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Hernando De Soto 


Walter Malone 

G. P. Putnam's Sons 

New York and London 
Cbe fmicfcerbocfcer press 





Ube Knickerbocker, Hew ffiorfe 




AMONG all pioneers in the exploitation of the 
New World, whether Spaniard or Frenchman 
or Briton, Hernando De Soto has left his impress 
upon the annals of more of its countries than any 
other who could be named. 

Cortez is connected solely with the story of Mexico ; 
Pizarro is famed only for his venturesome deeds in 
Darien and Peru; the name of La Salle is never men 
tioned save in connection with the exploration of the 
Mississippi Valley. 

De Soto is known, like Pizarro, in the history of 
Darien, or modern Panama. Like Pizarro, also, he 
is known prominently in connection with the Con 
quest of Peru. And the Peru of his day included not 
only Peru as we know it now, but also Ecuador, 
Bolivia and Chili in fact, nearly all of the western 
portion of the South American continent. 

But, unlike Pizarro, his exploits do not end there. 
He is inseparably connected also with the history of 
the settlements of Nicaragua and Guatemala, and 
with the earliest explorations of Yucatan. 

At still another time he was Governor of Cuba, and 
as such he will live in her annals. 

After Ponce de Leon and Narvaez, he became the 
explorer of Florida. So far as we know, he was the 
first white man to traverse the States of Georgia, 




Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, 
and Missouri. To these we may add, with great 
likelihood, North Carolina. It may be that Cabeza 
de Vaca preceded him in Louisiana, but this is quite 
doubtful. If, indeed, Ayllon's men had first trod 
the soil of South Carolina, it was left to De Soto's 
men to discover their bones, and bring back the story 
of their fate. 

Not only was he the discoverer of the Mississippi, 
but of the Chattahoochee, the Tennessee, the Alabama, 
the Tombigbee, the White, the Arkansas, the St. 
Francis, and the Red rivers, besides a multitude of 
smaller streams. 

He it was who, first of Caucasians, set eyes on the 
Appalachian and the Ozark ranges, which include 
all the highlands of importance in the United States 
east of the Rocky Mountains. All these discoveries 
he had made forty-five years before Raleigh sent his 
colonists to Roanoke Island, sixty-five years before 
the settlement at Jamestown, and seventy-eight years 
before the Pilgrims disembarked at Plymouth Rock. 

One peculiarity of the history of the Southern and 
South Central States of the Mississippi Valley con 
sists in the fact that though it begins with De Soto, 
it also ends with him for the time being, to be resumed 
only after a great hiatus of nearly three hundred years. 

Barring the establishment of a few towns near the 
seacoast, like New Orleans, and the accomplishment 
of a few expeditions like that of La Salle, those annals, 
from the discovery of the Mississippi to the early 
years of the Nineteenth Century, are well-nigh a 

On the spot where the Spaniard first beheld the 

Preface vii 

waters of the Great River, is now a city of nearly 
two hundred thousand souls; but ninety years ago 
that city had no existence. The history of Oklahoma 
begins with De Soto ; but Oklahoma was only opened 
to the civilization of the white man yesterday. 

On reading the chronicles of De Soto's expedition, 
we learn the most intimate facts regarding the peoples 
inhabiting the South in his era. Their virtues, their 
faults, their eccentricities, are set out in exact detail. 
The features of the country are described with such 
an accurate hand that pioneers yet surviving declare 
that the picture is a faithful portrayal of the same 
region in their youthful days. Even trivial details 
regarding the weather are given, almost with the ex 
actness of an official report, so that we know whether 
this day or that was rainy, or bright and cheerful. 

Then follows a period of unillumined darkness, 
without a history, and well-nigh without a tradition. 

Looking back to De Soto's time, we are as one who 
stands upon the foreland of a continent, gazing over 
the waters at night to a brilliant light on an island 
far in the distance. The light has illuminated the 
rock upon which it burns; we can see the billows 
breaking at the foot of the rock; we can distinguish 
human beings treading the sands that fringe the 
narrow isle; but between us and the light itself is a 
great gulf of darkness, mysterious and profound. 

Through this explorer, the history of the Mississippi 
Valley is connected with the golden years of the 

On that memorable day in May, 1541, when De 
Soto first stood upon the Chickasaw bluffs overlook 
ing the Great Stream, Michelangelo, still persistent 
and untiring at the labors of his art, was putting the 

viii Preface 

finishing touches to his Last Judgment; he was not 
to cease his earthly toils till twenty-three years later, 
in 1564, that illustrious year which also witnessed the 
birth of Shakespeare, of Christopher Marlowe, and 
Galileo. Titian was then in the meridian glory of 
his genius: Martin Luther had five more years to 
live: Camoens, a youth of seventeen, was not to 
give his Lusiad to the world until more than three 
decades had passed. Elizabeth, the British Semira- 
mis, was then a light-hearted child of only eight years. 
Mary Stuart was born the next year, and Henry IV 
of France twelve years thereafter. Francis Drake 
that Robin Hood of the seas, destined to destroy 
Spanish naval supremacy forever, was only a prat 
tling infant in his mother's arms. Writers like Spenser 
and Tasso and Cervantes, philosophers like Bacon, 
painters like Rubens, explorers like Raleigh, were 
not to flourish till the next generation. At that time 
English literature since attained to such greatness 
was adorned by only one star of the first magnitude 
Geoffrey Chaucer. 

Those great regions at the foot of the Ozarks which 
to-day, for the first time, the Caucasian is claiming 
as his own, but which De Soto explored nearly four 
hundred years ago those great regions through him 
find their connecting link between this, the Twentieth 
Century, and the Sixteenth between the age just 
preceding that of Bacon and Galileo, and the era of 
Marconi and Edison. 

It is interesting to note the many points of similar 
ity between these two ages, probably the two great 
est the world has ever seen, that of De Soto and our 
own. The years that closed the Fifteenth Century 
and opened the Sixteenth were brilliant and poetic: 

Preface ix 

those that closed the Nineteenth and opened the 
Twentieth seem less romantic and attractive, but 
their noble achievements are often along the same 
high planes of endeavor whereon were attained the 
greatest triumphs of the Renaissance. 

That elder age is supreme in the fine arts, the 
younger in science. But beyond this divergence we 
find their efforts paralleling each other. And indeed 
we find the scientific discoveries of Copernicus and 
Leonardo Da Vinci in that earlier period more import 
ant, probably, than those of Bell and Edison in our 
own day. 

We may call one the time of religious upheaval. 
But if that epoch had its Luther, the other had its 

We may say that one was emphatically an era of 
discovery, of exploration and colonization. But with 
equal emphasis the same assertion may be made of 
the other. The discovery of America by Columbus 
has its complement to-day in the discovery of the 
north and south pole. If one cycle can boast that 
the route to India was opened in its own day by Vasco 
Da Gama's circumnavigation of the Cape of Good 
Hope, the other, with equal pride, can claim that it 
shortened the same passage by digging the Suez Canal. 
If the ships of Magellan first doubled Cape Horn in 
the one, the Isthmus of Panama is first traversed by 
fleets in the other. 

If the first age discovered the Amazon and the 
Mississippi, it was the privilege of the later to uncover 
the secret sources of the Congo and the Nile. 

If in those early years Spain and Portugal were 
each struggling for mastery in the western world, 
seeking through colonization to extend the bounds 

x Preface 

of their great American dominions, to-day we find 
England and France and Germany, and Italy and 
Belgium as well, colonizing and exploring Africa 
with a view to divide the whole continent between 

The Spaniard has often been accused of an inordi 
nate thirst for gold as an incentive to his great explora 
tions. But has not this same desire for gold, in our 
own time, been the impulse which led to the settle 
ment and development of California, of Australia, 
of South Africa and Alaska? Who can distinguish 
here between the motives of the Iberian and the Anglo- 

But the striving after gold, a selfish and debasing 
thing in itself, has often been the means by which 
men have achieved higher and better things. How 
insignificant is the value of all the gold annually 
mined by California, when compared with the plen 
teous gifts of her farms, her gardens and her orchards ! 
The gold fields of Australia, what a trifle is their 
entire output when matched against the vast wealth 
arising from the flocks of sheep, the herds of cattle 
and the fields of grain of that southern continent ! 

Yet that search for gold was the primary cause 
leading to the development of those great regions, 
and it is the primary cause which in the future will 
make of Alaska and South Africa empires which else 
had never existed, even in dreams. 

These modern adventurers, seeking for apples of 
gold, have found in the gardens of Hesperides other 
and more goodly trees, loaded with fruits far sweeter 
and more satisfying. 

De Soto's own career was the first to prove this. 
He failed in the search for precious metals, but opened 



to the world a region whose thousandfold sources of 
fruitfulness make mean and insignificant those bar 
ren wastes that stingily yield their little tribute of sil 
ver and gold. The cotton alone, produced in those 
States which he first traversed, is worth each year 
more than the entire annual yield of gold by the whole 

Florida, which claims De Soto as one of her pioneers, 
is to-day making greater strides than in all the other 
centuries since his time. Oklahoma, which, as we 
have already seen, beheld him as the first of white 
men, has to-day, for the first time, been opened to 
his race, and in such a marvelous onrush of immigra 
tion as the world was a stranger to before. 

De Soto's age was in truth like our own, and De Soto 
was himself a type of the American of to-day, one 
ever striding onward, heedless of difficulties, and 
despairing of nothing as impossible. His one effort 
is to rear an empire in the wilderness, or failing in the 
attempt, to leave the work to his successors, who may 
accomplish the task with less effort, since he has gone 
before and eased the way. 

The dangers, the hardships' and the sufferings en 
countered two hundred and fifty or three hundred 
years later by pioneers like Daniel Boone and David 
Crockett, were but repetitions, on a smaller scale, of 
the fearful difficulties which De Soto met in his day. 

Famine, fire, and flood opposed him; every marsh 
reeked with malaria; every day's journey brought a 
new scene of warfare; every forest was the seat of an 
ambuscade; treachery lurked on his right hand and 
on his left; massacre of his comrades was momently 
expected, and continually becoming a reality. 

xii Preface 

The inconveniences and privations endured by 
Lewis and Clark and their companions on the over 
land march to Oregon, were but as pastime in com 
parison with those suffered by the intrepid Spaniard 
and his followers. 

Much has been written concerning the hardships 
to which the gold-hunters of California and the Klon 
dike were subjected. Their pioneer spirit has been 
made the theme of many a song and story. But their 
trials seem insignificant when matched against the 
multitudinous afflictions and obstructions which 
were encountered by De Soto. 

The expedition of Baker, the travels of Livingstone, 
and the later marches of Stanley through the wilds 
of Africa, appear like pleasure excursions when con 
trasted with the achievements of the discoverer of 
the Mississippi. 

In personal character we find De Soto easily supe 
rior to the other great Spanish conquerors. He was 
more humane than Balboa, and when we reflect upon 
the atrocities of Cortez, the Pizarros, Pedrarias, or 
Narvaez, we wonder at the magnanimity not rarely 
displayed by De Soto. 

It is true that he was often imperious: it is true 
that his measures were often severe. But if we 
estimate him by the era in which destiny placed him, 
we will again and again be gratified at instances of 
uprightness and generosity most unusual among his 

Let it not be forgotten, besides, that he who deals 
with savages is often provoked to act savagely himself. 
Should the white man seek to deal kindly with an 

Preface xiii 

inferior race, he learns soon enough that his leniency 
is construed as an evidence of weakness. Every act 
of clemency on his part calls for more exorbitant 
demands upon his patience. 

In making way for the march of civilization, the 
barbarian must necessarily suffer. Enlightenment 
comes not with peace, but a sword. 

De Soto was not more stern in dealing with the 
Indian than were the Colonists of Virginia or New 
England. Nor were the excesses of his soldiers more 
condemnable than those of some of the allies in China 
a decade ago. This language of Prescott in The 
Conquest of Peru, written nearly seventy years ago, 
describes a condition existent in much more recent 
times : 

"There is something in the possession of superior 
strength most dangerous, in a moral view, to its 
possessor. Brought in contact with the semi-civilized 
man, the European, with his endowments and effect 
ive force so immeasurably superior, holds him as little 
higher than the brute, and as born equally for his 
service. He feels that he has a natural right, as it 
were, to his obedience, and that this obedience is to 
be measured, not by the powers of the barbarian, but 
by the will of his conqueror. Resistance becomes a 
crime to be washed out only in the blood of the victim. 
The tale of such atrocities is not confined to the Span 
iard. Wherever the civilized man and the savage 
have come in contact, in the East or in the West, the 
story has been too often written in blood." 

I have called De Soto, I think justly, the King of 
Pioneers. The story of his life is an Epic of Civiliza 

True, it undeniably is, that if he had his infirmities, 

xiv Preface 

all other idols, ancient or modern, have had feet of 
clay. All popular heroes have been mythologized : 
their shortcomings have been concealed or condoned 
or denied. Beneath the adulations of countless 
multitudes, their earthly connections have been 
obliterated, like the feet of that Roman statue, which, 
though wrought of bronze, through century after 
century have melted away under myriadfold kisses 
from the lips of the faithful. 

One hindrance experienced in an attempt to place 
before a reader the surroundings of De Soto in his 
adventurous career consists in the fact that the world 
wherein his part was played is a world that has well- 
nigh passed away. 

Few travelers would detect in the sordid and com 
monplace environments of modern Panama any 
traces of that virgin paradise which the early Span 
iards beheld in bygone Darien. The wayfarer in 
Peru would search uselessly to-day for any adequate 
memorial of the unique and picturesque civilization 
of the Incas. 

If we pause to realize the changes that have taken 
place in the aspects of those regions of our own country 
over which De Soto wandered, we shall be not less 
startled at the transformation. Not only has the 
white race supplanted the red: not only has there 
arisen a new language and a new religion; but the 
very expression of nature itself has changed. The 
sublime primeval forest has well-nigh become only 
a memory. The region immediately south of the 
point where De Soto discovered the Great River was 
in his day a land of running waters. To-day in that 

Preface xv 

whole tract there is hardly a stream which runs 
throughout the year. Forests and watercourses have 
passed away together. 

The vast herds of bison which roamed the prairies 
west of the Mississippi in legions more multitudinous 
than the numberless hosts of Xerxes, have dwindled 
to scanty groups of stragglers whose very existence 
is momentarily threatened, and whose extinction 
to-morrow would be a certainty save for rigid pro 
tection of the strictest laws. 

The immense flocks of wild pigeons, whose innumer 
able flying cloud-squadrons darkened the sun for 
hours in passing, are remembered by but a few old 
men and women whose final summons has only been 
delayed through some caprice of fate. The great 
throngs of Carolina parrots which laid waste the 
Indian's cornfields, and which the pioneer farmer 
sought to exterminate like so many swarms of locusts, 
are only to be seen in little remnants, and then but 
rarely, in the remotest and most inaccessible swamps 
of Florida, and possibly of Louisiana. 

So far as the features of Nature herself are con 
sidered, the England of Chaucer is the England of 
to-day. Barring changes among men themselves, 
the France of Villon is the France of the Twentieth 
Century. But he who would know the America of 
De Soto's pathway must seek it only in the realms of 
historical memory. 

And let no one overlook the fact that a study of the 
great and varied aspects of Nature in the lands con 
quered or explored by De Soto is essential to a true 
understanding of his career. References to them are 
not merely agreeable diversions: a consideration of 
them consitutes no digression from the chronicle 

xvi Preface 

itself. In describing them, a writer is not luring his 
reader into a by-path ; he is guiding him into the very 
footsteps of De Soto himself. 

As the sands of the Sahara and the currents of the 
Niger blended with the lives of Caillie and Mungo 
Park; as the miasma of the mid- African jungle be 
came a part of the life-breath of Livingstone; as the 
polar snow and ice mingled into the very existence of 
Arctic explorers like Greely or Peary, so the terrors, 
the beauties, the fascinations and deadly dangers of 
the untrodden American wilderness are interwoven 
for all time with the story of Hernando De Soto. 

Strange it is, that while so many epics, so many 
lyrics, so many romances, have been written concern 
ing the strife of man with his fellow-man, his more 
constant and more trying conflict with the common 
antagonist of all humanity Nature has only been 
lightly touched upon in prose or verse. Yet in that 
conflict his greatest battles have been fought, his 
most heartbreaking defeats have been encountered, 
and his noblest victories have been achieved. 

Bards and historians alike have celebrated loudly 
the triumphs of Hannibal and Napoleon over men 
like themselves. Their conquest of the Alps is re 
served for pasans less exultant. Yet we know that 
the great Corsican, before whom the Russian battalions 
could not stand, was himself driven in hopeless defeat 
before the rigors of the Russian winter. 

And the contest with Nature is one which all must 
face; it is inevitable; it is unavoidable; it is one that, 
from the cradle to the coffin, ceases not. We may 
live in peace with our neighbors; or we may contend 
with them, grow weary of strife, and agree to an 
armistice. But with Nature we can never negotiate 

Preface xvii 

a truce; between us there can be no cessation of 

While in civilized life we may be dimly conscious 
of this great conflict going on around us, to the pioneer 
who nakedly must confront Nature as a foe armed with 
all the barbaric power of an unshorn Samson, the 
struggle is far more imminent and appalling. 

And so in the life of a pioneer like De Soto, the 
fight against Nature is no mere episode, no passing 
phase of his mission. It is the beginning, the middle 
and the end of all his labors. 

If his fate leads him, like the gold-seeker of Alaska, 
into Arctic realms, the nine-months winter is an enemy 
to be reckoned with, though the scowls of unfriendly 
Esquimaux he may overlook or despise. If he is a 
wayfarer through the desert, he learns to dread the 
sirocco and the sand- whirl wind more than the Bedouin 

If his path, like that of De Soto, lies through the 
tropical forest, he will encounter in the earthquake, 
the volcano, the hurricane, the tangled swamp, the 
raging flood, the serpent and wild beast, pestilence 
and famine, adversaries more terrible than savage 
bands. This the life of the discoverer of the Great 
River has demonstrated. For he who overcame the 
barbarian in an hundred hand-to-hand conflicts, 
sank as a martyr at last before the more insidious 
agencies of death that swarmed unseen on the tainted 
air of the vast marshes of the Mississippi. 

The changes in the face of Nature herself, already 
adverted to, are not more remarkable than the changes 
in the human tribes encountered by De Soto on his 

xviii Preface 

He whose idea of those people is fashioned after the 
Indian depicted on some cheap vaudeville stage, a 
stolid, sullen, blanketed creature, coarse and repulsive, 
croaking only in monosyllables, is imagining a race 
at the very opposite pole from those impulsive beings 
whose eloquence in expression and heroism in action 
are so vividly portrayed by the chroniclers of De Soto's 
last expedition. 

And even to judge those people by living savages 
of the western plains, roaming two thousand miles 
away, four hundred years afterward, when those 
savages, dispirited from uncounted defeats, are, we 
may say, not even themselves any longer, is not 
this like judging the Egyptian in his prime by the 
Egyptian of to-day? 

The Portuguese Gentleman, whose narrative, vera 
cious to a painstaking degree, is evidently based upon 
memoranda made from day to day, records, verbatim, 
numerous graceful and spirited addresses of the na 
tive chiefs to the Spanish leader. He and the other 
chroniclers, personal witnesses to the facts, in num 
berless instances show that these natives, instead of 
being the taciturn and sluggish-minded churls of 
popular fancy, were open-hearted and emotional to 
a degree unknown among races more pretentious. 
The barbaric eloquence of chiefs like Logan was no 
rarity among the chiefs of De Soto's time. 

Many travelers like Bartram, who roved among 
those Indians in later centuries, while conceding their 
fierceness when aroused, never fail to yield tribute 
to their virtues on brighter occasions, the generous 
and lofty nobility of the men, the sweet and gentle 
delicacy of the women. 

Besides this, Bartram brings many convincing 

Preface xix 

proofs to show that these tribes had approached much 
nearer to civilization in other centuries than his own, 
the Eighteenth. In this opinion he is corroborated 
through most abundant evidence adduced by that 
scholarly Georgian, Charles C. Jones, whose researches, 
among those of all Southern archaeologists, have been 
the most thoughtful and careful. 

I am wide awake, of course, to the fact that the 
present era is considered an unpropitious one for all 
forms of verse. I am likewise thoroughly aroused to 
the popular belief that at this time an attempt to 
construct a poem of any length is an exhibition of 

But the mere passing foibles and fashions of a day 
need not be seriously considered by any one who writes 
with the slightest degree of earnestness. It is incon 
ceivable that forms of literary expression which have 
been esteemed for over three thousand years could 
be outlawed by the volatile caprice of a moment. 
That which has been in favor heretofore will be in 
favor hereafter. The whole matter can be expressed 
in a single sentence: Whatever has been once will be 

If this work should meet with the approbation of 
the few whose judgment I really esteem, I would be 
content. And contentment is happiness without 

W. M. 

Part I 


Hernando De Soto, and his cavaliers, having arrived in the 
kingdom of the Chickasaws, pitch their camp for the winter 
The snow storm The Spanish camp and its fortifica 
tions De Soto's tent The Chief of the Chickasaws visits 
De Soto De Soto's officers Lulla, the daughter of the 
Chief The Chief's narrative, and the history of his tribe 
The boundaries of the Chickasaws Chactas and Chicsa 
The sacred pole and the dog Arrival at the Mississippi, 
where the dog is drowned The white giants, and the 
great beasts they enslaved Battles between the giants 
The making of the prairies Destruction of the giants and 
their beasts by the Great Spirit Disappearance of the last 
and mightiest of the brutes beyond the Mississippi. 

THE snows were thickly falling. Hills and plains, 
Woods, brakes and fields, were garmented in 


From leaden skies great flakes came fluttering down, 
Till Earth seemed lost in fleeting clouds of heaven; 
Through shivering branches of the haggard trees 
They curved and quivered in ecstatic swirls, 
Snatching the dead leaves from their blackened stems 
And driving them in derision through the sky. 
The brook below the hill was hid: the path 
That ran beside it seemed a vanished dream. 
The forest in the distance first grew dim, 
Then was concealed in misty veils of white. 
Men's eyes were blinded by the pelting flakes; 
Their breath was stifled by the freezing blast. 


4 Hernando De Soto 

Yet as in mockery of dead summer days, 

Earth seemed to swarm with spotless butterflies ; 

From withered arms of vulgar wayside weeds 

Hung pallid clusters of aerial blooms ; 

And thorn- trees, bristling like the porcupine, 

Grew downy as the bosom of a swan. 

Two days before, at noon, the storm began: 
Without surcease, till dusk it raged. Keen winds 
Whistled more keenly as the twilight fell, 
And all men hoped that the relentless blast, 
Sweeping the heavens, would leave unclouded stars. 
Throughout that night thin fell the flakes and rare, 
But morning brought new clouds and heavier snows. 
All day the white wings flitted through the air 
In whirling spirals, round and round above, 
Resting awhile, then whirling on again, 
Like ghostly doves from tomblands of the dead. 
All night the winds and silent snowflakes wove 
A shroud to fold the corpse-like earth. At last 
This day had come but come with no relief! 
The third night now was falling; yet on high 
The barbarous tempest swept in fury still, 
And everywhere was nothing seen but snow. 

Here in the country of the Chickasaws 
De Soto lingered, * exiled, far from home, 
Defeated, baffled, bound he knew not where, 
Yet in his lone heart ever cherishing 
The dark, deserted nest, whence, long ago, 
Had flitted all his darling hopes and dreams. 
Now at the advent of this eventide, 
Threading with painful steps the drifted fields 
To gain his tent, and rest beside its fires, 

BooK I 5 

Backward he turned, and saw keen-pointed lights 

From wigwams in the little Indian town, 

Twinkling through falling snows. Deeply he sighed, 

For never might he glimpse on earth again 

The welcome lights of home ! Instead, he gazed 

On alien wilds, in desolation such 

As fills the wanderer's bosom with despair. 

That morning through the Indian town his feet 

Had sauntered aimlessly. There had he seen 

A hoary patriarch of the savages, 

Who, shivering as he hugged a scanty fire, 

Fretfully muttered, "Though my head is bowed 

From ninety snow-moons grayest of the gray 

Among our elders, never have I known 

A winter half so bleak." 2 His ancient squaw, 

Wringing her bony hands above the flames, 

Mumbled, "No, no; nor shalt thou see its like, 

Though twice as many winters yet are yours." 

O, what a sequel to his golden dreams; 

To what a climax had his drama come ! 

Where now the palms of Cuba? Where, O where, 

The fruits and flowers of tropic Darien? 

Where now the gold and silver of Peru, 

The mellow dusk of Cuzco's gilded halls? 

Where now the Andalusian orange groves, 

The dear gray towers of Cadiz? Where had fled 

The glamour and romance, the chivalry, 

The pomp and splendor of the court of Spain? 

All, all had vanished ! Had he been content, 

Love, gold and glory still had been his own. 

Now he was seeking El Dorado ! Where, 

And when, O when, should that dear dream come true? 

6 Hernando De Soto 

When should he see that kingdom of delight, 

Its gardens, green with everlasting spring, 

And crowned with palace-domes of glittering gold? 

His locks were frosted now with gray ; his eye, 

Clear as the falcon's once, was growing dim. 

What had he reaped in all his hard career 

But curses of the savages, whose realms 

Had paid him tribute of enslaved or slain? 

He looked around him, and the answer came, 

His hopes lay shrouded in this land of snow. 

Around the Spanish tents, a barricade 

Of earthworks and of heavy logs arose, 

Surmounted by the brushy limbs of trees, 

And girded by a flooded moat. At north, 

South, east and west, four lofty towers arose, 

Where, night and day, on watch four sentries stood, 

Alert for every danger. From the walls, 

Like eyes of basilisks whose glance is death, 

An hundred loopholes glared : through these, the troops, 

Hidden themselves, with ease might spy their foes, 

And sweep them with a murderous fire. A bridge 

Of three stout beams before the fortress gate 

Spanned the wide moat by day; but every night 

The beams were drawn within. Of massive oak 

The gate was wrought; not poised to swing ajar, 

It slided right or left to open or close. 

Great bars of iron, firmly riveted, 

Were plated on it like a steely coat 

Of armor. Fronting it within the close, 

De Soto's ample tent upreared. A hearth 

Of pebbled clay, set in a log-built wall, 

Made snug and warm his lodgings. In the rear 

Were quartered all his officers. Beyond, 

DooK I 7 

Like pigmy hillocks rose three hundred huts, 
Fashioned of mud and thatched with straw. In these, 
The peasant soldiers and their Indian slaves, 
Sleeping on skins of wild beasts, numb with cold, 
Huddled for warmth together. Further back, 
In brushwood stalls were gathered all the steeds, 
Whinnying and neighing through the freezing night. 
Last, near the wall, a noisy herd of swine 3 
Packed shuddering in their beds of withered leaves. 

Over the entrance to De Soto's tent 

A rope extended ; from the midst was hung 

The black and shaggy carcass of a bear: 

There likewise, powdered white with falling snows, 

Were dangling three wild turkeys, many hares, 

Two fat opossums, and a fine young stag. 

Within, the blazing hearth spread warmth and cheer, 

And flooded every nook with ruddy light. 

One might behold a castle in the fires, 

With walls of opal and of amethyst, 

And gates of garnet ; wildly splendorful, 

With rubies and with sapphires turreted, 

With flames like flaunting pennons high in air, 

The lambent conflagration streamed and soared, 

Transcending oriental brilliancy 

Of magic mansions in Arabian dreams. 

About the floor were scattered rugs from Spain, 

With hides of panthers, skins of ragged wolves, 

And silken furs of otters. At one side, 

A suit of armor like a skeleton 

Stood upright, with the flames upon its steel 

Fitfully gleaming. A cutlass by the hearth 

Displayed its slender curve ; against the wall 

Some fowling pieces and a musket leaned. 

8 Hernando De Soto 

Two swords in brazen scabbards hung above 
The rude oak mantel. On the hilt of one 
Was manifest that cunning workmanship 
Which proved it wrought in far Damascus, where 
The Abana and Pharpar, clear and cool, 
Come gushing through the desert: like a charm, 
Its presence in these western wilds recalled 
Memories of songs of bulbuls, frankincense, 
Of Persian roses and Sabasan sweets, 
Of gardens of the olive, date and fig, 
And many a green and gladsome paradise 
Around the oldest city of the world. 
Another came from blest Toledo, ah! 
Who could forget Toledo's happy walls 
Among the vineyards and the chestnut groves? 
When would these wanderers see its spires again? 

Halberds and morions, lances, bows and arrows, 
Glimmered around the walls; and above these, 
With its emblazoned red and yellow hues 
Distained and dark from many a battle, yet 
Like the resplendent Spirit of Romance, 
Of Chivalry and Honor still, was flung 
The glorious banner of all-conquering Spain. 

The chief of Chickasaws upon this eve 

Had come to see De Soto, and had brought 

His youthful daughter with him riding there 

Upon a steed the Spanish lord himself 

Had sent him as a gift that very day. 

And here to meet the chief were gathered round 

The noble Spaniard's trusted officers. 

A true hidalgo in his princely bearing, 

De Soto stood, dictator over all, 

Book I 9 

Strong, daring and imperious, yet not slow 

To win another's heart or yield his own. 

But now the two-score autumns he had known 

Had left him careworn far beyond his years ; 

His lofty brow was wrinkled ; in his beard 

Were strands of silver thridding through the brown. 

Upon his haughty face a wistful glance 

Would whisper ever of some deep regret 

For something lost, for something never found, 

A longing after some elusive dream 

Far in the distance of the desert sands 

Of his life's journey, sweet, but unattained, 

Oasis or mirage, ah! who could tell? 

Moscoso next in rank and prestige came; 4 

Soft was his air, and gentle; slight and frail, 

His limbs seemed unaccustomed to the task 

Of stress and struggle through forest, field and flood, 

Or battles with the savage ; indolence 

Sunned in his easy portance. Men would smile 

To mark him slowly stroke his yellow beard 

Caressingly and lazily. But still 

His speech was firm, his glance direct, and all 

His bearing proved indifference unto peril. 

Baltasar De Gallegos, next in rank, 

Fierce with his black and bushy hair and beard, 

His visage hacked and hewn with sabre-cuts, 

His short, stout body rearing like a bear's, 

Might well have awed a stranger; but his eyes 

Were gentle; in their gleams of kindliness 

One read the goodness of a rugged heart. 

He said but little; spoke in guttural tones; 

Though ever ready when the leader called, 

To wiser heads he left all plans and schemes. 

IO Hernando De Soto 

Juan De Anasco, spare-made, sandy-haired, 

Seemed cunning and secretive: smooth of speech, 

With apt, well-ordered phrases, all the while 

He talked, his cat-like glances busily 

Went searching every face. Beside him sat 

Juan Ortiz, beardless and imbrowned ; his face 

And hands and wrists were tattooed : from his friends 

Greatly he differed. To a stranger's eyes 

Half Christian, half barbarian, he seemed. 

A kinsman of De Soto was the next, 

Alonzo Romo, youngest of them all, 

A splendid giant charged with force and power. 

While others spoke with freedom, he alone 

Was silent, as became a duteous lad. 

His downy cheek, as soft as any boy's, 

His modest lowered eyes, proclaimed his youth: 

Yet he was the tallest of the Spanish host ; 

Firmest and stoutest were his mighty limbs; 

Like condor's talons seemed his great wide hands; 

His big broad feet appeared to grip the ground : 

No man could stand the hammering of those fists, 

Nor shake the stronghold of those sturdy feet ! 

Grave Micalusa, chief of Chickasaws, 

Bore well the burden of his four-score years. 

Deep-chested, broad of shoulder, strong of limb, 

With eye still bright, head carried still erect, 

One felt assured on glancing in his face 

His morns of youth had all been temperate, 

His manhood careful of its strength and power, 

And all his days devoid of all excess. 

Robed head to foot in buckskin, with a cloak 

Of skins of beavers, and a lordly crest 

Of eagle plumes above his stately brow, 

BooK I ii 

No Roman emperor of the days of old 

In majesty surpassed him. At his feet 

His little daughter crouched, her arms and chin 

Resting upon his knees. A childish maid 

Of scarcely sixteen years, one might perceive 

The old man's heart she swayed alone. With pride 

His hand would smooth her crimson red-bird crest, 

Or gently fondle through her loosened hair 

That fell far blacker than a moonless night. 

Her liquid black eyes, under jetty brows, 

Were like dark pools fringed round with dusky ferns, 

Making twin mirrors for the twilight stars : 

Her hands and feet, slender and delicate, 

Were graceful as the petals of a flower. 

Her glance was cunning, and her smile was arch, 

And all her movements subtle and as swift 

As glimmerings of the fleet limbs of a fawn. 

"I should have bidden her to stay at home," 

The old man, glancing at her, said: "this night 

Is too tempestuous for her, yea indeed, 

Too stormy even for me. And she should make 

Her bedtime with the birds, not lingering late 

To hear her elders talk. But in these days 

Our children rule us. When my gracious lord 

Had given me a steed, she, who had never 

In all her lifetime seen a horse before, 

Pleaded and begged so long and earnestly 

To come with me, that I was forced to yield. 

So, seating her behind me on the steed, 

We rode together from our wigwam here." 

After a pause the old man's aspect fell; 

His voice grew husky, and his words came slow: 

"Her name is Lulla. Youngest of my race, 

12 Hernando De Soto 

Child of my old age, she is last of all 

The happy household that I once called mine. 

I had four elder daughters, blooming girls: 

All perished in one summer's pestilence. 

Six glorious sons I had: a bloody war 

Between us and our kinsmen Choctaws raged, 

Ah, Sire, when brothers strive with brothers, then, 

And only then, war's horrors reach their height ! 

Soon in three battles fell my six brave lads. 

But still I had my squaw, and this my child, 

Then but a babe in arms. One day the foe 

Stole to my wigwam, battered down the door, 

Butchered my spouse, and set the lodge on fire. 

Too late I came to save my faithful wife, 

But not too late for vengeance! Rushing up, 

Three villains with my tomahawk I smote; 

My comrades' arrows soon transfixed the others. 

My bleeding mate I took upon my breast : 

Dying, she struggled madly, crying, ' Go ! 

See, see, our wigwam flames! Our child, our child! 

I hid the pappoose when the Choctaws came, 

Under the bearskin by the couch. Quick, quick, 

Leave me, and save her. ' Turning hurriedly, 

I speeded through the doorway, seized the child, 

And dashed without again; just then the roof, 

Enwrapped in flames, crashing like thunder, fell, 

Grazing my flying heels. Quickly I sought 

My squaw again, but, " here he paused, and sighed. 

"So then I reared the child alone, and both 

Father and mother have I been to her 

From that day unto this." 

The old man ceased. 
A sudden silence fell. Without, they heard 

DooK I 13 

Swishing of falling snows, moans of wild winds, 
And howling of the wolves through trackless woods. 

Then by and by, De Soto said, "0 Sire, 
Pleased would we be to learn the history 
Of this, thy tribe; the lore of ancient years 
Thou knowest: so, I pray thee, let us hear." 
The chief, of all the forest lords that yet 
The Christians had beheld, surpassed afar 
In knowledge and in wisdom. After years 
Spent with the natives, each Hispanic knight 
Had learned the red-man's language well; so now, 
With aid from Ortiz, the interpreter, 
At little intervals required, the sage 
In measured accents gave the narrative 
Through Chickasaw traditions handed down: 5 

My gracious lord, there are two kindred clans, 
Choctaw and Chickasaw, which rule this land. 
The Choctaws hold the region to the South, 
Scarce one day's journey hence, a goodly realm, 
With generous fields of corn, with hunting-grounds 
That teem with game, and rivers that abound 
With fish and waterfowl. North of their land, 
The Chickasaws, my people, claim the soil. 
This realm is bounded westward by a stream, 
The longest of all earthly rivers, called 
The Mississippi : that name signifies 
"Father of Waters" in our native speech. 6 
There is a river called the Tennessee, 
A stately stream, which, circling from the east, 
Turns northward, undulating many a league 
From depth to depth of tangled wilderness, 
Marking our frontiers with northeastern tribes, 
And mingles with another lordly stream 

14 Hernando De Soto 

Called the Ohio ; this unites at last 

With that great stream which bounds us on the west. 

The river called Tombigbee, which thy host 

Forded in marching hitherward, confines 

Our nation on the east. 

Hither fared our tribe 
From far-off kingdoms of the setting sun. 
Uncounted ages since that time have passed; 
How many, ask you? Who can number them? 
Go out to yonder snowstorm; count the flakes; 
Then may you count the moons that have waned 

since then ! 

There were two brothers, Chactas and Chicsa called, 
Whence come the names Choctaw and Chickasaw. 
Resplendent were they, like twin morning stars, 
Celestial heralds of the rising sun, 
That lightly tread before him, hand in hand, 
The jeweled highway of the Zodiac. 
The brothers started eastward with their clans, 
And traveled over mountains, lakes and plains, 
A thousand leagues. Throughout their pilgrimage, 
A sacred pole they carried; every night 
Loosely the pole was driven into the ground : 
Each morning on their route, they watched the pole, 
To note the way it bended after night : 
For long, long moons toward the rising sun 
It turned, but never to the setting sun, 
And never upward to the sun of noon. 

A giant dog, white as the winter snows 
Under a full moon, strode before the band, 
Guiding it through the trackless wilderness 
Unerringly. One day they climbed a mound, 

BooK I 15 

Lone monument of some long-perished race 

Left in those gloomy woodland solitudes, 

And looking eastward, lo! they spied afar 

In the blue distance, like the crescent moon 

In the blue depths of heaven at eventide, 

The Mississippi's gleaming curve. The dog, 

Yelping and baying joyfully, sped on, 

Faster then ever, leading them. Ere long 

They reached the river; into its rolling flood 

Plunged the beast headlong. But as some brave 


A humble warrior of the ranks, outstrips 
The swiftest and most valiant of his tribe, 
Scaling before them all the barricade 
Where lurks the foe, and leads to victory, 
But falls in the hour of triumph, sharing not 
The sweets of conquest with those following him, 
So this poor brute, this dumb and faithful guide, 
Died with the goal in sight. For the strong dog, 
Fighting against the currents desperately, 
And struggling to stem the eddies, was at last 
In a great whirlpool sucked away, and lost 
Forever to the anxious multitudes 
Frantically calling to him from the shore. 
Long did they mourn him ; but his honest face 
And welcome bark were never more to be 
Their comfort on the way. They crossed the stream, 
The pole still turning dawnward, till they passed 
The place where now we bide. Still further on, 
Some three-days' journey hence, the magic pole 
Stood upright, bending neither east nor west, 
Nor north, nor south, but pointing rigidly 
Toward the sun of noon. So they halted there. 
The region where they ceased their onward march 

16 Hernando De Soto 

The tribes named Alabama; 7 this they tell, 
In ancient Chickasaw means, Here we rest. 

In those old bygone days, a giant race 
Were found to be the masters of this realm; 
Nahonla was the name that people bore, 
And they had wandered to this land in years 
Still further in the past, leaving their homes 
In a strange kingdom eastward far away, 
Where the bright sun of morning from the ground 
Springs to disperse the darkness of the world. 
Great hairy monsters were they, fair of face, 
Paler than any light-haired youth in all 
Thine armied host, and yet so vast in frame, 
When stalking by, they seemed gigantic hills, 
By some tremendous power made alive. 
They warred with one another: there the ground 
Was rent as by an earthquake; for their hands 
In rage would pluck the forests, lift the hills, 
And hurl them, frightful weapons, upon their foes. 
The victors of the battle, merciless, 
Like panthers raging above their helpless prey, 
Would clutch their captives with terrific screams, 
Horribly rejoicing. Trenches deep and wide 
They digged, and heaping logs within them, set 
The gathered wood on fire : their prisoners then 
With dreadful glee they slew, tossing them all 
Into the raging flames. In wild uproar, 
Dancing and singing like the imps of hell, 
And reveling in the fumes accurst, all night 
The cannibals feasted on their slaughtered foes. 

And in those days, the beasts were not as those 
Treading about us now: great creatures lived 

Book I 17 

Under whose feet the solid ground itself 

Trembled as though it thundered. Of these creatures, 

The greatest was a brute of fearful shape, 8 

Vast in his girth, prodigious in his height. 

His thick, tough hide, of sombre, rusty brown, 

Was loosely hung in heavy, flabby folds, 

Shaggy with strands of meager ragged fur, 

While from his neck and shoulders hung a mane 

In tawny tatters of coarse and straggling hairs. 

From his deep jaws two sharp white tusks emerged, 

Curved like yon cutlass, longer than yon sword, 

And swaying between those tusks, a long black snout 

Reached wellnigh to the ground. These frightful brutes 

The giants had ensnared, and trained for slaves, 

As we enslave the dog, and you the horse. 

Big were their legs, like blackened upright logs, 

With flat round feet that trampled into the dust 

All things they trod upon. Their giant lords 

Set them to work, felling the forest- trees 

That overspread this land; on would they stride, 

Stamping the tender saplings underfoot, 

Or with their ponderous shoulders pushing down 

Trees of a huger girth: or, throwing out 

Their serpentine proboscis coils, they clasped 

Colossal boles in a tremendous grip, 

And twisting and tugging till the roots snapped, 

And the tall forest monarchs creaked and groaned, 

They lifted up the tower-like trunks in air, 

And flung them, reeling and whirling, to the ground. 

Great was the crashing of gigantic limbs, 

That roared and thundered as they struck the sod, 

And over all arose the trumpetings 

Those hideous creatures made in beastly joy 

To scatter wreck and ruin in their path ! 

l8 Hernando De Soto 

Thus many forests disappeared ; and thus 

The grassy green of the prairies first was known. 

The giants slew our people year by year, 
Till only a remnant had escaped: our clan 
Seemed doomed to perish from the living world. 
A few survivors fled to gloomy swamps, 
Or hid in caverns by the banks of streams, 
Sleeping by day, and only venturing out 
At nightfall. Oft the giants, stalking by 
Mountainous in their height, would overlook 
The pigmies that around their mighty feet 
Scampered in terror like a throng of mice, 
Frantically seeking for a hiding-place. 
But the Great Spirit loved the little men, 
Since they had served him faithfully; and wroth 
To see them butchered by such ruthless foes, 
He smote the monsters for their wickedness, 
Sending a plague to sweep them from the world. 
Morn, noon and night, the giants drooped and 


Their awful groans were heard from hill to hill, 
Like rumbling echoes of a thunderstorm. 
Often the monsters in delirium 
Wandered the plains howling; and oftentimes, 
Maddened with feverish thirst, they drank whole 


Dry to their pebbly beds. Often in throngs, 
Rabid with anguish, rushing through the woods, 
They wrenched and uprooted and hurled the trees 


Making great forests melt before their rage, 
As though a dreadful hurricane had passed 
And smitten the lofty heaven-ascending boughs, 

BooK I 19 

Till the earth bristled like a frighted beast 
With splintered wreckage wildly scattered round. 
The plains heaved with enormous carcasses 
In foul and bloated hillocks: through the skies, 
From north and south and east and west, great flocks 
Of vultures gathered to the loathsome feast, 
And sweeping in a vast black cloud, they hid 
The sun in heaven, making a night of noon. 

Then the Great Spirit with his thunderbolts 

Smote all the brutes the giants had enslaved, 

Save one black creature of prodigious bulk, 

The dreaded leader of their herd : beside 

The old Tombigbee river he remained, 

Defying heaven to drive him from his home. 

Terrific thunderbolts the Spirit hurled, 

But the old beast would quickly bow his head, 

Which, harder than a mountain-peak of flint, 

Received the awful shock, nor suffered harm. 

For scores of years this war continued ; then 

The stubborn creature, weary of the fight, 

Strode northward: on the bluffs of Chickasaw, 

Facing the sunset, while below him surged 

The Mississippi's floods of ruddy gold, 

He loomed gigantic, all alone. And there, 

Swaying his great proboscis to and fro, 

He stood, as though in meditation lost, 

Weighing the destiny of all the world. 

But the light faded. As the flaming sun 

Vanished in sorrow from the blood-red sky, 

Down from the height he stalked, leaped into the 


And like a great sea-monster, buffeting 
The roaring billows, swam the mighty stream; 

2O Hernando De Soto 

Then facing still the last faint gleam of day, 
He sought the west with course inflexible, 
And mingling with the shadows of the night, 
From the eyes of men forever disappeared. 


Lulla questions Ortiz, but is rebuked by her father Ortiz is 
then requested to tell of his past life; so he begins his 
Narrative His boyhood in Seville He longs to go to sea 
His meeting with the sailor, and his flight from home He 
joins the expedition of Narvaez to Florida With three 
companions he is taken prisoner by the savages He is 
told of the cruelty of Narvaez The Chief Ucita His 
mother is murdered, and he himself is frightfully muti 
lated by Narvaez Narvaez and his companions are driven 
from the land They venture out to sea and are drowned 
Ucita then swears vengeance on all Spaniards falling into 
his hands Murder of Ortiz's three companions, Sebastian 
Lopez, Diego Valdez and Pedro Miranda The daughter of 
the chief She rescues Ortiz from death. 

HE ceased, and all was quiet for a space. 
Then Lulla, turning to Ortiz suddenly, 
Asked him, "How is it that thy cheeks are tanned 
Like those of our own warriors? See! Thy hands 
And face are tattooed: art thou of our race?" 
The Spaniards broke into laughter at this speech 
From one expected to sit still and hear, 
And be herself unheard. Her father turned 
Frowning upon her: "Silence, girl!" he cried; 
"Thy childish prattle vexes us. Be still." 
And as a little bird in springtime boughs, 
Thrilling with youth and joyance, lifts her voice. 
And sings a few gay notes, then smitten with fright, 
Suddenly ceases her song, and flutters back, 


22 Hernando De Soto 

Hiding among the leaves when a rude hand 
Flings a stone at her, so at this rebuke, 
Crouching and cowering by her father's knee, 
Lulla, abashed and frightened, hung her head, 
Nor dared to speak again. De Soto smiled, 
Saying to Micalusa: "Chide her not: 
The little maid hath given no offense. 
And truly shouldst thou hear this worthy man 
Reveal the annals of his bygone life; 
His story is a strange one : shouldst thou wish 
To hear him, he will honor thy command." 
The forest emperor nodded with a smile, 
And Ortiz then his narrative began: 9 

Juan Ortiz is my name, and I was born 
In old Seville, beyond the seas in Spain. 
Ah, dear Seville! I seem to see her still, 
Peaceful and plenteous and delectable, 
Embosomed in delicious orange groves, 
In orchards of the peach and apricot, 
In vineyards of the purple grapes and gold, 
And gardens of the melon and the fig. 

When but a boy I chanced to read a book 

Telling fine stories of this strange new world: 

Those legends haunted me through all the day, 

And all the night they robbed me of my sleep. 

My father, though a gentleman, was poor, 

With little but a name to leave me: so 

He planned for me (for he was worldly-wise), 

A dull existence at a prosy trade. 

He and my mother marked with deep concern 

My absent manner and distracted air: 

They saw me day by day neglect my tasks, 

BooK II 23 

And wander like a being lost in dreams. 

They chided, coaxed and threatened ; often with tears 

They begged me hearken to their sage advice; 

But all in vain; within mine eager ears 

I heard the far-off murmur of the seas, 

Like distant trumpets calling me to come. 

One day a barefoot sailor passing by, 

Laid hand upon my arm persuasively, 

And begged a coin to buy some little food; 

He wore bright earrings, and around his head 

Was wrapped a red-and-yellow handkerchief. 

Boy-like, I yielded all my tiny hoard, 

And asked him whence he came? And whither 


Then proud to find an audience, he began 
A long narration of his wandering life: 
His bark had touched all shores, had sailed all seas, 
Dropped anchor in all harbors known to men. 
With stout Columbus had he braved the deep 
On that First Voyage, famed throughout the world, 
And destined unto fame forever more. 

What tales he told of wonders on the seas, 

Of marvels in the far-off foreign lands ! 

While hearkening to him I could see the palms 

Lift verdant plumage on the tropic strands 

Beside the seas of sapphire; and I saw 

The peaks of snow forever pure and white 

Above the tropic woods forever green. 

I saw the monstrous vine with blood-red blooms, 

The green-and-golden parrot on his bough, 

The jaguar as he glided from his lair, 

The painted red man as he went to war. 

24 Hernando De Soto 

I trod on beaches where the sands were gold, 
By rivers where the pebbles all were gems. 

At evenfall the sailor went his way, 

But left unrest eternal in my soul. 

My tasks were all unfinished : stealing home, 

My father faced me in a storm of wrath: 

My poor heart, as I marked his livid rage, 

Trembled and throbbed with terror; my white lips 

Quivered, and failed me as I tried to speak. 

He rushed upon me with his fist upraised 

Ready to strike; but I eluded him, 

And bounding, terror-stricken, from his reach, 

Rushed out the door, and left his house forever. 

So then, at sixteen years, I went to sea, 

And never after looked on shores of Spain. 

I came to Cuba in a trading ship, 
After a voyage over stormy seas. 
Panfilo de Narvaez in those days, 
Fired with ambition and with avarice, 
Had raised a fleet to conquer Florida; 
His band of youthful cavaliers I joined 
With heart elate : soon was I doomed to see 
Hope's budding crescent sink in stormy clouds. 

The western marge of Florida we reached, 
And disembarking in a bay that wound 
Far into the mainland, gazed around, and saw 
A low and sandy country, fringed with palms 
And drooping willows, and funereal oaks 
Bearded with tattered hoary moss. Above, 
The circling sea-fowl shrieked and cried forever, 
And on the visage of that land there seemed, 

BooK II 25 

As on a human face, to lie the shadow 
Of some great secret sorrow never told, 
And never to be shared in all the years 
With any kindred heart in all the world. 

We pitched our tents here. Ere one moon had waned , 

Ucita, chief of all the savages 

Claiming the lordship of that wilderness, 

Came with his marshaled braves, a mighty host, 

To greet our leader. Though he came in peace, 

Vowed friendship, and departed smilingly, 

Narvaez, seeing that our band was small 

Beside the dusky pagan multitudes 

Swarming around, and seeing that our stores 

Were dwindling fast, dispatched a brigantine 

Back to Havana, with an urgent call 

For more equipments and a stronger force. 

I was among the crew that sailed away: 

Our friends we left encamped upon the shore 

Of the new country, waiting our return. 

We prospered in our mission, gained recruits, 

Loaded the ship with men's necessities, 

And then returning after a season's round, 

Cast anchor in the port whence first we had sailed. 

But gazing up and down the beach, we saw 

No vestige of the camp, nor any trace 

Of the friends we had left behind: instead, 

We viewed but lonely sands and gloomy woods. 

Then, drawing nearer, we espied a reed 

Driven upright in the sand, and at its tip 

A sheet of paper fastened. Soon there strode 

From thickets near a throng of savages, 

All naked, and erect and tall, with limbs 

26 Hernando De Soto 

Slender, superb and graceful, and rich-hued, 
A crimson-brown, like carved mahogany. 
Over their brows in brilliant coronals 
Flaunted the red rays of flamingo plumes. 

They made us friendly signals : then they dragged 

A small canoe from out of its hiding-place 

Behind a tangled mangrove, and ere long 

Their little shallop floated on the tide. 

Four men stepped in, rowed out and reached our ship, 

And climbing the hull like squirrels, came with smiles 

To meet our Captain. Using many signs 

To aid his broken Spanish, one who seemed 

The leader, said, "You see on yonder staff 

A sheet of paper. It was left for you 

By him who led you hither, and it bears 

His message to you. Here our boat lies: come, 

And we will row you over. There your eyes 

May scan the paper." But the Captain asked, 

"Where are our comrades? Here we left them. 


We see no sign of any Christian brave. 
Where have our people gone?" The dusky folk, 
Shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders, 


In answer that they understood him not. 
Then said the Captain: "Go yourselves and fetch 
The paper. " "No, " the leader answered him, 
With many signs aiding his broken speech, 
"Four of your braves may man our boat themselves, 
Row to the shore, and fetch it. We will wait 
Here on your own ship till your friends return 
In safety. We are in your hands; fear not; 
Our lives shall stand for theirs. ' ' The Captain paused, 

BooK II 27 

Still loath to trust the pagans ; but at last 

In a careless mood he took them at their word. 

He called for volunteers to man the boat : 

Lad that I was, and thoughtless to the end, 

I was the first to offer: pausing not, 

Three others joined me. So we took the boat 

And rowed to land; then quick as a musket-flash, 

From ambush in the mangrove swamp hard by, 

A swarm of savages came rushing out, 

And pouncing upon us, tripped or knocked us down, 

And tied our hands and feet. I kicked and fought 

With all the fury of a frenzied bear 

Clutched in the sharp claws of an iron trap. 

In vain, in vain! They beat me till the blood 

Blinded mine eyes, and drenched my face in red. 

Aboard the ship, the natives, dolphin-like, 

Leaped over into the sea; they swam ashore, 

While our own gaping sailors, in amaze 

Stood still as men of wood; thus they escaped, 

Those villains who had lured us to the snare, 

Nor was one carbine fired to stay their flight. 

And now, in shame I say, that cowardly crew 

Sent not one man to save us; but we saw 

The vessel weigh her anchor, hoist her sail, 

And fade away in distance on the sea, 

Leaving us to those cruel savages, 

In that barbaric country all alone! 

Ah, then I knew indeed such depths of woe, 

Such anguish as no earthly speech reveals. 

Tears gushed from out mine eyes, mingling with blood 

That trickled from my wounds. I cried to heaven; 

But feeling that my plaints and prayers were vain, 

28 Hernando De Soto 

I soon resigned myself to mute despair. 
My comrades, like myself, at first had fought, 
Then, overcome, had ceased to struggle. Now 
Among our captors we descried a brave 
Known unto all of us in bygone days, 
A shrewd, quick-witted savage, treacherous, 
And yet not wholly bad. His lynx-lik.3 eyes, 
His sharp, shrill voice, how I welcomed them 
As things familiar and half -friendly, where 
All else was unfamiliar, dark and strange, 
Threatening with unknown horrors! 

He had been 

Narvaez's courier and interpreter, 
Speaking Castilian with a Spaniard's ease. 
We hailed him : then he told us why it was 
His people had entrapped us. As we heard 
The shocking tale, like wild steeds of the plains 
Rearing and plunging when they fall to earth 
Under the lasso, with their frantic hoofs 
Pawing the sod in furrows as they seek 
Madly to burst their bonds, our frighted hearts, 
Bounding within our bosoms, seemed to strive 
To break the ribs that barred them, in a great 
Mad effort to leap forth and let us die, 
Rather than face the doom we felt was ours! 

"Narvaez, after ye had sailed, became 

So brutal to our people, that their hearts 

With fury burned against him. He himself 

Led on his minions as they spoiled our huts, 

And stripped our fields of corn. Night following night , 

The darkness flushed to red, as wigwams flamed 

Beneath their torches. In secluded lanes 

DooK II 29 

Day after day were heard the harrowing screams 

Of outraged women. Still we spared the wretch, 

For ere his crimes had reached this fearful height, 

Our chief, Ucita, and a chosen band 

Of warriors went upon a mighty hunt 

Into the north: for seventeen days they chased 

The deer and bear: and we awaited them 

Before we struck for vengeance. But one day, 

Ere they returned, the mother of the chief, 

A toothless, withered beldame, bent with years, 

Came hobbling to Narvaez : by one hand 

She dragged a weeping damsel, splashed with mire 

And smeared with blood. Her clothing torn to shreds, 

Her hair disheveled, and her half -clad breast 

Dripping with crimson wounds, down fell the girl 

Before the Spaniard, helpless, terrified, 

Like a bird with a broken wing. Then shrieked 

Ucita's ancient mother, 'Justice, lord! 

See here this maid deflowered ! see this blood, 

These garments foul with mire! This is the deed 

Of one of your men ! Let him die for this ! 

Justice, my lord! Give us the villain's head!' 

"Narvaez, puffed with rage that one should dare 
To call him to his duty, cursed and swore, 
Whipped out his sword, and in another breath 
The poor old crone he skewered like a fowl. 
But ceasing not at this, the murderer 
Threw out the old worn body to his dogs. 
The next day came; Ucita then returned; 
Anguish and fury tore his heart; he sought 
Narvaez, and denounced him wildly. So 
The Spaniard, thus accused, arose in ire, 
And made his guards lay hold upon Ucita. 

30 Hernando De Soto 

Then, horrible to tell ! he bade his men 

Torture the chief, and maim him. O what pangs 

The victim suffered at that devil's hands! 

His cheeks, his lips, his ears and nose were gashed; 

His face was made as hideous as the visage 

Of some black monster whose unearthly scowl 

Frightens lost children groping through the dark 

In tangled forests far away from home. 

So then we rose in wrath ! at night we fell 

Upon the Spaniards ; many did we slay, 

And many more we wounded. Taking flight, 

Narvaez sought the north : we followed close, 

Hung on his flanks, and chased him many leagues. 

Not waiting your return, he and his men 

Fashioned rude boats ; in these they sought the waves, 

To save them from our darts ; but a storm rose, 

And ere it ended, he and all his crew 

Were swallowed in the billows of the sea. 

"The chief swore vengeance on your race. He knew 
Your ship would soon return ; and so he planned 
The plot that now hath snared you. When they fled , 
Your comrades left old papers here and there, 
And one of these was hoisted on the reed 
To tempt you, and the ruse worked well. Ha, ha! 
Since you are gathered safely in the toils, 
What merry-making shall there be to-morrow!" 

He shook with fiendish laughter; we recoiled 
In breathless horror: what would be our fate? 
He who had suffered at Narvaez's hands, 
Whose visage had been made a hideous wreck, 
Whose gray-haired mother had been fed to dogs, 
O, who could sound the madness and the rage 

BooK II 31 

Seething and bubbling in that savage breast! 
We shrank with terror as above our heads 
Impalpable, yet sure as death, we felt 
There now impended some horrific doom, 
To make that bosom thrill with frightful joy! 

Here perished all my dreams, and here I reaped 
The harvest of my folly ! Ye have heard 
Of poor benighted savages who come 
With gold-dust or with ivory or with pearls, 
Rubies or diamonds, to their island-strands, 
And barter all their wealth for tinseled gauds, 
Trinkets of brass, or tawdry beads: but I, 
More foolish than those naked savages, 
Had sold my treasures of contentedness, 
And peace and hours of ease, for discontent, 
For misery, and the blackness of despair ! 

That day they marched us many weary miles. 

Tripping on creepers, stumbling over logs, 

Tearing through brambles, wading quags and fens, 

Exhausted and bedraggled, stiff and sore, 

Often we sank, longing to breathe our last. 

Above us, from the melancholy boughs, 

Like curtains in a mausoleum's gloom, 

Hung the long grizzled mosses. By the shores 

Of dreary tarns, great alligators dozed, 

And as they dozed, half opened fearful jaws 

Bristling with saw-like teeth, so that they seemed 

Grinning in mockery at us. As I sat 

Resting one moment from that weary march, 

A little sweet-voiced goldfinch from a bough 

Above me, trilled a joyous lay. "0 God!" 

I thought, "how strange it is, that man, Thy son, 

32 Hernando De Soto 

Thy favored son, should weep and wail in bonds, 
While a frail bird, without a mind or soul, 
Least of Thy least, should wander glad and free!" 

At length we reached their village ; there we stopped 

As day was ending. Now they gave us leave 

To topple down to the earth and snatch some sleep ; 

But still they kept our aching hands and feet 

Fettered together. All that fearful night 

Malignant eyes watched keenly over us, 

Noting our every movement, every sigh. 

At first I lay awake, revolving plans 

To leap on foot and rush for liberty; 

Ah, hopeless longing not one chance was given! 

At last, despite my agonies and fears, 

Weak, broken, wasted from our long day's march, 

I fell asleep, and woke not till the dawn. 

In dim, fond dreams I roved a boy again, 

And saw once more my childhood home in Spain; 

Once more I lived and laughed in far Seville, 

The dear old peaceful town where I was born. 

But suddenly I wakened with a start; 

My cheeks were trickling with outgushing tears: 

O, never might I see my far-off home, 

For I lay captive in barbaric hands, 

Confronted by some black, abhorrent doom 

I dared not whisper in my secret soul ! 

At noon they dragged us to an open field, 
Encircled by a wattled stockade ; steep 
And high the walls arose to fence us in. 
Within this close the savage warriors stood, 
Naked, tattooed and painted, crowned with plumes, 

BooK II 33 

Bows in their hands and quivers at their backs. 

Treading around that field, or seated high 

Upon the wall, still other multitudes 

Of Indians thronged, countless as countless flocks 

Of sea-fowl swarming on some rocky isle, 

The nesting-place of myriads of their kind. 

They stripped us of our garments, till we stood 
As naked as themselves: next we were told 
That, one by one, all four would be unbound, 
And given a chance to dash for liberty: 
But much I feared that this was but a ruse 
To stretch to the uttermost our pangs of death. 
What chance had any wretch to scale that wall, 
When scores of Indians, ready with drawn bows, 
Might pierce him like a wild beast through and 

Dazed with affright I turned, and there I saw, 

High on a dais, old Ucita, throned 

Between his wife and daughter: merciful God, 

The scowl upon that frightful countenance ! 

Grief, madness, malice, writhed and twisted there. 

So, as in sleep, one sees a nightmare shape, 

A fell, ferocious monster, black as hell, 

A nameless horror come to clutch his throat, 

Yet, with his tongue tied, and his helpless feet 

Fettered as though in manacles of steel, 

Can not take flight, and can not cry aloud, 

Spellbound I saw that fierce, malicious face, 

And longed to fly, and longed to scream for help, 

But yet was as dumb as any speechless brute, 

Immovable as any breathless corpse. 

My heart hung frozen; cold and clammy dews 

34 Hernanclo De Soto 

Came stealing down my face. How could I hope 
For mercy from that wild, infuriate soul? 
And knowing all the wrongs he had endured, 
Not even I could justly censure him! 

The chieftain's daughter was young and beautiful: 
Wild and barbaric, yet of winsome ways, 
Savage, yet playful, sharp perchance, yet sweet, 
She seemed a leopard-kitten, half in sport 
And half in anger, teasing dam and sire, 
Hung on their necks or lolling at their feet. 

First they call forth a brawny Catalan, 
By name Sebastian Lopez; suddenly 
They bid him flee for life. Swiftly he runs 
Toward the stockade ; the barbarian horde 
Bend all their bows upon him as he flies. 
But all the darts are blunted, so they slay 
Not instantly; yet anchoring in the skin, 
Smarting and burning, with long-lingering pains 
They rack their frenzied victim. The fiends plan, 
With torment heaped on torment, to delay 
The merciful peace of death ! We must all reel 
Slowly, though surely, onward, suffering 
A hellish age of miseries ere we gain 
Surcease of anguish in oblivion. 
How the wild mobs of Indians whoop with joy, 
Gloating with devilish eyes upon that wretch 
Now seeking to escape! See, in one breath 
A score of feathered reeds from skilful bows 
Are sticking from his body! now he falls 
Flat on the ground, but springing to his feet, 
He starts again, with one mad, desperate hope 
To reach the stockade. But he strives in vain; 

Booh. II 35 

For ever as he seeks to scale the wall, 

A throng of Indians rush and drive him back, 

Dazed and discouraged. Still more arrows fly 

To pierce his quivering flesh; he writhes and screams 

In piteous agony, as he stands still, 

And shuddering, seeks with wildly-trembling hands 

To wrench the barbs out; but he makes his pangs 

Only more poignant still. He cries aloud, 

"For God's sake, mercy! Pity, pity me! 

O spare me, spare me!" But the savages 

Yell in derision, and they drive him forth 

To the dread sport again. Often he falls, 

Stumbling and sprawling in the dust ; again 

They flog him till he rises to his feet, 

And so resumes the frightful race of death. 

But now his pace grows slower; by this time 

He bristles like a struggling eagle, quilled 

With arrows from a hundred bowmen hurled. 

He falls again, again, again ! At last 

His form lies motionless. Two long, long hours, 

That seem eternity, have passed. The man 

Has suffered all that heaven permits. They shake him, 

Kick him and cuff him, but he stirs no more: 

We know that death has come to end his pain. 

They called our next companion. He was one 
Whom Ortez in the bygone years had led 
To battle on the plains of Mexico. 
Diego Valdez was his name. Dark-browed, 
Black-haired and bristle-bearded, huge of limb, 
With fierce bright eyes, and heavy bull-dog jaws, 
Whoever knew him well knew that his life 
Would go at heavy cost. But having seen 
His comrade beg for life, the barbarous horde 

36 Hernando De Soto 

Shouted and jeered, counting on easy sport 
From him, as from the other. 

Rushing forth 

Across the open field, he nears the wall 
At an unsentried point: but as he flies, 
A cloud of arrows from the savage bows 
Hisses around him: in his quivering flesh, 
Like fiery serpent-fangs, he feels their stings. 
But undismayed, he singles out one brave, 
Speeds onward through the angry whizzing darts, 
And like a thunderbolt smites his man down, 
Striking him senseless with his stalwart fist : 
Then lifting up the victim in his arms, 
He guards his own life with that human shield. 
The bow and arrows from his conquered foe 
Quickly he snatches ; then he scatters forth 
A volley at his startled enemies. 
A skilful archer he! No shaft goes wrong, 
For every missile seeks and strikes its mark. 
Behind him is the shelter of the wall; 
His victim is upheld in front: and thus 
Screened from the mob himself, he launches out 
His arrows till that craven multitude 
Runs howling like a pack of wolves. We hear 
His victim, yet alive, though racked with pain, 
Give vent to groans ; but still the wretch is held 
To shield his captor. Now the Indians seek 
To parley with the Spaniard ; but he knows 
Their treachery, and he scorns their terms of peace. 
"Base paynims!" cries he, "One regret alone 
Bides with me as I die regret for this : 
That I am impotent to drag you all 
Down with me, screaming, to the flames of hell!" 

Booh II 37 

Time passes by, the Indians counseling, 

And making overtures which still he scorns. 

But now, alas! few arrows has he left; 

Upon his body countless barbs are hung; 

Blood bathes him from his forehead to his feet. 

Again they rush upon him; he shoots forth 

The few blunt arrows left, making them sink, 

As all the rest have sunk, in savage flesh. 

But now they seize him; ere they bind his hands, 

A dart he clutches ; from his mighty fist 

It strikes with the force of the strongest bow, 

Driving straight forward through a warrior's arm. 

One brave, infuriate, wields his tomahawk, 

And strikes the Spaniard down. So then he dies, 

But dying, curses them with his last breath. 

I glanced at old Ucita; scowling down, 
His face was ghastly with malicious rage; 
But I beheld his squaw avert her eyes, 
Sickening to view my comrades' mortal pangs : 
So, when the second Christian died, she rose 
Shuddering, and hastened from the place. But still 
The daughter sat beside the chief, and soon 
Methought she pitied us. I watched her close: 
With earnest words and trembling, gesturing hands, 
Somehow I knew she pleaded for our lives ; 
But old Ucita frowned; shaking his head, 
He waved her off impatiently. And then 
The Indian who had been interpreter 
Slipped near me, and he whispered in mine ear, 
"We save thee for the last, for thou art young, 
And not so strong as thy companions. Now 
The chieftain's daughter begs him spare thy life, 
And there is yet one tiny chance for thee." 

38 Hernando De Soto 

Hope, like a wild bird, fluttered in my breast: 

A lad I was of barely eighteen years, 

And at that age we feel that life is sweet ! 

But now they called my next companion. God! 

Was I so selfish? Could I see my friend 

Go to the torture, and yet feel this thrill 

Of hope for mine own safety? For this youth, 

Pedro Miranda, was the last of all 

My comrades, and of all my chosen mates 

The nearest and the dearest. In the past, 

Pedro, beside me, as a sailor-boy 

Had scaled the lofty overbending mast 

When clouds went flying, and the booming winds 

Flung the salt spume aloft, and splashed and drenched 

Our faces on that dizzy perch: with me 

His hands had heaved the anchor overboard: 

With me the captain's curses, and the mate's 

Brutal revilings had he oft endured 

In patience. Oft beside me on the ground, 

In damp, unwholesome tropic woods, at night 

Had lain that comrade, as the piercing cries 

Of sleepless wild beasts hurtled, and we drowsed 

And dreamed of slumber-songs once heard at home. 

Unlike the dark-eyed, dark-haired Spanish lads, 
His eyes were blue ; and yellow were his locks 
As the silk of Indian corn. Not tawny-skinned 
Like boys of southern birth, his fair young limbs 
Seemed moulded of the blue- veined virgin snows 
Forever white on Pyrenean peaks 
Where he was born and cradled. He had left 
That mountain home with eager hopes, to seek 
His fortune over seas : mother and sire, 
Sister and brother, he had lost and all 

Book II 3< 

For fancied ease and happiness. O heaven, 
Behold at last his fearful recompense ! 

Myself I now forgot: I wept aloud: 
I begged to take his place. But hark! Again 
Sternly the Indians called him. Then around 
My neck the last time did he throw his arms. 
"Farewell!" he cried, and kissed me. But I wept 
So wildly that I even could not sob 
"Farewell!" in answer. Tearing him away, 
The Indians bade him run for life. The lad 
Was slender, nimble, and as fleet of foot 
As any antelope that skims the plains: 
So thus I hoped his speed would save his life; 
God, how I prayed to see him make escape! 

He clears the open space in one wild bound, 

Reaches the stockade, and begins to climb! 

"O Heaven!" I cry, "still fleeter make his feet; 

Save him, I beg; let him go free!" But no! 

A warrior, anxious that his breath shall end 

Ere his swift slender limbs may thwart their hate, 

Shoots forth a dart as keen as a viper-sting, 

Which pins him to the wall he seeks to climb : 

The flint has pierced his heart: and so he dies. 

Mine eyes are blind with tears. But from my grief 

A clamor startles me, and I behold 

That horde of demons thirsting for my blood. 

For now my turn has come ! In fearful straits, 
I look up at the savage princess there, 
And though my heart is quaking, force a smile. 
She understands the signal, throws her arms 
Around her father's neck, and begs for me, 

40 Hernanclo De Soto 

Begs ardently, insistently, with sobs 
That shake her girlish bosom like a storm. 
And then, somehow, his cruel eye grows dim, 
The awful tension on his brow relaxes ; 
He wavers, hesitates, pauses to think! 
He rises: waves his hand: slowly the crowd 
Begins dispersing, and I know at last 
My agony is ended, I am saved ! 

The princess glanced upon me smilingly: 

I ran toward her, sank upon my knees, 

And madly grateful, snatched and kissed her hand. 

She laughed aloud in a delightsome way, 

And then in liquid accents, with the aid 

Of friendly signs, she sweetly bade me rise. 


Juan Ortiz continues his narrative His ordeal at the stake 
He is again rescued by the Princess Ulela Guarding the 
burial-grounds of the tribe The mother and her dead 
child Ortiz's adventure with the panther His escape to 
Mocozo's dominions His final rescue by the Spaniards. 

A LTHOUGH my life was spared, too soon I found 
/~\ Ucita's malice was unsatisfied : 
Day after day, with unrelenting spite 
He cast upon me gross indignities. 
A beaten slave, I sweated and I groaned 
In brutish toil that never had an end. 
I hewed the wood; I made the wigwam fires; 
I fetched the water from a distant spring; 
I bore the arms and blankets to the hunt, 
And when the chase was over, on my back 
The heavy slaughtered animals were heaped. 
The Indians kicked and cuffed me when I fell 
Under great loads my shoulders could not bear. 
They hooted at me weeping, and they laughed 
To see my streaming blood when whipped and 


Crying, "Look at the weakling! Hear him whimper 
Like an unweaned pappoose!" Above the rest, 
Ucita took delight in harrying me 
With blows and curses. In a little time 
My ears had caught the language meagerly, 
And then from whispers that I overheard 


42 Hernando De Soto 

I knew the chief repented of his act 

Of clemency toward me; later still, 

I knew he sought my life again. I longed 

To flee the country, but a host of spies 

Forever dogged my footsteps : all my friends 

Had perished : if I left Ucita's realms, 

What refuge was there in the wilds beyond? 

One day Ulela, she who had saved my life, 

The chieftain's daughter, suddenly grew ill. 

A fortnight passed ; yet still the princess lay 

Tossing in fever on her couch. And now 

I trembled, for I knew the wily chief 

Half feared his daughter, though he loved her well, 

And seeing she was ill, at any hour 

Taking advantage of her helplessness, 

Might glut the malice that her hand had stayed. 

Soon the dark prophecies of my worst fears 

Proved more than true. One morning as I stood 

Lifting a water- jar beside the spring, 

Ucita, with a brutal-visaged crowd, 

The lowest ruffians of the tribe, came down 

The forest-path, and called me. "Come with us," 

He said, and as he spake, a stalwart brave 

Laid hand upon my shoulder roughly. " Come, " 

This minion echoed. Startled, I recoiled, 

Trembling with fearful prescience. "But my jar, 

I came to fill it, I must take it back, 

As I was bidden, to your wigwam, Sire," 

I pleaded to Ucita. With a growl, 

The churl who held me wrenched my jar away, 

And threw it, splashing, to the ground. "Come, 

He thundered, and he clutched me by the arm, 

Booh III 43 

Dragging me onward with him. "Why is this?" 
I sobbed appealingly; "What have I done? 
What do you wish with me?" I wept aloud, 
But heeding not, they hurried me away 
Through the dark shadows of that lonely wood, 
Further and further from all human aid. 

They dragged me on still further through the wood, 

When merciful God! before us I beheld 

A pile of fagots underneath a frame 

As gaunt and hideous in its nakedness 

As a stark bare-ribbed skeleton. They planned 

To burn me at the stake ! There, there were heaped 

The splintered pines, arranged with devilish care 

To feed the hellish flames ! Then my brain reeled ; 

A blinding light seemed flashed before my eyes; 

A strong hand seemed to choke me, and my heart 

Seemed crushed in iron bands. My knees 

Tottered beneath me, and through all my frame, 

Ice-cold, the life-blood shuddered. Then my teeth 

Chattered with terror, and my swollen tongue 

Seemed wagging in a mouth crammed full of dust. 

But gaining speech once more, I fell to the earth, 

Shrieking, "9, do not burn me! Let me die 

By tomahawk or bow, but not by fire! 

Have mercy! Do not burn me! Stab my heart, 

Drown me, strangle me, but for the love of God, 

Save me this torture of a death by fire!" 

But the black miscreants, heeding not my prayers, 

Began with unconcern the tasks that marked 

Sure preparation for their dreadful scheme. 

The fire is kindled ; then my hands and feet 
They tie together; then they bind me down 

44 Hernanclo De Soto 

Upon the framework close above the fire ; 

The smoke rolls in a stifling, choking cloud; 

It strangles me; it burns and blinds mine eyes. 

And now the savages, with horrid glee 

Joining their hands and circling round the stake, 

Begin their frenzied dance; now drunk with fury, 

Gnashing their teeth, and wallowing in the dust, 

They shriek and scream in maniac delight, 

Foam at the mouth, shake with convulsive spasms; 

Then bounding madly to their feet again, 

They yell, and brandishing their tomahawks, 

Begin their hymns, as fierce and terrible 

As hymns of fiends to Lucifer in hell. 

Soon the hot flames begin to scorch my flesh; 

Still keener grows the blaze. O, who can tell 

The frightful anguish of a death by fire? 

I cry aloud, but every cry is drowned 

In the wild singing of their dreadful songs. 

But suddenly I hear a woman's voice ; 

It is Ulela's! Swifter than a spear, 

She bounds among the warriors, reaches the fire, 

And hurls the blazing brands to left and right. 

Quickly the flames are quenched ; so then she stands 

Trembling, and weak and wan from suffering, 

Yet terrible in her anger, crying out, 

"It is not lawful thus to sacrifice 

A human life save unto gods alone : 

No sacred feast for many days we hold ; 

The Moon of Green Corn glimmers first to-night ; 

Not till the Bear Moon falls that festival. 10 

You would call down the certain wrath of heaven 

To offer up this lad to fiery death, 

And not in honor of the powers above." 

DooK III 45 

She bade them bring fresh water from the brook, 
And taking me in her arms, she bathed my wounds, 
Murmuring sweet words of comfort, like a dove 
Cooing above her nest. How soft her touch, 
How gentle all her ministrations! Yea, 
She soothed my anguish by her very breath, 
Which fanned my burnt flesh like a fresh cool gale 
Blown from a mountain peak enrobed in snow 
Over a waste of fiery desert sands. 
Abashed, the ruffians who had sought my life 
Sneaked from her presence; the old chief himself, 
Slinking crestfallen, hardly growled a curse. 

Long did I languish ere my wounds were healed, 
And often within that time Ulela came 
To see me, bearing in her slender hands 
Delicious fruits, strawberries, bloomy plums, 
And custard-apples : she herself prepared, 
Over hot coals, light golden cakes of maize, 
And tempting savory game, a hare, or quail, 
Or squirrel, and she brought them to my side 
That I might eat, and once again rejoice 
In health restored. 

But after weary days, 
When I at last rose limping, I was told 
A task repulsive yet awaited me: 
The graveyard of the tribe was I to guard 
Through the long night, from sunset unto dawn, 
That no wild beast might desecrate the graves. 
Those Paynims lowered not their dead in earth, 
But folded them in fabrics made from leaves 
Of palm-trees that abounded in the land, 
And laid them out on frames above the ground. 

46 Hernando De Soto 

Ucita gave to me a bow and arrows 

To slay the ghoulish prowlers, and he snarled, 

"Take warning: if we ever find one grave 

After the night despoiled, be sure thy life, 

Spared twice, we spare no more. " A watchman came 

At dawn of every day to view the grounds, 

And note if all my duties had been done. 

My task was one no wretch might long survive; 

All night, exposed to dank malarial winds, 

I breathed the exhalations of the swamps, 

And air made poisonous by ten thousand dead, 

So that I often sickened and grew faint, 

Now scorched with fevers, now with agues chilled. 

All night the wolves roamed howling through the 

woods ; 

From dismal tarns fierce alligators roared ; ' ' 
Shadowed by drapery of the long weird moss, 
Owls screamed and hooted in the ghostly trees. 
Voracious wild beasts of uncertain form 
Gliding about, would utter savage cries; 
Often these brutes would leap within the close, 
And often would I frighten them away. 

Through solemn midnight hours my watch I stood, 

Amid the horrors of that wilderness, 

By fate deluded, orphaned and disowned. 

Where now my brave ambitions? What a fall 

From heights Olympian down to Stygian glooms! 

The tintinnabulating siren call 

Ceased ringing in mine ears from far away; 

And like a melting moon in skies of dawn, 

I saw my opalescent dream dissolve. 

Wan, wasted, with her yellow nimbus gone, 

Her pinions trailing in the dust, deplumed, 

DooK III 47 

And with her cheeks, purpureal once, grown pale, 

Dejected Fancy wept. And now, alas, 

My treasure-galleons, shipwrecked far from port, 

In blackened ruins strewed on desert strands. 

The Lydian king might with his airest touch 

Transmute all baser objects into gold, 

But all things that I touched had turned to clay. 

O ye who hear, forswear illusive hopes 

That lead to maledictions of the gods! 

leave the bloom unplucked upon its stem, 
The tempting fruit untasted on its bough; 
The golden pollen soon is tarnished dust; 
The golden rind conceals a bitter core! 

One day, at dusk, a frantic mother came 
Bearing a little dead boy in her arms. 
Beside her walked her husband and her friends, 
But the cold corpse she held herself alone, 
Sharing with none her burden. Afterward, 
Returning from the death-grounds, solemnly 
She bade me guard the body of her child 
With added vigilance. In faltering tones 

1 promised, but the fever fired my veins, 
And, like a child, I feared the coming dark. 

That selfsame night, within the neighboring swamp 
I heard a fearsome growl, that ever came 
Closer and closer ; soon there blazed two eyes, 
Glaring like green and yellow meteors; 
Something slipped near; next, with a frightful roar 
It leaped upon the body of the boy, 
And bore its quarry back toward the swamp. 
With all the puny strength that still was mine 
Quickly I twanged an arrow at the beast; 
I knew not whether I had missed or struck, 

48 Hernando De Soto 

But fancied that I heard a yelp of pain, 

And a low whine succeeding. In distress, 

Dazed and bewildered, I began a search 

To find the creature and its prey ; alas ! 

My pains were fruitless. "Surely now," I thought, 

"My evil star beacons me to my fate." 

At last, in eastern skies faint streaks of dawn 

Glimmered and brightened. From a leafless bough, 

(The gaunt arm of a huge dead cypress-tree), 

A turkey-cock began his morning calls; 12 

Another answered ; then another still ; 

Green water-oaks seemed swarming with the fowls; 

Then all the forest quivered through its leaves, 

Resounding to the clangor as they crowed. 

Ere day had well advanced, the watchman came, 

And as I heard him, my affrighted heart 

Trembled within me, like the morning star 

Throbbing and palpitating there on high. 

In agitation I revealed him all ; 

Stern was his look, and when he saw the frame 

Robbed of its little tenant, angrily 

He thundered, "Sluggard, thou hast failed in duty! 

Thou hast been sleeping: hadst thou kept awake, 

This had not happened. Plead thy cause no more: 

Thy life is forfeit. I shall take thee now 

Unto Ucita to receive thy sentence." 

Enfeebled as I was, my tottering feet 

Could scarcely drag me twenty paces; yet, 

Rousing myself, I begged him go with me, 

In one last effort to redeem my life. 

The man assented, grumbling ; so we tore 

Through netted brambles where some tracks appeared. 

At length we spied a trace of blood ; beyond, 

DooK III 49 

We found unharmed the little dead pappoose. 

Still further on we saw a panther lie, 

A big-boned, tawny creature, long and slim, 

His neck pierced by mine arrow. Seeing this, 

The watchman, well appeased, said, " Thou wast right; 

Thou hast done all thy duty, lad: fear not." 

So afterwards my dreary watch I kept, 

Till seven moons in the skies had waxed and waned ; 

But soon the sacred festival would come, 

Poising my life in doubt again. One night, 

As I paced wearily my lonesome round, 

Watching the Great Bear circle through the heavens, 

And longing for the tardy light of day, 

I heard a little pattering through the trees, 

Faint-falling like the trip of human feet ; 

Then, like a shadow with a human shape, 

Dowed with the shadow of a human voice, 

Ulela stood before me suddenly. 

"Juan," whispered she, "our festival we hold 

After three days have passed. Shouldst linger here, 

My father and his crew would spare thee not. 

I have petitioned for thee hour by hour, 

But vainly. I have coaxed and threatened, stormed, 

Entreated and implored. All my old arts, 

My wiles and blandishments and strategems 

So powerful with my father once, I used, 

And brought to aid them all my sighs and tears, 

And frowns and wild reproaches. But he stands, 

For the first time, unwavering ; angrily 

He spurns my prayers. So thou must flee this land. 

One short day's journey hence, another chief, " 

She faltered here, abashed, and hung her head 

"A noble prince Mocozo is his name, 


50 Hernando De Soto 

Rules his realm justly; he is dear to me, 
For we have been betrothed for many moons. 
To-morrow, ere the first glint of the dawn, 
A messenger will come to lead thee hence, 
And guide thee safely to Mocozo's land. 
Delay not for a moment when he comes, 
But speed away, there will be hot pursuit. 
Here, take this girdle; it was given to me 
By him I love; when thou hast met my prince, 
Show him the girdle; he will understand 
Thou comest at my hest, imploring aid: 
So, surely will he guard thee with his life. 
Now, Juan, farewell; for I must haste away." 
Ere I could thank her, she had left my side, 
And gliding like a shadow as before, 
Had vanished even more swiftly than she came. 

Time passed ; before the first dim ray of dawn, 

Appeared the messenger. "Haste, haste!" he cried, 

"Soon will they follow us." I turned, alert, 

And with him fled toward Mocozo's land. 

The trail was rarely trodden, indistinct, 

And led through tangled creepers, twisted vines, 

Dense thickets, and low-swinging boughs of trees. 

The shattered waning moon rose in the east, 

And glimmered with a mournful pallid light 

Till the gray dawn blanched into silvery day. 

Weak as I was from vigils of the night, 

For a few weary miles we stumbled on, 

Slowly and painfully. When daybreak shone, 

We made our progress faster. Now we heard 

The happy song-birds carol in the trees, 

And saw strange, brilliant blossoms hang above; 

There trilled and soared the painted nonpareil; 

BooK III 51 

Here flamed and flaunted gem-like humming-birds; 

There glowed the great hibiscus through the green 

With constellations of its crimson blooms ; 

Convolvuluses, rosy-hued and white, 

Their trumpet-shaped corollas dangled down. 

But loveliness and joy allured us not, 

For well we knew pursuers followed fast, 

And both our hearts hung quivering in our breasts, 

Asking what fearful doom awaited us 

Should we be overtaken. Frightful thought ! 

Spent though I was, I hobbled with the guide 

Till day was far advanced. " Come now, come now!" 

He panted, "There is but another league, 

Only one other league, and we are there!" 

But hark! Behind us hurtles a yelping shout, 

Our foes are coming, chasing us with dogs! 

My feet are bleeding; every joint is sore; 

My head reels dizzy, and my sight is blurred ; 

But when I hear that hoarse, blood-curdling sound, 

Aroused, new ardor speeds me faster still. 

At length, Mocozo's village rears in view; 

Yet looking back, we see a furious horde, 

Ucita's minions, eager in pursuit, 

Their dogs, loud-yelping, leading on the chase. 

We run like madmen ; still the dogs gain fast : 

Scarce four short furlongs yet dissever us 

From safety in the little town. But now, 

Fierce as a tiger, foaming at the mouth, 

One dog, far swifter than the rest, bounds up, 

And well-nigh snaps our heels. I draw my bow, 

And pointing straight toward the monster's breast, 

Shoot forth an arrow; silent, swift and sure 

As the dread shaft of Destiny itself, 

52 Hernando De Soto 

It pierces through his hide and cleaves his heart; 
Then with a howl he leaps in air and falls, 
Dying in quick convulsions at my feet. 

Forward we sped before the others came. 

But soon the Indians, drawing nearer still, 

Began to fly their arrows, though they failed 

To strike us, hailing fast a flinty shower 

Above and around us, missing narrowly, 

Until we reached Mocozo's border-line, 

Where a dart pierced my foot. I swayed and fell; 

But instantly there rushed from out the town 

A throng of men who lifted me in arms, 

And bore me to a wigwam. Others cried 

To our pursuers, "Halt! Let these men be! 

Dare not to cross our border, or ye die." 

A moment more, and then Mocozo came, 

A youth superb, whose regal air proclaimed 

The true-born monarch of the wilderness. 

I gave the girdle to him, telling all. 

"Be sure," he said, "that I will be thy friend, 

For the sake of her who sent thee. " Wavering not, 

He kept that promise with a prince's faith. 

He drove Ucita's sullen men away : 

From that blest hour they harried me no more. 

Ucita, deeply angered, then refused 

His daughter to Mocozo. But in time 

The chief relented; so the twain espoused. 

Thus twelve years passed: so kind Mocozo proved, 

That in the end I stood resigned to fate. 

Now freed from all the perils, pains and toils 

That once had plagued me on the sea and land, 

DooK III 53 

Contented, lapped in dreamful calm and ease, 
In thankfulness to God. my spirit kept 
A sweet and holy sabbath of repose. 

My hands and face were tattooed, as you see, 

I wandered naked like the savages, 

And tanned as brown as any Indian brave. 

One day the Christians landed on that coast, 

Led by the Governor of Florida, 

De Soto, whom we love so well. A troop 

He sent to scour the land. On that same day 

I wandered with the red men on a hunt, 

And in those wilds the Spanish cavaliers 

Galloped upon us at a sudden turn. 

The Spaniards fired their muskets: instantly 

The forest trembled, and loud echoes roared, 

As though an earthquake shook the solid world. 

The simple natives, who in all their days 

Had never known such dreadful arms of war, 

Shivering with terror, sank upon their knees, 

Praying the Great Spirit to forego his wrath. 

In twelve long years my lips had nigh forgot 

My mother tongue, dear accents of Castile, 

The noblest, sweetest, softest tones of earth, 

The language that the seraphs speak in heaven. 

But now mine eyes rejoiced to see once more 

Familiar faces of my countrymen, 

And so in broken Spanish I exclaimed, 

" Hold, hold, my brethren, hold ! Peace ! Do not fire ! 

I am a Christian! take me with you hence, 

But do not harm these men; they are my friends." 

Their arms they lowered; so they took me thence, 

And carried me before the Governor. 

I joined his host, and so you see me here. 


The Chief requests De Soto to relate his own history De 
Soto's narrative begun His early life The Guadiana 
River Pedrarias and Balboa Balboa's escape from his 
creditors He acquires great power in Darien He is 
betrothed to Maria, daughter of Pedrarias Later he is 
beheaded by orders of Pedrarias De Soto's meeting with 
Isabel His courtship Pedrarias opposes De Soto's suit 
Pedrarias induces De Soto to accompany him to America 
Maria arranges a farewell meeting between De Soto and 
Isabel The lovers exchange vows of constancy as De Soto 
is leaving Spain for his long journey to the New World. 

T^HE speaker ended. After a moment's pause, 
1 The gray-haired monarch, turning, softly smiled, 
And said to Ortiz, "I have hearkened, son, 
With deepening wonder to thy narrative. 
He who hath seen such perils and escaped, 
Must know the one Great Spirit is his friend, 
And feel protected wheresoever he treads." 

Then to De Soto Micalusa turned, 
And said, "Wouldst thou, O knight, relate to us 
The history of thine own adventurous life? 
Pleased would we be to know it. It must be 
One that would move us; wilt thou let us hear?" 
De Soto, answering, told his story thus: 

Illustrious Chieftain, what a tiny span 
Is the most famous life of all this world 


DooK IV 55 

In the long annals of the race of men! 
For, like a narrow isthmus that connects 
Two continents, the Future and the Past, 
Outflung by hands of God, its fragile strand, 
Joining the life that was with that to come, 
Trails onward with an ocean on each hand, 
The little Known cleaving the vast Unknown. 
Great are my faults; grave were the many errors 
Committed in my past. And yet, great Chief, 
The very blunders of our lives may be 
Such warning to ourselves and unto others, 
That they may turn to blessings. Though I fall, 
The chastisement that follows on that fall 
May save me and my brothers. Yea indeed, 
Out of my darkness may emerge your light ; 
Out of my sins may your salvation come. 

At Xeres I was born, I3 a little town 
Not distant from the line decreed of old 
Dissevering Spain from realms of Portugal. 
Hard by, the far-famed Guadiana flows. 
Where lift the sharp sierras red and bare, 
Its natal fountains gush. Meandering on 
Through pleasant groves of cork-trees ever green, 
And down the vales in dalliance wantoning, 
It blinks and babbles at the grateful herds 
Red-visaged swains have guided to its slopes 
To quench their thirst and rest in shades of noon. 
But doomed and driven by some mysterious fate, 
It plunges into the bowels of the earth, 
And underground it gropes for many leagues 
Through caverns chill in everlasting gloom, 
Through Stygian caves, benighted labyrinths. 
Then disenthralled, it leaps to light again 

56 Hernando De Soto 

Beneath a sunburst falling splendorful, 

And onward glints and glides caressingly 

Through daisied meadows, sweet poetic fields, 

Where myrtles mirror in the friendly waves, 

And lilting birds make bowers melodious. 

Now happy is it as a human soul 

That once was cheered by genial, glowing suns 

In transitory joyance of this life, 

But shrouded with its mortal self in earth, 

Was left to moulder in the rayless gloom, 

Then, after lying lost to life and hope, 

Freed from its dungeon underground, to shine 

Transfigured on its Resurrection Morn, 

Arises more resplendent than before. 

My parents, gently born and reared in ease, 

Wedded for love when both were portionless; 

But fortune frowned upon them; so, in time, 

Facing dull scenes of sordid poverty, 

They feared to see their children grope through life 

Unlettered and unschooled. But in these days, 

Entering the service of a wealthy lord, 

My father pleased his patron, who ere long 

Extended to our house a friendly hand. 

Pedrarias was the one of whom I speak: 14 

This old hidalgo, pompous, rich and vain, 

And condescending in his patronage, 

Sometimes proved generous in his better moods, 

But oftener cruel and tyrannical, 

And ever purse-proud. From his ample means, 

With careful hands a petty sum he doled, 

Whereby my father's children all received 

A little training in the world of books. 

I went to Saragossa; there I learned 

Book IV 57 

A smattering of the arts and sciences, 
And much of fencing, much of horsemanship, 
Of boxing, wrestling, and the use of arms, 
Beside the airs that courtiers must assume 
While prancing in their laces and their silks 
Through all the light parade of gallantry. 
Fine training this, for one whose slender purse 
Could scarcely buy one scanty little meal, 
Or one night's lodging at a country inn! 
But so it fell; with aims beyond my means, 
And schooling that disdained my niggard lot, 
I was foredoomed to be a wanderer, 
Seeking adventure over land and sea. 

While still I roamed a boy, Pedrarias sailed 

For Darien, as its viceroy. When debarked, 

He found Balboa (that undaunted knight 

Who first beheld the king of Oceans) , raised 

To despot mastership of all the realm. 

From Xeres, like myself, Balboa came, 

But in that year which marked my birth, he left 

To wrest his fortune from the western world. 

Hispaniola first he sought, and there 

He lingered some few seasons. But he lost 

The little hoard of pesos brought from Spain, 

And soon, in seeking to relieve his wants, 

Staggered beneath a mountain-load of debts. 

No one that land might lawfully depart 

While any debt remained unsatisfied. 

So then Balboa had a barrel made 15 

Of huge dimensions, crawled inside the cask, 

And had the head nailed in. Thus was he rolled, 

Still in the barrel, to a ship that sailed 

That very hour for Darien. By and by, 

58 Hernando De Soto 

When land was lost to view, he broke the head, 

Crept out of the barrel, and revealed himself 

To the astonished sailors. For a time 

The captain raged and blustered, but at last 

Appeased, grew friendly. Reaching Darien, 

The exile's genius won him place and power. 

Pedrarias watched his rival jealously, 

But feared to strike at once. And so Maria, 

The eldest of the daughters of his house, 

He offered in betrothal to the foe. 

Gladly Balboa gave assent. But soon 

Pedrarias slyly trapped him unawares, 

And first imprisoned, then beheaded him. 

When the doomed knight was led before the block, 

Within a hut hard by Pedrarias stood, 

Concealed: and peeping through a little chink, 

He smiled to see Balboa lose his head. 

For five dark years he ruled in Darien, 

Writing his reign in blood. The red men feared, 

The Spaniards hated him. Slaying at will, 

He won the dread name, Furor Domini, 

And truly like the Wrath of God he smote 

And trampled his victims in the very dust. 

Then he sailed home, but planning to return 

To Darien later, and resume the sway 

Which in the past had cursed that fated land. 

From Saragossa I had just arrived, 

A slender lad of barely nineteen years. 

Pedrarias asked me then to visit him, 

And so I often saw him at his home. 

One day, conversing with him and his wife, 16 

His second daughter, Isabel, came in 

And sat between her parents. She was young, 

Booh. IV 59 

A little maiden of but fifteen springs, 
Who hung about her mother like a child. 
A little filmy frock of silk she wore, 
And sweet white hyacinths in her clustering curls. 
Not wan nor fair-haired like a Northern maid, 
Her face was like a crocus born in spring, 
Her tresses blacker than a blackbird's plumes. 
O, she was lovelier than an April morn, 
With April skies, and April birds and blooms, 
With April songs, and April suns and showers, 
Now laughing and now pouting, now in tears, 
But ever bringing visions of delight. 

Her dark eyes scanned me, quickly glanced away, 

As brown, as swift, as wild as twin gazelles. 

I looked her in the face ; after a pause 

Her frightened brown eyes looked again in mine, 

And then I knew that she was made for me, 

And I was made for her; that long before, 

In some dim age, before the world began, 

God planned to make us both, and make us one, 

And nowhere, on the land, nor on the sea, 

Nor in this world, nor any world to come, 

Was any other man or woman born 

To take the place of either with the other, 

Or make one glad without the other's love, 

Or blest without the other as a mate. 

I marked a shade of sadness cross her brow; 
She felt, like me, this was the hour of fate! 
She knew her toys and playthings now must go 
With days of childhood, to the buried past. 
I saw the child-soul in her pleading eyes 
Gaze in a half -reproachful, wistful way, 

60 Hernando De Soto 

Still lingering, longing for its old-time nest 
In that sweet, happy bosom of the girl, 
Yet knowing that its glorious day was done, 
Then, like some bird, unearthly, mystical, 
Returning from its exile back to heaven, 
Take leave forever of this hapless world. 

While we sat there her father talked for hours 

Of wonders in the land of Darien, 

Of wars with Indians, pillaging of towns, 

Of building forts, of fighting buccaneers, 

Of deeds of daring by our countrymen. 

The mother said but little; now and then, 

A word or two of gossip there at home, 

And news of births and marriages and deaths 

She told us in a woman's way. I spoke 

Of boyish pranks and mischiefs done at school, 

Of books neglected, angry tutors foiled, 

Nor failed to scatter Greek and Latin words 

Throughout my talk, my learning to display. 

But Isabel sat silent all the time: 

While speaking, I could feel her eager eyes 

Fixed closely on my face, but turning round 

Toward her, she would drop them hurriedly. 

When leaving, old Pedrarias said to me, 

"Come back to see me here again, my lad;" 

The mother sweetly said, "Yes, come again;" 

And sweeter still, the eyes of Isabel 

In love's own language pleaded, "Come again." 

I often went again, but not one chance 
Had I to speak with Isabel alone. 
Her father, now preparing to return, 
Could think of nothing but America, 

BooK IV 61 

While all my vagrant thoughts were Isabel's. 

What did I care for all his fleets or forts, 

His Indian fights, his chase of buccaneers? 

But day by day, through sluggish hour to hour, 

I listened as he drummed and drawled and droned; 

Impatient, vexed and nervous, worn with words, 

Turning, twisting and writhing in my chair, 

I wondered if he ever would be done. 

O, how I longed to speak with Isabel, 

When all these garrulous people were away, 

And she and I were all alone, alone! 

She ever came and heard her father talk, 

And saw me, restless, tossing in my chair, 

But rarely spoke herself; and oftentimes 

Her mother or her sire would bid her go 

About some little task ; then she would rise, 

And with a sigh would leave me there alone 

To breast the deluge of verbosity. 

But one day, as I rose to leave her home, 
She stole away ere I could say "Good-bye": 
This pained me: for she had ever sought before 
To linger near me till I went my way, 
With wistful eyes imploring my return: 
Now she had gone, letting me take my leave 
Without one parting look, or word, or sigh ! 
But when I left the house and reached the gate, 
Behind a myrtle bough I saw her stand. 
No one was with her, no one followed me ! 
Her trembling fingers clasped a lovely rose; 
She kissed it, then she tossed it into my hands ; 
Next, with the swiftness of a frightened fawn, 
With something like a laugh and like a sob, 
She fled, and vanished through the garden trees. 

62 Hernando De Soto 

At night, oft would I loiter restlessly, 

And spent with wakefulness, about the house 

Her presence sanctified ; despondingly 

Mine eyes would search the windows for one 


Of her, my love, my sweet, my bonnibel. 
Oft would the chanticleer's alarum clang 
Through sylvan coverts, and the blushful East / 
Proclaim the dawn, ere I had turned with sighs, 
Reluctant, and in languishment, away. 
At twilight would I often linger, wan 
With love and longing as the white-wing'd moths 
That haunted the pale corollas of the dusk 
To pilfer honeyed sweets; and on these eves, 
Charged with its weight of youthly cares, my 


Would ache to feel itself an exile, barred 
From climbing to her casement, and in bliss 
Close-pressing to itself the one desired. 

One evenfall impatiently I paced 
The garden of her father's mansion. There 
Alone and unespied I waited long. 
The homing swallows caracoled on high, 
Then vanished one by one. Soon lovely Day, 
That azure-eyed, fair-haired Circassian slave, 
Sank in the swart arms of her sultan, Night. 
Ensanguined was the West; then ebon shades 
Enshrouded all the glories of the world. 
I watched to see the tiny candle beam 
Forth from her window, with its timid ray 
In whispered answer to the flaming stars 
Besprent throughout the firmamental gloom 
Like flambeaux lit in castle-towers of gods. 

BooK IV 63 

Old Earth, poetic with her evening dews, 
And redolent with rarest fragrances 
Of musk and frankincense from silken blooms, 
Seemed like a sweet and gentle confidant, 
A fond, indulgent mother-friend in need, 
To aid me in mine amorous desire. 
For lo ! into her little oriel came, 
Bearing a quivering taper in her hand, 
The one I yearned to see, my damosel! 
My eager, hungry eyes saw that her face, 
Like mine, was pale from vigils born of care. 
Tall poplars, shimmering in the sparkling moon, 
Guarded her window, which they half concealed, 
So that she seemed a dryad of their boughs. 
Most witching of all witching maids she shone, 
Yet purest, as her pallid cheeks proclaimed. 
Was love as yet unbudded in her breast? 
Soon came mine answer, joy ineffable! 
For now she clasped a lute; with dulcet notes, 
Sweeter than sweetest of nectarean dews 
That ever moth at dusk from blossom thieved, 
She warbled, and unbosomed all her soul. 
With bliss I tingled. Cooingly she sang 
This lyric that her midmost heart revealed : 

"I love thee. I can say no more, 

Yet, Sweet, I can not tell thee less: 
My soul cries out ; their secret lore 
It bids my timid lips confess. 

" In fear I knock upon thy gate : 

Bid not thy supplicant depart! 
See, in thy hands I lay my fate, 

And underneath thy feet, my heart. 

64 Hernando De Soto 

"Thy light and careless hands may fling 

The gift I offer into dust ; 
Yet unto thee mine all I bring, 

And trembling, in thy faith I trust. 

"Though shipwrecked hearts by seas of tears 
I see bestrewn from years of yore, 

Blind to their fate, I hush my fears. 
I love thee. I can say no more." 

On the next night, Pedrarias kept me late 

With his old round of stories. When I left, 

A full round moon was floating in the skies, 

And sprinkling all the world with silvery snows; 

A nightingale was warbling in the trees, 

And sprinkling all the world with silvery songs. 

Then close beside the path I saw her stand, 

Half hidden by tall sprays of lily blooms, 

Whose bosoms in the moongleams, like her face, 

Seemed glowing with a pure, divine desire. 

I rushed toward her, clasped her in my arms, 

And felt her quick heart beating in her breast 

Like a young linnet struggling in its cage. 

I kissed her madly on her trembling mouth: 

"I love thee: dost thou love me, Isabel?" 

I panted in a whisper eagerly. 

"Yes, yes!" she answered; then she tore herself 

From out my arms and quickly disappeared. 

I stood there breathless, quivering with delight, 

My lips still warm from that delicious kiss, 

My bosom bounding in ecstatic joy 

At having felt the beating of its mate. 

Roused from my dreams, I followed her. But no! 

I could not find her. So I sought my inn, 

My gladsome feet half-running all the way. 

DooK IV 65 

I tossed awake the whole night long. At morn 
I sped to ask her father for her hand. 
The old grandee, confounded, for a while 
Seemed asking of himself, " Is this a dream? 
How can this thing be real?" Then he woke 
Out of his blank amazement with a burst 
Of loud, contemptuous laughter. Suddenly 
Ceasing to laugh, he faced me, white with rage. 
"What! Thou demand my daughter's hand?" he 


"Thou prig, thou popinjay! Ye saints in heaven, 
What impudence is here ! I lifted thee, 
A beggar, without fortune, rank or name, 
From depths of nothingness, and sought to make 
A man of thee: vain toil and vain endeavor, 
And ill-requited pains ! For after all, 
Such now is my reward!" My cheeks burned red 
With shame and grief and anger, and I cried, 
"Against me thou canst charge no graver crime 
Than a lean purse, my lord. The name I bear, 
Despite thy cynic scoff, is honored: yea! 
My lineage is as ancient as thine own; 
That well thou knowest. " "Will this honored name 
Fill out that flattened purse? " he sneered. " In wealth," 
I answered, "is not all that makes this life 
Worthy to love and cling to. There are limits 
To that which money buys." But he rejoined, 
"Yea, there are bounds to the great benefits 
That money brings you. But there is no end 
To miseries that the lack of money brings." 
"Without the one I love," I moaned, "my life 
Were not so sweet as death. I still have leave 
To serve my country with a loyal sword, 
And there, before the enemy, that life 

66 Hernando De Soto 

May not be given in vain." "Ha, ha!" he laughed, 

"Thou'lt live a long time yet. And thou'lt recover 

Bravely from all this folly. And heed well 

This I now tell you : no man ever laid 

A violent hand on his own life, or sought 

To throw that life away at hands of others, 

Or rushed headlong to wild and desperate deeds, 

For a good woman. If he slays himself, 

Or goes inviting death, or slays another, 

Or steeps himself in shame, through maddened love, 

She whom he loves is evil. But the woman 

Whose soul is faithful, ever brings to man 

Peace, comfort and content. She sways his heart, 

But sways it only for his good. Then cease 

These threats of rash deeds when you prate of one 

As pure as Isabel." 

With these last words 

He turned his back and left me: then I went 
My way in anguish. What a sudden change 
From glorious gladness to that black despair! 
My happy hopes fell from my orphaned heart 
As falls autumnal foliage from the bough. 
I wandered through the streets that day alone, 
Blinded and dazed with grief, like a lost child 
Far from its home and kindred. 


Had been the evil star that wrought this woe, 
And bitterly my fortune I bewailed. 
True, I had youth and vigor, which to some 
Had been of priceless worth. But of what use 
Were these gifts to me now? For as I stood, 
So sturdy, young and rosy, yet so poor, 

BooK IV 67 

I was as one wrecked on a desert isle 

With countless treasures in his grasp, with gold, 

Silver and precious stones he could not use, 

But worthless to him as the sands he trod, 

Worthless to barter for a loaf of bread, 

Or buy him sandals for his bleeding feet, 

Or even a rag to hide his nakedness. 

My grief was made more poignant when I learned 

That many other suitors sought her hand, 

Amongst whom were the handsome, rich and proud, 

Young cavaliers of birth and eminence; 

One was a kinsman of the king himself, 

And mindful of his station. Seeing this, 

What chance had I, a ward of charity, 

Who owed his meagre schooling to her sire? 

0, how I longed to pay that loathsome debt! 

I prayed for independence, and I groaned, 

"Save me from obligation to another! 

Better to gnaw a mouldy bit of cheese 

In your own narrow hovel, than to feast 

On fatted peacocks in a patron's hall." 

Cheerless, I faced the world without a friend, 

For both my parents now had passed away, 

Leaving no one to aid me. I had saved 

Out of my pigmy hoard scarce half enough 

To pay my old innkeeper's little claim 

For food and lodging, and I lacked for more 

To buy me fit apparel. Oft I asked, 

"Ah, why does Fate urge crabbed Poverty 

To sneak behind us in his threadbare coat, 

To spy upon us with an eye austere, 

And dog our happy feet, when we are young?" 

68 Hernando De Soto 

The dark days passed in anguish and despair, 

And then Pedrarias sent for me again. 

Astonished and perplexed, my thoughts whirled round, 

Guessing to find his motive. In my heart 

I hoped he had relented, and yet knew 

Hope was but idle. Then I hastened forth, 

And stood before him at his home. Not once 

The old man spoke of Isabel ; not once 

He deigned to mention my rejected suit. 

But in his smoothest silk-appareled phrase, 

Unwonted in his former days, he purred, 

"Young man, within a fortnight's time, my fleet 

Weighs anchor to return to Darien. 

Recalling how thy sire was once my friend, 

I wish his son to be my comrade. So, 

If thou wilt join thy fortunes unto mine, 

A captain's post I tender unto thee, 

A place of honor with a generous pay, 

In a new world that proffers wealth and fame." 

Amazed and overjoyed, I dallied not, 

But eagerly accepted all the terms 

Wherewith he hedged his offer. In my haste 

I deemed it but another generous act 

To prove his kindness for a comrade's son. 

Ere many days his craft revealed itself 

Through this apparent goodness. For indeed 

His plan was simple : I should wend my way 

Beyond the seas, and live in another world, 

A thousand dreary leagues from Isabel ; 

A host of perils would confront me there; 

There, in the end, perchance, would be my tomb ; 

Meantime, my sefiorita, left in Spain, 

Surrounded by her gilded cavaliers, 

And rich or titled suitors, might forget 

BooK IV 69 

Her old-time lover in his unknown grave 
In unknown forests far beyond the sea. 
How clearly was his cunning manifest! 
Yet youth is ever trustful ; so I sped 
As happy as a bee in springtime blooms, 
Dreaming that life was one long morn in May. 

The last night came; we were to start at dawn 

Upon our march to join the waiting fleet. 

I saw my poor old landlord and his wife, 

And paid my reckoning. Then the two kind souls 

Gave me their blessing and much good advice. 

The old dame, weeping, took me in her arms, 

And since I had no mother, prayed aloud 

That God would keep and guide the homeless boy. 

I had not heard from Isabel as yet, 

Nor had i seen her since that Night of nights 

Whose transitory bliss was now as dust. 

I chafed and sighed, impatient of delay; 

I plotted, schemed, and used all stratagems 

To see her, or to reach her by a letter, 

Yet never with success. But on that eve 

Of our departure came a messenger, 

Bearing a missive in Maria's hand. 

This elder sister, once the promised bride 

Of brave Balboa, lord of Darien, 

Had since that time retreated from the world, 

A disappointed, love-eluded soul. 

Her ready eye had fathomed Isabel, 

Who poured her girlish secret out with tears, 

And begged the older sister for her aid. 

The letter said, "Come thou this very night 

To speak with her you love a few last words:" 

7O Hernando De Soto 

So at the hour appointed there I stood. 

Maria, with a black mantilla thrown 

In gloomy folds around her pensive face, 

Stole forward as I reached the garden gate, 

And pointed out the spot where Isabel 

Was waiting for me. That same place it was 

Where first I kissed her, and first told my love. 

The moon was glowing in the skies again, 

But not a nightingale sang in the trees, 

And all the sprays of starry lily-blooms 

Drooped dry and withered. In this old-time scene, 

So faded from the beauty of its past, 

Once more I rushed and clasped her in my arms, 

Kissing her wildly over and over again. 

But we had met in anguish, not in joy: 

She sobbed and sobbed : my little best I did 

To reconcile her to our hapless fate. 

A thousand times we swore that we were true, 

And promised one another still to keep 

Our pledges to the ending of the world. 

She knew that in my absence every plot, 

And every guileful ruse and crafty scheme 

The cunning of duennas might devise, 

Would now be brought in use to break her troth: 

She knew that threats and promises and wiles 

For months and years incessant siege would lay 

Unto her bosom's lonely citadel. 

But still she cried, "None other will I love; 

No other lad shall have my heart or hand!" 

I promised to return in little time, 

With gold and glory, pomp, and praise of men. 

So then we parted in a storm of grief. 

Ah, little did we think what weary years 

Would perish ere we two should meet again! 

BooK IV 71 

Now we were young; but when we next should meet, 

Youth would be ended, half our lives be gone! 

I was to face the savage with his spear, 

The ocean gale, the tropic hurricane, 

The ravenous wild beast and the pestilent marsh, 

The awful earthquake, the volcano's flame. 

The desert and the mountain and the sea 

Would spread with half a world to sever us: 

Drought, Famine, Fire and War would plot together 

With all the malice of revengeful gods, 

To make us tread forever more apart. 


De Soto's narrative continued He accompanies Pedrarias to 
Darien Aspects of Darien Flowers, birds and animals 
abounding in the wilds Pedrarias, by a message sent 
through Perez, orders De Soto to burn an Indian Village 
De Soto refuses Perez, through the machinations of Ped 
rarias, challenges De Soto De Soto offers to make amends, 
but without success The duel with Perez Espinosa, 
second to Perez Hernandez, second to De Soto De Soto 
is victor in the duel Perez quits his post, and returns to 
Spain De Soto repays the debt of his father to Pedrarias 
Combats with the chief Uracca Pedrarias, jealous of De 
Soto, sends him with Hernandez on an expedition to the 
North, hoping that mischance may befall him there Nica 
ragua, Guatemala and Yucatan Lakes and mountains 
Great volcanoes Earthquakes Ancient ruins of unknown 
peoples Gil Gonsalez The battle at Torebo Treachery 
of Gonsalez His flight, imprisonment and death De Soto 
and Hernandez found the Cities of Leon and Granada 
Hernandez seeks to convert the Indians to the Christian 
faith Rumors of the downfall of Pedrarias De Soto warns 
Hernandez against him, but without effect Pedrarias 
comes to Leon He causes Hernandez to be beheaded 
Pedrarias attempts the life of De Soto also, but De Soto 
defies him and quits his service. 

I HASTE through the annals of our life at sea, 
The languid calms succeeding fearful storms, 
The waiting and the watching, day by day, 
Through dreary wastes of ocean wilderness, 


BooK V 73 

When one despairs of sighting land again. 

At last we reached our new home; safe ashore, 

We looked about us with astonished eyes. 

The land of Darien, like a zone of green, 

Divides the azure of unwedded seas. 

Low lies the coast and sandy, but a range 

Of mountains undulates along the midst, 

So with a trivial ten-league's breadth, this realm 

Wearies the traveler with such devious paths 

That one day's journey lengthens out to five. 

He who would venture on that arduous trail 

Must drag through tangled swamps, wade mountain 

Toil through the jungles, and pant up cliffs and 


The forests overarch with giant trees: 
Prodigious branches, interlaced above, 
Exile the light of brilliant tropic skies, 
Making an emerald twilight of the noon. 
Gigantic vines, like monster serpent-coils, 
Twist round and round, with verdant festooned 


And choke the life from many a mighty bole. 
A million creepers throw their tendrils out, 
And braced with myriad hairy feet, they climb, 
Hanging great sprays of red and yellow blooms, 
Or fragrant azure clusters. In those woods 
Are wondrous orchids, imaging the forms 
Of other fair created things, with blooms 
Star-petaled, or like wings of butterflies, 
Or sculptured like white-bosomed doves. And some 
Are crimson, others golden, some rich brown, 
These dappled, and those dotted like the throats 

74 Hernando De Soto 

Of speckled thrushes, while the loveliest, 
Of royal purple with a ruby tinge, 
Seem flakes of red and violet clouds of dawn. 
What gorgeous beings lift their radiant plumes 
In those deep wildwoods ! And surpassing all, 
The trogons of that tropic wilderness 
Flit glorious in their hues of golden-green 
And brilliant carmine : these resplendent birds 
Can not be tamed, nor bear captivity, 
But ever droop and die when caged; so thus 
The trogon in the red man's creed became 
The Spirit of Freedom. Orient humming-birds, 
Decked as in emeralds, with ruby throats, 
Glint through the green night swift as meteors. 
Here are macaws with glowing scarlet robes, 
Others of saffron breast and sky-blue wing, 
And flying parrots green as flying leaves. 
Quaint throngs of little sportive, jabbering apes 
Go scampering through the overhanging boughs. 
Smooth, slender jaguars, garbed in silken furs 
Thick-spotted like the peacock with his eyes, 
Gracefully glide on stealthy velvet feet. 
Each river swarms with hideous crocodiles; 
Huge serpents twist in labyrinthine coils 
Through the dark tangled swamps and dismal fens. 
The air hangs heavy with the sickly taint 
Of pestilence; and he who treads that land 
Knows every breath he draws is charged with fate, 
While every step is overhung by death. 
Such is the land of Darien fated clime, 
Where human suffering bears its bitterest fruit. 
Its blood and tears, commingled in one storm, 
Would bring a second deluge on the world. 

BooK V 75 

I had not long sojourned upon that shore 
Ere I discovered that the viceroy planned 
My downfall. For, within a fortnight's time 
After we disembarked, there came to me 
A captain of his guard. Tall was the man, 
Meagre and sallow, with a snaky eye 
That gleamed in black malignance. Loftily 
He glanced upon me ; then in lordly tones, 
"Alonzo Perez is my name," he said, 
"And I bear orders from Pedrarias. 
Westward three leagues, upon the river-bank 
Beneath that peak, the highest that you see 
Here from your casement, stands an Indian town 
Whose chief refuses tribute. You must rouse 
Your troop at dawn, march to the town, and set 
The torch to every wigwam. If the braves 
Remonstrate, heed them not; if they resist, 
Smite them, and spare thou not the babe in arms, 
The beldame or the graybeard, man or woman." 

Amazed, I answered, "Harsh commands are these! 
Pedrarias lightly bids me do a deed 
Fit for a felon's, not a soldier's hand. " 
The sallow cheek of Perez flushed: "Indeed, 
A most precocious lad thou art!" he cried. 
"What knowest thou of savage nature? What 
Of savage warfare? Shall an unfledged youth 
Rebuke our leader, who, through years of toil 
Learned his hard lesson ere that youth was born?" 
I knew not then that Perez bore a name 
Dark as his master's for the ready use 
Of torch and blade. Thus I unknowingly 
Had pricked a tender nerve. And now again 
I answered him, "True, I have only youth 

76 Hernando De Soto 

To set against experience : yet I know 

A kind hand oft without a contest wins, 

Where an uplifted fist may lose its fight 

After a needless quarrel. Strength and power 

Bide more in moderation than in fury." 

He showed his white teeth through his bearded lips, 

Sneering, "Ha, ha! Are we at school, with you 

For our schoolmaster? Must each veteran, bronzed 

By tropic suns, and scarred with fifty wounds, 

Learn warfare from each coxcomb fresh from Spain, 

Fit only for fandangoes, serenades, 

And conquests over ladies' hearts? And now, 

Sir gallant, take this bit of truth from me : 

Nothing in life is ever truly learned 

Save through experience. We may hear from others 

Things we believe; but realizing not 

Their poignant truth, their lessons we refuse, 

Till face to face we meet them, and perforce 

Heed their hard precepts. Doubtless you are wise 

In parlor tactics. But they serve you not 

With the barbarian in his native wild." 

"You would destroy him, not subdue," I cried. 
"Conquest is not extermination; that 
Is work for butchers, not for warriors. " "So, " 
He snapped retorting, "you would have us meet 
The savage, not with musket or with sword, 
But with pomatum and rose-water, musk, 
Face-powder, satin cloaks and silken fans, 
As gifts of peace? I tell you, every deed 
Of kindness done a savage only puffs 
That savage with more insolence. Each gift 
Bestowed upon him, to his thought becomes 
Proof that you fear him. But two arguments, 

DooK V 77 

One steel, the other fire, convince him. Still, 
You will refuse, sir, to obey? Is that 
Your answer to the viceroy?" "Yea, it is," 
I answered warmly. "So I thought. I go 
To bear your answer. If Pedrarias be 
The man I think him, you shall hear of this 
Again, and in a fashion you shall rue." 
With this last threat, he turned, and strode away. 

He took my message, and Pedrarias, 

(So one who heard them told me afterward), 

Eyed the tall captain closely, tossed his head, 

And answered, "If the younker will not go, 

Go then thyself. Thou canst perform the task 

Better than he." But Perez in amaze 

Sharply retorted, "Wilt thou let this brat 

So lightly disobey thee? Wilt thou bear 

With a bowed head his insults?" Then the other 

Rejoined, "I care not for his idle words. 

Thou knowest that the gossips croak of thee, 

More than of me, as one who falters not 

In dealing with the infidel. The boy 

Dares not offend me. Unto thee, not me, 

His words were spoken. Doubtless, then, his thrust 

Was aimed at thee alone. But now this work 

Remains undone, and some one must perform it : 

Have thy band ready, then, to march at dawn." 

"If he may disobey thee, so may I," 
Perez exclaimed; "I will not go. And yet 
Shameful it is, that one who rules this land 
Demands no satisfaction for such wrongs. " 
Again the despot eyed him coolly, saying, 
"Captain, his insults were addressed to thee, 

78 Hernando De Soto 

Not me; and they were meant for thee, not me. 

Besides, my age and rank forbid that I 

Should call him to account. Thou art still young: 

If thou canst bear the upstart's insolence, 

An old man like myself may well refrain 

From seeking satisfaction at his hands. " 

Then Perez challenged me. Dazed with surprise, 

I said to Espinosa, who had come 

Bearing his message, "What does this mean? How 

Have I offended him? I fight no man 

To whom I bear no enmity." "Then sir," 

Said Espinosa curtly, "thou shouldst pause 

Ere uttering speeches that rouse enmity." 

"Tell me your meaning," I replied; "what words 

Of mine have touched his honor? " " Dost thou wish," 

He asked, "to have repeated unto thee 

The words that thou hast used this very day?" 

Still more confounded, I rejoined, "Those words 

Affected but the viceroy and myself. 

This man and I were strangers till this day, 

And being strangers, I could meet him not 

In hatred. Yet his scornful words to me 

Might well have roused mine anger, had I not 

Desired to shun a quarrel." "Thou hast heard 

The message," Espinosa growled: "what answer 

Hast thou to send?" Then I, "No answer yet 

To him or thee I give. I must have time. 

This is an idle tiff, deserving not 

The weight he gives it. Come at noon to-morrow; 

Then my response I give thee." So he left. 

I had so lately reached that land, I stood 
Unknown, and scarce could claim a friend: but one, 

BooK V 79 

One only, of the cavaliers had deigned 

To come to me with words of welcome. He, 

Hernandez de Cordova, stood in rank 

Next to Pedrarias. Gentle in his air, 

Soft in his speech, pious in all his thoughts, 

His goodness oft seemed weakness. But I knew 

None other who would serve me, and I sought 

His kindly offices. Telling him all, 

I added, "No man will I shun through fear; 

But yet I shrink from bloodshed where no cause 

For anger 'les. Speak to this man, and say 

I never wished him ill ; that I wish not 

To meet him now in rancor: that I wait, 

Hoping to hear him own his error." Long 

Hernandez sate in silence; then he said, 

"Thine embassy I take, but much I fear 

It will be fruitless. For Pedrarias, 

Planning thy ruin, set this snare. He knew 

Thy censure was for him, and yet he turned 

Its edge on Perez. In the Spanish host 

No swordsman hath the skill of him who now 

Hath challenged thee. Seven combats hath he 


And ever victorious, he hath slain each foe, 
Or made him beg for life. So thou, so young, 
And so unskilled, Pedrarias hopes, wilt prove 
An easy victim to this master-hand. 
Alas! I fear his hopes may not prove false; 
But I will stay the conflict if I can." 
"In other days," I said, "I too have learned 
A little swordsmanship, though not for months 
Have I essayed it. I will meet this man 
If he still stands offended. Yet if thou 
Canst calm his foolish anger, I am pleased. " 

80 Hernando De Soto 

Hernandez left me. He returned ere long 

With a grave air. "Perez will not relent," 

He told me, "for the man is deeply stung, 

More by the viceroy's words than yours. Besides, 

Firmly assured of victory, he exults 

In dreams of new-won laurels at your cost. 

I argued with him earnestly: each time 

I showed his reasoning faulty, he would meet 

Mine answer with some new complaint. For one 

Who seeks another's downfall never lacks 

In reasons; and as fast as each proves false, 

He still invents new reasons endlessly." 

" Then let it be, " I said. "I like it not : 

The fault is his. But if we must, we must." 

And then Hernandez with a doleful sigh, 

Answered, "Yes, yes, my lad, we must. But still, 

Thou art so young and inexpert, while he, 

A skillful veteran, " "Be of cheer!" I laughed, 

"I am no suckling babe. He may yet rue 

The day he crossed me. At the worst, I die 

Only a few days ere the time assured. " 

We met next morning in a little glade 
Of the great forest near our city's walls. 
Though the hour was early, yet the tropic sun 
Glared fiercely. From the verdant boughs above 
Monstrous lianas hung with crimson blooms, 
And through the foliage startled parrots flew, 
Chattering and screaming. From the deep dark 


Of the vast woods beyond, ceaselessly whirred 
The buzz and chirp of myriad insects. Here 
A motley crowd had gathered, men and boys, 
Spaniards and Indians, peasants, cavaliers, 

Book V 81 

Idlers and vagabonds. Some climbed the trees, 

Crowding upon the limbs to find a place 

Best to observe the conflict. Perez came 

With Espinosa as his second, I 

With good Hernandez. Stripping to the waist, 

My foe upreared sinewy and muscular, 

With a gaunt arm outreaching mine. Yet still 

I was the younger, and in nimbleness, 

I thought, surpassed him. But I saw at once 

That the crowd favored Perez. Some through fear 

Either of him or of Pedrarias, 

Cheered when he came: still others, confident 

That he would prove triumphant, and desiring 

The good-will of the victor, shook his hand, 

And wished him good fortune. As I approached, 

Some urchins laughed and jeered. Young cavaliers, 

Brilliant in golden lace and scarlet sashes, 

Bowed to me stiffly. Even those who seemed 

To favor me, would gravely shake their heads, 

As if in pity at my certain fate. 

We fought with rapiers. Perez came with smiles, 
Easily confident. But as our swords 
Whistled and hissed, and flashed in fiery curves, 
With neither drawing blood, his look betrayed 
Vexation and amazement. Still time passed, 
And as the glittering weapons clicked and clashed, 
While yet his boy-antagonist fought on, 
He burned with fierce impatience. But at last, 
Sweating and panting, and reddening in the heat, 
Both of us reeled exhausted. "We will rest," 
He said, and I assented. Rising soon, 
Again we battled. In a little time, 
Losing my guard, his rapier, like a wasp, 


82 Hernando De Soto 

Stung my right arm: quickly the blood outstreamed, 
Though the wound was not deep : seeing the blood 
Drawn first by Perez, loudly the rabble cheered. 
He smiled with cynic pleasure, but his joy 
Betrayed him; for he lost his vigilance, 
And then I reached his shoulder with a gash 
Doubly avenging my own wound. Through rage 
We both became incautious ; soon each stood 
Streaming with blood from temple unto thigh. 
Wildly the rapiers circled round and round, 
Or darted forward, whining angrily 
Like maddened hornets. Closing in together, 
Near and still nearer, with one frenzied crash 
Sword smote on sword anigh the hilt, and then, 
Snapping apart, the slender blades were thrown, 
Whirling and singing through the air, to fall, 
Clanking, upon the ground afar. 

And now 

Hernandez rushed between us, crying, "Stay! 
Both are disarmed. Both knights have proved them 

Skillful and brave. Let them cease battling. Come : 
Let there be peace between them." But the crowd, 
Deeming this but a sign of weakness, jeered 
At the kind offer, and Perez himself, 
Vexed that a boy had proved his match, exclaimed, 
"Never! He wronged me, and must pay the cost. 
Bring us more swords." And so the swords were 

Still fiercer waxed the combat, as our blades 
Shivered and shocked together furiously. 
Perez grew wild with anger; seeing this, 

Book V 83 

I summoned all my prudence to my aid. 

His breath came hard, although his reddened eyes 

Showed unabated fury. Slowly now 

He weakened ; thrust on thrust I gave him, while 

His tilts I parried. We had fought two hours, 

And the crowd saw the untried youth had gained 

Point after point. So then the servile crew 

Ceased to deride and hoot me : by and by, 

A few even clared to cheer me. As the swords, 

Whizzing together, spat their sparks of fire, 

Breathless, the multitude watched on. In time 

His passes clacked and clacked against my steel 

As harmless as the beat of castanets. 

I reached his right arm with a forward lunge, 

So it dropped useless ; high in air his blade 

Flew round and round, then glittering in the sun, 

And sinking far beyond the shouting throng, 

Thumped to the ground. Now Perez, overcome, 

Staggered ; then like a slaughtered ox he fell. 

Some moments he lay motionless ; but soon, 

Lifting his head, he groaned. Putting my sword 

Unto his breast, "Beg for thy life!" I cried. 

"No, not from thee," he growled: "death would be 


Than a life owed to thee. Strike ! I flinch not. " 
"The life not worth the asking," I declared, 
"Is not worth taking." So I sheathed my sword, 
And strode away. And then the slavish crowd 
Followed me, loudly huzzahing. But I spurned 
These new-made friends, the courtier-swarms that 


To greet the favorite when Good Fortune smiles : 
Much do they love their monarch of an hour! 
They worship the success, and not the man. 

84 Hernando De Soto 

Divested of his peacock feathers of pride, 
The captain left our army, sailed for home, 
And never after was his sallow face 
Flushed by the flames of burning villages. 

Slowly the years passed. After many days 

Of toil and hardship I had saved a hoard 

To quit the old debt that my father owed 

The viceroy for our schooling. Then the whole, 

With ample usury, at last I paid. 

But though the old man loved the clink of gold, 

And though his eyes lit with a joyful gleam 

Of welcome to his ducats home again 

With all their duteous earnings, still he sighed, 

Like a slavemaster parting from his slave, 

To set me, with his full acquittance, free. 

Well knew he that the chain which galls the most, 

And binds the bondman surest, is of gold! 

Pedrarias and his spies through all these days 
Kept closest watch upon me; but in truth 
I was none faultier for their jealous gaze. 
Mine own life was not blameless, and their eyes, 
Forever on me, guarded me from deeds 
Which else had done scant justice to my fame. 

Although I love my friend, still let me yield 

This tribute to thy worth, mine enemy ! 

Unjust thou art, perchance, no doubt unkind, 

Yet much I owe to thee, stern monitor! 

Faults though thou hast, due honor shall be thine. 

Close, keen-eyed critic, oft thy scrutiny 

Hath made me blush defenceless, and in shame 

Turn from my darling idols. Thou hast set 

BooK V 85 

Full oft in paths of righteousness my feet, 

That else had wandered in forbidden ways, 

Lovely yet treacherous, and thy censure harsh 

Hath oft rebuked my days of dalliance 

In pleasant fields where pitfalls hid in flowers 

Awaited with their secret perils. Yea, 

Thy sneer hath been a sword to prod me on 

To duty; it hath been a goading spur 

To make me win a race I counted lost. 

Thy jeer hath oft aroused me till I swore 

To reach success despite thy prophecies 

Of my defeat; thy challenge, like a blast 

Of trumpets when the battle hangs in doubt, 

Hath nerved my hand to snatch the victor's wreath 

That else had never graced my brows. Again, 

Amidst my paeans sung by parasites, 

Thy frown from mien austere remindeth me 

That I am merely mortal, child of dust, 

Soon summoned unto strict account. Stern friend, 

Not thine to soothe with silken flatteries, 

Nor gloze with unctuous phrases ; it is thine 

To do much more to save me from myself I 

For many moons a fruitless warfare raged 

Between Pedrarias and a native chief, 

By name Uracca; this barbarian king, 

Resourceful and sagacious, foiled him well. 

One day the Christians strove in bloody fight 

Against the cohorts of this forest lord : 

I, with my band, had not yet joined the rest, 

But Espinosa with his cavalry 

Charged on the paynims, who fled terrified, 

For not one dusky brave in all that horde 

In all his days had seen a steed before. 

86 Hernando De Soto 

Soon were they still more terrified to hear 

The roar of muskets. But with cheering words, 

Uracca rallied them; scattered, they crouched 

In brushwood of a steep and rocky hill, 

Safeguarded by a rushing stream below. 

From ambush there, darts whistled and hissed and 


Till scores of brave Castilians strewed the field. 
Fiercely the sun blazed; fast from every pore 
The sweat came trickling. Tangling round their feet, 
Lianas threw our soldiers headlong. There, 
As the men struggled to rise, swift arrows flew, 
And pinned them to the ground. Shamefully then 
The rest took flight. As with my band I rode 
Toward the field of conflict, I beheld, 
For the first time, the horrors of battle. Men, 
Dusty, bareheaded, and splashed over with blood, 
Rushed by us, maddened with unmanly fright. 
Oft from the bodies of these hurrying wretches 
Bristled the feathered reeds whose flints had pierced 


Our horses reared and snorted as we passed 
Corses of other soldiers, whose glazed eyes, 
Wide-open, stared against the dazzling sun 
Unflinching, and whose mouths from ear to ear 
Stretched open likewise, as though even in death 
They shouted for help. Now still more thickly spread 
The victims of the battle. By the path, 
Tossing or kicking or throwing up their hands, 
Many strewed writhing in their agonies. 
Loud groans beseiged our ears. My frightened steed 
Shied as a wretch, directly in our path, 
Rose on one arm, shuddered, and then fell back, 
Dead as a block of stone. 

DooK V 87 

Beaten, but still 

Haughty as ever, Espinosa came 
Leading the rear. The wild barbarian host 
Followed him, fiercely shouting. "Come, my lads!" 
I cried, and then we charged the savages. 
Our firearms mowed their lines, and with our swords 
Whirling in fier^ circles round our heads, 
We rode amongst them, trampling underfoot 
Or hewing down the pagans who had dared 
To stand their ground. The others took to flight, 
Scampering about the field in scattered throngs. 
I galloped back to Espinosa. "Come," 
I said, "the day can yet be saved. Why not 
Return, and meet the heathen once again? 
We may sweep down their cohorts, if we rush 
Upon them ere they swim the stream, and scale 
The height again." But though I had saved his 


He hated me the more for thus deserving 
His gratitude. He eyed me sullenly, 
Answering, " Follow my orders. Thou shouldst know 
Thy duty is obedience, not command. " 
So saying, he persisted in retreat. 

Pedrarias took the field himself, but strove 
In vain to force Uracca to his terms. 
The wary Indian, shunning open war, 
Ambushed and smote our troopers: day by day, 
Still greater inroads on our strength he made. 
So then, crestfallen at his plans gone wrong, 
The viceroy let his dreams of conquest die. 
I sought Pedrarias, and I said, "Our troops 
Murmur at orders to retreat. My lord, 
Let me but lead with chosen cavalry 

88 Hernando De Soto 

Into the enemy's country, and we yet 

Our losses may retrieve. Let us but go, 

And if we win, you win. But if we lose, 

We will bear all the obloquy alone. " 

The tyrant scowled upon me, thundering, "No! 

I am a veteran; thou a callow boy; 

What knowest thou of plans of warfare? Cease 

This constant intermeddling, and begone. " 

Now on his head our soldiers heaped the blame 

For all these late disasters: every tongue 

Acclaimed me for the counsels I had given 

To face the enemy, and win or lose. 

At this, the viceroy, stung with jealousy, 

Hated me more and more. And thus it was, 

Of past and future mindful, he resolved 

To send me on a mission far away 

With good Hernandez, whom he likewise hated, 

But who, as well he knew, mistrusting not 

The motives of the despot, would, like wax, 

Be moulded in obedience to his will. 

No sadder spectacle this life affords 

Than that it shows us when some good weak man 

Bends under the finger of some bad strong man! 

He called us to his presence : when we came 

Into his palace, we beheld him perched 

Before a table, in a little room 

Whose walls were hung with maps in red and green 

And yellow, threaded over here and there 

With lines of black or brown, showing the isles, 

The continents, mountains, rivers and seas 

Of this new western world. Still other maps 

Lay spread before him. " I have called you here, " 

BooK V 89 

He said, "to take your new commands. Of late 

From Nicaragua comes an urgent cry 

For succor from us. I have raised a fleet 

To bear you thither. There you land your force, 

And take possession for the Spanish king. 

Now, Gil Gonsalez, an adventurer, 

The leader of a wild marauding band, 

Deserters from the ranks in Mexico, 

Hath overrun that country, sea to sea. 

Ye are commanded to disperse his horde, 

And make the realm a colony of Spain: 

Ye likewise are commanded to explore 

In Guatemala and in Yucatan, 

Noting their harbors, rivers, roads and towns, 

Their tribes, the modes of warfare of those tribes, 

And all things that our lord, the king, should know 

To conquer and to rule the realms. " So now 

I was again to go in banishment. 

Pedrarias feared my stay in Darien 

Would bring me added strength to shake his power, 

And knowing well the dangers of those lands 

Where he now sent me, hoped ere many days 

To greet the welcome tidings of my death. 

Leaving his presence, all my discontent, 
Unrest and apprehension at this change, 
I muttered to Hernandez. "Come, my lad," 
He answered in his easy, trustful way, 
"Submit. Better it is, as thou shalt learn, 
Now, in thy youth, to know adversity, 
Hardship and suffering, than to meet them first 
In thy late manhood. Should the fruit-tree brave 
Hoarfrost and bleak winds in the early year, 
Later it buds and blooms and bears its fruit 

90 Hernando De Soto 

In safety. But if south winds and the sun 
Lure it to flowering ere its season comes, 
Belated gusts of winter sweep at last, 
Nipping the blossom and the unborn fruit. 
Better that early frost than empty boughs 
Or blighted clusters at the gathering-time 
In Summer and in Autumn!" 

So he droned 

His consolations in mine ear. Next morn 
He marched us to our ships, and we set sail, 
A tiny, motley crew, for northern realms. 

These neighboring kingdoms unto Darien 

Are haunts of terror and sublimity. 

Gigantic forests clothe gigantic peaks, 

And like prodigious emerald necklaces 

Surround great lakes of brilliant sapphire blue: 

Around these lakes the fierce volcanoes rise, 

Like fell, ferocious Titans, thunder-scarred. 

Some belch their black smoke like a cy clops' forge, 

Some blot out heaven with sombre ashen clouds, 

Some spatter boiling rivers down their seams, 

Some vomit lava in a crimson flood, 

And some hurl white-hot rocks and fiery dust. 

They shout in thunder and they glare in flame, 

And as they quiver in their awful wrath, 

The whole world, like a child, shrinks back in fear, 

And trembles with terrific earthquake throes. 

Bells toll in steeples where no human hand 
Puts forth to ring them; great cathedral walls 
Come crashing down to the ground, and overwhelm 
Under their ruins frantic multitudes 

DooK V 91 

Whose shrieks they smother into silence. Birds 

Are stifled by the ashes and the fumes, 

And fall like dead leaves headlong from the skies. 

Wild beasts forsake their highland fastnesses 

In rocky dens and caverns, or their lairs 

Amidst the jungle's deep untrodden glooms, 

Trembling with terror, and into homes of men 

Creep tamed and whining. Everlasting hills 

Seem sick men writhing in convulsive spasms : 

The mountains rock and quiver : ocean-waves 

Dash wildly on the promontory's brow. 

Keen lightnings round the lofty craters glitter: 

The sun turns red, grows murky, disappears. 

With wrench on wrench and frightful quake on quake 

The heavens and the earth seem gulfed together. 

Stupendous chasms yawn; in awful pangs 

The hoarse- voiced subterranean thunder roars ; 

Explosion on explosion rends the peaks 

With great concussions that the mariner 

Feels on his bark an hundred leagues at sea. 

Amidst the din of houses tumbling down, 

The sickening shocks, the suffocating dust, 

And the deep darkness veiling earth and heaven, 

Women and men, bewildered, agonized, 

And lifting feeble rushlights in their hands, 

Rush to and fro, crying the names of friends 

Now lost or dead. But through that sulphurous pall 

Their tapers glimmer but a cubit's length, 

And none can find his comrade. On their heads 

They scatter dust, or on their shoulders bear 

The weight of heavy crosses for their sins. 

And quivering through that midnight of despair, 

One hears the deep-toned chanting of the priest, 

While frenzied mortals, barefoot, grimed with soot, 

92 Hernando De Soto 

In rags and tatters, with disheveled hair, 
With white lips, and with wild distended eyes, 
Delirious in their madness, supplicate, 
And shriek to God to save them from their doom. 

Then often in eruption, peak to peak 
Seems to respond with human sympathy; 
Like blind and wounded giants racked with pains, 
Chained down with Satan in the lakes of fire, 
Each calls his comrade, and each answers each, 
Lamenting in the agonies of hell. 

Among the ancient forests there are trees 

Whose age none know but God and angels; yet 

Their hoary years are but as morns of youth 

To those of ruins they have overgrown. 

Here stand gray columns of old palaces 

Enormous in their girth, of towering height, 

Where kings and queens reigned in forgotten times, 

And spoke in mystic, long-forgotten tongues, 

Of old forgotten hates, forgotten loves, 

Forgotten glories, griefs and pains and joys. 

Here banquet chambers rear their marble walls ; 

Their moss-grown tablets, carved with signs unknown, 

Seem ever striving helplessly to speak, 

And tell us of the shining, splendid deeds 

Done in their day, when ancient Earth was young. 

Here lift poetic temples in decay, 

Where stately shrines of unremembered gods 

Await in vain the smoke of sacrifice, 

The votive chaplet and the suppliant's knee. 

The great, strange, awful idols seem to stare, 

Majestic in displeasure and surprise, 

Because no flock, nor herd, is ever brought 

BooK V 93 

To stain their lichened altars red with blood, 

And never comes a warrior armed and plumed, 

To pray for victory c^ the battlefield, 

Nor maid to beg a lover, nor a wife 

Imploring that they open up her womb. 

The patient ants creep through their sightless eyes, 

And the birds nest within their ruined mouths. 

In these wild regions, through the years to come 
We were to face the savage bow and spear 
At every mountain pass ; here we should brave 
The fang of beast and serpent in the depths 
Of every jungle. Here the earth should quake 
Beneath us, and the heights rain fire above. 
Here we should front the strongest foe of man, 
Nature, stern Nature, armed with tenfold power 
In this, her strongest stronghold of the world. 

Though meek and pious, yet Hernandez lacked 

In martial force and ardor. To our faith 

He sought to lead the savage: in his train 

Swarmed priests and friars : laying the sword aside, 

Long hours he spent in fasting and in prayer. 

Gonsalez, like a wily Pharisee, 

Aped all the virtues that so graced the life 

Of our own leader, and eclipsed his fame 

For pious deeds. But like some glowing fruit, 

Crimson and golden, good to view, and yet 

With a worm hidden in its rotting heart, 

His pomp of piety, brilliant without, 

Proved but the foulness, not the wholesomeness, 

Of that within. Christening in one short year 

Some two-score thousand naked savages, 

He at the same time eased them of their gold. 

94 Hernando De Soto 

A glorious booty from their hands he wrung: 
With toys and trinkets, buttons, beads or knives, 
Brass ear-rings, cheap and gaudy handkerchiefs, 
He bartered for their goblets, cups and rings, 
Or chains and bracelets, wrought of solid gold: 
Truly his piety and love of pelf 
Joined hands, and worked together for his good! 

Hernandez bade me seek Gonsalez out, 

Demanding that his lawless rule should end. 

With fifty men I reached a little town, 

Torebo it was called, camped for the night, 

And knowing that Gonsalez not afar 

Was lurking, I resolved, when morning came, 

To seek and find him. In the skies that night 

A full moon floated radiant, till a cloud, 

Vasty and black, like a great dragon, rose, 

Seeming to swallow in its monstrous jaws 

The splendent silvery orb. Gonsalez then, 

Taking advantage of the treacherous gloom, 

Attacked us with an overwhelming horde. 

Roused from our sleep, we charged them: lifting 


And smiting with our sabres right and left, 
We drove them in a howling pack before us. 
Confused, confounded, stumbling through the dark, 
They fought and slew each other, raging wild. 
Gonsalez, facing sure defeat, now set 
The snares to trip my feet again. He knew 
That other followers soon would come to aid him, 
And so, to filch a little time, he cried, 
"Peace, peace! I charge you, in the king's name, 

I then rode near him, and demanded, "Why 

DooK V 95 

Disturbest thou thy monarch's provinces?" 

"I am a loyal subject,'' cried he: "all 

My deeds were done in service of the crown; 

Legions of natives have I baptized ; realms 

And subjects have I brought to Church and State." 

Now in the distance I could faintly hear 

Shouts, and I noted, by the torches' glare, 

That false Gonsalez pricked his ears, alert, 

So, when the shouts repeated, nearer grown, 

He answered with an anxious cry. Ere long, 

Galloping hoofs we heard, and then, like a storm, 

The dastard's other troopers rushed among us, 

Two hundred Indians, fifty men of Spain. 

Then, like some master-actor on the stage, 

Who in one moment doffs one character, 

And takes another, differing afar, 

The shrewd arch-traitor in one instant changed, 

So I scarce knew him for the selfsame man. 

"We have them now!" he thundered; "kill the dogs! 

On, on! Down with the traitors ! Seize them all !" 

They rushed upon us ; soon was heard the clash 

Of brand that shattered brand, of battle-axe 

That smote on ringing armor; by our ears, 

Like flying serpents sped the steely darts, 

Angrily hissing. Through the tenfold gloom 

The firearms flashed red lightnings, while their roar, 

Like the deep bay of bloodhounds in pursuit 

Of some affrighted creature, through the hills 

Rumbled and echoed with redoubled fury. 

Outnumbered seven to one, fiercely we fought, 

But vainly: for our men on foot they seized, 

Binding them fast as prisoners : then they rushed 

Upon me and my cavaliers, and sought 

96 Hernando De Soto 

To drag us from our horses. But we swung 
Our swords about us manfully, and hacked 
And hewed the arms and hands they laid upon us, 
So the rogues yelled with pain, and fled, or fell 
Mangled, to writhe beneath the horses' hoofs. 
Thus, drenched with blood, a fearful lane we cut 
Through the wild shrieking, struggling multitude, 
And spurred our steeds in safety from the field. 

Ere noon, I sought Hernandez : earnestly 

I begged him for another force, to smite 

The craven who had shown such treachery. 

Hernandez, vacillating still, refused; 

Vexed though I was, what could I do but yield? 

But now Gonsalez stood in evil plight ; 

With the dead lay his hundred bravest men. 

Ceasing his bandit warfare, soon he fled, 

A hunted outlaw, unto Mexico; 

There he was captured; sent to Spain in bonds, 

Before the twelve month's end, disgraced, he died. 

From sun to sun I went about my task 
To win Hernandez undisputed sway. 
Success came quickly; all our hopes were blest: 
Two towns, Leon, and next, Granada, rose 
By the land-locked shores of Nicaraguan lakes. 
There hardy Spanish settlers flocked in time: 
From Darien wandered many, to escape 
The harsh oppression of its despot's rule. 

Now in these days insistent rumors rose, 
Which whispered that Pedrarias, having lost 
The favor of the king, was doomed to fall, 
And that a new viceroy had sailed from Spain 

BooK V 97 

To dispossess him. Hearing all these things, 
Pedrarias then determined to sail North, 
Depose Hernandez, seize the reins himself, 
Deny us credit for the good achieved, 
Claim as his own the harvest of our toils, 
And so regain his royal master's grace. 

These tidings reached mine ears, and so in haste 

I sought Hernandez. At his much-loved work 

I found him, teaching youthful savages 

The doctrines of our faith. I told him all 

That I had heard, warning him anxiously. 

He listened in amaze, and then he asked, 

"Why should he wish to wrong me? Have I not 

Been ever faithful to our lord, the King? 

Hath not my rule been just and mild? Do not 

The natives love me? Have not thousands come 

And knelt at the altars of our holy church? 

Friend am I not of every man of Spain? 

Why should the viceroy wish to do me harm?" 

"Not duty left undone, but duty done, 

Raises up enemies for the righteous man, " 

I answered him. "Bethink thee, how this wretch 

Ever hath proved the foe of innocence! 

O, thou art blindly trustful: let thine eyes 

Be opened. If thy life is dear to thee, 

Good friend, I beg thee, be upon thy guard. " 

He answered, half impatient, "Come, my lad, 

Thy love for me hath made thee overzealous. 

My hero of Torebo is too rash : 

Thy youthful ardor curb: all will be well." 

Thereat he waved his hand and turned away. 

Calling a friar and an Indian boy, 

He opened a book, and in a little while 


98 Hernando De Soto 

His pious labors were resumed. I chafed 
And fretted, but stood powerless. So then, 
Seeing my warnings held for naught, I watched 
The viceroy's movements with an anxious heart. 

At last Pedrarias came; around him thronged 

A ravenous crew of desperate buccaneers, 

Who, having left all Darien despoiled, 

Sought now to forage in another field. 

Hernandez, learning this, hastened at once 

To meet the viceroy; but he went alone, 

I being retarded by some trivial call. 

He reached the square of Leon ; there, amazed, 

He saw a motley crowd assembled. Lo ! 

High on a dais, in a massive chair, 

He spied Pedrarias : guards, armed heavily, 

Were thronged around him : further from his chair, 

Headed by Espinosa, as of old, 

Were gathered desperadoes, vagabonds, 

And all the hard-faced vandals of his horde. 

Close to the viceroy, by a wooden block, 

There stood a headsman of gigantic size, 

With a hideous face, a thick and brutal neck, 

And monstrous hairy arms and hands, that wielded 

A great sword that Goliath might have swayed. 

Around all these, a crowd of natives packed, 

With gaping, frightened Spaniards of the town. 

Now, as Hernandez came upon the scene, 
"Look, look!" the minions of Pedrarias yelled; 
"There is Hernandez! seize the traitor! seize him!" 
Then Espinosa, leader of the band, 
Laid hold upon Hernandez, and he dragged 
The good commander to the viceroy's chair. 

DcoK V 99 

"Thou art a traitor to the King, and now 

Thy life is forfeit!" cried Pedrarias. 

Hernandez, dazed and bewildered, scarce could 


But gently faltered, "Who accuses me? 
Have I not served the King through a long life 
Of dangers and distress? Have I not laid 
This province at his feet? Have I not brought 
Great throngs of natives to our holy church? 
Who dares accuse me? I am innocent!" 
But now Pedrarias yelled, "Guards, seize that man! 
Come, let the headsman end the traitor's days!" 
They dragged the good man to the headsman's 


The hideous giant pulled him by the neck 
Up to his side, and with a sudden stroke 
Smote off the captive's head; he twisted then 
His hairy fingers into the gory locks, 
And held on high the severed head, its mouth 
Still gasping, and its arteries spurting blood. 
"Behold! This is the traitor's doom!" he roared 
With a hoarse and husky voice. The multitude 
Sickened with horror ; men of stoutest heart 
Turned from the sight, or covered up their eyes, 
Groaning in mingled anguish and dismay. 

That very time I rode upon the square. 
I looked, and lo! by that gigantic arm 
Upheld aloft, I saw Hernandez's head, 
Dripping with blood ; I saw the staring eyes 
And the distended mouth. I saw the trunk, 
Decapitated at the headsman's feet, 
And drenched in gore. With agony my heart 
Hung frozen. In one moment countless thoughts 

ioo Hernando De Soto 

Surged through my brain. I paused at first, aghast, 

Numb with repulsion at the horrid sight ; 

Then, as I scanned my poor friend's mangled corse, 

Mine eyes with pity melted : he, whose lips 

Had never spoken aught but ruth and love, 

Whose hand had never even wronged a mouse, 

Or harmed a beetle, at this despot's word 

Had died a felon's death ! Then wild with rage, 

I drew my sword, and spurred toward the place 

Where sat Pedrarias, gloating over the scene. 

The tyrant saw me coming, and he cried, 

"Here is another traitor! Seize him, guards; 

Dismount him, bind him, and then bring him here 

Before me!" But I quickly drew my sword, 

And standing in my stirrups, answered him, 

"They dare not!" Still, his bandit minions came, 

Seeking to drag me down. One laid his hand 

Upon my bridle, but my sabre flashed, 

Cleaving his head from temple unto chin. 

The rest, affrighted, madly crowded back. 

Still Espinosa sought to bar my way: 

I rode upon him, and my horse's hoofs 

Struck him to earth: I left him choked with dust, 

Sputtering and cursing. When their leader fell, 

Like foul hyenas all the henchmen fled, 

Leaving a roadway to Pedrarias' chair. 

Waving my sword, quickly I spurred my horse 

Toward the tyrant. Then the headsman ran, 

And so I faced Pedrarias all alone. 

My sword I pointed at his face, and cried, 

"Thou wretch, thou caitiff! I should end forever 

Thy scroll of shame. But I will spare thy life 

Because of one, thou knowest whom. I leave 

Thy service from this hour. But plot no more 

BooK V 101 

Against me. For if thou shouldst seek again 
My life, thine own is forfeit." White with fear, 
He made no answer. So I rode away, 
He and his crew molesting me no more. 


De Soto's Narrative Continued Micer Codro, the Italian As 
trologer His friendship for De Soto De Soto saves his 
life The horoscope of Balboa and De Soto Codro bears 
a letter from De Soto to Isabel, and returns with her answer 
The Astrologer's prophecy De Soto's death on the banks 
of a Great River foretold The Great Nation of which De 
Soto was to be the forerunner, predicted Its wonderful Arts 
and Inventions Mediaeval wizardry surpassed Flight on 
winged steeds Chaining the lightnings The Channel cut 
from sea to sea The new Nation's services to Humanity 
The New Crusade Nobler orders of Knighthood and Chiv 
alry Uplifting the poor Martyrs to Science Combat of 
the Knight with the three dragons Parting of De Soto and 
Codro The fate of Codro at the hands of Valenzuela, who, 
in turn, is called to account. 

A MONO the many strange adventurers 
JT\ Who came to see the new world, there was 


Noteworthy for his learning over all. 
His name was Micer Codro. 17 He was born 
In Venice, queen of cities of the world, 
Rearing her towers above the old gray sea, 
That folds her fondly to his mighty breast, 
And loves her as the bridegroom loves his bride. 

The pebbles and the minerals and the gems, 
The flowers and trees, the insects and the birds, 
And all the beasts that roamed the wild, he knew. 


DooK VI 103 

He watched the sun and moon, and each eclipse, 
Long years before it fell, his books foretold: 
He studied the secrets of the mystic tides 
Which rise and make obeisance to those orbs : 
But best of all he loved to read the stars, 
And learn their import in the fates of men. 

A gaunt, ungainly man he was, and tall, 
With clumsy feet that plodded awkwardly. 
With downcast eyes, fixed ever on the earth, 
Save when he studied sun, or moon or star, 
Forever gesturing, talking to himself, 
In dreams he roved, forgetful of the world. 
To science wed, men's ways he never learned, 
But innocent and credulous, he moved 
As helpless as a little child. Though all 
The mines of knowledge he possessed in fee, 
He scarce could earn his daily bread ; always 
Distrustful of himself, he leaned for aid 
On stronger shoulders than his own ; poor soul ! 
Though he could cast another's horoscope, 
All men could dupe him and all men deceive. 

Balboa once had been his friend: when death 
Deprived him of that patron, still he roved 
With the Castilian troops in Darien. 
All wondered at his learning, and in awe 
Whispered of magic arts, whereby he read 
The future as the past : yet all would smile 
To see his homely figure, and his gait 
Awkward and trudging, as he passed them by 
With down-bent head, with far-abstracted air, 
Muttering and murmuring ever to himself. 
Yet they all loved him in their roughshod way; 

104 Hernanclo De Solo 

No enemies he knew, and every man 

For Codro would have fought had foe appeared. 

When first I disembarked in Darien, 

We met, and often afterward our fates 

Threw us together : so our friendship grew. 

Strangely he moved me, for he gave to me 

At that first greeting, all his confidence, 

With childhood's simple and implicit faith. 

Yet never did the sage take note of me 

In passing by, save when I shook his arm 

To rouse him; but when roused, his loving eyes 

Would beam with joy to rest upon my face. 

A rambling little hovel was his home, 

And here he showed me countless bits of stone, 

Nuggets and crystals, grime-encrusted ores, 

Assorted plants and leaves and roots and seeds, 

With mummied beetles, pin-pricked butterflies, 

Stuffed birds and snakes and frogs, and everything 

Within this world that creeps or swims or flies, 

Yet destined in that dusty sepulchre 

Never to creep or swim or fly again. 

He followed still our marches everywhere, 
Collecting curious things along the way, 
And, often wandering far beyond the lines, 
Stood in great peril from the lurking foe. 
One day we reckoned Codro with the lost ; 
This time he ventured further from the camp 
Than ever before ; we waited in suspense 
From hour to hour, until the sun sank low, 
Yet still he came not. With an anxious heart, 
I mounted on my steed, and took the path 
The sage had followed, calling out his name. 

DooK VI 105 

At last, near sunset, I espied him, gripped 
By two strong savages, who dragged him on, 
Writhing and balking and struggling to be free, 
While two more savages, to make him haste, 
Prodded him from the side. I could but smile, 
Though mindful of his danger and distress, 
To see his wide-rent hose, his dusty shoon, 
And his loose, badly-fitting doublet, torn 
Into a drooping rag. But in his hands, 
Despite the mockery of the savages, 
And in despite of all his desperate fears, 
Grimly he clutched his precious specimens, 
A beetle and a lizard and a bird ! 

I fired my musket; so the Indians turned 
And saw me coming ; that astounding noise, 
And the dread sight of horseman and of horse, 
Drove all the barbarous captors off in terror. 
My coming snatched him from a tragic fate: 
So, having saved him, from that fateful hour 
His love for me surpassed afar the love 
Felt by the father for his only son, 
His first-born, and the last of all his race. 

I learned that Codro once in bygone years, 
Had cast Balboa's horoscope. 18 They said 
He had then told the sea-discoverer 
That at the age of two-and-forty years 
A fateful act would come to pass, whereby 
The drama of his wild, romantic life 
Would reach a triumph or a tragedy; 
That then his natal stars in war would strive 
To yield him all the glory of the world, 
Or sink him, reft of laurels, to the grave. 

106 Hernando De Soto 

Balboa, ere this prophecy was made, 

Had been the first of all the Christian world 

To view the Sea of seas, and so he dreamed 

That higher fortune waited still. But lo! 

Within a little while Pedrarias 

Entrapped, and then condemned him : thus he went 

To face the headsman ere that year was done. 

Now Codro begged to cast my horoscope; 

I smiled and gave him leave. Within an hour, 

Returning with a grave and anxious air, 

Shuddering, he whispered, "Son, thy horoscope, 

As once Balboa's did, shows that thy stars, 

When thou shalt live to two-and-forty years, 

Will bring thee greater honors, or lead on 

Unto disaster and defeat, perchance 

To death. " Great Chieftain, ere two years pass by, 

That age I reach: I know not what shall then 

Befall me. Yet but little stress I lay 

On these old- woman stories; for I hold 

That every man who is indeed a man, 

Carries his own fate in his own strong hands, 

That none can bring him honor save himself, 

And no one can debase him save himself. 

But Codro, seeing that I smiled to note 
His strange forebodings, added, "Son, haste not 
To spurn the message of the stars : nor think 
That Nature moves haphazardly. For life, 
And all this world, the sun, the moon and stars, 
Move on with method and design. Behold 
This vast creation; though all seems to thee 
Confusion on confusion, ponder well, 
And thou shalt find the whole harmonious, 

Book VI 107 

Teaching thee secrets undisclosed before. 

Hast thou beheld the swarming snow-flakes whirl 

In the wild Norland tempest? They may seem 

To careless eyes but formless powdery dust, 

But scanned more keenly, every tiny flake 

Becomes a lovely pure- white star. Look thou 

On the thick leaves in some deep wilderness: 

All seem to flutter in wild anarchy, 

From law and order free ; but peer again, 

And thou shalt find them formed and ranked by 


Heart-shaped, spear-shaped, alternate or opposed. 
Behold the peacock's glittering train, outspread 
In the bright morning sun ! All seems at first 
Dazzling disorder in those glorious plumes: 
But look more closely: all those purple eyes 
Are scattered through the green symmetrically, 
Not carelessly, at random, for they curve, 
Each lined with the other, arc on perfect arc, 
Circle on perfect circle. So, my son, 
The heavenly orbs move not by blinded chance, 
But true to mystic laws, which, studied well, 
Are found harmonious with all truths in life, 
Revealing plans of God and fates of men." 

Pedrarias in these days was racked with fears 
At rumors of his downfall. So he penned 
Long, earnest letters for the Spanish court, 
One to the king himself, others to friends 
Who basked in sunshine of the royal smile, 
Entreating that his honors might be spared. 
He looked about him for a messenger. 
All men he feared and hated ; and all men 
Hated and feared him in return; whom, now, 

IO8 Hernando De Soto 

Might he confide in? Codro came to mind. 
The sage, he knew, was faithful ; but again, 
His awkward bearing and uncourtly speech, 
His childish ignorance of all worldly guile, 
The far abstraction of his errant thoughts, 
His day-dreams, and absorbing reveries, 
Barred him from use in such a weighty mission. 
Yet pondering over many schemes, at length 
One pleased him. Sealing all his letters fast 
In one great parcel, he directed that 
Unto a trusted friend at court in Spain. 
So now he sent for Codro, and he drawled, 
"Old comrade, I would have thee sail for Spain, 
Taking this parcel to a friend : thy task 
Will end there ; this alone I ask of thee, 
Safely to bear it to that friend. For he 
Will understand his duty, and himself 
Will take the burden of all further cares. " 
The old man, overjoyed to see again 
The prospect of a journey home, at once 
Gladly assented: soon was set the day 
Whereon his vessel was to sail. So thus 
Pedrarias found a messenger whose faith 
He doubted not, yet whose unworldly ways 
Would not debar him from the trust ; for soon 
The old man's task would end, and then the cause 
Would rest in surer and in stronger hands. 

Through all these loveless years not even one word, 
Written or whispered, from mine Isabel 
Had cheered me. Though I oft had written her, 
Naught from my pen, I felt, had reached her, since 
Each missive bound for Spain had first to pass 
Under the viceroy's eye. Often I thought 

Booh. VI 109 

She too had written, but Pedrarias 

Had filched and burned her precious messages. 

I knew not if the maiden still were true, 

And I would ask myself, "Is she still mine? 

Or, threatened and deceived, hath she been forced, 

With sighs and sobs, to wed another?" Then, 

As I reproached myself for doubting her, 

It seemed her gentle spirit hovered near, 

Like a sweet odor from some flower unseen, 

And I would wonder (for I knew not), what 

Had been the damsel's fate. So I oft cried, 

"O Spirit, dost thou come from the warm realms 

Of gladsome, glowing life, or dost thou flit 

From dark and chilly dungeons of the tomb? 

Come, tell me, tell me, Isabel, my sweet, 

Hath the grave claimed thee? Or have cloister-cells 

Immured thee as the bride of Christ? O love, 

Haste not to join the seraph throngs on high, 

Nor yet those saintly ones, who, living still, 

Look only upward, on the world to come! 

For though the lilied vales of Paradise 

Whiter and sweeter for thee, love, would be, 

Angels could better spare thee than ourselves, 

Who would so miss thee from our darkened scenes: 

Heaven may desire thee, but earth needs thee more!" 

Now, when I learned of Codro's voyage home, 
I sought him, and I begged him for his aid. 
"O, I rejoice," he cried, "to prove myself 
Still mindful of thy service in the past. 
Give me the letter : it shall reach her hands, 
And hers alone." I hastened to my tent, 
And scrawled the missive with a trembling quill, 

IIO Hernando De Soto 

Declaring that my heart had never changed, 
That never would I choose another bride, 
And swearing by the powers of earth and heaven, 
Some day to come and claim her for mine own. 

"Dear, how I long to see you!" so I wrote. 

"What dreary years have passed since that sad night 

Whereon we parted! My dejected heart, 

As cheerless as a dull December cloud, 

Awaits you as that sombre cloud awaits 

The sun whose beams alone its chilly gray 

Can change to purple and to golden splendor. 

Yet, sweetest, though a thousand leagues away, 

I grope obscure, neglected, overlooked, 

And uncompanioned save by Poverty, 

Be sure that fame and fortune shall be wooed 

To bless us. So, be patient. Though my lot 

Be lowly, bonnibel! despise it not. 

For out of these surroundings, poor and mean, 

Shall burgeon fairer things. Loathe not the worm 

That gives the gorgeous butterfly its birth : 

When thou delightest in the queenly rose, 

Scorn not the sordid root from which it grew." 

I sealed the letter with an ardent kiss, 

And placed it in my dear old Codro's hands. 

He sailed next morn, and a whole year went by 
Ere his return. Through all these weary days 
That lengthened with his absence, eagerly 
And anxiously I waited ; oftentimes, 
Vexed with a wild impatience, I would rove 
The sea-beach by the dark, unrestful sea, 
Scanning the far horizon for his sail, 
But still in vain. Time plodded slothfully, 

BooK VI in 

As though the long moons were millenniums. 
At last, however, far away at sea, 
We spied his good ship, coming home. 

When first 

His vessel gained the port, I reached the deck 
And threw mine arms around him. Joyously 
And tenderly he greeted me in turn, 
Placing my true love's letter in my hand. 
With eager, trembling hands I broke the seal, 
Devoured the lines with hurried, hungry eyes, 
And panted in an ecstacy of joy : 
My heart soared, larklike, unto heaven: thank God! 
She still was living, she was still unwed, 
And still she loved me over all the world ! 
"Mine own," she wrote, "thy letter bore to me 
A bosomful of gladness. Yet it seemed 
So long before it came ! And longer still, 
I fear, the time will be ere we shall meet 
Once more. Ah me! The swallow comes with 


With autumn flies, and with the spring returns : 
The bud becomes a lily, withers, dies, 
Moulds in its grave, becomes a bud again: 
The orange bough hangs white with odorous blooms, 
Sheds the sweet blossoms, bends with golden fruit, 
And when the fruit falls, wreathes again in flowers: 
These come and go, and yet thou comest not! 
I yearn to see thee as the exile yearns 
To see his native land: I pine for thee 
As the slave pines for liberty : I long 
To greet thee as the shipwrecked sailor longs 
To greet the far-off sail: and I desire 
To clasp thee, love, as the dispurpled king 

112 Hernando De Soto 

The crown he lost desires to wear again. 

O love! Speed if thou canst, thy homeward steps, 

As thou didst promise in the long ago!" 

The dear old man then told me all his news: 
Maria now had joined a sisterhood; 
But Isabel herself had sworn to him 
Never to take the veil, and never to wed 
Till I should come from lands beyond the sea 
To claim her as the maiden of my choice. 
Quoth then the ancient with a sportive air, 
Yet cunning, "Thou must not be jealous, boy, 
But when I left, she kissed me, and avowed 
That next to thee, she loved me best of all!" 

Unhappily, my poor ambassador 

Had not been wary. With suspicious eyes 

A groom had watched him; then, his mission learned, 

The lackey wrote Pedrarias, blabbing all. 

The tyrant first concealed his rage in smiles, 

Well knowing that I soon would take my way 

To alien scenes in the far northern realms, 

When Codro would be helpless in his hands. 

Ah, well do I remember that last eve 

We spent together! Little did he dream, 

The old astrologer who read the stars, 

And learned the fate my future held concealed, 

That his own doom impended, and that never, 

O never, should we meet again! We stood 

Alone upon a cliff that overlooked 

The southern seas ; below, we heard the roll 

Of never-resting billows, as they foamed 

And fretted at the unresisting sands. 

BooK VI 113 

Westward, a lonely promontory loomed 
With black and slender silhouetted palms 
Against a brilliant blood-red afte glow. 
Ah, brief, brief twilight of the tropics! soon, 
Like human hopes, thy colors were to fade! 

Above the sunset glow, in limpid skies 

Of pale and tender green, one dewy star 

Was palpitating all alone. Beneath 

The solemn grandeur of those evening skies, 

And seeming yet to mingle with it, rose 

The tall, gaunt figure of the hoary seer. 

Homely he seemed no longer, for his face, 

Grave and prophetic, stilled my heart with awe: 

His eyes burned through the darkness, and his tones 

Seemed echoes of the far-off murmuring seas. 

Our thoughts had long been serious; over us 

Vast gloomy pinions seemed to hover. Dread 

The future seemed. I felt some mighty Change 

Was now at hand a Change to other scenes, 

To other lives, to other worlds. Enthralled, 

With half -suspended heart, with quivering lips 

Though speechless, and with pulses beating low, 

I hearkened as the sage addressed me thus: 

" In yonder quivering star, on yesternight 

I glimpsed thy fate. Later, when slumber came, 

In dreams thy future passed before mine eyes. 

I saw thee stand beside a lordly river, 

That flowed in epic grandeur to the sea, 

The sovran of all streams of all the world. 

Above thee, lofty forest-trees upreared 

Their leafy coronals; gnarled, twisted boughs 

Hung ghostly banners of funereal moss 


H4 Hernando De Soto 

In sombre tatters. On thy face I read 

Defeat and disappointment: all thy hopes 

Had perished. At thy side, a ragged horde, 

Wild-eyed, despairing, plagued by savages, 

Thy way-worn comrades stood. Oft would they snarl 

And grumble at thee, and their mutiny 

Was held in leash only by fear of thee, 

A fear well justified by the stern lines 

Cut deeply in thy strong, determined brow 

As with an acid. But that vision passed, 

And then a cold dead face I saw afar, 

It was thine own, Hernando ! Thou hadst died, 

And the great stream would be thy sepulchre. 

Within a casket cleaved from heart of oak 

They laid thee, mailed in knightly armor : over 

Thy stilly, pulseless breast they placed the Cross, 

And in thy pallid hands thy goodly sword. 

They took thee at the midnight, while the glare 

Of torches flickering through the solemn gloom 

Made the wild scene of burial wilder still, 

And then, as the priests chanted, and thy friends 

Raised lamentations unto God, they cast 

Thee, in thine oaken casket, into the depths; 

And there should be thy last long mortal home, 

Till thou shouldst hear, far down within those deeps, 

Announced by trumpets of the Last Great Day, 

The Angel of the Resurrection's call. 

But shudder not! In failing, thou hadst won; 

In losing, thou hadst gained a victory 

Well worth the struggles of a demigod. 

That stream shall be the life-blood artery 

Of a great nation, more august than Rome, 

Than Troy or Carthage, Thebes or Nineveh. 

Some day that nation shall declare with pride 

BooK VI 115 

That thou its temple's cornerstone didst lay; 
That for its sake into a watery grave 
Thou didst descend, a willing sacrifice 
For sake of countless millions yet unborn. 
Ah, never shall that land forget thy name! 
Rejoice, my son, to earn its endless praise! 

"What great achievements shall that people's be! 

Merlin shall be outdone, yea, at their deeds 

Merlin, the demon's son, shall shrink abashed, 

Confessing that his own black arts appear 

Beside them but the triflings of a child. 

The necromancers and enchanters famed 

In monkish tome or lay of troubadour, 

Shall find their sorceries despised : their sleights, 

Their tricks, their petty wonders, that amazed 

The gaping mediasval serf, now made 

A theme for jest, shall dupe the serf no more. 

The wizard, the warlock, and the sorcerer 

Who in dark ages played on the fears of men, 

Shall find their vaunted instruments of might 

Laughed at as baubles; so, discredited, 

The wonder-workers, followed by the jeers 

Of all mankind, shall slink from sight away. 

"They shall outstrip the estridge in his speed 
Through Afric deserts, and outdistance far 
The Alpine lammergeyer in his flight 
Above the peaks of everlasting snow. 
Yea! even the winged horse, the hippogriff, 
Which cleaved the clouds, a steed for errant knights, 
Those men shall bridle ; goaded by their spurs, 
That barb shall bear them safe through giddy skies, 
Defying Samiel and Euroclydon. 

Ii6 Hernando De Soto 

In those days shall the traveler bid the groom 

Bring forth his flying steed, as in these days 

A lady for her gentle palfrey calls, 

Caparisoned and pillioned for the hunt 

Behind the baying hounds. Their chariots 

Shall speed through subterranean galleries, 

With beds of mighty rivers overhead. 

The mountains shall they disembowel: so 

The daylight, like a scintillating spear, 

Shall keenly thrust its passage through : their cars 

Shall rumble like tornadoes underground. 

Yea! at this very spot, in years to come 

Those men shall cleave a mighty strait, wherethrough 

Their stately fleets may glide from sea to sea; 

Beyond us, through these mountains, there shall come 

Processions of gigantic ships, and lo, 

Uncounted barks shall ride where now we stand! 

"With lightnings they shall toy; their hands shall 


The vivid spark from stormy clouds, and then 
Shall send it back, recalling and returning 
To please their fancy. As the falconer 
With jess and varvel makes the hawk his slave, 
And holds it tethered, sends it forth, recalls, 
So shall they sport with thunderbolts of Jove. 
Gigantic Forces, shackled at their hest, 
Shall then become their helots, and shall do 
With multitudinous Briarean hands 
Of iron, labors that the cyclops' forge 
Achieved not, though the monstrous bellows blew 
As brawny Vulcan sweated, tugged and toiled 
To work it, and the white-hot focal flames 
Were fed by countless myrmidonian hordes. 

BooK VI 117 

"Ferocious though these Forces be, and mailed 
With might terrific, men shall drive them, tame, 
Like sheep before the shepherd to the fold, 
Or call them like a flock of homing doves 
To shelter in the dove-cote. Yet again 
They shall run errands like a bright-eyed page, 
Fair-haired, fleet-footed, glad to serve his lord. 

"Imprisoned sounds, beating at gilded bars, 
Shall then be made to sing like singing birds 
In golden cages hung on palace walls 
For joy of queens and high-born ladies. Yea ! 
Wonder on wonder ! with a human voice 
Their songs shall rise, as from a troubadour 
Imprisoned in a stony donjon-tower, 
Arise divine, soul-melting carolings. 

"At will of man, North, South, East, West, these 


Shall come and go, swift, sure and punctual, 
Yea, punctual as a lover at the tryst 
Appointed with his loved one at the gloam, 
When musky roses hang impearled with dews, 
And kindly shades and friendly favoring stars 
Hear sweet and secret vows they never tell. 

"Orlando and Rinaldo shall behold 

Their petty wonders set at naught. The scrolls 

Of superstition that record the tales 

Of Amadis and Tristram shall be thrust 

Forgotten into dusty vaults of Time. 

The deeds in flesh shall far surpass the deeds 

In fiction of the twelve high paladins 

Encircled round the throne of Charles the Great. 

Ii8 Hernando De Soto 

Lancelot with all his vaunted chivalry 
Shall be disdained. The battlemented heights 
Whereby he fought, a poet's flitting dream, 
Shall linger but in legend. Yea, so high 
Shall rise those Western towers, that Camelot, 
The fabled Camelot of Arthur's Court, 
Shall be a wonder of the world no more, 
A theme no longer in the speech of men, 
Forgotten save in half -forgotten tomes. 

"The boasted age of chivalry shall pass 

With all its feudal horrors. They who feigned 

The airs of gentleness and courtesy, 

No more shall sack the cities, nor again 

Lay waste the vineyards, strip the fields of corn. 

No more shall highways echo with the moans 

Of butchered peasant, or deflowered maid, 

By caitiff knighthood overcome. But now 

Shall be true knighthood, chivalry indeed. 

The yeoman shall no more with ox and swine 

Be herded; as a brother he shall be 

To prince and paladin ; a man to men. 

His child shall learn to read, to write, to think, 

And claim joint heirship with the child of peers 

Of all the newer, better world to come. 

"A new Crusade this people shall begin, 
Not to regain an empty sepulchre, 
But to set free the living Christ from thrall ! 
A crusade shall be waged against disease, 
Disease of body and of heart and head, 
Against oppression by the favored few, 
Against the superstitions of the mob, 
Against the bigotry of narrow sects, 

BooK VI 119 

Against the darkness of benighted minds, 
Against uncleanness, filth of flesh or spirit, 
A crusade that shall free the souls of men ! 

"No longer shall Man seek to please vain gods 

With blood of lowing heifers, bleating lambs, 

On smoking altars ; but his heart shall turn 

Toward his fellow-mortals, and his gifts, 

No longer wasted upon shadows, then 

Shall gladden his brothers in the flesh. The old, 

The poor, the lame, the deaf, the dumb, the blind, 

Shall find a refuge fitted to their needs : 

Asylums for the orphan shall be reared : 

Hospitals shall stand open for the sick. 

Libraries shall become the temples, where 

Man's intellect communion sweet shall hold 

With saints of Science, Poetry and Art. 

The poorest laborer in his humble cot 

Shall comforts know and luxuries enjoy 

Unguessed of old by kings in palaces. 

When that age comes, the strong man shall exult 

In lifting up the weak, as he now thrills 

To feel the vanquished slave beneath his foot. 

"The Holy Grail these knights shall seek, but not 

The fabled cup of Mediaeval dreams; 

For they shall seek the goblet that, in truth, 

Brims overflowing with the blood of Christ, 

The wine of Christian brotherhood and love! 

No longer with the paynim shall they strive, 

Save in a noble rivalry, wherein 

Each seeks to prove his God the one true God 

By deeds of goodness in His name performed. 

I2O Hernando De Soto 

"But though their noblest acts be those of peace, 
And not of warfare, deem thou not their work 
From peril free. With knightliness superb 
They shall face terrors that the knights of old 
Had viewed with startled eyes. 19 They shall brave 


Cloaked in his weirdest, most mysterious gloom : 
And they shall die unmurmuring, where no trump, 
No fife, no drum, no flowers from ladies' hands, 
No flash of armor, shouts of multitudes, 
Nor neighing of the steeds, shall urge them on : 
No! not one banner floating in the skies 
Shall rouse their courage with its heavenly hues ! 
At throttles of their engines they shall perish, 
Saving the lives of others in their care : 
Beside his wheel the pilot's form shall rear, 
Guiding the burning vessel steadily, 
Unerringly to shore, where all debark 
In safety but the faithful guide himself. 
With noxious fluids, deadly elements, 
Corroding acids, virus-breeding germs, 
Their hands shall tamper, in their patient search 
For panaceas for the ills of man. 
Thus through their veins, with rabid virulence 
The venom shall be spread; within their bones 
Shall gnaw the sharp concentered essences, 
While unrelenting poisons, slow and sure 
As Fate itself, shall burrow in their flesh, 
And deadly maladies with viper fangs 
Shall pierce their bosoms, as was pierced of old 
The bosom of the Empress by the Nile. 
The dreaded Pestilence, that barbarous men 
Ascribed in fables to the wrath of God, 
And not to human foulness, as was just, 

BooK VI 121 

This they shall fight, and fighting to the death, 
Shall immolate themselves. To find the spring, 
The deadly poisoned spring of human ills, 
They shall breathe fetid air, tread purlieus foul, 
Wade through uncleanness. They shall give them 

To stings of noxious insects, dying thus, 
To learn the secret sources of the Plague, 
And save their fellows; act how trivial, 
How slight and unromantic in our eyes, 
Compared to deeds of valor on the field! 
And yet unmatched in all knight-errantry, 
Combat more grand than ever crusader fought 
With Saracen on plains of Palestine 
To win the holy city from Mahound. " 

The tropic twilight's fleeting glow had ended, 

But in the darkness, Codro's awkward form 

Now loomed transfigured, and his homely face 

Raised glorified : his eyes, like coals of fire, 

Seemed burning through my breast : his garb uncouth 

Seemed like the shaggy skin of a wild beast, thrown 

Over the shoulders of a hoary seer: 

He himself seemed some holy eremite, 

A dweller in the caves on mountain-heights, 

Downcome to cities of the plains to tell 

Dark prophecies learned face to face with God. 

Was this the same poor soul whom once I knew 

As Codro? this resplendent form, was this 

That old unlovely, rugged husk of yore? 

Amazed I looked upon him, half in fear: 

But soon mine arm he grasped, speaking again 

With animation even greater still : 

"Lo! I behold the noblest knight that ever 

122 Hernando De Soto 

Hath trod the soil terrene. He comes, he comes, 

The Occidental Saladin, the Bayard 

Of realms Hesperian ! Tilt nor tournament, 

Pageant nor combat of the feudal age, 

His peer beheld ! But accoladed not 

By hand of king or queen, Nature herself 

Declares him knight of knights. He goeth forth 

To battle, yea, to battle. For I see 

Three frightful dragons bar his path ; their wings 

Are wings of vultures, and their massive paws 

Are paws of lions ; on their breasts are scales 

Like steely armor; trunks of crocodiles 

Meander backwards, till the monstrous coils 

Seem twining serpents; from their fearful jaws 

Leap fire and smoke and deadly fumes. Seven heads, 

Heads of gorillas, hath each beast, whereof 

The central wears a crown of gold, while six 

Rear glittering golden mitres. Now begins 

The dreadful conflict. On the champion 

Dash the horrific nightmare shapes of hell. 

God grant thine arms, redoubted knight, shall be 

Victorious ! See, with hardihood he meets 

The first fell dragon : long he strives : at last 

His falchion through the scaly armour smites, 

Wounding the monster with a doughty thrust. 

The second beast, in vengeance, furiously 

Rushes upon him with a maddened roar ; 

Flames vomit from her throats ; her rabid lips 

Drip venom; from each forked viper-tongue 

Spews foaming virus ; hot and fetid blasts 

Hiss from her nostrils. But behold ! I see 

A good thrust from the falchion lay her low, 

A vast, unwieldy creature, vaster far 

Than the leviathan of ocean deeps. 

BooK VI 123 

But now the third he faces, and the last. 
Fearful that duel ! Never in the years 
When demigods and Titans strove with gods, 
Was seen such battling. Now, alas ! it seems 
The dragon rises victor; now the knight 
Beneath the monster's lion paw is smitten; 
Now are his golden tresses singed and seared 
In raging flames from out of the brutish jaws; 
Blow after blow falls from those vulture wings, 
Crushing his helmet. Though he struggles on, 
His glittering armor dims, besmirched and soiled 
With the rank poison and the loathsome fumes 
From beastly mouths and nostrils. Yet behold! 
The knight, he wins, he wins ! For now at last 
His brand falls with a great heroic sweep, 
Splashing the vast gorgonian shape with blood. 

"But stay! I see that all those loathsome beasts 

Are living still, though vanquished; for they groan 

And bellow to each other in their pain, 

True to a horrid fellowship. The first 

Dread shape is Despotism; beyond it writhes 

The dragon Bigotry; the third and last, 

Most hideous, longest-lived of all the herd, 

Doubly the parent of the other twain, 

Both dam and sire of all things dark and dread, 

Is Superstition, foe to light, to joy, 

To God, to Nature, most of all, to Man. 

"They flap their monster vans; arising now, 
A frightful cloudy whirlwind, blackening heaven, 
And shedding gore in torrents, they speed forth 
And vanish. May their darksome pinions never 

124 Hernando De Soto 

Be overlooming earthly skies again! 

Yet though defeated, still they live to hound 

The souls of those who, lapped in idleness, 

Their vigilance renounce ; for on that day 

Man toys away his vigor, and becomes 

A trifler and a sluggard, shall return 

Those dragons as of yore, his seed to plague. " 

Shaken by passion, now the graybeard sage 

Sinks back, with hands convulsive, with his lips 

A-quiver, and his gaunt frame shuddering. 

But by and by, his knitted brows grow smooth, 

His eyes grow calmer, and ere long he seems 

A semblance of his old-time self. Again, 

In tones more placid, he continues thus : 

"Heaven bids me warn thee. 0, beloved son, 

Thou art misled ! The Spaniard's thirst for gold, 

Wherein thou sharest, shall not profit Spain, 

Nor thee thyself. Not silver, gold nor gems, 

Shall be thy true reward. For thou shalt find 

That the fell methods of the conqueror, 

Who smites the pagan, plunders treasure-isles, 

And rears his mansions by the toil of slaves, 

These methods that assoil thy Country's fame, 

Upbuild no nation, make no people strong. 

In dying thou shalt seem to fail, and yet 

In dying thou shalt prove to man this truth: 

A noble failure shames a bad success. 

Long shalt thou stray in life that truth to find. 

Hear me, Hernando ! Thou art now as one 

Who flounders on through fens, perplexed, confused, 

Following false lights, will o'the wisps, that flit 

Through poison-reeking air. Believe not, Son, 

As thou art lured and beckoned on and on 

BooK VI 125 

From quag to quag, from gloom to deeper gloom, 
Each marsh's flame a Star of Bethlehem!" 

He ceased. And now the tension of his face 
Relaxed: his frame no longer shook. His eyes 
Dimmed from their glitter, and his voice died out 
Like the deep sound of winds that pass, and fade 
To faintest murmurs through the solemn pines 
On hilltops far away. His rugged face 
Again was homely; his unlovely form 
Again was awkward, stripped of every grace. 
Once more his step was shuffling, and his feet 
Clumsy ; his air and portance more than ever 
Ungainly. Then I wondered what it meant, 
This strange, weird prophecy, this wild advice. 
Long have I pondered since upon it, yet 
In vain. The secret of that prophecy 
Is hidden from me still, perchance forever. 
Sometimes I seem to grasp it, but again 
It slips the leash, eludes me, and is gone. 

Homeward we plodded through the dark. But now 

His ardor had evanished ; both of us 

Were pensive. Over us there seemed to hover 

A premonition of some deep, dark sorrow 

That soon would cover all our skies. But 0, 

We divined not that at the morning light, 

When parting we should part to meet no more! 

We reached our tents: there in the flickering light 

Of dying camp-fires, girt with solemn glooms, 

I knelt before him; then he laid his hand 

Upon me in a silent blessing; then 

He raised my face; he held it in his palms, 

And kissed me as a father kisses his son. 

126 Hernando De Soto 

Next day my journey to the north began : 
Another year had passed ere I returned, 
And then returning (as I soon shall tell), 
I heard the story of the old man's fate. 

After I sailed, Pedrarias sought him out, 

Saying, "A long sea-voyage hath been planned 

Among the isles along Parita's Gulf, 

To search for mines of silver and of gold, 

Which, as we learn, abound there, rich with ore. 

We need the guidance of a man like thee, 

Whose knowledge of the hidden wealth of earth 

Fits him to aid us. Wiltthougo?" So then, 

Eager as ever to explore the world 

For Nature's guarded secrets, Codro went, 

And going, doomed himself to such a fate 

As demons might have spared their prey in hell. 

A heartless creature, Valenzuela named, 

The captain of a ship about to sail, 

Received the old man at the despot's hands 

With a command to bear him to some isle 

In seas remote, and leave him there, marooned. 

Pedrarias bade the captain spare his life, 

A mandate left unheeded. 

For as soon 

As the land faded in the eastern haze, 
Valenzuela threw him into chains, 
And bound him to the foremast. Ten long days 
He was kept there bareheaded. Hour by hour 
His face burned in the fearful tropic heat : 
The tropic sky, hung like a dome of brass, 
Scorched his poor withered body; round the keel, 
The tropic sea, like slimy oil on fire, 

BooK VI 127 

Blinded him with its everlasting glare. 

Day after day, aflame with pitiless wrath, 

The dazzling tropic sun arose at dawn, 

And through the long, long noon, white-hot it blazed, 

Then, like a blood-red wound upon the sky, 

Flooded the sea with crimson ere it set. 

The night would fall and bring him no relief, 

But chill his body with unwholesome dews. 

Next day the tropic sun would blaze again, 

The molten skies would flame, the sea would glare. 

The deck was blistered in the torrid heat; 

The boards warped, and the hull oozed tar and gum. 

Sometimes a dolphin leaped above the waves, 

Or schools of flying-fish skimmed by ; but often 

The lean, lank hideous sharks, with gaping mouths 

And ravenous upturned bellies, greedily snapped 

Their fearful jaws and flashed their saw-like teeth. 

Beyond this was no life upon the sea, 

That, weak as a sick man spent with feverish dreams, 

Dozed on in drowsy, weary idleness, 

Languid and listless, craving for a breeze. 

The brutal sailors jested, laughed and jeered 

To see the graybeard hanging there. At times, 

When he had begged for water, they would bring 

Vessels of brine dipped from the sea below, 

And splash him till he writhed and gasped for breath, 

Half drowned. Their tortures he endured, but never 

Did Micer Codro curse, or wish them harm. 

They gave him sparingly such food and drink 

As kept him living on from day to day, 

And made him die a thousand deaths in one. 

The end drew nigh: but ere he passed away, 

Taking him down, they stretched him on the deck. 

128 Hernando De Soto 

The pilot, who alone had pitied him, 

Nor ever harmed him, now approached his side. 

"Pilot," he said, pointing toward the shore, 

"Wilt thou convey me to yon little isle 

Far in the distance? I am dying, yet 

I long to rest my head on earth once more 

Ere I am taken. " Said the pilot then, 

"That is the mainland, not an island, there." 

"Nay, nay," said Codro, "thou wilt surely find 

Two islands yonder; and amidst one spreads 

A little harbor. On those islets there 

Are mossy, vine-hung rocks, and verdant trees, 

With cool and gushing fountains in the shade. 

My brow is feverish, and I fain would be 

By murmuring waters, on the soft green earth, 

With emerald shadows on my blinded eyes, 

While cool and odorous breezes fan me. There 

Convey me, and there let me die in peace. " 

The pilot turned his vessel toward the shore. 

At length he saw the old astrologer 

Had spoken truly, for the points of land 

Were islands green with tufts of clustering trees, 1 

And fertile with their many running springs. 

They anchored by one islet ; there they took 

Poor Micer Codro in their arms ashore. 

But ere he left the ship, the captain came 

To be assured that his victim lay in death; 

And then the old man in a solemn voice, 

Said to him, "Captain, I am soon to die, 

Murdered by thee : so hear and heed me well : 

For now I tell thee, ere one year shall end, 

Thou too shalt die; I, going, summon thee 

To meet me at the judgment-seat of God." 

BooK VI 129 

The villainous captain paled; but soon he feigned 
Indifference; then he smiled a sickly smile, 
Hiding his fears with simulated mirth. 

They laid the sufferer in delightful shade 

Under a tree with boughs of living green, 

Upon a mossy bank beside a rock, 

Where a cool fountain bubbled through its ferns. 

Here, lulled by babbling waves and fluttering leaves, 

His fevered brow caressed by gentle gales, 

The blameless man sighed peacefully, and died. 

A grave they digged upon the selfsame spot, 

And buried him. A cross carved on a tree 

Still marks that far-off final resting-place; 21 

And there, in calm and quiet, all alone, 

He waits the trumpet of the Judgment-day. 

Dear Micer Codro ! Christ Himself hath said 

As little children we must all become, 

Or else we can not enter into heaven; 

And thou, 0, Micer Codro, wast a child, 

A little child, throughout thy whole long life. 

Thy head was gray : books lent thee all their lore, 

And science kept no secret from thine eyes: 

Yet thou wast artless in thine ignorance 

Of worldly wisdom with its craft and guile, 

And free and pure from cunning, as the babes 

Whom Jesus blessed while sitting on His knee. 

Dear Micer Codro! In that paradise 

Where thou art treading now, are wondrous things, 

Transcending all the marvels of the earth 

That lured thee in this transitory life 

To be a pilgrim over sea and land. 

In that high realm are nobler, greener trees, 

130 Hernando De Soto 

More gorgeous flowers, more delicious fruits, 
Birds more magnificent, more glorious gems, 
Skies bluer than we see, and splendid stars 
That far outshine the brilliance of our own. 
And thou shalt search and find and study all, 
With more delight and even greater love 
Than sights terrestrial ever drew from thee. 

Among the angels in that happy realm, 

Robed in white moonlight, crowned with dewy stars, 

With peacock pinions or with swan-like wings, 

I long to meet thee, not like them arrayed, 

But simple, yea, and homely as thou wert 

While walking in these hapless haunts of men, 

For so I knew thee, and should love thee best ! 

After a year had passed, from northern shores, 

Accompanied by some comrades, I returned 

To Darien on a little caravel. 

The captain was a drunken, loud-mouthed brute, 

Who loved to lounge and boast of villanies 

Wherein the hero-part himself had played. 

One night I heard him tattling in high glee 

(What little things amuse a drunken man !) 

Of trivial matters to his friends. But soon 

Grown loud and boisterous from his cups, he blabbed 

The story of the murder of my friend. 

No names at first he gave, but he declared 

That the old man had only sinned in bearing 

The letter of some younker to a girl, 

And fetching back her answer. Here I started, 

And drew still closer to the captain's seat. 

He told us then of all the agonies 

The poor old wretch had suffered ere he died, 

Hernando De Soto 131 

And as he gabbled on he laughed aloud, 

Rubbing his hands, and winking here and there. 

Now in his maudlin state he racked his mind 

To recollect his victim's name. "O yes!" 

Clapping his hands, he cried, "I have it now, 

Codro his name was Codro. And the girl, 

Zounds! let me think. What was her name? Aha! 

I'll call it, I remember, Isabel, 

Yes, yes, the daughter of Pedrarias!" 

I caught my breath, laid hand upon my sword, 

And yet restrained my anguish and my wrath. 

Soon he related how the dying man 

Had summoned him before the bar of God, 

But then with hoarse guffaws, he rambled on: 

"Yet that was false, because he prophesied 

That I should die before the year was over; 

This is the last day : when the clock strikes twelve, 

The year is ended ; yet you see me here. 

It only lacks an hour to midnight ; so 

The driveling prophet proves himself a liar." 

I burned with rage; and yet with misery 

I sate inactive. So I left him free 

To babble on until the vessel's clock 

Lacked but ten minutes of the stroke of twelve. 

Then as he raised his glass, and chuckling, cried , 

"Here's to the soul of Codro! may he rest, 

Deep-buried with his lying prophecy!" 

"Hold, not so fast!" I cried: "thou drunken fiend, 

There is still time to die ! I say to thee, 

The man that thou hast murdered was my friend. 

Besotted caitiff, since he prophesied, 

/ now will make the prophecy come true!" 

Then as my sword fell with a lightning flash, 

His head, dissevered, rolled upon the floor. 

Part II 



The end of the first night's Narrative The second night's gather 
ing De Soto's Narrative continued Pedrarias is deposed 
The Conquest of Peru Pizarro, his brothers, and Almagro 
The Peruvians and their country The Andes Volca 
noes and snow-peaks Canals through the deserts The 
mountain highways Llamas and vicunas Hunting the 
vicunas Life among the peasantry and the nobility 
Their agriculture, and mode of apportioning lands Their 
marriage customs Treatment of the aged Their religion 
Lake Titicaca Descent of the Gods The founding of 
Cuzco The Incas and their families Civilization of the 
Peruvians Their attainments in the arts Their temples 
Vessels and ornaments of gold and silver. 

NOW, reverend sire, the night grows late. Shouldst 

To learn more of my story, at evenfall 
Upon the morrow, thou shalt hear. But long 
Is the lone pathway to thy wigwam door; 
Out in yon wilds the snows are falling still ; 
The keen winds yet are moaning; famished wolves, 
Where trails thy path through solitary woods, 
Go howling : tempt thou not this fearful night ! 
Thee and thy little daughter we can yield 
A tent to rest in cosily until morn: 
Remain with us, I pray thee. 

With these words 
De Soto ceased. Alonzo quickly glanced 

136 Hernando De Soto 

At Lulla: bashfully, yet eagerly, 

He blurted in his boyish fashion, "I 

Will let them have my tent, for I can sleep 

As snug and warm here in mine uncle's tent, 

Under this bearskin robe beside the fire." 

Thus he; and then he blushed and hung his head, 

Startled at his own boldness : Lulla turned 

Upon him with a wistful look, though shy. 

"I thank thee for thy kindness," then replied 

The Chieftain to De Soto, "and to thee, 

My fair young son, our hearts are grateful. Since 

The snowstorm is so bitter, we will stay. 

At evenfall to-morrow I will beg 

To hear more of my lord's adventurous life." 

They parted for the night. On the next eve 
The snow had ceased to fall ; but still the blasts 
Of winter whined and whistled round the tent, 
And whipped and napped the canvas, till it seemed 
A band of witches on the winds careered, 
Lashing relentlessly their phantom steeds 
And shrieking, while their long disheveled hair 
And their pale spectral mantles streamed behind, 
Flaunting and fluttering in the icy blast. 
Around the same great ruddy fire again, 
Expectant of De Soto's story, sat 
The selfsame party of the night before. 
So then his chronicle the knight resumed: 

Time speeded on : the new-made governor, 
Vain of his new- won honors, disembarked. 
Pedrarias he denuded of his powers, 
Casting him out, a friendless wanderer, 
Embittered and heart-broken. Thus adrift, 

BooK VII 137 

An old wreck on the Dead Sea of his dreams, 
We lose him, and in mercy we forbear 
Our condemnation : God will be his Judge. 

Illustrious Chieftain, I shall now relate 
The story of the Conquest of Peru, 
A bold emprise, but one so steeped in blood 
That never may I hope to call to mind 
Its annals but in dark remorse. Throughout 
That pitiless conflict I was yoked with men 
Cruel and avaricious, in whose hearts 
Justice and Mercy, scourged and crucified, 
Had perished at their ruined shrines. Alas! 
For years I now had toiled without reward, 
For years my fond ambitions all had failed. 
Dear dreams had fluttered from my fading youth 
Like shattered petals from a dying rose : 
Green glories of the spring had fled my heart, 
And left but parched and dusty summer drought. 
I saw Life passing, passing, hour by hour, 
Leaving me, disappointed, far behind 
In the mad race for fortune, power and fame; 
My best days were no more; yet still I roved 
The sport of niggard fate. Grown desperate, 
An easy prey I fell to those who came 
Proffering high hopes of riches and renown 
For aid in perpetrating hideous wrongs. 

The leader of this daring enterprise, 
Francisco Pizarro, in other years 
Had been a leader in our cavalry, 
Thridding the tropic jungles by my side 
When old Uracca first combated us. 
Base-born, his sire a cavalier, his dam 

138 Hernando De Soto 

A common trollop, by those paramours 
He was abandoned: for, tradition says, 
Cast out to perish in a weed-grown waste, 
Sickly, half -starved, and naked save for rags, 
A peasant found him, suckling from a sow. 22 
Reared as a swineherd, with the swine he roved, 
Unkempt, untended. So the urchin grew, 
Untaught to read a line or write a word, 
To schools a stranger and to books a foe. 

But risen to manhood, straight and tall and strong, 
With martial grace he moved. Dark was his face, 
With sallow firm-set cheeks, from whence his beard 
Downflowed in dusky waves. His jetty locks 
Shadowed a lofty brow, under whose dome 
His brilliant black eyes flashed with fiery dreams 
Of conquest over empires drenched in blood. 

Thereafter, craft and valor in his soul 
Ever contended for the mastery. 
No captain ever bolder in his plans, 
None more far-seeing, quicker none to strike, 
Yet he used fraud and guile where simple truth 
Better had served him by an hundredfold. 
Albeit the lettered world he never knew, 
Clearer his mind was than the morning star. 
In that calm brain was never strife or storm, 
On that calm brow reigned no uncertainty, 
In that calm bosom all was strong and sure. 
His purpose once conceived, he never flagged; 
Once on his path, he never looked behind. 
His plans he laid ; then with a bloodhound scent, 
And never swerving, never turning back, 
He followed till he found and seized his prey. 

BooK VII 139 

O, no, he could not read! But well indeed 
The world of living men he knew : the Past 
Allured him not : the Present was his own. 
To ruined shrines, to lichened tombs, his feet 
Never made pilgrimage : things Now and Here, 
Still breathing force and vigor, claimed his thoughts. 
Red-blooded, vital was he, to the core. 
Small was his need, wise in the ways of life, 
For dusty wisdom dug from dusty books! 

One asks, what purpose moved the Power Divine 
In raising such a man to scourge the world 
With death and desolation? Ask as well 
Why hath He formed the tiger, in whose jaws 
Is crushed the bleating lamb ; or called to life 
The fearful cobra with its hooded crest 
Dilate in deadly fury. Who can say? 

Lo! as the Samiel of Arabian sands 

Sweeps with its scorching whirlwind through the skies, 

And overwhelms the startled caravan, 

Merchant and camel, Bedouin and steed, 

And gloats above the spoil, ingots and coins 

Of silver and of gold, the ivories 

Of Afric, glorious gems of Ind, the silks 

Of Persia, chill Siberia's priceless furs, 

The shawls of Cashmere, spices from the groves 

Of Borneo, sweet Sabean frankincense, 

All buried in the flaming sands, and soon 

Left useless and forgotten far behind , 

And as that blast whirls ever madly on, 

To overtake some richer caravan, 

So swept Pizarro. Untold treasures, red 

With the heart's blood of murdered multitudes, 

140 Hernando De Soto 

He heaped and hoarded, but his avarice, 
Insatiate as the avarice of that storm, 
Still drove him onward, ravenous, unappeased, 
To win more treasures, redder still with blood. 

That which the nations of the Earth have known, 
The nations of the Earth shall know again: 
All truth is repetition. As once fell 
The fierce barbaric Northern King on Rome, 
And sacked her splendent glories, so this man, 
The stern executor of the wrath of heaven, 
Came scattering woes and wailings in his path : 
God raised them both: His purpose who can tell? 

Pizarro once had been Balboa's friend, 

And in romantic and illustrious years 

Beside him had he watched with kindling eyes 

The great Pacific billows sweep and surge. 

Wild peoples told them of a noble realm 

Of gold and silver laved by southern seas, 

An empire called Peru. Pizarro dreamed 

Of conquest and dominion in that land, 

And pawned his soul to make his dream come true. 

But first he sought the aid of others : soon, 

As his first comrade in the daring scheme, 

Almagro joined him with a little force. 

He, like Pizarro, base-born, reared in want, 

And driven, despised, to fight his way alone, 

Had never learned to spell or scribble. Yet, 

A doughty soldier, stout of hand and limb, 

Skilled with the steed, and master of the sword, 

An ally of surpassing worth he proved. 

Ill-favored was his countenance; one cheek 

Was slashed with ugly scars; one eye was gone. 

BooK VII 141 

A disappointed cynic, sharp of tongue, 
Of friend and foe he talked unceasingly, 
Rating the whole wide world from end to end, 
Nor speaking one good word of one living man. 
But he was generous to the farthing's end, 
Though his friends borrowed, never to return; 
His purse gave suck to every hungry leech; 
Freely he squandered, but his cynic smile 
Proclaimed contempt for all his parasites. 

Once, with a band of rude adventurers 

These two had ventured south afar. But there 

Misfortune dogged them: though they spoiled the 


Pillaged the towns and slew the habitants, 
But little gold they found ; their ragged horde 
Encountered shipwreck, famine and disease, 
And dwindled as the shafts of ambushed foes 
Whistled around them in the tangled wilds. 
Repulsed, yet not discouraged, they dispatched 
Pizarro back to Spain. To court he went: 
There his rough eloquence and martial air 
Pleased the soft courtiers, charmed the silken dames, 
And moved the king to grant amazing powers 
Of conquest and dominion in the south. 

Four brothers he induced to lend their aid ; 

Returning then, another force he raised. 

A curious clan, those brothers! For, while one 

Was lettered, and in wedlock born, the rest 

Were base-born and untutored like their chief. 

The first, Hernando, sneered at all the rest, 

Who, bearing the brand of bastard through the world, 

Wrote not their names, nor pored above a page. 

I4 2 Hernando De Soto 

A high-born dame his mother was, who wedded 
Francisco's father in his youthful days, 
But ere her first-born learned to prattle, died. 
Hernando, selfish, rude and quarrelsome, 
Often in boisterous insolence would storm 
Against his brothers : but Francisco's voice, 
Cool, measured and determined, never failed 
To quell his loud rebellions. Of his house 
The eldest, yet he lived to see the others 
Pass to the next world, leaving him alone. 

Two other brothers, one Gonzalo named, 

And one called Juan, came through the father's side, 

But through another mother ; while the fourth, 

With the same name, Francisco, had been borne 

By the same mother to a sire unknown. 

Like a young, handsome prince, whom lawless hands 

Have stolen from his cradle, and upreared 

In squalor at some peasant's lowly hut, 

So that his bearing ever after shows 

The traces of that mean life in the past, 

Gonzalo with his proud and courtly air 

Revealed a strain of coarseness. Valorous 

To recklessness, impatient of advice, 

Quick-tongued and vain, at times he disobeyed 

Urgent commands, and all our host involved 

In strange confusion. In his ruthless course, 

His hand as quickly would have set the torch 

Unto a peopled city, as his foot 

Would have kicked down an ant-hill. 

Juan, the next, 

Pale-faced, mild-eyed and placid, seemed unfit 
For warfare : yet in fight he never quailed. 

Booh VII 143 

Simplicity is greatness: and so he, 

Simple and artless as a little child, 

Great deeds performed, but never pompously. 

The green oasis greener still appears 

Isled in a desert red and fountainless; 

So he more noble seemed for being found 

In the delightless waste of cruelty 

And lust and avarice that environed all 

Who bore Pizarro's world-detested name. 

Francisco, youngest brother of the five, 
Was also weakest: slow to think or act, 
Uncouth and awkward, doubtful of himself, 
Hernando domineered him brutally. 

The kingdom of Peru then trailed along 

The great Pacific waters to the South 

Above eight hundred leagues; 23 its common width 

Was barely ninety. This extended zone 

The lordly Andes guarded on the east. 

A sandy, stony desert, glares the coast, 

Hot, pestilent, and rarely blest with rain. 

As one roves inland, every step he takes 

Tends upward from the level of the tides. 

He reaches next the highlands, where the earth 

Is green with foliage, fanned by wholesome airs, 

And freely watered by refreshing streams. 

Soon rocky heights are reached ; and climbing there 

Among the giants of the mountain-world, 

On every hand colossal peaks he views, 

Beyond all puny words of man sublime, 

Piercing the wandering clouds five miles in air, 

With glittering summits of eternal white. 

144 Hernando De Soto 

Their glorious monarch, Chimborazo, looms 
With crystal diadem of snow and ice 
Translucent in perpetual purity 
Against the azure of Peruvian skies, 
A heavenly beacon for all mariners 
Who steer their vessels far away at sea. 
Here great volcanoes lift from mighty cones 
Their everlasting torches unto God; 
Here granite cliffs and crags, a league in height, 
Appear gigantic frowning battlements. 
Sierras, stern and savage, rear aloft 
Their horrent thunder-cloven pinnacles; 
Steep and stupendous, peak and precipice 
Usurp the empurpled princedoms of the skies. 
But oft beside the bleak volcano's waste, 4 
Where blasted rocks in ramparts threaten heaven, 
One may descry some gently-curving knoll, 
Its glad green dingles fringed with plumy palms 
Close-nestled to the monster's sooty breast 
Like Venus, Queen of Beauty and of Love, 
With swart and grizzled Vulcan for her spouse. 
Here dash appalling torrents, crushed to foam: 
With rainbows crowned, robed in aerial mist, 
The glorious cascades thunder loudly down. 
Here yawn great gorges by the narrow way, 
Black, bottomless and horrid, where one slip 
Would hurl the traveler to eternity. 

In this high altitude a little grass 
Peeps through the rocks and never-melting snows, 
And here vast flocks of llamas rove and browse. 
Half-camel and half-sheep, the llama yields 
Its wool for raiment and its flesh for food, 
While on its back are countless burdens borne. 

BooK VII 145 

Spongy its hoofs are, with a pointed claw, 

So that it climbs steep rocks and slippery ice, 

Sure-footed as a lizard on a wall. 

Like to the camel of the Barcan waste, 

The little beast can plod for irksome days 

Without one sip of water. These great throngs 

Of llamas all obey a shepherd's voice, 

Each shepherd numbering legions in his flock. 

Through scanty, rocky pastures strewn with snow, 

They crop the stunted herbage, moss or grass, 

Moving in mute obedience to his will. 

Their kindred creatures, the vicunas, yield 

A flesh more savory, and a silkier wool, 

But never serve as beasts of burden. 24 They 

Rove higher summits still, in countless herds, 

Companions of the transitory clouds. 

Here also dwells the condor, lord of birds, 

With fearful talons and prodigious wings, 

Who soars above the tops of loftiest peaks, 

And seeks a home on high in dizzy crags 

Steed of the storm-clouds, lion of the skies, 

The undisputed emperor of the air. 

Here in dread kingdoms of the sleet and snow, 

The hailstone, lightning, and the thunderbolt, 

He floats serene, though elements may war, 

A hermit who despises all the world 

Of creatures crawling in the dust with man. 

The seasons known of all terrestrial climes 

Enriched this land with grains and fruits and flowers 

Of tropic, temperate and of arctic zones. 

The cherimoyer ripened near the coast, 

Most luscious of all fruits of all the world. 

146 Hernanclo De Soto 

In breezy highlands, emerald fields of maize 
Supplied the nation with a wealth of bread. 
These ancient people, with enlightened skill 
Had doubled Nature's bounty: long canals 
Through deserts by the seashore, had they digged 
To guide the streams from ever-melting snows 
On mountain summits, and exhaustless pools 
To hoard the water into months of drought. 
So in that sandy, barren waste arose 
Luxuriant orchards, laden low with fruits, 
Green forests ringing with melodious birds, 
And gardens gorgeous with resplendent flowers. 

Great nets of highways thridded through the land, 

The wonder of all wonders of the world. 

Like green silk ribbons through the desert's red, 

They stretched with verdant trees on either hand, 

So that the traveler fared at burning noon 

In shadows cool from overreaching boughs. 

But the great mountain roads, that inter veined 

The heights most lofty and most rugged, seemed 

The handiwork of giants or of gods. 

They spanned the mountain torrents, pierced the 


Cut galleries through the solid granite walls, 
Ran by terrific chasms, climbed steep cliffs, 
Clung chain-like round the sides of giddy peaks, 
And convoluted like a serpent's train 
Through the white wastes of chill perpetual snows. 
At times, great stairways, hewn from flinty rock, 
In spirals ever circling high and higher, 
Would make the worn wayfarer pause and pant 
Like a long-hunted hare, when safe at last, 
She sinks exhausted from the hot pursuit. 

BooK VII 147 

And oft, suspension bridges, thread-like, hung 
Over dreadful gulfs of darkness : high in air, 
Their osier cables, tough and thick and stout, 
Seemed frailer than the spider's airy webs, 
And shook and swayed and swung this way or that, 
Till the head swam, the feet staggered, and all 
The senses whirled, so that the earth and sky 
Seemed reeling with the traveler in a swoon. 
Sometimes ravines of depth stupendous, filled 
Unto the top with solid masonry, 
Yielded firm pathways, smooth as marble floors. 
Great were these roads in length; and one indeed, 
Meandering through the land two thousand miles, 
Wedded the desert to the fruitful plain, 
Chained mountains to the seas, and made as one 
The realms of Winter's everlasting storms 
And the warm Edens of eternal Spring. 

No steeds had those Peruvians; so the paths 

Were rarely more than seven short paces wide. 

Over them trudged, with costly burdens heaped, 

The little llamas. Scarce three cubits high, 

These pigmy beasts of burden well could bear 

An hundredweight of goods; but more than this 

None would endure ; for neither cuffs nor kicks, 

Nor coaxing would induce the brutes to stir 

When overladen : sinking to their knees, 

There they remained, and never would they rise, 

Nor budge one step while taxed beyond their strength. 

Through snowy field of rocky Andes heights 

The wild vicunas roved unshepherded. 

No peasant dared to slay them ; but reserved 

For hunting by the monarch of the realm, 

148 Hernando De Soto 

Once in each year a mighty chase was held, 

Such as no empire of the ancient times 

Or modern, ever saw, or sees again. 

Yet, careful not to lessen these great herds, 

They changed the scene of hunting year by year, 

A lustrum passing ere a chase recurred 

In the same region. At the chosen time, 

The peasants came at call, for miles around, 

A band not rarely five-score thousand strong, 

And then commanded by the Inca, formed 

A ring gigantic, whose circumference 

Might have enclosed a province. Steadily, 

With clubs and spears the men would then advance 

Toward the centre, and so hour by hour 

The circle would contract. The scared wild beasts 

Vicunas, and their neighbors of the heights, 

Would flee the army as it drew more close 

Lifting great shouts, and waving clubs and spears. 

Soon would the lines grow thicker, and at length 

The men in arcs opposed would sight each other, 

While in the middle swayed a frenzied throng 

Of deer, vicunas, and wild beasts of prey 

Gigantic clumsy bears, and ragged wolves, 

With growling panthers, jaguars hoarse with rage, 

Fierce lynxes, foxes quivering in affright, 

Pugnacious wild boars, foaming rabidly, 

And every living brute that roams the peaks. 

Frantic with terror, plunging here and there, 

Snapping and snarling, bleating, or lifting howls, 

They stamped and crushed each other under foot, 

They wildly roared, they gnashed with tooth and tusk, 

They pitched and plunged on battling paws and claws, 

They reared and fought , stampeded , dashed each way, 

All madly seeking pathways of escape. 

Book VII 149 

But everywhere the wall of men opposed, 

Driving them back in struggling anarchy. 

All beasts of prey, and all the deer, were slain; 

A few vicunas likewise suffered death 

As food for huntsmen, though the vaster herds 

Escaped with robbery of their wool. When sheared 

Of this, their silken vesture, and released, 

Again they climbed the peaks, to rove at will. 

Great flocks were captured so : once, men declare, 

A throng of two-score thousand thus were shorn. 

Above all other labors was esteemed 

The tillage of the soilTso every year, 

The Inca, in the presence of his court, 

And hailed by throngs of peasants and of peers, 

Viewed his own fields, and with a golden plow 

Broke earth himself to honor husbandry. 

No man or woman in Peru attained 

Old age unwedded : for, within that realm, 

When four and twenty Aprils for a lad, 

And eighteen for a maiden, brought no spouse, 

Each was enjoined to find a mate ; if still 

The young delinquents plighted not their troth, 

The rulers of the land, first counseling 

With parents of a destined youthful pair, 

And then the pair themselves, ere long compelled 

An interchange of nuptial vows. For soon, 

The Inca on his tour would reach the town, 

And taking the hands of damsels and of swains 

Within his own, would join them, two by two, 

Declaring in the presence of the throng 

The twain were one. Beyond this simple act 

No statelier ceremonial was known. 

150 Hernando De Soto 

But no man in the realm might ever seek 
A bride beyond that little neighborhood 
Wherein his parents dwelt : he could but choose 
Among the playmates of his boyhood years. 
When joined in wedlock, every pair abode 
In the same region where the two were born : 
Here where their gray forefathers lived and died, 
They too, must live, here too must till the soil, 
And rear their children, who, within their time, 
Must ever linger in the same old home. 

The Incas wedded hundreds in a day : 

When all were mated, a great festival, 

With music, dance and feast began: in mirth 

And joy the jubilee continued. There 

Harps twanged and tingled ; viols plaintively 

Beseeched, bewailed and sobbed; the hoarse- voiced 


Mumbled and roared and grumbled : tinkling bells 
Kept gladsomely in time to gladsome feet 
Of youths and maidens, following airily 
The trip and twinkle of their nimble toes. 
From happy groups rose peals of laughter : songs 
Of love and courtship, sweetly passional, 
Trilled from the amorous lips of boys and girls. 

As brothers, when their sire hath passed away, 

In justice and in peace amongst themselves 

His little farm divide, these people made, 

Yearly, a just division of their lands. 

Each pair, when first united, found a home, 

A wee hut and a tiny plot of ground, 

Made ready for them. When that year had passed , 

The land was nicely parceled out again, 

DooK VII 151 

And this division for a twelvemonth stood, 
All being reapportioned at its end. 
For each babe coming to a wedded pair, 
Another little plot of ground was given, 
Though twice as much was added for a boy, 
As for a girl: so thus the years went by, 
The farm increasing as the family grew. 
No idlers might be found in all the realm; 
Each faced his task, and faced it willingly. 
But no one toiled beyond his strength ; not one 
Was bowed with burdens heavier than his share. 
The drudgery of the mines could not be borne 
By any peasant save ~afr intervals. 
The old and feeble toiled but little : they 
Lived out their sunset years in placid ease, 
Their wants relieved with filial piety. 
No man was rich : no man was needy. Thus 
These innocent, artless people year by year 
Lived out the simple story of their lives, 
Contented, calm and peaceful, till we came. 
O, reverend chieftain, on my dying day 
My heart will fail within me to remember 
That I made one of those who rudely swept 
In storm and havoc through that quiet land, 
And harshly woke it from its happy dreams. 

A great lake, Titicaca, shines and storms 
In a vast barren plateau of the clouds 
Nigh to a league above the sea- waves, where 
Perpetual Autumn broods. This lonely mere, 
The ancient home of old Peruvian Gods, 
Ever seems mourning for their banishment. 
The highest of all waters of this world, 
Amid a stony waste of desolate hills 

152 Hernando De Soto 

Its melancholy surges sink and heave 

In chilly, cheerless winds from leaden skies, 

Or mirror in their depths eternal snows 

That fleck the adamantine peaks above. 

A land of marshes bordering on its shore, 

A wilderness of rushes and of reeds 

Spreads dreary as the barren scheme of life 

To the eyes of one, who, weary of this world, 

Lost, dazed and lonely, dreams of suicide. 

The Sun himself, in pity for the earth, 

(So runs the legend), sent two children down 

To bear the torch of man's enlightenment. 

Of all created beings most superb 

Beneath the airy azure arch of heaven, 

The Son came from the South ; around his head 

A golden halo circled; at his feet 

Were opalescent clouds ; above him blazed 

Auroras in keen-pointed brilliancy. 

Transfigured in aerial firmaments, 

He paused a space ; then through pellucid skies 

To emerald fields of earth he floated down. 

Scarce had his feet touched sod, when from the 


Under the rainbow of a dying storm, 
As radiant as a wild swan laved in springs 
Outgushing crystalline from mountain snows, 
His spouse descended in ethereal grace. 
Fawn-eyed and flower-footed, glossy-haired, 
She came to meet him with extended hand ; 
A smile angelical in joyance curved 
The crimson crescent of her lips ; her brows 
Were wreathed in blooms celestial ; underneath 
Her footsteps, blooms celestial strewed the sod. 
Bridegroom and bride, brother and sister born, 

Book VII 153 

The heavenly pair first trod this earthly soil 

Beside the shores of Titicaca Lake. 

A golden wedge they bore: the Sun, their sire, 

Had told them, "Where this wedge shall sink in 


There must ye pause, and found a city." So 
They traveled for a space until they reached 
A rich green valley, where the golden wedge 
Sank into earth, and lost itself forever. 
They called the region Cuzco; for that means 
A navel in the old Peruvian speech, 
And this would be the centre of the realm. 
Manco Capac, the brother-husband, there 
Founded the city Cuzco: there he taught 
The art of agriculture to mankind, 
And Mama Oello, his sweet sister- wife, 
There taught the women how to weave and spin. 

Child of the Sun the Inca called himself, 

For he and all his peerage claimed descent 

From this blest pair, the offspring of the Sun. 

Here, where the ever- youthful moon of May 

Revels in flowery meads that never fade, 

The nation grew and flourished: here the kings 

Erected noble fanes with splendid shrines. 

Vast palaces and hugest fortresses 

They reared with stones of such prodigious bulk 

That one must ever wonder by what power 

Men dragged them from their distant quarries. Oft 

These mighty stones were of such length and breadth, 

That two-score men, encircled hand in hand, 

Could barely reach around; their height so great 

A giant scarce could overpeep the brow 

And sight a comrade on the further side. 

154 Hernando De Soto 

No mortar knit the blocks, yet were they all 
Fitted so nicely and so close together, 
The keenest sword -blade might not edge between. 
Great was the time, and great the labor, spent 
To rear these massive walls : a thousand score 
Of groaning slaves through half an hundred years 
Toiled on one fortress ere the task was done. 

The crown-prince of the Incas in his youth 

By wisest men was taught. The nation's laws, 

The rights of other nations, and the stern, 

Exacting duties of his own high state, 

Were urged upon his mind for earnest thought. 

He and his chosen comrades, sons of peers, 

Were tutored in the arts of war: they learned 

To box and wrestle, wield the bow and spear: 

The toils and hardships of a life of arms, 

More trying than a peasant's drudgeries, 

All underwent : they drank from mountain springs, 

Ate but the simplest viands, slept on earth, 

Went barefoot, and were garbed in coarse attire. 

If they proved worthy after these stern trials, 

The youthful crown-prince and his high-born friends 

Were then exalted to the knightly rank. 

Their ears were bored, and earrings huge in size, 

Great golden circlets, from the lobes were hung, 

Such weighty ornaments, they swung the ears 

Like bat-wings to the shoulders. Now the youths 

In robes of manhood all were garmented; 

Maids girded golden sandals on their feet, 

And wreathed their heads with evergreens and flowers. 

The highest of the highest paladins 

Durst not approach the Inca, save with eyes 

DooK VII 155 

Downcast, with feet unsandaled, and his back 
Bending beneath a fardel, to evince 
Profoundest homage to his mighty lord. 
The royal robe, of fine vicuna wool, 
With golden lace was edged, and strewn with gems. 
Two plumes the monarch's scarlet turban bore, 
Plucked from a bird that, rarely seen of men, 
Haunted lone mountain deserts. Every king 
On coming to the throne, from the High Priest 
Received the sacred feathers, freshly plucked. 
Only one pair of these mysterious birds, 
(The peasants all avowed), were known to earth, 
And no rash huntsman, who in trackless wilds 
By chance beheld them, dared to turn his bow 
Against the heavenly creatures; for a sure 
And speedy death awaited him whose hand 
Uplifted in the sacrilegious deed. 

The Inca made his journeys through the land 
On golden litters set with emeralds: 
If once they let their royal burden fall, 
The bearers suffered death. Along the way 
Flowers were scattered: fifes with piercing cries, 
And flutes with notes melodious, thrilled the air; 
Sonorous horns resounded, cymbals clanged, 
And wayside multitudes acclaimed their king. 

Unlike strong forest-trees that stand alone, 
Braving the winds and lightnings, but like vines 
That cling for aid on others, the Fine Arts 
Must know a gracious patron to attain 
Their choicest flower and fruitage. In this realm, 
These gentle clinging arts from royal hands 
Received the tenderest and most generous care. 

156 Hernando De Soto 

Without, the Inca's palaces seemed rude; 

Within, they blazed with weird magnificence. 

There gold and silver vessels flamed and glowed; 

There gorgeous carpets lay on gilded floors ; 

The walls and ceilings, overlaid with gold, 

Were wreathed with shapes of blossoms, fruits and 


Of birds, and ears of corn, wrought cunningly 
By patient goldsmiths skilled beyond compare. 
The gardens blazed with throngs of glorious flowers 
Like constellations of resplendent stars. 
In limpid fountains, fishes pink and blue, 
Green, silvery, golden, sported and leaped and swam. 
Delicious fruits, purple, yellow and red, 
Hung down from sighing, overloaded boughs; 
In verdant glooms of never-fading trees 
The song-birds gurgled from the dawn to dusk. 

The Inca wedded wives innumerable: 25 

In noisy, idle bevies, all the day 

They chattered through the harem like a flock 

Of parrots in a tropic wilderness. 

The monarch's children, too, were known by scores, 

Or even hundreds : like a goodly tree, 

Whose wealth of fruit encumbers every limb, 

And scatters in profusion at his feet, 

So seemed he with his countless progeny 

Hung on his neck, or holding fast his hands, 

Or swarming in a legion by his side. 

The eldest son succeeded to the throne; 
With high nobility his brothers ranked. 
Whenever an Inca died, the whole domain 
Was draped in blackest mourning ; poets hymned 

DooK VII 157 

His noble deeds in plaintive elegies. 

His wives were immolated on his tomb 

In frighted legions; many slew themselves 

In frenzy at the passing of their lord : 

The palace rang with shrieks and screams and groans 

Of maddened suicides, and golden floors 

Turned crimson with the rivers of their blood. 

When one king died (so reads the chronicle), 

Four thousand human lives were sacrificed 

In honor of his shade. 26 Four thousand lives! 

Each city street, each country lane, grew wild 

With lamentations. Death, omnipotent, 

Stalked everywhere. The farmer left his plow, 

The swain his herd. Even Life itself appeared 

But one vast funeral journey. Songs of joy 

Died into hymns of death. The very birds 

Seemed frightened as they ceased their carolings, 

And chirped in monotones through all the groves. 

There was a spirit worshiped in Peru, 

Called Pacamahac, the highest of the gods, 

For this name signifies, the wise men say, 

"He who sustains and gives life to the world." 

Great was the Sun amongst all deities ; 

Next came the Moon, his sister and his spouse, 

And then the stars, their children: of the stars, 

Venus, the orb of dewy brilliancy, 

Was called "The youth with long and curling locks," 

And worshiped as the fair page of the Sun. 

The Thunder and the Lightning, who in storms 

Wreck the dark heavens, and the Rainbow, arched 

In dreamy beauty as their tumult ends, 

Were likewise emissaries of the Sun, 

Adored in temples raised throughout the land. 

158 Hernando De Soto 

Amidst the holy city, Cuzco, reared 

The great and glorious temple of the Sun. 

Its wondrous chambers all were gilt with gold, 

For this bright metal the Peruvians called 

"The tears wept by the Sun." The western wall 

Of the vast chapel sacred to this god, 

Displayed a mighty image of his orb, 

A human face that darted rays of light, 

All graved from solid gold, and starred with gems. 

At morning, when the Sun rose in the east, 

He blazed upon his earthly image there, 

Which, like a mirror, threw his splendor back, 

Reflecting glory unto glory : then 

The golden walls and floors and ceilings flamed, 

The graven birds and fruits and flowers took fire, 

The diamond eyes of beast and serpent burned, 

And all the temple's wild magnificence 

Matched heaven's own sunrise with unearthly dawn. 

Another chapel, decked in argent pomp, 

Contained a vast blonde image of the Moon 

Of virgin silver wreathed in silvern rays. 

Still other chapels, sacred to the Stars, 

Forever twinkled with resplendent gems, 

With diamonds and with sapphires, stars of Earth. 

The Thunder and the Lightning each had shrines, 

Barbaric in their rich embellishments. 

Another chapel, to the Rainbow given, 

Glowed, like its god, in varicolored hues 

Of jasper, opal, ruby, and emerald. 

Within this fane was ever kept a fire, 

Which, once extinguished, boded untold harm, 

And vestals, white-robed virgins of the Sun, 

BooK VII 159 

Watched, ever zealous, by the flickering flame. 
To life-long chastity these maids were bound : 
She who, among these, broke her solemn vows, 
Stripped of her snow-white robes, and garbed and 


In blackest black, was dragged with curses forth, 
And in some dark and solitary waste 
Buried alive. Her lover, singled out, 
Was strangled at her low unhallowed grave. 
The village where her paramour had lived 
Was laid in ruins ; on the site accurst 
No habitation might be reared again: 
There neither voice of man, nor woman's songs, 
Nor laughter of little children, evermore 
Would greet the lonely pilgrim passing by. 

The censers, altars, and the graven shrines, 

Were all of gold or silver in this fane : 

Twelve argent vases, of prodigious size, 

Bore golden ears of corn, with silvern leaves, 

And silvern tassels, frail as gossamer. 

The bodies of the Incas and their queens, 

At death embalmed, the temple's doors received. 

There, circled round the image of the Sun, 

Kings on the right and queens upon the left, 

In splendid royal robes, on golden thrones, 

Their heads bent down, hands folded on the breast, 

In melancholy majesty they sat, 

Helpless and silent, waiting sadly still 

From weary year to year, through solemn night, 

Dim-lighted by the altar's deathless flame, 

Or, morn by morn, bathed in the brilliancy 

Of flooded glory from the rising Sun. 


De Soto's Narrative continued The Conquest of Peru Pizarro 
defrauds De Soto and Almagro The Isle of Puna Pizarro, 
having provoked its people to war, is besieged in his camp 
De Soto's voyage to the southern seas Dance of the sailors 
New constellations in the skies De Soto brings reinforce 
ments to Pizarro Landing in Peru The storm and its rain 
bow Stratagems of the natives The entry into Tumbez 
The old woman, its only inhabitant De Soto undertakes 
to explore the interior Battle with the Peruvians De Soto 
discovers the Great National Road of Peru He receives 
an envoy, bearing gifts from the Inca He then returns to 
Pizarro's camp, and tells Pizarro of the past history of Peru 
The great Inca, Huayna Capac Omens of the evils to 
come Atahuallpa, the Peruvian Inca His victories over 
Huascar March over the Andes De Soto and Hernando 
interview the Inca De Soto displays his horsemanship 
The banquet, and song of the maiden. 

WHEN first Pizarro sought me for my aid, 
He pledged me, next himself , the second place 
In leadership. But soon each petty act 
Favoring his kin, a partial mind betrayed, 
Putting my rank in question with that horde. 
Ere he had sailed for Spain his word he gave 
To seek commissions at the royal hands, 
Dividing fairly with Almagro, all 
The rights of conquest and the spoils of war. 
Instead, all titles, dignities and powers 
Himself he seized. Almagro, thus ignored, 
Was left the crumbs his colleagues threw away. 


BooK VIII 161 

Hernando quarreled with Almagro, sought 

To bar him from their councils, but his plots 

Francisco vetoed, knowing well, in sooth, 

That with Almagro out, their paltry force 

Would shrink to nothingness. With honeyed words 

He sought Almagro, soothed his raging heart, 

And thus prevailed upon the veteran 

Not to desert them in their crisis. Thus, 

All plans at last matured. Pizarro first 

Sailed with his brothers in a little fleet ; 

I followed next ; Almagro later still. 

Embosomed in the blue Peruvian seas, 

The Isle of Puna rears in radiant green, 

A clump of noble forests ; f ronded palms 

And tufted bamboos, wreathed with flowering vines, 

Uplift perpetual verdure to the skies. 

Beyond a gulf, through the soft azure haze, 

Dim in their dreamy undulations, rise 

The mystic and poetic mainland hills. 

Beneath them, on a red and yellow beach 

That shimmers in the fiery tropic sun, 

A quaint old slumbrous village of the south, 

Gleams Tumbez, whitening in the torrid heat. 

When first Pizarro with his buccaneers 
Had landed on these shores, the Puna tribes 
His advent hailed, and welcomed him with gifts, 
With what a black requital in the end ! 
They who have voyaged unto desert isles, 
Tell us that oft the simple creatures there 
Roaming the wilds, not knowing man, are tame. 
The innocent bird upon his outstretched arm 
Will perch: the doe, soft-eyed and velvet-limbed, 

162 Hernando De Soto 

Fearless, will come and eat from out his hand : 

And oft, too oft, the treacherous human brute 

Will slay by thousands those who have trusted him 

Only too well. So here Pizarro won 

The faith of these poor people, took their gifts, 

And feigning good-will, sailed away with smiles. 

But now returned, he robbed their fields of corn, 

Fired all their towns, and seized as hostages 

Their highest chieftains. By and by, he sent 

These captives to the chiefs of Tumbez, foes 

Of Puna and its natives. With a shout 

Of frightful savage joy, the Tumbezines 

Fell on the prisoners, and with clubs and spears 

Mangled or brained them, then with hoots and yells 

Tossed them along the beach to glut their dogs. 

Thus wronged, the islesmen rose. Seizing their arms, 

In overwhelming numbers down they rushed, 

Seeking, in rage, with one decisive blow 

To sweep the Spaniard from their world forever. 

But how could lances, bows or javelins, 

Wielded by naked savages afoot, 

Avail against a band of cavalry, 

With muskets armed, and panoplied in steel? 

Like flaming dragons vomiting iron hail, 

Bellowed great cannon through the startled woods, 

Arousing dreadful echoes, that since Time 

His journey at creation first began, 

In deep unbroken solitude had slept 

Amid that dark and pathless wilderness. 

In terror fled the savages, but not 

Till many a Spaniard fell. And through the days 

That followed, bands of lurking islanders 

From ambush sorely vexed their foes. They pounced 

On every forager whose feet had strayed 

BooK VIII 163 

Beyond the camp, slaying each hapless wretch 
With nameless tortures. Venturing once from sight, 
No man was seen again. Pizarro thus, 
Despite his victory, chafed in fearful straits. 

Now came my call to regions unexplored, 

To undiscovered shores by alien seas, 

Beneath the unfamiliar austral stars. 

Great was the hazard of that perilous quest 

For bourns of marvel and of mystery. 

Our bodeful hearts hung timid, and we shrank 

Before the gateway of that secret world 

Of myth and dream and legend, where the powers 

Of Ignorance and of Superstition kept 

Their ever-jealous guard. Roused by and by 

At bugle-call, we stamped reluctant feet, 

And set our faces south. In time, our keels 

Cleaved pathless oceans for the Great Unknown. 

The brown barefooted sailors laughed to see 
Our crowd of young land-plodders slip and slide 
On feet unschooled to swaying decks. When one 
Would reel and totter, from their hairy throats 
Contemptuous merriment in great guffaws 
Would bubble and explode; when one would fall, 
Some grim sea-mastiff in a raucous burst 
Would cry out, "See this pink-cheeked cavalier! 
He danced fandangoes with his lass on land, 
And now, to prove his legs are nimble still, 
He tries to dance fandangoes out at sea!" 
These rough and weatherbeaten veterans 
As harmless coxcombs looked upon us all. 
They deemed me but a witless popinjay, 
Bound on a madman's venture. 

164 Hernando De Soto 

But at times 

The younger sailors in a dance moresque 
Would earn our plaudits. Coming on the deck 
Barefooted, wearing turbans all aglow 
With saffron and with scarlet, in their ears 
Great hoops of gold, with ribbons red and blue 
Tied round their arms and over their shoulders 


Their graceful measures would begin. On high 
Some clicked and clattered castanets, while others 
Thumped, tapped and rattled tambourines: about 
Their naked ankles little bells were hung, 
Which, while the dancers lightly swayed their feet, 
Would clink and clang and tinkle merrily. 

Quaint little isles we passed, and spied afar 
Their tiny summits, fringed with feathery palms, 
And golden beaches, marged with cream- white surf 
From steel-blue billows of unslumbering seas. 
We watched the dolphins, that, like playful boys, 
Dived in the spume that scattered from our prows, 
Or gazing heavenward, oft our eyes beheld, 
Soaring, or wheeling in an airy cirque, 
Majestic and serene, the albatross. 
We watched the pageant of the mainland coast, 
Its dim blue promontories, and its capes 
Delusory in amethystine haze, 
Cheating the eye that judged them near at hand 
When weary leagues away. Oft we descried, 
Wreathing those heights, clouds from volcanoes rise 
Like smoke upcurled from huts of giants, while 
Above their darker brethren of the range 
Glimmered the pure and spotless peaks of snow, 
Like marble domes on palaces of gods. 

BooK VIII 165 

On deck we passed the equatorial nights 
Whose heated darkness throbbed with mystery. 
We saw the round moon, like a great doubloon, 
Arising from a sea of melted gold. 
As we sped further southward, like a friend 
True to the end, but called at last by fate 
To leave us for some world beyond the tomb, 
The Northern Star was drowned in ocean waves. 
Through gloomy gulfs of unknown firmaments 
New constellations scattered splendorful 
In twinkling archipelagoes of fire : 
The jeweled Scorpion glittered overhead, 
Canopus led the Centaur through the heavens, 
And like a beacon blazed the Southern Cross. 

After a prosperous voyage, safe at last, 

We came to Puna with an hundred men, 

Chosen and culled, and veterans all in fight. 

Our caravels brought swift war-horses, arms, 

Great sacks of corn, and varied implements 

For use in exploration and survey. 

We reached our comrades at the fateful hour: 

Pizarro, hounded by relentless foes, 

Was hemmed and huddled in a little camp 

Beside the seashore; here, from day to day, 

Beleaguered narrowly, he looked and longed 

To sight my welcome little flotilla. So, 

When first our sails he spied, he laughed and cheered, 

And when we landed, rushed with shouts of joy, 

Exclaiming, "Here at last our saviors come!" 

When begging me to aid him in his plans, 
Pizarro had not half the truth revealed: 
I knew not that the simple islanders 

166 Hernando De Soto 

Who had met the ingrate with extended hand, 

Would be rewarded by the torch and blade. 

The natives now he blamed for all his ills: 

"These infidels," he growled, "are treacherous fiends, 

Who, unregardful of their solemn pledges, 

Have waylaid, tortured, and then slain our men, 

Without a cause save their own lust for blood." 

Now, since all danger from the Islanders 

Was over, every mind at once was charged 

With grave surmises of the one great Task, 

That, still unfinished, ever called us on. 

What dark forebodings hovered round our hearts! 

We shudder as we hear, amid the gloom 

Of solitary woods when day is done, 

The night-bird weirdly calling. But those cries, 

Freezing our blood with terror, are, in truth, 

But notes of tenderness and love, whereby 

That creature wooes his mate. And in those hours 

Of darkness, every shape, however sweet 

Or innocent, becomes a thing of dread. 

When day returns, the bony spectral hand, 

Shaken in menace at us, we may find 

A slender blossomy bough. The huge black fiend 

Barring our pathway, at the dawn appears 

A copse of roses decked in silken bloom. 

The pallid sheeted ghost, whose gliding form 

Chills us with horror, in the morning light 

Becomes a gentle snow-white lamb. So thus, 

Standing before that world of mystery, 

The haunt of unknown perils, everything, 

Seen or unseen, was feared. Though in the years 

Thereafter, legions of those fears proved false, 

How they appalled us, groping through the dark! 

BooK VIII 167 

Ere long, Pizarro bade the troops embark, 
Row to the mainland, quell the Tumbezines, 
And swoop upon their city. I was sent 
To cross the sea-arm at its narrowest pass, 27 
Not far from Tumbez ; next us he embarked 
Hernando with his troop, but on a course 
Southward, that led them to a little cove 
Wellnigh a half-league from the port we sought. 
We crossed upon the islemen's raft-like boats, 
Clumsy old vessels, hard to steer and row, 
Each staggering with a handful of our men. 
The heat glowed merciless; the oarsmen strained 
And groaned and sweated; some grew faint, and 


The boats capsizing often, steeds and men, 
Cast out to flounder in the rolling waves, 
Would sputter half-drowned, struggling for the shore. 

Long hours we spent in crossing. When at last 

Our awkward boats had all attained the shore, 

Suddenly, as if by sorcery, came a storm, 

In swiftness and in fury such as never 

The gentler northern climes behold. We fled 

For refuge to a beetling hill, whose rocks 

Jutted above a hollow nook : our feet 

Had scarcely won that refuge, when the blast 

Came roaring like a wild beast in our wake. 

Now blinding flash came following blinding flash, 

With crack on crack and shock succeeding shock, 

Seeming to split the universe in twain. 

Dazed by the thunder-claps that smote our ears, 

We trembled, and we tottered on our feet 

As the great lightnings hit the hill above, 

Shivering its massive rocks. Like frail bamboos, 

168 Hernando De Soto 

Snapping, great palm- trees fell, while tattered leaves 
Went flying, mingled with distracted birds 
That fled in terror from the tempest *s wrath. 
Black turned the day as night; winds roared and 

howled ; 

Vibrations and convulsions stunned the earth; 
And in a wild black chaos cleaved with fire, 
The world seemed sinking into Tartarus. 

Down swept the rain in torrents. Then the storm, 
With all the abruptness that its coming showed, 
Suddenly ceased. Soon, like the gentle spouse 
Of a black-browed, black-bearded robber chief, 
Twining her arms around his hairy neck 
And stroking back his shaggy locks, while words 
Of love and kindness falter from her lips, 
Soothing his rage, and winning his fierce heart 
To mercy for some foe beneath his feet, 
A rainbow, lovelier than the Paradise 
Beheld by saints when dying, curved above 
The grisly horrors of that angry storm, 
And wreathed his scowling visage in a smile. 

The storm abated, soon our steps were turned 

To Tumbez, lying scarce two leagues away. 

But ere this time, some Islanders, (who now, 

Affrighted at this peril from the north, 

Buried their ancient hatred of their kin) , 

Had voyaged over, and warned the Tumbezines, 

Who, startled at the tidings, took to flight, 

And scattered bands of warriors through the woods, 

In ambush to destroy us. Thus it was, 

A throng of natives, as we journeyed on, 

Came forward smiling, and exclaimed, "We wish 

BooK VIII 169 

To welcome you as friends: come, go with us, 
And greet our chief: he waits by yonder wood." 
So over-anxious did they seem, I feared 
A plot to snare us: "Tell thy chief," I said, 
"That here, not there, he finds me." Answering 


And scenting peril in their silken tones, 
We waited for our comrades. Muttering, 
The paynims disappeared. Another band 
Of Spaniards who had landed on the beach 
Below us, by that selfsame treacherous crew 
Were hailed. By the same artful stratagem, 
The captain and his followers all were lured 
To tangled wildwoods far from shore: when there, 
From a deep swamp great throngs of savages 
Rushed on them with a terrifying shout, 
And slew them all. At still another beach, 
Francisco, younger brother of our chief, 
On landing with his squadron, was attacked. 
Hearing their cries, Hernando hastened up 
Barely in time to save them. 

Late that day, 

Pizarro came himself, and later still, 
When overtaken by the other bands, 
We marched upon the city. Not a man 
Opposed us on the way. But when we reached 
The town itself, no human face appeared 
At casement or at door to greet our own. 
Deserted, left to silence, desolate, 
Stretched lonely streets with rows of dreary walls ; 
Seeming to stare upon us sullenly, 
Reared blank, half -opened portals. In the heat 
That blazed upon their whitened surfaces, 

170 Hernanclo De Soto 

Buzzed drowsy wasps, while busy mud-flies sang, 

And languid ants went creeping sluggishly. 

There was no plunder for our eager horde ; 

No gold there was, or silver, meat or bread. 

Our troopers searched and spied ; each nook was bare ; 

A hungry mouse could not have found a crumb. 

At last, before a ruined hut, we saw 

A lonely beldame leaning on a stick, 

Her back bent like a sickle. Locks of gray 

Tangled and twisted at her neck, or streamed 

In tatters downward. Clenched, her toothless jaws 

Suffered an upturned chin and hooked nose 

To fit together like a parrot's beak. 

Surely an hundred years upon that head 

Had shed their snows! But her black eyes still shone 

Brilliantly, for within them Hatred burned 

Fiercely his torch, burned it for us, whose arms 

Would drive her people from their home forever! 

Close in her knotty, horny fist she seemed 

Strangling a serpent. Jabbering raucously, 

And shaking her grizzled mane, she stood, and though 

Her words we caught not, well we knew the hag 

Cursed us with rabid frenzy. As we left, 

Still we beheld her by that ruined hut, 

Like the Last Man of aborigines 

That, counted once by multitudes, reduce 

To one, so that the One stands all alone, 

Facing his old ancestors' hoary tombs, 

The sole survivor at their Judgment Dawn. 

Narrations fabulous had reached our ears 
Depicting the riches of these realms; but still 
We groped in darkness, knowing not indeed 

BooK VIII 171 

The fiction from the fact. Without a guide, 

A little band of stragglers, far from home, 

We faced a foe of legions numberless. 

The mountains reared like giant battlements, 

Forbidding access to the Promised Land. 

So I was chosen to explore the realm, 

Study the people, note their fortresses, 

Observe their cities and their villages, 

And seek for roadways through the mountains. Soon, 

With sixty mounted men, and targeteers 

In number near a score, I sallied forth. 

Like horns of great behemoths, peak on peak 
Dim in the distance reared : eternal snows 
Forever in their lone white silences 
Remained aloof, untrod, unvisited, 
Save when their spotless deserts dimmed in gloom 
From slowly-passing caravans of clouds. 
Great cataracts fell streaming from the skies 
With everlasting thunders: from afar 
Volcanoes rumbled, and their torches glared 
Through never-dying winter's pallid realms 
Like ghostly tapers lighting stygian shores. 

Had not our leader wronged the islesmen, all 
The mountaineers had greeted us as friends; 
But like an evil spirit, everywhere 
Before us ran the rumor of his crimes, 
Arousing fear and hatred. So, ere long, 
Among these cloudy uplands, we descried, 
Two thousand strong, a host of dusky braves 
Speeding toward us. Brandishing their clubs, 
Waving their spears and shouting, on they rushed, 
Not doubting that our slender little force 

172 Hernando De Soto 

Would soon be swept before them. Drawing near, 
Such swarms of feathered shafts their archers hurled, 
Great flocks of angry birds of prey they seemed, 
Snarling and screeching, armed with beak and claw 
To slash and rend us. Soon their javelins 
Hissed round our ears. Then twanged and whined 

their slings, 

Whose volleying pebbles whistled overhead, 
Or thumped and snapped on ringing armor. Still, 
Braving that storm, the bold Hispanic knights, 
Like human armadillos, shelled in steel, 
A phalanx irresistible, came on, 
Compact and safe and snug, while arrows clinked, 
Or harmless, broke and quivered upon the ground. 
With cheers, whirling our falchions, then we charged; 
Our brands on paynim shoulders fell in wrath, 
Hewing with lightning speed through flesh and 


Our muskets thundered, and their mouths spat fire: 
Then, like a line of statues, (reared in bronze 
To deck some lordly villa) , that amidst 
A flaming storm from fiery Jtna melts, 
The dusky pagan line before that blast 
Melted in slaughter. Those still left unharmed, 
Dumfounded, shrank, or sped in maddened flight. 
But as our horsemen dashed among their ranks, 
Many poor savages, who had never beheld 
A steed before, believed the horse and man 
One creature only, and beholding us 
Galloping down upon them, waving swords 
And shouting, stood immovable, transfixed 
With terror. Noting this, their lives we spared, 
Staying our hands from wanton waste of life. 
The remnant vanished in an utter rout. 

BooK VIII 173 

No man or steed we lost ; but many knights, 
Wounded, lay racked with anguish. 

From that day 

No other band opposed us: peacefully 
The natives met us ever afterward. 
We found a kingdom rich beyond compare : 
Deep orchards teemed with luscious fruits, that glowed 
In red and gold through green : in gardens trailed 
Delicious melons. Bowered in bloomy trees, 
Arose great mansions of the landed peers. 
Abundant farms we passed, and grassy meads, 
With flocks of llamas wandering here and there 
Like ever-shifting clouds in skies of green. 
We saw the plowmen drudging in the fields; 
The plow a sharpened stake that one could guide, 
Two other laborers, like oxen, yoked 
Before it, tugged and toiled to draw it on. 
Through villages of opulence we marched, 
Where overflowing magazines of grain 
The nation stored against the leaner years 
When drought or famine dwindled earth's increase. 
And then, most welcome sight of all, we found 
The Great High Road, that marvel of Peru, 
Which winds six hundred leagues through mountain 


Spans the ravines, rapids and cataracts, 
Meanders through the everlasting snows, 
And leads on to the glorious capital, 
Which else to man were inaccessible. 
We shouted, overjoyed, to find the road, 
For all our hopes now stood assured : behold ! 
Here was the highway leading to success, 
The key to Cuzco and its golden halls! 25 

174 Hernando De Soto 

Among these mountains, suddenly one day 

A tall Peruvian with a lordly air 

Appeared before us. In his hand he bore 

A silver wand ; plumes nodded on his brows, 

And round his shoulders hung a brilliant scarf 

Of saffron and of crimson. With him came 

Four menials, burdened low with splendid gifts. 

Then he: "My gracious lord, the glorious king 

Whom all Peru obeys, sojourneth now 

At Caxamalca, in yon mountain range 

Dim through the eastern haze beheld. I bear 

His courteous greetings : it would greatly please 

My royal master at some day not far 

To grant you audience: and I bring with me 

Some tokens of his friendship." Saying this, 

He beckoned to the menials, who advanced, 

And laid the gifts before us. In delight 

And wonder we beheld three gorgeous robes 

Of scarlet; six fine turbans, edged with lace 

Of golden texture ; mantles, that with plumes 

Of humming birds in iridescent hues 

Shimmered and flamed. And six great vases shone 

Beside a score of goblets, all pure gold. 

And there were daggers bearing in their hilts 

Sanguineous rubies ; swords whose wrathful blades 

Were quenched and cooled in sea-green emeralds 

Studding their hilts and scabbards ; and not least 

In splendor, there were burgonets and shields, 

With starry brilliants constellated over. 

Bearing the gifts, our errant feet we turned 
Back with the envoy to the Spanish camp. 
Our friends again we saw : Pizarro met 
The king's ambassador, and took his gifts, 

Book VIII 175 

Saying, "I greet thy monarch in return, 

And thank him for his largess. Say beside, 

That we shall fare to Caxamalca soon, 

And there shall meet His Highness face to face." 

In council with Pizarro I revealed 

The story of our great discovery, 

The gaining of the highway long desired. 

Exulting like a Caesar, he exclaimed, 

"The riddle is solved; soon, comrades, we shall be 

The wealthiest of the wealthy in this world, 

And knighted with a never-dying fame!" 

I then related to Pizarro all 

The history we had gathered on our quest 

Of this great empire and its emperor. 

In happy years, before our conquering fleet 
Flaunted Spain's colors in those distant skies, 
A warlike prince, Huayna Capac, reigned. 
But not contented with his ancient realms, 
He led his troops to conquest, and ere long 
The great empire of Quito on the north 
Bowed in submission to his potent arms. 
The King of Quito, driven in exile, died, 
Leaving a lovely daughter. Orphaned thus, 
Forlorn, in terror, spent with tears, the maid 
By ruffians of the conquering host was seized, 
And sold to slavery. Learning of her fate, 
The victor-monarch bade her masters bring 
The girl before him at his palace. There, 
Alone and unbefriended, at his feet 
She lay, sobbing and trembling. Pity stole 
Into his heart, and finding soon the key, 
Opened the door and let Love enter in. 

176 Hernando De Soto 

The flower of his harem, from that hour 

The slave was slave no longer. In his eyes 

No other queen found favor; in her arms, 

Hers only, he rejoiced. A son she bore, 

Named Atahuallpa, and the lad became 

His father's pampered darling. Still, the boy, 

In love conceived, was not in wedlock born : 

A younger scion, Huascar, born of one 

Less fair and favored, though a lawful spouse, 

Became the crown-prince, destined for the throne. 

Time passed ; and then the white man first was seen 
Lifting his sails along Peruvian seas, 
Whereat, the legends of the people tell, 
Portentous omens terrified the land. 29 
Great blazing comets streamed disheveled hair, 
Startling the peaceful skies and quiet stars : 
Terrific earthquakes hurled huge ocean waves, 
Rocking the mountains on their thrones. The moon 
Was circled round with vasty rings of fire, 
Purple and red and yellow : meteors flamed 
As in some great death-struggle of the gods 

A thunderbolt fell from the raging heavens, 

And burned a royal palace. Old men say, 

At Cuzco, high above the central square, 

An eagle fluttered, screaming with affright, 

Describing vast gyrations in the air; 

Fierce hawks pursued him, and their talons tore 

His bosom, till his plumage, dyed in blood, 

Came floating downward : soon they beaked his heart, 

So that the eagle, sinking earthward, whirled 

In convolutions fast diminishing, 

Above the awestruck, frightened multitude, 

BooK VIII 177 

Then plunged, deplumed and lifeless, to the ground. 
The king himself beheld in nightmare dreams 
The bearded white men landing on his coast, 
Like messengers of vengeance from the gods, 
Bringing destruction, horror and despair. 

The old king, dying, called his elder sons 

Beside his couch, and breathed his last commands: 

"On thee, O Atahuallpa, whom I love, 

Though laws may frown upon thee," spake the father, 

"Quito, thy mother's country, I bestow, 

A goodly kingdom. It was once her sire's ; 

I conquered it ; mine is the right to give, 

And I return it now as justly thine. 

Thou, Huascar, take the empire of the South, 

Peru, mine ancient heritage and thine. 

O sons, I beg thee, live in peace and love, 

As brothers should : each let the other still 

Be the undisputed master of his own." 

Thus having counseled them, the monarch died. 
A short time passed ; affairs of state went well ; 
But soon the sons disputed : by and by, 
Through the land raged a fratricidal war. 

Their armies met upon a battle-field 

Under the dome of Chimborazo's peak, 

That, crowned with snow and ice, upreared through 


His awful visage, like the God of War, 
Rejoiced to see his altars red with blood. 
All day with equal chance the battle raged; 
Uncounted were the deeds of knightliness: 
At sunset, Atahuallpa's forces won, 

178 Hernando De Soto 

And Huascar's cohorts fled the bloody field 

Like dead leaves scattered by the winds of March. 

The nightfall comes with far-extending gloom; 
The brilliant afterglow from western heavens 
Gleams blood-red on a world incarnadined. 
The moon shines over Chimborazo's peak, 
Its cold albedo white on ancient snows ; 
A nimbus round it circles; solemn winds 
From off those lonely wintry summits sigh 
Above the dead, and over dying men 
Who join in moans of dolor and despair. 

Then Atahuallpa swept with torch and blade 
Through all the northern princedoms; there he slew, 
He sacked and ravaged with relentless hand, 
Leaving those realms a waste of ruined tombs. 

Again the forces meet upon a plain 

Nigh unto Cuzco ; here again they strive 

From rising unto setting of the sun. 

Blood runs in rivulets as legions die, 

And tens of legions, wounded, strew the ground. 

Dowed with the stubbornness of sheer despair, 

The armies clinch like madmen. At the noon 

No living man can tell where Victory hovers. 

Death, girt with snaky furies, rides the field, 

His lances like a leafless wilderness 

In horrent bristles piercing overhead. 

The uproar and the clamor startle heaven, 

And shake the solid ground; shield shocks on shield, 

And buckler smites on buckler, spear on spear. 

Battalions clash together, and staggering, 

Bludgeon each other with their broken swords. 

BooKVIII 179 

Ere sundown, Huascar's army wavered; then 
Some fled; still others scattered here and there. 
A thousand faithful paladins closed round 
Their monarch on the hopeless battlefield ; 
Like gladiators struggling on till death, 
Madly these fought the battle, till their foes, 
Swooping upon them in ferocious throngs, 
Slaughtered them man by man. The vanquished 


With the wild desperation men display 
When Chance and Fate have hurled Hope to her 


But, heavy-smitten, all were overcome: 
Then Huascar, with his royal robes drenched red 
In the heart's blood of the chivalric knights 
Who sought to save him, fell a prisoner 
To him who in the past had heard their sire 
Implore them to be brothers to the end. 

Then Atahuallpa's legions, hasting south, 
Laid hold on Cuzco. At the selfsame time 
I marched in exploration through the land, 
Seeking the Great Road to the Capital, 
The conquering Inca stood upon his way 
To Cuzco to be crowned. 

Delaying not, 

We started with Pizarro on our march 
Over the great sierras to the east. 
High up and higher still, we climbed and climbed 
By frightful gorges, cliffs like fortresses, 
By thundrous waterfalls, and on and on 
Through bleak and sterile fields of granite. Here 
The tropic gardens, sweet with fruit and flowers, 

180 Hernando De Soto 

Were lost in trackless forests of the pine, 

Dark, solemn and forbidding. Over these, 

All forests disappeared ; gnarled stunted shrubs 

And scanty herbage fringed the rocky waste: 

Still higher, glittered nooks of snow and ice. 

We shivered in the cold, a piercing cold, 

Bitter and keen tenfold to men imbrowned 

So lately in the glowing tropic sun. 

At night, when lying on the earth to rest, 

Great fires we lit, and huddling close together, 

Sought for a little warmth and cheer; but still 

Remorseless winter winds would sweep and swirl 

Whistling around us, and we fretted and fumed, 

Shuddering beneath their lashes. On these heights, 

In the thin air, our heads reeled giddily, 

Our ears rung, and we panted, out of breath, 

As wanderers pant on deserts parched with heat. 

Five dull cold days we groped through sodden clouds 

That wrapped the whole world in a ghostly gray. 

At length, a valley spread beneath our eyes, 

Oval in shape, wherethrough a beaming river, 

A thread of silver in a robe of green, 

Ran, fructifying rich savannah lands. 

A village neat and fair we spied afar, 

With orchards, bloomy gardens, happy farms, 

Vineyards and meadows and umbrageous woods 

Spreading their verdure round its spotless walls, 

A tiny glittering speck of purest white, 

Set like a pearl in the midst of emeralds. 

The town was Caxamalca, so we learned. 
Beyond it steamed and curled a vaporous cloud 
From boiling springs : still further, we could see 
The vast camp of the Inca's army spread 

BooK VIII 181 

Like a strange mushroom city reared at night 
To please the fancy of some fairy king. 

And as a prince, come with his followers 
From a far land to claim his promised bride, 
(Whom he hath never seen, but whose fair face 
Men have acclaimed as peerless) > on a height 
Above her father's kingdom, stands and sees, 
Thrilling with glad expectance at the sight, 
For the first time her distant palace-towers, 
So every gallant knight in our own band, 
Looked downward on that scene so long desired, 
Breathless, and flushed with wild ambitious dreams. 

Next day at dawn we reached the village. There 

We gazed in wonder on its streets and walls, 

As white and clean as linen festal-robes. 

We halted in the plaza: gaping throngs 

Of natives gathered, staring in amaze 

On the white horsemen perched upon their steeds. 

Dumb as their walls, transfixed with awe, they stood, 

Answering no questions put them. But when asked 

Where might the King be found? Said one, "He 


At yonder palace, where you see a cloud 
Of vapor rising from the plain." At this, 
Pizarro bade me mount my steed, and take 
Some chosen comrades with me to the king. 
Beyond the borders of the town we rode, 
And saw the white pavilions of the king 
Rising above an undulating plain. 
Reaching at length a broad swift-running stream, 
My comrades swam their horses through, but I, 
Spurring my steed, and urging him along 

182 Hernanclo De Soto 

With a quick, low command, dashed breathlessly 
Up to the brink, where, bounding high in air, 
We overleaped the brawling rivulet 
A feat which made the brown men gathered near 
Shrink, and cry out in wonder. After this, 
Nearly a league we cantered; then we met 
A squadron of Peruvians with their spears 
Shouldered, and lightly slanting backward: none 
Resisted us, or challenged. When we asked, 
"Where may we find your monarch?" one replied, 
"In yonder mansion bides our lord, the King": 
So we spurred onward to the palace grounds. 

A summer house it was, engalleried, 

And bowered in a mass of bloomy trees: 

Its balconies and colonnades uprose 

With slender fluted columns, white as shafts 

Of moonlight, glinting through the verdant gloom 

Of tangled intervening forest-boughs. 

Below it dipped a rocky hollow, whence 

Out gushed a bubbling fountain, crystal-clear, 

But hotly boiling, plumed with misty clouds. 

Circling this fountain, decked in splendid robes, 

Were gathered high Peruvian noblemen, 

Together with their daughters and their wives 

In brilliant gowns and mantles garmented 

A tulip-garden glorious to the eyes. 

Amidst them all was Atahuallpa, garbed 

In robes of purple. Round his royal brows, 

A fringe of tassels worn by kings alone, 

The crimson borla wreathed ; and over that, 

Uprising like a many-pointed star, 

A crest of white and roseate feathers rayed. 

A bracelet on his left arm loosely hung; 

BOOK vin 183 

A gorgeous parrot, perched upon his right, 
Preened plumes of scarlet and of gold and green. 

In admiration we beheld this prince 

Renowned and glorious. Neither old nor young, 

He now had reached that noontide hour of life 

When youth has vanished from the firm-set face, 

And yet no lines are furrowed on the brow. 

Like those of all Peruvians of his rank, 

His cheeks were dark and beardless. His black 


Blazing anon and ever savagely, 
Yet often would a languid ease assume. 
His mouth, though firm-set, still from time to time 
Would curve and curl in gentle winning ways, 
As free and careless as a little child's. 
Like a volcano diademed with snow, 
And footstooled in a vale of fruits and flowers 
While ever smouldering with Tartarean fires, 
He, with his stoic ease and boylike smile 
Half-hid, but quenched not, his barbaric flame. 

Dumb as a god, nor sign nor sound he made, 

Ignoring even our presence. As I gazed 

Upon him, over me there crept an awe, 

A deep, mysterious dread, I knew not why. 

I seemed to tread dim deserts of the past, 

A waste of cryptic immemorial tombs, 

And dusty catacombs, whose mummied host 

Recalled an age august, illustrious, 

Now lost in ruins. Memories of eld, 

Of long-quenched flames of long-evanished suns 

That fired the hearts of long-forgotten kings, 

Swept through my spirit like a burning dream. 

184 Hernando De Soto 

But now Hernando galloped from the rear, 

Leading a score of youthful cavaliers 

Our force to strengthen : side by side we rode 

Right into the presence of the Indian King. 

Hernando, still remaining on his steed, 

Saluting, said, "We greet thee, Sire, as friends; 

For we have come from lands beyond the seas, 

As servants of a mighty monarch there, 

Who seeks the good-will of his brother-prince." 

The Inca, though he marked with deep amaze 

The bearded white men and their foaming steeds, 

Assumed a careless manner, answering not. 

But after an awkward silence for a space, 

A peer beside him murmured, " It is well." 

No other word was uttered : then I saw 

The King with a distracted manner turn 

His glances here and there, as if to say, 

"You weary me; why should I care for you, 

Your realm, your monarch, or your childish vaunts?" 

But I perceived a passing lightning -flash 

From out of the twilight darkness of his eyes, 

And well I knew his studied carelessness 

Betrayed the agitation, the suspense, 

The smothered anger and the wounded pride 

That quivered like an earthquake in his soul. 

Yet soon I noted, scarcely half concealed, 

His admiration, pleasure and amaze 

When glancing at the stallion that I rode. 

And truly was that steed a noble sight : 

As black as midnight, wild as winter winds, 

He reared, he charged, he madly champed his bit, 

He pawed the earth, he flecked his breast with foam, 

And flashed from ebon eyes a starry fire. 

BooK VIII 185 

With wide-expanded nostrils, savage mouth, 

And glorious mane, declaring haughtily 

His lusty youth, hot blood and high descent, 

In mingled anger and delight he neighed. 

So, striking spurs, I bounded through the plain, 

And overleaping hedges, walls of stone, 

And brawling streams, I galloped far away. 

We leaped one brook a score of feet in breadth. 30 

Then coming back, I rode him round and round, 

And though he pitched and vaulted, held my place 

As easy as a ruler on his throne. 

And now I turned him straight toward the place 

Where Atahuallpa sat with all his peers, 

Sweeping upon them like a thunderbolt 

Hurled from on high to smite them from the earth. 

Some nobles, struck with terror, turned and fled ; 

But Atahuallpa calmly held his ground, 

Showing no fear or wonder at the sight. 

I rushed upon him, and my horse's feet 

Were poised to leap, and crush him; horrified, 

The people shrieked and turned, or hid their eyes, 

Not daring to behold those iron hoofs 

Trample their godlike master in the dust. 

But instantly I firmly drew the rein, 

And checked the horse with such a practiced hand, 

I nearly threw him on his haunches; thus 

He halted just before the Inca's throne, 

So close that dust bestrewed the royal robes, 

And foam was scattered on the monarch's feet. 

The startled parrot on his moveless wrist 

Shrieked, screamed and fluttered like a frightened 


Yet even then the Inca wavered not, 
But calmly smiled, and turned his face away! 

i86 Hernando De Soto 

Hernando, deeming this the timely point 
His message to renew, tendered once more 
His greetings to the King, who faintly smiled, 
And answered, "Tell thy leader I will grant 
A hearing unto him to-morrow morn." 

At dusk the Inca summoned all his peers 

To join him in a banquet where we sat 

About him as the guests of honor. There, 

To serve us as our handmaids at the feast, 

A troop of lovely dusky damsels came 

Enrobed in scarlet, wearing on their brows 

Pale azure wreaths of clustered heliotrope 

Whose odors charmed the air. Blithely they tripped, 

With armlets and with anklets set in pearls, 

With golden sandals glimmering on their feet, 

While on their tiny fingers and their toes 

Were little rings, twinkling with dewy gems. 

Water they fetched in marble urns, wherewith 

Our hands they laved. Then, these ablutions done, 

With crisp and savory meats they tempted us, 

Plump fowls on silver chargers, tender quails, 

Vicunas roasted whole, and boar and deer. 

And then they served us heaps of luscious fruits 

With rinds of many colors, golden-green, 

Vermeil and orange, tawny and copper-red ; 

Some bulged with honeyed hearts; others were keen 

With tangs of acid; some with sugared cream, 

Or amber syrups oozed. But sharp or sweet, 

In their rich flavors all were redolent 

Of nectar and ambrosia of the gods. 

They brought us berries from whose arteries 

Dripped odorous blood, poignant as sparkling wine. 

Likewise they fetched us nuts with knotty shells, 

BooK VIII 187 

Or bearded, hairy husks, that gushed with milk, 

Or yielded ivory kernels from their cells. 

In glorious flagons formed of solid gold, 

Chilled from the chillest mountain snow and ice, 

Bubbled the purple, red and yellow wines. 

So, lifting jeweled beakers, merrily 

We cried, "Long life and glory to the King!" 

Before the banquet ended, tripped the maids 
In dance before us. Then one damsel sang: 

"As the waif from Antarctic strands 

In the fervid tropic heat 
Swelters and pants on desert sands 

That blister his weary feet ; 
As he longs for the peaks of snow, 

Where the glacial fountains rise, 
And auroras glitter and glow 

In the clear, keen, frosty skies; 

"As the waif from the tropic shores 

In a chill Antarctic night 
Stands appalled while the bleak wind roars 

Through the frozen wastes of white; 
As he pines for the brilliant flowers, 

For the tart and honeyed fruits, 
And the flame-wing'd birds in the bowers, 

Whose throats are as silver flutes; 

"So, love, have I panted and yearned 

In vain for thy clasp and kiss; 
Yea, ever in vain have I burned 
To taste of that perfect bliss. 

188 Hernanclo De Soto 

O, like a tremulous evening star, 
So bright that it casts a shade, 

The light of thine eyes, Istahar, 
In shadow my soul hath laid. 

"As the dust-covered leaves desire 

In fever of parching drought, 
Cool showers to relieve their fire, 

Crave I the kiss of thy mouth: 
As the pilgrim, sunburned, athirst, 

Seeks a palm-fringed fountain's brink, 
So, loveless, unchosen, accurst, 

I seek of thy love to drink. 

"Yet spurn me or scorn me; for still 

Thou canst not my soul repress 
From drinking and draining at will 

A fervent, though feigned, caress; 
Though never I dare to touch thee, sweet, 

I revel in honeyed lies ; 
On thy mouth, thy hands and thy feet, 

I have kissed thee with mine eyes." 


De Soto's Narrative continued The Conquest of Peru Pizarro 
calls a council of his officers, and reveals a plan to seize the 
Inca by treachery on the next day The Priest Valverde 
advocates the project De Soto earnestly opposes it 
Hernando and Gonzalo speak in favor of the treacherous 
scheme, but are antagonized by their brother Juan Finally 
Pizarro himself defends the plan, and the council decides 
to adopt it De Soto is then reluctantly forced to act with 
the rest. 

RETURNING to the camp that night, we found 
The band in strange commotion. All had 


The message of the Inca ere we came, 
And hurriedly Pizarro summoned us 
To meet him at a council in his tent. 
A plan he then divulged to snare the king 
When come to meet us on the following day, 
And having clutched his prisoner, next to claim 
A fabulous ransom for his liberty. 
Atrocious was the scheme, and I recoiled 
In anger and disgust from all who came 
Begging my aid. But many had been bribed 
By artful promises, which, ere that night 
Pizarro had in secret whispered them, 
To aid him in the work of villainy. 
I stormed, I thundered; hardly one I found 
To second me. 


Hernando De Soto 

The first of all who rose 
In open council as the advocate 
Of this dark project, was the zealot priest, 
Valverde. Yellowish- white, his bloodless face 
Seemed like a ghastly mushroom, spawned at night 
From mouldy wood, nourished on clammy dews, 
But now baked hard beneath the noontide glare. 
Free from all passions, yearnings of the flesh, 
Or human weaknesses, dauntless he stood, 
Grim in his weird, unearthly eloquence, 
For hell's own methods in the cause of heaven. 
Had he but held the power, the whole wide earth 
One desert waste of virtue would have spread, 
Drear and delightless; and beneath his rule 
Virtue herself had so repulsive proved 
That all mankind had fled for sweet relief 
Into the arms of Vice. Ascetic, pale 
And haggard, knowing not of carnal joys, 
The bird-songs and the blossoms of this world 
He passed unheeded, dreaming but of heaven. 
To save the heathen from the pangs of hell 
Hereafter, he would make him suffer hell 
Here, on this earth, and now. With a keen eye, 
As sure as any grayhound's, he pursued 
His victim cruelly and unerringly, 
But only for that victim's good, as he 
Verily believed. 

And thus Valverde spake : 
" My friends, this plan to seize the pagan king 
You may deem harsh. But with this iron key, 
Cold and inexorable, we may unlock 
A treasure-casket packed with gold. As God 
Once gave to Israel Canaan, so He now 

BooK IX 191 

Gives unto us Peru, our Promised Land. 
And He hath given it, not that we might glut 
Our maws with earth's abundance, meat or bread, 
Honey or milk or wine, but that our hands 
May rear His altar in this heathen realm, 
Where blinded paynims, made to see, may come 
Glorifying His name. To achieve this, 
Blood must be shed : then be it so : for some, 
A handful, must be smitten, the rest to save. 
What! do you fear to strike? Nay, rather fear 
To stay your hand. For did not Joshua, 
Through God's own power, retard the sun himself 
Like a torch-bearer chained on Gibeon, 
And stay the moon like a pale captive queen 
Low in the vale of Ajalon, for this, 
That all the heathen might be put to death, 
And not one soul escape? And did not Saul 
Through God's decree, lose both his life and throne 
For sparing Agag, seed of Amalek? 
And did not Samuel, with his own right hand 
Smite Agag unto death, that God's command, 
By Saul dishonored, yet might be obeyed? 

"Yea, we must save these people from themselves: 
A few must die, that multitudes may live 
Forever. Subjects now of wrath divine, 
Doomed unto endless flame, soon shall they be 
Of God's own chosen people, won for heaven. 
Friends, does a father shrink in coward fear 
From chastisement of his own darling son, 
Knowing that, should he stay his hand, the son 
Will grow in disobedience, sink to crime, 
And in his manhood only be at last 
But rotting fruit hung on the gallows-tree, 

192 Hernando De Soto 

A loathsome feast for beaks of carrion-crows? 
Say, does the surgeon fear to use his blade 
For pity, when he sees the festering hand 
Or gangrened foot before him, and he knows 
That hand or foot, unsevered, must ere long 
Destroy the man himself? My friends, that leech 
Pities the sufferer, but he strikes to save. 
So be it here with you. Strike manfully. 
Better ten thousand times that these poor souls 
Should weep one day in earthly agonies, 
Than wail in agonies of hell forever." 

He finished, and a mad March wind of cheers 
Followed his last words. Then in wrath I rose, 
Protesting. "Comrades! what black plot is this? 
This Christless plan of treachery, in whose brain 
Was it conceived? Here, while upon our lips 
We still may taste the viands of his board, 
And still within our hearts may feel the glow 
And sparkle of his wines, we hatch foul schemes 
To seize our host, and throw him into bonds ! 
But you seek not to rob the king alone; 
You plan to cheat your friends besides : for as yet 
Almagro hath not joined us, and if you 
Succeed, and wring this booty from the king, 
You will deny him any share. Why not 
Await him, not alone to win his aid, 
Now sorely needed by our little band, 
But likewise that all spoils he too may win, 
And winning, share? 

"What would our friends, 
Our honest friends at home, say of this deed? 
And what a triumph to our enemies 

BooK IX 193 

The story of our shame would be! This crime 
Would plant a dagger within every breast 
That truly loved us ; it would place a club 
In the hands of all our foes; it would lift 
A trumpet to the lips of Fame, wherewith 
To sound our black dishonor through the world! 
But ! not even with our lives, nor yet 
With lives of countless millions still unborn, 
Would end the hatred of outraged mankind. 
For every man who advocates this deed 
Eternal execration waits! 


The blood-stained old Mosaic code a priest 
Quotes for our guidance. Rather let us lift 
The stainless banner of the word of Christ, 
Commanding that for evil we return 
Good. Yea! but now, ye pious Pharisees, 
Black wolves in white sheep's clothing, would return 
Evil for good. Ye snarl, and show your teeth, 
Lambs of the meek and lowly One ! 

"Haste not! 

I hear a moblike fury in your shouts, 

I see a moblike frenzy in your eyes. 

This is not well. For Truth is a fixed star, 

And Error but a flitting meteor. 

Distrust that leader who would hurry you 

Into a crime with wild appeals, before 

Your sober afterthought can aid you. Pause, 

And let your reason dominate your passion." 

I ended ; but no murmur of applause 
My words approved. One only in that throng, 

194 Hernando De Soto 

And that one Juan Pizarro, with a smile 

Bowed in assent. And soon Hernando rose 

To answer me. Bold, overbearing, loud, 

His audience he sought to domineer 

By brutal dogma, rather than to win 

By subtle reasoning. Thus, then, he began: 

" I am a man of few and homely words. 

All rhetoric, with its tawdry flowers of speech, 

I fling away, contemptuous. I arise 

To simper no romances, and I listen 

To none from others. I demand the facts. 

White-livered, mushroom-hearted men may shrink 

From the plain truth : I face it, eye to eye. 

"The question we debate is not for schools, 
Nor churches ; nor for scholars, nor for priests. 
It is now solely one of self-defence, 
And none can rob you of that primal right 
Of nature : none can blame you for its use. 
If we seize not this king, his armied swarms 
Will seize us: he who strikes first, wins the day: 
He who delays to strike, delays forever. 

"We have been asked to wait till others come 

To share the spoils. This reason, to my thought, 

Urges us all the more to smite with speed, 

So that the booty shall be ours alone. 

But if we wait, there will be nothing to share. 

Sirs, if we haste, and seize the king to-morrow, 

We shall be so exalted that the earth 

Shall be too mean to touch our feet ; if not, 

There is no spot of ground in all the world 

So lowly and dishonored as to yield 

A grave to hide us. 

BooK IX 195 

"We are told that men 
Will stand aghast on hearing of this deed: 
Better that men should hate and fear you, sirs, 
Than pity or despise ! Spaniards ! I give 
My cause to no man's conscience save mine own. 
See this right hand ! It grasps a coin of gold, 
And doubled, rests upon my sabre-hilt : 
That stout hand is my guard, its fist my friend, 
That sword my passport, and that gold my slave, 
These, these alone, are loyal to the end, 
And when I lose them, I have lost the world! 

"I have lived long, and long ago this truth 

Was burned upon me as with white-hot rods : 

This brutal world is ever more merciless 

Unto the man who serves himself unkindly 

Than unto him who is unkind to others. 

None stop to ask whether a shining coin 

Was ever stained with blood. Honor and fame 

Are only borrowed ornaments, that serve 

To blind the eyes that search for truth: few ask 

The nature of the heart their splendor covers. 

The blackest puddle in the grimiest street 

Reflects the radiance of the moon and stars 

As brilliantly as the most limpid rill : 

So evil, beamed upon by all the world, 

Seems as glorious as the good. Knowing that truth, 

He is not wise who seeks the applause of men, 

And he who heeds it not, alone is great." 

His words the crowd applauded lustily. 

But young Gonzalo, waiting not to hear 

The clamor cease, uprose impetuous 

To fan the flame still higher, Handsome he stood, 

196 Hernando De Soto 

With black curls tossed about his princely brow 

In careless grace, and with dark liquid eyes 

Like dusky meres that through the midnight shades 

Mirror keen lightnings. "Comrades!" he began, 

"They tell us that our enemies will rage 

Against us when they learn that we have struck 

This blow to-morrow. Be it so! Far better 

To make your enemies stand aghast before 

Your sheer audacity, than raise a smile 

Upon their faces, as in idleness 

And weakness you allow the prize to slip 

Out of your hands forever. In this life, 

To disappoint one's enemies, of all 

Sweet joys is sweetest. We are told again, 

That friends will look with horror on this deed. 

Friendship ! When did it ever clothe your back, 

Shelter your head, or fill your hungry belly? 

It is a star that never beams through clouds, 

A dial that will only mark your hours 

While the sun shines. Friendship! Friendship 

indeed ! 

A flower to cling to in a storm ; a web 
Frailer than ever spider wove, to clutch 
For safety when you hang above a gulf 
Yawning an hundred fathom deep ! 


They tell us that the people far and near, 
Those born or unborn, will denounce this act. 
The people, yea, the people! Who are they 
But those who freed Barabbas, holding Christ? 
Ever distrust that man who bids you bow 
Before the forum of another's mind ; 
Distrust him, likewise, who would be a friend 

DooK IX 197 

To every man, and who would make each man 
His guide, his counselor and his oracle. 
He who is friend to all is friend to none. 
Therefore, in passing on this question, seek 
Only your own good, for, be all assured, 
If you now fail to win it, nevermore, 
Here or hereafter, will the outside world 
Lend even a pigmy's little finger to aid you." 

Again the plaudits, like hoarse roars at night 
From hungry wild beasts in a desert waste, 
Assailed mine ears. But when they ceased, Juan 


With eye serene and gentle placid brow, 
He towered above the mob, and forced at once 
Silence, and rapt attention. "Friends," he said, 
"You know me as a man untaught, unschooled, 
Who can not scrawl his own name, nor indeed 
Read it when scrawled by others. Thus debarred 
From books, I have not learned what wiser men 
Have said, or would say, at a time like this. 
But thus much have I learned : that when I face 
Such weighty questions, I should ask mine heart, 
Mine own heart, shut in darkness though it be, 
What is the right? What is my duty? What 
Is the true pathway that I now must choose? 
And when I seek my conscience for an answer 
Until that answer comes, I ever find 
Thereafter, through some student of the books, 
That men more wise than I an hundredfold, 
Who flourished long ago, and left the world 
Their treasured learning in immortal tomes, 
I surely find, I say, that men like these 
Attained the same conclusion, though they brought 

198 Hernando De Soto 

Reasons to prove them which my simple mind 
Might never comprehend. And here in part 
My thought approves my brother's : Let no man 
In a great crisis make another's mind 
His one reliance. Look within thyself, 
And though, like me, benighted, by and by, 
Within thine own breast probing faithfully, 
Thou shalt unearth the Truth, and know the Right. 
In fiercest drought, in the most arid field, 
Dig deep enough, and water will be found. 

"It is no question then, with me to-night 

Whether my friends would sicken at this deed, 

Or enemies cry out, or all the world 

Stand horrified: but to myself I stand 

Accountable. Though I may fear the world, 

And shun its condemnation, far, far more 

I shun the condemnation from within, 

The self-contempt of mine own guilty soul. 

Measured by these precepts, what is the scheme 

Before us? Every man must say at once 

That it is treachery; that it is trailed 

With the hoof -prints of devils. Men of Spain! 

Ye who uphold this infamy, do not call 

On Christ to aid you, but Iscariot ! 

Seek not to lead the pagan into light, 

But flee yourselves from darkness! Prate no more 

Of saving heathen from the flames of hell, 

When you yourselves have need of all the prayers 

Of all the world to save you from the doom 

Of Satan and his host forever damned." 

A burst of mingled anger and dismay 

From the assembled throng, when Juan had ceased, 

DooK IX . 199 

Vented itself in furious taunts and cries, 

And hoots and jeers. But when the tumult calmed, 

Uprose Pizarro, strong, imperious, 

Holding our ears with eloquence enthralled: 

"We are but strangers in a hostile realm, 

Severed from friends, two thousand leagues from 


Encompassed by a world of savages. 
From sickness and desertion and from death 
Left scarce two hundred strong, we face a foe 
Whose king can whelm us with a million men. 
We dare not fight these paynims hand to hand, 
For though we stand superior in arms, 
We can not front them on from day to day 
Save by exhausting all our little strength 
Within a fortnight. Should we lose one man 
For every hundred that we slay, there soon 
Would be no Spaniard left in all the land, 
While myriads of Peruvians still would swarm. 
We can not flee, for if we turn, the king, 
Seeing our weakness proved by flight, would come 
Pursuing: he would hound us step by step, 
Swoop on us from ravine and cliff and crag, 
Till every mountain gorge had quaffed our blood. 
But, soldiers, should we in the end escape, 
And homeward sneak again, Contempt and Shame 
Would bray us welcome : loud the rabble throats 
Would hoot and howl derision. 0, no doubt 
This little life is sweet, and bitter, death, 
But rather would I perish in this land 
By savage spears, than be a butt for jests 
Of those who hate us, those who prophesy 
That this, our glorious enterprise, will fail. 

2OO Hernando De Soto 

You speak of foe and friend : be well assured 
That failure at this hour would lose us all 
Respect from one and honor from the other. 
O, how those enemies would scoff and sneer, 
And how the ones we love would hang their heads, 
To see us straggling, unsuccessful, back! 
Comrades! so far our lives are failures, all: 
Not one of us can boast of youth ; alas ! 
Some now are old, still others growing old, 
Yet all are poor, neglected or unknown, 
Ignored by old-time friends more fortunate. 
The world's great prizes, riches and renown, 
Have all eluded us through all our lives. 
Now is the hour to strike ! Seize ye the king, 
And all his followers, leaderless and lost, 
Will scatter in confusion and dismay. 
Unto their eyes the Inca is a god ; 
So if we prison him, as mightier gods 
Will they adore us ; then our day will dawn, 
When all their realms imperial will be ours. 
Come, let us vote! Say, shall we choose retreat, 
Inglorious death, or shame still worse than death, 
Or shall we strike for wealth and fame and glory?" 

His eager eyes shone with a splendid fire, 

His doughty form, replete with strength and force, 

Was shaken by his martial eloquence: 

A storm of shouts acclaimed him when he ceased. 

And, truth to tell, since we had strayed so far, 

How could we falter? By what other course 

Could this, our last emprise, attain success? 

And though I deem that hour of all my life 

The darkest, yet that hour was sure to come 

When first I gave consent to join that band: 

DooK IX 201 

Thus, then, I yielded, murmuring bitterly. 
And so it is, that man shall ever find 
One evil act will clamor for another, 
One sin demands another for its mate, 
And he who starts upon the path of wrong 
Often is forced to keep it to the end. 


De Soto's Narrative continued The Conquest of Peru The 
Spaniards prepare to seize the Inca through treachery 
Atahuallpa appears with numerous attendants and followers 
Controversy between Valverde and the Inca The great 
massacre The Inca is made prisoner He offers Pizarro an 
enormous ransom to secure his liberty The ransom is 
accepted Immense heaps of treasure; weapons, vessels 
and ornaments of gold and silver Jewels and precious 
stones Almagro and his troops arrive from the North 
They are debarred from sharing in the ransom Pizarro 
defrauds De Soto in the division of the spoils Death of 
Huascar Pizarro causes suspicion to fall upon the Inca, 
and delays his release The writing on the thumb-nail 
Pizarro's anger is aroused against the King A great comet 
appears Atahuallpa's forebodings Pizarro, with a sinister 
design, sends De Soto to another province Last interview 
between De Soto and the Inca. 

AT cockcrow every man aroused : our limbs 
In the keen airs of the chill mountain morn 
Shivered and trembled. As we sought to dress, 
Groping and stumbling through the dark, our teeth 
Chattered between our yawns: unsated Sleep, 
Sullen, rebellious and persistent, still 
Hung heavy on our weary eyes. We thrust 
Quickly our garments on, and girded next 
Our armor : hurriedly a little food 
We then devoured. This done, our whinnying steeds 
We saddled. Ranged about the central square 


BooK X 203 

Were halls with earthen floors, and into these 
We rode our horses : there we stood concealed, 
Ready at any instant to rush forth 
And overwhelm the multitudes that soon 
Should throng the plaza. On the roofs above 
Were cannon, grim in readiness, their mouths 
An hungered for the horrid feast of blood. 

Thus were we stationed : with his infantry 

Pizarro held the center; I the right, 

With cavalry; Hernando on the left 

Stood likewise ready with his mounted men. 

The horses' breastplates all were hung with bells, 

To heighten the mad clangor of our charge. 

Impatiently we waited ; but long hours 

Passed, and the King came not. The morning waned, 

Noon glowed in dazzling radiance, and then died, 

Yet still with anxious eyes we peered without, 

Vainly, to sight our prey. But when the sun 

Stood scarce two hours from setting, came a troop 

Of servants of the monarch, singing songs 

Wherein they voiced the glories of their King; 

Of higher rank, next came another throng, 

Bedight in robes of checkered white and red; 

Then came still higher orders, garbed in white, 

And bearing argent maces in their hands ; 

Next to these marched a guard of noblemen 

With blue robes, jeweled bracelets, glittering chains, 

And golden earrings in distended ears. 

After them all came Atahuallpa, borne 

Upon a throne set on a palanquin; 

The throne itself was wrought of purest gold ; 

The palanquin, of silver and of gold, 

Was lined with glowing plumes of tropic birds. 

204 Hernando De Soto 

The Inca's robes were gorgeous in their hues 
Of violet and vermilion, like the clouds 
Decking the sun at dawn. A wreath he wore 
Of glittering golden leaves and fruits and flowers, 
While round his neck an emerald necklace hung, 
Each gem well worth the dowry of a queen. 

They reached the plaza ; there the splendid files 

Were opened right and left, and through them passed 

The Inca throned upon his palanquin 

In majesty serene. Six thousand strong, 

Around the square his guards and followers stood. 

Our men, behind the treacherous walls concealed, 

Breathless, awaited but one awful word 

To rush without, and slay. Seeing us not, 

"Where are the strangers?" asked the King. At this, 

The black-robed priest, Valverde, sallied forth, 

His left arm with a bible weighted down, 

And in his dexter hand a crucifix. 

Then quoth Valverde, "May I please the King! 

I come to tell thee of the Christian faith." 

The monarch sat amazed: "What means this man?" 

He queried, "is he mad?" But, unabashed, 

"Thy deities are false," Valverde cried: 

"No creed is true save that we teach; no god 

Is real, save the one we serve." The King, 

Half angered, half amused, replied, "Avaunt! 

Thy mouthing wearies me." But still unmoved, 

Valverde cried, "Prince, from thine idols turn, 

And learn the true religion that we bring." 

"That trouble spare thyself," the King replied; 
"What need to prate to me of God? The sun, 
The moon, the stars, the mountains and the sea, 

BooK X 205 

These tell me with an eloquence sublime 

Of Him who made them. Hast thou marked the 


Sprout from the mould? Hast viewed the scaly bulb, 
Coarse and unsightly, shooting through its husk 
A radiant lily to the skies? Or seen 
The gnarled and twisted root thrust from the sod 
A bough that blossoms with a queenly rose? 
In boyhood hast thou seen the speckled egg 
In a wild bird's nest, from the broken shell 
Bring forth a feathered songster? Hast beheld 
Before the day, in dim gray dewy light, 
The trumpets of the frail convolvulus 
Ope slowly, one by one? Then, if thou hast, 
Think, man, how vain and futile are thy words, 
Weakly reechoing truths which Nature tells 
In field and wood from twice ten thousand tongues." 
Valverde bit his lip; impatiently 
He blurted, "But this book I bear with me 
Is God's own word, and it denounceth all 
Who will not hear it." Then the monarch smiled 
Disdainfully, replying: "Why should I 
Waste time on thee? Thy puling sermons, man, 
But fret me : cease. Why should I hear thee drone 
Thy saws from dusty and moth-eaten scrolls? 
He who hath kenned the daily miracle 
Of rubied sunset, amethystine dawn, 
Needs not thy fables nor thy mummeries 
To know his God. Say, who directs the birds 
In springtime through a thousand airy leagues 
To northern shores, and pilots them again 
In autumn backward to these tropic skies? 
Who bids the dews at gracious hours of eve 
Refresh the leaf and blossom? Do these come 

206 Hernando De Soto 

To thee for guidance? Do they ask of thee 
Their daily duty? Do they come and beg 
Thine intercession at the court of God?" 

Valverde shouted back, "Prince, do not dare 

To spurn God's servant! I am here to speak 

The will of Heaven; be not thou over-proud, 

But hearken to that message!" Then the King 

Frowned darkly, and he waved the priest away, 

Saying, "Why need I with the servant waste 

My moments, when the Master may be seen? 

Why parley with a herald, when the King, 

The King Himself, will grant me audience?" 

Valverde, still persisting, cried aloud, 

"Sire, thou art stubborn, but thy neck must bend: 

The Pope, our Church's head, hath given us 

Dominion over all this pagan land, 

And thou shalt heed God's courier. Thou must learn 

The annals of our church ; of all our saints ; 

Of baptism and salvation, fasting, prayer. 

But first I tell thee of our Lord, the King, 

The mightiest, noblest ruler of the world; 

Before him in obedience must thou kneel, 

Becoming thus a tributary prince 

To one more great, more glorious, than thyself." 

Then Atahuallpa quivered in his wrath, 

Rejoining, "Wretch, I bend the knee to none, 

But millions bow before me as their lord. 

Your king can not command me ; I will greet 

His army as a brother monarch's force, 

But vassal will I be to none but God. 

Who is your pope, that he should make a gift 

Of lands and peoples that he never saw? 

Your God, they say, was nailed upon a cross; 

BooK X 207 

My God, in yonder Sun, lives reigning still." 
His dusky face grew ashen with his rage; 
His twilight eyes were kindled into flame. 
"And tell me," he continued, "Who commands 
That I should bow my head to prince or pope?" 
Then the priest answered, "This, the book I hold, 
Gives us authority over thee and thine." 
The Inca snatched the bible from the priest, 
And scornful, hurled it into the very dust, 
Exclaiming, " Varlet! I am not thy slave; 
But I shall call thee and thy beggarly crew 
To answer for your crimes throughout my land." 

Valverde, quickly turning, cried aloud, 

"Behold, Castilians, how the heathen scoffs! 

Set on him now! I will absolve ye all!" 

Pizarro gave the signal; out we rushed, 

Bells ringing, armor clanging, swords awhirl; 

We shouted, and our horses reared and plunged. 

Our muskets thundered, crashed and cracked and 

roared ; 

From roofs above us the artillery 
Blazed forth destruction: so with frightful din, 
Shocking of steely weapons, smoke and flame, 
And shrieks and groans, the massacre began. 
As some tornado in terrific might 
Sweeps through a forest, hurling down the trees, 
And dashing huts and hovels to the dust, 
Till earth is overwhelmed with ruin, so 
We swept upon those unsuspecting throngs, 
Smiting down all before us. Glittering blades 
Descended, cleaving through the multitudes, 
While maddened horses crushed them underfoot. 
The earth reeled drunk with floods of human gore, 

208 Hernando De Soto 

And the wild heavens above us, rent with screams, 
Shuddered, and shrank appalled. 

Reverend Chief, 

The memory of that awful crime of crimes 
Will haunt and hound me to my dying day: 
Come, let me haste to end the dreadful page! 
The havoc ended not till late at night : 
Together with the attendants of the King, 
Nigh half the city's habitants were slain; 
And some fled to the country, still pursued 
And butchered by the horsemen as they ran. 
But though at midnight twice five thousand souls 
Were counted with the dying or the dead 
Among the natives, no man in our host 
Had suffered a mortal wound. The faithful peers 
Who sought to shield the Inca, all were slain. 
Pizarro found the monarch: left alone, 
With scores of dead around him, with his robes 
Bespattered red in blood, without a sword, 
Or shield or helmet, stood the helpless King, 
Yet still unmoved by fear. Pizarro cried, 
"My liege, thou art my prisoner;" then he laid 
His hand upon the Inca's arm, and led 
His silent, unresisting captive forth 
From scenes of carnage to a prison cell 
In an old ruined palace on the square. 

Now moans and lamentations through the gloom 
Rising in awful cadence, made the stars 
Shiver with horror: then, as one by one 
The sufferers perished, the keen piteous wails 
Lowered, or sank to silence. Yet far on 
Beyond the midnight hours, he who awake, 

Booh. X 209 

Listened, would feel his heart with terror freeze 
To hear unearthly sobs arise from those 
Still living, but in agonies of death, 
Blood-curdling and uncanny, like the cries 
Of lone lost night-birds haunting desert wilds. 

To make his hideous crime more hideous still, 
Pizarro bade the Inca sit at meat 
Beside him in a hall that faced the square 
Where mounds of dead rose isled in seas of blood. 
When viands had been set before the King 
There in the presence of his murdered friends, 
He ate not for his utter misery. 
The city now was plundered ; house to house, 
The vandals roved unhindered ; soon their arms 
Were loaded down with silver and with gold. 
I, half demented, and unmanned by shame, 
Stole silent to my couch ; racked with remorse, 
Sleepless I tossed there, till the break of dawn. 

Not many days had passed before the King 
Learned that, despite our leader's pious airs, 
And all his solemn protestations, one, 
And only one god, knew his worship, Gold. 
So, sending for Pizarro, "My good lord," 
He said, "thou knowest that my liberty 
Above all things my heart desires. See here, 
I stand tiptoe; my longest finger's tip 
Reaches this height upon my prison wall. 
Scan well this chamber, and the cell beyond. 
If thou wilt free me, I will heap with gold 
This chamber to that little spot you see 
Touched by my longest finger's tip; and twice 
With silver will I pack the neighboring cell, 

2io Hernando De Soto 

Yea, all that ransom will I gladly pay 

To end this weary durance, and go free." 

The room wherein the King was then immured 

In length reached two-and-twenty feet ; its breadth 

Was seventeen. The King himself was tall, 

And standing tiptoe, touched his highest mark, 

Nigh eight feet from the floor. The neighboring cell 

Was smaller, yet was not of pigmy size. 

"Two months I ask," he said, "wherein to heap 

The cells according to my pledge ; when both 

Have thus been filled, my bondage is to end." 

Pizarro stood amazed; scarce could he dream 

That such amazing treasures might be found 

In all the coffers of all kings of earth. 

He paused a moment; then in breathless joy 

He answered, "Be it so: bring thou thy gold 

And silver to this prison ; when the cells 

Are filled as thou hast pledged, thou shalt go free." 

He promised, yea, he promised! How he kept 

His promise, he must answer face to face 

With Atahuallpa on the Judgment Day. 

At once the Inca sent swift couriers 
Throughout his realm, the treasuries to spoil 
In all the temples and the palaces. 
So all these stately mansions were deflowered 
Of all their olden splendors. Jewels torn 
From royal villas, and of such great price 
Each might have bought an earldom, in the dusk 
Of Atahuallpa's dingy bondage-house 
Glittered in glorious hills. The Inca's gods 
Gave of their riches, that their captive son 
Might wander free again : rare ornaments 
Of finest workmanship, adorned with gems, 

DooK X 211 

Their holy fanes surrendered for his sake. 
From out the sun-like temple of the Sun, 
vSeven hundred plates of precious metals came. 
In silvern radiance, massive goblets reared 
With salvers and with ewers ; strewn with these 
Were vases, rings and bracelets wrought of gold. 
A golden fountain lifted, with a jet 
Of golden drops that sprayed in brilliant showers, 
While golden birds and fishes leaped and played 
About the waters at its golden base. 
And there were quaint designs of fruits and flowers, 
And leaves, and spears of grain, wrought skillfully 
By master-hands. Soon Atahuallpa's cell 
Was heaped with gold, and the adjoining cell 
Packed twice with silver. Never in this world 
Had any conqueror gloated over spoils 
That, matched with ours, appeared not poor and 

Amazed, we conned the treasures manifold 
Wrenched from this Ophir of the Occident. 
The lucid lustre of the silver-heaps 
Seemed moonlight streaming over peaks of snow. 
Great ingots of the precious metals lay 
Near bullion still unpurged of earthy dross, 
And nuggets that with sullen splendor gleamed, 
Like the dull gold of faded sunsets. Coins, 
Peeping through shadows of secluded nooks, 
Winked roguishly like saucy wanton eyes. 

Here glimmered wreaths and fillets for the brow, 

And splendid coronets and diadems 

Fit for the lofty temples of a god; 

And there flamed morions, poignards, halberds, glaives, 

212 Hernando De Soto 

Embossed with gold and crusted over with gems. 

From sumptuous beakers, wreathed in golden vines, 

Hung clustered rubies simulating grapes; 

Here tall amphoras beamed ; gold butterflies, 

Fashioned to lift them, clung on either side 

With chrysoprase and beryl on their wings. 

Great serpents lifted with carbuncle eyes 

That flashed and scowled; their graceful coils were 


With crimson-tinted garnets, while their crests 
Sparkled with diamonds. Scattered through the 


Were golden blossoms, drenched in throbbing dews 
Of lucid brilliants. Priceless emeralds, 
Green as the eyes of love-lorn Jealousy, 
Glared from the idol's unimpassioned brow. 

From sword-hilts glittered solitary gems 
Proudly aloof as lonely Fomalhaut; 
Still others glowed like smouldering Saturn; some 
With the cream-yellow of Capella shone; 
Twinkling, some shed a pure soft radiance, 
Like Hesperus, the lovely orb of Love, 
While others reigned in royal arrogance, 
Icily gleaming, like the Northern Star. 
When over all those treasures blazed the light, 
They dazzled and they smote our shrinking eyes 
Like some astonishing and magnificent 
Red sunrise over glowing desert sands 

Uncounted riches swelled the leaders' hoards: 
Each muleteer could pocket pelf enow 
To tide him through five years of idleness. 
At last my days of opulence had come ; 

DooK X 213 

Wealth's cornucopia rested in my hands; 
My gold would win me Isabel: I saw 
In blissful dreams, under my conquering feet, 
The grandeur and the glory of the world. 

But soon Almagro joined us with his force. 

This aid was needed by our little band, 

Yet most unwelcome were these allies now, 

When spoils would be divided ! In his plans 

Pizarro had not counted on these friends. 

"Ours only is the ransom," he declared, 

"Since we have won it with unaided arms." 

But hard it seemed, after these long, long years, 

To cast aside Almagro. So I sought 

Pizarro, saying, "Let us not hold fast 

And strict to selfish rights ; for though our claim 

To the whole booty may in reason stand 

Well founded, let us prove not only just, 

But gracious. Since Almagro well deserves 

Some bounty for his labors, at the least 

Let us repay him for his grievous loss 

Entailed in fathering earlier voyages." 

But now Hernando, puffed with spleen, renewed 

His old feud with Almagro : all trie rest 

Joined forces with the two Pizarros: long 

They wrangled and disputed. In the end, 

Almagro and his men were all debarred 

From sharing in the prize. The veteran, 

Cheated once more, turned with a cynic smile, 

And shrugged his shoulders, forced again to yield 

To frauds that left him patched and threadbare still 

After ten years of sacrifice and toil, 

When scars mapped misery on him, and his heart 

Was strewn with ruins of its perished dreams. 

214 Hernando De Soto 

So now the peerless ransom all was ours. 31 

Ere the division, true to inborn craft, 

Pizarro offered prayer: this done, he took 

Three-fold as much as I received, and gave 

Hernando more than two-fold. Not content, 

To swell the hoard his arms already hugged, 

The despot seized in hurried selfishness 

The throne of Atahuallpa, massive gold, 

Bestarred with jewels, graven gloriously, 

And worth a wealthy city in itself : 

This done, his share was five-fold that of mine. 

Angered, I rose to make remonstrance ; then, 

Remembering by what means the spoil was won, 

I shrank ashamed from bickerings with that clan 

Over ill-gotten lucre. And in sooth, 

The share allotted made me rich indeed : 

What cause had I to fret for more? These thoughts 

Calmed my displeasure, and ere long I went 

Well satisfied. 

The Inca's ransom paid, 
For disenthrallment came his just appeal. 
During the days of his imprisonment 
I often went to see him, sitting down 
Beside him in his dreary cell, to cheer 
His drooping spirits with a friendly smile, 
Or sportive jest, or bit of gossip, gleaned 
About the camp or town. Sweetmeats and fruits, 
Or choicest viands fresh from mine own board, 
Often I took him, hoping thus to tempt 
His listless appetite, that he might eat 
And gather strength again. So, by and by 
He would await my coming, knowing well 
My footstep or my voice, and his dark eyes 

BooK X 215 

Would brighten as I reached his door. Thus then, 

Confiding in me as his only friend 

Among his captors, he desired of me 

That I should see Pizarro, and demand 

A speedy liberation. That same day 

I saw Pizarro ; but I soon detected 

A quibbling in his speech that made me fear 

He purposed not to keep his pledge. "Thy words," 

He answered, "I shall weigh with care. Meantime, 

With kindness have we kept the prisoner: 

For naught he suffers. Had he felt the chains 

Of some, like Cortez or Pedrarias, 

Rather than ours, a sterner, swifter fate 

Had claimed him." But I answered zealously: 

"Sir, when we take the measure of ourselves, 

Let us compare not our poor lives and deeds 

With those of baser men, making the test 

To our advantage: rather let us judge 

Our works by those of nobler souls, even though 

To our discredit. He who would surpass 

Only the herd behind him or below, 

May sink to their mean level : he who looks 

To those beyond him or above, may hope 

To follow close, even though not side by side." 

Unsatisfied, I strode away. And now, 

Aiding Pizarro in his base designs, 

Came rumors that assoiled the Inca's fame. 

For Huascar, then imprisoned by the king, 

One night was drowned. Whether or not his death 

Came through the Inca's mandate, who could say? 

But what a rare pretext was here, whereby 

To hold the captive still ! In pious wrath 

Pizarro sought the monarch, saying, "Sire, 

216 Hernando De Soto 

This frightful crime, left unexplained, must turn 

Suspicion toward thee : we are not deaf, 

Nor art thou dumb : speak : who hath done this deed ? " 

"I know not," flashed the prisoner, angrily; 

"Being myself a captive all the while, 

How could I harm him? Whether Huascar died 

Through murder or mischance, how could I know?" 

Pizarro answered, "At thy prison cell, 

Thy friends had speech with thee in privacy; 

Thus hadst thou chance to issue such commands 

As might have laid him low. I judge thee not 

As yet : but whosoever planned this crime, 

Himself must die." Evil begetting evil, 

And rumor, rumor, busy tongues declared 

That now the Peruvians, arming secretly, 

Plotted to rise against us : hearing this, 

Pizarro told the monarch, who in turn 

Hotly retorted, "Heed thou not such tales; 

My subjects are demanding my release; 

They murmur, doubtless, at this long delay; 

But none are yet uprising, and they wait, 

Expectant only of my safe return." 

In truth, despite his cry for justice, raised 
Against a crime unproved, a trivial cause, 
Or one that seemed but trivial, had aroused 
Pizarro to this fury. For, one day, 
One of his prison-guards the monarch called, 
Saying, " My good man, write the name of God 
Here, on my thumb-nail." This the soldier did: 
Then the King showed the writing on his nail 
Unto the other guards. Each read the scrawl, 
And crossing himself, called out the holy name. 
Greatly the Inca marveled at this feat, 

BooK X 217 

The art of writing being then unknown 

Among Peruvians. When Pizarro came, 

The Inca showed the writing on his nail : 

Pizarro, all unlettered as he was, 

Stared with a stupid stare, confessing thus 

Himself more ignorant than these guardsmen : then 

With unconcealed contempt the monarch smiled 

At one in high position so unlearned ; 

He jested of it to his friends at times, 

Rousing a little breeze of merriment : 

Hearing these things, the despot choked with rage, 

And though his outward calm he soon regained, 

In his heart's depths he planned the captive's fall. 

Now a great comet, startling earth and heaven, 
Amidst the black recesses of the night 
Blazed with a weird, portentous brilliancy. 32 
Deep yellow, shaggy like a lion's mane, 
It flung its hairy strands about the stars, 
And seemed to snare them in its mighty maze. 
The monarch then, with a despondent air, 
Said, "Surely, evil days are pending: once, 
When first the Castilians landed on our shores, 
My sire, Huayna Capac, lay in death; 
Through his last nights on earth, a comet blazed, 
A torch of wrath like this we now behold, 
Portending dire disasters to the land." 

Noting Pizarro's dilatory pleas, 
Whereby from day to day he put me off, 
I now demanded that he cease delaying, 
And free the Inca. Pausing first, he said: 
"Tidings have reached me that the natives rise 
Against us in the southern provinces; 

218 Hernando De Soto 

I bid thee take thy men, and see thyself 
Whether these stories be untruth or truth; 
If they be false, on thy return the king 
Shall have his freedom." Artfully he laid 
His plans before me. Never did I dream 
What treachery lay concealed behind this ruse, 
That a foul plan of murder in his heart 
Crouched like a scorpion with a deadly sting! 

That night I sought the captive King, and told 

Pizarro's orders. Starting, he exclaimed, 

"Here is some plot for evil! O, my friend, 

I pray thee, leave me not! In his dark soul 

This man both fears and hates me. Shouldst thou go, 

Leaving me at his mercy, I am lost." 

"Nay, nay," I answered, "he hath pledged his faith 

To free thee should I bring assurances 

Proving this gossip false. Be sure, my liege, 

That I shall go with speed, with speed return, 

And bear thee thy deliverance." Answering not, 

Deeply he sighed; then pacing up and down 

His prison-cell, with folded arms, and head 

Downcast in weighty thought, he seemed to wage 

In his own breast a silent battle. "Well," 

At last he muttered sadly, "let it be. 

No longer will I beg thee stay. Perchance 

Thy counsel is the wiser, though alas! 

My heart misgives me." 

Then the King stood still, 
With his brow lifted to the mystic stars 
That twinkled as in tearful sympathy 
Through his dark prison bars. And I beheld, 
Far, far away, through those relentless bars, 

BooK X 219 

The myriad splendors of the galaxy, 

Like a great wreath around the brows of God. 

There likewise flamed the comet, vast in breadth, 

Angry of hue, and wildly ominous 

Of some dread fate impending. Ah, how weird, 

How eery was that scene, the trembling stars, 

The radiant galaxy, the comet's flame, 

And the dark face of the unhappy prince, 

Turned upward from his prison-cell! My heart 

Sank in my bosom with a nameless fear, 

And Prescience, like a Sibyl old and gray, 

Seemed to steal by me, whispering in mine ears 

Dim, direful prophecies. And above all, 

The King himself, as moveless as a man 

Painted within a picture, with what awe 

I gazed upon him in that solemn hour ! 

The scion of a dateless dynasty, 
The monarch stood before me: who could tell 
What weary-footed years had nursed his race, 
What hoary aeons, worn millenniums? 
Amid that mournful gloom I seemed to hear 
The matins and the vespers of his race, 
Its morning orisons, its twilight dirge, 
From youth to age, from genesis to grave. 
Here stood the vicar of once-glorious gods, 
That now, dispurpled and undeified, 
Would awe men's hearts no longer, nor again 
Would gaze on bended knees of votaries 
In supplication; but as dreamless dust, 
Shut in their dank and dark necropolis, 
Must unresponsive lie, and be themselves 
Neglected and forsaken by the world 
Through the endless midnight of oblivion. 

22O Hernando De Soto 

I seemed to hearken to unearthly plaints 

Of mitred white-robed pontiffs, who in tears 

Chanted the obsequies of those so long 

The masters of their lives, their hearts, their souls, 

But now dethroned forever, and the prey 

Of dissolution; and I heard them sing 

The requiems of their old-time Faith, that once 

Was haven of their hopes, their port of prayers, 

Their refuge from this world in that to come. 

These things I seemed to see and hear ; but lo ! 

I saw, gigantic, overlooming all, 

Earth's only true immortal, deathless Death! 

As the time came for parting, I exclaimed, 

"Unjust it is that I should wander free, 

Favored of fortune, and in ease of mind, 

While thou art fettered here! Bitter indeed 

Must be thy thoughts against a partial fate 

That gives thee misery and thy neighbor joy." 

"Nay, nay," replied the Inca earnestly, 

"When I am bowed with grief, let me not say, 

'Lord, I am cheered in mine adversity 

To know that countless thousands in this world 

To-day are bowed with burdens heavier 

Than those allotted unto me. ' Let not 

The selfish thought that hearts of others ache 

With pangs more poignant than mine own, be made 

A balm to soothe me to contentedness. 

No, rather let me say, 'Though I am thrall 

To sorrow, it is comfort unto me 

To know that countless others at this hour 

Are glad of heart. I thank thee that my gloom 

Eclipses not the noontide of their joy. ' 

O, brother, though my hearth be desolate, 

BooK X 221 

Lonely and dreary, let my solace be 

To know that in thy house are warmth and love, 

Dancing and feasting, and the sound of mirth: 

Yea, brother, let my worthier comfort be 

To know thy path is bright though mine is dark." 


De Soto's Narrative continued The Conquest of Peru Pizarro 
and his officers, taking advantage of De Soto's absence, 
hurry the Inca to trial Atahuallpa appears before his 
accusers, and speaks in his own defence Valverde and 
Almagro, and Hernando and Francisco Pizarro, advocate 
the condemnation of the monarch Juan Pizarro alone arises 
to speak in his favor The Inca is condemned to death at 
the stake But Valverde induces him to renounce his re 
ligion, and receive baptism, whereupon he is sentenced 
to be strangled The Inca's last request of Pizarro The 
sacrament is administered to him, and he is then put to 
death Pizarro and his comrades, simulating grief, go into 
mourning for their victim The wives of the Inca slay them 
selves The death-hymn of Amalissa, the favorite wife 
De Soto, returning, denounces Pizarro for his treachery. 

QOUTHWARD I started with my band at dawn, 

And not till nigh a fortnight passed away 
Did I return. Enquiring everywhere, 

Of peer and peasant, in the field or town, 

1 proved all rumors that assailed the King 
But idle gossip, idle as the croak 

Of idle crows flung to the vagrant winds. 

But ah, not slow in rousing were the wolves 

At Caxamalca with the King! For scarce 

Had the last echoes of my horses' hoofs 

Died in the distance, when the ravenous pack 

Rushed on their victim. Though mine eye saw not, 

Nor mine ear heard, the horrors of those days, 


BooK XI 223 

So many tongues have told me when too late, 

That the whole story on my brain seems burned 

By demons with a white-hot iron pen. 

By heart I know that story, word for word, 

And now, relating it to thee, I seem 

Like an eye-witness of each fearful deed, 

But though beholding all, chained hand and foot, 

And impotent even to cry aloud, 

"Villains, forbear!" 

Almagro and his clan 
Above the rest cried fiercely for his blood. 
Though we had won vast treasures, they had not 
Shared in one groat's worth; so they felt no tie 
That bound them to our pledge of faith. Again, 
They feared that, should the King be disenthralled, 
He would arouse his people to avenge 
Pizarro's treacherous villainy of the past. 
"Long have we toiled without reward," they cried, 
"And if ye set the King free, we must lose 
All hope for speedy recompense, and seek 
Only to save our lives. Forbid us not 
To pluck the fruit now hanging in our reach." 

The second night that followed my departure, 
A mock-court was convened, and at that court 
Almagro, the Pizarros, and the priest, 
Valverde, sate amongst the judges. There 
The charges were presented : one of these 
Declared the king had compassed Huascar's death; 
One of idolatry accused him, while 
Another charged revolt against our sway. 
The monarch came before them, garbed in state: 
About him fell a sweeping royal robe 

224 Hernando De Soto 

As soft as velvet, woven artfully 

From skins of bats. A slender band of gold 

Gleamed like a halo round his glossy hair. 

He stood the type of peoples that would soon 

Pass with the passing of their ancient world. 

What legendary lore, what wild romance, 

What strange traditions, what poetic strains 

Of arms escutcheoned, swords and spears and plumes, 

Of old gray palaces, red battle-fields, 

Of love and hatred, joyance and despair, 

Of triumph, conquest, and of ruin, rose 

To haunt his presence as he came to face 

His base-born peasant captors on that night ! 

He gazed throughout the crowd my face to see ; 

For though he knew of my departure, still 

He hoped that I had speedily returned, 

To be his champion at that fateful hour. 

His face with keenest disappointment fell 

When his eye failed to mark me. "Tell me, pray," 

He whispered some one, "Where is he, my friend, 

The Knight De Soto?" Then the answer came, 

"Thy friend is far away; he returns not 

For ten days, or a fortnight." Deep dismay 

Darkened the visage of the fated king ; 

His heart, intrepid once, sank like a star 

From the white zenith of exultant hope 

To the black nadir of forlorn despair. 

His glorious dreams of pomp and power restored, 

And freedom in the midst of those he loved, 

Lay like the wrecks of royal argosies 

Scattered by storms along a desert shore. 

Ah, had I only dreamed, unhappy king, 

BooK XI 225 

That awful night, that them hadst need of me ! 
Upon thy craven foes I should have rushed, 
And saved thy life, or perished at thy side. 
But far away I wandered; dallying there, 
I left thee to the mercy of those wolves, 
Surrounded, and unshielded from thy doom! 

A farce indeed that trial would have proved, 
Had not the outcome been a tragedy. 
No chance they left the king; a faithful few 
Struggled to save him, but were brushed aside. 
Pizarro, sitting as the council's head, 
To Atahuallpa spake: "I ask of thee, 
Art guilty or not guilty? We await 
Thine answer." Then the monarch slowly rose, 
Replying: "I have answered thee before, 
And now I answer thee again: No, no! 
I have not slain my brother. I have not 
Fomented discord. In my prison-cell, 
Hemmed, caged and barred, suspected, spied upon, 
Seeing friends rarely, when hath been my chance 
To plan a murder, or rouse a realm to war? 
I bow before no idols ; images 
To me are only symbols ; they but stand 
As the faint shadows of the Unknown God. 
But yet, my worthy captors, I deny 
Your right to try me under any charge. 
I am a king. Your king, alone, my peer, 
May pass upon my cause. For none but princes 
Of princes should be judges: else your law 
Is only anarchy. Yet granting all 
Your claims of royal jurisdiction, think 
What favors have I done you! O, recall, 
Ye Christians, how I took you to my bosom, 

226 Hernanclo De Soto 

Bestowing every kindness on you! Think, 

think how, when I came on peace intent, 
Ye slew my people, and threw me into chains ! 
'I was a stranger, and ye took me in'; 

So spake the Master whom ye quote to me: 
Yea, ye were strangers, and I took you in: 
See my reward! Enthrallment first, and now 
Prospect of death! I bought my liberty; 

1 bought it as a man may buy his bread; 

I heaped two cells with treasure, treasure such 

As never a king in all the world before 

Offered his captors to be free again. 

But still I clank my fetters, and I stand 

By death confronted. Christians! Is it true 

That Christ, your God, preached Love? Or did he 


A Gospel of the Torch and Sword? But no, 
I beg not for Christ's mercy; I but ask 
The justice that He sought at Pilate's hands, 
That Pilate, who, ye say, misjudged His cause, 
And, therefore, groans to-night in flames of hell!" 

He ended. Many seemed impressed ; throughout 
The council-chamber murmurs of applause 
Stirred faintly. Then they sent the king away : 
He having gone, far into the midnight hours 
They held a stormy session. First uprose 
Valverde. Hard, austere and accurate, 
As cold and bloodless as a pair of scales, 
Unto one standard ever sternly true, 
He weighed with blank indifference rights and wrongs, 
Gold like the brass, and silver like the lead. 
From his thin colorless lips, though oily-toned, 
Fell judgments harsh and pitiless. Then he: 

BooK XI 227 

"My friends, with deep regret I speak. Ye know 

My holy calling bids me not estray 

From paths of peace. No man of blood am I, 

No trumpeter to arms ; I go with you, 

A harbinger of life, not death. But yet, 

Christians, at times great exigencies rise, 

When even men of God must bid the sword 

Leap from the scabbard, and the keen-edged flame 

Spring from the torch. I grant you, Christ taught 


And mercy; yet when sellers of the doves 
And money-changers thronged in hordes profane 
God's holy temple, He was moved to wrath, 
And so He lashed them, howling, from that shrine. 
Hearken, ye Christians ! Have ye now forgot 
This creature's blasphemies? Have ye forgot 
How, when we first met him, he scoffed and sneered 
At the word of God? Do ye recall, my friends, 
How this man smote the Scriptures from my hand 
Into the dust? Then, if ye have forgotten, 
Beware, lest God forget you and your cause! * 
Shall this man beg for mercy from those lips, 
Those same foul lips, that ridiculed God's Word? 
If ye recall not how this infidel 
Scoffed and blasphemed, then you, as well as he, 
May fear the everlasting fires ! O, friends, 
There is a limit to God's mercy: so 
A limit must there be, likewise, for men, 
When mercy is but crime : we must be just, 
Not piteous, to a wretch who jeers at God, 
Who long since passed the boundary where God's 


Could yield forgiveness. But I speak no more 
Of insult unto Heaven, and now enquire 

228 Hernando De Soto 

Of this man's deeds toward his fellow-man. 
He is a murderer ! On this very night 
His brother moulders in the damp, dark earth, 
A modern Abel, by this modern Cain 
Destroyed, slain when a prisoner in the hands 
Of hirelings of this despot. Prate ye still 
Of mercy to a captive? Pitied he 
His captive brother? He denies his guilt; 
But who can doubt his creatures, at his hest, 
Fell on the hapless victim? He hath said 
We have no right to try him; that his cause 
Should be adjudged alone by one who sits 
His peer, upon a throne. I answer then, 
This man, in truth, by right, is not a king: 
He is a bastard : none have right to reign 
Save those conceived in holy wedlock : thus 
That pretext fails. So nothing now remains 
When his fallacious pleas are all dismissed, 
But punishment. What shall the sentence be? 
I say, if laws avail of God and man, 
If still we dare to do our duty, one, 
And only one, just verdict can be given; 
And that one verdict, men of Spain, is Death!" 

He finished. Then a tumult of applause, 
Loud, insolent and aggressive, followed. Long 
The cheering and the clapping of the hands 
Resounded. After silence fell once more, 
The friends of Atahuallpa timidly 
Sat voiceless ; each was waiting for the other 
To break the spell, and cry aloud the Right. 
Among these, Juan Pizarro glanced about, 
Hoping in vain some champion would arise, 
More learned, and expert in speech than he, 

BooK XI 229 

To lift the gauntlet. But when none appeared, 

Shyly he rose himself. Speaking at first 

But slowly, soon he kindled with his theme ; 

His placid eyes flashed fire, his splendid form 

Rose towering, and his simple, quiet face 

A noble epic dignity assumed. 

Then he: "My friends, ye know my past; ye know 

That never have I seen one day at school, 

That never have I read one written line, 

And never have I learned to pen a word. 

I view with envy every barefoot boy 

Who knows his letters ; yea, I envy him 

His long duress between the dingy walls 

When barred from romp and play through field or 


For though he longs for freedom, O much more 
I long for knowledge and for wisdom lost 
To me forever ! I can even feel 
Some envy for that blind man, who, in youth, 
Ere sight was lost, could read the printed tome. 
No longer can he view the earth or sky, 
The leaf or blossom; yet his memory, 
Aided by books, and converse with the wise, 
Can recreate them into lovelier forms, 
Kenning new glories with the spirit's eyes, 
Those eyes that never dim. But I can never 
Know books, nor hold sweet converse with the wise. 
True, I can still behold the heavenly hues 
Of sunrise and of sunset, that the blind 
Have lost; but yet their true significance, 
Their inner meaning, to the wise revealed, 
Are lost on me, blind, blind from birth! So thus 
I shrink from speech, when others here, well trained 
And tutored, sit in silence. Yet speak out 

230 Hernando De Soto 

I must ! I shirk no duty on the field, 
Nor will I shirk my duty here. My friends, 
The voice of honor bids us free the King. 
I know not if he wears his crown by right ; 
I only know our sacred word is pledged. 
Yea, being so unlettered, all the more 
Must I keep hallowed that one thing I have 
In place of letters, my unsullied faith. 

"Say ye that Christ used force? To this I answer: 
Christ was a God; but we are only men; 
He was a sovereign; we are only subjects; 
His was the right to punish, and not ours. 

"Ye say the king is guilty; but I say 
If he be guilty of his brother's death, 
Yet we were guilty still for slaying him. 
Can the red stain of one ensanguined crime 
In bloodshed of another crime be washed 
To whiteness? Yet again, though ye believe 
The monarch guilty, I demand of you, 
Why not commit him to our lord, the king? 
Who dares assert the judgment of our prince 
Would fail of justice? I, the least of all 
Among the soldiery of Spain, am jealous 
Of Spain's unsullied honor. Let this cause 
Be laid before the throne; then, be ye sure, 
Our Nation's arms will still be unassoiled." 

When thus he finished, some throughout the room 
Applauded. But a vicious gust of jeers 
And hisses, by Hernando led, soon swept 
The timid voice of approbation down. 
Almagro rose to speak; his one blind eye 

BooK XI 231 

Rolled with an ugly, evil restlessness ; 

The one unblinded glittered balefully; 

The scar that slashed his cheek grew purpler still. 

"Comrades," he cried, "my words are few. I 


Only of vital things. For fifty years 
These hands have labored, yet without reward: 
Though I am old, not even have I yet 
Regained the outlays that I lost in youth. 
If this man be released, you snatch away 
My horn of plenty, when on Fortune's arm 
It lies extended for my grasp. Why harp 
On pledges made by you, pledges that I 
Myself made not? With frankness let me speak: 
I tell you that the issue we confront 
Is, whether we shall spare this prisoner's life, 
Or save our own. Release him, and in less 
Than one short sennight we shall find ourselves 
Pursued by myriads of barbarians, 
Bloodthirsty, frantic for our lives: our doom, 
A death by torture, nothing could avert 
Save death by our own hands. If I had power 
To save this man, yet hazard not ourselves, 
Most gladly would I say, ' Go free. ' But, friends, 
As surely as we freed him, he would raise 
A countless multitude to smite us all. 
There is no question here of right or wrong: 
The issue here is life or death for us, 
Through life or death for him. When to one spar 
Two shipwrecked sailors cling far out at sea, 
And one discovers that his comrade's weight 
Will sink them both, that only one can float 
To safety on that spar, who blames that man 
Who flings the other off, to save himself, 

232 Hernando De Soto 

When else both men would perish? Sons of Spain! 
Save yourselves first; then prate of right or wrong." 

As he concluded, there was heard the voice 
Of Hernando, crying: "Let us have the vote!" 
Then rising from his seat, that creature, worst 
Of all Pizarro's clan, roared, "Let us vote! 
Who cares to hear more speeches? They are fit 
For gabbling beldames, toothless graybeards, not 
For men who deal with men! The vote! the vote!" 
Pizarro, seeing that his scheme would win, 
Feigned a judicial calmness, waved his hand, 
And curbed Hernando, who resumed his seat 
In silence. Then with pharisaic drawl 
And unctuous mouthing, he exposed at last, 
Poorly disguised, his villainy of soul: 
"Our covenant with the prisoner is not now 
In question. We were pledged to set him free 
On payment of a certain price : that price 
He paid. On paying that, his right was clear 
To freedom: granted. But we hold him not 
For any old offence ; since he hath paid 
The ransom, new offences have been charged, 
And these alone we now debate. No pledge 
We made him hath been broken; seeing that, 
We only ask : Is Atahuallpa guilty 
Of crimes committed since his ransom? Sirs, 
For me, though on my brother's cause I sat, 
Forced would I be, with sorrow, yea, with tears, 
To say, 'The man is guilty; he must die.' " 

He ceased, and louder grew the tumult; cries 

Of "Vote, vote, vote!" hurtled with clamorous fury. 

A vote was taken; with a brutish roar 

DooK XI 233 

The mob declared the charges proved. So then, 
They doomed the king to perish at the stake, 
And naught was left his faithful advocates 
But vain remonstrance. 

When the morning came, 
Pizarro bore himself the frightful news 
To Atahuallpa, who in anguish cried, 
"Alas! What have I done to merit this? 
Why this terrific doom? Think of the stake, 
The death by fire, a death unspeakable! 
And this thy gift, Pizarro! who hast wrung 
Imperial riches from me, who hast known 
Nothing from me in all thy life but good!" 
Then sighing, as though plunged in depths of woe, 
Pizarro gushed with easy-flowing tears ! 

But still, indecent in his haste to strike 

Ere my return, the second night to come 

Was chosen by Pizarro as the time 

To lead his victim to the stake. Then came 

Valverde to the prisoner, and he said, 

"Soften thy heart; bend thou thy stubborn neck; 

Thy false religion openly renounce, 

And our true faith profess. Do thou but this, 

And I will save thee from the death by fire, 

That fate horrific, and the strangler's hand 

Shall make a death less frightful." "I will not!" 

The victim cried: the priest persisted still, 

And saw the captive waver, though he said 

"No! no!" with passion. Long the Inca paused; 

In hesitation oft he shook his head. 

At length, to save himself from death by fire, 

He yielded. So Valverde named him Juan, 

234 Hernando De Soto 

In honor of that one who, long ago, 
Baptized the blest Messiah; for upon 
His day the hapless monarch sought repose 
Within the bosom of our Church. On high 
The priest upraised a chalice, wrought of gold, 
And sparkling with precious jewels, that had once 
In Atahuallpa's regal banquet-halls 
Glittered at glorious feasts : and from it now 
The priest poured water on the Inca's head, 
Proclaiming solemnly, "I baptize thee 
In the name of the Father, and the Son, 
And the Holy Spirit." 

That eve, the King 
Desired to see Pizarro, who, ere long, 
Came to the prison. Said the Inca then, 
"Pizarro, one last favor at thy hands 
I beg: and surely that one favor thou 
Wilt grant me, since thou owest unto me 
All thy good fortune. They whose ships have 


Around the world, and seen the East meet West, 
Say that the sunset on one lonely shore 
Reddens to joyful sunrise on another; 
And so, Pizarro, under Fate's decree, 
My sombre dusk hath been thy glorious dawn. 
Hearken then, unto me. When I am dead, 
I beg of thee to take my corse, and see 
That it is carried back to Quito ; there 
Would I be buried with my fathers, not 
Amongst unfriendly strangers in Peru, 
Who scorned me and my mother." "Be it so," 
Pizarro answered: but a cobweb strand 
Was not more fragile than his pledge of faith. 

DooK XI 235 

To what a depth had sunk the hapless King! 
Yet in his lowly state his heart grew calm, 
Knowing the worst had come. Humility 
Is its own compensation : he who falls 
In body, oft is lifted up in soul 
To fellowship with heaven. Like the wretch 
Cast into a deep and darksome pit, he sees 
The stars at noon, stars that the blinded eyes 
Of those who thrust him there, may never see. 

The last day came ; at cockcrow, ere the dawn 

Had flecked the East with gray, they roused the King; 

The black-robed friars came : the sacrament 

Of bread and wine, the body and the blood 

Of Christ, Valverde's hand administered 

To him who soon would tread earth's scenes no more. 

Then, when in solemn tones the liturgy 

Died to an awful hush, the King was led, 

Blindfolded, bound, and garbed in deepest black, 

Between two soldiers, stumbling along the way, 

To the death-chamber. Thus it was that morn, 

Condemned by base-born peasants, in he went 

To face the horror of the strangler's chair. 

There died the prince unfaltering, as became 

The proud descendant of an hundred kings, 

Celestial offspring of the Sun and Moon, 

And by his doom the splendid arms of Spain 

Were tarnished for all ages yet to come. 

Pizarro, still ignoring every pledge, 
Gave orders for a burial near the walls 
Of Caxamalca. Pompous funeral rites 
In an old palace (now become a church), 
Were held above the victim. Then there came 

236 Hernando De Soto * 

Pizarro and Almagro and the rest, 

As mourners at the funeral, clothed in black, 

To prove their depth of sorrow for the dead. 

None would have needed sombre drapery, 

Could their black hearts have been exposed to view ! 

In rushed a throng of Atahuallpa's wives 
To throw themselves upon his corse; but soon, 
Repulsed and driven from the church, they ran 
With shrieks and screams back to the palace halls, 
And slew themselves to join their perished lord. 
The shadows of the royal banquet-room 
Were lit with flashing daggers ; piteous moans 
And sobs of anguish quivered like the wails 
Of wild November winds ; fast-gushing blood 
Flooded the golden floors in crimson. Then 
The plaints grew lower, as the self-murderers 
Died, one by one. Above that frightful waste 
Of corpses wan, and writhing, shuddering forms 
Of those yet living, strode the favorite queen 
Of the dead monarch, Amalissa, who 
Against herself had not yet raised her arm. 
Slender and tall and stately was she, rearing 
With air imperial ; yet her sparkling eyes 
Showed madness; masses of her jetty hair 
Tossed back in disarray ; her naked feet 
Were dabbled in her slaughtered comrades' blood. 
As nimble as a serpent, up she climbed 
Through graven golden fruitage on the wall, 
To where a golden dragon from on high 
Down glared with diamond eyes. Upon his crest 
She reared in maniac triumph, thrilled with rage 
For self-destruction. Inaccessible 
To hands of friends or chains of enemies, 

BooK XI 237 

There on that giddy eminence she stood, 
And raved infuriate. She had borne aloft 
A harp with some strings broken, some as yet 
Unshattered. Then she jangled through the wires, 
And fired with bardic flame, in shrilly tones 
Part shouted and part sang the suttee's hymn, 
Defiant of the gathering Spanish throng: 

"I shall come, my prince, my bridegroom, 

I shall come, my love, my lord, 
Despite of the wan-faced Christians 

Agape in a startled horde ! 
I am avid to join thee, comrade, 

In thy dungeon there in the night, 
For Light without thee is Darkness, 

And Darkness with thee is Light. 

"Ye pale, ye passionless Christians, 

Ye never can understand ; 
For your errant loves are changeful 

As the skies of your northern land: 
Your grief is only grief's shadow, 

That flitteth and fleeth away: 
The blood in your veins but water, 

Your hearts are but lumps of clay. 

"When under the heliotropes lieth 

The heart that your vows had won, 
You hasten to choose another, 

The dear old story is done ! 
With another love is forgotten 

The love that was once so sweet, 
Forsaken, to lie in the grasses, 

With a stone at head and feet | 

238 Hernando De Soto 

"But we of the fervid Southland 

Are loyal despite the grave, 
Still true to the dear dead sleeper 

Where the cypress branches wave. 
Our love hath no feeble twilight, 

No pitiful wane of the moon; 
It dies in a dazzle of morning, 

Or the white-hot glow of the noon. 

"For that which the lord hath honored 

No other should clasp or claim; 
The lips that to one were caressful 

Meet others only in shame. 
There is only one true passion 

In deserts of life accurst 
That is sweet and true and sacred, 

And that One Love is the First. 

"O sweet First Love of the dawning, 

O sweet First Love of the dew, 
The glamour, the bliss, the glory 

Depart forever with you ! 
The overblown rose should shatter; 

The overblown love should die 
Before it wrinkles and withers 

Beneath an unfriendly sky. 

"Away with your Northland matings 

That end with the loved one's breath ! 
Away with the heart neglectful 

Of its comrade cold in death ! 
Away with the docile passion 

That changes to suit the will, 
Consoled with an old-age spousal 

For the First Love's poignant thrill! 

BooK XI 239 

"0, would that this clod-formed body, 

Like the spirit, could flit away, 
And, painless, in air evanish, 

Escaping from foul decay! 
But the pangs of death must rend me 

Before I can reach thy side; 
I must know the dens of darkness 

To rejoin thee as thy bride. 

"I shall never bear an usurper 

Embosomed in place of thee; 
I shall keep our tryst, my sovran, 

Beyond the uncharted sea ! 
Unurned, uncrowned, and unsandaled, 

With bleeding hands that are numb, 
I grope my way through the shadows: 

O Bridegroom, I come, I come!" 

The maddened strain surceased. The harp's last string 
Had snapped to silence. With a scream she sprang 
Down from the dragon's dizzy perch, and fell 
A lifeless, mangled heap, among the stones. 

Meanwhile, throughout the Southern realms, I probed 

Into the evil rumors that assailed 

The honor of the Inca. I had striven 

All the more ardently to save the king, 

Since he had trusted me with such strong faith, 

And loudly praised my little friendly deeds 

So far beyond my just deserts: for, sire, 

Unto the just man, praise unmerited 

Stings deeper than rebuke. 

My labors done, 
When I returned and heard the shocking tale, 

240 Hernando De Soto 

Within my heart amazement, grief and wrath 

Battled for mastery; my soul seemed wrecked 

In a wild, hopeless chaos. Hastily 

I sought Pizarro, 33 and I found him, garbed 

In midnight mourning, aping airs of woe. 

A huge sombrero slouched upon his head, 

And well-nigh hid his face. His furtive eyes 

Were red from rubbing at theatric tears. 

"O, base-born monster!" I exclaimed, "I see 

Once more thy lies have cloaked thy base designs. 

Accept my challenge, no, thou wilt not fight, 

And I would smirch myself to touch thee, wretch ! 

How avarice debases thee! For gold, 

Thou stoopest unto murder, and for gold 

Thou wouldst forswear thy hopes of heaven! But 


Think, man, how soon its little benefits 
Will all be ended: when thy sun shall set, 
Thou wilt but need two paltry copper coins, 
Only two coins of copper, to weigh down 
Thy pulseless eyelids over thy staring eyes." 
For once, the miscreant, with his guilt revealed, 
Lost all his bland composure, and his cheeks 
Reddened and paled by turns, though he dared 


Answer defiantly. After a pause, 
Taking his long brown beard between his teeth, 
He bit it, as a captured rattlesnake 
May bite its own dread rattles to appease 
Its rabid, helpless fury. Then he flung 
Away the hairy mouthful, and by force 
Choking and strangling down his dastard rage, 
He swore, "The others are to blame, not I; 
I sought to save him, thou misjudgest me." 

Booh. XI 241 

Almagro and Valverde next appeared 

With others, at the very point of time 

When, by their chieftain, each was being named 

As a ringleader in the crime. Enraged, 

Quickly these others answered him, in turn 

Accusing the accuser loudly. ' ' What ! " 

Exclaimed Almagro, "dost thou say I led 

The others in that trial ? It is false ! 

Why, thou didst lead; we only followed." "No," 

Retorted then Valverde, "both of you 

Were urgent for his condemnation: I 

But voted for his death regretfully: 

If there be blame, then both of you should bear it." 

So thus they bickered and they wrangled ; each 

Proved all his fellows guilty. Vexed to hear, 

No longer would I listen; so I left, 

Ashamed to own such creatures men of Spain. 



De Soto's Narrative continued The Conquest of Peru The 
march to Cuzco Battle in the river at Xauxa Pizarro 
seizes Challcuchima, a Peruvian nobleman, and condemns 
him to death The nobleman's controversy with Valverde 
He refuses to renounce his religion His death at the 
stake De Soto's march over the mountains The battle 
of Vilcaconga Narrow escape of the Spaniards Crossing 
the river on its osier bridge De Soto's life in danger through 
rashness Adalinda, the young Peruvian nobleman He 
joins De Soto's troop Fall of Cuzco Immense treasures 
found in palaces and temples and tombs Gold and silver 
become cheap and commonplace De Soto's troops have 
their horses shod in silver Vast treasures lost and won in 

r "PHE Inca fallen through such treachery, 

1 I half resolved to sheathe my sword forever. 
But in this crisis, when my lord, the king, 
Demanded faithful service at my hands, 
And the arms of Spain, beset by enemies, 
Stood in dire need of every loyal soul, 
I deemed it best these wrongs to overlook 
Till Cuzco should be taken, and the struggle 
Be ended for all time in victory. 

So, joining all our bands, the final march 
To Cuzco was begun. Facing the south, 
For three days through a lofty mountain range, 
Rocky and barren, and enwrapped in clouds, 


BooK XII 243 

Slowly we plodded, till at length we saw 

The temples and the courts of Xauxa rise 

Beyond a river. With torrential force, 

Deep-swollen from the melting mountain snows, 

The stream had overflown, torn down its bridge, 

And raging in a foam-strewn, icy flood, 

Seemed hoarsely shouting, "Come no further!" 


Of natives, crowded on the strand beyond, 
Defiant, yelled, "Ye bandits of the North, 
We dare you to cross over!" They dreamed not 
That men of Spain were dowed with hardihood 
To make them brave that torrent : but in truth 
Their challenge roused mine ardor: so I cried, 
"Come on, my lads, and fear not!" and I plunged 
Down with my courser in the chilly waves. 34 
The rest came after, wildly cheering; soon 
An hundred horsemen struggled in the flood, 
Which surged and thundered like a cataract, 
Hurled billows in our faces, dashed in spray 
Upon our eyes and mouths, roared in our ears, 
Blinding and strangling and deafening us. Then, 
After a mighty effort, drenched, half-drowned, 
Chilled and a-shiver, up we climbed the slope 
In safety on the other marge. The crowds 
That first had mocked us, sped their arrows fast, 
And rushed upon us, brandishing their spears 
To drive us backward. But with hearty shouts 
We galloped on them, smiting manfully, 
And soon they scattered in a frenzied rout, 
Leaving their trampled comrades on the field. 

We entered Xauxa: here our soldiers found 
Such riches, that the dazzling treasuries 

244 Hernando De Soto 

Of all the cities we had trod before 

Seemed haunts of penury. The splendid fanes, 

With argent vessels and with shrines of gold, 

The palaces, with jeweled ornaments, 

And royal tombs, concealing priceless gems, 

Afforded glorious pillage, such as never 

The conquered emperors of Cathay or Ind 

Yielded to Jenghis or to Tamerlane. 

To wield a strong hand unrestrained by others, 

Pizarro sent me forward with the van 

Upon the road to Cuzco. The next day 

Almagro followed with a larger force. 

The despot left alone, his evil plans 

Soon bore their bitter fruit. Within that town 

There dwelt a high Peruvian nobleman 

Named Challcuchima, who in wealth and power 

Surpassed all others. Hoping through this man 

To subjugate the province, and to crush 

All armed rebellion at his yoke, the tyrant, 

Seizing the noble, threw him into chains. 

Going to see the captive in his cell, 

He thundered, "Thou shalt stand accountable 

For all resistance to the Spanish host; 

Know then, that if thy treacherous countrymen 

Remain in arms, I doom thee to the stake. 

Beware." The prisoner, towering haughtily, 

Like the bronze image of some warlike god 

At his forefathers' altars, answered him, 

" I frame no laws to rule my countrymen: 

I ordered none to make an appeal to arms; 

I will demand of none to lay them down." 

"Then thou shalt perish in the flames!" declared 

His captor. "Be it so," rejoined the other; 

BooK XII 245 

"The Gods be praised, whatever evil power 
Is )d elded to the wicked, they can never 
Keep us from dying!" 

With his wonted zeal, 
The priest Valverde came to see the peer 
Before the faggots had been lit: and then 
He cried, "Turn from false creeds thy sires professed, 
And seek thy dying solace in our faith." 
Sternly the noble answered, "I have found 
No fruitage hanging from thy tree of faith 
Save lust and greed, and craft and cruelty. 
Thou pratest of a creed of Love and Good, 
Truth, and Forgiveness of thine Enemies; 
God grant that thou and thine be not of those 
Who truly mirror forth its noble aims!" 
"Thou infidel!" Valverde cried, "thy scoffs 
Cry out for retribution : in these flames 
Soon shalt thou writhe ; but this dire punishment 
Shall be a joy compared with the agonies 
Awaiting thee in everlasting fires." 
"Misguided creature," said the peer, "thy clan, 
True to its ancient instincts, ever seeks 
Delight in taking sides against mankind, 
Its comrades, brethren, its own flesh and blood, 
In favor of some god it never knew. 
Heaven needs no vindication at thy hands; 
But man does need thy sympathy and aid; 
Then let him have it, wasting not thy time 
Prejudging causes set for higher courts. 
God is a father : is a father pleased 
To cast his children into endless flames? 
Slander Him not; thine own malicious heart, 
And not His gracious mandate, hath decreed 

246 Hernando De Soto 

These torments here, and in the world to come. 
Thou joyest in the thought that He will be 
Thy tool for vengeance ; that thy hated foe 
His hand shall prison in eternal night ; 
Delicious morsel ! Yet believe not, man, 
That He who rules the stars will lend Himself 
To aid thy petty malice. You but forge 
The Father's name, in lightly thus condemning 
To endless pangs earth's trembling multitudes. 
Go, scare the children with thy threats of hell; 
Thy hoofs and horns of devils fright me not : 
No man a hell deserves, save he whose hate 
Conceives it, and reserves it for his foes." 

Furious, they bound him to the stake; the fires 
Rose with their torments, but he wavered not; 
Then Death, more gracious than Pizarro, came; 
But ere the smoke and flames had hushed his 


They heard him calling on his fathers' God, 
Him, who created and preserves the world. 

Meanwhile, with scarcely sixty men, I climbed 

Through bleak sierras high among the clouds. 

Black, shaggy and abhorrent, rock on rock, 

Spread wilds chaotic, yet magnificent; 

Great Cordilleras lifted to the skies 

In terror, beauty and sublimity. 

Vast glaciers dazzled blindingly above; 

Beneath were bowery vales and green champaigns; 

Oft would perpetual Winter trail his snows 

About undying Summer's verdant fields, 

Like some hoar patriarch, with a white-robed arm 

Thrown round a lovely daughter at his feet. 

BooK XII 247 

Steep galleries, hewn from living rock, swung round 

The dizzy ramparts of colossal crags. 

Refusing to be driven up the steps, 

Our chargers, snorting, shied and balked in fear, 

But chided, spurred and booted oftentimes, 

They started on their pathway to the heights, 

Panting and groaning, stumbling blindly on 

In anguish and dismay. Looking above, 

We saw the pass of Vilcaconga rear 

Its spiral stairways round and round on high, 

And gazing up that giddy circling path, 

Our heads swam, and our senses reeled and whirled, 

The earth swooned, and we staggered as it swayed. 

Could we go further? Could we force our steeds 

Up such a fearful steep to pick their way? 

Then in a moment, on the cliffs above 

A multitude of savages we spied 

Fringed round the ledges; thousands came to view, 

And yelling, cast upon us jagged rocks, 

That thundered with destruction in their path. 

Whizzing, great pebbles from their slings flew by, 

As swift as bullets from a pistol. Then 

I bade my men take steady aim, and fire ; 

Their muskets blazed; with frightful cracks and 


They hurled defiance at the pagan throngs. 
Then every cliff and crag and pinnacle 
Among the mountains shouted in reply; 
Then echo answered echo, crash on crash: 
It seemed that all the giants of the world 
Had stormed the battlemented heights of heaven 
With cannonade of earthquake and of storm, 
And roused the wrath of the everlasting gods. 

248 Hernando De Soto 

Soon many a savage toppled from the verge; 

The others, overcome with sudden fear, 

Shrank into hiding. But from days of old 

Versed in the ways of mountaineers, I knew 

That they would quickly rally, and espying 

Our little band beneath them still, would seek 

To crush us under another rockp storm. 

I saw, beyond the stairway, perched aloft, 

A long and level tract of ground ; if once 

That high plateau were reached, our lives were 


But would our horses climb that fearful stair? 
Then glancing round, my heart was overjoyed 
To note that many a barb, inured to war, 
Had lost his fears, and neighed in exultation, 
Roused by the martial roll of musketry. 
So now I patted on his neck my steed, 
And whispered him caressingly. At once 
He speeded like an arrow from its bow, 
And all the other steeds, alike inspired, 
Came following after. But at every inch 
The Indians fought us up that dreadful height 
Like furies fighting souls that strive for heaven. 
They clutched the horses' limbs, and clinging, sought 
To drag down steed and rider; at their hands 
A score of chargers perished on the steps, 
While others lost their footing, stumbled, fell, 
And pitching over the granite mountain-walls, 
By horrent crags, from precipice to pit, 
Were crushed to atoms half a league below. 
Barbarians by the multitude we smote, 
Though hardly one man, or one steed, in all 
Our band escaped unhurt. But by and by, 
Rejoiced, we thanked God with a mighty shout 

DooK XII 249 

For climbing to the summit of those stairs, 
And standing once more on the level ground. 

Night then was falling ; so the mountaineers 
Fell back a bow-shot's distance: well I knew 
Another wild attack would come at dawn. 
But now we bivouacked on strategic ground, 
And though my force was well-nigh cut to half, 
What man could hesitate in doubt or fear 
Since winning in that struggle up the stair? 

That night we slumbered not : from hour to hour 
Voices of warriors speaking on each side 
Plainly were heard within the ranks opposed. 
Gathering my cavaliers, "Pray unto God," 
I told them; "Yet beseech not childishly 
That heaven may save you by a miracle, 
But pray for strength, for courage and for skill 
In your own selves, to save yourselves like men." 
Their souls with ardor burning, all the host 
Of brave men cheered me lustily. 

With haste 

We now prepared defences. In an hour 
The dead and wounded steeds in front were strewn 
To make us breastworks; every soldier crouched 
Behind that wall of flesh : clutched in his hands, 
A leveled musket with its deadly charge 
Waited to flash destruction on the foe. 

So morning broke ; at last the onset came ; 
We withered the hostile ranks with rapid fire, 
Though many savages, untouched, rushed on, 
Shrieking, and hurling their spears. But now hark ! 

250 Hernando De Soto 

We hear a trumpet's blare, O strain divine, 
Thrilling our giddy ears with ravishment! 
And now appear Almagro and his men, 
Two hundred strong; so with a joyous cheer, 
We sally forth, and charge the paynim host. 
Again the mountains tremble with the crash 
Of human thunderbolts ; again their shades 
Are lit with lightnings from the hands of men. 
Before those dreadful arms, the savage might 
Of the long dusky lines of mountaineers 
Shriveled and crumbled. But, as if the gods 
Worshiped of old upon those heights, enraged 
To see their votaries falling, had thrown out 
A dusky shield to save the remnant throng, 
A dense gray mist swept on us from above, 
And like a vast cloak wrapped us round and round, 
Hiding the foe, and ending all pursuit. 

Though I should live from weary age to age, 
And plod as hoary as the Wandering Jew, 
To the end of all my heart would quake and heave, 
Remembering Vilcaconga's frightful stairs, 
Where Death and I encountered, face to face! 

We reached a river; hearing shouts behind, 

We turned, and saw Pizarro coming. Here 

We counseled all together, ere we dared 

The crossing : for we saw an osier bridge 

Whose thread-like cables swung from side to side 

Whenever a foot would touch it : every steed, 

Snorting and trembling, with dilated eyes 

And pricked-up ears, drew back in piteous terror, 

Not daring to attempt it. But I spurred 

My courser onward, though he pitched and reared 

BooK XII 251 

And plunged. Backward and forward swung and 


The fragile network, like a wind-swept bough. 
Yet, though I feared to see the cables snap, 
Their slender strands might have upheld with ease 
The camels and the lordly elephants 
Of a Numidian caravan. So now, 
When I had safely crossed, slowly the rest 
Came following; then, within a little while, 
The very faintest of the faint in heart, 
Trusting the bridge, attained the shores beyond. 

Vain of this feat, and thrilled with ecstasy 
To know that Cuzco now was near at hand, 
I waited not for others tottering over, 
But galloped far ahead of all the troop. 
Then, suddenly, from out a wild ravine, 
Upsprang a legion of Peruvians, 
Waving their lances, clubs and javelins, 
And wildly shouting ; ere I drew my breath, 
A throng of warriors had surrounded me. 
Dazed and confounded, I first paused a little, 
But then perceiving that my life itself 
Hung in suspense on momentary skill, 
I fell upon them like a tusky boar, 
And cutting here, and cleaving there, I felled 
Three leaders of their band. How I deplored 
My own foolhardy recklessness ! For now, 
When the glad ending of my toils was near, 
And now when jealous Fortune, who so long 
Had kept me waiting, tendered me her crown, 
It seemed that rashness had destroyed me. So, 
As some strong mariner, his journey done, 
Returning on a voyage from afar, 

252 Hernando De Soto 

Is wrecked and drowned on rocks before his home, 

Now I seemed lost in sight of victory. 

My horse was pierced with arrows ; through the steel 

That mailed me, battle-axes gashed my limbs, 

Till saddle, horse, and man and armor reddened 

With swiftly-running rivulets of blood. 

But soon I sped against their bristled ranks 

With more insistent ardor than before, 

And then, amazed, I saw them falling back. 

The reason for this wavering soon was known; 

For here a young Peruvian nobleman 

Approached. His burnished golden helmet rose 

With many-colored nodding plumes : his shield, 

Argent and azure, carved with curious forms 

Of serpent and of dragon wreathed in fight, 

Shone forth resplendent. Overstrewn with pearls, 

His visor lifted ; from beneath it peered 

A winsome face of youthful beauty, yet 

One that was nobly masculine ; his grace 

And princely bearing breathed of chivalry, 

And all sweet attributes of gentle birth. 

Then he: "O warrior, I have seen thee strive, 

And seeing, know thee favored of the gods; 

I stand against thine arms no more, but haste 

To render homage, and become thy liege. 

Thou needest not my sword disdain, for I 

Am Adalinda, son of Azacor; 

The names of both the sire and son are known 

From peasant huts to kingly halls." Thereat, 

He with his forces joined us : now the path 

To Cuzco lay resistless to our march. 

At evenfall the Royal City spread 

Its domes and walls beneath our ravished eyes. 

DooK XII 253 

Ah ! there it lay, white, set in green champaigns, 

The City of my fancy and my dreams. 

And there, audacious, flushed in triumph, stood 

Almagro, and Pizarro with his brothers, 

Like ravenous eagles on a mountain crag, 

Who spy far down a timid flock of quails, 

And whet their beaks to pounce upon the prey. 

That night we passed in camp on hills above, 
Prepared to enter Cuzco at the dawn. 
Soon came that fatal glimmer in the east. 
Day, like Delilah, radiant, flushed with youth, 
Took Night, her swarthy Samson, in her arms, 
And having shorn his cloudy ebon locks, 
Struck blind her lover with her glorious charms, 
And hurled him from her bosom to his doom. 
So Spain had come to far Peruvian shores; 
The empire of the Incas was no more. 

A splendid city, spotless-white, we found, 
With marble mansions reared in verdant plots, 
Like swans afloat on pools of emerald green. 
Vast riches here were ours; 35 these later spoils 
Transcended gorgeous Caxamalca's wealth, 
And even that of glorious Xauxa. Soon 
The Temple of the Sun was stripped of all 
The gold and silver yet unplundered there. 
Forth from the palace of one nobleman 
Ten silver bars, a score of feet in length 
Each heavier than a giant's arm could lift 
Were dragged to light : from kindred palaces 
Came splendid jewels, set most artfully. 
But in the tombs lay treasures paramount 
In splendor, and all dwellings of the dead 

254 Hernando De Soto 

Ere long were plundered by rapacious hands. 

Four golden llamas, of that creature's size, 

In sepulchres were found : and there were seized 

Bright sandals, dresses wrought of glistening beads, 

And great funereal urns all purest gold. 

Twelve images of maidens were discovered, 

Tall, stately as the daughters of a king, 

Six formed of silver, six of virgin gold, 

And wrought so lovingly by artful hands, 

One paused to see the argent bosom heave, 

The silvern lips part like a pallid rose, 

While golden cheeks would blush, incarnadined. 

There were discovered bleaching skeletons 

With zones of brilliants, bracelets set with pearls, 

While rubies, crimson as the planet Mars, 

Like flaming eyes glared from the empty skull. 

The bride and bridegroom, stricken in their joy, 

Sate here together, mouldering in the gloom, 

An emerald necklace falling to her breast, 

A coronet of sapphires on his brow. 

My share of spoil outdazzled all the dreams 
My boyish heart had ever dared conceive. 
Even lackeys and postillions hoarded wealth. 36 
So, precious metals, commonplace and cheap, 
Seemed rubbish in our hands : where now their charms, 
That once had made us breast the flood and flame, 
Pawn life and limb, and murder faith and truth? 
Wealth we possessed, and yet we stood in need. 
A loaf of bread would buy a silver cup ; 
A glass of wine would fetch a golden ring : 
A sheet of writing-paper brought its size 
Of hammered gold-leaf, and a pair of gloves 
Was bartered for a grandee's silver shield. 

Book XII 255 

Gold sandals were exchanged for leather shoes ; 
A horse was well-nigh worth a royal mint, 
And all our wealth could not have bought a cow. 
We had no iron; so our steeds were shod 
In silver wrenched from fanes and palaces. 37 

As freezing Winter's iron-sceptred sway 

Keeps dormant all the serpents that in Spring 

Crawl forth revived, thus chill Adversity 

Keeps dormant in the secret breast of man 

Sins, that in sunny days of wealth and ease 

Creep forth to plague the world. So now we saw, 

As our men gorged on fruits of robbery, 

Evils within their hearts unguessed before. 

From these awaking evils not alone 

Came ills to others, for the mischief-makers 

Themselves were brought to misery. And, in truth, 

Ill-gotten gains are ever thrown away, 

Bringing no benefit to those who take, 

But squandered as soon as stolen, in carouse 

With dice or wine or harlot, they allure 

Their spendthrift to his ruin. On the spoils 

Of theft and murder, soldiers now began 

To gamble feverishly. Great fortunes hung 

In balance on one card ; and riches fell 

At falling of one die from reckless hands. 

A trooper who had taken as his share 

The Temple's golden image of the Sun, 

Lost it in gaming through a single night ; 

And hence that adage of the Spanish tongue, 

"Ere sunrise comes he plays away the Sun." 


De Soto's Narrative continued The Conquest of Peru De 
Soto sees Pizarro, and relinquishes his post Fate of the 
conquerors of Peru The natives lay siege to Cuzco Death 
of Juan Pizarro Almagro's expedition to Chili Great 
sufferings among his troops He returns North, seizes Cuzco, 
and begins a war with the Pizarros He takes Hernando and 
Gonzalo prisoners Orgonez, Almagro's lieutenant His 
frequent remonstrances with his leader Espinosa comes to 
parley with Almagro His sudden death Gonzalo makes 
his escape Almagro, after receiving treacherous promises 
from Hernando, frees him The Pizarros then begin war 
on Almagro again Battle between Almagro and the Pizar 
ros, wherein Orgonez is slain Almagro is taken prisoner 
Hernando refuses him mercy Alvarado unsuccessfully 
intercedes in his behalf Alvarado visits Almagro in prison 
Almagro writes his will He is then strangled Alvarado 
goes to Spain, and makes charges against Hernando Her 
nando also returns to Spain, to face the charges Sudden 
death of Alvarado Hernando is then thrown into prison 
A plot is formed to assassinate Pizarro The leader of the 
conspirators, Juan de Rada Death of Pizarro, his brother 
Francisco, and two pages, at the hands of the conspirators 
Valverde and Velasquez are massacred by savages 
Gonzalo becomes dictator over all Peru The younger 
Almagro is beheaded through his orders He begins a re 
bellion against the Spanish King Gasca, the priest, is 
sent with an army to quell his insurrection Gonzalo's 
troops desert him, and he is forced to surrender to Gasca 
He is condemned to death He adorns himself richly, and 
addresses the throng of people who have come to see him 
die He is then beheaded, and is buried with the two 
Almagros, father and son. 

SO now my duty to my king was done. 
I saw Pizarro, and the post I held 
Gladly surrendered. Yet a score of moons 


DooK XIII 257 

Budded and bloomed and faded from the heavens 
Before I trod through boyhood scenes again. 

And now, great Chief, naught lingers to relate 

Of these unhallowed struggles, save the account 

Of righteous retributions that befell 

Those whose incitements caused them. As one reads 

The pages of that dreadful chronicle, 

He shudders : yet a moral ends it all. 

Had Atahuallpa prayed to all his gods 

For vengeance on the heads of all his foes, 

And had those gods his supplications heard, 

No juster and no surer punishment 

Had ever overtaken one and all 

Than that which claimed them, one and all, at last. 

As every river gains the sea, though oft 

By long and devious windings, so in time 

God's justice, though it oft may deviate 

And wander from the shorter path, attains 

Its bourn of truth and right. This, all who hear 

The end of these dark annals, must perceive. 

Juan, best of all, was first of all to go, 
And Fate was kind in beckoning him away 
From fronting vengeful horrors still unborn. 
A vast Peruvian host besieged Cuzco 
With ten-score thousand braves ; like gloomy clouds 
Their legions blackened all the neighboring hills. 
Down from those heights, upon the roofs below 
Hot stones their engines flung, and flaming darts, 
Setting the town afire. So ravenous flames 
Devoured the temples and the palaces. 
The smoke ascended in a murky pall, 
Making the sun a globe of blood by day, 


258 Hernando De Soto 

The moon a globe of ashes in the night. 

Oft from those summits of surrounding hills 

The savages rolled down the gory heads 

Of gallant Spanish knights, whose errant feet 

Beyond the city walls had strayed. Juan led 

A sortie from the town: without the gates, 

Great lassoes at his lines the Indians swung, 

Dragging the steed and cavalier to death. 

And now, as if the instruments of doom 

Once in the white man's hands, were soon to be 

His means of downfall, on the field appeared 

The brown men riding steeds, and bearing arms 

That thundered deadly volleys: steeds and arms 

They had now captured, and on those who once 

Had used them with such unrelenting power, 

They turned them, as in realms of despotry 

Rebellious leaders arm ferocious slaves, 

And turn them on their sometime lords. At length 

Juan scattered them in flight: the citadel, 

Then in the rebels' hands, he next resolved 

To take by storm; so, shouting to his men, 

Far up the steepy height the way he led. 

An arrow pierced his cheek : to ease the pain, 

He loosed his helmet's buckle, and ere long 

Rashly he threw the helmet from his head. 

They reached the fortress ; from its battlements 

Down swept a storm of stones and javelins, 

Smiting Castilians by the multitude. 

Still Juan with valorous cheers led on his lads : 

They scaled the walls; but as the pagans fled, 

A giant savage, lingering sullenly, 

Seized a great rock with monstrous hairy hands; 

The jagged stone with all his might he hurled; 

BooK XIII 259 

It whistled through the air, and furiously 
Struck the brave leader's brow; the fearful blow 
Felled him to earth ; blood gushed in torrents ; dust 
Blinded his eyes: yet staggering to his feet, 
He hailed his comrades on their victory. 
But soon they bore him, fainting, from the field. 
A few dull days he lingered, as his eyes 
Slowly grew dimmer, and his whispers lower, 
And his breath feebler. Then with kindly hand 
Death came to ease him of his agonies. 

Juan! I would lay this tribute on thy bier: 
Amongst the cruel thou alone wert kind, 
Amongst the treacherous thou alone wert true. 
Irradiating good around, thy soul 
Shone like a candle in a charnel's gloom. 
Amongst thy selfish comrades, wolfish kin, 
And evil prompters, thou wert as a spring 
Found in a desert parched and blossomless. 
Unlettered wert thou, yet of lofty soul, 
Though base-born, yet a prince ! On that great sea, 
Where thou art voyaging to strands unknown, 
God guide thee to a brighter, better world, 
A higher life, a nobler destiny ! 

Almagro next was signaled to his doom. 

A royal charter named him governor 

Of all the land of Chili ; but no man 

The boundaries of that province might declare, 

Its outposts or its ends. So to explore 

And conquer this untracked, uncharted realm, 

The gray adventurer led his war-worn troops. 

But never in their wanderings over earth, 

Nor on the sea, encountering savage wilds, 

260 Hernando De Soto 

Or storms of heaven, or barbaric foes, 
Had he or any knight in all his host 
Such horrors as befell them now, endured. 
Through heights of everlasting snows they climbed, 
Where horse and rider sank and froze together ; 
They starved like gaunt-ribbed jackals; when their 


Fell dead from cold, choking, they gormandized 
Upon that flesh unclean : turned cannibal, 
The Indian slaves, when their own comrades died, 
Devoured them greedily. Close overhead 
Black condors gathered in a sweeping cloud 
To batten, but the human vultures gorged, 
And left to condors nothing save the bones. 

To wrest dominion from the savages 

They sought in vain : disasters and defeats 

Their arms encountered everywhere. And now 

The soldiers murmured: "From this realm accurst, 

Let us return before it be too late. 

This land is but a waste of snow and ice ; 

Here we shall only find a grave. In truth, 

The royal charter gave us northern realms, 

With Cuzco and its golden provinces. 

Pizarro holds them wrongfully : why not 

March north again, and wrest them from his hand?" 

No man, indeed, could fix the uncertain lines 

Bounding Almagro's or Pizarro's grounds, 

And so the leader hearkened readily 

To those who urged him leave these wintry lands 

For climes more genial. But he lent an ear 

To this advice more quickly, since his son, 

Diego, his one child of love, might thus 

Be favored. 

BooK XI It 261 

In the far-off yester-years, 
When first Almagro with the Spanish host 
Marched through the wilds of Darien, he had fought 
A bloody battle with a savage chief, 
Who, after all his warriors had been slain, 
Perished himself, defiant. That same day, 
Hiding among the ruins of the lodge 
Where once the chief abode, some troopers found 
His daughter, and they dragged her forth, to be 
The victim of their lust. Hearing her cries, 
Almagro rushed upon the scene, and soon, 
Beating and pounding manfully, he drove 
The wolfish pack away. The damsel clasped 
His knees in terror, and with piteous cries 
Begged his protection. She was beautiful, 
Sweet in her face and speech, and young indeed, 
Her childhood barely past. He took the girl, 
Yet doomed her not to slavery, and thrust not 
Himself upon her. But though free, her heart 
Learned in its own wild, simple way to love 
Her captor. Like a pure and limpid lake 
Set in a vale of ever-youthful Spring, 
That mirrors in its hyacinthine bosom 
An ancient snow-clad peak, now draped in clouds, 
Now lit with sunlight, flushed with rosy dawn, 
Or dim in pensive twilight, so this maid, 
The sweet young daughter of the wilderness, 
Gazed on and mirrored in her own soft breast 
Her homely lover, worn and gray with years, 
Changing her mood with his, to sun or storm, 
To glowing dawn or melancholy dusk. 

Thus then it was the damsel bore a son 

To be his pride and hers. But the years went, 

262 Hernando De Soto 

And she who with her winsome girlish charms 

Had warmed the old man's bosom, passed away. 

The con she left, a beauteous gallant youth, 

The fruit of unforgotten bygone joys, 

Her dark brown eyes, her slender hands and feet, 

Her glossy hair, and her glad smiling mouth 

Inherited. So when the mother died, 

The father's love for both were merged in one, 

Diego, thus become the polar-star 

Of all the old man's dreams. " May not my lad," 

He asked himself, "in time succeed to all 

Pizarro's lands and mine?" And now he looked 

To see his fondest hopes bear flower and fruit, 

Daring to picture all Peru bowed down 

Before his own Diego as its lord. 

So they returned, athwart the desert waste 

Of Atacama, through an hundred leagues 

Of arid rocks in barren, burning wilds. 

Here dread siroccos sucked and swirled the dust; 

Sand- whirlwinds convoluted to the skies; 

White plains reflected flaming skies of noon 

With a dazzling, blinding glare; and blistering stones 

Shifted their torments unto blistering feet. 

At length the wanderers stood at Cuzco's walls: 

Haggard and gray, a piteous sight they made, 

With sunburned limbs, disheveled hair and beard, 

With garments torn to shreds, or on their backs 

Skins of wild-beasts, and armor red with rust. 

So then Almagro and his grisly throng 
Laid claim to Cuzco and the provinces 
Lying anear its walls. Throughout those days, 
Pizarro in the distant north sojourned, 

BooK XIII 263 

Founding the city Lima, that he hoped 

Henceforth to make the land's metropolis, 

And being far from Cuzco, he had set 

Hernando and Gonzalo in command 

Of the imperial city in his stead. 

These brothers of the tyrant in hot haste 

Sought out Almagro at his camp. Enraged, 

His new demands they heard; but craftily 

They parleyed with him for a little space, 

And left with smiles. Thenceforth, from day to day 

They parleyed still, but ever begged for time, 

Fast in the meantime adding to their troops, 

Drilling in secret, and strengthening forts and walls. 

Almagro, marking this, delayed no more, 

But in the depths of night marched through the gates, 

And seized the citadel. His soldiers found 

The brothers in one mansion lodged together. 

Orgonez was the leader of the band 

Sent out to find the brothers. Though he knocked 

Sturdily upon the door, it stood fast-barred 

Against him. Still he smote and kicked the door, 

Whereat a casement opened overhead, 

And both Hernando and Gonzalo peeped 

Down on the throng below. "Come out, come out!" 

Orgonez cried; "Ye are my prisoners; 

Come and surrender!" "But sirs, who are you?" 

Gonzalo asked. "We are Almagro's men, 

And we have come to take you. Open the door, 

And yield yourselves!" the other yelled. At this, 

Hernando left the casement, and Gonzalo 

Briskly retorted, "Take us if you can! 

We will not yield our swords to renegades!" 

Orgonez sought to force the door, but found 

Its massive frame and its great bar too strong 

264 Hernando De Soto 

Even for his own strong hands and feet. So then, 
"Bring torches! Set the house afire!" he cried. 
Torches were brought, and soon keen-pointed flames 
Quivered and gleamed like venomous serpent-tongues, 
Licking their courses up the walls. Ere long, 
The house was ringed with fire. Great blazes climbed 
To the high roof, and slowly gathering strength, 
Fluttered aloft their red victorious flags. 
The sky above grew black: the timid stars 
Trembled, and dimmed, and faded out of sight, 
While sparks in dazzling myriads whirled and swirled, 
And eddied upward in a glittering throng, 
As though the earth with storms of meteors 
Bombarded heaven. Fleeing that fiery death, 
Hernando and Gonzalo flung the door 
Ajar, and dashing out, they sought to run 
A race for freedom. But Orgofiez stood 
Beside the doorway. As the brothers came 
Rushing for liberty, one man he seized 
With his right arm, and with his left the other. 
Thus caught and gripped and pinioned suddenly 
By their strong foe, the prisoners stumbled and fell 
Flat on the earth, dragging their captor down 
Between them. Then the other soldiers ran 
Swiftly to aid Orgofiez, and behold! 
Both brothers were held fast in manacles. 
Scarce were they safely shackled, when the roof 
Groaned on its blazing rafters, bent and swayed, 
And then in flaming ruins thundered down. 

A sturdy lad Orgofiez was, and true, 
Courageous as a lusty cockerel 
With ruddy crest and red and golden plumes 
Stalking in pomp and crowing lustily, 

BooK XIII 265 

Lord of the harem of his mild-eyed hens. 

He begged Almagro to condemn to death 

Both brothers instantly. "Spare not," he cried, 

"For dead men never bite." 38 His leader frowned, 

Reflected, hesitated, and at lasfr 

Replied, "Orgofiez, they are old-time friends; 

I have not heart to do this; urge it not." 

"Sir," said Orgofiez, "all the men we see 

Around us in this life we may divide 

Into two classes, those who lift us up, 

And those who drag us down. This godless pair 

Belongs to those who drag us down. And yet 

You hazard your own safety and your friends' 

To save their lives. It is your duty, sir, 

To render justice to yourself and friends 

Ere yielding mercy to your enemies." 

But still Almagro hardened not his heart 

Against the two Pizarros. Though still others 

Begged and beseeched him ever to beware 

Of lightly dallying with such deadly foes, 

He lodged and dined and garbed them royally, 

Rather as guests, than prisoners, in his house. 

Pizarro, still at Lima, sent a force 

To wrest the old Peruvian capital 

From the insurgents. But Orgofiez led 

Almagro's band against them, and with speed 

Drove them in utter rout. Next there appeared 

Old Espinosa from Pizarro's camp 

To parley with the rebels: he it was, 

The minion of Pedrarias, and the tool 

Of Perez, who in countries of the north 

Had sought my life. But suddenly, the man, 

Seized with some dread, mysterious illness, lay 

266 Hernando De Soto 

Twisting and writhing in convulsive pangs 
On his last earthly couch : in one short day 
He sickened, tossed in agony, and died, 
And never a tongue can say to the end of time 
Whether foul means made end of him, or no. 

Meantime, Hernando in his luxurious cell 

With treacherous guards was gambling night and day. 

Diego Alvarado, one of these, 

Lost an amazing sum: of the vast debt 

He tendered part : Hernando waved him off, 

Well knowing that the good-will of this dupe 

Outweighed a galleon burdened down with gold. 

Again Orgonez sought Almagro: "Sir," 

He asked him, "dost thou keep a tavern here? 

Are these men prisoners, or but wassailers 

Who eat and drink and gamble, while we stand 

Grinning, to shoulder the cost? The publican 

Is paid for what he serves : then why shouldst thou 

Set entertainment free? Be not deceived! 

Mercy and kindness to the wicked shown, 

The wicked deem but weakness : favors done 

But make them more audacious. Yea indeed ! 

With those not even thy foes such means must fail. 

When did a man ever make in truth a friend 

By lavishing money on him? When hath a man, 

In drinking and carousing, won a heart 

Worthy of winning?" But Almagro said, 

"What! Sir Implacable, art growling still? 

How narrow art thou ! With what meagre hand 

Thou dolest out thy good will ! But in hate 

How liberal!" Then Orgonez answered him: 

"Yea, I am narrow. But the man whose heart 

Flows in a straitened channel, loves the more 

BooK XIII 267 

Profoundly, while the free and easy heart, 

Taking in multitudes, like a wide stream, 

Is only ankle-deep. Yea, I have foes, 

And all my foes I hate. But sir, choose not 

A man without a foe to be thy friend ; 

For as surely as our mother earth is green, 

And skies above are blue, no living man 

Without an enemy deserves a friend." 

So thus Almagro, ever urged to smite, 

And trusting Alvarado's loyalty, 

Sought out that creature for advice, and he, 

Pretending faith and friendship, answered him: 

"These brothers were thy youthful comrades; both 

Remember olden years, and love thee still 

At heart, though lately by unhappy chance 

Ye have been sundered. Spare the men, I pray, 

And never shalt thou live to rue thy mercy." 

Almagro spared them, but, it soon appeared, 

With poor requital : scarce a fortnight passed 

Before Gonzalo slipped his cell, and fled. 

Almagro and Pizarro then began 
Long parleys, that were ended in a truce, 
Whereby Almagro bode at Cuzco still, 
Pending the adjustment of disputed rights : 
Hernando was released, first promising 
To leave the province in a fortnight's time. 
Almagro dined Hernando at his house 
Ere the departure : falling on his neck, 
He bade him Godspeed, and Hernando said, 
" I was thy friend of old. In days to come 
I shall be zealous to conserve thy rights, 
And keep inviolate the treaty's terms." 
So vowed he ; but the pledges that he made 

Hernando De Soto 

Were frailer than a wisp of thistle-down, 
And lighter than the feather of a wren. 
Orgofiez, anxious for his chieftain's life, 
And mindful of his own, in dull despair 
Beheld Hernando, smiling, disappear; 
Quickly he drew his hand across his throat, 
And cried in words of prophecy too true, 
"Orgofiez, for thy friendship to thy chief, 
Think what a price thou soon shalt come to pay!" 

And scarcely had Hernando wandered forth 

A free man, when he openly proclaimed, 

"I am absolved from every oath and pledge 

Assumed in duress of captivity: 

They forced me to the treaty : force is fraud : 

Now, sword to sword, we treat on equal terms." 

He joined Gonzalo, raised a troop, and marched 

On Cuzco, there to meet Almagro's host. 

That leader, wrecked in health and spent with years, 

Stretched on a litter, to the field was borne, 

And on Orgofiez 's shoulders fell the load 

Of all his urgent duties. By and by, 

The armies met in battle on a plain 

Anear to Cuzco: on surrounding heights 

Were Christian mothers with their children, come 

In anguish and in terror, to behold 

The deadly struggle where their own close kin 

Would smite together, measuring lance with lance 

In the last combat for supremacy. 

Some wives had husbands ranked upon one side, 

And sons upon the other; daughters watched 

To see their fathers with their lovers clash, 

And sisters looked on brothers faced as foes. 

But over all these swarmed a multitude 

BooK XIII 269 

Of pagans, frantic with ferocious joy 
To see the hated white men clinch in war: 
Yells of delight and shouts of triumph swelled 
Like storms of ocean from the barbarous hordes, 
And gloating as the Spanish women wailed, 
With screams of laughter many would repeat 
That ancient adage of our countrymen, 
"When my distress is old, thine will be new." 

And now began the battle : for a space 

The armies struggled with an equal strength. 

Like the roar of lions echoing through the hills, 

The raucous voice of iron-throated guns 

Rolled and resounded. Gaunt, grim condors, perched 

On peaks around the battle-field, gazed down, 

Expectant of a bounteous feast; but oft, 

When great concussions from the cannonade 

Vibrated through the clouds, they flapped their wings, 

And circling round and round, the evil birds 

Would cast great ominous shadows, that athwart 

The gory plain where brother slaughtered brother, 

Glided like midnight phantoms haunting noon. 

In time, Hernando, from his heavy guns 

Scattering a blast of murderous chain-shot, felled 

Almagro's legions like a field of corn 

That sinks to earth from volleying storms of hail. 

In vain Orgonez smote three cavaliers, 

Believing each Hernando. Then his horse 

Was killed beneath him; so he fought on foot. 

At last a chain-shot struck him ; staggered and stunned, 

He fell, and lay immovable: but soon 

Opening his eyes, and seeing swarms of foes 

Around him in his utter helplessness, 

270 Hernando De Soto 

He shouted, "I am wounded; call a knight 

To take my sword." Then snarled some base-born 


"Take that!" and stabbed his heart. His gory head, 
Dissevered, then was lifted on a pike, 
Where all Almagro's followers might behold, 
And they, beholding, scattered in affright. 

Appalling was the carnage of that field. 
One cavalier, riddled with seventeen wounds, 
Still crawled alive: wroth at the stubbornness 
Wherewith the wretch had beaten back his fate, 
Hernando's minions made his heart a sheath 
For twenty deathful swords. When noontide came, 
Deserted by his comrades, dazed and lost, 
Almagro fled his litter and seized a mule 
That wandered masterless ; on this poor steed, 
Despite the malady enfeebling him, 
He sought to gain the mountains, where, in time 
Some cave might yield him refuge. But that eve 
They overtook him, dragged him from his mule, 
And hooting, yelling, cursing, threw him in chains. 

Deep lay the perished and the perishing. 

Above, the hosts of aborigines 

From lifted throats stormed heaven and earth with 


Like the despairing yet defiant cries 
Of gods deposed for newer deities, 
Who, abdicating all their ancient thrones, 
Go forth to everlasting banishment 
In never-ending night of nothingness. 

Wildly the savages rushed on the field : 

The dead they stripped of every rag and tatter, 

DooK XIII 271 

Then left them naked to the wild beasts' jaws, 
And beaks and talons of the birds of prey. 

But kindly hands rescued Orgonez's corse, 

And robed it for a Christian burial. 

Sleep thou in peace, Orgonez ! Throughout life 

Wild and unrestf ul wert thou ; in the grave 

Thy hot, impatient heart shall fret no more. 

Thy gallant spirit, once a flaming torch, 

Is quenched in darkness. Cool and calm repose 

Shall smooth thy pillow in thy last abode : 

And thou, unmindful of the loves, the hates, 

And heartbreaks in these hapless ways of men, 

And all the noisy tumults of this world 

Rumbling forever onward overhead, 

Shalt slumber through a thousand thousand years. 

Cast into prison, racked with bodily pains 
And anguish of the soul, Almagro lay 
Reflecting drearily on the past. For now 
The sweet and holy Jordan of his hopes 
Far from the green vales of his Promised Land 
Had wandered, to be lost in brackish waves 
And bitter of a Dead Sea of despair. 

And yet, amazed, he noted by and by 
A kindness in his treatment at the hands 
Of all his prison guards: beholding this, 
Fondly he dreamed of friendliness from those 
Who held him captive. Little did he guess 
The motive for that kindness ! For in truth, 
Hernando, ere the battle, being told 
That his old rival from his ills would die, 
Growled, "Heaven avert that fate before he falls 
Safe in my clutches!" So he had him nursed 

272 Hernando De Soto 

With tender care : selectest food was served, 
To make him strong and sturdy as of yore, 
And fitted for his day of punishment. 
At first he doomed him to the headsman's axe, 
Then destined him later for the strangler's chair. 
Aghast at this hard sentence, the old man 
Sent for his captor. So Hernando came, 
And then the prisoner supplicated long, 
Recalling old times, countless favors done; 
How he had spared that captor's life ; invoked 
Their friendship of the past, Hernando 's oath. 
But when he ceased, a sudden silence fell, 
So cheerless, ominous and profound, that he 
Who listened might have fancied that he heard 
The creeping of the ants on hearth and floor. 
Then, breaking that dreary silence like a knell, 
Coldly Hernando answered, "Turn at once 
Thy thoughts to God, for death is close at hand." 

Now Alvarado, smitten with remorse 
For double-dealing with Almagro, sought 
Pizarro out at Lima. "I have come," 
He said, "to beg thee spare Almagro's life. 
He was thine old companion; let thy heart 
Forget not how ye once have cleaved together. 
But if that plea avail not, for my sake 
His death forbid : for I induced this man 
To spare thy brothers. Have I not a claim 
Upon thee?" But Pizarro, frowning, snarled, 
" He is a traitor; let him suffer the doom 
Of traitors. What! Because, unjustly, once 
He made my brethren prisoners, and forbore. 
To slay those blameless victims, in the hope 
That I would grant his treasonable demands 

BooK XIII 273 

While they were held as hostages, am I 

To spare him in his guilt? Hence: let me be." 

But Alvarado, still unsilenced, cried, 

"If he must die, permit thou, then, the son 

To hold the province that the sire hath ruled. 

The boy is innocent of every crime 

You charge against his father." "I will not!" 

Thundered Pizarro, "for the father lost 

All his old rights by treason, and this brat 

Stands on no higher ground than stood the sire." 

Wroth, Alvarado answered, "Sir, beware! 

Some others in this country still have rights 

Beside thyself." Quickly Pizarro snapped, 

"All countries west of Flanders are mine own!" 

And turning his back on Alvarado, left. 

The intercessor, thus discomfited, 

Returned to Cuzco. From Hernando there 

One last poor privilege he begged, to see 

His leader once again: this was denied. 

Now came the last night ere the fatal day : 

The guards he begged for entrance ; when they scowled 

And shook their heads, their watch-dog consciences 

He lulled to sleep with gold : then the iron gates 

Whined in remonstrance as they swung ajar. 

Since the old prisoner had regained his strength, 
The generous treatment at his keepers' hands 
Had ended. In these last days all had changed 
From softest ease to hardest misery. 
Now entering, Alvarado stood amazed. 
For in a stony, dank and gloomy cell, 
Upon a bed of straw, Almagro sat. 
Amidst the room, upon a battered chest, 


274 Hernando De Soto 

Sputtered a. tallow candle : standing near, 

An empty pitcher and a pinewood stool 

Poorly relieved the bareness of the den. 

"Old friend! Almagro!" Alvarado cried, 

Pressing the veteran's hand. Almagro's eyes 

Grew dim, but with a cheery smile, he said, 

"I bid thee welcome to my palace, lad; 

The Persian carpet now hath been removed 

For dusting ; the silk cushions of these seats 

Hang out for airing; I would offer wine, 

Save that my leech forbids it, and my priest 

Frowns on it." Alvarado, smiling not, 

Exclaimed remorsefully, "This is my work! 

O, never shall I cease to hate myself 

For leading thee to this ! I begged thee spare 

Those monsters; now I see with what reward!" 

"Grieve not," Almagro answered; "though thy heart 

Misled thee, yet thy plea for mercy proved 

Thy generous instincts. And remember, son, 

Death waits us all, and one as old as I 

Can hope for small delay at best." "I come," 

Answered the caller, "but to say 'adieu.' 

There is no hope left. In a fortnight's time 

I sail for Spain : this cursed land I leave 

With eager feet: but O, I could not go, 

My dear old leader, without seeing thee, 

To grasp thy hand, and bid farewell forever." 

Quickly the fated man pricked up his ears. 
"Dost thou return to Spain indeed?" he asked 
With an eager voice: "Yea," Alvarado answered. 
"And thou art known at court?" the veteran asked, 
Speaking in whispers. "Yea, well known indeed," 
Rejoined the other. Then Almagro smiled 

BooK XIII 275 

In his old cynic way. "Come, thou shalt be 

My minister of vengeance after death," 

The graybeard chuckled. Then he thrust his hand 

Under the straw that made his bed, and drew 

Forth from that hiding-place a parchment-scroll, 

A little earthen ink-jar, and a quill. 

"With my last coin I bribed those guards of mine 

To smuggle in these things," he whispered. "Long 

Have I been wishing for some friend to come 

And pen my will. Thou knowest I could never 

Scribble my name : but I can make my mark, 

And thus will sign it. Sit thou on this stool, 

And write as I shall dictate." So his friend 

Seized plume and parchment, and then, word by word. 

Wrote as directed: "In the name of God! 

Diego de Almagro, facing death, 

Proclaims this last will unto all the world : 

Unto my gracious lord, the King of Spain, 

My worldy goods of every kind I leave. 

Making this gift, I avow solemnly 

In presence of the Judgment-throne of God, 

That false Pizarro and his brothers hold, 

Through force and fraud, vast treasures and estates 

To me by right belonging. All of these 

I now bequeath my sovereign as mine heir, 

Trusting His Majesty will force these wretches 

To loose their hold on all their fruits of fraud, 

And yield them unto his own hands, since he 

Is now the lawful owner." Having heard 

The will read over by his friend, he scrawled 

His mark beneath it, saying, "I am now 

Half reconciled to death : for well I know 

The miseries of Hernando sure to come 

After the reading of this testament. 

276 Hernando De Soto 

Like the great Cid, when my right arm is still, 
And mine eye dim, and, shrouded for the tomb, 
Rigid and cold I lie, I shall yet win, 
Though dead, the greatest of my victories. 
Soon shalt thou be in Spain, O would that I 
Were going with thee! but it cannot be, 
Be sure, good friend, thyself to place my will 
Safe in the king's own hands; trust not another! 
Let not Pizarro know of it ; else he 
Will wrest it from thy hands, cast it to flames, 
And thee to death. Fail not to treasure it 
In secret, till the king himself receives it." 
"So it shall be, I swear," rejoined his friend; 
"The king himself shall have it at my hands; 
No other man shall read it, or behold, 
Or touch it, or suspect it, till that day." 
They parted then forever. With the scroll 
Safe hidden, Alvarado passed the guards. 

At daybreak, in his cell, the veteran 

Breathed his last breath upon the strangler's chair. 

Before that hour, Pizarro quietly 

Had counseled with Hernando : and although 

He knew the sentence ere the judges spoke, 

He and his brothers, as in other days 

When Atahuallpa met the selfsame doom, 

With loud-voiced grief and crocodilian tears, 

Enrobed in blackest mourning for the dead! 

But Alvarado, fraught with bitterness, 
Returned to Spain : before the King he lodged 
Complaints of many evils ; slyly then 
He handed to the prince Almagro's will. 
Wroth was the monarch ; for it seemed that he, 

BooK XIII 277 

The claimant through Almagro, had been robbed. 
"What means this?" he enquired. "These men, 


Have murdered one who loved me well : this deed 
Of the Pizarros will I closely scan, 
And no man who is guilty will I spare." 

Meanwhile, Hernando gathered treasure fast, 

To bear to Spain as tribute for the king, 

And thus avert the stroke of fate. This done, 

He voyaged home again, and sought the court. 

There Alvarado stood upon his way; 

The multitude had long prejudged the cause 

Against him and his clan. But ere five suns 

Had risen and descended through the skies, 

Without a warning, Alvarado sank 

Tortured with dreadful pangs. Within an hour 

Pallid and cold he lay, and not one man 

In all the kingdom doubted that his end 

Had come by poison through some felon hand 

Moving in secret from Hernando. Then 

Almagro's will, after Almagro's death 

Became a fatal weapon, to destroy 

The dead man's enemies. For now indeed 

Like the great Cid arising from his tomb, 

The veteran triumphed, speaking from the grave. 

The king believed himself, Almagro's heir, 

Despoiled of priceless riches. He refused 

Hernando audience : in a little while 

He cast him into prison. There he lies 

In old age, friendless, left to poverty, 

And shunned by all the world, even to this day. 

And as he languishes alone, his heart, 

A ruined Babylon, forsaken save 

278 Hernando De Soto 

To desolation, now becomes the haunt 
For scorpions of repentance, bat-like shapes 
Of evil memories, and the shadowy forms 
Of black-maned, fierce-eyed lions of despair. 

But still the leader of this clan remained 

Unpunished ; and though many cried aloud 

At God's slow justice, ere He flung His bolt 

At false Pizarro, after many days 

The sceptics knew their error. Men may doubt 

That justice; and, in truth, within this world 

Where purblind mortals ever grope in gloom, 

Knowledge is Doubt, and Doubt our only Knowledge. 

Still, let us not deny those inner truths 

We know, yet never comprehend. All the earth 

Abounds with real things that seem unreal, 

With facts that seem but fiction. Heighth and Depth, 

Distance and Space, exist not, yet exist. 

There is no Time : yet Time destroys us all. 

So mark the ending of this man, whose feet 

Crushed down an empire, and behold at last 

A retribution from some mighty Power 

Voiceless, unseen, mysterious, slow yet sure. 

Pizarro stripped Almagro's followers 
Of all their titles and their worldy goods : 
Each was reduced to threadbare indigence. 
The story goes that twelve in one house lodged, 
So poor that only one cloak served for all ; 
When one hidalgo wore it on the street, 
The others all were forced to stay at home! 
Their enemies, in arrogance of wealth, 
Would pass them with a supercilious air, 
Displaying silken doublets, chains and rings, 

DooK XIII 279 

And all the adornments of prosperity. 

The boys yelled, "Men of Chili!" tauntingly, 

When seeing the followers of Almagro pass 

In clouted garments. These poor gentlemen, 

Proud in despite of all their poverty, 

Grew more resentful with the passing days. 

They met Pizarro with a haughty glance, 

And none would doff his cap. Once, on the square, 

At night they hanged a hideous effigy 

With a black horse-hair beard, with arms and legs 

Stuffed out with straw, and a sombrero slouched 

Above a devil's face. Under its feet 

A board in bulky letters told the crowd, 

"Here hangs Pizarro, traitor to the King!" 

A camarilla in the end was formed 

To free the province from the tyrant's clutch: 

Old Juan de Rada, on whose brow the snows 

Of more than seventy winters had not cooled 

His hot ungoverned spirit, led the band. 

When looking at him, inwardly you said: 

"This man hath never been a babe in arms, 

Never a barefoot lad, nor even a youth! 

Nor did he know a mother; to his mouth 

No soft maternal breast ever gave suck; 

Nay! this stern creature drew no gentleness 

From such a hallowed fount. His meat hath been 

Flesh of wild creatures, warm and bleeding, borne 

Unto his lips carnivorous, in the beaks 

Of eagles at some eyrie in the crags. 

Or strong, mature and warlike from the first, 

Borne only by a father, sprang he forth 

From loins of manhood, armed and panoplied, 

Like Pallas from the pang-racked brain of Jove." 

280 Hernando De Soto 

A score of others joined him ; they resolved 

To slay Pizarro on his way to mass : 

A white flag, to be hung above the street, 

Would give the signal. One conspirator 

Blabbed out the secret to his priest : the priest 

Soon told Pizarro, who, disdaining fear, 

Scoffed at the tale. The priest then told the Judge, 

By name Velasquez, who in like degree 

Mocked at the danger. "See this rod!" quoth he, 

"My rod of office; with that in my hands, 

No man will dare to offer violence!" 

Yet being wary, on the Sabbath day, 

Pizarro ventured not to mass. His foes 

Were thronged together at Almagro's house, 

Awaiting his appearance on the street. 

But time elapsed, and yet he passed not by; 

They waited longer; still he did not come. 

They grew uneasy. Some had heard it said 

The tyrant was detained by illness ; still, 

What man could trust Pizarro? So it seemed 

Some rumor must have reached him of their plot, 

And if so, God protect them! Hurriedly 

They counseled all together; some advised 

Deferring of their scheme for future time, 

Taking the chance of ignorance of their plans 

Upon the tyrant's part. But paltering not, 

Old Rada bluntly shouted, "Follow me! 

For we are dead men if we hesitate!" 

They sallied forth together on the street, 
Crying, "Death to the tyrant! Live the king!" 
One stepped around a puddle in their way ; 
Then Rada, wroth, exclaimed, "What! fearest thou 
To wet thy feet thou, who art on thy way 

Book XIII 281 

To wade knee-deep in blood?" He bade the man 

Begone, nor follow further. So they sped 

In haste, without him, to the palace gates. 

They reached the doorway, struck the servants 


And trampled into the hall. On every side 
Attendants fled in terror, crying out, 
"Help! Help! they come the men of Chili come!" 
Pizarro dined that day with many friends; 
Francisco, his half-brother, was a guest, 
Likewise the Judge, Velasquez. When they heard 
The strident voice of armed conspirators 
Cry out, "Death to the tyrant! Live the king!" 
They scattered like a startled flock of sparrows: 
None save Francisco lingered with their host. 
Scampering, they found a little corridor 
That overlooked the garden: they slid down 
The columns, and then sped away. The Judge, 
To use his hands more freely in descent, 
Transferred his rod of office to his mouth, 
And so indeed no violence was done 
While the rod of office lingered in his hands ! 

Pizarro ordered that the doors be shut 
Between him and his foes: but the command 
Had come too late; the doors were flung ajar, 
And every servant in the way was killed. 
"Where is Pizarro?" rose assassin shouts. 
Francisco then was girding on his brother 
A suit of armor; rushing to the front, 
He with a few attendants fought for life. 
Appalling was the struggle; shrieks and shouts 
Resounded through the palace. In the fray 
Two chief conspirators fell pierced with swords, 

282 Hernando De Soto 

And then Francisco was himself transfixed, 
Expiring in a crimson pool of blood. 

Pizarro, gored to frenzy, joins the fight. 

"What ho!" he cries, "ye traitors! dare ye seek 

My life here, in my own house?" Lifting his sword, 

Quickly he slays two more conspirators. 

Now two young pages reach Pizarro's side, 

Seeking to save their master or to perish. 

Brave boys ! No knights more gallant, more superb, 

Ever dared death before. Peerless they stand 

In youthful beauty, lifting princely brows 

Enwreathed with ebon ringlets, and uplit 

With eyes like morning stars in April skies, 

Bidding the dark defiance. From their necks 

Hang golden chains ; their violet satin sleeves, 

Gold-slashed and velvet-puffed, are overhung 

By silken cassocks gay with brilliant hues 

Of vermeil and of orange ; from their sides 

Sashes of scarlet wave. Unterrified 

They front the foe: but thrust on thrust is given, 

Felling the boyish heroes ; from their lips 

Trickles the life-blood; now it dyes in red 

The snowy collars at their throats. Their cheeks, 

That erst were rose-hued marble, pale to white; 

Dabbled in crimson are their Parian brows : 

Death triumphs as he claims his noble spoils. 

The leader, Rada, grown impatient, cried, 
"Down with the tyrant! Why this long delay?" 
Roughly he seized a comrade in his arms, 
And threw him on Pizarro ; lightning-swift, 
Pizarro pierced the body through and through : 
But while his sword lanced one antagonist, 

BooK XIII 283 

Another foeman gashed his throat ; still others 
Rushed quickly up, and stabbed him ruthlessly. 
"Jesu!" he cried, and fell; he stretched his hand, 
And dipping it in blood, made on the floor 
A cross of red ; he sought to kiss the cross, 
But bending down, received another thrust, 
That sent his spirit shuddering to its God. 

First they resolved his lifeless corse to hang 

Upon the public square : but in the end 

They gave it to his friends for burial. 

For fear of desecration to the grave, 

These bore it to a solitary wood : 

There, wrapped within its bloody shroud, by night, 

With the glare of torches flickering through the gloom, 

A few attendants put the clay in clay, 

And not one man in all the living world 

Would even murmur, "God forgive his sins!" 

The priest Valverde next was called to go. 39 

He and the Judge, Velasquez, boarded ship 

At Tumbez for a voyage north. But soon, 

Landing upon the isle of Puna, both 

Fell in the clutches of the savages 

Whom once Pizarro had scourged with steel and flame. 

The mad barbarians, thirsty for the blood 

Of white men, who had robbed and slain their kin, 

With yells ferocious rushed from ambuscade, 

Seized them in savage joy, danced round their prey, 

And frenziedly wielding their black tomahawks, 

Took vengeance in a frightful massacre. 

Gonzalo, youngest of Pizarro's house, 
Became dictator over all Peru. 

284 Hernando De Soto 

Almagro's son rebelled; but meeting him 

In battle, speedily Gonzalo won, 

Dispersed his force, and took him prisoner. 

Touched by the youth and beauty of this lad, 

Or memories of his father, many came 

Praying Gonzalo to be merciful. 

But the dictator threw the hapless boy 

Into a loathsome dungeon : many days 

He penned him there: then, dreaming that the 


Might love the dark-eyed stripling but too well, 
And fearing that the fair youth's comely neck 
Might some day lift a head above his own, 
That slender young neck, fringed with glossy curls, 
He ordered to the block. 

Then still more harsh 
Became the tyrant; but his end was near: 
Fleet as the glitter of a humming-bird 
The lifetime of his little sun of glory! 
Giddy with pride, he even dared to raise 
The banner of revolt against his king. 
Aroused, the monarch sent a martial priest, 
The valiant-hearted Gasca, to Peru. 40 
This prelate, bold yet diplomatic, proved 
More than the equal of his strenuous foe, 
Who failed in tactfulness and poise of mind. 
The rugged soldiers of the priest were drilled 
Daily in warlike movements, and were taught 
To bear all hardships and endure all ills. 
Rough in their dress and manner, yet alert, 
And swift to strike, in camp they seemed a swarm 
Of hornets busy at their dreaded nest, 
And ever ready at the first alarm 

DooK XIII 285 

To sally forth, and with their fiery stings 
Smite all intruders. But assuming not 
War's labors, and avoiding all its pains, 
Gonzalo's youthful cavaliers, arrayed 
Like their commander, in resplendent garbs 
Of saffron silk and velvet laced with gold, 
Seemed like a throng of garden daffodils, 
Or clustered yellow butterflies that haunt 
A little roadway pool on Summer days, 
Yea, and as frail and useless on the field! 

Gonzalo boasted of his gallant band, 

And prophesied an easy victory 

Over the prelate. But at last men saw 

His promise was the eagle's, his performance 

That of the sparrow. When in readiness, 

Forward the priest marched: in a fortnight's time 

Half its dominions had the Crown regained. 

The armies met near Xauxa: here it was 

Gonzalo's brother, in the years before, 

Had burned the brave Peruvian nobleman, 

And here it was Valverde at the stake 

Vainly had sought to turn him from his gods. 

Strange retribution! Had the dead man come 

To life again, what vengeance had he seen 

Repaying all his own wrongs from their clan! 

For here one trooper of Gonzalo turned, 

And galloped over to the enemy; 

Another followed ; then another still ; 

Some horsemen sent to take them, joined the rest : 

A troop of infantry deserted next, 

And soon the plain between the armies swarmed 

With men in flight to join their sometime foes. 

Soon half the despot's army had been lost: 

286 Hernando De Soto 

The rest, dismayed and frightened, dropped their 


And fled toward the town. In blank despair, 
With but a handful of his once-proud host, 
Gonzalo stood. "What shall we do?" he asked; 
One answered, "Die like Romans"; he rejoined, 
"Better to die like Christians"; so he went, 
And to the warlike priest yielded his sword. 
He begged for that same mercy he himself 
In other days had scornfully denied 
To young Almagro. But the King recalled 
Almagro's will, and all the wrongs it charged 
Against him. So, in resurrected might, 
Like the great Cid, another victory 
The dead man won. Unto the headsman's axe 
Was doomed the traitor. 

At his own desire, 

Friends were denied admission to his cell. 
In thought he paced the floor; with pious men 
He lingered in confession and in prayer. 
When coming forth to die, a black-robed priest 
Before him reared aloft a crucifix : 
But vain in life, and vainer still in death, 
His richest garments for the block he donned; 
A gorgeous yellow velvet cloak he wore, 
In gold galloon embroidered ; rings and chains, 
And pendants glittered as he walked along. 

The gathered multitude he then addressed, 
Saying, "My friends, in life my wealth I scattered 
Freely amongst you, saving naught: and thus 
I die so poor that not a coin remains 
To pay for masses for my soul's repose ; 

DooKXIII 287 

So now I beg you, after all is over, 

To pay for masses." Many cried, "We will!" 

Then he bowed down before the crucifix, 

Spending a little while in silent prayer. 

Refusing then the bandage for his eyes, 

The headsman struck; his neck was cleaved in twain. 

Over the splendid vesture gushed his blood, 

The gorgeous yellow velvet dyeing deep 

In crimson. Golden pendants, chains and rings, 

The headsman claimed for spoils : dripping with gore, 

His head was hung upon a gibbet, where 

A scroll proclaimed him traitor to the King. 

His vast domains were forfeited. His house 

Was razed and swept from earth : over the ground 

Where once the mansion stood, was scattered salt, 

And never a man was suffered from that day 

Upon the unhallowed spot to dwell again. 

But ghastliest, most fearsome deed of all, 
Within the selfsame grave they buried him 
Where mouldered both Almagros, sire and son, 
Two victims of his own imperious clan. 
And there they crumble in their tattered shrouds, 
And there the victor and the victims wait ; 
There with each other's hated dust they blend, 
The deadly foes commingling into one, 
Till Gabriel's trumpet rouses all the world, 
And bids the sea and land give up their dead. 


De Soto's Narrative continued He hears of the death of Pedra- 
rias His return to Spain The old landlord and his wife 
The meeting with Isabel. 

SETTING glad sails to voyage home again, 
At last our ship weighed anchor. So I sped 
As happy as a liberated bird, 
Who, having through the dull and dreary years 
Beaten his aching breast and drooping wings 
Against the steel bars of a narrow cage, 
With trills of triumph soars away through space, 
Wild, joyous and untrammeled, to behold 
Once more green fields and woods, and azure skies, 
And meet again in haunts of wilding flowers 
Dew-spangled dingles overhung with ferns 
The mate he lost in dim, heart-broken youth. 

My journey paused a while at Darien, 
And there I learned Pedrarias was no more. 
In old age and in poverty he died, 
An exile from the kindly shores of Spain, 
Lost to his kindred and his friends of yore. 
In far Peru, no word from Isabel 
Had come to cheer me; through the irksome years 
No ship with letters at those ports had moored, 
And had one sailed those distant seas, with gifts 
Of precious messages, we, tortuous leagues 


DooK XIV 289 

Beyond the mountains, hemmed by savages, 

Could never have received them. Every man 

And woman on my way through Darien 

I asked of Isabel. " Does she still live? 

Is she unmarried? Or have convent walls 

Closed round her as a nun? Or, tell me, still 

Unshrouded, still unwed and free to wed, 

Does she await some loved one of the past?" 

But all would shake their heads; and some would say, 

"I do not know," and some, "I know her not." 

So nothing of the damsel could I learn, 

Save that her father left her poor indeed. 

No, none could say if Isabel were dead, 

Or wedded, or had joined a sisterhood, 

But something in my spirit leaped with joy, 

And bade my heart dance like a morning star 

On dewy hilltops early in the dawn, 

To feel assured the maid would soon be mine. 

Once Jacob toiled for Rachel fourteen years : 
Now I had come, when sixteen suns had passed, 
To claim my damsel of the Long Ago. 
There is no pleasure that this life can yield 
Compared with his, who, waiting, long deferred 
Through struggles of ungrateful years, at last 
From hostile Fortune wrings success. For he 
Who draws the prizes of this world too soon, 
Disdains them but as gewgaws cheaply won; 
But he who buys them at the price of youth, 
And pays the usury in his blood and tears, 
Will find them sweeter than the toiler's sleep 
At cool of evening, after labor done, 
More luscious than the fruits a traveler plucks 
From vineyards reached through leagues of wilderness, 

290 Hernando De Soto 

And more refreshing than the bubbling spring 
To pilgrims worn from deserts parched and red. 
And the most glorious triumph man can know ' 
Is winning Her, who, first denied by Fate, 
Was yet created for that man alone, 
And waits the coming of her rightful lord 
To vindicate the judgment sealed by God. 

At length the day broke when my trusty ship 

Stood ready to convey me back to Spain. 

How happy was I ! Dawn rose in the East 

Like Thalia, fairest of the sister Graces, 

With radiant eyes, with cheeks that flushed in joy, 

And a soft bosom of the creamy clouds 

Billowed like snow-peaks tipped with roseate flame. 

She led from out the darkness Youth and Love, 

And wove resplendent raiment for their limbs 

Of orange and of scarlet mists of heaven. 

So Dawn rejoiced, and so rejoiced my soul. 

Our bark made out to sea, and soon the land 

Had faded from us, dream-like, in the west, 

Ah, how my heart exulted, thrilled and throbbed 

On its way home to old-time scenes of Spain ! 

The salt air filled my nostrils with its scent, 

The keen salt water sprinkled in my face. 

How grateful and refreshing was the sea ! 

I, panting once in stifling tropic woods, 

Whose sluggish, close and languorous atmosphere 

Bore not one breeze to fever-burning brows, 

But poisoned with its foul malaria 

I, in deep draughts inhaled the ocean air, 

Replete with vigor, health and energy, 

Cool, clean and wholesome as the breath of God. 

BooK XIV 291 

A tempest gathered, and the white-caps ran; 

The shrouds, hard-strained, would stretch and pull 

and groan, 

As though their ropes would snap: so, reefing the sails, 
We scudded under bare poles in the storm. 
But what cared I ? I loved the whole wide world, 
And all the whole wide world belonged to me. 
I loved the sea and sky, the ocean gale, 
The flying sea-birds and the tonic breeze, 
And loved the sea-weed clinging to the prow. 
I watched the compass in the binnacle, 
Rejoiced to see our bark was homeward-bound. 
I lingered at the stern, and saw the path 
That stretched behind us through the foamy waste: 
I saw the stormy petrels walk the waves 
Long leagues away from land, unterrified, 
Though leaden clouds swept on, and great winds blew, 
And monstrous billows rose to gulp them down. 
I shouted, "See, O stormy petrel, see, 
I, like thyself, far from my rightful nest, 
Fear not, but know my journey soon is done 
My journey that shall safely bear me home!" 
I stood upon the prow and looked below, 
Over the figure-head that faced the sea; 
The breakers dashed against me; in my joy 
I cried again, "Sweep on, thou ocean gale! 
For every breath thou blowest brings more near 
The shores of Spain, the welcome of my love!" 
I climbed the mainmast; bent as if to break, 
It rocked and swung me in the gust on high. 
The tempest mingled sea and sky together 
In one vast misty sheet of leaden gray : 
The rain splashed in my face; winds took my breath. 
Yet standing on the main-top far aloft, 

292 Hernando De Soto 

I shouted, "O ye heavens, black with clouds, 
And rent with rushing blasts, I trust you still! 
For well ye know why thus I brave your frown, 
And ye will guide me to my port of dreams!" 

Why tell of all that voyage's delights? 

At last the hills of Spain appeared afar. 

Mine eager heart gushed forth with happiness, 

Mine eyes grew misty with their unshed tears. 

Gray-feathered sea-gulls gathered like a cloud, 

Making a convoy for our goodly ship, 

And following us to port, still sailed around, 

As if in welcome to our long-lost home. 

Beneath a friendly promontory's lee 

Then we cast anchor, and stepped out to shore: 

So after sixteen years, my gladsome feet 

Once more were treading in their boyhood land. 

The time was summer, as it once had been 

In far-off youth, when first I sailed away. 

I journeyed through the country till I came 

To that same town where Isabel had lived, 

And I had lingered ere I went to sea. 

Then I was but a smooth-cheeked, slender lad; 

Now, I returned at five-and-thirty years, 

As bushy-bearded as the heathen Turk. 

So no one hailed me. As I passed along 

The old familiar streets my bosom loved, 

Few faces that I saw I now recalled, 

And not one creature, brute or human, there, 

Remembered me. My heart sank. Where were all 

Those friends of boyhood, dear to memory, 

Who, at our parting in the long ago, 

With wistful eyes had wished me happiness, 

Booh XIV 293 

And wrung my hand, commending me to God? 

Where now my triumph after all my toils? 

For they who might have joyed, since I had won 

The struggle that had cost me half my life, 

Forsaking me, had sought another world, 

And none would greet me on my victory. 

Ah me! Life loses all its dearest dreams, 

And Earth grows cold and hard, in sixteen years! 

As night was falling, soon my steps I turned 

Toward the old inn, where, before I sailed, 

The gray inn-keeper and his kindly dame 

Had given their blessing and their good advice. 

I reached the ancient inn ; my heart was glad 

To find the landlord and his wife still living. 

Bent were the two with added weight of years; 

Their locks, once gray, hung now in spotless white. 

Once poor, the couple had grown poorer still ; 

Dilapidation and decay I saw 

Whatever way I turned. But now I cried, 

"Landlord! the time for supper comes; serve thou 

The meal here, in my room; and bring beside 

A flagon of canary : take no heed 

Of cost or pains, but bring thy very best, 

And thou shalt not regret it." "It shall be 

As thou hast ordered," piped the graybeard. Soon 

A plenteous, wholesome meal, a plump young fowl, 

With bread and cheese, was served. Likewise they 


Peaches and grapes, and honey in the comb, 
And warm and generous tawny-tinted wine, 
To cheer and gladden. As the flagon came, 
"Here, father, and thou, mother, too," quoth I, 
"Sit down, and toss a friendly glass with me." 

294 Hernando De Soto 

They hesitated, at each other glanced, 
And then, with many smiles and bows, complied; 
But neither called to mind their youthful guest. 
Both voluble, they chattered on and on, 
About this one or that, my former friends; 
Of many dead; some gone to sea; some poor; 
A few grown rich and moved to other towns, 
And not a few with whereabouts unknown. 

And then I asked them, " Did ye know a lad, 

Hernan De Soto, was he not your guest 

In years long past? Do ye remember him?" 

"Oh yes!" exclaimed the couple in a breath; 

Both tried to talk at once, but the old man, 

Taking the cue himself, suppressed his wife, 

And answered first for both: "I knew him well, 

A friendly, open-hearted boy, but yet 

Inclined to rove, and lacking steadiness. 

He never lived here, but he often came 

To see the daughter of Pedrarias. 

Well, then, he wandered to America, 

And no man here hath seen him since he left, 

Though rumor reached us that he gathered wealth, 

And wed some Indian princess overseas." 

"Oh what a shame!" the fond old woman cried, 

"To think that boy should take a heathen wench, 

Turning his back on one like Isabel ! 

I'll not believe it! Not a better lad, 

And not a lad more comely, ever lived, 

Than he who came to woo our Isabel." 

"Peace, peace, my good dame," interposed her lord, 

"What knowest thou of that thou pratest? Why, 

As thou hast heard, Pedrarias died so poor 

His friends were taxed to bury him. What then 

BooK XIV 295 

Was left as dowry for his daughter's wedding? 
But more; the sire refused to give her hand 
To this young fellow. Wouldst thou blame him, then, 
When he was rich, for seeking a wife elsewhere?" 

And now the ardor that had once illumed 

My soul with brilliance, flickered in my breast; 

I knew not whether the damsel now were dead, 

Or still worse, cloistered in a sisterhood, 

Or worst yet, wedded to another. Thus, 

As it must ever be, reaction came: 

From apprehension, exultation died. 

So then I faltered, " Does she live?" "O yes," 

Quickly they answered. With a lightened heart, 

But anxious, asked I, "Hath she taken vows?" 

"Oh no," they answered laughing, "surely not; 

Her sister only hath assumed the veil." 

Relieved, but with a heart more anxious still, 

I asked, "And hath she married?" "No," they said, 

And then the old dame added, confident, 

"The damsel will not mate with living man 

Till her own lover comes from overseas." 

Once more elated, smiling radiantly, 

I brimmed her glass again. Encouraged thus, 

Despite her spouse's late disparagement, 

The ancient gammer reassumed her thread 

Of discourse: "Isabel this very night 

Is biding at a kind senora's house 

A paltry distance down this very street. 

Her old home long ago was lost, to pass 

Into a stranger's hands: so, with this friend, 

Her playmate of those days when her own sire 

Was rich and proud, and courted by the great, 

296 Hernando De Soto 

She lives at times, though others she once knew 
Neglect her in her poverty. But still 
There's many a suitor who would gladly lay 
His riches at her feet to win her hand : 
All these the maid refuses: O, be sure 
That lad beyond the seas is favored still." 

And now I blurted out, "Landlord! and thou 

My good old mother, know that I am he, 

Thy lad of olden times, returned at last." 

The faithful woman started in amaze; 

A little skeptical at first, but soon 

Convinced, she shouted, "There! I told thee so! 

The lad has come to marry Isabel!" 

With that she hugged me, vise-like, in her arms, 

And kissed me, bushy-bearded though I was, 

As if her truant were a boy again. 

The old man, silent, wrung me by the hand, 

And welcomed with his misty, honest eyes. 

The old dame seized her headgear in a trice ; 

"I'll go and tell her!" cried she, out of breath. 

"No, no!" quickly I answered, "do not go. 

I must reveal myself to Isabel." 

Then noting the disappointment in her face 

At being thus deprived of bearing news, 

And knowing how her sex loved such a task, 

I added, "I alone must see her first; 

Tell all the gossips in thy neighborhood, 

And only leave to me this maiden's ear." 

So, half placated by this compromise, 

Of cups and plates she hastened to dispose, 

Anticipating in her flustered heart 

The joy of telling first amazing news 

BooK XIV 297 

To friends and neighbors, of the lost returned. 

I gave the landlord freely of my hoard ; 

His eyes danced in his head ; "Gold, gold ! " he cried, 

"Thou givest ten times more than is our due: 

Not in a twelvemonth have we earned so much." 

I hastened off, his endless thanks to end, 

And as I wandered on to Isabel, 

I saw the ancient housewife hurry away 

Another route, breathless, to breathe her news. 

I sped the way my friends had pointed out, 

And stood at last before the gate I sought. 

The soft midsummer night was close and warm; 

A swan-like moon was swimming in the skies. 

A great stone mansion, old and gray, I found, 

Along whose front upreared a portico, 

Where roses clambered with their fragrant blooms. 

Before the house a dense-limbed orange tree 

Hung spheres of yellow through its gloomy green, 

And, sprinkled over with its starry flowers, 

Breathed forth delicious perfume on the breeze: 

A thick grape-arbor at one side distilled 

Ambrosial odors from its clustered fruit. 

The night, which makes all sweet scents sweeter still, 

Seemed swooning in its aromatic airs. 

The moon had quenched the light of smaller stars ; 

But one, a palpitating crimson orb, 

Hung like a quivering dewdrop tinged with blood. 

For fear the beams my presence might betray, 

I leaped the wall, slipped under shadowy boughs, 

And hid behind a fig-tree by the steps. 

Upon the portico two ladies sat ; 

And now my bosom bounded like a roe 

298 Hernando De Soto 

To see that one was Isabel! Ah, yes, 

Yes, it was she! But not the little maid 

With whom I plighted troth in vanished years. 

This maiden was a woman, tall, mature, 

With woman's queenly bearing. I could mark 

Through silvery gleams each aspect of her face : 

A shade of sadness flitted in her smile, 

A serious glance fell from her chastened eyes. 

She, once a tender April hyacinth, 

Was now the full-blown rose of mellow June. 

The damsel I had known in years of yore 

Was fresh and piquant as a dewy dawn, 

But this, my empress, noble, calm of brow, 

Stood at her white meridian, and yet 

Blest with a sweet and pure serenity, 

Was like the vesper hour, when the skies 

Droop kind and gentle in their loveliness, 

When glare of noontide dims to softest blue, 

And in the east appears the modest moon. 

Her love, which once had thrilled me with delight, 

Now brought me peace and rest and quiet joy. 

The woman by her side leaned half in shadow, 
But I could see her face, likewise, was fair: 
Her years were nigh the same as Isabel's. 
This lady of the house, I gathered soon 
From fragments of their converse overheard, 
Had wedded early, and lived happily. 
True to the ancient instincts of her sex 
All women are match-makers, born and bred 
She urged her friend to choose a mate at once, 
And cease to wait for me. With her right hand 
She tinkled and she thrummed a light guitar. 

BooK XIV 299 

Often the Spanish ladies improvise, 
Spontaneous verses forming as they play: 
So then her argument she fused with song: 

"Time flies, and flying, gathers one by one 

The buds that burgeon at Life's golden gate; 
Be wooed and wedded ere thy day is done; 
Man roams afar, but woman can not wait. 

"The bird without a mate must cease to sing, 

The rose, neglected, shatter on her spray; 

The vine must perish where it can not cling, 

The summer, reft of sunshine, pass away. 

"When strands of silver thread thine ebon locks 

Like webs of moonbeams as the night grows late, 
Sweet Love no longer at thy portal knocks ; 
Man roams afar, but woman can not wait. 

"Man sails the seas for glory, wealth or power, 
For court, or camp, or battle-field departs; 
We, left behind, from lonesome hour to hour 
Hear but the beating of our restless hearts. 

"Youth, like a fragile morning-glory bloom, 

Long ere the noontide meets his hapless fate; 
Haste, ere thy queenly beauty suffers doom; 
Man roams afar, but woman can not wait" 

But Isabel now seized her friend's guitar, 
And answered quickly, improvising thus: 

"Hernando! my adored one and my king, 

My heart thou hast, in youth or manly prime; 
Thy breast alone shall ease my broken wing: 
He never loved who loved a second time. 

300 Hernando De Soto 

"Thou wert most courteous of all cavaliers 

That ever doffed a plume or donned a glove; 
Proud over all, I moved among my peers, 
And high-born ladies envied me thy love. 

"The rose of Paestum blooms and blooms again 

Twice in the same year of its gentle clime; 
But love blooms only once in hearts of men : 
He never loved who loved a second time. 

"Thou wert the bonniest lad that ever trod 
The graceful measures of the airy dance, 
The knightliest knight whose steed disdained the sod, 
The bravest brave that ever couched a lance. 

"True souls, when once their mutual pledge is given, 

Are wedded like the rhythm and the rhyme; 
The faithful heart is not deceived or driven: 
He never loved who loved a second time" 

When she had ended, from the fig-tree's boughs 

Emerging suddenly, I cried aloud, 

"Lady, I come myself from overseas, 

Where I have seen thy lover. 0, waste not 

Thy precious hours awaiting his return; 

I know him false as every man is false 

When parted from the loved one of his youth. 

Dream not that any man this side of heaven 

Will keep his plighted vows through sixteen years; 

Inconstant as the clouds, as wings of birds, 

His pledges all are scattered lavishly, 

Like cheap and thoughtless kisses of a child." 

At first she gasped, "Who art thou?" But before 

My answer came, she cried in joyous tones, 

BooK XIV 301 

" I know thee! Bronzed and bearded as thou art, 
No thin disguise can cheat my watchful soul; 
My knight thou art, come late, but not too late!" 
I rushed toward her: seized within mine arms, 
She laughed and wept, and wept and laughed again. 

The lady of the house soon went within, 
Leaving us in our rapture all alone. 
I said to Isabel, "My youth has fled; 
The charms thou sawest once in me are gone." 
"Nay, nay!" she cried, "Time glideth stealthily, 
And blinds the lover to the loved one's age ; 
Love's idol in Love's eyes grows never old; 
Once young to Love, Love sees thee ever young." 
So thus we sat together, hand in hand, 
Absorbed in our own selves, while stars and moon 
Seemed joyous at the joy they spied below. 

Part III 



End of the second night's Narrative The third night's gather 
ing Vasconcelos, the Portuguese De Soto's Narrative 
continued His discontent with wealth and ease The 
enticements of the New World El Dorado Alvar Nunez 
and his adventures De Soto's meeting with him The 
return to America The West Indies De Soto, over the 
protests of Isabel, proceeds on an expedition to Florida. 

DE SOTO ceased. When thus had reached its end 
In triumph the love-story of that pair, 
Alonzo glanced at Lulla furtively, 
But quickly hung his head : then Lulla turned 
Her deep dark liquid eyes upon the youth, 
And sighed. After a pause, the Governor 
Said unto Micalusa, "Midnight comes: 
Thou and thy daughter must be wearied. Though 
The storm hath much abated, still I fear 
On such a night to see ye go. But, sire, 
If ye will tarry with us as before, 
This lad, I know, will gladly yield his tent 
Again, to serve thee and thy child. My story 
May fail to please thee. But if thou wouldst hear 
The sequel of it, on the coming eve 
I will conclude." "My gracious lord," replied 
The Soldan of the forest, "it would please 
Me and my daughter much to hear it all. 
But thee and thy young kinsman first we thank 
For this, your offer, which we now embrace." 
20 305 

306 Hernando De Soto 

The next night came, serene, yet bitter cold. 
Above the camp, on a gnarled, twisted bough, 
Morose and crabbed, like a savage churl, 
A huge brown horned owl, in a hoarse voice 
Grumbled and growled. Perched on a neighboring 


A fretful screech-owl, like his beldame squaw, 
A child again with age, whimpered and whined. 
Splendid yet cold, the pallid moon arose 
Thin- veiled in fleecy clouds, and shuddering 
In the keen frosty winter skies, above 
The wilderness of gaunt black leafless trees, 
And over Earth's vast winding-sheet of snows, 
Like a sad bride, who, wedding not for love, 
Glides forth in ghostly silvern splendor, wan 
From vigils of despair, giving her hand 
Unto the bridegroom, while her broken heart 
Unto another belongs for evermore. 

Within, was tropic warmth and cheer. In came 

Gallegos, puffing vapor through his beard 

That bristled with icy needles: closely round 

His sturdy shoulders wrapped a panther's fur, 

While on his pate a cap of raccoon skin 

Slouched, with the brush for pendant. As he rubbed 

And clapped his hands together, in his head 

Chattered his teeth ; and like a mastiff huge 

Shaking the water from his burly frame 

When finding shelter from a thunderstorm, 

The veteran quaked and shivered, seeming to fling 

The chillness from him. Hugging close the fire, 

"Beshrew me, but 'tis cold!" he blustered, while 

Before the crackling flames his palms he warmed. 

Alonzo shuffled in, staggering beneath 

BooK XV 307 

A mighty heap of wood: beside the hearth, 

That giant load, low-bending, he then cast 

With clangorous thunder down. From his big feet 

Stamping the snow, next from the pile of wood 

He lifted a great log, and this he threw 

Into the fire. It crashed among the brands 

Already burning, sending up the sparks 

In swarms like myriad fireflies, and the roar 

Of conflagration making louder still. 

Like round and ruddy apples glowed his cheeks, 

As through his fingers numb and stiff with cold, 

Held to his pursed-up mouth, softly he blew 

His young breath, warm and grateful. Soon around 

The Governor's hearth had gathered once again 

The listeners of the night before, save one, 

Anasco, who was missing. In his place, 

A nobleman of grave yet courtly air, 

The Portuguese, Vasconcelos, 41 was seen: 

By all high-honored was he. Dark his eye, 

And olive-hued his brow; his stately beard 

In brown waves swept his bosom ; on his face 

One read of valor, truth and dignity. 

So then De Soto to that audience: 

I now was wealthy, marked and sought of men, 
Surrounded by a host of pleasing friends; 
But, blessing of all blessings, I had won 
My bosom's darling, Isabel, to be 
My sweet comrade forever. Now we lived 
In more than royal splendor; eve by eve, 
At our regales, the high-born, rich and great 
Thronged, eager to be numbered with our guests. 
At festal-board, red roses trailed with white, 
The topaz-tinted manzanilla glowed, 

308 Hernando De Soto 

While zither, flute and viol sobbed and sighed, 

Or trilled ecstatic, unto reveling hearts. 

We wore rich raiment : every trivial wish 

A throng of menials waited to fulfill. 

My monarch showered me with titles, strewed 

His badges and his ribbons lavishly. 

What was there left for heart of mine to crave? 

One thing, and one thing only: The desire 

For one desire that might not be fulfilled. 

Amid the persiflage that lightly sprang 

From lips of Wit or Beauty, I was ware 

Of distant thunder of unresting seas. 

Enwreathed with banquet blossoms, in its glass 

Untouched remained the red or golden wine, 

While I sat dreaming of the tropic fruits 

With tang and flavor unsurpassed on earth, 

Which once I plucked fresh from their native boughs. 

While fanned by gentle Andalusian airs, 

I yearned for mist-clad mountains crowned with 


Amid the gibes of chattering throngs at court, 
Of jungle and of swamp I felt the lure ; 
The panther from his forest called me back, 
And dared me brave him in his tangled lair; 
The plumed and painted savage shook his lance, 
And in defiance bade me face his wrath. 

So thus I longed my couch of ease to spurn, 
And roam again through perils far away. 
What means this ceaseless discontent? Without 
That urgent force, the world would die in sleep. 
None but the fool, or one with ends to serve, 
To knowledge of The Deity pretends ; 

DooK XV 309 

The wisest grope in midnight ignorance 
Of Him who from the Silence rules us all ; 
God having made us so, submit we must, 
Nor doubt the wisdom of divine decrees. 

Throughout all Spain men's hearts were set on fire 

With stories of our empire in the West : 

With bated breath some spoke of Mexico: 

Some heard in speechless wonder of Peru. 

Cortez, Pizarro, magic names were these, 

Tq^ conjure visions of transcendent wealth. 

Those in the noon of manhood stood aroused 

To action, godlike action, and they rushed 

In eager haste to seek the new-found realms; 

Boys ran away to sea ; old men forsook 

Their life-long homes to join the maddened throngs. 

The West was like a siren flushed with youth, 

And splendid with a mystic brilliancy, 

Who lured men onward to her magic isles 

With more than woman's blandishments and charms. 

I, like the rest, was roused: my warm blood surged, 

A-tingle for the conflict ; sloth and ease 

I flung away contemptuous, for I felt 

A strange, resistless impulse snatch my hand. 

What charms had dull repose? I heard the shout 

Of bold Adventure, calling, "Follow me!" 

It thrilled my pulses like a bugle-blast, 

And hurling down the chains of idleness, 

Mine eager feet sprang ready for the march. 

"Lull me no more, O Luxury!" I cried, 

"With silken flatterers, soothing parasites: 

Once more I seek the camp, the flood, the field!" 

Then day and night, dreamed all adventurous souls 
Of El Dorado. He, the Golden One, 

3IO Hernanclo De Soto 

A peerless monarch, sways a realm superb 

A bloomland never-failing in its joys 

With haunted vales, with wild, romantic heights 

Hid in the trackless western wilderness. 

Enchanting is that princedom, garmented 

In forests and savannahs evergreen, 

In verdant meadows strewn with gemlike flowers 

A land of efflorescence virginal, 

Where never adder hisses, viper stings, 

Nor Winter, like a wild boar, comes to waste 

The fields by songs of Spring made jubilant. 

Ah, happy vistas, never-yellowing bowers 

Of fruits and flowers beneath unsnowing skies! 

Here Flora and Pomona, sisters sweet, 

Rove hand in hand, and scatter lavishly 

Their riches from exhaustless treasuries. 

Here like an Indian empress, crowned with plumes, 

In sempiternal verdure springs the palm. 

Here vermeil blossoms on pomegranate boughs 

Seem fiery stars in firmaments of green. 

The orange groves, a gladsome wilderness, 

Hang fruits unripe and ripe, the sour and sweet, 

With bloomy sprays beside deflowered stems; 

Or bending over waters purling by, 

They strew their shattered petals in the stream, 

That, like a mirror, duplicates below 

The pendent golden globes within its flood. 

And here the peerless jasmine from her bower, 
Intoxicating bacchanalian gales, 
Dispenses rich aroma. Like a flame, 
Flushes the red hibiscus. Pink and soft, 
Through chaplets of its green and glossy leaves 

BooK XV 311 

Blossoms the oleander. Heliotropes 

Breathe fragrant breath, as fragile, dim and sweet 

As memories of the one whom first we loved. 

Down swing purpureal morning-glories, bright 

And evanescent as the dreams of youth. 

Here pure magnolias of the pallid brows, 

Like vestals scattering incense at their shrines, 

And lucent lilies, red and yellow, gowned 

Like gorgeous queens in coronation-robes, 

Emparadise these gardens of the blest. 

Manoa is the city of that King: 

Its glittering domes and spires and pinnacles, 

All reared of virgin gold, lift to the skies 

Their lambent glories like a world on fire. 

Around it is a vernal forest, sweet 

With spicy, bloomy trees that never fade; 

From arching boughs delicious fruits are hung, 

And birds sing through the morning, noon and night. 

Throughout the dark green of the wild wood shades 

Sweep crystal brooks with creamy cataracts, 

Where rocks of agate and of amethyst, 

And diamond pebbles, fleck with sparkling fires 

The sands of burnished gold-dust. In the midst 

Of that poetic realm the palace-walls 

Rise like resplendent flaming sunset clouds. 

There purple blazoned pennons float on high; 

There bugles peal in triumph, cymbals clash, 

And sounds of tabor, harp and dulcimer 

Regale the soul with halcyon harmonies. 

And there in dazzling halls the monarch reigns 

With splendor greater than the orient kings 

Have wrung from famed Golconda's jeweled mines. 

There maids voluptuous and delectable 

312 Hernando De Soto 

Trill dulcet notes from lips melodious, 
And crush Dejection like a. faded rose 
Under the joyance of their dancing feet. 
There sits enthroned the Emperor, glorified 
In paeans, lulled of chants and cadences, 
Beneath the flaunting streamer, trophied shield, 
With jeweled arms and ankles, hands and feet, 
With golden lilies circled on his brows, 
And gold-dust powdered in his glossy hair. 

Around his throne, birds fashioned out of gold 
Are made to sing the Ruler's ceaseless praise: 
Peacocks with sapphire necks and emerald trains, 
Spread plumes like rainbow clouds above his head, 
And lions, lifting wings of eagles, starred 
With myriad eyes of jasper, speak like men, 
Proclaiming with their voices deep and grand, 
"Fall down in homage, O ye mighty throngs, 
To El Dorado, favorite son of God!" 

Such was the realm, as many travelers told, 

Of El Dorado. One of those whose eyes 

Had seen that kingdom, Alvar Nunez, came 

During these days before the Spanish Court, 43 

Telling his wild adventures. Long before, 

This strange old man had sought the western world, 

And with Narvaez, on the selfsame ship 

That bore our comrade, Ortiz, he had sailed 

For the Floridian shores. Thou hast been told 

In part, by Ortiz, of their sufferings. 

Narvaez, having by his deeds malign 

Provoked to wrath the natives, fled before 

Their warriors. Half his army being lost, 

In desperation, he resolved to build 

DooK XV 313 

A little flotilla, venture out to sea, 

And gain the shores of Mexico. His men 

Slaughtered a horse, and from the skin they made 

A clumsy bellows; then they lopt a bough, 

That, hollowed out, became a wooden pipe, 

And thus a rude forge yielded welcome aid. 

They took their glaives, their stirrups and their spurs, 

And in their smithy beat or melted them 

Roughly, to serve as hatchets, saws or nails. 

So with these tools, after long weeks had passed, 

Five little boats were finished. Every horse, 

To yield them food upon the way, they slew, 

And every horse's skin was made a sail, 

Or, baglike, sewed to carry water. Thus, 

Enduring thirst and hunger, cold and heat, 

Tormented ever by the savages, 

Through weary moons they skirted on the coast. 

A frightful storm arose; four boats went down; 

Their sailors all were lost; among the rest, 

Narvaez, as thou knowest, met his fate, 

Drowned with his comrades in the vengeful sea. 

The crew upon the shallop that escaped, 

Old Nunez and his comrades, crawled ashore, 

And sought to plod to Mexico by land. 

Beholding endless wonders, made the sport 

Of danger, suffering cruel agonies 

In passing nation after nation by, 

Onward they wandered for a thousand leagues. 

The Indians chased them, and wild beasts pursued: 

They panted on the burning deserts, starved 

In many a barren wilderness. At last, 

Grown ravenous for food, friend butchered friend, 

And comrade ate his comrade greedily. 

After eight years of nameless miseries passed, 

314 Hernando De Soto 

But four of all limped safe to Mexico, 
Old Nunez and three others, and of these 
Three others, one a negro. Alvar then, 
Sated with horrors of his pilgrimage, 
From Mexico made haste for shores of Spain. 

Strange stories of those lands the wanderer told, 

Of glorious cities, precious metals, gems, 

Of silver streets and mansions reared of gold, 

Splendors that made Peru and Mexico 

Seem lands of beggary. Yet to no man 

Who sought him, would his lips reveal the names 

Of those transcendent realm?, nor where they lay; 

"These things are all reserved to tell the king, 

And him alone," he said. "Surely," I thought, 

"This empire may be found; and so I vow 

To seek it to the end of all the world, 

And win it, or else perish in the quest." 

I sought the old man, saying unto him, 

"Thy wondrous stories of the western world 

Have reached mine ears. I, somedeal, in the past 

Likewise have wandered through those distant wilds, 

And feel, that though thy tales be marvelous, 

Thou dost not cozen us. Glad would I be 

If thou wouldst go with me, and be my guide 

Upon a voyage to those golden realms." 

He scanned me over shrewdly, winked his eye, 

And shook his head: "No, no, I can not join 

Thy troop," he answered with a cryptic smile, 

"For I should be the commander, should I go: 

To no man would I be an underling." 

So then I left him, seeing him no more. 

I set about my company to form. 
Moscoso, whom thou seest, joined me first; 

BooK XV 315 

Beside me he had faced Peruvian spears. 

Lobillo, then, and Nufio de Tobar, 

My old companions, likewise, in Peru, 

Enlisted: gladly did I welcome them. 

From homes beneath the skies of Portugal 

Came thronging bands of gallant cavaliers, 

Hailing from valleys where the Tagus beams 

Through flowering almond orchards, or the heights 

That lift redoubted Elvas on her perch, 

An eagle of the cliffs. These proved themselves, 

Under their noble chief, Vasconcelos, 

The doughtiest of the doughty in my host. 

Now I became a marquis at the hands 

Of my kind sovereign, who likewise bestowed 

The realms of Cuba and of Florida 

Upon me as his viceroy. 43 True as Truth, 

Mine Isabel disdained to lag behind 

In idlesse and in ease and luxury, 

But left her home to wander by my side. 

My army was the goodliest ever seen, 
The noblest band of knights and gentlemen 
That ever captivated maidens' hearts, 
Or grappled foe upon the bloody field. 
For there were plumed and mounted cavaliers, 
With morions glittering like the morning sun, 
And with them, grim and grizzled veterans 
As stout and valorous as the lion's brood, 
And graceful youths, tall, slender, beautiful, 
With speedy limbs, strong hands and nimble feet. 
And there were lissom, fair-haired, clear-eyed lads, 
Torn from their fathers' and their mothers' arms, 
The darlings of their households ; gently born, 
And reared in silken softness were those boys, 

316 Tiernanclo De Soto 

And yet like keen-eyed leopards, swift and sure 
To pounce upon the foe and snatch their prey. 

A sight superb it was, that Sunday morn 
At San Lucar, in April, when our fleet 
Stood ready for the journey overseas. 
Above that vast white wilderness of sails 
In benediction glowed the morning sun : 
A trumpet sounded; other trumpets joined, 
Till earth and sea and sky seemed all a- thrill 
With martial music, glorious, wild and sweet. 
Boys flaunted beauteous pennons overhead, 
And maidens scattered nosegays in our path. 

Brilliant in vesture were our cavaliers ! 

Down the long city highway rode my knights, 

With ribbons gay, with varicolored hose, 

With cassock or with doublet sable-hued 

And edged with buff or purple. Others marched 

Flaming in velvet, silk or samite, flecked 

With pearls, or traced with gold embroidery, 

Or fringed with gold galloon. One might have 


A field of poppies in resplendent bloom 
Some necromancer with enchanted wand 
Had changed to marching multitudes of men. 
Sleeves puffed and slashed and paneled gorgeously, 
Or fringed with argent laces, lightly bore 
Against their gold-enspangled scarlet, lute, 
Guitar or viol, toys of gallantry: 
Or they bore seemlier burdens, glittering spears, 
Or lances, poised at rest. Escutcheoned shields, 
Embossed in silver, with enamelings 
In azure, vert, and or, with couchant pard, 

BooK XV 317 

Or rampant, lion, wolf or boar, appeared 
To snare the sun's rays and imprison them, 
So splendent was their lustre on that morn. 

Our hearts, elated, throbbed and throbbed in time 

To the glad cadence of our marching feet ; 

The drum beat, and the shrill fife pierced the air; 

Plumes waved and nodded, polished armor gleamed; 

The red and yellow banners waved on high. 

Then there were hasty partings, fond farewells, 

Tears and embraces, prayers, and calls and cries. 

And there stood, disappointed, at the piers, 

Lads who had yearned to join our company, 

But met rejection; being thus condemned 

In prosy homes to lag behind, and mope 

Forsaken and forgotten, as we braved 

The occidental oceans in our quest 

For fame and fortune, they beheld with tears 

The billowing sails that bore us from their world. 

Delightful was our voyage. By and by, 
Along the Caribbean Sea we sailed, 
And Mexic Gulf, among the charming isles 
That, like a throng of birds in radiant green, 
Cleave oceans like a sky celestial blue. 
Ah, Paradisal haunts of fruits and flowers! 
Here citrons in their orchards glow and gleam, 
Scenting the shadows with delicious airs; 
Here green and golden melons twine and trail; 
Pineapples, spicy as a seraph's breath, 
Are lifting with their coronets of spears; 
Bananas hang their broad green glossy leaves, 
Their mellow clusters and their purple blooms; 
Low droops the monstrous fig-tree with his figs ; 

3l8 Hernando De Soto 

Ambrosial mangoes through the leafy green 
Hang copper-tinted. From their cooly shades 
The lemons scatter odorous oval fruit, 
Till zephyrs, overburdened with perfume, 
Swoon on their palpitating airy wings. 

Here tropic forests, dense, luxuriant, dark, 

Lift lordly cypresses, majestic palms, 

Laurels and plumed acacias : overhead, 

Close-intertwining, interlacing all 

With spirals convolute and tendril-snares, 

Like blandishments and wiles and witcheries 

That weave the meshes of the God of Love, 

Lianas twist and tangle, drooping down 

Their crimson festoons with their verdant wreaths, 

And binding wedded blossoms heart to heart. 

Above that Eden's bloomy wilderness, 
Like throngs of pansies set afloat on wings, 
Are fluttering blue and yellow butterflies. 
The whirling, swirling, twirling humming-birds, 
(Those bright banditti of the southern skies 
That rifle sylvan hoards of honey-dew), 
Describe their glittering orbits through the air, 
Or dandle infant buds upon the boughs, 
Or gambol with the sunbeams and the breeze. 
Where yon luxuriant fields of sugar-cane 
Sweep seaward like a shadow emerald-green, 
And where the iris-colored ocean laves 
With dimpling frolic surf its yellow sands, 
The damask-hued flamingoes fleck the sky. 

Here intersprinkled on the saffron beach 
In frail and airy stranded argosies, 

Book XV 319 

Lie fluted pink and purple ocean shells. 

Though the dark waves seem liquid indigo, 

Ten fathom deep the sandy bottom shines, 44 

So limpid and diaphanous the sea, 

One looking down may well believe his boat 

Suspended in transparent fields of air! 

Here cleaves the oyster : yonder clings the sponge : 

There lift the coral boughs of red and gray, 

Like trees aflower in enchanted lands. 

Behold the seaweeds, purple, brown and green, 

With weird, unearthly blossoms pendulous, 

That never quiver in the airs of heaven ! 

There hangs the moonfish, silvery, circular, 

A polished mirror for the sea-nymph's bath. 

The sunfish glides with scintillating scales, 

As though in jeweled armor panoplied. 

But never trills or warblings wake those bowers; 

No sound uprises in those songless realms ; 

The petals of those blossoms never thrill 

Or tingle with embraces of the bees. 

There, free alike of zephyrs faint and soft, 

And raging storms that lash infuriate seas, 

As quiet, calm and cool as Death itself, 

In melancholy beauty, ages old, 

The same blue world is blue for evermore. 

Beyond all other realms are blest these isles; 
But when did Beauty not allure to woe? 
Else here had been an Eden found on earth 
To lure the saints from thrones in Paradise. 
Two baleful rivals love these Island Queens, 
The Pestilence, and the tropic Hurricane. 
These strive for mastery : in their dreadful wake 
Reign desolation, anguish and despair. 

320 Hernando De Soto 

Amid the fragrant airs that haunt those bowers, 
One deadly Shade breathes poisoned breath: alas! 
The cheeks his touch caresses all must fade, 
The lips he kisses all must cease from smiles, 
The eyes that meet his glances all must dim. 
Ah, well the heart knows, by its quickened beat, 
Thy stealthy, noiseless tread, O Pestilence! 

Sometimes a strange weird silence awes the land, 
While Nature breathes in whispers, glides tiptoe, 
And seems to shiver with a nameless dread; 
But soon the scene is darkened; in a stound 
Sweeps through the skies a frightful hurricane; 
Like reeds the palm-trees snap ; gigantic vines 
Are snatched in tatters like a cobweb's threads; 
Enormous trees, uprooted, thunder down ; 
Like chaff, the native huts are purled away, 
And earth and sky and ocean blend in one, 
One vast, wild wreck of darkness, terror, storm. 

The lovely Cuban isle our barks attained 
In safety. Through one year I lingered there, 
For the fair scenes of that seductive clime 
Allured me somedeal from my purpose. Oft 
Would I to Isabel exclaim, "Fate calls, 
And calls me ever. The Floridian shores 
My lands of destiny must henceforth be: 
Refuse I dare not; I can but obey." 

With tears she still would answer, "Ah, why spurn 
These happy realms, those barren wilds to rove? 
Above thee, arch benignant beaming skies; 
Around thee, blooms a never-dying spring: 
Why tempt the horrors of those northern climes, 

BooK XV 321 

Their savage deserts and their savage tribes? 
Why art thou restless still? Here bide content, 
Tame thy wild feet, and wander earth no more." 
"0 spouse of mine, I love thee none the less," 
Said I responsive, "but my heart cries 'Go!' 
And go I must, though all the world forbid. 
Sweet is thy love for me; but I should not 
Merit that love should I that call defy, 
And loiter, shirking duty, at thy side: 
Not sweet, but bitter, then thy love would prove, 
Bestowed upon me, undeserving. Dear, 
I pray thee, let me go." 

So now I went 

About my great emprise. After long days, 
Our fleet stood ready for the northern seas. 
Mine Isabel with many sighs oft begged 
That I should take her with me, saying, "Since 
Thy bosom hath been steeled to all the prayers 
That would restrain thee here, O yet allow 
The partner of thy soul with thee to wend, 
And share the perils that are still to come 
Among those desert realms." But I rejoined, 
"Thou art too soft and gentle for such scenes; 
Their toils and hardships thou couldst never bear. 
Again, if thou wouldst patiently abide 
In Cuba, better couldst thou lend me aid, 
Should I, in sore distress, from northern shores 
Appeal to thee for succor: thou couldst then 
Command the ships I leave with thee, to haste 
To my relief. But shouldst thou go with me, 
And seek to aid me, powerless would prove 
Thy faithful hands, though willing." When at last 
She saw her pleas all fruitless, she exclaimed, 


322 Hernando De Soto 

"Since thou must go, my good lord, linger not 
In that grim wilderness. Dispatch thy work, 
Fulfill thy mission, and return with speed." 
"O, trust me!" I returned; "for when my task 
Is ended, unto thee my feet shall haste. 
And ever in my journey through those wilds, 
Love, I shall count the days till I behold 
Once more the heavenly beacon of thine eyes, 
The haven of thine arms." Then, as of old, 
We parted in a storm of sobs and tears, 
But trusting at some sweet, though unknown time, 
In tears of happiness to meet again. 

At noontide of a lovely day, when Earth 
Wore flowery garlands of the moon of May, 
And wind and wave and sky were favoring, 
We drew our hawsers in, and put to sea. 
Nine vessels made our fleet, five noble ships, 
Two caravels, and two frail pinnaces. 
Of soldiers and of sailors in our host 
More than a thousand might be counted. Priests 
And monks and friars likewise joined our band, 
For where the feet of Spaniards ever tread 
The Sword is still companioned by the Cross. 
To meet and overawe the foresters, 
Four hundred noble steeds were carried. All 
The elements auspicious, soon we reached 
The long Floridian strand ; and there we cast 
Our anchors in a wide-extended bay. 45 


De Soto's Narrative continued On the coast of Florida The 
Flamingo Island The finding of the fugitive, Nimble Foot 
He tells of his mission from the Queen of Cofachiqui 
He is treacherously attacked by the Chieftain, Vita- 
chuco, and his two companions are murdered He then 
makes his escape He is befriended by Vasconcelos, and 
joins De Soto's band The swamps of Florida Crossing 
the morasses Ambuscades of the natives Discontent 
among the soldiers They beg De Soto to return He re 
fuses His argument with Gaytun, the royal treasurer 
The plots of Vitachuco The Battle of the Lakes Vita- 
chuco is captured Combat with swimmers among the water 
lilies Uprising of the captives Vitachuco and his followers 
are slain. 

UPON the shore, some wary savages 
Ran here and there; or, hiding stealthily, 
And peeping through the tangled boughs and vines, 
They spied our ships at anchor like a flock 
Of great white sea-fowl lifting monstrous wings : 
Well knew we how that ominous sight they rued! 

Fresh water being needed, there uprose 
A hoary pilot, who in bygone years 
Had sailed these waters, and he sought me, saying, 
"Look out to sea: upon yon little isle 
Dim in the distance, flow abundant springs, 
With water sweet and clear." Heeding his words, 
I took a pinnace with our water-casks, 


324 Hernando De Soto 

And westward sailed. Only Vasconcelos 

And a small crew were with me. In three hours 

We reached the island ; quickly there we brimmed 

Our empty vessels. Further out to sea, 

Still dim in distance, rose another isle, 

A little speck upon the ocean waste. 

Above it soared a swarm of water-fowl, 

So far, a tiny cloud of gnats it seemed. 

Then curious to explore this far-off key, 

I pointed westward, to the oarsmen crying, 

"Come, row me to yon little isle." With speed 

Their oars they plied, obeying. Soon the sea 

Grew rough and choppy, and our little boat 

Bobbed upward and downward, like a tumbling 


The Indians' frail canoes, I felt assured, 
Not oft had dared to venture out so far, 
And thus these birds of ocean built their nests 
In safety from such depredating foes ; 
And so it proved: soon we descried aloft 
Great lines of slim flamingoes cleave the air; 
Then, thronged upon the island's further shore, 
A legion treading peacefully we spied. 

The beach we gained ; behind a mangrove swamp 
We moored the shallop, where it lay concealed. 
The crew I left there, whispering, "Be ye still, 
Nor dare to follow." With Vasconcelos 
Slowly and stealthily I crept and crawled 
Through the low stunted bushes. On the way, 
An old deserted nesting-place we passed, 
A ruined city of the water-fowl : 
Here many acres of a sandy field 
Were crowded with their myriad cups of mud, 

BooK XVI 325 

So thick they seemed one mighty honeycomb. 
Each pigmy hillock, hollowed at the crest, 
Reared like a tiny dead volcanic cone, 
Forsaken, lifeless, left to barrenness. 
We glided further; through we stole with care, 
Alarmed, the birds rose in a countless flock. 
Like subterranean thunder roared their flight, 
And soon their deep, loud honking rent the air, 
So that the angry swarming fowl we feared 
Would swoop upon us with their wings and beaks, 
And drive us in retreat ; but still they rose 
In circles ever upward to the heavens. 
No sight more glorious ever met these eyes ; 
Of scarlet and vermilion fringed with fire, 
Resplendent in the sunbeams, blazed that cloud, 
A brilliant, burning sunset overhead. 

Then, seeing that we moved not, reassured, 

With clashing and with clapping of their wings 

Down circled they again. We crept still nearer, 

And, crouched beneath a wild fig's stunted boughs, 

Upon them closely, unespied, we gazed. 

We watched them wading in the shallow sea, 

Or dabbling in the tiny pools on shore, 

Or shambling awkwardly along the beach. 

Glowing with crimson, flecked with black, their wings, 

Their breasts were brilliant scarlet; those half-grown 

Preened snowy plumage softly tinged with rose. 

We saw the great white broken eggs, now hatched, 

And marked the fluffy young chicks, creamy-downed, 

Just then escaped from prison, new to life, 

Slip from the nest, run with a whistling crow, 

And take at once to swimming in the sea. 

Their parents oft would force them back to shore, 

326 Hernando De Soto 

Pecking them angrily to make them haste. 
Vast flocks we noted, sitting patiently 
On mud-built nests, or wading for their food, 
One acting as the sentinel. Disturbed 
When once I murmured, in a moment's time 
The signal with a trumpet-cry he gave, 
And instantly the flock took flight again, 
First rising in a great triangle ; soon 
Grown bolder, all streamed back in single file : 
So then we left them to their homes in peace. 

As we returned, shunning the tangled boughs 
Of dwarfish trees, an easier path we sought 
Along the seashore. But we scarce had walked 
A furlong's distance on the yellow sands 
Fringing the blue waves, when, upon the beach 
Before us, we espied an Indian youth 
Stretched naked in the sun. Closed were his eyes, 
As though he slumbered, or lay still in death. 
Drawing still nearer, we perceived his eyes 
Quiver a moment, while his flitting breath 
Lifted the sharp ribs and the husk of skin 
Over a bosom sturdy once and strong. 
Still in young manhood, tall, and bearing yet 
Traces of youthly comeliness, he lay 
So worn and wasted that we looked to see 
Each moment his dim, slender flame of life 
Flicker and die. His cheeks were pale: his fine 
Symmetric limbs, dwindled to gauntness, proved 
Starvation, thirst and illness long endured. 

Pillowing his head against a knoll of sand, 

We chafed his hands, with water laved his brow, 

And hoping that he still had power of speech, 

BooK XVI 327 

We asked his name, his home, and whither bound? 

He answered but with groans, opened his eyes 

One moment, and then closed them wearily. 

Our comrades at the distant boat we hailed, 

Bidding them fetch us bread and meat and wine: 

This done, the drink and food we offered him, 

And though at first he shook his head, ere long 

A little bread he tasted, then the wine, 

And when an hour had passed, his wonted strength 

Seemed half returned. Between the stalwart arms 

Of two strong sailors held erect, he then 

Limped with us to our shallop. Plying the oars, 

Swiftly our seamen rowed us from the isle, 

And ere the sun sank in the western waves, 

Safely they brought us to our ship again. 

Laid on the deck, and fed with tender meat 

In savory little morsels, the young man 

Regained his voice a little : slowly then, 

With a bewildered air and faltering tongue 

He told his story. In the Cuban isle, 

A score of red men from these northern shores, 

(By some adventurous mariner decoyed, 

And sold to slavery in the South) had served 

As menials at my palace. Carefully 

Their language I had studied, and so now 

The story of this castaway I heard 

And understood, though oft his voice grew faint, 

And oft I bade him speak his words again 

To make his meaning clear. Thus then the youth: 

"Far to the northeast, where the Seven Stars 
Rise from the earth in Springtime skies at eve, 
There lies a kingdom of this forest-world 
Called Cofachiqui. A delightsome land, 

328 Hernando De Soto 

By lofty mountains overbrowed, and veined 

By noble rivers, never yet was realm 

Lovelier to view. Thrice wealthy is this realm 

In pearls, in wondrous pearls of orient hues, 

By the white men deemed priceless. This rich state 

Is governed by a maiden young and fair, 

A maiden all men love." Here the youth paused, 

Sighing, as though his words more meaning bore 

Than language might evince. But after a while 

His history he resumed: "Born in that land, 

There was it that I grew to manhood. Strong 

In every limb, and cunning with my hands, 

No warrior of the tribe was judged my peer. 

So swift and sure my feet, whenever a hare 

Or wolf or stag I hunted through the wilds, 

Nor bow nor spear I took, but like the wind 

Rushing in Springtime north from southern seas, 

I chased my panting victim, till at last 

I overtook him, clutched him, threw him down, 

And held him fast. My fleetness known to fame, 

Men called me Nimble Foot, a name that seems 

But mockery now, in this unjoyous plight! 

"Once in the past, unto our country marched 

A band of strangers, white men from the isles 

Beyond the southern seas. Their speech was yours, 

And their commander, Ayllon was his name, 

Was vestured, armed and plumed like you, my lords. 

These men, amazed to see our kingdom's wealth 

In marvelous pearls, soon laid their lawless hands 

On the rich treasuries of those lustrous gems 

That through the past years in old fanes and tombs 

Had lain unplundered. In marauding bands 

The shrines they robbed, and mansions of the dead, 

DooK XVI 329 

So that our people rose, and slew them all. 
But after many moons had past, our queen 
Attained the throne, and she, who oft had heard 
In childhood of these wanderers from the south, 
Devised a plan whereby to seek the shore 
Whence they had sailed, and barter with our pearls 
For the steel weapons and the silken garbs 
Like those the strangers wore. Calling for me, 
She bade me choose two comrades, and with these 
Seek out the southern country, and endeavor 
In peace and good will, at the white man's door 
To make a treaty by whose terms her hopes 
Might reach fruition. With a loyal heart 
Obeying her, two faithful friends I chose, 
And in a little while our feet we set 
Upon the pathway south. 

"For many days 

Through the deep forest on we sped ; the heights 
We climbed, the brooks we leaped, and stately 


Swimming, we crossed. But hasting onward still, 
Before the green grape on the woodland vine 
Had changed to bloomy purple, we attained 
A country not afar from where we stand, 
North hence a score of leagues. An ample realm, 
Three brothers rule it, though the share of one 
The tribe calls Vitachuco, many times 
Is greatest of the three. This mightier chief, 
Snaky of eye and black of countenance, 
Ruling with harshest tyranny, hath made 
The name of Vitachuco feared afar. 
His black face wreathed in smiles to welcome us, 
And though, instinctive, I mistrusted him, 

33 Hernando De Soto 

Unwisely at his wigwam we abode 
Through a short season. In a deerskin pouch 
We had brought safely to this despot's lodge 
A beamy store of pearls, whose wondrous worth 
The red men of the south had learned to prize. 
Incautious, we had shown him these, and though 
Out of our treasury we had made him gifts 
Of glorious gems, still with a greedy heart 
He coveted all we bore. 

"In depths of night, 

When I and both my comrades lay asleep, 
The Chieftain with a crew of miscreants 
Fell on us: both my friends were slain, and I, 
Riddled with many wounds, lay drenched in blood. 
Seizing our pearls, they hastened from the lodge, 
Not doubting that I too had perished, so 
Their guilty secret never would be known. 
But gathering all my puny strength still left, 
I crawled away, crept through a tangled brake, 
And reached a vast marsh. Through this oozy waste 
All the next day I waded, floundering 
In dark foul waters where the thick green scum 
Plastered me over, and the bloated snakes, 
Hissing, would lash me as they sped away. 
At sunset I rejoiced to reach a wood 
Above the fen, where I might sleep awhile, 
Rest, and recast my future plans. Next day, 
In spite of all my wounds I wandered on 
To reach the kingdom's end. Left weaponless, 
And crippled grievously, I could not hunt 
Wild beasts or birds for food, but being skilled 
In woodcraft, found wild berries, fruits and nuts 
To ease my hunger. At the pebbled brooks 

DooK XVI 331 

I quenched my thirst, and bathed my burning wounds. 
I sought to gain the sea, and hitherward 
For many weary days I straggled on. 

"At last I reached the seashore: there I found 

An old canoe, mossy and rent with holes, 

Abandoned long before upon the sands. 

With careful hands repairing it, in time 

I ventured with it out to the open sea, 

Yon closer isle first seeking. On its beach, 

Legions of turtles laid their myriad eggs 

In the warm sand. So, digging out the eggs, 

And rubbing two sticks together for a fire 

To cook them, I had plenteous wholesome food, 

And soon my wonted strength returned. 

"I hoped 

Upon that spot to sight the white man's bark, 

Signal and board it, and, ere many days 

Reaching the southern shores, though stripped of all 

My treasures, yet contrive through other means 

To lead your people to our realm, and make 

A treaty with the leaders there. But scarce 

Had ten days come and gone, when to that isle 

The braves of Vitachuco plied their oars 

In grim pursuit. Doubtless they long had sought 

In vain to find me, but at last had traced 

My footsteps to the seashore, and so now 

In many swift canoes they speeded out 

To reach my hiding-place. But ere they gained 

That island, I deserted my old craft 

For fear of their detection, and I leaped 

Into the sea, swimming so that my head 

Alone would rise above the vasty waves, 

33 2 Herr^ando De Soto 

And even that the distance soon would hide 
From every eye that scanned the deep. My foes 
Spying me not, and fearing to row out 
Further to sea upon their slim canoes, 
Followed no more. So on that sandy isle, 
Haunted by myriad sea-fowl, I was left 
Safe from pursuit, yet a lone castaway . 

"There on that barren strand, exiled afar 

From every kindly face and voice of man, 

The wild sea-fowl mine only company, 

I lingered till six moons in the lone heavens 

Had waxed and waned. At last, scorched in the heat 

Of the fierce southern sun, feeding alone 

On roots and barks and shellfish, and for drink 

Seeking the brackish pools, a fever stole 

Through all my burning veins. Then on the beach 

I writhed and pitched and tossed, delirious, 

And racked with fearful dreams. After long days 

My fever had abated, yet I still 

Lay helpless, weak from hunger and disease, 

And waiting but for death. So thus it was 

Ye came and found me." 

Having heard the youth, 
We pitied his unsplendored state, and all 
Hastened as one man to uplift his heart 
With words of welcome. Then Vasconcelos, 
Most moved of any in that gathered throng, 
Cried, "By my troth! It is a moving sight 
To see one in his lusty youthhood thus 
By some Satanic foe deprived of all 
His glorious vigor. Hear me now, my lad : 
Be my attendant, and my friend as well 

BooK XVI 333 

From this day on, and thou shalt never rue 
The trust thou placest in me." With these words 
Our parle was ended : and from that same day, 
Vasconcelos and the young man became, 
Not master and servant, but in good sooth 
Comrades in arms, and mates in heart and soul. 

We disembarked at nightfall, and we slept 

On the bare ground, under the forest trees. 

Around us hurtled unfamiliar sounds ; 

The wolves went howling through the tangled swamps ; 

Hooting in hoarse and ghostly tones, the owls 

Chilled our warm blood, or with keen shrilly cries 

Made our hearts shiver in mysterious fear. 

From dusky hollows of the solemn woods 

The weird and melancholy whippoorwills 

Enthralled us with their wild, insistent calls. 

The older warriors heard the strange alarms, 

Yet long accustomed to a soldier's couch 

On tentless earth, with unknown perils round, 

They crossed themselves, and soon were fast asleep. 

But many lads amongst us, all unused 

To such rude pillows in such haunted wilds, 

Could sleep not ; restlessly they tossed and turned 

Till morning's tapers lit the eastern skies. 

Soon were we started on our northward march, 

And lost amid the gloomy wilderness, 

Plodding an hundred weary leagues before 

We gained the highlands. All these toilsome days, 

The same wild scenes in pensive loneliness 

Environed us, unchanging, dusk or dawn. 

From every marsh gigantic cypresses 

Upsoared to heaven with verdant feathery boughs ; 

334 Hernando De Soto 

Magnolias, glossy green, hung spotless blooms 
In moonlight splendor through the emerald shades ; 
Here pawpaws scattered their ambrosial sweets; 
Here fronded palms upreared in kingly pride. 
The live-oaks, with their long gray shaggy moss, 
Seemed gray beard priests upon the Norland shores, 
Gazing on solemn wastes of Norland seas. 
Stupendous grape-vines in titanic coils 
Weighed down colossal trees, and trailed below 
Great curtains of their quivering, heart-shaped leaves. 
Dangling in clusters from inflected boughs, 
Purple wistarias glowed; in brilliant wreaths 
The scarlet trumpet-flowers flamed ; sweet sprays 
Of creamy blooms the honeysuckles twined, 
While passion-flowers wove their azure lace, 
And swung their fragrant green and yellow globes. 

Along the streams were canebrakes deep and dark, 

Where man in vain might seek to struggle through. 

Thick mazes of the poison-ivy clung 

To throw one headlong. On the lonely trails 

For bridges there were giant fallen trees, 

Each end half hidden in prodigious ferns. 

On gloomy lakes pure water-lilies spread 

Great archipelagoes of starry blooms. 

Here monstrous alligators sprawled and sunned, 

On rotting logs enormous turtles dozed, 

Huge moccasins, purled up with venom, crawled, 

And rattlesnakes in frightful coils upreared. 

Blue herons waded in the lonely tarns, 

And spectre-like, through melancholy shades 

The milk-white tufted egrets fluttered by. 

Bears wandered through the creeper-tangled shrubs: 

The swift young hart sped like a startling dream: 

DooK XVI 335 

Wild turkeys clucked and cluttered: stealthily 
On silken feet the panther crept : the swift 
Young otters dived and swam in reedy pools, 
Or slid down sloping river-banks in play. 

Eagerly we searched the country many moons 
For traces of gold or silver, but no gleam 
Of either shining metal from that soil 
Gladdened us. Meanwhile, as we vainly sought 
For treasure, we were forced on scantiest fare 
Our hunger to appease. The cabbage palms 
Their coronals of tender fronds upreared, 
Delicious morsels ; but the trees would perish 
With their young buds dissevered from the crest. 
The famished soldiers waded brooks and ponds 
For water-cresses : in deserted huts 
Whose habitants had fled, at times they found 
Dried chestnuts, grapes or plums. In villages 
Or fields abandoned by their savage lords, 
A little maize we found. When ripe, the grain 
With pestles and with mortars hewn of wood, 
The soldiers pounded ; then through coats of mail 
The meal they sifted; next, the bread they baked 
Over hot coals in pots of earthenware. 
The tender unripe ears upon the cob 
We roasted ; and a more luscious feast they made 
For the voracious mouths of hungry men, 
Than cates of demigods! 

Throughout those wilds 
Game wandered multitudinous, in flight, 
Swimming or creeping; flood and forest teemed 
With every shape of fish or beast or bird. 
They seemed to taunt and dare us ; for the life 

336 Hernando De Soto 

Of the huntsman here in greater peril hung 

Than the lives of those he hunted ; if he strayed 

But half a league, never would he return, 

And never would a whisper tell us how, 

Or when, or where, our comrade met his doom. 

The natives fished, or boisterous in the hunt, 

Would rouse the woods with shouts : but every knight 

Outwandered as a sportsman, they would slay. 

For these ferocious northern savages 

Differed from all the meek unwarlike tribes 

Under the sweet and soft Peruvian skies, 

As the bold eagle differs from the wren, 

As the bloodthirsty panther from the hare, 

Or the fierce tiger from the trembling fawn. 

When starting for the north I left behind 

Stout Pedro Calderon, the post to guard 

With infantry and horse. We had not marched 

A bare day's journey, when a great morass 

Scowled just before us. Nigh three leagues in 


How could we cross it? Still, we boldly plunged 
Forward, as though we charged an enemy. 
Great oozy fields, tufted with waving grass, 
Would quake beneath us, sink and give away, 
So that we floundered in a sea of mire. 
Dismayed, but stumbling, sprawling blindly on, 
Smeared casque to sabbaton in watery sludge, 
We reached a great lagoon; my scouts I sent 
To search the canebrakes for some trail around. 
None was discovered: so two days we toiled 
To fashion rafts: these finished, with their aid, 
Exulting, we attained the shores beyond, 
Thanking our saints for labors at an end. 

BooK XVI 337 

Vain joy ! Another marsh before our feet 

Far vaster, reeked with fens impassable. 

In blank amaze I overlooked its bogs, 

Its sluggish tarns, green-mantled with their scum, 

Its pathless canebrakes and its treacherous quags. 

So, mounting my steed, I wandered with the scouts 

To find a path around: above three days 

We sought in vain. Our crafty Indian guides 

Deceived us, often leading us astray. 

Two natives whom we captured in the wilds 

And forced to act as guides, proved likewise false, 

Luring us nigh to deadly ambuscades. 

From swamps concealing them, the savages 

Would speed their arrows at us passing by, 

Or rush upon us from the marshes' reeds 

With storms of javelins. Every brake became 

A nest of hornets : every thicket swarmed 

With angry foes of myriad stings. Our hands 

Could never smite them, for they crouched from view, 

Or darted quickly forth and hid again. 

At every nightfall, shrieking hordes would gather, 

Goading, tormenting, maddening us, till sleep 

Fled frighted from our eyes. Many brave knights 

Their fang-like arrows wounded, and still others 

Their lances reached and slew. 

At last we found 

The limit of the marshes, and in joy 
Sent for our comrades left behind. When they 
Rejoined us, we marched on. But soon we found 
The pathway by a deep, swift river barred. 
Yet not for long we paused. Our sturdy lads 
Stripped naked ; steeped in water to their chins, 
They waded on, their vestments and their arms 


Hernando De Soto 

Heaped high in safety on their heads, and so, 
Without one loss, they gained the farther strand. 

My men, discouraged, faint and sick of heart, 

Began to murmur bitterly: no gold 

Had yet rewarded us : our meagre fare 

Scarcely beat back the wolf of hunger: Death, 

Of hideous aspect, of unearthly form, 

Stalked by in freezing horror. Every day 

Greater the perils, needs more clamorous! 

Mine own heart, worn with grief and doubt and care, 

From unseen terrors in dismay recoiled: 

Of ills awaiting us I dared not think, 

But mine eyes I shut and my fists I clenched, 

Swearing, as I had sworn in far-off Spain, 

To march to El Dorado, or to die. 

So then my ships I planned to send away, 

To smother at their birth the hopes of those 

Who hourly begged me to return. When first 

The soldiers learned our vessels would depart, 

They cried, "This land is barren; not one trace 

Of gold or silver cheers us. Let us turn, 

And leave this savage, gloomy waste forever." 

"No, I will not!" I answered. "Be ye still. 

No coward am I, thus to turn and flee 

When trivial difficulties dog my path. 

Privations sterner far have I endured, 

And perils faced that prove these perils tame." 

"But," said Lobillo, "in this wilderness 
That frowns before us, multitudinous, 
The savages await us ; every swamp 
Will be a haunt for ambuscade; each nook 
And hollow will conceal its deadly snare, 

BooK XVI 339 

Ready to snatch us to some frightful doom." 

Then I: "But duty bids me onward: never 

That Inward Voice my soul shall disobey. 

The pagan multitudes my breast may chill 

With terror; but that silent Voice I fear 

More than the warlike cry of savage braves. 

When recreant to its trust my spirit proves, 

Hostile battalions though I dare defy, 

I dare not face to face confront myself." 

Then Nufio de Tobar: " Bethink thee well! 

Too late it soon may be to choose retreat : 

Now, while we may, our error should we own, 

And homeward turn again." But I rejoined, 

"We have not yet been conquered: why kneel down 

In subjugation ere our overthrow? 

O, rather let us make impossible 

All base thoughts of retreat. Despite the crimes 

Of ruthless Cortez, in my soul of souls 

I thank him for one lesson from his life: 

To keep the pathway forward, swerving not, 

Though legions rise against me, and with hand 

Unfaltering fire the ships that aid retreat." 

Juan Gay tun then, the royal treasurer, 

Surly and insolent, protested still: 

"Sir, why despise our counsels? Well we know 

This glittering dream has long possessed you: yet 

Your aspirations, as your eyes must see, 

Never can reach fruition : surely all 

Are doomed to failure. Then why not confess 

Your blunder, and reform your plans? When once 

Man finds himself misled and turned astray 

By false ideals of his callow youth, 

Let him succumb, renouncing hopes too high, 

34 Hernando De Soto 

And bowing his head to fates inexorable." 

But I: "True; I have aspirations born 

Of youthful zeal ; ideals, hopes and dreams, 

Implanted in my bosom at my birth: 

Age shall not stunt them, Fate shall not destroy! 

To the laws of his own nature let each man 

Be steadfast. Gay tun, thou hast lived to see 

Thine own ideals murdered ; but think not 

To see mine likewise perish ! Write thou not 

My code of duty: still shall I be true 

To nobler precepts than thy statutes teach, 

Precepts that Nature gave me with my breath. 

The acorn in the darksome earth has dreams, 

The far-off call to be an oak, it hears! 

Grass it shall never be, nor flower, nor fern, 

Nor yet a clinging vine: God's voice it heeds, 

True to its Being's laws. And it shall rise 

With girth prodigious; blest with lofty boughs, 

Those many-forking branches shall be haunts 

Wherein the mocking-bird and thrush may sing. 

The kingly eagle in those hoary arms 

Shall rest his eyrie, and shall rear his young: 

Within those grateful shades at burning noon 

Shall flocks and herds in pastoral ease repose. 

Green mosses at the forest-monarch's feet 

Shall soothe the shepherd-boy to sleep : on high 

He shall uplift his leafy coronals, 

Friend of the clouds, and comrade of the skies ! 

"Thus, Gaytun, is that tree still true to laws 

Of its own nature; and thus I shall be 

To laws of mine: seek not to swerve me from them." 

So answering those who sought to turn my course, 
All of our barks save three I sent away. 

BooK XVI 34i 

The men scowled, or they murmured in despair 
When the fleet sailed and left them there behind. 

We reached Ocali; 46 here we saw a town, 

Largest of all in realms Floridian, where 

Six hundred palm-thatched wooden huts arose 

Among fat fields verdant with Indian corn. 

Deserted was the village; not one man, 

Woman or child, our eyes beheld. Naught else 

The dreary loneliness relieved, beside 

One lean, dejected solitary cur, 

Shamefaced and stealthy-eyed, with downcast head, 

And a limp tail that dangled twixt his legs, 

Slinking away, yet glancing back anon 

Over his skinny shoulders furtively 

To scan the unwelcome interlopers there. 

Entering, we made the town our home a while, 

Enjoying some brief rest, and richly fed 

On green corn, sweet and savory, from the fields. 

Now the vast forest offered interludes 

Of smooth savannahs, flower-sprinkled meads; 

Great grassy plains of pale and tender green 

Spread palpitating in the golden light. 

Here twined and thridded pure cerulean streams, 

Where floated yellow lilies; on their slopes 

Arose the iris, daughter of the rills, 

Discovering through her violet-tinted veins 

The heavenly hue of fountains whence she came. 

Like azure isles in seas of softest green, 

Were dark blue lakes : and bordering on the plains, 

Uprose the sombre wilderness sublime, 

With clumps of trees that boldly jutted out 

Like headlands of a lofty continent. 

34 2 Hernando De Soto 

Cropping the sward, or quaffing at the brooks, 
Through the soft verdure of those gentle scenes 
Wandered great herds of red and mottled deer. 47 
King of the Vega, roamed the antlered stag, 
With soft-eyed mates that loved his lofty mein ; 
These, trusting to his guidance, feared no foe 
Amid the calmness of that rural seat, 
Till he would give the signal ; then, alert, 
Their ears would prick: their nostrils sniff the 

breeze : 

Their eyes would flash; their limbs grow tremulous; 
Then, swifter than the swiftest javelin, 
The whole wild herd at once would speed away. 

Now we approached that country of Three Kings, 

Where Vitachuco, eldest of the three, 

Had fallen at night on Nimble Foot, had slain 

His comrades, stolen his pearls, and left the youth 

Half dead among the dead. The two young Kings 

Besought our friendship, and sent messengers 

To Vitachuco, begging him to yield 

His good will to us likewise. He replied, 

"I spurn the hand they offer. Tell these rogues 

Never to sneak one step within my bounds, 

For if they come, none shall escape my wrath." 

Still, not contented, every day he sent 

His heralds to my tent-door, blowing horns, 

And crying, "If ye pale-faced brigands dare 

Set foot in my dominions, I will bid 

The mountains fall upon you; make winds hurl 

Uprooted trees upon you ; I will send 

Great birds of prey with venom in their beaks 

To tear your flesh, and leave it festering 

In foul corruption; yea, the very air, 

BooK XVI 343 

The grass and water, I will poison, so 

There breathes no man amongst you but must die." 

All these wild threats I treated with disdain, 

Standing prepared to march beyond his line 

Whether he gave assent or no. But soon, 

His brothers interceding once again, 

His haughty airs he tempered. By and by 

He to his brethren said: "My wrath is cooled; 

Peace I desire, and peace will I extend 

Unto the stranger. Say to him for me, 

That on the morrow, with my chosen braves 

I come to visit him, and grasp his hand 

In friendship, as my brothers have before." 

In truth, he meditated treachery; 

Gathering his warriors, they were numberless, 

"Arm ye, and stand in readiness," he said, 

"So when amidst the field I walk beside 

The strangers' leader, I will raise a shout, 

And that will be the signal for the death 

Of all the white marauders. At that cry, 

Pounce ye upon their ranks, my trusty braves, 

And smite and cleave and slaughter ruthlessly, 

So all shall perish ere one hour is over." 

But loudly boastful, of his stratagem 

He blabbed to friendly natives; these divulged 

The frightful secret ; so I then resolved 

To carry out the grim jest earnestly, 

With a sequel unexpected on his part. 

That night my lads like tortoises I sheathed 

In armor that concealed them, breast and limb: 

All were prepared to fight, tooth, nail and fist, 

To slash, to smite and pound the pagan horde 

Flat underfoot. And so we stood alert 

344 Hernando De Soto 

When on the morrow Vitachuco came 

And called me forth to view his marshaled braves. 

Black was the visage of the fierce cacique. 

With blood-shot eyes, with ponderous low-hung jaws, 

With shaggy locks of coarse and grizzled hair, 

Hands like a vulture's claws, nose like its beak, 

A raucous voice that drowned a wild beast's roar, 

Repulsion and abhorrence he inspired. 

A bamboo sceptre, tufted with the plumes 

Of parrots, brilliant yellow, red and green, 

Playfully he twirled. Round his dusky neck, 

In lustrous moonwhite coils were hung the pearls 

Of Cof achiqui : fumbling through the gems 

With black and snaky fingers, oft he smiled, 

And bowed his head in deference when I spoke. 

And yet his glance was furtive; treachery 

Lurked in his laugh ; the dark malevolence 

That coiled, a deadly serpent, in his soul, 

No art could hide. His new-made covenant, 

As fragile as a shedded viper-skin, 

Even now he planned to cast aside. "My lord, 

I bid thee welcome," Vitachuco growled; 

"Long have I sought to know thee: now at last 

I thank the Great Spirit that my hope comes true." 

Curtly I answered, "Likewise am I pleased, 

Redoubted chief, to meet thee face to face." 

My hand he wrung; he smiled a cynic smile, 

And gazing on me keenly, head to foot, 

For shroud and coffin seemed to measure me. 

Twelve warriors stood beside the churl, and so 
Twelve knights myself I called to be my guard. 
A page came also, leading on my steed: 

BooK XVI 345 

And creeping on behind me stealthily, 

As silent and as shadowy as the form 

Of Fate, stole Nimble Foot, eager to seize 

And drag his hated Judas to account. 

Seeing him not, though marking all the rest, 

The chieftain winced, then muttered, "It is well, 

Sir Knight, that friends accompany thee." But now 

I added, "Chief, as thou hast brought this morn 

Thy warriors in review before me, I 

Mine own troops in embattled ranks will show." 

Again he winced, he hesitated, paused, 

And then assented, mumbling, "Let them come." 

Upon a broad and level field we stood. 

On one hand gleamed two lakes 48 with silvern waves: 

One mere was long and narrow, while the other 

Curved like an oval mirror, where the gods, 

Down-bending from cerulean heights of heaven, 

Might greet their own resplendent visages. 

Upon the other hand, dark, deep and wild, 

A forest rose. Here immemorial glooms 

In dim and holy solitudes profound 

Had haunt and sanctuary, unprofaned 

By sacrilegious eye. No sound of axe 

Those solemn shades had cleaved like blasphemy, 

To rouse primeval sylvan deities, 

The guardian spirits of those ancient woods. 

The sons of Spain drew up behind us, each 
In armor, bearing sword and arquebuse, 
Some mounted, some on foot. But I forgot 
Mine own battalions, as in deep dismay 
And apprehension, on the multitudes 
Of foresters I gazed. A sight superb 

Hernando De Soto 

Those dusky warriors made! Erect they stood, 
Like splendid copper statues, frankly nude, 
With rounded limbs, with shapely hands and feet, 
Spears on their shoulders, plumes upon their brows. 
Thousands they numbered : as for our poor band, 
How puny seemed it in comparison! 
The chief and I, each with our chosen twelve, 
Walked out between the armies. Suddenly 
My watchful ears heard, dull and ominous, 
From savage throngs, like the buzz of angry bees, 
Tumultuous murmurings. I waited not, 
But raised my hand ; like witchcraft, instantly 
A clarion sounded for our lads to charge. 
Ah, not too soon one moment! For the chief 
At my first movement raised a mighty shout, 
A wild, blood-curdling whoop, that sped for miles 
Over the lakes and over that great plain, 
And echoed and re-echoed thrillingly 
Throughout those ancient woodland solitudes, 
Like the last battle-cry of Satan, raised 
At Armageddon, when his bannered host 
Makes its last rally against the power of God. 

Hearing that war-cry, every Indian brave 

Answered with other cries, till all the world, 

And all the heavens themselves, seemed in affright 

To reel and shudder. Onward rushed the throngs 

Of savages to smite us. But as soon 

As Vitachuco sought to lift his hand 

Against us, Nimble Foot came rushing up 

Behind him, and in scarcely half a breath 

Pinioned him in his strong and sinewy arms 

As safely as in manacles of steel. 

And as a panther in the strangling coils 

BooK XVI 347 

Of a great python tosses, leaps and bounds, 

And strives and struggles, seeking frantically, 

But ever vainly, to escape, so now 

Black Vitachuco madly pitched and plunged, 

In desperation seeking to escape, 

But vainly. When I saw him safely held, 

I mounted on my horse, (that stamped and neighed, 

As red and wild as red wild morns of March, 

Impatient for the conflict's fearful joy,) 

And galloped on the dusky forest-knights 

Speeding to rescue their downfallen King. 

In thunder roars each deadly arquebuse, 

And pagan after pagan, reels and falls; 

But still undaunted, lifting frightful whoops, 

And flourishing spears and clubs and tomahawks, 

We see them coming with terrific might. 

Now hiss their angry darts; now snarl their slings; 

Like winter winds their flying javelins 

Whine round us; then, a furious hurricane, 

Shocks on our line that host of savages. 

Our horsemen dash against them, sword in hand, 

And smite them like avenging gods from heaven. 

Flint arrows clink on armor, splintered; spears 

Are shattered harmless on unbending steel. 

On helmet, targe or corselet smites in rage 

The murderous tomahawk, but smites in vain, 

Bounding deflected from its iron prey. 

Bravely they dash on, but we sweep them down, 

With deadly volleys, thrusts of tempered blades. 

Our falchions glitter; swift the steely brands 

Cleave through tough shields of alligator hide, 

And pierce the breasts they cover. Now, alas! 

Riddled with darts, my gallant charger falls, 

348 Hernando De Soto 

Still proudly neighing; soon he breathes his last. 
Another steed I mount, and fight them still. 

The crash and crack and roar of musketry 

Arouse such echoes in that forest old 

As never, since the world itself began, 

Its peace have murdered. From the lakes upsoar 

Vast flocks of startled waterfowl: on high, 

Wild geese and mallards, snowy swans and cranes, 

Whirl round in terror as hoarse-throated guns 

Like fiery dragons bellow. In dismay 

The fish-hawk drops his fish ; his tyrant foe, 

The eagle, poised above him in the act 

Of robbery, lets their scaly victim fall 

Back to the pool in safety, and in flight 

Seeks refuge from the frightful hell below. 

The Indians, seeing Vitachuco snared, 

Yet stripped of all power to recapture him, 

Fled from the field, by cavalry pursued. 

Some plunged within the long lake, and escaped: 

Another legion sought the oval mere, 

Only to find themselves surrounded there 

By our swift horsemen. Into this round lake 

Our eager troopers urged their snorting barbs, 

But finding the waters far beyond their depth, 

All were soon forced to struggle back. Throughout 

That livelong day, the fugitives swam round 

Beyond the reach of horseman or of horse. 

With ease we might have slain them; still, we chose 

To spare them, though they once in treachery 

Had sought our own lives. From the lakelet's marge 

We hallooed, "Come! Surrender!" But they hurled 

Their answer in defiance and disdain, 

BooK XVI 349 

Yelling, "Begone, ye dogs! We yield ourselves 
To none but God!" Nor did they cease to fight: 
For though the water was too deep to yield 
A place to stand on, three or four stout braves 
Would swim together closely; on their backs, 
As on a floating human raft, another 
Would stand and aim his arrows at our band. 

Night fell, and still around the pool they swam. 

A multitude of water-lilies thronged 

The shallow margins, or in snowy isles 

Adorned the lakelet's bosom. Through the gloom 

They glimmered in their milk-white galaxies, 

Making dark waters like sublunar skies 

With the dim radiance of down-fallen stars. 

The wary Indians, swimming stealthily 

Amid the hosts of lily-pads and blooms, 

Now sought to creep in safety to the shore. 

Ghostlike and silent, reaching for the strand, 

To hide their heads from sharp Castilian eyes, 

Some bore the leaves and blossoms in their mouths; 

These we detected, and repulsed with darts. 

So then, concealed in blossoms and in leaves, 

They twanged their arrows at our sentinels : 

Keenly we eyed them; when a lily moved, 

Our archers aimed their crossbows at the spot. 

And yet the braves ceased not their barbs to fling, 

Till every quiver hung in emptiness. 

Night dappled into dawn; the human shoal 

Still floated, though the weary swimmers lay 

Like moveless corpses, numb and wan with cold. 

A fortnight ere this time, our men had found 
My comrade, Ortiz, in these wilds. So now, 

350 Hernando De Soto 

As he well knew the language of this tribe, 
He sought the margin of the lake, and called, 
"Come out! Fear not; for we will spare your 


So presently, surrendering one by one, 
They swam ashore. Their fears again we calmed, 
Saying, "Be not afraid; for we esteem 
Your hardihood and courage: none of you 
Shall suffer death." Despite these promises, 
Twelve stalwart braves, more stubborn than the 


Still paddled round, refusing to be taken. 
Twelve Indian slaves we sent to drag them out ; 
These swam beside them, seized them by the hair, 
And brought them, gasping, chilled, and cramped in 


Yet struggling, to the shore. These last to come 
Had floated round for thirty weary hours, 49 
Not resting hand or foot on solid ground. 

Sparing their lives, as serfs we made them toil, 

Resolved, when past their realm, to free them. Still, 

Black Vitachuco thirsted for our blood. 

Though not condemned to labor, ever called 

To sit beside me as a favored guest 

Whenever bread was broken, nursing hate, 

A great uprising of his braves he planned. 

For many days he plotted : when at last 

He stood in readiness to strike the blow, 

Meeting his leaders in a lonely wood 

Beyond our camp-ground, at the midnight hour, 

"My warriors!" cried he, "When the noontide comes 

To-morrow, and I sit at meat with those 

Who hold me captive, I will rise, and lift 

Book XVI 35i 

Sucft a great shout that all of you shall hear, 

Whereat each man amongst you shall strike down 

The one who domineers him as his lord. 

With mine own hands their leader will I clutch, 

And strangle till he dies. O, how I long 

To feel these fingers gripped upon his throat! 

Stand ye in readiness, and fail me not!" 

The time came; at our board the chieftain raised 

A terrifying shout ; quickly he came 

Rushing upon me; in his giant arms, 

Like monster serpent coils, he sought to crush 

My body in a terrible embrace. 

Slowly he choked and strangled me; with pain 

I gasped for breath; my head swam round; mine 


Bulged from their sockets, and my swollen tongue 
Thrust rigid from wide-opened jaws; the veins 
Upon my neck seemed bursting, gorged with blood 
Under his grip of steel. But desperately, 
With a last frantic effort, I wrenched out 
My right hand from his clutch: my sword I seized, 
And drove it through his wild, ferocious heart. 
Then through his giant frame the forest lord 
Shuddered; his throttling serpentine embrace 
Slowly relaxed; his iron arms and hands 
Trembled ; his eyes uprolled ; blood gushed 
Out of his mouth, and with a muffled groan 
He bent and swayed, then toppled over, dead. 

The other natives, at the signal given, 

Rose on their masters. Armed with stolen pikes, 

With hatchets, cutlasses, or iron bars, 

Sorely they chastised many a Spanish knight. 

352 Hernando De Soto 

But soon the Iberians, realizing all, 
Assailed them with their battle-axes, swords, 
And carbines, whatsoever stood in reach. 
They felled the mutineers by tens and scores, 
And even hundreds, till but few survived 
To kindle memories of their desperate plot. 


De Soto's Narrative continued Nimble Foot induces De Soto 
to march toward Cofachiqui The province of Apalachee 
The passage of the Great Swamp Fearful conflicts with the 
natives The adventures of Anasco and his companions 
The treacherous guide Discovery of Apalachee Bay 
The highlands are attained The coming of Autumn Anasco 
is dispatched on another perilous journey, to the South 
The night ride through the wilderness Discovery of 
another, and finer, harbor Maldonado and Calderon are 
sent to Cuba, with orders to return to the newly-discovered 
bay in the following Autumn Starvation among the troops 
Return of Spring Lands of plenty The strawberry 
plains Approaching the province of Cofachiqui The bath 
ing girls Alonzo and his companions surprise them 
They tell De Soto of the approach of the Queen. 

FOR many days had Nimble Foot beseeched 
That we should march to Cofachiqui, where, 
He oft averred, we should behold a land 
Wealthy beyond all dreams in lustrous pearls, 
And still more wealthy in its fertile plains, 
Its noble forests and its stately streams. 
So, hearkening to his wishes, North and East 
We fared with hopeful hearts, though weary moons 
Faded in heaven before our goal we won. 
The land of Apalachee first we reached, 
And there we faced more trying ills than ever 
Had plagued our steps in by-gone days. For now 
Another swamp we crossed, 30 a dismal wild, 
23 353 

354 Hernando De Soto 

By which all others we had braved before 
Would seem but tiny brakes that fringed the rills 
We waded in our barefoot childhood hours. 
Here mammoth trees made never-ending night; 
So close together stood their trunks, the path 
Often admitted not two men abreast, 
And made even one man toil to struggle through. 
And there were watery meadows, where one step 
Would set the earth a-quiver, and engulf 
The lightest-footed lad in bubbling mire. 
Round and above us, wreathed on rotting limbs, 
Stared venomed serpents : by the dim lagoons, 
Through palls of mournful cypresses, we heard 
The loon and bittern, whose uncanny tones 
Would simulate the wails of mourners raised 
Above the dead, or more uncanny still, 
Demoniac laughter from a madman's cell. 
Oft was the trail enmeshed in tangled vines, 
Or lost in canebrakes; so a path we cleared 
With axe and hatchet, slowly, toilsomely. 
Sharp brambles twined and twisted ; vicious thorns 
Would rip our garments, stain our flesh with blood. 

And yet with all its toils, we would have faced 

The Great Swamp, never murmuring to the end, 

Had not the fierce barbarians harried us 

With endless ambuscades and stratagems. 

In one wood where they met us, like a snake, 

The narrow path wound on through huddled trees : 

So, interlocking shields, two men in front 

Marched onward, while their comrades followed close 

Behind them, in like fashion, two by two, 

With crossbows and with muskets which they aimed 

Over the heads of comrades in the lead, 

BooK XVII 355 

And straight against the Indians massed to block 

The pathway forward. Fighting all the way, 

Backward we forced the red men, step by step, 

Well-nigh a league, until we reached a river, 

Beyond whose further marge, scowling, upreared 

A steepy barricade of logs. Ere long, 

Ferocious grew the battle at this stream; 

Wading in water to our very arms, 

Little the chance was for our hands to ply 

The swords whirled overhead ; our carabines, 

Upheld to save their powder from the flood, 

Reared useless for the want of steady aim. 

But still we floundered through the river's depths, 

The archers thronged upon the further shores 

Finding us easy marks. But shallower grown 

As we approached the further strand, the waves 

No longer thwarted us. Here, taking aim 

In coolness and in carefulness, we fired, 

Sweeping great throngs to death. Though plagued 

with darts 

Hailed thick and hard and fast, the other shore 
We mounted : there we stormed the barricade, 
And put its fierce defenders to the sword. 

We struggled through the Great Swamp's gloomy 


Its sullen depths, its frowning fastnesses, 
Its mournful covers, melancholy wilds. 
We waded stagnant sloughs and sluggish pools, 
We tripped on tangled creepers, slashed through 


We stumbled over twisted roots, and logs, 
On knotted cypress-knees we slipped and fell. 

356 Hernando De Soto 

Often gigantic turtles strewed in lines 
The banks of green bayous. As with closed eyes 
They crouched there, half asleep, our men would rush 
Suddenly upon them, hurl them on their backs, 
And as they sprawled in helplessness, would slay 
The monsters, to become our welcome fare. 

At length, the dark and solemn shadows past, 

Kind Heaven we thanked for good high level ground. 

The Indians fought us not as in the past, 

But like fierce panthers, through the weary nights, 

Whooping and yelling from the neighboring woods, 

They vexed and maddened us with false alarms. 

Oft, as we rested, lapped in peace and calm, 

Dreaming in quiet underneath the stars, 

Some prowler's cry would lift, wrecking our sleep, 

Stabbing the holy silence of the hour, 

And making us roll, unrestful, till the dawn. 

But not for lack of courage did those foes 
An open fight evade. Their one intent 
Was now with petty ills to weary us, 
Till Nature, outworn, should compel the band, 
From sheer exhaustion, to retreat. Nay, nay! 
No foes they feared, those pagans! Nakedly, 
With only barbs and bows, they stood unmoved 
Before strong men in armor, foaming steeds, 
Or deadly muskets vomiting their flames. 
True patriots they! For never knightly Moor, 
Norman nor Saxon, Roman, Greek nor Gaul, 
Fought for his hearth with such a holy zeal. 
To starve my legions, these wild foresters 
Laid all their fields in waste; and oftentimes, 
Rather than see their homes fall in our hands, 

BooK XVII 357 

They gave them to the torch; 51 so night by night, 
Their blazing wigwams lit the startled skies. 

I sent Anasco forth, to find a bay 

More northernly, wherein to moor the ships 

Left in the port where first our sails we furled. 

For thirty gloomy leagues he and his band 

Tramped swamp and canebrake. Then they reached 

a marsh 

Where one might hear the murmuring ocean-tides 
Beat on the shore a scant half -league away. 
Thrice did they hear the billows of the sea 
Break on the beach anear them, but their guide, 
A sullen savage, led them wrong. Each time 
They sought to cross the marsh and gain the sea, 
Through briery swamps he led them, tangled wilds, 
Dense thickets, and to oozy fens and quags. 
Anasco 's men, infuriate, sought his life; 
But having no other guide, the wretch they spared 
With many a solemn warning. Yet again, 
When the night fell, and the band lay in sleep, 
The Indian snatched a firebrand, smote a guard, 
And sought to slay him : being quelled in time, 
And sore belabored for this deed, he yet 
Attacked another guard when chance was given. 
Once more his life was spared, and once again 
He sought to slay a Spaniard. A huge hound 
Who sought to seize him, died beneath his blows. 
A wild, blood-thirsty maniac, in his wrath 
He yelled, "Ye pale-faced cowards, pale with fear, 
The blood within your veins runs white, not red! 
Ye dare not fight me!" So the men of Spain 
Rushed on him with their swords, and pierced him 


358 Hernando De Soto 

Another Indian guide revealed a trail 

Whereby the seashore easily they gained. 

They found a noble harbor; this they called 

The Bay of Apalachee. Here it was 

Narvaez once had toiled to build his fleet. 

A ruined forge they saw; there, scattered round, 

Were bones of horses, relics of the days 

When famished wretches slew their steeds for food, 

And there a punctured horse-skin bellows stood, 

With wooden troughs, and ashes. On the trees 

Rude crosses had been carved in mute appeal, 

Ah, sad reminder, warning darkly given, 

Of pangs awaiting us in days to come! 

Anasco raised more crosses, and on boughs 

Of topmost trees hung signals ; upon these 

Were graven messages to all whose feet 

Might tread those wilds, telling where lay our 


What paths to take, what dangers to avoid, 
And whatsoever might afford them aid. 
This done, rejoining us, his force returned. 

Now we had reached the highlands, where we found 
Soft nooks of ease and luxury. In the woods, 
The hickory-trees, pecans and walnuts strewed 
Their nuts beneath them: the persimmon boughs 
Scattered in wild profusion sugared fruit. 
Freely bestowed by friendly savage lords, 
Great cornfields, yellowing in October suns, 
Supplied us with a wealth of golden ears. 
In purple clusters, wild grapes overhead 
Dangled profusely: trailing through the fields, 
The wild-peas twined with many-podded beans, 
While on luxuriant vines swelled everywhere 

Book XVII 359 

The golden-bellied pumpkins, to our lips 
More sweet than apples of Hesperides ! 

We saw the Indian Summer on the hills, 
Where pale white hazes dimmed cerulean blue, 
And blended tints celestial with terrene. 
We viewed the red woods and the yellowing grass, 
And Saw in mellow sunshine, honey-hued, 
Black velvet butterflies with spots of gold. 
The crickets chirping in the fields we heard, 
We marked the birds of passage flying south, 
And lolling there lazy in the ripe, warm light, 
We pitied the insects for their restless cries, 
And birds of passage for their restless flight ! 

Here galaxies of starry asters thronged 
And twinkled on the hills, while swung below 
Convolvulus corollas blue as heaven. 
Here Autumn stood like Ruth in harvest fields, 
The Indian corn about her, in her hair 
A wreath of glossy, red-globed muscadine, 
And sprays of azure gentians in her hands. 
And here she lingered, ere her exile came, 
With melancholy beauty in her eyes, 
Regretting to forsake her haunts of dream, 
But prescient that the Winter hovered near, 
To end the golden ages of her reign. 

I now determined, ere the snow-moon rose, 
To send mine orders unto Calderon, 
Commanding him to man one caravel, 
And bound it for Havana, bearing news 
Of our adventures unto Isabel, 
Then bring the rest to Apalachee Bay. 

360 Hernando De Soto 

Fearful had been the task to come thus far, 
But still more fearful would the journey be 
Back by the same dread highway overpast, 
Through the old dismal battle-fields, where now 
The fierce barbarians, roused to tenfold ire 
By the hot conflicts of our northward march, 
Roved on the war-path, thirsting for our blood. 
An hundred leagues that highway ran : in each, 
Behind a treacherous pitfall or a snare 
Death crouched expectant. For this heavy task 
A valiant knight was needed, most of all, 
One of discretion and of wariness, 
No reckless blade my purposes could serve. 
Anasco was that man. I bade him choose 
From out my boldest, nine-and-twenty knights 
To be his comrades in the perilous ride. 
His cavaliers he chose; among the rest 
Was Gomez Arias, bravest, yet discreetest. 
Bearing my greetings, counsels and commands, 
A letter unto Isabel I wrote, 
And gave it with my blessing to the band. 

They went with lightest armor, that their steeds 
Might not be overweighted, and they took 
The scantiest food that nature might demand. 
Chiefly at night they rode, and in the day 
They crept to woodland covers, where they slept. 
Zealous in duty, eagerly their steeds 
Devoured the distance. Seeking to evade 
The savages, their leader bade them ride 
By devious trails round all the villages 
Along the way, or in deep midnight hours 
Gallop straight through while all the townsmen 

DooK XVII 361 

Weird is that night-ride through the wilderness 

Before their time by steeds of man untrod. 

What unknown terrors lurk in solemn shades, 

The real or unreal, false or true! 

Like spectral canopies in enchanted halls, 

The tattered moss swings down from gloomy boughs; 

Each black and rugged bole of ancient oak 

Becomes a demon to dispute the way; 

Each dead, decaying trunk becomes a ghost 

Looming gigantic. Dim, benighted wolds, 

Barrens and tangled brakes, the mournful haunts 

Of wild, unhappy whippoorwills, become 

Retreats unblest of wizard or of witch, 

Wherein to quaff the blood of slaughtered babes. 

The goblin owl with horror chills their veins, 

Dissembling cries of murder, or screams for help 

Rising at midnight from a haunted house. 

The panther with his shrill carnivorous yell 

Hurls mad defiance at the howling wolves : 

Like dragons of some bygone monster-age, 

The alligators bellow from their fens. 

The lynx's keen and lacerating whine 

Pierces the heart like the thin, plaintive sobs 

And whimperings of a slowly-strangling child. 

Above them hangs the wan and wasted moon, 

Red, frail and slender, like a scimitar 

Worn threadlike by the headsman's ruthless arm. 

They feared the Great Swamp, where, should once 

they meet 

The Paynim in its narrow tortuous trail, 
No strength nor skill might save them. But no foe 
Stood in the way, that fearful pass to guard, 
And overjoyed, the farther side they gained. 

362 Hernando De Soto 

Three rivers, passed in coming, one by one 
They reached, and having swam them safely over, 
They neared the plain, where two brief moons before, 
The Chieftain Vitachuco and his braves 
Against us twice had battled. They resolved, 
Long ere that spot they reached, to pass at night, 
And should they meet with prowling foresters, 
Heedless of insults, calls or challenges, 
To gallop on, returning not one volley. 
But as they clattered through the field of death, 
No foeman's trace they saw but mouldering skulls, 
And whitened bones : and here and there uploomed 
Black rotting wigwams, where foul beasts of prey, 
Leaving their horrid feast on dead men's bones, 
Would scamper for refuge, and with flaming eyes 
Of green and yellow from the ruins glare. 

Two Indians, hunting, met them: one uprose 

So close before them with a bended bow, 

They slew him in their own defence. The next 

Upstarted, menacing likewise, in their path, 

But further distant. Then the cavaliers 

Desired to rush upon him. With a smile, 

Anasco wisely interposed, and drawled, 

"No fame we win in battling with one man; 

Nor can we spare one horseman from our troop, 

Nor one horse. Ride around him," In chagrin, 

With smothered groans, they did so. Seeing this, 

The savage sped his arrows, but in vain, 

For some would miss the mark, some glance from steel. 

"Come on, ye squaws that pass for men!" he yelled; 

"Alone, I defy thirty!" Hard it was 

For high-born youths to hear that blatant churl 

Fling insult after insult, and they cried, 

BooK XVII 363 

"Anasco, let us face him! Let us slay 

This imp who dares to rouse Castilian blood." 

Anasco smiled again, retorting, "No!" 

A lake they passed, where wild swans from the North 

In a great flock had gathered. 52 Swirling round, 

White as a snowstorm over Arctic seas, 

Into the waves they fluttered one by one. 

With arching necks they glided there superb, 

Fairer than floating moons. No radiant bloom 

Of the magnolia ever hung above 

More spotless : never a water-lily mirrored 

A purer bosom in the depths below ! 

"Come, let us fire upon them," cried a youth 

Unto Anasco. "Wouldst arouse the foe?" 

He answered: "Haste thou not to end the lives 

Of others, when thine own is hung in doubt." 

Often the Indians chased them; turning not, 

But setting every spur against its steed, 

Though cavaliers, like cravens they sped on, 

Leaving their wild pursuers far behind. 

In time, a horseman groaned in agony, 

Reeled, swayed without his sell, and toppled dead. 

That night they rested, and another still 

Dropped, languished, and died speedily: then some 

Were terror-stricken, shrieking out, "The Plague!" 

But Arias reassured them, saying, "Peace! 

Have ye no faith? In this vast wilderness 

God still is ruler : think not that His eye 

May overlook you, though you stray afar: 

For, like the sun that tracks you through these 

Wherever you may go, He also goes. 

364 Hernando De Soto 

Here he still guards you. Fear not." So all came 
And joined in praying for their comrades dead. 

Two other rivers halted them ; great storms 
Had swollen both the streams to raging floods, 
That roaring, rushing, and foaming angrily, 
Were perilous to breast. Their coursers balked 
In terror at the whirlpools, but the men 
Spurred fiercely on, and soon all floundered over. 
At last they reached the camp where Calderon 
Was waiting with the ships they knew of yore, 
And so with laughter and with tears, with shouts 
And rough embraces, like a crowd of boys 
The old companions met in joy again. 

First toward Cuba having turned one sail, 

Anasco manned the other barks, steered north, 

And anchored soon in Apalachee Bay. 

Part only of the troops the ships could bear, 

And so the others hobbled on by land, 

Oppressed with hunger, trapped by ambuscades, 

Bedraggled in the sludge of swamps and fens, 

By whooping hordes, that banished sleep, pursued. 

These joined their comrades later; on the way 

Brave men and faithful steeds had died: a worn, 

A woe-begone and ragged band, crawled in 

The gaunt survivors. After they had come, 

Diego Maldonado was sent forth 

To north and west with the two caravels, 

To seek still other harbors. Slowly crawled 

The slothful days, till nigh two weary moons 

Had faded, and sad friends awaited still, 

But vainly, for the fleet's return. At last 

The sweet-gum in the woods had flushed from green 

DooK XVII 365 

To crimson and to purple; on the sprays 
Of bittersweet the scarlet berries glowed; 
The plump brown hazel peeped without its shell, 
Ready to drop to earth, yet still they watched, 
Vainly, to sight the barks again. Men lost 
All hope of greeting the ships or sailors more, 
Till one day, past the eve of Autumntide, 
One happy day of days, when they discerned, 
Like the white wings of doves of peace afar, 
The sails of Maldonado speeding home. 
When the bold mariner returned, he told 
Of still another bay, noblest of all 
Among those yet discovered. 53 Knowing well 
The pathway that he once had trod before, 
Straightway Anasco journeyed to our camp, 
And told me of this harbor. When I learned 
Of the discovery, messengers I sent 
To Apalachee Bay with new commands 
To Maldonado and to Calderon, 
Saying, "Return ye to the Cuban shores, 
Taking the ships and sailors at your post, 
And bear my greetings unto Isabel. 
While in Havana load your ships with corn, 
With raiment, arms and armor, that our band 
May need hereafter, and when Autumn calms 
Over the sea shall next prevail, return, 
And moor your vessels in the northern bay 
That Maldonado found." This last behest 
Obeying, southward soon the prows were turned. 

Next marched our host still further to the north, 54 
And here through long dark lonesome winter moons, 
Suffering from coldness, hunger and disease, 
We lingered. Nurtured in warm Southern realms, 

366 Hernando De Soto 

My lads, amidst that Northern waste of rime, 
Around the camp-fires huddled drearily, 
And shivered, homesick and despondent: oft 
They wondered if their weary feet should ever 
The happy sunlands of their youth regain. 
Like flocks of tropic birds on Arctic shores, 
Our slaves, from green Floridian palm-groves torn, 
Through flying sleet and hail roamed cheerlessly: 
They shuddered in the keen-edged Iceland winds, 
Or fell asleep and died in shroud-like snows. 
With aching brows, hot hands and burning feet, 
The Iberians, fever-stricken, tossed and groaned. 
In rude log-cabins we would build great fires 
Of odorous hickory-logs, that steamed and sang, 
And oozed with honeyed sap, blazing on high 
With great blue flames. But soon the pigmy rooms 
Would wax as hot as ovens: so the sick 
Fainted from stifling heat. Then if the fires 
Our hands extinguished, freezingly the blasts 
Through every chink would stream again: once more, 
When bitter gusts howled at the creaking doors 
Like famished packs of wild, ferocious wolves, 
Together we would huddle by the hearth, 
And shudder, clutched in Winter's grip again. 

In Cuba we had loaded on our ships 

A herd of lusty swine, and patiently 

These we had coaxed and led, or driven on, 

A great unwieldy, noisy multitude, 

Through forest, swamp and stream, six hundred miles 

In safety. They had multiplied ere long 

To bristly armies, and they served us now 

As gladly-welcomed food. But day by day 

The swine were slaughtered in such greedy haste, 

DooK XVII 367 

Fearing to lose them all, I portioned some, 

Though sparingly, among the troops. Soon these 

Were all devoured, and seeing that the herd 

Dwindled to swift extinction, I forbade 

All further butchery. So the famished troops 

Went munching roots and berries, barks and twigs, 

Or scratching for acorns through dead leaves or snows, 

Crunching the few they found voraciously. 

No salt we had, and often dying men, 

Delirious, yet with reason glimmering still, 

Would cry out in their feverish agony, 

"O for a morsel of fresh meat, and salt! 

If only those were brought I yet might live!" 

And now, in ravenous madness, hollow-eyed, 

Whatever loathsome food men found, they seized: 

The Indians' dogs they slew, 55 disgustful thought! 

And like rapacious lynxes gorged themselves, 

Devouring till they choked. Even this vile food 

Grown scarce in time, they quarreled and they fought 

For portions of the unclean things, and lost 

All semblance of once-proud humanity. 

In thought, if not in deed, turned cannibal, 

Upon each other wolfishly they glared, 

Carnivorous, lustful of their fellows' blood. 

But snows and storms and darkness can not reign 
Over earth forever : and there beats no heart, 
Though pierced with grief most poignant, but ere long 
Must shed its weeds of sorrow, and renew 
The silken robes of joyance. So at last 
Through the numb desolation gently breathed 
Faint premonitions of the sweets of May, 
As through a lover's bosom softly steal 
Prophetic whispers of his love returned. 

368 Hernanclo De Soto 

And like an ice-bound, torpid mountain stream, 

Rock-shadowed, in December's iron grip, 

That rends its fetters, seeks the southern plains, 

And scintillates and sparkles in the sun, 

The young Year, freed from frost and sleet and snow, 

Through vernal vistas tripped and laughed and sang. 

The birds and blooms went plotting busily, 

A camarilla of all sweets of Spring 

To drive the Winter King in banishment. 

In adolescence warmly germinal 

Impassioned South-winds came begetting flowers. 

The green savannahs thrilled with meadow larks, 

Dark dingles echoed with the madrigals 

Of brilliant red-birds. Gorgeous orioles 

Glimmered and glowed through verdant woods like 


Green branches wantoned with enamored gales, 
That tossed their bloomy chaplets, vanishing 
In sighings fragrant and melodious. 
Spring, the sweet victress, conquered all the world, 
And underneath her white, rose-tinted feet 
The ruins of the old year all were wreathed 
In April buds and blossoms myriadfold. 

When the grim winter scenes were overpast, 
Through happy lands of fruitfulness we marched, 
Where master, slave and steed were lodged and fed 
With ever-lavish hospitality: 
Our hearts laughed in our bosoms ; we forgot 
The abhorrent miseries of our bygone days. 

The chiefs sent lads before them, playing flutes 56 
Whose strains were softer than the blue-bird's lay 
Warbled to woo his mate : these dulcet notes 

BooK XVII 369 

Were overtures of peace. The red men came 

Staggering with presents of wild turkeys, quails, 

And plump opossums : then their patient squaws 

Came bowed with heavier burdens, that, cast down, 

Rose in great hillocks, multitudes of hares, 

And bushy raccoons, heaped with slaughtered deer. 

With wine-like juices dripping lusciously, 

Mulberries in big baskets came. The fields 

With wild strawberries, fragrant, sharp and sweet, 

Abounded wondrously. 57 Along our way 

Vast plains of vivid palpitating green 

Were intersprinkled with the ruddy fruit; 

Their flavor and aroma might have lured 

A baby cherub from his play in heaven 

To stain his dainty mouth and dimpled hands ! 

We trod by gushing springs, and quaffed of streams 

Babbling and bubbling joyously. We loved 

To loiter by those lucent rills, for there 

The pink wild roses breathed delightful breath, 

There bluets peeped like roguish little eyes, 

There red azaleas through the coppice flamed, 

And lilting, warbling, trilling, caroling, 

The mocking birds saluted from their sprays. 

But soon great rains fell, and we plodded on 
Slowly and grumly, swimming many a stream 
Flooded by April storms to raging seas. 
Rushing with eddying whirlpools, oftentimes 
The torrents swept both knight and steed away, 
Perchance to watery graves. And now the land 
Lost all its fairness and its fruitfulness. 
The forest dwindled to a ragged waste 
Of stunted pines, where neither man nor brute 


37 Hernando De Soto 

Could eke subsistence. Our brave chargers lagged 

Dejected, lean and jaded, with their ribs 

Limned sharp through tight-drawn skin: so weak 

they grew, 

Oft we dismounted, leading them by hand, 
Fearing the nags might sink to earth beneath us. 
But Nimble Foot, grown happier day by day, 
Now wreathed in blissful smiles, and as his eyes 
Flashed, and his bosom heaved, he cried elate, 
"Be of good cheer! These dreary scenes must end, 
For we shall be in Cofachiqui soon!" 

And soon indeed we reached the land we sought. 58 

Startling that transformation ! In one day 

The desert melted into soft domains 

Of goodlihood and plenty. Dumb we stood, 

Like beggars from starvation perishing 

In rags and tatters, grime and wretchedness, 

Whose eyes, unsealed, wide open in amaze 

On bending orchard-boughs of Paradise. 

Alonzo Romo, with a troop of lads 

In age and arms his peers, sped on before, 

I with the veterans slowly following. 

Climbing a hillock, not afar they spied 

A noble river, white with silvern waves 

That glinted through the green. A rivulet 

With foamy cascades babbled down a gorge 

Beneath them, and in swift meanderings 

Glided to join its more majestic brother. 

Now heard they peals of laughter, gleeful shouts, 

And noise of mischief -making. Creeping down 

The monticle, through interwoven boughs 

And interlacing vines, about the brook 

A throng of woodland damosels they spied. 59 

BooK XVII 37i 

Naked the maids are as magnolia blooms 

Discarding sombre husks, and sweetly nude, 

Baring their virgin bosoms. In amaze 

And agitated joy, the Spanish lads 

From ambush view them, unespied themselves. 

Flushed are the boyish cheeks ; in boyish veins 

The red blood thrills and tingles, youth will 


As long as springtime burgeons, morning dawns ! 
Some maidens breast the deeper currents ; some 
Are wading in the shallows ; others yet 
Splash water in their comrades' faces. Screams 
And roguish laughter mingle : wantonly 
They gambol in the waves, or from the banks 
Leap headlong, diving. Others throng the pools 
In sunshine, bending low to view themselves 
Depicted in those greenwood mirrors ; there 
They smooth and dry their faces, and arrange 
Their dripping tresses. But for streaming locks, 
No damsel hath a shred of drapery. 

Bewitching is their loveliness, and yet 
How chaste their every movement ! As the youths 
Gaze on them, they admire the curving limbs 
Of tawny marble ; graceful arms and lithe ; 
Their ankles, smooth and brown as chestnut shells; 
Their bosoms, glowing with a soft maroon, 
With breasts like russet oval Autumn fruits; 
Their cheeks, like dusky twilights, lit with flames 
Of crimson afterglows. Lissom their forms, 
Athletic, and yet delicate. They seem, 
Amid that floral setting, like a throng 
Of elves and fays, with joyous revelry 
Dispersing gloom from sylvan solitudes. 

37 2 Hernando De Soto 

Hilarious and unruly all, yet each 

In virgin thought is purest of the pure. 

Some seek repose, and pillow weary heads 

On mossy knolls, or turfs of tender green 

Besprent with starry bluets: others trip 

Through fern-clad nooks, or cool their slender feet 

In lush and dewy grasses. Loitering 

In leafy coverts, groups are plucking boughs 

Of snowy-blossomed dogwood; happy throngs 

Go laughing, with their lightsome girlish forms 

Engarlanded with creamy locust blooms; 

These, gathering clustered sprays of jessamine, 

The luscious fragrances inhale. Bedight 

In festoons of the red-bud, or yclad 

With branches torn from flowering tulip-trees, 

Some wilding beauties veil their nakedness. 

Small bevies of the maidens in a field 

Gather strawberries; from their puckered lips, 

Down cheeks and chins trickles the juicy red. 

Bands more demure their tiny baskets heap 

With tart and odorous fruit. One merry lass, 

Shouting and struggling, clasps in arms a mate, 

Smearing her cheeks with scarlet; yet another, 

Loading her fist with calycanthus tips, 

Seizes a comrade, crushing on her face 

The brown buds, redolent of frankincense. 

Sprightful are all, and happy. Sportively 

They bound, and fairyly they flit, now here, 

Now there. Two young and splendid Amazons, 

Slender and graceful as symmetric pards, 

Wrestle and tug and scuffle playfully, 

Twining and twisting shapely arms and thighs 

Book XVII 373 

In vine-like fashion, straining stubbornly, 
Or clinching breast to breast in mimic war. 

As wooingly and cooingly the notes 
Of soft enamored blue-birds soothe the ear, 
They answer with their girlish tittering: 
They echo back the thrush's roundelay, 
Accept the red-bird's challenge, paraphrase 
The oriole's ditty, jeer the meadow-lark, 
And mock the mock-bird in his plagiarisms. 

But next from thickets nigh the lads beheld 
Three withered beldames rush. These veteran 


All bearded, crescented of nose and chin, 
Palsied of hand, wet-eyed and wrinkle-browed, 
Wagging their heads and shaking knotty fists, 
Jabbered from toothless jaws and rusty throats 
Sounds of alarm. Like surly griffins, set 
To guard a priceless treasure, they had stood, 
Grim sentinels, when danger lurked to raise 
The cry of warning. Bended half to earth 
With ancientness, the crones remembered not 
They too had once been young: nay, much they 


The sight of youth in freedom! So the hags 
From cracked and battered wind-pipes shrieked and 


Grating with merciless harshness on young ears, 
"A vaunt, ye prying striplings! Dare ye not 
To peep and eavesdrop further! Hence, ye brats!" 
The young intruders at their menaces 
Paused half in fear. As the duennas raged, 
Smit were the girls with terror. Like a flock 

374 Hernando De Soto 

Of startled robins, back and forth they sped, 
Endeavoring to escape. Through colonnades 
Of hoary forest-trees they ran to hide : 
But near the runnel's further slope, the gorge 
Reared steepy walls, thwarting their hurried flight. 

But now the youths dashed forth, reaching the spot 
Where lay the damsels' cast-off garments. Here 
Shouting with laughter stood they, as the girls, 
Ensnared, despoiled of raiment, barred from flight, 
Went screaming frightedly, and flushed and burned, 
Ever attempting vainly to conceal 
From lawless eyes their helpless nudity. 
Some sought to hide them in their glossy hair, 
And some in trailing grape-vines torn from boughs 
Above them; and still others made them shields 
Of flaming clusters of azalea blooms, 
That seemed to blush with sympathetic shame. 

Louder the younkers laughed to view the plight 
Wherein their victims stood. But now Alonzo, 
Even more embarrassed than the girls themselves, 
Drooped blushfully his face, nor scarcely dared 
Over his beauteous thralls one glance to steal. 
And soon, perceiving how the damosels 
Stood trembling at their captors' taunts, he turned 
Upon his fellows, and indignant, cried, 
"For shame! Leave them their garments! Come 

On hearing thus their champion speak, some girls, 
Half reassured, came forward : suddenly, 
Perceiving how he flushed and hung his head, 
One lass grew bolder still, and roguishly 

BooK XVII 375 

Approached him with a basket brimmed with fruit : 
This she gave to him, archly scanning him 
With twinkling eyes of mischief, for the boy, 
Abashed and shamefaced, feared to look upon her, 
Thus draped in Nature's undraped loveliness. 
Stammering with awkwardness, he thanked her, 

His comrades and the maidens joined in laughter. 

At that same moment, riding down the gorge, 

I came upon them : having strayed afar, 

My horse's snowy ankles now were red 

With the blood of berries crushed along the way 

Through scarlet-fruited plains. As I appeared, 

Diverted at the novel sight, one maid, 

Encouraged by my smile, approached me, nude, 

Yet peerless in her virgin loveliness 

As nude and unadorned Diana, glimpsed, 

Snowily splendid, through the springtime green 

In flowerful vales of Delos. "Bonnibel," 

I asked her, "Canst thou tell me if I tread 

In the realms of Cofachiqui? And thy queen, 

If she be thine, where may I find her?" Then 

The stately virgin, drawing still more near, 

And gently smiling, said, "Sir Knight, even now 

Art thou in Cofachiqui: fleet of foot, 

Thy fame hath sped before thee, and our queen 

Prepares to bid thee welcome. Mighty lord, 

Her handmaids are we; and upon yon river, 

Before the noontide glows, her barge appears." 

Then I: "Sweet maiden, tell me, in what cove 
Of yonder river-strand will the queen's barge 
Be moored? Say, is it near or far? How long 

Hernando De Soto 

The journey thither?" Archly answered she, 

"How long the journey? Why, in truth, Sir Knight, 

That on thy willingness or unwillingness, 

Thine eagerness or backwardness, depends. 

Wert thou a lover, straying with thy lass 

Through leafy lanes in springtime, gathering flowers, 

And listening to the birds, her hand in thine, 

And thou advantage taking of those hours, 

Those golden hours of courtship, not till eve 

Your creeping, long-delaying, laggard feet 

The spot ye seek might find : and yet, my lord, 

If thou wert all alone, and hurrying on 

Anxious to meet her at the tryst, thy feet, 

Eager, impatient, hasty, ere a thrush 

Could end his little song, would speed thee there." 

Thereat her girlish cohorts laughed at me. 
Then other maidens timidly approached, 
Their modest eyes allured by wonderment, 
My steed beholding; more courageous grown, 
They drew still nearer, and soft hands they laid 
In pleasure on his silken neck and mane. 
Still others offered baskets heaped with berries, 
Luscious and fragrant, dripping nectarous wine. 
But some, more shy, still trembled, and cast down 
Their liquid eyes, viewing their own sweet selves, 
Unshielded from the glance of roguish boys. 
I blessed them in my heart, and cried aloud, 
"Shrink not, nor tremble, beauteous damosels, 
For Nature's garb is the garb of Innocence, 
And Truth is chastely naked like yourselves." 


De Soto's Narrative continued Approach of the royal barge 
The Queen of Cofachiqui She twines a string of pearls 
around De Soto's neck, and gives him a kindly welcome 
Her meeting with Nimble Foot Feasting among the soldiers 
Discovery of pearls Deserted villages The old temple 
and its statues Discovery of arms and armor, and a rosary 
of jet, in the temple The Catacombs Vast wealth of 
pearls Nimble Foot weds the Queen of Cofachiqui De 
So to and his band, after many remonstrances from the men, 
leave Cofachiqui Parting of Nimble Foot and Vasconcelos 
Some soldiers desert, and remain behind The mountains 
of Xualla. 

NOW we marched to the river. Not an hour 
Had passed, before our all-impatient eyes 
Beheld a great canoe approach. In this, 
Reclining at her ease upon a throne, 
(Of intertwining antlers of the stag 
And convoluting horns of bison wrought), 
Surrounded by her chiefs, appeared the queen. 
Young was she, tall, superbly beautiful, 
And graceful as a panther. Bright of eye, 
With softly-rounded cheeks, with glossy hair, 
With delicate lips enwreathed in gentle smiles, 
Her dusky face's wild sweet loveliness 
The homage of the sternest heart compelled. 
Upon her brow were plumes of tanagers, 
In vivid scarlet, and of orioles, 


378 Hernando De Soto 

Gorgeous in orange and in sable, while 

An airy egret crest, surmounting all, 

Twinkled its white rays high above her head. 

Long twisted ropes of milky orient pearls 

Around her neck and on her arms she wore. 

An awning stretched above her ; at her side 

Billowed light cushions, painted brilliantly, 

While varicolored carpets eased her feet. 

Her garb of dappled fawnskin, silken-soft, 

Curved with the graceful contour of her form. 

Barbaric was the pomp of coloring, 

And yet harmonious with her savage state. 

Her bark attained the land; the queen took seat 

Upon a palanquin. Four warriors came, 

And bore her, in the palanquin reclined, 

To where I stood. With stateliness and ease 

Down stepped she from her place, and smilingly 

A string of pearls about my neck entwined; 

Three times it wrapped around, and still it fell 

Down to my bosom ; the refulgent pearls 

Beamed soft with chastened iridescent fires, 

Like rich-hued light through creamy clouds of 


"Sir Knight, I bid thee welcome," spake the queen; 
"Whatever may be mine is also thine." 
"Lady," I answered, "unto wearied men 
Plodding with painful steps through stranger lands, 
Sweet is the salutation kindly given, 
But tenfold sweeter falls it from the lips 
Of one so gracious, so superb, so fair." 
From off my finger then I slipped a ring 
Set with a ruby ; taking her shapely hand, 
Her own forefinger's sweet and tiny cirque 
I banded with the slender hoop of gold. 

BooK XVIII 379 

Here Nimble Foot, by some mischance delayed, 
Came rushing up, his splendid eyes aflame, 
His ebon locks in disarray, his bosom 
Heaving with strong emotion. First his arms 
Outstretching, he forgot us, as it seemed, 
Seeking to fold the maiden to his heart, 
And then, remembering quickly where he was, 
And in whose presence, on his knees he fell 
Before her, crying out, "My queen, my queen!" 
Trembling with eager joy, "he seized her hand, 
Kissing it ardently. And now the queen, 
Despite her self -repression brought to bear 
Before our gathered throng, allowed a glimpse 
Into her secret heart. Her lovely lips 
Quivered; her liquid eyes with unshed tears 
Grew misty, and her soft breasts rose and fell 
Like rounded billows of sweet locust blooms 
Surging and swelling in the winds of spring. 

Ah, then I knew that though he loved his queen 

As a true subject, yet he loved her more 

As the youth loves the maiden: and the queen, 

Albeit she loved the subject at her feet, 

Loved more the youth enthroned within her heart 

As lord and master! Happy Indian brave, 

The conqueror of a human heart through love, 

More to be envied art thou for thy prize, 

Than he who conquers all the world through fear ! 

Tents the queen gave us, gifts of corn she made; 
Knight, servant, steed, she thoughtfully supplied. 
Bending and tottering under mighty loads 
Of viands, came her people: there were quails, 
And ducks and wild-geese: scores of turkeys made 

380 Hernanclo De Soto 

Morsels delicious for our hungry mouths. 

Great baskets of strawberries, oozing forth 

The fragrant heart's blood of the wounded fruit, 

Were fetched by lads panting beneath their weight. 

They brought us fat and juicy carcasses 

Of deer and bear; deep trenches next were dug, 

Wherein were kindled fires; over the coals 

The tender flesh of game was barbecued 

A rich brown, smoking, dripping, sputtering. 

Well might that savory banquet have seduced 

An Esau to renounce his rights of birth! 

So here we rested many happy days. 

This goodly kingdom with abundance flowed: 

Here was enlightenment exceeding far 

All else in these rude lands: 60 the habitants, 

Not naked like their kindred of the wilds, 

Enrobed in cloths fine-woven, or in skins 

Dressed cunningly and handsomely; their feet 

In gaudy moccasins were clad. They seemed, 

Proudly displaying barbarous finery, 

Like gipsies flaunting holiday attire. 

The queen, hearing my exclamations once, 
While gazing in wonder on her gift of pearls, 
Beckoned to me, and whispered me aside, 
"In bygone years there raged a pestilence 
That swept innumerous legions unto death 
From my dominions : through the wasted realms 
Of pestilence, deserted villages 
Are left in silent solitudes forlorn 
Where no man goes. 61 All shun them as accurst. 
Amidst those deserts ruined temples stand, 
With burial-caverns leading from them, far 
Into earth's lonely midnight realms: and there 

BooK XVIII 381 

May ye who value pearls so dearly, find 
Such gathered treasures of the white-orbed gems, 
Your horses can not bear them all away." 
Incredulous I heard; still she declared, 
"Truth have I spoken: if thou doubtest me, 
Go thou, and thine own eyes make witnesses." 
So heeding her instructions, with seven knights 
I started on the quest. Long hours we rode, 
And as the sun drooped lowly in the west, 
That sad and solitary land we reached. 

Entering a village, as we halted steed, 

Our hearts failed: in that still, deserted haunt, 

A sudden awe possessed us. When our feet 

On pathways overgrown with grasses fell, 

A muffled sound uprose, as though our tread 

Woke ghostly echoes of long-buried years. 

Our very horses seemed to shiver in fear; 

Pricking their ears, they started suddenly, 

Or, snorting, stared with frighted eyes through shades 

In deep recesses of down-drooping boughs. 

Here deadly nightshade nourished ; high uprose 

Datura boughs, and hoary mullein spires, 

While ironweeds and ragweeds choked the way. 

Here sombre cedars rustled; mournfully 

Funereal cypresses hung gloomy palls. 

Into the cabins now we went : and there, 

Albeit we trod tiptoe, our lightest steps 

Fell harsh and loud; sharp echoes we aroused, 

As though our feet stamped on the rotting floor : 

We spoke in whispers ; yet the words we breathed 

Smote like an impious shout ; startled we stood, 

That death-calm to profane. For who could wish 

In vulgar recklessness to desecrate 

382 Hernando De Soto 

vSuch weird and solemn stillness? In these huts, 

Dilapidated and decaying, once 

The dusky lover and his damsel wooed, 

Here wedded, and within them had been heard 

The infant's cry that told barbarian ears 

A new man-child had entered into the world. 

Here croons of mother to pappoose were heard, 

And here the babe's soft babble in reply. 

At sundown, from the forest coming home 

With furred and feathered trophies of the hunt, 

The proud young father here had sung wild songs, 

Tossing his eldest-born in savage joy. 

But all were gone! Our heads in corners dark 

Were meshed with cobwebs ; from their nests of down 

Scampered the squeaking mice; the mud-fly paused 

From singing at his work; his tiny eyes 

Stared at the strangers there in blank amaze. 

The ruined homes we left, and gladly breathed 
Free air outdoors; but pensive were our thoughts 
There, as within ; a weight of solitude 
Loaded us down; we moved as men enthralled 
Under some necromancer's potent charms. 
The noisy blue jay curbed his noisy tongue, 
And chirped with serious air. On a dead tree 
The gray woodpecker thumped with a hollow sound, 
Then ceased the profanation as in fear. 

We reached a dismal tarn ; black were its waves 

From shadows of the overlooming boughs. 

Like the wan ghost of some departed brave 

Haunting his ruined home of bygone years, 

A great white heron lifted spectral wings, 

Cleaved the dark boughs, and glimmering, disappeared. 

DooK XVIII 383 

At length we reached the temple; 62 high it rose 

Above a stone foundation ; its great walls, 

Upbuilded of prodigious cedar beams, 

Defiant seemed of storms of centuries. 

But long neglected, from its sinking sides 

Great chinks and cracks were gaping. In its front 

Two black holes, rotting, seemed gigantic eyes, 

Making us start ; quickly, as half in dream, 

Some gripped their swords, while others crossed 


But over all the ruin crept green vines 
Luxuriant in their wildness, as around 
A lost soul, scarred and blasted, yet in its doom 
Not all deserted, from some faithful heart 
Fasten the tendrils of unselfish love, 
And wreathe the old wreck in affection still. 

Into the fane we went, and there we saw 
Twelve giant statues, carved of solid oak, 63 
Six upon either side, uplifting clubs, 
Axes of stone, arrows and tomahawks. 
Barbarian gods were these: each hideous face 
Scowled with distorting frowns : distended eyes 
Stared with a rigid corpse-like fixedness, 
Yet as in living hatred at us, come 
To disenthrone them from the hearts of men. 
Around them hung a world of mussel-shells, 
Stripped of their pearls, and in rococo manner 
Decking the walls and ceilings. Treading here, 
Startled, upon the floor a dirk we spied, 
A battered helmet and a rusty sword, 
Biscayan iron axes, and with these 
A rosary of jet. Long ere our day, 
A Spanish leader, (Ayllon was his name, 64 

384 Hernando De Soto 

As Nimble Foot had told us,) with his band 

Had sailed here, seeking to explore the realm. 

But never had his homeward-steering prows 

Rejoiced the eyes that waited his return, 

For here it was that he and all his host 

Suffered that fate the Indian youth had told. 

From deadly ambuscades athwart their path 

Through the dark tangled forests, long ago 

The red men smote them, sparing none : so then 

The pagans all the Christian dead despoiled, 

And brought these relics to the fane austere, 

As offerings to delight their hideous gods. 

Still more ferocious glared the idols now! 

Their copper clubs seemed brandished at our heads, 

Their taut-drawn bows seemed aiming at our hearts, 

Their rigid lips seemed parting in a threat, 

Downcalling on us dooms unspeakable, 

Like the dread fate that claimed our countrymen. 

Torches we lighted, and so entered next 

A cave-like opening; for this temple stood 

Against a hill wherein were labyrinths 

Far underground meandering through the night, 

Vast catacombs where slept the Indian dead. 

As we passed inward, out there swept a gust 

As chilly as a cheerless autumn blast, 

But heavy with the scent of dust and mould, 

And mildew. Throngs of startled bats flew round, 

Brushing our ears with long and leathery wings, 

And shrilly chattering. In the cavern's depths 

Were coffins piled on coffins, all of wood, 

Rough-carved with cryptic figures ; in them lay 

The young, the old, man, woman, youth and babe. 

Their garments, after all these weary years, 

DooK XVIII 385 

Hung on them loosely, mouldering into rags. 
Many the moons had been since these had lived, 
Had loved, been loved, and died. Skulls, bones and 


Alone remained to prove that once was here 
Life, with its thrills of joyance and despair, 
Its aspirations, conquests and defeats, 
Its matins at the dawn, and evensongs 
Chanted at twilight for the last long sleep. 

Within each casket beamed uncounted pearls, 6s 

Each held enough a living man to load 

With wealth imperial. Lustrous necklaces 

Gleamed white on withered bosoms ; bracelets beamed 

On bony wrists that lifted nevermore. 

Seed-pearls were scattered with the mummied babes. 

So when our torches flamed above them there, 

Through their white radiance glowed their hues of pink, 

Soft green, pale azure, tender violet, 

Dim orange, fleeting, frail and delicate, 

Like transitory, fragile rainbow tints 

That quiver in aerial fountain-spray. 

But over all these hung resplendent gems 

In blending festoon mazes, that appeared, 

Most wondrous and magnificent of all, 

A transcendental moondawn in the night. 

We gathered great heaps of the marvelous pearls, 

More than enough our avarice to console 

For gold and silver hunted for in vain. 

Some pearls were oval, some had shapes of pears, 

Many were perfect spheres : like eggs of doves, 

Some were pure white ; like blue-bird eggs were some, 

Pale and ethereal azure : some were black, 


386 Hernando De Soto 

Still others copper-hued. In likenesses 

Of little birds or babes had some been carved. 

We now remembered the Egyptian queen, 

Dissolving pearls in honor of her lover; 

This Cleopatra of the Occident 

Who in her barge adown that noble river 

Had come to bid us welcome to her land, 

A thousand such resplendent pearls might quaff, 

Some dusky, plume-crowned Antony to please. 

Returning to our horses ere the sun 

Had fallen, back to camp we took our way, 

Silent and grave, albeit within our scrips 

Were priceless treasures. Speedily we rode, 

Yet not till moonset, when night's crescent glowed 

Blood-red through black boughs of the western woods, 

Did we rejoin the band. We found the queen 

And all our friends awaiting us: and so, 

When we revealed our prize of wondrous pearls, 

All the Iberians, peasants, cavaliers, 

Striplings and graybeard veterans, stood amazed, 

Rapt in wild admiration and delight. 

Then said the queen: "Still other caves there be, 

Vast resting-places of the men who died 

In long-past years, with treasuries of pearls 

Surpassing even those your eyes have seen 

Already. Bide a little longer here, 

And if you wish, their riches shall be yours." 

Weaned, we sought our couches. At the dawn, 
Not fully rested yet from all the toils 
Of the past day, unwonted slothfulness 
Weighed down upon me, and I slumbered still. 
Then came Vasconcelos with hasty steps 

BooK XVIII 387 

Unto my tent. "Arouse, my lord!" he cried, 

"For on this morn my comrade, Nimble Foot, 

Weds with the queen." 66 Hearing his words amazed, 

I leaped from bed, arranged my garb, and soon 

Was wending with the noble Portuguese 

Unto the outskirts of a wood that fringed 

Our camping-field. And now Vasconcelos 

Told all the annals of the courtship ; how 

The young man had persisted; how the queen 

Had long delayed him, and how, in the end, 

The youth had triumphed. To his kindly friend 

Had Nimble Foot unbosomed all, and now 

In turn the knight of Portugal told me, 

The same old story, trite and commonplace, 

And yet forever new! 

We reached, ere long, 
The border of the wood, and there beheld 
Great eager throngs collected, subjects all 
Of the young queen. And standing in the midst 
Of all that multitude, we soon espied, 
Together, side by side and hand in hand, 
The queen, and our young forest cavalier. 
0, never wedding morn in East or West 
Beheld a pair more noble! Tall he stood, 
Slender and straight, and lordly in his air, 
Like the superbest poplar of the field, 
While she in maiden beautihood and grace 
Outvied the loveliest myrtle in its bloom. 
Over them rose broad-leaved catalpa trees, 
Snowing white blossoms through the fragrant air, 
While wild blackberries in the neighboring copse 
Snowed starry petals from their creamy sprays 
Through the green grass about the lovers' feet. 

388 Hernando De Soto 

A mocking-bird, perched on a. swaying bough 
Above them, rained a sparkling cataract 
Of bubbling melodies, sprinkling afar 
His notes like dewdrops in the fields at dawn. 

There was no priest beside them. But I heard 
The stalwart young chief say, "Thou art my spouse," 
Whereat the queen replied, "And thou art mine." 
This the whole ceremony, naught remained 
To bind them closer: they were one for life. 

Returning to our camp, the friars joined 

In clamor, saying, "Such are heathen rites! 

No form, no ritual, no solemnity! 

They are not truly wedded." But I cried, 

"Cease, cease this bigot caviling! They stand 

As truly wedded as our parents stood. 

Wedlock becomes not wedlock through bare form; 

True marriage is in spirit, not in speech; 

It dwelleth in the heart, not on the tongue, 

Fed on sweet inward thoughts, not outward shows." 

After this reigned a jubilee, when all 

Held blithesome holiday. The youths and maids, 

Dancing and feasting and singing, made both night 

And day a time for joyance. Through the groves 

Young lovers strolled together, hand in hand, 

In emulation of the royal pair 

Planning their own sweet nuptials soon. The old 

Sat silent on the mossy knotted roots 

Of ancient trees, or on gray vine-clad stones 

Along the wayside. Pensive there, alone, 

Watching the happy younkers tripping by, 

Now they recalled from out the buried past 

BooK XVIII 389 

Their own sweet courtship days, forever done. 
The festival ceased not, till, in the skies, 
The fragile crescent of the eventide 
Rounded, and then, a crescent once again, 
Melted away in rosy depths of morn. 

These revels over, mindful of the pearls 

Discovered in the catacombs, my friends 

Came thronging to me eagerly, and said: 

"Haste, let us seek these caves, and spoil the tombs 

Of all their treasures. We will recompense 

Our purses for their losses of the past 

In the vain search for gold. Come, let us go." 

But I replied: "Nay, soldiers. Let your hands 

Ransack the sepulchres for gems no more. 

We have not reached our goal ; it lies afar. 

Stand ye prepared at any hour to march 

Onward again for El Dorado. There, 

There only, shall your path have end. Our feet 

Must dally not, nor linger on the way, 

For this is but the beginning of our task 

Of conquest and of empire." 

At these words, 

Cries of amazement, anger and dismay 
Rose from all present. Then they said again: 
"We long for rest: let us not wander more, 
But remain here, build fortresses and towns, 
And make the realm a colony of Spain." 
"Ye have mine answer," I replied. But now 
Lobillo said, "In all our marches yet, 
Losses alone have we encountered. Come, 
Ceace this mad quest, bowing to Fate's decree 
That bids us yield the struggle." But I cried, 

39 Hernando De Soto 

"Confess defeat? Surrender? No, not I! 
Through all my years, let this my motto be: 
' When others guit discouraged, I fight on.' " 

Then Nufio de Tobar: "Think of the ills 
Endured already! But bethink thee more 
Of ills an hundredfold more trying, yet 
Awaiting us in the deep western wilds ! 
Think of the winters of distress^ the nights 
Of misery, that would fold around us there!" 
I answered, "Let the nights and winters come! 
For every night must have its end in dawn, 
And every Winter have its end in Spring." 

As the crowd, silenced, slowly moved away, 

Grinding his teeth, Juan Gay tun snarled, "Ye Gods! 

When will thib man be satisfied, and rest? 

'Knight of the March- winds' call him; pausing not, 

Blustering unbridled, still he rushes on 

Madly and blindly. Reft of peace himself, 

Snatching and sweeping rest and peace from others, 

When will he cease to rave?" This uttered apart, 

Half openly, and half in an undertone 

To others, yet I heard. Answering, I cried: 

"You dub me Knight of the March-winds. But 

know this: 

After the sleep of winter, gusts of March 
The sluggish trees awake, and through the veins 
Of gaunt and withered boughs, at their behest 
Tingles the sap again. And then, as men 
Arousing from a long sleep stretch themselves, 
And yawning, rub their eyes, and bend and sway 
Backward and forward, reaching out their arms, 
Straining their muscles, lissoming their limbs, 

DooK XVIII 39i 

So these long-torpid trees, in winds of March 

Tossing and twisting, bending back and forth, 

Wake from their sleep, and know true life again. 

Gaytun, the figure is thine own. Arouse, 

And heed me well : or else the March-wind's lash 

Shall sting thee to thy duty." Silently 

He heard me, though he frowned and scowled. The 

Beholding me determined, held their peace. 

And now the easy, careless days were over. 
Our men stood broken-hearted as I bade 
The march begin. But more than all the rest, 
Vasconcelos and Nimble Foot were bowed 
Under a pall of sorrow. Still, the youth, 
Choosing a consort, now must others forsake; 
For both a master and a slave is he 
Who loves and is loved. And Vasconcelos, 
Twining his arm around the slender form 
Of the dear lad so long his bosom's mate, 
Said softly, "Weep not: yet remember still 
Our sweet companionship in other days, 
Days that are dead forever, precious days 
That never, never shall we see again. 
And still, bethink thee, that the pain we feel 
In parting, only comes because we once 
Have loved each other. Had we felt no pain, 
We never had known affection. Yea, my lad, 
As there can be no shadow without sun, 
So without joy there never can be sorrow, 
For sorrow is the shadow cast by joy." 

So then we marched away. On the first night, 
At roll-call in the wilderness, we found 


A score of men deserted. These we never 
Beheld again: slinking, they lagged behind, 
Chose savage mates, and bode there, self -marooned 
From all communion with the Christian world. 

Turning our feet toward the setting sun, 

The country of Xualla next we reached, 67 

A land of mountains and of cataracts, 

Translucent rivers, dark and ancient woods. 

No snow was on the mountains; they pierced not 

With sterile granite peaks the highest heavens: 

But dreamy were they in their loveliness, 

Soft in their azure hazes, and their brows 

Were draped in shadows gently folding down, 

Like the still gray wings of a brooding dove. 

In stony clefts of immemorial hills 

Were bowery valleys, wreathed with trailing vines, 

Where song-birds bubbled with the bubbling rills, 

Luring the heart to haunts in fairyland. 

Above all hung cerulean crystal skies, 

As bright and clear as blue eyes of a boy. 

As one strode higher, mist enwreathed the rocks. 

Colossal trees shot upward to the sky, 

And shed eternal darkness. At their feet, 

The gloomy shadows of surrounding woods 

With solitude and silence awed the soul; 

And naught amid that wilderness was heard 

Save deep, faint rustling of the forest leaves, 

And horse-voiced waterfalls through solemn shades, 

Like prisoned thunder roaring far away. 

Dark hemlocks reared their pensive boughs aloft; 

Great spruces rose in sombre majesty; 

In mournful winds, sighed the funereal pines. 

BooK XVIII 393 

Prodigious ferns uplifted verdant plumes; 

Long velvet mosses mantled flinty rocks; 

Through dim recesses, rhododendrons shone 

With pink and white and purple clustering blooms 

That scattered petals on the rushing brooks. 

Blue springs came gurgling forth from lichened stones, 

And mirrored in their depths dark violets, 

And Turk's-cap lilies, flushed with ruddy hues, 

Like peasant maids with red and freckled cheeks. 

The rills, uniting, flowed diaphanous, 

With darting trout seen plain in deepest pools. 

In eager haste streams sprang from cliff to crag; 

Appalling torrents whirled in mist and foam, 

And cascades, bounding wild and jubilant, 

Enthralled the heart with mingled joy and fear. 


De Soto's Narrative continued The lowlands reached Honey 
is brought to the Spaniards Discovery of the Tennessee 
River Fording the rapid streams Coosa and his domin 
ions Song of the Indian maidens Coosa begs De Soto 
to abide in his realms The Spanish soldiers also entreat 
De Soto to remain there, but he refuses, and the march is 
continued The Spaniards enter the dominions of Tusca- 
loosa The son of Tuscaloosa comes to meet the Spaniards 
first The meeting with Tuscaloosa himself He gives the 
strangers a cold greeting He induces the Spaniards to 
accompany him to his chief town, Maubila They ride 
through a beautiful country to this town Tuscaloosa medi 
tates treachery, and plans the massacre of De Soto and his 
band De Soto is warned by his spies The Indians receive 
the Spaniards at Maubila with pretended friendliness But 
the Spaniards see that they are preparing for battle The 
Indian council of war Tuscaloosa advises the immediate 
destruction of the Spanish host, and is wildly applauded. 

rE lowlands next we reached: 68 here natives 

With baskets of mulberries, and with jars 
Of sweet and fragrant oil of hickory-nuts, 
That smilingly they gave us. Here it was 
They likewise brought mellifluous honeycombs, 
Dripping with golden nectar; these we took 
In wonder and delight, for never before 
Had we seen honey in Floridian wilds. 69 

Here many rivers we discovered. One, 
A noble stream, far ampler than the rest, 70 


BooK XIX 395 

Great Chieftain, from the landmarks thou hast given, 

I know now as the river Tennessee. 

We forded many another neighboring stream, 

Rapid and wild, unlike its placid king, 

That flowed along in majesty serene. 

One, a fierce torrent rushing madly on, 

Vortexing into whirlpools, seemed to dare 

Our infantry to cross. Fearing its force, 

A little art I used : our cavalry 

I strung in line athwart the river-bed, 

Each horse's head touching the horse in front. 

So they the brunt of violence endured 

From the swift waters: on their lower side, 

Where ran the freshet with diminished power, 

The men on foot went wading ; clutching hold 

Of stirrups, saddles, horses' manes and tails, 

Their footing in the raging flood they held, 

And aided thus, the further marge attained. 

Among the forest princes greeting us, 
Coosa reigned paramount. 71 His kingdom lay 
Many a league in breadth, and five long days 
We journeyed through it ere the chief himself 
We greeted. But our fame had far outsped 
Our marches, and the prince with chosen peers 
Came on to meet us and to welcome us 
Unto his kingdom ere our feet had trod 
Half through the great dominion. So at last, 
A palanquin we spied, by dusky knights 
Shouldered aloft, where sate the chief enthroned, 
Stateliest of warriors, splendidest of youths. 
He leaned on deerskin cushions: round his head 
Were snowy plumes of wild swans and of cranes, 
Surmounted by the feathers of the hawk 

396 Hernando De Soto 

Outspreading lance-like. Marten skins were thrown 

Lightly around his shoulders and his arms. 

Dismounting from his palanquin, the prince 

Smiling, approached. Superb, symmetrical, 

His nude limbs, shapely hands and slender feet 

Seemed wrought of russet copper ; on his face 

Bloomed adolescence glad and debonair. 

Like does attending on a stately stag, 

Tripped lovely daughters of the wilderness, 

Following their chief with ever-watchful eyes. 

With clustered pink azaleas in their hands, 

And wreaths of starry yellow jessamine 

Twined in the midnight of their streaming hair, 

Came bevies of enamored singing-girls, 

Who trilled ecstatic lyrics to the king. 

There followed these a throng of dancing maids, 

Like bacchant beauties of the vintage-time, 

With bloomy sprays of grape-vines garlanded. 

Dark, liquid, stellar, were these damsels' eyes, 

Their rounded, dimpled cheeks a rich maroon; 

Their sweet firm breasts, curving in perfect grace, 

Magnolia buds of tawny bronze appeared. 

A wealth of spicy calycanthus buds, 

Scattered from maidens' hands beneath our feet, 

Crushed, yielding luscious fragrance. Then in a 


Half-chant, half-song, spontaneous and wild, 
The forest bonnibels my coming hailed : 

"Through our western woodland manor floats thy 

red and saffron banner, 

Bringing dreams our bosoms harbored not before; 
Through each vine-embowered byway, through each 
forest-shadowed highway 

BooK XIX 397 

Glows thine armor like a dawn unknown of yore. 
Where the oak arises solemn with its rugged wizard 

We can sight the gleam of Christian sword and 

And before, clear-eyed and regal, like a dominating 


Comes the Leader who hath conquered Doubt 
and Fear. 

"In the years ere this we numbered, we have only 

drowsed and slumbered; 

Now we hearken to thy wild and thrilling call; 
Thou hast braved the furious torrent, faced the wild 

beast's jaws abhorrent; 

Thou hast come our simple bosoms to enthrall! 
Let us ease thy feet of sandals, let us light thee 

festive candles, 

And regale thee with our simple forest cheer; 
Let us bring thee fruits of yellow, red and purple, 

sweet and mellow, 
And a rustic banquet of the bear and deer. 

"Thou hast marched where sands were sterile, sailed 

where seas were big with peril; 
But the toils shall be forgotten in this nest; 
As we see thee tread before us, we upraise the joyful 

chorus : 

Weary stranger, here is welcome, here is rest! 
Here thy handmaids long have waited, unendeared, 

unmatched, unmated; 
Now we scatter sweetest posies at thy feet : 

39$ Hernando De Soto 

Let thy countenance not darken; to our amorous 

pleadings hearken; 
Life and Love will not be ever young and sweet ! 

"Thou hast worn thy hands with labor, spent thine 

arm with spear and sabre, 
In thy weary quest for fortune and for fame ; 
Thou hast roved through mountain icelands, thou 

hast roamed through southern spicelands, 
In thy mad pursuit of wild, elusive game. 
Ah, thy lofty brow grows wrinkled, in thy locks the 

frost is sprinkled, 

Yet the goal still glimmers far and far away! 
See! thy friends of youth are scattered, and thy hopes 

of youth are shattered: 
Fast the night comes that will end thy glorious day ! 

"Leave the pagan shrine unplundered, leave the 

rolling wave unsundered, 
And forget the frightful combat's wild alarms ; 
Feel again the fires of boyhood, know again the old- 
time joyhood 

In the clasping and caressing of our arms ! 
Heed no more the cannon's clamor, battle-axe on 

shield a-hammer; 

Cast aside the helmet and the steely glove; 
0, forget the lust for pillage in the peaceful arts of 

And become a conqueror on the field of Love! 

"Like the pleading pipe of cricket in the yellowing 

Autumn thicket, 

Soon shall rise thy piteous plaint for youth's return. 
What avails a glory deathless when thy pallid lips 
are breathless? 

BooK XIX 399 

It will never warm thine ashes in thine urn ! 
0, forget the drums a-rattle, and the clash of swords 

in battle; 

Let thy fret and fever ease to blissful calm; 
Sail no more the ocean surges, seek no more the 

sundown verges, 
And forget the ceaseless striving for the palm." 

Such was their salutation. Many days 
We bided there, in feasting and in song 
Dallying the hours away. Waking at last, 
I saw that Spring had fled, while Summer's reign 
Was flitting to the past. The Moon of Flowers, 
Like a dead lily, shedding leaf by leaf 
Her white corolla, faded from the skies: 
The golden Corn-Moon, smitten by sultry heat, 
Ripened for reaping in the harvest-fields 
Twinkling on heights of heaven. Now sad-eyed Fall 
Wandered the hazy hills, and so had come 
Our time for leaving. Long the chieftain begged, 
Saying, "Depart not: make our land your home. 
Teach then our lads to ride the steed, and fight 
With scaly armor that defies the spear, 
And arms that hurl, like weapons of the heavens, 
Thunder and lightning. We will teach thy youths 
To snare the turkey, trap the bear; to run 
Swifter than hart or hare ; to kindle fires 
Rubbing two sticks together ; best of all, 
Endurance of the cold and heat, of snow, 
Of sleet, of rain, how to win hardihood 
Striving with Nature. Look upon our maids; 
See, they are vigorous, they are comely: let 
Thy young men spouse them. Wedded, they shall 

400 Hernando De Soto 

Sturdy and handsome children, like their sires, 
Wise in the secrets taught in books, and like 
Their mothers, skilled in hidden lore of field 
And flood and forest. Here abide, I pray." 

I answered, "Noble Chief, thou speakest well; 

But still our march must be resumed. Perchance, 

In other times, after our task is done, 

Returning, we may see thee here again, 

And greet thee as our good friend, loved of old. 

Now work unfinished calls us : and albeit 

We sigh to bid farewell, depart we must." 

My comrades wished to linger there ; alone 

I stood against them; though I longed for one, 

One only, to uphold me, none appeared, 

And so I found no comfort save in self. 

But O, illustrious chieftain, it was well. 

Let weaklings cry for help from other hands, 

Or lean on other shoulders in their need; 

The strong man flees for succor to himself, 

And in his own soul finds the truest friend. 

O, sympathy from loved ones may be sweet, 

And guidance from a loving hand be good ; 

O, censure from a comrade may be just, 

And praise from multitudes be fraught with cheer; 

But in his own heart man finds surest strength, 

Profoundest censure, highest-lifting praise. 

