« AnkstesnisTęsti »
the fifteenth, and the nineteenth centuries are cies, and monarchies to organize states. A new the four great periods of transition. Who can sense was needed to pierce the further heights doubt that the fifteenth century was one of those of heaven, even as the printing-press had predestined to bring about radical and pro- vanquished devouring time and the compass found changes ? Paganizing influences were conquered space, and straightway the chance stealing over the pontificate, to such a degree dropping of a few bits of glass into an organeven that the popes seemed to be high priests tube revealed the telescope and overthrew the of Jupiter and religion itself an art, a plastic art. senile astronomy of Alexandria. Conscience, Poets, painters, sculptors, true ministering spirits too, needed to be renovated; the Church to of this new heaven, reawakened the olden gods be reconstructed; Christianity to be reformed, amid the scenes of nature, and revived the an- and the beliefs of man idealized. And to cient idolatry beneath the arches of thechurches. fulfil this mission without abandoning the traThe empire became a mere empty show; the ditional ideas and dogmas of the faith, the German kaisers seemed to be little more than strong intellect of the immortal Savonarola bespangled and unreal players; feudal society and the reformatory doctrines of Luther were fell, overthrown by the successful power of la- brought forth. So, too, nature must needs be bor. The ancient Lombard leagues, the old new-born, and Columbus appeared. Examine military framework of society, and the outworn the record of all discoveries and inventions, feudal States were succeeded by the dominion and you will see how that of the great mariner of the mercantile cities, whose fleets were such makes its advent in the appointed hour, when as empires never owned, and who rewarded their our earth and our intellect demanded it with artists as emperor never did. These cities made one accord. use of their garnered wealth to convert the An event took place in the century of Copalaces of their gilds and corporations into mu- lumbus which aroused the minds of men and seums, and, resting from their world-wide bar- overwhelmed their souls with dread. Constanter, devoted their whole existence to continual tinople, the holy city, set at the very portal of artistic tourneys, Olympic games, and poetic Asia, found herself suddenly surprised by the contests, in which the days of ancient Greece hordes which had escaped three centuries beseemed to be revived, and the Muses who per- fore from the Mongolian plains, and was forced ished at the feet of Hellenic altars to be once to bow beneath the yoke, like Jerusalem of the more restored to our world. This fifteenth cen- prophets, until the crescent replaced the Christury is the springtime of modern history. In- tian cross upon the minarets of Saint Sophia, dustrial art brings forth the printing-press, which and the muezzin uttered his cry where hitherto helps to immortalize the thoughts of men; old the priest had offered his prayer. This great emruins crowned with the wild thyme and rue pire of the East had endured for eleven cengive up, like the tomb, their treasure of life, the turies; yet in its agony it held aloof from the perfect statue that affords a type for the perfec- West, and from the West received no succor, tion of new-born art; the dry shell of scholastic merely on account of wretched theological conphilosophy produces, like some bright insect, troversies. It is impossible to conceive how pothe pure Florentine Platonism, and finally the tently and imperiously Columbus was inspired ocean, in order that all may be marvelous, that by that other semi-religious impulse of a new all may be regeneration and progress, brings crusade, except by sharing the impression far-off America to light, renovating nature it- left on his soul and the thoughts aroused in self, as by another and greater miracle, with his mind by events like the taking of Byzanher virgin forests and her fullness of life. tium, mourned in the chiefest elegiac poems of
This age of the Renaissance seems to have the age. In like manner as the yearning for a delighted in satisfying every need and aspira- new life and new discoveries filled the minds tion of the spirit of man. A means was re- of men in that Easter-time of the Renaissance, quired to rend and crush the feudal rock, and and as the desire to revive the crusades was gunpowder appeared in the fourteenth century. excited by the fall of Constantinople, so the To lay bare the secrets of the planet, to accom- zeal for traffic that possessed him had its origin plish the legendary voyages of the new Argo- in the mercantile cities of Italy; the desire to nauts, a fixed point in the sky corresponding seek commercial gain through great maritime to another fixed point in the ship was de expeditions originated in the marvelous specmanded, and the mariner's compass was provi- tacle of the Portuguese discoveries of that time; dentially vouchsafed. A new type of art was the resolve to essay fabulous and impossible required, and the long-forgotten statue came deeds sprang from the successful end of that forth to hold the post of honor in our cathe- great campaign against the Arab invader, ac
drals and in the palaces of our popes. A new complished after seven centuries of effort by -social organization was demanded, whereupon Spain on the beauteous Vega of Granada.
