Many of the incidents will now be thought extravagant; yet they were once perhaps received with something more than indulgence. It was an age of miracles; and who can say that among the venerable legends in the library of the Escurial, or the more authentic records which fill the great chamber in the Archivo of Simancas, and which relate entirely to the deep tragedy of America, there are no volumes that mention the marvellous things here described? Indeed the story, as already told throughout Europe, admits of no heightening. Such was the religious enthusiasm of the early writers, that the Author had only to transfuse it into his verse; and he appears to have done little more; though some of the circumstances, which he alludes to as well-known, have long ceased to be so. By using the language of that day, he has called up Columbus ‘in his habit as he lived;’ and the authorities, such as exist, are carefully given by the translator.
[Footnote: The Original in the Castilian language, according to the Inscription that fellows, was found among other MSS. in an old religious house near Palos, situated on an island formed by the river Tinto, and dedicated to our Lady of Rabida. The Writer describes himself as having sailed with Columbus; but his style and manner are evidently of an after-time.]
INSCRIBED ON THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT.
Unclasp me, Stranger; and unfold,
With trembling care, my leaves of gold
Rich in gothic portraiture—
If yet, alas, a leaf endure.
In RABIDA’S monastic fane
I cannot ask, and ask in vain.
The language of CASTILE I speak;
Mid many an Arab, many a Greek,
Old in the days of CHARLEMAIN;
When minstrel-music wander’ round,
And Science, waking, bless’ the sound.
No earthly thought has here a place;
The cowl let down on every face.
Yet here, in consecrated dust,
Here would I sleep, if sleep I must.
From GENOA when COLUMBUS came,
(At once her glory and her shame)
’Was here he caught the holy flame.
’Twas here the generous vow he made;
His banners on the altar laid.—
One hallow’d morn, methought,
I felt As if a soul within me dwelt!
But who arose and gave to me
The sacred trust I keep for thee,
And in his cell at even-tide
Knelt before the cross and died—
Inquire not now. His name no more
Glimmers on the chancel-floor,
Near the lights that ever shine
Before ST. MARY’S blessed shrine.
To me one little hour devote,
And lay thy staff and scrip beside thee;
Read in the temper that he wrote,
And may his gentle spirit guide thee!
My leaves forsake me, one by one;
The book-worm thro’ and thro’ has gone.
Oh haste—unclasp me, and unfold;
The tale within was never told!