« PreviousContinue »
harvest? What need too, of toilfully spinning, or labouring at the loom where a genial temperature prevailed throughout the year, and neither nature nor custom prescribed the necessity of clothing?
"The hospitality which characterizes men in such a simple and easy mode of existence, was evinced towards Columbus and his followers, during their sojourn in the Vega. Wherever they went, it was a continual scene of festivity and rejoicing. The natives hastened from all parts, bearing them presents, and laying the treasures of their groves and streams and mountains at the feet of beings whom they still considered as descended from the skies, to bring blessings to their island
"Having accomplished the purposes of his residence in the Vega, Columbus, at the end of a few days, took leave of its hospitable inhabitants, and resumed his march for the harbour, returning with his little army through the lofty and rugged gorge of the mountains, called the Pass of the Hidalgos. As we accompany him in imagination over the rocky height, from whence the Vega first broke upon the eye of the Europeans, we cannot help pausing, to cast back a look of mingled pity and admiration over this beautiful but devoted region. The dream of natural liberty, of ignorant content, and loitering idleness, was as yet unbroken, but the fiat had gone forth; the white man had penetrated into the land; avarice and pride and ambition, and pining care and sordid labour were soon to follow; and the indolent paradise of the Indian to disappear forever." Vol. i. pp. 386–387.
"The Spaniards had heard many accounts of the soft and delightful region of Xaragua, in one part of which, some of the Indian traditions placed their elysian fields. They had heard much, also, of the beauty and urbanity of the inhabitants; the mode of their reception was calculated to confirm their favourable prepossessions. As they approached the place, thirty females of the cacique's household, came forth to meet them, singing their areytos or traditionary ballads, and dancing, and waving palm branches. The married females wore aprons of embroidered cotton, reaching half way to the knee; the young women were entirely naked, with merely a fillet round the forehead, their hair falling on their shoulders. They were beautifully proportioned, their skin smooth and delicate, and their complexion of a clear and agreeable brown. According to old Peter Martyr, the Spaniards, when they beheld them issuing forth from their green woods, almost imagined they beheld the fabled dryades or native nymphs and fairies of the fountains, sung by the ancient poets. When they came before Don Bartholomew, they knelt, and gracefully presented him the green branches."* Vol. ii. pp. 196-197.
"The early Spanish writers, whose imaginations were heated by the accounts of the voyagers, and who could not form an idea of the simplicity of savage life, especially in these parts, which were supposed to border upon Asia, often speak in terms of oriental magnificence of the entertainments of the natives; the palaces of the caciques, and the lords and ladies of their courts; as if they were describing the abodes of Asiatic potentates. The accounts given of Xaragua, however, have
* Peter Martyr, Decade 1, lib. v.
a different character, and give a picture of savage life, in its perfection of indolent ease and untasked enjoyment. The troubles which distracted the other parts of devoted Hayti, had not yet reached the inhabitants of this pleasant region. Living among beautiful and fruitful groves, on the borders of a sea which appeared forever tranquil and unvexed by storms; having few wants, and those readily supplied, they appeared emancipated from the common lot of labour, and to pass their lives in one uninterrupted holyday. When the Spaniards regarded the fertility and sweetness of this country, the gentleness of its people, and the beauty of its women, they pronounced it a perfect paradise." Vol. ii. p. 212.
This paradise was soon profaned by the evil passions and uncontrollable rapacity of the Spaniards-and when speaking in another place of the subjugation of the native tribes, our author remarks
"In this way was the yoke of servitude fixed upon the island, and its thraldom effectually ensured. Deep despair now fell upon the natives when they found a perpetual task inflicted upon them, enforced at stated and frequently recurring periods. Weak and indolent by nature, unused to labour of any kind, and brought up in the untasked idleness of their soft climate and their fruitful groves, death itself seemed preferable to a life of toil and anxiety. They saw no end to this harassing evil, which had so suddenly fallen upon them, no escape from its all pervading influence, no prospect of return to that roving independence and ample leisure, so dear to the wild is habitant of the forest. The pleasant life of the island was at an end; the dream in the shade by day, the slumber during the sultry noontide heat by the fountain or the stream, or under the spreading palm tree; and the song, the dance and the game, in the mellow evening, when summoned to their simple amusements by the rude Indian drum. They were now obliged to grope day by day, with bending body and anxious eye, along the borders of their rivers, sifting the sands for the grains of gold which every day grew more scanty; or to labour in their fields, beneath the fervour of a tropical sun, to raise food for their task-masters, or to produce the vegetable tribute imposed upon them. They sunk to sleep weary and exhausted at night, with the certainty that the next day was but to be a repetition of the same toil and suffering. Or if they occasionally indulged in their national dances, the ballads to which they kept time, were of a melancholy and plaintive character. They spoke of the times that were past, before the white men had introduced sorrow and slavery and weary labour among them; and they rehearsed pretended prophecies, handed down from their ancestors, foretelling the invasion of the Spaniards; that strangers should come into their island clothed in apparel, with swords capable of cleaving a man asunder at a blow, under whose yoke their posterity should be subdued. These ballads or areytos they sung with mournful tunes and doleful voices, bewailing the loss of their liberty, and their painful servitude." Vol. iii. pp. 96-98.