he municipalities arose to institute democra- But our principal need, in order to understand one of the phases of the mind of Columbus, fore disregard its possible influence when we is to study the mercantile cities of Italy at that endeavor to follow out and estimate the variday. None was so active as Genoa. By its in- ous developments of his mind. From a very ternal constitution it ranked among the repub- early age, like all those who are under the sway lican municipalities, in which upon a solid ba- of a sovereign vocation, the great pilot took sis of genuine democracy there was often reared the highest mental delight in the study of gea certain noble class; not, we may say, of true ography and charts, while his principal physielection, but of true selection, charged by com- cal occupation was in the combats and perils mon consent and by long usage with the func- of the sea. tions of direction and government. But the Although the story of the youth of ColumGenoese democracy had become split up into bus, after all that is known of it has been such a number of factions, and so many leaders scrupulously sifted, can hardly be vouched for had arisen among its nobility, that Genoa was as historically certain, mixed as it is with a compelled to deliver one of her fortresses to thousand wild traditions originated after he the Duke of Milan; in order that, by maintain- had become famous, and mainly due to intering a garrison and a standard there, he might ested kinsmen, or resting on mere tales devised impose upon all the mutual respect and con- to fit his career and his achievements, it cansideration due among free and genuine citizens. not be denied that he was indeed a part of the And as in the commercial republic of the Car- stormy maritime life of his time. John of Anjou, thage ofold foreign mercenaries were employed, Duke of Calabria, took Columbus with him in and as in the no less commercial monarchy of the fleet of galleys sent to win the Neapolitan England there exists even in our day a hired throne for René, Count of Provence. And in soldiery, so in those mercantile cities, in ac- these expeditions he made good use of the two cordance with the axiom that nature produces great virtues of the true sailor, courage and sathe thing of which she stands in need, there was gacity. Columbus himself tells that when René evolved a class of soldiers of fortune, who of- sent him to Tunis in search of the galiot Ferfered their swords to the highest bidder, in re- nandina, and when, in the neighborhood of turn for favors or money, for the defense of any San Pietro in Sardinia, the crew mutinied and principles and any cause. Thus, and only thus, sought to force him to set sail for Marseilles, in those terrible ages of everlasting war when he contrived, under cover of the darkness of civil discords often coincided with foreign dis- the night, to change his course, so that at daycords, could governing families arise like the break the mutineers found themselves, against Medici in Florence or the Dorias in Genoa; their will and without having suspected the trick or manufactories be established for the fabri- played upon them, within sight of the headland cation of countless products that even to-day of Carthagena. It need, therefore, seem to us amaze us; or the exchanges of commerce be no great thing for him to have sailed from Cyeffected as a stimulus to labor; or a peaceful prus to Lisbon, and at last to have passed, in existence be assured to the tillers of the soil, the prime of life, about the year 1454, to the who were exempt from all other service pro- dominions of Portugal, a nation much in harvided they would give the proprietor one half mony at that time with the propensities of his of their crops ; or the lyre resound, the canvas temperament and with the dreams of his farvield to the brush, the marble to the chisel, and reaching imagination. the rough stone be wrought into the stately piles Although the fame of Columbus would of those splendid cities, filled with bright col- rightly seem to stand alone and incontestable ors and vocal with the chants of triumph. The in human annals, it has in reality been one of gorgeous churches of Genoa made of Columbus the most contested. The erudite advocates of a crusader, its schools a geographer, its palaces new-fangled theories appear to think that the filled with paintings and statues an artist, its highest merit in their trade is to dispute the inshores a mariner, its industries and commerce disputable: and so some of them attribute to a shrewd calculator and thoroughgoing man the earliest Icelander they come across in the of business.
