Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS.

By EMILIO CASTELAR.

IV. THE GREAT VOYAGE.

N that memorable twelfth The order to provide stores for a whole year

of May, Columbus set out struck terror to the bravest souls, whose most polo

from Granada for Cordova, daring ocean ventures had rarely carried them and thence by way of Se- more than two hundred leagues from land. In villeand Huelvato Moguer vain the sovereigns sent letter after letter; in and Palos, where there vain the alcaldes time and again proclaimed awaited him the caravels the imperative mandate to the blare of trumpets

so ardently desired for the and the roll of drums; in vain the royal pursuirealization of the dreams that to his quickened vant, Juan de Peñalosa, compelled the unwillfaith had long seemed actualities. Columbus ing pilots to embark by force; in vain the mission tarried a few days in Cordova to bid farewell of the corregidor, Juan de Cepeda, who had to his dear ones, and to make provision for forth with manned the fortifications so as to enhis sons. The high-born family to whom he force obedience if need were—the sailors fled was joined by such singular ties, although not like souls borne of demons upon the winds, and, wealthy, aided materially in carrying out his after making the sign of the cross to ward off plans, and an Arana, a near kinsman of Bea- the wizard spells of the Genoese charlatan, betrice, was the devoted companion of Columbus came invisible as though by enchantment. in this first venture. These domestic matters be- With the highandinflexible resolve belonging ing settled, the discoverer went to Palos, there to his character, as we now know it, Columbus to devote himself to the arduous task of making so strenuously persisted in launching forth at ready for the expedition. Money, the first re- any hazard and with any possible crew, that he quisite of every practical undertaking, was at promised, as authentic records show, to throw hand. Resources had been procured by divers open the jails and to take the pardoned convicts ways and means. By royal warrant a forced levy as sailors, even at the risk of their mutinying, of three caravels belonging to local pilots was as though his expedition were not glorious, laid upon the town of Palos, to be taken for an but suicidal. These heroic resolves were at unspecified use and an indefinite time. this juncture looked upon as the vagaries of a

Toward the end of May the town council monomaniac, and exposed him to the danger published its formal acceptance of the orders, of being bound and confined in some asylum yet by the end of June urgent summons had on the first violent symptoms. Owing to these become necessary, and sharp reprimands for vulgar distrusts, the opposition of those around non-compliance with the imperative orders from him grew in proportion as Columbus redoubled the palace. This important municipal assist- his efforts. Neither the commutation decreed ance was supplemented by a grant of 1,140,000 in favor of a number of malefactors who were maravedís by the crown of Castile, to which willing to ship on the caravels, nor other exColumbus added 500,000 more as his personal treme and impossible measures of like violent share of one eighth, collected by him with great import, gave results favorable to the expedition, difficulty from diverse sources. But, even with and our pilot ran serious risk of being shipthe money at command, something else was wrecked on the very shores of his desire, and of lacking. Those called upon to assist the enter- losing the hoardings of the thirty years and more prise, and to accompany the discoverer, mu- during which his life and soul had been utterly lishly endeavored to escape the onerous duty. given to the colossal scheme of his voyage, now Furthermore, as a punishment for their failure well nigh frustrated by the incredible and unforeto serve the crown, the equipment and costly seen repugnance of the masses at the very time provisioning of the caravels were imposed upon when its success seemed assured by the concesthem, a measure which bore grievously on that sions won from the throne by such herculean needy maritime population. The general senti- efforts. This fresh rebuff completely unhinged ment rebelled against the garrulous and fighty the nervous system of Columbus, and brought adventurer, who wearied them with his Italian on attacks of vertigo. With the royal patronage volubility, and his fantastic schemes born of a heaped upon his head, with his hardly amassed disordered imagination.

gold in his scrip, and with the municipal auVol. XLIV. – 77-78.

