Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/102

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of the New Continent of knowledge and power towards him, as from his lonely elevation he eagerly watched for those cheering signals which he knew would sooner or later greet the patient eye of expectant philosophy, though he himself might not be destined to behold them. Those signals, he wrote, must one day come, unless his own faith in the future should prove vain, and men were content to remain intellectual abjects. Humanity had waited long ages for the accomplishment of Seneca's prophecy—a prophecy which was in every mouth at the Discovery, and of which Bacon, like all his contemporaries, hailed the Discovery as the destined fulfilment;

Venient annis saecula seris
Quibus Oceanus vincula rerum
Laxet, et ingens pateat tellus,
Tiphysque novos detegat orbes,
Nec sit terris ultima Thule.


Possibly he had pondered over a less-known passage in the prose writings of the same author, who predicts that the time shall come when knowledge shall be vastly increased, and men shall look back with amazement at the ignorance of the Greeks and Romans. There was confirmation for such hopes in Holy Scripture. The anticipation of the Chaldean seer that in the latest times "many should run to and fro, and knowledge be increased" he interpreted as foreshadowing the opening of five-sixths of the globe, hitherto closed, to man's travel, study, and reinvigorated powers of reasoning. Into the future of history in the narrow sense of the word, Bacon ventured only by one memorable forecast, since abundantly verified, and more abundantly by momentous events of quite recent occurrence. He prophesied that the great inheritances of the East and the West, both at the time ready to slip from the feeble grasp of Spain, must alike fall to those who commanded the ocean—to that Anglo-Saxon race of which he will remain to all time one of the most illustrious representatives.