W E S T - I N D I A N
E C L O G U E S.
L O N D O N
PRINTED FOR W. LOWNDES, FLEET-STREET
J. PHILIPS, GEORGE YARD, LOMBARD-STREET
A D V E R T I S E M E N T.
THE author of the following Eclogues has resided several years in the West-Indies. They, who have spent only a small portion of time there, must have been frequent witnesses (it is to be hoped, unwilling ones also) of barbarities similar to those, which are here related.
In delineating the following scenes, the author has painted from actual observation. He writes from the heart: for he feels what he describes. In striving to give simplicity of stile to the dialogue, he may have too much neglected those ornaments, of which Poetry ought never, perhaps, to be entirely destitute. But the praise, due to poetic excellence, has not been the author's chief hope. Humanity has been the first, the leading, motive of this undertaking. And if these Eclogues shall contribute, in the humble sphere, to prevent excessive punishments from being unnecessarily inflicted on that wretched race, to whom they relate,——-the author of them will receive the highest gratification, of which his mind is capable, in the pleasing consciousness, that
"One moral, or a mere well-natur'd deed,
"Doth all desert in sciences exceed."——
B E I L B Y,
LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER,
(IN GRATITUDE FOR HIS DISCOURSE ON THE
CIVILISATION, IMPROVEMENT, AND CONVERSION,
OF THE NEGRO-SLAVES
IN THE BRITISH ISLANDS IN THE WEST-INDIES,
FOR HIS CONTINUED PATRONAGE OF EVERY
SUBSEQUENT ENDEAVOUR TO ATTAIN THOSE SALUTARY OBJECTS)
THE FOLLOWING ECLOGUES
ARE MOST HUMBLY
AND MOST RESPECTFULLY
July, 1787. THE AUTHOR.
ECLOGUE THE FIRST.
THE Eastern clouds declare the coming day,
The din of reptiles [a] slowly dies away.
The mountain-tops just glimmer on the eye,
And from their bulky sides the breezes [b] fly.
The Ocean's margin beats the varied strand,
It's hoarse, deep, murmurs reach the distant land.
The Sons of Mis'ry, Britain's foulest stain,
Arise from friendly sleep to pining pain;
Arise, perchance, from dreams of Afric's soil,
To Slav'ry, hunger, cruelty, and toil:—
When slowly moving to their tasks assign'd,
Two sable friends thus eas'd their lab'ring mind.
Oh say, ADOMA, whence that heavy sigh?
Or is thy YARO sick—or droops thy Boy?
Or say what other woe—
[ 2 ]
These wounds behold.—
Alas! by them too plain thy griefs are told!
But whence, or why these stripes? my injur'd friend,
Declare how one so mild could thus offend.
I'll tell thee, JUMBA.—'Twas but yesterday,
As in the field we toil'd our strength away,
My gentle YARO with her hoe was nigh,
And on her back she [c] bore my infant Boy.
The sultry heats had parch'd his little throat,
His head reclin'd I heard his wailing note.
The Mother, at his piteous cries distress'd,
Now paus'd from toil and gave the cheering breast.
But soon alas! the savage Driver [d] came,
And with his cow-skin cut her tender frame;
Loudly he tax'd her laziness,—and then
He curs'd my boy, and plied the lash again!
—JUMBA, I saw the deed,—I heard her grief!
Could I do less?—I flew to her relief;
I fell before him— sued, embrac'd his knee,
And bade his anger vent itself on me,
[ 3 ]
Spurn'd from his feet I dar'd to catch his hand,
Nor loos'd it, JUMBA, at his dread command:
For, blind with rage, at one indignant blow
I thought to lay the pale-fac'd villain low!
But sudden stopp'd;—for now the whites came round,
They seiz'd my arms,—my YARO saw me bound!
Need I relate what follow'd?
Oh! for the pow'r to make these Tyrants bleed!
These, who in regions far remov'd from this,
Think, like ourselves, that liberty is bliss,
Yet in wing'd houses cross the dang'rous waves,
Led by base av'rice, to make others slaves:—
These, who extol the freedom they enjoy,
Yet would to others every good deny:—
These, who have torn us from our native shore
Which (dreadful thought!) we must behold no more:—
These, who insult us through the weary day,
With taunts our tears, with mocks our griefs, repay:
Oh! for the pow'r to bring these monsters low,
And bid them feel the biting tooth of woe!
[ 4 ]
JUMBA, my deep resolves are fix'd! my friend,
This life, this slavish journey, soon shall end.
These fest'ring gashes loudly bid me die,
And by our sacred Gods I will comply.
Yes JUMBA, by each great Fetish [e] I swear,
This, worse than death, I cannot, will not bear.
What! tamely perish? no, ADOMA, no—
Thy great revenge demands a glorious blow.
