28 FEBRUARY 1885, Page 20


THE main interest of this remarkable volume is to be found, as Mr. Tylor points out, in the picture it presents of Polynesian

life before the introduction of Christianity, and with it, unfortunately, the vices of European society. Mr. Turner went out as a missionary of the Navigators' Islands more than forty years ago, and in 1861 published the account of his labours.

The present volume has an interest of another kind, and contains the result of his archaeological researches. "I have con fined myself," he writes, "almost exclusively to facts, and leave it to specialists to tabulate and arrange them on the side of whatever theories they fairly tend to establish," Mr. Turner's own conviction being that " the more these archmological fossils of men and mind are brought to light, the more apparent will become the affinities of these Polynesian tribes with other races of mankind."

The Samoa, or Navigators' Islands, in Central Polynesia, 'consist of four larger and several smaller islands, with a total area of 12,000 square miles. The climate is delightful, the soil richly fertile, the scenery between the mountains and the sea exceedingly beautiful ; but in Savaii, the largest island, the interior, owing to volcanic action, is said to be absolutely sterile. It is supposed, Mr. Wallace states, that the various branches of the race from the Sandwich Islands to Tahiti, and even to New Zealand, have migrated from this centre. The Samoans have many virtues, and some English theorists may deem it not the least that Communism has been familiar to them for ages. Let its hear from a very competent authority how the system works :—

" The system," writes Mr. Turner, "of a common interest in each other's property is still clung to by the Samoans with great tenacity. They consider themselves at liberty to go and take up their abode anywhere among their friends, and remain without charge, as long as they please. And the same custom entitles them to beg and borrow from each other to any extent. Boats, tools, garments, money, ezc , are all freely lent to each other, if connected with the same tribe or clan. A man cannot bear to be called stingy or disobliging. If he has what is asked, he will either give it, or adopt the worse course of telling a lie about it, by saying that he has it not, or that it is promised to someone else. This communistic system is a sad hindrance to the industrious, and eats like a canker-worm at the roots of individual or national progress. No matter how hard a young man may be disposed to work, he cannot keep his earnings; all soon passes out of his bands into the common circulating currency of the clan to which all have a latent right. The only thing which reconciles one to bear with it until it gives place to the individual independence of more advanced civilisation, is the fact that with such a state of things no poor-laws are needed. The sick, the aged, the blind, the lame, and even the vagrant, has always a house and home, and food and raiment, as far as he considers he needs it. A stranger may at first sight think a Samoan one of the poorest of the poor, and yet he may live ten years with that Samoan and not be able to make him understand what poverty really is in the European sense of the word. 'How is it ?' he will always say ; 'no food! Has he no friends ? No house to lire in ! Where did he grow ? Are there no houses belonging to his friends ? Have the people there no love for eaeh other ?' "

The good as well as evil of Communism is to he seen here ; but it must be remembered that the good, such as it is, would cease to exist in an advanced and populous State, and in an ungenial climate. It may be observed, too, that Communism in Samoa

was only binding on separate clans, and did not hinder wars between the tribes. It is seldom that Mr. Turner refers to the present condition of the islanders. That can be readily ascertained elsewhere; but the writer's knowledge, gained by an intimate acquaintance with the Samoans, of their belief and customs, is of the highest value to the ethnological student. The cosmogony of the islanders is curious, and several of their traditions recall Old-Testament narratives. For instance, the god Tangaloa, having made the heavens, wished to make earth also, and sent down his daughter, in the form of a bird, who flew about but could find no resting-place; nothing but water was visible. She returned to the heavens, and was again sent down to search for land. She found a dry place where she could rest, and went back to tell her father, and when he sent her the third time there was a still wider surface of land. Mr. Turner's collection of traditions is not confined to Samoa ; and here is one from Fakaofo, one of the Tokelav islands :—" The natives there say that men had their origin in a small stone on Fakaofo. The stone became changed into a man called Vasefanna. After a time, he thought of making a woman. This he did by collecting a quantity of earth, and forming an earth-model on the ground. He made the head, body, arms, and legs, all of earth ; then took out a rib from his left side, and thrust it inside of the earth-model, when suddenly the earth became alive, and up started a woman on her feet. He called her Ivi (Eevee), or rib ; he took her to be his wife, and from them sprang the race of men." Again, of Jonah and the whale three traditions are given; and there is the story of a wedding which contains the moral of the gospel parable, the wedding garment. It was once thought that the Samoans had no kind of religion ; but a nearer acquaintance showed that they possessed a vast number of deities, who appeared in some visible incarnation, in the form of fish, fowl, reptile, or beast. "A man would eat freely of what was regarded as the incarnation of the god of another man, but the incarnation of his own particular god he would consider it death to injure or to eat." There were village-gods and town-gods, and templesof a primitive kind for their worship. The trial by ordeal, so common in the Middle Ages, was followed by the Samoans. Persons suspected of theft had to place their hands on a cocoa-nut cup and call down curses on their heads, if guilty. "Before this ordeal the truth was rarely concealed. They firmly believed that it would be death to touch the cup and tell a lie." One curious belief and the custom associated with it is frequently referred to in these pages. A family-god, evidently of low tastes, named Samani, was supposed to exist in the turtle, the sea-eel, the octopus, and the garden-lizard. Any one eating or injuring such things had either to be sham baked in an unheated oven, or to drink a quantity of rancid oil. Then we are told that if an incarnation had by some mishap been cooked in the family oven, it could not be used again until some one had been laid there as a mock burnt-offering, and gone through the make-believe process of cooking. Another belief was that if a man had swallowed a god by mistake, and did not propitiate him by pretending to be baked, there would be an internal growth of the thing that he had eaten. In some cases the form of punishment was different. A village-god was incarnate in the cockle. If that shell-fish was eaten by any one of the place, a cockle would grow on his nose. A god called Apelesa was incarnate in the turtle. "While one of the family dared not partake, he would help a neighbour to cut-up and cook one." We may add that there was also a household god incarnate in the butterfly, and any one of the family catching that insect was liable to be struck dead. Altogether the number. of Samoan deities amounted to about a hundred and twenty.

