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Chapter 53

They Draw Nigh Unto Land


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

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

"Those groves must soon fall," said Mohi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The canoes drew near.

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

Studying those immense hieroglyphics awhile, antiquarian Mohi still
eyeing them, said slowly:--"In-this-re-publi-can-land-all-men-are-
born-free-and-equal."

"False!" said Media.

"And how long stay they so?" said Babbalanja.

"But look lower, old man," cried Media, "methinks there's a small
hieroglyphic or two hidden away in yonder angle.--Interpret them, old
man."

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

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

"It seems to have been added for a postscript," rejoined Braid-Beard,
screwing his eyes again.

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

Shooting through the arch, we rapidly gained the beach.

Herman Melville