Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/78

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fectly new to them, no men stand their ground better. The heros of Homer, whose courage depended upon augurs and omens, were brave only when assisted by the gods; but the Derbalese are brave without augurs, omens, or gods. The martial character they display will appear the more remarkable when it becomes known that, both in their first onset and in their succeeding conflicts with the whites, they imagined themselves in colision with beings from another world, and that they were actually contending with the heros of the dead. Few of the renowned warriors of ancient or modern times, would, I presume, have nerve enough to maintain their ground, if they beheld the hosts of antiquity coming shouting from the skies in battle array, and, with thundering artillery, burnished chariots, galloping steeds, clanging armor, and terrifying aspects, rushing upon them with the fury of the tempest, when, from the bursting heavens, the deadly lightning shoots in all directions and mingles with the roar of the warring elements. So terrific to the Derbalese was the appearance of the whites, when, with arms such as they had never seen, and apparently descending from the clouds, they came flying over the ocean, and, in forests which had never echoed to the sound of a gun, poured among them, pregnant with havoc and death, bullets enveloped in smoke and winged with fire. None but spirits the most daring and heroic would stand their ground and heave the spear amidst scene so unearthly and appaling. Whoever reflects upon this, will feel no hesitation in awarding the palm of valor to the aboriginal Australians, who, perfectly naked, and without breastplate or shield, or any other weapon than a slender spear, have the boldness to take the field against the very hosts of heaven. Instruction, union, and discipline, would, I am persuaded, render them invincible.

In that combination of virtues which constitutes greatness of character, they excel. Yagan, allowed by every one to be of savages the most savage, wept with gratitude when I saved his life, and expressed his sense of the kindness shown to him in the strongest terms. Yet this is the man who, in the midst of his guards on a rock surrounded by the ocean, where his life must have been the forfeit, could seize his spear and, erect in all the pride of independence, determine to die spear in hand, and, in his fall, exact the penalty in the death of his enemies, rather than submit even to an insult.

Nor is courage the only quality of the warrior they possess. They are admirable marksmen; and will make sure at a hundred yards distance. The war shout and the googoomittle,[1]

  1. The terrific movement made in the act of throwing the spear. The word is untranslatable there being no corresponding term for it in our language.