Richard Jobson (1623) The Golden Trade, pp. 37-61.
The Mandingo or Ethiopian, being the naturall Inhabitants, distinguished by the name of the Mandingos.
THE people, who are Lords, and Commaunders of this country, and professe themselves the naturall Inhabitants, are perfectly blacke, both men and women. The men for their parts, do live a most idle kinde of life, imploying themselves (I meane the greater part) to no kinde of trade nor exercise, except it be onely some two moneths of the yeare, which is in tilling, and bringing home their countrey corne, and graine, wherein the preservation of their lives consists, and in that time their labour is sore, as when I come to shew the manner, you may easily conceive; All other times of the yeare, they live wandring up and downe, from one to an other, having little understanding, either to hunt in the woods, or fish in the waters; notwithstanding, both the one and the other, in their kindes, are infinitely replenished, that to their very doores wilde beasts doe resort, and about their houses in every corner, abundance of Ginny hennes, and excellent partridges. In the heat of the day, the men will come forth, and sit themselves in companies, under the shady trees, to receive the fresh aire, and there passe the time in communication, having only one kind of game to recreate themselves withall, and that is in a peece of wood, certaine great holes cut, which they set upon the ground betwixt two of them, and with a number of some thirtie pibble stones, after a manner of counting, they take one from the other, untill one is possessed of all, whereat some of them are wondrous nimble: we do perceive amongst them, that the ordinary people eate but one meale a day, and especially the younger sort, of what kinde soever; their houre of feeding being onely after the day light is in, and then with fires of Reedes, without the doore, they sit them round, and fall to their viands, which for the most part, is either Rice, or some other graine, boyled, which being brought unto them by the women in goardes, hot, putting in their hands, they rowle up into balles, and cast into their mouthes, and this is their manner of feeding: they doe seldome eate either flesh or fish, the rather because they cannot get it, then out of any will to refuse it: and although they are great breeders of such very poultry, as are our Cockes and Hennes, and have understanding to cut Capons, yet they are great sparers thereof, and preserve them to sell unto us, for small peeces of Iron, beades, and such like commodities, whereof if we be furnished, we can want none of that provision.
They will say, their feeding so seldome, is a great preservation of their health, & at that time, when the Sunne is downe, a fittest time for nourishment, avoyding epecially, to eate in the heate of the day, as a thing wonderfull unwholesome, wherein it may please you to give me leave to utter my opinion, which happly comming to be scanned by men of knowledge, may produce some rules of better order, then hath hither-unto beene kept amongest our Nation, which hath caused the losse of so many lives, and the dangerous sickenesse of others, therewithall laying a generall scandall upon the countrey it selfe, to be both infectious, and unwholesome for oour bodies, whereas indeede it is our owne disorders: For the custome that hath beene hither-unto held, especially into this River, hath beene without any diligence, to make choise of such Sea-men for governours, as were men of temperance, and commaund, who being able to temper well themselves, might the better governe the rest, whose ill carriages may be thought to bee great provokers for shortning other mens dayes: I will example it in this last voyage of ours. The Maister was a man knowne, for an excellent Arts-man, but in the governement of himselfe, so farre from knowledge, that after our passage from Dart-mouth, which was in October, untill the middle of March after, about which time he dyed, it will be iustified, he was never twenty dayes sober, in which time he went not alone, but our Chirurgion, with sundry other officers that were of his societie, with their lives payed for their riotous order. And further, whereas wee were divided into two shallops, to goe up the River, the bigger whereof, the principall Factor was to follow his trade in, and carried therefore in the same a Butte of Sacke, and a Hogges-head of Aqua vitæ, making choice of such men as were the most able, and likeliest bodies to hold out, and he in himselfe carefull enough, as his experience might well advise him, having spent many yeares, and many made voyages upon that continent, to observe both his diet of eating and drinking; yet towards his people, hee carried at sometimes, such an over-sparing hand, that they fell to practising how they might deceive him, making use of all advantages, to steale those hot drinkes from him, which being purchased, as it were from his niggardly nature, they would divide as a spoyle with great greedinesse amongest themselves, and thereby wrought their owne confusions, that of those people he carried with him, they eyther died before hee came backe to the shippe, or shortly after, some two at the most excepted, who escaped with dangerous sickenesse, whereas to the contrary (with thankefulnesse to God be it spoken) my selfe going up in the other shallop, and wherein I must take such men as were given me, not such as I desired, observing amongst our selves, a loving and orderly course of diet, wherein everie man had his equall share, notwithstanding I went about one hundred and fortie leageus above the other shallop, returned without the losse of any one man; nay, in all my going to the highest, and in my returne to the Pinnace, I never had any man sicke, but upon a second returne up some part of the River, some of my olde men being changed, two or three fell sicke, howbeit (with comfort be it spoken) there was not one man died that went with mee, and for my owne part, through the whole voyage, I was never one quarter of an houre sicke (blessed be the name of God.)
