Images de page

the marae by the priests. The tabu, or sacred restriction, prevails in all its force among them, and is often, in the instance of general restriction, imposed in a very arbitrary manner. The priests alone are said to have the power of laying a general prohibition on certain articles of food -vegetables, hogs, fish, &c. but every man has the power of tabuing his own property, and the tabu operates as powerfully on himself as any other individual; so that, during its continuance, he dare not appropriate to his own use the smallest portion of the article thus prohibited.

Physically considered, the Marquesans are described as among the most perfect of the human species. The men are said to be tall, strongbuilt, and many of them exhibit the finest symmetry of form: they are frequently upwards of six feet high, their limbs muscular and firm, but not heavy. Their movements are always agile, often easy and graceful. In shape and form, the females limbs are inferior to the men, yet often present most agreeable models of the human figure, and are equally distinguished by the liveliness of their disposition, and the ease and quickness of their gait and gestures. Some visiters, however, have represented them as scarcely superior to

Society Islanders. The complexion of the Marquesans is much lighter than that of Tahitians, but it is seldom that the natural colour of their skin is discernible, on account of the astonishing manner in which their bodies are tataued, and the frequent application of a preparation of turmeric and oil. The shape of the face is generally oval. The hair is black, occasionally curling, often bound up on the crown or side of the head in an elegant and most fantastic

manner. They manifest a singular taste in cutting their hair, sometimes the fore-part of the head is shaved, at other times the whole of the head, excepting two small patches, one above each ear, where the hair is tied up in a sort of knot, giving to their naked heads a very strange appearance. Their eyebrows are good; their eyes are not large, but black, and remarkably brilliant and quick: Their features are small, and well formed, but the pleasing effect they would naturally produce is almost entirely destroyed by the use of tatau. The Vignette to the present Volume, representing the natives on the rocks near the landing-place, when the Dauntless anchored near the shore, exhibits their singular appearance.

In the practice of tatauing they surpass all other nations, both as to the extent of the human body to which it is applied, and the varied images and patterns thus impressed. Their tatauing is less rude than that of the Sandwich and Palliser islanders, less curious and intricate in its figures than that impressed on the countenance of the New Zealanders, equally elegant, and far more profuse, than that of the Tahitians. The colouring matter itself is of a jet-black, but, as seen through the white skin beneath which it lies, it gives the limbs, and those parts of the body to which it is applied, a blue or dark slatecoloured hue. The females do not use it more than those of Tahiti, but many of the men cover the greater part of their bodies. The face is sometimes divided into different compartments, each of which received a varied shade of colour; sometimes it is covered with broad stripes, crossing each other at right angles; and sometimes it is

crowded with sharks, lizards, and figures of other animals, delineated with considerable spirit, freedom, and accuracy, frequently with open mouths, or extended claws, so as to give the countenance a most repulsive and frightful aspect. The operation of puncturing the skin, and injecting the colouring matter, (of which a more ample account has been already given,) must be exceedingly tedious and painful, as the most tender parts of the face, such as the inner surface of the lips, and the edges of the eye-lids, are thus punctured.

Those Marquesans who have been in the schools in the Society Islands, have not manifested any inferiority in mental capacity; and those who were my pupils in the Sandwich Islands appeared to be equally capable of learning to read, write, cipher, &c. with the people around them, though they usually manifested a greater restlessness and impatience of the application necessary to make much proficiency; this, I presume, arose from their natural fickleness and volatile dispositions.

All those I have had any means of becoming acquainted with, have appeared gay, thoughtless, and good natured. I never witnessed any thing of that ferocity of barbarism which has distinguished their intercourse with most of those by whom they have been visited; but I have only seen them as guests among strangers, where the vices, practised extensively in their native islands, were held in abhorrence, and where dispositions of hospitality and kindly feelings were respected and cultivated. The testimony of almost all who have visited them concurs in inducing the belief that their morals are most debased, that their licentiousness is of the most shameless kind, that their propensity to theft is universal, and that they are quarrelsome

and murderous. Since Mendano first anchored off their shores, few ships have visited them, during whose stay, some blood, either of the European or natives, or both, has not been shed; and fewer still, whose crews have not been engaged in violent and alarming quarrels. The Russian navigator, whose testimony has been already referred to, observes, that, though they manifested some degree of honesty in barter, they appeared to have neither social institutions, religion, nor humane feelings. Their general behaviour towards foreigners has been represented as wild, violent, and ferocious, adapted to inspire any feeling rather than that of confidence or security. Their government is feudal or aristocratical, and, for every purpose of benefit to the community, is feeble and inefficient. The inhabitants appear to reside in the spacious valleys by which the high lands are intersected, the mountain sides forming the natural boundaries. The inhabitants of each valley are said to have their temple, their priests, and their chieftain or ruler; sometimes several tribes, inhabiting as many valleys, are united under one chief, but we do not know of any chief who exercises the supreme authority over any one of the islands. In each, there appears to be two or more distinct confederations; and these are frequently at war with each other, or with the inhabitants of some neighbouring island. Wars are frequent and cruel; they do not appear to be carried on from motives of ambition or revenge, so much as from a desire for plunder, or to secure a feast upon the bodies of their enemies. The skulls of the captured are sometimes worn as trophies of a warrior's prowess, or are offered for sale to foreigners. Human bones constitute part of the furniture of their dwellings,

and human hair ornaments most of their implements of war. According to the testimony of the European Missionaries, by whom they have been most recently visited, part, if not all, the bodies of the slain furnish the victor's banquet. Their feeding on each other, does not appear to be confined to seasons of famine, or the feast of triumph, but to be practised from motives more repulsive and criminal. Langsdorff, who accompanied the Russian embassy to Japan, states, on the authority of a Frenchman who had resided some years in the islands, that the tauas, or priests, often regale themselves on human flesh, merely from the delight they take in it. For this purpose, they act as if under the influence of inspiration, and, after varied contortions of the body, appear to fall into a deep sleep, before a multitude of spectators; when they awake, they relate what the spirit has said to them in their dream. The communication sometimes is, that a woman or a man, a tataued or or untataued man, a fat or lean man, an old man, or a young man from the next valley, or border of the next stream, must be seized, and brought to them. Those to whom this is related immediately conceal themselves near a footpath or river, and the first person that passes that way, bearing any resemblance to the description given by the priest, is taken, conveyed to the marae, and eaten by the priests.* Conduct more diabolical than that here described, cannot easily be conceived of. I have always been reluctant to admit the cannibalism of any of the Polynesian tribes, but the concurring testimony of foreigners of every nation, by whom the Marquesans have been visited, and of the native teachers from the Society Islands, who * Langsdorff, vol. ii. p. 159.

« PrécédentContinuer »