Page images
PDF

%»ery. Wholly unaccustomed as these people are to any ideas of property, or to any of the other ties that bind civilized society, possessors of no other wealth than their bow and arrows, their whole attention turned only to satisfying their animal necessities in the quickest and most convenient manner, ought it to be considered as a matter of very great reproach to them, that they are ready to take what they want, wherever it is'to be round? The situation of their neighbours, I readily grant, is not rendered more palatable by this reflection; and even though they do not feel their attacks to be very atrocious, they are not the less justified, nor is it the less incumbent on them, to defend to the utmost themselves and their property. In this very circumstance lies the principal obstacle to the Bosjesmans' ever being civilized; and it is- certain, that there are not, over the whole globe, any savages whom.it would be more difficult to inspire with new ideas, or to form to new habits.

To say all that might be said upon this subject, without suffering myself to run into a wearisome amplification, would be almost impossible. I shall therefore restrain my pen to giving some few of the leading features in the modes of life, and character, of the savages in question; these, connected with such particulars as are already known to the public, and such as may be hereafter given, will enable them tq form satisfactory results. The Bosjesman has no settled residence; his whole life is passed in wandering from place to place; it even rarely

happens that he passes two nights together on the same spot. One exception may, however, be found to this general rule, and that is, when he is has eaten till he is perfectly gorged; that is to say, when he has for several days together had as much as his almost incredible voracity can possibly eat. Such a revelry is followed by a sleep, or at least a fit of indolence, which will continue event for weeks, and which at last becomes so delightful to him, that he had rather buckle the girdle of emptiness round him, than submit to such an exertion as going to the chace, or catching insects. He is fond of taking up his abode for the night in caverns among the mountains, or clefts in the rocks; in the plain he makes himself a hole in the ground, or gets into the midst of a bush, where bending the boughs around him, they are made to serve as a shelter against the weather, against an enemy, or against wild beasts. A bush that has served many times in this way as the retreat of a Bosjesman, and the points of whose bent boughs are beginning to grow again upwards, has perfectly the appearance of an immense bird's nest. In this state many sorts of the pliant tarcomnthus, abundance of which grow on the other side of the Great river, arc often to be found; and if they have been recently inhabited, hay, leaves, and wool may be seen, forming the bottom of the nest. It is this custom which has given rise to the name by which the sa? vages in question are now known; Bosje signifying in African Dutch a shrub or bush; Boyesman, consequently, a busk-man An addi

tional reason for giving it being derived from their often shooting at game, or at an enemy, from this retreat. Whoever travels over this treeless country, can scarcely forbear laughing at the mistake of many translators, who have made of this word bosje, a wood, or perhaps, forest, and called these people Wood-Hottentots; or, as some of the French translators have it, Hommes des forets.

The holes in the ground abovementioned, which sometimes serve these people as beds, are only a few inches deep, of a longish round form, and even when they are to serve for a whole family, not more than five or six feet wide. It is incredible how they manage to pack together in so small a space, perhaps, two grown persons and several children: each is wrapped in a single sheepskin, in which they contrive to roll themselves up in such a manner, round like a ball, that all air is entirely kept from them. In very cold nights they heap up twigs and earth on the windward side of the hole: but against rain they have no other shelter than the sheepskin. In the hot season of the year, they are fond of lying in the beds of the rivers, under the shade of the mimosas, the branches of ■ which they draw down to screen them from the sun and wind. In this situation were they found by Patterson, who has pretended to give a sketch of what he saw, but it is defective on the side of accuracy; nor is it difficult to discern, fhat the sketcher has introduced a great deal of his own imagination |nto his picture. Household utensi}s (hey have none, unless that

name may be given to shell* of tortoises, of ostriches' eggs, and of gourds. Some of those wh» inhabit the neighbourhood of the more civilized Cafire tribes, ci the Beetjuans, for instance, have knives, but they are not at all a necessary to them, since they generally eat their flesh raw, and chew it very little. If tbey dress it, they scarcely make it hot tlirough, and bite it -with thenteeth the moment it is taken out of the ashes. The incisive teeth, therefore, of the old Bosjesmans are commonly half worn away, and have one general flat edgeThey drink out of the rivers and streamlets, lying down flat on their bellies, even when the bank is very steep, so that they are obliged to support themselves in a fatiguing manner with their arms, to avoid falling into the water. The Cadres, on the contrary, and many of the savage Hottentot tribes, have a way of crouching down to the water, and throwing it into their mouths with the forefingers of both hands. 1 do not recollect ever to have seen any of the different savages of Southern Africa drinking out of the hollow of their hands.

