Page images

to remember not to eat the fish of a certain river in the terri: tory of Giba, in the province of Shat. The king, however, flushed with his former victories, forgot the name of the river and the injunction ; and, having eat_fih out of this river, was immediately after taken dangerously ill, and died on his return. The writer of his life says, that the fatal effects of this river were afterwards experienced in the reign of Yasous the Great, at the time in which he wrote, when the king's whole army, encamped along the sides of this river, were taken with violent fickness after eating the fish caught in it, and :hat many of the soldiers died. Whether this be really fa&t or not, Mr. Bruce does not take upon him to decide. Whether fith, or any other animal, living in water impreg. nated with poisonous minerals, can preserve its own life, and yet imbibe-a quantity of poison sufficient to destroy thie men that should eat it, seems to him very doubtful.

Sertza Denghel was of a very humane, affable disposition, very different from his father Menas. He was sledfast in his adherence to the church of Alexandria, and seemed perfectly indifferent as to the Rominh church and clergy. In converfation, he frequently condemned their tenets, but always commended the fobriety and sanctity of their lives.


FROM 1595 TO 1604.

NO sooner was Sertza Denghel dead, perhaps some time before, but a conspiracy was formed to change the order of fucceflion, and this was immediately exécu.ed by order of the triumvirate, who sent a body of soldiers and seized Za Denghel, and carried him clofe prisoner to Deck, a large island in the lake Tzana, belonging to the queen, where he was kept for some time, till he escaped and hid himself in the wild inaccessible mountains of Gojam, which there form the banks of the Nile, He was, however, afterwards restored, and converted to the Romish religion. The transaction of this and the two succeeding reigns were, in a manner, bút one continued scene of rebellion, bloodshed and slaughter. The Roman Catholic missionaries sent to Abyssinia also employ several sheets in the original work ; but as these are matters foreign to the plan of an abridgment, we fhall only


observe, that Za Denghel was succeeded by Jacob, who reigned'froni 1604 to 1605, and was fiscceeded by Socinios, who reigned from 1605 to 1632. We mall conclude this book with an extract or two froni the occurrences of this láit reign.

Mr. Bruce, in his account of the kingdom of Gingiro, fays, all matters in this state are conducted by magic; and we may see to what point the human understanding is debased in the distance of a few leagues. Let no'män say that igno. rance is the cause, or heat of climate, which is the unintelligible observation generally made on these occasions. For why hould heat of climate addict a people to magic more than cold ? or, why Mould ignorance enlarge a man's powers, so that, overleaping the bounds of common intelligence, it should extend his faculty of conversing with a new set of beings in another world ? The Ethiopians, who nearly surround Abyssivia, are blacker than those of Gingiro, their country hotter, and are, like them, an indigenous people that have been, from the beginning, in the same part where they now inhabit. Yet the former neither adore the devil nor pretend to have a communication with him ; they have no human facrifices, nor are there any traces of such enormities having prevailed among them. A communication with the sea has been always open, and the fave-trade prevalent from the earliest times ; while the king of Gingiro, Mut up in the heart of the continent, sacrifices those slaves to the devil which he has no opportunity to sell to man. For at Gingiro begins that accursed custom of making the shedding of human blood a necessary part in all solemnities. How far to the fouthward this reaches Mr. Bruce does not pretend to know; but he looks upon this to be the geographical bounds of the reign of the devil on the north side of the equator in the peninsula of Africa.

When the king of Gingiro dies, the body of the deceased is wrapped in a fine cloth, and a cow is killed. They then put the body so wrapped up into the cow's skin. As soon as this is over, all the princes of the royal family fly and hide themselves in the bushes; while others, intrusted with the election, enter into the thickets, beating every where about as if looking for game. At last a bird of prey, called in their country Liber, appears, and hovers over the person


destined to be king, crying and making a great noile without quitting his station. By this means the person destined to be elected is found, surrounded, as is reported, by tigers, lions, panthers, and such-like wild beasts,' This is imagined to be done by magic, or the devil, else there are every where enough of these beasts lying in the cover to furnish materials for such a tale, without having recourse to the power of magic to assemble them. As they find their king, like a wild beast, so his behaviour continues the same after he is found. He flies upon them with great rage, resisting to the last, wounding and killing all he can reach without any consideration, till, overcome by force, 'he is dragged to a throne, which he 'fills in a manner perfectly corresponding to the rationality of the ceremonies of his instalment.

