Friday, January 14, 2005

In 1492

One thing about history that’s been changing a lot over the past century has been the way we view Christopher Columbus and what he did. From the time I was a kid in the 1970s through now, I’ve been aware of the growing animosity toward Columbus’s voyage. When I was in the first grade, my mother taught me the first two lines to Jean Marzollo’s poem In 1492, which most people know. There’s more to it, which no one seems to know.

What I’ve done is rewrite the first stanza of the poem, as it would change with attitudes over the years. In 1950, I suppose the prevailing attitude toward Columbus was pretty much in line with the poem. But after that, well…

1950
In fourteen-hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and sailed from Spain,
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

1960
In fourteen-hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
But what’s recalled by very few:
The Indians came to greet his crew.

1970
In fourteen-hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
When he made land he there did find
Tribes with whom we grew entwined.

1980
In fourteen-hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He looked for spice but conquered land
For Isabelle and Ferdinand.

1990
In fourteen-hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
His mission: to exterminate,
To get real rich and make Spain great.

2000
In fourteen-hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
Left likens it to genocide,
Right says the weak ones should have died.

2010
In fourteen-hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
That’s all I learned ‘bout that old fool;
You mostly pray when you home-school!

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