Wednesday, October 12, 2016


The Discovery of the New World

Seneca, Medea 375-379 (tr. John G. Fitch):
There will come an epoch late in time
when Ocean will loosen the bonds of the world
and the earth lie open in its vastness,
when Tethys will disclose new worlds
and Thule not be the farthest of lands.

venient annis saecula seris,
quibus Oceanus vincula rerum
laxet et ingens pateat tellus
Tethysque novos detegat orbes
nec sit terris ultima Thule.
Manuscript variants according to A.J. Boyle, ed., Seneca, Medea. Edited with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 84:
378 thethisque E: typhisque T (after corr.) C (after corr.): yphysque P: yphisque S: hiphisque V
Christopher Columbus, The Book of Prophecies, ed. Roberto Rusconi, tr. Blair Sullivan (1997; rpt. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2004 = Repertorium Columbianum, III), pp. 290-291:
/59 verso/


[1] Seneca in VIIo tragetide Medee in choro: "Audax nimium".

[2] Venient annis
secula seris, quibus Occeanus
vincula rerum laxet, et ingens
pateat te<l>lus Tiphisque novos
detegat orbes, nec sit terris
ultima Tille.


[1] Vernán los tardos años del mundo, ciertos tiempos en los quales el mar Ocçéano afloxerá los atamentos de las cosas e se abrirá una grandé tierra; [2] e um nuebo marinero como aquel que fue guýa de Jasón, que obe nombre Tiphi, descobrirá nuebo mundo e estonçes non será la ysla Tille la postrera de las tierras.


[1] Seneca, book 7 of the tragedy of Medea, from the chorus "Audax nimium".

[2] During the last years of the world,
the time will come in which Oceanus
will loosen the bounds, and a huge landmass
will appear; Tiphys will discover new worlds,
and Thule will no longer be the most remote land.


[1] During the last years of the world, the time will come in which the Ocean sea will loosen the bounds and a large landmass will appear. [2] A new sailor like the one named Tiphys, who was the guide of Jason, will discover a new world, and then Thule will no longer be the most remote land.
Ferdinand Columbus wrote in the margin of his copy of Seneca's Tragedies, next to the passage from Medea:
Haec profetia expleta est per patrem meum Christoforum Colon almirantem, anno 1492.
That is,
This prophecy was fulfilled by my father Admiral Christopher Columbus, in the year 1492.
John Denham, "The Progress of Learning," in his Poems and Translations, 4th ed. (London: H. Herringman, 1703), pp. 168-183 (at 172-173):
What the Tragedian wrote, the late success
Declares was Inspiration, and not Guess:
As dark a truth that Author did unfold
As Oracles or Prophets e'er fore-told:
At last the Ocean shall unlock the Bound,
Of things, and a New World by
Typhis found,
Then Ages far remote shall understand
Isle of Thule is not the farthest Land.
Clay's article was written, he says (p. 617), "as we observe rather than celebrate this the quincentenary of Columbus' discovery of 'America'." In my opinion, it was a cause for celebration, and so is Columbus Day, although if I ruled the world, the holiday would not be a moveable feast (the second Monday of October), but would still be celebrated on the anniversary of the landfall, October 12, as it was in my childhood.

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