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The Earliest Verse of the New World

  • Leo M. Kaiser (a1)

Extract

No one seems yet to have appreciated that what is the earliest Latin verse of the New World is also its earliest extant verse by any visitor from the Old World. Furthermore, no one has paid any attention to the very poems themselves.

The poet was Alessandro Geraldini (ca. 1455-1524), Italian humanist, diplomat, and churchman. A native of Umbria, Geraldini went to school in Italy, but later left for Spain with his older brother, Antonio, the two bringing with them, like their famous contemporaries Peter Martyr and Marineus Siculus, the influence of the new learning of the Renaissance. At the age of twenty-one, Alessandro served under Ferdinand and Isabella as the Castilians defeated the Portuguese at Toro. He became cupbearer to Isabella, and traveled with Antonio, when the latter was secretary to John II of Aragon, on visits to Francis II, Duke of Brittany, and to Edward IV of England.

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In the notes below, Itinerarium signifies either Alessandro Geraldini's work of that title or the printed edition of it, Itinerarium ad Regiones sub Aequinoctiali Plaga Constitutas Alexandra Geraldini Amerini, Episcopi Civitatis S. Dominiei apud Indos Occidentals, Apostolicis, Itnperialibus et Regiis Legationibus Fundi. Opus Antiquitates, Ritas, Mores, et Religiones Populorum Aethiopiac, Africae, Atlantici Oceani, Indicarumque Regionum Complectens. Nunc primo edidit Onuphrius Geraldinus de Catenaciis I. U. D., Auctoris Abnepos. Romae: Typis Guilelmi Facciotti, 1631, superiorum permissu, instante Octavio Inghrilano.

Besides the sixteen books of the Itinerarium, the volume contains prefaces of author, editor, and publisher; a score or so of tributes in various languages in prose and verse to Alessandro; a life of Alessandro by Onofrio; the three Latin poems here considered; some ten letters of Alessandro to the Emperor, the Pope, and various dignitaries on matters relating to Santo Domingo; an Index to the Itinerarium; and a table of contents.

I am grateful to the Hispanic Society of America for providing a microfilm of its copy of the printed Itinerarium. To my colleague, Professor Carole A. Holdsworth, I am indebted for various courtesies. The Newberry Library has provided many services. To the anonymous umpires who read this paper I owe several useful bibliographical references and a number of excellent text emendations.

1 The earliest surviving Spanish verse of the New World is dated ca. 1548; see Ménendez y Pelayo, M., Antologia de Poctas Hispano-Americanos (Madrid, 1928), pp. cxlixcli; Imbert, Enrique Anderson, Spanish-American Literature: A History (Detroit, 1963), pp. 2933 .

On Geraldini's having written the earliest Latin verse, Pedro Henriquez Urena, cf., ‘Dos Momentos en la Historia Cultural de Santo Domingo,” Boletin de la Accidentia National de la Historia (Buenos Aires), 18 (1945), 55 ; Icazbalceta, Joaquín García, Bibliografia Mexicana del Sigh XVI, nueva edición, por Agustiacute;n Millares Carlo (Mexico, 1954), p. 61 ; IJsewijn, Jozef, ‘Diffusion et importance historique de la littérature néo-latine,’ Arcadia, Zeitschrift für verglcichende Litcraturwisscnschaft, 4 (1969), 192193 .

2 Strangely, no biography of this energetic man has ever been written. There is only the cursory, badly organized vita with scarcely any dates by Onofrio Geraldini (Itinerarium, pp. 228-238). The longest of several brief, relatively recent biographical sketches appear in Enciclopedia Illustrada, 25 (Madrid, 1924), 1394, and in Jose Beristain dc Souza, Bibliotheca Hispano Americana Septentrional (Mexico, 1947), 1, 355-356. Some slight additional information is found in Geraldini, Belisario, Cristoforo Colombo ed il Primo Vescovo di S. Domingo (Amelia, 1892); Italiano, Touring Club, ‘Il Vcscovo che aiuto Colombo e il prclati che nc riutraccio la spoglie,’ Le Vie d'Italia e dell'America Latina, 38 (Milan, 1932), 610618 ; Cosenza, Mario, A Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary of the Italian Humanists and of the World of Classical Scholarship in Italy, 1300-1800 (Boston, 1962), s.v. ‘Geraldini'; and Demorizi, Einilio Rogríguez, ‘Alejandro Geraldini,’ New Catholic Encyclopedia, 6 (1967), 375

