as too narrow, and offering to their extravagant ambition
nothing beyond mediocrity.
America was the region of romance, where the heated imagination could indulge in the boldest delusions; where the simple natives ignorantly wore the most precious ornaments; and, by the side of the clear runs of water, the sands sparkled with gold.
What way so ever, says the historian of the ocean, the Spaniards are called, with a beck only, or a whispering voice, to any thing rising above water, they speedily prepare themselves to fly, and forsake certainties under the hope of more brilliant success.
To carve out provinces with the sword; to divide the wealth of empires; to plunder the accumulated treasures of some ancient Indian dynasty; to return from a roving expedition with a crowd of enslaved captives and a profusion of spoils,—soon became the ordinary dreams, in which the excited minds of the Spaniards delighted to indulge.
Ease, fortune, life, all were squandered in the pursuit of a game, where, if the issue was uncertain, success was sometimes obtained, greater than the boldest imagination had dared to anticipate.
Is it strange that these adventurers were often superstitious?
The New World and its wealth were in themselves so wonderful, that why should credit be withheld from the wildest fictions?
Why should not the hope be indulged, that the laws of nature themselves would yield to the desires of men so fortunate and so brave?
Juan Ponce de Leon
was the discoverer of Florida
His youth had been passed in military service in Spain
: and, during the wars in Granada
, he had shared in the wild exploits of predatory valor.
No sooner had the return of the first voyage across the Atlantic
given an assurance of a New World, than he hastened to participate in the dangers and the fruits of adventure in