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EXTRACT FROM THE HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC
SOVEREIGNS, FERDINAND AND ISABELLA.
BY ANDRES BERNALDEZ.
[Translated from the original Manuscript.]
[The following pages are translated from a chronicle, Historia de los Reyes Catolicos written by Andres Bernaldez, curate of Los Palacios, a town of Andalusia in Spain. The greater part of the work is devoted, as the title implies, to a general history of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. His residence in the immediate neighborhood of the theatre of the Moorish war, led him to give particular attention to the events of that chivalrous struggle, for which he is one of the very best authorities. The curate was intimate with several of the distinguished men of his time, whom he entertained under his hospitable roof in their journeys through the country. Among these was Columbus. The latter seems to have conceived a regard for his host, who to much simplicity of character, united more learning than usual at that time, and an inquisitive spirit on all subjects of rational interest. The chapters of his chronicle now translated, are devoted to an account of the great navigator gathered from his personal intercourse with him, as well as from the journals and papers which Columbus deposited in his hands. As the record of an honest contemporary, familiar with the subject of the story, it is of the highest value, and will doubtless possess much interest for the American reader. The original is still in manuscript; and no part of it has hitherto been translated from the Castilian. The present version is made from a copy belonging to Mr. Prescott, in whose · History of Ferdinand and Isabella,' is the following brief sketch of Bernaldez and his literary labors.
"The curate of Los Palacios was a native of Fuente in Leon, and appears to have received his early education under the care of his grande father, a notary of that place, whose commendations of a juvenile essay VOL. VIII.
in historical writing led him later in life, according to his own account, to record the events of his time in the extended and regular form of a chronicle. After admission to orders, he was made chaplain to Deza, archbishop of Seville, and curate of Los Palacios, an Andalusian town not far from Seville, where he discharged his ecclesiastical functions with credit, from 1488 to 1513, at which time, as we find no later mention of him, he probably closed his life with his labors.
“ Bernaldez had ample opportunities for accurate information relative to the Moorish war, since he lived, as it were, in the theatre of action, and was personally intimate with the most considerable men of Andalusia, especially the marquis of Cadiz, whom he has made the Achilles of his epic, assigning him a much more important part in the principal transactions, than is always warranted by other authorities. His chronicle is just such as might have been anticipated from a person of lively imagination, and competent scholarship for the time, deeply dyed with the bigotry and superstition of the Spanish clergy in that century. There is no great discrimination apparent in the work of the worthy curate, who dwells with goggle-eyed credulity on the most absurd marvels, and expends more pages on an empty court show, than on the most important schemes of policy. But if he is no philosopher, he has, perhaps, for that very reason, succeeded in making us completely master of the popular feelings and prejudices of the time; while he gives a most vivid portraiture of the principal scenes and actors in this stirring war, with all their chivalrous exploit, and rich theatrical accompaniment. His credulity and fanaticism, moreover, are well compensated by a simplicity and loyalty of purpose, which secure much more credit to his narrative than at. taches to those of more ambitious writers whose judgment is perpetually swayed by personal or party interests. The chronicle descends as late as 1513, although, as might be expected from the author's character, it is entitled to much less confidence in the discussion of events which fell without the scope of his personal observation. Notwithstanding its historical value is fully recognised by the Castilian critics, it has never been admitted to the press, but still remains engulfed in the ocean of manuscripts, with which the Spanish libraries are deluged." " History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic of Spain.” Vol. II. pp. . 108, 109.]
How the Indies were Discovered. In the name of Almighty God. There was a man of Genoa, a dealer in printed books, who traded in this province of Andalusia, and whose name was Christopher Columbus : a man of very lofty genius, without much acquaintance with letters, but very learned in the art of cosmography. From what he had read in Ptolemy, and in other books, and by his own acuteness, he had learned respecting this earth,
upon which we are born and live, that it is placed within the sphere of the heavens, that it does not in any part touch them, or any other firm substance, by which it is supported, but land and water are encircled round about by the void space of the heavens. He likewise ascertained in what way land abounding in gold might be discovered, and that, since this earth, or terraqueous globe, may be passed entirely around, by land and by water, (as John de Mandeville relates,) whoever should have suitable vessels, and should pursue the right course, by sea and land, might sail directly west from Cape St. Vincent, and return by way of Jerusalem and Rome to Seville; which would be to go completely round the circumference of the whole earth. Also, he constructed a map of the world, to which he devoted much study, and thus perceived that, in whatever direction one should sail across the ocean, he could not avoid finding land; and moreover he satisfied himself as to the route, by which a region of much gold might be discovered ; a favorite subject of his thoughts.
