Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/106

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pertinent, as it ever was. Beyond these practical qualities, proverbs are instructive for the place in ethnography which they occupy. Their range in civilization is limited; they seem scarcely to belong to the lowest tribes, but appear first in a settled form among some of the higher savages. The Fijians, who were found a few years since living in what archæologists might call the upper Stone Age, have some well-marked proverbs. They laugh at want of forethought by the saying that 'The Nakondo people cut the mast first' (i.e. before they had built the canoe); and when a poor man looks wistfully at what he cannot buy, they say, 'Becalmed, and looking at the fish.'[1] Among the list of the New Zealanders' 'whakatauki,' or proverbs, one describes a lazy glutton: 'Deep throat, but shallow sinews;' another says that the lazy often profit by the work of the industrious: 'The large chips made by Hardwood fall to the share of Sit-still;' a third moralizes that 'A crooked part of a stem of toetoe can be seen; but a crooked part in the heart cannot be seen.'[2] Among the Basutos of South Africa, 'Water never gets tired of running' is a reproach to chatterers; 'Lions growl while they are eating,' means that there are people who never will enjoy anything; 'The sowing-month is the headache-month,' describes those lazy folks who make excuses when work is to be done; 'The thief eats thunderbolts,' means that he will bring down vengeance from heaven on himself.[3] West African nations are especially strong in proverbial philosophy; so much so that Captain Burton amused himself through the rainy season at Fernando Po in compiling a volume of native proverbs,[4] among which there are hundreds at about as high an intellectual level as those of Europe. 'He fled from the sword and hid in the scabbard,' is as good as our

  1. Williams, 'Fiji,' vol. i. p. 110.
  2. Shortland, 'Traditions of N. Z.' p 196.
  3. Casalis, 'Études sur la langue Séchuana.'
  4. R. F. Burton, 'Wit and Wisdom from West Africa.' See also Waitz, vol. ii. p. 245.