Sacred-Texts Native American South American Index Previous Next
|WHERE Orinoco, through his delta wide,|
By numerous channels, seeks the ocean tide;
Where, annually, his waters flood the ground,
And wide lagoons, with muddy isles, abound,
The fan-like branches of the ita palm
By thousands wave above his waters calm.
Those stately trees supply the rude abode
Which the poor Warau makes above the rising flood.
|That race, of old from other regions driven,|
Could not have lived, but for that shelter given.
Unwarlike, they could not their foes withstand,
But had to yield to them the higher land.
On fish and crabs those Waraus chiefly live,
Which in abundance there the waters give.
Their palm-tree1 pith a kind of bread affords,
Its leaves give thatch and cords, the split trunk serves for boards.
|Yet some provision grounds those Waraus have,|
Where land appears above the tidal wave;
And from their swampy refuges they come,
Beneath our rule to find a peaceful home.
>From Orinoco to Moruca's stream,
More numerous than other tribes they seem.
And farther east, where ita swamps abound,
Even in Surinam, the Warau race is found.
|We called the tribes—a mission space to clear|
At Waramuri, for the Waraus near.
Unkempt, unclad, their women there we found;
Their naked children wallowed on the ground,
With filth and ashes grimed—sad sight to see:
We wondered how such way of life could be!
Most wild and gaunt the men, who took no care,
And only wished to be—just what they were.
Lower than others, as he would allow,
And satisfied to be so, was the poor Warau!1
|THEIR ancient belief we had long wished to hear:|
Some had said 'twas "romantic," while others said "queer."
But, from shyness or fear,
Till the twenty-first year,
Of their most knowing sorcerers none would come near.
Then, at last, a friend told me to send for "McLeod,"
Who to be their most learned by all was allowed.
And that Warau of fame
(With the highland Scotch name),
After long hesitation, consented, and came.
|His visit to us was a favour most rare:|
So myself, our good teacher, and other friends there,
With honour received him, and offered—a chair.
But he sat on the ground,
With his Waraus around,
Whose costume was most "light and airy" we found.
They—with long, matted hair,
And bare skins—squatted there,
While their chief a striped shirt condescended to wear.
| Their traditional "word"|
A good friend there had heard;
Partly Warau was he, and to him we referred.
For a mixture most strange through some tales seemed to run;
Their most serious matters so blended with fun,
That (though none of the red men there thought it absurd)
We could scarcely believe it the "Old people's word."
|"Oh tell me, McLeod, did not slaughter and woe|
First cause the Waraus to that swamp-land to go?
Did you not live inland, where the clear waters flow,
Ere the fortune of war sternly drove you below?"
|"Stern foes have indeed caused the Waraus to fly:|
But they first lived on high,
Above yonder blue sky,
Ere they came down the good things of this world to try.
Such, such is the tale of our forefathers given,
Who thus rashly lost their high station in heaven!"
| We opened our eyes;|
But he, calm and wise,
Superior smiled, and enjoyed our surprise.
Then resumed: "What I tell you, you will not believe,
Yet hear now the legend our elders receive."
|"Say, Okonoróté, thou archer so gay,|
With bright feathered ornaments, whither away?
Let the birds now beware or thy clear, glancing eye;
For thine arrows bear death to all creatures that fly!"
|"With my arrows so keen I pursue a rare bird,|
Of whose lovely plumage we often have heard;
That bird I must find, though I cannot tell where;
But its flesh I must eat, and its plumage must wear."
|So Okonoróté went forth on his way,|
To seek that rare bird with its plumage so gay.
He could only shoot birds, for above the blue sky
Were no living creatures, save those that could fly,
And the young Warau race, who in that high abode
Had been placed by their Maker, the Wise and the Good.
|That search he engaged in for many a day;|
But still, as it saw him, the bird flew away,
Till (surely some evil one brought it to pass)
He saw it alight in a clump of high grass.
|Then, lying flat down, he slid over the ground,|
Like tiger or snake which some victim has found;
The distance diminished, yet still he crawled on,
Saying, "Oh for one shot ere the bird shall be gone!"
|At length he had crawled within shot of that bird,|
When lo! it flew up, as some movement it heard.