3 Biographical sketches of this humanistic poet appear in Geraldini, Belisario, ‘La Vita di Angelo Geraldini scritta da Antonio Geraldini,’ Bollettino della Deputazione de Storia Patria per l'Umbria, 2 (1896), 4158 , 473-532; Mustard, Wilfred P., ed., The Eclogues of Antonio Geraldini (Baltimore, 1924), pp. 1116 ; Kristeller, Paul O., Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters (Rome, 1956), pp. 154157 ; and Richards, J. F. C., ‘Some Early Poems of Antonio Geraldini,’ Studies in the Renaissance, 13 (1966), 123144 .

4 See Cambridge Modern History, 1 (1907), 379; Urefia, Pedro Henriquez, ‘Literatura Dominicana,’ Revue Hispanique, 40 (1917), 280 ; and Lynn, Caro, A College Professor of the Renaissance: Lucio Marineo Siculo among the Spanish Humanists (Chicago, 1937).

5 Peter Martyr in a letter of August 23, 1489, consoling him on the death of Antonio, addresses him as praeceptori minorum filiarum regiarum; Berchet, cf. G., ed., Petri Martyris Opus Epistolarum (Rome, 1893).

6 On the date see Thacher, John B., Christopher Columbus (Cleveland, 1903), I, 429.

7 See Morison, Samuel E., Admiral of the Ocean Sea (Boston, 1942), pp. 99100 ; Ballesteros, Antonio y Beretta, , Cristobal Colon y el Descubrimiento de America (Barcelona, 1945), I, 513515 ; Pennesi, Giuseppe, ‘Cristoforo Colombo e i Fratelli Geraldini di Amelia,’ L'Umbria all' Esercito, Grandi Manovre 1892 (Roma, 1892), 3538 (a portrait of Alessandro is reproduced on p. 36).

8 Geraldini is mistaken; it was Fray Juan Perez. Cf. Ballesteros, 1, 511.

9 Cf. Morison, 97-98.

10 Itinerarium lib. 14, pp. 203-204. Onofrio in his short life of Geraldini writes as follows of the meeting of the council: ‘Ad consilia sanctiora a Regibus Ferdinando et Elizabetha adhibitus, dum Christophori Columbi expeditio proponeretur, omnibus fere reluctantibus et earn uti tenierariam rejicientibus, variis argumentis compressis pacatisque animis dissentientium, mathematicis rationibus atque demonstrationibus Columbi consilia iuvit, et ita effecit ut tantum opus a Regibus susciperetur et expeditio iniretur, amicoque Columbo omni ope auxiliatus est’ [Itinerarium, p. 231). Geraldini's credibility in the Itinerarium has been vigorously assailed; Henry Harrisse, cf., Notes on Columbus (New York, 1866), p. 38 ; Thacher, 1, 9, n. 1; Ballesteros, 1, 514-515-

11 Modern Vieques or Crab Island, some ten miles east of Puerto Rico; cf. Morison, pp. 420-421, and Morison, S. E. and Obregon, Mauricio, The Caribbean as Columbus Saw It (Boston, 1964), p. 144 .

12 Itinerarium lib. 12, p. 191.

13 An exact chronology of Geraldini's activities at this time is much needed, as is an English translation of the Itinerarium.

14 See Geraldini's letter to Leo X of June 1516 in Itinerarium, pp. 250-253. The first bishop appointed to Santo Domingo (in 1511) was Fray Francisco Garcia de Padilla, but he died before his consecration; cf. Catholic Encyclopedia (1912), s.v. ‘Santo Domingo.'

15 In September 1517, he wrote to the clergy of Santo Domingo that, delayed by attempts to get the kings to fight Selim the Turk, he is sending out Onuphrius and Didacus Geraldini as vicar and procurator (Itinerarium, pp. 282-284).