585

[graphic]

thorities at his feet, his scheme was being baffled owner, not only by inclination, but by inheriand ruined by the resistance of the people. tance. When he took the affair in hand the

Fortunately for Columbus, the providential whole aspect of the situation changed. The character of his undertaking was on his side, timid regained courage, the doubters began and so also was Juan Perez, the Franciscan, to feel hopeful reassurance, the idle bestirred who, as he had previously aided him to meet the themselves, the lukewarm displayed interest, objections of the court, now helped him anew and the skeptics faith; the deserted strand to overcome the popular prejudice. Columbus swarmed with sailors, the calkers' mallets rang had sought his assistance on three occasions on the hulls, the carpenters patched the wom of moral shipwreck,--more dire than those of planking, a goodly store of provisions was ocean,—and had thrice found a haven in the stowed on board, the riggers stretched coraffection and wisdom of the friar, whose know- dage and canvas on the bare masts, and there ledge of the common people was as great as was no longer need of impressed galley-slaves his knowledge of royalty. As he had success- or felons to equip so virtuous and scientific an fully besought the throne for needed means, so expedition. At the outset, Columbus would now he won the popular support, and pre- have been content with ninety men, but more vented the royal aid from becoming fruitless than six score were won over by his tireless through the failure of the townsfolk to give their coadjutor. The discoverer's resources proved humble, but perhaps more indispensable, coöp- scanty, through his having underestimated his eration. His prime motive was his friendship requirements, and because of the heavy outlay for Columbus, which in fervor equaled that dis- demanded for the equipment; but his farplayed later by so ardent and zealous a man as sighted lieutenant added half a million maraPadre Las Casas, friendships, both of them, bor- vedís to the million and more already given dering on adoration, and in their material and by the Catholic Sovereigns. At that time the intellectual aspects bequeathed to after ages. population of Palos comprised barely 2000 But, apart from this noble personal devotion, souls, yet the town furnished three pilots, bePadre Juan was actuated by his love for cos- sides the nucleus of the crew. These sailors mographic science, born of the sea and fostered of Palos, a lesser number from the neighborby his intercourse with the mariners, as well ing village of Moguer, recruits from Niebla, as by his love for Christianity, so soon to be Huelva, Ayamonte, and some other hamlets, diffused throughout the far-off lands of which with a few adventurers, made up the crew, the discoverer discoursed in the cloisters of which, despite the unusual and perilous charthe convent. Juan Perez, less ignorant of acter of the voyage, was not after all very the world than the folk of Moguer and Palos heterogeneous. supposed, determined to put himself at the The drafted caravels did not, in Pinzon's head of the scheme, with both hands and both eyes, amount to much. Preferring vessels of feet, as we vulgarly say; and thus he won small size, because better fitted for shallow over the Pinzons, as being men especially fitted coasts and for entering river mouths, the pruto rally the much-needed but reluctant sail- dent ship-owner discarded the unseaworthy ors, who still persisted in doubting the empty ones, and gave from his own shipyards all speeches and baseless schemes of an unknown that was necessary and useful. He fitted out adventurer. Thus comes upon the scene Mar- the Niña, built and owned by his younger tin Alonso Pinzon, the illustrious partner in the brother. The Gallega, which was larger and marvelous enterprise.

more suitable for the flag-ship, besides being The first result of this intervention was the the only decked caravel and a strong and employment of persuasion in place of force; stanch ship, he rechristened Santa Maria, and the second, to facilitate the shipment of the assigned to the admiral. The third, which, accrews; the third, a feeling of unanimous confi- cording to some, was one of the drafted vessels, dence in the feasibility of the undertaking, and while others deem it the property of Pinzon assurance of a happy outcome. Garci-Fernan- himself or of the two brothers, was named the dez pledged his cosmographic experience on Pinta. The village seemed transformed. The the truth of the scheme; Juan Perez, like a road to Moguer was thronged, and so was the true Franciscan, based his exhortations on its way to La Rábida. Many went and came in moral and religious aspects : but by far the search of Columbus, who remained at the conmost influential, because of his being a skilled vent as a guest, but more came and went in seaman, was Martin Alonso Pinzon; for with search of the Pinzons, who lived in Palos and his deep-rooted convictions, his native cour- had relatives in all the neighboring hamlets. ge, and his large personal outlays, he assured Pinzon raised 500,000 maravedís to add to the

