And peered through darkness.
Ah, that night Of all dark nights!
And then a speck –
A light! a light! a light! a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: “On! sail on.”
The themes of the life of Christopher Columbus are timeless. Among them are independence, vision, courage, dedication, perseverance. All are captured in the excellent painting by German master historical painter Carl von Piloty in his painting simply entitled “Christopher Columbus.”
A calm sea. A starlit night. The men are asleep. But one man cannot rest. He is driven by an idea–an idea which carried him and his advocates to the courts of the major seafaring powers of Europe for years to no avail–an idea that was rejected by the scholarly thinkers of his day as impractical and either way unacceptable–an idea so forcefully held, however, that it allowed him to imprint its aspect on the mind of the Queen of Castile, Isabella, bringing her ultimately to sponsor the voyage which has brought him to this point.
The great mariner, conviction unshaken, is awake on the night that might very well seal his fate. Mutiny is on the men’s minds; the fear of the unknown into which he has thrust them further than any man before, is more than these hardy sailors can take. It must be soon, or all may be lost. His best information and judgment suggest that land must be near. By the light of a lamp he has been examining the maps, charts, and books that have guided him to this point. It must be there.
The strain on the man is visible. The bags under his eyes attest to his sleepless task. But his vigor is unabated. Even now he is composed, in the moment, when quite suddenly–so surprisingly that his violent motion has caused him to lose his hat and flung his hanging cross across his body–everything that he had hoped becomes reality! His index finger is fixed to the spot where his mind believed land to be, and his eyes on the horizon take in the faint glimmer that means he was right!
A light! A light! A light! A light!
How many people in all of man’s past on earth have ever experienced something as powerful as this moment must have been for Columbus?