Now for my opinion concerning our diet, I hold well with the Blacks, that to feed at noone, is an unholesome thing, for that the Sunne, being then in his extremitie of heate, and by his neerenes having such power over us, the moisture that lies within the body, is exhaled to the exterior parts, to comfort, and refresh that, which the heate doth drie, and then are the interior parts most cold, and unapt for nutriment, wherein experience makes us see, that in the height and heate of the day we can with great facilitie, and without offence, drinke off such a draught, or quantitie of Aqua vitæ, or hot waters, as if we should drinke heere in our native countrey at one time, would certainely burne out our harts; nay more, wee finde our bodies naturally desiring, and longing for the same, (wherein I might heere shew some reason, partly to blame a neglect in our owne provisions, but that I assure my selfe, it hath beene rather ignorance, to know what was good, then want of wil to provide it) whereas in the coole of the morning, and againe in the evening, wee receive it with much more temperance, and a little giveth satisfaction, so that my conclusion is, that to us that have able, and working bodies, and in our occasions are stirring, and labouring in the morning earely, and after the heate of the day, are the fittest & convenientst times to receive our sustenance, wherin I shal ever submit my selfe to those of more able iudgement; and returning to the Blackes, let you know, that their usuall and ordinary drinke, is, either the River water, or from some Spring, howbeit they have growne from trees, severall sorts of wine, or drinknes, as also the making of a kinde of liquor they call bullo, made and compounded of their countrey corne; whereof more conveniently else-where I shall effectually satisife you: and now goe on to shew you, the manner of their building, and fortifications.
They place themselves in their habitations round together, and for the most part have a wall, though it be but of Reede, platted and made up together, some sixe foot in height, circling and going round their Towne, with doores of the same, in the night time to be orderly shut, some of the houses within their walles, likewise are made of the same Reedes; but the better sort do build the walles of their houses, of loame, which after it is tempered, and layed up together, carrieth a kinde of red colour with it, and doth remayne with an extraordinary hardnesse, that doubtlesse (as I have carefully divers times observed) it would make the most excellent and durablest Bricke in the world, the whole countrey, except upon the mountains, yeelding the same earth, whereof I will not forget to report one thing, which (in my opinion) deserves admiration: we doe finde in most places, hills cast up by Ants or Emmets, which we heere call Ant-hills, some of them twenty foote of height, of such compasses, as will hold or containe a dozen men, which with the heat of the Sunne is growne to that hardnesse, as wee doe use to hide and conceale our selves in the ragged tops of them, when wee take up stands, to shoote at the country deere, or any other manner of wilde beast; the forme of their houses, whether it be loame, or Reed, is alwayes round, and the round roofes made lowe, ever covered with reedes, and tyed fast to rafters, that they may be able to abide, and lie fast, in the outragious windes and gusts, that come in the times of raine; for which purpose also they build their houses round, that the winde may have the lesser force against them; and the walles enclosing and keeping them in, is to avoyde those ravening and devouring beasts, which in the night time range and bustle about, wherewith divers times notwithstanding, they are much affrighted, and by making fires, and raising cries at midnight, to chase and drive them from their mansion dwellings. This for the meaner Townes or countrey Villages, but they have likewise Townes of force, according unto the manner of warre, they use amongst them, fortified, and trencht in, after a strong and defencible nature; whereof (they say) the countrey within is full, especially where the Kings are seated, the mane whereof wee have seene in some two or thee places, whereof I will instance onely one: which is the Towne of Cassan, against which (as I sayd before) the shippe which was betrayed did ride, and we in our last voyage, did make it out highest port for our bigger shippe. This Towne is the Kings seate, and