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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 2321 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #75 on: January 27, 2009, 11:30:53 pm »

perfume. After this they saw an island, all cinders and flames, where the cyclops had their forges, and they sailed away in the light of an immense fire. The next day they saw, looking northward, a great and high mountain sending out flames at the top. Turning hastily from this dreadful sight, they saw a little round island, at the top of which a hermit dwelt, who gave them his benediction. Then they sailed southward once more, and stopped at their usual places of resort for Holy Week, Easter, and Whitsuntide.

It was on this trip that they had, so the legend says, that strange interview with Judas Iscariot, out of which Matthew Arnold has made a ballad. Sailing in the wintry northern seas at Christmas time, St. Brandan saw an iceberg floating by, on which a human form rested motionless; and when it moved at last, he saw by its resemblance to the painted pictures he had seen that it must be Judas Iscariot, who had died five centuries before. Then as the boat floated near the iceberg, Judas spoke and told him his tale. After he

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had betrayed Jesus Christ, after he had died, and had been consigned to the flames of hell,--which were believed in very literally in those days,--an angel came to him on Christmas night and said that he might go thence and cool himself for an hour. "Why this mercy?" asked Judas Iscariot. Then the angel said to him, "Remember the leper in Joppa," and poor Judas recalled how once when the hot wind, called the sirocco, swept through the streets of Joppa, and he saw a naked leper by the wayside, sitting in agony from the heat and the drifting sand, Judas had thrown his cloak over him for a shelter and received his thanks. In reward for this, the angel now told him, he was to have, once a year, an hour's respite from his pain; he was allowed in that hour to fling himself on an iceberg and cool his burning heat as he drifted through the northern seas. Then St. Brandan bent his head in prayer; and when he looked up, the hour was passed, and Judas had been hurried back into his torments.

It seems to have been only after seven years

p. 122

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« Reply #76 on: January 27, 2009, 11:31:08 pm »

of this wandering that they at last penetrated within the obscure fogs which surrounded the Isle of the Saints, and came upon a shore which lay all bathed in sunny light. It was a vast island, sprinkled with precious stones, and covered with ripe fruits; they traversed it for forty days without arriving at the end, though they reached a great river which flowed through the midst of it from east to west. There an angel appeared to them, and told them that they could go no farther, but could return to their own abode, carrying from the island some of those fruits and precious stones which were reserved to be distributed among the saints when all the world should be brought to the true faith. In order to hasten that time, it appears that St. Malo, the youngest of the sea-faring monks, had wished, in his zeal, to baptize some one, and had therefore dug up a heathen giant who had been, for some reason, buried on the blessed isle. Not only had he dug the giant's body up, but St. Malo had brought him to life again sufficiently for the purpose of baptism and instruction in the true faith; after which he gave him the name

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of Mildus, and let him die once more and be reburied. Then, facing homeward and sailing beyond the fog, they touched once more at The Island of Delights, received the benediction of the abbot of the monastery, and sailed for Ireland to tell their brethren of the wonders they had seen.

He used to tell them especially to his nurse Ita, under whose care he had been placed until his fifth year. His monastery at Clonfert grew, as has been said, to include three thousand monks; and he spent his remaining years in peace and sanctity. The supposed islands which he visited are still believed by many to have formed a part of the American continent, and he is still thought by some Irish scholars to have been the first to discover this hemisphere, nearly a thousand years before Columbus, although this view has not yet made much impression on historians. The Paradise of Birds, in particular, has been placed by these scholars in Mexico, and an Irish poet has written a long poem describing the delights to be found there:--

p. 124

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« Reply #77 on: January 27, 2009, 11:31:23 pm »

"Oft, in the sunny mornings, have I seen
  Bright yellow birds, of a rich lemon hue,
Meeting in crowds upon the branches green,
  And sweetly singing all the morning through;
And others, with their heads grayish and dark,
  Pressing their cinnamon cheeks to the old trees,
And striking on the hard, rough, shrivelled bark,
  Like conscience on a bosom ill at ease.

"And diamond-birds chirping their single notes,
  Now ’mid the trumpet-flower's deep blossoms seen,
Now floating brightly on with fiery throats--
  Small winged emeralds of golden green;
And other larger birds with orange cheeks,
  A many-color-painted, chattering crowd,
Prattling forever with their curved beaks,
  And through the silent woods screaming aloud."


