Page:Aboriginesofvictoria01.djvu/26

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xviii
INTRODUCTION.

area on the north-east coast, where the Australians build and sail canoes altogether different from those known elsewhere.

The Australian type is well marked. The Australian differs from the Papuan in form and in color—from the Tasmanian less perhaps in the features of the face than in the form of the body, in color, and in the hair. Still less does the Australian show any resemblance to the Polynesian, the Malayan, or the Chinese. He is darker, and his eyes are horizontal. If he has not a better head, he has probably, from what is known of him, a brain of a different quality. In his myths, his tales, and his superstitions, he differs from the Polynesians, the Malays, and the Chinese. If he is not a poet, he has in him the elements of poetry; and in many of his legends there is much that is not unlike the earlier forms of poetic conceptions that distinguish the Aryan race from other races that were subject to the same local influences but derived from them no such inspirations as the ancient Sanscrit peoples embodied in their traditions.

The natives of Australia dislike labor; and their muscles and their hands are those of sportsmen or hunters. It would be impossible to find in a tribe of Australians such hands as are seen amongst the working classes in Europe. An English ploughman might perhaps insert two of his fingers in the hole of an Australian's shield, but he could do no more.

The Australian can endure fatigue, but he is not one to bear burdens, to dig laboriously, or to suffer restraint. He likes to exert himself when exertion is pleasurable, but not for ulterior purposes will he slave, as the white man slaves, nor would he work as the negro works, under the lash.

He is courageous when opposed to a mortal enemy, and timid in the darkness of night when he believes that wicked spirits are abroad; he is cruel to his foes, and kind to his friends; he will look upon infanticide without repugnance, but he is affectionate in the treatment of the children that are permitted to live; he will half-murder a girl in order to possess her as a wife, but he will protect her and love her when she resigns herself to his will. He is a murderer when his tribe requires a murder to be done; but in a fight he is generous, and takes no unfair advantage. He is affectionate towards his relatives, and respectful and dutiful in his behaviour to the aged. He is hospitable. He has many very good qualities and many very bad ones; and in the contrarieties of his mental constitution there is much to remind us of the peculiarities of the people of our own race.

As may be supposed, there were no insane persons and no idiots amongst the Australians, and suicide was unknown when they were living in their wild state.

As soon as the white man established himself on the rich pastoral lands of Victoria, and the natives were driven first from one spot and then from another, in order that the cattle and sheep of the invaders might feed peaceably and grow fat, tribes that perhaps had never met before were compelled to mingle. The ancient land marks were obliterated, the ancient boundaries had ceased to have any meaning, and the people, confused and half-stupefied by the new and extraordinary character of the circumstances so suddenly forced upon