But dar'st thou bravely act in such a cause?
Friends may be found,—what say'st thou?—why this pause?
JUMBA, thou mov'st me much.—Thy looks are wild,
Thy gestures passionate—
If to be mild
In such a cause were virtue,—on the ground
JUMBA would crawl, and court the causeless wound.
—How oft, my friend, since first we trod these plains
Have trivial faults call'd forth the bitt'rest pains!
How oft our Tyrants, at each dext'rous lash,
With joyous looks have view'd each bleeding gash;
[ 5 ]
How oft to these, with tortures still uncloy'd,
Have they the Eben's prickly branch [f] applied!
And shall we still endure the keenest pain,
And pay our butchers only with disdain?
Shall we, unmov'd, still bear their coward blows?
—No:— vengeance soon shall fasten on our foes,
Lend but thy succour—
Comfort to my soul
Thy words convey, and ev'ry fear controul.
Their last, base, cruel act so steels my heart,
That in thy bold resolves I'll bear a part.
Enough:—Our glorious aims shall soon succeed,
And thou in turn shall see th' oppressors bleed.
Soon shall they fall, cut down like lofty Canes,
And (oh! the bliss) from us receive their pains.
Oh! 'twill be pleasant when we see them mourn,
See the fell cup to their own lip return,
View their pale faces prostrate on the ground,
Their meagre bodies gape with many a wound;
View with delight each agonizing grin,
When melted wax [g] is dropp'd upon their skin:—
Then bid them think—
[ 6 ]
Hark! from yon plaintain trees
Methought a voice came floating on the breeze.
'Tis so: our tyrants come.—
At eve we'll meet again:—mean time be dumb.
End of the first ECLOGUE.
ECLOGUE THE SECOND.
THE twinkling Orbs which pierce the gloom of night
Now shine with more than European light.
Slow from the vap'ury mountains comes the breeze,
And on it's dewy wings sits pale disease.
Rising from distant reefs and rocky shores,
Where vex'd with recent gales old Ocean roars;
Now up the slopes where spiry canes appear,
A faint unvaried din assails the ear.
The lurking reptiles now begin their rounds,
And fill the air with shrill discordant sounds,
And now with varied hum in search of prey,
Unnumber'd insects wheel their airy way;
There glowing fire [h] seems borne upon the wing,
And here the keen Mosquito darts his sting.
The wearied Negroes to their sheds return,
Prepare their morsels, and their hardships mourn,
[ 8 ]
Talk o'er their former bliss, their present woes;
Then sink to earth, and seek a short repose.
—'Twas now the sable friends, in pensive mood,
In a lone path their doleful theme renew'd.
JUMBA, those words sunk deep into my heart,
Which thou in friendship didst this morn impart.
Still at my toil my mind revolv'd them o'er,
But grew, the more I mus'd, dismay'd the more.
Oh! think on PEDRO, gibbetted alive! [i]
Think on his fate—six long days to survive!—
His frantic looks,—his agonizing pain,—
His tongue outstretch'd to catch the dropping rain;
His vain attempts to turn his head aside,
And gnaw the flesh which his own limbs supplied;
Think on his suff'rings, when th' inhuman crew,
T' increase his pangs, plac'd Plantains in his view,
And bade him eat—
If thus thy promise ends,
If thus thy dastard heart would aid thy friends,
Away, mean wretch, and view thy YARO bleed,
And bow submissive to th' unmanly deed!—
[ 9 ]
Thou speak'st of PEDRO.—He possess'd a soul,
Which nobly burst the shackles of control.
He fell betray'd, but boldly met his death;
And curs'd his tyrants with his latest breath.
—But go, ADOMA, since to live is sweet,
Go, like a dog, and lick the white men's feet;
Tell them that hunger, slav'ry, toil, and pain,
Thou wilt endure, nor ever once complain:
Tell them, though JUMBA dares to plot their fall,
That thou art tame, and wilt submit to all.
Go poor submissive slave,—Go, meanly bend,
Court the pale butchers, and betray thy friend.
How!—I betray my friend!—Oh, JUMBA, cease;
Nor stab ADOMA with such words as these.
Death frights me not; I wish revenge like thee;
But oh! I shudder at their cruelty.
I could undaunted, from the craggy steep
Plunge, and be swallow'd in the raging deep;
Fearless I could with Manchineel, or knife,
Or cord, or bullet, end this hated life.
But oh, my friend, like PEDRO to expire,
Or feel the pangs of slow-consuming fire,—
These are most terrible!—
[ 10 ]
A ling'ring pain
Thou fear'st, and yet canst bear thy servile chain!
Canst bear incessant toil, and want of food,
Canst bear the Driver's lash to drink thy blood!
Say, doom'd to these, what now does life supply
But ling'ring pain, which must at length destroy?
