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mean? It appeared that the preparatory school was a private

time:2023-12-06 17:02:37 author:knowledge read:770次

Although some who have travelled in Asia and Africa have given the world their descriptions of crocodiles and hippopotamus, or river- horse, yet as the Nile has at least as great numbers of each as any river in the world, I cannot but think my account of it would be imperfect without some particular mention of these animals.

mean? It appeared that the preparatory school was a private

The crocodile is very ugly, having no proportion between his length and thickness; he hath short feet, a wide mouth, with two rows of sharp teeth, standing wide from each other, a brown skin so fortified with scales, even to his nose, that a musket-ball cannot penetrate it. His sight is extremely quick, and at a great distance. In the water he is daring and fierce, and will seize on any that are so unfortunate as to be found by him bathing, who, if they escape with life, are almost sure to leave some limb in his mouth. Neither I, nor any with whom I have conversed about the crocodile, have ever seen him weep, and therefore I take the liberty of ranking all that hath been told us of his tears amongst the fables which are only proper to amuse children.

mean? It appeared that the preparatory school was a private

The hippopotamus, or river-horse, grazes upon the land and browses on the shrubs, yet is no less dangerous than the crocodile. He is the size of an ox, of a brown colour without any hair, his tail is short, his neck long, and his head of an enormous bigness; his eyes are small, his mouth wide, with teeth half a foot long; he hath two tusks like those of a wild boar, but larger; his legs are short, and his feet part into four toes. It is easy to observe from this description that he hath no resemblance of a horse, and indeed nothing could give occasion to the name but some likeness in his ears, and his neighing and snorting like a horse when he is provoked or raises his head out of water. His hide is so hard that a musket fired close to him can only make a slight impression, and the best tempered lances pushed forcibly against him are either blunted or shivered, unless the assailant has the skill to make his thrust at certain parts which are more tender. There is great danger in meeting him, and the best way is, upon such an accident, to step aside and let him pass by. The flesh of this animal doth not differ from that of a cow, except that it is blacker and harder to digest.

mean? It appeared that the preparatory school was a private

The ignorance which we have hitherto been in of the original of the Nile hath given many authors an opportunity of presenting us very gravely with their various systems and conjectures about the nature of its waters, and the reason of its overflows.

It is easy to observe how many empty hypotheses and idle reasonings the phenomena of this river have put mankind to the expense of. Yet there are people so bigoted to antiquity, as not to pay any regard to the relation of travellers who have been upon the spot, and by the evidence of their eyes can confute all that the ancients have written. It was difficult, it was even impossible, to arrive at the source of the Nile by tracing its channel from the mouth; and all who ever attempted it, having been stopped by the cataracts, and imagining none that followed them could pass farther, have taken the liberty of entertaining us with their own fictions.

It is to be remembered likewise that neither the Greeks nor Romans, from whom we have received all our information, ever carried their arms into this part of the world, or ever heard of multitudes of nations that dwell upon the banks of this vast river; that the countries where the Nile rises, and those through which it runs, have no inhabitants but what are savage and uncivilised; that before they could arrive at its head, they must surmount the insuperable obstacles of impassable forests, inaccessible cliffs, and deserts crowded with beasts of prey, fierce by nature, and raging for want of sustenance. Yet if they who endeavoured with so much ardour to discover the spring of this river had landed at Mazna on the coast of the Red Sea, and marched a little more to the south than the south-west, they might perhaps have gratified their curiosity at less expense, and in about twenty days might have enjoyed the desired sight of the sources of the Nile.

But this discovery was reserved for the invincible bravery of our noble countrymen, who, not discouraged by the dangers of a navigation in seas never explored before, have subdued kingdoms and empires where the Greek and Roman greatness, where the names of Caesar and Alexander, were never heard of; who have demolished the airy fabrics of renowned hypotheses, and detected those fables which the ancients rather chose to invent of the sources of the Nile than to confess their ignorance. I cannot help suspending my narration to reflect a little on the ridiculous speculations of those swelling philosophers, whose arrogance would prescribe laws to nature, and subject those astonishing effects, which we behold daily, to their idle reasonings and chimerical rules. Presumptuous imagination! that has given being to such numbers of books, and patrons to so many various opinions about the overflows of the Nile. Some of these theorists have been pleased to declare it as their favourite notion that this inundation is caused by high winds which stop the current, and so force the water to rise above its banks, and spread over all Egypt. Others pretend a subterraneous communication between the ocean and the Nile, and that the sea being violently agitated swells the river. Many have imagined themselves blessed with the discovery when they have told us that this mighty flood proceeds from the melting of snow on the mountains of Aethiopia, without reflecting that this opinion is contrary to the received notion of all the ancients, who believed that the heat was so excessive between the tropics that no inhabitant could live there. So much snow and so great heat are never met with in the same region; and indeed I never saw snow in Abyssinia, except on Mount Semen in the kingdom of Tigre, very remote from the Nile, and on Namera, which is indeed not far distant, but where there never falls snow sufficient to wet the foot of the mountain when it is melted.

To the immense labours and fatigues of the Portuguese mankind is indebted for the knowledge of the real cause of these inundations so great and so regular. Their observations inform us that Abyssinia, where the Nile rises and waters vast tracts of land, is full of mountains, and in its natural situation much higher than Egypt; that all the winter, from June to September, no day is without rain; that the Nile receives in its course all the rivers, brooks, and torrents which fall from those mountains; these necessarily swell it above the banks, and fill the plains of Egypt with the inundation. This comes regularly about the month of July, or three weeks after the beginning of a rainy season in Aethiopia. The different degrees of this flood are such certain indications of the fruitfulness or sterility of the ensuing year, that it is publicly proclaimed in Cairo how much the water hath gained each night. This is all I have to inform the reader of concerning the Nile, which the Egyptians adored as the deity, in whose choice it was to bless them with abundance, or deprive them of the necessaries of life.


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