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Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic

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Author Topic: Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic  (Read 3242 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #105 on: January 27, 2009, 11:43:32 pm »

lights upon the mainyard called then by sailors "Castor and Pollux," and now "St. Elmo's Fire"; yet they had but one of these at a time, and this is thought a sign of tempest. On September 9, in the afternoon, "the general," as they called him, Sir Humphrey, was sitting abaft with a book in his hand, and cried out more than once to those in the other vessel, "We are as near to heaven by sea as by land." And that same night about twelve o'clock, the frigate being ahead of the Golden Hind, the lights of the smaller vessel suddenly disappeared, and they knew that she had sunk in the sea. The event is well described in a ballad by Longfellow.

The name of Norumbega and the tradition of its glories survived Sir Humphrey Gilbert. In a French map of 1543, the town appears with castle and towers. Jean Allfonsce, who visited New England in that year, describes it as the capital of a great fur country. Students of Indian tongues defined the word as meaning "the place of a fine city"; while the learned Grotius seized upon it as being the same as

p. 194

[paragraph continues] Norberga and so affording a relic of the visits of the Northmen. As to the locality, it appeared first on the maps as a large island, then as a smaller one, and after 1569 no longer as an island, but a part of the mainland, bordering apparently on the Penobscot River. Whittier in his poem of "Norumbega" describes a Norman knight as seeking it in vain.

"He turned him back, 'O master dear,
  We are but men misled;
And thou hast sought a city here
  To find a grave instead.

  *    *    *    *    *

"'No builded wonder of these lands
  My weary eyes shall see;
A city never made with hands
  Alone awaiteth me.'"

So Champlain, in 1604, could find no trace of it, and said that "no such marvel existed," while Mark Lescarbot, the Parisian advocate, writing in 1609, says, "If this beautiful town ever existed in nature, I would like to know who pulled it down, for there is nothing here

p. 195

but huts made of pickets and covered with the barks of trees or skins." Yet it kept its place on maps till 1640, and even Heylin in his "Cosmography" (1669) speaks of "Norumbega and its fair city," though he fears that the latter never existed.

It is a curious fact that the late Mr. Justin Winsor, the eminent historian, after much inquiry among the present descendants of the Indian tribes in Maine, could never find any one who could remember to have heard the name of Norumbega.


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