdue,
With more redoubled danger must contend
Than storm or wave--a fierce and angry crew.
'Dearly,' say they, 'may we those visions rue
'Which lured us from our native land,
'A wretched, lost, devoted band,
'Led on by hope's delusive gleam,
'The victims of a madman's dream!
'Nor gold shall e'er be ours, nor fame;
'Not ev'n the remnant of a name,
'On some rude-letter'd stone to tell
'On what strange coast our wreck befell.
'For us no requiem shall be sung,
'Nor prayer be said, nor passing knell
'In holy church be rung.'
To thoughts like these, all forms give way
Of duty to a leader's sway;
All habits of respect, that bind
With easy tie the human mind.
Ev'n love and admiration throw
Their nobler bands aside, nor show
A gentler mien; relations, friends,
Glare on him now like angry fiends;
And, as he moves, ah, wretched cheer!
Their mutter'd curses reach his ear,
But all undaunted, firm and sage,
He scorns their threats, yet thus he soothes their rage:
'I brought you from your native shore
'An unknown ocean to explore.
'I brought you, partners, by my side,
'Want, toil, and danger, to abide.
'Yet weary stillness hath so soon subdued
'The buoyant soul, the heart of pride,
'Men who in battle's brunt full oft have firmly stood.
'That to some nearing coast we bear,
'How many cheering signs declare!
'Way-faring birds the blue air ranging,
'Their shadowy line to blue air changing,
'Pass o'er our heads in frequent flocks;
'While sea-weed from the parent rocks
'With fibry roots, but newly torn,
'In tressy lengthen'd wreaths are on the clear wave borne.
'Nay, has not ev'n the drifting current brought
'Things of rude art,--of human cunning wrought?
'Be yet two days your patience tried,
'And if no shore is then descried,
'Ev'n turn your dastard prows again,
'And cast your leader to the main.'
And thus awhile with steady hand
He kept in check a wayward band,
Who but with half-express'd disdain
Their rebel spirit could restrain
The vet'ran rough as war-worn steel,
Oft spurn'd the deck with grating heel;
The seaman, bending o'er the flood,
With stony gaze all listless stood;
The sturdy bandit, wildly rude,
Sung, as he strode, some garbled strain,
Expressive of each fitful mood,
Timed by his sabre's jangling chain
The proud Castilian, boasted name!
Child of an ancient race
Which proudly priz'd its spotless fame,
And deem'd all fear disgrace,
Felt quench'd within him honour's generous flame,
And in his gather'd mantle wrapp'd his face.
So pass'd the day, the night, the second day
With its red setting sun's extinguish'd ray.
Dark, solemn midnight coped the ocean wide,
When from his watchful stand Columbus cried,
'A light, a light!'--blest sounds that rung
In every ear.--At once they sprung
With haste aloft, and, peering bright,
Descried afar the blessed sight.
'It moves, it slowly moves like ray
'Of torch that guides some wand'rer's way!
'And other lights more distant, seeming
'As if from town or hamlet streaming!
' 'Tis land, 'tis peopled land; man dwelleth there,
'And thou, O God of Heaven! hast heard thy servant's prayer!'
Returning day gave to their view
The distant shore and headlands blue
Of long-sought land. Then rose on air
Loud shouts of joy, mix'd wildly strange
With voice of weeping and of prayer,
Expressive of their blessed change
From death to life, from fierce to kind,
From all that sinks, to all that elevates the mind.
Those who, by faithless fear ensnared,
Had their brave chief so rudely dared,
Now, with keen self-upbraiding stung,
With every manly feeling wrung,
Repentant tears, looks that entreat,
Are kneeling at his worshipp'd feet.
'O pardon blinded, stubborn guilt!
'O henceforth make us what thou wilt!
'Our hands, our hearts, our lives, are thine,
'Thou wond'rous man! led on by power divine!'
Ah! would some magic could arrest
The generous feelings of the breast,
Which thwart the common baser mass
Of sordid thoughts, so fleetly pass,--
A sun glimpse thro' the storm!
The rent cloud closes, tempests swell,
And its late path we cannot tell;
Lost is its trace and form.
