« ZurückWeiter »
die with fear! See them fleeing like the doe from our fighting men! Behold them falling down and kissing the dust from the feet of our warriors! Haste, haste, Yaribean's! pursue and overtake your enemies; slay them without mercy; stop their voices, that they sing no more at eventide by the light of the moon; they are swift of foot, but they shall not escape you; they are already weary; their journey of life is almost at an end; they have fallen to the earth, and will dance no more. Weep, ye widows of Houssa, and let the lamentations of your children be heard in the land, for they are fatherless, and your husbands have been pierced by the lance of Yariba ! They are clothed in darkness, as the noon in a storm. Who can tell whither their spirits are wandering? Weep, ye widows of Houssa ; but your tears flow in vain; your husbands will return no more !"
This is the nature of the strains sung by the females of Katunga, (principally the king's wives,) at the celebration of their solemn feasts and festivals : the Houssans (or rather the Falatahs of that country) being their most inveterate enemies, are on all occasions the subject of their poetry, and are made to flee from the Yaribeans in imagination, whilst in reality they are worsted in every engagement. Their social and domestic songs, however, are delivered in recitative, (as are, likewise, those of the people of Borghoo,) and are the reverse of their public and national ones. The young females, in both kingdoms, that may happen to have strong, clear voices, are generally selected as wives, or rather concubines, for the ruling monarchs. Their office is principally to attend on the king's person, and sing and fan bim to sleep; and the ladies consume great part of the day in these avocations, to vary which they sometimes play music and whistle for a long time together. These ladies also dally with their sovereign, by Alinging their arms round his neck, arranging his sable locks with their fingers, playing the fool with his face, and a thousand other fantastic in ventions to amuse him, such as the sex know so well how to avail themselves of all over the world. It is the custom in Europe for gentlemen to flatter the graces of the fair sex, whereas in Africa the practice is completely reversed; for the most extravagant encomiums are lavished on the beauty and blandishments of mankind by the gentler part of the creation.
• The following imperfect translation of a song, recited by his young wives, to the sovereign of Khiama, may serve as a specimen of the whole of their amatory poetry :
"" Yarrow is fair among men: he shines like a star of the night; who so beautiful as Yarrow? His eyes have greater lustre than the antepole's -more ardour than a young lion's when he captures his prey. His form is elegant as the palm-tree ; he is gentle as the kid, when she follows her dam. But Yarrow is brave in fight; his enemies tremble at the sound of his name, as a leaf shaken by the wind; they fall to the earth beneath the power of his arm, for he is a mountain of strength. The turtle dove is not so affectionate as our king; doth he not cherish his wives and concubines? Who so lovely as Yarrow? When he is pleased, the moon is not so mild as the light of his countenance; but when he frowns, who shall withstand his wrath ? His face lowers like the clouds of heaven in a tempest. O, he is terrible in battle! Awake, and be glad, ye daughters of Khiama; sing, ye sons, to the praise of our lord, for he is fair as the morning, and his countenance is like the sun in his strength. He is fair among men ; who so beautiful as Yarrow ?”
· It would be as difficult to detach singing and dancing from the cha‘racter of an African, as to chavge the colour of his skin. I do not think he would live a single week in his own country without participating in these his favourite amusements; to deprive him of which would be indeed worse than death. In every grade of society, from the monarch to the meanest slave, he is also fond of instrumental music, even to a passion, and a European fiddler (provided he be not blind,) with no very extraordinary pretensions to excellence in his profession, might travel with ease and comfort, even if he were destitute of a single cowry, from Badagry to Bornau. He would be received every where with open arms, lodged in palaces, and sumptuously fed ; although he might, perhaps, feel some trifling inconvenience from excess of kindness, and compulsory detention for a day or two in the principal cities. But, notwithstanding their strong partiality for this kind of music, the instruments of the Africans are of the rudest description. A large drum, made from the truuk of a tree, and covered with sheep-skin ; a long brass trumpet, from Barbary ; the Arab fiddle, and a kind of dulcimer, formed of bamboo, and played upon with two little sticks, are great favourites in all the interior countries. The people have also guitars, bag-pipes, and tubes of iron, which answer the purpose of tin plates, the sound produced being very similar to the noise of those instruments; but a little Aute, like a child's penny whistle in England, is most admired by the Africans; and of all their music this is certainly the inost harmonious. Yet even on these instruments they perform most vilelv, and produce a horribly discordant noise, which may, perhaps, be delightful to their own ears, but to strangers, if they have the misfortune to be too near the performers, no sounds can be more harsh and disagreeable than such a concert.
