XVII. The Sea King of Devon (2)
Queen Elizabeth had been nearly twenty years on
the throne of England, when Drake set out on his famous voyage
to sail an English ship on the Pacific Ocean. The Queen had been
told that he intended 1 to explore the great ocean, and before
he set out she gave him a sword.- As she did so, she said
Receive this sword, Francis Drake, and wear it till we require
3 it of thee 4 And we do count, Drake, that he that striketh at
thee striketh at us 4."
Only a few friends were told the purpose of the voyage.5 Drake
was afraid that, if it became known, some other sailor might try
to win the honour that he intended for himself. Then, again, it
was very important that Spain should not have any idea of his purpose,6
for at that time the Spaniards regarded' the seas round about South
America as their own.
In a short time, five fine vessels were anchored 8 in the quiet
waters of Plymouth Sound. These vessels contained provisions 9 for
a long and doubtful io voyage, with a good supply 11 of cannons.
The company consisted of 12 one hundred and sixtyfour gentlemen
and sailors, a band of musicians,13 and a number of skilful cooks.
It seemed as though they were setting out on a voyage of pleasure,
rather than one of danger.
Drake's object 14 was to cross the Atlantic, and with as little
delay as possible 15 pass through the Strait of Magellan.16 21
This was all the more daring,17 as the Spaniards had given up sailing
their ships through the strait, on account of 18 its many dangers.
It was even said that the passage 19 was closed up and that no
vessels could pass through.
Sailors were in the habit of declaring that no discoverer 20 could
sail on the Pacific Ocean and live. Magellan 21 himself had been
killed by savages 21 on its islands, and Balboa,22 the first European
to set eyes on the Pacific, had met with a violent 22
Drake knew all this, but the knowledge 23 did not in the least
daunt 24 his sturdy spirit.Y5 He knew that the shortest way to
reach the Pacific by water was to pass through the Strait of Magellan,
and therefore he made up his mind to go that way, or to perish
zB in the attempt.27
The little fleet set sail from Plymouth in November, and it was
not until early in April that Drake sighted South America For some
distance along the coast, Drake could not find a secure 28 haven
29 for his ships, and several times they were separated, until
at length 39 they all met at the mouth of the River Plate, where
they came to an anchor.
Once more the commander proceeded 31 south. It was late in August
when he gave the signal 32 to enter the famous strait. It seemed
dangerous enough, as the sailors looked ahead.33 The winding 34
passage seemed too narrow for their ships, and the wind blew so
hard 35 that they feared they would be dashed on the rocks on either
Each morning there was a heavy frost. Snow fell, and it was bitterly
cold. Often, too, the ships could find no place in which to anchor,
so deep were the channels 37 through which they passed.
Wild storms burst suddenly on them, and drove them to left and
right, and sometimes forced them to fall back before the violence
of the gale.38
Before this, vessels had taken at least a month to make their way
through the winding channels of the strait, but in less than half
that time Drake had passed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and
early in September the brave explorers 39 were rewarded by seeing,
rising up out of the restless 40 waters, the cape, which, as they
knew, stood at the outlet 41 from the strait into the long-looked-for
The voyage along the western coast of South America was at
first calm 42 and rapid.43 Then a violent storm overtook 44 the
little fleet, and it was driven southward 45 again. A second storm
was even more violent. The ships were dashed from side to side,
and lost sight of each other. Masts 46 were torn from the decks,
and the sails were torn to pieces.
At length Drake found himself, in the "Golden Hind," 47
back at the entrance to the Strait of Magellan. Even he now began
to think that there was some truth in the general belief 4s that
it was impossible safely to cross the Pacific.
As none of the missing vessels returned, Drake had to believe that
they had either been wrecked 49 or had deserted 50 him. So, alone,
the " Golden Hind " proceeded on her voyage.
Drake at last reached the islands in the extreme south 51 of South
America. Here he anchored in a deep basin,52 sheltered by high
cliffs.53 Landing 54 on one of the islands, Drake and his crew
rested for a time.
As soon as he had recovered from the voyage, Drake started to explore
the island. He therefore made his way alone to the southernmost
55 cliff, where he threw himself at full length on its highest
and stretched his arms and body out over the waters as far
as he safely could.
When he returned to the "Golden Hind" one of his officers
Captain, where have you been ?"
