Monday, October 8, 2012

Not the year 2525, but 1492

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

Santa Maria

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

“Indians! Indians!” Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.

But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.

Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told.

He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.

The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

I post this well-known, but today little-memorized, poem on Columbus Day in full awareness of all issues surrounding the so-called Columbian Exchange and the mixed legacy of Europeans making contact with inhabitants of what seemed to them a New World. Nonetheless, I believe that this day is worth commemorating, not in a triumphalist way, but as a significant date in world history.

Thanks to one of my Canadian friends for reminding me that today is Thanksgiving Day in that great country! Canadians, therefore, commemorate this day every year in a profound way.

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