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Columbus, his life and voyages

by Irving

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Text extracted from opening pages of book: COLUMBUS; HIS LIFE AND VOYAGfe'S WASHINGTON IRVING BY THE AUTHOR FROM HIS UROBK WORK) a P PUTNAM'S SONS HEW YORK; AND LONDON S* f i MI; AiTHiwru* ponriuri ui t'iin% t* t* iirfi COrVKltiHT, ( 893, BY G, P. PUTNAM'S SONS, INTRODUCTION. WHETHER, in old times, beyond the reach of history or tradition, and at some remote period when, as some imagine, the arts may have flourished to a degree unknown to those whom we term the ancients, there existed an intercourse between the opposite shores of the Atlantic ; whether the Egyptian legend narrated by Plato, respecting the island of Atlantis, was indeed no fable, but the tradition of some country, engulfed by one of those mighty convulsions of our globe which have left the traces of the ocean on the summits of lofty moun tains, must ever remain matters of vague and visionary speculation* As far as authenticated history extends, nothing was known of terra-firma, and the islands of the western hemisphere, until their discovery towards the close of the fifteenth century, A wandering bark may occasionally have lost sight of the landmarks of the old continents, and been driven by tempests across the wil derness of water% long before the invention of the com but none ever returned to reveal the secrets of the ocean ; and though* from time to time, some document floated* to the old world, giving to its wondering inhabitants indications af 1 land far beyond their watery horixon t yet no one ventured to spread a sail* and land* enveloped in mystery and peril Or, if the of the Scandinavian voyagert be correct, and Viniand wcru the of Labrador IV INTRODUCTION, or the shore of Newfoundland, they had but trancient glimpses of the New World, leading to no permanent knowledge, and in a little time lost again to mankind. Certain it is, that at the beginning of the fifteenth century, when th most intelligent minds were seeking in every direction for the scattered lights of geographical knowl edge, a profound ignorance prevailed among the learned as to the western regions of the Atlantic ; its vast waters were regarded with awe and wonder, seeming to bound the world as with a chaos, into which conjecture could not penetrate, and enterprise feared to adventure. We need no greater proof of this than the description given of the Atlantic by Xerif al Edrisi, surnarned the Nubian, an eminent Arabian writer, whose countrymen possessed all that was known of geography in the middle ages. u The ocean/' he observes, encircles the ultimate bounds of the inhabited earth, and all beyond it is unknown. No one has been able to verify anything concerning it, on account of its difficult and peritouH navigation, its great obscurity, its profound depth, and frequent tempests ; through fear of its mighty fight*** and its haughty winds; yet there are many islands in it, some of which are peopled, and others uninhabited. There ia no mariner who dares to enter into its deep waters j or, if any have done so, they have merely kept along Itu coasts, fearful of departing from them. The waves of this ocean, although they roll as high as mountains*, yet maintain themselves without breaking ; for if they broke. It would be impossible for a ship to plow them, It is the object of the following work to relate the deeds and fortunes of the mariner who first tiad the judg ment to divine, and the intrepidity to brvc f the mysteries of this perilous deep ; who, by his hardy hi* t inflexible constancy! and jiis heroic courage, brought NOTE. V the ends of the earth into communication with each other, The narrative of his troubled life is the link which connects the history of the old world with that of the new. NOTE. SINCE the first publication of this work, researches made concerning the early voyages of the '* Northmen** have established the fact, to the conviction of most minds, that Vinland/' the country accidentally discov ered by those wide-wandering navigators, about the year fooo* was really



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