Before the king enters his patace, two men are to be Nain; one at the foot of the tree by which his house is chiefly supported; the other at the threshold of his door, which is besmeared with the blood of the victim. And, it is said, that the particular family, whose privilege it is to be slaughtered, fo far from avoiding it, glory in the occasion, and offer them. felves willingly to meet it.

The Ethiopic memoirs of Socinios's reign is interrupted to record a very trifling anecdote, which Mr. Bruce inserts, as it serves to give some idea of the simplicity and ignorance of those times. The historian says, that this year, there was brought into Abyffinia, a bird called Para, which was about the bigness of a hen, and spoke all languages; Indian, Portuguese, and Arabic. It pamed the king's name ; although its voice was that of a man, it could likewise neigh like a horse, and mew like a cat, but did not fing like a bird. It was produced before the assembly of judges of the priests, and the azages of court, and there it spoke with great gravity.

The allembly, after considering circumstances' well, were unanimously of opinion, that the evil spirit liad no part ia endowing it with these talents. But to be certain of this, ic was thought most prudent to take the advice of Ras Sela Christos, then in Gojam, who might, if he thought fit, confult the superior of Mahebar Selaffé ; to them it was sent, but it died on the road. The hislorian closes his narrative by this wife reflection on the parrot's death, « the lot of all fleth."


[ocr errors]







[merged small][ocr errors]

FROM 1632 TO 1665. gained several victories over the neighbouring princes,

er passed the winter in Gafat , but a misfortune happened the following

Year, which very much affected the whole kingdom. The people of Lasta grew desperate from their former defeat, and determined again to try the fortune of war. Facilidas, trusting to his former reputation acquired in these mount. ains in his father's time, on the third of March 1638, advanced with a large army into Lasta, with a design to bring these peasants to a battle. But the rebels, growing wise by their losses, no longer chose to trust themselves on the plain,


but, retiring to the strongest posts, fortified them so judici. oufy, that, without risking any loss themselves, they cut off all supplies or provisions coming to the king's army.

It happened at that time the cold was so excessive that almost the whole army perished amidst the mountains ; great part from famine, but a greater still froni cold, a very remarkable circumstance in these latitudes. Lasta is barely 12° from the Line, and it was now the equinox in March, so that the sun was but 12° from being in the zenith of Lasta, and there was in the day twelve hours of sun. Yet here is an example of an arıny, not of foreigners, but natives, périshing with cold in their own country, when the sun is no farther than 129 from being vertical, or from being directly over their heads ; a strong proof this, that there is no way of judging by the degrees of heat in the thermometer, what effect that degree of heat or cold is to have upon the human body.

[ocr errors]

Facilidas, after a long reign, in which nothing very remarkable occurred, was taken ill at Gondor, in the end of October, of a disease which, from its first appearance, he thought would prove mortal. He, therefore, sent to his eldest fon Hannes, wirom he had constantly kept with him, and who was now of age to govern, and recommended to him his kingdom, and the persevering in the ancient religion. He died the 30th of September 1665, in great peace and compufure of mind, and they buried him at Azazo. Facilidas had every good quality necessary to constitute a great prince, without any alloy or mixture ; that, upon so niuch provocation as he liad, might have milled him to be a bad one. He was calm, dispassionate, and courteous in his behaviour. In the very difficult part he had to act between his father and the nation, the necessities of the times had taught him a degree of reserve, which, if it was not natural, was not therefore the less useful to him. He was in his own person the bravest soldier of his time, and always exposed himself in proportion as the occasion was important. To this were added all the qualities of a good general, in which charaéter he seems to have equalled his father Socinios, who else was universally allowed to be the first of his time. Fierce and violent in bate'


« PreviousContinue »