This etext was prepared from the 1887 Cassell and Company edition by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.
A VOYAGE TO ABYSSINIA.
BY FATHER JEROME LOBO.
Translated from the French by SAMUEL JOHNSON.
CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED: LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK & MELBOURNE. 1887.
Jeronimo Lobo was born in Lisbon in the year 1593. He entered the Order of the Jesuits at the age of sixteen. After passing through the studies by which Jesuits were trained for missionary work, which included special attention to the arts of speaking and writing, Father Lobo was sent as a missionary to India at the age of twenty-eight, in the year 1621. He reached Goa, as his book tells, in 1622, and was in 1624, at the age of thirty-one, told off as one of the missionaries to be employed in the conversion of the Abyssinians. They were to be converted, from a form of Christianity peculiar to themselves, to orthodox Catholicism. The Abyssinian Emperor Segued was protector of the enterprise, of which we have here the story told.
Father Lobo was nine years in Abyssinia, from the age of thirty-one to the age of forty, and this was the adventurous time of his life. The death of the Emperor Segued put an end to the protection that had given the devoted missionaries, in the midst of dangers, a precarious hold upon their work. When he and his comrades fell into the hands of the Turks at Massowah, his vigour of body and mind, his readiness of resource, and his fidelity, marked him out as the one to be sent to the headquarters in India to secure the payment of a ransom for his companions. He obtained the ransom, and desired also to obtain from the Portuguese Viceroy in India armed force to maintain the missionaries in the position they had so far won. But the Civil power was deaf to his pleading. He removed the appeal to Lisbon, and after narrowly escaping on the way from a shipwreck, and after having been captured by pirates, he reached Lisbon, and sought still to obtain means of overawing the force hostile to the work of the Jesuits in Abyssinia. The Princess Margaret gave friendly hearing, but sent him on to persuade, if he could, the King of Spain; and failing at Madrid, he went to Rome and tried the Pope. He was chosen to go to the Pope, said the Patriarch Alfonso Mendez, because, of all the brethren at Goa, the 'Pater Hieronymus Lupus' (Lobo translated into Wolf) was the most ingenious and learned in all sciences, with a mind most generous in its desire to conquer difficulties, dexterous in management of business, and found most able to make himself agreeable to those with whom there was business to be done. The vigour with which he held by his purpose of endeavouring in every possible way to bring the Christianity of Abyssinia within the pale of the Catholic Church is in accordance with the character that makes the centre of the story of this book. Whimsical touches arise out of this strength of character and readiness of resource, as when he tells of the taste of the Abyssinians for raw cow's flesh, with a sauce high in royal Abyssinian favour, made of the cow's gall and contents of its entrails, of which, when he was pressed to partake, he could only excuse himself and his brethren by suggesting that it was too good for such humble missionaries. Out of distinguished respect for it, they refrained from putting it into their mouths.
Good Father Lobo gave up the desire of his heart, when it was proved unattainable, and returned to India six years after the breaking up of his work in Abyssinia, at the age of forty-seven. He came to be head of the Provincials of the Jesuit settlement at Goa, and after about ten more years of active duty in the East returned in 1658 to Lisbon, when he died in the religious house of St. Roque in 1678, at the age of eighty-five. A comrade of Father Lobo's, Baltazar Tellez, said that Lobo had travelled thirty-eight thousand leagues with no other object before him but the winning of more souls to God. His years in Abyssinia stood out prominently to his mind among all the years of his long life, and he wrote an account of them in Portuguese, of which the manuscript is at Lisbon in the monastery of St. Roque, where he closed his life.
Of that manuscript, then and still unprinted (though use was made of it by Baltazar Tellez in his History of 'Ethiopia-Coimbra,' 1660), the Abbe Legrand, Prior of Neuville-les-Dames, and of Prevessin, published a translation into French. The Abbe Legrand had been to Lisbon as Secretary to the Abbe d'Estrees, Ambassador from France to Portugal. The negotiations were so long continued that M. Legrand was detained five years in Lisbon, and employed the time in researches among documents illustrating the Portuguese possessions in India and the East. He obtained many memoirs of great interest, and published from one of them an account of Ceylon; but of all the manuscripts he found none interested him so much as that of Father Lobo. His translation was augmented with illustrative dissertations, letters, and a memoir on the circumstances of the death of M. du Roule. It filled two volumes, or 636 pages of forty lines. This was published in 1728. It was on the 31st of October, 1728, that Samuel Johnson, aged nineteen, went to Pembroke College, Oxford, and Legrand's 'Voyage Historique d'Abissinie du R. P. Jerome Lobo, de la Compagnie de Jesus, Traduit du Portugais, continue et augmente de plusieurs Dissertations, Lettres et Memoires,' was one of the new books read by Johnson during his short period of college life. In 1735, when Johnson's age was twenty-six, and the world seemed to have shut against him every door of hope, Johnson stayed for six months at Birmingham with his old schoolfellow Hector, who was aiming at medical practice, and who lodged at the house of a bookseller. Johnson spoke with interest of Father Lobo, whose book he had read at Pembroke College. Mr. Warren, the bookseller, thought it would be worth while to print a translation. Hector joined in urging Johnson to undertake it, for a payment of five guineas. Although nearly brought to a stop midway by hypochondriac despondency, a little suggestion that the printers also were stopped, and if they had not their work had not their pay, caused Johnson to go on to the end. Legrand's book was reduced to a fifth of its size by the omission of all that overlaid Father Lobo's personal account of his adventures; and Johnson began work as a writer with this translation, first published at Birmingham in 1735.
The following relation is so curious and entertaining, and the dissertations that accompany it so judicious and instructive, that the translator is confident his attempt stands in need of no apology, whatever censures may fall on the performance.
The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general vein of his countrymen, has amused his reader with no romantic absurdities or incredible fictions; whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at least probable; and he who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of probability has a right to demand that they should believe him who cannot contradict him.
He appears by his modest and unaffected narration to have described things as he saw them, to have copied nature from the life, and to have consulted his senses, not his imagination; he meets with no basilisks that destroy with their eyes, his crocodiles devour their prey without tears, and his cataracts fall from the rock without deafening the neighbouring inhabitants.
The reader will here find no regions cursed with irremediable barrenness, or blessed with spontaneous fecundity, no perpetual gloom or unceasing sunshine; nor are the nations here described either devoid of all sense of humanity, or consummate in all private and social virtues; here are no Hottentots without religion, polity, or articulate language, no Chinese perfectly polite, and completely skilled in all sciences: he will discover, what will always be discovered by a diligent and impartial inquirer, that wherever human nature is to be found there is a mixture of vice and virtue, a contest of passion and reason, and that the Creator doth not appear partial in his distributions, but has balanced in most countries their particular inconveniences by particular favours.
In his account of the mission, where his veracity is most to be suspected, he neither exaggerates overmuch the merits of the Jesuits, if we consider the partial regard paid by the Portuguese to their countrymen, by the Jesuits to their society, and by the Papists to their church, nor aggravates the vices of the Abyssins; but if the reader will not be satisfied with a Popish account of a Popish mission, he may have recourse to the history of the church of Abyssinia, written by Dr. Geddes, in which he will find the actions and sufferings of the missionaries placed in a different light, though the same in which Mr. Le Grand, with all his zeal for the Roman church, appears to have seen them.
This learned dissertator, however valuable for his industry and erudition, is yet more to be esteemed for having dared so freely in the midst of France to declare his disapprobation of the Patriarch Oviedo's sanguinary zeal, who was continually importuning the Portuguese to beat up their drums for missionaries, who might preach the gospel with swords in their hands, and propagate by desolation and slaughter the true worship of the God of Peace.
It is not easy to forbear reflecting with how little reason these men profess themselves the followers of Jesus, who left this great characteristic to His disciples, that they should be known by loving one another, by universal and unbounded charity and benevolence.
Let us suppose an inhabitant of some remote and superior region, yet unskilled in the ways of men, having read and considered the precepts of the gospel, and the example of our Saviour, to come down in search of the true church: if he would not inquire after it among the cruel, the insolent, and the oppressive; among those who are continually grasping at dominion over souls as well as bodies; among those who are employed in procuring to themselves impunity for the most enormous villainies, and studying methods of destroying their fellow-creatures, not for their crimes but their errors; if he would not expect to meet benevolence, engage in massacres, or to find mercy in a court of inquisition, he would not look for the true church in the Church of Rome.
Mr. Le Grand has given in one dissertation an example of great moderation, in deviating from the temper of his religion, but in the others has left proofs that learning and honesty are often too weak to oppose prejudice. He has made no scruple of preferring the testimony of Father du Bernat to the writings of all the Portuguese Jesuits, to whom he allows great zeal, but little learning, without giving any other reason than that his favourite was a Frenchman. This is writing only to Frenchmen and to Papists: a Protestant would be desirous to know why he must imagine that Father du Bernat had a cooler head or more knowledge; and why one man whose account is singular is not more likely to be mistaken than many agreeing in the same account.
If the Portuguese were biassed by any particular views, another bias equally powerful may have deflected the Frenchman from the truth, for they evidently write with contrary designs: the Portuguese, to make their mission seem more necessary, endeavoured to place in the strongest light the differences between the Abyssinian and Roman Church; but the great Ludolfus, laying hold on the advantage, reduced these later writers to prove their conformity.
Upon the whole, the controversy seems of no great importance to those who believe the Holy Scriptures sufficient to teach the way of salvation, but of whatever moment it may be thought, there are not proofs sufficient to decide it.
His discourses on indifferent subjects will divert as well as instruct, and if either in these, or in the relation of Father Lobo, any argument shall appear unconvincing, or description obscure, they are defects incident to all mankind, which, however, are not too rashly to be imputed to the authors, being sometimes, perhaps, more justly chargeable on the translator.
In this translation, if it may be so called, great liberties have been taken, which, whether justifiable or not, shall be fairly confessed; and let the judicious part of mankind pardon or condemn them.
In the first part the greatest freedom has been used in reducing the narration into a narrow compass, so that it is by no means a translation but an epitome, in which, whether everything either useful or entertaining be comprised, the compiler is least qualified to determine.
In the account of Abyssinia, and the continuation, the authors have been followed with more exactness, and as few passages appeared either insignificant or tedious, few have been either shortened or omitted.
The dissertations are the only part in which an exact translation has been attempted, and even in those abstracts are sometimes given instead of literal quotations, particularly in the first; and sometimes other parts have been contracted.
Several memorials and letters, which are printed at the end of the dissertations to secure the credit of the foregoing narrative, are entirely left out.
It is hoped that, after this confession, whoever shall compare this attempt with the original, if he shall find no proofs of fraud or partiality, will candidly overlook any failure of judgment.
PART I—THE VOYAGE TO ABYSSINIA
The author arrives after some difficulties at Goa. Is chosen for the Mission of AEthiopia. The fate of those Jesuits who went by Zeila. The author arrives at the coast of Melinda.
I embarked in March, 1622, in the same fleet with the Count Vidigueira, on whom the king had conferred the viceroyship of the Indies, then vacant by the resignation of Alfonso Noronha, whose unsuccessful voyage in the foregoing year had been the occasion of the loss of Ormus, which being by the miscarriage of that fleet deprived of the succours necessary for its defence, was taken by the Persians and English. The beginning of this voyage was very prosperous: we were neither annoyed with the diseases of the climate nor distressed with bad weather, till we doubled the Cape of Good Hope, which was about the end of May. Here began our misfortunes; these coasts are remarkable for the many shipwrecks the Portuguese have suffered. The sea is for the most part rough, and the winds tempestuous; we had here our rigging somewhat damaged by a storm of lightning, which when we had repaired, we sailed forward to Mosambique, where we were to stay some time. When we came near that coast, and began to rejoice at the prospect of ease and refreshment, we were on the sudden alarmed with the sight of a squadron of ships, of what nation we could not at first distinguish, but soon discovered that they were three English and three Dutch, and were preparing to attack us. I shall not trouble the reader with the particulars of this fight, in which, though the English commander ran himself aground, we lost three of our ships, and with great difficulty escaped with the rest into the port of Mosambique.
This place was able to afford us little consolation in our uneasy circumstances; the arrival of our company almost caused a scarcity of provisions. The heat in the day is intolerable, and the dews in the night so unwholesome that it is almost certain death to go out with one's head uncovered. Nothing can be a stronger proof of the malignant quality of the air than that the rust will immediately corrode both the iron and brass if they are not carefully covered with straw. We stayed, however, in this place from the latter end of July to the beginning of September, when having provided ourselves with other vessels, we set out for Cochim, and landed there after a very hazardous and difficult passage, made so partly by the currents and storms which separated us from each other, and partly by continual apprehensions of the English and Dutch, who were cruising for us in the Indian seas. Here the viceroy and his company were received with so much ceremony, as was rather troublesome than pleasing to us who were fatigued with the labours of the passage; and having stayed here some time, that the gentlemen who attended the viceroy to Goa might fit out their vessels, we set sail, and after having been detained some time at sea, by calms and contrary winds, and somewhat harassed by the English and Dutch, who were now increased to eleven ships of war, arrived at Goa, on Saturday, the 16th of December, and the viceroy made his entry with great magnificence.
I lived here about a year, and completed my studies in divinity; in which time some letters were received from the fathers in AEthiopia, with an account that Sultan Segued, Emperor of Abyssinia, was converted to the Church of Rome, that many of his subjects had followed his example, and that there was a great want of missionaries to improve these prosperous beginnings. Everybody was very desirous of seconding the zeal of our fathers, and of sending them the assistance they requested; to which we were the more encouraged, because the emperor's letters informed our provincial that we might easily enter his dominions by the way of Dancala, but unhappily, the secretary wrote Zeila for Dancala, which cost two of our fathers their lives.
We were, however, notwithstanding the assurances given us by the emperor, sufficiently apprised of the danger which we were exposed to in this expedition, whether we went by sea or land. By sea, we foresaw the hazard we run of falling into the hands of the Turks, amongst whom we should lose, if not our lives, at least our liberty, and be for ever prevented from reaching the court of AEthiopia. Upon this consideration our superiors divided the eight Jesuits chosen for this mission into two companies. Four they sent by sea and four by land; I was of the latter number. The four first were the more fortunate, who though they were detained some time by the Turkish bassa, were dismissed at the request of the emperor, who sent him a zebra, or wild ass, a creature of large size and admirable beauty.
As for us, who were to go by Zeila, we had still greater difficulties to struggle with: we were entirely strangers to the ways we were to take, to the manners, and even to the names of the nations through which we were to pass. Our chief desire was to discover some new road by which we might avoid having anything to do with the Turks. Among great numbers whom we consulted on this occasion, we were informed by some that we might go through Melinda. These men painted that hideous wilderness in charming colours, told us that we should find a country watered with navigable rivers, and inhabited by a people that would either inform us of the way, or accompany us in it. These reports charmed us, because they flattered our desires; but our superiors finding nothing in all this talk that could be depended on, were in suspense what directions to give us, till my companion and I upon this reflection, that since all the ways were equally new to us, we had nothing to do but to resign ourselves to the Providence of God, asked and obtained the permission of our superiors to attempt the road through Melinda. So of we who went by land, two took the way of Zeila, and my companion and I that of Melinda.
Those who were appointed for Zeila embarked in a vessel that was going to Caxume, where they were well received by the king, and accommodated with a ship to carry them to Zeila; they were there treated by the check with the same civility which they had met with at Caxume. But the king being informed of their arrival, ordered them to be conveyed to his court at Auxa, to which place they were scarce come before they were thrown by the king's command into a dark and dismal dungeon, where there is hardly any sort of cruelty that was not exercised upon them. The Emperor of Abyssinia endeavoured by large offers to obtain their liberty, but his kind offices had no other effect than to heighten the rage of the king of Zeila. This prince, besides his ill will to Sultan Segued, which was kept up by some malcontents among the Abyssin nobility, who, provoked at the conversion of their master, were plotting a revolt, entertained an inveterate hatred against the Portuguese for the death of his grandfather, who had been killed many years before, which he swore the blood of the Jesuits should repay. So after they had languished for some time in prison their heads were struck off. A fate which had been likewise our own, had not God reserved us for longer labours!
Having provided everything necessary for our journey, such as Arabian habits, and red caps, calicoes, and other trifles to make presents of to the inhabitants, and taking leave of our friends, as men going to a speedy death, for we were not insensible of the dangers we were likely to encounter, amongst horrid deserts, impassable mountains, and barbarous nations, we left Goa on the 26th day of January in the year 1624, in a Portuguese galliot that was ordered to set us ashore at Pate, where we landed without any disaster in eleven days, together with a young Abyssin, whom we made use of as our interpreter. While we stayed here we were given to understand that those who had been pleased at Goa to give us directions in relation to our journey had done nothing but tell us lies. That the people were savage, that they had indeed begun to treat with the Portuguese, but it was only from fear, that otherwise they were a barbarous nation, who finding themselves too much crowded in their own country, had extended themselves to the sea-shore; that they ravished the country and laid everything waste where they came, that they were man- eaters, and were on that account dreadful in all those parts. My companion and I being undeceived by this terrible relation, thought it would be the highest imprudence to expose ourselves both together to a death almost certain and unprofitable, and agreed that I should go with our Abyssin and a Portuguese to observe the country; that if I should prove so happy as to escape being killed by the inhabitants, and to discover a way, I should either return, or send back the Abyssin or Portuguese. Having fixed upon this, I hired a little bark to Jubo, a place about forty leagues distant from Pate, on board which I put some provisions, together with my sacerdotal vestments, and all that was necessary for saying mass: in this vessel we reached the coast, which we found inhabited by several nations: each nation is subject to its own king; these petty monarchies are so numerous, that I counted at least ten in less than four leagues.
The author lands: The difficulty of his journey. An account of the Galles, and of the author's reception at the king's tent; Their manner of swearing, and of letting blood. The author returns to the Indies, and finds the patriarch of AEthiopia.
On this coast we landed, with an intention of travelling on foot to Jubo, a journey of much greater length and difficulty than we imagined. We durst not go far from our bark, and therefore were obliged to a toilsome march along the windings of the shore, sometimes clambering up rocks, and sometimes wading through the sands, so that we were every moment in the utmost danger of falling from the one, or sinking in the other. Our lodging was either in the rocks or on the sands, and even that incommoded by continual apprehensions of being devoured by lions and tigers. Amidst all these calamities our provisions failed us; we had little hopes of a supply, for we found neither villages, houses, nor any trace of a human creature; and had miserably perished by thirst and hunger had we not met with some fishermen's boats, who exchanged their fish for tobacco.
Through all these fatigues we at length came to Jubo, a kingdom of considerable extent, situated almost under the line, and tributary to the Portuguese, who carry on a trade here for ivory and other commodities. This region so abounds with elephants, that though the teeth of the male only are valuable, they load several ships with ivory every year. All this coast is much infested with ravenous beasts, monkeys, and serpents, of which last here are some seven feet in length, and thicker than an ordinary man; in the head of this serpent is found a stone about the bigness of an egg, resembling bezoar, and of great efficacy, as it is said, against all kinds of poison. I stayed here some time to inform myself whether I might, by pursuing this road, reach Abyssinia; and could get no other intelligence but that two thousand Galles (the same people who inhabited Melinda) had encamped about three leagues from Jubo; that they had been induced to fix in that place by the plenty of provisions they found there. These Galles lay everything where they come in ruin, putting all to the sword without distinction of age or sex; which barbarities, though their numbers are not great, have spread the terror of them over all the country. They choose a king, whom they call Lubo: every eighth year they carry their wives with them, and expose their children without any tenderness in the woods, it being prohibited, on pain of death, to take any care of those which are born in the camp. This is their way of living when they are in arms, but afterwards when they settle at home they breed up their children. They feed upon raw cow's flesh; when they kill a cow, they keep the blood to rub their bodies with, and wear the guts about their necks for ornaments, which they afterwards give to their wives.
Several of these Galles came to see me, and as it seemed they had never beheld a white man before, they gazed on me with amazement; so strong was their curiosity that they even pulled off my shoes and stockings, that they might be satisfied whether all my body was of the same colour with my face. I could remark, that after they had observed me some time, they discovered some aversion from a white; however, seeing me pull out my handkerchief, they asked me for it with a great deal of eagerness; I cut it into several pieces that I might satisfy them all, and distributed it amongst them; they bound them about their heads, but gave me to understand that they should have liked them better if they had been red: after this we were seldom without their company, which gave occasion to an accident, which though it seemed to threaten some danger at first, turned afterwards to our advantage.
As these people were continually teasing us, our Portuguese one day threatened in jest to kill one of them. The black ran in the utmost dread to seek his comrades, and we were in one moment almost covered with Galles; we thought it the most proper course to decline the first impulse of their fury, and retired into our house. Our retreat inspired them with courage; they redoubled their cries, and posted themselves on an eminence near at hand that overlooked us; there they insulted us by brandishing their lances and daggers. We were fortunately not above a stone's cast from the sea, and could therefore have retreated to our bark had we found ourselves reduced to extremities. This made us not very solicitous about their menaces; but finding that they continued to hover about our habitation, and being wearied with their clamours, we thought it might be a good expedient to fright them away by firing four muskets towards them, in such a manner that they might hear the bullets hiss about two feet over their heads. This had the effect we wished; the noise and fire of our arms struck them with so much terror that they fell upon the ground, and durst not for some time so much as lift up their heads. They forgot immediately their natural temper, their ferocity and haughtiness were softened into mildness and submission; they asked pardon for their insolence, and we were ever after good friends.
After our reconciliation we visited each other frequently, and had some conversation about the journey I had undertaken, and the desire I had of finding a new passage into AEthiopia. It was necessary on this account to consult their lubo or king: I found him in a straw hut something larger than those of his subjects, surrounded by his courtiers, who had each a stick in his hand, which is longer or shorter according to the quality of the person admitted into the king's presence. The ceremony made use of at the reception of a stranger is somewhat unusual; as soon as he enters, all the courtiers strike him with their cudgels till he goes back to the door; the amity then subsisting between us did not secure me from this uncouth reception, which they told me, upon my demanding the reason of it, was to show those whom they treated with that they were the bravest people in the world, and that all other nations ought to bow down before them. I could not help reflecting on this occasion how imprudently I had trusted my life in the hands of men unacquainted with compassion of civility, but recollecting at the same time that the intent of my journey was such as might give me hopes of the divine protection, I banished all thoughts but those of finding a way into AEthiopia. In this strait it occurred to me that these people, however barbarous, have some oath which they keep with an inviolable strictness; the best precaution, therefore, that I could use would be to bind them by this oath to be true to their engagements. The manner of their swearing is this: they set a sheep in the midst of them, and rub it over with butter, the heads of families who are the chief in the nation lay their hands upon the head of the sheep, and swear to observe their promise. This oath (which they never violate) they explain thus: the sheep is the mother of them who swear; the butter betokens the love between the mother and the children, and an oath taken on a mother's head is sacred. Upon the security of this oath, I made them acquainted with my intention, an intention, they told me, it was impossible to put in execution. From the moment I left them they said they could give me no assurance of either life or liberty, that they were perfectly informed both of the roads and inhabitants, that there were no fewer than nine nations between us and Abyssinia, who were always embroiled amongst themselves, or at war with the Abyssins, and enjoyed no security even in their own territories. We were now convinced that our enterprise was impracticable, and that to hazard ourselves amidst so many insurmountable difficulties would be to tempt Providence; despairing, therefore, that I should ever come this way to Abyssinia, I resolved to return back with my intelligence to my companion, whom I had left at Pate.
I cannot, however, leave this country without giving an account of their manner of blood-letting, which I was led to the knowledge of by a violent fever, which threatened to put an end to my life and travels together. The distress I was in may easily be imagined, being entirely destitute of everything necessary. I had resolved to let myself blood, though I was altogether a stranger to the manner of doing it, and had no lancet, but my companions hearing of a surgeon of reputation in the place, went and brought him. I saw, with the utmost surprise, an old Moor enter my chamber, with a kind of small dagger, all over rusty, and a mallet in his hand, and three cups of horn about half a foot long. I started, and asked what he wanted. He told me to bleed me; and when I had given him leave, uncovering my side, applied one of his horn cups, which he stopped with chewed paper, and by that means made it stick fast; in the same manner he fixed on the other two, and fell to sharpening his instrument, assuring me that he would give me no pain. He then took off his cups, and gave in each place a stroke with his poignard, which was followed by a stream of blood. He applied his cups several times, and every time struck his lancet into the same place; having drawn away a large quantity of blood, he healed the orifices with three lumps of tallow. I know not whether to attribute my cure to bleeding or my fear, but I had from that time no return of my fever.
When I came to Pate, in hopes of meeting with my associate, I found that he was gone to Mombaza, in hopes of receiving information. He was sooner undeceived than I, and we met at the place where we parted in a few days; and soon afterwards left Pate to return to the Indies, and in nine-and- twenty days arrived at the famous fortress of Diou. We were told at this place that Alfonso Mendes, patriarch of AEthiopia, was arrived at Goa from Lisbon. He wrote to us to desire that we would wait for him at Diou, in order to embark there for the Red Sea; but being informed by us that no opportunities of going thither were to be expected at Diou, it was at length determined that we should meet at Bazaim; it was no easy matter for me to find means of going to Bazaim. However, after a very uneasy voyage, in which we were often in danger of being dashed against the rocks, or thrown upon the sands by the rapidity of the current, and suffered the utmost distress for want of water, I landed at Daman, a place about twenty leagues distant from Bazaim. Here I hire a catre and four boys to carry me to Bazaim: these catres are a kind of travelling couches, in which you may either lie or sit, which the boys, whose business is the same with that of chairmen in our country, support upon their shoulders by two poles, and carry a passenger at the rate of eighteen or twenty miles a day. Here we at length found the patriarch, with three more priests, like us, designed for the mission of AEthiopia. We went back to Daman, and from thence to Diou, where we arrived in a short time.
The author embarks with the patriarch, narrowly escapes shipwreck near the isle of Socotora; enters the Arabian Gulf, and the Red Sea. Some account of the coast of the Red Sea.
The patriarch having met with many obstacles and disappointments in his return to Abyssinia, grew impatient of being so long absent from his church. Lopo Gomez d'Abreu had made him an offer at Bazaim of fitting out three ships at his own expense, provided a commission could be procured him to cruise in the Red Sea. This proposal was accepted by the patriarch, and a commission granted by the viceroy. While we were at Diou, waiting for these vessels, we received advice from AEthiopia that the emperor, unwilling to expose the patriarch to any hazard, thought Dagher, a port in the mouth of the Red Sea, belonging to a prince dependent on the Abyssins, a place of the greatest security to land at, having already written to that prince to give him safe passage through his dominions. We met here with new delays; the fleet that was to transport us did not appear, the patriarch lost all patience, and his zeal so much affected the commander at Diou, that he undertook to equip a vessel for us, and pushed the work forward with the utmost diligence. At length, the long-expected ships entered the port; we were overjoyed, we were transported, and prepared to go on board. Many persons at Diou, seeing the vessels so well fitted out, desired leave to go this voyage along with us, imagining they had an excellent opportunity of acquiring both wealth and honour. We committed, however, one great error in setting out, for having equipped our ships for privateering, and taken no merchandise on board, we could not touch at any of the ports of the Red Sea. The patriarch, impatient to be gone, took leave in the most tender manner of the governor and his other friends, recommended our voyage to the Blessed Virgin, and in the field, before we went on shipboard, made a short exhortation, so moving and pathetic, that it touched the hearts of all who heard it. In the evening we went on board, and early the next morning being the 3rd of April, 1625, we set sail.
After some days we discovered about noon the island Socotora, where we proposed to touch. The sky was bright and the wind fair, nor had we the least apprehension of the danger into which we were falling, but with the utmost carelessness and jollity held on our course. At night, when our sailors, especially the Moors, were in a profound sleep (for the Mohammedans, believing everything forewritten in the decrees of God, and not alterable by any human means, resign themselves entirely to Providence), our vessel ran aground upon a sand bank at the entrance of the harbour. We got her off with the utmost difficulty, and nothing but a miracle could have preserved us. We ran along afterwards by the side of the island, but were entertained with no other prospect than of a mountainous country, and of rocks that jutted out over the sea, and seemed ready to fall into it. In the afternoon, putting into the most convenient ports of the island, we came to anchor; very much to the amazement and terror of the inhabitants, who were not used to see any Portuguese ships upon their coasts, and were therefore under a great consternation at finding them even in their ports. Some ran for security to the mountains, others took up arms to oppose our landing, but were soon reconciled to us, and brought us fowls, fish, and sheep, in exchange for India calicoes, on which they set a great value. We left this island early the next morning, and soon came in sight of Cape Gardafui, so celebrated heretofore under the name of the Cape of Spices, either because great quantities were then found there, or from its neighbourhood to Arabia the Happy, even at this day famous for its fragrant products. It is properly at this cape (the most eastern part of Africa) that the Gulf of Arabia begins, which at Babelmandel loses its name, and is called the Red Sea. Here, though the weather was calm, we found the sea so rough, that we were tossed as in a high wind for two nights; whether this violent agitation of the water proceeded from the narrowness of the strait, or from the fury of the late storm, I know not; whatever was the cause, we suffered all the hardships of a tempest. We continued our course towards the Red Sea, meeting with nothing in our passage but a gelve, or kind of boat, made of thin boards, sewed together, with no other sail than a mat. We gave her chase, in hopes of being informed by the crew whether there were any Arabian vessels at the mouth of the strait; but the Moors, who all entertain dismal apprehensions of the Franks, plied their oars and sail with the utmost diligence, and as soon as they reached land, quitted their boat, and scoured to the mountains. We saw them make signals from thence, and imagining they would come to a parley, sent out our boat with two sailors and an Abyssin, putting the ships off from the shore, to set them free from any suspicion of danger in coming down. All this was to no purpose, they could not be drawn from the mountain, and our men had orders not to go on shore, so they were obliged to return without information. Soon after we discovered the isle of Babelmandel, which gives name to the strait so called, and parts the sea that surrounds it into two channels; that on the side of Arabia is not above a quarter of a league in breadth, and through this pass almost all the vessels that trade to or from the Red Sea. The other, on the side of AEthiopia, though much larger, is more dangerous, by reason of the shallows, which make it necessary for a ship, though of no great burthen, to pass very near the island, where the channel is deeper and less embarrassed. This passage is never made use of but by those who would avoid meeting with the Turks who are stationed on the coast of Arabia; it was for this reason that we chose it. We passed it in the night, and entered that sea, so renowned on many accounts in history, both sacred and profane.
In our description of this famous sea, an account of which may justly be expected in this place, it is most convenient to begin with the coast of Arabia, on which part at twelve leagues from the mouth stands the city of Moca, a place of considerable trade. Forty leagues farther is the Isle of Camaram, whose inhabitants are annoyed with little serpents, which they call basilisks, which, though very poisonous and deadly, do not, as the ancients have told us, kill with their eyes, or if they have so fatal a power, it is not at least in this place. Sailing ninety leagues farther, you see the noted port of Jodda, where the pilgrims that go to Mecca and Medina unlade those rich presents which the zeal of different princes is every day accumulating at the tomb of Mahomet. The commerce of this place, and the number of merchants that resort thither from all parts of the world, are above description, and so richly laden are the ships that come hither, that when the Indians would express a thing of inestimable price, they say, "It is of greater value than a ship of Jodda." An hundred and eighteen leagues from thence lies Toro, and near it the ruins of an ancient monastery. This is the place, if the report of the inhabitants deserves any credit, where the Israelites miraculously passed through the Red Sea on dry land; and there is some reason for imagining the tradition not ill grounded, for the sea is here only three leagues in breadth. All the ground about Toro is barren for want of water, which is only to be found at a considerable distance, in one fountain, which flows out of the neighbouring mountains, at the foot of which there are still twelve palm-trees. Near Toro are several wells, which, as the Arabs tell us, were dug by the order of Moses to quiet the clamours of the thirsty Israelites. Suez lies in the bottom of the Gulf, three leagues from Toro, once a place of note, now reduced, under the Turks, to an inconsiderable village, where the miserable inhabitants are forced to fetch water at three leagues' distance. The ancient Kings of Egypt conveyed the waters of the Nile to this place by an artificial canal, now so choked with sand, that there are scarce any marks remaining of so noble and beneficial a work.
The first place to be met with in travelling along the coast of Africa is Rondelo, situate over against Toro, and celebrated for the same miraculous passage. Forty-five leagues from thence is Cocir. Here ends that long chain of mountains that reaches from this place even to the entrance of the Red Sea. In this prodigious ridge, which extends three hundred leagues, sometimes approaching near the sea, and sometimes running far up into the land, there is only one opening, through which all that merchandise is conveyed, which is embarked at Rifa, and from thence distributed through all the east. These mountains, as they are uncultivated, are in some parts shaded with large forests, and in others dry and bare. As they are exceedingly high, all the seasons may be here found together; when the storms of winter beat on one side, on the other is often a serene sky and a bright sunshine. The Nile runs here so near the shore that it might without much difficulty be turned through this opening of the mountains into the Red Sea, a design which many of the Emperors have thought of putting in execution, and thereby making a communication between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, but have been discouraged either by the greatness of the expense or the fear of laying great part of Egypt under water, for some of that country lies lower than sea.
Distant from Rondelo a hundred and thirty leagues is the Isle of Suaquem, where the Bassa of that country chooses his residence, for the convenience of receiving the tribute with greater exactness, there being a large trade carried on here with the Abyssins. The Turks of Suaquem have gardens on the firm land, not above a musket shot from the island, which supply them with many excellent herbs and fruits, of which I doubt whether there be not a greater quantity on this little spot than on the whole coast of Africa besides, from Melinda to Suez. For if we except the dates which grow between Suez and Suaquem, the ground does not yield the least product; all the necessaries of life, even water, is wanting. Nothing can support itself in this region of barrenness but ostriches, which devour stones, or anything they meet with; they lay a great number of eggs, part of which they break to feed their young with. These fowls, of which I have seen many, are very tame, and when they are pursued, stretch out their wings, and run with amazing swiftness. As they have cloven feet, they sometimes strike up the stones when they run, which gave occasion to the notion that they threw stones at the hunters, a relation equally to be credited with those of their eating fire and digesting iron. Those feathers which are so much valued grow under their wings: the shell of their eggs powdered is an excellent remedy for sore eyes.
The burning wind spoken of in the sacred writings, I take to be that which the natives term arur, and the Arabs uri, which blowing in the spring, brings with it so excessive a heat, that the whole country seems a burning oven; so that there is no travelling here in this dreadful season, nor is this the only danger to which the unhappy passenger is exposed in these uncomfortable regions. There blows in the months of June, July, and August, another wind, which raises mountains of sand and carries them through the air; all that can be done in this case is when a cloud of sand rises, to mark where it is likely to fall, and to retire as far off as possible; but it is very usual for men to be taken unexpectedly, and smothered in the dust. One day I found the body of a Christian, whom I knew, upon the sand; he had doubtless been choked by these winds. I recommended his soul to the divine mercy and buried him. He seemed to have been some time dead, yet the body had no ill smell. These winds are most destructive in Arabia the Desert.
The author's conjecture on the name of the Red Sea. An account of the cocoa-tree. He lands at Baylur.
To return to the description of the coast: sixty leagues from Suaquem is an island called Mazna, only considerable for its ports, which make the Turks reside upon it, though they are forced to keep three barks continually employed in fetching water, which is not to be found nearer than at a distance of twelve miles. Forty leagues from hence is Dalacha, an island where many pearls are found, but of small value. The next place is Baylur, forty leagues from Dalacha, and twelve from Babelmandel.
There are few things upon which a greater variety of conjectures has been offered than upon the reasons that induced the ancients to distinguish this gulf, which separates Asia from Africa, by the name of the Red Sea, an appellation that has almost universally obtained in all languages. Some affirm that the torrents, which fall after great rains from the mountains, wash down such a quantity of red sand as gives a tincture to the water: others tell us that the sunbeams being reverberated from the red rocks, give the sea on which they strike the appearance of that colour. Neither of these accounts are satisfactory; the coasts are so scorched by the heat that they are rather black than red; nor is the colour of this sea much altered by the winds or rains. The notion generally received is, that the coral found in such quantities at the bottom of the sea might communicate this colour to the water: an account merely chimerical. Coral is not to be found in all parts of this gulf, and red coral in very few. Nor does this water in fact differ from that of other seas. The patriarch and I have frequently amused ourselves with making observations, and could never discover any redness, but in the shallows, where a kind of weed grew which they call gouesmon, which redness disappeared as soon as we plucked up the plant. It is observable that St. Jerome, confining himself to the Hebrew, calls this sea Jamsuf. Jam in that language signifies sea, and suf is the name of a plant in AEthiopia, from which the Abyssins extract a beautiful crimson; whether this be the same with the gouesmon, I know not, but am of opinion that the herb gives to this sea both the colour and the name.
The vessels most used in the Red Sea, though ships of all sizes may be met with there, are gelves, of which some mention hath been made already; these are the more convenient, because they will not split if thrown upon banks or against rocks. These gelves have given occasion to the report that out of the cocoa-tree alone a ship may be built, fitted out with masts, sails, and cordage, and victualled with bread, water, wine, sugar, vinegar, and oil. All this indeed cannot be done out of one tree, but may out of several of the same kind. They saw the trunk into planks, and sew them together with thread which they spin out of the bark, and which they twist for the cables; the leaves stitched together make the sails. This boat thus equipped may be furnished with all necessaries from the same tree. There is not a month in which the cocoa does not produce a bunch of nuts, from twenty to fifty. At first sprouts out a kind of seed or capsula, of a shape not unlike the scabbard of a scimitar, which they cut, and place a vessel under, to receive the liquor that drops from it; this drink is called soro, and is clear, pleasant, and nourishing. If it be boiled, it grows hard, and makes a kind of sugar much valued in the Indies: distil this liquor and you have a strong water, of which is made excellent vinegar. All these different products are afforded before the nut is formed, and while it is green it contains a delicious cooling water; with these nuts they store their gelves, and it is the only provision of water which is made in this country. The second bark which contains the water is so tender that they eat it. When this fruit arrives to perfect maturity, they either pound the kernel into meal, and make cakes of or draw an oil from it of a fine scent and taste, and of great use in medicine; so that what is reported of the different products of this wonderful tree is neither false nor incredible.
It is time we should come now to the relation of our voyage. Having happily passed the straits at the entrance of the Red Sea, we pursued our course, keeping as near the shore as we could, without any farther apprehensions of the Turks. We were, however, under some concern that we were entirely ignorant in what part of the coast to find Baylur, a port where we proposed landing, and so little known, that our pilots, who had made many voyages in this sea, could give us no account of it. We were in hopes of information from the fishermen, but found that as soon as we came near they fled from us in the greatest consternation; no signals of peace or friendship could prevail on them to stay; they either durst not trust or did not understand us. We plied along the coast in this uncertainty two days, till on the first of March having doubled a point of land, which came out a great way into the sea, we found ourselves in the middle of a fair large bay, which many reasons induced us to think was Baylur; that we might be farther assured we sent our Abyssin on shore, who returning next morning confirmed our opinion. It would not be easy to determine whether our arrival gave us greater joy, or the inhabitants greater apprehensions, for we could discern a continual tumult in the land, and took notice that the crews of some barks that lay in the harbour were unlading with all possible diligence, to prevent the cargo from falling into our hands, very much indeed to the dissatisfaction of many of our soldiers, who having engaged in this expedition, with no other view than of filling their pockets, were, before the return of our Abyssin, for treating them like enemies, and taking them as a lawful prize. We were willing to be assured of a good reception in this port; the patriarch therefore sent me to treat with them. I dressed myself like a merchant, and in that habit received the four captains of gelves which the chec sent to compliment me, and ordered to stay as hostages, whom I sent back, that I might gain upon their affections by the confidence I placed in their sincerity; this had so good an effect, that the chec, who was transported with the account the officers gave of the civilities they had been treated with, came in an hour to visit me, bringing with him a Portuguese, whom I had sent ashore as a security for his return. He informed me that the King his master was encamped not far off, and that a chec who was then in the company was just arrived from thence, and had seen the Emperor of AEthiopia's letters in our favour; I was then convinced that we might land without scruple, and to give the patriarch notice of it ordered a volley of our muskets to be fired, which was answered by the cannon of the two ships that lay at a distance, for fear of giving the Moors any cause of suspicion by their approach. The chec and his attendants, though I had given them notice that we were going to let off our guns in honour of the King their master, could not forbear trembling at the fire and noise. They left us soon after, and next morning we landed our baggage, consisting chiefly of the patriarch's library, some ornaments for the church, some images, and some pieces of calico, which were of the same use as money. Most of the soldiers and sailors were desirous of going with us, some from real principles of piety, and a desire of sharing the labours and merits of the mission, others upon motives very different, the hopes of raising a fortune. To have taken all who offered themselves would have been an injury to the owners of the ships, by rendering them unable to continue their voyage; we therefore accepted only of a few.
An account of Dancali. The conduct of Chec Furt. The author wounded. They arrive at the court of the King of Dancali. A description of his pavilion, and the reception they met with.
Our goods were no sooner landed than we were surrounded with a crowd of officers, all gaping for presents; we were forced to gratify their avarice by opening our bales, and distributing among them some pieces of calico. What we gave to the chec might be worth about a pistole, and the rest in proportion.
The kingdom of Dancali, to which this belongs, is barren, and thinly peopled; the king is tributary to the Emperor of Abyssinia, and very faithful to his sovereign. The emperor had not only written to him, but had sent a Moor and Portuguese as his ambassadors, to secure us a kind reception; these in their way to this prince had come through the countries of Chumo-Salamay and Senaa, the utmost confines of Abyssinia, and had carried thither the emperor's orders concerning our passage.
On Ascension Day we left Baylur, having procured some camels and asses to carry our baggage. The first day's march was not above a league, and the others not much longer. Our guides performed their office very ill, being influenced, as we imagined, by the Chec Furt, an officer, whom, though unwilling, we were forced to take with us. This man, who might have brought us to the king in three days, led us out of the way through horrid deserts destitute of water, or where what we found was so foul, nauseous, and offensive, that it excited a loathing and aversion which nothing but extreme necessity could have overcome.
Having travelled some days, we were met by the King's brother, to whom, by the advice of Chec Furt, whose intent in following us was to squeeze all he could from us; we presented some pieces of Chinese workmanship, such as cases of boxes, a standish, and some earthenware, together with several pieces of painted calico, which were so much more agreeable, that he desired some other pieces instead of our Chinese curiosities; we willingly made the exchange. Yet some time afterwards he asked again for those Chinese goods which he had returned us, nor was it in our power to refuse them. I was here in danger of losing my life by a compliment which the Portuguese paid the prince of a discharge of twelve muskets; one being unskilfully charged too high, flew out of the soldier's hand, and falling against my leg, wounded it very much; we had no surgeon with us, so that all I could do was to bind it hard with some cloth. I was obliged by this accident to make use of the Chec Furt's horse, which was the greatest service we received from him in all our journey.
