Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day. The City of Minneapolis just changed the name of day. I hope St. Paul does the same. I don't like Columbus. In any case, Leifr Eiriksson found the Americas long before he did, and there was a Norse settlement in Greenland, just off the coast of North America, for hundred of years. Basque fishermen apparently found the Newfoundland fishery before Columbus found the Bahamas. They must have landed now and then for water or other supplies. So they, like Leifr, beat out Columbus. But they kept the rich fishery secret, for fear of competition.

After Columbus came the Spanish Conquest and a flood of precious metal into Europe, helping to power the rise of capitalism. So, unlike the Viking and Basque discoveries, his discovery changed history -- horribly for the natives of the New World. In honor of the day, here is a poem by Andrew Marvel.
Bermudas

By Andrew Marvell

Where the remote Bermudas ride
In th’ ocean’s bosom unespy’d,
From a small boat, that row’d along,
The list’ning winds receiv’d this song.

What should we do but sing his praise
That led us through the wat’ry maze
Unto an isle so long unknown,
And yet far kinder than our own?
Where he the huge sea-monsters wracks,
That lift the deep upon their backs,
He lands us on a grassy stage,
Safe from the storm’s and prelates’ rage.
He gave us this eternal spring
Which here enamels everything,
And sends the fowls to us in care,
On daily visits through the air.
He hangs in shades the orange bright,
Like golden lamps in a green night;
And does in the pomegranates close
Jewels more rich than Ormus shows.
He makes the figs our mouths to meet
And throws the melons at our feet,
But apples plants of such a price,
No tree could ever bear them twice.
With cedars, chosen by his hand,
From Lebanon, he stores the land,
And makes the hollow seas that roar
Proclaim the ambergris on shore.
He cast (of which we rather boast)
The Gospel’s pearl upon our coast,
And in these rocks for us did frame
A temple, where to sound his name.
Oh let our voice his praise exalt,
Till it arrive at heaven’s vault;
Which thence (perhaps) rebounding, may
Echo beyond the Mexic Bay.

Thus sung they in the English boat
An holy and a cheerful note,
And all the way, to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept the time.
A lovely poem, but not the reality of conquest.

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