« PreviousContinue »
Lammen with the earliest dawn. Night descended upon the scene, a pitch-dark night, full of anxiety to the Spaniards, to the armada, to Leyden. Strange sights and sounds occurred at different moments to bewilder the anxious sentinels. A long procession of lights issuing from the fort was seen to fit across the black face of the waters, in the dead of night, and the whole of the city wall, between the Cow-gate and the Tower of Burgundy, fell with a loud crash. The horror-struck citizens thought that the Spaniards were upon them at last; the Spaniards imagined the noise to indicate a desperate sortie of the citizens. Everything was vague and mysterious.
Day dawned, at length, after the feverish night, and the Admiral prepared for the assault. Within the fortress reigned a deathlike stillness, which inspired a sickening suspicion. Had the city, indeed, been carried in the night; had the massacre already commenced; had all this labor and audacity been expended in vain ? Suddenly a man was descried, wading breast-high through the water from Lammen towards the fleet, while at the same time, one solitary boy was seen to wave his cap from the summit of the fort. After a moment of doubt, the happy mystery was solved. The Spaniards had fled, panicstruck, during the darkness. Their position would still have enabled them, with firmness, to frustrate the enterprise of the patriots, but the hand of God, which had sent the ocean and the tempest to the deliverance of Leyden, had struck her enemies with terror likewise. The lights which had been seen moving during the night were the lanterns of the retreating Spaniards, and the boy who was now waving his triumphant signal from the battlements had alone witnessed the spectacle. So confident was he in the conclusion to which it led him, that he had volunteered at daybreak to go thither all alone. The magistrates, fearing a trap, hesitated for a moment to believe the truth, which soon, however, became quite evident. Valdez, flying himself from Leiderdorp, had ordered Colonel Borgia to retire with all his troops from Lammen. Thus, the Spaniards had retreated at the very moment that an extraordinary accident had laid bare a whole side of the city for their entrance. The noise of the wall, as it fell, only inspired them with fresh alarm; for they believed that the citizens had sallied forth in the darkness, to aid the advancing flood in the work of destruction. All obstacles being now removed, the fleet of Boisot swept by Lammen, and entered the city on the morning of the 3d of October. Leyden was relieved.
BY ALONZA DE ERCILLA.
(Translation and Summaries by William Hayley.)
[Alonzo ERCILLA Y ZUÑIGA, Spanish poet, was born at Bermeo, Bay of Biscay, about 1530; entered the service of Philip II.; joined the expedition against the native Araucanians of Chile, and while campaigning, wrote his famous epic “ The Araucana" on scraps of paper and leather. After his return he was chamberlain to Emperor Rudolf II.; lived in Madrid, very poor, from 1580 on, and died in 1595.]
THE poem opens with the following exposition of the subject:
I sing not love of ladies, nor of sights
The poet devotes his first canto to the description of tha: part of the New World which forms the scene of his action, and is called Arauco, a district in the province of Chile. He paints the singular character and various customs of its warlike inhabitants with great clearness and spirit. In many points they bear a striking resemblance to the ancient Germans, as they are drawn by the strong pencil of Tacitus. The first canto closes with a brief account how this martial province was subdued by a Spanish officer named Valdivia; with an intimation that his negligence in his new dominion gave birth to those important exploits which the poet proposes to celebrate.
Many there are who, in this mortal strife, Have reached the slippery heights of splendid life: For Fortune's ready hand its succor lent; Smiling she raised them up the steep ascent, To hurl them headlong from that lofty seat To which she led their unsuspecting feet; E'en at the moment when all fears disperse, And their proud fancy sees no sad reverse. Little they think, beguiled by fair success, That Joy is but the herald of Distress : The hasty wing of Time escapes their sight, And those dark evils that attend his flight:
ainly they dream, with gay presumption warm, Fortune for them will take a steadier form; She, unconcerned at what her victims feel, Turns with her wonted haste her fatal wheel.
The Indian first, by novelty dismayed, As Gods revered us, and as Gods obeyed; But when they found we were of woman born, Their homage turned to enmity and scorn: Their childish error when our weakness showed, They blushed at what their ignorance bestowed; Fiercely they burnt with anger and with shame, To see their masters but of mortal frame. Disdaining cold and cowardly delay, They seek atonement, on no distant day: Prompt and resolved, in quick debate they join, To form of deep revenge their dire design. Impatient that their bold decree should spread, And shake the world around with sudden dread, Th' assembling Chieftains led so large a train, Their ready host o'erspread th' extensive plain. No summons now the soldier's heart requires; The thirst of battle every breast inspires; No pay, no promise of reward, they ask, Keen to accomplish their spontaneous task; And, by the force of one avenging blow, Crush and annihilate their foreign foe. Of some brave Chiefs, who to this council came, Well mayst thou, Memory, preserve the name; Tho' rude and savage, yet of noble soul, Justly they claim their place on Glory's roll,
Who, robbing Spain of many a gallant son,
The poet proceeds to mention the principal chieftains, and the number of their respective vassals.
Tucapel stands first, renowned for the most inveterate enmity to the Christians, and leader of three thousand vassals. Some sixty thousand in all are brought to the assembly. Peteguelen, lord of the valley of Arauco, prevented from personal attendance by the Christians, dispatches six thousand of his retainers to the assembly. The lord of the maritime province of Pilmayquen, the bold Caupolican, is also unable to appear at the opening of the council.
The valley where they met for their consultations is thus described by Ercilla, who probably had seen it :
In an umbrageous vale the seniors meet,
As they begin their business in the style of the ancient Germans, with a plentiful banquet, they soon grow exasperated with liquor, and a violent quarrel ensues concerning the command of the forces for the projected war, an honor which almost every chieftain is arrogant enough to challenge for himself. In the midst of this turbulent debate, the ancient Colocolo delivers the following harangue, which Voltaire prefers to the speech of Nestor, on a similar occasion, in the first book of the Iliad:
“ Assembled Chiefs ! ye guardians of the land ! Think not I mourn from thirst of lost command, To find your rival spirits thus pursue A post of honor which I deem my due. These marks of age, you see, such thoughts disown In me, departing for the world unknown; But my warm love, which ye have long possest, Now prompts that counsel which you'll find the best. Why should we now for marks of glory jar? Why wish to spread our martial name afar ? Crushed as we are by Fortune's cruel stroke, And bent beneath an ignominious yoke, Ill can our minds such noble pride maintain, While the fierce Spaniard holds our galling chain. Your generous fury here ye vainly show; Ah! rather pour it on th' embattled foe! What frenzy has your souls of sense bereaved ? Ye rush to self-perdition, unperceived. 'Gainst your own vitals would ye lift those hands, Whose vigor ought to burst oppression's bands?
“ If a desire of death this rage create,
“E'en while I thus lament, I will still admire