“1492” — Emma Lazarus

Christopher Columbus in Prison — Thomas Eakins

Christopher Columbus, His Own (Oversize) Book of Privileges, 1502





Papal decree granting Castile sovereignty over the Indies
Rome, June 1493
Translated by Helen Nader, 1996. Alternative translations [in brackets] by George F. Barwick, 1893.

(1) In the name of God, amen. This is a transcript well and faithfully copied from a document written on parchment [written on parchment of skin] in the Latin language, embossed with a red [coloured] wax seal, placed in a wooden box, tied with a green silk ribbon, and apparently certified and signed by a certain papal notary, the content of which, word for word, is as follows.

(5) Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and dear to [desired of] our heart, this assuredly ranks highest, that in our times especially the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for, and that barbarous nations be overthrown [subdued] and brought to the true faith. Since we have been called to this holy chair of Peter by the favor of divine clemency, although of unequal merits, recognize that, as true Catholic kings and princes, such as we have known you always to be, and as your illustrious deeds now known to nearly the whole world declare, you not only eagerly desire but with every effort, zeal, and diligence are laboring to that same end, disregarding hardship, expense, danger, and even the shedding of your blood… We therefore are rightly persuaded and consider it our duty, of our own accord and applauded by others, to grant you those things by which, with daily effort, you may be more heartily enabled to carry forward your holy and praiseworthy purpose pleasing to immortal God, for the honor of God himself and the spread of the Christian rule.

(6) You chose our beloved son, Christopher Columbus, a man assuredly worthy and of the highest recommendations and qualified [well suited] for so great an undertaking.

(7) Columbus and his men, with divine aid and with the utmost diligence sailing in the sea, discovered certain very remote islands and even continents that hitherto had not been discovered by others. A great many peoples reside there, living in peace, and, it is reported, going unclothed, and not eating meat [going naked, and not feeding upon flesh]. Moreover, as your envoys think that these same peoples living on those islands and mainland believe there to be one God, the Creator in heaven, and seem sufficiently disposed to embrace the Catholic faith and be trained in good morals, it is hoped that, were they instructed, the name of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, would easily be introduced to these continents and islands.

(8) To that end, on one of the principal islands, Christopher has already caused a well equipped fortress [tower] to be established and built.

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(11) We command you, in virtue of holy obedience, to employ all due diligence, just as we also promise. We do not doubt that for the sake of your utmost devotion and royal greatness of soul you will appoint worthy, God-fearing, learned, skilled, and experienced men to these continents and islands to instruct their inhabitants and residents [natives] in the Catholic faith and train them in [imbue them with] good morals [using all due diligence in the premises].

(13) Let no man infringe or with rash boldness contravene this our commendation, exhortation, requisition, gift [donation], grant [concession], assignation, ordinance [constitution], deputation, decree, mandate, prohibition [inhibition], and will. Should anyone presume to attempt this, he is informed that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of his blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

(14) Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, in the year of the incarnation of our Lord one thousand four hundred and ninety-three on the fourth of May in the first year of our pontificate.

(15) Gratis by order of our Most Holy Lord, the Pope.

(17) We have ordered these letters be copied, transcribed, and rendered public, deciding and wishing [decreeing and willing] that thereafter full credence be shown to this public transcript or copy in each and all places opportune [shall henceforth obtain full credence everywhere, in all and singular places, in which it shall be required], and that this transcript itself engender confidence and be explained as if the original letters themselves were to appear, be brought forth, and presented.

Note on the translation
by Helen Nader
“I confronted what at first seemed insoluble problems of legal prose style and vocabulary. Help came from the guidelines of the legal profession itself. Most of the documents in this volume were written in the jargon-laden and repetitive prose of any legislation or executive orders drafted by bureaucrats. Little would have been gained by transforming such Spanish into the equally tortured English prose of modern lawyers … In trying to find modern vocabulary of archaic expressions without going to the other extreme of erasing their legal implications, I have been guided by modern Spanish-English legal dictionaries.”