by the name of the Towne hee holdes his title, King of Cassan; It is seated upon the Rivers side, and inclosed round neare to the houses, with hurdles, such as our shepheards use, but they are above ten foot high, and fastned to strong and able poles, the toppes whereof remaine above the hurdles; on the inside in divers places, they have rooms, and buildings, made up like Turrets, from whence they within may shoot their arrowes, and throw their darts over the wall, against their approaching enemies; on the out-side likewise, round the wall, they have cast a ditch or trench, of a great breadth, & beyond that againe a pretty distance, the whole Towne is circled with posts and peeces of trees, set close and fast into the ground, some five foot high, so thicke, that except in stiles, or places made of purpose, a single man cannot get through, and in the like manner, a small distance off againe, the like defence, and this is as they do signifie unto us, to keepe off the force of horse, to which purpose, it seemes to be very strong and availeable; considering what armes and Weapons they have in use, which in this place is necessary to be knowne.
They doe usually walke, with a Staffe or Iavelin in their hands, which they call an Assegie, being a Reede of some sixe foote long, the head whereof is an Iron pike, much like our Iavelines, but most of them very artificially made, and full of danger; others they have also made, to throw like Irishmens darts, with heads all barbed, full of crueltie to the receiver: each man likewise, about his necke doth weare, in a Bandeleere of red or yellow cloth, a short Sword of some two foot long, with an open handle, which Swords they make of the Iron is brought untothem, as you shall heare when I speak of their Trades, and also the better sort of them, doe carry their bowe in their hands, and at their backe a case, very artificially made, which may hold within it some twenty foure of their arrowes, it is the smallest arrow used by any Nation, made of a Reed, about the bignesse of a Swans quill, and some two foote in length, there is fastned in the end, a small Iron with a barbed head, all which Iron is dangerously poisoned; the arrow hath neither nock nor feather, but is shot from the bowe, which is also made of a Reede, by a flat string, or rather sticke smoothed and made even, and fastned to the bow, so that the bowe and the string, are one and the selfe-same wood, whose force is small, and therefore the offence lies in the poyson, which neare hand upon their cotten garments, may make an entry, but to a Buffe Ierkin, or any other sleight garment of defence, except it be very neare, can be little offensive: we have seene of them likewise on horse backe, the horses being of a small stature, bridled and sadled after the Spanish fashion, each man having his Assegie in his hand, and upon the right side of his horse a broad Buckler hanging; and this is all the weapon in use amongst them.
The Kings house is in the middle of the Towne, inclosed by it selfe, onely his wives severall houses about him, to which you cannot come, but as it were through a Court of Guard, passing through an open house, where stands his chaire empty, unlawfull for any but himselfe to sit in, by which hangs his drummes, the onely instruments of warre which we see amongst them, neither are these drummes without dayly imployment, for this is their continuall custome every night after it seemes they have filled their bellies, they repair to this Court of Guard, making fires both in the middle of the house, and in the open yard, about which they doe continue drumming, hooping, singing, and makeing a hethenish noyse, most commonly untill the day beginnes to breake, when as we conceive dead-sleepes take them, by which meanes sleeping one part of the day, it makes the other part seeme shorter, untill the time of feeding come againe, otherwise it is done to that purpose in the night, to scare and keepe away the Lyons, and ravening beasts from about their dwellings, who are at that season ranging and looking out; for this manner of course is held amongst them, not only in their fortified townes, but also in every particular village, and habitation, whereof few of them is without such poore drums they use, and if they be, yet they continue the custome, through hooping, singing, and using their voyces, but when it happens musicke is amongst them, then is the horrible din, as I shall signifie when I overtake their fidlers.