There are many topics and circumstances of much interest included in these volumes, to which our limits will not permit us to advert. But we should represent imperfectly the character of Columbus, were we to leave unnoticed his deep and enthusiastic religious impressions. In all his trials and adventures, he believed himself under the particular guidance of Heaven, selected and ordained to accomplish some predetermined and sublime design, and to promote essentially the great cause of the Church and of the Cross. Thus while he considered his maritime discoveries as evidences of this divine favour, he viewed them only as means preparing the way for events in his mind of far greater magnitude. The ultimate object to which he conceived or hoped himself to be destined, his earliest wish, his latest desire, was the recovery of the Holy Land and the Sepulchre of Christ from the power of the infidels. To this purpose, his views were unremittingly directed. In his conversations, in his journal, even în the letters describing his brilliant discoveries, he rejoices in them frequently as promising to furnish treasures for this great and holy enterprise. When he considered power and wealth to have been secured to him, he solemnly engaged himself to furnish in seven years fifty thousand foot soldiers and five thousand horse for the conquest of Jerusalem, and an additional force of like amount within five years afterwards. Even in his last will and testament, executed but a few days before his death, he reverts to the same topic, lamenting that all the treasure derived from his discoveries, had not been appropriated by his sovereigns to this pious undertaking, and directing his heir to collect all his wealth and deposit it in the Bank of St. George, at Genoa, and permit it to accumulate until the amount should authorise him to undertake the project on Jerusalem with his own means, or in the train of his sovereign, should he be induced to engage in this holy enterprise.
We have remarked in th course of our observations, that Columbus died ignorant of the real nature and extent of his discoveries. The concluding observations of Mr. Irving are so beautiful, that although often quoted, we shall, nevertheless, insert them.
"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 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 posterity!" Vol. iii. p. 202.
Even in the appendix to this work, the interest is still sustained. Many questions are there discussed, which have an intimate relation to the life, character or discoveries of Columbus, and all of them will be read with pleasure. We cannot conclude without remarking, that a chapter on the actual state of science, at the close of the fifteenth century, and some philosophic inquiries into the condition of the natives on the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, would be valuable additions to this work, and that some repetitions might well be retrenched from his many descriptions of tropical scenery and savage life, nor while noticing these slight blemishes, can we close without expressing a hope that the success which has attended Mr. Irving in this undertaking, may induce him to continue his researches in the same rich mine. Many subjects crowd upon the recollection full of striking and magnificent incidents, furnishing to the poet or historian, themes for grave discussion, or for lofty and impassioned strains, and bearing to our own country relations intimate, important and of increasing magnitude.
ART. II.-A Rhyming Dictionary, answering at the same time the purposes of spelling and pronouncing the English Language, on a plan not hitherto attempted. By J. WALKER, Author of the Critical Pronouncing Dictionary. A new edition. London. 1824.
ALTHOUGH our author notices in his introduction, the sketches of Poole and Byshe, he does not seem to have been aware, that lexicons of the same description as his own, existed among the Arabians of Spain, more than one thousand years before. The
Abbé Giovanni Andres, a chief admirer and advocate of Arabic literature, informs us, in his work "Dell' origine, de' progressi e dello stato attuale d'ogni Letteratura," that there are in the library of the Escurial, many Arabic dictionaries, in which the words are found, (as in Walker's) not by the initial but by the final letters."
Richelet, a French jurisconsult of the seventeenth century, published "Un petit Dictionnaire de Rimes," which, if we credit the Abbe du Bos, was to the French poets a boon, equal to that conferred on the scholars of the first years of the sixteenth century, by the Latin Lexicon, called "Gemma Gemmarum." The Abbe appears to take a malicious pleasure in thus rallying the poets of France-"In endeavouring to surmount these, (difficulties of rhyme) he (the French poet) meets with the assistance of a dictionary of rhymes, that favourite book of all severe rhymers. For, let these gentlemen say what they will, there are none of them, but have this excellent work in their studies." The Abbe Sabathier (Desessart's Siecles Literaires de la France, vol. v. p. 297) seems to think Richelet's book only fit for those, whom he calls "les penibles rimeurs." "Le nom de Richelet tient encore au souvenir du public, par un ouvrage, qui prouve que les petites choses, sont quelquefois capables de sauver de l'oubli."
There is one advantage, which rhyme possesses over blank verse; and although we cannot cite authority for the opinion, we venture it as the experience of every poet, who has cultivated this department of verse. D'Alembert remarks in his Essay on Taste, that reason itself, is obliged, on some occasions, to make certain sacrifices to rhyme. But this is equally true of the versification employed by Homer, and Virgil, and Milton. "He that writes in rhymes," as Prior tells us, "dances in fetters;" but so did Pindar and Horace. Now, the advantage of rhyme over every other species of verse, lies in this, that the very difficulty of obtaining suitable words, leads directly in the search, to new ideas, suggested by the successive words, which the poet is endeavouring to accommodate to the preceding line. Every such writer has frequently found, that some of his best ideas and happiest forms of expres
* La rima era telmente in uso presso gli Arabi, fino da piu antichi tempi, che anche negli scritti prosaici si vede frequentemente adoperata. Nella biblioteca dell' Escuriale si trovano molti Arabici dizionarii, ne' quali non si debbono cercare le parole, come si usa comunemente in simiglianti libri, nelle lettere iniziali, ma bensi nelle finali; perciocchè tanto è il diletto che si prendono gli Arabi della rima, che più hanno in pensiero la desinenza e l'ultime lettere delle parole, che non quelle, con cui cominciano." Tom. sec. p. 201.