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|WERE that which seems a dream accomplished now,|
And mortal man to tread Roráima's brow,
He, from that mighty wall, the homes would see
Of scattered clans—a people wild and free.
From one old parent stock those races all
Have sprung, which we the "Kāpohn-yāmu" call.
|One, whose forefathers were their chiefs of old,|
At my request, their ancient legends told;
Their quaint mythology—(its op'ning page
Like some sweet idyl of the "golden age"),
And old-time wars, 'twixt those whose children come
To find, on mission land, a peaceful Christian home!
THE FIRST MAN AND ANIMALS
|FIRST, my Acawoi narrator|
Told how beasts and birds were made;
How the Mighty, their Creator,
Gave them Laws to be obeyed.
Made them of one speech to be,
Bade them live in unity.
|That there might be no oppression,|
Man was made, and placed o'er all.
That first man, of wise discretion,
"Makonáima's son" we call,
Just, as well as kind, was he:
All obeyed him lovingly.
|Ere the sun's bright rays were burning,|
All dispersed in forests near;
With the cool of day returning,
Glad his loving call to hear.
Each one of his food would bring;
Homage paid to man—their king.
|No great trouble or disaster|
Could oppress them or annoy;
For the man, their gentle master,
In their good placed all his joy.
Surely, we no more shall see—
In this world—such unity.
|* * * * *|
|Then, 'tis said, great Makonáima,|
Made for them a wondrous tree,
Capp'd with clouds, like high Roráima,
Bearing fruits abundantly—
Every kind—the meed to be
Of their love and loyalty!
|What the Caribs may tell of that wonderful tree,|
With our own native legend would mainly agree;
But we say that "Ahkoo"1 the noble tree found—
That our first man alone brought it down to the ground,
And the animals helped him in planting around.
|For the beasts and the birds were industrious all,|
Till "Iwarreka" (so the brown monkey we call)
To the spirit of play
And sheer mischief gave way;
Then he plagued and tormented the rest all the day.
His work was not done,
For he thought but of fun,
And into the wildest excesses would run.
|He grinned when they begged him to let them alone,|
So they to the master complained—every one.
He pulls at our tails,
Or nips with his nails,
And will bite us severely when any trick fails."
|So the master passed sentence on that wicked elf—|
"Iwarreka, leave us, and work by thyself;
It will keep thee from mischief to go to yon spring,
And thence, in a basket, fresh water to bring."
|* * * * * * *|
|When the tree was cut down, the good master soon found|
Swelling waters within: and he saw there abound
Those fishes which now swim in rivers around.
"Though more labour for me,
This a blessing will be,
To have fishes in fresh water, as in the sea.
"I will spread them," said he; "every river shall share:
For all rivers have equal right to my care."
| Then, addressing the well,|
He said, "Wilt thou tell
For what purpose thy wonderful waters now swell?"
And he found that those waters, ere next rise of sun,
O'er the world, all around, were preparing to run.
|Then with dexterous hands a wide basket he made,|
Which, inverted, he over the hollow stump laid;
And such was its virtue that, while it remained
As he placed it, the fountain within was restrained.
|* * * * * * *|
|Iwarreka, meanwhile, obedience shirking,|
Had given up working,
And near to the spot at that time he was lurking.
He, seeing the basket thus placed with such care,
Said, "The choicest of fruits our sly master hides there.
I will take while I may,
Now they all are away,
Such a fine chance as this will not come ev'ry day."
|So, with a light spring, on the margin he stands;|
The basket he raises with pilfering hands—
One moment, no more—for a terrible flood
Bursting forth, sends him rolling in water and mud.
With splutter and scream,
He is borne down the stream:
A warning to all the dishonest, we deem.
|His screams are sufficient the others to scare,|
They all come in affright, and the master is there;
But more for themselves than the monkey they care.
| "See the water!" they cried,|
"Pouring over the side.
See! the fishes are all swimming down with the tide.
See, the stump and the roots are all forced from the ground,
And the land disappears as the waters flow round.
O man, our good leader! we cleave to thy side,
And thou for the safety of all must provide."
|So the man leads the way, till before him he sees|
A tall hill, with high rocks; and some cocorite trees.
Then says, "We may find a last refuge in these.
You, who rest in a tree,
Here may climb up with me;
And in yonder high cave all the others must be."
|So the birds fly up first; and then up the tree go|
The opossum, coati, and others you know.
Black monkeys and brown soon the master surround,
All striving to get farthest off from the ground.
There the queer spider monkey, with long limbs, is seen.
"Sakuwinki's" lithe form, and his fur olive green;
The red-bearded one, which "Arowta"1 we call;
The marmosets small—and, in fact, monkeys all,
There sit, in the palm, to be kept safe from harm,
With their tails round their neck, curled, to keep themselves warm.
|Such a rain then succeeded as none before knew,|
Nor has such been experienced by me or by you.
Fierce lightning, loud thunder; no sight of the sun
Till three or four nights into one night had run.
|* * * * * * *|
|The man sat with patience, for, do what he would,|
He knew that he never could stay that great flood;
But he let fall the seeds of the cocorite tree,
To tell, by the splash, where the water might be.
He at length found it lower; at last it seemed gone;
Then they ate of the palm-fruits, and welcomed the dawn.
|Thus the man, beasts, and birds were preserved, as we see,|
Though cold, wet, and hungry, of course they would be.
But some met with troubles, of which, sages say,
Their children bear tokens to this very day.
|And first, the "baboon," as your creoles now call|
The great howling monkey, the reddest of all.
His voice, we are told, ere he climbed up that tree,
Was more pleasant to hear than his person to see.
He began first to roar, as he felt his heart fail,
When those waters were wetting his feet and his tail,
And he knew they would drown him if they should prevail.
| With his cries sore distressed,|
All began to protest,
But he louder and louder his terrors expressed.
Though his throat did not burst with the strain of those cries,
It then grew to be twice its original size!
And its shape we may see when his sons meet our eyes.
|* * * * * * *|
|The man bore up bravely, our old legends say,|
But his flock, grown unruly, gave trouble that day;
Few cared to obey,
And each, like the monkey, desired his own way.
|He bade all keep their places till he should have found|
If danger awaited them on the damp ground;
And the trumpeter bird
With the others then heard,
Yet he would not from getting down first be deterred.
|"Yahgahmi, beware!" said the man, with a frown,|
As into a nest of fierce ants he flew down.
Alas, for the bird! for that raverious swarm,
Ere the master could capture him, did him great harm,
Each leg was a stick
(Though once fairly thick),
For those ants had deprived it of all they could pick.
|Having cleared off the ants, the long-suffering man|
Said, "I'll kindle a fire, if I possibly can."
The sticks which he carried, though not kept quite dry,
Would, by friction incessant, yield fire by and by.
It was kindled at length; and then, while he looked round
To see if of fuel some kind might be found,
The "marūdi"1 pecked up the red coal from the ground.
And away the bird flew,
So that no one then knew;
But, in time, his misfortune they plainly could view;
For his throat, much inflamed, took a fiery glow
From the coal he pecked up (for an insect) below.
|* * * * * *|
|The man looked for his fire; and before him then stood|
The first alligator, come forth from the mud.
That reptile was then well-conducted, they say,
And had come his respects to the master to pay.
But the rest, who disliked him, said "He took the fire!"
And the man, cold and weary, gave way to his ire.
Forcing open his mouth, to search there (he was wrong),
Found his tongue in the way—and he pulled out the tongue!2
|O sad were the mishaps of that fatal day—|
The reptile, disgusted, went (tongueless) away;
And from that time made war on all creatures, they say.
He never could need a memento of wrong,
When he thought of his huge mouth, bereft of a tongue.
|Then the birds and beasts, rebelling,|
Soon forsook their guardian mild;
Pride of freedom in them swelling,
In the forests all went wild.
There their children bear, we see,
Tokens of their ancestry.
|Though no ants their limbs assail now,|
Thin-legged "trumpeters" are bred;
On bright embers none regale now,
Still marudis' throats are red.
Show (and share) their father's wrongs.
|Still red howlers loudly bellow,|
(As their father did from fear)
Night and morn; each horrid fellow
Frightens all weak creatures near.
Monkeys, still by mischief led,
Like their sire, a "ducking" dread.
|Free as air then roved those creatures;|
(Save their wild notes, all grown dumb),
Till they saw, with savage natures,
Beasts of prey and hunters come:
Felt their bloody, cruel reign,
Wished their guardian back again.
|Wondrous deed and strange adventure|
Of that good man I could tell;
But their length might meet your censure.
So I cease while all is well.
Yet must say that every day
Bad men sought the good to slay.
|Envy made their hatred stronger:|
He was forced to leave them there.
Yet, when they were suff'ring hunger,
Sent for them his bread to share.
They, partaking of his food,
Sought again to shed his blood!
|Then, a precipice ascending,|
On that cliff immense and high
(With a faithful few attending),
He was seen beneath the sky.
Evil men he left below!
Here to suffer want and woe.
|And he left no track behind him,|
All who sought to climb would fall;
None could follow there to find him,
'Twas like high Rorairna's wall!
Nay, since none now know its name.
Some may think that cliff the same.
THEIR WAR WITH THE CARIBS.
|SEEK you to know the story of our race?|
Its origin no living man can trace.
We only know our ancient dwelling-place.
|My ancestors once dwelt, our legends say,|
Where Masaruni cuts his rugged way
From mountains, where stupendous rocks abound,
By falls prodigious, to this lower ground.
North of that river my forefathers dwelt
In days of old, and no great evils felt.
|'Twas by the Caribs they were forced to flee;|
Though small the Carib gain, as you will see.
That race then lorded it o'er all the land,
And all the other tribes had felt their hand.
Not yet our Acawoios, who were sure
That they, 'midst rugged mountains, dwelt secure.
|Great was the horror, when a cry|
At night proclaimed the Caribs nigh!
They came, a num'rous train;
And ravaged through the neighb'ring land,
Where our bold brethren made a stand;
Some Caribs there were slain.
Nought could their comrades' wrath assuage,
Who killed their captives in their rage;
Then, seeing boys remain,
They maiméd some, and some impaled,
To show their vengeance had not failed.
|Our warriors met, an angry train,|
That ere the Caribs came again
They might for them prepare.
And our old chief said, "Brethren, see!
'Tis here their next attack will be;
This place must be our care.
Help me this house to fortify
With palisado, strong and high,
That we may keep at bay
Those murderers, until you come
With men from ev'ry distant home
To sweep them all away."
|'Twas done. All joined to fortify,|
With palisado strong and high.
Then the far-seeing chief
Said to his neighbours, "There must be,
For us, and for each family
Whose danger causes grief,
From this house down to yon ravine,
A passage which cannot be seen—
A passage underground."
They made it, working day by day,
Some dug, some bore the earth away;
While others propped the roof, they say,
To make it safe and sound.
|While they were all assembled there,|
A breathless scout bade them "Prepare!
For, Caribs now are on their way,
They come, the whole of us to slay!"
|Then said the chief, "Who could have thought|
Of such good news as now is brought?
Since all are here to-day.
Arise I we need no longer talk;
We'll save the Caribs half their walk,
By meeting them midway!"
|Our warriors to Cuyuni go.|
And from its banks behold the foe
Coming before the breeze.
Their frail but numerous barques draw nigh;
Our men with hate those foes espy;
Yet close amidst the trees.
They hide themselves and see them land.
Their foes, reclining, on the strand,
Then eat and take their ease,
No scout; no watch! They know no fear.
Nor think a deadly ambush near!
|Hark, that fierce cry! As up they start,|
At each man flies a fatal dart:
One half their death-wounds bear.
The others, with a dreadful cry,
At once to their flotilla fly;
Their weapons all are there!
|No valour can regain the day.|
Death falls in every blow;
Their men will for no mercy pray,
And ours no mercy show.
Soon, half in water, half on land,
Two hundred corpses line the strand.
|Our warriors, bloody from that fight,|
Then up the river go;
To bathe in water clear and bright:
For there clear waters flow,
Though with dead bodies—sickening sight—
And blood, defiled below.
|Again the Caribs, strong and bold,|
Returned, as our old chief foretold;
Who, speaking to his men,
Said, "For each warrior we have slain,
He sure, when they shall come again,
The Caribs will bring ten.
And I, to meet them, can rely
On none but you, who live near by."
|It was so. When the foe drew near,|
To help him he saw few appear.
"This place is lost," the chieftain said,
"But they shall surely pay
Full dearly, with their warriors dead,
For what they get this day!"
|Then to the women: "Ye shall live;|
Wait till the fight is high.
And foes engaged, then, when I give
The signal, quickly fly!
Fly through the tunnel's friendly shade.
Fly silent through each forest glade;
Utter no timid cry!
Thither we soon shall follow you,
But first, what this small band can do
'Gainst numbers—we will try!"
|* * * * *|
|The Caribs to the assault drew nigh|
And scanned the place with curious eye,
But saw their leaders fall.
From bulwarks strong swift arrows flew.
How fatal soon those Caribs knew—
Tipped with "wourali" all!
|To storm the place, forth from the bush|
Came their best men with furious rush.
Their shocks soon made the timbers shake.
Which some began to hew.
Those who an entrance strove to make
By climbing, our men slew;
Yet still the place they tried to take.
The many from the few!
|Some dug beneath the wooden wall,|
And made a hole through which to crawl;
But those who entered that way, all
There entered but to die!
Amazed at such resistance, then
The Carib chiefs called off their men
Not to retreat or fly—
But said, "Our warriors brave are slain
By foes who still untouched remain.
A safer course we try!"
|Then flaming arrows swiftly poured|
Upon the loop-holed sides of board,
And that thatched roof on high.
Soon roof and sides were in a blaze,
And they their joyfur shouts could raise
Of "Victory!" the cry.
|They burst the enclosure, waiting there|
The shrieks of agony and fear.
Had any wretch rushed forth in pain,
They would have thrust him in again.
But quiet, save the fiery roar,
They round all things remain.
Our men had gone down through the floor,
And soon would reach Purūni's shore,
Not to return again.
|The Carib warriors then perceived|
Their hopes of vengeance all deceived.
The fire in vain might roar—
The flaming house burned to the ground;
But no charred skeletons were found.
The passage—covered o'er
With burning timbers—none could heed.
All said, "'Tis sorcery indeed,
Such as none knew before!"
|The chiefs then—while the numerous dead|
They buried—to their warriors said,
"Brave Carinyach, give ear!
Demons unhurt can warriors slay,
And heavy is our grief this day,
Our loss of men severe.
We have no wounded. All are dead!
Some were but scratched, yet fire has fled.
No longer we stay here!"
|So when our warriors came, they found|
But blackened ruins on the ground:
And many new-made graves around,
Filled with the Carib dead.
Then our men followed on their track,
But they delayed not, hastening back.
Nor chief, nor warrior, then would stay;
So to this day our people say,
"They burned the house—and fled!"
|WE kept away the foreign foe;|
Yet from ourselves were doomed to know
An evil greater still.
And that great evil to our race,
We to one man's transgressions trace,
His hatred and self-will.
|On the Purūni, loved of all,|
Dwelt one whom we will "Koé" call;
Too long his other name.
A chief was staying at his home,
A friend from Masaruni come,
In rank and years the same.
|There the loved guest fell sick and died;|
And Koé's fortitude was tried
The heavy grief to bear.
With his old friend two sons had come:
When they were gone he left his home,
And went to live elsewhere.
|The two young men, who went their way,|
At sunset on the second day
To Masaruni came.
They told their elder brother there,
And had his furious wrath to bear,
Reproach and bitter blame.
|"Our father there is dead, you say?|
Then Koé took his life away
By poison or by charm!
If I am chieftain, here this day,
My warriors shall with me straightway
Avenge this grievous harm."
|Then long the younger brothers prayed,|
To turn him from his wrath, and said,
"Koé is not to blame:
He grieved when our good father died;
If you assail him, you provide
For all deep grief and shame!"
|Still he with causeless anger burned.|
And would not from his wrath be turned,
And so—our troubles came!
Ekahruwa, so he was called.
From no fierce crime would shrink appalled.
But breathed forth death and flame.
|"Alas! why are we captives here?|
Why forced to bear, by fate severe.
The plunder of our home?
Why have we seen our fathers slain?
No Caribs sweep the land again—
From our own race this bloody stain
And misery have come!"
|Five youthful maidens thus bewail|
Their heavy lot: until words fail.
And tears alone remain.
But their stern captors cry, "Beware!
And patiently your burdens bear,
Or you the bloody fate shall share
Of those before you slain!"
|* * * * *|
|Ekahruwa, by sorcery led,|
Had vowed to cleave the hoary head,
As a most righteous deed.
Of Masaruni men a band,
The desperadoes of the land,
Hastened to march 'neath his command,
With secrecy and speed.
|And they to Koé's place had come:|
There, finding he had left his home,
Stern was their leader's eye.
The neighbours spoke, he would not heed,
But said, "Has he escaped indeed—
The hoary wretch I doomed to bleed?
Then you for him must die!"
|So cruelly those men he slew,|
And would have killed the women too:
Then said his men, "Refrain!
Ten men this day we've helped you slay;
It is enough—we will not stay.
Take now the girls and spoil away,
And hasten home again!"
|* * * * *|
|Some of their number nevermore|
Shall see wild Masaruni's shore;
For far and wide have spread
Tidings of that flagitious deed,
And all Purūni men make speed
To view their slaughtered dead.
|Young men to save the maidens fly,|
And every forest path they try,
Like dogs to hunting bred.
And when the murderers' track is found,
They shout the news to all around;
Then on in silence, save one sound,
Their rapid Indian tread.
|* * * * *|
|'Tis evening of the second day,|
The ravagers are on their way;
They hear a deadly groan.
The hindmost falls, and his death cry
Warns them that some dire foe is nigh:
And soon that foe is shown—
|For arrows rattle through the bush,|
And arméd men with furious rush
(To captives welcome sight!)
Dash forth, and let the maidens free,
Who now their hateful captors see
In swift and headlong flight.
Each for himself will now provide,
And though their chief would stem the tide,
None dare await the fight.
|Then to his foes he calls, "Draw nigh|
One at a time to fight; and I
The whole of you will slay!
Which of you can compete with me
In swiftness, strength, or archery,
In sport or bloody fray?
|"Now hear, Purūni people, all!|
Nine men I've seen around me fall,
By your sharp arrows slain.
Put them against the men I killed;
Still is my vengeance unfulfilled,
And I must come again.
I come—and that old man shall die;
If him you screen, or aid to fly,
None living shall remain!"
|The threats Ekahruwa had made,|
The arrogance he then displayed,
Left them astonished quite:
When, darting through the forest glade,
He vanished from their sight.
No living foe they then discern,
And soon the cheerful watch-fires burn;
The maidens rest all night.
Then, with the spoil, all homeward turn,
Glad of the morning light.
|Ekahruwa soon came again,|
And at his back a numerous train
From red Roráima's wall.
They came to shed that old man's blood:
Purūni men against them stood,
Prepared to stand or fall
In his defence. While, man by man,
Our countrymen of every clan
Came, and the chieftains all.
|The chiefs to mediate drew near,|
Called on the aggressor to appear,
And asked him what he knew.
"No evidence," said he, "I show;
By dreams and secret arts, I know
That he my father slew."
|It matters not what you may say,|
My men support me here this day;
They all believe as I.
I stand here with my numerous band;
Koé must perish by my hand,
Or I myself will die!"
|The old man's family then said,|
"Think not that you his blood can shed,
While we alive remain!
We are prepared with you to fight
Singly, and thus defend the right,
Upon this grassy plain."
|Then said the other, "Fight and die!|
Yet in his blood shall Koé lie!"
He paused. For forth there came
The man whose blood he longed to shed;
The old man with the good white head,
Whom none but he would blame.
|He said, "O Kāpohn-yāmu all!|
No man for me shall fight, and fall
By this proud boaster's hand!
I here forbid my friends the fight:
This hand, though weak, may do me right;
A fair field now command!"
|Him no entreaties could dissuade.|
"'Tis better thus to die," he said,
"Than see my people slain."
So each,—with bow and arrows keen,
And club,—is placed upon the green.
Few there from grief refrain—
When the old man, upon the field,
Lays down the club he once could wield,
But ne'er shall wield again,
They see him but one arrow take,
And, till his foe should onslaught make,
There tranquilly remain.
|Ekahruwa begins the fight:|
Shifting his ground from left to right,
His well-aimed arrows fly.
Yet nothing by their flight he gains,
For well that aged man retains
The keenness of his eye.
|Some with his bow he puts aside,|
From others swerves, and they go wide;
Till, with a savage cry,
The strong man says, "My arrows sent
Are from their course by sorcery bent!—
My club I now will try."
|Swift he comes on, with fell design:|
But midway checks his speed.
He sees the sting-ray's deadly spine1
On the opposing reed.
And as he notes behind the reed
The glance of that firm eye,
He for the first time doubts indeed
Which of the two must die.
|He then retires, and shifts his ground;|
Firm the old man remains.
The foe makes feints, and circles round;
He still his place retains.
From side to side the foe may fly;
He "covers" him with steady eye.
|Once more Ekahruwa retires;|
Pauses; regains his breath.
Then cries, while rage his soul inspires,
"To one, or both, come death!"
Straight he comes now, with flying bound;
The arrow leaves the string;
One piercing shriek thrills all around,
The strong man lies upon the ground,
Reached with his last death spring.
|* * * * *|
|Shot through the breast, he groans and dies;|
The chieftains all draw near;
Where, o'er the corpse, a brother sighs,
Then says, "All men, give ear!
I stand to clear this old man's name,
Though it be to my brother's blame.
|"I well know how my father died,|
And often have I vainly tried
To stay this growing ill.
Yet for my brother came to fight,
For, though his deeds were far from right,
He was my brother still!
|"He now is in fair battle slain:|
And ere we home return again,
Listen to me, Purūni men,
To all of you I call!
My brother did to death consign
Some of your men, in number ten:
While of his men you killed but nine.
Himself you've now seen fall!
The deaths art equal. Let each side,
If any wrong remain, confide
In these good chieftains all.
My brother's corpse I bear away;
Peace be between us from this day!"
|The wise young chief a peace had made,|
And for a time the mischief stayed;
Yet civil strife was but delayed;
At length its fury came.
Men saw war-parties raging go,
'Twixt plain and mountain, to and fro:
Till none security could know,
All dreaded blood and flame.
|Our family went north, they say,|
Since they their brethren would not slay;
And crossed the hills; till, far away,
Barahma they could see.
Some sought the Demerara Fall,
The Arawâks there welcomed all,
And gave to them a warrior tall,
Their guide and chief to be.
The Caribs thence had swept away
An ancient race, as old men say:
But our men kept all foes at bay,
And lived there peacefully.
|At length some warriors order made|
With those who in their country stayed:
One sturdy chief made all afraid:
"Piāpu" (stump) his name.
But bad men then Kanáima sought,
And secretly their murders wrought.
For never can such men be brought
Their bloody feuds to blame.
|FROM the base of high Roráima|
To the widespread Eastern sea,
Votaries of dread Kanáima
Track their victims secretly.
Deadly vow must each fulfil,
Real or fancied foe to kill.
|He who that dread vow is taking,|
Family and friends must leave;
Wife and children all forsaking,
No discharge can he receive.
Still around his victim's way,
Hovering night and day to slay.
|If the victim, warned of danger,|
To some other place should fly,
Soon th' assassin, though a stranger,
Will to that retreat draw nigh.
Patiently he bides his time,
Waiting to commit the crime.
|Stealthily each step he traces,|
Hiding till he strikes the blow.
Poison in the mouth he places
Of his victim, lying low.
Then, if found with swollen tongue,
None will know who did him wrong.
|When the grave has closed upon him,|
The destroyer hovers round:
Dread Kanáima's spell is on him;
By it he must still be bound,
Till he pierce, with pointed wood,
Through the grave, and taste the blood.
|Stern Kanáima thus appeasing,|
Who withdraws his direful aid,
All his horrid influence ceasing
When that off'ring has been made.
Uncontrolled, the votary then
Goes, and lives with other men.
|One, who passed us on the water,1|
Had his victim lately slain;
There, triumphant, fresh from slaughter,
He was hast'ning home again,
Feathered crown adorned his head—
Bright red spots his skin o'erspread—
|Spots, to show that, nightly ranging|
(So their sorcerers declare),
He, into a jaguar changing,
Could his victims seize and tear.1
As the "were-wolf" of the East
Prowls, on human flesh to feast.
|* * * * *|
|Should the victim 'scape him living,|
Or, if dead, be borne away;
He, no horrid off'ring giving,
Finds Kanáima on him stay,
Still the spell upon him lies;
Mad, he wanders till he dies.
|One, who sank with forests round him,|
To our Mission hill was borne;
First, an ocelot, which found him,
Horribly his head had torn.
Head and hands he raised in pain,
Scared the beast, then sank again.
|Sank—for life no longer striving,|
Christian Indians found him then,
Arawâks, his strength reviving,
Bore him to his countrymen,
Healed and fed, Kanáima still,
Christians all he vowed to kill!
|"Even where just law commands it,|
Awful doom is 'Blood for blood.'
But where private hate demands it,
As th' avenger thinketh good,
Bloody work, from sire to son
Handed down, is never done.
|For some old offence or error,|
For some grave ancestral wrong,
We must live in constant terror—
For some deed committed long
Ere we drew the vital breath,
We are doomed to cruel death!
|* * * * *|
|From the Masaruni river|
Wahmoro, good chieftain, came;
Hoping thus his name to sever
From his brother's life of shame.
Men by poison lost their lives,
And that brother took their wives.
|Soon, with wives and children, flying|
From his foes, to Wahmoro,
He found safety, there applying;
Yet in his old ways would go,
Spake of things which should not be
To his nieces, secretly.
|Following his evil nature,|
'I,' said he, 'the chief must be.
Men approve my strength and stature,
You, as wives, shall live with me.
If your father bar my way,
Father, brother, I must slay.'
|Deeply Wahmoro was grieved,|
When those words his daughters told.
Then this message he received
From his uncle, grey and old,
'By thy brother doomed to die,
At the point of death I lie.'
|He (with words which blast like lightning)|
Had addressed old Orubu:—
'With a man whose hairs are whit'ning,
What hath this young wife to do?
Ill this woman suiteth thee,
Give her therefore unto me.'
|'Ill it suits,' replied the old man,|
'Thus to give one's wife away;
He who seeks must be a bold man,
Though my hair be turning grey.
She, who children bears to me,
Must I give her up to thee?'
|Then the bad man said, 'Forgive me|
'Twas in jest I spake to thee;
No annoyance I will give thee,
Faithful friend I mean to be.'
Yet, with poison, he, false friend!
Brought the old man to his end.
|Dying, but to vengeance wedded,|
'Wahmoro,' the old man said,
'Take my bow and shaft spear-headed,
With them lay my murderer dead.
That, sad duty falls on thee,
Head of all our family.'
|To the chieftain's son, then leaning|
O'er his hammock, thus he said:
'Take this club; full well its meaning
He will know; then cleave his head.
Ere he do the same to thee
As to others and to me.'
|They, the proffered weapons taking,|
Held them in the murd'rer's view.
Stern he eyed them, never quaking,
Though his doom full well he knew.
'Strike!' said he, 'for Orubu,
I shall have avengers too!'
|Swift his household, armed, to save him,|
On the two assailant's pressed;
But the wound that arrow gave him
Nailed one arm across his breast.
By the club he then was slain,
Fiercely battling on the plain.
|Vainly his brave sons, defending,|
Two young striplings at his side,
As they saw their sire contending,
O'er his body fought—and died!
Neighbours then, who saw that fray.
Bade the chief the whole to slay.
|'Heard ye not his threat? Take warning!|
Slay his broods ere they can slay.'
But the chief, such slaughter scorning,
Bade each mother 'not delay.'
'Here,' said he, 'you cannot stay;
Rear your sons—but far away.'
|"Years rolled on, still coming, going,|
Then the impostor1 summoned all.
Said that he 'the Lord' was showing,
'Christ, on whom the white men call.'
Wahmoro's whole family,
With their tribe, went forth to see.
|Disappointed, and returning|
To their fair Barahma home,
After God their hearts were yearning,
Till they said, 'Once more we'll roam
To Bowruma's giant tree:
'Neath its shade our rest shall be.'
|Simple teaching there was given|
To three races, dwelling near,
Of that Lord, who came from heaven;
Each, in its own tongue, could hear.
We besought that we might have
That which you to others gave.
|In our tongue, through kindred nations,|
Printed truths then wide we spread.
Men (drawn by the illustrations)
Came from Masaruni head.
Came from fair Cuyuni banks,
Learned to pray and give God thanks.
|Others then Christ's Church were rearing;|
Your good bishop, chief of all,
Went with us, the red cross bearing,
Past the Demerara fall.
Went as far as he could go,
Where Berbice—where Wai’ni—flow.
Tribes to whom our tongue is known,
Came to us with Patamūnas,
Showing how that seed had grown.
Still they came, inquiring train;
With them children of the slain.
|Came his sons, now tall of stature,|
Came his grandsons, active band.
Sorcerers said, 'Revenge is nature.
We will guide some vengeful hand.
They who strive Christ's words to spread,
Now shall suffer for the dead.'
|One, from Wahmoro descended,|
Seemed to bear a special doom;
Stealthy foes his steps attended,
Dangers round him still would loom.
When he sought a distant home,
Thither would the assassin come.
|Hunting once, he ceased his labour,|
Tired, beneath a tree to stand;
From behind—a deadly neighbour—
Sprang 'Kanáima,' club in hand.
From the club and knife he fled,
Ere that foe could strike him dead.
|Swift he fled, (who would have tarried?)|
Found his foe run swifter still;
Empty was the gun he carried,
How could he expect to kill?
Yet he turned upon the foe,
Struck, for life, one random blow.
|As he swerved, his foeman, springing,|
Aimed the death-blow—missed his aim;
And the gun-stock, swiftly swinging,
Full against his body came.
Prone he fell, but was not dead:
Twice the other struck—and fled.
|Oh, what else in that great danger,|
Could the destined victim do?
You would strike if some fell stranger
Sprang upon, to murder you.
And, like me, would grieve, I know,
From the hour you struck the blow!"
|* * * * *|
|Wan and haggard were his features;|
Telling his own secret woe.
Brave he was, but hunted creatures
Evermore expect a foe.
Many live in constant fear,
Thinking a "Kanáima" near.
|Counsel, which to him was given,|
Here I need not tell indeed.
Sweet the lesson brought from heaven,
Not to "break the bruiséd reed:"
Taught by Him, who all the opprest
Calls, to "come'" to Him and "rest."
1 "Ahkoo," the agouti, or acouri. This little animal takes the part which, in the corresponding Caribi legend, is given to "Maipuri," the tapir. The tree itself, the source of all cultivation, is the same in both; and the monkey, though in different ways, releases the pent up waters of the flood.
Though differing widely now, the ancient traditions, as well as the languages spoken by these two nations, and some others, now widely spread, point to a common origin at some remote period.
1 "Arawata," in the Caribi; Spanish, "Araguato."
1 A bush fowl, called by the Acawoios "Okura."
2 The tongue of the alligator, previous to this calamity, is supposed to have been long and flexible.
1 Arrows thus pointed are believed by the natives to inflict greater agony than any other weapon; and the terror they inspire is often heightened by superstition.
1 Archdeacon Jones and myself, on the Upper Demerara, in 1865. That "Kanáima" murderer, we found, had followed his victim and friends from the vicinity of Roráima to Georgetown and back, killing him on his return.
1 A set of jaguar's claws, hung up in sorcerer's hut, have the same threatening signification.
1 In 1845, all the Acawoios, and many Caribs, went to that man, near the river Cako. We were unable to stop the movement. They were so numerous that food could not be got, so the imposture collapsed under the weight of too great success. The man was not an Indian, and his ultimate object was never known.
To "Capui" (the moon), one of the leading Acawoios, he gave a "commission" as from the Lord. It had a leaden seal attached, and was written in hieroglyphic characters, invented, of course, by himself. Those were the days of "Joe Smith's" early Mormon successes, and our impostor seemed to imitate him as far as he could.