16 Onofrio, in his life of Geraldini (Itinerarium, p. 232).

17 Alessandro records that he started to write the Itinerarium on the voyage and finished it on March 19, 1522, at Santo Domingo (Itinerarium lib. 16, p. 227). A prolific writer in Latin (see below), Geraldini apparently published nothing in his lifetime. The present location of the autograph copy of the Itinerarium, if it still exists, I have not discovered. In the seventeenth century Onofrio was in possession of Alessandro's manuscripts, for in his preface dedicating the edition of the Itinerarium to Francisco Cardinal Barberini he remarks: ‘… quid si ctiam ea vocitem iam Vetera in membranis auctoris in editione autem nostra recentia? quae inter Indicarum sarcinularum reliquias domi sepulta delituere.’ In his preface to the reader Onofrio states: ‘Inspicics ilia quidem erepta tot procellis Fortunae sacvientis adhuc integra permanere; mirum certe edax tempus, sortem asperam, mundi alteram axem omnia vorasse, haec intacta pertulisse.’ He claims that distinguished men urged him to publish the Itinerarium, adding: ‘Quod si industria, si labores Alexandri tibi arriserint, alia promam in quibus absque navigio et itinerum experimento libere tuum judicium proferre poteris.’

A seventeenth-century Latin manuscript of the Itinerarium, which I have not seen, is reported to exist in the R. Archivio di Stato di Firenze (no. 7 = MS. 740, Archivio Uguccioni Gherardi, Carte Strozziane, ser. iv; see Kristeller, P. O., comp., Iter Italicum: A Finding hist of Uncatalogued or Incompletely Catalogued Humanistic Manuscripts of the Renaissance in Italian and Other Libraries [London, 1963], 1 , 65).

A manuscript containing an Italian text of the Itinerarium, in the handwriting of Pompeo Mongallo da Lionesa, whom I cannot identify, and written between 1565 and 1578, was examined briefly by Tenneroni, Annibale. ‘Il testo volgare dellItinerarium di Alessandro Geraldini d’ Amelia,’ Bollettino della Deputazione di Storia Patria per l'Umbria, I (1895), 154-158. Tcnneroni states that the manuscript, bound in soft parchment and consisting of ninety-four folios, came from the library of Count Evclino Cilleni Nepis of Assisi, and he quotes this comment of Mongallo: ‘Venuti alle mie mani alcuni fogh di carte spezzate che senza forma et ordine alcuno contenevano 1’ Itinerario di Mons. Alessandro Geraldini d’ Amelia … , mi sono mosso a ridurli in forma alquanto ordinata il meglio che si e potuto per non lasciar perdere la cognizione di tanti paesi e di tante cose delle quali per lo addietro non si avea notitia alcuna et non meno per honor dell’ autore… .’ Tenneroni seems to assume that the pages Mongallo came upon contained an Italian, not a Latin, text of the Itinerarium. After asserting differences of style and of content between the Latin and Italian versions, Tenneroni asks: ‘Quale delle due rappresenti veramente la primitiva, e in che lingua questa sia stata scritta, o latina o volgare ovvero anche, forse spagnola? E qui converra allora rifarsi indietro nella via delle indagini per appurare almeno quando pervenne in Amelia il ms. dell’ Itinerario, e se mai le membrane citate da Onofrio, sieno tutta una cosa coi fogh di carte spezzate giunte alle mani del nostro Mongallo.’ Tenneroni recommends a searching comparison of the Latin Itinerarium with the Mongallo manuscript (which he reveals was sold in December 1894 to Signor Jeronimo Ferreira das Neves of Rio de Janeiro, but at the time residing in Lisbon). While such an examination would undoubtedly be most useful, it seems highly unlikely that Geraldini, who wrote the numerous Latin works—historical essays and treatises, verse, essay on prosody, letters, hagiographic sketches—listed by title in the Enciclopedia Illustrada, and surviving in part in manuscript, would have written his Itinerarium in a vernacular.

The Mongallo manuscript is referred to in Medina, Jose Toribio, Biblioteca Hispanoamericana, 1493-1810 (Santiago, 1959), 11, 336337 , where it is mistakenly assigned to the middle of the seventeenth century.

To the Reverend Frank Simoni and Monsignor Gerold J. Kaiser of Jefferson City, Missouri, I am indebted for enabling me to secure a copy of the Tenneroni article.

18 Haec carmina in ipso Insulae ingressu non longe a portu in marmore posui (Itinerarium lib. 12, p. 192).

Throughout the Itinerarium a fair number of misprints occur, only a few of which are found in Onofrio's list of errata at the end of the volume. There is some evidence that Onofrio did not understand possible abbreviations in Alessandro's handwriting. Onofrio's punctuation of our three poems is thoroughly unreliable.

19 Itinerarium lib. 12, p. 192. In 1. 11 we have corrected the original marmore to marmot. The cum-clauses in 11. 6, 10, and 12 are clumsily used. In 1. 14 refluum is meant to contrast with the Mediterranean, where there is almost a complete absence of tides. On Antonio Geraldini's Latin elegy on the death of Gratiosa, see Mustard, pp. 11, 16.

20 Lazzaroni, M. A., Cristoforo Colombo (Milan, 1892), I, 422 , calls Alessandro ‘Latinista di rara eleganza.'

21 Santo Domingo, the oldest continually inhabited city founded by Europeans in the New World, is the seat of the oldest archbishopric, and contains the oldest cathedral of the western hemisphere and the oldest university. Writing to Charles V on May 15, 1522, Geraldini remarked: ‘Ego paulo ante in hanc urbem descendi, nee e longa adeo navigatione adhuc convalui, ac propterea ingenio meo undique titubante litterae meae dignitate agent’ (sic; read ‘egent’); Itinerarium, p. 265.

22 Onofrio printed this poem after the two others we are considering here on pages 246-249 of the Itinerarium. The title placed above it, Ode de Adventu Suo ad Terras Aequinoctii, is probably by Onofrio.

23 in the original. On the matter of the tides cf. 1. 14 of the earlier poem, and Apuleius, Meta. 4.31: proximas oras reflui litoris petit.

24 Oeeanum in the original.

25 quae in the original

26 itnmensas in the original

27 Praelia in the original

28 sanctissime in the original

29 Phębi in the original.

30 nostros in the original.

31 Itinerarium, pp. 242-245. It bears the superscription Dum Occuparetur in Urbe S. Dominici apud Indos in Temph Divae Mariae Primario Aedificando.

32 In 1541 the body of Columbus was buried in the cathedral; cf. Morison, pp. 423- 426. Exterior and interior pictures of the cathedral are in Ballesteros, I, 736-737. See also Alemar, Luis E., La Catedral de Santo Domingo (Barcelona, 1933), passim. I have not seen the work (cited in Richards, p. 124, n. 4) by Palm, Erwin Walter, Los monumentos arquitcctonicos de la Española (Ciudad Trujillo, 1955).

33 honorem in the original.

34 volitant in the original.

35 pulchre in the original.

36 Ferrae in the original.

37 coelestis in the original.

38 retrahat in the original.

39 leta in the original.

40 Phaebi in the original.

41 interno in the original.

42 ardor in the original. Antonio Geraldini in his account of Angelo Geraldini states that the coat of arms of the Geraldini family, who were sometimes called the Oliviferi, included an olive tree surrounded by three stars, those of Jupiter, Apollo, and Venus. Cf. Belisario Geraldini, ‘La Vita di Angelo Geraldini scritta da Antonio Geraldini,’ p. 55. Ovid (Ars Amat. 2. 518) had used the expression Pallados arbor for the olive tree.

43 In a letter dated Santo Domingo, April 8,1523, addressed Cardinali S. Crucis, Geraldini wrote: ‘… Accedit ad hoc, quod elaboro res Episcopatus mei ubique componere, ut in Italiam me referam, ut sub optatissima reverendissimae dominationis tuae clientela perpetuo agam. Cupio enim in urbe Roma, olim domina rerum, nunc fidei capite, diem obire, et ossa mea inter ipsa incognitorum martyrum sepulcra tenere. Templa enim omnia Romana martyribus antiquis plena sunt; aliquod enim boni pro sanguine eorum effuso, pro nomine Christi, et pro observantia in aeternum et immortalem Deum retenta cum tanto studio et fortitudine mihi obveniet’ (Itinerarium, pp. 275-276).

44 Quoted by Thacher, 1, 9, n. 1. Cf. Alemar, p. 13.

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