But first I am to meddle with matter of state, and acquaint you concerning their Kings, and Governors, for so I have promist, the better to bring my worke together: In following of which, I shall entreate your patience to observe with me, that the better to distinguish of their governments, I must devide the Country by the River, that howsoever the River trends, which in his windings is surely all points of the compasse, I shall alwayes call that part, which lies to the southward in our intrance, the southside, and the other the northside, of both which sides, although we have seene divers petty Kings, and other Commanders, to whom we payd a kind of poore custome, which in the mouth of the River, where the Portingall hath used, is not onely greater, but peremptorily demaunded, whereas above it is lesse, and rather taken as a curtesie presented, which morall kindnesse requires all strangers, comming in the way of amity, to begin withall to a principall person, then any manner of custome, that is (as we say) exacted, but howsomever both below and especially above, it is of that poore quantity, it hardly deserves the paines of so long a rehersall, whereby you may be drawne to conceit of a greater valuation: Those petty Kings I say, whereof I both saw, had conference, and did eate and drinke within sixe severall places, who had the title of Mansa, which in their language, is the proper name for the King, have all reference to their greater Kings, who live farther from those places; on the southside, the whole Country we past, even to the highest we went, which you must needes conceive to be very spacious, had all reference to the great King of Cantore: on the northside likewise, from the sea-side, about halfe the way we went up, they did acknowledge the King of Bursall, and after him, to the highest wee went on that side, the great King of Wolley: These three Kings we hard of, but saw none of them; the report going that they were such as shewed not themselves abroad, but in a manner of pompe, and that they were not seene to hunt, but with great number of horse, and especially on the northside, whereof diverse English have beene eye witnesse; concerning Bursall, whose continuall aboode is neare the sea-side, whereby some recourse hath beene unto him, there is warres betweene the one side of the River, and the other, and especially from this King of Bursall, in so much as the people would tell us, if hee could have any meanes to transport his horse on the farther side, hee would in short time over-runne great part of that Country: the state of the great Kings, we may coniecture at, by the observances those small ones we see, doe assume unto themselves, and those people they governe performe unto them, for there is no man, but at his first approach before them, where they sit commonly in their houses, onely upon a mat which is spread upon the ground, but presents himselfe with a great deale of reverence in kneeling on his knee, and comming nearer, layes first his hand upon the bare ground, and then on the toppe of hiss owne uncovered head, many of them taking up the dust, and laying it upon his bare-head, which action he useth twise or thrise, before hee come at him, where with a great deale of submission, he layes his hand upon the Kings thigh, and so retireth himselfe a good distance backe, and if it chance in any company or resort unto him, that there be a Mary-bucke, which be their priests, as soone as they have made their maner of salutation, they al kneele downe, and hee fals to praying, the substance of his prayer, being for the preservation of the King, and in the same blessing him, to which himselfe crossing his armes, and laying his right hand over his left shoulder, and his left hand, over his right shoulder, useth the word Amena, Amena, many times over, which signifies the same as we say, Amen, or so be it: Nay more even among the common people, when they meete in the high way, and are of acquaintance, having beene absent from one another, any distance of time, if there be a Mary-bucke amongst them, they put themselves into a round ring, and before any salutation fall on their knees to prayer: The Kings respect unto them againe, is onely nodding of his head, which is acceptable received, how be it in manner of habite, there is betweene the King, and his people, little or no manner of difference; which may be imputed to the necessity of the Country, because it yeeldeth but onely materiall, to make apparell of, which is a Cotten wooll, whereof they plant great fields, and it growes up as it were our rose bushes, yeelding a cod, that in his full maturity, breakes in some part, and shewes a perfect white cotten, of which you shall find more written, when I come to rehearse what trees and plants wee finde amongst them.