As the Bosjesman lives without a home, and without property, he must be without the great medium of moral refinement, the social union. A horde commonly consists of the different members of one family only, and no one has any power or distinction above the rest. Every difference is tie. cided by the right of the strongest; even the family tie is not sanctioned by any law or regulation: the wife is not indissolubly united to the husband; but when he give*

fa

her permission, she may go whither she will, and associate witli any other man; nay,'the stronger man will sometimes take away the wife of the weaker, and compel her, whether she will or not, to follow him: I must, however, add, that such instances are not common. The almost instinctive love of the parents for their common children unites the far greater part for their whole lives, and habit makes them inseparable companions. Infidelity to the marriage compact is, however, not considered as a crime; it is scarcely regarded by the offended person. I have, on a former occasion, in my remarks upon the languages of these savages, observed, as a thing worthy of notice, that they seem to have no idea of the distinction of girl, maiden, and wife; they are all expressed by one word alone. I leave every reader to draw from this single circumstance his own inference, with regard to the nature of love, and every kind of moral feeling among them. As little is the son considered as bound to the father, the brother to the brother; every one leaves his horde, and attaches himself to another, entirely at his own pleasure.

Very little intercourse subsists between the separate hordes; they seldom unite, unless in some extraordinary undertaking, for which the combined strength of a great many is required. For the most part, the hordes keep at a distance from each other, since the smaller the number, the easier is a supply of food procured. So trifling is the intercourse among them, that the names of even the most common objects are as vari

ous as the number of hordes. Their , language is disagreeably sonorous, from the frequent clacking of the teeth, and the prevailing croaking in the throat; and it is extremely poor, no less in words than in sounds; they understand each other more by their gestures than their speaking. No one has a name peculiar to himself, though they distinguish themselves as a people by a general name.

When a horde has taken any thing in the chace> or by plunder, it is concealed as much as possible from all the others; since whoever learns that there is something to be eaten, comes without any ceremony, or waiting for an invitation, to partake of it. As every thing is common property, the booty cannot be withheld, or a part of it at least, from any one who requires it. Thence the incredible voracity with which they immediately devour whatever they catch in the chace,—thence their avoiding the possession of living

animals, thence the inefficacy

of every attempt which has been made to keep them quiet, by paying them a tribute of sheep and cattle,—thence the fruitlessness of all endeavours to accustom them to milder and more civilized habits. 1 cannot find any other ground flian this envy and jealousy, this fear of being obliged to share what they get with others, forone of the most odious and revolting features in their character, their passion for destruction. Every thing that comes in their way, which they cannot appropriate on the spot to their own use, is destroyed, that it may not be of advantage to others. If they discover an ostrich's nest, and circumstances

[ocr errors]

cumstances do not permit their continuing on the opot till all they find there is consumed, they eat at much as they can, but the rest of the eggs are destroyed. Do they meet a large flock of springbocks, they wound as many as possible, although six or eight are sufficient Uilast them several days: the rest are left to die, and rot on the ground. I have already related, that .when they fall upon any of the herds or flocks belonging to the colonists, they will rather destroy every one, though they cannot possibly carry them away, than leave any for the owner.

CHARACTER OF THE AFGHAUNS.

(From the Hon. F. Elphinston's account of Caubul.J

The manners of the Afghauns are frank and open. Though wanlv and independent, tbey are entirelv free from that affectation of military pride and ferocity, which is so conspicuous in their descendants the Pitarts of India. When their address is bad, it is rustic, but never fierce or insolent: the Indian P;tar.s seem to hr.ve copied the peculiar manners of the Eusofzyes, to whom a liansrhty and arrogant carriage is natural. About towns the Afghauns are in some degree polished, and shew respect to superiors, but in many parts of the country they are plain, and make little distinction of ranks; they all, however, shew great reverence for old age.

