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Reception of Columbus by the Spanish Sovereigns at Barcelona. [1493.]
THE journey of Columbus to Barcelona was like the progress of a sovereign. Wherever he passed, the surrounding country poured forth its inhabitants, who lined the road, and thronged the villages, rending the air with acclamations. In the large towns, the streets, windows, and balconies were filled with spectators, eager to gain a sight of him and of the Indians whom he carried with him, who were regarded with as much astonishment as if they had been natives of another planet.
It was about the middle of April that he arrived at Barcelona, and the beauty and serenity of the weather, in that genial season and favoured climate, contributed to give splendour to the memorable ceremony of his reception. As he drew near the place, many of the youthful courtiers and cavaliers, followed by a vast concourse of the populace, came forth to meet him. His entrance into this noble city has been compared to one of those triumphs which the Romans were accustomed to decree to conquerors. First were paraded the six Indians, painted according to their savage fashion, and decorated with their ornaments of gold. After these
were borne various kinds of live parrots, together with stuffed birds and animals of unknown species, and rare plants supposed to be of precious qualities; while especial care was taken to display the Indian coronets, bracelets, and other decorations of gold, which might give an idea of the wealth of the newly discovered regions. After this followed Columbus, on horseback, surrounded by a brilliant cavalcade of Spanish chivalry. The streets were almost impassable from the multitude; the houses, even to the very roofs, were crowded with spectators. It seemed as if the public eye could not be sated with gazing at these trophies of an unknown world, or on the remarkable man by whom it had been discovered. There was a sublimity in this event that mingled a solemn feeling with the public joy. It was considered a signal dispensation of Providence in reward for the piety of the sovereigns; and the majestic and venerable appearance of the discoverer, so different from the youth and buoyancy that generally accompany roving enterprise, seemed in harmony with the grandeur and dignity of the achieve
To receive him with suitable distinction, the sovereigns had ordered their throne to be placed in public, under a rich canopy of brocade of gold, where they awaited his arrival, seated in state, with Prince Juan beside them, and surrounded by their principal nobility. Columbus arrived in their presence, accompanied by a brilliant crowd of cavaliers, among whom, we are told, he was conspicuous for his stately and commanding person, which, with his venerable gray hairs, gave him the august appearance of a senator of Rome. A modest
smile lighted up his countenance, showing that he enjoyed the state and glory in which he came; and certainly nothing could be more deeply moving to a mind inflamed by noble ambition, and conscious of having nobly deserved, than these testimonials of the admiration and gratitude of a nation, or rather of a world. On his approach, the sovereigns rose, as if receiving a person of the highest rank. Bending on his knees, he would have kissed their hands in token of vassalage, but they raised him in the most gracious manner, and ordered him to seat himself in their presence; a rare honour in this proud and punctilious court.
He now gave an account of the most striking events of his voyage, and displayed the various productions and the native inhabitants which he had brought from the new world. He assured their majesties that all these were but harbingers of greater discoveries which he had yet to make, which would add realms of incalculable wealth to their dominions, and whole nations of proselytes to the true faith.
When Columbus had finished, the king and queen sank on their knees, raised their hands to heaven, and, with eyes filled with tears of joy and gratitude, poured forth thanks and praises to God. All present followed their example; a deep and solemn enthusiasm pervaded that splendid assembly, and prevented all common acclamations of triumph. The anthem of Te Deum laudamus, chanted by the choir of the royal chapel, with the melodious accompaniments of instruments, rose up from the midst in a full body of harmony, bearing up, as it were, the feelings and thoughts of the auditors to
heaven. Such was the solemn and pious manner in which the brilliant court of Spain celebrated this sublime event; offering up a grateful tribute of melody and praise, and giving glory to God for the discovery of another world.
While the mind of Columbus was excited by this triumph, and teeming with splendid anticipations, his pious scheme for the deliverance of the holy sepulchre was not forgotten. Flushed with the idea of the vast wealth that must accrue to himself from his discoveries, he made a vow to furnish, within seven years, an army of four thousand horse and fifty thousand foot, for a crusade to the holy land, and a similar force within the five following years. It is essential to a full knowledge of the character and motives of this extraordinary man, that this visionary project should be borne in recollection. It shows how much his mind was elevated above selfish and mercenary views, and filled with those devout and heroic schemes which, in the time of the crusades, had inflamed the thoughts and directed the enterprises of the bravest warriors and most illustrious princes.
During his sojourn at Barcelona, the sovereigns took every occasion to bestow on Columbus the highest marks of personal consideration. He was admitted at all times to the royal presence; appeared occasionally with the king on horseback, riding on one side of him, while Prince Juan rode on the other side; and the queen delighted to converse familiarly with him on the subject of his voyage. To perpetuate in his family the glory of his achievement, a coat of arms was given him, in which he was allowed to quarter the royal arms,
the castle and lion, with those more peculiarly assigned him, which were a group of islands surrounded by waves: to these arms were afterwards annexed the motto:
A CASTILLA Y A LEON
NUEVO MUNDO DIO COLON.
(To Castile and Leon
Columbus gave a new world.)
The pension of thirty crowns, which had been decreed by the sovereigns to whomsoever should first discover land, was adjudged to Columbus, for having first seen the light on the shore. It is said that the seaman who first descried the land was so incensed at being disappointed of what he deemed his merited reward, that he renounced his country and his faith, and, crossing into Africa, turned Mussulman; an anecdote, however, which rests on rather questionable authority.
The favour shown Columbus by the sovereigns ensured him for a time the caresses of the nobility; for in a court every one is eager to lavish attentions upon the man "whom the king delighteth to honour." At one of the banquets which were given him occurred the well-known circumstance of the egg. A shallow courtier present, impatient of the honours paid to Columbus, and meanly jealous of him as a foreigner, abruptly asked him, whether he thought that, in case he had not discovered the Indies, there would have been wanting men in Spain capable of the enterprise. To this Columbus made no direct reply, but, taking an egg, invited the company to make it stand upon one end. Every one attempted it, but in vain; whereupon he struck it