The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

elapsed, and this fancied potentate of the East, stripped of every illusion, was a naked and dejected prisoner on the deck of one of their caravels, with none but one of his own wild native heroines to sympathize in his misfortunes. All his importance vanished with his freedom; scarce any mention is made of him during his captivity, and with innate qualities of a high and heroic nature, he perished with the obscurity of one of the vulgar.


CHAPTER II.
DECLINE OF THE POPULARITY OF COLUMBUS IN SPAIN—HIS
RECEPTION BY THE SOVEREIGNS AT BURGOS—HE PROPOSES A
THIRD VOYAGE.

Envy and malice had been but too successful in undermining the popularity of Columbus. It is impossible to keep up a state of excitement for any length of time, even by miracles. The world, at first, is prompt and lavish in its admiration, but soon grows cool, distrusts its late enthusiasm, and fancies it has been defrauded of what it bestowed with such prodigality. It is then that the cavalier who had been silenced by the general applause, puts in his insidious suggestion, detracts from the merit of the declining favorite, and succeeds in rendering him an object of doubt and censure, if not of absolute aversion. In three short years the public had become familiar with the stupendous wonder of a newly-discovered world, and was now open to every insinuation derogatory to the fame of the discoverer and the importance of his enterprises.

The circumstances which attended the precent arrival of Columbus were little calculated to diminish the growing prejudices of the populace. When the motley crowd of mariners and adventurers who had embarked with such sanguine expectations landed from the vessels in the port of Cadiz, instead of a joyous crew, bounding on shore, flushed with success, and laden with the spoils of the golden Indies, a feeble train of wretched men crawled forth, emaciated by the diseases of the colony and the hardships of the voyage, who carried in their yellow countenances, says an old writer, a mockery of that gold which had been the object of their search, and who had nothing to relate of the New World but tales of sickness, poverty, and disappointment.

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