網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

THE PORTUGUESE IN THE EAST, AND THE DISCOVERY

OF THE SEA ROUTE TO INDIA.

The map of the world, until the end of the fifteenth century, exhibited only one hemisphere, and even that not completely. The general outlines of Europe and Asia were correctly laid down, with the exception of the north-east corner of the latter, which was still a blank. The shores of Africa which are washed by the Mediterranean and Red Sea were well known, as was also the Atlantic coast as far down as Cape Non. The remainder of the continent was a blank, which the geographers filled in at pleasure with dragons, serpents, and all manner of strange monsters. It was not without an indefinable terror that European mariners spoke of the mysterious regions to the south which lay beyond their ken. “ He who would pass Cape Non,” said a current proverb, “ will either return or not;" implying that if he had not the good sense to turn before he reached the cape, he would never have the chance of doing so afterwards. And so for long years the dreaded promontory stretched out into the waves, and all ships were careful to keep well to the north of it.

It was reserved for Portugal to tear aside the veil which hung over the greater part of Africa. Confined to a narrow strip of coast, isolated from the Mediterranean by its position outside of the Straits of Gibraltar, it was natural that this little kingdom should turn its attention to the navigation of the Atlantic. Thanks to the wise provisions of various sovereigns, and to its admirable situation at the mouth of the greatest river in the Peninsula, Lisbon had, before the end of the fourteenth century, become an important seat of commerce, much frequented by Italian, and especially by Genoese vessels. As the native navy became more expert and enterprising, it monopolized both imports and exports, and all foreign flags were rigorously banished from the coast. The Portuguese visited England and the Netherlands, and also some parts of Africa. A strong desire, however, possessed them to

“ The com

find a new route to India. The Moors had familiarized them with the luxuries of the East; but when a religious crusade was declared against the dusky heathens, that source of supply was cut off. At the same time that this want was felt, great improvements were being made in the art of navigation.

The phenomenon of the magnet had long been known, but it was only about this period that it became more than a scientific toy, and was rendered useful for practical purposes in the shape of the mariner's compass. Armed with this simple little instrument, the seaman could now steer his course even when the stars, which had hitherto been his only guides, were hidden—he ceased to be afraid of venturing out of sight of land. The impulse which this invention gave to navigation was sudden and direct. pass twinkling on its card,” it has been said, was a beam from heaven. That tiny magnet was given as a seniory of earth and sky. Like a new revelation, the mysteries of an unknown world were unveiled; like a new illapse, the bold and noble were inspired to lead the way. Diaz doubles the Cape of Storms; de Gama finds his course to the East Indies; Columbus treads the Bahamas; and twelve years do not separate these discoveries.”

Don Henry, “the Navigator,” as he is usually called, the fifth son of King John of Portugal, enthusiastically promoted the exploration of Africa. Impressed with a strong conviction that the continent did not end at Cape Non, as represented on the maps, he organized repeated voyages of discovery, and taking up his abode on the promontory of Sagres, in the south of Portugal, he watched the white specks of sails sink below and rise above the horizon, as they went and came on their adventurous mission.

The first expeditions were despatched about 1415. It took twelve years to discover the Island of Madeira and explore the African coast as far as Cape Bojador. In 1441 Nuno Tristan reached Cape Blanco, and shortly afterwards the Isle of Arguin, whence he brought back gold dust, and the first negroes who were ever seen at Lisbon. In 1446 Denis Fernandez discovered Cape Verd and the adjoining group of islands; and this was the furthest point explored when Prince Henry died, in 1463. For no less than fifty-two years that enlightened man had devoted almost the whole of his time, thoughts, and revenues to this work; and yet the only fruit within his lifetime was the discovery of about fifteen hundred miles of coast. None of his captains got within six or eight degrees of the Equator. He had, however, given an impulse to maritime discovery in that direction, which some years later led to great results.

Gradually creeping on from headland to headland along the coast, the Portuguese, under Bartholomew Diaz, in 1486, seeking the land of Prester John, unconsciously doubled the southern extremity of Africa, and did not learn their success until they were returning disheartened, under the belief that their voyage had been a failure. Landing in Table Bay, Diaz planted the banner of St. Philip. In order that future explorers might not be deterred by the name of Cape of Storms, which Diaz had conferred on the promontory, King Emanuel changed it to Cape of Good Hope.

The circumnavigation of the continent and the direct voyage to India were not accomplished till ten years later. Vasco de Gama, sailing from Lisbon with six ships on 8th July 1497, on the 20th May of the following year arrived at Calicut, on the coast of Malabar.

The problem of a new route to the East was now solved, and the Portuguese for a time entered on a brilliant career of conquest and commercial prosperity. In the short space of fifteen years they established their authority in India over the whole coast from Ormuz to Ceylon, from Cape Comorin to the Moluccas, and the entire commerce of the East was almost exclusively in their hands.

The foreign empire of Portugal was brilliant but brief. A single century saw its rise, culmination, and decline. Internal factions and revolts; the want of discipline; neglect of defences; a shameful system of rapine, by which individuals were enriched at the expense of the State; pride, selfishness, and avarice; religious intolerance and persecutions, were among the chief causes of its decay.

J. H. FYFE.

DEATH OF NAPOLEON AT ST. HELENA.

MAY 5, 1821.

As if to mark a closing point of resemblance betwixt Cromwell and Napoleon, a dreadful tempest arose on the 4th of May, which preceded the day that was to close the mortal existence of this extraordinary man. A willow, which had been the exile's favourite, and under which he often enjoyed the fresh breeze, was torn up by the hurricane; and almost all the trees about Longwood shared the same fate. The 5th of May came amid wind and rain. Napoleon's passing spirit was deliriously engaged in a strife more terrible than that of the elements around. The words “ tête d'armée,” the last which escaped his lips, intimated that his thoughts were watching the current of a heady fight. About eleven minutes before six in the evening, Napoleon, after a struggle which indicated the original strength of his constitution, breathed his last.

Scott's Life of Napoleon.

THE DEATH OF NAPOLEON. WILD was the night, yet a wilder night And again on the hills of haughty Spain Hung round the soldier's pillow;

His mighty armies shouted. In his bosom there raged a fiercer fight Than the fight on the wrathful billow. Over Egypt's sands, over Alpine snows,

At the pyramids, at the mountain,
A few fond mourners were kneeling by, - Where the wave of the lordly Danube flows,

The few that his stern heart cherished; And by the Italian fountain;
They knew, by his glared and unearthly eye,
That life had nearly perished.

On the snowy cliffs where mountain

streams They knew, by his awful and kingly look, Dash by the Switzer's dwelling, By the order hastily spoken,

He led again, in his dying dreams, That he dreamed of days when the nations His hosts, the broad earth quelling.

shook, And the nations' hosts were broken. Again Marengo's field was won,

And Jena's bloody battle; He dreamed that the Frenchmen's sword | Again the world was over-run, still slew,

Made pale at his cannon's rattle. And triumph'd the Frenchmen’s “eagle;" And the struggling Austrian fled anew, He died at the close of that darksome Like the hare before the beagle.

day

A day that shall live in story : The bearded Russian he scourged again, In the rocky land they placed his clay. The Prussian's camp was routed;

And left him alone with his glory."

M'LELLAN

BRING BACK THE CHAIN.

It was an aged man, who stood

The eyes whose fond and sunny ray Beside the blue Atlantic Sea;

Made life's dull lamp less dimly burn, They cast his fetters by the flood,

The tones I pined for day by day ---
And hailed the time-worn captive free! Can ye bid them return?
From his indignant eye there flashed
A gleam his better nature gave,

Bring back the chain! Its clanking sound And while his tyrants stood abashed,

Hath then a power beyond your own; Thus spake the spirit-stricken slave :-- It brings young visions smiling round,

Too fondly loved, too early flown ! "Bring back the chain, whose weight so long It brings me days when these dim eyes

These tortured limbs have vainly borne; Gazed o'er the wild and swelling sea, The word of freedom from your tongue Counting how many suns must rise My weary ear rejects with scorn!

Ere one might hail me free! 'Tis true, there was—there was a time, I sighed, I panted to be free;

Bring back the chain! that I may think And pining for my sunny clime,

'Tis that which weighs my spirit so: Bowed down my stubborn knee.

And gazing on each galling link,

Dream, as I dreamt, of bitter woe! Then have I stretched my yearning arms, My days are gone : of hope, of youth,

And shook in wrath my bitter chain; These traces now alone remain Then, when the magic word had charms, (Hoarded with sorrow's sacred truth)--I groaned for liberty in vain !

Tears, and my iron chain ! That freedom ye at length bestow,

And bid me bless my envied fate : Freedom ! though doomed in pain to live, Ye tell me I am free to go

The freedom of the soul is mine; Where? I am desolate !

But all of slavery you could give

Around my steps must ever twine. The boundless hope, the spring of joy, Raise up the head which age hath bent; Felt when the spirit's strength is young,

Renew the hopes which childhood gave; Which slavery only can alloy,

Bid all return kind Heaven once lent; The mockeries to which I clung,

Till then I am a slave !"

Hon. MRS. NORTON.

[blocks in formation]
« 上一頁繼續 »