Again they begged me stay, and all exclaimed, 
"We never yet succeeded, never shall." 
I answered, "True; we may not gain the prize; 
But though we never live to win Success, 
And though we ever see her slip our hands, 

BooK XIX 401 

Or laughing in derision out of reach, 

Our hearts shall thrill with something sweeter far, 

The wild excitement born of hot pur suit I" 

So, having answered them, and seeing all, 
Though saddened, yet obedient to my will, 
Through Coosa's realm we marched. Nearing its 


We reached a hamlet, which though rightfully 
Under his sceptre, oft with treacherous arms 
His lawful sway had stubbornly withstood. 
A giant monarch, Tuscaloosa, 72 ruled 
The neighboring kingdom, and he sowed abroad 
Among these subjects of his brother-prince 
Disloyalty and discontent. Here came 
To meet us from the pathway to the West, 
A warrior, naked as a god from heaven 
Scorning the fleecy drapery of the clouds; 
Only upon his brow were scarlet plumes 
Plucked from the ibis, while his careless hand 
Swayed a spear lightly. Seeing him, we paused, 
Dumb with amazement. For, though but a youth 
Still in his April dawns, he towered on high, 
A great-limbed giant : heads of tallest men 
Reached only to his breast. Proudly erect, 
Our admiration he constrained, albeit 
His arrogance repelled. Dissevered not, 
But knitted into one, his jetty brows 
Fringed his mid-forehead like a trailing cloud, 
And then like lordly outspread eagle-wings 
Lifted in arcs imperious over his eyes. 

"Black Panther I am called," the youth began; 
" My sire is Tuscaloosa, chief of chiefs. 

4-O2 Hernando De Soto 

Southward his sway ends only with the seas, 

And westward ceases but with setting suns. 

He sends me here to meet you. For a while 

He tarries at a village in his realms 

Three short day 's- journey hence : the trail whereon 

Ye are now marching leads you to that town. 

He bids me ask you if you come his way? 

If it be so, he waits to meet you. Sir, 

What answer shall I bear him?" So he spake, 

With confidence and ease beyond his years; 

Yet through his royal tone and frank address 

Flaunted a nameless air of insolence, 

As if to taunt me. Still I spoke him fair, 

Saying, "I thank thee and thy sire for all 

This forethought for our good. Bear to the chief 

My salutations. I shall keep this path, 

And since he wills it, I shall meet him soon." 

Then the lad left us, hurrying on before 

To bear the message. 

Taking up our march, 
After three days we reached the little town 
Where the chief tarried. Pitching first our tents, 
The monarch next we sought, and soon descried 
Ensconced before his wigwam on a mound, 
An hundred of his peers surrounding him. 
A giant mightier than his son, his face, 
Ironic, grim and arrogant, inspired 
Distrust and fear. With big-boned sinewy limbs, 
Rugged and spare, like a gnarled leafless tree 
High up he towered. Swift of glance, his eye, 
Cruel and keen, would pierce you through and through. 
And yet with all his airs of surliness, 
Surely, methought, unless all signs misled, 

BooK XIX 403 

Fraudful his thoughts were, and perfidious. 

The forest emperor sate upon a throne 

Of massive walnut hewn ; about his feet 

Strewed varicolored mats confusedly 

In barbarous gaudiness; over his head, 

A blue and yellow banner in the breeze 

Fluttered and danced. A green palmetto-leaf, 

Fluted and sharp-rayed, in a menial's hand 

Lifted on high to screen him from the sun. 

Another servant with an azure fan 

Of wings of bluejays cooled the monarch's brow, 

Waving the airy plumage slowly. Here 

I came to meet him with extended hand; 

He did not rise; easily insolent, 

He glanced me over with a critic air, 

Smiling with haughty and contemptuous lips. 

My face flushed; standing awkwardly, abashed, 

I dropped my hand. But hiding my chagrin, 

And lifting my hand again, I grasped his own. 

Though not invited, still I took the seat 

Beside him: so we then conversed a while. 

His speech was couched in fair expressions, yet 

Beneath it I detected undertones 

Boding but little good to me or mine. 

Moscoso rode with mounted cavaliers 

Into the open field before the mound; 

There the knights galloped round and round, or leaped 

Their horses over streams, or spurred them on 

Up steepy banks, or in a mimic war 

Tilted and tourneyed from opposing bands. 

But Tuscaloosa sniffed in high disdain, 

Muttering beneath his breath contemptuously 

Words that I heard not, and yet understood. 

404 Hernando De Soto 

Said I, "Great Chieftain, we are strangers, come 

From lands afar, and in this wilderness 

Blindly we wander. Wilt thou lend to me 

A retinue of men, to point the way, 

And help us bear our burdens through thy state?" 

He scowled upon me like a thundercloud, 

Snarling, "I serve not others; I myself 

Receive, but yield to no man, servitude." 

I bit my lip, and frowned : so then, the chief, 

Seeing me nettled, after an anxious pause 

Long as five heart-beats, added warily, 

" Go with me to Maubila, my chief town, 

And there the aid thou seekest shall be given." 

So we proceeded slowly on our march, 

The chief accompanying. Along the trail 

Grapes hung in wild profusion ; juicy plums 

Scattered in red and yellow on the ground. 

One comrade, wandering forth to gather fruit, 

Was lost; we never pressed his hand again. 

Later, another comrade went astray: 

Two days we waited for him, and we scoured 

All forest depths to find him, but in vain. 

Sure was I that these men, through treacherous wiles, 

The savages had murdered: but their chief, 

Shrugging his shoulders, growled, "How should I 


Am I, or you, the guardian of your men?" 
This nettled me again, but still I choked 
Resentment down, grimly my peace observing. 
Upon the way, an Indian showed a dirk 
Which once a Christian of Narvaez's band 
Unto this region bore. This Christian knight, 
(So spake the dusky holder of the prize,) 

BooK XIX 405 

By Tuscaloosa's tribesmen had been slain: 
So here again a warning sign we read. 

All through the journey Tuscaloosa sent 

His men before, saying, "They will prepare 

A joyous welcome for you, and will raise 

A band of laborers who will lend you aid." 

But I, distrusting him, sent on before 

Two Indian slaves as spies, whispering, "Mark well 

All things upon the way: enter the town; 

Watch every movement of the habitants, 

And then, returning ere we reach its gates, 

Tell to me all that ye have heard and seen." 

One morning, ere our journey's end, the spies 

Returning, met us. Beckoning me aside, 

In agitation, and with lowered tones, 

Said they, "Beware! The people of the town 

Are arming secretly ; women and men 

Join in war-dances. In their crafty smiles 

They can not hide their hate. Much do we fear 

Their treacherous hearts: Master, be on thy guard! " 

But still we rode with laughter on our way, 

Forgetful of the whispers of the spies. 

I saw that Tuscaloosa grimly smiled 

With most unwonted wealth of courtesy, 

Yet even that omen roused me not to see 

The dangers that were fast surrounding us. 

The chief beside me rode a fiery barb 

From our own stud. Proudly the courser pranced, 

Yet, mindful of his royal charge, he curbed 

His savage temper, and revealed his joy 

In being mastered by the forest king. 

Fair was the sylvan scene, and fairer still 

406 Hernando De Soto 

The rural prospects that relieved the woods 

With fields of corn and pumpkins, peas and beans. 

We doubled steepy hills, scaled airy heights, 

And saw deep valleys, through whose azure haze 

Sparkled swift streams like jeweled necklaces. 

Ah, well might Indian braves have loved that land, 

And sighed to leave it, though their eyes in death 

Should open on the Happy Hunting Grounds ! 

An eagle passed above us; at our feet 

Flitted his shadow ; Tuscaloosa frowned ; 

I, at the concurrence of that shadow and frown, 

Started; for both the eagle and king 

Roved the war-path, ready to seize their prey ! 

We reached Maubila. 73 In a fertile plain 

The village rose. Amazed, we saw its walls, 

Great barricades of heavy logs, enwrapped 

With snake-like monstrous vines. These logs and 


Often set upright, often had taken root, 
And wreathed the battlements luxuriantly 
In leafy, long festoons and tufts of green. 
And there were loopholes where the archers aimed, 
And here and there were rising lofty towers, 
Where watchers might survey the whole wide plain. 

As I with Tuscaloosa neared the place, 
Musicians came and piped upon their flutes; 
Lithe, lissom damsels, wearing on their brows 
Chaplets of woodbine, scattered at our feet 
Bignonia sprays of scarlet. Following these, 
Tripped other maids, who blithely danced and sang, 
Like peasant girls in rustic scenes of Spain. 
So greeting us with lightsome jollities, 

BooK XIX 407 

And singing, dancing, fluting gayly still, 

Into the city gates they led us. Here, 

Dumfounded, as we looked about, we saw 

Long buildings like huge barracks: each, we thought, 

In its vast hall a thousand men with ease 

A lodging might have given. In alarm, 

Before the dancing or the singing ceased, 

Or pipers ceased to pipe, I glanced above, 

And saw unnumbered scowling faces peer 

From rifts and loopholes. Through the open door 

Of a great hall built level with the street, 

I saw their crafty warriors slipping spears 

And bows and arrows under leaves of palm. 

But I said nothing; for I knew, though late, 

The deadly danger that encompassed us. 

Now all my coolness, all my self-command, 

And self -repression must be brought to bear! 

It still was early morning: 74 yet betimes, 

As if to ward beforehand all dispute, 

The giant monarch called to Ortiz, saying, 

"Within yon house your governor, and those 

Commanders who in rank are nearest him, 

May lodge when night descends. The rest must go 

Without the city walls ; there they remain ; 

We have not room for all within the town." 

So Ortiz brought the message. Instantly 

I saw the snare: I, with my trustiest men, 

The highest in the force, sleeping alone, 

Surrounded by the wakeful savages 

When night's deep gloom might aid their treachery, 

Would all be murdered. When the dawn should come, 

The Christian army, dazed and leaderless, 

Would fall a prey to frantic savages. 

408 Hernando De Soto 

I sought out Tuscaloosa; finding him, 

Keenly I looked him in the eye, and said, 

"Here there is room, and room enough for all; 

Here I and all my host shall sleep to-night ; 

None but the slaves and steeds remain without." 

He glared upon me viciously ; but soon 

He lowered his eyes, abashed for once, and left, 

Muttering I knew not what. Then he turned round, 

As if to beard me : yet he checked himself, 

Scowling and mumbling, and then strode away. 

My soldiers all the while had peered about, 
And brought alarming stories; for they said: 
"Ten thousand warriors, eager for the fray, 
In arms are quartered at the barracks. See! 
Old women, with the children, all are gone; 
The women we behold, great Amazons, 
Stand ready for the combat, like their men. 
The grounds about the village all are cleared, 
Leaving an open field to mow us down." 

That hour the Paynims in their council-house 
Debated whether they should strike at once, 
Or wait for nightfall with her traitorous glooms, 
And slay us then. Eager to learn the plot, 
Anasco slipped unnoticed through the town, 
And reached the central wigwam ; through a chink 
He peered within ; there he beheld great throngs 
Of warriors, and he listened while they spoke. 
Some stood for one plan, some another: last, 
The chieftain, Tuscaloosa, rose. Then he: 

"Ye braves! Amidst our happy land there strides 
The insolent invader. His design 

BooK XIX 409 

Is conquest : every wigwam fire he seeks 

To quench in darkness : every hunting-ground 

He plans to seize and hold. If ye sit still 

With folded hands, your squaw shall be his slave, 

Your daughter be his concubine, your son 

Food for his bloodhounds. For the pale-face comes 

With new and frightful weapons ; in his hands 

He carries lightnings, and his murderous bow 

Shouts thunder ; he is mounted on a beast 

More frightful than himself, whose hoofs are horn, 

Whose cry is fife-like, and whose eyes flash fire; 

Whose mane streams forth in fury when the drum 

Calls men to battle. Hearken to me, braves! 

These strangers from afar are sorcerers, 

To whom the demons who would crush our race 

Have given hellish powers. We have no chance 

To win against them, save through cunning : yea, 

By stealth, and stealth alone, our hands may strike 

A death-blow. Some have urged us to forbear, 

Saying, ' The pale-face comes a peaceful guest, 

Trusting our honor, and should so be spared. ' 

Aye! so in peace the deadly rattlesnake 

Creeps through your doorway, crawls along the floor, 

And coils in quietude beside your hearth, 

Warming his cold and torpid blood! That guest, 

Trusting your tender mercy, do you spare? 

0, blame me not for dallying with these fiends, 

And smiling to their faces, for I knew 

That open warfare on our part would mean 

Destruction to us all : the Great Spirit knows 

That all the while I bowed and smirked and cringed 

Before the robbers, in my heart I raged, 

Longing to smite them till they swam in blood ! 

What ! do you blame the opossum, when he feigns 

410 Hernando De Soto 

Death, stiffening his limbs and shutting fast his eyes, 

Only to slip away when once you turn 

Your back upon him? He is weak, you strong; 

Therefore his cunning lends that one device 

Whereby he thwarts you, and his life he saves. 

When some barefooted urchin's clumsy bow, 

Aimed at a timid dove upon her nest, 

Misses its mark, blame ye that weakling bird 

Which flutters down, pretending to be stricken, 

And struggles as if wounded, running on, 

And on and on, but ever out of reach, 

So that the boy, still following, is at last 

Beguiled afar, and so forgets the nest 

Which else his hand had plundered? Do ye blame 

That dove for cheating in defense of home? 

"This is the hour to strike! The foe dreams not 

That soon we seek the war-path ; at his ease 

He lolls about unarmed: rush forth and smite! 

Is there a coward here who would not die 

For freedom, for his fireside, for his honor, 

For the God his fathers worshiped? Ye have seen 

The slender little thrasher wildly rush 

At prowling dogs, and fly in the face of men, 

Fluttering with passion, when they drew too nigh 

His brood of callow fledgelings. how frail 

That little creature! yet the monstrous dog, 

The giant man, invading his dominion, 

He dares to beard. Go ye, and let that bird, 

That tiny bird, teach you its patriotism! 

"Some say that we may fail; that deviltry 
Of arms that vomit fire will make a jest 
Of simple bows and arrows ; be it so ! 

BooK XIX 411 

Better to fight and die and turn to dust, 
Than living, eat that dust, a cowering slave. 
They say that when a mock-bird's puny young 
Are taken from their forest-home and caged, 
The parents follow to that wigwam door 
Where they are prisoned ; if the cage be hung 
Without the walls, the elders then will come 
With poisonous berries in their beaks; 75 with these, 
Their shrill pappooses, ravenous and agape, 
They feed : so they their darling offspring slay, 
Rather than see them hopelessly foredoomed 
As lifelong captives. Thus then, let us choose 
Death for ourselves, and death for all we love, 
Above a life of slavery and of shame!" 

When he had ended, multitudes with shouts 
Thundered their approbation. So the plot 
Was to bear fruit in speedy massacre. 


De Soto's Narrative concluded De Soto sends Ortiz three times 
to Tuscaloosa, inviting him to eat at his table, but the chief 
delays his coming Disputes arise, and so the Battle of 
Maubila begins Thousands of Indians, and many Spani 
ards, are killed The Spaniards beguile the Indians outside 
the walls, and slay many Don Carlos is slain The Spaniards 
then break through the walls Four Christians imprisoned 
in the town, are rescued Tuscaloosa, through the ad 
vice of his friends, takes to flight But Black Panther, 
his son, remains, and is slain by Gallegos De Soto's nephew, 
Don Francisco, is then slain by the savages Maubila 
is set on fire Native women seize arms, and fight and die 
,with the men Only a few are made captives Maubila is 
laid in ashes, and the last warrior hangs himself The 
Spaniards are victorious, but their success is dearly bought 
Nearly all their worldly goods are lost De Soto realizes 
that his fortunes are on the wane, and he suffers great agony 
of mind Poignant sufferings of the Spaniards Disaffection 
and disloyalty are rife De Soto goes in disguise among his 
men, and hears their mutinous converse He learns that 
the fleet has come to his aid Still, he determines not to 
return South and meet the ships from Cuba, but to march 
North The advance is begun The army enters the country 
of the Chickasaws De Soto expresses his unalterable de 
termination to pursue his plans to the end, and so finishes 
his Narrative. 

THE morn's repast was hastily prepared, 
And then I sped Juan Ortiz to the chief, 
Begging him come to sit with us at meat. 
The chief would not appear, but sent a brave 


Booh XX 413 

Who said to Ortiz, "By and by, our King 

Will come to join you. Bid your leader wait." 

But time passed; Tuscaloosa hasted not; 

So Ortiz went again, and brought once more 

The same short message. But the hour was late, 

The viands waited, and I sent again: 

The chief's attendant, coming to the door 

Where Ortiz stood the third time, cried, "Thou 


Still must thou vex us? By the sun and moon! 
Darest thou command our King to come in haste? 
Go, tell thy lord to tarry longer still." 

When Ortiz had departed, this same churl 
Who had given the scornful answer, not content 
With words of insult, turned and aimed a bow 
Toward a group of Spaniards in the square. 
Gallegos, who by chance was standing nigh, 
Whipped his sword out, and cleaved the wretch in 


So now began the battle. A young lad 
Foremost among the Indians, flung a spear 
That struck the Spaniard's helm, but glanced aside, 
Broken upon the steel: so then the youth, 
Seizing a fragment of the shattered spear, 
Battered Gallegos with his sturdy blows, 
Till the Iberian with a vicious thrust 
Pierced through the stripling's heart. From every 

Hurtled sharp yells, and shrieks and whoops and 


Like clangor of the anvils hammer-smitten 
In sooty Vulcan's deafening blacksmith-forge. 

414 Hernando De Soto 

The natives rushed upon us in a mass ; 

So great their numbers were, that in the press 

Their own vast multitudes impeded them, 

Leaving no play for weapons in their hands. 

I heard the cries, but rushing forth, at once 

Deep-inundated in the human flood, 

Struggled in vain to extricate myself. 

We were all pushed before them. Whirling round, 

Shouldered and elbowed, beaten, kicked and cuffed, 

And well-nigh lifted from the ground, we fought 

And strove against the overwhelming surge; 

But yet like helpless babes in childish fury, 

Panting, dusty and bloody, through the gates 

Our men were knocked and hurled. Without the 


That morning we had tethered all our steeds; 
So, rushing to these as fast as feet could scamper, 
We leaped upon them, though in such hot haste, 
Not lingering to untie the knots, we cut 
Their bridles with impatient swords. Our slaves, 
Seized by the foe, were taken into the town, 
And there, well-armed with clubs, or bows and arrows, 
Or spears or falchions wrested from our hands 
In the wild struggle through the village streets, 
Were turned against us. Many of our band 
Staggered with wounds, and others reeled in death 
Before our horses could be reached. But now, 
Springing upon my steed, a charge I led 
Against the raging savages. Rushing together, 
We clashed like thunderbolts from heaven ; then lance 
Shivered on lance; splintered the spear on spear; 
The Indian's hickory club and tomahawk 
Shocked on the Christian's harness; flaming swords, 
Upwhirled in knightly hands, fell whistling down, 

BooK XX 415 

Cleaving the crests of stalwart foresters. 

Our fearful onslaught, with resistless might 

Hurled back the dusky braves: stout cavaliers 

Sabred and speared them, while infuriate steeds 

Pounded and pawed them into the gory dust. 

Our arquebuses now began to speak 

With cracking, crashing, and with clattering, 

Like stamping hoofs upon an iron bridge ; 

Their death-bolts hurried through the startled air, 

Strewing barbarians on the bloody grass 

In twisting, writhing, tossing multitudes, 

Dying, or rent with anguish. Smitten with terror, 

Running and scuffling and crowding frenziedly, 

Leaving their dead and dying, fled the foe 

In through the narrow city gates. 

Once there, 

Grown insolent with safety, they regained 
The courage that so lately all had lost : 
For, reappearing on the barricades 
Above us, they uplifted to our view 
Our garbs, and scrips and wallets left behind, 
Shouting, "Come on, ye cowards, if ye dare, 
And take them from us!" Vexed we stood, for now 
The clothing and the armor that we wore 
Were all we owned on earth. But even then 
Gladly would I have called my knights away, 
And left the village and the realm forever, 
Had I not learned that, prisoned in a house 
Amidst the village, four of our own band 
Were pressed for very life ; so I resolved 
To save these comrades, or to die myself. 
Among these four, one was an Indian girl, 
In slavery once, but later freed, and now 

4*6 Hernando De Soto 

Baptized a Christian ; one my much-loved page, 
A tender lad of barely sixteen years, 
Besides a priest and friar, whose good deeds 
Through months of trial had revealed them both 
Truly as men of God. 

Fleeing for shelter, 

An empty hut they had gained, and barred the door. 
There was a sword amongst them; taking this, 
The brave boy lifted it in readiness 
For any warrior breaking through ; two clubs 
Were clutched by priest and friar, and they stood 
Each side the door, ready likewise to smite 
Whoever dared to batter in. So thus 
In deadly danger, far from friends, they stood, 
Encompassed by the raging savages. 

Seeing the red men dared not venture out, 
But mocked us still in safety from their walls, 
I sought to lure them forth by strategy. 
Slowly our band fell backward: presently 
A few barbarians issued through the gates, 
Mocking us in retreat: next, as our band 
Retreated further, nearer came the braves, 
With piercing war-whoops ; simulating fear, 
Our backs we turned, and striking spur to steed, 
Galloped like cowards hurriedly in flight. 
Our feint succeeded; with derisive shouts 
The savages pursued. Turning at last, 
We brought our musketry to bear: and then 
Like flaming hydras, from whose bellowing jaws 
Leap smoke and flame, those fearful iron arms 
Volleyed destruction. Sweeping all the field, 
We felled them like a herd of startled goats, 

Book XX 417 

Heaping their dead far higher than before. 
Still they fought bravely : many of our band 
Their archers wounded, some they slew. So now, 
Slowly we forced them to their walls again. 
Don Carlos, husband of my sister, here 
Was sorely pressed; an arrow pierced the flank 
Of his brave steed; the warrior sought to pluck 
The arrow forth; himself he thus exposed, 
And so a dart transfixed him in the neck, 
Whereat he died. No man in all our host 
Was so much loved in life or mourned in death. 

Now I perceived the ramparts must be stormed, 
Or else our friends imprisoned in the town 
Must meet a frightful doom. Lifting loud cheers, 
Three places in the walls we next attacked ; 
Some climbed the logs and gained the inner side; 
Some, wielding axes, cut the ramparts through ; 
I, leaping from my horse, rushed to one gate, 
Hurling my shoulder on it ; creakingly 
It reeled and swayed, yet still it yielded not: 
Again I hurled against it, and once more 
Groaning and sweating, found my struggles vain. 
Undaunted, soon the effort I renewed, 
Pushing against it till my shoulders ached : 
Then, like a stubborn foe yielding at last, 
Who yielding, yet returns a parting blow, 
Open it flew, throwing me to the ground. 
Leaping on foot again, and mounting my steed, 
With my brave lads I galloped into the town. 
From loopholes in the houses, slings and bows 
Pelted us fast with flying darts and stones 
That hissed and whined and whistled angrily, 
And pierced and stung and smote us, till the blood 

418 Hernando De Soto 

Dimmed every harness. But not swerving, still 
We galloped onward, anxiously intent 
Alone on reaching that beleaguered hut 
Where stood our friends at bay. 

The savages 

Had sought to break the door down ; but the bar, 
Of toughest hickory, like a sturdy friend 
To the last faithful, each assault withstood. 
The imps then climbed the roof; quickly its thatch 
Was being scattered ; soon a gaping hole 
Let the light in: the white men, looking up, 
Started, beholding diabolic grins 
On swarthy faces peering down below. 
Ready the Indians stood to leap within, 
And the four Christians lost all hope ; but now, 
Just as the sword of Fate was poised to smite, 
They heard our calls without ; half mad with joy, 
Flinging the door ajar, they speeded to us. 
Hard as I was from years of bufferings, 
Sad as I was for loved companions slain, 
Pressed as I was with foes on every side, 
Dim grew mine eyes with mists of joy; then laughing, 
I wrung the hand of damsel, priest and friar; 
I took the boy in arms and kissed his brow. 

With courage leonine struggled and fought 
The red men, hour by hour. Not so their King; 
For, as the combat grew, his friends approached 
The giant, saying, " Mighty Chief, no man 
Can tell the issue of this fearful day, 
And if we lose thee, all is lost: seeing this, 
We beg thee not to linger with us here. 
Haste from the village to our forest-hold, 

DooK XX 419 

Where the old women and the children wait; 

If we prevail, we will rejoin thee there; 

But if we fall, unscathed wilt thou remain, 

To gather up the remnants of our tribe. 

Here thou canst aid but little : but if Chance 

Turns her face from us, we shall have thee still 

To tend the few survivors of our race, 

Who else would perish from the world." Perplexed, 

Long stood the monarch, hesitating: oft 

He shook his head, refusing: but at last 

His recreant spirit yielded. So this man, 

The sire of all this frightful brood of ills, 

Forgetful of his forest chivalry, 

Shifted to other shoulders all the woes 

Through his own sins begotten. Hastily 

Seizing a scarlet cloak, a helm with plumes, 

And the like tinseled finery that our knights 

Had lost that morning, with some favored peers 

He speeded from the town, and in the wilds 

Purchased his safety through inglorious flight. 76 

But now Black Panther, son of him who had fled, 
Nobly redeemed his race's fame. The lad, 
Superb and masculine, disdaining fear, 
Rushed to the fray, and many a Christian rued 
The ardor of his prowess. Noon had come, 
And still the brave youth, like a great bronze tower 
Endowed with motion, high above the host 
Of his brown comrades loomed, and here or there, 
Wherever fiercest was the fray, he strode, 
Smiting and slaying. For the loftiest plumes 
Nodding on helmets of the tallest knights 
Barely might brush his shoulder, and his arm, 
Like the great branch of a sky-piercing tree, 

420 Hernando De Soto 

Swayed by a hurricane, back and forth swung, 
Dealing destruction. In the Christian host, 
Gallegos by his deeds of valor won 
The right of leadership above his peers, 
All following as he urged them on. He hewed 
His way through hillocks of the Paynim dead, 
And ten roods distant, face to face, he viewed 
Black Panther, boldest of the foresters. 

As the young giant looked and saw the knight, 

More insolent his air became ; and yet 

Despite his arrogance, who could but admire 

The splendor of his morn of manhood? Bare 

Of armor, to our flaming arms exposed, 

His great brown limbs, curving with naked grace, 

Made such a target, that our musketeers 

Forbore to fire upon a mark so sure, 

Deeming such act dishonor. On he came, 

Smiling in haughtiness : his mated brows 

Their lordly eagle- wings above his eyes 

Proudly uplifted, as upon that day 

We first beheld him. Now Gallegos cried, 

"Prince, yield the day! Gallantly hast thou fought, 

But hopelessly. See! thousands of thy friends 

Lie dead around thee. Volleying arms of fire, 

If still thou temptest, thou canst not escape. 

Surrender! We will let thee go in peace." 

But unsubdued , the lad cried, "I yield not 

To men, nor even to devils like yourselves. 

Defend thyself!" 

Backward the stripling bends, 
And whirling round his brawny arm, he flings 
A mighty spear; hissing, it flies amain, 

Booh XX 421 

Striking the breast-plate of the pale-faced knight 
With force terrific; on that faithful steel, 
The flint-head, broader than a giant's palm, 
Shatters to pieces ; but its fearful blow 
Knocks the Castilian down, taking his breath, 
And rolling him in the dust. Leaping on foot, 
Gallegos fronts his foe again : the youth, 
Seizing an arrow, aims it from a bow 
That, save himself, no mortal man may bend. 
With a twang malignant and a cynic snarl, 
Forth flies the angry dart ; the knight's left arm 
It pierces, but so rapid is its flight, 
So great the might that wings it, that its barb, 
The reed itself, and even the plume behind, 
Shoot onward through the flesh, leaving the bone 
Unshattered and unharmed, then speed beyond, 
And bury in a far-off wall. But still 
Stands the Hispanic soldier unsubdued, 
Though sorely wounded. So the frenzied lad 
Snatches a tomahawk from a comrade's hand, 
A bolt more dreadful than the hammer of Thor, 
And brandishing the weapon round in air, 
Comes rushing with a frightful war-whoop. Now 
Swiftly the axe above the Spaniard swings, 
And whistling, cuts the air to cleave his head. 
But the lithe pale-face quickly bends aside, 
Evading, and the weapon wounds but air, 
Thwarted in fury. As the young man sways, 
Breathless, and spent with his own wasted force, 
Gallegos, with his right arm, that is still 
Sturdy and active, wields his sword ; it severs 
The giant's throat, and half his neck, in twain: 
Then with a hollow guttural murmur, falls 
The mightiest, noblest of the red men, dead. 

422 Hernando De Soto 

Maddened with grief at seeing their champion fall, 
Like hell-hounds dash the Indians on our Hnes: 
Onward they come, with wild, infuriate yells, 
Their nostrils wide-distended, eyes blood-shot, 
Teeth gnashing, dusky faces wan with rage: 
How uselessly ! Volley on volley sweeps 
Legion on naked legion into the dust : 
Others come further; fighting hand to hand, 
They smite against our sabres, and receive 
The deadly blades, writhing in agony. 

But not without revenge they fell ; for here 

My nephew, Don Francisco, by a lance 

Swayed from a savage arm, thrust through the 


Died ere our hands could lift him. Hard beset 
By foes ourselves, no time we had for tears. 
As I, upstanding in my stirrups, aimed 
To throw a spear, an arrow from afar 
Drove through my thigh, and fastened ; rankling there, 
Keen was its pain, as though a red-hot blade 
Bit through the quivering flesh. I let it be, 
Having not even chance to draw it forth: 
My saddle wrenched and gored the wound : so then, 
Still standing in my stirrups, doggedly 
I fought, despite mine anguish, to the end. 77 

The Indians pelting us from every house, 

While, unespied themselves, escaping harm, 

"The village must be set on fire!" I cried. 

Into a neighboring lodge a Spaniard rushed, 

And snatched a streaming firebrand ; coming back, 

The torch he wielded swiftly: at his hands 

A score of wigwams now enwreathed in flames. 

BooK XX 423 

These, reared of seasoned pine, and thatched with 


Were soon upblazing like a cardboard town ; 
The barricades were next on fire; ere long, 
Wild grew the heavens with clouded smoke and flame. 
With fierce tormenting thirst our lips were parched : 
We sought a pool : though crimson to its depths 
Y ith blood of comrades and of enemies, 
We gulped the curdled waters greedily. 

And now more frightful still the carnage grows: 

Pierced is the air with shrieks and wails : deep groans 

From dying men the living men appall ; 

The fighters yell and shout; great thunder-peals 

From death-charged muskets cleave the shrinking air. 

With sword-gleams in his eyes, and in his hands 

Lightnings that scourge the world, Havoc is King, 

Striding triumphant. Floating far and wide 

In pitchy smoke, his grisly hair and beard 

Scatter strange darkness from their tangled strands, 

Making drear twilight ere the noon's decline. 

The panting foresters, begrimed with dust, 

And blood-splashed from their wounds, in fiery mass 

Roll on us but to feed our dripping blades ; 

Our firearms boom and roar, sweeping the field, 

But brave survivors seek the combat still. 

The smoke has blotted out the heavens ; the sun 

Glows dimly through it like a red-hot shield ; 

The dust uprears in clouds ; with smoke and flames 

A vast Tartarean canopy it forms; 

Death stalks gigantic through that pall-hung sky; 

Well might one dream that Gabriel's trumpet blows 

To wake the whole world to its Judgment Day. 

424 Hernando De Soto 

Nigh all the dusky knights have perished: so 

With Amazonian zeal brave women come 

To take their place in fight. Slender and tall, 

With queenly forms, with beauteous hands and feet, 

Limbs that are swift and strong, with glossy hair 

Streaming like midnight palpitant with stars, 

With meteoric eyes flashing in rage 

Athwart the black depths of their last despair, 

Who could behold them rushing to their doom, 

Nor feel a pang of sorrow? Who could view 

Those rounded breasts those twin poetic peaks 

Sacred to Love and Joyance, whence should gush 

The sweet warm springs of life for lips of babes, 

But now must be incarnadined with blood, 

And not be moved to pity? Not for stings 

From tiny pearls in mouths of infancy, 

Nor for the patting of soft little hands, 

Those breasts should thrill, but the keen sabre's fangs 

Would bite less gently, and would stroke to slay : 

These, that should be Love's nest and lover's rest, 

Would soon be spoils of the great Conqueror, 

Insatiate Death! 

"Surrender! We will spare 
You and your people, one and all!" we cry. 
Scornful, they laugh, and rush upon us. Ah, 
With what a pang we face them! Yet in vain 
We seek to spare them. We must smite and slay, 
Or else ourselves be slain. Some rush to fate 
Against the sharp-edged falchion; some are strewn 
In a red harvest by the flaming tubes 
That arm the pale-face with omnipotence. 
Only a remnant yields: the rest, untamed, 
Finding themselves alone, their sires and sons, 

BooK XX 425 

Their spouses and their lovers and their brothers 
Scattered in death around them, with their homes 
Burning, or black in ruin, spurn our pleas 
To yield themselves, and laughing frenziedly, 
Leap into their flaming wigwams, dying free. 

Now every savage warrior who at morn 

Had raised the war-whoop, lies among the dead, 

All but one patriot ! This man climbs a tower, 

The last one on the blazing village walls, 

And there, surrounded by the smoke and flames, 

Limned sharply in a gaunt black silhouette 

Against the red sun sinking in the west, 

After nine hours spent fighting for his home, 

He snaps the bowstrings from his useless bow, 

And ties one end around the pinnacle; 

A noose he fashions at the nether end, 

Slipping it quickly round his neck ; this done, 

Shaking his fist, he yells defiance still, 

Leaps out, and hangs himself before our eyes. 

Three thousand of the Paynim dead we found, 78 

But many more had perished in the flames, 

How many, who could say? Great was our dole; 

Among our lost were bravest, truest men; 

Of those who lived, no man was free of hurt, 

And many limped and groaned with grievous wounds 

From temple unto toe. So great their force, 

The Indian shafts had pierced even tempered steel, 

And sunk in breasts beneath it. In the fray 

Nufio de Tobar bore a thick, stout lance 

Of seasoned ash; an arrow split it through, 

And midway ceased its flight : so thus transfixed, 

The lance of warfare seemed a cross of peace. 

426 Hernanclo De Soto 

Our steeds were slain, or limping stiff with wounds: 
Half of our herd of swine lay slaughtered : scores 
Of wallets with our garments had been burned. 
Lost were our drugs, our leech's instruments, 
Lost when so sorely needed! Half our tools 
Lay buried in the smoking ruins. All 
The pearls of Cofachiqui had evanished, 
A priceless treasure kings could not replace. 
The wines and wafers of the sacrament, 
The altars, chalices, and priestly robes, 
All holy aids to worship now were gone. 
Thereafter, priests in deerskin vestments stood 
On grassy earth, under the forest trees, 
Without religion's wonted implements, 
But yet with undiminished love and zeal, 
And there in Nature's own cathedral, raised 
Their voices in devotion unto God. 

Our linen gone, to fashion bandages 
For wounds of those who lived, we robbed the dead, 
Stripping with tears the garments from cold forms 
Of our own slain companions. Faithful steeds 
That once had borne us proudly to the field, 
Now butchered by the foe, starving we seized, 
And greedily devoured, repulsive food, 
Yet welcome in our fearful straits. In truth 
Our needs were piteous! We had lost our scrips: 
The richest of us trudged with gaping shoon, 
And clouted hose and doublet : hung with rags, 
Bareheaded and barefooted, others still 
Shivered in frosts of cold November nights. 
Cassocks and surcoats lost, our knights perforce 
Slept in their armor. With unpillowed heads 
The wounded lay and suffered unrelieved 

BooK XX 427 

Of half their burning pangs : for all their friends 
Who sought to nurse them, maimed and weak them 

Could bring but feeble aidance. Neither oils 
Nor ointments, balms not balsams, nor even yet 
The simples of the fields that ancient crones 
Gather for hurts of men, were now at hand. 
No dainty food, no downy couch, was here 
To woo the sick man back to health : but now, 
Bedded on chilly earth, our dying friends, 
Moaning and tossing in delirious dreams, 
Pleaded and begged for aid we could not give. 

Dazed with despair, dimly I saw that Fate 

Had now betrayed me; empty and upturned 

Was left the cornucopia of my life. 

My Sun of Destiny that once had blazed 

On heights meridian, in a sea of blood 

Was setting, and would sink through gulfs of gloom 

To the dark nadir of the underworld. 

That night I walked the dreadful battle-field, 

And heard the sighs and groans of dying men, 

Like bitter moans of melancholy winds. 

The wild, defoliated Autumn boughs 

Wrung twisted bony fingers over me, 

Like wizards calling down some awful curse. 

Dead friends I saw, and friends 'n throes of death; 

Myself I blamed for every pang endured. 

Among the others lay a dying lad, 

Whose eyes had scarce beheld a score of Junes; 

His cheeks, once like a vermeil afterglow, 

To stainless alabaster white had paled ; 

The Dust of Earth was now demanding him 

428 Hernando De Soto 

For dark, oblivious realms of nothingness! 
His downy virgin lips had never known 
The poignant sweetness of a lover's kiss; 
The soft corolla of expanding youth 
Lay trampled ; never in ecstatic bliss 
Should fond endearments woo his limpid eyes, 
Nor heart of maiden claim him for her own ! 
I took the beauteous boy in trembling arms, 
Wiping the bloodstains from his marble brow, 
And the dust from his quivering lips : I wept 
Above the dying lad, and felt adjudged 
The guilty one, who with a reckless hand 
Had clipped his fragile silken thread of life, 
And brought to end his fair, ephemeral days. 

That night we buried many ; at the dawn 

Still others died, but not till eve returned 

Dared we entomb them, for some enemy 

Might find and desecrate their sepulchre. 

The next night came; we buried then the rest. 

Amidst the solemn gloom, with steady beat 

Spades crunched and grated ; in hoarse monotones 

Gruffly the diggers whispered ; but the howl 

Of ravenous wolves drowned every noise they made. 

The graves we flattened ; then with moss and leaves 

We hid them from the stealthy, searching eyes 

Of prowling foresters. Ah, what a pang 

It cost to leave them in that wilderness! 

For here forsaken must they ever bide, 

Lone exiles in a world of savages. 

They who yestreen had followed, light of foot, 

The undulating banner to the field, 

Should never hail its dawn-bright hues again. 

May moons would shimmer on translucent rills; 

BooK XX 429 

December moons would shiver over snow : 
AL^lian harps of Autumn here would sigh 
Through withered leaves and bare boughs for the lost ; 
Spring winds in bugle-tones would call the dead 
To rise again, but ever call in vain. 

Now disaffection and disloyalty, 

When faith was needed most, arose; and soon 

Like obstinate evil insects on the wing, 

Whining and buzzing angrily, mine ears 

Sorely they plagued. To learn, and learn at once 

The whole truth, I resolved, in borrowed garb 

To wander through the army, and to hear, 

Myself disguised, my critics undisguised. 

So, one night, to a slave I threw my gear, 

And took his own for mine. 79 Appareled thus, 

And muffled, unto other tents I stole. 

Dark was the night, and by the camp-fire's gleams 

Drear, dull and flickering, none could see my face 

Save dimly ; thus the soldiers knew me not, 

Deeming me but a peasant of the ranks. 

The royal treasurer, Juan Gaytun, stood 

With his hands behind him as he warmed their palms 

In the warm glow of pine-tree faggots : crowds 

Of low-browed surly men surrounded him. 

As I approached, Gaytun with an angry air 

Was loudly talking: coming nearer still, 

I heard him saying, "To this man we call 

Our leader, must we render up our thanks 

For this, our present plight: to him alone 

We owe these depths of misery. Powers of heaven! 

For injuries tenfold less than these, have men 

Rebelled, and slain a hundred despots: now 

No creature dares to rise ; but like a pack 

43 Hernando De Soto 

Of whipped and whining curs, these tattered oafs, 
Calling themselves Castilians, bow before 
His footstool, begging to be lashed again!" 
"He speaks the truth! Gay tun speaks truth!" ex 

A score of angry men: continuing then, 
"We should have stayed in Coosa's land," he 

snarled : 

" There was abundance: there a friendly hand 
Offered us welcome and deferred our march. 
Think how this wild impostor dragged us on 
From lands of plenty to this desert waste,- 
To raggedness hunger starvation death ! ' ' 
"Why left we Cofachiqui?" asked another; 
"Think of the treasures we abandoned there! 
Think of the wild-geese, quails, and hares, and corn, 
And now behold us nibbling at the husks!" 
"If in our veins there coursed one drop of blood 
Not wholly pusillanimous," Gaytun hissed, 
"To-morrow we would rise in mutiny. 
Great God, we pose as men ! No, no, not men, 
Not even thralls or helots, serfs or slaves, 
But idly-grunting, sluggish, herded swine!" 
I stole away, but hid my wrath, and told 
No man of that which I had heard. 

Ere long, 

There came to me in secret from my scouts, 
The tidings that our fleet had now returned, 
And waited in the harbor lately found 
By Maldonado. But I steeled my heart 
Against returning south : that was retreat ! 
My men were famished ; here toward the north 
Lay countries of abundance ; to the south 

BooK XX 431 

Wt,re tangled brakes and marshes, which our band, 

Attempting to rejoin its friends again, 

Could scarce ford over. Furthermore, I knew 

That should we ever reach the waiting fleet, 

Juan Gaytun and his horde would mutiny, 

And so our expedition there would end 

In failure and disgrace. But over all, 

My own proud spirit loathed that word, Retreat. 

God! after all my pains, was I at last 

To make admission outright of defeat, 

To bend my head, slink back in poverty, 

Beaten and scourged, and sheepish with my shame? 

Was I to be a butt for ridicule, 

A jest for enemies, reproach to friends? 

I might have joyed to see those friends again, 

But not while in misfortune! We are glad 

To show ourselves to those we cherish most, 

When Fortune smiles; but when she frowns upon us, 

Giving us threadbare raiment, hangdog looks, 

And all the odious marks of beggary, 

We shun them as a peacock shuns the sight 

When rude hands pluck the proud bird's gorgeous 


Often I trod the sad November woods, 
And there, surrounded by the falling leaves, 
Withered and blighted, like my dying hopes, 
Lifting my hands to chill autumnal skies, 
I swore that, though all trumpets blown on earth 
By all the lips of men, should call me home, 
Still, only one of two fates should be mine, 
To go in triumph, or to bide here dead. 

Great Chief! Man's destiny must be obeyed: 
I heard its call as rivers hear the sea, 

Hernando De Soto 

Drawn onward, surely, irresistibly. 

I knew not if it called me to success, 

Or if it merely beckoned me to doom/ 

I only knew my spirit must obey! 

He who is man indeed never must yield 

To that which turns him from the Inner Voice; 

Obeying that, he needs to fear no foe. 

No man is conquered till he owns defeat ; 

For he who, though defeated, knows it not, 

Never can be defeated in the end. 

Much have I suffered : in the days to come 

Perchance still greater sufferings wait me : yet 

I murmur not. For all our pangs ana joys, 

Defeats and victories, toils and hours of ease, 

Famines and feastings, welcomes and rebuffs, 

Blunders and sins, and glories and despairs, 

Are pages of the book, Philosophy, 

Given to teach the one great lesson, Life. 

As flows the Gaudiana underground, 

Leaving bright skies and groping through the night, 

Only to rise and greet the day once more, 

So shall the Spirit sink to Stygian glooms, 

To rise in noonday splendor greater still. 

From seeds of sorrow sown in soil of doubt, 
Gendered by suns of passion, fanned by sighs, 
Watered with tears, and fertilized by grief, 
Sucking its splendor from our own heart's blood, 
After long waiting, comes the purple flower 
That marks the last achievement of the soul. 

So honored Chieftain, we resumed our march, 
And reached thine own dominions: 80 at this place 

BooK XX 433 

Thou earnest to salute me. Since that hour 
Thou knowest all my story. Here I end. 

And now De Soto's narrative was done. 
The listeners rose, preparing to disperse. 
Looking without, they saw translucent heavens, 
The full moon over fields of glittering white, 
And in the East the first faint rays of dawn. 

Part IV 



The Spaniards engage in disputes with the Chickasaws De Soto 
becomes morose and melancholy The first signs of Spring 
Alonzo Romo, while hunting in the woods, encounters a 
great flock of parrots He wounds one, and bringing it back, 
gives it to Lulla A controversy arises between De Soto and 
the chief of the Chickasaws Lulla informs Alonzo of a plot 
instigated by Creeping Bear as ring-leader, to surprise the 
Spanish host by a night attack De Soto orders Moscoso 
to keep strict guard, but Moscoso neglects his duty, and 
the Spaniards are taken unawares by a night assault 
Battle with the Chickasaws The Spanish camp is burned 
After great confusion among the Castilians, they are rallied 
by De Soto, assisted by Alonzo and Vasconcelos Many In 
dians are slain, and the Spanish loss is heavy Creeping 
Bear is slain by De Soto The Indians are driven in flight 
De Soto deposes Moscoso, and appoints Gallegos in his 
stead Alonzo is wounded Great sufferings among the 
Spaniards Their devices for relief A rude forge is erected, 
and the burned implements are shaped into new forms 
Juan Vega, a peasant of the ranks, fashions cloaks and 
bedding out of the grasses of the fields De Soto in his 
misfortunes, becomes more dejected, but is determined still 
Flight of Lulla to the Spanish camp She is kindly re 
ceived by Alonzo, who promises to protect her De Soto 
at first remonstrates, but is finally pacified. 

THREE placid moons the Spaniards lay at rest 
In the country of the Chickasaws, and there, 
Amidst that land of plenty, by and by 
Regained their wonted vigor. Neighboring woods 
Supplied them with the opossum and raccoon, 


Hernando De Soto 

With squirrels, with wild turkeys and with hares, 
While every stream would weight the fisher's nets, 
Or yield the fowler wild-fowl numberless. 
But grown forgetful of their woeful past, 
And all the deeds of kindness done them, soon 
The Spaniards by their arrogance had lost 
The red man's favor. In low bickerings, 
In petty quarrels and unseemly brawls, 
They threw away, nay, put to vilest use, 
Days that demanded jealous husbanding. 

Morose and melancholy, hour by hour, 

De Soto brooded in his tent alone 

Over the past, or over future days 

More cheerless than the days already gone. 

In youth, the mighty mountain-peaks of fame 

Seem nigh at hand, so nigh at hand that all 

Who seek them may attain a lofty throne 

Beside the Great Ones of the earth, who reign 

There, in eternal snows, above the clouds. 

Only a slender little vale of blue 

Divides us from them : but on setting out 

To reach them, how the pathway lengthens on, 

And on, and on, forever! Noontide comes, 

And finds us footsore in the little hills 

Far from the snowy domes we sought to gain. 

Eve comes, and finds us on a rocky path 

In chilly, barren wilds, enwrapped in clouds, 

Far, far astray, wandering, we know not whither, 

Save that we know we draw not near the goal ! 

So, with De Soto : how those mountain heights 

With their majestic peaks of deathless snows 

Had now receded, leaving him alone 

In vales of deep despondence far below! 

BooK XXI 439 

He who maltreats himself must needs maltreat 
Those who surround him. So De Soto now 
Had grown so dark of thought and harsh of speech, 
That closest friends addressed him ill at ease. 
Though his long-suffering, loyal comrades felt 
Their hearts moved with compassion for their chief, 
Few ventured in his presence; those who went 
Received gruff words, short answers, hard commands. 

Now from the marsh and meadow, piping frogs, 
Impatient of old Winter's long sojourn, 
Petitioned Spring to haste her genial suns, 
And warm the chillness of their watery haunts. 
From naked boughs that huddled numb with cold, 
The fluting blackbirds trained their silver throats. 
In pure pellucid skies at evenfall 
Resplendent Sirius glittered: keen and cold, 
Shuddered the white-browed Rigel ; over him, 
Orion's girdle and his pendant sword, 
Studded with brilliants, sparkled through the dusk: 
Northward arose the jeweled Pleiades, 
A-twinkle timidly amid the vast 
Abysmal and ethereal depths of heaven. 

On a march morning, with his fowling-piece, 

Alonzo Romo strolled among the woods 

Fringing a river near the Spanish camp. 

The trees were bare; only a few as yet 

Peeped forth their buds; their gnarled and naked 


With furry catkins shivering on their stems, 
Hung gray and cheerless. Suddenly, the youth 
Among the leafless forest trees beheld 
A vast green flock of parrots. 81 Not afar, 

44 Hernando De Soto 

A clump of giant sycamores upreared, 

With smooth and silvery limbs, like nude white arms. 

From their twigs dangled myriad balls of brown, 

Packed firm with seeds to tempt the ravenous beaks 

Of that uncounted noisy multitude. 

Legions of parrots thronged upon the boughs : 

Some swinging on the balls in airy ease, 

With their sharp horny bills digged out the seeds, 

Whose silken down went fluttering on the winds. 

Others were perched among the neighboring trees, 

Shuffling and smoothing back their glowing plumes; 

Still others, in pairs, gravely affectionate, 

Caressed each other, stroking cheek with cheek. 

Beyond the trees, a waste of cockle-burs 

Spread black and withered : straying from the rest, 

Bevies of parrots climbed upon the weeds, 

Pecking the kernels from their prickly shells. 

The gaudy creatures, fluttering dark green plumes 

Flecked brilliantly in yellow and in red, 

With oriental splendor glorified 

The dismal barrens, so that he who saw, 

Might dream the gorgeous court of Solomon 

Thronged with its courtiers in this western wild. 

Alonzo fired; and then from every tree 
Thousands of parrots screamed, and countless birds, 
Seeing a comrade fall, flew round and round 
In great green circles, loudly chattering, 
Clamoring and squalling, with unearthly din 
Scolding and threatening the presumptuous youth 
Who had thus dared their fury. But the lad, 
Seizing his victim, found one wing was broken, 
Though else the creature was unharmed : in rage, 
Writhing and struggling frantically, it fought 

Book XXI 441 

Its captor with a vigor unimpaired. 
Half-shamed a thing so beautiful to harm, 
He took the parrot with him, and so left 
Its brethren of the flock to go their way. 

The lad, returning, paused in mute surprise 

To see De Soto and the chieftain stand 

Before the threshold of the governor's tent 

In earnest disputation. Flushed of cheek, 

With flashing eyes, the white man stood: the chief, 

Despite the calmness of his eighty years, 

In every aspect of his kingly face 

Evinced unyielding firmness. Both the men 

With emphasis conversed; both seemed resolved 

No point to yield. The youth, embarrassed, sought 

To saunter by unseen, but ere he passed, 

De Soto spied the truant: calling him, 

He cried in irritation, "Is there naught 

Left for thine idle feet these precious hours, 

But strolling through the woods? What bringest 


A wounded parrot? Have we not our share 
Of pests already, that thou slippest by 
To smuggle in thy screaming popinjay?" 
The big, strong youth, abashed, hung down his head, 
Blushed like a girl, and answered never a word. 

With eyes aflame, De Soto turned again 
To Micalusa, adding, "Now behold! 
Thou seest what small reliance I can place 
Upon my own men, idlers, idlers all! 
And seeing how they fail me in my need, 
Again I say to thee that thou must lend 
An hundred of thy people to our host, 

44 2 Hernando De Soto 

To bear our burdens to thy kingdom's end." 
He spake in tones imperious, and the youth 
Paused fascinated as he saw the two 
Strong men before him, like two men of steel. 
He wished to leave; yet having not the power 
To take one step, but standing open-eyed 
And open-mouthed, as is the way of youth, 
He seemed fast-fettered in some magic spell. 

And now the Chieftain to De Soto turned 

As eagle faces eagle, eye to eye; 

The white lord gazed upon him searchingly, 

But never did the old man wince: and then, 

The haughty Spaniard, for the first time, met 

With one whose glance quailed not beneath his own, 

Stood half-abashed himself. The hoary chief 

Next in slow accents answered, "Thou hast spoken: 

But what if I refuse to give the men?" 

De Soto started ; never a man before 

Had thus addressed him. So he knit his brows, 

And reared himself to his full martial height, 

In tones ungentle poised to make reply; 

But soon he checked himself, weighing his words: 

"Seek not bravado from me, reverend sire; 

Vainglorious threats are never mine : but this 

I say to thee,- all other chiefs before 

Have heeded me, or they and those they ruled 

Have suffered for their folly. Shun their fate." 

"Sir, if thou threatenest," then rejoined the Chief, 

"Be sure the men demanded shall not go; 

But grant me time to counsel with my braves, 

And service may be yielded. And know this: 

In all the councils of the Chickasaws 

I am thine only friend ; my people rage 

BooK XXI 443 

Against thee and thy followers ; all our braves 

Would fight thee rather than allow one boy 

To bear thy burdens. I will plead thy cause 

Before my warriors, for the sake of peace, 

Yea, but for the sake of peace alone. Again, 

Know thou this also : if we give these men, 

When thou hast reached our kingdom's end, each 


Must stand released: his service there must end: 
No Chickasaw shall ever be a slave." 

Retorted then De Soto: "I shall not 

Ask aught but lawful service: all thy tribe 

Must heed me for the sake of him I serve: 

These men I call for in the name of him, 

My master, the great Emperor overseas." 

"And does that master," Micalusa cried, 

"Give unto thee, and those that follow thee, 

Orders to slay us, or to make us slaves, 

Should we not hearken to unjust demands? 

If that be true, no son of God is he, 

But spawn of Lucifer, your prince of hell!" 

"But we are Christians," answered then the other; 

"Our mission is to set the heathen right; 

If some are stiff-necked, from their punishment 

Comes the salvation of the rest, who stand 

In readiness the gospel to embrace." 

"But thou art not a Christian /" cried the chief, 

His dauntless eyes ablaze: "When hast thou turned 

The left cheek, when the right cheek hath been 


Givest thou thy cloak to one who takes thy coat? 
Goest thou two miles with him who drives thee one? 
Dost lend thy purse, whoever begs? My lord, 

444 Hernando De Soto 

Thou sayest, 'Resist not evil,' yet I see 
Thou bearest evil, bidding me submit!" 

De Soto answered, "Yea, thy words are just. 

I am unworthy , am not fit to bear 

The name of Christian. In this pagan land, 

Where men are starving for the bread of life, 

A poor ensample have I proved myself 

In feeding souls an hungered. Granting this, 

Yet if I show myself remiss in duty 

To the laws of God, are those laws proved unjust? 

The Gospel stands forth perfect; judge it not 

By deeds of men; let its own gracious truths 

Be warrant for its entry into the heart. 

The very excellence of that Gospel's law, 

Which makes it harder to obey, is proof 

Of that law's inspiration. For it sets 

The highest of high standards, whereby all, 

In seeking goodness unattainable, 

May yet attain heights otherwise untrod." 

"Our own Great Spirit," answered him the chief, 
" Is a Father to us, and you yourselves 
Have only called Him by another name. 
Men are his children, and they lisp His name 
In varied accents, as is childhood's way: 
What matter if the name be this or that, 
If the invocation be in reverence? 
The name ye give Him may perchance be shown 
More fitting than the one our simple hearts 
In simple speech bestow upon Him: yet, 
What earthly sire would smite his little babe 
Who in his babble calls that father's name, 
Not clearly, with a long- trained skillful tongue, 

DooK XXI 445 

But in crude accents born of infancy? 

Thy king hath many titles : would he spurn 

A subject who invoked him by one title, 

Rather than by another? God is King 

Of all, with many titles, many names: 

He is the God of gods, however known. 

Let us adore Him by what name we choose, 

Since one God only hears the whole world's prayers." 

Ere answer could be given, Lulla came 

To walk with her father home. The maiden smiled 

Slyly upon the lad : Alonzo then, 

With sudden boldness, foreign to his wont, 

Came to her, put the parrot in her hands, 

And said, "I wounded him in yonder wood; 

Wouldst thou accept him? Take him." Presently, 

Shamefaced to hear his own short speech, he blushed 

Before the girl, and the two men, as though 

Their eyes were burning through him: but the lass, 

More daring than the youth, (as damsels are 

When face to face with lads of their own years), 

Said laughing, " I will keep him for the sake 

Of him who gave him. I will take him home, 

And tame him." Then she took the angry bird, 

Avoiding skillfully his snapping beak, 

And bore him lightly on her breast away. 

Another week had passed, and not one word 

Had reached De Soto from the natives: still, 

Vague rumors wandered, whispering that the chief 

Alone amongst his warriors raised a voice 

In favor of the Spanish lord's demands; 

That others, younger and more warlike, turned 

446 Herrvando De Soto 

Upon their king with scowls, or grimly smiled, 
Sneering, "Old age hath tamed our eagle's heart!" 

One afternoon, while walking through the fields, 

Alonzo met with Lulla face to face, 

As if by chance,' yet not by chance alone, 

For she had wandered from her wonted path, 

Designedly, it seemed: within her eyes 

Excitement and anxiety he read. 

But lightly casting off her serious air, 

And smiling archly, she exclaimed, "The bird 

Thou gavest me is tamed; 82 he knows me well. 

Thy name I gave him; and so when I call 

' Alonzo ' he will lift his broken wing, 

And cawing, climb my chair with claws and beak, 

Fearlessly eating the seed from out my hands." 

The youth and maiden laughed; both their young 


Beat fast with sweet wild happiness. Above, 
Riding a wind-swept bough, a blue jay clung, 
As if to eavesdrop. Yet though left alone 
By all intruders save that silly bird, 
Between the two a strange embarrassment 
Hung heavy. From a tuft of withered sedge, 
With nervous, trembling fingers Lulla tore 
The plumy crest. Alonzo, though his heart 
Panted for speech, found all its utterance gone. 

Then Lulla, changing her topic suddenly, 
(As is the custom of her sex, to save 
Matters of gravest import for the last) : 
" I know not surely, but a plot, I fear, 
Against thee and thy host impends: to-night 

BooK XXI 447 

Thy stronghold may be stormed : be thou alert. 

My father is thy friend, but all the braves 

Disdain his peaceful counsel. Grouped apart, 

They speak in whispers, and I see them point 

The ringer, nod the head, or fix their gaze 

Toward your ramparts on the distant height, 

As though they planned a fierce attack. Amongst 

These warriors, Creeping Bear, the craftiest, 

And boldest, likewise, of our tribe, takes lead. 

Their secrets from my father all are hid : 

All my friends shun me ; when they see me come, 

Quickly they curb their tongues, or else they turn 

Their chatter unto other, idle things, 

Far from their own thoughts as they are from mine. 

This very morning, the old woman who sleeps 

Beside me at our wigwam, overheard 

The gathered warriors as they laid their plans. 

4 Be ye prepared this night, ' said Creeping Bear, 

' To fall upon them ; we must storm their walls, 

Burn down their tents, and slaughter every man ! ' 

She ran to tell me : so I haste to thee. 

Beware, Alonzo! much I fear for thee." 

Alonzo, thunderstruck, looked at the girl 

In silence. Then, aroused, doubling his fists, 

"Let them come on!" he cried, "even though they 


In treachery, at the blackest midnight hour ! 
The rogues will find us ready. As for thee, 
How may I thank thee as I should, sweet maid? 
The tidings thou hast brought me soon shall reach 
De Soto's ear. Perchance our lives we owe 
To thee, and so among those lives, the one 
Thou savest me shall ever be thine own." 

44$ Hernando De Soto 

Trembling with mingled fear and joy and pain, 
The simple girl rejoined, "Thou knowest I love 
My father and my people ; that I grieve 
To make old friends my foes by taking sides 
With strangers. But ere this thou shouldst have 


(Here Lulla lowered her eyes), "that I would grieve 
To see thee, or the ones thou lovest, fall." 
She waited not his answer, but in haste 
Turned her steps homeward, leaving him alone. 

Alonzo sought the Governor, and gave 
The message brought by Lulla. Quick of eye, 
Sharply De Soto glanced upon the lad, 
Saying, "Methinks this Indian girl grows bold 
To pry about our camp ; I like her not ; 
See to it, boy, that thou avoidest her. 
A heathen jade is not for Christian youth." 
The lad, crestfallen, might have answered him, 
Had not De Soto frowned impatiently, 
Saying, "Come with me to Moscoso's tent." 
They found Moscoso stretched upon a couch, 
His ease enjoying. As he rose to greet them, 
De Soto cried abruptly, "Keep strict guard 
Upon the camp to-night. The chieftain's girl 
Hath told Alonzo that the heathen plan 
To fall upon us in the darkness. See 
That every sentry stands on duty : warn 
The others not to doff their garbs for sleep, 
But to lie dressed for fight, beside their arms." 
Moscoso heard incredulous : he stroked 
His yellow beard, and calmly smiled, retorting, 
"But little faith I put in such wild tales; 
Yet I will keep our men in readiness." 

DooK XXI 449 

Now suddenly Anasco peered within, 

And seeing those three, he joined them. "I have 


A little of your converse," he began: 
"Be sure, Moscoso, that this rumor stands 
On some foundation. As I strolled along 
This morning through the Indian town, I saw 
A woman who on yesternight became 
The mother of a sturdy savage boy. 
Strapped to her back, the child hung fast asleep: 
The mother, unconcerned as though its birth 
Took place a year ago, was sharpening spears, 
And feathering shafts for arrows. 83 Who can doubt 
That this, her toil at such an hour, portends 
Some crisis, some emergency, that we 
Shall soon be called to face?" De Soto turned 
Unto Moscoso, saying, "Be alert: 
For something whispers, 'This is Indian night: 84 
Beware of treachery ! ' So I seek my couch 
With horse in saddle, I myself in arms." 

But though Moscoso promised thus to keep 
Strict watch that night, he slumbered in his tent, 
Set but a few on guard, and took scant pains 
The rest to warn. So when the midnight came, 
And all slept soundly, wrapped about with gloom, 
The Indians stormed the camp. Blowing their horns, 
Beating their drums, and shouting frenziedly, 
The peaceful earth, lapt in reposeful shades, 
They frightened to a pandemonium. 
Four bands of warriors, at four different points, 
All at the same time, rushed upon the fort, 
And climbed the walls ; the sentries first they slew, 
And then upon the camp they leaped. Aloft 

Hernando De Soto 

They bore great torches, touching every tent, 
And every thatch-roofed hovel of the slaves 
With the keen-pointed flames : their arrows flew 
With burning tapers clinging to the barbs, 
Setting the stables and the pens on fire. 
Ere long the whole camp was ablaze ; vast flames 
Floated on high, with sparks that whirled and swirled 
Like fiery swarms of bees: black turned the skies: 
The stars dimmed; then, like children left alone 
In a dark chamber, trembling with affright, 
Who draw their deep bed-coverings overhead, 
They hid their faces, and were lost to sight. 

Roused and alarmed by the unearthly din, 

The Spaniards leaped half -clad from bed, and sought, 

Half -crazed, through densest darkness for their arms; 

Stumbling, they fell against the stools, the chests, 

Saddles or weapons, scattered on the floors: 

All things stood in their way : then shivering, 

Without their tabards or their cloaks to shield 

Their bodies from the piercing cold, they rushed, 

Bareheaded and barefooted, on the foe. 

The captains shouted : the barbarians yelled : 

The horses, penned in stables, girt with fire, 

In terror neighed; as they appealed for life, 

How their keen whinnies cleaved the shuddering 

gloom ! 

As on Pompeii fell the fire from heaven, 
And frantic thousands, rushing here and there, 
Cried out in horror, while the crackling flames 
Leaped high and higher, and the mountain roared, 
And earth and heaven were whelmed in one vast doom, 
So on the Christians at that midnight hour 
Swept Fire and Slaughter, unrestrained in fury. 

Book XXI 451 

Then throngs of Spaniards, smitten with sudden terror, 

Took flight; De Soto called and rallied them, 

Crying, "For shame, ye sons of Spain! Return, 

Follow me onward, and strike down the foe!" 

Vasconcelos, the noble Portuguese, 

His leader seconded ; Alonzo came, 

And so those three the enemy assailed : 

Soon they were joined by others, and they hurled, 

A shouting mass of valor, on the ranks 

Of forest knighthood. Many Christians died, 

But many more among the red men perished. 

Like meteors blazed the muskets through the night. 

Hoarse was the roar of gunnery : as in times 

Of slaughter of the cattle, when a herd 

Returns at evening to their fold, they see 

Their comrades' bleeding pelts exposed, and smell 

The life-blood steaming on the sodden ground, 

So the survivors, maddened, and hoarse with rage, 

Raise lamentations, till the listener quakes 

At the wild bellowing of those deep-mouthed bulls, 

So now was heard that awful sound of arms 

Throughout the darkness, with appalling tones 

Chilling the heart. Anon and ever cracked 

Fretful retorts of pistols, angrily 

Struggling for hearing through the deeper boom 

Of heavier weapons. Roused to sympathy, 

The hard, quick echoes of the wilderness 

Through glooms of ghostly hollows slapped and smote, 

As though the demons of those haunted wilds 

Were clapping giant hands. 

Before the rest 

In all that Paynim host, strode Creeping Bear, 
Urging his comrades on, as he himself 

4S 2 Hernando De Soto 

Did countless deeds of prowess. As there comes 
The great behemoth crashing through the reeds, 
Mailed in a tough hide that repels the spears 
And darts of hunters, with the bloody foam 
Flecked on his horrid jaws, and his wild eyes 
Reddened with anger, with his monstrous hoofs 
Crushing his foes, and his blood-clotted horn 
Hoisting on high or tossing through the air 
His mangled victims so in savage wrath 
Stalked the dread Creeping Bear, his eyes aflame, 
His white teeth gnashing, nostrils widely-blown, 
And all his burly frame and stalwart limbs 
Smeared in the blood of Christians swept to doom. 

Now the dark night was pierced by rays of dawn, 
Chilly and gray. Slowly approached each other 
The two great leaders, giant Creeping Bear, 
And the brave knight, De Soto : each was girt 
With shouting followers, and each hewed his way 
Through ranks of struggling foes : drawing still nigher, 
The champions marked each other in the press, 
And each the other sought with ardent zeal, 
Burning to smite his foe and end the fray. 
Now they stood face to face, the Iberian chief 
Rearing above his war-horse like a god 
In thunders and in lightnings panoplied, 
While the tall savage like a Titan loomed, 
Brown, bloody and appalling. Leaning back, 
Then quickly bending forward, the white lord 
Sought to fling forth his lance with all his might, 
But bearing on one stirrup heavily, 
The girth that held his saddle broke; he fell 
With lance and saddle into the very arms 
Of Creeping Bear, his dread antagonist. 

DooK XXI 453 

The savage from the impact reeled and swayed, 

Tottered, and toppled headlong to the ground. 

Then clinched the pagan with the Christian brave. 

Puissant was the forest champion, 

With thighs like porphyry columns, and with arms 

That crushed and choked and strangled like the coils 

The anaconda tightens round his prey. 

Then wrestled they together, locked as one 

In the ferocious, deadly clasp of foes, 

Which closer, more intense than love's embrace, 

Ends never till its passion's focal flame 

Is quenched beneath the dark and chilly flood 

That gushes from the urn in hands of Death! 

They tugged, they scuffled, rolling in the dust: 

The giant red man, first triumphant, crushed 

His struggling adversary under knee, 

And then despite the blows that dashed his face 

With spurting blood, seized on the Spaniard's throat, 

Clutching with fingers firm as links of steel. 

De Soto, stifled and smothered, weakened fast; 

Scarce had he strength enow to move his hand 

And draw a dagger; but at length he grasped 

Convulsively the hilt ; with a mad thrust, 

The last wild effort of fast-waning force, 

He plunged it in his panting enemy's heart. 

One fearful shudder in that savage breast, 

One gurgling murmur ! Slowly then relaxed 

That frightful clasp; the blood-shot eyes grew dim: 

De Soto, gasping, knew his life was saved! 

A while he lay half-swooning; by and by, 
Recovering strength, with horsemanship superb 
He vaulted back in saddle, touching not 
The stirrup ; so without a saddle-girth, 

454 Hernando De Soto 

He still fought, riding easily. And now, 

In glorious emulation of their chief, 

His aids, Alonzo and Vasconcelos, 

With miracles of valor rode the field. 

At last the red men wavered ; then they fled, 

Leaving the sons of Spain victorious. 

After the foe was crushed, De Soto met 
Moscoso in the rear. With wrath he blazed, 
Exclaiming, "Sluggard! for these precious lives 
Art thou accountable! Well didst thou serve 
The pagan in his onslaught yesternight!" 
Moscoso, losing wonted lethargy, 
Flushed crimson, and essayed some weak reply. 
"Answer me not!" De Soto cried, "or else 
Here on the field I call thee to account 
In single combat. But enough of thee; 
Thou art deposed; Gallegos takes thy place; 
Know him henceforth as thy superior." 

Thereafter, came Alonzo, riding slow, 

His lips compressed, and his cheeks pale. One foot, 

Pierced by an Indian lance when first he sped 

Against the Paynim ranks, had tortured him, 

And stained his horse's side with blood ; but still, 

Through the whole fight the boy had murmured not. 

"What ho!" De Soto cried, "art wounded, lad? 

By heaven, I love thee for thy lion-heart! 

Never had I suspected until now 

That even one little scratch was paining thee." 

What a wild wreck the Spanish camp was left 
After that fearful onslaught in the night! 
The Christians looked about them stupefied, 

DooK XXI 455 

Scarce realizing half their loss. For now 
Black ruins blotted out with smoking towers 
The blue of heaven; dismantled huts arose, 
Gaunt, drear and hideous in the morning light. 
Blasted and charred, uploomed those fearful relics, 
Like frightened ghosts of midnight shades, that stand 
Surprised by sudden dawn, that cannot flee, 
But face the sun aghast, immovable, 
With raiment blighted from the charnel dews, 
With eyeless sockets, haggard, bony limbs, 
And all the sombre horrors of the grave. 

Begirt by torturing flames, brave steeds had died; 
Half of the helpless, maddened herd of swine 
Had perished miserably. The workmen's tools, 
Axes and saws and hatchets, all were now 
Blackened, and dulled by the relentless flames. 
Ropes, bridles, saddles, weapons, had been burned. 
Footgear and raiment turned to ashen heaps, 
Men roved half naked in the winds of March. 
Great was the dole and teen : Maubila once 
Had dragged the Christian host to poverty, 
But Chickasaw had beggared every man. 
Still, since their foes had taken flight, and ceased 
To plague their steps, they now might welcome 


Tend their sore needs and ease their sufferings. 
A bellows from the skins of bears they made; 
A musket-barrel formed the pipe; and so 
A woodland smithy gave them timely aid. 
The old burned arms and armor, and the tools 
Of steel and brass, they cast upon the fires. 
The huge hoarse bellows breathed upon the coals 
That reddened first, then whitened in the heat, 

456 Hernando De Soto 

Hissing with keen blue tongues, while through the 


Myriads of twinkling sparks whirled merrily. 
The candent metals glowed; and like a blade 
That bites its way through adamant, the blaze 
Gnawed at their glowing hearts. Ere long, beneath 
The fierce, remorseless beating of the flames, 
The stiff bars quivered and melted, or they fused 
Each with the other. Now to fashion them 
Under the hammer into other forms, 
The soldier-blacksmiths, grimy from the soot, 
Smote lustily, while rivulets of sweat 
Through the swart powder trickled down their cheeks. 
Over the anvils the soft pliant bars 
With brawny arms and muscular they beat, 
Shaping them all to goodly implements. 
In hissing water next they tempered them, 
And in great hairy hands they brought them forth 
Triumphant to their comrades, who rejoiced 
To grasp the faithful allies needed sore, 
New axes, wedges, lances, swords and shields. 

But the half-naked men dejectedly 

Shivered and shrank in icy gales ; they lit 

Great fires to yield them warmth; still, as one side 

The heat would scorch, keen winds would lash the 


A few men in this world for all the rest 
Must do the thinking. So in their distress, 
Unto one soul there came a happy thought: 
Juan Vega, a poor peasant of the ranks, 
Observing long, thick grasses in the fields, 
Said, "In this waste of withered grasses, I, 
Poor as I am and lowly, yet may reap 

BooK XXI 457 

A goodly harvest, that shall prove a boon 

Better than gold or silver." With a sword 

He cut the grasses, and with cunning hands 

Contrived to weave them into mats and beds, 

Blankets and pillows for the night's repose 

Of weary comrades : skillfully he made 

Warm cloaks from bearded grass to ward the 


Of bitter skies of March. Blest was that aid, 
Till the warm sun, returning like a friend 
After long absence, with his genial rays 
Routed the chill blasts that had plagued their souls. 

De Soto, bowed in deepest misery, 

Seemed vanquished ; yet his spirit leonine 

Still breathed defiance at the scowls of Fate. 

Restlessly his heart raged. Oftentimes he roamed 

Beside a far-off stream in gloomy woods, 

Companionless, unguarded and unarmed, 

Contemptuous of the prowling savages. 

Here, while around him from the leaden skies 

Came melancholy sobs of April rains, 

Again toward the heavens his hands he raised, 

And swore to win the victory or to die. 

And as some rustic lad with youth's wild dreams 

Of wealth and fame, forsakes the prosy farm 

To seek his fortune in a distant town ; 

Who finds himself neglected and despised, 

Who gnaws the husks flung from a stranger's hands, 

And wins his threadbare garb through beggary: 

Yet barefoot, cold and hungry, in his pride 

Scorns to return with head bowed down, and face 

The sneers and simperings of the clowns at home, 

Thus roved De Soto, baffled, beggared, lost, 

458 Hernando De Soto 

But yet too proud to own defeat, and turn 
His feet reluctant on their pathway home. 

Shortly ere sunset on a gloomy day 

A sennight after the battle, Lulla came 

Hasting, with wild eyes and disheveled hair, 

Seeking for shelter in the Spanish camp. 

She sought Alonzo's tent, fell at his couch, 

And sobbed, "My lord, my master, unto thee 

I fly for refuge. For my people know 

That I revealed their plot ; they seek my life, 

And who will guard thy handmaid, lord, but thou?" 

"Peace, Lulla," spake Alonzo tenderly; 

"Nothing shall harm thee. O, sweet faithful soul, 

Believe me, thou shalt find our gratitude 

Not lacking in thy sorrow and thy need." 

She wept a while ; effacing then her tears, 

She took his wounded foot upon her breast, 

And dressed it lovingly. At last he said, 

" Lulla, I owe thee much. But for thy aid 

I should have perished, yea, and all our host 

Had fattened wolves and vultures. Tell me, lass, 

With what requital shall I pay that debt?" 

Again she burst in tears ; she kissed his feet, 

Sobbing aloud, "O, let me be thy slave! 

My lord, my master, take me with thee, pray, 

And I will follow thee through all the world." 

De Soto came that moment; with a frown 
He glanced upon the maiden at the couch. 
"What means this?" cried he, angrily: "This girl 
Should be with her own people; let her go." 
But now Alonzo answered haughtily, 

BooK XXI 459 

Facing his kinsman with fast-flashing eyes, 

" She saved our lives. Because she proved our friend, 

Her people seek to slay her. I have said 

That I would give her shelter, and I will." 

De Soto, grown remorseful, lowered his eyes, 

Saying, "I crave thy pardon. I was wrong." 

And then he murmured, "Let the damsel stay." 


Spring in the land of the Chickasaws Micalusa comes to take 
his daughter home Controversy between De Soto and 
Alonzo Lulla's song Song of the Indian maiden in reply 
The Chief takes his daughter home Alonzo is defiant of his 
kinsman and leader Gallegos remonstrates with De Soto, 
but is at first unsuccessful De Soto at last relents Micalusa 
then refuses his daughter to Alonzo, but in time is likewise 
induced to consent to the marriage Baptism of Lulla The 
marriage of Lulla and Alonzo The lamentations of the 
Chief His blessings upon the pair The parting between 
the father and daughter. 

THROUGH gaunt and bare boughs of the wilderness 
Resounded clarion-calls of jocund Spring; 
Bleak, brown and haggard stood the wintry woods, 
Expectant of the summons long delayed. 
Earth, like the ruler's daughter, cold in death, 
Who heard her Master's call, and leaped on foot 
In all the glow and gladness of her youth, 
Earth heard her Maker say, "She is not dead, 
But sleepeth; damsel, rise!" and woke in joy, 
While all the choirs of Nature seemed to chant 
From purling waters, newly-burgeoned leaves, 
From quickening winds and reawakened birds, 
"I am the Resurrection and the Life!" 

Now from the woody hollow's blackened mould 
The blue-eyed violets peeped, wooed by the songs 
Of sweet bluebirds, their cousins of the air. 


BooK XXII 461 

The wild-plum twigs, with wee white myriad flowers 
Seemed hanging scented snowdrifts, and aloft, 
Wild cherries, frosted with their pearly blooms, 
Made odorous palaces, whence gurgled songs 
Trilled by the brilliant redbird to his mate. 
The gadding cross-vines swung their orange wreaths 
In coverts where the slim brown thrashers perched, 
And warbled forth mellifluous melodies. 
The red bud seemed a lilac-tinted cloud, 
Down-floated to the earth from fields of dawn; 
Next came the dogwood's constellated stars 
Of radiant white, and then the locust branch 
Drooped fragrant creamy clusters numberless, 
A wild haunt, where the peerless mocking-bird 
Blithe, airy, thrilled with youth and love and joy 
Tripped, soared, descended, piping, twittering, 
Unequaled master of the lyric art 
In grace, in compass and dexterity. 

Lulla not long had lingered at the camp 

Of her protectors, ere her father came 

Seeking her. At that selfsame time, the girl 

Unto the neighboring woods had wandered forth, 

To gather simples by her folk esteemed 

In healing wounds and burns; these now she sought 

For Christians who had suffered in the battle. 

Alonzo (since his hurt was well-nigh healed), 

Had gone to aid his comrades at their task 

Of building rafts beside a neighboring stream 

Soon to be crossed upon the westward march. 

In deep anxiety the old man came, 

Saying, "My daughter, is she here? They say 

That she hath fled to you for shelter. " "Yes, " 

Returned De Soto, "hither came thy child 

462 Hernando De Soto 

For refuge when thy people sought her life. 

At noon she strolled away to gather herbs 

To cure our sick men ; but at evenf all 

Here she will be again. " So then, the Chief, 

Relieved in part, exclaimed, "The timid girl 

Took fright, and fled the town while I myself 

Had gone upon a journey; left alone, 

Dark might have been her fate; but coming back, 

I crushed the rebels to submission ; none 

Will now dare lift a hand against the child. 

I go : ere set of sun I will return 

To take the damsel to our lodge again. 

Say to her that her parrot calls her name 

Unrestingly, as though he longed to tell 

How he has missed her through the lonesome hours, 

While the old woman by our wigwam fire 

Weeps, fearing that she never will return." 

He left ; but scarcely had he passed from sight, 

When young Alonzo, from his task performed, 

Strolled into camp. Upon his kinsman's brow 

A bodeful shadow lay. After a pause, 

"Son," said the Governor, speaking tenderly, 

"I would not cast upon thy boyish heart 

A weight as heavy as a mothy wing. 

But Lulla must not linger here. The Chief 

Left shortly ere thou earnest, and ere long 

He will return to claim her. Thou canst not 

Make her a slave, nor lightly treat the girl 

As one of vulgar birth, for she descends 

From sires illustrious, savage though she be. 

Well did the father and the maid herself 

Prove themselves friends when most we needed friends ; 

So thou, I know, wilt never do her wrong." 

Book XXII 463 

The lad flushed, and exclaimed, "Surely my lord 

Hath never fancied I could fall so low 

That I would lightly wrong a simple girl 

To whom we owe our lives?" "Nay, nay, my 


De Soto answered, "but the gossips tattle, 
And she must go. " "I know not if she must!" 
Alonzo answered, lifting dauntless eyes 
Upon his kinsman; "Thou wouldst give commands 
Ere counseling with me. Why judge her thus, 
And then acquaint me with thy fixed decree, 
As airily and easily as though 
I were thy serf, bound only to obey?" 
The boy, courageous to his finger-tips, 
And well aroused, no longer hung his head 
In deference to his elder : so he stood 
Determined, and awaited a reply. 

De Soto frowned, and curled his lips in scorn, 
Retorting, "Wilt thou deign to tell me why 
I should consult thee? Hast an interest 
In her concerns? By what superior claim 
Wilt thou attempt an interfering hand?" 
Exclaimed Alonzo, "Thou art not her judge, 
Nor art thou mine ! If I have shown concern 
For her or hers, thou needest not to know 
My reason, nor demand that I should tell!" 
"Thou fanciest that thou lovest her," rejoined 
The elder. "Folly! Youthful hearts like yours, 
Like wisps of straw, are quickly set ablaze, 
Quickly to burn out. Wait until your heart, 
Solid and massive, like a heart of oak, 
Takes the fire slowly; then, when once uplit, 
It may give forth a sure and steady flame. " 

464 Hernando De Soto 

Seeing tears gathering in the lad's bright eyes, 

De Soto, with an effort, calmed himself; 

"I will ignore this insolence," he said; 

" But know this : ere night comes, the girl must leave. " 

"That we shall see!" cried the boy angrily. 

Not waiting for the Governor's response, 

Turning away, without the tent he strode, 

And hurried forth, his comrades to rejoin. 

Out in the woods, while culling roots and herbs, 
The Indian maiden, Lulla, sang a song; 85 
Sweeter her accents than, in morning groves, 
The luting and the fluting of the birds, 
Or, heard in Hellas, notes of love-lorn nymphs, 
Smitten with beauty of some Thessalian boy! 

"As the young pine waving on yonder hill, 
Graceful and tall, is the lad of my heart; 
He is swifter of foot than the stately deer 
Outflying the hunter and the hunter's dart. 

"The locks on his brow are glossy and dark 

As the wing stretched forth when the blackbird flies ; 

His eye, like an eagle's in upward glance, 

Seems to mirror keen stars of the winter skies. 

"His arm is as strong in the raging fight 

As the ironwood bow he easily bends ; 

His aim is as sure as the aim of the hawk, 

And his shaft through the breast of his victim sends. 

"His heart is heroic, and great and strong, 
Yet tender and true, like the heart of the bear 
Who faces his foes and defends his cubs 
While they sleep in the depths of his rocky lair. 

DooK XXII 465 

"O, aid me, ye spirits of waters and winds, 
And aid me, ye spirits of earth and of sky, 
To waft forth his praise over land and lake, 
Till his fame, like my love, lives never to die. " 

On drawing nearer to the river's marge, 
Far-off, some Christians in a boat she spied, 
Alonzo with them; for the youth had now 
Rejoined his comrades. She had heard him say 
Their army soon would cross the stream; and so 
She feared these newly-fitted barks ere long 
Would bear his people from her land forever. 

Some roguish maidens of the Chickasaws 

Were loitering by the river as the lad 

With downcast air passed by, and seeing him 

Distracted and distressed, fathomed his heart 

With the sure scrutiny of woman's eyes. 

They hearkened unto Lulla as she sang 

From hills above, deeming herself unheard; 

But they had guessed her secret long before: 

For Lulla, seeking in a maiden's way 

To hide her love, had only made it known; 

Yea, as some anxious bird seeks to allure 

The meddling stranger from her nest near by 

With chirps and cries, and plumage fluttering, 

And yet betrays it by her eagerness, 

So Lulla in her struggles to divert 

The eyes of others from her secret love, 

Only more surely had that love revealed. 

One forest damsel, like her own self, young, 

And envious of her hold upon his heart, 

Gladdened to see Alonzo in the boat, 

Fancying the pale-faced boy had proved untrue. 

So then to Lulla tauntingly she sang: 


466 Hernando De Soto 

"Why is your handsome white youth sad? 
He crosses the river with tears in his eyes. 
damsel, cease sighing in fruitless regret, 
For he will forget, O, he will forget! 

"Indian lass, you will lose your lad, 

He is going away, he is going away ! 

How foolish to love, and to hope for, him yet, 

For he will forget, O, he will forget! 

"Sighing, he gazes fondly back, 
Your sweetheart will waver when once out of sight! 
And soon it shall seem that you never have met, 
For he will forget, O, he will forget! 

"True is he now, but soon is false; 
For man is a bird that is swift on the wing ; 
Once flitted, he never returns to your net, 
For he will forget, 0, he will forget!" 

Poor Lulla at that heartless raillery 

Trembled and burned with shame. Silent she stood 

There in the lonely woods, sad as a bird 

Whose nest hath been despoiled. But as the eve 

Declined, and shadows lengthened on her path, 

Back to the camp she turned, upon her arm 

Bearing the simples. Suddenly she heard 

Footsteps behind her: "Whither hurriest thou? 

Homeward? Then, Lulla, I will go with thee. " 

It was Alonzo's voice: gladdened, the two 

Sped onward laughing. As they tripped along, 

Her soft warm tiny hand he held in his, 

Pressing it closely in his own big palm. 

Above them, in a maze of willow boughs 

Plumy with fragrant yellow catkins, perched 

BooK XXII 467 

A little wren : with a wee swelling breast, 
And a wee throat aburst with lyric power, 
He warbled "Courage, courage!" to the pair, 
Like a boy-bugler urging knightly hosts 
To victory on some field in fairyland. 

But all too soon they reached the camp, and there 
They found the old Chief and De Soto joined 
In earnest converse; seeing lass and lad, 
The father uprose gladly, threw his arms 
Around his child, and pressed her lovingly. 
Lulla with sobs and laughter called his name, 
Folding his neck in soft caressive arms. 

Then Micalusa, with an altered voice, 

Said to Alonzo: "I have spoken, Son, 

Unto thy kinsman and my gracious lord, 

Of thee and Lulla: he hath said to me 

That he fears greatly in your youthful hearts 

Hath risen some affection. He is just, 

Saying that such a fancy, if ye twain 

Have cherished it, must not be cherished more. 

Since he hath spoken in such open terms, 

Too proud am I to let a child of mine 

Go to a house that does not welcome her; 

Nor can I bear to see my daughter stray 

Far from her home, her father and her friends, 

To seek a stranger's land beyond the sea, 

And there forget her people and their God. 

Come with me, daughter; it is growing late, 

And we have far to go." 

Rousing at this, 

Alonzo, pale and trembling, faced the Chief: 
"I love her!" cried he; "I will wed the maid: 

468 Hernando De Soto 

Why come between us?" But the gray-haired sire, 

Frowning, and firm-set in his purposes, 

Cried to the stripling, "Stand aside, young man! 

This is my daughter. She must go with me!" 

He took the damsel's hand; she wept aloud, 

But walked beside him unresistingly ; 

So then the sire and daughter went their way. 

Alonzo in his fury wheeled about, 

Facing De Soto, and he madly cried, 

"This deed is thine!" Gallegos, standing by, 

Marked the youth's actions; seeing him so wroth, 

And fearing some rash act, he seized his arm, 

And forced him, raging still, to his own tent. 

So the lad moped about from day to day 
Disconsolate, repellent in his air, 
A burden to himself and all his friends. 
Gallegos, noting this, went, much concerned, 
To see De Soto. Rugged though he was, 
Awkward, uncouth, and fierce of countenance, 
In his heart still was left some tenderness. 
"By all the saints of heaven!" frankly he cried, 
Standing before the Governor in his tent, 
"I tell thee thou shouldst not oppose the lad: 
I know that thou wilt pardon one so blunt, 
Since, as thou knowest, I was reared to arms, 
Rude and unpolished, unexpert in books; 
But thou must likewise know my heart hath been 
Through good or evil fortune, always thine. 
Trust me, and grant the lad and lass their wish. " 
"And hast thou, too," De Soto cried, "joined force 
With those who fight me? Thou, Gallegos, thou, 
Above them all, shouldst loyal be, and true. 
Thou knowest my ambition for the boy; 

BooK XXII 469 

Thou knowest him to be of gentle birth : 
How canst thou, then, beseech me to consent 
Unto a union so amazing?" 


Gallegos answered, "take the word of one 
Who knows the world : Man's truest guide is Fate: 
Since it hath joined their hearts, who can declare 
Its wise decree unwise? Not thou, nor I! 
Sir, as we walk along, the sun himself 
Seems to walk with us; when we stop, he stops, 
And when we go again, his pace resumes. 
And so at night, when strolling through a wood, 
The moon strolls with us, pausing when we pause, 
While all the stars hang fixed upon the boughs 
Of every bush whereby we sit or stand. 
Well ! in this life our petty vanity 
Deceives us like these fictions of our eyes, 
The sun, the moon, the stars, all earth and heaven, 
Exist alone for our important selves! 
Be not deceived, nor magnify thyself 
Nor kindred to a superhuman worth 
Above all those around thee. " "I shall not," 
Rejoined the other warmly; "but why urge 
This mating with a child of savagery?" 
"As for her birth," Gallegos answered him, 
"Forsooth! long hast thou known, and so have I, 
Though savage be her people, demigods 
Have never turned to dust more willingly 
In fighting for their hunting-grounds and homes. 
If that be not nobility, my lord, 
Then tell me what nobility may be? 
Upon my body, and upon thine own, 
Od's fish ! their spears have carved their coats of arms." 

47 Hernando De Soto 

"But this would blight his future," cried the other; 

"The lad is brave and loyal, bright of mind, 

And fitted for the leadership of men : 

If, in the folly of hot-blooded youth, 

Some reckless marriage brings him not to grief, 

Who can foretell what brilliant destiny 

His noon of life may yield him?" 

"By my troth," 

Gallegos answered with a rueful sigh, 
"If destiny and leadership should mean 
The living of a sorry life like mine, 
Or even as thine own, may God defend 
The lad from such career! Why, what are we 
But tattered strollers, gipsies, vagabonds, 
Land-pirates, suffering shipwreck on the land?" 

De Soto's visage clouded ; in his eyes 

Displeasure sparkled ; then retorted he : 

"Thy verbiage is the verbiage that is fit 

Only for weaklings and poltroons, and ever 

Unworthy of the ranks of chivalry. 

Such paltry counseling would end all dreams 

Of conquest, empire and discovery. 

With arguments like these, Cortez had never, 

Scorning retreat, dared set his ships afire, 

And Mexico had never bent the knee. " 

The other, seeing he had stepped amiss, 

Discreetly held his tongue a while: and so, 

After a pause, De Soto spake again: 

"This lightsome youthful fancy soon will pass: 

It is the passion of a callow boy 

And the vague yearning of a silly girl, 

DooK XXII 471 

Born of the Springtime, with the Spring to end. 

It is but love's counterfeit ; for true love 

Is not for Spring alone ; it must endure 

The parching drought of Summer, the bleak winds 

Of Autumn, and December sleets and snows." 

But now Gallegos, with a soldier's eye, 

In his opponent's armor spied the seam, 

And thrust his weapon in it. "Thou didst not," 

He answered, "own such thoughts in other years. 

I heard thee tell the Indian Chieftain once 

The story of thy love for Isabel, 

When thou wert but a lad, she but a child, 

And how Pedrarias waved thee off in scorn, 

And how from year to year he made thee wait. 

Hernando ! Let thy strong and generous soul 

Turn in compassion on these youthful hearts, 

That bleed, as thine own bled, for sixteen years!" 

A spot most tender had he touched ; and then 

With tact unwonted in a mind so rude, 

Not waiting for an answer, hastily 

He rose to leave; next saying, "Think of this," 

He strode away. 

Gallegos having left, 

De Soto wandered out among the woods. 
There, treading stilly aisles where druid oaks 
Shed glooms profound from lofty coronals, 
Communion with himself he held ; and there, 
Where ancient I Dies in hoary majesty 
Like great cathedral columns reared aloft, 
Making benignant cloistered solitudes, 
His soul was lost in dreams ; allured afar, 

47 2 Hernando De Soto 

Through dim retreats of memory roamed his heart. 
A spell seemed chanted in the deep, low sighs 
Of pensive winds that stirred umbrageous boughs. 
His turbulence was stilled. Tranquillity 
Resumed dominion in his war-worn breast. 

All flowers that bloom at night are white. And so 

The blossoms of the spirit in its gloom 

Are pure and stainless. From the funeral pyre 

Where flame our perished hopes, there streams a glow 

That lights the dark recesses of our souls. 

Even thus De Soto, in the tenfold night 

Of sorrow, found his pathway fringed with blooms 

Snowily fair, while in the sombre skies 

Ambition's death-fires made a silvery dawn. 

His adamantine bosom melted. Ah, 

Pieces of eight and ingots had he lost, 

To win a heritage of greater worth, 

The gift of kindness and humility! 

The stubborn mastiff had released his grip 

On old dry bones of dogmas, codes and creeds, 

Once clutched so grimly in his iron hold. 

The youthful misdemeanants in his court 

Had gained a hearing. Now he realized 

That others' happiness, and not his own, 

Must be his care. The ardent sweets of love, 

The paradise found in the loved one's arms, 

Exultant pride of fatherhood, conjoined 

With poignant bliss and pain of motherhood, 

To make the mightiest drama of this world, 

Never would these be his, nor Isabel's, 

Through all their life to come! Long years of teen 

Had left the sweet springs of his life unsweet. 

DooK XXII 473 

But all ungentle thoughts he now repelled ; 

Tears came that nigh enwomaned him. And here 

A waif of old-time Spanish balladry, 

A lyric loved in childhood, came to mind; 

Ah, often with the rebec's piercing thrill 

That song had charmed him in the long ago: 

"Give me, O Fate, some one to love, 
And one to love me in return; 
To win this blessing, saints above 
For old-time earthly haunts might yearn. 

"O, for the touch of gentle hands, 
The spell of accents sweet and low! 
One cannot crush the heart's demands; 
Nature will not be cheated so! 

" Man's bosom ever seeks its mate; 
No soul that lives can live alone; 
Unloved, the king in kingliest state 
But banquets on a crust and bone. 

"The dream I dream may be in vain, 
Mine idol be with earth alloyed ; 
But shield me from the deadening pain 
Of seeing Faith and Trust destroyed! 

"The disenchantments earned from Truth 
Fall blotting Life's unsullied page; 
Better sweet follies born of youth 
Than bitter wisdom bought of age! 

"Reft of its plumage, sinks the dove, 
Reft of its dewdrops, faints the fern: 
Give me, Fate, some one to love, 
And one to love me in return. " 

474 Hernando De Soto 

These joys were his no more. But there was yet 

A power left in his hands to make this gift 

To others. Round the crater of his heart 

The blooms through ashes and through lava twined. 

To wear the helmet, wield the sabre, this 

Could not be all of life ; still might he win 

A noble victory, not through hate, but love! 

At noon that day, De Soto sent a page 

To call his nephew. When Alonzo came 

With his pale face and agitated air, 

He eyed the younker smilingly, and said, 

"Son, I have wronged thee. Thou shalt have the lass. " 

With that short speech he ended. Then a glow 

Of joyance lit the lad's wan cheek with red, 

Like a red morning over fields of snow. 

The youth embraced his kinsman ; then he wrung 
De Soto's trembling hand. With a wry face, 
Made half in earnest, half to hide his thoughts, 
The Governor cried, "Heavens ! what a grip thou hast ! 
Why, boy, thy hands are monstrous. Like a bear's, 
Thine arms and paws might hug one to his death." 

Unmindful of the dangers in his path, 
The young man to the Indian village sped 
On eager, anxious feet. Along his way, 
From the green vines of bloomy scuppernongs 
Amorous wood-thrushes sang him dulcet lays 
Of sweet felicitation in his bliss. 
Ah, short-lived rapture! For in little time 
He was to wake, and find it all a dream. 

Reaching the village, with a bounding heart 
He faced the Chieftain, and the lass he loved. 

BooK XXII 475 

He told the good news; but the old man frowned, 
Saying, "Indeed, thy kinsman stoopeth low; 
How are we honored! Tell him that I thank him; 
But I refuse; my daughter shall not go." 

The maiden stood in tears. "What ! " cried the Chief, 
"Wouldst thou forsake me in my lonely age? 
Dost wish to leave us and thy land forever? 
Wouldst turn from burial-places of thy sires, 
To go, a stranger, to the stranger's land? 
Despisest thou thine own, thy mother's house? 
Wouldst choose the white man's God, forgetting ours? 
Enough! I will not hear it. Go, young man!" 

Alonzo left, dejected. As he passed 

The haunts of bloomy scuppernongs, so late 

The scene of rapture, thrilled with songs of love, 

He found all silent, as if all the birds 

Had shunned him in his grief, like the false friends 

Of this ungrateful world, who welcome us 

In fortune, but forsake us in our need. 

But on the leafless bough of a dead tree, 

A dove sat mourning all forlorn, as though 

In sympathy with his own widowed heart. 

When with slow, leaden feet at last he reached 

His lonesome tent, he crouched in misery, 

Feeling, as every lovelorn youth has felt 

Since the first dawn, that life, that all the world, 

Lay buried in the ashes of his dream. 

But Lulla, never yielding to despair, 

So wrought upon her father stealthily, 

With all a maiden's tact and craft and skill, 

That by and by he gave consent. And then 

476 Hernando De Soto 

Like some poetic mocking-bird, her heart, 

A-thrill with joy, leaped, fluttered, danced and sang, 

Exuberant in its ecstasies of love. 

So she was baptized. Though the bridal day 
To the impatient pair seemed long-deferred, 
Scarce had the snowy blossom of the plum 
Do wnf alien from the green fruit, when that hour 
Came round in sweetness and felicity. 
How glorious was the dawning of that day ! 
Morn's vivid blush incarnadined the heavens: 
Through interwoven cloudlets half revealed, 
Her billowy bosom glowed with rival hues 
Of damask roses and of creamy snows ; 
Shimmering through veils of opalescent fires, 
Her gold hair threw a halo round her head. 
She seemed a sorceress, with a shaft of light 
Drawn sword-like from the scabbard of the dark, 
Whose touch transmuted leaden clouds to gold. 
Through gay savannahs and green-tufted groves 
The brooks ran murmuring soft beatitudes; 
In pastoral calm sweet buds were burgeoning; 
Birds sang the resurrection of the world. 

As the sweet, piercing joy of waking love, 

Old as the oldest mountain of the world, 

Seems new to lovers of to-day, and still 

Will seem as new when we are dust in dust, 

So fresh, so new and so poetic shone 

That morn of twinkling dews to the amorous eyes 

Of Lulla and Alonzo : it appeared 

Unto that happy twain as if old Earth, 

Though hoary with her countless centuries, 

Never had seen a morning flame before. 

BooK XXII 477 

Rude in his manner, yet of kindly heart, 
Gallegos hied him to the neighboring fields, 
And gathered clusters of wild-roses ; these, 
Dew-gemmed and fragrant, pale and delicate, 
Back to the camp he lightly bore; so there, 
With big rough hands, yet nimble, nice and swift 
From constant use in war's necessities, 
A wreath he wove to circle round the brows 
Of the sweet forest-maid: and all declared 
That never an empress on her wedding-day 
Wore sparkling diadem more gracefully 
Than Lulla wore her simple wild-rose spray. 

And now the time had come when she should part 
Forever from her father and her home. 
Like Jacob yielding Benjamin of old, 
The patriarch, stoic Indian though he was, 
Stood blind with tears, and lifting up his voice, 
Cried, "Never, never shall I see thee more! 
Alone within my wigwam I shall stand 
Deserted left in darkness reft of children! 
Thy brethren and thy sisters went before, 
And then thy mother, thou art last of all! 
Beside my desolated, dreary hearth, 
Lonesome, companionless and daughterless, 
I now shall brood upon the bygone days, 
Forsaken and forgotten by the world!" 

His sobs called forth his daughter's. In that hour, 

What slightest consolation could be given? 

They would have toyed with sorrow, and but 


Had they essayed with weak and idle words, 
To solace his despair. 

478 Hernando De Soto 

After a pause, 

Again he cried: "O daughter, thou mayest turn 
To other gods than ours, (though I shall not), 
Yet, daughter, I entreat thee to the last, 
Forget not thy good mother, she who died 
By hands of Choctaws when thou wert a babe, 
But dying, saved thee from those murderous foes, 
Hiding thee under the bearskin in our lodge!" 

Then with an effort he repressed his tears, 
Saying to Lulla: "Heed me not, my child. 
Old men like me forget we once were young, 
And we forget that daughters must be given 
In marriage till the world itself shall end. 
Fathers forget that daughters must be wives, 
And being wives, must leave the old-time nest, 
Forsaking those who reared them. So, my child, 
Cleave to thy husband, and obey him ever, 
For thou art going to thy spouse's home, 
Not he to thine, and well he knows the ways 
Of Christians; he must guide thine untrained feet, 
Thou being but a simple forest-maid. " 

So the gray patriarch of the wilderness, 
Like those of eld on far Assyrian plains, 
Then gave his blessing with uplifted hands: 
"O thou, my daughter's husband, unto thee 
Be given Swiftness, Strength and iron Will! 
May earth yield generous increase unto thee, 
In gifts of corn and oil : may liberal showers 
Bear teeming fruits to strew about thy feet, 
And drive all drought and famine from thy fields : 
May God award thee plenteous hunting-grounds, 
Nor bring thee empty-handed from the chase. 

Booh XXII 479 

If thou hast storms in life, (and such must come), 

May they but leave thee like the giant oak, 

More strong from combat with the winds of heaven! 

O, mayest thou never see the hapless day 

When thou must kneel for mercy to thy foes, 

But may thy foes beg mercy at thy feet, 

And mayest thou bear such wisdom in thy heart, 

That thou shalt grant that mercy readily!" 

Next turning unto Lulla, said the sage: 

"May the Great Spirit thou didst worship once 

Be Father still to thee when far away! 

O, may He smile, and fruitful make thy womb, 

So that the children playing at thy knees 

Shall all be fair and sturdy, and the heart 

Of him who calls thee wife shall yearn toward thee 

Even more in years to come than on this day ! 

Though I shall never see them, mayest thou see 

Thy children's children in expanding bloom! 

O may God make of thee the perfect wife, 

And grant thee peace and joy and length of years! 

May all thy tears, (and tears must fall), but be 

Like gentle dews upon the fields at morn, 

Refreshing to thy heart when parched with grief. " 

So then they parted, weeping bitterly. 
As the Castilian host its march began, 
The soldiers for the last time backward turned: 
The old man, on a hillside far away, 
Stood all alone, and mute and motionless, 
His hand above his eyes, was gazing still 
Toward the white men in the distant west, 
Who carried her, the last of all his race, 
Forever from the land of Chickasaws. 


The march resumed Great swamps and Canebrakes Reaching 
the Nonconnah Flight of the pigeons Chisca and its two 
mounds Seizure of the native women A battle is immi 
nent, but is averted by overtures of peace De So to visits the 
Chief at his mound His interview with the Chief Dis 
covery of the Mississippi De Soto's dream The new Na 
tion to come into being on the banks of the Mississippi Its 
achievements in the arts and sciences A wisp of vapor is 
made a great Power Lightnings drawn from the heavens 
Flowers of flame Cables are laid beneath the sea Con 
verse is held with those far away Scenes in one land are 
reproduced in others Sounds are imprisoned Flight 
through the air Vessels beneath the waters Riding above 
the clouds Conquest of the pestilence Darien becomes a 
highway for ships Discovery of the North Pole Religion 
of the Brotherhood of Humanity. 

O EVEN long laborious days their steps they dragged 
O Through swamps and marshes, canebrakes and 


Vast solitudes where no man lived. These passed, 
Gladly they trod a province richly green, 
And flowing with abundance. Year by year, 
The red men of this country, at the close 
Of Autumn, when the dead leaves quivering down, 
Had strewn knee-deep the sod, would give to flames 
The dry brown rustling waste of foliage; 86 thus 
The matted undergrowth in fire would perish, 
And only stateliest towering trees remained, 
Around whose feet, in procreant airs of Spring, 


BooK XXIII 481 

Would grow tall grasses, many-podded beans, 
And wild peas roving in luxuriance. 
With dense bamboos the rivulets were fringed, 
Making dim covers, haunts of bear and deer. 

In time they reach Nonconnah's mossy banks, 

Nonconnah, "Long Stream" of the Indians. 87 

Nature's own gloomy hermitage was here, 

Deeply embowered in verdant virgin woods. 

Here wild-geese honked; here soared white cranes; 

here swam 
Brown-breasted mallards, glossed with blue and 


From limbs of flowering tulip-trees upraised 
Cream-colored, honey-hearted chalices: 
Catalpas hung their broad green heart-shaped leaves, 
With clusters of their white and freckled blooms: 
Like great cathedral spires, gigantic oaks 
Pierced dizzy heights; their stalwart limbs were 


With rambling muscadines, whose serpent coils 
Clomb skyward, and from topmost pinnacles 
Flung out their green and glossy gonfalons. 
Along the stream, tall scarlet cardinal flowers 
Flamed brilliantly: beneath them softly shone 
The azure ageratum's silken tuft : 
Frail spider-lilies glimmered through the gloom: 
Blackberries tangled wildly : over them 
The yellow waxen dodder-nets entwined: 
Like creamy odorous arras trailed the sprays 
Of blooming grapevines, and amid those haunts 
Of coolness and of fragrance and of shade, 
With great leaves drooping emerald curtains down, 
The timid hermit-thrush and wood-thrush sang. 


482 Hernando De Soto 

As hither fared the Christians, from afar 

Like distant cannonading, came a roar 

That seemed to shake the whole wide forest ; soon 

Still louder and still louder swelled the sound, 

As though great guns, (hoarse giants, iron-mouthed), 

Trained on some empire's great metropolis 

To force surrender or denounce its doom. 

Ere long, a great cloud, hurrying from the North, 

Swept over, blotting out the noonday sun. 

The noise grew deafening; over earth was cast 

A vast black shadow; looking up, they saw 

Flocks of wild pigeons multitudinous, 

Swarming like locusts in the Libyan skies. 88 

No man could count them : in that weird eclipse, 

The noonday dimmed to twilight ; when one spoke, 

His feeble voice was drowned amid the roar, 

And loudest shouts seemed whispered far away. 

Hour after hour they swept in legions by, 

Deep thunder following thunder, shade on shade. 

Battalions settled on the forest limbs; 

Then louder grew the thunder, as the boughs 

Swayed overloaded, groaned and snapped and cracked, 

And then, crash following crash, came tumbling down. 

Now, far and near were seen the falling limbs, 

Crushing the pigeons as they smote the ground, 

Or driving them, affrighted, through the air, 

Swirling in wild gyrations round and round, 

And flying in men's faces. Long it seemed 

As though that endless ocean-waste of birds 

In its vast billows would engulf the host 

Of startled men beneath them. Terror-stricken, 

The horses reared and snorted, leaped and neighed, 

As whirling wild birds from fast-falling boughs 

Would strike against them blindly. By and by, 

BooK XXIII 483 

Ere eventide, the multitude was lessened: 
The sunrays glinted on the birds, and lit 
With fire their wings of sober gray, or glowed 
In rainbow splendor on their burnished necks 
Of iridescent green and blue and gold. 

Onward they marched a league; here they beheld 
The nesting-place, 89 deserted by the host 
Ere this encountered, though enthronged as yet 
By brooding swarms innumerable: so thus 
"Road of the Pigeon Roost" this way was called. 90 
On the great boughs and tiny forks of twigs 
Myriads of nests were huddled. Over all 
The earth beneath were scattered broken limbs, 
Fallen through over-burdening: far and wide, 
From shattered nests were strewn the callow birds, 
Some naked, some half-fledged, some well-nigh plumed, 
With others scarce half-broken from the shell. 
Over them hawks and buzzards flitted, gorged 
Upon the writhing squabs, while battening wolves, 
Seeing the white men, slunk away from sight, 
Their banquet leaving with reluctant feet. 

They reached a village, (Chisca it was called), 91 
Set in fat fields of green, luxuriant corn. 
Here the Iberians, learning that the men 
Had all departed from their homes that day, 
Hunting through neighboring wilds, in a mad mood 
Seized on the women working in the fields, 
And those in wigwams at their household toils. 
This folly brought them all to grief, for soon 
A throng of angry warriors came with shouts, 
Planning a rescue. Loud the women shrieked, 
And loud the warriors answered with their yells; 

484 Hernando De Soto 

The captives sought to spring, and make escape 
To their friends calling them, but held by force, 
Uselessly they struggled. Yet all the while 
The host of Paynim warriors grew, and came 
Nearer and nearer, threatening instant war. 

Beyond the village rose two lofty mounds, 92 

Reared there in ancient, long-forgotten years, 

By ancient, long-forgotten tribes of men. 

High on the summit of one monticle 

Uprose the wigwam of the Chief : to this 

A ladder once had offered access free, 

But this was now updrawn ; no enemy 

Might scale the hillock to the lodge above. 

The Chief lay sick; but, angered, from his couch 

He leaped when first he heard the cries below. 

An old man, humping over with ancientness, 

A little puny, wizened, wheezing dwarf, 

In form and feature like a bearded goat, 

He peered without his door: albeit, sans doubt, 

The tiniest dandiprat encountered yet 

Among the stalwart forest denizens, 

Greater his rage seemed for his littleness. 

He shook his white head, rolled his bloodshot eyes, 

And piped in piercing, shrill grasshopper shrieks 

So sharp they seemed his very throat to split : 

Waving his little clenched fist angrily, 

And screaming defiance at the Castilian host, 

"Begone, ye greedy white-faced wolves!" he yelled; 

"Seek not to rouse in wrath the lordly bear, 

Or else his paw shall smite you, limb to limb, 

And drive you, howling, to your woods again!" 

The Spaniards jeered and fleered him ; so in rage 

The pigmy warrior seized a tomahawk, 

BooK XXIII 485 

And made toward his wigwam door, resolved 

To pounce upon them. But his anxious wives, 

A host of wailing females, crowding round, 

Laid hold of him, and would not let him go. 

"O leave us not!" they cried; "thou art but one, 

Facing a multitude: and thou art old, 

While yon young warriors, armed with health and 


Might each, with one hand, master thee. Thou seest 
The frightful neighing brutes thy foes bestride, 
Like wild black steeds that on the midnight winds 
Gallop, obeying whips of demons. Lo! 
They wear the armor that we oft have heard 
Shatters the flint, and strews it on the ground. 
There thou beholdest those enchanted arms 
Whose roar is like the thunder, and whose jaws 
Murder with shafts of lightning. Hearken, Lord, 
Linger with us, nor tempt thy fate." "Begone!" 
He squeaked retorting, "I will front them all. 
Unhand me! Let me go." Yet hugged and held 
By vine-like arms of weeping women fast, 
He raged and stormed and struggled punily, 
Balked in his thirst for vengeance. 

But from scenes 

That thus provoked their mirth, the white men turned 
To those which gave them more concern. For now, 
Upon the outskirts of surrounding fields, 
With bows and arrows, clubs and tomahawks, 
In legions gathered sturdy foresters. 
Maubila came to mind, and Chickasaw: 
In evil plight from fearful conflicts past, 
How many more assailants could they meet? 
De Soto sent two messengers of peace, 

486 Hernando De Soto 

One to the gathered warriors, and the other 

To calm the irate Chief. In terms contrite 

The envoys cried aloud, so all might hear, 

"Peace we desire of you. We will set free 

All captives. Let us linger with you here, 

Until some comrades who are lying ill 

Regain their health and vigor : then our band 

Will leave your kingdom. " From their council-tent, 

After a long debate, the braves sent back 

A herald, who replied: "Your words are fair: 

Restore our women, and we grant you peace. 

Abide within our country till your sick 

Their wonted strength regain. Keep ye your faith, 

And ours shall stand as true. " But the old Chief, 

In a dwarf's body nursing a giant's rage, 

Still fumed implacable. De Soto sent 

The women back with soothing messages, 

Saying, "We crave your friendship. Let the past 

Rest in oblivion. Why persist in hate? 

For Peace is daughter to the King of Heaven, 

While Strife, the fury with the bloody sword, 

Hath sprung from Satan's loins. Let us join hands, 

Proclaiming to our peoples, white and red, 

Those mated truths, the brotherhood of men, 

Under the one great fatherhood of God." 

Despite these prayers, which moved his stoutest 


The little man, persisting, cried, "No, no, 
The stranger wronged me. Bid him leave our realms. " 
But petted, coaxed and flattered by his wives, 
To terms of peace at last he gave assent, 
Adding, "I grant the white lord privilege 
To wait upon me at my wigwam here ; 

BooK XXIII 487 

But hark ye, messengers : say to your chief, 

That he comes not in panoply of war, 

Nor mounted on his demon steed : he comes 

On foot to do me honor, or my lodge 

Is barred against him. " Hearing this reply, 

And trusting that the Chief by tactful words 

Might be placated, soon the Spanish Knight 

Went forth afoot, and climbed the ladder-steps 

That scaled the royal mound. He made his bow 

With many courtly phrases, and the Chief, 

Ignoring past feuds, hailed him smilingly. 

"Abide with us," the old man said, "and let 

Thy comrades take our daughters unto wife. 

Why wander further? In the path behind 

Are lonely graves where sleep thy perished friends: 

Along the path before are treacherous perils, 

Lying in wait for thee. " But then replied 

His guest, "Nay, reverend Chief; our feet must wend 

Through far-off princedoms of the setting sun, 

Until we gain our bourn, so long desired, 

Though still unfound. " Thereat the Chieftain cried, 

"Such is the lot of all! To-day thou comest, 

To-morrow goest. Here I greet thee now, 

But ere this moon wanes, we shall bid farewell, 

And never shall we meet again. How brief 

And how uncertain is our little life! 

At day spring born, at twilight fled forever!" 

De Soto answered, "True: no man can tell 
The answer to the riddle of this world ; 
No key unlocks the gate beyond the grave. 
But still my heart recoileth from believing 
That here can be our origin or end. 

Hernando De Soto 

Life, like a sleek and oily publican, 

Rubbing his hands, smiling and bowing low, 

Welcomes us one day to his hostelry, 

But when the night comes, hurries us away 

To make room for some other just arrived. 

But let not that landlord dream his guest's career 

Beneath his petty roof begins or ends ; 

That guest hath trod an hundred inns before, 

And still may tread a thousand inns to come. " 

"I fear me," said the Chieftain, "That this life, 
And this life only, is vouchsafed us. Once, 
When but a boy, I heard a redbird sing 
By a wild rose, that, fresh with morning dews, 
Blossomed above his nest. Ere noontide flamed, 
That dew had vanished; at the evenfall 
That rose lay shattered, and that very night 
A lynx's keen fangs pierced the brilliant bird. 
In childish grief I sobbed; but none returned, 
That song, that song-bird, nor that dewy rose. 
They tell me thou art wise, dread stranger. So, 
I ask thee when that bird, that song, that rose, 
Those twinkling dews, shall gladden earth again? 
Gone, gone forever! And why not so with man? 
He flees, and fleeing, goes to come no more." 

"But in thy heart," De Soto answered him, 
"That bird still sings, that rose yet blushes; there 
Those dewdrops still hang quivering. Through the 


Within thy memory's casket are they treasured. 
And never shall that bird-song falter, nor 
That rose be faded, nor those dewdrops cease 
To quiver, while thy pulse beats : but retained 

BooK XXIII 489 

Within thine inmost being, shall they live, 

Exempt from death while thou hast breath. As thou, 

A mortal, canst retain them still, so God 

Can, if He choose, grant immortality: 

We are but emanations from His mind ; 

We live and have existence in His thought ; 

He wills us into being, and can call 

The vanished being back to life again. 

Yea, God can recreate us, and retain us 

Forever in the heaven of His heart. " 

This visit over, soon their thoughts were turned . 

To the Great River, which the foresters 

Assured them now was nigh. That very eve 

They took the pathway through the woods, when lo! 

Scarcely ten moment's journey being done, 

The Father of Waters lay before their eyes. 

High on a bluff they stood : anear its base 
The Mississippi rolled his mighty flood. 93 
The lordly river, half a league in breadth, 
And flowing gently, parted in two streams 
Around a verdant island to the south. 
Titanic in his grandeur, yet serene 
And placid with a godlike majesty, 
The King of Rivers to the Christians' hearts 
Brought admiration, awe and reverence. 

De Soto viewed with fascinated eyes 

The scene before him. Into his troubled soul 

There came, he knew not why, a holy calm; 

A deep yet tranquil joy surged through his heart, 

As with a great thanksgiving hymn to God. 

Faint in his ears, a whisper from afar 

49 Hernando De Soto 

Assured him that this river with his name 

Would be entwined forever: 94 that this stream, 

More stately than the Danube or the Nile, 

Would be the artery, in a distant age, 

To some illustrious empire, more august 

Than that which centered on the Tiber's shore. 

Here would be giant cities, splendid halls, 

The homes of Commerce, Learning, Wealth and 


Here Art and Science would be honored; here 
Would be the haunts of Story and of Song, 
Renowned in lays of poets yet to be, 
Surpassing in romantic legendry 
The dome-crowned Arno or the vine-clad Rhine. 

He called it The River of the Holy Ghost. 95 

Long after all his men had sought the camp, 

Intent on little tasks that closed their day, 

De Soto, silent, mused upon the banks 

Of the Great River, that, with sacrifice 

Of toils and tears, his prowess now had won. 

Recumbent in a dim, secluded spot, 

As in a sanctuary, he was lulled 

Into benign repose. Far to the west, 

The setting sun in benediction hung, 

And burnished heaving waves with melted gold; 

Above the vast, deep western wilderness 

He paused, then sank, and left the quiet world 

To rest, to meditation and to sleep. 

The brilliant gold of sunset deepened slow 

To orange ; then the fragile floating clouds 

Took chastened tints of faded rose and pearl. 

The chirp of crickets beat with drowsy notes; 

The cadence of cicadas, like a dirge, 

DooK XXIII 49i 

Sighed through the unillumined forest gloom; 
The requiems of lone thrushes pined and yearned 
At rustic altars of umbrageous woods, 
Soft evensongs at gentle evenfall 
For euthanasia of departing day. 
Through haunts sequestered and forsaken stole 
The sundown shadows; from its rich maroon 
To ashen twilight waned the afterglow. 
Soon melancholy purple dimmed the skies, 
And through the vesper gloaming, tremulous, 
The fair-faced, timid stars came one by one. 
The gray-winged gulls wheeled slowly, homeward- 

Then solemn Nightfall, like a Sibyl, came, 
And in one great libation, from her urn 
Outgushed the darkness over earth and heaven; 
But still De Soto mused beside the stream, 
Immovable in silence, lost in thought. 

Long kept he there his vigil ; but at last 
His weary brain was overcome: he slept, 
But sleeping saw a vision of this land 
As it should be in far-off years to come. 
He dreamed he saw his River flowing on 
Amid the stateliest realm of all the world. 
Gigantic bridges spanned it ; vessels swam 
Upon it like great sea fowl ; on its banks, 
Like iron-armored dragons, fettered fast, 
Devouring fire, and breathing smoke and flame, 
Yet tamed, and made man's most obedient slaves, 
Black forge and furnace wrought their miracles. 
He looked upon the fields, and yellowing grains 
Seemed golden oceans rippling far away. 
Then fleecy cotton glimmered on the scene, 

49 2 Hernando De Soto 

As though white clouds had fallen down from heaven, 
And scattered through the hills. Here flocks of sheep 
And herds of cattle grazed the meadows : here 
Were orchards bending low with blushing fruit. 
Here happy homes, the haunts of innocence, 
Of love and peace and plenty, decked the land. 

Still further peered he through futurity. 

The scions of this country had achieved 

Such wonders as made real all the dreams 

Of Sindbad and Aladdin, and eclipsed 

The feats of Perseus and of Hercules. 

A wisp of vapor, frail and delicate 

As airy cobweb tangled in a flower, 

Became a power of supernatural strength, 

Immured in iron, manacled in steel, 

To bow before them as its conquering lords. 

So, like the meek, gigantic elephant 

That draws the chariot of the prince of Ind, 

It led their car in triumph. Or athwart 

The vasty oceans, arrowy in speed, 

It swam, outrunning Neptune's foaming steeds, 

And making sundered hemispheres as one. 

It brought them snowy pelts of polar-bears 

From Arctic glaciers; heaps of luscious fruits 

From sweet West-Indian orchards ; cinnamon 

From groves of Java; silks from Ispahan, 

And ivory from the sources of the Nile. 

They carried lightnings, fettered, in their hands, 
Or loaded them with burdens. In the night 
They wove them into aureoles of flame, 
Or fashioned of them scintillating blooms, 
That made at gloaming an elysium 

BooK XXIII 493 

More splendent than the gardens of the dawn. 

Again, the nimble fluid at their hest 

Became a Hebe, lily-footed, swift 

As that divine cup-bearer of the Gods, 

Or, like an Iris, bore their messages 

Above the islands and the continents, 

On plumes more light than wings of butterflies. 

Though severed by a thousand jealous leagues 

Of mountain, desert, wold and wilderness, 

Converse they had with absent ones at will, 

As though they saw each other face to face. 

They laid great cables, and beneath the sea 

Their salutations swam, usurping realms 

Of frighted nereids ; by the starless caves 

Where sea-nymphs combed their green, pearl-spangled 


It roused the merman in his darksome grot ; 
A monster of the deep, half-man, half-fish, 
With barnacles and cockles overgrown, 
He left his couch of seaweed and of moss, 
And puffed and spewed and snorted, while his mate 
Leaned from her throne of coral, bending down 
Her sea-shell ear against the fragile strand 
To eavesdrop whispered messages of flame. 
But far below the porpoise and the shark, 
The leaping dolphin and the spouting whale, 
Through ocean's never-changing emerald night, 
On fiery wings unquenched of chilly brine, 
The tidings hurried, bringing side by side 
Iberian headlands and Floridian shores. 

Again, these men had mastered Space and Time, 
Till verges of the world appeared in reach. 

494 Hernando De Soto 

Men's likenesses they made, and reproduced 
Through fingers of the lightning far away. 
Pictorial scenes they drew of Afric sands, 
Gold-diggers of Australian nether-worlds, 
Of Greenland icebergs, equatorial palms, 
Bleak steppes of Tartary, and auroral flames 
That glitter in Antarctic realms of snow, 
And vivid, vital, moving on a screen, 
Revealed them unto throngs in distant lands. 

They likewise wrought them cunning implements 
Wherein they prisoned sounds, an infant's croon, 
The trill of bird, the rustle of a leaf, 
The tinkle of a gittern, tune of harp. 
And like the butterfly in amber sealed, 
Or fragile fern-leaf prisoned in the rock, 
That spans the centuries from a bygone age, 
Their frailest whispers outlived empires ; songs 
That else were transitory as the winds, 
Lasted as long as everlasting hills. 

Again he looks. These never-daunted men 
Have conquered dizzy amplitudes of air, 
And proved themselves the Vikings of the skies. 96 
They fashion airships, and they cleave the clouds, 
Claiming dominion over fields of heaven 
As over fields of earth. The sharp-eyed hawk 
Angrily circles around them; the eagle 
, Darts at them viciously ; the snowy crane 
'In her swift flight glances a moment back, 
Frightened to see her earth-born rivals. Oft, 
The Queen of Air, jealous of such great feats, 
Dooms the brave men to death. At giddy heights 
Snapping their slender crafts like brittle straw, 

BooK XXIII 495 

She hurls them forth, and lo! the gallant souls 
Plunge headlong from the skies. But not dismayed, 
Others step forward : these the attack renew, 
And subjugate the firmament. At last 
Their galleons cleave the heavenly blue above 
As Spanish galleons cleaved the blue below. 
So, like the albatross that sleeps a-wing, 
Amid the tempest's flashing thunderbolts, 
And over angry oceans lashed to foam, 
Speeds on the airship with its human freight 
Sleeping secure through raging elements. 

And now he sees this Empire's sons explore 
The depths of ocean : far beneath the waves 
Dive down their slender boats, and dart away 
Through the dim briny wilderness. They match 
Feats of their brethren who have soared through 


Swimming with fishes as those flew with birds. 
Down, down beneath the billows, in his dream, 
Descends the Spanish lord, accompanied 
By those adventurous spirits yet unborn. 
What wonders greet them! With what wild amaze 
Those denizens of ocean stare and stare 
At the invaders of the deep ! He sees, 
Floating through fields and forests submarine, 
Slim fishes dotted like a pheasant's plumes, 
Or spotted like a peacock's train : here glide 
Fishes bright red, like scarlet tanagers, 
Or white and crimson, like gay cockatoos, 
While others, orioles of ocean, flit 
Splendid in orange and in sable hues. 
Some, hideous, hump-backed, spiny, are adorned 
With beaming eyes, big red and yellow globes 

496 Hernando De Soto 

Of ruby or of jasper : others still 
Turn on the intruders weird, resplendent orbs 
Of moon-white pearl with opalescent flames. 
Here sweep the parrot fish in radiant green, 
With rosy mottlings and with saffron zones, 
And angel fish, in purple, pink and blue, 
Glowing like gorgeous birds of Paradise. 
Some steal among the silent coral woods, 
Or seek the caverned rocks for solitude. 
Some, palpitant, hang midway in the brine 
Like stately-pinioned eagles poised in air, 
And pierce the blue night of that ocean-realm 
With starry beamings of their Argus eyes, 
Amazed to see the conquest of their world. 

And now he seems to soar to dizzy heights, 
And view the far Peruvian mountain-peaks. 
There, where the patient, slowly-plodding mule 
Once groaned in crawling up the steepy cliffs, 
Flogged, cursed and chided by the muleteer, 
The people of this late-discovered land 
Have builded highways of engirding steel. 97 
And there, like iron chargers, climb their cars 
Amid the clouds, in everlasting cold, 
With lonesome condors, wild vicuna herds; 
Through snowstorms falling on eternal snows; 
By red volcano-cones, that lift their flames 
To match the dead day's crimson afterglow. 

He looks upon the green West-Indian isles ; 
The tropic zephyrs, once miasma-fraught, 
Are clarified of all their noxious germs; 
For lo! this people coming from the North, 
Have freed them from the venomed Pestilence,- 

Book XXIII 497 

That Basilisk whose baleful glance is death, 
Leaving their realms unshadowed of his eye. 

Again, he looks on shores of Darien, 
Seeing gigantic derricks, harrows, drills, 
And panting engines, driving mammoth plows 
That burrow in the bases of the hills, 
Dam up the rivers, quell insurgent floods, 
And make a royal pathway unto ships 
From sea to sea. He seems to hear a voice 
Crying aloud: ".4s once Pedr arias barred 
Hernando's soul from the soul of Isabel, 
So hath the land of Darien barred these twain, 
Enamored oceans that have yearned to wed, 
Till now Columbia's sons have leveled down 
The wall of ages. Now the wedding feast 
Stands ready, and the great Pacific robes 
In garments of the bridegroom, for he claims 
The queenly-browed Atlantic as his bride." 

Again he looks, and sees this Nation's sons 
Under the bleak skies of the Northern Pole, 
Where wild winds, (phantom spirits of the lost,) 
Sweep wailing by forever; where the sun, 
A feeble candle in a burial-vault, 
Gleams coldly, and the dreary year bestows 
Six joyless months of day, six fearful night. 
There glints the lonesome pole-star overhead, 
And over shroud-like snows, the northern lights 
With glittering daggers stab the shuddering dark. 
But Boreas, King of Storms, now hurries forth 
From windy caves in mountain-peaks of ice, 
Goaded with jealousy; about his face 
And in his eyes is wildly blown his hair, 

498 ' Hernando De Soto 

Whereon the snowflakes scatter; down his breast, 

Bristling with icicles, sweeps gray his beard. 

He sees the pale-faced travelers from afar 

Invading his dominions ; at their side 

The low-browed, stooping, dwarfish Esquimaux 

Are begging to return, and at their feet 

The shaggy dogs, sprinkled with falling snows, 

Are whining and are howling in dismay 

At scenes so unfamiliar and so stern. 

But in those vast unbroken solitudes 

Of unrelenting cold, the travelers 

Stand firm and fear not; they will not return 

Until the goal is reached! And now a voice 

Proclaims aloud: ".4s once Hernando' s feet 

Strode onward bravely, though along their path 

Nature wove snares and dug deceptive pits; 

As once Hernando 1 s heart alone stood firm 

When comrades urged him to confess defeat; 

So these men, learning of his lesson, faced 

The far North with its terrors, and refused 

The supplications of their savage guides 

Who begged them march no further; and they trod 

Through icy realms of desolation, wilds 

Where God Himself appeared a stranger; there 

They found the eyrie of the Northern Star. 

Earth, the veiled Isis, shall uplift her veil, 

And the Unknown shall be unknown no more!" 

Recluse and cloistered Secrets in their caves 
These men surprised; forth from their hermitage 
They dragged them by the hair, and made them serfs ; 
And giant Forces, slumbering in their lairs, 
They bound, and made the servitors of Man. 
Like serpent-charmers using magic arts, 

BooK XXIII 499 

They captured deadly Powers, and drew their fangs, 
Or fondled them as playthings free of harm. 
A wizard wand they waved, and at its call 
Uprose the spirits ruling sea and land, 
To run on errands as obedient thralls. 

But highest, noblest of their deeds for good, 

Amid the gloam of obsolescent creeds 

They preached the gospel of the Law of Love. 

They strove for liberty to worship God 

As conscience guided ; but while just to heaven, 

Forgot they not the sacred rights of Man, 

Nor failed they evermore to teach and preach 

The Brotherhood of all Humanity. 

So then the dreamer thought of Codro's words: 
" What great achievements shall that people's be! 
Merlin shall be outdone, yea, at their deeds 
Merlin, the demon's son, shall shrink abashed, 
Confessing that his own black arts appear 
Beside them but the triflings of a child. " 
Again, amidst his evil plight, he felt 
What solace was there for him in that thought 
Of the old sage: " In failing thou hadst won; 
In losing thou hadst gained a victory 
Well worth the struggles of a demigod." 
And consolation for his present griefs 
Lay in that other utterance of the seer, 
"A noble failure shames a bad success." 

At last, the dreamer stirred: moving, he woke, 
Startled to find himself alone. He glanced 
Quickly about him. Now the glorious dream 
Had vanished, but the world was lovely still. 

500 Hernando De Soto 

Lo ! all the east was rosy ; night had fled : 
Cool breezes rustled through the leaves ; the grass 
Twinkled with dews; the birds were all awake, 
And earth and heaven were thrilled with songs of 


Crossing the Mississippi Vain search for gold and silver The 
marshes of the river Fish and waterfowl Ambuscades of 
the natives Some discontented soldiers desert The Span 
iards worshiped The lame and the blind are brought to 
them for healing Prayers for rain are made to them 
De Soto's answer The great drought and the thunderstorm 
The Prairies De Soto is lost upon them Great herds of 
bison De Soto's narrow escape from death He finally 
returns to the camp in safety Waning of Summer and the 
coming of Autumn Flight of the parrots Finding of the 
salt springs Some die from devouring the salt Discovery 
of the Ozark Mountains The country of the Tunicas and 
Tulas De Soto is forced to turn in retreat His meditations 
on the night afterwards Discovery of the hot springs 
Juan Ortiz falls ill De Soto in vain seeks to save him, and 
he dies. 

THE Spaniards builded boats, and ere one moon 
Had passed from crescent unto crescent, all 
Their band had crossed the stream. With weary feet 
First they marched north, then later ventured west, 98 
Seeking for El Dorado : but in vain 
They yearned for gold and silver, for no sight 
Of treasure lit their avaricious eyes. 
Often the natives brought them shining ores, 
Crying, "See here the thing you seek." But no! 
All the bright nuggets, at a moment's glance 
Proved base, green-crusted copper. Many a time 
Would the barbarians in their eagerness 
To haste the unwelcome visitors away, 


502 Hernando De Soto 

Say unto them, "Beyond us ye will find 

The richest kingdom of the world : march on : 

A few days' journey brings you to that land. " 

The Spaniards, thrilled with hope, would speed away, 

Only to find a joyless desert waste 

Of famished Indians and their starving curs. 

These new tribes, with the same old strategy, 

Would point back, saying, "No, the mines of gold 

Are in the lands you passed. " As children seek 

To romp and hide in clouds of morning mist, 

Yet running forward, see them fade before, 

And turning, view them at the spot they left, 

And so, wherever speeding, find them not, 

But puzzled and eluded, see them still 

Before them and behind them, so these men, 

Like bearded, weather-beaten urchins, found 

That wheresoever paused their weary feet, 

That spot was curst, though others all were blest. 

Vast marshes fringed the river : gloomy tarns 

Stagnated in eternal solitude, 

And sluggish runnels, marged with sighing reeds, 

Stole on in silence. Here on rotting logs 

Coiled venomed serpents. Dim and lonesome pools 

Made haunts for ghostly herons gleaming white 

Through shades of melancholy cypresses. 

Here the unwieldly bullfrog hoarsely croaked 

At all intruders in his hermitage. 

Here waterfowl came flocking : here were fish 

So plentiful that natives slew them oft 

With blows of cudgels." One enormous fish, 

An hundredweight or more on balances, 

Naked of scales, swelled with a monstrous head, 

Prodigious mouth and glassy eyes ; his sides 

BooK XXIV 503 

For weapons bristled with keen-pointed spines 
That wounded with an agonizing sting. 
One poked a snout a cubit in its length, 
Shaped like a shovel ; and another still 
Snapped jagged saw-like teeth in frightful jaws. 

Wherever marched the weary sons of Spain, 
Ferocious enemies in front and rear 
Darted with scorpion stings : from boughs of trees 
Sang their sharp missiles : mingled with the blades 
Of the tall tufted grasses, hostile spears 
Bristled but half-concealed: each lake, each river, 
Swarming with legions of slim black canoes, 
Became a scene of battle. Night and day, 
Noon, dusk and dawn, forever on the alert, 
The Christians kept their vigils, daring not 
One moment to relax in trustful ease. 

And if perchance a friendly tribe were found, 

His men would beg De Soto to remain, 

Moaning, "Why go still further? Here is peace 

And rest and comfort. If we leave this land, 

Death waits us in the next. O, gracious lord, 

Let us abide contented here!" But still 

The inexorable leader, frowningly 

Would thunder "No! March on!" So, when the 


Had been resumed, oft would the soldiers find 
Some comrades missing, and they knew the wretches 
Would nevermore return, skulking behind 
For fear of toils and dangers yet to come, 
Apostates from their leader and their God. 
Dark daughters of the wilds these men espoused, 
And left behind in those vast solitudes 

504 Hernando De Soto 

To herd in savage huts, with savages 
To roam the desert waste, how oft their hearts 
Must have made desperate struggles to forget 
Their home, their country, and their native tongue, 
Their mothers, fathers, friends, and Christ Himself 
There in the solemn western wilderness! 

A simple tribe they reached, whose people came 
Worshiping them as gods. 100 Cripples were led 
Hobbling and staggering forward, who exclaimed, 
"See, we are lame! Straighten our withered limbs!" 
And blind men, creeping up with outstretched hands, 
Whimpered and wailed, "Give back our sight!" 

Some cried, 

"For three long moons no rain hath fallen; the fields 
Are parching ; corn is withered ; all the streams 
Are dry and dusty. Give us rain, we pray!" 
De Soto answered: "Nay, deluded souls! 
Bow to no man, born like yourselves, of dust; 
Pray to no man, born like yourselves, to die. 
Ask of the God who made the skies, for rain: 
Ask of the God who made you, to be healed. 
All other prayers are lost on idle winds. " 
What irony was here ! They who had limped 
In rags and tatters through these desert wilds 
Seeking an El Dorado housed in gold, 
A demigod whose glory dimmed the sun, 
Found poor barbarians, weak and pitiful, 
Who, like themselves, groping for higher things, 
Fell prostrate at the wanderers' blistered feet! 
So men will ever on their bellies crawl 
Before some Nero or Tiberius 
Raised by their own slave-hands to pedestals; 
So men will ever eat the very dust 

DooK XXIV 505 

Before base idols moulded by themselves. 

The Powers That Be must smile, yet weep anon, 

And melt with pity free from touch of wrath, 

Seeing the blind men in this blinded world 

Grope stumbling, bleeding, bruised, feeling their 

With trembling outstretched hands through tenfold 

To touch the garments of the Unknown God! 

They bided with this people for a time, 
Since the fierce heat was such that steed and man 
Sank overpowered, and the weary march 
Halted from sheer exhaustion. 

Long ago 

The Flower-Moon had faded ; in her turn 
The Corn-Moon now was dwindling; irksome days 
And tedious nights had passed without a rain. 
The Sun, a despot, from his throne of brass 
Ruled glaring desert skies without a cloud, 
And dreary as a dead-calm tropic sea 
Glaring for desert leagues without a sail. 

In stifling woods the leaves hung languishing, 

And boughs were blighted ere the summer died : 

The fragrant sweet-gum with its balsam oozed, 

And reddened ere the Turkey-Moon arose. 

The thirsty locust buzzed : the katydid 

Piped in her shrill and senile monotone. 

The withered sedges bristled on the hills : 

The wild pinks faded in the furnace-heat: 

The dewy evening primrose sadly drooped 

Her odorous yellow buds through blackened leaves: 

506 Hernando De Soto 

The scarlet butterfly-weed burned lonesomely 
Through hazy clouds of suffocating dust : 
The sickly wild bean trailed with shriveled pods: 
The bursting capsule scattered out its seeds. 
The air hung feverish; over stubble-fields, 
A quivering, curling fluid, steamed the heat. 
Amid that tanned Sahara's torrid blaze 
The lizard panted on the bleaching stones, 
The sparrow panted on her spear of grass, 
The dogs lay panting under wilted weeds, 
The horses panted in the sun-dried stream, 
And men lay panting under yellowing trees. 

Deflowered and defoliated plains 

Lay sunburnt like a panther's reddish skin. 

And gazing upward at the Libyan skies 

That glared upon her fierce and pitiless, 

In supplications for relief appeared 

The wishful, wistful, haggard face of Earth! 

The medicine-man strode forth, commanding rain. 

His painted face leered like a hideous mask; 

Upon his head a pair of bison-horns 

Curved imp-like from a vulture-feather crest; 

A necklace strung with alligator-teeth 

Hung to his bosom; and a rattlesnake, 

Swollen with poison, twined his monstrous coils 

About the shoulders of the sorcerer, 

Soothed into tameness by some wizardry. 

The conjurer shot his arrows at the sun, 

Yelling, "The drought must end! Come forth, ye 


Or ye shall feel my wrath!" No cloud arose. 
He shook a gourd wherein were rattling peas, 

Book XXIV 507 

And beat a drum hewn from a hollow tree; 

Still burned the sun, disdainful. Then he heaped 

Dust on his head, and shrieked and groaned and 


He gabbled and he babbled; but no rain 
Fell at the summons of his dissonance. 
Shamefaced, defeated in his witchcraft arts, 
He muttered and he mumbled, slinking off, 
Derided by his sometime followers. 
A squaw, half-crazed, bearing a half-dead babe, 
Rushed in delirium through the arid fields, 
And lifting up her feeble sick pappoose, 
She cried aloud, "Rain, rain, or he will die!" 

In time, when efforts ceased from sheer despair, 

As though to please its own capricious will, 

The sky began to lower; scurrying clouds 

Darkened the brazen glitter of the sun. 

Low muttered distant thunders. Soon the air 

Grew hushed with apprehension, then, aroused, 

Its wavelets rushed with grateful coolness. Now 

The Tempest, like a savage lover, rose, 

Appalling, huge and hairy, masculine, 

To claim the Earth, his long-expectant mate, 

Eager yet shrinking, anxious yet afraid, 

Fain and yet timid, in her woman's way. 

And as a lion of Numidian sands, 

Black-maned and shaggy, of ferocious mien, 

Strides forth gigantic over burning wilds 

Of Afric deserts to demand his spouse, 

And ramps and roars till all the barren waste 

Shakes under him, beholding as he comes 

Terrific courtship, frightful dalliance 

So rushed that Thunderstorm upon the world. 

508 Hernando De Soto 

The tyrant Sun was disenthroned ; the skies 
Were blotted by onrushing pitchy clouds. 
Anon and ever, fitful lightnings flashed 
In bright scintillas, then in tortuous lines, 
Like glittering rivers mapped on scrolls of heaven. 

Now come the awful thunders, peal on peal, 

Concussion on concussion, crash on crash, 

That set the hills a-tremble, shake the huts, 

And deafen with their terrifying roar. 

A dragon with prodigious phantom wings, 

And crowned with flames, sweeps on the conquering 


Arfd like a vast, resistless billowy sea, 
Down comes the sweeping deluge of the rain. 

For hours it fell in torrents : after noon 

Its fall was gentler: gratefully it poured, 

Reviving and refreshing thirsty groves, 

And fructifying parched and sterile fields. 

The stalks of corn, half -yellowed from the heat, 

Regained their youth, living their springtime over; 

They clapped their slender glossy hands in glee, 

And gamboled with the raindrops pattering down, 

Seeming to laugh and dance for very joy. 

The Spanish youths stripped naked; rushing out 

Amid the downpour of the cooling flood, 

And wading with their bare feet in the streams, 

They shouted, romped and sported merrily, 

Hilarious as a throng of boys from school. 

A rainbow with celestial hues proclaimed 
The bridal of enamored Earth and Heaven. 
In watery emerald and in violet 

BooK XXIV 509 

And orange it was vestured ; at its side 
Its fragile duplicate revealed the tints 
Of crocus and of lilac and of rose, 
In dimmer beauty. Unto man it seemed 
Resplendent as an arch of triumph, curved 
Above the everlasting throne of God, 
Proclaiming victory over Death and Sin. 

In time they reached the prairies. Here, one day, 

De Soto, deep in thought, from camp estrayed. 

So, lost in dreams, and heedless of his course, 

League after league he rode. But, when aroused, 

He saw the sun at noon, no tent in sight, 

Vast plains around him, not one friendly path, 

And never a landmark lifting to his aid, 

He grew alarmed, and seeking to return, 

Vainly endeavored to retrace the steps 

Whereby he first had wandered forth. At length, 

Rambling and indistinct, he spied a trail 

Of tracks of bison; this allured him on 

With false hopes, ever farther. Thus confused, 

Dazed and confounded, roaming here and there, 

He murmured, "I am lost. What shall I do?" 

Nothing was there to guide him: by the sun 

Of noontide, neither might the north from south, 

Nor east from west be known : no tree appeared, 

No stream nor hillock : all about him lay 

The great green prairies, boundless, measureless. 

Had not his soul to everything been blind 

Save peril fraught with deep anxiety, 

No sight more lovely than those grassy leas 

Could have enthralled him. Decking all the world, 

A field of Eden waved caressingly 

5IO Hernanclo De Soto 

In soft and gentle green. With hand in hand, 
As in a dream, tripped smiling Peace and Calm 
Over the heaving bosom of the plain. 
Well might one feel that since the world began, 
No fire, no storm, lightning nor thunderbolt, 
Nor yet the clash of brazen arms of war, 
Those dim and sweet elysian scenes had marred. 

The pale green of the undulating fields 

Was sprinkled over with many-colored flowers, 

Poetic and enchanting. Brilliant plots 

Of orange and of scarlet, like rich scarfs 

Adorning once some oriental queen, 

Flecked the soft verdure of the smooth champaigns 

In gay confusion. Meadows moist and dark 

Marshmallows had enameled deep in red, 

Or creamy white and pink. At other times 

The pampas rolled a sea of yellow sprays, 

With saffron billows palpitant, that surged 

And swelled and swayed around the horse's head, 

And powdered all his silken neck and mane 

With gold-dust like the sunlit ocean foam. 

But now De Soto, roving anxiously, 

Turned in impatience from the lovely scenes 

That wistfully, with fond alluring arts, 

His glance besought. The dappled meadow-lark, 

From wild- verbena haunts scared suddenly, 

Startled him by her hurried flight: the quail 

Wearied his ear like a persistent boy, 

Whistling and shouting all the livelong day : 

The goldfinch, twittering in his airy course, 

Or warbling on his purple thistle-crest, 

Teased him with frivolous glee. So vexed he was, 

BooK XXIV 5" 

That even the flutter of soft downy wings 
Of airy black and yellow butterflies 
Circling in lightsome dalliance round his head, 
Seemed a harsh noise that grated on his ears. 
For leagues he rode, but still his aching eyes 
Spied nothing on the earth nor in the heavens 
Save two great oceans one the blue above, 
The other green below, blending afar. 

But soon the wanderer still was more alarmed 
When in the distance, like a sombre cloud, 
A moving line appeared. He paused awhile, 
Perplexed, and lost in wonderment. And then 
Unto himself he muttered half aloud, 
"A band of savages comes on the march. " 
But looking more intently, "No," he said; 
"For never in all time hath such a host 
Of humankind traversed the world." Ere long 
It seemed a mighty, swiftly-moving flock 
Of wild brown cattle: after a moment's pause 
He thought of herds of bison, that athwart 
Those western plains in legions numberless 
Strode like a murky living ocean, vast 
And irresistible, in blinded power 
Deluging and destroying everything 
Standing upon their way. His fears were just, 
For plainly now he saw the swarming droves 
Hurrying toward him, threatening speedy death 
Under their myriad hoofs. 

The brutes, he thought, 
Were seeking water. In their frantic haste 
To gain the welcome pools and quench their thirst, 
What power could stay their march? "When not in 

512 Hernando De Soto 

Red men had told him, "these wild cattle bound 
From men affrighted ; but when multitudes 
Come packed together, not one brute can flee, 
Nor turn to flee, nor even swerve aside: 
Thus, driven onward helplessly, they crush 
All living things beneath them. " Never before 
Had he beheld these creatures, 101 but his eyes 
Needed small confirmation of the fears 
Quaking within his bosom. Here they came, 
With shaggy humps, brown fur and crescent horns, 
A myriad-headed plague, 102 darkening the world, 
Stamping and pounding and grinding underfoot 
All the green splendors of the plain! 


He glanced around him. What should now be done? 
He dared not flee before them, for he feared 
That turning in that course, even further still 
From camp his flight would lead him. And in truth, 
His charger, wearied after many hours 
Of wandering, might be overtaken : then, 
Under that dread oncoming avalanche 
Master and horse would both be buried. ' 


Short is his time for action. On they sweep, 
Those in the front prodded by those behind, 
And those behind by others further back, 
A phalanx tramping on invincible, 
A mighty, solid mass, surcharged with doom! 

But now his heart was gladdened; for he spied, 

Half a league thence, a solitary mound, 

Tall, steep, and hard to scale, the handiwork 

BooK XXIV 513 

Of peoples gone forever. On its crest 
Flourished a stout young tree. "If my good steed 
Can reach yon hillock ere the herd, " he cried, 
"Our lives are saved. " So he spurred swiftly on, 
Eager to gain it. Now the courser paced 
Through daisy-dappled meads, star-flowered lawns, 
And silken greenswards : to his breast he plunged 
Through billowy jungles of cerulean blooms, 
Savannahs of celestial beauty, blue 
As azure pools in heaven. 

But he heeds not 

These paradisal charms : he hastens on. 
See, nearer and still nearer comes the herd, 
A vast, resistless body, miles in width! 
Birds, routed from their nests, flit on before, 
Chattering with terror and distress: two lean 
And lanky wolves come trotting hurriedly, 
And long-eared hares leap racing for their lives. 
But now, rejoiced, he gains the monticle, 
Barely in time. His faithful barb, aware 
With subtle apprehension, of his wish, 
Scaling the steep hill free of whip and spur, 
Behind the young tree pauses. Here they find 
A safe place, yet so narrow, that the horse 
Merely can gain a footing. And they scarce 
Have reached the summit, when around the base 
Rolls the great herd. With brutal, blundering force, 
As sweeps some turbid flood and measureless, 
Whirling beneath it in its ruthless course 
A lovely vale, expunging all its charms, 
And swallowing all in ruin, so sweeps on 
That dusky multitude. Those at the front 
Seeing the horse and rider, seek in fear 


514 Hernando De Soto 

Vainly to turn; but the others, packed behind 

In masses far-extended, goad them on; 

So, pushed and thrust and driven, all the drove 

Surges compact together, impotent 

In its own monstrous, overwhelming power. 

Fighting and struggling round the monticle, 

Many are crushed and wounded. Some great bulls, 

Gored by the horns of those behind, attempt 

To scale the mound, but soon they totter back, 

Rolling and sprawling and tumbling on the heads 

Of others at the base. As when a host 

Besieges a stout citadel, some climb 

Even to the summit, and are backward hurled 

Headlong upon their comrades far below, 

So climb and fall those bullocks. As they pant 

And groan, and struggle back at sight of man, 

They reach so near the Spaniard, that he feels 

Their hot, quick breath upon him, while his horse 

Quivers to feel the grazing of their horns. 

Mile after mile marched on that multitude, 

Unbroken, closely packed and wedged together. 

The tardy hours passed also, and the sun 

Was slowly sinking. But before the day 

Had ended, gladly he beheld the rear 

Of that great host, that army of the plains, 

Straggling in scattered throngs. What dreariness, 

What ruin and what desolation marked 

The pathway of that horde of shaggy brutes! 

They left behind them, not the velvet leas, 

The bloomy vegas and green-tufted lawns, 

But sombre, dismal seas of trampled dust, 

As though a conflagration, sweeping by, 

Had burned and charred and blackened all the world. 

BooK XXIV 515 

Since nightfall was at hand, and he had sought 

To find the path in vain, he gave his horse 

Free bridle let him wander as he would. 

At once the faithful charger pricked his ears, 

And galloping onward, neighing joyfully, 

Without one moment's pause followed a course 

Directed by an instinct safe and sure, 

God's own mysterious gift to speechless things. 

The full-orbed moon rose ; by her friendly beams 

De Soto kenned the forest far away. 

With joy he viewed again the selfsame scenes 

He had passed that morning. As he reached the 


And rose above the plains, he heard the shouts 
And musket-shots of comrades, who, alarmed, 
Were seeking for the lost one through those wilds. 
So, lustily, he answered shout with shout, 
And drawing nearer to each other, soon 
The leader and his anxious followers 
Stood within hailing distance. "He is here!" 
Vasconcelos exclaimed. " My lord, " he cried, 
Seeing De Soto, "We have searched for thee 
All the day long. Now God be praised, at last 
We find thee, as we prayed, unharmed!" So then, 
With many a hand-clasp, many a hearty cheer, 
Onward they sped, and ere the midnight came 
Once more De Soto stood amongst his friends, 
He and his old companions, one and all, 
Rejoiced and thankful at his safe return. 

And now the Virgin, low in western heavens, 
Upraised beseeching hands as Summer died; 
Pale shimmered through the twinkling firmament 
Her heavenly wreath of stellar nenuphars; 

516 Hernando De Soto 

Blonde Spica quivered on her ear of corn, 

A tear of pearl ; like tears of blood and fire, 

Antares and Arcturus burned; far north, 

In frigid polar splendor, Vega sped 

Her mingled rays of sapphire and of snow. 

Declined afar from Cancer's zenith fires, 

The Sun, monastic pilgrim, wended slow 

Through austral paths, chilled from his summer 


Bound on that journey which would end afar 
On glimmering heights of lonely Capricorn. 

Then came wan Autumn with her azure haze, 
Her thronging quails, her slumbrous cricket-songs, 
Her thistle-downs afloat in dreamy air, 
Her auburn sunsets, pensive eventides. 
Gone was the poignant ecstasy of Spring, 
The bliss of glowing June: despondingly 
Drooped mellow yellow leaves, and deeply sighed 
Autumnal dirges in dejected boughs. 
Kindly and gracious, yet with pallid brow 
Chastened, and with her hectic cheeks aflush, 
Through wasted bowers trod the care-worn Year. 

Passing one region, they observed the flight 

Of parrots in a northern course. 103 So then 

Juan Ortiz cried, "A happy omen, this. 

For living with the red men, long ago 

I learned to read it. Comrades, not afar 

Are salt springs, which these birds are seeking. Come ; 

If we but follow them, in little time 

We shall have salt again." For two long years, 

The men, deprived of salt, had clamored loud: 

Languid and feverish, they had felt its need, 

BooK XXIV 517 

And some had died for lack of it. Well pleased 
At Ortiz's words, they followed in the course 
Mapped by the flying creatures, and in truth, 
Ere morn had faded into noon, they found 
Great flocks of parrots gathered in a wood, 
Their splendid green plumes glowing brilliantly, 
Like emerald verdure of departed Spring 
Returned to cheer October's yellowing bowers. 
Here were salt springs, and legions of the birds 
Were sipping at the waters. By the strands 
Of tiny rills the salt was heaped like snow. 
With eager hands they hoarded for their use 
Great hillocks of the crystal luxury, 
Than gold or silver, treasure more desired! 
All gulped it greedily. Two, overgorged, 
Turned pale, fell sick, quivered convulsively, 
And ere the night came, died in agony. 

Now the great prairies ended. Over them, 
Gloomy with ancient forests, and austere 
In ermine robes of spotless Winter snows, 
Like faithful warders that from age to age 
Keep their lone vigil at the hest of God, 
Uploomed the Ozark Mountains. These they reached 
And traversed, fording swift and foamy streams, 
Struggling up rocky stairways, and again 
Descending devious gorges. Then beyond 
That desolate range they wandered, hoping still, 
Though vainly ever, that their weary feet 
Might rest in El Dorado's realms of gold. 

The country of the Tunicas they passed, 

And reached the Kingdom of the Tulas, 104 where, 

Seeking to march still further, barbarous hordes 

51 8 Hernando De Soto 

Stubbornly fought them back. This warlike race 

Of Tulas in ferocity surpassed 

All other savage tribes ere this beheld 

By the Iberians on their whole dread march, 

As the fierce eagle in his ruthless power 

Surpasses far the petty tyrannies 

Of paltry sparrow-hawks. All new-born babes 

Among these paynims, from their mothers' breasts 

Were taken, and each little face was bound 

Tightly in painful bandages. Ten years 

The children wore them; so, when cast aside, 

Distorted and deformed to frightfulness, 

Well might their visages have driven wild brutes, 

Shuddering, to flee before them. Women and men 

Were tattooed hideously ; their cheeks and brows 

Were seamed and scarred: from noses, lips and ears 

Dangled rude copper trinkets. All had lost 

All semblance of their Maker: by their side 

A nightmare's demons might have been counted fair. 

All other tribes the Tula race abhorred, 

And mothers of the neighboring peoples hushed 

Their babes by croaking "Tula!" in their ears. 

And now De Soto, whose unquailing heart, 
Scorning retreat, had made him stand alone 
Against his comrades through the weary years, 
At last stood conquered : every hope had fled : 
So his proud soul surrendered! 

On the eve 

Ere his lips faltered forth the word "Retreat," 
A rocky hill he scaled, and viewed afar 
A blood-red Winter sunset in the west. 
Wildly the chill winds, whistling round him, tost 

BooK XXIV 519 

The gray locks on his brow; keenly they stung 

His shuddering body; but within his breast 

Bounded his heart with keener agonies 

Than icy winds of Winter might inflict. 

Resplendent as a wild Belshazzar's feast, 

Rioting unmindful of impending doom 

In a great golden Babylon aflame, 

The sunset glowed, flooding the rocky heights 

Around him in unearthly glory : thus, 

With irony malignant, Nature seemed 

To taunt him as she decked in spurious pomp 

These dismal scenes of barrenness. Alas! 

Like a false El Dorado, from the skies 

Those glories dulled and vanished, till at last 

Only the sterile desert lay around, 

Dreary and cheerless as his own sad heart! 

What bitterness and anguish of defeat! 

Never, ah never, would his eyes behold 

The realms of El Dorado ! But forever 

Would sound within his ears that fatal word, 

That word of shame, Retreat, Retreat, Retreat! 

Yet, bedded in the bitter fruit of evil, 
Like a sweet kernel, good is ever found. 
Late through the night after he bowed to fate, 
He kept a lonely vigil. Though his heart 
Rebelled at first within him, by and by 
He stood half -reconciled. Deeply he mused 
On his great Vision by the river, cheered 
To know his labors would not all be vain. 
And there alone, unto himself he said : 
"Volcanoes, with their ashen clouds, and streams 
Of lava, bury cities deep in earth, 
And yet they treasure through uncounted years, 

520 Hernando De Soto 

In those vast sepulchres, great works of art 
That else were lost, to be the priceless gifts 
From one age to another. In the tombs 
Of dead men, after hoary centuries, 
Are found the graven gems, or pictured scrolls, 
Or tablets, that inform us how men lived, 
And loved, and had their being, in that day. 
Now, as from out those lava catacombs 
The noblest efforts of the past revive, 
And from the dead man's dark sarcophagus 
The resurrection of a nation comes, 
So in the burial of our lifelong dreams 
Under the sombre ashes of defeat, 
And in the yielding of our life itself, 
Millions unborn may profit. O, my soul, 
Learn this hard lesson, and so be at peace." 

So then they left the realms of setting suns, 
And turning to the east once more, regained 
The Ozark Mountains. It was Winter still, 
And all the range was garmented in snow. 
Here they discovered hot springs boiling forth 
Amidst a narrow valley; over these 
Great clouds of vapor quivered to the skies. 
So then De Soto thought of far Peru, 
Of Caxamalca with its boiling springs, 
And pondered in his bitterness of heart 
On Caxamalca's day of massacre. 

Juan Ortiz here, suddenly falling ill, 
Took to his bed, 105 and weakened rapidly. 
So then they moved him to De Soto's lodge, 
A rugged cabin, reared of logs and mud, 
But warm and snug within: a couch they made 

Book XXIV 521 

Of skins of bisons and of wolves, and there 
In burning fever many days he tost. 
De Soto hung about him all the while, 
And let none other wait beside his couch. 
For Ortiz, gentle, woman-like in soul, 
And ever faithful to his master's hest, 
Had twined himself around the leader's heart, 
Winning a place no other man could claim. 
In bygone days, when the Hispanic host 
Went into battle, though De Soto sought 
Ever the perilous forefront for himself, 
He had always sent Juan Ortiz to the rear, 
Beyond the reach of danger. For he knew 
Juan was unfitted for the soldier's work, 
Since he was mild and peaceful in his ways, 
Handling his sword and musket awkwardly, 
And sickening at his comrades' heartless deeds. 

The natives of the country here were kind: 
Queer traps and pitfalls they designed, and taught 
The white men how to use them, capturing birds 
And hares and squirrels. Oftentimes they went 
Hunting the bear and deer through mountain wilds 
With Spanish knights. 

De Soto never chose 
Their fellowship : he hunted all alone ; 
And bringing back ere long a hare or quail, 
With his own hands would dress it skillfully, 
Then roast it over hot coals in his hut, 
And bear it, tender, brown and savory, 
To tempt his sick friend's feeble appetite. 
But Ortiz, with that fretful childishness 
Which makes a peevish tyrant of the sick, 

522 Hernando De Soto 

Would cry out, "No, I will not eat it! go! 
Take it away!" So then De Soto, hurt, 
But knowing that the sick must be indulged, 
Would seek to humor him in other ways, 
And sometimes with success. Often he brought 
Snow from the woods to cool his fevered brows; 
From the cabin eaves he broke long icicles, 
Which Ortiz ever greedily devoured 
To quench the furnace fast consuming him. 

The cabin faced the west; one eventide 
De Soto watched a splendent sunset glow 
Above the snow-clad hills. The forest trees 
Clothing the summits, lifted massive boles 
Like ebon columns, black against the red 
Beyond them. Boughs and twigs unnumerable, 
Crusted with icy crystals, sleet and snow 
Half-melted, and then, freezing, blent together, 
Twinkling and sparkling and glittering ceaselessly 
With countless turrets, spires and pinnacles, 
Made palaces of diamonds in the skies. 
Above them streamed the sunset's oriflamme, 
Emblazoning all the western heavens. And now, 
De Soto, thinking that this transcendent view 
Would please the eye of Ortiz, flung ajar 
The cabin door, and cried aloud, "Look, Juan! 
Our El Dorado's realm is here at last!" 
But Ortiz, with that strange, hard cruelty 
A second-nature to the sick man, cried, 
41 How cold it is ! I am freezing ! Shut the door ! " 

At last this childishness had passed away, 
And Ortiz, nearing death, was left again 
With wonted old-time gentleness. His mind 

BooK XXIV 523 

Would wander in delirium to those days 

When held a captive in Ucita's land. 

"O, do not burn me!" he would cry aloud, 

And then De Soto's voice would comfort him, 

Saying "Fear not! I will protect thee, Juan." 

An old-time habit of his infancy 

Now came back to him ; he would clasp his hand 

Around De Soto's finger in these spells, 

As doubtless he had clasped, in childish years, 

His mother's finger with his baby fist. 

He pleaded with De Soto, as he had begged 

His father once, to let him go to sea. 

The last day came. He talked and talked again 

Of going back to Spain: De Soto wept. 

"0 Juan!" he cried, "I promised long ago, 

When first I rescued thee by southern seas, 

To take thee safely home again. See now, 

We are returning! In a little while, 

With fleet ships homeward-bound, our eyes will beam 

To see once more the friendly hills of Spain! 

So, Juan, be strong, be strong, and leave me not! 

How can I spare thee? In these gloomy wilds, 

Among strange men with unfamiliar tongues, 

None, save thyself, can guide us. O be strong, 

For thou must live to aid us to the end!" 

Now Ortiz brightened as the end drew near ; 
Around De Soto's finger twined his hand; 
And looking at his leader wistfully, 
Yet trustfully, with childhood's simple faith 
In the promise of its father, he exclaimed, 
"O, I am weak, and thou art very strong! 
Dear master, promise me, since thou art strong, 

524 Hernando De Soto 

To take me back again to dear Seville! 
Let us go home, let us go back to Spain!" 

But he had gone, and left De Soto there. 
The night was coming: in the dusky pines 
The crying snow-birds gathered for their rest. 
The clouds had darkened : winds went moaning by, 
And earth and sky were dim with falling snows. 


The return of Spring The Spanish host is again on the banks of 
the Mississippi Anasco's Expedition to the south Flood 
in the river Wild animals gather upon the mounds They 
are slain by the Spaniards until Anasco forbids all further 
slaughter Failure of the expedition, and the return of 
Anasco De Soto is seized with a fatal illness He becomes 
fully resigned to death His last counsels and admonitions 
His advice to Lulla and Alonzo He entrusts Alonzo with 
his ring, to be given to Isabel His farewell to his officers 
Reply of Gallegos His last communication to Moscoso, who 
had been chosen as his successor. 

WINTER had passed : the crescent Year rejoiced 
In blissful adolescence of the Spring; 
And like a stranger unto tenderness, 
Feeling sweet First Love warm his heart of stone, 
She thrilled and tingled through her frozen clods 
When April, her boy-lover, pierced her soul 
With the keen, quivering joy of youth's first kiss. 
Earth's cornucopia overflowed with sweets: 
Buckeyes hung red and orange sprays: the phlox 
Lifted her purple clusters: violets peeped 
Through withered masses of the last year's leaves, 
Lovely as ever. Under shady woods, 
Green mandrakes, like a pigmy grove of palms, 
Made canopies for dances of the elves: 
Exhaling sweet aroma, censer-like, 
Cream-white corollas of magnolias reared. 
From antenatal cells the chrysalis, 


526 Hernando De Soto 

Transfigured as a butterfly, came forth 
Seraphic in celestial blue and gold. 
Fleet-footed zephyrs through the bloomy haunts 
Of tangled vines tripped laughingly : wild birds 
Warbled melodious lays through all the woods, 
And rivulets from icy fetters freed, 
Meandered, babbling songs of liberty. 

Now after many moons, De Soto again 

Beside the River of all rivers paused. 

Three years had vanished ; yet from Spring to Spring, 

From Autumn unto Autumn, and again 

From the bright solstice of the Summer flowers 

To the pale solstice of the Winter snows, 

Not one lone word from Isabel had come 

To cheer his joyless heart. Nor had his eyes 

Beheld the glory and beatitude 

Of El Dorado's realms. Love, Wealth and Power 

Had all forsaken him! 

"Is the sea near?" 

He asked the natives: stupidly they gazed 
Upon him, and they only shook their heads 
In silence, for they understood him not. 
He sent Anasco southward, to explore 
The country, and to find the southern sea 
Where the stream emptied. But a mighty flood 
Swelled the great river to a boundless gulf 
Such as the Christians, to strange sights inured, 
Yet viewed in wonder. Twenty leagues in breadth, 
Its turbid billows with resistless power 
Broke down all barriers. 106 Seated on a height, 
The Spanish camp became an island-town. 
Through marshes, canebrakes, quagmires and lagoons, 

BooK XXV 527 

Through swamps of cypress dense with matted vines, 

Eight days Anasco's veterans toilsomely 

Struggled to make their way, but ever failed. 

For now the deluge swept the wilderness; 

Two fathom deep stood all the forest trees. 

Anasco ventured further with canoes, 

But soon came rowing back: in all this time 

Scarce fifteen leagues his band had journeyed. Oft 

Upon their way returning they beheld 

Mounds that were islets in the deluged waste. 

Upon these little isles were gathered deer, 

And wolves and foxes : in the trees above 

Were crouched great bears, opossums and raccoons. 

Hares thronged in legions : through the shrubbery 

Wild-turkeys clucked and gobbled. In the past, 

While floods continued, all these helpless creatures 

The savages had left unharmed : so now, 

Relying on this ancient truce, they lost 

Their fear of man, and easily were slain, 

Until Anasco, wrothful at the sight 

Of such a wanton slaughter, cried aloud, 

"Forbear! None but a poltroon thus would smite 

These poor wild beings that have trusted you 

For mercy ! Ye have slain enough for food : 

No sportsman turns his hand to butchery." 

Now heavier ills impended: for at last, 
Seized with a strange, insidious malady, 
The offspring of his hardships and his cares, 
De Soto sought his couch. In helplessness 
He languished many a weary day. At first 
He smiled at all his anxious friends who deemed 
His illness grave : often he rose from bed, 
Staggering with weakness, to renew his round 

528 Hernando De Soto 

Of daily duties: stubbornly he sought 

To throw his unseen enemy underfoot, 

But ever sank exhausted. To his eyes 

The light streamed garish, and his burning lids 

Closed to repel the painful glare : to his lips 

All water tasted bitter: through his limbs 

Shot burning heat, and thrills of piercing cold: 

His brows ached: dumb and dull pains gripped his 


So he was forced to seek his couch again: 
There a hot fever overmastered him. 

His mind reverted in delirious dreams 

To scenes in far-off Darien and Peru ; 

Almagro and Pizarro oft he called; 

Stoutly he fought for Atahuallpa's life: 

He made remonstrance to Pedrarias, 

Asking the father for the daughter's hand. 

Her much-loved name would half restore his mind, 

So that, disconsolate, he realized 

The piteous crisis of his shipwrecked heart. 

Oft he recalled that time in bygone days, 

When Codro, reading from his natal stars, 

Had told him that within this fateful year 

Of his career, as in Balboa's, Fate 

Would come to meet him, walking hand in hand 

With Failure or Success, perchance with Death. 

After a time the fever left him. Then 

His eyes grew clear again. Thus he neared death 

With a mind unclouded and a soul serene. 

He craved to see the river; so they placed 

His couch before the cabin ; there he lay 

From hour to hour, and gazed upon the Stream 

Book XXV 529 

That for all time would be his priceless gift 
Unto the Kingdom of Enlightenment. 
Through ashen streamers of long-stranded moss 
That dangled from the live-oaks' verdant boughs, 
He saw the great logs floating placidly, 
And watched the white gulls circling in the sun. 
From leafy sprays above, a mock-bird's throat 
Bubbled with silvery melodies. That day, 
Throughout all nature, river, earth and skies, 
Lay peace and calm unruffled : no unrest, 
No discontent, no longing, no remorse, 
Was there to vex the mild serenity. 

And now a great change came : he viewed the world, 

Mankind, and life, and, most of all, himself, 

With other eyes. A humble palinode 

For old-time dogmas of his prideful youth 

Seemed chanted in his soul. For now he knew 

That all his sufferings, and this last defeat, 

Were only righteous retributions, cast 

Upon him in return for all the woes 

That he himself in other years had brought 

On the mild, weak Peruvians, when he marched 

With false Pizarro. So his warlike heart, 

Once raging like a lion in its cage, 

Grew kind and gentle. Reconciled to fate, 

His boastful spirit, that had sought in pride 

To lift rebellious banners unto heaven, 

Surrendered calmly. With a brow serene 

He faced the future, saying, "All is well." 

He who had once, in feverish desire, 

Roved over half the world in quest of gold, 

Now drove the demon Avarice from his heart: 

He who had craved the multitude's applause, 


53 Hernando De Soto 

Now exiled from his bosom's calm abode 
The ravenous thirst and hunger after glory: 
He who had scanned the earth with selfish eyes, 
Now stood as on a sunlit eminence, 
With broader, higher, statelier views than ever 
His noblest dreams had dared conceive before. 

And, as a setting sun, that, disenthroned, 

No longer domineers the blazing skies, 

Wheeling his fiery chariot haughtily, 

Yet robes in soft clouds whose emblazonry 

Of scarlet and of purple fringed with gold 

Is richer and more gorgeous than the flames, 

Dazzling and blinding unto shrinking eyes, 

That decked him in the effulgence of his noon, 

Who sinks with loving farewells of the world, 

With evening dews, with odorous evening gales, 

Blest by the songs of birds that dared not gaze 

Unquailing on his glory at its height, 

So now De Soto, reft of pride and power, 

And sinking in the twilight of defeat, 

Revealed the beauty of his soul of souls 

Till then to bosom comrades undisclosed. 

So deeper love and readier loyalty, 

Conceived in breasts of those surrounding him, 

Strewed offerings at the altar of his heart 

More grateful than the tributes Wealth and Fame 

In prouder years had scattered at his feet. 

He drank the River's rest and quietude, 
And over his soul there came tranquillity. 
Disturbance and disorder passed away: 
No agitation or contention roused 
The soothing sweetness of profound repose 

DooK XXV 53i 

That gently folded round his inmost being. 
His plans had failed ; the warrior lay resigned ; 
Death was at hand ; the dying lay consoled. 

And now his heart recalled Gallegos' words : 
"Man's truest guide is Fate!" At last he knew 
That Fate had chosen better than himself: 
In failing he had won the Prize Supreme. 
The longed-for El Dorado, here it lay! 
His own dull eyes had overlooked the goal, 
Yet God had called him from amongst all men 
To gain this noble empire for the world. 

As King of Pioneers his name would win 

Laudations of humanity forever. 

He who had turned from Cofachiqui's realm 

Of luxury, and from Coosa's land of ease, 

Had blundered in the selfish sight of men, 

And yet the whole world, through millenniums 

Uncounted, would acclaim him for his choice. 

For no adulterous Helen, nor lustful Troy, 

His arm had battled, but aloft had borne 

The torch of humankind's enlightenment 

Through gloomy desert wilds of savagery. 

Alone, unaided by the sorcery 

Of fabled thunderbolts of fabled gods, 

His labors had been ended faithfully, 

And not for Spain alone, but all the world. 

To Lulla and Alonzo ere this time 

A babe had come. The Governor they sought, 

Bearing his tiny kinsman to his side. 

De Soto smiled to see the little man, 

Half savage and half Spaniard, quaint of face, 

532 Hernando De Soto 

Yet fine and sturdy. Then the youthful pair 
Received the counsel of the dying man. 

''My life hath been a troubled one," he said; 

"Hard lessons have been branded, as with fire 

And iron on my quivering breast ; of these, 

I beg ye to remember first this truth : 

Those things are best whose price is least of all. 

Things needful cost but little; luxuries 

Tax high the purse, but higher still the soul. 

The good things come by asking; baneful things 

Alone are costly. For the light of heaven, 

The blue of skies, the green of woods and fields, 

The tints of flowers, the shimmer of the leaves, 

The glory of the sunset and the dawn, 

The starry treasures of the jeweled skies, 

God giveth free to peasant and to king. 

The dews that quiver on the morning grass 

Are more resplendent in their rainbow hues 

Than all the brilliants ever dug from earth ; 

But while these dews are scattered free, those 


To him who knows their story, seem as tears 
Of scourged and beaten slaves, whose grimy hands 
Grope for them in the midnight of the mines. 
Kind words and friendly faces, truth and love, 
Salvation, Heaven itself, are offered free. 
The pure clear spring refreshes thee for naught ; 
The wine which drains thy hoard will damn thy 


The maiden's heart, which yearns for thee unasked, 
Will be thy passport unto Paradise ; 
The harlot's kiss, which beggars thee to buy, 
Will drive thy soul, a beggar, unto hell. 

DooK XXV 533 

"Again I say to you, this take to heart: 
Seek joy at home, and not in wandering. 
Magellan set his sails for seas unknown, 
And met strange peoples in the far-off isles ; 
At last his ship, in circling round the world, 
Attained the selfsame port from which it sailed. 
So shall ye find, when ye have wandered far, 
The dearest spot is that ye first forsook, 
Your birthplace, and the place ye seek to die." 

And now his heart, with mournful tenderness, 

Reverted to his consort far away. 

He drew a ring from off his finger, saying, 

"Take this to Isabel. She gave it me 

When first I left her in that far-off time, 

To seek my fortune in another world. 

I promised then that we should meet again. 

Another yet more distant world I seek: 

Tell her, my son, that though that world be far, 

My heart shall still be true, and if God wills, 

My loyal feet shall seek her side again." 

Then came his officers to bid farewell. 

Strong men they were, but when they reached his side, 

Their dark cheeks, furrowed with the scars of war, 

Were tear-stained like the cheeks of girls. Of these, 

Moscoso and Lobillo and Tobar 

Had been his fellow-soldiers long ago 

In far Peru. Moscoso and Tobar 

Had felt his stern displeasure ; but that wrath 

Had passed away forever : each man wept 

As though his own twin-brother spake farewell. 

De Soto faltered, "I beseech of you 

Forgiveness of all anger, all harsh words, 

534 Hernando De Soto 

And rigorous discipline, that in the past 
I have inflicted on you. Yet ye know 
That though the tasks I set you have been hard, 
Never, comrades, were they heavier 
Than those I gave myself. But now at last 
My leadership is ended: ye must choose 
Another in my place. Whom do ye name?" 
They chose Moscoso, and he gave assent. 

"Wherever he may lead thy steps, " he said, 
"Go not for sake of gold, as I have gone. 
Take warning from Pizarro's fate: he burned, 
He slew, he pillaged for that baleful prize. 
He lied to win it, lying to himself 
And even to God. But Truth at last prevailed, 
For Truth is Truth as long as God is God. 

"And gold and silver make no empire great. 
The hand that sows the seed, that reaps the corn. 
That feeds the cattle, drives the flocks afield, 
That throws the fisher's net in tumbling seas, 
Brings to the multitude more ample wealth 
Than all the spoils of plundered Mexicos. 
And this learn also : on their own strong hearts 
And willing hands, our people must rely: 
The tinsel pomp of wealth destroys the State; 
Great sons alone can make a nation great. 

"But now my time is come. I give you thanks 
For truth, painstaking, loyalty and love 
Wherewith ye served me. Pray for me, I beg, 
For soon before God's Judgment-bar I stand, 
With many sins laid heavy on my soul. 
I would that I had lived but long enow 

BooK XXV 535 

To pay the debt I owe you; but your God 

And mine, will surely leave you not unpaid. " 

Speaking for all, Gallegos then replied : 

"Master, with tearful eyes we see thee go; 

Our hearts are grieved that thou shouldst be debarred 

From winning that for which we sought: but still, 

In this our life, the bitter spoils the sweet ; 

The blessing ever is shadowed by the curse. 

He who first goes is favored : though we weep, 

Our sorrow is but selfishness, since thou 

Escapest trials we have yet to face. " 

Then came the humble soldiers of the ranks, 
A score each time together, and they saw 
Their master for the last time. Lovingly 
He smiled upon them as they slowly passed, 
Sobbing like boys. When all the men had gone, 
The leaders followed them. Moscoso lingered 
To take his parting words. De Soto, faint, 
And drawing near the end, with solemn tones 
Like deep, dim murmurings of a far-off sea, 
Poured out his soul, in unaccustomed thoughts 
From one so warlike in that warlike age: 

" Moscoso! hearken ere I pass away. 

My soul has been deluded ; so has thine. 

Long have we fought the savage, long have sought 

To raise one realm alone to pomp and power. 

To-day we rate that man an enemy 

Who dwells beyond a fancied line ; our friend 

Is he who dwells within it ; patriotism, 

That catch-word of a selfish brotherhood, 

Is rounded by the colors of a map. 

The dusty chart, scrawled by forgotten hands, 

536 Hernando De Soto 

Showing a latitude or longitude, 

Has governed laws of hatred and of love. 

But there is yet a halcyon time to come, 

A morn more glorious than all morns before, 

A morn resplendent that I see afar, 

Though it shall dawn when I am clay in clay. 

In that blest day all nations shall be one, 

And one resplendent banner wave for all ; 

Frontiers and boundaries then shall be no more, 

And Fatherland shall mean the whole wide world. 

"We wade green scum of the tropic swamp, 

We quaff the fevers of its fetid air, 

We brave the tiger and the hooded snake, 

To force the naked savage from his gods : 

Yea, blind ourselves, we seek to lead the blind, 

While still the Great Unknown is hid from all. 

O brother, let the Lapland peasant dream 

His snow-clad forest is a paradise ; 

Still let the Congo blackamoor declare 

His snaky jungle a fit abode for kings; 

Still let the millions of Cathay believe 

Their yellow rivers lave celestial fields; 

But let us look with clear, impartial eyes 

Beyond the hilltops of our boyhood home: 

And let us not forget that pious souls 

To-night will bow to other gods than ours, 

In awe, in reverence, and in loving trust, 

That shame us in the boldness of our sins. 

"All earthly idols of all earthly shrines 
Are adumbrations of the One true God. 
That savage of the trackless woods who leads 
The famished hunter to his hut, and shares 

BooK XXV 537 

His little store of food, is the son of God, 
And mine own brother. And believe me, friend, 
That Hindu mother, who, when famine comes, 
Dies that her child may gnaw the crust and live, 
Is sister of the meek and lowly Christ, 
Albeit her ears have never known His name, 
Albeit in death she kneels to wood and stone. " 

Then, as in dreams, his dying words invoked 

His brother of the ages yet to be: 

"O brother of that far, resplendent time, 

When only Love is Force, when Right is Might, 

O brother of that undiscovered day 

Which sees the lion playing with the lamb, 

Remember us, thy brethren of the past, 

Who groped in darkness and in doubt and fear ! 

Our rude ancestors rose above the brute, 

And stumbled slowly up to higher things; 

To-day we struggle for a better life, 

Although thy glory we shall never share! 

Remember how we strove and fought and bled, 

While still the old, old Adam clutched below, 

And sought to as we climbed the height, 

All this remember in thy glorious age, 

And breathe one word of kindness for us here, 

Who prophesied and hailed you from afar!" 


The Dying Warrior, falling into slumber, has a last great vision 
By the Spirit of Codro, he is led into Heaven, where he is 
allowed to view the glories of that high abode, and see the 
beginnings of Creation at the hands of the Maker They then 
return to Earth, where he is permitted to look upon the Past as 
the Present, so that the history of the world, from the dawn of 
its existence, passes before him The smouldering Planet 
The chaos of stormy seas Upheaval of volcanoes amid great 
convulsions of nature The first crude forms of Life The 
tiny creatures of the tepid waters Shell-fish Coral reefs 
The Age of Fishes Great forests arise The first insects 
The Age of Reptiles Monsters of the land and sea Earth 
is again shaken with great convulsions Volcanoes and earth 
quakes Coming of the mastodons and mammoths The 
first birds appear The apes and gorillas Primeval man 
A wintry age drives him to caves for shelter He learns to 
wield the club and fling the stone He learns to make fire by 
striking flint with flint The first home-circle He spares 
his mate and sets his enemy free He draws the first picture 
The beginning of religion The funeral in the cave The 
first hope of immortality. 

ALL day the leader, though anear his end, 
Reposed in quietude. As the night fell, 
Still fainter grew his breathing, and more slow 
The tremor of his thread-like pulse: his eyes 
Closed in a tranquil slumber, as though sleep, 
Melting, would blend insensibly with death. 
But as he slept he dreamed, and in his dream 
The meaning of his own life, and the life 
Of all humanity stood forth revealed. 


BooK XXVI 539 

Up, up through dizzy firmamental heights 

He seemed to soar; a wilderness of clouds 

In breathless flight he cleaved ; the crescent moon 

Swam like a golden boat beneath his feet; 

The zodiac he traversed, and beyond, 

In a vast universe of alien worlds, 

Trembling and pale with wonderment and awe, 

He wandered as a pilgrim, all alone. 

Suddenly he halted ; for he heard his name 

Called by a voice behind him: as he paused, 

Dimly he felt that some one known of old, 

A comrade lost but unforgotten, sought 

To overtake him. Turning in amaze, 

Codro, his old companion of the past, 

The dear, dead past of sweet and bitter youth, 

He now beheld. Ah yes, the same old friend, 

The same old faithful comrade, yet how changed! 

Majestic and resplendent, glorified 

With light celestial, where was now the dross, 

The earthy structure of the sons of clay, 

That once had clogged his limbs and weighed him 


No longer rude or awkward or uncouth, 
In princely grace he trod. And yet withal, 
How like his old self! As a beauteous child 
Of an ill-favored father, in his face, 
Like a clear mirror, faithfully reflects 
Unbeauteous features of his parentage, 
In bright eyes, glowing cheeks and dimpling smiles 
Recalling homely aspects of the sire 
Transfigured now to heavenly loveliness, 
So Codro yet recalled his old-time self, 
The rugged plodder of terrestrial ways, 

54 Hernando De Soto 

Though dowed with mien seraphic, and upraised 
To dignity of archangelic throngs. 

"Friend of mine earthly days, " the Spirit said, 

"I come to lead thee unto higher heights 

Than mortal feet, still unrelieved by death 

From manacles of clay, have trod before. 

Appalling is that eminence which thou 

Shalt now ascend ; blinding will be that light 

Which thou shalt soon confront : thy frighted limbs 

Shall totter beneath thee, and thy brain shall reel 

Before that scene stupendous: giddily 

Shall swim thy senses: then thy flinching eyes, 

Dazzled by piercing radiance, in dismay 

Thou shalt bow down, and cover with thy hands. 

But fear not : I will guide thee safely : then 

Thou shalt behold the origin of all 

The worlds, the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, 

And all mankind: the destiny of man 

Thou shalt likewise behold. Friend, loved of old, 

Give me thy hand." 

So saying, in his hand 

He grasped his comrade's, and on droopless wings 
They rose to heights sublime, vast firmaments 
Unmeasured and unmeasurable, and hovered 
Over gulfs unfathomed, boundless, bottomless, 
From sight whereof the mortal shrank aghast. 

And now, appalling thought ! they stood before 
The Source of Light and Life Himself. There blazed 
Forth from that awful Presence such a flame 
As struck the mortal blind: crying aloud, 
Over his eyes he threw his hands, and dazed, 

BooK XXVI 541 

Face downward, fell. "Fear not! Arise!" he heard 

His guardian whisper: "I will shield thine eyes 

With such a cloud as will empower their orbs, 

Unscathed, to view these glories. " Timidly 

The earthling rose, and lo! before his eyes 

There swam a dewy vapor, soft and bland, 

That veiled them from the fearful splendor. There, 

In such effulgence as ten thousand suns 

Have darted never, burned the throne of God. 

And in that holy sanctuary, girt 

With majesty, beatitude and glory, 

Ineffable, Almighty, sate supreme 

The Ruler of all Rulers, Architect 

Of suns and moons and stars, the Sire of man, 

The Lord of all the worlds, and King of Heaven. 

Around Him, in a splendent multitude 
Were gathered angels, arc on radiant arc, 
Circle on circle, synods of the blest, 
Assemblies of the saints, cherubic choirs, 
Hierarchies of the seraphs, all alert 
And eager to obey the Sovereign's call. 
Great golden candelabra of the stars 
In twinkling constellations ever burned 
Sweet incense at His throne: around His head 
Great suns, revolving in their orbits, flamed: 
Under His feet rolled softer argent moons. 
Above Him, myriad stellar systems hung 
Their lucent orbs, white, purple, yellow or red. 
Double or triple or quadruple stars 
Moved round one centre, with their mated hues, 
Azure or emerald, like a peacock's eyes, 
Clustered in one adornment. Some, outstrung, 
Sparkled like jeweled necklaces. Aloft, 

S4 2 Hernando De Soto 

The broad triangle of the Hyades 
Gleamed pendulous: a sheaf of sunlit wheat, 
Shimmered the Pleiades. Weird comets trailed 
Through the deep heavens their mazeful outblown 


Here galaxies on galaxies displayed 
Along the ocean of the universe 
Their glimmering strands of gold-dust, where each 


Tiny to view, was yet a giant sun, 
Encompassed by a brood of satellites. 
Here nebulae in whirlpool spirals cast 
Their creamy billows, foamy wave on wave, 
Swift-eddying and vortexing round and round 
Their centres, to evolve still other worlds. 

Now as the earth-child gazed, the Almighty wrought 

Wonder upon wonder: at His dread command 

Huge worlds rose into being : suns and moons 

And planets sprang to life: with His right hand 

God sowed the stars as the sower sows the seed. 

Vast nebulae, impalpable, unformed, 

Misty and hazy, at His touch divine 

Swirled round in great volutions, till at last 

A glowing nucleus in the centre formed; 

Then, kneaded by His fingers artfully, 

Like shewbread moulded in the priestly hand 

At Zion's holy fane, each seething mass, 

Condensed, compressed, whirling into a globe, 

Became a fiery sun. These suns He flung 

Far into space, and they in turn cast off 

Fragment on glittering fragment, that revolved 

Around the mother-sphere: in girth enorm, 

Or pigmied, these young luminaries glowed 

BooK XXVI 543 

With varicolored zones, or mottled hues, 

Or reared Saturnian haloes. They in time 

Threw off still other fragments, that became 

Soft moons to shed white radiance through the night 

Over the elder worlds that gave them birth. 

Now all the planets left their parent suns 
Candent with fiercest heat : as seons waned, 
Slowly they smouldered, darkened, and became 
Abodes for living things. But ere that day 
Uncounted ages seemed to pass : had time 
Been measured as on earth, a thousand years, 
By still ten thousand others multiplied, 
Had not been half so long. The lustrous days 
Of Hellas, matched with those millenniums, 
Seemed shorter than a lover's sigh ; the sway 
Of Rome imperial lasted not as long 
As a lone bird-note ; eras of Cathay 
Flitted ephemeral as an errant breeze 
Dying in noonday skies. 


Then spake the guide: 
"Thou seest that thy paltry, puny world 
Is but a leaflet in a wilderness, 
A sand-grain in Saharas of the stars, 
A snowflake in a snowstorm of the worlds, 
A drop in oceans of the universe. 
Thou seest likewise that no world is born 
After six days of labor, nor six years, 
Nor yet six thousand years : long epochs fade 
Before one blade of grass may peep, or one 
Thin piping voice of cricket may be heard 
In the lone planet's drear unpeopled waste. 
And know this likewise : when one task is done, 

544 Hernando De Soto 

God resteth not ; for when one labor ends, 
Another is begun. Creation's toil 
Hath no cessation: finished it may be, 
But finished only to be done again, 
Over and over, through unending time. " 

Then spake the guide again: "These hallowed 


Which never eye profane may look upon, 
Presumptuous, and no being dare approach, 
Save in profoundest reverence and in awe, 
I have revealed to thee. Let us bow down 
In gratitude to heaven, and render thanks 
For this dread privilege. And then our feet, 
Descending, shall revisit that far world 
That saw thy birth. " So thereupon the twain 
Fell with bowed faces, and in silentness, 
Yet with the words up welling from their hearts, 
Poured out their souls in gratitude to Him 
Who in His grace had suffered mortal eyes 
To view such realms of sanctity unscathed 
Beneath their dazzling flame. Then having risen, 
And made profound obeisance, from the scenes 
Of that blest halidom they turned, and sought 
Their empyrean pathway back to earth. 

Stupendous was the height wherefrom they plunged, 

And frightful were the vast abysses, stretched 

To gulp their shrinking bodies. But the hand 

Of the good pilot held his comrade's fast, 

In kindly reassurance. So in time 

The earth appeared, winging around its sun 

In its small circuit with its little moon: 

A petty and a dwarflike sphere it seemed, 

DooK XXVI 545 

Matched with the Titans of the universe 
That God to other orbits had assigned. 

As they approached their bourn, the guide resumed: 

"I will make Time appear as though the wheels 

Of his great chariot had retraced the paths 

They traveled through the ancient years : the Past 

Shall be the Present : I shall make thee stand 

As a spectator of Creation: thou, 

An earth-born creature, shalt be privileged 

To see God's first beginnings at the task 

Of raising this, thine own world, from the dead 

Unto the living. Stand, and mark with awe." 

Beneath them rolled the earth: but over its face 
Ramped only wild confusion: darkness hung 
Above it, for a mass of dismal clouds 
Folded around it like a mildewed shroud 
Around a corpse that lies unsepulchred 
In a black desert where no sunray beams. 
The waters hid the continents: the land 
Only upreared above the turbid waves 
In islets that great billows oft submerged, 
Or swept and drowned in ocean. All the seas 
Were steaming hot : thickly the vapors rose 
In dreary, drab-like curtains to the clouds 
Above them, mingling into one vast pall, 
Gloomy, unending, joyless. Dreadful storms 
Ceaselessly raged: like steeds that Tartars ride 
Fiercely to battle, frightful hurricanes 
Careered unbridled : monstrous waterspouts 
Gyrated, lifting seas to meet the skies, 
And hurling back in overwhelming floods 
Their captured worlds of waters. Gulfs and bays 


Hernando De Soto 

In raging whirlpools boiled : from sable heavens 

Deluge on deluge poured : hot currents raced 

In serpentine meanderings, pole to pole. 

Amid that waste of sea and steam and rain, 

And cloud and gloom and storm, Nature seemed 

In hopeless chaos, hellish anarchy. 

But ages passed; and all around the world 

Flared great volcanoes, spouting smoke and flame. 

The murky atmosphere, lit by their glare, 

Seemed the black rafters of a smithy, flushed 

By ruddy blazes of its mighty forge. 

Ten thousand ^Etnas rumbled. From the earth, 

As from the heavens, the vivid lightnings leaped, 

And thunders to the bottom of the sea 

Resounded. Mountains of titanic height 

Heaved their huge shoulders up through ocean waves, 

And with a deafening cannonading roar 

Shot upward to the skies, while at their feet 

Bellowed the baffled maelstroms of the deep. 

As back the floods retreated, and the land 

Encroached still further, dire convulsions heaved 

The giddy planet: earthquakes quivered and groaned, 

Staggering to lift the mountains. So it was, 

In fire and smoke and ashes, to the boom 

And clap and crack and crash of thunderbolts, 

Earth tossed and writhed in childbirth agonies, 

Bringing the isles and continents to life. 

Long aeons waxed and waned. Then were beheld 
The first crude forms of life. In the warm yeast 
Of foamy waves, and in the steaming ooze 
Along the seashore, frail and tiny things, 

DooK XXVI 547 

Soft jellied substances without a form, 

Groped blindly through their tepid haunts. Then 


Of other creatures, strange and rude in shape, 
And sluggish, dull and unintelligent, 
Spawned by the million. Shellfish next appeared, 
Strewing the sandy beaches. Coral reefs emerged, 
Lashed by the spumy breakers. Then were seen 
The parent fishes, with their forms grotesque. 
Time passed: still other fishes came, adorned 
With gold and silver scales, with glittering fins, 
Brilliantly specked, or dight with gaudy zones, 
Glowing in orange, or in azure gay, 
Or rich with purple. All the lukewarm bays 
With finny armies teemed : long watery leagues 
Surged with the writhing, struggling, living shoals. 

Meanwhile, upon the land, grasses arose, 

Clothing the rich savannahs deep in green. 

A wilderness of giant ferns outspread 

Their dense, luxuriant plumage. Princely palms 

Lifted their crests aerial: cycads reared 

Delicate tufted fronds. Trees magnificent, 

Massive and lofty, strangers since to earth, 

Amid those melancholy solitudes 

Flourished and faded, unbeheld of men; 

For in that steaming, dark and rainy air, 

Surcharged with noxious gases, never a man 

Might stray and breathe and live. And never a bird 

Within those solemn forests, nor in shades 

Of intertangling boughs above those fens, 

Warbled to cheer the lonesome gloom : no sound 

Arose to break the silence, save the pipe 

Of the first insects, as in shrill, sharp notes 

Hernando De Soto 

Though tremulous, those tiny choristers 
Sang the first matins to Almighty God. 

After the lapse of long millenniums, 
Great wallowing monsters spouted in the sea, 
And reptiles of gorgonian frightfulness, 
And girth and height astounding, walked the land. 
Here, bony-plated, scaly- armored, swam 
A dreadful beast, long perished from the world, 
Half crocodile, half shark : yonder arose 
Another creature, snake-shaped, terrible, 
Lifting a swan-like neck above the deep, 
And flashing his brilliant beady eyes in rage 
Upon his hideous rival. Then the two 
Ferocious dragons, meeting, joined in battle, 
Whipping the waters into foam : their blood 
Spurted in crimson jets, as their fierce jaws, 
Snapping and ripping and tearing frenziedly, 
Clashed, fastening in each other's vasty bulks. 
Then the slim, snake-formed creature, overcome, 
Shrieked, and his swan-like neck in agony 
Stiffening at first, ere long drooped low, and fell, 
As the dark victor roared with fearful joy. 

Reptiles whose feet smote thundrous on the ground, 
Strayed through the palm-groves, or in shallow pools 
Wallowed in slothful ease. Great lizards crawled 
Through the primeval wildwoods : with their jaws 
Uplifted hungrily, they gulped and gorged 
Fruits that the tallest men of later times, 
Lifting the longest spear, would fail to reach. 
Here sauntered one tremendous beast, whose front 
Sprouted three horns, while on his neck and breast 
Clung sheets of horny armor. Still another, 

BooK XXVI 549 

Tough-hided like the grim rhinoceros, 
But huger and more horrible, with eyes 
Glaring, with gleaming fangs, waded through fens, 
Splashing the mire, crushing and trampling down 
The slender bamboos, and voraciously 
Devouring all the punier snaky things 
Crawling within his way. Above them all 
Great flying dragons flapped their bat-like wings, 
From crocodilian jaws profaning heaven 
With chattering like the gnashing of the teeth 
In regions of the damned. Never in dreams 
Born of unrest or anguish, nor in those 
Black nightmares of remorse in guilty sleep 
Of traitors, fratricides or parricides, 
Nor in the hells that bigot minds portray, 
Peopled with griffins, harpies, furies, ghouls, 
Vampires and gorgons, never in them all 
Have wandered fiends of aspect more malign 
Than those dread creatures of the ancient years. 

Again the earth with dire convulsions heaved. 
Cloud-piercing mountains leaped to sudden view 
While thunders rolled and lightnings glittered. Peaks 
Of cyclopean bulk enwrapped in flames, 
And stormed the skies with dread artillery, 
Hurling forth rocks and ashes, while their smoke 
Shed a portentous darkness. Glowing rifts 
In the volcanoes gushed their lava forth 
In white-hot seething rivers. Craters yawned 
Red mouths like flaming furnaces. The world 
Rocked with terrific earthquakes, like a ship 
Plunging on stormy billows. Chasms immense 
Vomited fires of Tophet. But at last, 
When the loud clamor lessened, there uprose, 

55 Hernando De Soto 

Invading the dominions of the sea, 
New promontories, capes and cliffs, that smoked 
And smouldered, reeled and rumbled. As years passed, 
These new-formed lands, cooled by torrential rains 
Downpouring from the pitchy clouds above, 
Became still other haunts of life. 

But now 

The great primeval reptiles all had perished. 
Instead, there tramped unwieldy mastodons, 
Like slowly-moving hillocks. By their side 
Wandered the shaggy mammoths, big of limb, 
With ivory tusks, and elephantine snouts 
Swinging and swaying to and fro. Great sloths, 
Sluggish with tons of flesh, crept slowly on, 
Insatiate, cropping foliage greedily, 
Till leagues of wood were plundered. 

In those wilds, 

Unmarked of men, like virgins doomed to fade 
Unclaimed of any lover, unembraced, 
Unkissed and uncaressed through all their lives, 
Strange sweet unearthly blossoms hung forlorn. 
But now, as if creation woke to heed 
For the first time a call to higher things 
Than gross existence of unthinking brutes, 
It heard the lays of silver-throated birds, 
Like heraldings of poets yet unborn, 
Warbled from boughs of paradisal trees. 

Now in the palm-trees by a river-side 
In a green valley, throngs of sportful apes 
Clambered and swung and gamboled. By and by, 
From the rank jungles black gorillas stalked, 

DooK XXVI 55i 

Upright in carriage, but with hairy skins, 

Long arms, protruding jaws and canine fangs, 

Retreating foreheads, and dull bestial eyes. 

With hands like feet and feet like hands, sharp-nailed 

As talons of a harpy, up they climbed 

Tall forest- trees, building their ragged nests 

In loftiest branches. Growling, chattering, 

Or roaring, ceaselessly their frays uprose. 

Hideous to view, abhorrent unto thought, 

How could God call such a creation good? 

Then the first man appeared : hairy and huge, 
Low-browed and iron-chinned, with coarse, rough 


Clawed like the feet of vultures; with a mien 
Black and ferocious, lit by cruel eyes 
Glaring through tangles of disheveled hair, 
Where was that lordly tread, that princely air, 
To raise him over the brute? So in amaze 
Cried out the earthling: "Can this thing be true? 
Hath man, the favorite son of God, the liege 
Of all creation, paragon of earth, 
Crown-prince of life, the heir of angelhood, 
In this vile state hath he his origin? 
Is this the genesis of one so proud, 
So beauteous and so stately? Came he not 
Perfect from God's hand, falling but through sin?" 

Smiling, his friend retorted: "Ye have eyes, 
And Reason to explain what eyes reveal. 
These things, in time to come, shall sons of men 
Discover, as ye now discover. Yet 
Know this : nothing that God hath ever wrought 
Is vile or mean. The tiniest ant that creeps 

55 2 Hernando De Soto 

Is God's own creature, lowlier not to Him 

Than the superbest lion. This wee tuft 

Of grass is His own handiwork, as good 

As yon imperial oak. Then, if low things 

Make higher, why shouldst thou complain? Why 


The starry nenuphar because its bloom 
Springs from the mud of stagnant pools? Why 


Thyself because thine own framework is dust? 
Whatever be its source, no living thing 
Is thereby made unclean. Why murmurest thou 
That man hath fallen not from a higher state? 
Rather rejoice thou that the higher man 
Hath risen from the lower. Reason says, 
' Better from ape to angel to have risen, 
Than fallen from the angel to the ape. ' " 

Until this epoch, earth in tropic glory 

Had reveled from pole to pole. In arctic isles 

Flourished the plumy palm-trees, through whose 


Fluttered the brilliant birds of torrid climes. 
But now the scene was changed: the hills were gray 
With hoar-frost: under sheeted snow, the plains 
In white monotony outspread: wild winds 
Whistled across the plateaus: sleet and hail 
Swept on in blinding, pelting hurricanes. 
The tropic bowers withered; black and brown, 
Swayed their dead foliage in the cutting blast. 
The brilliant many-colored sunland birds 
Died, or dispersed in flight to warmer climes. 
The mastodon, with his colossal frame 
A-shiver in ungenial elements, 

Book XXVI 553 

Sank in the snow to perish. Through white drifts 
The ragged mammoth wandered, seeking shelter 
From hailstones rattling down from leaden skies. 
To solid ice the northern oceans froze, 
And icebergs from their dead white deserts sailed 
Into the equatorial seas. Slow-paced, 
And yet inexorable, wide glaciers moved 
Southward, and bore before them rocks and trees, 
And all things standing within their way. Winter 
Gripped the unjoyous world with tyrant hand. 

Man, ere this time, high in the boughs of trees 
Had built his rude huts : ill endowed for strife, 
Here was his refuge from the stronger brutes. 
But now the freezing tempest drove him forth 
For refuge unto mountain caves. And thus 
Forced from his leafy castle to the ground, 
Helpless he stood among the wild beasts armed 
With tooth and claw more powerful than his own. 
Then urged by hard necessity, he learned 
To wield the club and fling the stone, and lo! 
He who had been the weakest of the weak, 
The prey of every despot of the wild, 
Hunted of every hunter, by this art, 
Defence through agency of alien things, 
Alliance with insensate objects walked 
The master of the world. Oft would he meet 
The cave-bear in dispute before the cave, 
Each claiming right of lordship: hurling rocks, 
Or thundering down with his hard knotted club 
On his unwieldy foe, soon his right arm, 
Seconded by might of senseless wood and stone, 
And thus invincible through borrowed power, 
Would lift triumphant. 

554 Hernando De Soto 

But the fruits he loved 
In wilding forest orchards now had failed; 
So the primeval man slew for his food 
Brute creatures that in other years his feet 
Had scampered from in terror. Toils he laid 
To catch the mammoth staggering through the 


Taking him thus, he kept him as a slave 
To bear his burdens, and to lend him aid 
In conquering other beasts. " I now recall," 
De Soto said, "that hairy giant race 
Encountering Micalusa's tribe in years 
Long vanished; and these brutes with straggling 


With curving tusks and elephantine snouts, 
Are like those burly creatures of the past 
The western giants tamed and made their slaves." 
"Yea," answered Codro: "oft these barbarous 


Are truer than the vaunted gospel-truths 
In myths of nations more pretentious. Friend, 
In all religions there is truth and good, 
Though overgrown with error. And be sure 
Of this: All Fiction hath a fact for core. 
Those golden apples of enchanted isles, 
Sweet-odored, mellow, of ambrosial taste, 
By men yclept Romance and Poetry, 
Are but the caskets where the seeds of Truth 
Are treasured. So the stern dogmatic creed, 
Like a hard, bearded husk, shields and protects 
The palm-nut, sweet and wholesome, whence shall 


The tree of law and love and righteousness, 
To feed the starving millions of the race. " 

BooK XXVI 555 

Now man, by striking flint with flint, first learned 

To kindle fire. Here Codro laid his hand 

Upon his comrade's shoulder, saying, "Mark 

These first advancements to enlightenment. 

For, ere this time man was but lord of beasts, 

An ox in strength, a fox in craft, and yet 

Only a sordid thing of blind desire, 

Slave to his loins and belly. Now behold, 

This wintry season, like a friend disguised 

In frowns and scowls, who yet a gift conceals 

In hands withheld behind him, proves a guide 

To lead this gross man up to higher things. 

For lo ! within yon gloomy cave thou seest 

The first warm hearthstone, and around it drawn 

The first home-circle. Here through winter nights, 

When winds go whistling round the rocks without, 

And snow and sleet and hail are flying, all 

Is warm and snug and safe within. So thus 

The rude barbaric family first enjoys 

The sweets of social converse. Now their tongues 

Are awkward : yet their language harsh and crude, 

A raucous jabber, shall become in time 

More liquid than the melodies of birds. 

Behold the first rude home! and yet that home, 

That hearthstone, and that circle round the hearth, 

That bless our souls with comradeship, are gifts 

Of rigorous seasons that we deem our foes. 

"And now look further. Mark the creature's mate, 
Ill-favored like himself, though weaker. See 
Her trembling limbs, see her disordered hair; 
Mark well her furtive eyes, that glance in terror 
Toward her spouse. Behold him, red with rage, 
With knitted brows, with glaring eyes, his breast 

55^ Hernando De Soto 

Heaving with fury. Hear his angry shouts, 

More fearful than the lion's roar. See now, 

She grovels at his feet: quivering with fright, 

Streaming with tears, she lifts imploring hands, 

Shrieking for mercy! See his fingers twine 

Into her tangled locks, and see him hale 

The screaming creature by her hair! Look, look! 

His knotty hand hath clutched her throat! But 


At the last moment, see his face relent; 
See his eyes soften. On her throat his grip 
Loosens : for the first time he knows Remorse ! 
For the first time pity hath touched his heart : 
He lifts her, babbling words that mean ' forgive. ' 
For the first time this creature of his lust 
Escapes his dreadful anger, and beholds 
The kind forbearance of his dawning love. 

"Look thou again. The cave-man, having fought 

A desperate battle with a hostile clan, 

Comes forth victorious. Prostrate on the field 

Lies the last foe, disarmed. Round him are strewn 

The other foemen, dead. The victor chief 

Hears his own followers bidding him destroy 

This last poor wretch beneath him. He hath placed 

Upon the enemy's neck his foot; his hand 

Uplifts the stone axe for a deathful blow. 

But see him lower his arm, and lift his heel 

From off the adversary's neck! For now, 

Despite the wolfish snarling of his tribe, 

He spares the victim, and he sets him free. 

So here thou seest, for the first time, man 

Displaying the magnanimity of God, 

And worthy, for the first time, of his sire. 

BooK XXVI 557 

"Behold again. Grasping a sharpened flint, 
And cutting on a mastodon's long tusk, 
The first of artists with an awkward hand 
Draws the first picture. There in rugged lines, 
Like the crude efforts of a school-boy, see 
The likeness of the mammoth ! See his tusks, 
His long proboscis and his scanty mane, 
Rudely portrayed, yet faithful to the life. 
See now the artist lift his picture up, 
Scanning his work with pride. This is Art's dawn, 
When man first seeks in love to imitate 
The wonders of the sovereign Master's hand. 

" Now see upreared against yon dingy wall 

Of the dark cavern where the cave-man bides, 

A rude stone idol ; see the barbarian 

Before that image of his god bow down. 

But smile thou not, nor scorn. For here thou seest 

The first blind gropings after Him whose hand 

Raised us from dust. What if those rites be strange, 

That liturgy uncouth, that lump of stone 

Only a pitiful effigy of God? 

In this poor weak beginning thou discernest 

The birth of man's Religion; here is lit 

Devotion's pure and sanctifying flame 

That never shall be quenched, but shall forever 

Be burning at the altars of the world. 

"And now behold: one in that cavern home 
Is lying dead. Mark thou his frantic spouse, 
Rending her hair in anguish : see his children, 
Silenced, and numb with vague, uncertain dread 
At their first sight of death. Now his friends come; 
They roll a rock aside, and lower down 

Hernando De Soto 

The dead man to his last long resting-place 

Under the cavern floor. Beside the dead 

They lay his weapons, arrows, and a bow, 

A spear, a shield, a club. Likewise they place 

A dish of food beside him, that the man 

On his long journey to the other world 

May faint not, lacking food. Despise thou not 

Such a vain, senseless deed; but here detect 

Man's dawning hope of immortality. 

Yea, hope of immortality ! That dream, 

That longing, that desire unspeakable, 

That bird of plume celestial, singing songs 

Of a transcendent kingdom far away, 

Hath nested in the bosom of the race, 

Never, O never, to be driven in flight ! 

O who hath gazed on bleak November skies, 

Darkened with flying withered leaves, nor longed 

For that untrodden region where the skies 

Are ever bright, the trees forever green? 

And who hath seen the ending of his prime, 

The death of all his dreams and all his joys, 

When Old Age, like a ruthless Vandal king, 

Leads on his barbarous hordes to lay in waste 

The golden empire of the years of Youth, 

O, who hath known such poignancy of regret, 

Nor longed for that blest country where the young, 

Treading in joyance, live forever young? 

Who hath beheld the glory of this world 

Crumble to ashes ; who hath seen sweet Love 

Pallid, and shrouded for the tomb, O who, 

Looking upon these things, hath never yearned 

For that blest haven of the heart's desire, 

Where Death is summoned unto death, and Time, 

Insatiate Time, eats his own heart and dies!" 


In the vision of the warrior, long cycles seem to pass Disappear 
ance of the primeval monster's Civilization De Soto's own 
time Man's constant struggle upward through difficulties 
The Gods of Egypt, Assyria, India, Greece and Rome are 
seen The Great Lawgivers, Moses, Zoroaster, Confucius, 
Mahomet, Buddha, and Christ All religions are shown to 
inculcate some good, though error may be found in their 
teachings The Gods of the North Asgard and its golden 
mansions Valhalla Niflheim, and the demons of the under 
world Loki, and his infernal Progeny Destruction of 
Earth and Heaven at Ragnarok The new Earth and Heaven 
The final happy destiny of man Codro's last injunctions 
to De Soto He gives De Soto leave to relate the vision only 
to Alonzo, as the type of the race to come. 

A GAIN it seemed that, as the dreamer dreamed, 
l\ Cycles elapsed. Like evil dreams of night 
That disappear at dawn, those monstrous brutes 
Treading the earth when man first walked as man, 
Had vanished. Then enlightenment was known. 
Egypt in massive grandeur builded high 
Her Thebes and Memphis. Palaces and tombs 
Rose, miracles in marble: pyramids 
And sphinxes overbrowed them all, august, 
Austere and taciturn, watchmen of God, 
Whose vigil hath no end till Judgment Dawn. 
Sidon and Tyre, Carthage and Babylon, 
And Smyrna, Ephesus and Nineveh, 
Dazzled the earth with glory, or subdued 


560 Hernando De Soto 

Old ocean with their dauntless prows. Cathay 
Robbed dark eclipses of their evil power, 
Their advent prophesying ere the day 
Their dreaded shadows fell. Fair Greece awoke: 
Athens, the pride of Earth, and deathless Rome, 
Proud and imperious, flourished. In their realms 
Art blossomed like a peerless purple flower, 
Making earth sweet with paradisal breath. 

But all these kingly nations fell : decay 
Sullied their splendid fanes : their holy shrines 
Crumbled dishonored : in a rayless gloom 
Of barbarism their noble annals ended. 
At last De Soto's own time seemed to come, 
When the long night of ignorance was dispelling 
Before another dayspring, though the dawn 
Was chill and clouded, not as yet arrayed 
In the purpureal glory of its prime. 

So Codro, turning to his comrade, spake: 

"Now, like a Sleeping Beauty, who revives 

Beneath the kiss of some romantic Prince, 

Enlightenment, under the loving touch 

Of this inspiring age, starts, lifts her head, 

And opens her wondering eyes. But evil yet 

Is dominant: ye scramble after gold 

With greediness insane: ye burn, ye slay, 

Ye plunder, ye enslave the savage. Lo! 

To fiery death ye drag the heretic, 

When you yourselves are strangers unto Christ, 

And votaries but of error. Thou thyself 

Hast thirsted after gold, and thou thyself 

Hast smitten the savage, and hast made him bear 

Thy heavy chains of bondage. Ah, too well 

Thy guilt thou knowest! 

DooK XXVII 561 

"Yet these self-same plagues 
Ever must mark the onward course of man: 
Such is the stern requirement of the law 
Of our advancement. As a caravan 
Upon a desert waste and blossomless 
Is guided on its way by skeletons 
Of those who perished on the path before, 
So the great legions of humanity 
Pick their slow way by the uncoffined bones 
Of martyrs unto truth, brave pioneers 
Who, pressing on beyond their brethren, died 
To mark the trail for the great host behind. 
And thou, O pride of Spain, O knightly one, 
Seeking for El Dorado through the wilds, 
Instead of gold, of silver and of gems, 
Thou shalt but find a grave. son, thy bones, 
Like those upon the desert, shall but gleam 
To guide the feet of others. " 

But the knight 

Cried, "Must this be? Can we not speed the day 
Of man's perfection? Why not end the ills 
That thus retard the good?" Replied the other: 
"Yea, thou canst aid the cause of Good, and bring 
The Golden Age thus nearer. But thy might 
Can haste that time but little. Ye have raised 
In zealot bigotry the fiery stake 
To aid your ruthless creed, deeming that this 
Would speed the cause of Right. Alas! by this 
Ye have the Right retarded. Ye have sought 
To teach the savage by the torch and steel: 
Ye fail : he hates you : now a spanless gulf 
Divides you from his soul. The plans of God 
Can not be forced or prodded to their end. 

562 Hernando De Soto 

The lily-bud will open in its time, 
When genial suns and soft caressful airs 
Woo it to burgeon : when impatient hands 
Tear open the delicate enfolded leaves, 
Only a tattered, blackened thing is left, 
Dangling dejected, soiled and spoiled. " 

Now passed 

Before their eyes the gods and goddesses 
In many lands adored. First they descried 
The banks of Nilus. Slender obelisks 
Like needles pierced the sky : long colonnades 
Outstrung their massive pillars: high uploomed 
The twin Memnonian statues, rigid and grim, 
And worn with ancientness, whose reticence 
Relaxes only when the sun at morn 
Is greeted by their faithful harmonies. 
The sacred ibis flitted by; the stork 
Waded the shallow waters; far aloft 
Circled rose-hued flamingoes : here it was 
The solemn and reserved Egyptian gods 
In dignity and grandeur held their sway. 
Sad Isis, from whose tears the fruitful Nile 
Swells to a deluge, sate upon her throne, 
A lotus for her sceptre; on her brow 
Lifted the cow's horns and the solar disk. 
The mummied king, Osiris, lay serene, 
Wrapped in the mystic cerements of the dead, 
While on his head the Resurrection crown 
Glittered, a symbol of the life to come. 
Here Horus, with the falcon's countenance, 
Anubis, with the jackal's head, and Thoth, 
Beaked like the ibis, in majestic fanes 
Heard supplications of their votaries, 

BooK XXVII 563 

Yet never turned their calm averted eyes, 
Nor bended their sedate impassive brows. 

Euphrates and the Tigris next they saw 

Flowing through pastoral scenes : here Nineveh 

Exulted in her marble domes; and here, 

Encompassed by the Babylonian walls, 

And shadowed by the Hanging Gardens, rose 

Still other shrines and altars. Sceptred Baal 

With gravely thoughtful air surveyed the world. 

Astarte, with the moon for diadem, 

And dewy Hesper twinkling on her brows, 

Symboled all fruitfulness and fecundity. 

Dagon, half -man, half -fish, worshiped of old 

In Canaanitish Gaza, here, as there, 

Through clouds of incense in his honor burned, 

Heard orisons of never-ending throngs. 

Beneath the snowy Himalayan peaks 
Sweltered the sultry vales of India, 
With tiger-haunted jungles. In that realm 
Colossal gods of Hindustan they viewed, 
Awful in form, monstrous in limb, and armed 
With giant power. Exalted over all, 
Four-faced, four-handed, lordly Brahma reigned, 
The great Creator. On his dexter side 
Was Vishnu, the Preserver, who bestrode 
A steed half -man, half -eagle. His four arms 
A bow, a club, a discus and a sword 
Upheld aloft. Forth issuing from a mount 
Under his feet, the holy Ganges flowed 
Into that sea made sweet by scented gales 
From bloomy groves of Ceylon. On 'the left 
Of Brahma's throne reared Siva, the Destroyer, 

564 Hernando De Soto 

Seated upon a milk-white bull, and scowling 
From five terrific faces ; round his neck 
Was coiled a mighty serpent ; in one hand 
He held aloft a trident; in the other 
A murderous flaming thunderbolt he clutched. 

The gods of Greece and Rome they now discerned 

Gathered on white Olympus. Throned aloft 

In stateliness and grandeur, with a brow 

Imperial, and a keenly-piercing eye 

That never slumbered, reigned almighty Jove, 

Serene and yet severe. At times he smiled 

In lordly condescension, as he bowed 

His locks ambrosial, and his hands received 

The nectared goblet rosy Hebe gave. 

Beside him queenly Juno half reclined, 

Stroking her gorgeous peacock, who upreared 

Proudly his glinting crest, and, fan-like, spread 

The green and purple glories of his train. 

Venus, Jove's peerless daughter, at his feet 

Displayed transcendent charms, her snowy breast, 

Her softly-curving limbs, her lilied feet, 

Her dawn-red cheeks, dewy cerulean eyes, 

And glowing tresses, that with golden haze, 

In half concealing, seemed revealing, all 

The sweets the Queen of Beauty sought to hide. 

Her cream- white doves beside her cooed ; her swan 

Nestled against her bosom, though his wing, 

Purer than pure Olympian snows, seemed gray 

Beside that spotless pillow. Not afar, 

Ceres, the mother of all harvests, leaned 

Upon a sheaf of millet ; round her head 

Circled a wreath* of yellow corn. Here too, 

Hovered fair Iris, clad in gay attire 

DooK XXVII 565 

Like gorgeous clouds of morning, while above, 
Her seven-hued rainbow reared its arch superb. 
The golden-haired Apollo, loveliest 
Of all the lovely youths of earth and heaven, 
Stood with the Muses nine, and from his lyre 
Strook melodies that swayed with ravishment 
The starry constellations in their spheres. 

"Alas!" the mortal cried, "they have all gone, 
Those radiant gods of Hellas! Nevermore 
On heights Olympian, at their festal boards, 
Shall the red nectar, nor ambrosial cates, 
Be set before them, that their joyous hearts 
May laugh within their bosoms. They are gone, 
And going, take to share their exile, all 
The youth and bloom and beauty of the world!" 
"Nay," cried the other, "though they disappear 
From the gross vision of the banal herd, 
Yet still they live in fancy ; still they flourish 
In the heart's kingdom, as in Athens' prime. 
O, never shall the gods of Hellas die 
So long as lyric, legend and romance, 
Beauty and love and sweetness, shall endure: 
Dethroned as gods, yet shall they reign in dreams, 
Till the last poet perishes from earth. " 

And now the great Lawgivers of the past 
They saw and knew. First, Moses : in his grasp 
The tablets graven by Jehovah's hand 
Thundered their stern injunctions. Gray as clouds 
In gray November skies, his billowy locks 
Swept downward, mingling with his .mighty beard, 
Hoar as a hoar November frost. The next 
Was Zoroaster, with his lofty brow 

566 Hernando De Soto 

Bended in meditation on one hand, 
While a mysterious scroll his other hand 
Treasured against his bosom : at his feet 
Flickered the holy flame his priests adore. 
Here was Confucius, at a table's head 
In a great chamber: round the table sat 
His followers, hearkening reverently the while 
His wise precepts he gave. Mahomet next 
Strode forth, a martial prophet fired with zeal 
To win the whole world for his God. He clasped 
With his left arm the Koran, in whose page 
Are all the flaming revelations taught 
The camel-driver on the desert waste 
Where the hot sun glares pitiless, and the brain 
Swoons in fanatic trances that reveal 
Secrets of heaven and hell. With his right arm 
A scimitar he brandished, threatening death 
To all mankind who heeded not his cry. 
Buddha they next discerned, placid and kind, 
Discoursing underneath the Bo-tree. He 
Sought not the sword for ally, but went armed 
Only with peace and friendship. Over all, 
Christ they beheld, the meekest and most mild, 
Standing upon the mount, and there proclaiming 
Duty to pray for all, or friend or foe. 

