Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/50

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

please ensure them mutual esteem and love;" and of the life they led as being diversified between bathing in cool streams, reposing under tufted trees, feeding on luscious fruits, telling tales, and playing the flute. In fact, Forster declared, they "resembled the happy, indolent people whom Ulysses found in Phaeacia, and could apply the poet's lines to themselves with peculiar propriety:

       'To dress, to dance, to sing our sole delight, The feast or bath by day, and love by night.'"

In Tahiti grew an abundance of breadfruit. It was in connection with this nutritious food, one of nature's richest gifts to the Pacific, that Bligh undertook a mission which involved him in a mutiny, launched him upon one of the most dangerous and difficult voyages in the annals of British seamanship, and provided a theme for a long poem by one of the greatest of English authors. Byron it was who, writing as though the trees sprouted quartern loaves ready baked, said of it (The Island II 11):

    "The bread-tree, which without the ploughshare yields The unreaped harvest of unfurrowed fields, And bakes its unadulterated loaves Without a furnace in unpurchased groves, And flings off famine from its fertile breast, A priceless market for the gathering guest."

Breadfruit had been tasted and described by Dampier in the seventeenth century. His description of it has all the terse directness peculiar to the writing of the inquisitive buccaneer, with a touch of quaintness that makes the passage desirable to quote:* (* Dampier's Voyages edition of 1729 1 page 294.)

"The breadfruit, as we call it, grows on a large tree as big and as tall as our largest apple trees. It hath a spreading head full of branches and dark leaves. The fruit grows on the boughs like apples; it is as big as a