Sidor som bilder

other a species of ficus; of the former the leaves, of the latter the fruits yield the juices. The yellow die is extracted from the bark of the root of the morinda citrifolia, by scraping and infusing it in


Their matting is exceedingly beautiful, particularly that which is made from the bark of the hibiscus tiliaceus, and of a species of pandanus. Others are made of rushes and grass with amazing facility and despatch. In the same manner their basket and wicker work are most ingeniously made; the former in patterns of a thousand different kinds. Their nets and fishing-lines are strong and neatly made, so are their fish-hooks of pearl-shell; and their clubs are admirable specimens of woodcarving.

A people so lively, sprightly, and good-humoured as the Otaheitans are, must necessarily have their amusements. They are fond of music, such as is derived from a rude flute and a drum; of dancing, wrestling, shooting with the bow, and throwing the lance. They exhibit frequent trials of skill and strength in wrestling; and Cook says it is scarcely possible for those who are acquainted with the athletic sports of very remote antiquity, not to remark a rude resemblance of them in a wrestling-match (which he describes) among the natives of a little island in the midst of the Pacific Ocean.

But these simple-minded people have their vices, and great ones too. Chastity is almost unknown among a certain description of women: there is a detestable society called Arreoy, composed, it would seem, of a particular class, who are supposed to be the chief warriors of the island. In this society the men and women live in common; and on the birth of a child it is immediately smothered, that its bringing up may not interfere with the brutal pleasures of either father or mother. Another savage practice is that of immolating human beings at the

morais, which serve as temples as well as sepulchres. "With regard to their worship," Captain Cook does the Otaheitans but justice in saying, "they reproach many who bear the name of Christians. You see no instances of an Otaheitan drawing near the Eatooa with carelessness and inattention. He is all devotion; he approaches the place of worship with reverential awe; uncovers when he treads on sacred ground; and prays with a fervour that would do honour to a better profession. He firmly credits the traditions of his ancestors. None dares dispute the existence of the Deity." Thieving may also be reckoned as one of their vices; this, however, is common to all uncivilized nations, and, it may be added, civilized too. But to judge them fairly in this respect, we should compare their situation with that of a more civilized people. A native of Otaheite goes on board a ship, and finds himself in the midst of iron bolts, nails, knives, scattered about, and is tempted to carry off a few of them. If we could suppose a ship from El Dorado to arrive in the Thames, and that the custom-house officers, on boarding her, found themselves in the midst of bolts, hatchets, chisels, all of solid gold, scattered about the deck, one need scarcely say what would be likely to happen. If the former found the temptation irresistible to supply himself with what was essentially useful, the latter would be as little able to resist that which would contribute to the indulgence of his avarice, or the gratification of his pleasures, or of both. Cook appears not to have exercised his usual judgment in estimating the population of this island. After stating the number of war-canoes at seventeen hundred and twenty, and able men to man them at sixty-eight thousand eight hundred, he comes to the conclusion that the population must consist of two hundred and four thousand souls; and, reflecting on the vast swarms which everywhere appeared, "I was convinced," he says, "that this estimate was

not much, if at all, too great." By a survey of the first missionaries, and a census of the inhabitants taken in 1797, the population was estimated at sixteen thousand and fifty souls. Captair. Waldegrave, in 1830, states it to be much less.

The island of Otaheite is in shape two circles united by a low and narrow isthmus. The larger circle is named Otaheite Mooé, and is about thirty miles in diameter; the lesser, named Tiaraboo, about ten miles in diameter. A belt of low land, terminating in numerous valleys, ascending by gentle slopes to the central mountain, which is about seven thousand feet high, surrounds the larger circle, and the same is the case with the smaller circle on a proportionate scale. Down these valleys flow streams and rivulets of clear water, and the most luxuriant and verdant foliage fills their sides and the hilly ridges that separate them, among which are scattered the smiling cottages and little plantations of the natives.

[The following remarks, by Mr. C. S. Stewart, in relation to these islanders, are worthy of the enlightened mind of the author, and forcibly contrast the former with the present state of the people :—

"If the aspect of the people in general, and the animated declaration and lively sensibility, even to tears seemingly of deep feeling, of those who have a full remembrance, and who largely share in their own experience of the evils of heathenism, are to be accredited, the islanders themselves are far from being insensible to the benefit and blessing of the change they nave experienced; and would not for worlds be deprived of the light and mercy they have received, or again be subjected to the mental and moral darkness and various degradation from which they have escaped.

"Yet there are those who have visited the South Seas-men bearing the Christian name, with a reputation for science, and holding stations of honour

who have affected to discover a greater degree of depravity and more wretchedness at Tahiti and Raiatea than was known in the reign and terror of idolatry; and have ventured to proclaim to the world, that Christianity has here, for the first time in eigh teen nundred years, had the effect of rendering the inhabitants vindictive and hateful, indolent and corrupt, superstitious and unhappy, and more pitiable in all their circumstances than when fully in a pagan state! and that the wars introduced and encouraged by the messengers of peace have nearly exterminated the race!

"Whence the data for such a sentiment could have been drawn must for ever remain a mystery, at least to all who, like ourselves, have had the advantage of a personal observation in the case.”]

[blocks in formation]

Where all partake the earth without dispute,

And bread itself is gather'd as a fruit;

Where none contest the fields, the woods, the streams,

'The goldless age, where gold disturbs no dreams,

Inhabits or inhabited the shore,

Till Europe taught them better than before."-BYRON

In the year 1787, being seventeen years after Cook's return from his first voyage, the merchants and planters resident in London, and interested in the West India possessions, having represented to his majesty that the introduction of the bread-fruit tree into the islands of those seas, to constitute an article of food, would be of very essential benefit to


the inhabitants, the king was graciously pleased to comply with their request: and a vessel was accordingly purchased, and fitted at Deptford with the necessary fixtures and preparations for carrying into effect the benevolent object of the voyage. The arrangements for disposing the plants were undertaken, and completed in a most ingenious and effective manner, by Sir Joseph Banks, who superintended the whole equipment of the ship with the greatest attention and assiduity till she was in all respects ready for sea. He named the ship the Bounty, and recommended Lieutenant Bligh, who had been with Captain Cook, to command her. Her burden wa about two hundred and fifteen tons; and her estab lishment consisted of one lieutenant, who was com manding officer, one master, three warrant officers, one surgeon, two master's mates, two midshipmen, and thirty-four petty officers and seamen, making in all forty-four; to which were added two skilful and careful men, recommended by Sir Joseph Banks, to have the management of the plants intended to be carried to the West Indies, and others to be brought home for his majesty's garden at Kew: one was David Nelson, who had served in a similar situation in Capain Cook's last voyage; the other William Brown, as an assistant to him.

The object of all the former voyages to the South Seas undertaken by command of his majesty George III., was the increase of knowledge by new discoveries, and the advancement of science, more particularly of natural history and geography: the intention of the present voyage was to derive some practical benefit from the distant discoveries that had already been made; and no object was deemed more likely to realize the expectation of benefit than the bread-fruit, which afforded to the natives of Otaheite so very considerable a portion of their food, and which it was hoped it might also do for the black

« FöregåendeFortsätt »