Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, COLUMBUS; 1492-1892, by WILLIAM ALLEN BUTLER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

COLUMBUS; 1492-1892, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Westward columbus steered, while, day by day
Last Line: His first te deum at san salvador.
Subject(s): Columbus, Christopher (1451-1506); Explorers; United States; Exploring; Discovery; Discoverers; America

WESTWARD Columbus steered, while, day by day,
On Toscanelli's chart he traced the way
Across the Sea of Darkness, to Cathay.

Sure of his goal where others dimly guessed,
No doubt disturbed him in his certain quest
For the known Orient in the unknown West.

If Asia girds the solid globe around,
With its vast bulk, somewhere its Eastern bound
Beyond the untracked Ocean must be found.

His day-dream this, through all the weary strain
Of hope deferred and succor sought in vain,
The slights of sovereigns and the world's disdain.

No day-dream now; Santa Maria's keel
Ploughs the main sea to shores that shall reveal
New realms for Christ, Columbus, and Castille.

There, at his touch, shall India's gates unfold,
As in the tale that Marco Polo told,
The Magi's wealth of spices, gems, and gold.

Himself the lord of all the vast domain,
Viceroy of vassal kingdoms, won for Spain,
Trophies, unmatched, of Isabella's reign.

Then shall his vow be paid, with unsheathed sword,
To lead, beneath the banner of his Lord,
A new crusade against the Moslem horde.

What though his scattered barks are tossed and blown
By every wind that sweeps the storm-girt zone,
And all hearts fail for fear, except his own;

While traitorous lips on each frail caravel
Curse the mad whim which lured, with wizard spell,
To outer darkness and the jaws of Hell;

Fixed as the polar star, above the swarm
Of craven comrades, towers his lofty form,
Steadfast, immovable, in calm and storm.

His boundless faith, like the broad sea he sailed,
Compassed with clouds, with angry blasts assailed,
Was fed by mighty streams which never failed.

His hour of eager hope, when through the night,
On his lone watch, a far-off, flickering light
Flashed, like a beacon, on his startled sight.

His hour of triumph, when the air was stirred
With scented breeze and wing of forest bird,
And from aloft the cry of "Land!" was heard.

But not the land he sought; how strange the lot
By Fortune cast, his one bright page to blot;
He found the New World and he knew it not!

Nor ever knew; the throne of Kubla Khan
Four times he sought and then, beneath the ban
Of failure, died—a broken-hearted man.

The shores he gained were Asia's shores to him;
His later cup of Fame, filled to the brim,
He tasted not, nor even touched the rim.

But though he walked not in the full-orbed light
Of his own fame, and died without its sight,
Yet was he first in time and first in right—

The great Discoverer—whose soul of flame
Lighted the path for all who ever came
To this New World, which should have borne his name.

Judge not by what he thought, but what he did,
When, once for all, he rent the veil that hid
The Toltec shrine from Egypt's pyramid,

And entering in, the first of Pioneers,
For all Mankind and all the coming years,
Set face to face the sundered Hemispheres.

Not for Castille and Leon's narrow bound,
Nor for Grenada's sovereigns, doubly crowned,
Was the new Western World Columbus found.

Nor to the ancient Empires, crushed and rent
By wars and kingcraft, was his life-work spent
To add another blood-stained Continent:

Nor yet to plant anew his Latin race,
Whose conquering march, with fire and sword, we trace
From Cuba's capes to Chimborazo's base,

Where Nature's sunlit sky and tropic hue
From distant Spain the bold adventurers drew
To graft the Old World stock upon the New.

Northward, the issue of his work outran
These narrow bounds, to shape the unfolding plan
That to its goal uplifts the race of Man.

In grander realms than Cortes' iron hand
Snatched from the Aztecs, or Pizarro's band
From captive Incas wrung, with sword and brand,

To plant a New World State, full armed to cope
With Old World wrongs and girt with amplest scope
For every human need and human hope.

Where all that Toil has gained, or Truth has taught,
And all the victories won where Freedom fought,
Forever crown the work Columbus wrought.

And if, to-day, it is our right to claim
The full inheritance of his great fame
And bid the whole World welcome in his name,

Blent with our loftiest note of praise shall soar—
A distant echo from a far-off shore—
His first TE DEUM at San Salvador.

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