—Yet go, poor timid wretch, go fawn and grieve:
And as those gashes heal, still more receive:
Go, and submit, like oxen to the wain;—
But never say thou fear'st a ling'ring pain.
Thy charge is just. But, friend, there still remain
Two ways to free us from this galling chain.
Sure we can bid our various sorrows cease
By quitting life, or how, or when we please:
Or we can quickly fly these cruel whites
By seeking shelter on the mountains' heights,
Where wild hogs dwell, where lofty Cocoas grow,
And boiling streams of purest waters flow.
There we might live; for thou with skilful hand
Canst form the bow, and jav'lin, of our land.
There we might freely roam, in search of food,
Up the steep crag, or through the friendly wood,
There we might find—
[ 11 ]
Alas! thou dost not know
The King of all those mountains is our foe; [k]
His subjects num'rous, and their chief employ
To hunt our race, when fled from slavery.
Lur'd by the hope of gain such arts are tried,
No rocks can cover us, no forests hide.
Against us evn' the chatt'ring Birds combine,
And aid those hunters in their curs'd design:
For oft, through them, [l] the fugitives are caught,
And, strongly pinion'd, to their tyrants brought.
O'er vale, or mountain, thus where'er we go,
The suff'ring Negro surely finds a foe.
Ah, JUMBA, worse, much worse our wretched state,
Thus vex'd, thus harass'd, than that fishes [m] fate,
Which frequent we beheld when wafted o'er
The great rough water from our native shore.
He, as the tyrants of the deep pursu'd,
Would quit the waves their swiftness to elude,
And skim in air:—when lo! a bird of prey
Bends his strong wing, and bears the wretch away!
No refuge, then, but death—
[ 12 ]
What! tamely die!
No! vengeance first shall fall on tyranny!
We'll view these white men gasping in their gore;—
Then let me perish! JUMBA asks no more.—
Oh! peace,—think where thou art; thy voice is high:
Quick drop the dang'rous theme.—My shed is nigh;
There my poor YARO will our rice prepare;—
I pray thee come.—
Away, and take thy fare,
For me, I cannot eat,—haste to thy shed.
Farewell, be cautious,—think on what I've said.
End of the second ECLOGUE.
ECLOGUE THE THIRD.
NOW downward darts the fierce meridian ray,
And nature pants amid'st the blaze of day,
Though pitying Ocean, to her suff'rings kind,
Fans her warm bosom with his eastern wind.
Now the huge mountains charm the roving eye,
Their verdant summits tow'ring to the sky.
The cultur'd hill, the vale, the spreading plain,
The distant sea-worn beach, the ruffled main,
The anchoring Bark o'erspread with awnings white,
All, now appear in robes of dazzling light.
The feather'd race their gaudy plumes display,
And sport, and flutter, 'midst the glowing day.
The long-bill'd, humming tribes [n] now hover round,
And shew their tints where blossoms most abound.
With eyes intent on earth, well pois'd in air,
Now useful Vultures seek their fated fare,
[ 14 ]
Where curls the wave, the Pelican on high,
With beak enormous, and with piercing eye,
If chance he sees a watry tenant rise,
Now headlong drops and bears away his prize.
Now variegated flies their pinions spread;
And speckled Lizards start at ev'ry tread.
Now oxen to the shore in pond'rous wains,
Drag the rich produce of the juicy canes.
Now wearied Negroes to their sheds repair,
Or spreading tree, to take their scanty fare:
Whose hour expir'd, the shell [o] is heard to blow,
And the sad tribe resume their daily woe.
'Twas now, beneath a Tam'rind's cool retreat,
Two sable friends thus mourn'd their wretched fate.
Oh QUAMINA! how roll'd the Suns away,
When thus upon our native soil we lay;
When we repos'd beneath the friendly shade,
And quaff'd our palmy wine, and round survey'd
Our naked offspring sporting free as air,
Our num'rous wives the chearing feast prepare:
Saw plenty smile around our cane-built sheds,
Saw Yams shoot up, and Cocoas lift their heads.
[ 15 ]
—But now ah! said reverse! our groans arise,
Forlorn and hopeless, far from all we prize:
Timid we tremble at our tyrants' frown,
And one vast load of mis'ry bends us down.
Yes,—those were times which we in vain may mourn,
Times which, my CONGO, never will return!
Times, e'er the scourge's hated sound was known,
Or hunger, toil, and stripes, had caus'd a groan.
Times, when with arrows arm'd, and trusty bow,
We oft repell'd each rude, invading, foe.
Times, when we chac'd the fierce-ey'd beasts of prey
Through tangled woods, which scarcely know the day:
When oft we saw, in spite of all his care,
The bulky Elephant [p] within our snare.
