Imatges de pÓgina

ants, which display, on a greater scale, the arts and social organization for which their species have been so famed in Europe. They cover the plains with their conical huts from ten to twelve feet in height; they are regularly distributed into labourers and soldiers, with others holding the rank of king and queen. This latter personage, when she is about to add to the numbers of the tribe, presents a most extraordinary spectacle, being then swelled to many times the amount of her natural dimensions; and when the critical period arrives, instead of a progeny of two or three, she produces as many thousands. These ants are far from being of the same harmless description as the corresponding insects of this quarter of the world. On finding their way into a house, they devour every thing, clothes, furniture, food, not even, it is said, sparing the inmates, who are compelled to make a speedy retreat.

Such are the evils to which the people of this continent are perpetually exposed from the lower creation; and yet they experience in full force the truth of the pathetic lamentation of the poet, that " man is to man the surest, deadliest foe." Africa, from the earliest ages, has been the most conspicuous theatre of crime and of wrong; where social life has lost the traces of primitive simplicity, without rising to order, principle, or refinement; where fraud and violence are formed into national systems, and man trembles at the sight of his fellow-man. For centuries this continent has seen thousands of her unfortunate children dragged in chains over its deserts and across the ocean, to spend their lives in foreign and distant bondage. Superstition, tyranny, anarchy, and the opposing interests of numberless petty states, main

tain a constant and destructive warfare in this suffering portion of the earth.

Nevertheless, compelled as we have thus been to describe the ills of Africa, we should err very widely did we represent her as pervaded by one deep monotonous gloom. Throughout the picture there are bright lights interspersed, which shine more conspicuously from the vast blanks and deep shadows with which they are surrounded. In the heart of the most dreary and sandy wastes, there emerges many a little oasis or verdant islet, which to the wanderer of the desert appears almost an earthly paradise. These spots have been painted in colours that belong not to the imperfect abodes of earth; as gardens of the gods, fairy seats, islands destined to be the future mansions of the blessed. In like manner, in the bosom of its wildest woods and mountains, there lurk, in many an unsuspected retreat, scenes of the most soft and pastoral beauty. Even amid its moral darkness there shine forth virtues which would do honour to human society in its most refined and exalted state. A tender flow of domestic affection generally pervades African society. Signal displays, too, have been made of the most generous hospitality; and travellers, who were on the point of perishing, have been befriended and saved by absolute strangers, and even by enemies. These varieties of nature and of character, these alternations of wildness and of beauty, of lawless violence and of the most generous kindness, render the progress of the traveller through this continent more interesting and eventful, more diversified by striking scenes and incidents, than in any other quarter of the globe.


On the Knowledge of Africa among the Ancients.

AFRICA, So far as it extends along the Mediterranean, was not only well known to the nations of antiquity, but constituted an integral part of their political and social system. This coast forms, indeed, only a comparatively small portion of that great continent; but while the sphere of civilization and the geographical knowledge of the Greeks were nearly comprised within the circuit of the Mediterranean shores, Northern Africa held in their view no inconsiderable importance. This region, which is now covered with thick darkness, and left so far behind in all the arts and attainments which exalt and adorn human nature, had at that early period taken the lead, in these very particulars, of all other nations. It included Egypt and Carthage, which, as the first seats of government and commerce, were the admiration of the ancient world. In the patriarchal ages, when Scripture history represents the Mesopotamian Plain, the scene of the future empires of Babylon and Assyria, as little more than a wide and open common, Egypt appears regularly organized, and forming a great and powerful kingdom; and when Greece was under the tumultuary sway of a multitude of petty

chieftains, Homer already celebrates the Hundred Gates of Thebes, and the mighty hosts which in warlike array issued from them to battle. Egypt was illustrious also among the ancients as producing the first elements of learning and abstract science,—the first approach to alphabetical writing by hieroglyphic emblems, the first great works in sculpture, painting, and architecture; and travellers even now find that country covered with magnificent monuments, erected at an era when the faintest dawn of science had not yet illumined the regions of Europe. While Egypt was thus pre-eminent in science and art, Carthage equally excelled in commerce and in the wealth which it produces; by means of which she rose to such a degree of power as enabled her to hold long suspended between herself and Rome the scales of universal empire. In that grand struggle Carthage sunk amid a blaze of expiring glory; while Egypt, after having passed through many ages of alternate splendour and slavery, was also at length included in the extended dominion of Rome. Yet, though all Mediterranean Africa thus merged into a province of the Roman world, it was still an opulent and enlightened one; boasting equally with others its sages, its saints, its heads and fathers of the church; and exhibiting Alexandria and Carthage on a footing with the greatest cities of the empire.

While, however, the region along the Nile and the Mediterranean was thus not only well known, but formed a regular part of the ancient civilized world, the progress of science did not extend beyond the tract bordering on the coast and the river. After proceeding a few journeys into the interior, the traveller found himself among wild and wan

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dering tribes, who exhibited human nature under its rudest and most repulsive forms. On his advancing somewhat farther still, there appeared a barrier vast and awful,-endless plains of moving sand, without a shrub, a blade of grass, or a single object by which human life could be cheered or supported. This appalling boundary, which stopped the victorious career of Cambyses and of Alexander, arrested much more easily every attempt at civilization and settlement. It secured to the wild and roaming tribes of the Desert the undisturbed possession of those insulated spots of verdure, which were scattered at intervals amid the desolation of the interior waste.

Meantime, although these causes prevented the civilization, and even the knowledge of the ancients from ever penetrating deeply beyond the Mediterranean border, yet between it and the measureless Desert there intervened a wide tract of alternate rock, valley, and plain, presenting a varied and often a picturesque landscape. This region, intermediate between the known and the unknown, between civilized and savage existence, excited in a somewhat peculiar degree the curiosity of the ancients; to whom, however, it always appeared dimly as through a cloud, and tinged with a certain fabulous and poetical colouring.

Herodotus, the earliest and most interesting of Greek historians, when endeavouring to collect information respecting the whole of the known world, was obliged, in the absence of written records, to have recourse to travelling; and his narrative is almost entirely the record of what he saw and heard during his various peregrinations. By means of a

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