« PreviousContinue »
after his death, when his countrymen, the learned Greeks, possessing admirable memories, and having' somehow or other got an alphabet, and being made capable to read and write, these delightful and ingenious compositions of our blind bard have fortunately come down to the present times, in the course of 2000 years or upward. When, therefore, translations have become common in almost every learned language, particularly in our own, of which we are possessed of one so excellent that it has been happily said —
“ So much, dear Pope, thy English Iliad charms,
When pity melts us or when passion warms,
we are at liberty to conceive that the account of the Pygmies, as found in the Iliad, is there given and preserved from ancient and established tradition, and possibly recorded in history or celebrated in epic poetry long before the time of Homer
“ So, when inclement winters vex the plain
With piercing frosts or thick-descending rain,
Hesiod, likewise, had mentioned the Pygmies, in some work now lost, as we learn from Strabo.2
1 Homer's Iliad, b. iii. v. 3, in the lines of Pope. 2 B. i. p. 43; b. vii. p. 299:
“But for to' Hesiod no one would object ignorance, naming Half-dogs, Longicipites, and Pygmies. Neither, truly, that concerning Homer to be wonderful, when also by much of those who come after many things both have been ignorant of and monstrously feigned : as Hesiod, Half-dogs, Joltheads, Pygmies."
[Birds] in the spring-time, says Aristotle, betake themselves from a warm country to a cold one, out of fear of heat to come, as the cranes do, which come from the Scythian fields to the higher marshes whence the Nile flows, in which place they are said to fight with the Pygmies. For that is not a fable, but certainly the genus as well of the men as also of the horses is little (as it is said), and dwell in caves, whence they have received the name Troglodytes from those coming near them.1
Herodotus, indeed, speaks “of a little people, under the middle stature of men, "coming' up to certain Nasamonians who were wandering in Africa, and knew not the language of each other ;? but does not call them Pygmies, or give them any other name. Cambyses, however, as he elsewhere says, went into the temple of Vulcan [in Egypt], and with much derision ridiculed his image, forasmuch as the statue of Vulcan was very like to the Phoenician Pataicks, which they carried about in the prows of their galleys : which those who saw not, it was indicated to him to be those in the image of a Pygmean-man.3
“Middle India has black men, who are called Pygmies, using the same language as the other Indians: they are, however, very little : that the greatest do not exceed the height of two cubits, and the most part only of one cubit and a half. But they nourish the longest hair, hanging down unto the knees and even below : moreover, they carry a beard more at length than any other men; but, what is more, after this
1 Of the History of Animals, b. viii. c. xii. “Of the Pygmies, that is, of dwarfs, dandiprats, and little men and women, the generation is alike; for of those whose members and sizes are spoiled in the womb, and are even as pigs and mules.". -Aristotle, Of the Generation of Animals, b. ii. c. viii. Euterpe, ii. p. 32.
3 Thalia, iii. p. 37.
promised beard is risen to them, they never after use any clothing, but send down truly the hairs from the back much below the knees, but draw the beard before down to the feet: afterwards, when they have covered the whole body with hairs, they bind themselves, using those in the place of a vestment. ... They are, moreover, apes and deformed.
Their sheep, however, are equal to our lambs : their oxen and asses approach to the magnitude of our rams: their horses, likewise, mules and other beasts do not outreach. Of these Pygmies, the king of the Indians has three thousand in his train; for they are very skilful archers. They are, however, most just, and use the same laws as the other Indians. They hunt hares and foxes, not with dogs, but crows, kites, rooks, and eagles. There is a lake among them, having the compass of eight hundred measures, containing 625 feet each, to which, as no wind blows, oil swims above; which truly they draw out of the middle of it with vessels, sailing through it in little ships, and
Ovid, in his "Metamorphoses," alludes to some old story, not now to be found
“ Another show'd, where the Pygmæan dame,
Profaning Juno's venerable name,
And with her Pygmy subjects wages war.
that “more within the Arabian bay than the Panchæans were the Pygmies, a minute race, and which ended in fighting against the cranes for planted fruits."
1 From a fragment of Ctesias, who flourished in the 337th year before the vulgar era, in Wesseling's edition of Herodotus, 3 B. vi.
3 B. iii. c. viii. p. 287.
According to Sir John Maundevile, the "gret Tyvere that men clepen Dalay . . . gothe thorghe the lond of Pygmans: where that the folk ben of litylle stature, that ben but 3 span long: and thei ben right faire and gentylle, aftre here quantytees, bothe the men and the wommen. And thei maryen hem, whan thei ben half yere of age, and geten children. And thei lyven not but 6 yeer or 7 at the moste. And he that lyvethe 8 yeer, men holden him there righte passynge old. These men ben the beste worcheres of gold, sylver, cotoun, sylk, and of alle suche thinges, of ony other that be in the world. And thei han oftentymes werre with the briddes of the contree, that thei taken and eten. This litylle folk nouther labouren in londes ne in vynes. But thei han grete men amonges hem, of oure stature, that tylen the lond, and labouren amonges the vynes for hem. And of the men of oure stature, han thei als grete skorne and wondre, as we wolde have among us of geauntes, yif thei weren amonges us.
There is a gode cytee, amonges othere, where there is duellinge gret plentee of the lytylle folk : and it is a gret cytee; and a fair ; and the men ben grete, that duellen amonges hem but whan thei geten ony children, thei ben als litylle as the Pygmeyes: and therfore thei ben alle, for the moste part, alle Pygmeyes; for the nature of the lond is suche. The grete cane let kepe this cytee fulle wel : for it is his. And alle be it, that the Pygmeyes ben lytylle, yit thei ben fulle resonable, aftre here age, and connen bothen wytt, and gode and malice, ynow.” 1
“At the north poynt of Lewis [one of the Hebrides, or Western Isles] there is a little ile callit The Pygmies Ile, with ane little kirk in it of ther own handey
1 Voiage and Travaile, London, 1727, 8vo, p. 252.
wark, within this kirk the ancients of that countrey of the Lewis says, that the said Pigmies has been eirdit thair. Maney men of divers countreys has delvit upe dieplie the flure of the litle kirke, and i myselve amanges the leave, and hes found in it, deepe under the erthe, certain banes and round heads of wonderfull little quantity, allegit to be the banes of the said Pigmies, quhilk may be lykely, according to sundry historys that we reid of the Pigmies: but i leave this far of it to the ancients of Lewis.” 1
The inland parts, in some places of the coast of Coromandel, toward the hills, are covered with immense and impenetrable forests, which afford a shelter for all sort of wild beasts; but in that which forms the inland boundary of the Carnatic rajah's dominions there is one singular species of creatures, of which Mr Grose, the author of “A Voyage to the East Indies," performed by himself in the year 1750 (the second edition whereof was published, by the writer, at London, in 1772, in two volumes, octavo), had heard much in India, and of the truth of which, he says, the following fact, that happened some time before his arrival there, may serve for an attestation :
Vencajee, a merchant of that country, and an inhabitant on the sea-coast, sent up to Bombay, to the
1 Description of the Western Isles of Scotland, by Donald Monro, High Dean of the Isles, who travelled through the most of them in 1549 : Edin. 1784, 12mo, p. 37. See a defence of the existence of the Pygmies in Rosse's Arcana Microcosmi, London, 1652, p. 106. Martin, likewise, in his Description of the Western Islands of Scotland, 1703, p. 19, says:
"The island of Pigmies, or, as the natives call it, The island of little men, is but of small extent. There have been many small bones dug out of the ground here, resembling those of human kind more than any other.”. This, he adds, gave ground to a tradition which the natives have of a very low-statured people living once here, called Lusbirdan, that is, Pygmies.