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on without a word. What made him do it? I know the reason

time:2023-12-06 15:48:01 author:thanks read:428次

I arrived not long after at the Emperor's court, and had the honour of kissing his hands; but stayed not long in a place where no missionary ought to linger, unless obliged by the most pressing necessity: but being ordered by my superiors into the kingdom of Damote, I set out on my journey, and on the road was in great danger of losing my life by my curiosity of tasting a herb, which I found near a brook, and which, though I had often heard of it, I did not know. It bears a great resemblance to our radishes; the leaf and colour were beautiful, and the taste not unpleasant. It came into my mind when I began to chew it that perhaps it might be that venomous herb against which no antidote had yet been found, but persuading myself afterwards that my fears were merely chimerical, I continued to chew it, till a man accidentally meeting me, and seeing me with a handful of it, cried out to me that I was poisoned; I had happily not swallowed any of it, and throwing out what I had in my mouth, I returned God thanks for this instance of his protection.

on without a word. What made him do it? I know the reason

I crossed the Nile the first time in my journey to the kingdom of Damote; my passage brought into my mind all that I had read either in ancient or modern writers of this celebrated river; I recollected the great expenses at which some Emperors had endeavoured to gratify their curiosity of knowing the sources of this mighty stream, which nothing but their little acquaintance with the Abyssins made so difficult to be found. I passed the river within two days' journey of its head, near a wide plain, which is entirely laid under water when it begins to overflow the banks. Its channel is even here so wide, that a ball-shot from a musket can scarce reach the farther bank. Here is neither boat nor bridge, and the river is so full of hippopotami, or river-horses, and crocodiles, that it is impossible to swim over without danger of being devoured. The only way of passing it is upon floats, which they guide as well as they can with long poles. Nor is even this way without danger, for these destructive animals overturn the floats, and tear the passengers in pieces. The river horse, which lives only on grass and branches of trees, is satisfied with killing the men, but the crocodile being more voracious, feeds upon the carcases.

on without a word. What made him do it? I know the reason

But since I am arrived at the banks of this renowned river, which I have passed and repassed so many times; and since all that I have read of the nature of its waters, and the causes of its overflowing, is full of fables, the reader may not be displeased to find here an account of what I saw myself, or was told by the inhabitants.

on without a word. What made him do it? I know the reason

The Nile, which the natives call Abavi, that is, the Father of Waters, rises first in Sacala, a province of the kingdom of Goiama, which is one of the most fruitful and agreeable of all the Abyssinian dominions. This province is inhabited by a nation of the Agaus, who call, but only call, themselves Christians, for by daily intermarriages they have allied themselves to the Pagan Agaus, and adopted all their customs and ceremonies. These two nations are very numerous, fierce, and unconquerable, inhabiting a country full of mountains, which are covered with woods, and hollowed by nature into vast caverns, many of which are capable of containing several numerous families, and hundreds of cows. To these recesses the Agaus betake themselves when they are driven out of the plain, where it is almost impossible to find them, and certain ruin to pursue them. This people increases extremely, every man being allowed so many wives as he hath hundreds of cows, and it is seldom that the hundreds are required to be complete.

In the eastern part of this kingdom, on the declivity of a mountain, whose descent is so easy that it seems a beautiful plain, is that source of the Nile which has been sought after at so much expense of labour, and about which such variety of conjectures hath been formed without success. This spring, or rather these two springs, are two holes, each about two feet diameter, a stone's cast distant from each other; the one is but about five feet and a half in depth--at least we could not get our plummet farther, perhaps because it was stopped by roots, for the whole place is full of trees; of the other, which is somewhat less, with a line of ten feet we could find no bottom, and were assured by the inhabitants that none ever had been found. It is believed here that these springs are the vents of a great subterraneous lake, and they have this circumstance to favour their opinion, that the ground is always moist and so soft that the water boils up under foot as one walks upon it. This is more visible after rains, for then the ground yields and sinks so much, that I believe it is chiefly supported by the roots of trees that are interwoven one with another; such is the ground round about these fountains. At a little distance to the south is a village named Guix, through which the way lies to the top of the mountain, from whence the traveller discovers a vast extent of land, which appears like a deep valley, though the mountain rises so imperceptibly that those who go up or down it are scarce sensible of any declivity.

On the top of this mountain is a little hill which the idolatrous Agaus have in great veneration; their priest calls them together at this place once a year, and having sacrificed a cow, throws the head into one of the springs of the Nile; after which ceremony, every one sacrifices a cow or more, according to their different degrees of wealth or devotion. The bones of these cows have already formed two mountains of considerable height, which afford a sufficient proof that these nations have always paid their adorations to this famous river. They eat these sacrifices with great devotion, as flesh consecrated to their deity. Then the priest anoints himself with the grease and tallow of the cows, and sits down on a heap of straw, on the top and in the middle of a pile which is prepared; they set fire to it, and the whole heap is consumed without any injury to the priest, who while the fire continues harangues the standers by, and confirms them in their present ignorance and superstition. When the pile is burnt, and the discourse at an end, every one makes a large present to the priest, which is the grand design of this religious mockery.

To return to the course of the Nile: its waters, after the first rise, run to the eastward for about a musket-shot, then turning to the north, continue hidden in the grass and weeds for about a quarter of a league, and discover themselves for the first time among some rocks--a sight not to be enjoyed without some pleasure by those who have read the fabulous accounts of this stream delivered by the ancients, and the vain conjectures and reasonings which have been formed upon its original, the nature of its water, its cataracts, and its inundations, all which we are now entirely acquainted with and eye-witnesses of.

Many interpreters of the Holy Scriptures pretend that Gihon, mentioned in Genesis, is no other than the Nile, which encompasseth all Aethiopia; but as the Gihon had its source from the terrestrial paradise, and we know that the Nile rises in the country of the Agaus, it will be found, I believe, no small difficulty to conceive how the same river could arise from two sources so distant from each other, or how a river from so low a source should spring up and appear in a place perhaps the highest in the world: for if we consider that Arabia and Palestine are in their situation almost level with Egypt; that Egypt is as low, if compared with the kingdom of Dambia, as the deepest valley in regard of the highest mountain; that the province of Sacala is yet more elevated than Dambia; that the waters of the Nile must either pass under the Red Sea, or take a great compass about, we shall find it hard to conceive such an attractive power in the earth as may be able to make the waters rise through the obstruction of so much sand from places so low to the most lofty region of Aethiopia.


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