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[6] chief document is an interpolation in the history of
Chap. I.}
Sturleson, whose zealous curiosity could hardly have neglected the discovery of a continent. The geographical details are too vague to sustain a conjecture; the accounts of the mild winter and fertile soil are, on any modern hypothesis, fictitious or exaggerated; the description of the natives applies only to the Esquimaux, inhabitants of hyperborean regions, the remark which should define the length of the shortest winter's day, has received interpretations adapted to every latitude from New York to Cape Farewell; and Vinland has been sought in all directions, from Greenland and the St. Lawrence to Africa. The intrepid mariners who colonized Greenland could easily have extended their voyages to Labrador; no clear historic evidence establishes the natural probability that they accomplished the passage.

Imagination had conceived that vast inhabited regions lay hidden in the dark recesses of the west. Nearly three centuries before the Christian era, Aristotle, following the lessons of the Pythagoreans, had taught that the earth is a sphere, and that the water which bounds Europe on the west washes the eastern shores of Asia. A ship, with a fair wind, said the Spaniard Seneca, could sail from Spain to the Indies in the space of a very few days. The students of their writings had kept this opinion alive through all the middle ages; science and observation had assisted to confirm it; and poets of early and more recent times had foretold that empires beyond the ocean would one day be revealed to the daring navigator. The genial country of Dante and Buonarotti gave birth to Christopher Columbus, to whom belongs the undivided glory of having fulfilled the prophecy.

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