« AnteriorContinuar »
COLUMBUS.-OLIVE E. DANA. Christopher Columbus or, in his native tongue, Christofero Colombo; in the Spanish, Christoval Colon-was born in Italy in fourteen hundred and thirty-five. The city of Genoa is proud to link his history and achievements with her associations, and to claim him as her son, yet when the great city, rich in fleets and ships and princely dwellings, and with treasure constantly going out of and coming into her gates, sheltered him, the greatest of her children by birth or adoption, his share of the Genoan wealth was small indeed. The family of Colombo was not housed in any of the luxurious dwellings in the city. The father was poor and obscure, and neither he nor any of his family, save the son Christofero, seem to bave been ambitious to attain more than the privilege of earning a modest living and some few opportunities for study.
In pursuance of their wonted occupation, that of wcolcarding, Colombo had removed his family to Genoa from a smaller town near by. Christopher was the oldest of his children, and there were three younger.
A larger share of work and responsibility than was the portion of the others fell, of course, on the oldest son, and it does not appear that he was inclined to shirk his tasks, though it is said that he found some of them distasteful.
So the little Christopher was, in his earlier boyhood, a wool-comber. Then he worked on the docks and quays, where were always vessels coming and going, laden with priceless cargoes. Some of these ships took their way across the storied Mediterranean, and came back with all sorts of Eastern treasures; others sailed upon the wide Atlantic, and perhaps went to the shores of Great Britain, where they could obtain coal and iron.
The blue sea, the hope and freedom and sympathy of it, the white-winged boats that flew over it, and the romance and adventure of the seamen's lives, seem to have fascinated the boy, and at fourteen he became a sailor.
Most of the voyages he went on in his boyhood were across the Mediterranean. Sailors and travelers told wonderful stories of strange, to-be-discovered countries,-of the fabled lost continent Atlantis, and of the “Ultima Thule." We may be sure that the boy knew very soon all that his mates could tell him about these places.
But he had been studying as well as working, and seems to have been an apt student. He understood geometry, astronomy, and navigation, as they were then taught, and had studied Latin also. He had been a little while at school in the university town of Pavia.
When he grew older, he took up the trade of map making, but he was also, throughout his early manhood, a sailor and explorer. He lived for a time in Lisbon, and for a while on the island of Porto Santo, a dependency of Madeira. Once, when he was voyaging, the vessel met in battle, ships from Venice. Again, when he seems himself to have had command, he had a terrible encounter with a Venetian ship. Both that vessel and his own were burned, and he saved his life only by swimming to the mainland, two miles away.
The shore where he was cast was the coast of Portugal, and there he met a beautiful woman, who became his wife. Her father was a sea-captain, full of daring thoughts and adventurous projects. He believed, as did Columbus, that there were lands beyond the ocean ; that China and India could be reached by sailing to the west as surely as by sailing to the east. The elder man had seen, in his travels, many signs of undiscovered but not undiscoverable countries.
Some property, and consequently greater leisure, had come to Columbus after his marriage. He gave himself more unreservedly to geographical studies, and to musing on questions which had become to him of unspeakable interest and importance. His wife sympathized with him fully in these things, and was one of his best helpers and encouragers.
People were just beginning--the very wisest of them
to believe that the earth might be round, instead of flat and square. Columbus was fully persuaded of the fact. A certain saying of Aristotle had great weight with him. But he found it well-nigh impossible to win others to his way of thinking. Those best fitted, by birth, education, and occupation, to appreciate his reasoning-philosophers, astronomers, travelers, sailors-were last to give credence to his theories.
Indifference, however, did not dampen his ardor. He was determined, if means could be raised, to set out on a voyage of exploration into these unknown regions. He wished to see if his guesses at truth approached geographical reality. He would have liked a share, no doubt, in the wealth of these alluring lands. There were purposes of his own that a portion of their gold would help him to fulfil, one of which was the recapture of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. It seemed to him that nothing was so much to be desired as the conversion to Christianity of India and the eastern peoples. It seemed to him not impossible to reach India by way of the sea, and to win it, with its sovereigns, to Christ.
He found few, however, to sympathize with him in this hope. He went to many kings and queens, peticioning for aid to fulfil his plans. No one was willing to grant it, and many of them withheld, too, even courtesy and deference. They were too busy with their own often troublesome kingdoms to pay heed to so visionary a project, as this of Columbus sounded to them. They did not dream that a continent, one that should owe little to kings and queens, awaited the finding.
The wife of Columbus had died, meanwhile, and he had grown old. At thirty-five his hair was snowy white. He was a pathetic figure, as he went about with Diego, his little son, in the vain search for aid. He went at last 1) Spain, because one of the princes was interested in geographical discoveries. But Ferdinand and Isabella would promise him no help, and he turned back, sadder than ever.
On his return home, Columbus stopped one night at a Spanish convent, whose abbot, Juan Perez, a scholar biniself, became much interested in Columbus' story. He sympathized, too, with the traveler's hopes, and longed to see them fulfilled. He was Queen Isabella's confessor and her friend; and he offered to intercede with her in Columbus' behalf, if the latter would wait at the convent until the abbot could lay the case before the queen. The finance ministers of the two crowns, also favored Columbus' undertaking, and the queen consented to aid him, offering, if it were necessary, her jewels, but the sacrifice was unneeded.
Columbus was summoned to the court at Granada, and made his arrangements for the expedition. He was to pay one eighth of the expense, and the three Danzon brothers, ship builders, who were in sympathy with the project, loaned him the money. They were willing also to accompany him on his voyage. Three small ships, called caravels, were made ready, and they sailed from Palos, August 2, 1492.
It was on many accounts a most trying voyage. The men had been drafted into service, and they had little faith in either their commander or his purposes and hopes. As the days went by and land did not appear they would have returned gladly. The waters they sailed on secmed shoreless. But neither entreaty nor threat moved Columbus.
By-and-by, however, after much disappointment, dissension, and anxiety, tokens of land, not very far distant, appeared to them. Reeds were seen, and floating branches with berries, and a carved staff. The men were jubilant, Columbus watchful; but a few hours of fruitless watching discouraged again the sailors. It was almost ten weeks since they set sail from Palos.
Their night long watch and weary journey were rewarded together on the morning of Friday, the 12th of October, 1492. Then they saw an island with fertile, wooden shrines, which Columbus at once took possession of in the name of Spain. naming it San Salvador. It was on the outskirts of the new world, and he did not know how great his discovery was.
But he knew enough to give him and the monarchs he represented great satisfaction. He was received on his return to Spain with ovations. He was allowed to sit in the royal presence, and received the promised title, Admiral, which his descendants retain, with the precedence of all the Spanish nobles to this day. In their families, the oldest son is always named Ferdinand for the king, and the second of their sons, Christopher, after our discoverer.
The first voyage of Columbus was his happiest. He made four voyages to the new hemisphere, but envy and detraction followed him as he grew famous. Monarchs proved ungrateful, and discovery, even of new worlds, unprofitable. He was not able to raise an army and equip it for the taking of the Holy Sepulchre, as he had hoped. And he did not dream of the triumphs of Christianity in the western world; that Christian principles would leaven society and shape governments, and that these would influence in return the Old World and the outlying nations.
Columbus died in 1506. His last years were lonely and full of disappointment. Some years after his death the king ordered a tomb placed over his remains. Later they were taken to the Cathedral in San Domingo. After that they were carried to Havana, in 1786. The magnitude of his discovery was slowly realized both by his contemporaries and their descendants. Magnificent as was the New World he discovered, it was then like a rough, unlovely germ. Time alone could show to what it would attain.
---Journal of Education.