No; not on earth such fugitives are bound;
In some veil'd future state will the bless'd charm be found.
Columbus led them to the shore,
Which ship had never touch'd before;
And there he knelt upon the strand
To thank the God of sea and land;
And there, with mien and look elate,
Gave welcome to each toil-worn mate.
And lured with courteous signs of cheer,
The dusky natives gath'ring near;
Who on them gazed with wond'ring eyes,
As mission'd spirits from the skies.
And there did he possession claim,
In Isabella's royal name.
It was a land, unmarr'd by art,
To please the eye and cheer the heart:
The natives' simple huts were seen
Peeping their palmy groves between,--
Groves, where each dome of sweepy leaves
In air of morning gently heaves,
And, as the deep vans fall and rise,
Changes its richly verdant dies;
A land whose simple sons till now
Had scarcely seen a careful brow;
They spent at will each passing day
In lightsome toil or active play.
Some their light canoes were guiding,
Along the shore's sweet margin gliding.
Some in the sunny sea were swimming,
The bright waves o'er their dark forms gleaming;
Some on the beach for shell-fish stooping,
Or on the smooth sand gaily trooping;
Or in link'd circles featly dancing
With golden braid and bracelet glancing.
By shelter'd door were infants creeping,
Or on the shaded herbage sleeping;
Gay feather'd birds the air were winging,
And parrots on their high perch swinging,
While humming-birds, like sparks of light,
Twinkled and vanish'd from the sight.
They eyed the wond'rous strangers o'er and o'er,--
Those beings of the ocean and the air,
With humble, timid rev'rence; all their store
Of gather'd wealth inviting them to share;
To share whate'er their lowly cabins hold;
Their feather'd crowns, their fruits, their arms, their gold.
Their gold, that fatal gift!--O foul disgrace!
Repaid with cruel wreck of all their harmless race.
There some short, pleasing days with them he dwelt,
And all their simple kindness dearly felt.
But they of other countries told,
Not distant, where the sun declines,
Where reign Caziques o'er warriors bold,
Rich with the gold of countless mines.
And he to other islands sail'd,
And was by other natives hail'd.
Then on Hispaniola's shore,
Where bays and harbours to explore
Much time he spent, a simple tower
Of wood he built, the seat to be
And shelter of Spain's infant power;
Hoping the nurseling fair to see,
Amidst those harmless people shoot
Its stately stem from slender root.
There nine and thirty chosen men he placed,
Gave parting words of counsel and of cheer;
One after one his nobler friends embraced,
And to the Indian chieftain, standing near,
'Befriend, my friends, and give them aid,
'When I am gone,' he kindly said,
Blest them, and left them there his homeward course to steer.
His prayer to Heaven for them preferr'd
Was not, alas! with favour heard.
Oft, as his ship the land forsook,.
He landward turned his farewell look,
And cheer'd his Spaniards cross the wave,
Who distant answer faintly gave;
Distant but cheerful. On the strand
He saw their clothed figures stand
With naked forms link'd hand in hand;--
Saw thus caress'd, assured, and bold,
Those he should never more behold.
Some simple Indians, gently won,
To visit land, where sets the sun
In clouds of amber, and behold,
The wonders oft by Spaniards told;
Stood silent by themselves apart,
With nature's yearnings at their heart,
And saw the coast of fading blue
Wear soft and sadly from their view.
But soon by their new comrades cheer'd,
As o'er the waves the ship career'd,
Their wond'ring eyes aloft were cast
On white swoln sails and stately mast,
And check'ring shrouds, depicted fair,
On azure sea and azure air;
And felt, as feels the truant boy,
Who, having climb'd some crumbling mound
Or ruin'd tower, looks wildly round,--
A thrilling, fearful joy.
Then with his two small barks again
The dauntless Chief travers'd the main;
But not with fair and fav'ring gales
That erst had fill'd his western sails:
Fierce winds with adverse winds contended;
Rose the dark deep,--dark heaven descended,
And threaten'd, in the furious strife,
The ships to sink with all their freight of precious life.