Though the Afghuuns have that ea«e of manner which strikes evei v observer, ia comparing the

behaviour of Asiatics with tLat of Europeans, yet it is not uncommon to find them bashful; a defect which I have never witnesses in any other Asiatic Except 02 formal occasions, they use a good deal of gesture, but it is aiwaji of a grave kind, such as stretching out the arm, and bending forward the body. Tbey nave, perhaps, more of this kind of acuoa than the Persians, thousrh not near so lively a people; but they by no means equal the gesticulation of the Indians.''

They are are also free fro* that puerility which is, perhaps, the distinguishing characte-ristk of the last-mentioned people. I found their conversation and tbeir inquiries, though not enlarged, always rational, and they did not seem much delighted with those baubles which generally form the most acceptable presents in India. The Afghauns are accused bv the Persians of ignorance and barbarism; stupidity is indeed the proverbial reproach of all Khorassaun. Tliey certainly have neither the refinement nor the subtlety of their western neighbours, and their want of much intercourse with foreign nations, undoubtedly narrows their views, and, on soma subjects, contracts their understandings; but from their state of society, in which every man is obliged to protect his own rights, and where he is, at the same time, of some importance to the community, tbeir faculties must be a good deal exerted and improved; and accordingly the bulk of the people are remarkable for prudence, good sense, and observation. They have, also a degree of curiosity

which

•which is a relief to a person habituated to the apathy of the Indians. They always shewed a desire to be informed about the state of countries at a distance from their own, and some were very anxious to improve themselves by acquiring a knowledge of our sciences. I gave a ihort account of the Coperniean system (which was published in Persian by Dr. Hunter), to a Moollah who accompanied me to Calcutta, and two years after his return I received a list of queries addressed to the Ncwtonianaun English (English Newtonians), requiring an explication of some parts of the system which had embarrassed the learned at Peshawer.

While in Calcutta, I carried a great many Afghauns, of all ranks, from Moollahs to grooms, to see the arsenal, to visit ships, and to some other sights which were new to them, and it was extremely pleasing to see the interest they took in every thing, and the gratification they received. One of the Moollahs, however, was greatly disappointed in not finding the wheel used for boring cannon turned by steam, as he had read in the travels of Meerza Aboo Taulib, was the case in England. 1 have often seen natives of India at spectacles of the same nature, and though they always were polite enough to express much admiration, they did it with a calmness that showed how little they were interested, while the questions which they sometimes asked, were of such a nature as to leave no doubt that their only object was to keep up conversation.

All communication with the Afghauns is rendered agreeable,

by the dependance which can be placed on what they say. Though they are far behind Europeans in veracity, and would seldom scruple to deceive both in statements and promises, if their own interests were to be promoted by their dishonesty, yet they have not that indifference to truth, and that style of habitual and gratuitous falsehood which astonishes an European in natives of India and Persia: a man of the first nation seems incapable of observing any thing accurately, and one of the second of describing it tndy; but unless some prejudice can be discovered to mislead the observer, or some motive is apparent for misrepresenting the truth, one may generally rely on the Afghauns both for correctness and fidelity.

All the Afghauns are remarkably hardy and active. From the nature of their country, they are exposed to the necessity of enduring cold and heat, and accustomed to the exertion of climbing mountains, making long journies on foot and on horseback, and swimming broad and rapid torrents. Nor i9 this confined to the lower orders, or to men in the vigour of youth. As there is no easier conveyance in the country than a horse, all ranks acquire these habits: so that old Meerzas (or secretaries), who seem hardly able to sit on horseback, will ride at a good pace up and down the steepest and roughest passes, or along the edge of precipices, where one is almost afraid to walk. Almost all of them are, however, impatient of hot climates; and, when on campaigns in India, the approach of summer used to thin

f

« PreviousContinue »