A Celebration of Women Writers

"Columbus–Or "It Was Morning."" by Mrs Lillian Rozell Messenger (1843-1921).
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 227-232.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 227] 



(Copyright, 1893, by Lillian Rozell Messenger.)


Fame's voice sublime, a magic siren song
Sung to the youth about his sea-girt home.
The sea's wild grandeur early was first page.
Earth turned to him. To him the firmament
Was not blue space and blank, but handiwork
Of the Invisible his soul had learn'd
To love–beside his mother's earnest love–
Beside her knee, as lights burn'd low at eve,
And her sweet love made earth and heaven one.

When science taught him first, Columbus saw
Through nature's silence all–God's mighty truth
Reach'd to the clouds; and law and order His.
The Pleiades, Arcturus and Leo,
Orion bold, and all that starry chase
Would nightly woo his thought and wonder-flight;
When truth and wisdom, from the deep-toned years
Wearing the phantom veils of hope, lastly
O'er-arch'd his world with highest majesty,
And beauty inexpressible. In awe
He dwelt upon old ocean's shifting page,
'Tween Venice and his sea-kiss'd land, full oft
His father, mother, sail'd with gleaming prows
When galleys splendid borne on sunset waves
To this ocean queen, bride of War and Fame.

Throughout long years he oft intently thought
Of one lov'd scene which burned in holy fire
Upon his brain, a holy flame as 'twere,
That lighted Mem'ry's altar, tower and dome;
In depths of night, when on the solemn deep,
Alone, his mother bent above his couch

To watch his slumber light, in sweet concern
Of happy love, as storms march'd o'er the waves
With lightning spears, and dark and thunder cloth'd:
She, trembling in pathetic solitude
Lest some hid terror seize his little life.

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In sea-hunting his father bore him oft
To distant waves, when galleys swiftly sped
With high emprise, and splendors from the East.
'Twas then the boy heard marvels of strange lands,
Saw stranger peoples and their curious wealth,
Heard Wisdom speak from Persia and the Ind
Of Eastern lore, and sages not a few.

Yet solitude, and isolation strange
Had borne the lad. first, love of truth, the same
That maketh man as gods, the love of sea,
Whose stormy waves his first playfellows were;
Deep love of nature, through whose veil he gazed
On God's eternal truth and secret laws.

The father had quick wrath, so earnest he
Lest youth should fail; he oftener thrust the boy
Unto the sea, and strange and cruel men,
To lonesome lands, and thence to Venice proud.
For thus he thought to harden this brave youth,
Whose nobler soul and larger mind surpass'd
By hundred years his puny world and age.
Visions for him had thrown a golden scale
Unto his gaze, wherein he saw his world
Weigh'd strong in light, and error sink in cloud.

Musing, he said: this world is but the deep,
And where, as in a cradle, truth, and love–
Man's guardian spirits–rock this little life,
Till muffled to sleep. Why should I pause,
When faith and soul and nature call me hence,
To turn that page which men have never seen,
What is my body? What is every life
But one fleet airship? He alone then takes
Some guidance–plants my pole star–stilleth waves,
And shows me once by His own light on them
That nether world–all worlds my vision sees;
Deep calleth unto deep, and I shall on!

Meanwhile Columbus' brain held surer thought
And visions vast, that ray'd the beamy wings
Of tireless faith with their undying light.
To Isabella's larger heart and mind
He would unfold his scheme: I'll pierce this realm
With my sword of truth, ay, England, and France,
And Italy, unto the utmost sphere!
The unknown deep hath won my youth, and well;
It bore my love, Felipa, in soft folds,
To mystic death, and now, God will, it shall
Give me that virgin world men disbelieve.

Yon deep allures me on, and she, our queen,
May light a path o'er undivided waves
To newer Eden lands, henceforth her own.
Such image looms before my waking soul,
Columbus, meek and brave, his sovereigns sought;
The king was kingliness, and Isabella

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Most queenly fair, and stately shown; her hair
Of sunny waves just rippled o'er her brow
So sadly pale, yet tinged with faintest flush
Of proud delight, and dewy violet eyes,
Mute melodies, or homes of lofty thoughts.