The Samoans do not appear to have been cannibals, like the islanders of Fiji, New Hebrides, and New Caledonia; bat occasionally, out of revenge, they ate the body of an enemy. To speak of roasting a man was the worst language that could be addressed to him. Abortion was common, while infanticide was unknown, and children are said to-have been treated with the greatest kindness; but vast numbers died, and still die, in infancy. "The poor -little things are often carried about with their bare heads exposed to the scorching rays of a vertical

sun ; exposure to the night-damps also, and above all, stuffing them with improper food, are evils which often make us wonder

that the mortality among them is not greater than it is." Mr. Turner has a chapter on clothing, which, as the Samoans wore nothing beyond a fringe of leaves, may remin I the reader of the celebrated couplet :— " A purple vest Prince Vortigern had on, That from a naked Pict his grandsire won."

It is but right to add, however, that on festive occasions they decked themselves with beads and garlands of flowers, and even wore fine mats. Their amusements, it is needless to say, were more hearty than refined. Women as well as men strove for the fame of pugilists; singing, clapping hands, and beating time was such an exciting amusement, that the perspiration streamed down, "while their tongues galloped over the rhyme at breathless speed." The Samoans had pigeon-matches too, of a kind much more humane and sportsmanlike than ours at Hurling. ham :—

" The ground being cleared, the chiefs stationed themselves at distances all round a large circular space, each concealed under a low shed or covering of brushwood, having by his side a net attached to a long bamboo, and in his band a stick with a tame pigeon on a crook at the end of it. This pigeon was trained to fly round and round as directed by its owner, with a string at its foot thirty feet long, attached to the end of his stick. Every man flew his pigeon, and then the whole

• circle looked like a place where pigeons were flocking round food or water. The scene soon attracted some wild pigeon ; and as it approached the spot, whoever was next to it raised his net and tried to entangle it. He who got the greatest number of pigeons was the hero of the day and honoured by his friends with various kinds of food, with which he treated his less successful competitors. Some of the pigeons were baked, others were distributed about and tamed for further use. Taming and exercising them for the sporting season was a common pastime."

They seem to have had several amusements, but their principal occupation, like that of most savages ,was war :—" Their heroes were the swift-of-foot-like Achilles or Asahel ; men who could dash forwards towards a crowd, hurl a spear with deadly prevision, and stand for awhile tilting off with his club other spears as they approached him within an inch of running him through. They were ambitions also to signalise themselves by the number of heads they could lay before the chiefs. No hero at the Grecian games rejoiced more over his chaplet than did the Samoan glory in the distinction of having cut-off a man's head." The passion for war was universal among the islanders of the Pacific; and Mr. Turner 'states that during his residence in Tana, one of the New Hebrides, in 1841, the natives spent five months ont of seven in fighting, and he adds :--" I should think that is a fair average of the way in which they have lived from time immemorial." Tana must have been a lively place of residence, and in some respects is still, for there is a volcano on the island which has at the present day "an eruption every five, seven, or ten minutes, very much as described by Captain Cook in '1774." On visiting the volcano one day, Mr. Turner was told of a battle, in which some men who were pursued ran right into the crater, and there fought for awhile on the downward slope inside the cup. They would fight anywhere. Men went to work with arms in their hands, boys carried small clubs, spears, and bows and arrows; fighting and cooking went hand in-hand. "When the body of an enemy is taken, it is dressed for the oven, and served-up with yams at the next meal They delight in human flesh, and distribute it in little bits far and near among their friends as a delicious morsel." Mr. Turner writes in the present tense ; for, unlike the Yijis, the New Hebrideans are still savages. There is, however, one island of the group described by the author which, under Christian teaching, has become thoroughly civilised. It is said that crime of any kind is almost unknown on Aneiteum. Mr. Turner does not mention this change ; but he observes that when he visited the island in 1845 the tribes were all on friendly terms, and in case of murder an apology, with a pig, would generally settle the affair. "The most revolting thing connected with the heathenism of Aneiteum was the strangling of the widows. On the death of a beloved child, too, the mother—or it might be the aunt or the grandmother—was strangled, to accom pany it to the world of spirits." This horrible custom is now unknown in the island; but of late years it has been practised in Tana, and, commencing with the chiefs, has spread among the inhabitants.

In no group of islands—unless, perhaps, in Fiji—have the exertions of missionaries yielded so much fruit as in Samoa.

Independent witnesses allow that the character of the people under Christian teaching has entirely changed ; trade, too, is flourishing, and the native population is variously estimated at 35,000 or 60,000. We are not told, however, whether civilisation has caused the diminution of the native race. In most islands of the Pacific this is unquestionably the case, although infanticide, war, and cannibalism are either less prevalent or extinct. Just as in New Zealand the native race is "being extirpated by the European variety, and even English grasses are destroying the primitive vegetation, so the Maories, in spite of their civilisation, decrease year by year. So it seems will the Melanesian and Polynesian islanders disappear before the advance of Europeans. If We give them some of our virtues, we give them also our diseases and vices ; and it is melancholy to .look forward to the almost inevitable extinction of these fine races.