Mardi ; and, A Voyage Thither, by Herman Melville

Chapter 53

They Draw Nigh Unto Land

In good time, after many days sailing, we snuffed the land from afar, and came to a great country, full of inland mountains, north and south stretching far out of sight. “All hail, Kolumbo!” cried Yoomy.

Coasting by a portion of it, which Mohi called Kanneeda, a province of King Bello’s, we perceived the groves rocking in the wind; their flexible boughs bending like bows; and the leaves flying forth, and darkening the landscape, like flocks of pigeons.

“Those groves must soon fall,” said Mohi.

“Not so,” said Babbalanja. “My lord, as these violent gusts are formed by the hostile meeting of two currents, one from over the lagoon, the other from land; they may be taken as significant of the occasional variances between Kanneeda and Dominora.”

“Ay,” said Media, “and as Mohi hints, the breeze from Dominora must soon overthrow the groves of Kanneeda.”

“Not if the land-breeze holds, my lord; — one breeze oft blows another home. — Stand up, and gaze! From cape to cape, this whole main we see, is young and froward. And far southward, past this Kanneeda and Vivenza, are haughty, overbearing streams, which at their mouths dam back the ocean, and long refuse to mix their freshness with the foreign brine:— so bold, so strong, so bent on hurling off aggression is this brave main, Kolumbo; — last sought, last found, Mardi’s estate, so long kept back; — pray Oro, it be not squandered foolishly. Here lie plantations, held in fee by stout hearts and arms; and boundless fields, that may be had for seeing. Here, your foes are forests, struck down with bloodless maces. — Ho! Mardi’s Poor, and Mardi’s Strong! ye, who starve or beg; seventh-sons who slave for earth’s first-born — here is your home; predestinated yours; Come over, Empire-founders! fathers of the wedded tribes to come! — abject now, illustrious evermore:— Ho: Sinew, Brawn, and Thigh!”

“A very fine invocation,” said Media, “now Babbalanja, be seated; and tell us whether Dominora and the kings of Porpheero do not own some small portion of this great continent, which just now you poetically pronounced as the spoil of any vagabonds who may choose to settle therein? Is not Kanneeda, Dominora’s?”

“And was not Vivenza once Dominora’s also? And what Vivenza now is, Kanneeda soon must be. I speak not, my lord, as wishful of what I say, but simply as foreknowing it. The thing must come. Vain for Dominora to claim allegiance from all the progeny she spawns. As well might the old patriarch of the flood reappear, and claim the right of rule over all mankind, as descended from the loins of his three roving sons.

“’Tis the old law:— the East peoples the West, the West the East; flux and reflux. And time may come, after the rise and fall of nations yet unborn, that, risen from its future ashes, Porpheero shall be the promised land, and from her surplus hordes Kolumbo people it.”

Still coasting on, next day, we came to Vivenza; and as Media desired to land first at a point midway between its extremities, in order to behold the convocation of chiefs supposed to be assembled at this season, we held on our way, till we gained a lofty ridge, jutting out into the lagoon, a bastion to the neighboring land. It terminated in a lofty natural arch of solid trap. Billows beat against its base. But above, waved an inviting copse, wherein was revealed an open temple of canes, containing one only image, that of a helmeted female, the tutelar deity of Vivenza.

The canoes drew near.

“Lo! what inscription is that?” cried Media, “there, chiseled over the arch?”

Studying those immense hieroglyphics awhile, antiquarian Mohi still eyeing them, said slowly:—“In-this-republi-can-land-all-men-are-born-free-and-equal.”

“False!” said Media.

“And how long stay they so?” said Babbalanja.

“But look lower, old man,” cried Media, “methinks there’s a small hieroglyphic or two hidden away in yonder angle. — Interpret them, old man.”

After much screwing of his eyes, for those characters were very minute, Champollion Mohi thus spoke —” Except-the-tribe-of-Hamo.”

“That nullifies the other,” cried Media. “Ah, ye republicans!”

“It seems to have been added for a postscript,” rejoined Braid–Beard, screwing his eyes again.

“Perhaps so,” said Babbalanja, “but some wag must have done it.”

Shooting through the arch, we rapidly gained the beach.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 17:11