Изображения страниц

in the ancient Norwegian and Icelandic Mss. demonstrate, so far as such a problem can be solved, that those hardy navigators visited the entire shores of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, hutted themselves for the winter at several points, and brought over cattle, and other means of colonization. It is also quite evident that the discovery and settlement of the country had been purposed and materially planned, and that it was carried for a time, with a zeal worthy of all success.


There is as much geographical and general information, embraced in the brief journals of these early sea voyages, as could be looked for, or as was common to the age. In saying this, we may as well express the opinion long entertained, of the ancient journalists of voyages to America, even down to the middle of the sixteenth century, that they were most particularly deficient in every pre-requisite for their office. The business of keeping the journal, or writing the account of an expedition appears to have been left to him, of the party, who was fit for nothing else, in the conceptions of the era. Fighting, discovery, and wild adventure, and not literature, were the characteristics of those ages. It is not surprising, therefore, that we find this department so poorly supplied.

Enough is preserved, by the Scandinavian adventurers, to show that they were more familiar with the arts of navigation and nautical astronomy, than with the science of noting human speech, or describing men and manners. The coast scenery and productions are more minutely noticed. Bays, islands, channels, streams, rocks and straits, were familiar to this race of men, for they dwelt in a part of the globe, unsurpassed for its display of these features. And the language of Scandinavia appears to have been well provided with terms for such objects, and with principles of ready and graphic combination to express their varied appearances. It seems to us, that this facility in the Icelandic tongue, has proved one of the best means, in adjusting the geography, if it has not furnished the key to those early, and century-forgotten voyages.

In allusion to the productions and natural features of the country, the pine tree, the grape vine, and the long sandy beaches, strike us as the most characteristic traits of the New England coast in a state of nature. And it must be borne in mind, that this coast, in its forest state, produced the beach grape, the best of all the wild species, which has now disappeared, or is only to be found, if we are rightly informed, at a

few places. What is said of "precious" woods, requires to be received with every allowance for haste and inexactitude of observation. Similar statements are found in the journals of voyagers to other parts of North America, where there never grew a mahogany tree.

We think the climate of New England not too favorably represented. There have been years, it is true, when owing to heavy falls of snow and long continued severity, cattle would scarcely sustain themselves. But even in these seasons, there would be less injury done them, while the country was covered with forests, which would shelter them from the severe northeast winds. And so long as the country was a wilderness, it may be supposed there were numerous fields of grass and native herbage, near the influx of rivers and along the open bays. In ordinary seasons, cattle would winter in New England at this time, if they could range where there was natural herbage. We have known cattle to winter themselves, as far north as latitude 46°, on mere browse.

We have less reason to be satisfied with the accuracy of the descriptions, given by the north-men, of the natives, who were encountered on the New England coast. We doubt whether the Esquimau race, ["Skroellings"] ever inhabited it. These tribes have their affinities with the Greenlanders, and the course of their migration appears, at all times, to have been directed through the Arctic circle and along the Arctic ocean completely across this part of the American continent. It is certain that on the landing of the Pilgrims, just 600 years after the death of Thorwald Ericson, in Massachusetts bay, the Algic* race possessed the entire coast. They were found not only at Plymouth, near the very burial place of Ericson, but north as high as the Penobscot, and the French discovered branches of the same generic stock on the southern shore of the gulf of St. Lawrence. Verozani and the Cabots and Hudson found them south, along the Atlantic, as far as they sailed. It does not seem probable to us, that the Esquimaux could have been found, without these characteristics of the race, his bone fish-spear, and his seal-skin canoe. The natives encountered by Ericson, evinced a degree of bravery hardly compatible with our notions of the Esquimaux. A few days of fair sailing would bring the Scandinavian adventurer from the slaty coasts of Helluland,

This term is a derivative from the words Alleghany and Atlantic.


where the Skroellings abode, to the Rhode Island waters, and it does not seem strange that observers who had mistaken the curled maple for mahogany, should not think one race of Indians different from another, when both possessed copper colored faces, had long black hair, and wore a sort of mantelet of skins. It is not said they were of small stature, nor that they ate raw fish-the two leading traits in the Esquimaux.

So far as authentic history extends, the Esquimaux tribes have been found north of the latitude of 60°, inhabiting the whole range of islands, gulfs and bays, from the coast of Greenland in longitude 20° to Behring's straits in Asia, in longitude 167°. They have seldom been found more than one hundred miles south of the Arctic sea. The eastern Esquimaux extended down the coast of Labrador to the straits of Bellisle, and were found dispersed, in some instances, as far as north latitude 50°.

The few specimens of the native language introduced from the voyages, rather entangle, than help the inquiry. "Vethilldi," and "Uvaege," the names of the father and mother of the captured boys, are certainly not of the Algic vocabulary. The same may be said of "Avalldamon" and "Valdidida," the chiefs of their band. Should it be found that the Icelanders or Norwegians substitute the letter V for B, and L for N in pronouncing foreign languages, analogy might sustain them as Algic derivatives. There is no rule in Rafn's Grammar of the Icelandic,* now before us to settle this point. V is generally dropped before o, u, y, and r, but often retained by the ancient writers. But the question is, if these words are not Algic, are they Esquimaux? By referring to Mr. Gallatin's vocabulary of this language [Vide Archaeologia Americana, Vol. II.] it will be seen that the letter V does not occur.

We are aware, however, from the grammatical examples in the "Mithridates," that the sound is found among the Esquimaux of Kotzebue's Sound, and analogy would lead us to look for it, among the other tribes of this well-marked race of men. Granting all that could be asked on this head, however, it must be recollected that these boys were not captured in Narragansett or Massachusetts bay, but as is stated in general terms, on the voyage home.

Montaup, the true Indian name of Mount Hope, appears to us

*Marsh's Translation.

[graphic][merged small]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »