A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 15 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 762 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 15.

Not long after, a double canoe, in which were twelve men, came toward us.  As they drew near the ship, they recited some words in concert, by way of chorus,[151] one of their number first standing up, and giving the word before each repetition.  When they had finished their solemn chant, they came along-side, and asked for the chief.  As soon as I shewed myself, a pig and a few cocoa-nuts were conveyed up into the ship; and the principal person in the canoe made me an additional present of a piece of matting, as soon as he and his companions got on board.

[Footnote 151:  Something like this ceremony was performed by the inhabitants of the Marquesas, when Captain Cook visited them in 1774.  It is curious to observe, at what immense distances this mode of receiving strangers prevails.  Padillo, who sailed from Manilla in 1710, on a voyage to discover the Palaos Islands, was thus received there.  The writer of the relation of his voyage says, “Aussitot qu’ils approcherent de notre bord, ils se mirent a chanter.  Ils regloient la cadence, en frappant des mains sur leurs cuisses.”—­Lettres Edifiantes & Curieuses, tom. xv. p. 323.—­D.]

Our visitors were conducted into the cabin, and to other parts of the ship.  Some objects seemed to strike them with a degree of surprise; but nothing fixed their attention for a moment.  They were afraid to come near the cows and horses; nor did they form the least conception of their nature.  But the sheep and goats did not surpass the limits of their ideas; for they gave us to understand, that they knew them to be birds.  It will appear rather incredible, that human ignorance could ever make so strange a mistake; there not being the most distant similitude between a sheep or goat, and any winged animal.  But these people seemed to know nothing of the existence of any other land-animals, besides hogs, dogs, and birds.  Our sheep and goats, they could see, were very different creatures from the two first, and therefore they inferred, that they must belong to the latter class, in which they knew there is a considerable variety of species.[152] I made a present to my new friend of what I thought might be most acceptable to him; but, on his going away, he seemed rather disappointed than pleased.  I afterward understood that he was very desirous of obtaining a dog, of which animal this island could not boast, though its inhabitants knew that the race existed in other islands of their ocean.  Captain Clerke had received the like present, with the same view, from another man, who met with from him the like disappointment.

[Footnote 152:  “I would add,” says Mr Stewart, in his Elements of the Phil, of Hum.  Mind, p. 154, 2d ed., “I would add to Cook’s very judicious remarks, that the mistake of these islanders probably did not arise from their considering a sheep or a goat as bearing a more striking resemblance to a bird, than to the two classes of quadrupeds with which they were acquainted; but to the want of a generic

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