The queen spake: "Gold nor wealth hath now our realm
To venture thee, most brave and noble one;
But these, my jewels, seeming yet to hold
The sunshine of my past, and years of joy,
Or brave and daring hist'ries of my race,
And memories too precious for one life–
These shall command the way; a power within
Nerveth my hands to lift that veil which hides
Yon stars that burn in Truth's fair sky, and o'er
Thy world unknown.'

                 Columbus scarcely heard,
For th' music of his hopes and her sweet voice
And blessing prayers and thrilling faiths that grew,
For it was morning now; and Error paled.

From evening lands, at morn, half hour ere rose
The sun o'er Spain, he loos'd the falcon birds
Of fate, of Heaven-born hope–his vessels three–
And sail'd and sail'd, to one vast far Unknown.

Three days the Lord and Prince of Righteousness
Entomb'd did close his eyes for sake of Death,
For sake of Man; three days may mean more time–
Fullness of Fate–than twice three thousand years.
Three vessels frail were yet to bear to men
Earth's other half of life, unclaim'd, unknown.

It was morning when they sail'd; and sail'd away
Three vessels brave from Spain, true land of love,
Of wild romance, and song, where Beauty dream'd
In Nature's arms, and beamed from woman's eye.
Alhambra's splendid towers paled from sight,
Like phantoms thro' a dream; the "Moor's Sigh"
(That mount o'er which he pass'd to alien worlds)
Rose distantly against the blue, with dreams
Of glory 'cross its brow, solemn and grave
As th' exil'd Moor's glance, when he in tears
Forever bade Alhambra's halls farewell.

So beat Columbus' heart with hope insistent,
Had silver clouds on those blue mountains clove
The heavens then, with blue-white ships a-sail
From hidden realms, an angel at each prow,
Calling through golden trumpets, "Hail the day!"
He had felt no surprise, but follow'd on.

Since man first left his Eden vales, his step
Hath wander'd to the West, his morning land.
The East but holds his life's embalmed past,
The West, the glory of his dream-ideal.
Soon trackless waves come tumbling out of space,

[Page 230] 

Like oceans fresh from Chaos, on before
The vessels three; when raged the deep and all
Mad demons of the winds howl'd forth in glee,
Columbus sent his prayer across the storm
On wings of faith, and touch'd the realm of Peace–
Deep call'd to deep, alluring him still on.

Last, brilliant birds, and musical, in throngs
Flew near, fleet messengers of hope to him,
On waste of waters, over which had flown
No form or breath of spirit-life save his,
Since morning stars first sang in golden choir–
The Makers voice called forth, Let there be light.
Sublime, he rose, to speak and cheer his crew;
With lofty mein he bared his brow to Night,
Brooding o'er boundless seas, and parted thus
From deeps abysmal by the trembling ships;
He fed their minds with hopes of richest Ind.
And Faith's true bravery, when Silence wrapt
Them and the world as in an endless tomb;
While pleasant winds from starry head-lands bathed
Their brows, and fled, the demons of despair.
Lo! suddenly their deep calm broke in joy,
And blissful shout of land. Now Night's thin veil
Just hid from gaze a new and virgin world.
While stars their golden shadows cast they watch'd,
As Wonder, like a rainbow, clove the dark.
Yet perfumed-laden winds bore them no tales
Of flower'd homes, and Beauty's summer land.
And it was morn, when rose their gorgeous world;
As though the sun, more brilliant than when robed
For common days, at midnight shone, and smote
Mankind in awe; so to their wondering gaze
The New World rose august in youth and bloom.

The epic grand Columbus gave to man,
Look'd on the gladsome wave all beautiful,
Crown'd by Heaven's smile, serene in Heaven's calm;
Here, Death pass'd on, o'ercome by Beauty's gaze,
Nor touch'd this Eden, throned on purple waves.
October's golden haze, an autumn dream,
Stole o'er the virgin woods and dreamy world.

Columbus and his braves knelt on the sod;
They heard God's rosy, fragrant silence breathe;
They kiss'd the earth, and lifted souls in prayer.

To muse alone he left his joyful crew,
And went some paces deeper in the glow
Of fragrant woods. Approaching this deep joy,
He would all earthly sandals leave.

