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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 2197 times)
Kabrina Teppe
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Posts: 1279

« Reply #30 on: November 29, 2008, 04:54:17 am »

The name Antillia appears first, but not very clearly, on the Pizigani map of 1367; then clearly on a map of 1424, preserved at Weimar, on that of Bianco in 1436, and on the globe of Beheim in 1492, which adds in an inscription the story of the Seven Bishops. On some maps of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there appears near it a smaller island under

p. 250

the name of Sette Cidade, or Sete Ciudades, which is properly another name for the same island. Toscanelli, in his famous letter to Columbus, recommended Antillia as a good way-station for his voyage to India. The island is said by tradition to have been re-discovered by a Portuguese sailor in 1447. Tradition says that this sailor went hastily to the court of Portugal to announce the discovery, but was blamed for not having remained longer, and so fled. It was supposed to be "a large, rectangular island extending from north to south, lying in the mid Atlantic about lat. 35 N." An ample bibliography will be found in Winsor's "Narrative and Critical History," I. p. 48, with maps containing Antillia, I. pp. 54 (Pizigani's), 56, 58.

After the discovery of America, Peter Martyr states (in 1493) that Hispaniola and the adjacent islands were "Antillæ insulæ," meaning that they were identical with the group surrounding the fabled Antillia (Winsor's "Narrative and Critical History," I. p. 49); and Schöner, in the dedicatory letter of his globe of 1523, says that the king of Castile, through Columbus, has discovered Antiglias Hispaniam Cubam quoque. It was thus that the name Antilles came to be applied to the islands discovered by Columbus; just as the name Brazil was transferred from an imaginary island to the new continent, and the name Seven Cities was applied to the pueblos of New Mexico by those who discovered them. (See J. H. Simpson, "Coronado's March in Search of the Seven Cities of Cibola," Smithsonian Institution, 1869, pp. 209-340.)

The sailor who re-discovered them said that the chief desire of the people was to know whether the Moors still held Spain (Gaffarel, "Iles Fantastiques," p. 3). In a copy of "Ptolemy"

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addressed to Pope Urban VI. about 1380, before the alleged visit of the Portuguese, it was stated of the people at Antillia that they lived in a Christian manner, and were most prosperous, "Hic populus christianissime vivit, omnibus divitiis seculi hujus plenus" (D’Avezac, "Nouvelles Annales des voyages," 1845, II. p. 55).

It was afterwards held by some that the island of Antillia was identical with St. Michael in the Azores, where a certain cluster of stone huts still bears the name of Seven Cities, and the same name is associated with a small lake by which they stand. (Humboldt's "Examen Critique," Paris, 1837, II. p. 203; Gaffarel, "Iles Fantastiques," p. 3.)

The tales of the Norse explorations of America are now accessible in many forms, the most convenient of these being in the edition of E. L. Slafter, published by the Prince Society. As to the habits of the Vikings, the most accessible authorities are "The Age of the Vikings," by Du Chaillu, and "The Sea Kings of Norway," by Laing. The writings of the late Professor E. N. Horsford are well known, but his opinions are not yet generally accepted by students. His last work, "Leif's House in Vineland," with his daughter's supplementary essay on "Graves of the Northmen," is probably the most interesting of the series (Boston, 1893). In Longfellow's "Saga of King Olaf" (II.), included in "Tales of a Wayside Inn," there is a description of the athletic sports practised by the Vikings, which are moreover described with the greatest minuteness by Du Chaillu.

p. 252

The narrative of Champlain's effort to find Norumbega in 1632 may be found in Otis's "Voyages of Champlain" (II. p. 38), and there is another version in the Magazine of American History (I. p. 321). The whole legend of the city is well analyzed in the same magazine (I. p. 14) by Dr. De Costa under the title "The Lost City of New England." In another volume he recurs to the subject (IX. p. 168), and gives (IX. p. 200) a printed copy of David Ingram's narrative, from the original in the Bodleian Library. He also discusses the subject in Winsor's "Narrative and Critical History" (IV. p. 77, etc.), where he points out that "the insular character of the Norumbega region is not purely imaginary, but is based on the fact that the Penobscot region affords a continued watercourse to the St. Lawrence, which was travelled by the Maine Indians." Ramusio's map of 1559 represents "Nurumbega" as a large island, well defined (Winsor, IV. p. 91); and so does that of Ruscelli (Winsor, IV. p. 92), the latter spelling it "Nurumberg." Some geographers supposed it to extend as far as Florida. The name was also given to a river (probably the Penobscot) and to a cape. The following is Longfellow's poem on the voyage of Sir Humphrey Gilbert:--


Southward with fleet of ice
  Sailed the corsair Death;
Wild and fast blew the blast,
  And the east-wind was his breath. p. 253

His lordly ships of ice
  Glisten in the sun;
On each side, like pennons wide,
  Flashing crystal streamlets run.

