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Columbus Day Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Columbus to Ferdinand by Philip Freneau
  2. Flawless His Heart by James Russell Lowell
  3. The Boy Columbus by Madison Cawein
  4. Christopher Columbus by John B. Tabb
  5. Columbus by Helen L. Smith
  6. Christopher Columbus by Joanna Baillie

  1. Columbus to Ferdinand

    by Philip Freneau. 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:
    "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,

    When southward we shall steer. Oh grant my wish,
    Supply the bark, and bid Columbus sail;
    He dreads no tempests on the untravelled deep;
    Reason shall steer, and skill disarm the gale.

  2. Flawless His Heart

    by James Russell Lowell

    Flawless his heart and tempered to the core
    Who, beckoned by the forward-leaning wave,
    First left behind him the firm-footed shore,
    And, urged by every nerve of sail and oar,
    Steered for the Unknown which gods to mortals gave,
    Of thought and action the mysterious door,
    Bugbear of fools, a summons to the brave:
    Strength found he in the unsympathizing sun,
    And strange stars from beneath the horizon won,
    And the dumb ocean pitilessly grave:
    High-hearted surely he;
    But bolder they who first off-cast
    Their moorings from the habitable Past
    And ventured chartless on the sea
    Of storm-engendering Liberty :
    For all earth's width of waters is a span,
    And their convulsed existence mere repose,
    Matched with the unstable heart of man,
    Shoreless in wants, mist-girt in all it knows,
    Open to every wind of sect or clan,
    And sudden-passionate in ebbs and flows.

  3. The Boy Columbus

    by Madison Cawein

    And he had mused on lands each bird,—
    That winged from realms of Falerina,
    O'er seas of the Enchanted Sword,—
    In romance sang him, till he heard
    Vague foam on Islands of Alcina.

    For rich Levant and old Castile
    Let other seamen freight their galleys;
    With Polo he and Mandeville
    Through stranger seas a dreamy keel
    Sailed into wonder-peopled valleys.

    Far continents of flow'r and fruit,
    Of everlasting spring; where fountains
    'Mid flow'rs, with human faces, shoot;
    Where races dwell, both man and brute,
    In cities under golden mountains.

    Where cataracts their thunders hurl
    From heights the tempest has at mercy;
    Vast peaks that touch the moon, and whirl
    Their torrents down of gold and pearl;
    And forests strange as those of Circe.

    Let rapiered Love lute, in the shade
    Of royal gardens, to the Palace
    And Court, that haunt the balustrade
    Of terraces and still parade
    Their vanity and guile and malice.

    Him something calls diviner yet
    Than Love, more mighty than a lover;
    Heroic Truth that will not let
    Deed lag; a purpose, westward set,
    In eyes far-seeing to discover.

  4. Christopher Columbus

    by John B. Tabb

    With faith unshadowed by the night,
    Undazzled by the day,
    With hope that plumed thee for the flight,
    And courage to assay,
    God sent thee from the crowded ark,
    Christ-bearer, like the dove,
    To find, o'er sundering waters dark,
    New lands for conquering Love.

  5. Columbus

    by Helen L. Smith

    A harbor in a sunny, southern city;
    Ships at their anchor, riding in the lee;
    A little lad, with steadfast eyes, and dreamy,
    Who ever watched the waters lovingly.

    A group of sailors, quaintly garbed and bearded;
    Strange tales, that snared the fancy of the child:
    Of far-off lands, strange beasts, and birds, and people,
    Of storm and sea-fight, danger-filled and wild.

    And ever in the boyish soul was ringing
    The urging, surging challenge of the sea,
    To dare,—as these men dared, its wrath and danger,
    To learn,—as they, its charm and mystery.

    Columbus, by the sunny, southern harbor,
    You dreamed the dreams that manhood years made true;
    Thank God for men—their deeds have crowned the ages—
    Who once were little dreamy lads like you.

  6. Christopher Columbus

    by Joanna Baillie

    On Palos’ shore, whose crowded strand
    Bore priests and nobles of the land,
    And rustic hinds and townsmen trim,
    And harnessed soldiers stern and grim,
    And lowly maids and dames of pride,
    And infants by their mother’s side,—
    The boldest seaman stood that e’er
    Did bark or ship through tempest steer;
    And wise as bold, and good as wise;
    The magnet of a thousand eyes,
    That on his form and features cast;
    His noble mien and simple guise,
    In wonder seemed to look their last.
    A form which conscious worth is gracing,
    A face where hope, the lines effacing
    Of thought and care, bestowed, in truth,
    To the quick eyes’ imperfect tracing
    The look and air of youth.

    The signal given, with hasty strides
    The sailors climbed their ships’ dark sides;
    Their anchors weighed; and from the shore
    Each stately vessel slowly bore.
    High o’er the deeply shadowed flood,
    Upon his deck their leader stood,
    And turned him to the parted land,
    And bowed his head and waved his hand.
    And then, along the crowded strand,
    A sound of many sounds combined,
    That waxed and waned upon the wind,
    Burst like heaven’s thunder, deep and grand;
    A lengthened peal, which paused, and then
    Renewed, like that which loathly parts,
    Oft on the ear returned again,
    The impulse of a thousand hearts.
    But as the lengthened shouts subside,
    Distincter accents strike the ear,
    Wafting across the current wide,
    Heart-uttered words of parting cheer:
    “O, shall we ever see again
    Those gallant souls recross the main?
    God keep the brave! God be their guide!
    God bear them safe through storm and tide!
    Their sails with favoring breezes swell!
    O brave Columbus! fare thee well!”

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