Twelve moons are past, for still I mark them down,
Since the fell trading race attack'd our town;
Since we were seiz'd by that inhuman band,
Forc'd from our wives, our friends, and native land.
Twelve long, long moons they've been; and since that day
Oft have we groan'd beneath a cruel sway.
Oft has the taper'd scourge, where knots and wire
Are both combin'd to raise the torture higher,
[ 16 ]
Brought bloody pieces from each quiv'ring part,
Whilst tyrant whites have sworn 'twas dext'rous art.
Sharks seize them all! their love of torture grows,
And the whole Island echoes with our woes.
Didst thou know JUMBA?—Some close, list'ning ear,
Heard him last eve denounce in terms severe,
Deep vengeance on these whites. In vain he fled:
This morn I saw him number'd with the dead!
A fate so sudden!—And yet why complain?
The white mans pleasure is the Negroes pain.
Didst thou e'er see, when hither first we came,
An ancient Slave, ANGOLA was his name?
Whose vig'rous years upon these hills were spent,
In galling servitude, and discontent:
He late, too weak to bear the weighty toil,
Which all endure who till this hated soil,
Was sent, as one grown useless on th' estate,
Far to the town to watch his Master's gate,
Or to the house each morn the fuel bring,
Or bear cool water from the distant spring:
With many a toil, with many a labour more,
Although his aged head was silver'd oer,
[ 17 ]
Although his body like a bow was bent,
And old, and weak, he totter'd as he went.
I knew him not,
Often, each labour sped,
Has he with aching limbs attain'd his shed.
Attain'd the spot, dejected and forlorn,
Where he might rest his aged head 'till morn:
Where, wearied out, he op'd the friendly door,
And, entring, prostrate sunk upon the floor.
Feeble and faint some moons he toil'd away;
(For trifles toil become as men decay)
When late beneath the driver's lash he fell,
And scourg'd, and tortur'd, bade the world farewell.
But why the scourge? Wherefore such needless rage?
Is there no pity, then, for weak old age?
'Twas part of his employ, with empty pail,
To crawl for water to a neighb'ring vale:
And as he homeward bore the liquid load,
With trembling steps along the rugged road,
[ 18 ]
His wither'd limbs denied their wonted aid:
—The broken vessel his mishap betray'd.
This his offence:— for this, thrown on the ground,
His feeble limbs outstretch'd, and strongly bound,
His body bare, each nerve convuls'd with pain,
I saw and pitied him—but ah! in vain.
Quick fell the lash: his hoary head laid low,
His eyes confess'd unutterable woe.
He sued for mercy: the big tear apace,
Stole down the furrows of his aged face.
His direful groans (for such they were indeed!)
Mix'd with his words when e'er he strove to plead,
And form'd such moving eloquence, that none
But flinty-hearted Christians could go on.
At length releas'd, they bore him to his shed:
Much he complain'd, and the next morn was dead.
And was this all? was this th' atrocious deed?
Which doom'd this hoary sufferer to bleed?
May ev'ry curse attend this pallid race,
Of earth the bane, of manhood the disgrace.
May their dread Judge, who, they pretend to say,
Rules the whole world with undivided sway,
May he (if such he hath) display his pow'r,
Poison their days, appall their midnight hour,
[ 19 ]
Bid them to fear his wrathful, stern, controul,
Pour his whole cup of trembling on their soul,
'Till they, repentant, these foul deeds forego, [q]
And feel their hearts distress'd with others' woe!
End of the third ECLOGUE.
ECLOGUE THE FOURTH.
WITH dreadful darkness now the Isle is crown'd,
And the fierce northern [r] tempest howls around.
Loud roars the surf; the rocks return the roar,
And liquid fire seems bursting on the shore.
Swift darts the light'ning in fantastic guise,
And bellowing thunder rolls along the skies.
Convuls'd, the big black clouds drop sheets of rain,
And uproar lords it o'er the dark domain.
At this dread hour, deep in an orange grove,
The said LOANGO mourn'd his absent love.
"Three nights in this appointed gloom I've past,
"No QUAMVA comes,— and this shall be my last.
"Hoarse thunder, cease thy roar:— perchance she stays,
"Appall'd by thee, thou light'nings fiery blaze:
"'Tis past the hour:—chill North, thy blasts restrain,
"And thou, black firmament, hold up thy rain:
"Let QUAMVA come, my wife, my sole delight,
"Torn from my arms by that accursed white; [s]
"That pale-fac'd villain,—he, who through the day
"O'erlooks our toils, and rules with bloody sway;
[ 21 ]
"By him, who proud of lordship o'er the field,
"By daily tortures made my QUAMVA yield;
"Him, who has stol'n my treasure from my arms,
"And now perhaps, now riots on her charms!