His sails of white sea-mist
  Dripped with silver rain;
But where he passed there were cast
  Leaden shadows o’er the main.

Eastward from Campobello
  Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed;
Three days or more seaward he bore,
  Then, alas! the land-wind failed.

Alas! the land-wind failed,
  And ice-cold grew the night;
And nevermore, on sea or shore,
  Should Sir Humphrey see the light.

He sat upon the deck,
  The Book was in his hand;
"Do not fear! Heaven is as near,"
  He said, "by water as by land!"

In the first watch of the night,
  Without a signal's sound,
Out of the sea, mysteriously,
  The fleet of Death rose all around. p. 254

The moon and the evening star
  Were hanging in the shrouds;
Every mast, as it passed,
  Seemed to rake the passing clouds.

They grappled with their prize,
  At midnight black and cold!
As of a rock was the shock;
  Heavily the ground-swell rolled.

Southward through day and dark,
  They drift in close embrace,
With mist and rain, o'er the open main;
  Yet there seems no change of place.

Southward, forever southward,
  They drift through dark and day;
And like a dream, in the Gulf-Stream
  Sinking, vanish all away.

For authorities for this tale see "Voyages of Samuel de Champlain," translated by Charles Pomeroy Otis, Ph.D., with memoir by the Rev. E. F. Slafter, A.M., Boston, 1880 (I. pp. 116, 289, II. p. 52). The incident of the disguised Indians occurred, however, to the earlier explorer, Jacques Cartier. (See my "Larger History of the United States," p. 112.)

The tale of the Isle of Demons is founded on a story told first by Marguerite of Navarre in her "Heptameron" (LXVII. Nouvelle), and then with much variation and amplification by the very untrustworthy traveller Thevet in his "Cosmographie" (1571), Livre XXIII. c. vi. The only copy of the latter work known to me is in the Carter-Brown Library at Providence, R.I., and the passage has been transcribed for me through the kindness of A. E. Winship, Esq., librarian, who has also sent me a photograph of a woodcut representing the lonely woman shooting at a bear. A briefer abstract of the story is in Winsor's "Narrative and Critical History" (IV. p. 66, note), but it states, perhaps erroneously, that Thevet knew Marguerite only through the Princess of Navarre, whereas that author claims--though his claim is never worth much--that he had the story from the poor woman herself, "La pauvre femme estant arriuvee en France . . . et venue en la ville de Nautron, pays de Perigort lors que i’y estois, me feit le discours de toutes ses fortunes passées."

The Island of Demons appears on many old maps which may be found engraved in Winsor, IV. pp. 91, 92, 93, 100, 373, etc.; also as "Isla de demonios" in Sebastian Cabot's map (1544) reprinted in Dr. S. E. Dawson's valuable "Voyages of the Cabots," in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada for 1897. He also gives Ruysch's map (1508), in which a cluster of islands appears in the same place, marked "Insulæ dæmonum." Harrisse, in his "Notes sur la Nouvelle France" (p. 278), describes the three sufferers as having been abandoned

p. 256

by Roberval à trente six lieues des côtes de Canada, dans une isle deserte qui fut depuis désignée sous le nom de l’Isle de la Demoiselle, pres de l’embouchure de la Rivière St. Paul ou des Saumons. I have not, however, been able to identify this island. Parkman also says ("Pioneers of France," p. 205) that Roberval's pilot, in his routier, or logbook, speaks often of "Les Isles de la Demoiselle," evidently referring to Marguerite. The brief account by the Princess of Navarre follows:--


Une pauvre femme, pour sauver la vie de son mary, hasarda la sienne, et ne l’abandonna jusqu’à la mort.

C’est que faisant le dict Robertval un voiage sur la mer, duquel il estoit chef par le commandement du Roy son maistre, en l’isle de Canadas; auquel lieu avoit délibéré, si l’air du païs euste esté commode, de demourer et faire villes et chasteaulx; en quoy il fit tel commencement, que chacun peut sçavoir. Et, pour habituer le pays de Chrestiens, mena avecq luy de toutes sortes d’artisans, entre lesquelz y avoit un homme, qui fut si malheureux, qu’il trahit son maistre et le mist en dangier d’estre prins des gens du pays. Mais Dieu voulut que son entreprinse fut si tost congneue, qu’elle ne peut nuyre au cappitaine Robertval, lequel feit prendre ce meschant traistre, le voulant pugnir comme il l’avoit mérité; ce qui eust esté faict, sans sa femme qui avoit suivy son mary par les périlz de la mer; et ne le voulut abandonner à la mort, mais avecq force larmes feit tant, avecq le cappitaine et toute la compaignye, que, tant pour la pitié d’icelle que pour le service qu’elle leur avoit faict, luy accorda sa requeste qui fut telle, que le mary et la femme furent

