Imagens da página

followed in rear of his army. The description of the perils of this expedition,—of the strange and savage scenery through which they travelled, of the stormy elements which they encountered in their march, such as would only be witnessed by those who penetrated into the deepest and most awful recesses of nature,--this picture, so striking and sublime in all its leading parts and its accessories, suits well the genius of the present historian, and has accordingly been told here in such a manner as to form one of the most affecting portions of the work. We make a few extracts from the narrative, which in itself possesses most of the beauties and defects of Mr. Prescott's manner of writing :

" It was the beginning of 1540 when he the earth was rent asunder by the terrible set out on this celebrated expedition. The throes of nature, while streams of sulfirst part of the journey was attended with phureous vapor issued from the cavity, comparatively little difficulty, while the aud a village, with some hundreds of Spaniards were yet in the land of the houses, was precipitated into the frightful Incas ; but the scene changed as they en- abyss. On descending the eastern slopes tered the territory of Quixos, where the the climate changed, and as they came on character of the inhabitants, as well as the lower level the fierce cold was sucof the climate, seemed to be of another ceeded by a suffocating heat, while temdescription. The country was traversed pests of thunder and lightning, rushing by lofty ranges of the Andes, and the ad. from out the gorges of the Sierra, poured venturers were soon entangled in their on their heads, with scarcely any interdeep and intricate passes. As they rose mission, day or night, as if the offended into the more elevated regions the icy deities of the place were willing to take winds that swept down the sides of the vengeance on the invaders of their mounCordilleras benumbed their limbs, and tain solitudes. For more than six weeks many of the natives found a wintry grave the deluge continued unabated, and the in the wilderness. While crossing this forlorn wanderers, wet and weary with formidable barrier they experienced one incessant toil, were scarcely able to drag of those tremendous earthquakes which their limbs along the soil, broken up and in these volcanic regions so often shake saturated with the moisture." the mountains to their base. In one place

At length after some months they reached the Canelas, the land of Cinnamon. They saw the forests spreading wide their shades of fragrance, but the vegetable wealth was in regions too remote and inaccessible to form an object of commerce; from the wandering tribes, however, they heard that twelve degrees distance there was a rich and populous land abounding in mineral wealth and their beloved gold. Though they had reached already the proposed limits of the expedition, yet, with renewed hopes, and a richer prize in view, Pizarro resolved to push on, and the swinish multitude in his rear, we presume, was still content to follow :

" Continuing their march, the country beheld trees of that stupendons growth now spread out into broad savannas, only known in the equinoctial regions.* terminated by forests, which as they drew Some were so large that sixteen men could near seemed to stretch on every side to hardly encompass them with extended arms. the very verge of the horizon. Here they The wood was thickly matted with creepers

* This is not quite correct if the account of the measurement of the great plane tree at Buyukdere, near Constantinople, is to be depended on, which amounts, we think, to something like 160 feet in circumference. This exceeds the largest Taxodium of Mexico and the largest baobab of Senegal. Of this tree, however, we have no scientific account, and depend on the assertions of travellers. Since writing this, on looking into our late friend Mr. Loudon's Arboretum, we find this tree mentioned. Dr. Walsh in 1831 found that it measured at the base 141 feet, and its branches covered a space 130 feet in diameter. De Candolle conjectures it must be more than 2,000 years old

This tree," Mr. Loudon says, “if it can be considered a single plant, is certainly the largest in the world." Vide Arboretum, Part III, c. cvii. Platanaceæ,-Rey,

his expedie avelled, of n as would

and most e in all its esent his

form one Facts from defects of

their axes,

the terrible ns of sul. Che cavity, Endreds of e frightful Eern slopes y came on

was sucwhile tems, rushing -a, poured any inter. e offended - to take ir mounix weeks and the

[ocr errors]

cary with

and parasitical vines, which bang in gaudy. that sounded like subterranean thunder.
coloured festoons from tree to tree, The river, lashed into fury, tumbled along
clothing them in a drapery beautiful to over rapids with frightful velocity, and
the eye, but forming an impenetrable net conducted them to the brink of a magni.
work. At every step of their way they ficent cataract, which to their wondering
were obliged to hew open a passage with fancies rushed down in one vast volume

