Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/41

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26
THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

Testimony in confirmation of the existence of this faculty is yielded by almost every authority who has written or said a word on the subject of the tribes of New Holland. One fact alone is wanting to render the testimony conclusive, namely, a published translation of some of their effusions! The existence of a complete poem, possessed of a considerable amount of true poetical merits—descriptive, impassioned, and unconstrained—is mentioned by an undoubted authority, and is said to have been translated by a gentleman in the interior, from the rehearsal of some blacks in his neighbourhood, with whose language he was familiar. Lhotsky, in his comprehensive, though somewhat scanty, work on Australia, refers to a particular native song in terms of the highest eulogy, and bears testimony to the general powers of the aborigines for poetical exertion. Instances are also known of the talents of individual natives to improvise on any subject; and one is mentioned as being so far gifted in this respect that he would, undoubtedly, surpass any of the Italian improvisatori in his peculiar sphere. Many well-known traits of the aborigines likewise tend to the belief that metrical compositions are common amongst them, as, in their first encounter with civilized men, indulging, when terrified, in a low-toned, mysterious chant, intended, as generally supposed, to counteract impending evil.

The first buddings of the painter's skill amongst the aborigines next attract attention. That metrical composition should not be unknown is perhaps not so