p. 257

laissez en une petite isle, sur la mer, où il n’habitoit que bestes saulvaiges; et leur fut permis de porter avecq eulx ce dont ilz avoient nécessité. Les pauvres gens, se trouvans tous seulz en la compaignye des bestes saulvaiges et cruelles, n’eurent recours que à Dieu seul, qui avoit esté toujours le ferme espoir de ceste pauvre femme. Et, comme celle qui avoit toute consolation en Dieu, porta pour sa saulve garde, nourriture et consolation le Nouveau Testament, lequel elle lisoit incessamment. Et, au demourant, avecq son mary, mettoit peine d’accoustrer un petit logis le mieulx qui’l leur estoit possible; et, quand les lyons et aultres bestes en aprochoient pour les dévorer, le mary avecq sa harquebuze, et elle, avecq les pierres, se défendoient si bien, que, non suellement les bestes ne les osoient approcher, mais bien souvent en tuèrent de très-bonnes à manger; ainsy, avecq telles chairs et les herbes du païs, vesquirent quelque temps, quand le pain leur fut failly. A la longue, le mary ne peut porter telle nourriture; et, à cause des eaues qu’ilz buvoient, devint si enflé, que en peu de temps il mourut, n’aiant service ne consolation que sa femme, laquelle le servoit de médecin et de confesseur; en sorte qu’il passa joieusement de ce désert en la céleste patrie. Et la pauvre femme, demourée seulle, l’enterra le plus profond en terre qu’il fut possible; si est-ce que les bestes en eurent incontinent le sentyment, qui vindrent pour manger la charogne. Mais la pauvre femme, en sa petite maisonnette, de coups de harquebuze défendoit que la chair de son mary n’eust tel sépulchre. Ainsy vivant, quant au corps, de vie bestiale, et quant à l’esperit, de vie angélicque, passoit son temps en lectures, contemplations, prières et oraisons ayant un esperit joieux et content, dedans un corps emmaigry et demy mort. Mais Celluy qui n’abandonne jamais les siens, et qui, au désespoir

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des autres, monstre sa puissance, ne permist que la vertu qu’il avoit myse en ceste femme fust ignorée des hommes, mais voulut qu’elle fust congneue à sa gloire; et fiet que, au bout de quelque temps, un des navires de ceste armée passant devant ceste isle, les gens qui estoient dedans advisèrent, quelque fumée qui leur feit souvenir de ceulx qui y avoient esté laissez, et délibérèrent d’aller veoir ce que Dieu en avoit faict. La pauvre femme, voiant approcher el navire, se tira au bort de la mer, auquel lieu la trouvèrent à leur arrivée. Et, après en avoir rendu louange à Dieu, les mena en sa pauvre maisonnette, et leur monstra de quoy elle vivoit durant sa demeure; ce que leur eust esté incroiable, sans la congnoissance qu’ilz avoient que Dieu est puissant de nourrir en un désert ses serviteurs, comme au plus grandz festins du monde. Et, ne pouvant demeurer en tel lieu, emmenèrent la pauvre femme avecq eulx droict à la Rochelle, où, après un navigage, ilz arrivèrent. Et quand ilz eurent faict entendre aux habitans la fidélité et persévérance de ceste femme, elle fut receue à grand honneur de toutes les Dames, qui voluntiers luy baillèrent leurs filles pour aprendre à lire et à escripre. Et, à cest honneste mestier-là, gaigna le surplus de sa vie, n’aiant autre désîr que d’exhorter un chaucun à l’amour et confiance de Nostre Seigneur, se proposant pour exemple la grande miséricorde dont il avoit usé envers elle.

Parkman says expressly that "Ponce de Léon found the Island of Bimini," but it is generally mentioned as having been imaginary, and is not clearly identified among the three thousand islands and rocks of the Bahamas. Peter Martyr placed the

p. 259

[paragraph continues] Fountain of Youth in Florida, which he may have easily supposed to be an island. Some of the features of my description are taken from the strange voyage of Cabeza da Vaca, which may be read in Buckingham Smith's translation of his narrative (Washington, D.C., 1851), or in a more condensed form in Henry Kingsley's "Tales of Old Travel," or in my own "Book of American Explorers" (N.Y., Longmans, 1894).
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