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-On this day in 1492 Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the new world on the island he named San Salvador.
In spite of making the rather large mistake of thinking he had arrived in China, a view that he never changed, Columbus became one of history’s most famous names. Born in Genoa, he was clever enough as a young man to see the possibility of a western approach to the East Indies because, unlike many at the time, he accepted that the earth was round, rather than flat.
Here is part of a poem by John Donne, written about one hundred years after Columbus’ first voyage, which uses the event as a metaphor for discovery of a different kind – in love-making, On his mistress going to bed:
Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! My new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus array’d.
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see reveal’d. Then since that I may know;
As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew
Thy self: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence.
To teach thee, I am naked first; why then
What needst thou have more covering than a man.
Today I pray that the joys of discovery of any kind can be put to good use.