Page images


[ocr errors]

In his computatione Culumbus supposed that the island of Ci-pan'go, or Jap-an', was In about the situation o, Farida ; and at this island he hoped first to arrive.

1. The breeze-nad been fresh all day, with more sea than usual, and they had made great progress. At sunset they had stood again to the west, and were plowing the waves at a rapid rate, the Pinta keeping the lead, from her superior sailing. The greatest animation prevailed throughout the ships; not an eye was closed that night. As the evening darkened, Columbus took his station on the top of the cabin of his vessel, ranging his eye along the dusky horizon, and maintaining an intense and unremitting watch.

2. About ten o'clock he thought he beheld a light glimmering at a great distance. Fearing that his eager hopes might deceive him, he called to Pedro, a gentleman of the king's bed-chamber, and inquired whether he saw a light in that direction. The latter replied in the affirmative. Columbus, yet doubtful whether it might not be some delusion of the fancy, called still another, and made the same inquiry. By the time the latter had ascended the round-house the light had disappeared.

3. They saw it once or twice afterward, in sudden and passing gleams, as if it were a torch in the bark of a fisherman, rising and sinking with the waves, or in the hand of some person on shore, borne up and down as he walked from house to house. So transient and uncertain were these gleams, that few attached any importance to them. Columbus, however, considered them as certain signs of land, and, moreover, that the land was inhabited.

4. They continued their course until two in the morning, when a gun from the Pinta gave the joyful signal of land. It was first discovered by a mariner named Rodrigo; but the reward was afterward adjudged to Columbus, for having previously perceived the light. The land was now clearly seen about two leagues distant; whereupon they took in sail, and lay to, waiting impatiently for the dawn.

5. The thoughts and feelings of Columbus, in this little space of time, 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 of sages, was triumphantly established; he had secured to himself a glory which must be as durable as the world itself.

6. It is difficult to conceive the feelings of such a man at such a moment; or the conjectures which must have thronged upon his mind, as to the land before him, covered with darkness! That it was fruitful was evident, from the vegetables which floated from its shores. He thought, too, that he perceived the fragrance of aromatic groves. The moving light he had beheld proved it the residence of man. But what were its inhabitants ? .

7. Were they like those of the other parts of the globe ? or were they some strange and monstrous race, such as the imagination was prone in those days 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 splendor of oriental civilization.

8. It was on Friday morning, the 12th of October, 1492, that Columbus first beheld the New World. As the day dawned, he saw before him a level island, sev. eral leagues in extent, and covered with trees like a continual orchard. Though apparently uncultivated, it was populous, for the inhabitants were seen issuing from all parts of the woods, and running to the shore.

9. Columbus made signal for the ships to cast anchor, and the boats to be manned and armed. He entered his own boat, richly attired in scarlet, and holding the royal standard. As he approached the shore, he was delighted with the purity and suavity of the atmos. phere, the crystal transparency of the sea, and the extraordinary beauty of the vegetation. On landing, be threw himself on his knees, kissed the earth, and with tears of joy returned thanks to God.



[ocr errors]

HARD by a poet's attic lived a chemist,

Or alchemist, who had a mighty

Faith in the elixir vitæ ;
And, though unflattered by the dimmest

Glimpse of success, kept credulously groping

And grubbing in his dark vocation;

Stupidly hoping To find the art of changing metals, And so coin guineas, from his pots and kettles, By mystery of transmutation.

Our starving poet took occasion

To seek this conjurer's abode ;

Not with encomiastic ode, Or laudatory dedication,

But with an offer to impart,

For twenty pounds, the secret art
Which should procure, without the pain

Of metals, chemistry, and fire,
What he so long had sought in vain, .

And gratify his heart's desire.

The money paid, our bard was hurried

To the philosopher's sanctorum,
Who, as it were sublimed and flurried

Out of his chemical decorum,
Crowed, capered, giggled, seemed to spurn his
Crucibles, retort, and furnace,

And cried, as he secured the door,
And carefully put to the shutter,

“Now, now, the secret, I implore ! For heaven's sake, speak, discover, utter!

With grave and solemn air, the poet
Cried : “List! 0, list, for thus I show it:
Let this plain truth those ingrates strike,

Who still, though blessed, new blessings crave :

HORACE SMITH. (1779 — 1849.)

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

1. It is only shallow-minded pretenders who either make distinguished origin matter of personal merit, or obscure origin matter of personal reproach. Taunt and scoffing at the humble condition of early life affect nobody in this country but those who are foolish enough to indulge in them; and they are generally sufficiently punished by public rebuke. A man who is not ashamed of himself need not be ashamed of his early condition.

2. It did not happen to me to be born in a log cabin; but my elder brothers and sisters were born in a log cabin, which was raised amid the snow-drifts of New Hampshire, at a period so early, that when the smoke first rose from its rude chimney, and curled over the frozen hills, there was no similar evidence of a white man's habitation between it and the settlements on the rivers of Canada.

3. Its remains still exist. I make to it an annual visit. I carry my children to it, to teach them the hardships endured by the generations which have gone before them. I love to dwell on the tender recollections, the kindred ties, the early affections, and the touching narratives and incidents, which mingle with all I know of this primitive family abode.

4. I weep to think that none of those who inhabited it are now among the living; and if ever I am ashamed of it, or if I ever fail in affectionate veneration for him who reared it, and defended it against savage violence and destruction, — cherished all the domestic virtues beneath its roof, and, through the fire and blood of a seven years' revolutionary war, shrank

« PreviousContinue »