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luxuriant vegetation. The average height of the thermometer, which varies considerably at this season, is 750.
When these rains, which continue a fortnight, have subsided, the summer reigns in full splendour. Net a cloud is to be seen; and generally between the hours of seven and ten in the morning, before the setting in of the trade wind, the heat is scarcely supportable; but as soon as the influence of this refreshing wind is felt, nature seems to revive, and the climate becomes exceedingly pleasant ; the medium height of the thermometer is now 80°. The nights are transcendently beautiful: the moon displays a magnificence in her radiance, unknown to Europeans; the smallest print is legible by her light, and during her absence, the brilliancy of the milky way supplies to the traveller the necessary light, and makes ample amends for the shortness of twilight.
This state lasts till the middle of August, when the atmosphere again becomes suffocating, which is the prelude to the autumnal rains. Large fleecy clouds are now seen in the morning, and when these vast accumulations of vapour have risen to a considerable height in the atmosphere, they move in a horizontal direction towards the mountains, proclaiming their progress by dreadful thunder, which reverberated from peak to peak, and answered by the distant roaring of the sea, heightens the majesty of the scene, and irresistibly lifts up the mind of the spectator to the great Author of the universe.
The rains seldom fall with general force till the beginning of October: then the clouds pour
down cataracts of which no one can form a just idea who has not witnessed them. In the interval be. tween the beginning of August and the end of Oc
tober, the hurricanes, so terrible in their devastations, are apprehended.
About the end of November or the beginning of December, the temperature again changes, the wind varies from the east towards the north, driving before it heavy storms of rain and hail, till the atmosphere is cleared, when a second succession of serene and pleasant weather sets in, and the winter, if it can be called such, between December and April, is the finest on the globe.
Besides the trade-wind which blows from the east nine months in the year, there is a land-wind at night which is peculiarly refreshing. This advantage the larger islands derive from the inequality of their surface, for as soon as the sea-breeze dies away, the hot air of the plain ascends to the tops of the mountains, and is there condensed, which rendering it specifically heavier than it was before, it descends back to the plains on both sides of the ridge. Hence a night wind is felt in moun. tainous countries under the torrid zone, blowing on all sides from the land to the shore.
To the discoverer's the prospect of these islands must have been inconceivably interesting*. They are even now beheld, when the mind is prepared for the scene, with wonder and astonishment by every voyager who sees them for the first time. The beauty of the smaller islands, and the sublime grandeur of the larger, wbose mountains form a: stupendous and awful picture, are subjects for exquisite contemplation. Columbus in many respects found himself in a new creation, for which his own mind, big with hope, must have been wholly unprepared. The variation of the compass,
* See p. 15, of this volume.
the regularity of the winds, the direful waterspout, could not fail of exciting astonishment and almost terror in every breast.
It has been observed that the infinite wise and benevolent Creator of the universe, to compel the exertions of those faculties which he has given us, has ordained that by human cultivation alone the earth becomes the proper habitation of man. But as the West-India islands in their ancient state were not without culture, so neither were they generally noxious to the human constitution. The plains or savannas were regularly sown twice a year with Turkey wheat: the hills and vallies were cleared of underwood, and the trees afforded a cool and shady retreat. Of these the papaw, the palmetto, and others, are the most graceful of all the vegetable creation. Some continue to bud, to blossom, and bear fruit throughout the year. By the foliage of the greater part of the trces springing only from the summit of the trunk, and thence expanding into wide spreading branches closely arranged, every grove is an assemblage of majestic columns supporting a verdent canopy, and excluding the sun without impeding the circulation of the air. Thus the shade affords not only a refuge for occasional use, but a wholesome habitation.
Such, says Mr. Edwards*, were these orchards of the sun and woods of perennial verdure, of a growth unknown to the frigid clime and less vigorous soil of Europe : for what is the oak compared to the cedar or mahogany, of each of which the trunk frequently measures eighty or ninety feet from the base to the limbs? What European forest has
* See History Civil and Commercial of the British Colonies in the West-Indies. By Bryan Edwards, esq.
ever given birth to a stem equal to that of the ceiba or wild cotton tree, which alone, when rendered concave, has been known to produce a boat capable of containing a hundred persons ! or the still greater fig, the sovereign of the vegetable creation-itself a forest *.
Having given a short account of the climate and seasons of these islands, it will be right to inquire into some particulars relating to the inhabitants of them. We have already taken notice of those belonging to the larger islands, and which were first discovered by Columbus. From the natives of Hispaniola, Columbus received information of a barbarous and warlike people who resided in the other islands, who made war upon them, and devoured the prisoners which they carried away. They were called Caribbees, and were said to come from the cast.
These củstoms, so abhorrent from human nature, are established upon authentic evidence. Among themselves, however, they were ever represented as peaceable, friendly, and affectionate. They considered all strangers as enemies, and of the people of Europe, says Mr. Edwards, “lhey formed a right estimation.” The Caribbees are jealous of their own independence, and impatient under the least infringement of it; and when they find resistance or escape hopeless, they will seek refuge from the calamity in death.
To a principle of conscious equality, may be imputed the contempt which they manifest to the
* In the East-Indies this is called the banyan tree. Mr. Marsden, in his interesting history of Sumatra, gives the dimensions of one situated twenty miles west of Patna : diameter 363 to 375 feet; circunference of the shadow 1116 feet; circumference of the several stems (in number between fifty and sixty), 921 feet. VOL. XXIV.
inventions and improvements of civilized life. Of our fire-arms they soon learned by fatal experience the superiority to their own weapons, and those they valued ; but our arts and manufactures they regarded as we esteem the amusements and baubles of children: hence the propensity to theft, so common among other savage nations, was altogether unknown to the Caribbees.
The ardour shown by them for military enterprise, had a powerful influence on their whole conduct. Engaged in continual warfare abroad, they seldom appeared cheerful at home. They witnessed great insensibility towards their women, which is remarkable, considering the warmth of the climate. Though not so tall as Europeans, their frame was robust and muscular; their limbs flexible and active, and there was a penetrating quickness in their eyes, like an emanation from a fierce and martial spirit. But not satisfied with the workmanship of nature, they called in the as. sistance of art to make themselves more formi. dable. Besides great quantities of red paint which they used, they disfigured their cheeks with deep incisions and hideous scars; these they stained with black, and then painted black and white cir. cles round their eyes. Some of them perforated the cartilage of the nostrils, and inserted the bone of a fish, a parrot's feather, or a fragment of lortoise-shell; a custom that is also practised by the natives of New Holland : and they strung together the teeth of such of their enemies as they had slain in battle, and wore them on their legs and arms as trophies of successful cruelty.
The Caribbees inured their children to swim with agility, and to use the bow with dexterity. They inspired them with fortitude and patience,