Now for the manner of their apparell, it is soone related, they being for the most part bare-head, only bedecked or hang'd over with gregories, as they are likewise over their bodies, legges, and armes, which word I will presently expound unto you, but first tell you their onely garments are a shirt, and a paire of breeches, their shirts made downe to their knees, wide in manner of a Sirplace, and with great sleaves, the which when he commeth to use his bowe or armes, he rowleth up and it continueth fast at the shoulder, his breeches are made with so much stuffe gathered iust on his buttockes, that he seemeth to carry a cushion, and after a manner makes him stradle as he goes, bare-legged, and without shooes, except it be some few of them, who have a peece of leather under their foot, cut like a shooe-sole, butned about the great toe, and againe against the instoppe. The Gregories bee things of great esteeme amongst them, for the most part they are made of leather of severall fashions, wonderous neatly, they are hollow, and within them is placed, and sowed up close, certaine writings, or spels which they receive from their Mary-buckes, whereof they conceive such a religious respect, that they do confidently beleeve no hurt can betide them, whilst these Gregories are about them, and it seemes to encrease their superstition; the Mary-buckes do devide these blessings for every severall and particular part, for uppon their heads they weare them, in manner of a crosse, aswell from the fore-head to the necke, as from one eare to another, likewise about their neckes, and crosse both shoulders about their bodies, round their middles, great store, as also uppon their armes, both above and below the elbow, so that in a manner, they seeme as it were laden, and carrying an outward burthen of religious blessings, whereof there is none so throughly laden as the Kings, although of all sorts they are furnished with some, both men and weomen, and this more I have taken notice of, that if any of them be possest of any malady, or have any swelling or sore upon them, the remedy they have, is onely by placing one of these blessed Gregories, where the griefe lies, which they conceite will helpe them: and for ought I can perceive, this is all the Physicke they have amongst them, and they do not onely observe this for themselves, but their horses doe usually weare of these about their neckes, and most of their bowes are hanged and furnished with them.
To countenance his state, he hath many times two of his wives sitting by him, supporting his body, and laying their hands upon his naked skin, above the wast, stroking, and gently pulling the same, wherein he seemes to receive content, and because I have named two of his wives, before I proceed to anything else, I will acquaint you with the manner of their women, the multiplicity of their wives, and the wonderfull great subiection they live under. The King hath an orderly allowance of seven women, which are called wives; that is which are esteemed, and acknowledged, and with a setled ceremony amongst them, distinguisht from other women which he hath use of, being absolutely tied, to attend his only pleasure, and therefore in relating of them according to our proper phrase, can give them no other title but wife, of which it seemes he cannot exceede the number of seven: for he hath the use of other women, who are not of that esteeme, but rather as we may terme them Concubines, who are of a lower birth then his wives, and these likewise are tyed unto him, but not with that manner of strictnes the other are, so as it may appeare, they are rather taken for necessity then that it is a setled course amongst them, which word necessity I must better explaine, and therefore tell you, that it may and doth diverse times fall out, that of his seven wives he hath none to accompany him in the nature of a wife; For undoubtedly these people originally sprung from the race of Canaan, the sonne of Ham, who discovered his father Noahs secrets, for which Noah awakeing cursed Canaan as our holy Scripture testifieth, the curse as by Scholemen hath beene disputed, extended to his ensuing race, in laying hold upon the same place, where the originall cause began, whereof these people are witnesse, who are furnisht with such members as are after a sort burthensome unto them, whereby their women being once conceived with child, so soone as it is perfectly discerned, accompanies the man no longer, because he shall not destroy what is conceived to the losse of that, and danger of the bearer neither until she hath brought up the child, to a full and fitting time to be weaned, which every woman doth to her owne childe is she allowed, in that nature, the mans society, so that many times it falles out, he hath not a wife to lie withall; and therefore as I said, hath allowance of other women, for necessities sake, which may seeme not over-strange unto us, in that our holy Writ doth make mention therof, as you may reade in the 23. chap. of the Prophet Ezechiel, where Ierusalem and Samasia, being called by the names of the two Sisters, Aholah and Aholibah, being charged with fornication, are in the twentie verse of the same chaper, said to doate upon those people, whose members were as the members of Asses, and whose issue was like the issue of horses, therein right and amply explaining these people.