practical accomplishment of all that Co- fund already collected; he provided the exabus had planned and his advocates had pedition with the needful equipment and the buched. Pinzon was an old sailor; a ship- provisions requisite for so long a cruise; he

gathered the crew by persuasion and bribes: the Vatican, well fitted to arouse in this glorious yet no business papers or receipts changed coadjutor of Columbus the zeal which he dishands, nor was there any written contract re- played in assisting the preparations for the garding his share of the profits, everything projected voyage, and to train the keen insight being left to the good faith and proved integ- that discerned afar its sure success. rity of both parties. Some writers explain this On August 2, 1492, everything was ready, fact by suggesting that the Pinzons, being men and the crew were notified to embark, to await of large knowledge and experience, possessed the uncertain moment when a favorable wind some certain information on which the plans of should permit the little fleet to set sail. Nothing the discoverer were based. On duly consider- so befitted that solemn hour as a votive proing what we know of the active life of Pinzon, cession from the caravels to the monastery, to notwithstanding his own negligence and the which the eyes of the mariners turned as to a silence of his comrades, all more occupied in spiritual beacon, brighter than any that flared doing deeds than in recording them, the con- along the headlands. This pious duty perviction grows that he must have made good formed, the crew returned on board the carause of his many opportunities of observation. vels, where they patiently awaited the order to His cruises in the Mediterranean; his stay in sail, while Columbus retired to the monastery ports and cities where to the traffic in mer- eagerly to watch for a favoring wind. When the chandise is joined the interchange of ideas; dawn should break, he hoped to be able to sail his watchful study of the twofold teachings during that day, August 3, since, being Friday, of the revealing stars and the shining track of it was of good omen, despite old Italian superhis ships; his observant nature and his inves- stitions to the contrary; for upon a Friday the tigative mind—all so far raised him above his first crusade under Godfrey of Bouillon had contemporaries that he was able to comprehend taken Jerusalem, and on a Friday, too, the last Columbus and follow him, without losing sight crusade under the Catholic Sovereigns had of the incentives and rivalries inherent in frail won Granada. Not only were these famous human nature. In one page of his life-story precedents auspicious to his purpose, but it so may perchance be found the secret of his ac- chanced that they were then in the midst of the tion and the grounds of his foresight-in his pious festival held by the Franciscans during journey to Rome in quest of facts on which the three opening days of August, sacred to to base fresh expeditions suggested by the ex- the Virgin of the Angels, the patroness of their ample of the Portuguese, and by his own expe- seraphic order. riences in voyages to Guinea and the Canaries. Columbus kept all sail on his caravels during

Pinzon was intimate with a certain librarian the night of August 2. The old salts of the crew of Innocent VIII. whose name history does looked for a favoring wind at starting, and not record, and this learned man showed him Columbus's eager watchfulness was not to pass a map on which lands were vaguely depicted, unrewarded. From the height on which La lying beyond the Fortunate Isles, and to he Rábida stood, he scanned sea and sky with westward. This may be true or false,—there steadfast gaze, like one of those sea-birds, is no certain authority for the statement, but presagers of changes of wind and weather, it is found in many books, and springs from the clinging to the scarred and storm-beaten cliff. splendor of the pontifical court in that age. About three in the morning, while the stars An inconspicuous figure is this Pope Inno- yet twinkled in the skies and all earth slumcent. Eclipsed between the marvelous artis- bered, the awaited breeze sprang up, bringing tic achievements of his fortunate predecessor new life to the discoverer's veins and quickSixtus IV., who gave his name to immortal ening the throbbing of his heart. The pines monuments, and the enigmatic Alexander VI., murmured as though hymning the dawn, and whose ambition soared so high and led him so the waters rippled as though heaving with the far, he shines only by the fact that his family breath of love and hope. Columbus awakened name is associated with the preliminaries of the Padre Juan, and he in turn the child Diego, Columbian discovery in the inscription on his and the three repaired to the chapel in quest tomb in the Vatican, which perhaps may atone of heavenly aid and religious solace for the for weaknesses almost inexcusable, and gain for approaching pangs of separation and for the him the pardon of posterity. But these Italian fateful voyage. As in the boundless ether shine journeyings of Pinzon, his sojourns in Rome, the stars, so the lamps flickered in the little then glowing with ideas and inspirations, his church, lighting with their rays alike the courses visits to the Vatican Library, and his acquaint- of the ocean and the pathways of the soul. The ance with the unknown librarian, if they do not monk put on his priestly vestments, and celeprove the existence of that as yet undiscovered brated the holy sacrament at the high altar, map, at least bear witness to the countless trea- before the taper-lighted Virgin. The hour was sures of cosmographic learning in the court of come, and Columbus resolutely descended to the shore, plucking himself away from embraces authorities, the name of caravel was generically that held him to the land like some deep-rooted given in Columbus's time to any vessel of oak, for the sail-wings were ready to bear him burden, whatever its size and strength. “A to the realm of sea and sky. He soon reached long and narrow single-decked vessel, with a the wharf, and as the dawn broke in the east beak at the prow," says our dictionary of Castilthe flag-ship majestically ran inshore to take the ian authorities, to which we turn as to an oracle new Argonaut on board. The fluttering sails, in the matter of national idioms. This definithe hurried maneuvers of the crew, the boat- tion, in truth, cannot be bettered in its first part, swain's whistle, and the cries of the sailors as if able nautical treatises are to be trusted. But the ships got under way, announced a speedy when that classical dictionary adds that a caradeparture, and attracted the early risen villa- vel has three masts of nearly equal size, with gers to the shore in their natural desire to wit- three large lateen yards and sails, some emenness the scene, and to bid farewell to departing dation seems needful; for though the three ships friends and loved ones. When Columbus sprang of Columbus were called caravels, only one of from the skiff on board the caravel, and the an- them carried the kind of sail thus described, and chors were weighed, a shudder ran alike through that was the smallest and the frailest of them,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][graphic][graphic][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]

the departing sailors and the leave-takers on the the Niña. Our dictionary is also in conflict strand. Where they were going they knew, but with the classic texts of seamanship when it asas their westward course after leaving Cadiz and serts caravels to be dangerous because of their the Canaries was to take them far beyond those shallow draft, being easily capsized unless their lately won islands, none knew whither they were sails were quickly trimmed, when unimpeachabound or the duration of the voyage. The cross ble masters of maritime science and experience floated above the flag-ship, which bore seaward declare them to have been stanch and stout toward the unknown, seeking mysteries per- enough for the needs of those times. The Cochance impenetrable and inaccessible to the hu- lumbian caravels were at most of eighty tons man mind and unconquerable by human will. burden, and had a square poop surmounted by

As we have elsewhere said, the caravel was a high castle, to match the smaller castle at the better fitted for the task of discovery than any bow. Squaresails were sometimes carried, but other bark of that day. Stout and big enough caravels were generally lateen-rigged. Neverto withstand the shock of waves, it was at the theless, the definition of one versed in those same time sufficiently light and shallow of draft matters makes the caravels of larger size than to enter the mouths of rivers and to tack with is commonly supposed, and describes them as ease in narrow channels. According to nautical stanch and feet, with high castles at stem and

stern, with three vertical masts and a bowsprit, workmen and farm-laborers from the inland the foremast and mainmast being square-rigged provinces, Estremadura, Andalusia, La Manand the mizzenmast carrying a lateen sail. Some cha, and even Old Castile. assert that they could make but 28 leagues in a day's run, others as high as 72 leagues. With The windings of the shore soon hid the fleet my own eyes I have seen in the Columbian from the sight of the villagers, but Fray Perez Library at Seville the caravels of Columbus and his companions watched it for three hours admirably portrayed. The discoverer himself longer, until it sank beneath the distant horihas sketched them faithfully, with the steady zon. During the first few days' run, these barks, hand long trained by his trade of map-draw- laden with bright promises for the future, were ing. They are found traced in the first decade sighted by other ships, laden with the hatreds of Angleria's treatise, which is preserved as one and rancors of the past; for it chanced that of the priceless books of Ferdinand, the second one of the last vessels transporting into exile son of Columbus. The disproportion of size the Jews expelled from Spain by the religious between the ships at once strikes the eye, and intolerance of which the recently created and therewithal the very great diversity of rig. The odious Tribunal of the Faith was the embodiSanta Maria has the advantage of her con- ment passed by the little fleet bound in search sorts in build and size. Her rigging appeared of another world, where creation should be more complicated than the others. Square- new-born, a haven be afforded to the quicksails were on the fore and mainmasts, a lateen ening principle of human liberty, and a temple yard on the mizzen. The contrast in the height be reared to the God of enfranchised and reof the prow and the poop was startling. The deemed consciences. As though the sun were Pinta was shown in the sketch as a sort of com- not to shine for all, as though the will of heaven promise between the Santa Maria and the Niña, had not made us equal, the accursed spirit of but sparred and tackled more like the former. reaction was wreaking one of its stupendous The Niña looked very like the modern fish- and futile crimes in that very hour when the ing- and trading-luggers, while her lateen sails genius of liberty was searching the waves for recalled those nimble skiffs, so common in the land that must needs arise to offer an unthe waters of the Mediterranean, whose white stained abode for the ideals of progress. Folsails, bathed in the rays of the southern sun, lowing their narrow views, the powers of the show gaily between blue sea and bluer sky like middle ages denied even light and warmth to gulls skimming over the softly rippling surface. the Jews, at the same time that they revealed Each of the vessels was manned in accordance a new creation for a new order of society that with its capacity and importance. In the flag- was predestined by Providence to put an end ship the admiral was accompanied by a mate, to all intolerance, and to dedicate an infinite Juan Cosa, a native of the Cantabrian sierras, continent to modern democracy. deep-tanned by the unresting Biscayan sea ; Columbus bent his course toward Cadiz, and a physician of Moguer, Maestre Alonso, well thence to the Canaries. The prow of the flagversed in all the experience permitted by the ship being resolutely headed to the west, he primitive means of observation in his day; a descended to the cabin and began his journal. chief alguacil of Cordova; a purveyor of the A religious soul, he wrote at the head of such a royal household; a page; a scrivener; a con- transcendent record the sacred name of Christ. vertite Jew as interpreter; and a veedor, or in- The divine protection being thus invoked upon spector, so called because appointed in towns his task, he associated the work he had begun and cities to enforce the building regulations. with such as had gone before, and, as though Thus, in the second book of the Royal Ordi- he had the power to perceive by intuition how nances, veedor is used in the sense of overseer, mankind would link the conquest of Granada for it is there declared to be the king's will to with the discovery of America, he recorded depute each year as many discreet men as how he had beheld the cross brought from might be needed as veedores to inspect the prov- Toledo shining upon the Vela tower, and had inces. The Pinta carried a large crew, most seen the Moorish kings driven from their conof them natives of Palos, with a few from Mo- quered Eden-city and doing homage to the guer. The character of the various crews de- Christian sovereigns who in that supreme hour noted that the Santa Maria bore the command, wrought the unity of Spain. I recall not now while the Pinta carried the greatest possible who it is that speaks of the opening pages of number of expert seamen. The little Niña was that journal as pompous and inflated because also manned by able sailors like those whom of these reminiscences, but surely there is no Martin Alonso Pinzon had gathered about him more potent incentive to grand emprises in the in the Pinta. Besides the skilled mariners, she future than the example of great achievements carried a surgeon, a silversmith, an Irish guide, in the past. The invocation of Catholicism and also another of English birth, with several and of the sovereign fitly marks the whole

« AnkstesnisTęsti »