‘The Discovery’, by J.C Squire describes a historical event: Christopher Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of the New World on his 1942 expedition across the Atlantic Ocean which initiated the process of Spanish colonisation. The poem has gone by several names including ‘The Caravels, ‘Sonnet’ and ‘There was an Indian’. John Collings Squire (J.C Squire) (1884-1958) was a British poet, writer, historian, influential literary critic and editor of the post WW1 period. He was also a leading poet of the Georgian period. The poem is a simple sonnet; made up of two quatrains and a sestet. The rhyme scheme is abab, cdcd, efegfg. The rhyme creates a steady, forward-moving motion similar to the movement of the waves and the inevitability of the oncoming Spanish vessels reaching the shore. The poet uses simple language and imagery which mirror the uncomplicated life of the Indian from whose perspective this historical event is retold. The discovery of the New World is often related from the perspective of the Spanish colonisers of the 15th and 16th centuries. Squire also reminds us that this was a two-fold discovery as the indigenous Americans discovered a new world of their own. The phrase, ‘an Indian’, in the first stanza lends a sense of anonymity to the identity of the Indian who witnesses the arrival of Columbus. The indefinite article (an) allows us to believe that this Indian represents all Native Americans. The opening line is reminiscent of a folktale. This style suggests a mythologizing of this historical event, infusing it with an element of magic. One might also believe it to be an example of the oral tradition of legends told among Native Americans. Like other Indians, the Indian in the poem ‘had known no change’. His life consisted of gathering shells; a simple way of life that belonged to an old civilisation for which this discovery was sure to be a shock. The alliteration of ‘s/sh’ in the line ‘… along a sunlit...
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