sea-legends of ancient Scandinavia the discovIn the same way as Genoa must have ex- ery that was made by Columbus; and some erted an influence upon the character of one to the chance event of a direful shipwreck in like Columbus, so also Pavia, the university- the waters of Portugal, where Columbus was at aty, to which his parents sent him in his early the time, and to the tale whispered in our piyouth, was calculated to influence his psycho- lot's ear by a poor wrecked sailor who lay dylogical and moral nature. In truth, the uni- ing in consequence of that shipwreck and of versities of that time took rank as great intel- bitter sufferings. In Spain, where the most lectual capitals and as centers of converging familiar proverbs are instinct with the highest ideas. Columbus, after three years' residence, philosophy, when one is persecuted by the abandoned the university; and we may there- breath of slander or calumny he is told, by way of consolation, that“ they would say it of ideals and idle fables; able to create a new God.” It is impossible for Columbus to be world through the strength of his intellectual exempt from the common lot that befalls our vision, only to ruin it forth with by his improshortcomings and chance acts. Many concur- vident schemes and his wretched administrarent causes explain this contradictory judgment tion; mathematician and soothsayer ; believer in regard to a personality so distinct in itself in magic and student of nature; mystic and and so positively historical. At the beginning astronomer; so multiplex and various are his of the century, and indeed far into it, history was traits that they scarcely come within the grasp largely governed by a diseased standard of crit- of any logical chain of reasoning. He who reicism, which mistook scurrility and censorious- gards not the supplications of Columbus, his ness for healthy judgment, much as though in visions, his predictions, his schemes of evangethe domain of justice the judge were to be lization, his dream of winning back the Holy confounded with the hangman. In the second Sepulcher and his irrepressible tendency to oraplace, it has been the fate of our generation cular and prophetic utterances, ignores a most to undergo a dismal succession of reactionary important element of his being; but he who movements, outdoing each other in extrava- leaves out of sight his Italian refinement, his gance and unexpectedness. The ultra-reaction- Genoese shrewdness in trade, his fifteenth-cenists of our religion had long felt the need of new tury diplomacy, his inordinate thirst for wealth, saints to renovate their time-worn calendar; his stratagems in seamanship, his Florentine duthey hunted far and wide to find some person- plicity as a schemer, his propensity to sell himage possessed of the gift of miracles, and finally self body and soul to the highest bidder, his they set to work to proclaim the impeccability continual bargaining, ignores on the other hand of Columbus, and to raise him to the category an aspect no less singular than the first, and of of the immaculate conception as being with- no less decisive influence toward the accomout the stain of original sin. In order to con- plishment of his great end, and toward the realfer, with any show of reason, the saintly title ization of his marvelous achievement. What upon him, the Ultramontanes exaggerated his a strange mingling of science and sorcery he domestic virtues; while on the other hand the appears to us; now wholly a philosopher, like opposing rationalists dragged him in the mire Copernicus, his contemporary; now a knightby their merciless attacks, not so much with errant, like those depicted by Pulci or Ariosto. intent to degrade the man himself as to open At one moment you would deem his mind stored the eyes of the devout to the facility with which with the most perfect astronomical tables; at anthe Church can swallow anything when it sets other you would hold out your palm to him that to work to make, for its own advantage, a pop- he might read your horoscope by chiromancy. ular and miracle-working saint. The upshot There is in him somewhat of those positive alof this scandalous quarrel went to prove that gebraists of Cordova who revived the matheColumbus sinned in his love-affairs and in his matical sciences by their own researches and pecuniary transactions, that he was a greedy by the aid of Alexandrine traditions, as there is adventurer, and that he was fond of gold and also something of the alchemists who found, sensuality. None of this would ever have been not gold indeed, but chemistry, the peer of thought of had due heed been given to what the gold, in their retorts. And all this is in him immortal pilot really was-by atavism, by birth, and of him, for with him the middle ages end by vocation, by natural bent, by education and and modern times begin. by the whole tenor of his life. What, then, was We must not be misled by the magnitude of he in truth? Columbus was, purely and simply, the event to imagine that the advent of Coan Argonaut.
