Selections from the American poets
William Cullen Bryant
COLUMBUS TO FERDINAND.
Columbus was a considerable number of years engaged in soliciting the court of Spain to fit him out, in order to discover a new continent, which he imagined to exist somewhere in the western parts of the ocean. During his negotiations, he is here supposed to address King Ferdinand in the following stanzas.
ILLUSTRIOUS monarch of Iberia's soil,
Too long I wait permission to depart;
Sick of delays, I beg thy listening ear—
Shine forth the patron and the prince of art.
While yet Columbus breathes the vital air,
Grant his request to pass the western main:
Reserve this glory for thy native soil,
And, what must please thee more, for thy own reign.
Of this huge globe, how small a part we know—
Does heaven their worlds to western suns deny?
How disproportion'd to the mighty deep
The lands that yet in human prospect lie!
Does Cynthia, when to western skies arrived,
Spend her moist beam upon the barren main,
And ne'er illume with midnight splendour, she,
The natives dancing on the lightsome green?
Should the vast circuit of the world contain
Such wastes of ocean and such scanty land?
'Tis reason's voice that bids me think not so;
I think more nobly of the Almighty hand.
Does yon fair lamp trace half the circle round
To light mere waves and monsters of the seas?
No; be there must, beyond the billowy waste,
Islands, and men, and animals, and trees.
An unremitting flame my breast inspires
To seek new lands amid the barren waves,
Where, failing low, the source of day descends,
And the blue sea his evening visage laves.
Hear, in his tragic lay, Cordova's sage:1
"The time may come, when numerous years are past,
When ocean will unloose the bands of things,
And an unbounded region rise at last;
And TYPHIS may disclose the mighty land,
Far, far away, where none have roved before;
Nor will the world's remotest region be
Gibraltar's rock, or THULE'S savage shore."
Fired at the theme, I languish to depart;
Supply the bark, and bid Columbus sail;
He fears no storms upon the untravell'd deep;
Reason shall steer, and skill disarm the gale.
Nor does he dread to miss the intended course,
Though far from land the reeling galley stray,
And skies above, and gulfy seas below,
Be the sole objects seen for many a day.
Think not that Nature has unveiled in vain
The mystic magnet to the mortal eye:
So late have we the guiding needle planned
Only to sail beneath our native sky?
Ere this was known, the ruling power of all
Formed for our use an ocean in the land,
Its breadth so small we could not wander long,
Nor long be absent from the neighbouring strand.
Short was the course, and guided by the stars,
But stars no more must point our daring way;
The Bear shall sink, and every guard be drowned,
And great Arcturus scarce escape the sea,