In this dread case, well may be guess'd
What dismal thoughts his soul depress'd:
'And must I in th' o'erwhelming deep,
'Our bold achievement all unknown,
'With these my brave advent'rers sleep,--
'What we have done to dark oblivion thrown?
'Sink, body! to thy wat'ry grave,
'If so God will; but let me save
'This noble fruitage of my mind,
'And leave my name and deeds behind!'
Upon a scroll, with hasty pen,
His wond'rous tale he traced,
View'd it with tearful eyes, and then
Within a casket placed.
'Perhaps,' said he, 'by vessel bound
'On western cruize, thou wilt be found;
'Or make, sped by the current swift,
'To Christian shore thy happy drift.
'Thy story may by friendly eyes be read;
'O'er our untimely fate warm tears be shed;
'Our deeds rehears'd by many an eager tongue,
'And requiems for our parted souls be sung.'
This casket to the sea he gave;
Quick sunk and rose the freightage light,--
Appear'd on many a booming wave,
Then floated far away from his still gazing sight.
Yet, after many a peril braved,--
Of many an adverse wind the sport,
He, by his Great Preserver saved,
Anchor'd again in Palos' port.
O, who can tell the acclamation loud
That, bursting, rose from the assembled crowd,
To hail the Hero and his gallant train,
From such adventure bold return'd again!--
The warm embrace, the oft-repeated cheer,
And many a wistful smile and many a tear!--
How, pressing close, they stood;
Look'd on Columbus with amaze,--
'Is he,' so spake their wond'ring gaze,
'A man of flesh and blood?'
While cannon far along the shore
His welcome gave with deaf'ning roar.
And then with measur'd steps, sedate and slow,
They to the Christian's sacred temple go.
Soon as the chief within the house of God
Upon the hallow'd pavement trod,
He bowed with holy fear:--
'The God of wisdom, mercy, might,
'Creator of the day and night,
'This sea-girt globe, and every star of light
'Is worship'd here.'
Then on the altar's steps he knelt,
And what his inward spirit felt,
Was said unheard within that cell
Where saintly thoughts and feelings dwell;
But as the choral chaunters raise
Thro' dome and aisle the hymn of praise,
To heaven his glist'ning eyes were turn'd,
With sacred love his bosom burn'd.
On all the motley crowd
The gen'rous impulse seized; high Dons of pride
Wept like the meekest beedsman by their side,
And women sobb'd aloud.
Nor statesmen met in high debate
Deciding on a country's fate,
Nor saintly chiefs with fearless zeal
Contending for their churches' weal,
Nor warriors, midst the battle's roar,
Who fiercely guard their native shore;
No power by earthly coil possest
To agitate the human breast,
Shows, from its native source diverted,
Man's nature noble, tho' perverted,
So strongly as the transient power
Of link'd devotion's sympathetic hour.
It clothes with soft unwonted grace
The traits of many a rugged face,
As bend the knees unused to kneel,
And glow the hearts unused to feel;
While every soul, with holy passion moved,
Claims one Almighty Sire, fear'd, and adored, and loved.
With western treasures, borne in fair display,
To Barcelona's walls, in grand array,
Columbus slowly held his inland way.
And still where'er he pass'd along,
In eager crowds the people throng.
The wildest way o'er desert drear,
Did like a city's mart appear.
The shepherd swain forsook his sheep;
The goat-herd from his craggy steep
Shot like an arrow to the plain;
Mechanics, housewives, left amain
Their broken, tasks, and press'd beside
The truant youth they meant to chide:
The dull Hidalgo left his tower,
The Donna fair her latticed bower;
Together press'd, fair and uncouth,
All motley forms of age and youth.
And, still along the dark-ranged pile
Of clust'ring life, was heard the while
Mix'd brawling joy, and shouts that rung
From many a loud and deaf'ning tongue.
Ah! little thought the gazing throng,
As pass'd that pageant show along,
How Spain should rue, in future times,
With desert plains and fields untill'd,
And towns with listless loit'rers fill'd,
The with'ring spoil receiv'd from foreign climes!
Columbus gave thee, thankless Spain!
A new-found world o'er which to reign:
But could not with the gift impart
A portion of his liberal heart
And manly mind, to bid thee soar
Above a robber's lust of ore,
Which hath a curse entail'd on all thy countless store.
To Barcelona come, with honours meet
Such glorious deeds to grace, his sov'reigns greet
Their mariner's return. Or hall,
Or room of state was deem'd too small
For such reception. Pageant rare!
Beneath heaven's dome, in open square,
Their gorgeous thrones were placed;
And near them on a humbler seat,
While on each hand the titled great,
Standing in dizen'd rows, were seen,
Priests, guards, and crowds, a living screen,--
Columbus sat, with noble mien,
With princely honours graced.
There to the royal pair his tale he told:
A wond'rous tale, that did not want
Or studied words or braggart's vaunt;
When at their royal feet were laid
Gems, pearls, and plumes of many a shade,
And stores of virgin gold,
Whilst, in their feathered guise arrayed,
The Indians low obeisance paid.
And at that wond'rous story's close
The royal pair with rev'rence rose,
And kneeling on the ground, aloud
Gave thanks to Heaven. Then all the crowd,
Joining, from impulse of the heart,
The banded priest's extatic art,
With mingled voice Te Deum sang;
With the grand choral burst, walls; towers, and welkin rang.
This was his brightest hour, too bright
For human weal;--a glaring light,
Like sunbeam thro' the rent cloud pouring
On the broad lake, when storms are roaring;
Bright centre of a wild and sombre scene;
More keenly bright than Summer's settled sheen.
With kingly favour brighten'd, all
His favour court, obey his call.
At princely boards, above the rest,
He took his place, admir'd, caress'd:
Proud was the Don of high degree,
Whose honour'd guest he deign'd to be.
Whate'er his purpos'd service wanted,
With ready courtesy was granted:
No envious foe durst cross his will.
While eager ship-wrights ply their skill,
To busy dock-yard, quay, or port,
Priests, lords, and citizens resort:
There wains the heavy planks are bringing,
And hammers on the anvil ringing;
The far-toss'd boards on boards are falling,
And brawny mate to work-mate calling:
The cable strong on windlass winding;
On wheel of stone the edge-tool grinding;
Red fire beneath the caldron gleaming,
And pitchy fumes from caldron steaming.
To sea and land's men too, I ween,
It was a gay, attractive scene;
Beheld, enjoyed, day after day,
Till all his ships, in fair array,
Were bounden for their course at last,
And amply stored and bravely mann'd,
Bore far from blue, receding land.
Thus soon again, th' Atlantic vast
With gallant fleet he past.
By peaceful natives hail'd with kindly smiles,
He shortly touch'd at various pleasant isles;
And when at length her well-known shore appear'd,
And he to fair Hispaniola near'd,
Upon the deck, with eager eye,
Some friendly signal to descry,
He stood; then fir'd his signal shot,
But answ'ring fire received not.
'What may this dismal silence mean?
'No floating flag in air is seen,
'Nor ev'n the Tower itself, tho' well
'Its lofty scite those landmarks tell.
'Ha! have they so regardless proved
'Of my command?-- their station moved!'
As closer to the shore they drew,
To hail them came no light canoe;
The beach was silent and forsaken:
Nor cloth'd nor naked forms appear'd,
Nor sound of human voice was heard;
Naught but the sea-birds from the rock,
With busy stir that flutt'ring broke;
Sad signs, which in his mind portentous fears awaken.
Then eagerly on shore he went,
His scouts abroad for tidings sent;
But to his own loud echo'd cry
An Indian came with fearful eye,
Who guess'd his questions' hurried sound,
And pointed to a little mound,
Not distant far. With eager haste
The loosen'd mould aside was cast.
Bodies, alas! within that grave were found,
Which had not long been laid to rest,
Tho' so by changeful death defaced,
Nor form, nor visage could be traced,--
In Spanish garments dress'd.
Back from each living Spaniard's cheek the blood
Ran chill, as round their noble chief they stood,
Who sternly spoke to check the rising tear.
'Eight of my valiant men are buried here;
'Where are the rest?' the timid Indian shook
In every limb, and slow and faintly spoke.
'Some are dead, some sick, some flown;
'The rest are up the country gone,
'Far, far away.' A heavy groan
Utters the Chief; his blanch'd lips quiver;
He knows that they are gone for ever.
But here 'twere tedious and unmeet
A dismal story to repeat,
Which was from mild Cazique received,
Their former friend, and half believed.
Him, in his cabin far apart,
Wounded they found, by Carib dart;
Receiv'd, said he, from savage foe
Spaniards defending. Then with accents low
He spoke, and ruefully began to tell,
What to those hapless mariners befell.
How that from lust of pleasure and of gold,
And mutual strife and war on Caribs made,
Their strength divided was, and burnt their hold,
And their unhappy heads beneath the still earth laid.
Yet, spite of adverse fate, he in those climes
Spain's infant power establish'd; after-times
Have seen it flourish, and her sway maintain
In either world, o'er many a fair domain.
But wayward was his irksome lot the while,
Striving with malice, mutiny, and guile;
Yet vainly striving: that which most
His generous bosom sought to shun,
Each wise and lib'ral purpose crost,
Must now at Mammon's ruthless call be done.
Upon their native soil,
They who were wont in harmless play
To frolic out the passing day,
Must pine with hateful toil.
Yea; this he did against his better will;
For who may stern ambition serve, and still
His nobler nature trust?
May on unshaken strength relic,
Cast Fortune as she will her dye,
And say 'I will be just?'
Envy mean, that in the dark
Strikes surely at its noble mark,
Against him rose with hatred fell,
Which he could brave, but could not quell.
Then he to Spain indignant went,
And to his sov'reigns made complaint,
With manly freedom, of their trust,
Put, to his cost, in men unjust,
And turbulent. They graciously
His plaint and plea receiv'd; and hoisting high
His famed and gallant flag upon the main,
He to his western world return'd again.
Where he, the sea's unwearied, dauntless rover,
Thro' many a gulph and straight, did first discover
That continent, whose mighty reach
From th' utmost frozen north doth stretch
Ev'n to the frozen south; a land
Of surface fair and structure grand.
There, thro' vast regions rivers pour,
Whose mid-way skiff scarce sees the shore;
Which, rolling on in lordly pride,
Give to the main their ample tide;
And dauntless then, with current strong,
Impetuous, roaring, bear along,
And still their sep'rate honours keep,
In bold contention with the mighty deep.
There broad-based mountains from the sight
Conceal in clouds their vasty height,
Whose frozen peaks, a vision rare,
Above the girdling clouds rear'd far in upper air,
At times appear, and soothly seem
To the far distant, up-cast eye,
Like snowy watch-towers of the sky,--
Like passing visions of a dream.
There forests grand of olden birth,
O'er-canopy the darken'd earth,
Whose trees, growth of unreckon'd time,
Rear o'er whole regions far and wide
A checker'd dome of lofty pride
Silent, solemn, and sublime.--
A pillar'd lab'rinth, in whose trackless gloom,
Unguided feet might stray till close of mortal doom.
There grassy plains of verdant green
Spread far beyond man's ken are seen,
Whose darker bushy spots that lye
Strew'd o'er the level vast, descry
Admiring strangers, from the brow
Of hill or upland steep, and show,
Like a calm ocean's peaceful isles,
When morning light thro' rising vapours smiles.
O'er this, his last--his proudest fame,
He did assert his mission'd claim.
Yet dark ambitious envy, more
Incens'd and violent than before,
With crafty machinations gain'd
His royal master's ear, who stain'd
His princely faith, and gave it power
To triumph, in a shameful hour.
A mission'd gownsman o'er the sea
Was sent his rights to supersede
And all his noble schemes impede,--
His tyrant, spy, and judge to be.
With parchment scrolls and deeds he came
To kindle fierce and wasteful flame.
Columbus' firm and dauntless soul
Submitted not to base controul.
For who that hath high deeds achieved,
Whose mind hath mighty plans conceived,
Can of learn'd ignorance and pride
The petty vexing rule abide?
The lion trampled by an ass!--
No; this all-school'd forbearance would surpass.
Insulted with a felon's chain,
This noble man must cross the main,
And answer his foul charge to cold, ungrateful Spain.
