Page images
PDF
EPUB

in use.

their joyous buoyancy of spirits, have been changed for continual praying and meditating upon things which the teachers understand as little as the taught.

• The Tahaitians of the present day, hardly know how to plait their mats, make their paper stuffs, or cultivate a few roots. They content themselves with the bread-fruit, which the soil yields spontaneously, in quantities more than sufficient for their reduced population. Their navy, which excited the astonishment of Europeans, has entirely disappeared. They build no vessels but a few little paltry canoes, with which they fish off the neighbouring coral islands, and make their longest voyages in American and European boats which they have purchased. With the method of producing those commodities of civilized nations which they prize so bighly, they are still as much as ever unacquainted. They possess sheep, and excellent cotton ; but no spinning-wheel, no loom, has yet been set in motion among them; they choose rather to buy their cloth and cotton of foreigners for real gold and pearls; one of our sailors sold an old shirt for five piastres. Horses and cattle have been brought to them, but the few that remain, have fallen into the possession of strangers, and have become so scarce, that one hundred piastres was asked for an ox, that we wanted in provisioning the ship. The Queen alone possesses a pair of horses, but she never uses them. The island contains but one smith, though the assistance of the forge and bellows would be so useful in repairing the iron tools which have superseded those of stone formerly

It is extraordinary, that even the foreigners established here, carry on no mechanical trade. Can it be that the Missionaries object to it? It certain that they possess great influence even over the settlers. An American, however, was planning the introduction of a sugar manufactory, and promised himself great profit from it.

By order of the Missionaries, the flute, which once awakened innocent pleasure, is heard no more. No music but that of the psalms is suffered in Tahaiti : dancing, mock-fights, and dramatic representations are no longer permitted. Every pleasure is punished as a sin, among a people whom Nature destined to the most cheerful enjoyment. One of our friends having begun to sing for joy over a present he had received, was immediately asked by his comrades, with great terror, what he thought would be the consequence, should the Missionaries hear of it.'-vol. i. pp. 167–172,

The reader will perceive that these remarks, as far as they go, even allowing reasonably for the religious prejudices of the writer, forcibly confirm the view which we have taken, in a preceding article, of this important subject.

Captain Kotzebue next visited Pitcairn's Island, and those called the Navigator's, one of which is Maouna, where several of La Perouse's companions were murdered. Its shores are particularly inviting, being bordered with cocoa-trees. Kotzebue considers its inhabitants as atrocious as ever. Some of them who approached his vessel in canoes, invited him and his officers, by pantomimic gestures, to land, signifying that they would there be abundantly supplied with every thing they could require; an invitation, however, which the prudent Russian declined. He has no doubt that the inhabitants

of Maouna, as well as those of many of the South Sea islands, are still cannibals; and he advises that foreigners should not venture amongst them without the greatest precaution. They are not all equally wicked. We find an agreeable contrast to the people of Maouna, from whom Kotzebue escaped with some difficulty, in those of a little island which he sets down as a new discovery.

* In the evening the island of Olajava appeared in sight; and about seven miles from a little island lying in its neighbourhood, several canoes, carrying two or three men each, rowed towards us, deterred neither by the distance nor the increasing darkness. Our visitors proved to be merry fishermen, for their carefully constructed little canoes, adorned with inlaid muscle-shells, were amply provided with large angling hooks made of mother-of-pearl, attached to long fine lines, and various kinds of implements for fishing, and contained an abundance of fine live fish of the mackerel kind.

An expression of openness and confidence sat on the coutenances of this people. Cur purchases were carried on with much gaiety and laughter on both sides. They gave us their fish, waited quietly for what we gave them in return, and were perfectly satisfied with their barter.

• Their attention was strongly attracted to the ship. They examined her closely from the hold to the mast-head, and made many animated remarks to each other on what they saw. If they observed any manœuvres with the sails or tackle, they pointed with their fingers towards the spot, and appeared to watch with the most eager curiosity the effect produced.

It was evident that this people, sailors by birth, took a lively interest in whatever related to navigation. Their modest behaviour, contrasted so strikingly with the impudent importunity of the inhabitants of Maouna, that we should have been inclined to consider them of a different race, but for their exact resemblance in every other particular, even in the dressing of their hair, though this was even more elaborately performed-an attention to appearance which is curious enough, when compared with the dirty uncombed locks of European fishermen; but among the South Sea Islanders fishing is no miserable drudgery of the lowest classes, but the pride and pleasure of the most distinguished, as hunting is with us. Tameamea, the mighty King of the Sandwich Islands, was a very clever fisherman, and as great an enthusiast in the sport as any of our European princes in the stag chase. As soon as the increasing darkness veiled the land from our sight, our visitors departed, and we could hear their regular measured song, long after they were lost from view.

• The little island they inhabit not being marked on any map, it is probably a new discovery. By what name the natives called it I could not learn; and therefore, to distinguish it from three other small islands lying to the north, mentioned by La Pérouse, I gave it the name of Fisher's Island. It rises almost perpendicularly from the sea to a considerable height, and is overgrown with thick wood.'-vol. i. pp. 268-270.

The Navigator's islands are known to be the most beautiful in the Southern Ocean. Captain Kotzebue was, however, contented with seeing them from his vessel, being not at all disposed to form any acquaintance with their inhabitants, of whom he was extremely, though perhaps not unjustly, suspicious. He next shaped

his course for the North, with a view to reach the Radack chain of islands, where, on account of their proximity to the equator, he purposed to stop and make some observations on the pendulum. It was a remarkable circumstance that, at the ninth degree of south latitude, the frigate was carried daily from twenty to thirty miles westward, but when under three degrees of south latitude and one hundred and eighty degrees of longitude, the current suddenly changed, and she was driven with equal velocity in the contrary direction, The Radack islands have been already described in Captain Kotzebue's former work. He considers the inhabitants as among the best of Nature's children.' They live wholly on fish and vegetables, are tall and well made, and many of the women, who decorate their black hair with flowers and strings of muscle-shells, are entitled to be called handsome. The meeting of the Captain and his Radack friends, whom he had visited eight years before, is described as extremely interesting. The vessel being a very different one from that which they had already seen, they fled universally into the interior of the island upon its appearance. They called upon their gods for help in a sort of shrieking song, accompanied by a drum, which siguified the utmost alarm. The sound of the invocation continued through the whole night. In the morning, having resolved to yield to their destiny, and to endeavour to sue for the favour of the strangers, they appeared upon the shore in a long procession, bearing branches of palm as symbols of peace. When at length they discovered their friend, their terror was changed into the wildest joy, which they exhibited in frolic gestures, dances, and songs. The powerful tones of the muscle horn resounded through the woods, and the delight and warm feelings of these primitive islanders were expressed in every possible way. I was deeply affected,' says the Captain,' by the ardour of their reception; their unsophisticated hearts beat with sincere affection towards me, and how seldom have I felt this happy consciousness among the civilized nations of the world !' It is like going to the early ages of the world, to dwell for a moment on the scene which awaited the Captain upon his landing at Otdia.

• Even the women and children now made their appearance; and, among them, Rarik's loquacious mother, who, with much gesticulation, made me a long speech, of which I understood very little. When she had concluded, Rarik and Lagediak, each offering me an arm, led me to the house of the former.

• Upon a verdant spot before it, surrounded and shaded by bread-fruit trees, young girls were busily spreading mats for Dr. Eschocholz and myself 10 sit on. Rarik and Lagediak seated themselves facing us, and the mother (eighty years of age) by my side, at a little distance. The other islanders forined a compact circle; the nearest line seating themselves, and those behind standing, to secure a better view of us. Some climbed ; and fathers raised their children in their arms, that they might see over the heads of the people. The women brought baskets of flowers, and decorated

us with garlands ; and Rarik's mother, drawing from her ears the beautiful white flower of the lily kind, so carefully cultivated here as an indispensable ornament of the female sex, did her best to fasten it into mine, with strings

grass, while the people expressed their sympathy by continual cries of “ A idarah."* In the mean time the young girls were employed in pressing into muscle-shells the juice of the Pandanus, which they presented to us with a sort of sweetmeat called Mogan, prepared from the same fruit; the flavour of both is very agreeable.'-vol. i. pp. 304, 305.