lumbus and the discovery of the New World Our Argonaut is seen to be very complex were sudden happenings, unheralded by the when contrasted with him of old. The minds teachings of science or by the evolutions of most difficult to comprehend are the most com- time. As the productions of Central Asia plex. Columbus, seer and trader, visionary and tempted trade and barter in those days, so likecalculator, crusader and mathematician, a sort wise did minds of a certain type and class deof Isaiah in his prophetic insight and banker in vote their unflagging energies to seeking the his computations, his thoughts set upon religion shortest possible pathway to that miraculous and business alike; a sublime oracle from whose fountain-head of wealth. The whole world lips predictions fall in impetuous torrent, and a dreamed of India, and therefore all explorers singularly bad governor, resorting to irregular sought the Indies by way of every sea. The anand arbitrary measures; advocating the recon- cient Fleece of Gold was revived in the tomes quest of the Holy Sepulcher through a mighty of the Venetian, Marco Polo, which were writeffort of his devout will, and of the mines of ten in haste and spread among the people as Golconda by a shorter road to India than any no book had ever spread before. In her eterthen known; ever in suspense between lofty nal rivalry with Venice, Genoa, the home of Columbus, spurred on by the lust of gain, ex- blank spaces in regard to seas other than the plored land and sea in every possible direction. Mediterranean, which was then as well exThe embassies despatched by Henry III. from plored and known as in our own times. In his Castilian realms, of which Clavijo tells with addition to all this, the first fruits of the printsuch delightful ingenuousness; the pilgrimage ing-press were seen in the publication of variof that adventurous Venetian, Nicolas Conti, ous works on astronomy, cosmography and undertaken in the lifetime of Columbus; the geography. By a thousand different roads swarm of explorations chronicled by countless learning had reached its apogee. Then it was explorers did not, like the crusades, obey a re- that Columbus, deeming the Mediterranean too higious motive and purpose; they were solely narrow a field for his genius, took his way, we instigated by mercantile interest, and sought know not now whether in obedience to deeply markets, not tombs. Coincident with all this reasoned motives or to some swift inspiration, were a greater zeal and persistence in geo- to the extremity of the Iberian peninsula,- to graphical research. Chartography thrived most that Portugal which was then exploring Africa remarkably. The barks of Catalonia, in their and bringing oriental Asia anew within the civilizing mission along the Mediterranean range of life and history,—to fulfil his design strands, carried tolerably correct charts of the of rounding and perfecting all this by the disworld as it was then known, planned in those covery of America. splendid centers of culture, Barcelona and Mallorca. The genius of glory will give an The harmony between the individual vocaeternal place on her roll of fame to that Cat- tions of men and their destinies cannot be alan chart of the world, called in every scien- ignored. Columbus would not have -ranked tific treatise the Great Map, and drawn in the among the foremost of navigators but for the seventy-fifth year of the fourteenth century, for influence of Lisbon; that city whence voywhich reason that year is to be counted among ages first were undertaken upon the high seas, the most brilliant in the pathways of time, and which as far excelled in effort and extent the among the most sacred memories preserved in petty Mediterranean cruises as the latter exthe annals of the world. The terrestrial plani- ceeded the ancient navigation of rivers. Colum. spheres so graphically instructed the sailor that bus the Genoese went to Lisbon; for there was they might almost be termed text-books, show- the fane of science, and all roads then led to ing how closely the great and marvelous dis- the mouth of the Tagus. From the Normans covery of the mariner's compass had been to the Mallorcans, all sought at Lisbon opporfollowed by man's domination of the sea. In tunities of commerce and nautical instruction. this wise the planisphere designed in the library And this decision of his, reached by deliberof the Borgias, and the chart traced by the ate and conscious reflection, was inspired by monks of San Michele on the walls of their the inward voice, ceaselessly heard, of earnest monastery in the lagoons of Venice near Mu- thought moving him and guiding him in his rano, both of which were constructed in the work. It was not a mere chance, as those histime of Columbus, summed up and exhibited torians hold who see him cast upon the Portuall the chartographical knowledge of that day, guese coasts by destroying tempests and fatal and gave practical teaching in geography, with shipwreck. ail the accuracy then possible, to the travelers The relations between the western cities of and explorers of that most eventful age. But the Italian peninsula and the western cities of the richest store of the knowledge so essential the Iberian peninsula during the middle ages to his mission and his profession was, perhaps, appear to have been very close. This contact found by Columbus in Genoa, at that time as of Catalonia with Italy explains how heroic celebrated as Barcelona and Palma for its mar- men like Roger de Lauria became admirals itme charts. They were called by the same of Aragon; the dominion of Charles V. over Gretk name, Periplus, which was rendered so continental Europe explains how the office of famous by the cruise of Hanno the Carthagin- high admiral of Spain was filled by a Genoese 13. Vivien attributes to the Genoese, Pietro sailor, Andrea Doria; the presence of the GenoVasconti, a very skilful navigator, the first per- ese in Galicia and Portugal is explicable only by plas constructed in the middle ages. The the high reputation won by the Genoese among charts of Pizzagni, of Bianco, of our Balearic the Galicians and Lusitanians. Certain it is, as countryman Valseca, served not alone to per- Oliveira Martins, the great Portuguese historfect Columbus both in his calling and in his ian, declares, that in seamanship Genoa held the knowledge; they likewise helped to win for mastery over Lisbon. In fact, in the eleventh bim the means of subsistence, for he copied century, the bishop of Compostela or Santiago thern and sold them after he had made use of procured pilots from Liguria ; and later, so wise them in his own voyages. An examination of a king as Dom Denis of Portugal bestowed the these charts at once reveals indefiniteness and Portuguese high-admiralship on the illustrious
