« ForrigeFortsæt »
endeavouring to approach them unperceived, I left my servants and guide at a considerable distance, and took a circuit by myself, out of sight of my companions. A drove of buffaloes belonging to the villagers happened to be nigh at the time that I discharged my gun; alarmed at the noise, the whole troop raised their heads, and, instead of running away, seemed to stand on the defensive. I walked leisurely from them, when two came out of the herd, and, with their tails and heads erect, trotted towards me, not in a straight line, but making a half circle, as if afraid to advance; they were too nigh for me to think of escaping by flight, I therefore kept on at a moderate pace, in an oblique direction, stopping at times, with my face towards them, on which they also stood still, and looked at me; but when I resumed my way, they immediately advanced; in this circuitous manner one of them came so close that I felt my situation extremely awkward. I had reloaded my rifle whilst I walked, but reserved it for an extremity. * As the beast approached, I stopped more frequently, which always checked his progress for a time; but he had now drawn so nigh, that I expected every instant to have a direct charge at me: fortunately the miou-gee from a distance discovered my situation; he hallooed out, and made signs by taking off his blue cotton jacket, holding it up in the air, and then throwing it down. I immediately comprehended his meaning, and, whilst I edged away, slipped off my scarlet coat, which I fung, together with my hat, into some loug grass, where they lay concealed; the buffalo instantly desisted from the pursuit, and returned towards the herd, quietly grazing as he retired. This circumstance proves the buffalo entertains the same antipathy to the colour of red or scarlet that some other animals are known to do. The miou-gee, when I joined him, seemed quite as much alarmed as I was ; he said, that if I had sustained any injury, his head would have paid the forfeit of the accident.
Next morning before daylight we left Deesa with the first of the ebb; at 10 o'clock we reached Rangoon, and landed at our former dwelling below the town. Baba-Sheen, who had travelled all night, arrived about the same hour from Pegu.
- How much it is to be lamented, that the country we had just left, one of the fairest and most healthful on the globe, should remain, for the greater part, a solitary desert, whilst so many of the human race are condemned to languish away life in noxious regions, or extract, by incessant labour, a scanty subsistence from a barren soil. The natives of the adjacent islands of Nicobar, whose swollen limbs and diseased bodies evince the pestilential atmosphere they breathe, might here prove useful members of general society, live in the enjoyment of a salubrious climate, supply their own, and contribute to relieve the wants of others. But it must require a long and uninterrupted term of peace to renew the population of Pegu. Should it ever be so fortunate, there can be little doubt that Pegu will be numbered amongst the most flourishing and delightful countries of the east.'
Having reached Rangoon, the major again found himself treated with great formality and caution. The population of this place consists of about 30,000 people. It is increased from being an asylum for insolvent debtors. The rhahaans, or priests, are numerous. They live by begging, and receive the contributions of the laity ready cooked, as they hold it derogatory to perform any of the common functions of life.
Near the town is a village wholly inhabited by prostitutes. • Prostitution,' says our author, • in this, as in all other countries, is the ultimate resort of female wretchedness, but here it is often attended with circumstances of peculiar and unmerited misery. Many who follow this course of life are not at their own disposal, or receive the earnings of their unhappy profession; they are slaves sold by creditors to a licensed pander, for debts more frequently contracted by others, than by themselves. According to the laws of Pegu, he who incurs a debt which he cannot pay, becomes the property of his creditor, who may claim the insolvent debtor as his slave, and oblige him to perform menial service until he liquidates the debt; nor does the unhappy man always suffer in his own person alone, his immediate relatives are often included in the bond, and when that is the case, are liable to be attached and sold, to discharge the obligation.
The wretchedness into which this inhuman law plunges whole families is not to be described. Innocent women are often dragged from domestic comfort and happiness, and from the folly or misfortune of the master of the house, in which they perhaps have no blame, are sold to the licensed superintendant of the tackally, who, if they posses attractions, pays a high price for them, and reimburses himself by the wages of their prostitution.
• In their treatment of the softer sex the Birmans are destitute both of delicacy and humanity; they consider women as little superior to the brute stock of their farms. The lower class of Birmans make no scruple of selling their daughters, and even their wives, to foreigners who come to pass a temporary residence amongst them. It reflects no disgrace on any of the parties, and the woman is not dishonoured by the connexion
· Teak, the most durable wood that is known, and best adapted for the construction of ships, is produced in the forests of the Birman and Pegu empires in inexhaustible abundance: and nature has done her part to render Rangoon the most flourishing seaport of the eastern world.
• There were at this time several ships from 600 to 1,000 tons burden on the stocks; one belonging to the maywoon of Pegu, about 900 tons, was considered by professional men as a specimen of excellent workmanship; it was entirely wrought by Birman carpenters, and formed on a French model, as are most of the ships built in this river, the Birmans having received their first rudiments of the art from that nation. Three or four vessels of burden were likewise in a state of forwardness, belonging to English adventurers, and one still larger than the rest, almost ready to be launched, the property of the governor of Maindu, the town on the opposite side. If this ship was not composed of prime materials, the building at least was well attended to; every morning the governor's wife crossed the river in her husband's barge, attended by two or three female servants ; after landing she commonly took her seat on one of the timbers iv the yard, and overlooked the workmen for some hours, after which she returned home,
and seldom missed coming back in the evening, to see that the day's task had been completed. Women in the Birman country are not only good housewives, but likewise manage the most important mercantile concerns of their husbands, and attend to their interest in all outdoor transactions: they are industrious to the greatest degree, and are said to be good mothers, and seldom, from inclination, unfaithful wives. If this be a true character, they meet with a most ungenerous return, for the men treat them as beings of a very subordinate order.
Whilst we admired the structure and materials of these ships, we could not overlook the mode in which the work was executed, and the obvious merit of the artificers. In Bengal a native carpenter, though his business is commonly well done, yet in his manner of performing it, he excites the surprise and ridicule of Europeans; he cuts his wood with a diminutive adze, in a feeble and slow manner, and when he wants to turn a piece of timber, has recourse to a coulee, or labourer, that attends him; numbers there compensate for the want of individual energy; notwithstanding this, they finish what they undertake in a masterly manner. The Birman shipwrights are athletic men, and possess, in an eminent degree, that vigour which distinguishes Europeans, and gives them pre-eminence over the enervated natives of the east; nor do I imagine that the inhabitants of any country are capable of greater bodily exertion than the Birmans."
At last the imperial mandate arrived, ordering the maywoon to accompany major Symes to the capital. On the 30th of May they departed in convenient boats. The navigation was found difficult, but the boatmen worked with great spirit and address. One boat was wrecked with the baggage, by the violence of the current. The major amused himself on the voyage with shooting. "The Birmans,' says he, even the common boatmen, are fond of fowling to a degree of childish delight ; sooner than not shoot they will fire at sparrows. I never was more importuned than by them for shot, which they do not know how to fabricate. No schoolboy could“ be more pleased than the leedegee, or steersman, of my boat,
when I one evening lent him a gun to shoot wild pigeons. In this, as well as many other particulars, their disposition is strikingly contrasted with the habits of apathy and indolence that characterize the natives of Asia in general.'
The party halted at a town named Prome. The buildings, observes our narrator, were not remarkable; but though I saw little to notice, I found that I was myself an object of universal wonder: the singular appearance of an English officer dressed in uniform was a phænomenon perhaps never before seen in this part of the world. My attendants also created no little surprise; the dogs, numbers of which infested the streets, set up a horrid barking; the men gaped, the children followed me, and the women, as usual, expressed their astonishment by loud laughter, and clapping their hands; yet not the least indication of contempt was manifested, nor any thing done that could be construed into an intention to offend. Whichever way I turned, the crowd respectfully opened, and the most forward was restrained by others. The notice I took of a little girl, who was alarmed at our appearance, seemed to be very gratifying to the parents, and the mother encouraging her child, brought her close to me. Had I entered a house, I have no doubt but the owners would have offered me the best of what it contained. Kindness to strangers is equally the precept and the practice of Birmans.'
After a voyage up the river, which occupied nearly seven weeks, the major reached the environs of the capital. Head been met by a deputation, and had sailed during several days is a magnificent barge. Leaving Ava, the ancient metropolis, which is rapidly falling into decay, the river Irrawaddy bends o the north ward, when,' says our author, “the opposite city of Chagain, and the spires, the turrets, and the lofty piasath she regal spire that distinguishes the dwelling of the monarch, and the temples of divinity,) of Ummerapoora, create an nexpected pleasure, and exhibit a fine contrast to the gloomy and deserted walls of Ava. Chagain, on the north side, once, 4, the seat of imperial residence, is situated partly at the foot, and partly on the side, of a rugged hill that is broken no separate eminences, and on the summit of each stands a VOL. IV.-(62)