By India's gentle race alone
Was pity to his suff'rings shown.
They on his parting wait.
And looks of kindness on him cast,
Or touch'd his mantle as he past,
And mourn'd his alter'd state.
'May the Great Spirit smooth the tide
'With gentle gales, and be thy guide!'
And when his vessel wore from land,
With meaning nods and gestures kind,
He saw them still upon the strand
Tossing their dark arms on the wind.
He saw them like a helpless flock
Who soon must bear the cruel shock
Of savage wolves, yet reckless still,
Feel but the pain of present ill.
He saw the fate he could not now controul,
And groan'd in bitter agony of soul.
He trode the narrow deck with pain,
And oft survey'd his rankling chain.
The ship's brave captain grieved to see
Base irons his noble pris'ner gall,
And kindly sued to set him free;
But proudly spoke the lofty thrall,
'Until the King whom I have served,
'Who thinks this recompense deserved,
'Himself command th' unclasping stroke,
'These gyved limbs will wear their yoke.
'Yea, when my head lies in the dust,
'These chains shall in my coffin rust.
'Better than lesson'd saw, tho' rude,
'As token, long preserv'd, of black ingratitude!'
Thus pent, his manly fortitude gave way
To brooding passion's dark tumultuous sway.
Dark was the gloom within, and darker grew
Th' impending gloom without, as onward drew
Th' embattled storm that, deep'ning on its way,
With all its marshall'd host obscured the day.
Volume o'er volume, roll'd the heavy clouds,
And oft in dark dim masses, sinking slow,
Hung in the nether air, like misty shrouds,
Veiling the sombre, silent deep below.
Like eddying snow-flakes from a lowering sky,
Athwart the dismal gloom the frighten'd sea-fowl fly.
Then from the solemn stillness round,
Utters the storm its awful sound.
It groans upon the distant waves;
O'er the mid-ocean wildly raves;
Recedes afar with dying strain,
That sadly thro' the troubled air
Comes like the wailings of despair,
And with redoubled strength returns again:
Through shrouds and rigging, boards and mast,
Whistles, and howls, and roars th' outrageous blast.
From its vast bed profound with heaving throws
The mighty waste of welt'ring waters rose.
O'er countless waves, now mounting, now deprest,
The ridgy surges swell with foaming crest,
Like Alpine barriers of some distant shore,
Now seen, now lost amidst the deaf'ning roar;
While, higher still, on broad and sweepy base,
Their growing bulk the mountain billows raise,
Each far aloft in lordly grandeur rides,
With many a vassal wave rough'ning his furrow'd sides.
Heav'd to its height, the dizzy skiff
Shoots like an eagle from his cliff
Down to the fearful gulf, and then
On the swoln waters mounts again,--
A fearful way! a fearful state
For vessel charged with living freight!
Within, without the tossing tempests rage:
This was, of all his earthly pilgrimage,
The injur'd Hero's fellest, darkest hour.
Yet swiftly pass'd its gloomy power;
For as the wild winds louder blew,
His troubled breast the calmer grew;
And, long before the mighty hand,
That rules the ocean and the land,
Had calm'd the sea, with pious rev'rence fill'd,
The warring passions of his soul were still'd.
Through softly parting clouds the blue sky peer'd,
And heaven-ward turn'd his eye with better feelings cheer'd.
Meek are the wise, the great, the good;--
He sighed, and thought of Him, who died on holy rood.
No more the angry tempest's sport,
The vessel reach'd its destined port.
A town of Christendom he greets,
And treads again its well-known streets;
A sight of wonder, grief, and shame
To those who on his landing came,
And on his state in silence gaz'd.
'This is the man whose dauntless soul'--
So spoke their looks--'Spain's power hath rais'd
'To hold o'er worlds her proud controul!
'His honour'd brows with laurel crown'd,
'His hands with felon fetters bound!'
And he before his Sov'reign Dame
And her stern Lord, indignant came;
And bold in conscious honour, broke
The silence of his smother'd flame,
In words that all his inward anguish spoke.
The gentle Queen's more noble breast
Its generous sympathy exprest;
And as his varied story show'd
What wrongs from guileful malice flow'd,
Th' indignant eye and flushing cheek
Did oft her mind's emotion speak.