Of all the amusements of the Africans, none can equal their song and dance in the still, clear hours of night, when the moon, walking in beauty in the heavens, awakens all the milder affections of their nature, and invites them to gladness and mirth. As soon as this splendid luminary appears above the horizon, every individual, both slave and free, is on the alert, some to fetch wood from a neighbouring forest, and others to procure provisions in the village; and forming themselves into a circle, generally round a venerable tree, they prepare large fires, in order to frighten away anv wild beasts that may be prowling near the spot, and begin their country dance, which does not differ from one extremity of the continent to the other. I have often been a party to these innocent entertainments, which are frequently kept up with inconceivable spirit and agility, till the approach of morning; and as often been delighted with the perfect harmony, and kindly feeling that prevailed amongst the dancers. It produces a feeling and romantic effect, to observe the silvery light of the moon, blending with the radiance of the frames, and thrown upon the sable countenances of the happy group, as well as the lengthened reflection of the majestic tree cast along the ground, and the moving figures, gliding like shadows across it.
• On ihese occasions all care is completely laid aside, and every one delivers himself up to the dissipation of the moment, without a thought of the morrow, his heart having no vacuum for melancholy anticipations. During the intervals of the dance and song, the party either eat and drink, or re-kindle the fires, after which they begin again with renewed
ardour. Their songs are composed extempore by one of the party, who recites to his or her companions, and they all join in the strain. They do not contain many poetical beauties, but allude generally to the dancers themselves, to the dread of wild beasts, or commands and entreaties for a particular person to fetch wood. The following, sung iu my presence, may serve as a translated specimen of all of them :
« « Come, let us join the dance and song,
The moon is bright in heaven ;
To cloud this lovely even.
Forgets his father-land ;
By gentle zephyrs fano'd.
And feed the fickering flame ;
To earn a deathless name.t
Resound from wood to wood;
How gladly lap our blood !
To mar our evening's sport;
They other pleasures court.
The moon is high in heaven:
To cloud this lovely even.” • When heard at a distance, in the midst of solitary woods, the vocal music of the natives has a pleasing plaintive effect, equalling in softness any I have heard in more civilized countries: and Captain Clapperton and myself used to remain awake in our tent for hours together, listening to its melancholy strains.
It is not to be expected that after these midnight revelries, the people are in a condition to rise at a very early hour; indeed the generality of Africans are constitutionally inclined to indolence, a disease which the relaxing nature of their climate by no means tends to lessen ; and when not obliged to labour, they feel no desire to over-exert themselves, or to shake off their drowsiness, except from a call of necessity. Their soil, in fact, in most parts, is so surprisingly rich and productive, as to supersede the necessity of that laborious manual exertion which the cultivation of it requires in many other regions; and in the absence of all intellectual
* • A female slave.
+ The act of fetching wood in the night season, by reason of the existence of wild beasts in the woods, is considered an enterprize of danger: and those who accept the proposal are greatly eulogised, and held up as samples for others to copy.'
Records of Clappere murs of coon in sleeping; ol. 1. pp.
Records of Clapperton's last Expedition. amusements, they dole away the sultry hours of noon in sleeping, lounging about from place to place, gossiping, smoking, or drinking.'-vol. 1. pp. 288-298.
The reader will also perceive a strong poetic turn in the following remarks upon the seasons of Africa.
• The air, especially in the dry season, is oppressively hot; and if a mist or haze that sometimes hangs between the earth and sky, did not intercept the sun's rays, it would be wholly insupportable. The African sky seldom displays the clear, rich ether, or the beautiful and evanescent touches of the Italian; but if the appearance of the heavens be less lovely to the sight in the former country, by the existence of vapoury clouds in the air, the heat is rendered infinitely more tolerable by the same cause. Towards the latter part of the dry season, and all nature seems parched while withering (except on the margins of rivers), the earth is literally baked as hard as Aint, while the birds and beasts, fluttering and panting in the shades, by their cries and moans seem to bewail the absence of rain. But no sooner does the wet season set in, than vegetation suddenly springing up, bursts into being; a fresh and redundant luxuriance of life breathes and floats around : the hills and dales are covered with a delightful verdure ; the earth, the air, the sky, seem smiling in joy, and refreshed into gladness and beauty. Everything looks cheerful and attractive: the horned cattle gambol on the plains, and the sheep and goats frisk on the slopes of mountains and hills; man himself appears animated with a new existence; pleasure swells in his veins, and dances on his countenance, and he enters cordially into the enjoyment which every province of nature invites him to partake in common with itself. This is generally during the intervals of the showers; it rather floods than rains in Africa, and continues without intermission for the space of twelve hours, when it suddenly stops, and a cessation of rain for twenty-four hours not unfrequently takes place.
• The sun setting in Africa is a grand and magnificent object; he then appears shorn of his beams, and may be gazed at by the naked eye for any length of time, without our experiencing a single painful sensation in that delicate organ. When he sinks below the horizon, he looks like a huge sphere of burning gold, and the hills (if any) towards the west, seem as if on fire by the vivid reflection of bis rays. Twilight is of short duration, and if the moon does not shine, darkness soon covers the earth like a veil. In no other country have I seen such cloudless, lovely nights, or so mildly beautiful a moon. I do not wonder that the natives sometimes adore her; she possesses a soothing, softening influence, of which they themselves are susceptible ; and there is certainly something more captivating in the delightful appearance of so resplendent an orb, sailing gracefully through the purple vault of heaven, than in the figures of disgusting reptiles and monsters which the natives so often worship.'—vol. i. pp. 307–310.
Of the last moments of Captain Clapperton, there is nothing in the second volume more affecting than the account already published from the same pen. Neither do we find in the author's narrative of his return, any striking additions to that which we have read in his former work. Perhaps we should make an exception in
favour of his description of the trial by poison, to which he was compelled to submit at Badagry, in consequence of the artful and malignant intrigues of the Portuguese residents at that place. We have, however, no room for further extracts.
We cannot pay a higher, or more just compliment to these two volumes, than to say that they deserve to be placed by the side of Captain Clapperton's Journal, some defects in which they supply, and many parts of which they illustrate.
NOTICES. Art. XV.-Ringstead Abbey; or, the Stranger's Grave. With other
Tales. By an English woman. Author of « Letters,” “ The Ring," fc. &c. 12mo. London: Hurst, Chance, & Co. pp. 441. 1830. In our brief notice of “ The Ring,” by the same author, we remarked that it was decidedly of a religious cast, but “ not obtrusively so;" and though we think the present decidedly superior in style and sentiment to her former productions, the character which we have just quoted remains strictly applicable. She has indeed followed up with considerable skill, the old and excellent maxim,-Ars est celare artem, which in these days of innovation has been so frequently disregarded even by writers of no mean distinction. It is a bad picture,' she herself most justly remarks,
which does not tell its tale; but it must be a worse tale which does not manifest its desigo ; and that in the present instance is to promote the first and best of causes—the diffusion of religious and virtuous principles, particularly amongst those who are just entering upon that important period, when the sportiveness of early youth is giving place to becoming seriousness of a more mature stage of existence. Such being the praiseworthy design of the author, we have much pleasure in giving our opinion, that it has been successfully fulfilled. We anticipate, therefore, that it is likely to meet with many admiring readers, among the class for whom it is intended. The author, however, assures us that she is prepared to bow with resignation to the decision of the public, should her little volume be ill received, as she will have the consolation to think that anxiety and affection for, perhaps the most interesting part of her fellow creatures, have alone guided her pen, and warmed her heart, and that the loss of time to herself has not been material--the work having been principally the fruit of periods of recreation, the pleasing task of seasons appropriated to the ingathering of strength, for a higher and more arduous occupation, and the delight of hours of prescriptive inactivity.
We will not defraud our readers of the pleasure of interesting excitement, by sketching an outline of the story of “Ringstead Abbey. The character of Lady Delamore is well drawn-chiefly we should have inferred from a real model, even if we had not been told so; for it displays some rather improbable traits, which all real characters do, as Miss Edgeworth profoundly remarks, when they have not undergone a complete amalgamation with some imaginary one in the fancy of the author. We are assured in the present instance, that the trials narrated ' are not exaggerated, and that such a character exists, without in any essential point,) the adventitious aid of deeper colouring than nature has supplied.'