Knowing that King John, of Portugal, was much interested in discovery, he offered his services to that monarch; but his theory being stated, no credit was given to it, because the Portuguese King had in his service many eminent and learned navigators, who made light of it, and took for granted that there were in the world no other discoverers greater than themselves. So Columbus came to the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and explained to them his theory; to which they likewise gave but little credit: but he conversed with them, and assured them that what he said was certainly true, and showed them his map of the world, till he excited in them a desire to know something about those countries, of which he told them. And having dismissed him, they summoned their astrologers, astronomers, and courtiers who were learned in cosmography, whose advice they required; and the opinion of the majority of them, after hearing Columbus, was that his views were correct, Accordingly, the King and Queen concluded an agreement with him, ordered three vessels to be fitted out at Seville, with men and provisions, within the time that he desired, and despatched him, in the name of God and our Lady, upon his discoveries.
Columbus set sail from Palos, in the month of September, 1492, and pursued his voyage through the sea to the Cape Verd islands, and thence west, towards the point where we see the sun set, in the month of March ; in which direction all the mariners believed it impossible to find land. And indeed, the King of Portugal had several times sent vessels in that direction to make discoveries, (for many persons believed that countries very rich in gold lay in that quarter) but they could never discover land, and always returned with their labor lost: but for the good fortune and the desert of our King and Queen, it pleased God that the discovery should be made in their time. In one of the ships went as captain Martin Alonzo Pinzon, a citizen of Palos, a distinguished navigator, and a man of great wisdom in nautical matters. From the Cape Verd islands they pursued their course towards the point to which Columbus's faith directed him, for thirty-two days, before they discovered land. During the last of these days, the greater number of the sailors, seeing that they had already gone more than a thousand leagues, and had discovered nothing, thought there was no sense in proceeding farther, that they were already lost beyond all hope, and that it would be a miracle if they should be able to find their way home. However, Columbus and the other officers, with soothing words, persuaded them to go on, and assured them that, with God's help, they were certain of finding land.
One day, as Columbus was looking towards the heavens, he saw birds flying. very high, from the one side to the other. He pointed them out to bis comrades, crying “Good news!" and half a day later, they discovered land. Here they lost the largest of their three vessels, which ran aground and went down; but none of the men were lost. Upon this first island they landed, and Columbus took formal possession for the King and Queen, with standard and banner flying; and he gave it the name of San Salvador ; but the natives call it Guanabani. They found that all the people, both men and women, went naked as they were born ; and though at first they fled from our men, yet these succeeded in communicating with some of them, and by giving them presents, which they had brought in the ships, quieted their fears. To the second island which he discovered, Columbus gave
the name of Santa Maria, in honor of the Virgin : the third he called Fernandina, in honor of King Ferdinand: the fourth he called Isabella, in honor of the Queen: and the fifth, Juana, in honor of the Prince, Don Juan: and in the same way, to each of the islands which they discovered, they gave a new name. Along the island Juana they coasted towards the west; and they found it so large, that they supposed it must be a continent. As they perceived neither towns nor villages upon the sea-coast, but only scattered habitations, with the people of which they could obtain no communication, since they fled as soon as they saw them, they went back to an excellent harbor, whence Columbus sent two men into the interior, to learn whether the people had any king or chiefs. These men journeyed three days, and found a vast number of settlements, built of wood and straw, with innumerable multitudes of people, but no indications of any kind of government; whereupon they returned.
The Indians who had been taken, told the Spaniards by signs that this land was not a continent, but an island ; and following the coast, towards the east, a hundred and seven leagues from the point where they first landed, they came to a capė, from which they saw another island, distant about eighteen leagues, to which Columbus gave the name of Hispaniola. They coasted along this island, on the northern side, as they had done with Juana; and though all the islands were wondrously beautiful, they found this of Hispaniola more beautiful than all the rest; for in it there are many harbors, excellent in comparison with the best to be found in Christian countries, and many large and noble rivers; the land is high, with many beautiful mountains and very lofty ridges, covered with a thousand varieties of trees, so high that they seem to reach to heaven. I believe that these never shed their leaves; for it appears that in the season when it is winter here, and all the trees lose their foliage, there they were all as they are with us in the month of May; some were in flower, and some in fruit; and in their branches the nightingale and other birds were singing as they do here in May. Some of these have feathers of six or seven different kinds, which are admirable for their variety. The abundance of fountains, trees and plants, is wonderful.