vol II date / index
Sts. Rufus and Zozimus, A. D. 116. St. Gatian, 1st. Bp. of Tours, 3d. Cent. St. Winebald, A. D. 760.
THE ASS AND THE CAMEL.
Fault was found because a newspaper commenced a police-office report of one of the humane endeavours of the warm-hearted member for Galway, in behalf of the proverbially most patient of all quadrupeds, by saying, "Mr. Martin came to this office with another ass." Ridicule, however, never injures a just man with the just-minded; Mr. Martin has been properly supported in every judicious effort by public opinion.
The notice of the all-enduring ass, in former pages, occasions a letter from a gentleman, (with his name) whose researches have been directed to the geographical and natural history of foreign countries. In this communication he refers to a work of considerable interest relative to Africa, which it may be important for inquirers regarding the interior of that region to be acquainted with.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book.
November 29, 1825.
The facetious TIM TIMS, in your Every-Day Book, of the 19th of September, (p. 1309.) cites the amusing and accurate Leo Africanus, as asserting "that asses may be taught to dance to music." This is an error. Leo, in his description of Africa, (Elzevir edition, 1632. p. 749.) says, "I saw in Cairo a camel dance to the sound of a drum, and as the master told me, this is the mode of teaching: a young camel is selected and placed for half an hour in a place prepared for him of about the size of a stove, the pavement of which is heated by fire. Some one then, outside the door, beats the drum, and the camel, not on account of the music, but of the fire by which his feet are hurt, lifts first one leg then another, after the manner of a dancer, and after having been thus trained for ten or twelve months, he is led into public, when, on hearing the drum, and remembering the burning of his feet, he immediately begins to jump, and thinking himself to be on the same floor, he raises himself on his hind legs, and appears to dance; and so, use becoming second nature, he continues to do."
The only ass described by Leo, is the ass of the woods, found only in the desert or its borders. It yields to the Barb, or Arabian, (Leo says they are the same,) in swiftness, and is caught with the greatest difficulty. When feeding, or drinking, he is always moving.
A word more about the camel. He is of a most kind and mild nature, and partakes in a manner of the sense of man. If, at any time, between Ethiopia and Barbary (in the great desert) the day's journey is longer than ordinary, he is not to be driven on by stripes (or beating,) but the driver sings certain short songs, by which the camel being allured, he goes on with such swiftness, that no one is able to keep up with him.
When I open this highly valued book, I never know when to close it; and, indeed, the less at this time, when we are all on tip-toe with respect to Africa.
Now it does appear strange to me, that not one word has been said, either by the travellers, or those who have traced them, about this little work. One reason may be, that it has never been wholly translated into English. It is called by Hartman, (who has been deemed the ablest editor of these oriental authors,) a golden book, which had he wanted, he should as frequently have wanted light. The author, who was a man of a noble family and great acquirements, had been at Tombuto twice at least. Once he accompanied his father on his embassy from the king of Fez to that city, and afterwards as a merchant. This must have been at the very beginning of the sixteenth century, for he finished this work at Rome, the 5th of March, 1526. He describes Tombuto, as well as Bornou, and Cano, with many other of the Negro kingdoms with great minuteness, and with respect to the Niger, (which, like the Nile, rises, falls, and fertilizes the country,) he says, that its course is from the kingdom of Tombuto towards the west as far as Ginea or Jinnea, and even Melli, which joins the ocean at the same place where the Niger empties itself into the sea. He also says, that at Cabra, which is situate on the Niger, about twelve miles from Tombuto, the merchants sailing to Ginea or Melli, go on board their vessels.
Moore, who resided as a writer and factor under the African company, at the mouth of the Gambia, about five years, and in 1738, published his travels, describing the several nations for the space of six hundred miles up that river, concludes that river and the Niger to be the same. In this work will be found an English translation from the Italian, of parts of Leo's work.
Jackson is a coxcomb, who copies without acknowledgment. He fancies the Niger runs backwards, and joins the Nile, after which they most fraternally run into the Mediterranean.
I am, &c.
New Holland Cyprus. Cupressus Australis.
Dedicated to St. Winebald.