When we came within two leagues and a half of the King's court, he sent some messengers with his compliments, and five mules for the chief of our company. Our road lay through a wood, where we found the ground covered over with young locusts, a plague intolerably afflictive in a country so barren of itself. We arrived at length at the bank of a small river, near which the King usually keeps his residence, and found his palace at the foot of a little mountain. It consisted of about six tents and twenty cabins, erected amongst some thorns and wild trees, which afforded a shelter from the heat of the weather. He received us the first time in a cabin about a musket shot distant from the rest, furnished out with a throne in the middle built of clay and stones, and covered with tapestry and two velvet cushions. Over against him stood his horse with his saddle and other furniture hanging by him, for in this country, the master and his horse make use of the same apartment, nor doth the King in this respect affect more grandeur than his subjects. When we entered, we seated ourselves on the ground with our legs crossed, in imitation of the rest, whom we found in the same posture. After we had waited some time, the King came in, attended by his domestics and his officers. He held a small lance in his hand, and was dressed in a silk robe, with a turban on his head, to which were fastened some rings of very neat workmanship, which fell down upon his forehead. All kept silence for some time, and the King told us by his interpreter that we were welcome to his dominions, that he had been informed we were to come by the Emperor his father, and that he condoled the hardships we had undergone at sea. He desired us not to be under any concern at finding ourselves in a country so distant from our own, for those dominions were ours, and he and the Emperor his father would give us all the proofs we could desire of the sincerest affection. We returned him thanks for this promise of his favour, and after a short conversation went away. Immediately we were teazed by those who brought us the mules, and demanded to be paid the hire of them; and had advice given us at the same time that we should get a present ready for the King. The Chec Furt, who was extremely ready to undertake any commission of this kind, would needs direct us in the affair, and told us that our gifts ought to be of greater value, because we had neglected making any such offer at our first audience, contrary to the custom of that country. By these pretences he obliged us to make a present to the value of about twenty pounds, with which he seemed to be pleased, and told us we had nothing to do but prepare to make our entry.
The King refuses their present. The author's boldness. The present is afterwards accepted. The people are forbidden to sell them provisions. The author remonstrates against the usage. The King redresses it.
But such was either the hatred or avarice of this man, that instead of doing us the good offices he pretended, he advised the King to refuse our present, that he might draw from us something more valuable. When I attended the King in order to deliver the presents, after I had excused the smallness of them, as being, though unworthy his acceptance, the largest that our profession of poverty, and distance from our country, allowed us to make, he examined them one by one with a dissatisfied look, and told me that however he might be pleased with our good attentions, he thought our present such as could not be offered to a king without affronting him; and made me a sign with his hand to withdraw, and take back what I had brought. I obeyed, telling him that perhaps he might send for it again without having so much. The Chec Furt, who had been the occasion of all this, coming to us afterwards, blamed us exceedingly for having offered so little, and being told by us that the present was picked out by himself, that we had nothing better to give, and that what we had left would scarce defray the expenses of our journey, he pressed us at least to add something, but could prevail no farther than to persuade us to repeat our former offer, which the King was now pleased to accept, though with no kinder countenance than before.
Here we spent our time and our provisions, without being able to procure any more. The country indeed affords goats and honey, but nobody would sell us any, the King, as I was secretly informed, having strictly prohibited it, with a view of forcing all we had from us. The patriarch sent me to expostulate the matter with the King, which I did in very warm terms, telling him that we were assured by the Emperor of a reception in this country far different from what we met with, which assurances he had confirmed by his promise and the civilities we were entertained with at our first arrival; but that instead of friends who would compassionate our miseries, and supply our necessities, we found ourselves in the midst of mortal enemies that wanted to destroy us.
The King, who affected to appear ignorant of the whole affair, demanded an account of the injuries I complained of, and told me that if any of his subjects should dare to attempt our lives, it should cost him his own. We were not, replied I, in danger of being stabbed or poisoned, but are doomed to a more lingering and painful death by that prohibition which obliges your subjects to deny us the necessaries of life; if it be Your Highness's pleasure that we die here, we entreat that we may at least be despatched quickly, and not condemned to longer torments. The King, startled at this discourse, denied that he had given any such orders, and was very importunate to know the author of our intelligence, but finding me determined not to discover him, he sent me away with a promise that for the future we should be furnished with everything we wanted, and indeed that same day we bought three goats for about a crown, and some honey, and found ourselves better treated than before.
They obtain leave, with some difficulty, to depart from Dancali. The difficulties of their march. A broil with the Moors. They arrive at the plain of salt.
This usage, with some differences we had with a Moor, made us very desirous of leaving this country, but we were still put off with one pretence or other whenever we asked leave to depart. Tired with these delays, I applied myself to his favourite minister, with a promise of a large present if he could obtain us an audience of leave; he came to us at night to agree upon the reward, and soon accomplished all we desired, both getting us a permission to go out of the kingdom, and procuring us camels to carry our baggage, and that of the Abyssinian ambassadors who were ordered to accompany us.
We set out from the kingdom of Dancali on the 15th of June, having taken our leave of the King, who after many excuses for everything that had happened, dismissed us with a present of a cow, and some provisions, desiring us to tell the Emperor of AEthiopia his father that we had met with kind treatment in his territories, a request which we did not at that time think it convenient to deny.
Whatever we had suffered hitherto, was nothing to the difficulties we were now entering upon, and which God had decreed us to undergo for the sake of Jesus Christ. Our way now lay through a region scarce passable, and full of serpents, which were continually creeping between our legs; we might have avoided them in the day, but being obliged, that we might avoid the excessive heats, to take long marches in the night, we were every moment treading upon them. Nothing but a signal interposition of Providence could have preserved us from being bitten by them, or perishing either by weariness or thirst, for sometimes we were a long time without water, and had nothing to support our strength in this fatigue but a little honey, and a small piece of cows' flesh dried in the sun. Thus we travelled on for many days, scarce allowing ourselves any rest, till we came to a channel or hollow worn in the mountains by the winter torrents; here we found some coolness, and good water, a blessing we enjoyed for three days; down this channel all the winter runs a great river which is dried up in the heats, or to speak more properly, hides itself under ground. We walked along its side, sometimes seven or eight leagues without seeing any water, and then we found it rising out of the ground, at which places we never failed to drink as much as we could, and fill our bottles.
In our march, there fell out an unlucky accident, which, however, did not prove of the bad consequence it might have done. The master of our camels was an old Mohammedan, who had conceived an opinion that it was an act of merit to do us all the mischief he could; and in pursuance of his notion, made it his chief employment to steal everything he could lay hold on; his piety even transported him so far, that one morning he stole and hid the cords of our tents. The patriarch who saw him at the work charged him with it, and upon his denial, showed him the end of the cord hanging from under the saddle of one of his camels. Upon this we went to seize them, but were opposed by him and the rest of the drivers, who set themselves in a posture of opposition with their daggers. Our soldiers had recourse to their muskets, and four of them putting the mouths of their pieces to the heads of some of the most obstinate and turbulent, struck them with such a terror, that all the clamour was stilled in an instant; none received any hurt but the Moor who had been the occasion of the tumult. He was knocked down by one of our soldiers, who had cut his throat but that the fathers prevented it: he then restored the cords, and was more tractable ever after. In all my dealings with the Moors, I have always discovered in them an ill-natured cowardice, which makes them insupportably insolent if you show them the least respect, and easily reduced to reasonable terms when you treat them with a high hand.
After a march of some days we came to an opening between the mountains, the only passage out of Dancali into Abyssinia. Heaven seems to have made this place on purpose for the repose of weary travellers, who here exchange the tortures of parching thirst, burning sands, and a sultry climate, for the pleasures of shady trees, the refreshment of a clear stream, and the luxury of a cooling breeze. We arrived at this happy place about noon, and the next day at evening left those fanning winds, and woods flourishing with unfading verdure, for the dismal barrenness of the vast uninhabitable plains, from which Abyssinia is supplied with salt. These plains are surrounded with high mountains, continually covered with thick clouds which the sun draws from the lakes that are here, from which the water runs down into the plain, and is there congealed into salt. Nothing can be more curious than to see the channels and aqueducts that nature has formed in this hard rock, so exact and of such admirable contrivance, that they seem to be the work of men. To this place caravans of Abyssinia are continually resorting, to carry salt into all parts of the empire, which they set a great value upon, and which in their country is of the same use as money. The superstitious Abyssins imagine that the cavities of the mountains are inhabited by evil spirits which appear in different shapes, calling those that pass by their names as in a familiar acquaintance, who, if they go to them, are never seen afterwards. This relation was confirmed by the Moorish officer who came with us, who, as he said, had lost a servant in that manner: the man certainly fell into the hands of the Galles, who lurk in those dark retreats, cut the throats of the merchants, and carry off their effects.
The heat making it impossible to travel through this plain in the day- time, we set out in the evening, and in the night lost our way. It is very dangerous to go through this place, for there are no marks of the right road, but some heaps of salt, which we could not see. Our camel drivers getting together to consult on this occasion, we suspected they had some ill design in hand, and got ready our weapons; they perceived our apprehensions, and set us at ease by letting us know the reason of their consultation. Travelling hard all night, we found ourselves next morning past the plain; but the road we were in was not more commodious, the points of the rocks pierced our feet; to increase our perplexities we were alarmed with the approach of an armed troop, which our fear immediately suggested to be the Galles, who chiefly beset these passes of the mountains; we put ourselves on the defensive, and expected them, whom, upon a more exact examination, we found to be only a caravan of merchants come as usual to fetch salt.
