« ElőzőTovább »
abound with notices of curious habits and manners—they contain remarkable traits of history and character, and descriptions of native ceremonies, amusements, and occupations, and copious observations on natural history. So skilful and powerful a picture of barbarous life was never presented to the country before. The best feature in this account is, that the character of the writers at once dissipates all tendencies to incredulity, and whilst we are lost in wonder at the astonishing facts that meet our eyes, no misgiving as to the good faith of the testimony disturbs our contemplation. The route which the deputies were under the necessity of taking, and the facility of acquiring the best information at each place, from friends especially appointed to collect it—placed in the hands of the deputies a mass of information concerning many remote regions, of which we have hitherto only obtained very distant and confused glances. The style of these descriptions is in general elegant, but not ambitious, and the fervour with which many of them are penned, particularly when the charms of tropical scenery are the subject, could only be properly manifested, as it is here, by one who possessed the true relish for the enchanting combinations of nature. The whole world, animate and inanimate, of the Polynesian Archipelago, has always appeared to our eyes a fairy land, where nature would seem to have been trying, in seclusion, experimental scenes and contrivances, for the purpose of ascertaining how best, at some purer stage of his existence, she could accommodate on this earth, the most glorious of all her productions—man. There is such a contrast in that part of the world, between the performance and the agent; it is so strange that the coral structures of unfathomable depth, should be piled up by the masonry of scarcely visible animalculae, and that the ceaseless labour of those insects should trace an unbroken series through thousands of past years, these and the like phenomena are enough almost to generate the notion, that we are of a different order and sphere from the beings that occupy those distant regions. But we must give a few specimens of the descriptions, to which we have attempted to do justice. We make our extracts without employing any particular principle of selection:— “On our walk to-day, we called at several houses of the natives, by all of whom we were cordially welcomed. In one we saw two women making cloth of the inner bark of certain trees. A strip of this, being carefully cleaned from the outer rind, is placed upon a piece of wood, called tutu, about four inches square, with two deep grooves on one side, and smooth on the other. This is beaten by women sitting on the ground, with an instrument of the wood called Je. This is about eighteen inches long, and two inches square, one end being rounded for a handle. The four sides of this instrument are cut longitudinally into grooves, graduating in fineness; the coarser being applied first, and the finer successively, till the cloth is finished. This bark being glutinous, the pieces are united without difficulty, either sideways, or end to end, by strokes of the Je; these strokes also, reducing the thickness of the materials, both widen and lengthen the cloth, till the whole is completed, in measure and substance, as required. When thus prepared, the web is first bleached, and afterwards stained the colour intended. This is altogether women's work. “In another house we witnessed the manner of making that sort of matting called pini, which is of coarse texture, woven of rushes by the fingers. The ends of the rushes where the joints occur are cut off with a muscle shell, as expertly as they might be with a pair of scissors. When the makers offer these mats for sale, they expect an equal length of white calico in exchange. They are used for flooring and bedding: the latter by the natives, the former by the missionaries. We found others of the industrious people employed in manufacturing the mats which they call paica, of cocoa-nut leaves, cut into necessary lengths and breadths, which are admirably plaited together, and form very strong protections to keep out the rain, when laid, as they generally are, at the doors of the dwellings. “The process of obtaining cocoa-nut oil next caught our attention. The kernel is first scraped into thin flakes, being ingeniously scooped out of the shell, by means of a semicircular piece of flat iron, sharpened and fixed on the angular part of a sloping stool, on which the person sits, and turns the nut, open at one end over this edge, till the contents are cleared out. The sliced kernels are then put into a trough, or an old canoe, where, in a few days, the oil drains from them, is carefully collected, put into bamboos, and corked up for use. This oil is called mori, and has entirely superseded the candle put for lighting. To the missionaries, however, the natives are indebted for this valuable preparation. “An opportunity was afforded us of observing the Tahitian method of baking. A broad shallow excavation, shaped like a tea-saucer, six inches in depth, and wide in proportion, was made in the ground, by means of a pointed stick. A fire was then kindled on it with dry wood, over which
a number of stones the size of a man's fist were piled, and left until they were highly heated. The wood ashes being then carefully separated, the glowing stones were spread over the bottom of this oven. A pig's head and feet were placed on one side, upon the stones, and on the other two pieces. of bread-fruit from which the rind had been scraped. The whole was then covered with purau-leaves to a good depth, upon which was heaped the earth that had been scooped out of the hole, to keep in the heat and steam. In less than an hour and a half the flesh and fruit were ready: and the earth and leaves being carefully removed, the food was brought out perfectly clean and well cooked. The whole was cleverly managed by a little boy ten years of age. Large hogs are sometimes roasted whole in these earth ovens, having some of the hot stones put into the inside. Being thus prepared, the gravy is retained, and the meat is excellent. * 3& 3: # # +
‘One of our Tayos (or friends) has presented us with a hog, some cocoanuts, maias, and mountain plantains. When a present is thus made, it is usually placed on the outside of the house, and the chief, whose servants have brought it, himself enters, and invites his friend to come out and look at it. The latter of course complies, and orders his attendants to bring the articles within doors. No expressions of thanks are used on these occasions, and we cannot find out that the language contains any terms for such acknowledgments. We have learned, however, that those who are favoured with such gifts from great men, are expected to make returns of something more valuable to the mercenary donors.”—vol. i. pp. 87--90. An account of a legal process in one of the Society Islands will not be unacceptable to our readers. We should, in justice, observe, that the fair and open trials established in these islands, were entirely the work of the missionaries. “We have just witnessed a novel scene of the court of justice here. Hard by the chapel there stands a magnificent purau-tree, round about and under the expanded shade of which, long forms for seats were fixed, enclosing a square of about twenty-five feet across. No pains have been taken to clear the ground, which happens to be strewn with loose stones. The judges took their places on the benches. Most of these were secondary chiefs, the superior ones being with Pomare at Tahiti. They were handsomely robed in purau mats and cloth tibutas, with straw hats, and made a most respectable appearance. There were nearly thirty of these; among whom, one called Tapuni, having been previously appointed chairman of the tribunal, was distinguished above the rest by a bunch of black feathers, gracefully surmounted with red, in his hat. Hundreds of people seated themselves on the outside of the square. Two young men were then introduced, who sat down quietly at the foot of the tree. These were the culprits: they were charged with having stolen some bread-fruit. Silence and earnest attention prevailed. Tupani now rose and called upon the accused to stand up, which they immediately did; he then stated the offence for which they were arraigned, and as their guilt was clear, having been detected in the fact, he told them that they had committed rebellion, by breaking the law, outraging the authority of the king, and disgracing the character of their country. One of the young men hereupon frankly confessed that he had perpetrated the theft, and persuaded his comrade to share with him the crime and the plunder. Witnesses are seldom called in such cases, offenders generally acknowledging their misdeeds, and casting themselves on the justice of the court to deal with them accordingly. This is a remarkable circumstance, and we are assured that it is so common as to constitute a trait of national character. A brief conversation followed among the judges, respecting the utua, or punishment, to be inflicted on the youths, as they were thus fadhapa, or found guilty. The sentence was then delivered by the president; this was, that they should each build four fathoms of a wall, now erecting about a plot of taro ground belonging to the king. In such cases, the condemned are allowed their own reasonable time to execute the task required, and it generally happens that their friends, by permission, lend them assistance. We have have seen an aged father helping his son to perform hard labour of this kind, which must, nevertheless, be finished to the satisfaction of an authorized inspector. It is remarkable in the administration of justice here, that when the sentence is pronounced, the criminal is gravely asked whether he himself agrees to it, and he generally replies in the affirmative. There is something very primitive and patriarchal in this simple yet solemn form of conducting trials. “A second cause now came on. The plaintiff had engaged certain persons to plant a quantity of land with tobacco, at a stipulated price. While these were at work, two fellows not employed by the plaintiff volunteered their assistance to the hired labourers; when the tobacco was ripe, these two came and took away a quantity of the crop as a compensation for their officious services. The action was therefore brought against them, to recover the tobacco or damages to the value of it. When the case had been stated, much discussion arose: but as it could not be found that the law had made express provision for such an anomalous offence, the consideration of the subject was deferred till another time."— vol. i. pp. 179–181.
The description of a public dinner given in the islands to the deputation, is curious, as exhibiting some of the customs of the natives.
“Feb. 14. We were, this day, invited to a public dinner, given by the principal chiefs of the island to the members of the Christian church here (as a token and pledge of union among all true believers), whatever were their rank or circumstances in civil society. It was truly a love-feast, to welcome the newly-baptized among the flock of Christ. The candidates for baptism also were invited to be partakers of the general joy. It was held in a spacious house, a hundred and sixty feet long by forty wide, belonging to a distinguished chief, named Tiramano. This banquettingroom was quite a native structure, in the old style—a long roof, resting upon two ranges of pillars, twenty-four on each side, and a row of nine loftier ones down the middle, to support the ridge-pole. At the upper end a table, covered with a white cloth, and furnished with knives and forks, also two convenient suttees, with benches and stools, were placed for the accommodation of the royal family, the Missionaries, and ourselves. The
whole of the floor beside was occupied by the natives, sitting cross-legged,
in companies, with the food before them, spread upon purau-leaves for plates. The enclosure in front of the house was occupied in a similar way, by a portion of the numerous guests. The sight was exceedingly impressive and delightful, for they were clean in their persons and apparel, pleasure beamed in every countenance, and all were one heart and one mind, to be happy and to make happy, so far as they could. The entertainment, consisting of the usual provisions, was well laid out; it was abundant, and all things were done decently and in order, though more than a thousand persons shared in it. Many of the mothers had their young children with them; yet not a cry was heard. Te mau poti ità (the little milk-drinkers, as infants are prettily called here,) behaved as well as their parents, and by their presence added interest and beauty to the scene. In addition to the native luxuries of baked hogs and fruits of every kind that were in season, boiled pork, boiled fowls, fruit pies, and puddings of various kinds, were served up, course after course, at our table. There was such plenty for all the guests that, after heartily enjoying the good cheer, enough remained for the guests to take home with them, and renew the feast another day, in their family circles. The residue of our own messes (which were as large as Benjamin's when Joseph entertained his brethren) our servants took care of, as their customary perquisite. It is hardly necessary to say that, in such an assembly, when all the dishes had been placed, before any were touched, the blessing of God was asked upon the bounty of his Providence. After the meal, several of the chiefs, the Missionaries, and ourselves, successively addressed the company on such
topics as the occasion suggested. In conclusion, a hymn of praise was sung, and one of the chiefs returned thanks for this day's mercies, and offered up earnest supplication that goodness and mercy might follow his country-people and their teachers, all the days of their lives. The people afterwards quietly dispersed, and in their peaceful dwellings presented their evening sacrifices at the family altar.'—vol. i. pp. 346—348.
To the book itself we must refer for the remainder of the very curious information which the deputies collected, on the civil state of the islanders of the South Seas. In their journey through India and to China, the same minute and persevering observation, the same copiousness of interesting facts, and the same apparent fidelity are manifested, that we noticed to have been shown in the account of the islanders. Some of the scenes of Hindoo superstition would be perfectly incredible, if we had not one or other of the deputies to authenticate the statement. A Chinese festival was celebrated during their stay at Samarang, and they accordingly attended it.
“Aug. 28. A singular Chinese festival was celebrated in the court of the great temple, where nearly two thousand persons were assembled, not only to witness the pageants and the ceremonies, but to share the spoil which was divided among the spectators at the close. A temporary shed had been raised on a platform, five feet above the ground, in front of the temple. Here sat the chief priest, cross-legged, upon a chair, with a table before him, apparently reading most devoutly from an opened volume upon it. Four inferior priests, on either hand of him, were occupied in the same manner. Others were playing upon small musical instruments; while a crowd of careless fellows, having nothing to do as far as we could discern, stood by them within the sacred erection. Two large flambeaux, and some sticks of incense, were burning on the table before the high-priest. On a smaller stage, about ten yards opposite to these, in the middle of the court, a slaughtered hog, shaved and gutted, was fixed upright upon a tressel, and by it a goat. Five yards beyond this, another platform, eight feet high, by twelve long and eight broad, had been constructed, on which were piled columns of cakes, pyramids of sweetmeats, and mounds of other dainties, four or five feet high. Among these, and in different parts of the court-yard, were placed flags of gaudy colours and gay devices, some of silk, others of paper; in the midst of which, overlooking all, stood the representation of a lion, painted green. Baskets of rice were also interspersed, in large abundance, with the more luxurious fare. When the ehief priest had finished his pretended devotions, he rose up, and gave a signal, which was well understood by the multitude, for, in an instant, on all hands, a rush was made, and pig, goat, cakes, sweetmeats, baskets of rice, and all kinds of dainties, were swept away. In the scramble, every one seized what he could, and carried it off. The flags, figures, &c., in Hike manner, disappeared, and the court was empty in a few seconds, thronged as it had been with people and stocked with provisions enough to feast an army. The temporary walls of the stages, forming a considerable enclosure, were then suddenly set on fire, and we were in the area, surrounded by the flames, which presently consumed the slight fabrics, and with them thousands of slips of paper, curiously folded up, being (as we were informed) money, to enable the souls of departed persons to pay their