Page images

Then, for a little moment, all people held their breath;
And through the crowded forum was stillness as of death;
And in another moment broke forth from one and all
A cry as if the Volscians n were coming o'er the wall.

Some with averted faces, shrieking, fled home amain;
Some ran to call a leech, and some ran to lift the slain :
Some felt her lips and little wrist, if life might there be found;
And some tore up their garments fast, and strove to stanch the

wound In vain they ran and felt and stanched; for never truer blow That good right arm had dealt in fight against a Volscian foe.


Biography.- Thomas Babington Macaulay was born in Leicestershire (Lěs' ter sheer), England, in 1800, and died in 1859.

Macaulay entered Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of eighteen, where he soon acquired prominence for scholarship and oratorical power. He twice won the Chancellor's Medal for poems, and graduated in 1822. He was soon elected to a fellowship, and entered upon a literary life. His ballads,-“The Spanish Armada" and “The Battle of Ivry,” and his essay on Milton, gave him a wide popularity. In 1826, he began to practice law, and in 1830, entered Parliament. After an eventful and highly useful career, he was raised to the peerage in 1857, with the title of Baron Macaulay. As a writer, his style is both vigorous and polished.

His best known works are “Lays of Ancient Rome,” Essays," and “History of England.”

Notes. – Virginius, after slaying his daughter to save her from the tyrant Appi us, appealed to the Roman army for vengeance. The army responded,- the tyrant was overpowered and consigned to prison, where he took his own life. The unhappy fate of Virginia, the daughter, was thus followed by the restoration of freedom to the Roman people.

Flesher, a butcher. Whittle, a butcher's knife.

Cap'u a, a city of Southern Italy, second only to ancient Rome in wealth and power. The buildings of the city were noted for their magnificence.

Vol' scians (shūns). The Vol'sci, an ancient barbaric race, were much dreaded by the Romans. They were in the habit of making expeditions against Rome. In the fourth century B. C., they were finally subdued by the Romans and admitted to the rights of Roman citizenship.




ăd' mi ral, a naoal officer of the

highest rank. an tiç' i pā'tionş, hopes. eu pid'i ty, greediness. trăn’sient (trăn’shent), pa88img. af firm’ing, declaring.

ŭn' du lã' tion, waving more

ment. mũ' ti ngůs, rebellious. ăv'a rice, great desire of gain. re frăet'o ry, unruly. eðn'stan çy, steadiness.

Early in the morning of the 6th of September, 1492, ColumbusN set sail from the island of Gomera, and now might be said first to strike into the region of discovery, taking leave of these frontier islands of the Old World, and steering westward for the unknown parts of the Atlantic. For three days, however, a profound calm kept the vessels loitering with flagging sails within a short distance of the land.

On the following Sunday, the 9th of September, at day-break, he beheld Ferro, the last of the Canary Islands, about nine leagues distant. Fortunately a breeze sprung up with the sun, their sails were once more filled, and in the course of the day the heights of Ferro gradually faded from the horizon.

On losing sight of this last trace of land the hearts of the crew failed them. Behind them was every thing dear to the heart of man-country, family, friends, life itself; before them every thing was chaos, mystery, and peril. Many of the rugged seamen shed tears, and some broke into loud lamentations.

The admiral tried in every way to soothe their distress, and inspire them with his own glorious anticipations. He described to them the magnificent countries to which he was about to conduct them: the isles of the Indian seas teeming with gold and precious stones. He promised them land and riches, and every thing that could arouse their cupidity or inflame their imaginations.

He now issued orders to the commanders of the other vessels that in the event of separation by any accident, they should continue directly westward; but that, after sailing seven hundred leagues, they should lay by from midnight until daylight, as at about that distance he confidently expected to find land.

To deceive the sailors he kept two reckonings; one correct, in which the true way of the ship was noted, and which he retained in secret for his own government; in the other, which was open to general inspection, a number of leagues was daily subtracted from the sailing of the ship, so that the crews were kept in ignorance of the real distance they had advanced.

On the 14th of September, the voyagers were rejoiced by what they considered indications of land. A heron and a certain tropical bird, neither of which is supposed to venture far to sea, hovered about the ships.

The wind had hitherto been favorable, with occasional though transient clouds and showers. They had made great progress every day, though Columbus, according to his secret plan, contrived to suppress several leagues in the daily reckonings left open to the crew.

On the 18th of September the same weather continued; a soft steady breeze from the east filled every sail, while Columbus fancied that the water of the sea grew fresher as he advanced, and noticed this as a proof of the superior sweetness and purity of the air.

The crews were all in high spirits; each ship strove to get in the advance, and every seaman was eagerly on the lookout; for the sovereign had promised a pension of ten thousand maravedies N to him who should first discover land.

Notwithstanding his precaution to keep the people ignorant of the distance they had sailed, they were now growing extremely uneasy at the length of the voyage. They had advanced much farther west than ever man had sailed before, and though already beyond the reach of succor, stili they continued daily leaving vast tracts of ocean behind them, and pressing onward and onward into that apparently boundless abyss.

On the 20th of September, the wind veered, with light breezes from the south-west. These, though adverse to their progress, had a cheering effect upon the people, as they proved that the wind did not always prevail from the east. Several birds also visited the ships; three of a small kind, which keep about groves and orchards, came singing in the morning and flew away again in the evening. Their song cheered the hearts of the dismayed mariners, who hailed it as the voice of land. The larger fowl, they observed, were strong of wing, and might venture far to sea; but such small birds were too feeble to fly far, and their singing showed that they were not exhausted by their flight.

For three days there was a continuance of light summer airs from the southward and westward, and the sea was as smooth as a mirror. A whale was seen heaving up its huge form at a distance, which Columbus immediately pointed out as a favorable indication, affirming that these creatures were generally seen in the neighborhood of land.

The crews however became uneasy at the calmness of the weather. Every thing differed, they said, in these strange regions, from the world to which they had been accustomed. The only winds which prevailed with any constancy and force were from the east, and there was a risk, therefore, either of perishing amidst stagnant and shoreless waters, or of being prevented, by contrary winds, from ever returning to their native country.

Columbus continued with admirable patience to reason with these fancies; observing that the calmness of the sea must undoubtedly be caused by the vicinity of land in the quarter whence the wind blew, which, therefore, had not space to act upon the surface, and heave up large waves.

The more Columbus argued, the more boisterous became the murmurs of the crew, until, on Sunday, the 25th of September, there came on a heavy swell of the sea, unaccompanied by wind. This phenomenon often occurs on the broad ocean; being either the expiring undulation of some past gale, or the movement given to the sea by some distant current of wind. It

nevertheless regarded with astonishment by the mariners, and dispelled the imaginary terrors occasioned by the calm.

The situation of Columbus was, however, becoming daily more and more critical. In proportion as he approached the regions where he expected to find land, the impatience of his crew increased.


« EelmineJätka »