manca! The accusation has been founded on a simple mistake. We have been told, and with sufficient truth, that the word impossible is a word of ill omen; the scrupulous, hesitating ideologist who fears to take a step lest the earth yawn, is little worth. Yet the power to discern the impossible is but the necessary complement of the power to discern the possible. A thousandfold clamor 20 declares that such a thing can not be done, but the man of commanding intellect distinctly hears the voice of Nature saying it can, and does it; he is declared valiant, fiery, and so forth. A similar clamor pronounces such a thing to be possible, but the man of mind still hears the voice of Nature whispering “No," and abstains from doing it; he is called cautious, phlegmatic, or cowardly. Both clamors have been heard in the case of Wellington; and it were a question which was the more inane. Few eyes ever looked upon a battle-field with a surer percep tion of the possible and the impossible than his; he would not draw his sword to hew rocks, but when he did draw it, it went through.




After the execution of Mary Stuart, the indignation of the Catholic powers was naturally aroused against the English Government, and Spain, then the leading kingdom of Europe, as well as the champion of the Catholic canse, set on foot the splendid Armada designed to avenge Mary's death and restore the Catholic supremacy in England. Mary was executed in 1587, and the Armada sailed in 1588. Never did a fleet receive a more signal overthrow. The elements seemed to have conspired against it. A comparatively

small portion of the magnificent armament ever reached Spain in safety.

Sir Walter Raleigh played a conspicuous part in the defeat of the Armada. From this signal disaster the power of Spain began to decline, though it remained formidable for a considerable period.

1 All being thus in order, the Prince of Parma ready to embark, the paternal admonition to the English nation to commit treason prepared for circulation, and the last touches added to the completeness of the fleet in the Tagus, the Duke of Medina Sidonia sailed from Lisbon on the 19th-29th of May. The northerly breeze which prevails on the coast of Portugal was unusually strong. 2 The galleons standing high out of the water, and carrying small canvas in proportion to their size, worked badly to windward. They were three weeks in reaching Finisterre, where, the wind having freshened to a gale, they were scattered, some standing out to sea, some into the Bay of Biscay. Their orders, in the event of such a casualty, had been to make for Ferrol. The wind shifting suddenly to the west, those that had gone into the bay could not immediately reach it, and were driven into Santander. The officers, however, were, on the whole, well satisfied with the qualities which the ships had displayed. A mast or two had been sprung, a few yards and bowsprits had been carried away; but beyond loss of time there had been no serious damage.

The weather moderating, the fleet was again collected in the Bay of Ferrol by the 6th-16th* of July. All repairs were completed by the 11th-21st, and the next day, 12th

22d, the Armada took leave of Spain for the last time. 3 The scene as the fleet passed out of the harbor must

6th-16th, 19th-29th, etc., indicate the respective dates as represented by the Old Style and the New Style. The last reform in our calendar dates from 1752. (See “Note on the Early Life of George Washington.")

have been singularly beautiful. It was a treacherous interval of real summer. The early sun was lighting the long chain of the Gallician mountains, marking with shadows the cleft defiles, and shining softly on the white walls and vineyards of Coruña. The wind was light, and falling toward a calm; the great galleons drifted slowly with the tide on the purple water, the long streamers trailing from the trucks, the red crosses, the emblems of the crusade, showing bright upon the hanging sails. The fruit-boats were bringing off the last fresh supplies, and the pinnaces hastening to the ships with the last loiterers on shore. Out of thirty thousand men who that morning stood upon the decks of the proud Armada, twenty thousand and more were never again to see the hills of Spain. Of the remnant who in two short months crept back ragged and torn, all but a few hundred returned only to die.

The Spaniards, though a great people, were usually 4 over-conscious of their greatness, and boasted too loudly of their fame and prowess; but among the soldiers and sailors of the doomed expedition against England the national vainglory was singularly silent. They were the flower of the country, culled and chosen over the entire Peninsula, and they were going with a modest nobility upon a service which they knew to be dangerous, but which they believed to be peculiarly sacred. Every oneseaman, officer, and soldier-had confessed and communicated before he went on board. Gambling, swearing, profane language of all kinds had been peremptorily forbidden. Private quarrels and differences had been made up or suspended. In every vessel, and in the whole fleet, the strictest order was prescribed and observed. Medina Sidonia led the way in the San Martin, showing lights at night, and firing guns when the weather was

hazy. Mount's Bay was to be the next place of rendezvous if they were again separated. 5

On the first evening the wind dropped to a calm. The morning after, the 13th-23d, a fair fresh breeze came up from the south and southwest, the ships ran flowingly before it, and in two days and nights they had crossed the bay and were off Ushant. The fastest of the pinnaces was dispatched from thence to Parma, with a

letter bidding him expect the Duke's immediate coming. 6 But they had now entered the latitude of the storms, which through the whole season had raged round the English shore. The same night a southwest gale overtook them. They lay to, not daring to run farther. The four galleys, unable to keep the sea, were driven in upon the French coast and wrecked. The Santa Aña, a galleon of eight hundred tons, went down, carrying with her ninety seamen, three hundred soldiers, and fifty thousand ducats in gold. The weather was believed to be under the peculiar care of God, and this first misfortune was of evil omen for the future. The storm lasted two days, and then the sky cleared; and again gathering into order, 7 they proceeded on their way. On the 19th-29th they were in the mouth of the Channel. At daybreak on the morning of the 20th-30th the Lizard was under their lee, and an English fishing-boat was hanging near them, counting their numbers. They gave chase, but the boat shot away down-wind and disappeared. They captured another an hour or two later, from which they learned the English fleet was in Plymouth, and Medina Sidonia called a council of war to consider whether they should go

in and fall upon it while at anchor. Philip's orders, however, were peremptory that they should turn neither right nor left, and make straight for Margate Roads and Parma. The Duke was unenterprising, and consciously unequal

to his work; and, already bending under his responsibilities, he hesitated to add to them.

Had he decided otherwise it would have made no 8 difference, for the opportunity was not allowed him. Long before the Spaniards saw the Lizard, they had themselves been seen, and on the evening of the 19th-29th the beacons along the coast had told England that the hour of its trial was come.

To the ships at Plymouth the news was as a message 9 of salvation. By thrift and short rations, by good management, contented care, and lavish use of private means, there was still one week's provisions in the magazines, with powder and shot for one day's sharp fighting, according to English notions of what fighting ought to be. They had to meet the enemy, as it were, with one arm bandaged by their own sovereign; but all wants, all difficulties, were forgotten in the knowledge that he was come, and that they could grapple with him before they were dissolved by starvation.

The warning light flew on to London, swift mes-10 sengers galloping behind it. There was saddling and arming in village and town, and musters flocking to their posts. Loyal England forgot its difference of creeds, and knew nothing but that the invader was at the door. One thing was wanting—a soldier to take the supreme command; but the Queen found what she needed, found it in the person in whom, in her eyes, notwithstanding his offences in the Low Countries, all excellencies were still combined—her own Leicester. Worse appointment could not possibly have been made; but even Leicester was lifted into a kind of hero by the excitement of the moment. He was not a coward, and not entirely a fool. Tilbury had been chosen as the place where the force 11 was to assemble which was intended to cover London.

« ElőzőTovább »