while their garments, rotting of foam to the depth of twelve hundred
from the effects of the drenching rains to feet. The appalling sounds which they
which they had been exposed, caught in had heard for the distance of six leagues
every bush and bramble, and hung about were rendered yet more oppressive to the
them in shreds. Their provisions, spoiled spirits by the gloomy stillness of the sur-
by the weather, had long since failed, and rounding forests. The rude warriors were
the live stock which they had taken with filled with sentiments of awe. Not a bark
them had either been consumed, or made dimpled the waters ; no living thing was
their escape in the woods and mountain to be seen but the wild tenants of the
passes. They had set out with nearly a wilderness, the unwieldy boa, and the
thousand dogs, many of them of the loathsome alligator basking on the bor-
ferocious breed used in hunting down the ders of the stream. The trees towering in
unfortunate natives. These they now wide - spread magnificence towards the
gladly killed, but their miserable carcasses heavens, the river rolling on in its rocky
furnished a lean banquet for the famishing bed, as it had rolled for ages, the solitude
travellers; and when these were gone, and silence of the scene broken only by the
they had only such herbs and dangerous hoarse fall of waters, or the faint rustling
roots as they could gather in the forest.... of the woods,-all seemed to spread out
They at length came to the river Napo, around them in the same wild and primi-
one of the tributaries of the Amazon. tive state as when they came from the
After traversing its borders for some time, hands of the Creator."
they came within hearing of a rushing noise

Still the adventurers persevered in their drear and disastrous journey ;
meeting with nothing but impenetrable thickets and occasionally engaged
in skirmishes with the tribes of fierce and unfriendly Indians whom they
found wandering in the pathless wilds. To alleviate in some degree the in-
supportable suffering and toil of the journey, Gonzalo resolved to build a
small brigantine, which should, at least, convey the feebler portion of their
followers and the baggage; this, a work of great difficulty, was completed
in two months ; the shoes of the horses were beat into nails; the gum of
the trees was used for pitch ; the soldiers' clothes for oakum ; but still the
chief body of the troops continued their march through the dreary wilder-
ness on the borders of the river. Every scrap of provision had long since
failed—the last of the horses had been devoured; to appease the cravings
of hunger they eat the leather of their saddles and belts. The woods sup-
plied but scanty sustenance ; they at last fed, and even greedily, on toads,

, and other reptiles that they occasionally found. But again they were told of a rich district and a populous country further on, where the Napo empties itself into the larger river of the Amazon. Orellana, who commanded the brigantine, was ordered to proceed thither for a stock of provisions, and to return.

"Taking with him fifty of the adven- and, though absent several days, came back turers, he pushed off into the middle of without intelligence of their comrades. the river, where the stream ran swiftly,

Unable longer to endure this suspense, or and his bark, taken by the current, shot to maintain themselves in their present forward with the speed of an arrow, and quarters, Gonzalo and his famishing fola was soon out of sight, Days and weeks lowers now determined to proceed towards passed away, yet the vessel did not return; the junction of the two rivers. Two and no speck was to be seen on the waters months elapsed before they accomplished as the Spaniards strained their eyes to the this terrible journey-those of them who furthest point, where the line of light faded did not perish by the way--although the away in the dark shadows of the foliage on distance did not probably exceed two bunthe borders. Detachments were sent out, dred leagues ; and they at length reached

· to drag up


[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

the spot so long desired, where the Napo at once on the bosom of the Amazon, pours its tide into the Amazon that and descend its waters to its mouth. He mighty stream which, fed by its thousand would then visit the rich and populous tributaries, rolls on towards the ocean nations that as report said lined its for many hundred miles, through the borders, sail out on the great ocean, cross heart of the great continent, the most to the neighbouring isles, and return to majestic of American rivers. No tidings Spain to claim the glory and the guerdon of of the bark, or its adventurous crew, how discovery. The suggestion was eagerly ever, were heard ; but their doubts were taken up by his reckless companions, at length dispelled by the appearance of welcoming any course that would rescue a white man wandering in the woods, balf them from the wretchedness of their prenaked, in whose famine-stricken counte sent existence, and, fired with the prospect nance they recognized the features of one of new and stirring adventure, they heeded of their countrymen. It was Sanchez de little their unfortunate comrades whom Vargas, a cavalier of good descent and they were to abandon in the wilderness. much esteemed. lIe had a dismal tale to Ove of Orellana's party maintained a stout tell, and that tale is as follows:--Orel. opposition to his proceedings, as repuglana, borne swiftly down the current of nant both to humanity and honour. This the Napo, had reached the point of its was Sanchez de Vargas; and the cruel confluence with the Amazon in less than commander was revenged on him by three days, accomplishing in this brief abandoning him to his fate, in the desolate space of time what had cost Pizarro and region where he was now found by his his men two months. He had found the

