Page images

travelled for three days and found innumerable small villages and a numberless population but nought of ruling authority. . . . I followed the coast eastwardly for a hundred and seven leagues as far as where it terminated; from which headland I saw another island to the east. . . to which I at once gave the name La Spañola.1 . . . The lands are all most beautiful . . . and full of trees of a thousand kinds, so lofty that they seem to reach the sky. And I am assured that they never lose their foliage; as may be imagined, since I saw them as green and as beautiful as they are in Spain during May. . . . And the nightingale was singing, and other birds of a thousand sorts, in the month of November.... In the earth are many mines of metals; and there is a population of incalculable number. . . . The people have no other weapons than the stems of reeds in their seeding state, on the end of which they fix little sharpened stakes. Even these they dare not use; for many times has it happened that I sent two or three men ashore to some village to parley, and countless numbers of them sallied forth, but as soon as they saw those approach they fled away in such wise that even a father would not wait for his son. And this was not because any hurt had ever been done to any of them: — on the contrary, at every headland where I have . . . been able to hold speech with them, I gave them everything that I had, as well cloth as many other things, without accepting aught therefore;

but such they are, incurably timid. . . . They are straightways content with whatsoever trifle of whatsoever kind be given them in return for it [their gold and cotton]. And I forbade that anything so worthless as fragments of broken platters and pieces of broken glass and strap buckles should be given them.

They believed very firmly that I, with these ships and crews, came from the sky. . . . Wherever I arrived they went running from house to house and to the neighboring villages, with loud cries of "Come! come to see the people from Heaven!" ... This is a land to be desired,- and once seen, never to be relinquished, in which, in a place most suitable and best for its proximity to the gold mines and for traffic with the mainland

1 Hispaniola or Hayti.

both on this side [Europe] and with that yonder belonging to the Great Can [China], I took possession of a large town, which I named the city of Navidad. And I have made fortification there . . . and I have left therein men enough, with arms and artillery and provisions for more than a year . . . and a great friendship with the king of that land, to such a degree that he prided himself on calling and holding me as his brother. . . . In another island, which they assure me is larger than Española, the people have no hair. In this there is incalculable gold; and concerning this and the rest I bring Indians with me as witnesses. . . . And I believe that I have discovered rhubarb and cinnamon, and I shall find that the men whom I am leaving there will have discovered a thousand other things of value. . . . And in truth I should have done much more if the ships had served me as well as might reasonably have been expected. . . . Since thus our Redeemer has given to our most illustrious King and Queen, and to their famous kingdoms, this victory in so high a matter, Christendom should have rejoicing therein, and make great festivals and give solemn thanks to the Holy Trinity for the great exaltation they shall have by the conversion of so many peoples to our holy faith; and next for the temporal benefit which will bring hither refreshment and profit, not only to Spain but to all Christians. This briefly, in accordance with the facts. Dated on the caravel off the Canary Islands, the 15 February of the year 1493

At your command

The Admiral

his son

Diego, De

cember 1,1504


The last years of Columbus' life were clouded with dis- 4. Columbus appointment, poverty, and sickness. He was greedy of both complains to fame and gold. He had written to his sovereigns on the return from his fourth and last voyage to the Indies (1503) praising gold like a miser. Now, a year later, he writes to his son Diego, who is at the court. His revenues of "tenths and eighths" have not been given him (No. 2, p. 6); the trade of the Indies has been seized by covetous rivals. He hopes in the justice of "the Queen our Lady" to remedy

his wrongs. But four days before his letter was penned Queen Isabella had died (November 26, 1504). Two years later (May 20, 1506) the great admiral died in poverty and obscurity at Valladolid. The letter to Diego follows:

Very dear Son:


Since I received your letter of Nov. 15 I have heard nothing from you. I wish that you would write me more frequently. . . . Many couriers come daily and the news is of such a nature that in hearing it all my hair stands on end, it is so contrary to what my soul desires. May it please the Holy Trinity to give health to the Queen our Lady that she may settle what has been placed under discussion. It appears to me that a good copy should be made of the chapter of that letter which their Highnesses wrote me, where they say they will fulfil their promises to me and will place you in possession of everything; and that this copy should be given to them with another writing telling of my sickness and that it is now impossible for me to go and kiss their Royal feet and hands, and that the Indies are being lost and are on fire in a thousand places, and that I have received nothing and am receiving nothing from the revenues derived from them. . . and that I am living upon borrowed funds. . . . We must strive to obtain the government of the Indies and then the adjustment of the revenues. . . . Today is Monday. I will endeavor to have your uncle and brother start [for the court, to "kiss the hands" of the sovereigns] tomorrow. Remember to write me very often. . . . May our Lord have you in His holy keeping

Done at Seville, December 1

Your father who loves you as himself


Xão Ferens 1


1 An enigmatical anagram with which Columbus usually signed his letters. For conjectures as to its meaning see Thacher, Christopher Columbus, Vol. III, pp. 454-458.


around the



Anthoyne Pigapheta, a knight of Rhodes, finding him- 5. Magelself in Spain"in the year of the Nativity of our Lord lan's voyage 1519," out of sheer curiosity ("to experiment and go and world, 1519see with mine own eyes a part of the awful things of ocean") joined the expedition of Magellan that was destined to make the first voyage around the world. On his return to Lisbon in 1522, Pigapheta sent to his Lord Philip, Grand Master of Rhodes, a long letter recounting his ample experience of "the awful things of ocean."

Monday, the day of St. Laurence, the 10th of August [1519] ... the fleet, provided with what was necessary for it, and carrying crews of different nations to the number of 237 men in all the five ships, was ready to set sail from the mole of Seville, and firing all the artillery, we made sail only on the foremast, and came to the end of a river named Betis, which is now called Guadalcavir. . . . After that we had passed the equinoctial line toward the south, we navigated between south and west; and we crossed [the Atlantic] as far as a country named Verzin [Brazil].... At this place we had refreshments of victuals like fowls and meat of cows, also a variety of fruits of singular goodness.... The people of the said place gave, in order to have a knife or a fish-hook, five or six fowls, and for a comb they gave two geese, and for a small mirror or a pair of scissors they gave so much fish that ten men could have eaten of it. . . . For a king of cards, of the kind which they used to play with in Italy, they gave five fowls and thought they had cheated me. ... They have boats which are made of a tree, all in one piece, which they call canoo. These are not made with iron instruments, for they have not got any, but with stones like pebbles; and with these they plane and dig out these boats. Into these thirty or forty men enter, and their oars are made like iron shovels; and those who row these oars are black people, quite naked and shaven, and look like enemies of hell. . . . Departing thence as far as 49 degrees in the Antarctic heavens we

entered a port to pass the winter, and remained there two whole months without ever seeing anybody. However one day we saw a giant on the shore dancing and leaping and singing, and whilst singing he put the sand and dust on his head . . . and he raised one finger on high, thinking that we came from heaven. He was so tall that the tallest of us came only to his waist. He had a large face painted red all around, and his eyes were painted yellow all around them, and he had two hearts painted on his cheeks; he had but little hair on his head, and it was painted white. . . . The captain caused food and drink to be given to this giant, and they showed him some things, among them a steel mirror. And when the giant saw his likeness in it, he was greatly terrified, leaping backwards so that he made three or four of our men fall down. . . . And when he danced he caused the earth to sink a palm's depth at the place where his feet touched. He was a long time with us, and at the end we baptised him and gave him the name of John. This giant pronounced the name of Jesus, the Pater Noster [Lord's prayer], and the Ave Maria [Hail, Mary !] as clearly as we did: but he had a terribly strong and loud voice. . . .


After taking the course to the 52d degree of the said Antarctic sky. . . we found by miracle a strait which we called the Cape of the Eleven Thousand Virgins; this strait is 110 leagues long . . . and it issues in another sea which is called the peaceful sea [Pacific]. It is surrounded by very high mountains covered with snow, and it was not possible to anchor with the anchors, because no bottom was found. . . . Wednesday, the 28th of November 1520, we came forth out of the said strait, and entered into the Pacific sea, where we remained three months and twenty days without taking in provisions, and we ate only old biscuits reduced to powder and full of grubs . . . and we drank water that was yellow and stinking. We also ate the oxhides which were under the main yard, so that the yard should not break the rigging: they were very hard on account of the sun, rain, and wind, and we left them for four or five days in the sea, and then we put them a little on the embers, and so ate them; also the sawdust of wood, and rats which cost half a crown each moreover enough of them were not to be got. . . .

« PreviousContinue »