The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

ern historians; but on examining various histories of the times, the battle here described appears to have happened several years after the date of the arrival of Columbus in that country. That he was engaged in the contest is not improbable; but he had previously resided for some time in Portugal. In fact, on referring to the history of that kingdom, we shall find, in the great maritime enterprises in which it was at that time engaged, ample attractions for a person of his inclinations and pursuits; and we shall be led to conclude, that his first visit to Lisbon was not the fortuitous result of a desperate adventure, but was undertaken in a spirit of liberal curiosity, and in the pursuit of honorable fortune.


CHAPTER III.
PROGRESS OF DISCOVERY UNDER PRINCE HENRY OF PORTUGAL.

The career of modern discovery had commenced shortly before the time of Columbus, and at the period of which we are treating was prosecuted with great activity by Portugal. Some have attributed its origin to a romantic incident in the fourteenth century. An Englishman of the name of Macham, flying to France with a lady of whom he was enamored, was driven far out of sight of land by stress of weather, and after wandering about the high seas, arrived at an unknown and uninhabited island, covered with beautiful forests, which was afterward called Madeira.* Others have treated this account as a fable, and have pronounced the Canaries to be the first fruits of modern discovery. This famous group, the Fortunate Islands of the ancients, in which they placed their garden of the Hesperides and whence Ptolemy commenced to count the longitude, had been long lost to the world. There are vague accounts, it is true, of their having received casual visits, at wide intervals, during the obscure ages, from the wandering bark of some Arabian, Norman, or Genoese adventurer; but all this was involved in uncertainty, and led to no beneficial result. It was not until the fourteenth century that they were effectually rediscovered, and restored to mankind. From that time they were occasionally visited by the hardy navigators of various coun-

____________________
*
See illustrations, article "Discovery of Madeira".

-24-

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