"Oh! 'tis too much:—Come dark revenge and death;
"He bravely falls, who stops a tyrant's breath.
"Roar on, fierce tempests:—Spirits of the air
"Who rule the storms, oh! grant my ardent pray'r.
"Assemble all your winds, direct their flight,
"And hurl destruction on each cruel White:—
"Sweep canes, and Mills, and houses to the ground,
"And scatter ruin, pain, and death around:—
"Rouse all your blasting fires, that lurk on high,
"And, 'midst his pleasures, let the plund'rer die!
"But spare my QUAMVA, who, with smother'd sighs,
"The odious rape endures, but not enjoys,
"Wishing the Tyrant's senses drown'd in sleep,
"That she enraptur'd may her promise keep.
"Oh! 'tis too much:— Come dark revenge, and death;
"He bravely falls, who stops a tyrant's breath.
"Yet let me pause. 'Tis said that woman's mind
"Still changes like the Hurricane's fierce wind, [t]
"Ranging from man to man, as shifts the Bee,
"Or long-bill'd Humming-bird, from tree to tree.
"How if she like the White, his gaudy cloaths,
"His downy bed for pleasure and repose;
[ 22 ]
"His shrivel'd frame, his sickly pallid face;
"And finds a transport in his weak embrace.
"It may be so.—Oh! vengeance on her head,
"It is, it is:—She likes the Driver's bed.
"For this she stays.—Ye hidden scorpions creep,
"And with your pois'nous bites invade their sleep;
"Ye keen CENTIPEDES, oh! crawl around,
"Ye sharp-tooth'd Snakes, inflict your deadly wound.
"Fool that I was to think her woman's soul,
"The love of beads, and fin'ry could controul:
"Or think that one so beauteous would endure,
"My lowly bed, a mat upon the floor;
"My Yam, or Plantain, water from the spring,
"And the small bliss LOANGO's love could bring.
—"No, 'tis too plain:— Come dark revenge, and death,
"And steel my soul to stop a wanton's breath.
"The MANCHINEEL, how beauteous to the sight,
"But [u] ah! how deadly to the appetite!
"Such woman is, that loveliest of ills;
"If seen she charms, if more than seen she kills.
"When forc'd by savage Whites from Afric's soil,
"And doom'd by them to cruelty and toil;
"Death was my early wish: but QUAMVA found,
"All my past woes were in possession drown'd.
"Oft when I came at eve oppress'd with woe,
"Gloomy, and weary from the lab'ring hoe,
[ 23 ]
"Can I forget each soft, each soothing, art
"Which QUAMVA us'd to chear my drooping heart?
"Can I forget, 'though she my toil had shar'd,
"How soon the scanty viands were prepar'd?
"Oh! never:—but those blissful days are o'er;
"QUAMVA is false, and I am blest no more!
"QUAMVA is false:—Come dark revenge, and death,
"And steel my soul to stop a wanton's breath.
"Glad through the herbage sport the reptile kind,
"To food and pleasure are their nights consign'd.
"Swift with his mate the bird unbounded flies,
"And on his native hills the bliss enjoys.
"Not so LOANGO:— he from peaceful plains
"Where plenty dwells, and no curs'd white restrains,
"Was dragg'd o'er wat'ry regions to this Isle,
"And doom'd to slavery, torture, want, and toil.
"Yet these I bore, while QUAMVA cheer'd my pains:—
"But QUAMVA's lost, and nought but death remains.
"Three long, long nights still absent! 'Tis too plain,
"The white man pleases, and my hopes are vain.
"Come then, revenge, and 'midst this horrid roar
"My thirsty knife shall drink their streaming gore.
"Come, swiftly come, and aid me to surprise
"These guilty lovers acting o'er their joys;
"Just then—great Afric's Gods!—to strike the blow!
"Just then—what transports would the stroke bestow!
[ 24 ]
"Just then—my brain's on fire!—Come, pointed blade,
"And poor LOANGO's vengeance justly aid. [x]
"Three, three must fall! for Oh! I'll not survive;
"I dread the white men's gibbeting alive,
"Their wiry tortures, and their ling'ring fires:—
"These he escapes, who by the knife expires.
"Come, then, revenge!—The deed will soon be o'er,
"And then LOANGO views his native shore;
"Rides on the fleeting clouds through airy roads,
"Nor stops 'till plac'd in Afric's bless'd abodes.
"Come pointed blade;—the Tyrant's house is nigh:—
"And now for vengeance, death, and liberty!—"
Then to the place, with frenzy fir'd, he fled,
And the next morn beheld the mangled dead!—
F I N I S.