countrymen. The Spaniards listended with country altogether different from what he horror to the recital of Vargas, and their had expected, and, so far from supplies for blood almost froze in their veins as they his countrymen, he could barely obtain saw themselves thus deserted in the heart sustenance for himself. Nor was it pos. of this remote wilderness, and deprived of sible for him to return as he had come, their only means of escape from it. They and make head against the current of the made an effort to prosecute their journey river, while an attempt to journey by land along the banks, but after some toilsome was an alternative scarcely less formid. days strength and spirits failed, and they able. In this dilemma, an idea flashed

gave up in despair." across his mind; it was to launch his bark

The only course that remained was to return to Quito; but to return was to pursue a journey of four hundred leagues, which had exhausted a whole year, when they were not worn by toil or sunk in despair as they now were. Yet Gonzalo inspired fresh confidence into his followers, and every one caught the enthusiasm with which he spoke. From the first hour of the expedition he had fully borne part in their privations ; he had taken his lot with the poorest soldier ; ministering to the wants of the sick, cheering up the spirits of the despairing, sharing his pittance with his famished followers, bearing his full share in the toil of their march ; and now he found the reward of his noble conduct in the faith, the friendship, the devotion of his army. Another year of famine, of despair, and of incessant toil saw the wretched remains of this unhappy expedition once more encamped on the elevated plains of Quito:

“But how different their aspect from their bodies wasted by famine, and sorely that which they had exhibited on issuing distigured by scars ; it seemed as if the from the gates of the same capital two charnel-house had given up its dead, as years and a half before, with high romantic with uncertain step, they glided slowly hope and in all the pride of military array. onwards, like a troop of dismal spectres. Their horses gone, their arms broken and More than half of the four thousand Inrusted, the skins of wild animals instead of dians who accompanied the expedition had clothes hanging loosely about their limbs, perished, and of the Spaniards only eighty, their long and matted locks streaming and many of them irretrievably broken in wildly down their shoulders, their faces constitution, returned to Quito.'' burnt and blackened by the tropical sun,

Such was the end of this expedition to the Amazon, an expedition which for its dangers and hardships, for their long duration, and the

of the Amazon,

its mouth. He h and populous

said lined its eat ocean, cross and return to the guerdon of

on was eagerly es companions, at would rescue -s of their preth the prospect

E'e, they heeded mrades whom he wilderness. Ttained a stout gs, as repug. aonour. This and the cruel

on him by a the desolate found by his Listended with as, and their veins as they

in the heart Adeprived of am it. They heir journey une toilsome ed, and they

constancy with which they were borne, stands, perhaps, unmatched in the annals of American discovery.

When the reduction of Peru was accomplished, Hernando Pizarro was sent on a mission to Spain, to lay at the feet of the monarch the royal share of the treasures taken, to represent the services of the generals, and to petition for further grants in the subdued territory. Besides the royal fifth, he took with him gold to the amount of half a million of pesos, large quantities of silver, till the Custom House was filled with costly objects of art, and the spectators flocked from the neighbouring country to behold these marvellous productions of Indian art. He had soon after a gracious audience of the king. He dwelt on the exploits of his brothers in arms the difficulties they had overcome, the privations they had suffered, the victories they had achieved. He expatiated on the advantages of the conquered country-its delicious climate-its fruitful soil—its abundant and civilized population, and the monarch was at once too sagacious not to appreciate the advantages of a conquest which secured to him a country so rich in agricultural resources ; and too ready not to listen with delight to the account of those mineral treasures which were to fill his exhausted treasury, and assist him in prosecuting his extensive and ambitious designs in Europe.

" The arrival of Hernando Pizarro in cavalier, eager to win both gold and glory the country, and the reports spread by at the point of his lance, thought to find him and his followers, created a sensation a fair field for his prowess on the mountain among the Spaniards, such as had not plains of the Andes. Ferdinand Pizarro been felt since the first voyage of Co found that his brother had judged rightly lumbus. The discovery of the New in allowing as many of his company as World had filled the minds of men with chose to return home, confident that the indefinite expectations of wealth, of which display of their wealth would draw ten to almost every succeeding expedition had his banner for every one that quitted it. proved the fallacy. The conquest of In a short time that cavalier saw himself Mexico, though calling forth general ad at the head of one of the most numerous miration as a brilliant and wonderful and well-appointed armaments, probably, exploit, bad as yet failed to produce those that had left the shores of Spain since the golden results which had been so fondly great fleet of Ovando, in the time of anticipated. The splendid promises held Ferdinand and Isabella. It was scarcely ont by Francis Pizarro on his recent visit more fortunate than this. Hardly had to the country had not revived the con. Ferdinand put to sea, when a violent fidence of his countrymen, made in- tempest fell on the squadron, and compelled credulous by repeated disappointment. him to return to port and refit. At length All that they were assured of was, the be crossed the ocean, and reached the difficulties of the enterprise; and their little harbour of Nombre de Dios in safety, distrust of its results was sufficiently but no preparations had been made for his shown by the small number of followers, coming, and, as he was detained here some and those only of the most desperate stamp, time before he could pass the mountains, who were willing to take their chance in his company suffered greatly from scarcity the adventure. But now these promises of food. In their extremity, the most unwere realized. It was no longer the golden wholesome articles were greedily devoured, reports that they were to trust, but the and many a cavalier spent his little savings gold itself which was displayed in such to procure himself a miserable subsistence. profusion before them--all eyes were now Disease, as usual, trod closely in the track turned towards the west. The broken of famine, and numbers of the unfortunate spendthrift saw in it the quarter where he adventurers, sinking under the unacwas to repair his fortunes, as speedily customed heats of the climate, perished as he had ruined them. The merchant, on the very threshhold of discovery. It instead of seeking the precious com

was the tale often repeated in the history modities of the east, looked in the opposite of Spanish enterprise ; a few, more lucky direction, and counted on far higher gains, than the rest, stumble on some unexpected where the most common articles of life prize, and hundreds attracted by their commanded so exorbitant prices. The success press forward in the same path.

[blocks in formation]

But the rich spoil which lay on the surface misfortune, many returned in disgust to has been already swept away by the first their native shores, while others remained comers, and those who follow are to win where they were, to die in despair. They their treasure by long - protracted and thought to dig for gold, but they dug only painful exertion. Broken in spirit and their graves," &c.

Few portions of an historical narrative are of greater interest than those which describe the characters and persons of the chief actors in the great drama, and which delineate the mental qualities and habits, the active powers and resources, the peculiar and distinguishing characteristics both of mind and person, of those whose fortunes we have been following with interest, and whose actions and enterprise we have listened to with sympathy. To perform this part of the duty with success has been considered a mark of skill and sagacity in the historian; it has been evidently a favourite part of Hume's labours, and it is supposed to appear with superior lustre in the pages of Clarendon. We therefore will give some specimens of Mr. Prescott's ability in this direction.

« Pizarro's * person has been already proportioned, and with a countenance not described. He was tall in stature, well unpleasing. Bred in camps, with nothing

* The appearance and dress of Cortez and Pizarro at the convent of La Rábida are thus described in Mr. Rogers's poem of Columbus, a poem to wbich we never refer without finding some new grace and beauty of thought or expression :

" Brothers in arms the guests appear'd,

The youngest with a princely grace;
Short and sable was his beard,
Thoughtful and wan his face.
His velvet cap a medal wore,
And ermine fringed his broider'd vest;
And ever sparkling on his breast

An image of St. John he wore. The eldest had a rougher aspect, and there was craft in his eye. He stood a little behind, in a long black mantle, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword ; and his white hat and white shoes glittered in the moonshine. Cortez was in the fortythird, Pizarro in the fiftieth, year of his age. The portrait of Pizarro in the viceregal palace at Lima represents him in a citizen's dress, with a sable cloak, the capa y espada of a Spanish gentleman." Each panel in the spacious Sala de los Vierges was reserved for the portrait of a viceroy. The long file is complete, from Pizarro to Pezuela, and it is a curious fact, noticed by Stevenson, that the last panel was exactly filled when the reign of the viceroys was abruptly terminated by the Revolution. It is a singular coincidence that the same thing should have occurred at Venice, where the last niche reserved for the effigies of the doges was just filled when the ancient aristocracy was overturned. While we the more lament the incomplete state in which “Columbus " is given to us by the English poet, from our great enjoyment of what we possess, we may mention as a remarkable coincidence that there is another poem also on the same subject by an eminent poet, which is also unfinished. We mean L'Oceano, by Al. Tassoni, beginning

Cantiam Musa l'eroe de gloria digno
Ch'un nuovo mondo al nostro mondo aperse,
E da barbaro colto e rito indigno
Vinto il ritrasse, e al vero Dio l'offerse
La discordia de suoi, l' iniquo sdegno
De l'inferno ei sostene, e l' onde averse
E con tre sole navi ebbe ardimento

De porre il giogo a cento regne e cento." Of this poem we have only the first canto ; it is printed at the end of the " Secchia Rapita " in some editions ; but in the author's letter to a friend he has given a sketch of his design, to follow the example of Homer in the Odyssey, to introduce the dangers of the sea, the opposition of demons, the incantations of magicians, the fury of the savage natives, and the discord and rebellion of his own companions, &c.-Rev.

« AnteriorContinuar »