                 Hard by
A velvet plot of moss, that ne'er had thrill'd
To human touch–this took his weary form,
While thrilling thought, and lofty hopes yet breathed
Their music to his soul.

[Page 231] 

                 Down tangled heights
The crystal waters fell o'er mossy cliffs,
From broken urns of sea nymphs who had lost
Their way and fled from sight. A hoary limb
Midway the lucid pool, and, tendril twined,
Let fairies cross to wayward paths in joy;
And od'rous breadths of land kiss'd tuneful lips
Of flowery waves. Arcadian vales were fed
By pearly streams and purple winds, and clouds
That held no gloomy thoughts of cold or storms.
Thro' spicy groves came lissome dusky forms,
Night-phantoms fleet, with wonder-sparkling eyes;
Dusky sons, whom beauty in shadow veil'd
And stealthy, to view the pale-faced men,
Borne on white pinions of the clouds, they thought.

In awe Columbus mused: "Alas for her,
My loved one lost! the cruel waves that claimed
Gives now me this for bride, my fair world-bride!
Ah, would that she, our queen, they two might smile
On me this hour, as doth th' morn and heav'n."
List'ning, he turned to note strange, lovely birds,
And heed his New World's song from scented groves
An' cooler depths of green, where sunbeams slept
Or held lost moon-rays of fair evenings gone.
The air was balmy soft, enticing life,
As though of roses made, or lover's sighs, low breath'd
In moonlight yester eve. Silent he gazed,
Like one of old on Patmos Isle,
Seeing hid realms not lawful earth could see.
"Now doth there there pass before my prophet soul,
Some vision swift, prefigured as a dream,
Soft glowing on the rose-gray mists of sleep.
Of this New World's fair future! blest of peace,
Blest of all nations' praise–of Liberty,
Whose flag shall take the azure dome and stars;
Whose mighty mountains, streams and forests grand
Shall move to Freedom's hymn, and ope new gates
To larger life, to highest truth for men?"
Saw he the mighty ships? Heard he the roar
Of vasty cities, labor's thunders loud;
As Toil and Art wore garments radiant
In Time's fresh loom for this fair virgin world
That, like a star, should light the voyageur
From stormy Wrong to God's wide seas of Peace?

He dwelt on spirit truths that dome this life;
Of ancient lore, of inspiration new,
For he had delved in wisdom old, once hid
By seers Iberian, the Greek, and Egypt's wise,
Who called the stars and grouped the Zodiac,
And with the Hebrew learn'd the steps of God
In solitudes of space, afire with worlds.
What means that fable old of Orpheus,
Of Amphion sweet, if not to symbol forth,
This fair world shall to heavenly place be built

[Page 232] 

By harmonies of wisdom, and the pow'r
Of Justice–these two, flowing into Love,
Gives back our earth complete into His hands.

Long, long alone he wrestled, planned and dreamed,
Of what this giant young world held for man;
Saw with prophetic, deeper sense, more plain
Than he of Bethel fame, new angels come
And go along the secret steeps of God,
With banner'd thoughts, and hymns, he only read
And heard of his New World's fair destiny.
By joy and thought oppress'd beyond all speech,
Still from the eternal, hearing melodies
Shipward, he grandly moved and faced the sea.

[Page 227] 

Mrs. Lillian Rozell Messenger is a daughter of Dr. F. O. Rozelle, and a native of Millersburg, Ky. She moved in early life to Arkansas, moving later to Washington, D. C., where she still resides. She married North A. Messenger. an editor of Tuscumbia, Ala., who died four years later. Mrs. Messenger's education was completed at Forest Hill Seminary, near Memphis. It was here her poetry first attracted public attention. Her principal works are "Fragments from an Old Inn," "The Vision of Gold," "Disappointment," "Importuning," "Halloween," "The Southern Cross," and "Columbus; or, It Was Morning," first read on July 4, before the Woman's Building Congresses of the Columbian Exposition. Mrs. Messenger is a dramatic reader, and has met with singular success in her own state and elsewhere. She delights in music and painting as recreations. Her postoffice address is No. 25 Lafayette Street, Washington, D. C.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom