Imágenes de páginas

and will persevere all the more for the success which crowned the enterprise of Speke, and Grant, and Baker, when they gazed upon the waters of the great African lakes which forin the head reservoirs, if we may not strictly call them the sources, of the Nile. But we more than doubt whether anything is to be gained by an attempt to cross the continent of Africa in the region of the equator. Indignantly protesting at that want of sympathy with the worth of science and the dignity of manly adventure, which sneers at the desire to enlarge the bounds of geographical knowledge as mere curiosity, we must still recognise that the chief objects of such an enterprise should be trade and civilisation. But the isolated journeys of a few travellers carrying their lives in their hands-after the first indispensable work of laying open the regions which it requires unselfish devotion such as theirs to think of penetrating-can do little or nothing to effect these objects. They might be better advanced, in the second stage, by settlements and factories on the coast, or on the banks of navigable rivers as far inland as the climate or other natural obstacles will allow. The path of the white man through the tribes of the interior is like the path of a ship through the waters. The waves close on the track, and all trace of it is lost, till the march of civilisation, directed in the same track by more effective if less unselfish motives, takes the chart of the almost forgotten traveller for its guide.

If we do not actually know, we can tolerably well guess, thanks to Mr. Du Chaillu, what is the nature of the country, and what is the character of its inhabitants. Forest and prairie alternate; and elevated ridges, which sometimes rise to the dignity of mountains, with jungle covering their sides, run in parallel lines from north to south. The kings of the forest seem to be the gorilla and the chimpanzee, for there are only a few carnivorous animals found there, and the elephant, the rhinoceros, and the lion are unknown. Mr. Du Chaillu saw no zebras, giraffes, elands, or antelopes, and, indeed, the absence of animal life of any kind was remarkable. He says that miles after miles were travelled over without hearing the sound of a bird, the chatter of a monkey, or the footstep of a gazelle. Reptiles, of course, abound, and most of the snakes are poisonous. As to the people, he was struck with the scantiness of their numbers, and the varieties of languages and dialects spoken by the different tribes. The patriarchal form of government everywhere prevails, each village being ruled by a chief or by elders. The power of the chief is not despotic, but subject, in cases of life and death at all events, to a council of elders. Polygamy and slavery exist, but the slaves always belong to a different tribe from that of their owner,

2 F 2

generation for immortscein destina

'It is, however, of little interest to know what are the laws and customs of half-naked savages, who since the first peopling of the wastes of Africa, have been unable to raise themselves higher in the scale of intelligence than we now find them. Indeed, it is most probable that they have degraded from the old stock, whatever that stock may originally have been. It is sad to think of the generations that have passed, and of those that will pass away of men “ born for immortality,' whose religion is the lowest form of superstition, and who seem destined to continue as long as they exist in a state of primæval barbarism. We confess that we have no faith in the opinion that they can civilise themselves or that civilisation can be imported amongst them. The individual negro may now and then show a remarkable aptitude for this, and hereby he proves the folly of the theory which would make him the congener of the ape; and negroes who dwell amidst a superior race, like those in the United States and in the West Indies, may be capable of improvement; but so long as they inhabit Africa, with its climate, their babits, and their traditions, we believe that neither the efforts of missionaries nor the enterprise of travellers, nor the energy of traders, will be able to raise them materially in the scale of humanity. We agree with Mr. Du Chaillu that though a people may be taught the arts and sciences known by more gifted nations, unless they have the power of progression in themselves, they must inevitably relapse in the course of time into their former state,

He says that the population in the region of the equator is steadily decreasing. The negroes themselves acknowledge it, and he attributes it to the slave trade, polygamy, barrenness of women, death among children, plagues, and witchcraft, the latter taking away more lives than any slave trade ever did.' But all these causes have been in operation for ages. The slave trade, indeed, was infinitely more active formerly than now, and yet it is only lately that the diminution has become so apparent. In the lifetime of old men clans have entirely disappeared, and of others only a few individuals remain. Nor is it only in Central Africa that this occurs. We are told that in every other part of the continent travellers who, after the lapse of a few years, have returned a second time to the same country, have noticed a decrease of population.

We are unable to account for this; but, whatever be the cause, we cannot affect to be sorry for the result. We feel too profoundly for the degradation of the negro, and the miseries he endures, and we have too little faith in the probability of his amelioration, to desire the continuance of his race. It may be that, like that of the Red Indian in America, or the Maori in New Zealand,


or the Black Man in Australia, it is destined to disappear; but in those cases it dies away before the march of advancing civilisation. The hunting grounds of the wilderness are covered with cattle and with corn, and the wigwam of the savage gives place to opulent towns. But the climate of Africa seems to forbid the possibility of this, and if the negro were to vanish from the earth, we know not who from amongst the family of man would be likely or able to occupy his seat. Nor need we now speculate on the future, for that day is far distant. In the meantime our duty is clear; we must treat him with kindness, but also with firmness, when we come in contact with him ; we must deal with him fairly, and do our best to educate and elevate him as far as his nature will permit him to rise, leaving the issue of the question of his destiny in the hands of Providence.

ideal topaic tenen arising the mu

Art. VII.—Curious Myths of the Middle Ages. By S. Baring

Gould, M.A., Author of Post-Mediæval Preachers, &c. 1866. M R. GROTE, in the highly instructive chapter in his · His

M tory of Greece' on the Ancient and Modern Mythical Vein,'* has pointed out the multiplication of mythic fables in mediæval Europe, arising from the twofold channel into which its mythopæic tendencies were diverted, according as the saintly ideal found form and substance in legends of the Catholic saints, or the chivalrous ideal' in the romances of chivalry. Each type appealed to an uncritical audience; neither type laid a heavy tax upon the faith of hearers, whose historical instincts were as yet dormant, and whose reasoning powers had not been quickened into life. The fertility with which both types of legend frucified, under such conditions, may be judged of by collections like the Lives of the Cambro-British Saints on the one part, and the Romances of Arthur and his Knights, the Cycle of Charlemagne, the Anglo-Danish Cycle, or, comprehensively, Geoffrey of Monmouth's “Historia Britonum,' on the other. Readers following Giraldus Cambrensis on his tour with Archbishop Baldwin through Wales, or attending, in fancy, and by the aid of the valuable edition of Professor Brewer, in the - Chronicles and Memorials,' the same ecclesiastic's archidiaconal visitations, will stumble on grave recitals of marvels, such as recall the Tanhäuser legend, discussed by Mr. Baring-Gould in his chapter on the Hill of Venus; and on tales of miracles that would find endless parallel in all Acta Sanctorum. The yearn

* Vol. I., chap. 17.

ings of an easy faith for fresh supernatural food could only be satisfied by ever-fresh supplies; and a kindred thirst demanded to be sated in the countless legends of chivalry, which passed for and professed to be veritable history. How perilous, even at a later date, was the enterprise of ignoring these venerable beliefs, appears in the timidity shown by well-informed and intelligent chroniclers and historians as regards omitting the long-accustomed tracing-up of our origines' to Trojan Brut, who colonized us forty years after Troy's fall. Such fables have long ago been discarded from our histories; yet though they have rightly ceased to retain the prestige of reality and truth, they must ever command a large amount of interest, on the score of the field which some of them offer for comparative philologists, of the illustrations which others supply of the period when they passed for truth, and of the scope afforded by one and all to the fosterage of the imaginative faculty. For these ends a really good compendium of them would be a welcome accession to our English literature. Those who look for a work of this character in Mr. Baring-Gould's .Curious Myths of the Middle Ages' may make up their minds for disappointment. Not, indeed, that the matters treated of in his volume belie the promise of his title, but that he has shielded himself under the shelter of that epithet "curious,' and availed himself of it as a justification for overlooking such myths as do not strike him as curious when compared with others. Of his twelve subjects, each one is decidedly curious, and all but one answer to the description of a myth. That one, the Fatality of numbers, strikes us as out of place in this collection, or at all events is an evidence that Mr. Baring - Gould does not claim for his work a strict or exhaustive character, but contents himself to purvey amusement for the reading world by a series of lively archæological essays, if indeed the word 'series' can apply where there seems no principle of classification. Taken as they are, these essays will be found to have something to satisfy most classes of readers; the lovers of legends proper, the curious in popular delusions, the initiated in Darwinian and Monboddo-an theories: and if, in the chapters on Tell and Gellert, we are a little struck with the close following of Dasent's track, in his preface to the Norse tales, it must be owned that there are chapters—e.g., those on the Divining Rod, the Man in the Moon, and the Seven Sleepers—which present new matter, and deserve the praise of independent research.

The myth of the Wandering Jew quite answers to Mr. BaringGould's description of it, as the most thrilling of all mediæval legends, but when he adds “if it be a myth' and proceeds to

yths .

Of his he answer tombers, stri

build a frail prop for its truth on the texts from St. Matthew xvi. 28, and St. Mark ix. 1, we doubt the cogency of his argument that our Lord's declaration, that some which stood by should not taste of death until they saw the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom,' cannot apply to the destruction of Jerusalem. Theophylact and a large consensus of later authorities so interpret that declaration, and if we couple with the texts in question the words of Jesus to Peter in reference to St. John (St. John xxi. 21-3), “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?' it is diffieult to see to what other event they can refer. But suppose these texts do apply, as Mr. Baring-Gould would argue, to the Second Advent. Around our Lord in the one case were His chosen and faithful followers. In the other, he, about whom the hypothetical remark—for, as commentators observe, it was only an if,' after all—to St. Peter was made, was the beloved disciple. In neither case is it to be gathered that the prolongation of life was to be a mark of punishment, but perhaps rather of favour: nor can we deem it at all consonant with Almighty mercy to keep anger for ever,' by singling out for an undying existence of endless wandering over the face of the earth, seeking rest and finding none, one individual out of the thousands who in judicial blindness concurred in crucifying the Lord of Life. It is of course another question whether the texts thus misinterpreted might not form a fair and congenial basis for a myth; and a myth there arose from an early period. In the Chronicles of the Abbey of St. Albans, copied and continued by Matthew Paris, there is the following entry, the first extant notice of the "errant Jew,' under the year 1228 A.D., • Eodem tempore floruit fama longe lateque dispersa de Josepho Carta phila, quem Ananias baptizavit, et qui vidit Christum crucifixum,' and the same chronicler records at length the visit to the Abbey, of an Armenian Archbishop, who by his interpreter communicated to the monks minute particulars respecting this Wandering Jew, derived from personal knowledge.

When the Jews were dragging Jesus forth from Pilate's judgmenthall, and had reached the door, Cartaphilus, a porter in Pilate's service, as Jesus was going out of the door, impiously struck him on the back, and said, in mockery, “Go quicker, Jesus, go quicker! Why do you loiter ?” And Jesus, looking back on him with a severe countenance, said to him, “I am going, and you shall wait till I return." And accordingly, as our Lord said, this Cartaphilus is still awaiting his return. At the time of our Lord's suffering he was thirty years old, and when he attains the age of a hundred and thirty, he always returns to the same age as he was when our Lord suffered. After Christ's death, when the Catholic faith gained ground, this Cartaphilus


« AnteriorContinuar »