The Sopranos Debate Christopher Columbus’s Cultural Legacy (NSFW)

Also, Howard Zinn on Columbus Day.

[Editorial note: Yeah. I know. I post this like every Columbus Day. I still like it though].

Columbus in Prison — Thomas Eakins

The Sopranos Debate Christopher Columbus’s Cultural Legacy (NSFW)

Also, Howard Zinn on Columbus Day.

[Editorial note: Yeah. We know we posted this last year. We still like it though].

The Sopranos Debate Christopher Columbus’s Cultural Legacy (NSFW)

Also, Howard Zinn on Columbus Day.

Anthems in New Tongues I Hear Saluting Me

Salvador Dali Museum.
Salvador Dalí, The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, 1959, oil on canvas, 410 x 284 cm, St. Petersburg, Florida: Salvador Dalí Museum.

“Prayer of Columbus” by Walt Whitman

A batter’d, wreck’d old man,
Thrown on this savage shore, far, far from home,
Pent by the sea and dark rebellious brows, twelve dreary months,
Sore, stiff with many toils, sicken’d and nigh to death,
I take my way along the island’s edge,
Venting a heavy heart.
I am too full of woe!
Haply I may not live another day;
I cannot rest O God, I cannot eat or drink or sleep,
Till I put forth myself, my prayer, once more to Thee,
Breathe, bathe myself once more in Thee, commune with Thee,
Report myself once more to Thee.
Thou knowest my years entire, my life,
My long and crowded life of active work, not adoration merely;
Thou knowest the prayers and vigils of my youth,
Thou knowest my manhood’s solemn and visionary meditations,
Thou knowest how before I commenced I devoted all to come to Thee,
Thou knowest I have in age ratified all those vows and strictly kept them,
Thou knowest I have not once lost nor faith nor ecstasy in Thee,
In shackles, prison’d, in disgrace, repining not,
Accepting all from Thee, as duly come from Thee.
All my emprises have been fill’d with Thee,
My speculations, plans, begun and carried on in thoughts of Thee,
Sailing the deep or journeying the land for Thee;
Intentions, purports, aspirations mine, leaving results to Thee.
O I am sure they really came from Thee,
The urge, the ardor, the unconquerable will,

The potent, felt, interior command, stronger than words,

A message from the Heavens whispering to me even in sleep,
These sped me on.
By me and these the work so far accomplish’d,
By me earth’s elder cloy’d and stifled lands uncloy’d, unloos’d,
By me the hemispheres rounded and tied, the unknown to the known.
The end I know not, it is all in Thee,
Or small or great I know not–haply what broad fields, what lands,
Haply the brutish measureless human undergrowth I know,
Transplanted there may rise to stature, knowledge worthy Thee,
Haply the swords I know may there indeed be turn’d to reaping-tools,
Haply the lifeless cross I know, Europe’s dead cross, may bud and
blossom there.
One effort more, my altar this bleak sand;
That Thou O God my life hast lighted,
With ray of light, steady, ineffable, vouchsafed of Thee,
Light rare untellable, lighting the very light,
Beyond all signs, descriptions, languages;
For that O God, be it my latest word, here on my knees,
Old, poor, and paralyzed, I thank Thee.
My terminus near,
The clouds already closing in upon me,
The voyage balk’d, the course disputed, lost,
I yield my ships to Thee.
My hands, my limbs grow nerveless,
My brain feels rack’d, bewilder’d,
Let the old timbers part, I will not part,
I will cling fast to Thee, O God, though the waves buffet me,
Thee, Thee at least I know.
Is it the prophet’s thought I speak, or am I raving?
What do I know of life? what of myself?
I know not even my own work past or present,
Dim ever-shifting guesses of it spread before me,
Of newer better worlds, their mighty parturition,
Mocking, perplexing me.
And these things I see suddenly, what mean they?
As if some miracle, some hand divine unseal’d my eyes,
Shadowy vast shapes smile through the air and sky,
And on the distant waves sail countless ships,
And anthems in new tongues I hear saluting me.