A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 16 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 658 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 16.
themselves about the quarrel, whether it was with any of us, or amongst their own body, and preserving as much indifference as if they had not known any thing about it.  I have often seen one of them rave and scold, without any of his countrymen paying the least attention to his agitation; and when none of us could trace the cause, or the object of his displeasure.  In such cases they never discover the least symptom of timidity, but seem determined, at all events, to punish the insult.  For, even with respect to us, they never appeared to be under the least apprehension of our superiority; but when any difference happened, were just as ready to avenge the wrong, as amongst themselves.

Their other passions, especially their curiosity, appear in some measure to lie dormant.  For few expressed any desire to see or examine things wholly unknown to them; and which, to those truly possessed of that passion, would have appeared astonishing.  They were always contented to procure the articles they knew and wanted, regarding every thing else with great indifference; nor did our persons, apparel, and manners, so differ from their own, or even the extraordinary size and construction of our ships, seem to excite admiration, or even engage attention.

One cause of this may be their indolence, which seems considerable.  But, on the other hand, they are certainly not wholly unsusceptible of the tender passions; if we may judge from their being so fond of music, which is mostly of the grave or serious, but truly pathetic sort.  They keep the exactest concert in their songs, which are often sung by great numbers together, as those already mentioned, with which they used to entertain us in their canoes.  These are generally slow and solemn; but the music is not of that confined sort found amongst many rude nations, for the variations are very numerous and expressive, and the cadence or melody powerfully soothing.  Besides their full concerts, sonnets of the same grave cast were frequently sung by single performers, who keep time by striking the hand against the thigh.  However, the music was sometimes varied, from its predominant solemnity of air; and there were instances of stanzas being sung in a more gay and lively strain, and even with a degree of humour.

The only instruments of music (if such they may be called) which I saw amongst them, were a rattle, and a small whistle, about an inch long, incapable of any variation, from having but one hole.  They use the rattle when they sing; but upon what occasions they use the whistle I know not, unless it be when they dress themselves like particular animals, and endeavour to imitate their howl or cry.  I once saw one of them dressed in a wolf’s skin, with the head over his own, and imitating that animal by making a squeaking noise with one of these whistles, which he had in his mouth.  The rattles are, for the most part, made in the shape of a bird, with a few pebbles in the belly; and the tail is the handle.  They have others, however, that bear rather more resemblance to a child’s rattle.

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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 16 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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