Columbus sailed into the West, to conquer lands unknown;
De Soto loved this land so much he never went back home.
Ponce de Leon went looking for the Font of Youth,
Magellan and Cor’nado were both valiant men in truth.
And Cortez and Pizarro they destroyed the heathen idols,
But Saint George, Saint George, he pierced the dragon’s vitals!
Saint George he was for England; Saint Denis was for France,
Sing, Honi soit qui mal y pense.
There is a ballad in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, first printed in 1612, which lists great knights and heroes of old and compares them to Saint George. You can read it here. I wrote this extra verse myself, and am posting it here in honor of Saint George’s Day. You can read my verse from St. George’s Day 2017 here.
As for the heroes listed, there is much misinformation spread about them today. A more accurate account of Columbus’ life and motivations can be found here.
Read about De Soto here.
Ponce de Leon may have heard about the Fountain of Youth from Mandeville’s Travels, a book fascinating in its own right, which may be the subject of a future post.
Magellan did not, of course, prove the world was round. The ancient Greeks had already proved as much. Nonetheless, his voyage was of immense importance, and perhaps even more daring than Columbus’.
Coronado was considered a failure in his lifetime, and his contributions to geography and ethnography were only appreciated after his death
Cortez was not only a conqueror of the infidel Aztecs, but also a stalwart soldier against the Mohammedans in North Africa. A good summary of his American adventures can be found in Andrew Lang’s True Story Book.
Pizarro’s story can be found here, and a more complete account in Andrew Lang’s Red True Story Book.
As for Saint George himself, he was martyred under Emperor Diocletian in Diospolis, in Palestine [now called Lod in Israel]. The legend of the dragon was not attached to him until the time of the First Crusade, when his popularity in the west exploded – but that is a story for another post. For now, I refer you to the summary in the Catholic Encyclopedia.