Rarik and Lagediak were old friends of the Captain. The former, after the first burst of joy, fell into tears, and was reduced to such a state of melancholy that the Russians thought he must have been guilty of some horrible crime, of murder at the least, during the interval that had elapsed. The whole amount of his iniquity seemed at first to be no more than an unintentional violation of a promise upon his part, respecting the care of some plants and animals with which Kotzebue bad enriched the island, and of which a neighbouring chieftain had deprived it. His guilt, however, was a great deal less even than this. A plate fastened to a tree, with the name of the Captain and his former crew inscribed upon it, was entrusted to the special guardianship of Rarik and the islanders. It had been stolen, nobody knew by whom, and for this circumstance alone was the remorse of Rarik excited. The human heart is surely not altogether so corrupt in its original state as some philosophers have asserted. Even the battles of this people appear to be conducted upon a peculiar principle, differing widely from the savage warfare of the more southern islanders.

• 1 expressed to Rarik my wish to know more of their method of warfare; he and Lagediak in consequence assembled two troops, which they opposed to each other at a short distance, as hostile armies; the first rank, in both, consisting of men, and the second of women.

The former were armed with sticks instead of lances, the latter had their baskets filled with pandana seeds for stones, and their hair, instead of being, as usual, tastefully bound up, hung dishevelled and wild about their heads, giving them the appearance of maniacs. Rarik placed himself at the head of one troop, and Lagediak of the other: both gave the signal for attack, by blowing their muscle-horns. The adverse forces approached ; but instead of the battle, began a comic dance, in which the two armies emulated each other in grimaces, furious gesticulations, and a distortion of the eyes, which left only the whites visible, while the women shrieked a war-song, which, if their opponents had been lorers of harmony, would assuredly have put them to fight. The leaders on each side took no share in these violent exertions, but stood still animating their troops by the tones of the muscle-horn. When exhausted by these efforts, the horns were silent, and the armies separated by mutual consent, looking on while some of the most valiant from each side, came forward to challenge with threats and abuse a champion of the enemy to single

Meaving friend.

combat. This was represented by dancing and songs, and occasional movements with the hand, as if to throw the lance, which the antagonist sought to avoid, by dexterously springing aside. The respective armies and their leaders animated the courage of their warriors by battle-songs, till the horns were blown agaio : the armies once more slowly approached each other; the champions retired into their ranks, and the battle was renewed with a prodigious noise; spears waved in the air; pandana seed flew from the delicate hands of the female warriors, over the heads of their husbands, upon the enemy, but the armies never came near enough to be really engaged. The leaders remained in front loudly blowing their horns, and sometimes giving commands. At length, by accident or design, one of Lagediak's men fell; the battle was now over, the victory decided, and the signal given for drawing off the forces. Both armies were so exhausted, that they threw themelves on the grass, and amidst laughter and merriment, gave themselves up to repose.'vol. i.

pp.

321-323. The people of Radack have also their dramatic representations, one of which was witnessed by Captain Kotzebue, whose ription of it cannot fail to prove interesting to the reader.

• The number of dramatis persone was twenty-six, thirteen men and thirteen women, who seated themselves in the following order, on a spot of smooth turf. Ten men sat in a semicircle, and opposite to them ten women, in a semicircle also; so that by uniting the points, an entire circle would have been formed; but a space of about six feet was left at both ends, in each of which sat an old woman provided with a drum. This drum, made of the hollow trunk of a tree, is about three feet long, six inches in diameter at each end, narrowed like an hour-glass, to half that thickness in the middle. Both ends are covered with the skin of the shark: it is held under the arm, and struck with the palm of the hand. In the middle of the circle old Langedieu took his station, with a handsome young woman, sitting back to back. The whole party were elegantly adorned about the head, and the females about the body also, with garlands of flowers. Outside the circle sat two men with muscle-horns. The hollow tones of these borns are the signal for a chorus performed by the whole company, with violent movements of the arms, and gesticulations, meant to be in consonance with the words. When this ceased, a duet from the pair in the middle was accompanied by the drums and horns only; Langedieu fully equalling his young companion in animation. The chorus then began again, and this alternation was repeated several times, till the young songstress, whose motions had been growing more and more vehement, snddenly fell down as dead. Langedieu's song then became lower and more plaintive; he bent over the body, and seemed to express the deepest sorrow; the whole circle joined in his lamentations, and the play concluded.

* Deficient as was my knowledge of the language, I was still able clearly to understand the subject of this tragedy, which represented a marriage ceremony. The young girl was forced to accept of a husband whom she did not love, and preferred death to such an union. Perhaps, the reason of old Langedieu's playing the part of the lover might be, to give more probability to the young bride's objections and resolution.'-vol. i. pp. 328 -330.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »