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motive, it is allowed to have been necessary as well as politic. For example, after the national festivals, at one time so frequent in all the islands, and at which such quantities of provisions were consumed as to threaten a general famine, the taboo was imposed during some months on certain articles of food, which could not otherwise have been preserved. In New Zealand, the seed-potatoes, always separated in harvest from the rest of the stock, are placed in a consecrated storehouse; and every person found stealing from such a depot is visited with the last punishment of the law.
In the third place, there is practised in the Friendly, the Fijee, and the Society Islands, the rite of circumcision, which, on a high authority, we can distinctly trace to an Asiatic province. It is not, indeed, regarded in the South Sea as a religious ceremony, but perpetuated merely as an ancient custom of which no account can be given, and for the use of which no reason is assigned.
We pass over some of the other proofs adduced in support of the hypothesis that the Polynesians must have migrated from Asia, because several of the usages on which they are founded appear to be common to the greater number of barbarians in all parts of the world. It is very remarkable, however, that in the Fijee Islands the principal wife must be strangled at her husband's death, and buried with him; a practice which, without any charge of hasty reasoning, may be attributed to the pride and jealousy of Asiatic manners. The suttees of Hindostan, it is more than probable, have afforded at once the example and the authority.
In addition to the facts now mentioned, there is, we are assured, a general tradition among the islanders of the South Sea that the first inhabitants came from lands in the north-west. Bolatoo, the imaginary paradise of the Friendly Isles, is supposed to be situated in that region of the earth, and is venerated both as the cradle of their ancestors and the resting-place of their souls. In confirmation of this remark, it is stated that Tonga, the name of the largest island in their group, signifies
East both in the Chinese and Polynesian languages; and this term will not appear inappropriate as the designation of a territory which the first settlers had reached in a voyage from the borders of Asia.
Nor has it ever been denied that, in their physical conformation and general character, the natives of the Eastern Pacific bear a strong resemblance to the Malays. The same cast of countenance prevails throughout many of the islands; a circumstance of much more weight, perhaps, than any similarity of dress or mode of living. Mr Marsden has observed that the original clothing of the Sumatrans is the same with the material found in the South Sea, and which in Europe is usually called Otaheitan cloth. The chewing of betel, too, has been detected many thousands of miles distant from India; a country where both the root and the habit of using it are thought to have originated. But such coincidences, though corroborative of an argument based on firmer ground, are too slight to support a conclusion independently of historical monuments or a distinct tradition. The same observations will apply to the inferences drawn from the manner of sitting at food, and the exclusion of females from their meals, because these are practices which present nothing peculiar, and are in no degree characteristic of any one family of savages.
We therefore agree with those who lay more stress on the structure of their language, as being at once less open to objection and much better calculated to convince. The identity of the tongues spoken in the different groups of the South Sea Islands was observed by Captain Cook, as well as the striking likeness between these dialects and those of the Indian Archipelago. It is now, indeed, the prevailing opinion, that in the general character, as well as in the particular form and genius of the innumerable languages spoken within the limits of this latter range, there is a remarkable resemblance, while all of them differ widely from such as are used in every other portion of the world. This observation, we are assured, may be extended to all those regions, from the
north-western extremity of Sumatra to the shores of New Guinea, from Madagascar to the Philippines, and even to the remotest islands of Polynesia on the south.*
A similar conclusion appears to have been formed by La Perouse, who, at first, could perceive no difference between the language of the people in the Navigators' and that of the natives in the Society and Friendly Islands; and who afterwards, upon a closer examination, discovered that they spoke only dialects of the same tongue. A fact which contributed to establish the accuracy of this inference was supplied by a young man on board his ship, who was born in Luçon, near Manilla, and who could understand and interpret most of the words they uttered. Now, it is known that the Tagayan, Talgal, and, in short, all the forms of speech employed in the Philippines, are derived from the Malay; and this language, more widely spread than those of the Greeks and Romans, he found to be common to the numerous tribes who inhabit the small islands on either side of the equator. Hence, it appeared to him in the light of a truth demonstrated, that these several nations are derived from Malayan colonies, who, at very remote periods, must have conquered the lands they now possess; and perhaps even the Chinese and Egyptians, whose antiquity is so much vaunted, are modern, compared to these interesting islanders.†
But it has been justly observed, that an attempt to ascertain which of the Polynesian dialects should be considered the parent stock, must prove as fruitless as would be that of determining which of the Teutonic tongues gave birth to the others. To this question their subsequent degree of improvement has no direct relation. We must be content to regard the insular language as original, in the ordinary acceptation of the word, implying no more than such a degree of obscurity as would render abortive every attempt to trace the
Lang's Polynesian Nation, p. 18.
+Voyage de la Perouse autour du Monde (4 tom. 8vo, Paris, 1798), tome iii. p. 277, &c.
line of its derivation. With the monosyllabic vocables of the nearest continent, its terms, mostly dissyllabic, are wholly unconnected, although it is admitted that, in their grammatical arrangement, some analogies may be discovered; while, with reference to the languages which prevail on the western coast of South America, from which Easter Island is not very remote, the slightest affinity does not appear. We are ignorant even of the general direction in which it may itself have spread over the Indian Archipelago. It may be presumed that its progress was from the west towards the east; and yet, some of the most copious and artificial dialects are found among the Philippines, at a great distance from Sumatra, Java, and the peninsula of Malacca, usually esteemed the seats of the parent speech.*
It is worthy of notice, at the same time, that the Malayan is not held to be the source whence the dialects of the South Sea Islands have immediately proceeded. Their connexion, it is maintained, is merely that of sisterhood; and although, from accidental advantages, the difference between them has become so great, that, on a superficial view, the former might be thought to belong to a distinct family, yet a comparison of its most simple terms with those of the less cultivated dialects, will furnish abundant evidence of their original consanguinity. In the more familiar words, the coincidence is frequent and unequivocal; and in those instances where it appears to fail, the dissimilitude often arises from the customary employment of synonymous expressions, one of which, in preference to the other, has happened to prevail in particular islands. Allowance must also be made for peculiar modes of utterance; it being usual, in some districts, to give the full effect to the consonants, whilst, in others, they are liquefied to a soft and almost vowel sound.†
The affinity here supposed to exist between the Ma
*Miscellaneous Works of William Marsden, F. R. S., &c. (4to, Lond. 1834), p. 7, &c.
+ Ibid. p. 9.
layan and Polynesian tongues, is tacitly referred to their common origin in some older language spoken by the people of Eastern Asia. In endeavouring to ascertain the country whence the lighter-complexioned inhabitants of Sumatra and the adjoining islands must have proceeded, it is natural to turn to the nearest continent; and, in support of the opinion that they migrated thence, it may be stated that all the descriptions with which we have been furnished of the people of Siam and the Burmese empire, represent them, in point of colour, features, and other personal qualities, as bearing a close resemblance not to the Malays only, but to all the other long-haired tribes of the archipelago. Besides these natural appearances, which, in most cases, would be thought sufficient to justify the belief of an original identity of race, there are practices of a peculiar kind, unknown in other parts of the world, followed by the Polynesians in common with the Indo-Chinese. Among these may be enumerated the habit of filing and blackening the teeth, eradicating the hairs of the face and body, and distending the lobes of the ears. In war also, the usage equally prevails of carrying a number of sharppointed stakes to fasten in the ground for the purpose of impeding the pursuit of an enemy. Even the custom of tattooing the limbs, although not observed among the Malays, nor any of the civilized tribes, is still retained in several of the Philippine Islands, as well as in some of those which lie near the western coast of Sumatra.
Notwithstanding the obscurity which continues to hang over this subject, there is no doubt that an affinity subsists between the inhabitants of the Indian Archipelago and those of the more distant Polynesia; and when all circumstances are duly weighed, it may not seem unreasonable to conclude that the Southern Islands have been colonized both directly, through the medium of the Malay establishments on either side of Torres Straits, and also by means of casual migrations into the northern parts of America and a subsequent departure from the same continent in a lower latitude.