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let ever furrowed by their keels. But that these bold rovers in sailing westward discovered lands beyond Greenland is as sure as anything can be that rests on sagas and traditions only—as sure, that is, as most things in the earliest annals of Europe. They discovered America; what part of America is of little consequence. They discovered it without clear intention and by a series of what might almost be called coasting voyages, stretching from Norway to Scotland, from Scotland to Iceland, and thence to Greenland, and at last to the North American continent, each passage extending but a few hundred miles, though those miles lay through stormy and icy seas. They made these discoveries simply as adventurers. There is nothing in their achievement worthy to be compared with the great deed of Columbus, when he formed with deliberate dignity a heroic purpose and set sail across an unknown sea upon the faith of a conviction. As compared with him and his companions, the Vikings seem but boys beside men.




BOUT 1854 Mr. Kinney, the American minister

at the court of Turin, was conversing with a young Italian of high rank from the island of Sardinia, who had come to Turin for education. This young man remarked that he had lately heard about a great Spanish or Italian navigator who had sailed westward from Spain, in the latter part of the fifteenth century, with the hope of making discoveries. Did Mr. Kinney know what had become of that adventurer-had he been heard of again, and, if so, what had he accomplished? This, it seemed, was all that was known in Sardinia respecting the fame and deeds of Columbus. The world at large is a little better off, and can at least tell what Columbus found. But whether he really first found it, and is entitled to the name of discoverer, has of late been treated as an unsettled question. He long since lost the opportunity of giving his name to the new continent; there have been hot disputes as to whether he really first reached it. It has even been doubted whether there ever was such a person as Columbus at all.

What does discovery mean? in what does it consist? If the Vikings had already visited the American shore, could it be rediscovered? Was it not easy for Columbus to visit Iceland, to hear the legends of the Vikings, and to follow in their path? These are questions that have been often asked. The answer is that Columbus may have visited Iceland, possibly heard the Viking legends, but certainly did not follow in the path they indicated. To follow them would have been to make a series of successive voyages, as they did, each a sort of coasting trip, from Norway to Iceland, from Iceland to Greenland, from Greenland to Vinland. To follow them would have been to steer north-northwest, whereas his glory lies in the fact that he sailed due west into the open sea and found America. His will begins, “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, who inspired me with the idea, and afterwards confirmed me in it, that by traversing the ocean westwardly,” etc. “Thus accurately did he state his own title to fame. So far as climate and weather were concerned, he actually incurred less risk than the Northmen; but when we consider that he sailed directly out across an unknown ocean on the faith of a theory, his deed was incomparably greater.

There is one strong reason for believing that Columbus knew but vaguely of the Norse voyages, or did not know of them at all, or did not connect the Vinland they found with the India he sought. This is a fact, that he never, so far as we know, used their success as an argument in trying to persuade other people. For eight years, by his own statement, he was endeavoring to convert men to his project. “For eight years,” he says, “I was torn with disputes, and my project was matter of mockery" (cosa de burla). During this time he never made one convert among those best qualified, through either theory or practice, to form an opinion—“not a pilot, nor a sailor, nor a philosopher, nor any kind of scientific man," he says, “put any faith in it.” Now these were precisely the men whom the story of Vinland, if he had been able to quote it, might have convinced. The fact that they were not convinced shows that they were not told the story; and if Coiumbus did not tell it, the reason must have been either that he did not know it or did not attach much weight to it. He would have told it if only to shorten his own labor in argument; for in converting practical men an ounce of Vinland would have been worth a pound of cosmography. Certainly he knew how to deal with individual minds, and he could well adapt his arguments to each one. The way in which he managed his sailors on his voyage shows that he sought all manner of means to command confidence. He would have treated his hearers to all the tales in the sagas if that would have helped the matter; the Skraelings and the unipeds, or one-legged men, of the Norse legends would have been discussed by many a Genoese or Portuguese fireside; and Columbus might never have needed to trouble Ferdinand and Isabella with his tale. We may safely assume that if he knew the traditions about Vinland, they made no special impression on his mind.

Why should they have made much impression? The Northmen themselves had had five hundred years to forget Vinland, and had employed the time pretty effectually for that purpose. None of them had continued to go there. Even if it met the ears of Columbus, Vinland may well have seemed but one more island in the northern seas, and very remote indeed from that gorgeous India which Marco Polo had described, and which was the subject of so many

dreams. More than all, Columbus was a man of abstract thought, whose nature it was to proceed upon theories, and he fortified himself with the traditions of philosophers, authorities of whom the Northmen had never heard. That one saying of the cosmographer Aliaco, quoting Aristotle, had more weight with one like Columbus than a ship's crew of Vikings would have had: “Aristotle holds that there is but a narrow sea (parvum mare) between the western points of Spain and the eastern border of India.” Ferdinand Columbus tells us how much influence that sentence had with his father, but we should have known it at any rate.

When he finally set sail (August 3, 1492), it was with the distinct knowledge that he should have a hard time of it unless Aristotle's "narrow sea" proved very narrow indeed. Instead of extending his knowledge to the sailors and to the young adventurers who sailed with him, he must keep them in the dark, must mislead them about the variations of the magnetic needle, and must keep a double log-book of his daily progress, putting down the actual distance sailed, and then a smaller distance to tell the men, in order to prevent them from being more homesick than the day before. It was hard enough, at any rate. The sea into which they sailed was known as the Sea of Darkness—Mare Tenebrosum, the BahralZulmat of the Arabians. It had been described by an Arab geographer a century before as “a vast and boundless ocean, on which ships dare not venture out of sight of land, for even if they knew the direction of the winds, they would not know whither those winds would carry them, and as there is no inhabited country beyond, they would run great risk of being

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