And for the chastitie of the wife, their lawes and customes are in that kinde very severe, for, being taken or found an offendor, both she and the man shee shall offend withall, are without redemption sold away, in this sort they punish all great offences, putting none at all to death, and such as these are the people the Portingalls buy, and transport for the west Indies, as before I shewed you; and this is the course held amongst them all, howbeit every man cannot have so many wives, but according as he hath means to keep them, and wherwithall to buy them: for first, every man must compound or have the Kings or chiefe Governors consent, for any wife or wives he shall take, to whom he must give some gratification; and next he doth buy, with some commoditie, the woman of her friends, and what hee giveth, doth remayne as we say in banke, if he should die, which shee hath for her better maintenance, or if shee please to buy a husband; for as every man when he takes a maid, must buy her, so every widdow, if shee will have a husband, must buy him, through which occasion of buying women, may be coniectured, they yeeld themselves to that subjection, but whence soever it growes, I am sure there is no wooman can be under more servitude; for first they doe in morters, with such great staves wee call Coole-staves, beate and cleanse both the Rice, and all manner of other graine they eate, which is onely womens worke, and very painefull: next, they dresse both that and all other manner of victuall the men doe eate; and when it is so orddered, they do bring and set it downe upon the Matte before them, presently withdrawing themselves, and are never admitted to sit and eate with them; nay I can confidently affirme, that notwithstanding I have eaten sundry times, both at the Kings, and other mens houses, where the men and wee have put our hands in a gourd and fed together, yet never could I see any woman allowed to eate, albeit I have earnestly entreated the samee, for amongst their many wives, there is none of them, but have one especially accounted of, which hath a greater priviledge by being about him, and more conversant then the rest, which by us (though strangers) is easily discerned, and therefore amongst us we call her his hand-wife, to whom wee use alwayes to be more free, in those gifts we bestow, yet this wife is not allowed to eate in sight, but in another house, although she be priviledged of many other labours: neither are the men ever seene to use any manner of familiar dalliance with them, insomuch as I thinke, there is hardly any Englishman can say, he ever saw the Blacke-man kisse a woman. Againe, which is to be noted, notwithstanding this partialitie of affection, and so many of them of an equalitie living together, it is never heard, that they doe brawle, or scoldd, or fall out among themselves, howbeit it may be thought in matter that neare concernes them, they cannot chuse but have many aggreevances, contrary to our English proverb that sayes, Two women in one house, &c. 1 but there indeede I will make answer, That although they have recourse all day together, in his great or more spacious haunt, yet for the night every woman hath a severall house, whether she retires herselfe, to give attendance as his desires shall leade him: and as they appeare before him, in the morning, their salutations are uppon their knees, laying their hands upon his thigh. And lastly, for her apparell, it is loose clothes party-coloured, blew and white, of the same cotton stuffe the men weare, whereof the women commonly weare but one tuckt about their middles, and from the waste upward, bare, in regard they are, for the most part, wrought, or rather printed upon the backe, especially in the higher pars we were at, insomuch as we have seene some of them, with workes all over their backes, resembling right the printed lids and covers which wee see layd and set upon our baked meates: whereof it appeares they take extraordinarie pride, because they will turne themselves, wee should take notice of it, and be very well pleased, wee should touch or handle it, as a matter to bee esteemed or set by; otherwise they cast another like cloth as they weare below, uppon their shoulders, and without question, many, or the most part of them, very chary or nice in shewing of their secrecie; and to conclude, concerning women which the country use they serve in marriages: the man doth commonly bespeake the woman while she is young, and not of abilitie, which is done and confirmed by the friends consent, yet when the time of her full age is come, or afterwards, as they agree amongst them, the man getting his friends, which are all the youth, and younger sort of men hee can procure come to the Towne where the Maide is dwelling, in the beginning of the night, when the Moone shines, and as it were by violence lift her up amongst them, and carry her away, who makes a noyse, skriking, and crying out, which is seconded by the other young maides of the place, and thereupon the younger sort of men that are dwellers in the place gather themselves together, and (as it were) in reskew of her, while the other with great shouts and cries of rejoycing, carry her quite away, to his place of abode, where she remaines unseene for a certaine time, and when shee doth come first forth, for certaine Moones, she doth not shew her open face, but with a cloth cast over her head, covers all but one eye, after the maner of the Spanish vaile, observing herein a shamefast modestie, not to be looked for, amongst such a kinde of blacke or barbarous people.