The sordid King, with brow severe,
Could, all unmov'd, his pleadings hear;
Save, that, in spite of royal pride,
Which self-reproach can ill abide,
His crimson'd face did meanly show
Of conscious shame th' unworthy glow.
Baffled, disgraced, his enemies remain'd,
And base ambition for a time restrain'd.
With four small vessels, small supply
I trow! yet granted tardily,
For such high service, he once more
The western ocean to explore
Directs his course. On many an isle
He touch'd, where cheerly, for a while,
His mariners their cares beguile
Upon the busy shore.
And there what wiles of barter keen
Spaniard and native pass between;
As feather'd crowns, whose colours change
To every hue, with vizards strange,
And gold and pearls are giv'n away,
For beed or bell, or bauble gay!
Full oft the mutt'ring Indian eyes
With conscious smile his wond'rous prize,
Beneath the shady plantain seated,
And thinks he hath the stranger cheated;
Or foots the ground like vaunting child,
Snapping his thumbs with anticks wild.
But if, at length, tired of their guests,
Consuming like those hateful pests,
Locusts or ants, provisions stored
For many days, they will afford
No more, withholding fresh supplies,
And strife and threat'ning clamours rise,--
Columbus gentle craft pursues,
And soon their noisy wrath subdues.
Thus speaks the chief,--'Refuse us aid
'From stores which Heaven for all hath made!
'The moon, your mistress, will this night
'From you withhold her blessed light,
'Her ire to show; take ye the risk.'
Then, as half-frighten'd, half in jest,
They turn'd their faces to the east,
From ocean rose her broaden'd disk;
But when the deep eclipse came on,
By science sure to him foreknown,
How cower'd each savage at his feet,
Like spaniel couching to his lord,
Awed by the whip or angry word,
His pardon to entreat!
'Take all we have, thou heavenly man!
'And let our mistress smile again!'
Or, should the ship, above, below,
Be fill'd with crowds, who will not go;
Again, to spare more hurtful force,
To harmless guile he has recourse.
'Ho! Gunner! let these scramblers know
'The power we do not use:' when, lo!
From cannon's mouth the silv'ry cloud
Breaks forth, soft curling on the air,
Thro' which appears the light'ning's glare,
And bellowing roars the thunder loud.
Quickly from bowsprit, shroud, or mast,
Or vessel's side the Indians cast
Their naked forms, the water dashing
O'er their dark heads, as stoutly lashing
The briny waves with arms out-spread,
They gain the shore with terror's speed.
Thus checker'd still with shade and sheen
Pass'd in the West his latter scene,
As thro' the oak's toss'd branches pass
Soft moon-beams, flickering on the grass;
As on the lake's dark surface pour
Broad flashing drops of summer-shower;--
As the rude cavern's sparry sides
When past the miner's taper glides.
So roam'd the Chief, and many a sea
Fathom'd and search'd unweariedly,
Hoping a western way to gain
To eastern climes,--an effort vain;
For mighty thoughts, with error uncombin'd,
Were never yet the meed of mortal mind.
At length, by wayward fortune crost,
And oft-renew'd and irksome strife
Of sordid men,-- by tempests tost,
And tir'd with turmoil of a wand'rer's life,
He sail'd again for Europe's ancient shore,
So will'd High Heav'n! to cross the seas no more.
His anchor fix'd, his sails for ever furl'd,--
A toil-worn pilgrim in a weary world.
And thus the Hero's sun went down,
Closing his day of bright renown.
Eight times thro' breeze and storm he past
O'er surge and wave th' Atlantic vast;
And left on many an island fair
Foundations which the after-care
Of meaner chieftains shortly rear'd
To seats of power, serv'd, envy'd, fear'd.
No kingly conqueror, since time began
The long career of ages, hath to man
A scope so ample given for trade's bold range,
Or caus'd on earth's wide stage such rapid mighty change.
He, on the bed of sickness laid,
Saw, unappall'd, death's closing shade;
And there, in charity and love
To man on earth and God above,
Meekly to heaven his soul resign'd,
His body to the earth consign'd.