Genoese family of the Pezzagnas, and made the continuously carried on. The Azores and the rank hereditary. So many foreigners dwelt in Guinea coast, discovered after so many futile Lisbon in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries attempts, were to the imagination paradises that its chronicler calls it a vast city of many while sought, but proved to be but untilled and widely diverse inhabitants. It differed from wastes when found. Turning from the newVenice, where three elements predominated- found Azores and the western shores of Afthe reek, the Slav and the Latin. It must rica, desire ardently sought to win a foothold rather have been like such modern cities as on the African continent itself. This desire was Buenos Ayres, New York, and many others of personified in the infante Dom Henry, the third America, peopled by immigrants from the four son of the king Dom John, belonging to the quarters of the globe. To me, Lisbon exerts a dynasty of Aviz, successor to the Burgundians decisive influence on the mind of Columbus,and and forerunner of the houses of Austria and invests it with the traits of universality which Braganza, a dynasty that began in Castile with Lisbon had possessed from the fourteenth cen- a half-learned, half-feudal noble, and ended tury, and with that dreamy farsightedness that with that sublime madman the king Dom Sekept it in a perpetual fever of illusion and an- bastian in the war against the Moors for the ticipation. Beholding the ships of every port, coveted sands of Africa. Henry seemed to be associating with men of every clime, hearing not a man, but a cipher. No human passion the accents of every tongue, taking part in swerved him from his providential and historic the barter of the wares of all countries, breath- aim. A persistent yearning for voyages filled ing the spirit of all peoples and brought in his breast, and wholly subjugated his will to contact with the large results of universal com- his ideal. The measureless ocean that stretched merce, a comprehensiveandbrilliant intellect - at the foot of Cape Sagres was for him crowded one which assimilates converging currents of with the same fantastic objects and the same ideas — molds all into a supreme and universal idealized visions that his inward soul discerned. whole.
Portugal, hemmed in on the landward by the The world was growing broader under the power of Castile, had no resource but to turn to influence of Lisbon, and the mind of man was the ocean for broader dominion. Her material expanding under the influence of a widened sky growth and her intellectual progress demanded and earth; while, beyond a doubt, ancient in- this. Dom Henry, being a Lusitanian, was a terests and beliefs were dwindling in proportion born discoverer. This vocation, due to the pato the world's advance and the growth of human ternal stock, was fortified by the powerful inintellect. As modern astronomy has dethroned fluence of the maternal line. The mother of our planet from its station as the center of the Dom Henry of Aviz, being of English birth, universe, where it was set by the superstition was both Saxon and Norman by temperament. of old times in obedience to the evidence of Her name was Philippa of Lancaster. Until the senses ; so the ascendancy of Lisbon was well advanced in age she bore to her husband, lessening, little by little, the influence of Ven- the king Dom John, a child every year. This ice and Genoa, in like manner as the discov- offspring turned to the sea spontaneously, like ery of new regions and cities was perforce to aquatic creatures seeking their element; and, lessen in the course of time the sovereign influ- being good princes and kings, they aspired to ence wielded by Lisbon in the last years of the conquest. The infante Dom Henry, therefore, middle ages.
by the double force of his will and his intelliThere is a mysterious relation between the gence, imposed an African conquest upon his art-schools of the Renaissance, founded by the people, deeming that he might thus penetrate Medici in Florence, and the schools of prac- by land to the dominions of the Great Mogul, tical seamanship founded by the sons of Dom and become enriched by his measureless store John I. at Cape Sagres. The academies on the of pearls and diamonds. Cathay, the palacebanks of the Arno looked backward to the past, city, described in all the legends of that time; while the schools by the ocean's side looked paved with silver and overlaid with beaten gold; toward the future. In the former prevailed the perfumed by odorous waters flowing from founinward astronomy of the thoughts; in the lat- tains of mother-of-pearl and giant opals; crestter, the outward astronomy of the heavens. crowned by pinnacles of rubies and emeralds ; As the Florentine artists were destined to re- with agate turrets and porphyry walls, upon vive the world of history and tradition, so was which seed-pearls fell in gentle shower, rose in Columbus destined to reveal the world of na- a dream-vision beyond the Strait of Cadiz, beture and of liberty.
yond the Isthmus of Suez, beyond the Arabian The whole of the Lusitanian fifteenth cen- deserts, away in far Mongolia where Alexantury is filled with the universal aspiration to der the Great effected the transfusion of blood search and dominate Africa, giving rise to from vein to vein among his warriors, and daring voyages and explorations more or less brought about a blending of races whereby