Drake replied with a proud smile, " I have been farther 56
south than any man living. I have stood on the southernmost point
of land in the world !"
He had indeed stood on the very end of Cape Horn, the most southerly
55 point of South America. Before him stretched the Antarctic Ocean,57
the waters of which flow round the South Pole.
1 he had determined to do it, it was his wish to do it. z Officers in the army
have a sword, with which they can cut the enemy. 3 here : ask it back. I require
a pen : I need it. 4We (I, the Queen) shall feel that if any one strikes you
it is as though he struck us. People used to say °`striketh" for "strikes" and "thou" (nom.),
thee (ace.) for "you." "Count" here: think, feel, be of
opinion. 5`Vhat was to be done on this voyage, where they were going, what
they wanted to do. g It would have done harm if the Spaniards had known that
Drake wanted to sail on the Pacific Ocean ; they must not know about it. Cp.
self-important, XIV. 11. 7 Or : looked upon. 8 Or: were at anchor (see XVI.
53). 9 Or: food. 10 v. doubt; it was uncertain, how long they would be at sea,
whether they would reach the Pacific Ocean. li A large number; they were well
supplied with cannons, they had many on board. 1z Or: There were altogether.
13 People who know how to play musical instruments. A number of musicians who
play together is called a band. 14 Or : purpose, what he wanted to do. It is
your object to learn English. 15 Or: as quickly as possible. If the Spaniards
knew of his purpose, they would delay him by attacking his ships. Stormy weather
often delays ships. 16 Look for this on your map ; then you will know what
a strait is. 17 He was a brave man, and so he dared to do this dangerous thing.
ls Or: because of. The Spaniards no longer went that way, because they were
afraid of the dangers. 19 Or : the strait, through which Drake wanted to pass.
20 v. to discover (see XV. 16). Drake wanted to explore the Pacific Ocean,
to discover new ways for ships, new countries. 21 Magellan was born in Portugal
about 1470. He passed through the strait called after him in 1520, and entered
the ocean which he called " Pacific," because the weather was fine
and the sea smooth. In the following year he was killed by the savage natives
of an island in the Pacific. 22 The Spaniard Balboa was born in 1475. He first
looked upon the Pacific in 1513 and was beheaded (his head was cut off) in
1517. This was a violent (opp. natural; s. nature) death. 23 v, to know. 24
Or : frighten, make him turn back. 25 Or : heart. 28 Or: to die. 27 v. to attempt,
to try ; in the attempt, in trying to reach the Pacific. 28 Or: safe. 29 Or
: harbour, port. 80 Or: at last. 31 went on, sailed on, 32 Or : signalled (see
XV. 28). 33 Or : in front of them. 34 Not straight, turning now to the left,
now to the right. 35 It was so strong. 36 On the left and on the right, on
both sides. 37 The passages between the rocks ; cp. the English Channel (XVI.
4). 38 Or : made them sail back because the gale was so violent ; cp. silent,
silence ; distant, distance; fragrant, fragrance. as v. to egplore ; op. adventurer,
beginner, bystander, commander, farmer, helper, hunter, miller, owner, passer-by,
shoemaker, teacher, wagoner. 40 never resting ; s. rest. Cp. careless, worthless.
41 A cape is a point of land. Look for Cape Horn on your map of South America.
Outlet : the way out,
opp. entrance. 42 opp. stormy. 43 opp. Slow. 44 Came from be
hind and caught them. A man starts on a journey before another, but the latter
travels more quickly and so overtakes him. 45 Cp. homeward (VIII. 20). 46 The
sails hang from the masts. Small sailing-vessels have one mast, larger ones
have two or three. 47 This was the name of his ship. 48 v. to believe. It was
the general belief : all people thought so. 49 When a ship is disabled, it
is a wreck. Drake thought some of the ships had been lost. 50 Or: left him,
because the crews did not want to stay with him. 510r: the very south, the
last point of South America. 52 We wash our hands with water in a basin. Here
the basin is a small haven. 53 There were high cliffs that kept off strong
winds, so that the water there was calm. When it rains very much, we stand
under a tree ; the tree shelters us from the rain, it is our shelter. 54 Leaving
the ship, and going on to the land. 55 The cliff that was more to the south
than any other, the most southerly cliff. 56 Comparative of far. 57 opp. the
Arctic Ocean, in the north.