 


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Footnotes
110:1 Adde ut aurem tangas digito sicut canis cum pede pruriens solet, quia nec immerito infideles tali animati comparantur.--MARTÈNE, De Antiq. Monach. ritibus, p. 289, qu. by Montalembert, Monks of the West (tr.) VI. 190.

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« Reply #78 on: January 27, 2009, 11:32:57 pm »

p. 125

XIII
KIRWAN'S SEARCH FOR HY-BRASAIL

The boy Kirwan lay on one of the steep cliffs of the Island of Innismane--one of the islands of Arran, formerly called Isles of the Saints. He was looking across the Atlantic for a glimpse of Hy-Brasail. This was what they called it; it was a mysterious island which Kirwan's grandfather had seen, or thought he had seen--and Kirwan's father also;--indeed, there was not one of the old people on the island who did not think he had seen it, and the older they were, the oftener it had been seen by them, and the larger it looked. But Kirwan had never seen it, and whenever he came to the top of the highest cliff, where he often went bird-nesting, he climbed the great mass of granite called The Gregory, and peered out into the west, especially at sunset, in hopes that he would at least catch a glimpse, some

p. 126

happy evening, of the cliffs and meadows of Hy-Brasail. But as yet he had never espied them. All this was more than two hundred years ago.

He naturally went up to The Gregory at this hour, because it was then that he met the other boys, and caught puffins by being lowered over the cliff. The agent of the island employed the boys, and paid them a sixpence for every dozen birds, that he might sell the feathers. The boys had a rope three hundred feet long, which could reach the bottom of the cliff. One of them tied this rope around his waist, and then held it fast with both hands, the rope being held above by four or five strong boys, who lowered the cragman, or "clifter," as he was called, over the precipice. Kirwan was thus lowered to the rocks near the sea, where the puffins bred; and, loosening the rope, he prepared to spend the night in catching them. He had a pole with a snare on the end, which he easily clapped on the heads of the heavy and stupid birds; then tied each on a string as he caught it, and so kept it to be hauled up

p. 127

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« Reply #79 on: January 27, 2009, 11:33:56 pm »

in the morning. He took in this way twenty or thirty score of the birds, besides quantities of their large eggs, which were found in deep clefts in the rock; and these he carried with him when his friends came in the morning to haul him up. It was a good school of courage, for sometimes boys missed their footing and were dashed to pieces. At other times he fished in his father's boat, or drove calves for sale on the mainland, or cured salt after high tide in the caverns, or collected kelp for the farmers. But he was always looking forward to a time when he might get a glimpse of the island of Hy-Brasail, and make his way to it.

One day when all the fleet of fishing-boats was out for the herring fishery, and Kirwan among them, the fog came in closer and closer, and he was shut apart from all others. His companion in the boat--or dory-mate, as it would be called in New England--had gone to cut bait on board another boat, but Kirwan could manage the boat well enough alone. Long he toiled with his oars toward the west, where he fancied the rest of the fleet to be; and

p. 128

sometimes he spread his little sprit-sail, steering with an oar--a thing which was, in a heavy sea, almost as hard as rowing. At last the fog lifted, and he found himself alone upon the ocean. He had lost his bearings and could not tell the points of the compass. Presently out of a heavy bank of fog which rose against the horizon he saw what seemed land. It gave him new strength, and he worked hard to reach it; but it was long since he had eaten, his head was dizzy, and he lay down on the thwart of the boat, rather heedless of what might come. Growing weaker and weaker, he did not clearly know what he was doing. Suddenly he started up, for a voice hailed him from above his head. He saw above him the high stern of a small vessel, and with the aid of a sailor he was helped on board.

He found himself on the deck of a sloop of about seventy tons, John Nisbet, master, with a crew of seven men. They had sailed from Killebegs (County Donegal), in Ireland, for the coast of France, laden with butter, tallow, and hides, and were now returning from France with French

p. 129

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« Reply #80 on: January 27, 2009, 11:34:11 pm »

wines, and were befogged as Kirwan had been. The boy was at once taken on board and rated as a seaman; and the later adventures of the trip are here given as he reported them on his return with the ship some months later.

The mist continued thicker and thicker for a time, and when it suddenly furled itself away, they found themselves on an unknown coast, with the wind driving them shoreward. There were men on board who were familiar with the whole coast of Ireland and Scotland, but they remembered nothing like this. Finding less than three fathoms of water, they came to anchor and sent four men ashore to find where they were; these being James Ross the carpenter and two sailors, with the boy Kirwan. They took swords and pistols. Landing at the edge of a little wood, they walked for a mile within a pleasant valley where cattle, horses, and sheep were feeding, and then came in sight of a castle, small but strong, where they went to the door and knocked. No one answered, and they walked on, up a green hill, where there were multitudes of black rabbits; but when they had reached the top and

p. 130

looked around they could see no inhabitants, nor any house; on which they returned to the sloop and told their tale. After this the whole ship's company went ashore, except one left in charge, and they wandered about for hours, yet saw nothing more. As night came on they made a fire at the base of a fallen oak, near the shore, and lay around it, talking, and smoking the lately discovered weed, tobacco; when suddenly they heard loud noises from the direction of the castle and then all over the island, which frightened them so that they went on board the sloop and stayed all night.

The next morning they saw a dignified, elderly gentleman with ten unarmed followers coming down towards the shore. Hailing the sloop, the older gentleman, speaking Gaelic, asked who and whence they were, and being told, invited them ashore as his guests. They went on shore, well armed; and he embraced them one by one, telling them that they were the happiest sight that island had seen for hundreds of years; that it was called Hy-Brasail or O-Brazile; that his ancestors had been princes

p. 131

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« Reply #81 on: January 27, 2009, 11:34:31 pm »

of it, but For many years it had been taken possession of by enchanters, who kept it almost always invisible, so that no ship came there; and that for the same reason he and his friends were rendered unable to answer the sailors, even when they knocked at the door; and that the enchantment must remain until a fire was kindled on the island by good Christians. This had been done the night before, and the terrible noises which they had heard were from the powers of darkness, which had now left the island forever.

And indeed when the sailors were led to the castle, they saw that the chief tower had just been demolished by the powers of darkness, as they retreated; but there were sitting within the halls men and women of dignified appearance, who thanked them for the good service they had done. Then they were taken over the island, which proved to be some sixty miles long and thirty wide, abounding with horses, cattle, sheep, deer, rabbits, and birds, but without any swine; it had also rich mines of silver and gold, but few people, although there were ruins

p. 132

of old towns and cities. The sailors, after being richly rewarded, were sent on board their vessel and furnished with sailing directions to their port. On reaching home, they showed to the minister of their town the pieces of gold and silver that were given them at the island, these being of an ancient stamp, somewhat rusty yet of pure gold; and there was at once an eager desire on the part of certain of the townsmen to go with them. Within a week an expedition was fitted out, containing several godly ministers, who wished to visit and discover the inhabitants of the island; but through some mishap of the seas this expedition was never heard of again.

Partly for this reason and partly because none of Captain Nesbit's crew wished to return to the island, there came to be in time a feeling of distrust about all this rediscovery of Hy-Brasail or O-Brazile. There were not wanting those who held that the ancient gold pieces might have been gained by piracy, such as was beginning to be known upon the Spanish main; and as for the boy Kirwan, some of his playmates

p. 133

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« Reply #82 on: January 27, 2009, 11:34:41 pm »

did not hesitate to express the opinion that he had always been, as they phrased it, the greatest liar that ever spoke. What is certain is that the island of Brazil or Hy-Brasail had appeared on maps ever since 1367 as being near the coast of Ireland; that many voyages were made from Bristol to find it, a hundred years later; that it was mentioned about 1636 as often seen from the shore; and that it appeared as Brazil Rock on the London Admiralty Charts until after 1850. If many people tried to find it and failed, why should not Kirwan have tried and succeeded? And as to his stretching his story a little by throwing in a few enchanters and magic castles, there was not a voyager of his period who was not tempted to do the same.



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« Reply #83 on: January 27, 2009, 11:35:19 pm »

134

XIV
THE ISLE OF SATAN'S HAND

The prosperous farmer Conall Ua Corra in the province of Connaught had everything to make him happy except that he and his wife had no children to cheer their old age and inherit their estate. Conall had prayed for children, and one day said in his impatience that he would rather have them sent by Satan than not have them at all. A year or two later his wife had three sons at a birth, and when these sons came to maturity, they were so ridiculed by other young men, as being the sons of Satan, that they said, "If such is really our parentage, we will do Satan's work." So they collected around them a few villains and began plundering and destroying the churches in the neighborhood and thus injuring half the church buildings in the country. At last they resolved to visit also the church of Clothar, to

p. 135

destroy it, and to kill if necessary their mother's father, who was the leading layman of the parish. When they came to the church, they found the old man on the green in front of it, distributing meat and drink to his tenants and the people of the parish. Seeing this, they postponed their plans until after dark and in the meantime went home with their grandfather, to spend the night at his house. They went to rest, and the eldest, Lochan, had a terrible dream in which he saw first the joys of heaven and then the terrors of future punishment, and then he awoke in dismay. Waking his brothers, he told them his dream, and that he now saw that they had been serving evil masters and making war upon a good one. Such was his bitterness of remorse that he converted them to his views, and they agreed to go to their grandfather in the morning, renounce their sinful ways and ask his pardon.

This they did, and he advised them to go to a celebrated saint, Finnen of Clonard, and take him as their spiritual guide. Laying aside their armor and weapons, they went to Clonard, where all the people, dreading them and knowing

p. 136

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« Reply #84 on: January 27, 2009, 11:35:33 pm »

their wickedness, fled for their lives, except the saint himself, who came forward to meet them. With him the three brothers undertook the most austere religious exercises, and after a year they came to St. Finnen and asked his punishment for their former crimes. "You cannot," he said, "restore to life those you have slain, but you can at least restore the buildings you have devastated and ruined." So they went and repaired many churches, after which they resolved to go on a pilgrimage upon the great Atlantic Ocean. They built for themselves therefore a curragh or coracle, covered with hides three deep. It was capable of carrying nine persons, and they selected five out of the many who wished to join the party. There were a bishop, a priest, a deacon, a musician, and the man who had modelled the boat; and with these they pushed out to sea.

It had happened some years before that in a quarrel about a deer hunt, the men of Ross had killed the king. It had been decided that, by way of punishment, sixty couples of the people of Ross should be sent out to sea, two

p. 137

and two, in small boats, to meet what fate they might upon the deeps. They were watched that they might not land again, and for many years nothing more had been heard from them. The most pious task which these repenting pilgrims could undertake, it was thought, would be to seek these banished people. They resolved to spread their sail and let Providence direct their course. They went, therefore, northwest on the Atlantic, where they visited several wonderful islands, on one of which there was a great bird which related to them, the legend says, the whole history of the world, and gave them a great leaf from a tree--the leaf being as large as an ox-hide, and being preserved for many years in one of the churches after their return. At the next island they heard sweet human voices, and found that the sixty banished couples had established their homes there.

The pilgrims then went onward in their hidebound boat until they reached the coast of Spain, and there they landed and dwelt for a time. The bishop built a church, and the priest officiated in it, and the organist took

p. 138

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« Reply #85 on: January 27, 2009, 11:35:46 pm »

charge of the music. All prospered; yet the boat-builder and the three brothers were never quite contented, for they had roamed the seas too long; and they longed for a new enterprise for their idle valor. They thought they had found this when one day they found on the sea-coast a group of women tearing their hair, and when they asked the explanation, "Señor," said an old woman, "our sons and our husbands have again fallen into the hand of Satan." At this the three brothers were startled, for they remembered well how they used, in youth, to rank themselves as Satan's children. Asking farther, they learned that a shattered boat they saw on the beach was one of a pair of boats which had been carried too far out to sea, and had come near an islet which the sailors called Isla de la Man Satanaxio, or The Island of Satan's Hand. It appeared that in that region there was an islet so called, always surrounded by chilly mists and water of a deadly cold; that no one had ever reached it, as it constantly changed place; but that a demon hand sometimes uprose from it,

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« Reply #86 on: January 27, 2009, 11:36:18 pm »




''A demon hand sometimes uprose from the islet and plucked away men and even whole boats, which when once grasped, usually by night, where never seen again, but perished helplessly.''--p. 139
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« Reply #87 on: January 27, 2009, 11:36:35 pm »

p. 139

and plucked away men and even whole boats, which, when once grasped, usually by night, were never seen again, but perished helplessly, victims of Satan's Hand.

When the voyagers laughed at this legend, the priest of the village showed them, on the early chart of Bianco, the name of "De la Man Satanagio," and on that of Beccaria the name "Satanagio" alone, both these being the titles of islands. Not alarmed at the name of Satan, as being that of one whom they had supposed, in their days of darkness, to be their patron, they pushed boldly out to sea and steered westward, a boat-load of Spanish fishermen following in their wake. Passing island after island of green and fertile look, they found themselves at last in what seemed a less favored zone--as windy as the "roaring forties," and growing chillier every hour. Fogs gathered quickly, so that they could scarcely see the companion boat, and the Spanish fishermen called out to them, "Garda da la Man do Satanaxio!" ("Look out for Satan's hand!")