N O T E S.
a MYRIADS of these reptiles nightly prowl through the woods, in search of prey; and, at the approach of morn, retire to their lurking places. Their out-cry is remarkbly shrill; but, when softened by distance, to some ears is not disagreeable. Back to text
b THE wind blows gently from the land, in Jamaica, towards the sea in every direction, throughout the evening, and night; and continues to blow in the same manner until about the hour of nine in the morning. After that time the heat would soon become intolerable, were it not tempered by a brisk, refreshing, gale from the sea, which almost instantly succeeds the land-breeze. It is first seen to approach the shore in a fine, small, black curl, agitating the water; whilst that part of the sea, at which it hath not yet arrived, is calm and smooth. In the space of half an hour after it has reached the shore, it blows with some briskness, increases in strength until noon, and dies away by degrees about five in the afternoon; and it returns not until the following morning. This sea-breeze checks the fierce rays of the sun, chears the panting inhabitants, and renders this, and the neighbouring Islands, a supportable residence for Europeans. Back to text
c THREE, and sometimes four, weeks are allowed for the recovery of the female slaves after child-bed. They are then sent into the field, and toil in common with their fellow-slaves; the infant being either carried on the back of it's mother, or placed on the ground near to the spot where she is directed to work. Back to text
[ 26 ]
d THOUGH the Negro-drivers on this Island, are in general black-men, yet sometimes a subordinate European is stationed on the field, in order to superintend the whole. Wishing to ingratiate himself with his superiors, and to gain the reputation of being active and vigilant, he daily, under the mask of what is termed necessary discipline, inflicts the severest punishments, for the most trifling offences. The cow-skin, which is in common use, is a durable whip, composed of the tapered slips of cow or buffalo-hide, twisted to a point; to which is added, such a lash as the tormentors may think the best fitted for what they in a facetious tone have been heard to term, cutting up the black-birds. Back to text
e THE Fetish or Fetiche, is a name given by the negroes to their deities: some of whom are supposed (in Guinea) to preside over whole provinces, and others, of an inferior rank, over single families only. These supposed divinities are sometimes trees, the head of an ape, or bird, or any other object of a wild fancy; but they are held by the negroes in the highest veneration. Back to text
f WHEN the body of the unhappy sufferer is cut into furrows by the operation of the lash, it is frequently scourged a second time with a branch of the Eben, strongly beset with sharp thorns. This greatly increases the torments of the sufferer; but it is said to let out the congealed blood, and to prevent a mortification. The last step of this process of cruelty, is to wash the mangled wretch with a kind of pickle; or to throw him headlong into the sea, the effect of the salt-water being supposed to be nearly equal to that of the pickle. Back to text
g WHEN the bodies of the negroes are covered with blood, and their flesh torn to pieces with the driver's whip, beaten pepper, and salt, are frequently thrown on the wounds, and a large stick of sealing-wax dropped down, in flames, leisurely upon them. Back to text
h THE fire-fly seems to be a species of the beetle. Under it's belly, and on each side of it's head, near the eyes, are certain prominent, circular, parts, which appear to be of a green colour in the day, but in the night-season emit a clear, strong, light. For some time after the death of this fly, it's body will still glow, and shine, in the dark; but not so powerfully as when
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alive. These flies live in rotten trees, and other places of concealment, in the day; but always come abroad in the night, and are sometimes so numerous as to illuminate the whole atmosphere. Back to text
i A PUNISHMENT not uncommon in the West-Indies. Some of the miserable sufferers have been known to exist a week in this most dreadful situation. (See a most affecting account of one instance of this kind, in the Rev. Mr. RAMSAY's Treatise.) Back to text
k WHEN this Island of Jamaica was surrendered to the English, in A. D. 1655, and the Spaniards themselves had retired to Cuba, the Spanish slaves were induced by magnificent promises, from their late masters, of speedy and effectual assistance, to retire to the strong fastnesses of the mountains, and to bid defiance to the English power. By the wise, and vigorous measures of Colonel D'OYLEY, the first Governor of Jamaica, (a cavalier, who had greatly distinguished himself by his courage, and conduct, in the civil wars) the power of these rebellious Negroes was soon so broken, as to be thought by many an object of small, or no concern. D'OYLEY, indeed, protested against this conclusion, and urged the necessity of improving the past successes of the English into a compleat, and decisive, subjugation of the revolters: but he was over-ruled. The consequence of this improvident conduct was,—that the small remnant of these revolted slaves, being gradually joined by others from the plantations below, soon made the mountains again terrible to the planters; whom they harrassed with continual, and frequently formidable, attacks for nearly a whole century. At length, in or about the year 1740, a peace was concluded with them by the Hon. EDWARD TRELAWNEY, then governor of the Island:—by the terms of which they were declared free. They were allowed to have a chief to govern them; but he was to be restrained from taking any important measure, without the consent of the governor of the Island. Several white-men were admitted, by the treaty, to live among the late revolters, to observe their actions. But the chief service expected from them, was, and still is,—to bring back to the planters those wretches, whom hunger, or cruelty, forces to the mountains for shelter. They are allowed a premium for every fugitive they restore, and are remarkably vigilant in their employment. Back to text
