The Landing of Columbus

Samuel Rogers

Long on the deep the mists of morning lay,   
Then rose, revealing, as they rolled away,   
Half-circling, hills, whose everlasting woods   
Sweep with their sable skirts the shadowy floods;   
And say, when all, to holy transport given,           
Embraced and wept as at the gates of heaven,   
When one and all of us, repentant, ran,   
And, on our faces, blessed the wondrous Man,—   
Say, was I then deceived, or from the skies   
Burst on my ear seraphic harmonies?           
“Glory to God!” unnumbered voices sung,   
“Glory to God!” the vales and mountains rung,   
Voices that hailed Creation’s primal morn,   
And to the shepherds sung a Saviour born.   
  Slowly, bare-headed, through the surf we bore           
The sacred cross, and, kneeling, kissed the shore.   
But what a scene was there? Nymphs of romance,   
Youths graceful as the Faun, with eager glance,   
Spring from the glades and down the alleys peep,   
Then headlong rush, bounding from steep to steep,           
And clap their hands, exclaiming as they run,   
“Come and behold the Children of the Sun!”   
When, hark! a signal-shot! The voice, it came   
Over the sea in darkness and in flame!   
They saw, they heard; and up the highest hill,           
As in a picture, all at once were still!   
Creatures so fair, in garments strangely wrought,   
From citadels, with Heaven’s own thunder fraught,   
Checked their light footsteps,—statue-like they stood,   
As worshipped forms, the Genii of the Wood!           
  At length the spell dissolves! The warrior’s lance   
Rings on the tortoise with wild dissonance!   
And see, the regal plumes, the couch of state!   
Still, where it moves, the wise in council wait!   
See now borne forth the monstrous mask of gold,           
And ebon chair of many a serpent-fold;   
These now exchanged for gifts that thrice surpass   
The wondrous ring, and lamp, and horse of brass.   
What long-drawn tube transports the gazer home,   
Kindling with stars at noon the ethereal dome?           
’T is here: and here circles of solid light   
Charm with another self the cheated sight;   
As man to man, another self disclose,   
That now with terror starts, with triumph glows!

*        *        *        *        *
Soon from the bay the mingling crowd ascends,           
Kindred first met! by sacred instinct friends!   
Through citron groves, and fields of yellow maize,   
Through plantain-walks where not a sunbeam plays.   
Here blue savannas fade into the sky,   
There forests frown in midnight majesty;           
Ceiba, and Indian fig, and plane sublime,   
Nature’s first-born, and reverenced by Time!   
There sits the bird that speaks! there, quivering, rise,   
Wings that reflect the glow of evening skies!   
Half bird, half fly, the fairy king of flowers           
Reigns there, and revels through the fragrant hours;   
Gem full of life, and joy, and song divine,   
Soon in the virgin’s graceful ear to shine.   
  ’T was he that sung, if ancient fame speaks truth,   
“Come! follow, follow to the Fount of Youth!           
I quaff the ambrosial mists that round it rise,   
Dissolved and lost in dreams of Paradise!   
For there called forth, to bless a happier hour,   
It met the sun in many a rainbow-shower!   
Murmuring delight, its living waters rolled           
Mid branching palms and amaranths of gold!”

(Extract from The Voyage of Columbus)

San Salvador was the first land seen by Christopher Columbus after his crossing of the Atlantic in 1492.