'Twas in Valladolid he breathed his last,
And to a better, heavenly city past;
But St. Dominga, in her sacred fane
Doth his blest spot of rest and sculptur'd tomb contain.
There burghers, knights, advent'rers brave
Stood round in fun'ral weeds bedight;
And bow'd them to the closing grave,
And wish'd his soul good night.
Now all the bold companions of his toil
Tenants of many a clime, who wont to come,
(So fancy trows) when vex'd with worldly coil
And linger sadly by his narrow home;--
Repentant enemies, and friends that grieve
In self-upbraiding tenderness, and say,
'Cold was the love he did from us receive,'--
The fleeting restless spirits of a day,
All to their dread account are pass'd away.
Silence, solemn, awful, deep,
Doth in that hall of death her empire keep;
Save when at times the hollow pavement, smote
By solitary wand'rer's foot, amain
From lofty dome and arch and aisle remote
A circling loud response receives again.
The stranger starts to hear the growing sound,
And sees the blazon'd trophies waving near;--
'Ha! tread my feet so near that sacred ground!'
He stops and bows his head:--'Columbus resteth here!'
Some ardent youth, perhaps, ere from his home
He launch his vent'rous bark, will hither come,
Read fondly o'er and o'er his graven name
With feelings keenly touch'd,--with heart of flame;
Till wrapp'd in fancy's wild delusive dream,
Times past and long forgotten, present seem.
To his charm'd ear, the east wind rising shrill,
Seems thro' the Hero's shroud to whistle still.
The clock's deep pendulum swinging, thro' the blast
Sounds like the rocking of his lofty mast;
While fitful gusts rave like his clam'rous band,
Mix'd with the accents of his high command.
Slowly the stripling quits the pensive scene,
And burns, and sighs, and weeps to be what he has been.
O! who shall lightly say that fame
Is nothing but an empty name!
Whilst in that sound there is a charm
The nerves to brace, the heart to warm,
As, thinking of the mighty dead,
The young, from slothful couch will start,
And vow, with lifted hands outspread,
Like them to act a noble part?
O! who shall lightly say that fame
Is nothing but an empty name!
When, but for those, our mighty dead,
All ages past, a blank would be,
Sunk in oblivion's murky bed,--
A desert bare, a shipless sea?
They are the distant objects seen,--
The lofty marks of what hath been.
O! who shall lightly say that fame
Is nothing but an empty name!
When mem'ry of the mighty dead
To earth-worn pilgrim's wistful eye
The brightest rays of cheering shed,
That point to immortality?
A twinkling speck, but fix'd and bright,
To guide us thro' the dreary night,
Each hero shines, and lures the soul
To gain the distant happy goal.
For is there one who, musing o'er the grave
Where lies interr'd the good, the wise, the brave,
Can poorly think, beneath the mould'ring heap,
That noble being shall for ever sleep?
No; saith the gen'rous heart, and proudly swells,--
'Tho' his cered corse lies here, with God his spirit dwells.'
Comments about The Legend Of Christopher Columbus by Joanna Baillie
Poems About Power
- 1. The Legend Of Christopher Columbus , Joanna Baillie
- 2. Festus - Ii , Philip James Bailey
- 3. Genius , Adah Isaacs Menken
- 4. Free Power , T (no first name) Wignesan
- 5. To A Lost Friend 'Can'T You See It...' , Rajbir Singh
- 6. Cause You Are A Girl , moriah puriefoy
- 7. The Choice I Have Made To Blame Others , Susie Sunshine
- 8. If God Would Grant Me The Power , carolyn oclaire
- 9. Greed Leads To Hate , ashley roberts
- 10. Who Am I? , Jeff Rushton
- 11. A Tower Name , Obed Akuma
- 12. The Black Portal , Erik Mcconniel
- 13. Faith , hamza mian
- 14. Dark Hours: The Drunkard's Mother , Janet Hamilton
- 15. A Quiet Meadow , Westley Douglas
- 16. Smile , Summer Wind
- 17. God And Trust , B Shanmugapriya Narendran
- 18. Irony Of Power , Hussein sani wurno
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- carpe diem