l CERTAIN birds, commonly called in Jamaica black-birds, frequent the inmost recesses of the woods; and at the sight of a human being, they begin
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a loud and continual clamour which is heard at a considerable distance. Their noise serves as a guide to the mountain-hunters, who immediately penetrate into that part of the wood, and seize the fugitives. Back to text
m THE flying fish (the hirundo, or mugil alatus, of some authors, and the exocætus volitans of the Phil. Trans. vol. 68, part 2d. page 791) has two long fins, which in some degree perform the office of wings. It is about the size of a herring, and of the same shape. When this Fish is pursued, in his native element, by the Dolphin, he springs out of the water, and skims above the surface to a considerable distance. Yet even here he is not safe. The Albitrosses, Sea-gulls, and other aquatic birds, are frequently seen to fall upon, and seize, him in his flight. Should he even escape these (which indeed he frequently does) as soon as his wings, or rather fins, become dry, he drops, and is instantly swallowed by his watry foe; who, during this aerial excursion, eyes him askance, keeping exactly under him: and, while thus pursuing, changes colour in so extraordinary a manner, as to form one of the most beautiful objects in nature. The Bonetta, or Bonita, is another enemy to this fish. It is a species of the Tunny or Traclurus: somewhat like a cod-fish, but much larger, and more beautiful. Back to text
n THE humming-bird (Trochilus, or guainumbi) is admirable for it's beauty, shape, smell, and for the whole of it's mode of existence. In flying it makes a noise exactly like the humming of a bee (from whence it takes it's name) and indeed is not much larger than the humble-bee. It is the least, and yet the most beautiful, of all birds. The colours of the feathers in it's neck, and wing, represent those of the rain-bow. Some of these birds have a vivid redness under their necks, which exceeds the finest carbuncle. The colour of the belly, and the under-part of the wings, is a bright yellow; the thighs are as green as an emerald; the feet, and beak, black as polished ebony, and the head of a fine sea-green colour. It makes a louder noise, in it's flight, than some of the largest birds. And it seems to delight in flying near the faces of travellers; whom it surprises in passing, like a little whirlwind. It's tongue is hollow like a reed, but not larger than a small needle; which, as it can sustain itself a long time on the wing, it thrusts into the blossoms of the
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flowers, by the juice's of which it is fed, and supported. The only method of taking these beautiful creatures is to shoot at them with sand, which stuns them. But all die that are taken by this, or any other method; for no human art can supply them with their ordinary food. Back to text
o A LARGE Conch shell is used in some plantations to summon the slaves to their labour. On others the call is made by a bell. Back to text
p WHEN the Elephant's regular path to the neighbouring river is discovered, the Negroes in Africa dig a pit across it; in the center of which is fixed a sharp-pointed stake, of a large size. About an inch below the surface of the ground a platform is made, over this pit, of slips of cane, and small boughs of trees, upon which are placed the green sods of earth which had been before carefully taken up for that purpose. The huge animal, careless and inoffensive, comes slowly onward, cropping perhaps the pendent branches of the trees on each side of his path: when the first step that he takes on this deceitful covering, plunges him headlong into the pit, where if he be not transfixed by the pointed stake, the Negroes rush from their concealment, and with their javelins soon put an end to his existence. Back to text
q SOME few plantations on this island might be enumerated, where by kind and judicious treatment, the Africans have so far multiplied, as to render the purchase of new Negroes (as they are termed) altogether unnecessary. Might not this become general?—The same causes, if suffered to operate fully as they ought, would universally produce the same effects. Setting aside every motive of humanity, sound policy naturally dictates such proceedings as these. And a few, and those not expensive, encouragements held forth to this dejected race, would produce the desired effect: such as the allowance of more ease, and better food, to the Negroes; and a grant of particular privileges, nay even of freedom, to those mothers who have brought up a certain number of children. And the expence of such humane provisions, as well as the temporary abatement (if any should happen) in the exertions of any given number of slaves, would soon be amply repaid, even to the largest plantation, by the savings of the money usually expended in the annual purchase of fresh slaves, and by the great, and acknowledged, superiority of home-born Negroes to those imported from Africa. I am indebted for many of these observations to the 17th Sermon of that most excellent Prelate, to whom, although unknown to him, I have ventured to inscribe this little work: a discourse, in which the
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clearness of the understanding, is only to be surpassed by the goodness of the heart, of the Preacher; a discourse which abounds in philanthropy, and enforces humanity upon the most powerful motives, because it is dictated by the genuine principles of the Christian Religion. Back to text
