Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/42

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GERMS OF ARTISTIC SKILL.
27

wonderful, when it is considered that this method of giving vent to the workings of the mind and of the passions is that which barbarous nations are likely first to acquire, and with which few are unfamiliar. That, however, painting—the real art of portraiture, however rude—should exist, shows a systematic longing after the development of the sublime capabilities of humanity truly astonishing, and seems to contradict in the most ample manner the doctrine advanced by some, and certainly consistent with our highest teachings, that man in a primitive state of barbarism does not possess within himself the power of attaining the most elevated status of the human race.

On the northern coast of New Holland an island exists, joined to the mainland by a narrow strip of sandbank, traversable at low water, but covered at the flow of the tide. The island is principally composed of a peculiar description of rock, with a smooth, hard surface, but overlaid with a coat of soft substance, probably the result of atmospheric action. This rock is described by voyagers who have visited the island as being covered with delineations of every description of figure which could suggest itself to an aboriginal. The black man, fully equipped for battle or in the attitude of an orator; the corroboree, in its most striking features; the interior of the gunyah, or native hut, with its inmates; kangaroos, emus, and the lesser animals; birds and fishes; implements of war, ornaments, and domestic utensils—these, and a variety of similar figures, are here to be seen delineated