With keen arrow transfixed the bright beauty was slain,
And, with quivering wing, fluttered down to the plain.
|Glad Okonoróté sprang up with a bound,|
And, shouting for joy, made the meadows resound.
"No longer," said he, "need I rise with the sun
To pursue this bright bird, for my prize now is won!"
| Then he searched all the ground—|
Walked around and around;
Strange!—arrow and bird were nowhere to be found!
Such a loss who could bear?
He looked everywhere,
Till he saw a deep pit, and said, "Both must be there;"
And the sides being steep, he approached it with care.
|But gone was his arrow for ever and aye;|
Gone too that bright bird with its plumage so gay.
And he, fascinated, unable to move,
Saw daylight beneath, him, as well as above!
There, far, far below,
He could see forests grow;
Wide plains, and savannahs, where rivulets flow.
And he looked down for hours those new wonders to view,
Thinking, "All is a dream, sure it cannot be true!
"Some charm fills mine eye,
Or do I espy
On the green plains below, living creatures pass by?"
He could see there the deer and the peccary go,
The choice paca, and others, which now we all know;
While birds which soar high,
Rising near to the sky,
And some, nearer earth, his clear vision could spy!
|* * * * * *|
|"Now hear, Waraus all! You know what I have seen;|
And many here present to view it have been.
Prepare a rope ladder; I must go below
And see if those creatures are useful or no.
If it be as I hope, 'tis our people's great gain,
And if I lose my life, one man only is slain."
|Oh, great was their fear lest his life he should lose;|
But Okonoróté none e'er could refuse.
So all to the woods, picking cotton, would go,
For forests of cotton were there, as we know.
(Perhaps they used "bush-ropes" the cotton to aid).
It took many months, but the ladder they made.
It was lengthened above when too short it was found,
Till it grappled the trees upon this lower ground;
And it then, tight above, with strong braces was bound.
|Bold Okonoróté, determined to go,|
Strong-limbed, and brave-hearted, then ventured below.
'Twas a perilous venture, to come from above
By a ladder so frail, which light currents could move.
And when he was down, he stood gazing around
In utter amazement at all things he found;
The fire, so abundant, he saw with surprise,
The quadrupeds strange, and their wonderful size:
For all seemed most wonderful then to his eyes.
|He must have seen wild beasts devouring their prey,|
For jaguars and snakes then had all their own way.
And he thought he would venture to taste some large game,
So he shot a young deer, and soon kindled a flame,
In the Indian style, with two pieces of wood;
And the ven'son he found to be excellent food.
|Ascending again!—Oh, what labour and pain|
To the quick-heaving chest!—to the limbs, what a strain!
It was hard to come down; but to climb up again!
(Though we came from the sky,
I had rather not try:
Some people turn giddy when mounting too high.)
It was done but that once, as you'll find by and by.
|A portion of game he brought up from below;|
Not much, but sufficient his people to show:
His words (and its flavour) put all in a glow.
"Oh! we cannot stay here; for there is little good
In the small birds around us: but animal food
We know to abound
On that lower ground,
Which Okonoroté for Waraus has found!"
|So they asked no permission, but said, "We will go!"|
And came down the rope ladder to this world below.
All things then were young—no old people were found;
Small children they carried, and all reached the ground
In safety, save one—a poor woman, the last,
Who got wedged in the hole which the others had passed.
|Her husband below her sore trouble could view,|
And climbed back to give help, but could not get her through;
Then, his head turning giddy, he went down below,
Where his people all thought it a terrible blow,
And in clamorous talking gave vent to their woe.
They all asked how it happened. He could not tell how;
So the thing was mysterious to ev'ry Warau.
|Then the women, upbraiding, would ask, "Is it right|
For that man to come down, and not stay up all night?
Brave Okonoróté! he climbed up before;
Will he not go up now, with a man or two more,
Since the husband, resigned, has quite given it o'er!"
|They all shrunk from the task, for a man there had said,|
Whom they straightway discovered to have a wise head,
"Supposing you reach her, and can pull her through,
Will she not be the death of you all, if you do?
You will find it no fun—
She will come with a run;
Consider how you, in that case, can hold on?
You must be swept off, and our best men be gone."
|* * * * * * *|
|So the woman remains (though the ladder gave way),|
And will always remain there, our old Waraus say,
She fills up the hole; and, good friends, that is why
We never can get a fair peep though the sky!"
|* * * * * *|
|He paused. Some were laughing, and all the rest smiled|
At a "descent from heaven" so grotesque and wild,
Then the old Warau said, "You all think I 'make fun;'
But it is in this way that the legend must run,
And so I must tell it. If not, I have done!"
|Being soothed, he resumed, in a different tone,|
For the course of his legends more serious had grown.
|"See the Warau race begin|
Life in this new world below.
With their bows the hunters win
Plenteous food—no want they know;
Yet they feel within them grow
Anxious dread of future woe.
|Safety, which in heaven they had,|
Here on earth cannot be found;
Good is mingled here with bad;
Savage beasts of prey abound.
Reptiles coil in trees around,
Or lurk, deadly, on the ground.
|One thing then filled all with fear,|
Scanty water and unclean!
'Twas not as we now see here,
Where large streams have long time been;
Streamlets small, in marshes green,
Then were all that could be seen.
|"Oh, where shall we water find,|
Till the wished-for rain shall fall?
Other woes we bear, resigned,
But this thirst consumes us all!
Let us now, both great and small,
On our mighty Maker call.
|"We forsook our Father-friend:|
We forsook His place on high;
Death by thirst He now will send;
Through his wrath these pools are dry.
To Him, brethren, let us cry,
He may hear above the sky!
|"O Karima (Father) Thou!|
We Thy place no more shall see.
Once in heaven each Warau
Happy was near thee to be.
But we have forsaken thee,
Thence proceeds our misery!
|"Ka-idāmo (Master) Thou!|
All things are at Thy command;
Seeking water vainly now
We may roam through this dry land.
Must we perish 'neath Thy hand?
Wretched, miserable band!"
|Kanonatu, throned on high|
(So Waraus the Maker call),
Heard, and from the dark'ning sky
Caused the welcome rain to fall;
Made the rivers great and small,
Which abundance bring to all.
|Women then, with happy glee,|
Filled their vessells to the brim:
While the men saw joyfuIly
Glitt'ring fish in rivers swim..
Strange it seemed, and, like a dream,
Food and drink in every stream!
|From my tale you now have heard|
How Waraus came from on high.
What remains still of this "word"
I will tell you by and by.
Now the sun hath left the sky,
And your hour of prayer is nigh!
|Years rolled on, and men, grown hateful,|
Ceased their passions to restrain;
Took their Maker's gifts; ungrateful,
Thanked him not for sun and rain;
But forsook Him once again,
When they ceased to suffer pain.
|"Kanonatu," seeing slaughter,|
Acts of rapine, deeds unclean,
Sent their punishment by water,
Which had once their blessing been.
Floods, obeying Him, were seen
O'er the hills and valleys green.
|Eight poor men, in that disaster,|
With six women, trembling stood.
Pausing in His wrath, the Master
Saw their hearts still true and good,
Bade them take the "bahbi" wood,
Safe to float amidst the flood.
|Evil spirits of the waters|
Saw them then float past undrowned.
They were saved that sons and daughters
Might again on earth be found,
And from them mankind abound,
Fish, and hunt, and till the ground.
|* * * * * *|
|He who saved them had provided|
Land, to which they might repair.
Streams appeared as floods subsided,
One small lake shone bright and fair.
Yet of that he said, "Beware!
Shun its waters, bathe not there!"
|Well our sires obeyed the warning;|
Some to guard that lake they chose,
Lest some bather, danger scorning,
There should meet with deadly foes.
Ages pass. No Warau goes
Where those waters calm repose!
|Two Warau maidens sweetly sang,|
"O waters calm and clear!
We love our happy walks to take
By thy sweet margin, woodland lake,
And find our pleasure here."
|Those maidens, from the hills at first|
That guarded spot would spy.
Then, though their brothers said, "Beware,
The lake is fatal, bathe not there!"
They dared to venture nigh.
|At length fair Korobona said|
(The elder sister she),
"We, by an idle threat restrained,
>From these clear waters have refrained;
Come, sister, bathe with me.
|"For what is here to do us harm?|
We maidens are alone.
Waraus, with superstitious awe,
Both old and young obey the law;
Intruders here are none."
|Straight she plunged in; for scant attire|
Our maidens wore, I trow;
Though wild beasts' teeth, with woven seeds,
And shining stones (they had no beads)
Adorned each young Warau.
|Then both, through waters fair and clear,|
Began to dive and swim;
The elder sister, void of fear,
Went first; the other followed near,
Obeying every whim.
|Before her Korobona saw|
A rod of charméd wood.
Oh that some power had stayed her hand,
And forced the maid to let it stand—
Her safeguard while it stood!
|But, wild with glee, she shook the rod,|
And broke the mighty charm.
They saw a man-like form arise,
And Korobona was his prize,
Held by a powerful arm.
|(A water spirit, 'neath the wave,|
Lay bound by mightier power;
Till some one, swimming in the lake,
Should dare that charméd rod to shake.
That was the destined hour.)
|"O Warau maid!" the spirit said,|
"Thy sister there may go;"
But thee I hold. O woman fair!
Thou for a time my home must share,
And come with me below."
|Sad Korobona weeps at home|
Upon her sister's breast.
It had been comfort in her woe
That her four brothers did not know:
Now she is more distressed.
|* * * * *|
|O Korobona! time has passed;|
Thou art a mother now!
And lo! thy brothers, as they stand,
(The eldest with his club in hand),
To slay thine infant vow.
|"Kill not my baby girl," she cries;|
"Slay me—the mad and wild!
But she a gentle maid will be,
And serve you all most lovingly.
O spare the helpless child!"
|Why should I dwell upon this woe,|
With greater far to tell?
Their hearts were softened by her prayer,
They gave the infant to her care:
Though grieved, they loved her well.
|* * * * *|
|Of that young child we hear no more,|
And think she must have died.
Meanwhile the spirit of the lake
Most strangely would his pastime take,
Near that bad waterside.
|A snake immense, from tree to tree|
Disporting he was seen;
Or, in his human form, would stand
Where gentle ripplets mark the sand,
Beneath the branches green;
|And sometimes as a man above,|
With serpent form below;
Until the keepers said, "What hand
Can this dread 'Wahma's' power withstand?
His nature who can know?"
|And Korobona hears the tale|
Of him who fills her mind;
Then, heeding not her sister's prayer,
Steals to the lake, and watches there,
Resolved the truth to find.
|And long she waits beneath the trees|
Filled with strange hope and fear;
Whilst he, who can her presence spy,
In serpent form eludes her eye,
Yet still is drawing near.
|His head seems like a floating seed,|
By gentle breezes blown;
The tail, like filmy scum, is near
(Thus, seeking prey, such snakes appear),
No other part is shown.
|* * * * *|
|Why, Korobona, dost thou stoop,|
That floating seed to view?
He cries, triumphant, "Thou art mine!
Unto thy fate thyself resign!"
And captures her anew.
|The hapless Korobona now|
Lives in the woods alone;
Another babe there hides from view;
For if her fault her brothers knew
Blood only could atone.
|She weepeth sore for woes in store,|
Which she can well foresee;
But that fair boy her tears now warm,
Who shares in part his father's form,
Her greatest grief is he.
|She, in the day which gave him birth,|
At first essayed to fly,
But soon returned to that deep glade,
In which the helpless one was laid,
Drawn by his feeble cry.
|And by her sister, kind and true,|
Who o'er her errors wept,
That secret (soon to be revealed,
For eyes and ears cannot be sealed)
Hath faithfully been kept.
|* * * * *|
|One, passing by, the infant's cry|
Heard, and upon her came.
Then told her brethren, hunting near;
And soon she saw the four appear,
All wild with rage and shame!
|Two of them dragged their sister home;|
Two turned the child to slay,
There lying, helpless, in their view:
They with an arrow pierced him through,
And left him where he lay.
|"The child is dead," the slayers said,|
"The mother mad and wild!"
They let her go to make his grave.
But knew not that the care she gave
Revived that hapless child.
|* * * * *|
|He grew far more than other babes|
In wisdom and in size;
And, still concealed in some thick tree,
Till he his mother's form could see,
Would shun all other eyes.
|With food she daily sought the woods|
Where he was doomed to stay,
And there held converse with her child;
Till sorrow, by their talk beguiled,
Would seem to pass away.
|But Korobona quite forgot|
That some her track might know—
Her track—by those small footprints shown!
Each brother then, her secret known,
Prepared the shaft and bow.
|"Oh, why," she said, "these arrows made,|
And these stone weapons too?"
The brothers gave her short reply,
Then through the woods they saw her fly,
And hastened to pursue.
|* * * * *|
|"Oh, hide me, mother, from their eyes,"|
The wretched victim said;
"Alas! why didst thou give me birth?
For I have found no place on earth,
And now shall soon be dead!"
|The mother, clinging to her son,|
Then screened him from his foes,
And left small space at which to aim,
Yet to its mark each arrow came
From their unerring bows.
|They cut him into pieces small,|
She cursed their cruelty:
"Vile slayers of the innocent!
The woes you fear will now be sent—
And come through you, not me!
|"See here your Korobona lie!|
This spot shall be her tomb,
Where this poor blood o'erspreads the ground.
Think on it when your woes abound,
And Waraus meet their doom!"
|Of her who watched her outcast dead|
(In mournful "Bible word"),
And "suffered neither bird nor beast"
Upon the loved remains to feast,
My Warau never heard.
|He never heard! yet in his tale|
We seemed the like to bear,
How vultures and wild beasts could see
A mother in her misery,
And none would venture near;
|While food her loving sister brought;|
She, that the heap might bloom.
Laid bright green leaves and flow'rets red
Upon the body of her dead,
Which had no other tomb.
|There, sweet and fragrant, still was found|
That spot, by blood defiled.
A mighty wonder happened then,
For that great change which waits all men
Touched not the serpent child.
|* * * * *|
|At length that heap, with flowers bedecked,|
Began with life to heave:
She seemed these words to hear, "Thy son
Shall now avenge his murder done:
O mother, cease to grieve!"
|And first a head and shoulders rose,|
Slow growing from that mound:
She saw a mighty form appear,
Well armed, to fill all foes with fear,
With limbs complete and sound.
|With weighty club the warrior stood,|
With bow and arrows keen;
White down adorned his short black hair,
His skin like copper shone, more fair
Than with Waraus had been.
|And with vermilion were besmeared,|
Like blood, his cheeks and brow.
Thus the first CARIB stern arose,
A warrior strong to smite his foes,
Dread sight to each Warau!
|* * * * *|
|The brethren four their warriors called,|
Appalled that sight to see;
But few to face his club would dare,
All those who did he slaughtered there,
And forced the rest to flee.
|No Warau could his strength withstand;|
Their arrows turned away.
Their warriors fled to save their lives,
While he their daughters took for wives.
And all their goods for prey.
|And as his children still increased,|
They took the Warau's place.
Invincible, from Wahma sprung!
Though still (by mother) they belong
To our despiséd race."
|And now my tale is done at last;|
My people's fate you know,
Who from the heavens, in days long past,
Came down to earth below,
And since to swamps were driven, where now
You may behold the poor Warau!"
|When Waraus were, as we have shown,|
Oppressed by stronger foes,
The fears which they through life had known
Beset them at its close.
Each charged his children when he died
To place his weapons at his side.
|"Lay bow and arrows in my grave,|
That I may keep at bay
The souls of foemen fierce and brave,
And all who bar my way.
My soul, thus armed, none dare withstand,
To keep it from the spirit land!"
|How different was the legend told|
On Trinidad's fair isle;
Where Waraus gathered fruits of old
And rested there awhile;
Where souls of good men they could find
In glittering humming birds enshrined!
|Those birds, like flashing jewels seen,|
Bedecked each lovely bower.
As ruby, topaz, emerald green,
They kissed each fragrant flower,
And saw fair hills and forests rise
Around their blissful paradise.
|But Chaymas dared those birds molest,|
Then—sank beneath the ground!
And now, where happy souls had rest,
The lake of pitch is found.
Wild Warau myth of ages past—
To English readers told "at last!"1
|In those Warau traditions it moved our surprise,|
That beneath their coarse veil of mythology lies
A lesson, which Christians deem holy and wise.
For those first legends show how mankind suffer woe,
Who their Maker forsake, in their own way to go,
And they differ in this from most others we know.
| Ere McLeod went away,|
Our good teacher one day
Said, "I ask one more story, you must not say nay,
Of all Warau legends you are the narrator;
Pray tell of Aboré, your first navigator."
|So the old man his store of strange legends thought o'er,|
And told this of which fragments had reached us before.
| "In this world, we know|
That for weal, or for woe,
Good spirits and bad ever move to and fro;
And all our old men will most strongly avow
That some help, but more hinder, the suff'ring Warau."
| "Aboré, away!|
No longer delay,
Nor, loitering, stay to waste here half the day.
Men must hunt for wild bees while the sun says they may."
She who thus chid the youth was a fine, handsome dame,
Who from childhood had reared him.—Wowtáh was her name.
|Aboré the clever, Aboré the brave,|
Had served her caprices like some household slave.
To follow her wishes the youth was content,
Although his keen mind on inventions was bent.
Bows, arrows, and such things he strove to improve;
But she was most jealous lest aught he should love
More than her, and from all his works sent him away,
To search the dense forests for bees, day by day.
|"Sometimes he had ventured resistance to try,|
But Wowtáh had quelled that by a glance of her eye;
And he had to obey, though he could not tell why.
|That day through the forest quite gloomy he went,|
To search out the honey for which he was sent,
When he saw, sitting down on the root of a tree,
A young Indian maid—fair and graceful was she.
"Oh, who can she be? I ne'er met her before;
She must be some stranger come down to our shore."
|He passed without notice, as good Indians do,|
But she said, "Aboré! thy parents I knew,
And this day I am glad their tall son here to view.
But what canst thou see
In that huge hollow tree,
Where serpents and scorpions hiding may be?"
"I search these old trees
For the nests of wild bees,
That I may with their honey my kinswoman please."
|"Aboré I the truth will appear by and by.|
Wowtáh is a spirit. Such also am I!
We spirits assume any figure we please;
We change as we like, and we do it with ease.
Some appear as bush-hogs,
Some as jaguars or dogs;
While some, as large snakes, love the rivers and bogs:
But Wowtáh chose to be the great queen of the frogs.
By day or by night,
It was then her delight,
With a terrible croak, other creatures to fright.
(Sometimes to Waraus she would cause some alarm.)
A strange taste it was, though it did little harm."
|Then the kind spirit told him how, "when a young boy,|
He was seen by Wowtáh, and became her chief joy;
How she, in the form of a woman, deceived
His parents, and was in their cottage received.
How his parents soon died, and no mortal knew how,
But Wowtáh was suspected by every Warau."
|She told him how "soon, from an infant in arms,|
He had grown a tall youth through Wowtáh's mighty charms.
How, save to fetch honey, he scarce left her side,
And how he would soon have to make her his bride."
|Then, pondered Aboré, "This tale may be right;|
When Wowtáh is much pleased she will croak with delight.
She croaks at the honey, she croaks upon me;
But bride to Aboré she never will be!
Oh, tell me, kind spirit, and I will obey;
Shall I go back and slay her, or flee far away?"
| "O seek not to slay!|
But heed well what I say,
'Twould be vain to shed blood, nor canst thou flee away,
Having grown 'neath her charm, still her slave thou must be,
Unless thou canst flee from her o'er the wide sea!"
|She paused. The young man wished her still to go on,|
But when he looked round the good spirit was gone.
|The honey he found, and soon robbed the poor bees|
(Where bees have no stings one can do that with ease),
Then returned to the house; where Wowtáh kindly spoke,
And welcomed him home with her most gentle croak.
As she had been cross in the morning, at night
She became doubly kind, just to put matters right.
|But the young man was gloomy, and wrapped up in thought;|
He said to himself, "Into bondage I'm brought,
But with the first dawn will escape far away,
And if this bad spirit can find me—she may!"
|From morning till night then he marched through the wood,|
But with the next daylight before him she stood!
| Again he would roam,|
And again be brought home;
He could flee to no place whither she would not come;
And the moment he caught the stern glance of her eye,
He was forced to return, though he could not tell why.
|Since, baffled and shamed, he could not get away,|
He made up his mind his hard mistress to slay;
And he felt no alarm
At the thought of the harm,
For the death of his parents his vengeance would warm.
|Then a cocorite palm he found, somewhat decayed;|
It suited his purpose, and forthwith he made
A deep cut, that its fall might no more be delayed.
A small prop he then placed its great pressure to bear,
And removed that support when he saw her come there.
| It fell on her head,|
And he thought she was dead,
Saying, "Now I am free from the life I have led!"
But she from the ground
Rose, uninjured and sound,
For she could not be killed, as Aboré then found.
|Almost in despair, he then thought on the day|
When the good spirit said to him, "Seek not to slay!"
And then he remembered her words, "The wide sea;"
Oh, how can I cross it, that I may be free?"
|He thought on all ways which the Waraus then knew|
To float on the deep, and found none that would do.
There were then logs of wood on which men used to go,
With their feet hanging down in the water below;
And rafts of light branches, which sometimes were made,
When over smooth streams they their children conveyed.
But rafts of light wood
Could by no means have stood,
Or danced over the waves of that great rolling flood.
And he saw that for his purpose they were not good.
|The half of a gourd he could readily float,|
But its shape, he soon found, would not do for a boat.
>From an oblong seed-pod his best model he drew,
Which he strove to improve by all methods he knew.
|He formed a large vessel of wax—which, though drained|
Of its former contents, in abundance remained;
He improved on its shape till our people might view
What they call "woibáka," but others "canoe."
Then his frail craft be tried
At the next "waterside;"
But his mistress came there, and severely she eyed—
Then broke it, and scattered the wax far and wide!
|Determined to go, though in waxen canoe,|
(He dared not work in wood, which far better would do).
He sought a young cousin, whom "brother" we call,
And begged him to help him, whate'er might befall.
| "Aboré, with thee|
I will brave the salt sea.
I should fear to remain, lest she next bewitch me!
We will work in the bush, where no Warau can see."
|They must have used then a stone chisel or axe,|
To cut wood, to make paddles, or strengthen the wax.
Food, and gourds to hold water, they had to provide,
Though forced, for the time, their equipment to hide.
|Aboré then thought, "If Wowtáh chance to spy|
Our flight, she will stay me with her evil eye.
I must prevent that, or, at least, I will try."
|So he took her a nest of fine honey to see;|
Which was deep in the heart of a large hollow tree;
He'd before taken care a great wedge to prepare,
Which he drove tightly in, and Wowtáh was kept there,
Whose great love of sweets led her into the snare.
| "Now, now we must fly—|
To look back is to spy,
And be fixed by the power of that evil eye!
Brother, off and away;
Let us launch while we may!
We must pull for our lives now by night and by day."
|"Ho, Waraus!" he then to his countrymen cried,|
Who that waxen craft with astonishment eyed;
"This, this is the shape which your vessels must have,
With this they will readily dance o'er the wave.
Observe well this form, you will all find it good;
Make your woibákas so, friends; but make them of wood."
| Thus be quitted the strand|
Of our poor Warau land.
Men and women, regretting, were ranged on the sand.
And thus they beheld, from the wild ocean shore,
Their last of Aboré—they saw him no more!
|* * * * * *|
| Now, when he was gone,|
Wowtáh, quite alone
In that huge hollow tree, began loudly to moan.
Some passers-by heard her, and, finding her plight,
They would not let her out, for they said, "She's served right.
The young man of most brains
(For none like him remains)
She has driven away; let her die for her pains.
| "The things he could make,|
Which this female would break!
>From her he was right his departure to take.
We have seen his canoe,
And know what he could do;
Which, but for her malice, he would have done too.
He said he knew how
To clothe every Warau;
Not in such strips of bark as we're forced to wear now,
With a few shells and teeth strung to make a small show;
But in fair woven fibres from shoulder to toe.
And now—how to make such, we never may know."
|No mercy was shown, though she still made her moan;|
And she found by the silence the people were gone.
She knew that, as woman, she could not get free;
But near to her feet a small op'ning could see;
So, again as a frog, through that crevice crept she.
|* * * * * *|
| That was long, long ago;|
How long none can know;
But ever since that she has gone to and fro.
Of late in the swamps, o'er our evening fire,
We talked of Aboré, when nigher and nigher
She came. We all knew by the sad croak she gave;
And we said, "She still grieves for her runaway slave!"
|We offered our thanks to our old Warau friend,|
And thought that his story there came to an end—
As doubtless it did, in the ages long past,
But he said, "Waraus heard of Aboré at last.
|"He went o'er a smooth sea; and, ere long, be found land—|
Some island—and landed upon that new strand.
There, discarding the wax, he a craft made of wood,
And visited places, just as he thought good.
|At last he arrived where white people abound,|
Whom poor and distressed above all men be found.
They did support life, he could hardly tell how;
Far more wretched were they than the lowest Warau.
When he saw them his heart with compassion flowed o'er,
And he said, 'I will make my abode on this shore.'"
|So he made up his mind the white people to raise;|
And the way be has done so deserves their best praise.
They, squalid and bare,
Had no garments to wear,
Till taught by Aboré good clothes to prepare.
|He taught the white people to weave and to sew,|
To be skilful in wood and in iron, we know,
From a nail to a gun.—
(Ah, you may think it fun—
But you owe to Aboré the things you have done!)
| And to this pray attend!|
To the whole world a friend,
The good things he had made in large ships he would send.
He thus obtained wealth, though he cared not for pelf,
But strove to help others while helping himself.
He improved the rough plan of his first waxen boat
To the huge ships we see now—great monsters afloat—
Which bring you all things, from a pin to a coat.
|'Tis said that Aboré still lives, though no tree|
That grows in our woods can be older than he.
The magical power which, when he was young,
That spirit imparted, has made his life long,
If he were to return she would claim him again;
So he's forced in the white people's land to remain.
|Yet presents he used to send every year;|
>From the time the Dutch told him they found Waraus here.
Those presents they gave in their colony's name;
That was nonsense! We knew from Aboré they came.
But they all at once ceased, and some must be to blame.
|We think that in Georgetown they still are received;|
That he would cease to send them cannot be believed.
Knife and gun, ammunition, a cutlass and hoe,
Rum, needles and pins, with some coarse calico,
Were once freely given to each. Alas! now
There is payment demanded from ev'ry Warau!"
|The presents here mentioned, as every year made,|
Were the price of assistance to Indians paid.
When slavery ceas'd their help was not required,
So the custom of annual "presents" expired.
No loss to the Indians, but great moral gain;
For now they must work for the goods they obtain.
| Such opinion may be|
Held by you or by me,
But with that the old Warau would never agree.
|We gave him some clothes; he had earned them full well;|
Having come six days' voyage these legends to tell.
And we strove in his language Christ's words to explain,
That some better gain
He might thereby obtain;
But in Warau traditions he chose to remain.
He returned to his place near the Barima's shore,
And we saw old "McLeod" at our missions no more.
|* * * * * * *|
|The creed of his race he had shown in these tales;|
Shown, too, how their faith in strange spirits prevails.
In their service alone the Waraus used to live;
But now to their Maker due worship they give.
Though the bones which we found
In the cannibal mound
Made them think Waramuri a weird haunted ground;
Now around that huge heap Christian Waraus abound.
|And civilisation first showed itself there,|
In their women's neat hair and the clothing they wear.
For much better off now,
As all races allow,
Than his forefathers were, is the Christian Warau.
1 The mauritia (or morische) palm, called by the Arawâks "ité."
1 Warau—pronounce the latter syllable like "row," a quarrel.
1 C. Kingsley's "At Last," chap. viii. One can imagine the delight with which the author of "Westward Ho," with the tropical scenery he had long read and dreamed of in all its glorious reality around him, must have listened to the legend of "the humming birds"—the sweetest myth of the western world.