As they cried, the fog became denser yet,

p. 140

and when it once parted for a moment, something that lifted itself high above them, like a gigantic hand, showed itself an instant, and then descended with a crushing grasp upon the boat of the Spanish fishermen, breaking it to pieces, and dragging some of the men below the water, while others, escaping, swam through the ice-cold waves, and were with difficulty taken on board the coracle; this being all the harder because the whole surface of the water was boiling and seething furiously. Rowing away as they could from this perilous neighborhood, they lay on their oars when the night came on, not knowing which way to go. Gradually the fog cleared away, the sun rose clearly at last, and wherever they looked on the deep they saw no traces of any island, still less of the demon hand. But for the presence among them of the fishermen they had picked up, there was nothing to show that any casualty had happened.

That day they steered still farther to the west with some repining from the crew, and at night the same fog gathered, the same deadly

p. 141

chill came on. Finding themselves in shoal water, and apparently near some island, they decided to anchor the boat; and as the man in the bow bent over to clear away the anchor, something came down upon him with the same awful force, and knocked him overboard. His body could not be recovered, and as the wind came up, they drove before it until noon of the next day, seeing nothing of any land and the ocean deepening again. By noon the fog cleared, and they saw nothing, but cried with one voice that the boat should be put about, and they should return to Spain. For two days they rowed in peace over a summer sea; then came the fog again and they laid on their oars that night. All around them dim islands seemed to float, scarcely discernible in the fog; sometimes from the top of each a point would show itself, as of a mighty hand, and they could hear an occasional plash and roar, as if this hand came downwards. Once they heard a cry, as if of sailors from another vessel. Then they strained their eyes to gaze into the fog, and a whole island seemed to be turning

p. 142

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« Reply #88 on: January 27, 2009, 11:36:44 pm »

itself upside down, its peak coming down, while its base went uppermost, and the whole water boiled for leagues around, as if both earth and sea were upheaved.

The sun rose upon this chaos of waters. No demon hand was anywhere visible, nor any island, but a few icebergs were in sight, and the frightened sailors rowed away and made sail for home. It was rare to see icebergs so far south, and this naturally added to the general dismay. Amid the superstition of the sailors, the tales grew and grew, and all the terrors became mingled. But tradition says that there were some veteran Spanish sailors along that coast, men who had sailed on longer voyages, and that these persons actually laughed at the whole story of Satan's Hand, saying that any one who had happened to see an iceberg topple over would know all about it. It was more generally believed, however, that all this was mere envy and jealousy; the daring fishermen remained heroes for the rest of their days; and it was only within a century or two that the island of Satanaxio disappeared from the charts.

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« Reply #89 on: January 27, 2009, 11:37:14 pm »

p. 143

XV
ANTILLIA, THE ISLAND OF THE SEVEN CITIES

The young Spanish page, Luis de Vega, had been for some months at the court of Don Rodrigo, king of Spain, when he heard the old knights lamenting, as they came out of the palace at Toledo, over the king's last and most daring whim. "He means," said one of them in a whisper, "to penetrate the secret cave of the Gothic kings, that cave on which each successive sovereign has put a padlock,"

"Till there are now twenty-seven of them," interrupted a still older knight.

"And he means," said the first, frowning at the interruption, "to take thence the treasures of his ancestors."

"Indeed, he must do it," said another, "else the son of his ancestors will have no treasure left of his own."

"But there is a spell upon it," said the other.

p. 144

[paragraph continues] "For ages Spain has been threatened with invasion, and it is the old tradition that the only talisman which can prevent it is in this cave."

"Well," said the scoffer, "it is only by entering the cave that he can possess the talisman."

"But if he penetrates to it, his power is lost."

"A pretty talisman," said the other. "It is only of use to anybody so long as no one sees it. Were I the king I would hold it in my hands. And I have counselled him to heed no graybeards, but to seize the treasure for himself. I have offered to accompany him."

"May it please your lordship," said the eager Luis, "may I go with you?"

"Yes," said Don Alonzo de Carregas, turning to the ardent boy. "Where the king goes I go, and where I go thou shalt be my companion. See, señors," he said, turning to the others, "how the ready faith of boyhood puts your fears to shame. To his Majesty the terrors of this goblin cave are but a jest which frightens the old and only rouses the young to courage. The king may find the recesses of the cavern filled with gold and jewels; he

p. 145

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