r IN our winter months the common trade-wind is frequently interrupted by heavy storms from the northward; which, on that side of the island, in particular, where the bays, and the plantations, are exposed to their violence, do immense damage. Thunder is not very frequent at Jamaica; but when it happens, it is astonishingly loud, and terrible. Back to text
s THIS cruel practice of the white master, or driver, in forcing the wives of the Negroes to a compliance, cannot be too severely reprobated. It has produced the most fatal consequences in every part of the West-Indies. One instance, which occurred in Jamaica, shall be particularly mentioned. In the first skirmishes which happened with the Spaniards, after the English obtained possession of the Island, those Spanish slaves, in general, who had deserted from their former masters, fought under the English banners with great courage. One slave, in particular, was observed, by Colonel D'OYLEY, the then English governor, to have exerted himself with uncommon intrepidity, and to have killed several Spaniards in close engagement. On inquiry it was found that this Negro had loved a young female slave to distraction; that he had been married to her for some years before the English invaded the Island; and that a short time before that invasion the tyrant, his master, had barbarously torn her from him, and compelled her to submit to his rapacious will. The injured husband implored, and remonstrated: and he was answered—by the whip. The disturbances, consequent upon the English invasion, afforded him an opportunity of an interview with his beloved wife. He told her, in a few words, that he still loved her with too sincere a passion, not to be sensible of what he had lost; but as their former days of love, and purity, could never return, he would not live to see her another's, when she could not be his own; for that, however innocent she might be in intention, he never could take an adulteress into his arms. "Thus, therefore" (says he) "I now exert the rights of a
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husband:"—and plung'd his poniard into her heart! He immediately fled to the English. And, in his first engagement with his former masters, having observed his cruel tyrant in the Spanish line, he flew to the place where he fought, and soon laid him, with several other Spaniards, at his feet. Colonel D'OYLEY declared him free, on the field of battle; and accompanied the grant of his freedom with the gift of a small plantation, upon which he lived ever afterwards in quiet, but with a thoughtfulness, and melancholy, which he could never overcome. He survived to a very advanced term of life, dying in the year 1708. His son behaved with the utmost gallantry against the French, in their invasion of Jamaica in A. D. 1695; and hazarded his life, on several occasions, against the mountain-Negroes, whilst they continued in rebellion. Back to text
t HURRICANES are so called from the Indian word hurica, which signifies the Devil. Immediately previous to this furious storm, the sea becomes calm on a sudden; then the air instantly becomes darkened (even at noon-day) with thick, and pitchy clouds. Soon the sky seems on fire with horrible lightenings. Then follow dreadful claps of thunder; and the winds immediately succeed with such impetuous force, that they root up the strongest trees, overthrow the firmest houses; and destroy every thing within their vortex. They usually begin in the north; but within the compass of a very few hours, they traverse the whole round of the Heavens, and blow from every point of the compass. Back to text
u THE manchineel-tree (hippomane) is very large; it's apple is beautiful to the eye, (being in appearance somewhat like a rich golden pippin) agreeable to the smell, and pleasant to the taste. But if eaten in large quantitites, it is certain death. The savages use the sap of this tree to poison their arms, the wounds of which are thereby rendered mortal. The drops of rain, which fall from it's leaves, raise blisters upon the human body in the most surprizing manner. These trees are in the vegetable, what Lions, and Tygers, are in the animal, kingdom. They make entire deserts in their neighbourhood. Even the shade of these trees is said to be fatal to those who sit long under them, unless their ill effects are timely prevented by proper applciations. (Phil. Trans. vol. 50, p. 772.) Back to text
x THE desire of revenge is an impetuous, a ruling passion, in the minds of these African slaves. "Being heathens not only in their hearts, but in their lives, and knowing no distinction between vice and virtue, they give themselves up
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freely to the grossest immoralities, without being even conscious they are doing wrong." (Bishop of Chester's Sermon, before quoted.) But were it necessary, many instances might be adduced to shew, that some Negroes are capable of kind, nay even of heroic, actions. The story of QUASHI, related by Mr. RAMSAY, is one signal proof of this assertion. Another can be given by the Author of these Eclogues; who was preserved from destruction by the humanity of a Negro slave. His deliverance, however, was purchased at a price which he must ever deplore. For, in saving his life, the brave, the generous, African lost his own! Back to text
F I N I S.
A Note on the Text
West-Indian Eclogues (London: W. Lowndes and J. Philips, 1787)
This e-text is located at www.brycchancarey.com/slavery/rushton.htm
Authorship: The poem was written by Edward Rushton (1756-1814).
Text: The base text was prepared by Paul Baines and set in HTML by Brycchan Carey. Baines is the editor of The Collected Writings of Edward Rushton (1756-1814) (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2014). This includes an introduction and explanatory notes.