They lose their way, are in continual apprehensions of the Galles. They come to Duan, and settle in Abyssinia.
About nine the next morning we came to the end of this toilsome and rugged path, where the way divided into two, yet both led to a well, the only one that was found in our journey. A Moor with three others took the shortest, without directing us to follow him; so we marched forwards we knew not whither, through woods and over rocks, without sleep or any other refreshment: at noon the next day we discovered that we were near the field of salt. Our affliction and distress is not to be expressed; we were all fainting with heat and weariness, and two of the patriarch's servants were upon the point of dying for want of water. None of us had any but a Moor, who could not be prevailed upon to part with it at less than the weight in gold; we got some from him at last, and endeavoured to revive the two servants, while part of us went to look for a guide that might put us in the right way. The Moors who had arrived at the well, rightly guessing that we were lost, sent one of their company to look for us, whom we heard shouting in the woods, but durst make no answer for fear of the Galles. At length he found us, and conducted us to the rest; we instantly forgot our past calamities, and had no other care than to recover the patriarch's attendants. We did not give them a full draught at first, but poured in the water by drops, to moisten their mouths and throats, which were extremely swelled: by this caution they were soon well. We then fell to eating and drinking, and though we had nothing but our ordinary repast of honey and dried flesh, thought we never had regaled more pleasantly in our lives.
We durst not stay long in this place for fear of the Galles, who lay their ambushes more particularly near this well, by which all caravans must necessarily pass. Our apprehensions were very much increased by our suspicion of the camel-drivers, who, as we imagined, had advertised the Galles of our arrival. The fatigue we had already suffered did not prevent our continuing our march all night: at last we entered a plain, where our drivers told us we might expect to be attacked by the Galles; nor was it long before our own eyes convinced us that we were in great danger, for we saw as we went along the dead bodies of a caravan who had been lately massacred, a sight which froze our blood, and filled us with pity and with horror. The same fate was not far from overtaking us, for a troop of Galles, who were detached in search of us, missed us but an hour or two. We spent the next night in the mountains, but when we should have set out in the morning, were obliged to a fierce dispute with the old Moor, who had not yet lost his inclination to destroy us; he would have had us taken a road which was full of those people we were so much afraid of: at length finding he could not prevail with us, that we charged the goods upon him as belonging to the Emperor, to whom he should be answerable for the loss of them, he consented, in a sullen way, to go with us.
The desire of getting out of the reach of the Galles made us press forward with great expedition, and, indeed, fear having entirely engrossed our minds, we were perhaps less sensible of all our labours and difficulties; so violent an apprehension of one danger made us look on many others with unconcern; our pains at last found some intermission at the foot of the mountains of Duan, the frontier of Abyssinia, which separates it from the country of the Moors, through which we had travelled.
Here we imagined we might repose securely, a felicity we had long been strangers to. Here we began to rejoice at the conclusion of our labours; the place was cool and pleasant, the water was excellent, and the birds melodious. Some of our company went into the wood to divert themselves with hearing the birds and frightening the monkeys, creatures so cunning that they would not stir if a man came unarmed, but would run immediately when they saw a gun. At this place our camel drivers left us, to go to the feast of St. Michael, which the AEthiopians celebrate the 16th of June. We persuaded them, however, to leave us their camels and four of their company to take care of them.
We had not waited many days before some messengers came to us with an account that Father Baradas, with the Emperor's nephew, and many other persons of distinction, waited for us at some distance; we loaded our camels, and following the course of the river, came in seven hours to the place we were directed to halt at. Father Manuel Baradas and all the company, who had waited for us a considerable time on the top of the mountain, came down when they saw our tents, and congratulated our arrival. It is not easy to express the benevolence and tenderness with which they embraced us, and the concern they showed at seeing us worn away with hunger, labour, and weariness, our clothes tattered, and our feet bloody.
We left this place of interview the next day, and on the 21st of June arrived at Fremone, the residence of the missionaries, where we were welcomed by great numbers of Catholics, both Portuguese and Abyssins, who spared no endeavours to make us forget all we had suffered in so hazardous a journey, undertaken with no other intention than to conduct them in the way of salvation.
PART II—A DESCRIPTION OF ABYSSINIA
The history of Abyssinia. An account of the Queen of Sheba, and of Queen Candace. The conversion of the Abyssins.
The original of the Abyssins, like that of all other nations, is obscure and uncertain. The tradition generally received derives them from Cham, the son of Noah, and they pretend, however improbably, that from his time till now the legal succession of their kings hath never been interrupted, and that the supreme power hath always continued in the same family. An authentic genealogy traced up so high could not but be extremely curious; and with good reason might the Emperors of Abyssinia boast themselves the most illustrious and ancient family in the world. But there are no real grounds for imagining that Providence has vouchsafed them so distinguishing a protection, and from the wars with which this empire hath been shaken in these latter ages we may justly believe that, like all others, it has suffered its revolutions, and that the history of the Abyssins is corrupted with fables. This empire is known by the name of the kingdom of Prester-John. For the Portuguese having heard such wonderful relations of an ancient and famous Christian state called by that name, in the Indies, imagined it could be none but this of AEthiopia. Many things concurred to make them of this opinion: there was no Christian kingdom or state in the Indies of which all was true which they heard of this land of Prester-John: and there was none in the other parts of the world who was a Christian separated from the Catholic Church but what was known, except this kingdom of AEthiopia. It has therefore passed for the kingdom of Prester-John since the time that it was discovered by the Portuguese in the reign of King John the Second.
The country is properly called Abyssinia, and the people term themselves Abyssins. Their histories count a hundred and sixty-two reigns, from Cham to Faciladas or Basilides; among which some women are remarkably celebrated. One of the most renowned is the Queen of Sheba, mentioned in Scripture, whom the natives call Nicaula or Macheda, and in their translation of the gospel, Nagista Azeb, which in their language is Queen of the South. They still show the ruins of a city which appears to have been once of note, as the place where she kept her court, and a village which, from its being the place of her birth, they call the land of Saba. The Kings of AEthiopia draw their boasted pedigree from Minilech, the son of this Queen and Solomon. The other Queen for whom they retain a great veneration is Candace, whom they call Judith, and indeed if what they relate of her could be proved, there never was, amongst the most illustrious and beneficent sovereigns, any to whom their country was more indebted, for it is said that she being converted by Inda her eunuch, whom St. Philip baptised, prevailed with her subjects to quit the worship of idols, and profess the faith of Jesus Christ. This opinion appears to me without any better foundation than another of the conversion of the Abyssins to the Jewish rites by the Queen of Sheba, at her return from the court of Solomon. They, however, who patronise these traditions give us very specious accounts of the zeal and piety of the Abyssins at their first conversion. Many, they say, abandoned all the pleasures and vanities of life for solitude and religious austerities; others devoted themselves to God in an ecclesiastical life; they who could not do these set apart their revenues for building churches, endowing chapels, and founding monasteries, and spent their wealth in costly ornaments for the churches and vessels for the altars. It is true that this people has a natural disposition to goodness; they are very liberal of their alms, they much frequent their churches, and are very studious to adorn them; they practise fasting and other mortifications, and notwithstanding their separation from the Roman Church, and the corruptions which have crept into their faith, yet retain in a great measure the devout fervour of the primitive Christians. There never were greater hopes of uniting this people to the Church of Rome, which their adherence to the Eutichian heresy has made very difficult, than in the time of Sultan Segued, who called us into his dominions in the year 1625, from whence we were expelled in 1634. As I have lived a long time in this country, and borne a share in all that has passed, I will present the reader with a short account of what I have observed, and of the revolution which forced us to abandon AEthiopia, and destroyed all our hopes of reuniting this kingdom with the Roman Church.
The empire of Abyssinia hath been one of the largest which history gives us an account of: it extended formerly from the Red Sea to the kingdom of Congo, and from Egypt to the Indian Sea. It is not long since it contained forty provinces; but is now not much bigger than all Spain, and consists but of five kingdoms and six provinces, of which part is entirely subject to the Emperor, and part only pays him some tribute, or acknowledgment of dependence, either voluntarily or by compulsion. Some of these are of very large extent: the kingdoms of Tigre, Bagameder, and Goiama are as big as Portugal, or bigger; Amhara and Damote are something less. The provinces are inhabited by Moors, Pagans, Jews, and Christians: the last is the reigning and established religion. This diversity of people and religion is the reason that the kingdom in different parts is under different forms of government, and that their laws and customs are extremely various.
The inhabitants of the kingdom of Amhara are the most civilised and polite; and next to them the natives of Tigre, or the true Abyssins. The rest, except the Damotes, the Gasates, and the Agaus, which approach somewhat nearer to civility, are entirely rude and barbarous. Among these nations the Galles, who first alarmed the world in 1542, have remarkably distinguished themselves by the ravages they have committed, and the terror they have raised in this part of Africa. They neither sow their lands nor improve them by any kind of culture; but, living upon milk and flesh, encamp like the Arabs without any settled habitation. They practise no rites of worship, though they believe that in the regions above there dwells a Being that governs the world: whether by this Being they mean the sun or the sky is not known; or, indeed, whether they have not some conception of the God that created them. This deity they call in their language Oul. In other matters they are yet more ignorant, and have some customs so contrary even to the laws of nature, as might almost afford reason to doubt whether they are endued with reason. The Christianity professed by the Abyssins is so corrupted with superstitions, errors, and heresies, and so mingled with ceremonies borrowed from the Jews, that little besides the name of Christianity is to be found here; and the thorns may be said to have choked the grain. This proceeds in a great measure from the diversity of religions which are tolerated there, either by negligence or from motives of policy; and the same cause hath produced such various revolutions, revolts, and civil wars within these later ages. For those different sects do not easily admit of an union with each other, or a quiet subjection to the same monarch. The Abyssins cannot properly be said to have either cities or houses; they live either in tents, or in cottages made of straw and clay; for they very rarely build with stone. Their villages or towns consist of these huts; yet even of such villages they have but few, because the grandees, the viceroys, and the Emperor himself are always in the camp, that they may be prepared, upon the most sudden summons, to go where the exigence of affairs demands their presence. And this precaution is no more than necessary for a prince every year engaged either in foreign wars or intestine commotions. These towns have each a governor, whom they call gadare, over whom is the educ, or lieutenant, and both accountable to an officer called the afamacon, or mouth of the King; because he receives the revenues, which he pays into the hands of the relatinafala, or grand master of the household: sometimes the Emperor creates a ratz, or viceroy, general over all the empire, who is superior to all his other officers.
AEthiopia produces very near the same kinds of provisions as Portugal; though, by the extreme laziness of the inhabitants, in a much less quantity: however, there are some roots, herbs, and fruits which grow there much better than in other places. What the ancients imagined of the torrid zone being uninhabitable is so far from being true, that this climate is very temperate: the heats, indeed, are excessive in Congo and Monomotapa, but in Abyssinia they enjoy a perpetual spring, more delicious and charming than that in our country. The blacks here are not ugly like those of the kingdoms I have spoken of, but have better features, and are not without wit and delicacy; their apprehension is quick, and their judgment sound. The heat of the sun, however it may contribute to their colour, is not the only reason of it; there is some peculiarity in the temper and constitution of their bodies, since the same men, transported into cooler climates, produce children very near as black as themselves.
They have here two harvests in the year, which is a sufficient recompense for the small produce of each; one harvest they have in the winter, which lasts through the months of July, August, and September, the other in the spring; their trees are always green, and it is the fault of the inhabitants that they produce so little fruit, the soil being well adapted to all sorts, especially those that come from the Indies. They have in the greatest plenty raisins, peaches, sour pomegranates, and sugarcanes, and some figs. Most of these are ripe about Lent, which the Abyssins keep with great strictness.
After the vegetable products of this country, it seems not improper to mention the animals which are found in it, of which here are as great numbers, of as many different species, as in any country in the world: it is infested with lions of many kinds, among which are many of that which is called the lion royal. I cannot help giving the reader on this occasion a relation of a fact which I was an eye-witness of. A lion having taken his haunt near the place where I lived, killed all the oxen and cows, and did a great deal of other mischief, of which I heard new complaints every day. A servant of mine having taken a resolution to free the country from this destroyer, went out one day with two lances, and after he had been some time in quest of him, found him with his mouth all smeared with the blood of a cow he had just devoured; the man rushed upon him, and thrust his lance into his throat with such violence that it came out between his shoulders; the beast, with one dreadful roar, fell down into a pit, and lay struggling, till my servant despatched him. I measured the body of this lion, and found him twelve feet between the head and the tail.
The animals of Abyssinia; the elephant, unicorn, their horses and cows; with a particular account of the moroc.
There are so great numbers of elephants in Abyssinia that in one evening we met three hundred of them in three troops: as they filled up the whole way, we were in great perplexity a long time what measures to take; at length, having implored the protection of that Providence that superintends the whole creation, we went forwards through the midst of them without any injury. Once we met four young elephants, and an old one that played with them, lifting them up with her trunk; they grew enraged on a sudden, and ran upon us: we had no way of securing ourselves but by flight, which, however, would have been fruitless, had not our pursuers been stopped by a deep ditch. The elephants of AEthiopia are of so stupendous a size, that when I was mounted on a large mule I could not reach with my hand within two spans of the top of their backs. In Abyssinia is likewise found the rhinoceros, a mortal enemy to the elephant. In the province of Agaus has been seen the unicorn, that beast so much talked of, and so little known: the prodigious swiftness with which this creature runs from one wood into another has given me no opportunity of examining it particularly, yet I have had so near a sight of it as to be able to give some description of it. The shape is the same with that of a beautiful horse, exact and nicely proportioned, of a bay colour, with a black tail, which in some provinces is long, in others very short: some have long manes hanging to the ground. They are so timorous that they never feed but surrounded with other beasts that defend them. Deer and other defenceless animals often herd about the elephant, which, contenting himself with roots and leaves, preserves those beasts that place themselves, as it were, under his protection, from the rage and fierceness of others that would devour them.
The horses of Abyssinia are excellent; their mules, oxen, and cows are without number, and in these principally consists the wealth of this country. They have a very particular custom, which obliges every man that hath a thousand cows to save every year one day's milk of all his herd, and make a bath with it for his relations, entertaining them afterwards with a splendid feast. This they do so many days each year, as they have thousands of cattle, so that to express how rich any man is, they tell you he bathes so many times. The tribute paid out of their herds to the King, which is not the most inconsiderable of his revenues, is one cow in ten every three years. The beeves are of several kinds; one sort they have without horns, which are of no other use than to carry burthens, and serve instead of mules. Another twice as big as ours which they breed to kill, fattening them with the milk of three or four cows. Their horns are so large, the inhabitants use them for pitchers, and each will hold about five gallons. One of these oxen, fat and ready to be killed, may be bought at most for two crowns. I have purchased five sheep, or five goats with nine kids, for a piece of calico worth about a crown.
The Abyssins have many sort of fowls both wild and tame; some of the former we are yet unacquainted with: there is one of wonderful beauty, which I have seen in no other place except Peru: it has instead of a comb, a short horn upon its head, which is thick and round, and open at the top. The feitan favez, or devil's horse, looks at a distance like a man dressed in feathers; it walks with abundance of majesty, till it finds itself pursued, and then takes wing, and flies away. But amongst all their birds there is none more remarkable than the moroc, or honey- bird, which is furnished by nature with a peculiar instinct or faculty of discovering honey. They have here multitudes of bees of various kinds; some are tame, like ours, and form their combs in hives. Of the wild ones, some place their honey in hollow trees, others hide it in holes in the ground, which they cover so carefully, that though they are commonly in the highway, they are seldom found, unless by the moroc's help, which, when he has discovered any honey, repairs immediately to the road side, and when he sees a traveller, sings, and claps his wings, making many motions to invite him to follow him, and when he perceives him coming, flies before him from tree to tree, till he comes to the place where the bees have stored their treasure, and then begins to sing melodiously. The Abyssin takes the honey, without failing to leave part of it for the bird, to reward him for his information. This kind of honey I have often tasted, and do not find that it differs from the other sorts in anything but colour; it is somewhat blacker. The great quantity of honey that is gathered, and a prodigious number of cows that is kept here, have often made me call Abyssinia a land of honey and butter.
The manner of eating in Abyssinia, their dress, their hospitality, and traffic.
The great lords, and even the Emperor himself, maintain their tables with no great expense. The vessels they make use of are black earthenware, which, the older it is, they set a greater value on. Their way of dressing their meat, an European, till he hath been long accustomed to it, can hardly be persuaded to like; everything they eat smells strong and swims with butter. They make no use of either linen or plates. The persons of rank never touch what they eat, but have their meat cut by their pages, and put into their mouths. When they feast a friend they kill an ox, and set immediately a quarter of him raw upon the table (for their most elegant treat is raw beef newly killed) with pepper and salt; the gall of the ox serves them for oil and vinegar; some, to heighten the delicacy of the entertainment, add a kind of sauce, which they call manta, made of what they take out of the guts of the ox; this they set on the fire, with butter, salt, pepper, and onion. Raw beef, thus relished, is their nicest dish, and is eaten by them with the same appetite and pleasure as we eat the best partridges. They have often done me the favour of helping me to some of this sauce, and I had no way to decline eating it besides telling them it was too good for a missionary.