Said Codro: "Neither Islam's creed of hate, 

Nor old Hebraic chronicles of blood 

Can answer future needs. Some olden myths 

Sleep, lost in just oblivion: others yet, 

Fables of Jewry, or Iranic dreams, 

Now darkening in the penumbra of eclipse, 

As the long generations pass, must fade 

From sight of men forever. The creeds of eld 

BooK XXVII 567 

Revealed some truths of God and heaven, but more 

Of men who made them : for this truth will stand : 

Tell thou the nature of a people's god, 

A nd thou hast told the nature of that people: 

If they be heartless, so shall their creed; 

If they be noble, so shall be their god, 

New revelations yet to be shall draw 

Man nearer still to truth. But despise not 

Teachings of old: to him who cons them well 

Sweet are their precepts. True, they speak through 


Yet the myth oft portrays a deeper truth 
Than the bald fact. Choose thou the good in all; 
Eschew the evil : thou shalt have reward 
In gaining that thou seekest. For, be sure, 
Evil or good, beauty or ugliness, 
Whatever man is seeking for, he finds.' 1 

And now they looked on far Norwegian shores, 
White in the snows of winter. Gloomy pines 
Tossed their black branches in the bitter winds. 
A wild gray ocean hurled its foamy spray 
Against the bleak and barren rocks. Chill stars 
Shivered and shuddered in the polar sky. 
With rays like glittering upturned icicles, 
The keen auroras flung their splendent arcs; 
And like a pale procession through the heavens, 
Beckoning with phantom torches, mystic lights 
Waved their weird ghostly tapers to and fro. 

Here the great ash-tree, Igdrasil, held fast 
The universe. Under one mighty root 
Was Midgard, home of men. Another root 
Stretched over Jotunheim, the icy world 

568 Hernando De Soto 

Where the frost-giants dwell. The third black root 

In labyrinthine coils enfolded Hell, 

Dread Niflheim, dawnless kingdom of the dead, 

Where the great monsters of the demon horde 

Clank their strong shackles and struggle to be free. 

At the three roots the serpent, Nithhogg, gnaws 

With tooth untiring. In the upper boughs 

Of the great ash-tree is the home of gods, 

Asgard. Bifrost, the bridge of rainbow, spans 

The gulf between it and the underworld 

Of miscreated monsters, and the host 

Of countless dead. Twelve golden mansions rose 

In Asgard, where the Norland deities 

Reigned awful and sublime. 

Towering aloft, 

Like a great mountain whose majestic head 
Reaches the skies and pierces through the clouds, 
Was Odin, chief of gods. Blind of one eye, 
Gray-haired and grizzly-bearded, on his brow 
Ruled Force and Power supreme. His stalwart hand 
Clutched a great staff that reached from earth to 


Two ravens on his shoulders perched : two wolves 
Lay crouched beside his feet. Frea, his mate, 
A giantess, mother of warlike gods, 
Was seated near him. With industrious hands, 
Orion as her distaff, and her woof 
The shimmering mazes of the galaxy, 
The garments of her royal house she wove. 

Loud thunder-peals resounded, lightnings flashed, 
And in a cloud the martial form of Thor 
Loomed dreadfully. Red were his hair and beard 

XXVII 569 

As the red lightning: on his front austere 
Lowered portentous frowns: huge, sinewy 
And hairy were his arms and hands. One fist, 
Armed with an iron hammer, stood upraised, 
Ready to smite ; the other held in leash 
The team that drew his brazen chariot, 
Three burly goats with wide-extended horns. 

Seated beneath that Norland Trinity 
They spied the three Norns, demigoddesses, 
Spinners who weave the fabric of men's lives, 
And fates of deities, two marvelous fair, 
Strewing sweet blessings, and one a grisly hag, 
Bestowing bitter curses. Round them all 
Soared the Valkyries, beautiful and fierce, 
Handmaids of Odin, who above the wreck 
And havoc of the gory battlefield 
Hover, choosing the heroes who shall die 
And be uplifted in their amorous arms 
To Asgard, and to fellowship with gods. 

In Asgard one vast hall was reared for men, 
Valhalla, joyous home and blest retreat 
Of heroes slain in battle. Nigh its walls, 
Wandered and grazed Heidrun, the great she-goat, 
High as the hilltops, from whose udders flowed 
Rivers of mead. Forth from five hundred gates 
Issued each day the warriors unto battle, 
To taste the fierce, wild joy of conflict: or, 
Throughout the deep green forests would uprise 
Their shouts in hunting, and the bay of hounds, 
Their allies, as they chased the bristly boar, 
The speedy roebuck or the clumsy bear. 
At night the doughty heroes all would wend 

570 Hernando De Soto 

Home from the chase or combat, pricked with wounds 

Sustained in tilts with rival bands, or worn, 

Dusty or mud-splashed from their hot pursuit 

Of wild things through the wilderness. And then 

Their revels would begin. Their lofty hall 

Was hung with spears and shields : upon their board 

Great silver tankards brimmed with mead: for each 

A fair Valkyrie stood in readiness 

To fetch delicious viands, or refill 

The drinking-bowl, oft emptied. Here were thronged 

Victors in bloody combats on the land, 

And vikings who had won renown at sea, 

Battling with storms. To please them came the 


Who sang them songs of love and warfare, while 
The cymbals clashed, and sounds of harps and horns 
Blended in deep-toned harmonies. But oft 
The warriors with their own bass voices raised 
Hilarious drinking-songs, that were half drowned 
In loud, uproarious laughter from the rest. 
With florid cheeks, with quivering golden beards, 
With blue eyes blurred from wine, shaking with mirth, 
The heroes drank tumultuous healths, or clasped 
And kissed the winsome handmaids that they loved. 

At Bifrost, bridge of rainbow, stands alert 
Heimdall, warder of Asgard. His keen eyes 
Pierce through the midnight for an hundred leagues: 
His watchful ears can hear the blades of grass 
Growing within the fields, and hear the wool 
Growing upon the sheep's back. In his hand 
Is Gjallarhorn, the awful trump of doom, 
Whose blast shall one day summon gods and men 
To face death on the last of battlefields, 

BooK XXVII 57i 

Announcing in dread pealing the approach 

Of Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, 

When the great monsters from the deep escape 

To fight with heaven ; when frightful darkness comes ; 

When earth and sea and sky enwrap in flames, 

And deities and men alike behold 

Their ending, and the end of all the world. 

"Turn now," said Codro, "to the nether realm, 
That pit of darkness where the fiends are chained, 
And where the pallid spectres glimmer by, 
Shivering and sighing. In that land accurst 
See Balder, the White God, the beautiful youth, 
The son of Odin and of Frea, slain 
By the small treacherous twig of mistletoe 
Flung by the blind god Hoder, at the hest 
Of Loki, prince of demons. In those haunts 
Of dolor, in those tomblands waste and wild, 
Deserts of everlasting night, of grief, 
Terror and blasphemy, see his lovely face, 
So pure, so lucent, that it radiates 
A white light through the unholy gloom ! Behold 
His smooth pale boyish cheeks, his golden hair: 
O, what a trophy for victorious Death!" 

Now the scene changed. The world-tree, Igdrasil, 

Quaked from the gnawing tooth of Nithhogg : lo ! 

The monsters of the great deep felt their gyves 

Severed asunder, and in armied hosts 

Went forth to war with heaven. Ferocious Garm, 

Hell's monstrous watch-dog, broke his iron bonds, 

And starting heavenward with the rended chain 

Rattling about him, every ear appalled 

With furious baying. Quickly Heimdall blew 

57 2 Hernando De Soto 

On Gjallarhorn : its thrilling peals aroused 
The creatures of all worlds to the dread hour 
Of Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, 
The day of wrath for deities and men. 

Loki, chained to a rock, where serpents dripped 
Virus upon his head, with a great wrench 
Snapt his strong fetters, and called his demon rout 
To follow. Then his horrid progeny, 
The misbegotten Trinity of Hell 
That Angerbode, the Frostland giantess, 
Spawned to him in the ancient years, broke forth, 
Fierce for the conflict. Dreadful Hela came, 
The goddess of the dead, with haggard cheeks, 
With livid lips and brows, and yet with eyes 
Glowing like coals of fire : Fenris, the wolf, 
Shaggy and gray, whose stature reached the stars: 
Lastly, the Midgard Serpent, whose vast coils 
Circled the seas and continents of earth, 
And convoluting upward, fold on fold, 
Like a black deluge blotted out the sky. 

Appalling darkness gathered; thunders crashed, 
And lightnings cleaved the skies ; from the great deep 
The monsters bellowed, as they took their way 
To golden Asgard. Now was heard the rush 
Of deities to arms: the clang of swords, 
Clanking of shields, and hollow-sounding din 
Of armor seized and donned in haste, were heard 
In great Valhalla's spear-hung halls. Now Garm, 
Hell's hound, with fierce green eyes, and rabid jaws 
Dripping green venom, in carnivorous rage 
Howling, leaped Asgard's walls. The war-god, Tyr, 
Transfixed him with his lance, but in the act 

DooK XXVII 573 

Himself was torn to pieces by the brute. 
Fenris, the wolf gigantic, whose vast bulk 
Expunged the sun, snapping and snarling, reared 
Maddened for prey, and slew the sire of gods, 
Yea, even almighty Odin, king of heaven, 
With one great sweep of his tremendous paw. 
But fleeting was his triumph: for the sword 
Of Vithar, Son of Odin, cleaved his heart 
In furious vengeance. 

Through his leagues of coils 
The Midgard Serpent shuddered, for the bolts 
Of Thor had rent his vitals ; but ere long 
His victor was his victim, for his fangs, 
Deadly with poison, darted sting on sting 
Into the bosom of the son of heaven. 
Then the God reeled : down fell his doughty arm, 
Dropping its iron hammer: pallid grew 
His warlike countenance: and so he fell 
Thundering, as falls some lofty promontory 
Into a raging sea. Divinities 
And fiends alike, trembled to see him lie 
Dead with his horrid prey. 

Spouting red flames 

From red dragonian jaws, the fire-fiend, Surt, 
Breathed upon Frea, mother of the gods; 
Swooning in that sirocco, she recoiled, 
Shriveled, and turned to ashes. When at last 
Loki and Heimdall, facing, stood alone 
On the charred fields of heaven, where all the rest, 
Both gods and fiends, lay perished, each prepared 
For the last duel. Not one word was breathed. 
Grim was the face of Heimdall: Loki stood 

574 Hernando De Soto 

Beautiful, though evil: his black snaky eyes 
Glittered; upon his dusky countenance, 
Like a wan moondawn in a gloomy night, 
Shone joy malignant. For he knew, though fate 
Had doomed him, yet the gods that doom would share. 
So now each champion, bending backward, poised 
His forceful arm to cast the spear : each flung 
At the same instant his redoubted steel. 
Each pierced the other's heart, and in one breath 
The heavenly warder and Hell's king lay dead. 
Now earth in ocean sank : in one vast blaze 
Crackled the skies, and Asgard's golden halls 
Crumbled to ruins. Heaven and earth were gone, 
Gods, fiends and men. Only a blackened waste 
Recalled the wondrous universe of yore. 

But lo! after a time, from out the gulf 
Of darkness, gentle Balder rose again, 
More splendent than before: immortal youth 
In his cheeks glowed: with cloudless joy his eyes 
Sparkled. From out of Nature's funeral pyre 
A sweet young pair he led, who in the years 
Yet coming would replenish earth again, 
But with a race more noble. 

Through the gloom 

That now was fast dispersing, came a voice, 
A vast, deep utterance, as though all the gods 
Of all the lands, that in this dream had passed 
Before the mortal, since from heavenly scenes 
He had descended, spake in one strong tongue, 
Saying: "Farewell! the fables we have told 
Are not all truthless; for they symbolize 
The trend of man's existence. Heed them well. 

BooK XXVII 575 

We are the spirits of departed gods, 

Whose use on earth is ended. Now we go 

Unto our dark necropolis forever. 

But dream not that the true Divinity 

Is ended when our little days expire: 

For God, The One, The Eternal God, lives on, 

Though countless gods and goddesses may die. " 

Now spake the guide: "Look forth and view the 


The fair regenerated world to be 
When man his destiny achieves. " They looked, 
And lo ! the legions of humanity 
Stood free of earthy soilure, purged of all 
Earth's grossness. Strife no more in hearts of men 
Aroused the beast : the only Force was Love. 
White as the dream of poet, saint or sage, 
Were all the annals of the new-born race. 
There were no Chosen People, for all men 
Were brothers, and all men were sons of God, 
Enjoying equal favors at His hands. 
Earth was emparadised : bees free of stings 
Sucked honeyed sweets from roses free of thorns: 
The brilliant tropic birds, once dumb, now sang, 
And norland birds, once gray, wore gorgeous plumes. 
Angels came down to walk with men, and men 
Upsoared to walk with angels. Earth arose 
To neighborhood with heaven, and heaven de 

With earth to hold communion, till the twain 
Were blended. Like a dewy star of morn, 
Dissolving in the pure white light of day, 
The soul of man unto its source returned, 
And melted in the bosom of its God. 

576 Hernando De Soto 

"All shall be saved," the guide resumed, "for Hell, 

That hideous nightmare born of hellish minds, 

Is but remorse for evil done on earth, 

A penalty that upon this selfsame earth, 

And in this selfsame life, all men must pay. 

Search thine own conscience! Thou hast paid the 


In tears and groans for every savage wretch 
Enslaved or slain at thy behest. But man, 
Not God, the guilty soul would still pursue 
Through worlds to come, with agonies infinite 
Avenging finite wrongs. Be thou assured 
The brave Peruvian nobleman spake truth: 
' No man a hell deserves save he whose hate 
Conceives it, and reserves it for his foes. ' " 

Then spake De Soto: "I am dying; yet 
A little longer would I live, to teach 
To all mankind the lessons I have learned 
From thee, O comrade, in this vision." "Nay," 
Returned the sage: "the time is not yet ripe: 
Men would not understand thee. Centuries 
Must pass before these children of the dust 
Are fitted to receive the truths which thou 
This night hast learned. Unto Alonzo's ear, 
And his alone, mayest thou relate this dream. 
For he is young, with a mind yet undulled 
By custom or convention of the past. 
In him is typified the race to come. 
By slow degrees hereafter, through his seed, 
These lessons may be spread afar, not now. 
Until that day, old teachings must suffice. 
And it is best. Thou in thy blundering way 
Hast in the past years served thy fellow-man 

BooK XXVII 577 

Better than thou hadst done hadst thou known 


Oft Ignorance best can cope with Ignorance, 
Achieving more than Wisdom: oft the blind 
Can better teach the blind than those who see. 
Progress must wait its own due season, else 
Like verdure ere the springtime born, it wilts 
In the late frosts of winter. And Reform 
Must wait its own appointed hour for birth, 
Or like a babe torn from its mother's womb 
Untimely, it is brought forth dead, or comes 
Deformed, to hobble impotent for good 
Unto the world it might have saved. 

"When Life 

Was first breathed into clay, God stood aloof 
In silence, purposely, that man might win 
The conflict for himself, and in the attempt 
Gain strength and force and patience. As the eagle 
Thrusts out the timid eaglet from the nest 
High on the dizzy crag, making him fly 
To save himself by his own quaking wings 
From the wild gulf that greedily yawns below: 
And as the waterfowl casts its young chick 
Into the sea, to make it mount the waves 
With its own trembling feet and shivering breast : 
So God hath cast man out to save himself 
From hostile elements, and thus be taught 
The godlike virtue, self-reliance. Yea, 
That godlike virtue! For of all men, he 
Is most like God who most on self relies. 
And so, De Soto, men must learn from thee 
Thy dogged perseverance, and from thee 
Must copy patience in adversity, 


578 Hernando De Soto 

Forever striving onward, inch by inch, 
Though oft defeated, oft by fools condemned. 

" In me is typified the human soul, 

Awkward, ungainly, homely, yet in time 

Transfigured from its olden earthly form 

To tread the empyrean glorified. 

As thou thyself hast spoken, now I say: 

' As flows the Guadiana underground, 

Leaving bright skies, and groping through the night, 

Only to rise and greet the day once more, 

So shall the spirit sink to Stygian glooms, 

To rise in noonday splendor greater still. ' ' 


De Soto tells Alonzo of his vision Later, he dies His character 
measured by his friends He is buried near the camp, but 
the place of his grave is kept secret, the savages being told 
that he is still living But the Indians are not deceived 
One of their chiefs brings two young men as a human sacrifice 
for his tomb Moscoso releases the captive youths The 
Spaniards then determine to bury De Soto in the Great River 
The burial in the Mississippi The Spaniards march to 
the west, where Vasconcelos dies His lonely grave After 
wandering through the forests, the band returns to the 
Mississippi, where brigantines are built to convey the sur 
vivors to Mexico Abandoning the slaves The Indians 
pursue the Spaniards down the stream The slaughter of the 
steeds The passage of the mouth of the Mississippi and 
the return to Mexico by sea Alonzo, Lulla, and their babe 
arrive safely Isabel's long waiting Her last song Her 
death De Soto's grave. 

MORN came : then waking, to his couch of death 
De Soto called Alonzo. There he told 
Unto his youthful kinsman all his dream, 
Even as the reader finds it written here. 
And then De Soto added: "By this dream, 
Alonzo, am I comforted in death: 
I die unmurmuring. Keep its precepts well, 
And it may aid thee likewise. In the days 
That yet await thee, unto other ears 
Thou mayest reveal it, so the seeds of truth 
It brings thee may not perish from the world. 
And yet beware of babbling it to those 


580 Hernando De Soto 

Unworthy to receive it; for but few 

May scan the sun of truth with flinchless eyes, 

And most may only view its radiant light 

When veiled in clouds of error. And remember, 

Regarding this same dream, and all thy gifts 

To others in this life: Give but to him, 

Him only, who is fitted to receive." 

His lips grew silent, and he closed his eyes: 

His power of speech expired : his breathing ceased : 

His labors and his conflicts all were over. 107 

That night his friends kept vigil by his corse, 

Each yielding tribute to his memory. 

"His days were troubled," said Moscoso; "yet 

The greatest life flows not in quietude. 

For tame and unpoetic is that stream 

Which glides forever in a smooth career. 

The rock-bound river, broken by waterfalls, 

Tortured to foaming torrents, and convolved 

In whirlpools and in eddies, yet is the haunt 

Of song and story: wildly beautiful, 

Amidst a fairyland it leaps and bounds, 

With dark romantic forests, lofty heights, 

And rainbows reared on cataracts sublime." 

"His faults were many," said Anasco; "still, 

Faults not too great may prove an added charm. 

So was it here; for oft his blemishes 

Traced lines unique and pleasing, like the veins 

In marble, or the f recklings on a flower." 

"Rash was he often," said Vasconcelos, 

"And quick of temper; harsh at times, and stern, 

But generous and forgiving. Charged with zeal, 

His tropic nature felt the earthquake-thrill, 

The cyclone, and the hot volcanic flame 

BooK XXVIII 581 

Of passion; but the ample continent 
Of his great soul knew not the Arctic snows 
That freeze all warmer instincts in the hearts 
Of some more blameless in the sight of men. " 

Gallegos and Alonzo sought the woods, 
To hew their leader's coffin. Not afar 
They found a giant oak-tree. Centuries old, 
That gray forefather of the wilderness, 
Still hale and hearty, lifted unto heaven 
Boughs that were landmarks many leagues away. 
"This tree it is, " they said, "for such a man; 
The heart of oak should hold the heart of oak : 
Let its great bosom be his resting-place." 
So, under their axes, ere the noontide flamed, 
The ancient monarch thundered to the ground. 

They shrouded not the knight ; his martial form 
They sheathed in armor; in his pulseless hands 
His good sword lay at rest; over his heart 
They laid the Cross of Christ. So thus it was, 
The weighty casket, cleaved from heart of oak, 
Received him as its guest till Judgment Day. 

But now the crafty natives, having marked 

The leader stretched in illness, missed his face, 

And asked, "Where is your chieftain? Let us see 


Moscoso answered, "He hath journeyed hence, 
But only for a short while : he returns 
Before the corn-moon's wane. " This he avowed 
With secret purpose, for the foresters 
Had deemed the knight immortal : should they learn 
That death had claimed him as a child of dust, 

582 Hernando De Soto 

One fragile as themselves, Moscoso knew 

Their awe would lessen, and the little band 

Of Christians soon might be assailed. A grave 

Beside the camp was digged, and there was laid 

The casket with its body. Not a stone 

Was reared to mark the grave, for his men feared 

That this would but attract barbaric eyes 

Unto the hallowed spot. Smoothing the earth, 

They strewed above it heaps of withered leaves. 

But the deep secret to make deeper still, 

Above the place his followers played their games; 

They laughed, they romped, they rode their very 


Over the sacred earth, though in their hearts, 
Treading his dust they felt a cruel pang. 

But still the keen-eyed paynims guessed the truth. 
Their chief came, leading two fine lads, their wrists 
And ankles bound with cords. Naked they stood, 
With proud necks lifting princely heads on high 
Over symmetric shoulders, and with arms 
Rounded, yet firm: sturdy their legs, and strong, 
And curved in manly grace : their shapely feet 
With graceful instep arches seemed to spurn 
The earth's caress. More splendid were the twain 
Than two young leopards : he who scanned them well 
Surely would know them fleeter at the chase 
Than grayhound in pursuit or stag pursued. 

The chieftain said, " Deny me not. I know 
Your leader lies in death. I bring with me, 
As is the ancient custom of our race, 
Two goodly young men for a sacrifice 
Upon the tomb of him, the Child of Heaven. " 

DooK XXVIII 583 

Though the brave youths deigned not to beg for life, 
Their liquid pleading eyes upturned as though 
In supplication mute, while quivering fires 
Shone in the darkness of those dewy orbs 
Like stars in waters rippling through the night. 
Moscoso took the young men, saying, "True; 
Our chieftain is no more. But now depart, 
I pray thee: I must counsel with my knights 
Over these matters. " When the chief had gone, 
Moscoso freed the captives. Then they fell 
Before his feet and eagerly kissed his hands. 

But now Anasco sought the leader, saying, 
"I fear our captain's grave is known; and so 
Fell hands his precious dust may violate. 
To the Great River he revealed to men, 
Let us remove him for his last long sleep. " 
This counsel of Anasco all the rest 
Approving, from the dust his corse they raised, 
Preparing, for all time unborn, to make 
The River his majestic sepulchre. 

The midnight comes, and at that solemn hour 
They bear him to the boat, a burden great, 
For massive is the oak, and the knight sleeps 
In knightly armor. Plying swift the oars, 
Where nineteen fathom deep roll heavy waves, 
Their shallop stays its course. They pause, and then 
The priests raise fervent prayers above the dead, 
While weird responses of wild whippoorwills 
Rise plaintive from the tangled wilderness. 

" De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: 

Domine, exaudi vocem meant!" 

Hark, how the night winds rustle through the trees! 

584 Hernando De Soto 

Hark, how the waters ripple through the oars ! 

"Kyrie Eleison!" now implores the priest, 

"Kyrie Eleison!' 1 echoes from the woods. 

Lo ! comes a sudden splash, a gurgling sound, 

And then the Mississippi's mighty arms 

Close round the oak-bound, armored knight forever. 

When the sun rose next day, their chieftain gone, 

Toward the future every heart was turned, 

Asking, ' ' What waits us now ? On what strange paths 

Shall our feet rove in this vast wilderness? " 

Moscoso had been choice of all, since all 

Believed him but a votary of ease, 

Loving repose unvexed by savage cries, 

Or howls of wild beasts ; led by one like him, 

They little doubted that their band would turn 

From this barbaric desert, and escape 

To realms more gracious. So in time it proved. 

But first they wandered to the west afar, 

In the vast trackless forests, as of yore, 

Enduring endless hardships. Here it was, 

The noble Portuguese, Vasconcelos, 

Died, and was buried. In those gloomy woods, 

Unmarked was left his solitary grave. 

And there amid that solemn wilderness, 

The wild blackberry's wreath of snowy blooms 

Scatters alone its tribute on his tomb. 

In summer shades at morn the wild bird calls, 

At noon the drowsy locust chirps and hums, 

And through the night the lonesome katydid, 

Sleepless and restless, makes her plaint. And there, 

Left to oblivion, far from old compeers, 

Far from his home of youth in mountain heights, 

BooK XXVIII 585 

That guard the ancient Portugal he loved, 
Far from the vineyards and the olive groves 
Where strayed his boyish feet in vanished years, 
Far from the Tagus and its pastoral fields, 
And far from friendly Lusitanian skies, 
Vasconcelos, forsaken, sleeps alone. 

Retreating from these western wilds, at last 
To the Great River they returned, and there 
Slowly they built a fleet of brigantines, 
Whereby they hoped to reach again the shores 
Of friendly Mexico. But scarcely half 
Of those brave Christians who at first had marched 
In high hopes with De Soto's knightly band 
Unto this desolate region, now survived 
In this flotilla to embark for home. 

When they returned, a score of slaves they took, 

But all the rest, five hundred wretched souls, 

They left behind. Then the poor slaves that thus 

Their masters had marooned, with piteous tears 

Begged to be taken likewise, crying out, 

"Masters, we speak your speech, we own your faith, 

Unto your God we pray, and through your Christ 

We seek salvation. We have served you well, 

And still we long to serve you all through life. 

0, leave us not, as victims for the jaws 

Of wolves and panthers, or more dreadful still, 

To die the death of traitors at the hands 

Of our own kin, who hate us for your sake! 

0, take us, take us, Masters! Leave us not!" 

Ah, hapless fate! To leave those Christians thus, 
Those poor benighted followers of the Cross, 

586 Hernando De Soto 

Alone and helpless in that wilderness, 
Naked to storms of heaven, defenseless prey 
For tusks of wild beasts, trembling marks for wrath 
In hands of cruel heathen 0, what grace 
Could yield forgiveness to such frightful sin? 
And there were women thus forsook, who loved 
Their cruel masters, and though loved themselves, 
Would now be left behind forever. These, 
Frantic with grief when came the parting hour, 
Uplifted unto God their mad appeals: 
And there rose lamentations, wild farewells, 
Heart-breaking sobs and supplicating cries, 
Such as, if heard, must have brought tears to eyes 
Of Seraphs never known to weep before 
Amid their bliss in Paradise afar. 

As though in retribution, down the stream 
Fierce Indians with an hundred swift canoes 
Pursued the Spaniards three whole days and nights. 
So, many Christians perished by the shafts 
Hissing in fury from the practiced hands 
Of archers in the rear; but fivefold more 
Were wounded grievously. On the fourth day 
The crafty red men feigned retreat : they lagged 
In their pursuit, falling behind: ere long 
Their fleet had disappeared. But this they did 
To lull their prey to carelessness. For soon 
The cavaliers, believing that the chase 
Was over, and their dangers at an end, 
Dropped anchor in a cove, mounted their steeds, 
And hunting game, roved the surrounding woods, 
Incautious. After wandering until noon, 
Returning, they had barely time enow 
To flee for life ; for as they came, they saw 

Book XXVIII 587 

The fierce barbarians in their serried fleet 
Rounding the river's bend in hot pursuit. 

Thus they were forced to leave their steeds behind, 

Victims to cruel enemies. Alas! 

Too soon the furious Indians marked their prey 

The poor dumb brutes by instinct knew at once 

Their end had come: they galloped round and round, 

Encompassed by that fierce barbaric horde, 

Tossing their heads in terror, neighing aloud, 

Snorting, and rearing, and plunging frenziedly. 

Dart after dart the savage bowmen sped; 

Steed after steed fell quivering to the sod. 

The Christians longed to save them, but in vain; 

No strength, no skill, could rescue, or avenge. 

As fathers weep to see their children die, 

So wept their owners. Through a thousand leagues 

Of mountain, river, lake and wilderness, 

Master and horse had ridden in the past. 

In bale and bliss companions, peace and war, 

Enduring shocks of battles, storms of heaven, 

Encountering summer heat and winter snow, 

Starvation, plenty, victory and defeat, 

How could they bear to separate at last? 

Ah, never more to canter over hill, 

Or gallop through the undulating field! 

Ah, never with them would they breast again 

The woodland pool, and never, never more 

In flowerful meadows would they give them rein, 

To browse at pleasure, as in bygone years! 

The roan, the sorrel and the frosted gray 
Sank one by one beneath the savage darts. 
The last, a grand Arabian, dazzling white 

588 Hernando De Soto 

Careering with his neck's imperial arch 

Curved like a milk-white peacock's sumptuous crest- 

Whose mane gleamed spotless in the morning sun, 

Streaming a snowy banner to the winds 

Still neighing, sought to reach the river-bank, 

And join his masters floating down the stream. 

But cruel shaft on shaft besieged his heart ; 

Blood gushed along his creamy flanks and breast ; 

The snowy banner of his mane turned red. 

Faintly he whinnied at his old-time friends 

Speeding adown the river far away, 

Then fell convulsive, with a strange, wild scream. 

So died the last of all the noble steeds 

De Soto brought from far-off hills of Spain. 

At last the river reached the Southern gulf. 
A vast flat stretch of sand its delta lay, 
Dreary and sterile. Grouped in lonely throngs, 
Like patriarchs with long majestic beards 
Sweeping their robes pontifical, arose 
Gray water-oaks with drooping hoary moss. 
Some gloomy willows hung despondingly : 
Slim reeds and rushes in the vagrant winds 
Rustled and sighed; above them, stiff and sharp, 
Bristling palmetto lances pierced the sky. 

There trod the pelicans and soared the cranes, 
And there great multitudes of waterfowl 
Of every kind, named and unnamed of men, 
Fashioned their nests of mud. And there it was, 
From three great arms and networks of lagoons 
Encroaching on the waters to the south, 
Choking the gulf with sand-peninsulas 
And desert isles of shifting sediment, 

DooK XXVIII 589 

After long wandering through uncounted leagues, 
The mighty river met the mighty sea. 

Southward and westward for four weary moons 
Along that lone barbaric coast they sailed, 
Encountering plagues and pests innumerable, 
Enduring thirst and hunger, heat and cold, 
Drenched in the rains, and tossed before the storms. 
After four years, years unforgettable ! 
Had passed since first the prideful band had sailed 
With brave De Soto, bound for wilds unknown, 
Their long, long highway reached a goal. For now, 
Their hoarse throats lifted up a maddened shout, 
And their dull eyes uplit with maniac joy, 
When far away, dim as lost dreams of youth, 
Yet real and substantial as a friend 
Lending a sturdy hand to weak old age, 
The haven of their fond hopes they descried, 
The ten-times welcome shores of Mexico. 

Alonzo, Lulla, and their babe, were safe 
Among the rest. But grievous was the plight 
Of cavaliers once gay as morning stars. 
Half had been lost, to gladden nevermore 
At sight of friends or homes. Those crawling back, 
A tattered remnant of the gallant host, 
Wild-eyed and hairy, brutalized and fierce, 
With haggard visages, with sunburnt limbs, 
Had semblance more of jackals than of men. 
The first white men who saw them coming, fled 
In terror: others turned to seize their arms. 
But soon they told their story. Long before, 
Their countrymen had deemed them lost: so now, 
Seeing the waifs returned, the dead revived, 

59 Hernando De Soto 

Rejoicing, they embraced them; lavishly 
The exiles' piteous wants their hands relieved. 

Through all these joyless years had Isabel 

Been ever waiting for her absent lord. 

And as a lovelorn little damosel 

Waits by the fireside at her cottage home 

To hear the footstep of some neighbor's lad, 

Her favored younker, but awaits in vain 

His coming at the wonted hour, and mopes 

In silence, though her mother and her sire 

Accost her, and her little brothers call, 

And sisters tease her, as she sits aloof, 

Unheedful of them, so did Isabel 

Linger unheedful of the multitude 

That hummed and buzzed around her day by day. 

From her lone stilly bower she often gazed 

In silence over the melancholy sea, 

To sight his bark returning. Sun or storm, 

Splendor or shadow, ruled the vasty waves, 

And still she watched in vain. Fierce hurricanes 

Would roll the billows into mountains. Calms 

Would smooth the heated waters as with oil. 

Like children tracing figures on the sands, 

Zephyrs in play wrought figures on the waves. 

But never would her eyes upon that waste 

Behold his homeward-steering prows. At times 

Some one would eagerly cry, "A sail! A sail!" 

Making her breast heave and her eye grow bright, 

Hoping that now her knight was wending home. 

But disappointment followed still. Again, 

At twilight she would watch the homing gulls, 

And trembling with emotion, clasp her harp, 

Making it lend her weary soul a voice: 

DooK XXVIII 591 

"One face, and one alone, I long to see. 

Ten thousand others pass me on my way ; 
Ten thousand others! Yet I yearn for thee, 
And yearning for thee, pine the livelong day. 

"The nesting thrush hath settled on her nest; 

The raven through the twilight seeks his home; 
But, banished from thy side, with aching breast 
I sit forsaken in the gathering gloam. 

"Sweet from its belfry peals the angelus; 

The pallid moon climbs yonder eastern tree; 
Night folds around me, softly piteous. 
One face, and one alone, I long to see. 

"The laborer ceases labor; at his cot 

His wife awaits him with her little brood: 
Ah, humble swain, how happy seems thy lot, 
Viewed from mine empty void of solitude! 

"Oh, weight of utter, utter loneliness, 

Amidst a multitude, yet barred from thee ! 
Without thee, all the world is wilderness. 
One face, and one alone, I long to see. " 

The ships she sent to bear the lost one aid, 
Long moons had waited for him in that port 
Appointed as their meeting-place: no word 
The barks, returning, brought her eager ears. 
So, when there came the tidings, long-delayed, 
She fell ill. None could tell her malady, 
And none could stay its progress. For three days 
She lingered on in silence, answering not 
The calls of those around her. So she died. 

59 2 Hernando De Soto 

De Soto sleeps beneath his River's waves; 
No prouder, no more lasting monument 
Hath any being of terrestrial birth. 
The dying Theban, Io8 crowned with victory, 
For mausoleum had his battle-field, 
And childless, yet exclaimed exultingly, 
"Two fairest daughters leave I unto Thebes 
Leuctra and Mantinea, deathless names!" 
The giant Alps, where sleep eternal snows, 
Where rush wild tempests everlastingly, 
Where raging torrents leap, where eagles soar, 
And rocky summits blend with clouds of heaven- 
These make a tomb for Winkelried and Tell, 
Stout-hearted patriots of their mountain land. 
Magellan he who sought to round the world 
Who gave his life to prove the earth a globe 
The stormy ocean shouts his glorious deeds, 
Spreading his fame from tropics to the pole. 
De Soto's mighty River, leading on 
Ten thousand tributaries to the sea 
A tomb as lordly as a demigod's, 
Magnificent and everlasting bears 
From Norland snow-peaks' fountain-urns of ice 
To the far sunland vales of plumy palms, 
The name of him who gave it to the world. 


In the orthography of Spanish and Indian proper 
names I have generally followed the most popular 
English usage, though at times that usage may not, 
rigidly speaking, according to the rules of the original 
tongues themselves, be the most correct. I am aware, 
I hardly need say, that without the use of his baptismal 
name De Soto is more properly referred to simply as 
Soto. But the name " De Soto " has become so firmly 
fixed in our literature and history that it would be 
presumptuous to attempt a change. 

1 Here in the country of the Chickasaws 

De Soto lingered. 

This was in North Mississippi, near the chief town of the tribe, 
where De Soto and his men were encamped from December 17, 
1540, to March 15, 1541. 

Claiborne in his History of Mississippi says that De Soto 
entered the State near the present site of the town of Columbus. 
He locates the village of Chickasaw on the Pontotoc Ridge, about 
two miles southeast of the present town of Pontotoc. Theodore 
Irving conjectures that "this village probably stood on the 
western bank of the Yazoo, a branch of the Mississippi, about 
eighty leagues to the northwest of Mobile. " Wilmer in his life 
of De Soto, places it in the Yalobusha valley. 

Mr. W. A. Belk, of Holly Springs, Mississippi, writes me, 
however, that the fortified camp of De Soto was situated about 
three or four miles northwest of the town of Tupelo. He says 
that he has visited the place, and found numerous proofs of the 
correctness of his theory. He further says that the camp was 
situated on the crest of an elevated tract, and covered about 
38 593 

594 Hernando De Soto 

twenty acres. He plainly saw marks of breastworks, and on 
digging into the soil, many relics were discovered. Among these 
were human bones, a tomahawk, an old flint-lock pistol, Indian 
war-paint, beads, silver spurs and epaulets. The camp of De 
Soto was not far from the Indian village. 

I am inclined to think that Mr. Belk is right, and that the 
camp and town were near Tupelo. 

* " Never have I known 

A winter half so bleak. " 

Although the winters of North Mississippi are usually mild, 
there was a heavy snow-storm, beginning shortly before Christ 
mas, 1540, which continued a long time, followed by such a 
rigorously cold season as called forth much comment among 
the Indians. The Spanish soldiers complained greatly of the 
inclemency of this winter. 

A noisy herd of swine. 

This herd of swine constitutes a unique aspect of the expedition. 
It was driven by the Spaniards on their march during four years, 
traversing a route through nine or ten States, over two thousand 
miles. The animals seem to have multiplied astoundingly on the 
way, for although the Portuguese Gentleman says that the herd 
was a "small" one at the beginning, we are told that four hundred 
were lost at Maubila, and about three hundred more were after 
wards killed in the sacking of the Spanish camp at Chickasaw. 

< Moscoso next in rank and prestige came. 

Luys Moscoso de Alvarado, a companion of De Soto and 
Pizarro in the conquest of Peru, and afterwards De Soto's succes 
sor as leader of the North American expedition. 

s The sage 

In measured accents gave the narrative 
Through Chickasaw traditions handed down. 
The history of the Chickasaw nation here given I have derived 
principally from Claiborne's History of Mississippi. 

In 1842-3, J. F. H. Claiborne, author of this history, "presided 
over a board of Commissioners established by the United States 
to enquire into and adjudicate the claims of the Choctaws growing 
out of the last treaty made with them prior to their removal west, 

Notes 595 

and for months at a time a thousand Indians were as 
sembled around the Commission. The examination took a wide 
range, and having skilled interpreters, the opportunity was used 
to elicit much curious information, " which is embodied in the 
history. Page 483. 

Claiborne proceeds to say: "The late Gen. Simon Dale, of 
Lauderdale County, Mississippi, who lived to an advanced age, 
had passed many years of his life among the southern Indians. 
He spoke the Cherokee, Muscogee and Choctaw tongues, and 
was familiar with all their traditions and customs. And from 
conversations with him, reduced at the time to writing, this 
account is chiefly derived. ' ' Ibid. 

As to the origin of all the Indian tribes in Peru and Mexico, 
we are invariably assured by their traditions that they came 
from the north. All the tribes in the Southern States came from 
the west. The Asiatic origin of all the American Indians is 
nearly certain. 

6 The longest of all earthly rivers, called 
The Mississippi: that name signifies 
"Father of Waters" in our native speech. 

This is the popular acceptation of the meaning of the word, 
but there is some dispute about it, and some uncertainty as to the 
name given to the river by the Chickasaws of De Soto's time. 
Those Indians living upon the river itself called it the Chucagua. 
Possibly the name "Chicago" was derived from this, though that 
is doubtful. There is similar obscurity as to the origin of the 
names Tennessee, Ohio and Tombigbee, but they are all aborigi 
nal terms. 

As to the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation four hundred 
years ago, I have given them in accordance with accounts which 
seem to me most reliable. But like other kingdoms, that of the 
Chickasaws waxed or waned in territory from time to time. 

7 The region where they ceased their onward march 
The tribes named "Alabama. " 

This is the generally accepted belief as to the origin of that 
name. But there was a fortress or barricade between the Chicka 
saw village and the Mississippi River, afterwards stormed and 
taken by De Soto, which, according to the Portuguese Gentleman, 
was called " Alibamo. " 

596 Hernando De Soto 

* The greatest was a brute of fearful shape. 

This tradition, firmly fixed among the Chickasaws, probably 
referred to the mammoth, a monster contemporaneous with 
primeval man. 

And Ortiz then his narrative began. 

The remarkable story of Juan Ortiz is told by all the old 
chroniclers, and with surprising unanimity as to details. The 
disagreements among them are only trivial. Ucita in Garcilaso's 
account is called Hirrihigua: but this latter name was that of 
the province. The Spaniards often thus confounded the name of 
the province with that of its chief. 

10 The Moon of Green Corn glimmers first to-night; 

Not till the Bear Moon falls that festival. 

The Indians had various names for the months. For instance, 
June was often known as the Flower Moon, and December as the 
Snow Moon. But among different tribes different titles were given. 

" Almost every month had its peculiar feast or festival. Among 
the Natchez the year began with our month of March, and was 
divided into thirteen moons. With each new moon a feast was 
celebrated, receiving its name from the principal fruits gathered 
or animals hunted. Thus, the first moon was called the Deer moon 
and was observed with universal joy as the commencement of 
the year. This was followed by the festival of Strawberries. The 
third moon ushered in the Small Corn, and was impatiently ex 
pected because the crop of large corn seldom lasted from one 
harvest to another. 

"The Water- Melon feast occurred during the fourth moon, 
answering to our month of June. 

"The fifth moon was that of the Fishes. At this time grapes 
were gathered. 

"The sixth was known as the Mulberry moon. The Maize or 
Great- Corn moon succeeded, and was rendered remarkable by 
the most noted festival of the year. The Turkey moon answered 
to our October, while the ninth and tenth moons were known 
respectively as the Buffalo and Bear moons. It was then those 
animals were hunted. The eleventh month was called the Cold- 
Meal moon; the twelfth, the Chestnut moon; and the thirteenth 
the walnut moon." Jones' Antiquities of the Southern Indians, 
pp. 99-100. 

Notes 597 

" From dismal tarns fierce alligators roared. 

In those early days, all the rivers and lakes and marshes of the 
South swarmed with these creatures. 

William Bartram in 1773 and succeeding years traveled ex 
tensively through the great wilderness that then covered the 
Southern States. In his Travels, he says (pp. 123 to 127): 

"As I passed by Battle lagoon, I began to tremble and keep 
a good look out; when suddenly a huge alligator rushed out of the 
weeds, and with a tremendous roar came up, and darted as swift 
as an arrow under my boat, emerging upright on my lee quarter, 
with open jaws, and belching water and smoke that fell upon me 
like rain in a hurricane. I laid soundly about his head with my 
club and beat him off; and after plunging and darting about my 
boat, he went off on a straight line through the water, seemingly 
with the rapidity of lightning, and entered the cape of the lagoon. 
I now employed my time to the very best advantage in paddling 
close along shore, but could not forbear looking now and then 
behind me, and presently perceived one of them coming up again. 
The water of the river hereabouts was shoal and very clear; the 
monster came up with the usual roar and menaces, and passed 
close by the side of my boat, when I could distinctly see a young 
brood of alligators, to the number of one hundred or more, follow 
ing after her in a long train. They kept close together in a 
column without straggling off to the one side or the other; the 
young appeared to be of an equal size, about fifteen inches in 
length, almost black, with pale yellow transverse waved clouds 
or blotches, much like rattlesnakes in color. I now lost sight of 
my enemy again. 

"Still keeping close along shore, on turning a point or projec 
tion of the river bank, at once I beheld a great number of hillocks 
or small pyramids, resembling hay-cocks, ranged like an encamp 
ment along the banks. They stood fifteen or twenty yards 
distant from the water, on a high marsh, about four feet per 
pendicular above the water. I knew them to be the nests of 
the crocodile, having had a description of them before, and now 
expected a furious and general attack, as I saw several large 
crocodiles swimming abreast of these buildings. These nests 
being so great a curiosity to me, I was determined at all events 
immediately to land and examine them. Accordingly, I ran my 
bark on shore at one of their landing-places, which was a sort of 
nick or little dock, from which ascended a sloping path or road 

Hernando De Soto 

up to the edge of the meadow, where their nests were; most of 
them were deserted, and the great thick whitish eggshells lay 
broken and scattered upon the ground round about them. 

" The nests or hillocks are of the form of an obtuse cone, four 
feet high, and four or five feet in diameter at their bases; they are 
constructed with mud, grass and herbage. At first they lay a 
floor of this kind of tempered mortar on the ground, upon which 
they deposit a layer of eggs, and upon this a stratum of mortar 
seven or eight inches in thickness, and then another layer of eggs, 
and in this manner one stratum upon another, nearly to the top. 
I believe they commonly lay from one to two hundred eggs in a 
nest: these are hatched, I suppose, by the heat of the sun; and 
perhaps the vegetable substances mixed with the earth, being 
acted upon by the sun, may cause a small degree of fermentation, 
and so increase the heat in those hillocks. The ground for several 
acres about these nests showed evident marks of a continual 
resort of alligators; the grass was everywhere beaten down, 
hardly a blade or straw was left standing; whereas, all about, at a 
distance, it was five or six feet high, and as thick as it could grow 
together. The female, as I imagine, carefully watches her own 
nest of eggs until they are all hatched; or perhaps while she is 
attending her own brood, she takes under her care and protection 
as many as she can get at one time, either from her own particular 
nest or others: but certain it is, that the young are not left to 
shift for themselves; for I have had frequent opportunities of 
seeing the female alligator leading about the shores her train of 
young ones, just as a hen does her brood of chickens; and she is 
equally assiduous and courageous in defending the young, which 
are under her care, and providing for their subsistence; and when 
she is basking upon the warm banks, with her brood around her, 
you may hear the young ones continually whining and barking, 
like young puppies. I believe but few of a brood live to the years 
of full growth and magnitude, as the old feed on the young as long 
as they can make prey of them. 

" But what is yet more surprising to a stranger, is the incredible 
loud and terrifying roar, which they are capable of making, 
especially in the spring season, their breeding time. It most 
resembles very heavy distant thunder, not only shaking the air 
and waters, but causing the earth to tremble; and when hundreds 

Notes 599 

and thousands are roaring at the same time, you can scarcely be 
persuaded but that the whole globe is violently and dangerously 

1 * A turkey-cock began his morning calls. 

"They begin at early dawn, and continue till sunrise, from 
March till the last of April. The high forests ring with the noise, 
like the crowing of the domestic cock, of these social sentinels; 
the watch-word being caught and repeated, from one to another, 
for hundreds of miles around, insomuch that the whole country 
is for an hour or more in an universal shout. " Bartram's Travels, 
pp. 81-82. 

*s At Xeres I was born. 

This was Xeres (or Jerez) de los Caballeros, in the province of 
Estremadura, and not the more important town of Xeres de la 
Frontera, in Southern Spain. The year was probably 1500, 
though some suppose it to be 1501. Garcilaso and Herrera fix 
De Soto's birthplace at Villa Nueva de Barcarota. Still other 
historians give the distinction to Badajoz. I have accepted the 
statement of the Portuguese narrator on this point, as he was not 
only a personal acquaintance of De Soto, but was himself a resi 
dent of a neighboring town, and must have had the best informa 

The Gaudiana river, here referred to as flowing near De Soto's 
birthplace, at one point in its course sinks into the earth, and 
runs underground for a long distance before reappearing. 

1 < Pedrarias was the one of whom I speak. 

Don Pedro Arias de Avila, commonly known as Pedrarias, one 
of the earliest Spanish Governors of Darien, and founder of the 
present city of Panama. 

** So then Balboa had a barrel made. 

This unique experience of Balboa in escaping from his creditors 
is well authenticated. 

16 Conversing with him and his wife. 

She had accompanied her husband on his first voyage. 

"Don Pedrarias had intended to leave his wife in Spain. Her 
name was Dona Isabella de Bobadilla; she was niece to the 
Marchioness de Moya, a great favorite of the late Queen Isabella 

6oo Hernando De Soto 

who had been instrumental in persuading her royal mistress to 
patronize Columbus. This was the same Marchioness de Moya, 
who during the war of Granada, while the Court and Royal Army 
were encamped before Malaga, was mistaken for the queen by a 
Moorish fanatic, and had nearly fallen beneath his dagger. Her 
niece partook of her high and generous nature. She refused to 
remain behind in selfish security, but declared that she would 
accompany her husband in every peril, whether by sea or land. 
This self-devotion is the more remarkable when it is considered 
that she was past the romantic period of youth; and that she left 
behind her in Spain, a family of four sons and four daughters." 
Washington Irving, Companions of Columbus, pp. 197-198. 

*i His name was Micer Codro. 

The reader will find an account of Codro in Companions of 
Columbus, pp. 260-261. But the author does not state the cause 
of the old astrologer's punishment. I have here followed Wilmer's 
account very closely. 

18 I learned that Codro once in bygone years 
Had cast Balboa's horoscope. 

For an account of the casting of Balboa's horoscope by Codro, 
see Companions of Columbus, Life of Balboa, p. 238. 

19 With knightliness superb, 
They shall face terrors that the knights of old 
Had viewed with startled eyes. 

The martyrs to science in our own days have shown by their 
heroic sufferings and deaths that the spirit of true chivalry is still 
a vital force in the world of men. We read nearly every day of 
the loss of some brave adventurer who in his airship seeks to 
conquer the skies. The researches into the nature and uses of the 
X-rays have wrecked many a life, either destroying it, or so 
afflicting it with dreadful maladies that death would be a merciful 
relief. Scores of other scientists have either lost their lives or 
become helpless invalids in the study of various diseases and their 
cures. None of these, however, surpassed in fortitude and hero 
ism those true men who exposed themselves to the stings of 
mosquitoes, and to the foul effluvia of yellow fever, in their great 
effort to discover the sources of that plague. For an interesting 
account of this wonderful achievement and the heroic endurance 

Notes 60 1 

of the benefactors of mankind who took part in it, the reader may 
refer to the article by Joseph Bucklin Bishop, in Scribner's 
Magazine for February, 1913. 

ao The points of land 

Were islands green with tufts of clustering trees. 

"They were then off the coast of Veragua, near the verdant 
isles of Zebaco, which lie at the entrance of the Gulf of Parita or 
Paria. " Companions of Columbus, p. 260. 

" A cross carved on a tree 

Still marks that far-off, final resting-place. 

"Sometime afterwards, Oviedo, the historian, was on the 
island with this very pilot, who showed him the cross on the tree, 
and gave his honest testimony to the good character and worthy 
conduct of Micer Codro. Oviedo, as he regarded the nameless 
grave, passed the eulogium of a scholar upon the poor astrologer. 
'He died,' says he, 'like Pliny, in the discharge of his duties, 
traveling about the world to explore the secrets of nature.' 
According to his account, the prediction of Micer Codro held good 
with respect to Valenzuela, as it had in the case of Vasco Nunez, 
the captain died within the term in which he had been summoned 
to appear before the tribunal of God! " Ibid., p. 261, citing Oviedo, 
Hist. Gen., xxxix., Cap. 2. 

" Sickly, half-starved, and naked save for rags, 

A peasant found him, suckling from a sow. 
See Prescott, Conquest of Peru, Book II., Ch. II., citing Gomara, 
Hist, de las Ind., Cap. 144. 

1J The kingdom of Peru then trailed along 

The great Pacific waters to the south 
Above eight hundred leagues. 

"It extended from about the second degree north to the thirty- 
seventh degree of south latitude; a line, also, which describes the 
western boundaries of the modern republics of Equador, Peru, 
Bolivia and Chili." Prescott, Book I., Ch. I. 

* Their kindred creatures, the vicunas, yield 

A flesh more savory, and a silkier wool, 
But never serve as beasts of burden. 

These are the animals otherwise known as alpacas, from whose 
wool the cloth alpaca is woven. 

602 Hernando De Soto 

*s The Inca wedded wives innumerable. 

Huayna Capac was said to have been the husband of seven 
hundred wives and the father of three hundred children. As 
stated in the text, Atahuallpa and Huascar were two of his sons. 
Prescott, Book I., Ch. I. Note, citing Garcilaso (Com. Real., 
Parte i, Lib. 3, Cap. 19). Sarmiento, Relation (ms.), Cap. 7. 

26 When one King died, (so reads the chronicle,) 

Four thousand human lives were sacrificed 
In honor of his shade. 

This king was Huayna Capac, mentioned above. Prescott 
quotes this statement from Sarmiento, Relation (ms.), Cap. 65. 

* I was sent 

To cross the sea-arm at its narrowest pass. 

The reader will note that De Soto was ever at the forefront, 
encountering the greatest danger. 

"According to the report of many persons who were there (in 
Peru), he (De Soto) distinguished himself over all the captains 
and principal persons present, not only at the seizure of Atabali- 
pa, lord of Peru, and in carrying the city of Cuzco, but all other 
places wheresoever he went and found resistance." Elvas (Ch. i). 

"And there was one very notable and memorable circumstance 
always related of him; that in assaults, surprises and engagements 
with the enemy by day, he was always the first or second, and 
never the third, to get to the fight with his arms; and by night 
he was never the second, but always the first, so that it seemed to 
the men that he first armed himself and then ordered the alarm 
to be sounded. " Miss King, De Soto and his Men in the Land of 
Florida, pp. 250-251. 

** Here was the highway leading to success, 

The key to Cuzco and its golden halls! 

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this discovery 
of the Great National Road of Peru by De Soto. Without it the 
Spaniards could never have surmounted the overwhelming diffi 
culties of mountain travel before reaching Cuzco. 

*9 Portentous omens terrified the land. 

For an account of these, see Prescott, Book III., Ch. II. 
Halley's comet made an appearance about this time (1531), 

Notes 603 

and doubtless added greatly to the apprehensions of the 

J We leaped one brook a score of feet in breadth. 

This is related, by an old chronicler, of De Soto at another time. 
Balboa, Hist, du Perou, Ch. 22, cited by Prescott, Book III., 
Ch. IV., Note. 

J 1 So now the peerless ransom all was ours. 

"The total amount of gold (paid in Atahuallpa's ransom) was 
found to be one million, three hundred and twenty-six thousand, 
five hundred and thirty-nine pesos de oro, which, allowing for the 
greater value of money in the sixteenth century, would be equiva 
lent, probably, at the present time to near three millions and a 
half of pounds sterling, or somewhat less than fifteen millions and 
a half of dollars. The quantity of silver was estimated at fifty- 
one thousand, six hundred and ten marks. History affords no 
parallel of such a booty. * * * 

"The share appropriated by Pizarro amounted to fifty-seven 
thousand, two hundred and twenty-two pesos of gold, and two 
thousand, three hundred and fifty marks of silver. He had 
besides this the great chair or throne of the Inca, of solid gold, and 
valued at twenty-five thousand pesos de oro. To his brother 
Hernando were paid thirty-one thousand and eighty pesos of 
gold, and two thousand three hundred and fifty marks of silver. 
De Soto received seventeen thousand seven hundred 'and forty 
pesos of gold, and seven hundred and twenty-four marks of 
silver. " Prescott, Book III., Ch. VII. 

J. S. C. Abbott, in his life of De Soto, p. 118, estimates that 
De Soto's share of the ransom amounted to about half a million 
dollars of our money. 

This immense treasure was only a part of the spoils of conquest. 
It was greatly augmented by later acquisitions. 

J* Now a great comet, startling earth and heaven, 

Amidst the black recesses of the night 
Blazed with a weird, portentous brilliancy. 

See Prescott, Book III., Ch. VII. 

" I sought Pizarro. 

"A day or two after these tragic events, Hernando De Soto 
returned from his excursion. Great was his astonishment and 

604 Hernando De Soto 

indignation at learning what had been done during his absence. 
He sought out Pizarro at once, and he found him, says the chroni 
cler, ' with a great felt hat, by way of mourning, slouched over his 
eyes,' and in his dress and demeanor exhibiting all the show of 
sorrow. 'You have acted rashly,' said De Soto to him bluntly; 
'Atahuallpa has been basely slandered. There was no enemy at 
Huamachuco; no rising among the natives. I have met with 
nothing on the road but demonstrations of good will, and all is 
quiet. If it was necessary to bring the Inca to trial, he should 
have been taken to Castile and judged by the emperor. I would 
have pledged myself to see him safe on board the vessel.' Pizarro 
confessed that he had been precipitate, and said that he had been 
deceived by Riquelme, Valverde, and the others. These charges 
soon reached the ears of the treasurer and the Dominican, who, 
in their turn, exculpated themselves. The dispute ran high; and 
the parties were heard by the bystanders to give one another the 
lie!" Prescott, Book III., Ch. VII., citing Oviedo, Hist, de las 
Indias, Parte 3, Lib. 8, Cap. 22. 

Abbott gives this somewhat highly-colored account of the 
meeting between De Soto and Pizarro (Life of De Soto, 
pp. 116-17-18) 

"De Soto soon returned. He was almost frantic with indigna 
tion when he learned of the crime which had been perpetrated 
in his absence, and perceived that his mission was merely an 
artifice to get him out of the way. His rage blazed forth in the 
most violent reproaches. Hastening to the tent of Pizarro, he 
rudely pushed aside a sentinel who guarded the entrance, and 
found the culprit seated on a low stool, affecting the attitude of 
a mourner. A large slouched hat was bent over his eyes. 

"'Uncover yourself,' said De Soto, 'unless you are ashamed 
to look a human being in the face.' Then with the point of his 
sword he struck off his hat, exclaiming: 

" ' Is it not enough that I have disgraced myself in the eyes of 
the world by becoming your companion and confederate, making 
myself accessory to your crimes, and protecting you from the 
punishment you deserve? Have you not heaped infamy enough 
upon me, without dishonoring me by the violation of my pledges, 
and exposing me to the suspicion of being connected with the 
most cruel and causeless murder that ever set human laws and 
divine justice at defiance? I have ascertained, what you well 
knew before I left Caxamarca, that the report of the insurrection 

Notes 605 

was utterly false. I have met nothing on the road but demon 
strations of good will. The whole country is quiet, and Atahu- 
allpa has been basely slandered. You, Francisco Pizarro, are his 
slanderer, and you are his murderer. 

" ' To prove that I have had no participation in the deed, I will 
make you accountable for his death. Craven and prevaricating 
villain as you are, you shall not escape this responsibility. If you 
refuse to meet me in honorable combat, I will denounce you to 
the king of Spain as a criminal, and will proclaim you to the whole 
world as a coward and an assassin.' 

"Pizarro was both, an assassin and a coward. He stood in awe 
of his intrepid lieutenant. He did not dare to meet him in a 
personal rencontre, and he well knew that De Soto was not a man 
to be taken by force or guile, as he could immediately rally around 
him the whole body of his well-drilled dragoons. He therefore 
began to make excuses, admitted that he had acted hastily, and 
endeavored to throw the blame upon others, declaring that by 
their false representations they had forced him to the act. 

" In the midst of the dispute, Pizarro's brothers for there were 
two in the camp entered the tent. De Soto, addressing the 
three, said: 

'"I am the champion of Atahuallpa. I accuse Francisco 
Pizarro of being his murderer.' Then throwing his glove upon 
the floor, he continued: 

'"I invite any man who is disposed to deny that Francisco 
Pizarro is a coward and an assassin, to take it up.' 

"The gauge remained untouched. De Soto turned upon his 
heel contemptuously, and left the tent, resolved, it is said, no 
longer to have any connection whatever with such perfidious 
wretches. " 

34 I plunged 

Down with my courser in the chilly waves. 

In relating this episode and that of the meeting between De 
Soto and the young Peruvian nobleman, I have mainly followed 
Wilmer's account. 

JS Vast riches here were ours. 

The Spaniards entered Cuzco on November 13, 1533. For a 
description of the treasures found there by the Spaniards, and 
the subsequent depreciation of silver and gold, see Prescott, 
Book III., Ch. VIII. 

606 Hernando De Soto 

J 6 Even lackeys and postillions hoarded wealth. 

" It is said that after one-fifth (of the spoil) had been subtracted 
for the Spanish crown, and the officers had received their abun 
dant shares, the common soldiers, four hundred and eighty in 
number, received each a sum amounting to four thousand dollars." 
Abbott, Life of De Soto, p. 136. 

* We had no iron; so our steeds were shod 

In silver wrenched from fanes and palaces. 

"Even silver, for the time, appeared to be unimportant. Soto 
had already shodden with it the horses of his troops. Of the 
precious stones, they who wished took what most pleased them." 
Buckingham Smith, Life of De Soto. 

8 " For dead men never bite." 

These were his own words, according to Prescott. The ex 
pression of Pizarro, "All countries west of Flanders are mine 
own," quoted later in this book, is also authentic, according to the 
same authority. 

" The priest Valverde next was called to go. 

In relating the facts concerning the deaths of the various con 
querors of Peru, I have taken some liberties with regard to the 
time of their occurrence, though as to the facts themselves I have 
followed history in nearly all details. 

* Aroused, the monarch sent a martial priest, 

The valiant-hearted Gasca, to Peru. 

Pedro de la Gasca was a man of eminent abilities, with a charac 
ter for beneficence and wisdom rarely united in one person. Pre 
lates like Valverde were by no means the sole exemplars of the 
priesthood of Spain in their day. The name of the noble and 
humane Las Casas would be an adornment to any order of men. 

Prescott closes his Conquest of Peru with this eloquent tribute 
to Gasca: "With the benevolent mission of Gasca, then, the 
historian of the conquest may be permitted to terminate his 
labors, with feelings not unlike those of the traveler who, having 
long journeyed among the dreary forests and dangerous defiles 
of the mountains, at length emerges on some pleasant landscape 
smiling in tranquillity and peace. " 

" The Portuguese, Vasconcelos. 

This was Andre de Vasconcelos, concerning whom many things 

Notes 607 

have been written, and with many of those things based on error. 
In Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography we read of him 
as follows: 

"He was an expert mariner, and sailed in 1538 in the expedi 
tion of Hernando De Soto as Captain of the Buena Fortuna. 
After the landing of Soto at Tampa, Vasconcelos explored the 
coast as far as the bay of Appalachee, where he landed the rest of 
his stores, and when Soto went into winter quarters in 1539, 
Vasconcelos sailed around the coast of Florida, taking astronomi 
cal observations, and landing often to explore the country. On 
his return to Appalachee, he found the Adelantado gone, sailed 
for Cuba, thence to Europe, where he wrote an account of his 
voyage, " etc. 

Doubtless the book here referred to is that of the Portuguese 
Gentleman, already mentioned. Its author was a native of 
Elvas, and the book was first published at Evora, Portugal, 
in 1557- 

The name of this writer is unknown, but it could not have been 
Vasconcelos, since he followed De Soto in all his wanderings over 
America, and died shortly after De Soto in an Indian province 
situated probably in what is now western Louisiana. For a full 
account of the Elvas book, see Justin Winsor's Narrative and 
Critical History of America, vol. ii., pp. 288-289. Vasconcelos is 
also made to figure extensively, this time in an avowed work of 
fiction the novel Vasconcelos, by William Gilmore Simms. 

*' One of those whose eyes 

Had seen that Kingdom, Alvar Nunez, came 

During these days before the Spanish Court. 

The real name of Cabeza de Vaca ("Cow's head") was Alvar 

Nunez. Although a weaver of marvelous fables, he actually 

encountered most wonderful adventures, and endured terrible 

privations, in America. 

* Now I became a marquis at the hands 

Of my kind sovereign, who likewise bestowed 
The realms of Cuba and of Florida 
Upon me as his Viceroy. 

The Spanish title "Adelantado" has no exact counterpart in 
English; the words "Viceroy" or "Governor" describe it best. 

The name "Florida" in those days designated not only the 

608 Hernando De Soto 

Peninsula that it does at present, but all that great section of the 
Union now generally known as the "Southern States." 

44 Ten fathom deep the sandy bottom shines. 
"The transparency of the water, which Columbus attributed 

to the purity of the rivers, is the property of the ocean in these 
latitudes. So clear is the sea in the neighborhood of some of these 
islands, that in still weather the bottom may be seen, as in a 
crystal fountain; and the inhabitants dive down four or five 
fathoms in search of conchs and other shellfish which are visible 
from the surface. The delicate air and pure waters of these 
islands are among their greatest charms." Irving's Life of 
Columbus, Book IV., Ch. V., p. 191. 

"In the Gulf of Mexico the extraordinary clearness of the water 
reveals to the astonished mariner the magnitude of its abysses, 
and discloses, even at the depth of thirty fathoms, the gigantic 
vegetation which, so far beneath the surface, is drawn forth by 
the attraction of a vertical sun." Alison's History of Europe, 
vol. x., p. 480-1. 

45 We cast 
Our anchors in a wide-extended bay. 

De Soto's fleet reached Tampa Bay, Florida, on May 25, 1539. 

46 We reached Ocali. 

This was near the site of the modern town Ocala, which derives 
its name from the Indian village. 

47 Through the soft verdure of those gentle scenes 
Wandered great herds of red and mottled deer. 

As late as 1773, Bartram notes the abundance of deer in all 
the South Atlantic and Gulf States. He frequently saw herds of 
them feeding peacefully in the same savannahs with horses or 
sheep or cattle belonging to the Indians or the pioneers. Travels, 
pp. 19, 56, 186, 233. 

48 Upon a broad and level field we stood. 
On one hand gleamed two lakes. 

There are so many lakes in Florida that it is difficult to locate 
the place of meeting between De Soto and Vitachuco. The 
counties of Hernando, Sumpter, Putnam and Alachua all include 
places that would carry out to some extent the description of the 
Spanish chroniclers. 

Notes 609 

Mr. G. R. Fairbanks, the Floridian antiquary, thinks that this 
place was about fifteen miles west of the present site of Micanopy. 

49 These last to come 
Had floated round for thirty weary hours. 

This is in accordance with the statement of Garcilaso. This 
combat waged by the natives from among the water lilies remains 
unique in the annals of savage warfare. 

50 Another swamp we crossed. 
This is generally supposed to be the great Okefinokee swamp, 

on the borders of Florida and Georgia. 

During this time, and indeed throughout the whole expedition, 
Garcilaso represents one Gonzalo Sylvestre as performing pro 
digious feats of valor, strength and endurance. But none of the 
other chroniclers mention him at all, and doubtless most of his 
great deeds were mythical. 

s 1 Rather than see their homes fall in our hands, 

They gave them to the torch. 

The patriotic Indians on many occasions thus saved their 
independence, as did the Russians in the burning of Moscow, three 
hundred years afterwards. 

** A lake they passed, where wild swans from the North 

In a great flock had gathered. 

"When the lake burst on our view there were the swans by 
hundreds, and white as rich cream, either dipping their black bills 
in the water, or stretching out one leg on its surface, or gently 
floating along. According to the Indian mode of hunting we had 
divided and approached the lagoon from different sides. The 
moment our vidette was seen, it seemed as if thousands of large, 
fat, and heavy swans were startled, and as they made away from 
him they drew towards the ambush of death; for the trees had 
hunters behind them, whose touch of the trigger would carry 
destruction among them. As the first party fired, the game rose 
and flew within easy distance of the party on the opposite side, 
when they again fired, and I saw the water covered with birds 
floating with their backs downwards, and their heads sunk in the 
water, and their legs kicking in the air. When the sport was over 
we counted more than fifty of these beautiful birds, whose skins 
were intended for the ladies in Europe. There were plenty of 


610 Hernando De Soto 

geese and ducks, but no one condescended to give them a shoot. 
A conch was sounded, and after a while the squaws came dragging 
the canoe, and collecting the dead game, which was taken to the 
river's edge, fastened to the canoe, and before dusk we were 
again landed at our camping ground. I had heard of sportsmen 
in England who walked a whole day, and after firing a pound of 
powder returned in great glee bringing one partridge; and I could 
not help wondering what they would think of the spoil we were 
bearing from Swan Lake. " Audubon's Journal. 

" He told 

Of still another bay, noblest of all 
Among those yet discovered. 

This was Pensacola Harbor. 

s Next marched our host still farther to the North. 

De Soto, after leaving the land of Apalache, which was situated 
in Northern Florida and Southern Georgia, proceeded in a north 
easterly direction through the provinces of Capafi, Cofa and Cofa- 
qui. The winter was probably spent in Northern Georgia, 

** The Indians' dogs they slew. 

The men of De Soto's army were several times in such danger of 
starvation that they were forced to kill dogs for food. But 
sometimes the animals referred to by the Spanish chroniclers as 
dogs were not dogs at all. Thus Ranjel (Chapter VI) speaks of 
"a few little dogs which were good eating. These are dogs of a 
small size that do not bark; and they breed them in their homes 
for food." 

Prof. Bourne supposes that these were opossums, but they 
were much more probably raccoons. 

*' The chiefs sent lads before them, playing flutes. 

This was a common expression of welcome and salutation. 
Elvas, Chs. XI., XVII. 

The fields 

With wfld strawberries, fragrant, sharp and sweet, 
Abounded wondrously. 

The Spanish chroniclers make frequent mention of these wild 
strawberry fields. So does Bartram (pp. 328-9, 331-6, 342-6-7). 
He says (pp. 342-4): "The swelling bases of the surrounding 

Notes 611 

hills fronting the meadows presented for my acceptance the 
fragrant red strawberry, in painted beds of many acres' surface, 
indeed I may safely say, many hundreds. * * * Verdant 
swelling knolls, profusely productive of flowers and fragrant straw 
berries, their rich juice dyeing my horse's feet and 

* And soon indeed we reached the land we sought. 

The river on which De Soto met the lady of Cofachiqui has 
sometimes been supposed to be the Chattahoochee, but it was 
more probably the Savannah. 

Kckett, in his history of Alabama, says that all Indian tradi 
tion places the town of Cofachiqui on the east bank of the Savan 
nah, at the modern Silver Bluff, Barnwell County, South Carolina, 
about twenty-five miles south of Augusta, Georgia. But the 
country of Xualla, reached soon afterwards, is located by Mr. 
James Mooney in Western North Carolina, near the head of 
Broad River. Monette, a well-known authority in these matters, 
places the chief town of Cofachiqui on the peninsula at the junc 
tion of the Broad and Savannah rivers. 

59 About the brook 

A throng of woodland damosels they spied. 
This episode is founded on an incident charmingly described 
by Bartram in his Travels, pp. 355-6. . 

' Here was enlightenment exceeding far 

All else in these rude lands. 

That the Indians of De Soto's time were more civilized than in 
later centuries appears certain. This was true particularly of the 
Indians of Northern and Eastern Georgia, according to Bartram 
in the year 1773. See his Travels, pp. 322-3-4, 330-2-3-5-6, 
343-4, 370-79- 

61 Deserted villages 

Are left in silent solitudes forlorn 
Where no man goes. 

"About the place, from half a league to a league off, were large 
vacant towns, grown up in grass, that appeared as if no people 
had lived in them for a long time. The Indians said that two 
years before, there had been a pest in the land, and the inhabi 
tants had moved away to other towns. " Elvas, Ch. XIV. 

6l2 Hernando De Soto 

6 * At length we reached the temple. 

Called a "Mosque" by Biedma and Ranjel. 

6 J Twelve giant statues, carved of solid oak. 

Garcilaso has a most elaborate account of the furnishings of 
this temple, and of the great treasures in the sepulchres. 

6 * A Spanish leader, (Ayllon was his name). 

There is much controversy as to the place of Ayllon's death. 
He was an adventurer, who, in June, 1526, set sail from Hispani- 
ola with three ships, and made some explorations in South Caro 
lina. He probably died in the October following. Only a few of 
his companions returned in safety. 

'* Within each casket beamed uncounted pearls. 

This account of the finding of immense numbers of pearls 
has often been called in question, but there can be no doubt 
whatever of the essential facts. All the chroniclers agree on all 
the salient points of the episode. 

The Portuguese Gentleman, a most careful and conscientious 
narrator, says (Ch. XIV) that three hundred and fifty pounds' 
weight of pearls were found, and the queen told De Soto that if 
he chose to send to some of the deserted villages and open the 
tombs there, "he might load all his horses with them. " 

Ranjel says (Ch. VI) that he himself went with De Soto into 
the mosque or temple, and saw uncounted treasuries of pearls. 
He adds: " They took away from there some two hundred pounds 
of pearls; and when the woman chief saw that the Christians set 
much store by them, she said: ' Do you hold that of much account? 
Go to Talimeco, my village, and you will find so many that your 
horses cannot carry them.' The governor replied: 'Let them 
stay there; to whom God gives a gift, may St. Peter bless it,' and 
there the matter dropped. " 

Biedma in his official report says (p. 14): "He (De Soto) 
opened a mosque, in which were interred the bodies of the chief 
personages of that country. We took from it a quantity of pearls, 
of the weight of as many as six arrobas and a half, or seven," 
about one hundred and sixty-five or seventy pounds. 

Garcilaso says that De Soto took two arrobas (about fifty 
pounds) himself; that he allowed the officers of the crown to take 
a portion which they had already weighed in scales brought with 
them, and that he gave his two joined hands full to each cavalier 

Notes 613 

present. The Portuguese narrator adds that some of the pearls 
were carved into figures of birds and little children. Biedma 
says that some were injured by being buried in the ground, or 
coming in contact with the adipose substance of the dead. 

Throughout the entire region in which Cofachiqui was prob 
ably situated, there are many shell mounds containing innumer 
able shells of mussels and oysters. 

For an account of one of these mounds, see Sir Charles Lyell's 
Second Visit to the United States, vol. i., p. 252. 

Bartram, who visited the site of Silver Bluff in 1776, makes 
this statement in his Travels (pp. 315-16): 

"Before I leave Augusta, I shall recite a curious phenomenon, 
which may furnish ample matter for philosophical discussion to 
the curious naturalists. On the Georgia side of the river, about 
fifteen miles below Silver Bluff, the high road crosses a ridge of 
high swelling hills of uncommon elevation, and perhaps seventy 
feet higher than the surface of the river. These hills, from three 
feet below the common vegetative surface, to the depth of twenty 
or thirty feet, are composed entirely of fossil oyster shells, inter 
nally of the color and consistency of clear white marble: the shells 
are of incredible magnitude, generally fifteen or twenty inches in 
length, from six to eight wide, and two to four in thickness, and 
their hollows sufficient to receive an ordinary man's foot: they 
appear all to have been opened before the period of petrifaction, 
a transmutation they seem evidently to have suffered; they are 
undoubtedly very ancient or perhaps antediluvian. The adjacent 
inhabitants burn them to lime for building, for which purpose 
they serve very well; and would undoubtedly afford an excellent 
manure when their lands require it, these hills being now re 
markably fertile. The heaps of shells lie upon a stratum of a 
yellowish sandy mould, of several feet in depth, upon a foundation 
of soft white rocks, that has the outward appearance of free-stone, 
but on strict examination is really a testaceous concrete or com 
position of sand and pulverized sea shells : in short, this testaceous 
rock approaches near in quality and appearance to the Bahama 
or Bermudian white rock." 

Jones in his Antiquities of the Southern Indians devotes the 
whole of Chapter IX. to these shell mounds. He likewise devotes 
the whole of Chapter XXI. to a discussion of the use of pearls as 
ornaments among the Southern Indians. He quotes from many 
authorities and treats the subject in a most elaborate manner. 

614 Hernando De Soto 

Without going into his statement at length we will quote his 
summary of the facts on pages 478 and 479 : 

"Without multiplying these references, we think sufficient 
historical evidence has been adduced to satisfy the mind of the 
candid inquirer, and that beyond all reasonable doubt, that pearls 
were in general use among the Southern Indians; that the choicest 
of them were the prized ornaments of the prominent personages 
of the tribes; that the fluviatile mussels of various streams were 
constantly and extensively collected and opened for the purpose of 
procuring these gems, which, when obtained, were often pierced 
by means of heated copper spindles; that the marine shells of the 
Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and of the Pacific, yielded generous 
and beautiful tribute to the labor, skill, and taste of numerous 
and well-trained pearl-divers ; and that these gems were found not 
only in the possession of the living, but also in large quantities 
in the graves of chieftains and the sepulchres of the undist n- 
guished dead. We are assured, moreover, of the eagerness with 
which the Spaniards sought after and preserved these treasures; 
and more than once do we hear expressions of disappointment at 
the discoloration and deterioration of the pearls caused by the 
action of fire, and their having been pierced. A present of pearls 
from the caciques to the conquerors was an earnest token of 
consideration and the most acceptable pledge of friendship." 

Added to this overwhelming evidence of the early chroniclers, 
and the researches of later travelers and antiquarians, we have 
the weight of recent discoveries. A number of East Tennessee 
rivers in recent years have been producing pearls of a very superior 
quality. That region has become the center of a thriving and 
profitable pearl fishery. De Soto's men gave accounts of these 
gems being found in a river which has since been well identified 
as the Tennessee. Pearls are now obtained in the headwaters of 
this stream. 

The chroniclers speak of finding pearls among the Indians 
of eastern Arkansas. These statements were doubted till within 
the last twenty years, when many of these gems began to be 
discovered in the streams of that region. Eastern Arkansas is 
now the seat of a flourishing trade in pearls. Great heaps of shells 
are found imbedded in earth along these rivers, indicating that 
the Indians once rifled them of their treasures. 

If the number of the gems is not as great as formerly, the fact 
is easily explainable when we remember that many were buried 

Notes 615 

with the dead, and thus became lost, while the supply of fresh 
water pearls is speedily exhausted in the opening and throwing 
away of thousands of shells at a time, which would bring about 
the extinction of the bivalves within them. 

Subsequent developments have proved the truth of many a 
narrative previously doubted. Witness the Homeric legend of the 
Pigmies, verified in our own day; witness the strange stories of 
Marco Polo, once ridiculed, now accepted. Mendez-Pinto has 
been celebrated both by Congreve and by Poe as the prince of 
fabricators. But we now know that the account of his romantic 
wanderings is substantially true. The narrative of Father Mar- 
quette, the explorer of the upper Mississippi country, was scoffed 
at for fifty years after his death; but we now know him to be one 
of the most truthful of all the early adventurers. 

Those who are interested in such matters will find an elaborate 
article by Dr. Harry Thurston Peck on the subject of accounts of 
discoveries once discredited, but finally corroborated, in Munsey's 
Magazine for January, 1910. 

66 " Arouse, my Lord ! " he cried, 

"For on this morn my comrade, Nimble Foot, 

Weds with the queen." 

There are many stories related of the queen by the chroniclers, 
Garcilaso offering some which are doubtless mythical. The 
gentleman of Elvas says that she married the attendant of Vas- 
concelos, and he being our most reliable authority, his statement 
is, I doubt not, correct. 

6 7 The country of Xualla next we reached. 

This was probably East Tennessee or Western North Carolina. 
The mountain range was the Blue Ridge. 

68 The lowlands next we reached. 
This was in Northern Alabama. After leaving Xualla, the 

Spaniards traversed Guaxule, a land of abundance, where they 
reveled in good living. From there they went to Chiaha, a 
village where they were in like manner well received. 

69 Never before 
Had we seen honey in Floridian wilds. 

The honey brought to De Soto must have been made by swarms 
of honeybees migrating from the South, for the little insect was 

616 Hernando De Soto 

not indigenous to America, but was first brought to the West 
Indies and Mexico by the Spaniards. There were then, as now, 
however, many varieties of stingless bees, not related to our 
honeybee, in Central and South America. 

70 A noble stream, far ampler than the rest. 
From the description of this river it is difficult to imagine what 

stream could have been referred to except the Tennessee. 

"The width of some of the streams, the number and extent of 
their islands, and the names of some of the villages and other 
localities mentioned in the accounts given of De Soto's marches, 
have led to the belief that he may have visited the southern part 
of what is now East Tennessee, and that then turning west he 
crossed and recrossed the Tennessee river.* * * 

" Col. Pettival, who had been in the service of Napoleon during 
the Peninsular War, and was therefore familiar with Spanish 
fortifications, visited in 1834, two forts or camps on the west bank 
of the Tennessee river, one mile above Brown's Ferry, below the 
muscle shoals and opposite the mouth of Cedar Creek (the 
county not mentioned), which certainly belong to the expedition 
of De Soto. He promises in the letter from which this extract is 
made, a plan and description of these fortifications. He died soon 
after, and the writer is without further information on the sub 
ject. " Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee, pp. 26-7. 

Along this river the Indians had extensive pearl fisheries. 
Many canoes were sent out to gather shells. Great fires were 
kindled; the shells were thrown upon the coals, and when they 
would open the Indians would thrust their fingers between them 
and extract the pearls. 

71 Among the forest princes greeting us 
Coosa reigned paramount. 

The State of Alabama has numerous places recalling De Soto's 
expedition by their names. A river and a county are named for 
Coosa: a county and a town are named for Tuscaloosa, and 
also a river, the Black Warrior, Tuscaloosa meaning "Black 
Warrior" in Choctaw. The city of Mobile, of course, is named 
for Maubila. 

71 A giant monarch, Tuscaloosa. 

"Another province, called Taszaluza, of which an Indian of 

such size was chief that we all considered him a giant. " (Biedma.) 

Notes 617 

"He was as tall as that Tony of the emperor, our lord's guard. 
He had a son, a young man as tall as himself, but more slender." 
Ranjel, Ch. VII. 

Garcilaso is authority for the statement that the heads of 
tallest men only reached the breast of the son. 

73 We reached Maubila. 

Biedma says (p. 21) that Maubila was forty leagues from the 
sea, but whether this was counted from the Gulf itself or the 
northern shore of Mobile Bay, does not appear. Pickett thinks 
that the village was at a place called Choctaw Bluff, in Clarke 
County (Southwestern Alabama), upon the northern bank of 
the Alabama River, about twenty-five miles above the junction 
of that river with the Tombigbee. 

*< It still was early morning. 

The battle of Maubila was fought October 18, 1540. 

" If the cage be hung 

Without the walls, the elders then will come 
With poisonous berries in their beaks. 

The story that mocking-birds will feed poisonous berries to 
their young when caged, has sometimes been asserted as a fact 
by persons of veracity, although I have never been able to confirm 
the truth of such a statement. However, conceding it to be a 
fable, like that other myth of the pelican feeding her young from 
her own bosom, it teaches a higher truth than many prosaic 

76 With some favored peers 

He speeded from the town, and in the wilds 

Purchased his safety through inglorious flight. 

"The Indians, observing how he (De So to), was going on 

arranging his man, urged the Cacique (Tuscaloosa) to leave, 

telling him, as was afterwards made known by some women who 

were taken in the town, that as he was but one man, and could 

fight but as one only, there being many chiefs present very skilful 

and experienced in matters of war, any one of whom was able to 

command the rest, and as things in war were so subject to fortune, 

that it was never certain which side would overcome the other, 

they wished him to put his person in safety; for if they should 

conclude their lives there, on which they had resolved rather than 

6i8 Hernando De Soto 

surrender, he would remain to govern the land: but for all that 
they said, he did not wish to go, until, from being continually 
urged, with fifteen or twenty of his own people, he went out of the 
town, taking with him a scarlet cloak and other articles of the 
Christians' clothing, being whatever he could carry and that 
seemed best to him." Elvas, Ch. XIX. 

Persistent efforts have been made in recent times to show that 
Tuscaloosa died a heroic death with his subjects. Wilmer (pp. 
436-40) has a grandiose account of a meeting between De Soto 
and Tuscaloosa, on the field of battle, and concludes by alleging 
that Tuscaloosa threw himself into a burning building, thus 
perishing. All these statements are purely imaginary. The Por 
tuguese narrator has evidently given the facts. Ranjel says 
"Whether the chief was dead or alive was never known." But 
Tuscaloosa, according to all accounts, was a giant; he had, be 
sides, been with the Spaniards many days before the battle, and 
must have been well known to all of them by sight. Yet not 
only was his body not discovered after the battle, but no one 
claims to have seen him from the beginning to the end of the 
combat. A man as well known as he, and as conspicuous for 
stature, would surely have been noted. It is no answer to these 
facts to say that the chroniclers were biased. The Portuguese 
narrator had no Spanish national pride to move him. Ranjel 
was poisoned with malevolence against De Soto, blaming him 
and siding with Tuscaloosa in his version of their dispute. All 
the Spanish histories of the expedition are replete with com 
mendations of the valor displayed by the Indians on this, as on 
many another battle-field. Maubila was a Thermopylae, but 
Tuscaloosa was not a Leonidas. 

" Still standing in my stirrups, doggedly 

I fought, despite mine anguish, to the end. 

This episode, as well as that at the battle of Chickasaw, where 
De Soto fought for hours on horseback after his saddle-girth had 
broken, is well attested by the chroniclers. As noted before, 
De Soto was one of the most accomplished horsemen of his time. 

1* Three thousand of the Paynim dead we found. 

Garcilaso says that eleven thousand Indians perished. Ranjel 
says that there were three thousand dead, not counting many 
others who were wounded, and whom they afterwards found dead 

Notes 619 

in the cabins and along the roads. The Portuguese narrator says, 
"They who perished were in all two thousand five hundred, a few 
more or less. " 

Garcilaso says that Moscoso and his division remained behind 
previous to entering Maubila, and did not join in the battle till 
late that afternoon. This must be an error, as no other historian 
corroborates the assertion, and Ranjel says positively that he 
himself was present at the beginning of the battle, and Moscoso 
took part from its very inception. 

79 To a slave I threw my gear, 

And took his own for mine. 

"Learning that the spirit of mutiny was abroad in the 
camp, he (De Soto) went among the men disguised as one of 
them, and realizing how disaffected they were fast becoming, 
resolved on another movement north. * * * He had become 
reckless. * * * 

"To return to Cuba was to confess defeat, to court dis 
grace, to end his days in poverty." Keating's History oj 
Memphis, p. 20. 

8 We resumed our march , 

And reached thine own dominions. 

De Soto left Maubila in November, and proceeding northwest, 
reached the village of the Chickasaws on December I7th follow 
ing. He crossed two rivers on the way (one of them being the 
Tombigbee) and at both of these he had great difficulties in 
building boats for crossing. He was also opposed by the Indians 
at each of the streams, and had serious skirmishes with them, but 
on arriving at the Chickasaw town was received with open- 
hearted hospitality. 

81 Suddenly the youth 

Among the leafless forest trees beheld 
A vast green flock of parrots. 

These once roved the country in great numbers, but are now 
nearly extinct. 

"It (the Carolina parrot) is also restricted to the warmer parts 
of the Union, rarely venturing beyond the State of Virginia. 
West of the Alleghenies, however, circumstances induce these 
birds commonly to visit much higher latitudes; so that, following 

62O Hernando De Soto 

the great valley of the Mississippi, they are seen to frequent the 
banks of the Illinois, and occasionally to approach the southern 
shores of Lake Michigan. Straggling parties even have sometimes 
been seen in the valley of the Juniata in Pennsylvania, and a 
flock, to the great surprise of the Dutch inhabitants of Albany, 
are said to have appeared in that vicinity. They constantly 
inhabit and breed in the Southern States, and are so far hardy as 
to make their appearance, commonly in the depth of winter, 
along the woody banks of the Ohio, the interior of Alabama, the 
banks of the Mississippi and Missouri around St. Louis, and other 
places, when nearly all other birds have migrated before the 
storms of the season. * * * 

"I fear that the story of this gorgeously appareled bird is 
nearly finished. It is not quite exterminated yet, but of the large 
flocks that were once seen all over the Southern States, only a 
mere remnant can be found, and these are hidden amid the dense 
swamps of Central Florida and along the lower valley of the 
Mississippi. The farmers and fruit-growers were obliged to kill 
large numbers. " Nuttall's Birds of the United States and Canada, 
(Ed. 1903), vol. i., pp. 428-9-31. 

Nuttall's book, from which the first part of the above state 
ments is quoted, originally appeared in 1834, and it speaks of 
that date. The last paragraph is a note by Montague Chamber 
lain in the edition of 1903. 

8a "The bird 

Thou gavest me is tamed." 

"The Carolina parrot is readily tamed, and early shows an 
attachment to those around who bestow any attention to its 
wants ; it soon learns to recollect its name and to answer and come 
when called on. * * * 

"One which I saw at Tuscaloosa, a week after being disabled 
in the wing, seemed perfectly reconciled to its domestic condition, 
and as the weather was remarkably cold, it remained the greater 
part of the time in the house, climbing up the sides of the wire 
fender to enjoy the warmth of the fire. I was informed that when 
first caught, it scaled the side of the room at night, and roosted 
in a hanging posture by the bill and claws; but finding the labor 
difficult and fruitless, having no companion near which to nestle, 
it soon submitted to pass the night on the back of a chair." 
Nuttall, vol. i., p. 431. 

Notes 621 

8 * "The mother, unconcerned as though its birth 

Took place a year ago, was sharpening spears, 
And feathering shafts for arrows." 

"When I awoke in the morning and made my rounds through 
the camp, I found a squaw had been delivered of beautiful twins 
during the night, and I saw the same squaw, at work tanning 
deer-skins. She had cut two vines at the roots of opposite 
trees, and made a cradle of bark, in which the new-born 
ones were wafted to and fro with a push of her hand, while 
from time to time she gave them the breast, and was ap 
parently as unconcerned as if the event had not taken place. " 
Audubon's Journal. 

8 < "This is Indian night." 

These were De Soto's exact words. 

85 The Indian maiden, Lulla, sang a song. 
The first two lyrics in this book are free renditions, or rather 

paraphrases, of two Ojibway songs, literally translated in School- 
craft's work on the Indian tribes (Philadelphia, 1855), Part V., 
pp. 611-12. 

86 Year by year, 
The red men of this country, at the close 

Of Autumn, when the dead leaves quivering down, 
Had strewn knee-deep the sod, would give to flames 
The dry brown rustling waste of foliage. 

There are persons yet living who remember the time when the 
Indians still occupied this part of the country. The Chickasaws 
migrated to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), in 1838. 
Prior to this time the country was in well-nigh the same condition 
as in De Soto's era. From conversations with these old pioneers 
I have drawn the facts used in description of this scene of De 
Soto's march. From Bartram (pp. 149-50), we learn that the 
Indians of Florida burned the forest leaves each year in the same 

87 Nonconnah "Long Stream" of the Indians. 
Nonconnah River is about seven miles south of the present site 

of Memphis, Tennessee. I was informed by an old pioneer that 
Nonconnah means " Long Stream " in Chickasaw. 

622 Hernando De Soto 

88 Looking up, they saw 

Flocks of wild pigeons multitudinous, 
Swarming like locusts in the Libyan skies. 

These birds, now nearly extinct, once moved in flocks incredibly 

"The associated numbers of Wild Pigeons, the numerous flocks 
which compose the general swarm, are without any other parallel 
in the history of the feathered race; they can indeed alone be 
compared to the finny shoals of herrings, which, descending from 
the Arctic regions, discolor and fill the ocean to the extent of 
mighty kingdoms. * * * The approach of the mighty feathered 
army with a loud rushing roar and a stirring breeze, attended by a 
sudden darkness, might be mistaken for a fearful tornado about 
to overwhelm the face of Nature. For several hours together the 
vast host, extending some miles in breadth, still continues to 
pass in flocks without diminution. The whole air is filled with 
birds; * * * they shut out the light as if it were an eclipse. At 
the approach of the hawk their sublime and beautiful aerial 
evolutions are disturbed like a ruffling squall extending over the 
placid ocean; as a thundering torrent they rush together in a 
concentrating mass, and heaving in undulating and glittering 
sweeps towards the earth, at length again proceed in lofty mean 
ders like the rushing of a mighty animated river. * * * 

"In the Atlantic States, where the flocks are less abundant, the 
gun, decoy, and net are put in operation against the devoted 
throng. Twenty or even thirty dozen have been caught at a 
single sweep of the net. Wagonloads of them are poured into 
market, where they are sometimes sold for no more than a cent 
apiece. * * * The Honorable T. H. Perkins remarks that about 
the year 1798, while he was passing through New Jersey, near 
Newark, the flocks continued to pass for at least two hours with 
out cessation; and he learnt from the neighboring inhabitants that 
in descending upon a large pond to drink, those in the rear, 
alighting on the backs of the first that arrived (in the usual order 
of their movements on land to feed), pressed them beneath the 
surface, so that tens of thousands were thus drowned. They 
were likewise killed in great numbers at the roosts with clubs." 
Nuttall, vol. ii., pp. 3, 4, 6. 

Audubon estimated the number of birds in one of these flocks 
at eleven hundred millions, and calculated that they would 
require more than eight millions of bushels of seeds and grains 

Notes 623 


for food each day. Another flock seen by Wilson was greater 
still. He judged them in flight, to extend over two hundred and 
forty miles. He concluded that they must have numbered more 
than twenty-two hundreds of millions, and consumed above 
seventeen millions of bushels of seeds and grains daily. 

*' Here they beheld 

The nesting place. 

"As the sun begins to decline, they depart in a body for the 
general roost, which is often hundreds of miles distant, and is 
generally chosen in the tallest and thickest forests, almost 
divested of underwood. Nothing can exceed the waste and deso 
lation of these nocturnal resorts. * * * The tall trees for thou 
sands of acres are completely killed, and the ground strewed with 
massy branches torn down by the clustering weight of the birds 
which have rested upon them. The whole region for several 
years presents a continued scene of devastation, as if swept by the 
resistless blast of a whirlwind. * * * 

"The breeding places, as might naturally be expected, differ 
from the roosts in their greater extent. In 1807, according to 
Wilson, one of these immense nurseries, near Shelbyville, in 
Kentucky, was several miles in breadth and extended through the 
woods for upwards of forty miles. * * * Wilson often counted 
upwards of ninety nests in a single tree, and the whole forest was 
filled with them. * * * But their most destructive enemy is 
man; and as soon as the young are fully grown, the neighboring 
inhabitants assemble and encamp for several days around the 
devoted pigeons with wagons, axes, and cooking utensils, like 
the outskirts of a destructive army. The perpetual tumult of the 
birds, the crowding and fluttering multitudes, the thundering 
roar of their wings, and the crash of falling trees, from which the 
young are thus precipitated to the ground by the axe, produces 
altogether a scene of indescribable and almost terrific confusion. 
It is dangerous to walk beneath these clustering crowds of birds, 
from the frequent descent of large branches broken down by the 
congregating millions; the horses start at the noise, and conver 
sation can only be heard in a shout." 

To the foregoing extract from Nuttall's book is appended the 
following note: 

"The most important of recent contributions to the biography 
of this species is Mr. William Brewster's article in The Auk for 

624 Hernanclo De Soto 

October, 1889. He tells there of a 'nesting' in Michigan in 
1877 that covered an area twenty-eight miles long and three to 
four miles wide, and says: 'For the entire distance of twenty- 
eight miles every tree of any size had more or less nests, and many 
trees were filled with them.'" NuttalTs Birds of the United States 
and Canada, vol. ii., pp. 4, 5, 7. 

90 " Road of the Pigeon Roost "this way was called . 
The Pigeon Roost Road still bears that name, and is probably 

the oldest and most important highway leading to the city of 
Memphis. It extends from that place in a southeasterly direc 
tion through North Mississippi. 

91 They reached a village (Chisca it was called). 
The village of Chisca was at the present site of Memphis. 
The Portuguese narrator and Biedma call this town Quizquiz. 

Ranjel calls it Quizqui. All of these names are probably varia 
tions of the word Chicaza or Chickasaw, the name of the tribe 

93 Beyond the village rose two lofty mounds. 

These two Indian mounds still overlook the river at Memphis. 
They have recently been purchased by the city authorities, the 
grounds enclosing them being known as De Soto Park. 

93 High on a bluff they stood : anear its base 

The Mississippi rolled his mighty flood. 

The Great River was discovered in May, 1541. The exact date 
is unknown, but it was within two or three days before May 2ist. 

"The Spaniards were guided to the Mississippi by the natives; 
and were directed to one of the usual crossing-places, probably at 
the lowest Chickasaw bluff, not far from the thirty-fifth parallel of 
latitude." Bancroft, History of the United States. 

Keating, in his history of Memphis (p. 2 1 ) , says that the village 
of Chisca was near the high mound which overlooks the river, 
where it divides to flow southward on either side of what is now 
known as "President's Island." 

Some have contended that the location of Chisca was in North 
Mississippi. But there is no mound on the east side of the river 
south of the Chickasaw bluffs, and the chroniclers tell us that the 
chief's wigwam was built on such a mound. 

Again, going southward from the Chickasaw bluffs, there are 

Notes 625 

no other bluffs facing the river for at least one hundred and fifty 
miles. The country is quite low, and must have overflowed nearly 
every year in De Soto's time. Hence, no permanent village could 
have been situated there. 

"Their (i. e. the Chickasaws') main landing place on the 
Mississippi was at the Chickasaw bluffs, now the site of Memphis, 
Tenn., whence a trail more than 160 miles long led to their 
villages." Bulletin Bureau of American Ethnology, No. 30, Part 
I, p. 260. 

It is only fair to presume that Chisca, the chief town of the 
Chickasaws on the river, was at this main landing-place. 

But the river has been persistently encroaching upon the bluffs 
at Memphis, and it is possible that in the time of De Soto the 
mounds and village were a mile or more east of the river, the 
stream then flowing through the channel now known as "Four- 
mile Bayou, " or the one called "Marion Lake." This is rendered 
still more probable from the fact that although De Soto visited 
the Chief upon the mound, it does not appear that he saw the 
river from that elevation. At this day it would be almost at his 

The Mississippi is constantly changing its course. Along its 
meanderings throughout the Southern States are numerous lakes, 
nearly all being in the shape of horse-shoes, or crescents, with the 
horns of the arcs invariably turned toward the river, and having 
small streams connecting with the river, in rainy seasons, from 
each tip. Doubtless all these lakes are segments of the ancient 
river-bed. In times of flood, before levees were built, steamboats 
readily went through the woods along the line of the old stream, 
from Memphis to the village of Marion in Arkansas. In dry 
seasons this route of the steamers is only a dusty country highway. 

'* This river with his name 

Would be entwined forever. 

It has become quite a pastime in our era to attempt to show that 
this or that discoverer or inventor is not really entitled to the 
credit heretofore given him for some achievement. In accordance 
with this idea, it has been contended by some that Alonzo de 
Pineda, sailing along the gulf-coast in 1519, discovered the mouth 
of the Mississippi, and that Cabeza de Vaca in 1528, going from 
Florida, crossed it at some point near which the river enters the 
gulf. Speaking first of the claim regarding Pineda, we would say 

626 Hernando De Soto 

that the Mississippi does not enter the gulf in one stream. It has 
three main outlets, and a multitude of lesser arteries, by which it 
empties into the sea. These various outlets so diffuse the waters 
of the stream that no one of them is larger than several other 
streams which Pineda could have observed along his way. Thus 
we have no means whatever of distinguishing the Mississippi 
from a number of other rivers which he might have seen. 

John Gilmary Shea, in Justin Winsor's Narrative and Critical 
History of America, advocates the claim of Pineda, but in the 
very statement of the case gives the best answer to it. He says, 
(vol. ii., p. 237) that Pineda "found a river of great volume, 
evidently the Mississippi. * * * He ran up the river, and 
found it so thickly inhabited that in a space of six leagues he 
counted no fewer than forty Indian hamlets on the banks. Ac 
cording to their report, the land abounded in gold, as the natives 
wore gold ornaments in their noses and ears, and other parts of 
the body. " 

In the first place, the valley near the mouths of the Mississippi 
at that day, as now, was a region of immense swamps, subject to 
constant overflows. Even now, with an elaborate system of 
levees, it is but sparsely settled. At that time it was only a vast 
wild marshland, well nigh without inhabitants. 

Again, all the lower Mississippi Valley is of alluvial soil, and 
no gold is to be found within hundreds of miles of the lower river 

The description given by Pineda could well have fitted the Rio 
Grande, as it ran through a well-settled country, with gold mines 
at no great distance from its banks. 

As to Cabeza de Vaca, Shea in this same article (page 244), 
shows that he did not cross the river at all, but that his vessel, 
after skirting along the coast, was wrecked either in Western 
Louisiana or Eastern Texas, beyond the mouths of the Mississippi. 

In Cabeza's own narrative no mention is made of any stream 
that can be identified as the Mississippi. 

But De Soto's discovery was unequivocal, and it first brought 
the stream to the attention of the civilized world. Columbus was 
not more surely the discoverer of America, preceded as he was 
by the half -legendary exploits of Leif Ericson. 

s He called it The River of the Holy Ghost. 

His followers and the old historians, however, called it the Rio 

Notes 627 

Grande, and the name given by De Soto was never accepted by 
the world. As stated before in these notes, the Indians living on 
the banks of the river itself called it the Chucagua. 

In the preface to this book, I call attention to the fact that the 
discovery of the Mississippi in 1541 connects the history of the 
Mississippi Valley with the years of the Renaissance in Europe. 
I also mention a number of historical characters living at that 
time, or near it. Since that time, in reading Mark Twain's Life on 
the Mississippi, Chapter I, I have found a similar statement, and 
a similar reference to various historical characters living at or 
near that period. 

My preface was first written in January, 1909, and at that time 
I had not read the older book. But the coincidence is a natural 
one, since any writer giving close attention to the subject would 
sooner or later be struck with this unique feature of our country's 

The distinguished author of Life on the Mississippi was slightly 
in error in placing the date of the discovery in 1 542. He says that 
at this time "Michael Angelo's paint was not yet dry on the 
Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel." 

As stated in the preface to this book, the great painter was still 
engaged on the work in May, 1541, the time of the discovery. 
The painting was first exhibited to the public on Christmas day, 

96 These never-daunted men 
Have conquered dizzy amplitudes of air, 
And proved themselves the Vikings of the skies. 

The Wright brothers, the real inventors of the aeroplane, were 
both born and reared in the Mississippi Valley. It is unnecessary 
to add here that, among all martyrs to the science of aerial navi 
gation, none went to their fate more fearlessly than those of our 
own land. 

97 The people of this late-discovered land 
Have builded highways of engirding steel. 

The railroad through the Andes, the highest in altitude, I 
believe, of all in the world, and probably the greatest achieve 
ment of railway engineering known at the present, is the result of 
the skill, daring and perseverance of men whom we are proud 
to claim as our countrymen. 

628 Hernando De Soto 

First they marched north, then later ventured west. 

De Soto for some time followed the course of the Mississippi 
north, and probably reached that part of the State of Missouri 
which extends like a peninsula into the northeastern section of 

"In ascending the Mississippi the party was often obliged to 
wade through morasses. At length they came, as it would seem, 
upon the district of Little Prairie, and the dry and elevated lands 
which extend towards New Madrid. " Bancroft. 

Many of these "dry and elevated lands" are now great sunken 
wastes of swamps and marshes, where the landmarks of De Soto's 
expedition have been destroyed. In the winter of 1811-12, a 
series of terrific earthquakes occurred throughout this region. 
This part of the country being then very sparsely inhabited by 
white people, the catastrophe is not well-known in history, but it 
was undoubtedly one of the most powerful disturbances of nature 
which mankind has ever witnessed. Vast regions of uplands were 
depressed into flooded swamps, and on the Tennessee side of the 
river, Reelfoot Lake, a body of water some twenty-five or thirty 
miles long, and five to ten miles wide, was formed through a great 
convulsion of the earth as though in the rending of chaos at the 
dawn of creation. On account of the effects of this earthquake it 
is difficult at this day to trace De Soto's route through that region. 

99 Here waterfowl came flocking; here were fish 
So plentiful that natives slew them oft 

With blows of cudgels. 

Western Arkansas now, as in De Soto's time, is famous as a 
resort for the huntsman and the fisherman. The catfish, the 
shovel-bill cat, and other inhabitants of these lakes and streams 
are easily recognizable from the narration of the Portuguese 

"Fish were taken, such as are now found in the fresh waters 
of that region; one of them, the spade fish, the strangest and most 
whimsical production of the muddy streams of the West, so rare 
that even now, it is rarely found in any museum, is accurately 
described by the best historian of the expedition. " Bancroft. 

100 A simple tribe they reached, whose people came 
Worshiping them as gods. 

"The Spaniards were adored as children of the sun, and the 

Notes 629 

blind were brought into their presence to be healed by the sons of 
light. 'Pray only to God, who is in heaven, for whatsoever ye 
need,' said De Soto in reply; and the sublime doctrine which 
thousands of years before, had been proclaimed in the deserts of 
Arabia, now first found its way into the prairies of the Far West. " 

The Spaniards were also asked to make the heavens rain. Gar- 
cilaso assures us that after some prayers from the priests, the long 
drought was broken by a great rain which lasted three entire days ! 

101 Never before 

Had he beheld these creatures. 

The Spanish army itself never encountered any herds of bison 
during the entire expedition. Frequent mention is made by the 
historians of presents of "cowskins" and "lionskins" made to 
them, but the skins must have been those of bisons, as there were 
no lions in America, and the Indians had no cows. Some soldiers . 
sent by De Soto into Middle Tennessee returned, says the Por 
tuguese Gentleman, with "a cowhide as delicate as a calf -skin, the 
hair being like the soft wool on the cross of the merino with the 
common sheep." 

On the borders of Southern Missouri, he continues, a chief came 
to visit the Spaniards, and, "as he and his men entered the camp 
they wept, the token of obedience and the repentance of a past 
error, according to the usage of that country. He brought a 
present of many cowskins, which were found very useful; the 
country being very cold, they were taken for bed-covers, as they 
were very soft, and the wool like that of sheep. Near by, to the 
northward, are many cattle." 

In northwestern Arkansas, at the village of Casqui, says 
Ran j el, above the door of the principal house "were many heads 
of very fierce bulls; just as in Spain, noblemen who are sportsmen 
mount the heads of wild boars or bears." The historians add 
that the Indians said the wild cattle were so numerous to the 
north that no maize could be cultivated there. 

Some authorities have conjectured that since no bison were to 
be found in the Southern States east of the Mississippi in more 
recent times, none existed there in De Soto's day. But they were 
to be found there in his day, though in limited numbers. A legend, 
doubtless an exaggeration of the facts, may throw light on this: 

"They (the Choctaws and Chickasaws) have a tradition of a 

630 Hernando De Soto 

great drought that occurred during the early part of the eighteenth 
century. It was particularly severe in the prairie region. Not 
a drop of rain fell for three years. The Noxubee and Tombigbce 
rivers dried up. The forest trees perished. The elk and buffalo, 
then numerous, migrated beyond the Mississippi, and neither of 
these species returned. Towards the close of the third year it be 
gan to rain, and continued for two moons, and the Great Spirit 
had forgiven them. " Claiborne 's History of Mississippi, p. 484. 

102 A myriad -headed plague. 

The story of the vast herds of bison on the Western prairies 
is too well known to be repeated at any length. 

Mr. Hornaday says: " Of all the quadrupeds that have ever lived 
upon the earth, probably no other species has ever marshaled such 
immense hosts as those of the American bison. * * * Even in 
South Central Africa, which has been exceedingly prolific in great 
herds of game, it is probable that all of its quadrupeds taken to 
gether on an equal area would never have more than equaled 
the total number of buffalo in this country forty years ago. ' ' 

In 1871, Colonel Dodge, when passing through one of the great 
herds on the Arkansas River (which herd, indeed, was one of the 
last of these immense armies), and calculating that there were 
some fifteen or twenty bison to the acre, states from his own obser 
vation that the herd was not less than twenty-five miles wide and 
fifty miles long. Hornaday estimates the number of bison in this 
aggregation at four millions. 

"Many writers at and about the date mentioned (1871) speak 
of the plains being absolutely black with bison as far as the eye 
could reach. And Mr. W. Blackmore tells of passing through a 
herd for a distance of one hundred and twenty miles right on end, 
in traveling on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. Frequently, indeed, 
trains on that line were derailed in attempting to pass through 
herds of bison, until the drivers learned it was advisable to bring 
their engines to a standstill when they found the line blocked in 
this manner." Lyddeker's Royal Natural History, vol. ii., p. 193. 

19 They observed the flight 

Of parrots in a northern course. 

"With that peculiar caprice, or perhaps appetite, which char 
acterizes them (the Carolina parrots), they are also observed to 
frequent the saline springs, or licks, to gratify their uncommon 
taste for salt. " Nuttall, vol. i., p. 430. 

Notes 631 

I0 The country of the Tunicas they passed, 

And reached the kingdom of the Tulas. 

This was probably in Oklahoma, the western limit of the expedi 
tion. The Tunica (or Tanico) Indians were afterwards found by 
the white men on the banks of the Mississippi, to which they had 
migrated after De Soto's era. There is a county in Mississippi 
named for them. 

Before this time, in Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri, 
the Spaniards had encountered the tribes of Casqui, Pacaha, 
Caligoa, Coyas, and others. There were the usual skirmishes and 
hand -to-hand -encounters day by day. 

105 Juan Ortiz, here, suddenly falling ill, 
, Took to his bed. 

This was in the province of Autiamque, Central Arkansas. 
The hot springs were the celebrated Hot Springs of Arkansas, 
which were discovered by De Soto. 

106 Twenty leagues in breadth, 
Its turbid billows with resistless power 
Broke down all barriers. 

The Mississippi, when not restrained by levees, in the height 
of its great floods often attained a width of forty or fifty miles. 
The Spanish historians say that it attained a breadth of sixty 
miles at one time, and this statement is doubtless true. 

107 His labors and his conflicts all were over. 
He died on May 21, 1542, three years, almost to a day, from 

the time he had landed at Tampa, and about one year after the 
discovery of the Mississippi. He passed away in the dominions 
of Guayachoya, a friendly chief. This was in that region now 
East-Central Louisiana, near the junction of the Red River with 
the Mississippi. 

' Io8 The dying Theban. 

Epaminondas, victor at Leuctra and Mantinea, who perished 
in the last named battle. 


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