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And Hemsley, once proud Buckingham's delight,
We give an extract from Washington Irving's picturesque description of the first sight of the shores of the New World by Columbus and his crew. This is not the place to detail the wonderful events of the life of the navigator. What his character was, and what were his injuries, may be judged from the following translation of part of his celebrated letter to the King and Queen of Spain :
" It was Thou, oh great God, who inspired me, and conducted me there! Compassionate me, deign to pardon this unhappy enterprise: may the whole earth, and all in this world who love justice and humanity, weep over me; and you, holy angels of heaven, who know my innocence, pardon this generation, which is too envious and too hard-hearted to pity me! Surely those yet to be born will one day weep when they are told that Columbus, at his own expense, with little or no help from the crown, at the risk of his own life and that of his brother, during twenty years and four voyages rendered greater services to Spain than ever prince or kingdom received from any man; that, in spite of this, without accusing him of a single crime, they have left him to perish poor and miserable, after depriving him of every thing, save his chains; so that he who has given a new world to Spain, could not find, either in the new world, or the old, a cabin for his miserable family and himself.
“ But if Heaven must persecute me still, and seem displeased with what I have done, as if the discovery of this new world must be fatal to the old ; if Heaven must, to punish me, put a term, in this place of misery, to my unhappy life, you holy angels, who succour the innocent and oppressed, let this paper reach my illustrious mistress: she knows how I have suffered for her glory and her service, she will have enough justice and piety not to allow the brother and the children of a man who has given immense riches to Spain, and who has added vast empires and unknown kingdoms to her dominions, to be reduced to the want of bread, or to live on alms. She will see, if she live, that ingratitude and cruelty provoke the divine wrath. The riches that I have discovered will invite the human race to pillage, and will raise up avengers for me; and the nation will one day perhaps suffer for the crimes that wickedness, ingratitude, and envy, are now committing."]
And when on the evening of the third day they beheld the sun go down upon a shoreless horizon, they broke forth into clamorous turbulence. Fortunately, however, the manifestations of neighbouring land were such on the following day as no longer to admit a doubt. Besides a quantity of fresh weeds, such as grow in rivers, they saw a green fish of a kind which keeps about rocks; then a branch of thorn with berries on it, and recently separated from the tree, floated by them; then they picked up a reed, a small board, and, above all, a staff artificially carved. All gloom and mutiny now gave way to sanguine expectation; and throughout the day each one was eagerly on the watch, in hopes of being the first to discover the long-sought-for land.
In the evening, when, according to invariable custom on board of the admiral's ship, the mariners had sung the Salve Regina, or vesper hymn to the Virgin, he made an impressive address to his crew. He pointed out the goodness of God in thus conducting them by such soft and favouring breezes across a tranquil ocean, cheering their hopes continually with fresh signs, increasing as their fears augmented, and thus leading and guiding them to a promised land.
The breeze had 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 ploughing 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 castle or cabin on the high poop of his vessel. However he might carry a cheerful and confident countenance during the day, it was to him a time of the most painful anxiety; and now, when he was wrapped from observation, by the shades of night, he maintained an intense and unremitting, watch, ranging his eye along the dusky horizon, in search of the most vague indications of land. Suddenly, about ten o'clock, he thought he : beheld a light glimmering at a distance! Fearing that his eager hopes might deceive him, he called to Pedro Gutierrery, gentleman of the
king's bedchamber, 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 Roderigo Sanchery, of Segovia, and made the same inquiry. By the time the latter had ascended the round-house the light had disappeared. They saw it once or twice afterwards in sudden and passing gleams; as 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.
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 de Triano, but the reward was afterwards adjudged to the admiral, 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.
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 him. self a glory which must be as durable as the world itself.
It is difficult even for the imagination to conceive the feelings of such a man at the moment of so sublime a discovery. What a bewildering crowd of conjectures must have thronged upon his mind as to the land which lay 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 in the balmy air the fragrance of aromatic groves. The moving light which he had beheld had proved that it was the residence of man. But what were its inhabitants ? Were they like those of the other parts of the globe ? or were they some strange and monstrous race, such as the imagination in those times was prone to give to all remote and unknown regions ? Had he come upon some wild island far in the Indian Sea ? or was this the
In tumultl he had ated: his 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 splendour of oriental civilization.
63.-CRITICISM ON DON QUIXOTE.
HALLAM. [MR. HENRY HALLam is one of our most distinguished living authors. His • View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, and his Constitutional History of England,' have established his eminent rank as an historian. Of his merits as a scholar and a critic, we have only to open his · Introduction to the Literature of Europe,' and see the extensive range of his information and the soundness of his judgment.]
The first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605. We have no reason, I believe, to suppose it was written long before. It became immediately popular; and the admiration of the world raised up envious competitors, one of whom, Avellenada, published a continuation in a strain of invective against the author. Cervantes, who cannot be imagined to have ever designed the leaving his romance in so unfinished a state, took time about the second part, which did not appear till 1615.
Don Quixote is the only book in the Spanish language which can now be said to possess much of an European reputation. It has, however, enjoyed enough to compensate for the neglect of all the rest. It is to Europe in general, what Ariosto is to Italy, and Shakspeare to England; the one book to which the slightest allusions may be made without affectation, but not missed without discredit. Numerous translations and countless editions of them, in every language, bespeak its adaptation to mankind; no critic has been paradoxical enough to withhold his admiration, no reader has ventured to confess a want of relish for that in which the young and old, in every climate, have, age after age, taken delight. They have, doubtless, believed that they understood the author's meaning; and, in giving the reins to the gaiety that his fertile invention and comic humour inspired, never thought of any deeper meaning than he announces, or delayed their enjoyment for any metaphysical investigation of his plan.
A new school of criticism, however, has of late years arisen in Germany, acute, ingenious, and sometimes eminently successful in philosophical, or, as they denominate it, æsthetic analysis of works of taste, but gliding too much into refinement and conjectural hypothesis, and with a tendency to mislead men of inferior capacities for this kind of investigation into mere paradox and absurdity. An instance is supplied, in my opinion, by some remarks of Bouterwek, still more explicitly developed by Sismondi, on the design of Cervantes in Don Quixote, and which have been repeated in other publications. According to these writers, the primary idea is that of a “man of elevated character, excited by heroic and enthusiastic feelings to the ex. travagant pitch of wishing to restore the age of chivalry; nor is it possible to form a more mistaken notion of this work than by con sidering it merely as a satire, intended by the author to ridicule the absurd passion for reading old romances.” “ The fundamental idea of Don Quixote,” says Sismondi, “is the eternal contrast between the spirit of poetry and that of prose. Men of an elevated soul propose to themselves as the object of life to be the defenders of the weak, the support of the oppressed, the champions of justice and innocence. Like Don Quixote, they find on every side the image of the virtues they worship; they believe that disinterestedness, nobleness, courage, in short, knight errantry, are still prevalent; and, with no calculation of their own powers, they expose themselves for an ungrateful world, they offer themselves as a sacrifice to the laws and rules of an imaginary state of society.”
If this were a true representation of the scheme of Don Quixote, we cannot wonder that some persons should, as M. Sismondi tells us they do, consider it as the most melancholy book that has ever been written. They consider it also, no doubt, one of the most immoral, as chilling and pernicious in its influence on the social converse of mankind, as the Prince of Machiavel is on their political intercourse. “ Cervantes,” he proceeds, “ has shown us, in some measure, the vanity of greatness of soul, and the delusion of heroism. He has drawn in Don Quixote a perfect man (un homme accompli), who is nevertheless the constant object of ridicule. Brave beyond the fabled knights he