I proceede againe in the state of their Kings, there is no people in the world, stand more upon their antiquitie, and dignitie of bloud, then they doe betweene themselves, insomuch, as once I had a quarrell grew in my house, betweene one of the Kings sonnes, under whose governement our habitation was, and another Blacke, who was a very lusty and able man, called Boo Iohn, unto whom for some respects, we carried a more kinde of extraordinary affection, wherein they braved one another, concerning their dignities of birth, the one was better, and the other was better, insomuch as Boo Iohn with his hand stroke the other in the face, and thereuppon their weapons were drawne, and parties making on both sides, danger was like to ensue, but calling more of my company, with a small gunne I stept betwixt them, and made them sever; howbeit the Kings sonne promised to returne the next morning, and take revenge if he durst abide him, which the other promised to doe, and accordingly, notwithstanding all the entreaties I could use, would not depart, but withall sent out for more people, who in the morning betimes came into him, all of them fitted with their countrey armes. And the Kinges sonne also performed his word, for in the morning he came to the Rivers side, and called for a boate to passe over, bringing a live biefe with him, as a token unto me from his father, as he was many times accustomed to send; and there came likewise with him diverse people, and all with armes. I was very doubtfull some hurt would arise, and laboured Boo Iohn to goe away: but all I could gaine of him, was, he would only sit downe in our yard, under the shadow of our houses, with his people about him, and if no wrong were offered him, hee would not stirre nor give no offence; and by meanes I wrought so with the Kings sonne, carrying him and his companie into my house, and using them curteously, that for that time I pacified them, and they parted quietly, howbeit not without threatning upon another occasion; They doe distinctly know every governement, who shall be King, and how the succession shall hold, for in their temporall governements, one brother doth ever succeed another, untill that race be extinct, & then the eldest brothers sonne beginnes: and likewise they doe distinguish of governements, as they are in age. For there were foure brethren, the eldest whereof was the great King of Cantore, whom we never saw; the second was Summaway King of the nexxt place, and he came downe and was aboard our boate; the third brother was King of the place where our Land-dwelling was, being a blinde man, at whose house I have sundry times beene; and the fourth brother was called by the name of Ferran, and had the government of a countrey, where we had much and often trade, and for the most part, kept a Factor lying, and this, notwithstanding hee was of great age, was the youngest brother, and as any of his brethren died, they were all to remoove still, giving him the latter place: And this may suffice to shew their manner of government; and for their severall Titles, they have onely foure, which is Mansa for the King, Ferran a second name, Ferambra the third, and Boo Iohn the last; every one of these foure being in their places commanders and governors: their greatest Riches consists, in having of most slaves, and from the King to the slave, they are all perpetuall beggars from us, howbeit small matters will satisfie them, except it be in Aqua vitæ, for which they sell all things they have, and the Kings and all will drinke, untill they be starke drunke and fall fast asleepe, so that to describe the life of the King truly, is, that they doe eate, drinke and sleep, and keepe company with their women, and in this manner consume their time, untill Time consumes them; with their great bloud and dignitie, whereof they so much esteeme: and with one example I will rehearse unto you, I shall conclude their kingly priviledges.
The King of Cassan, who was dwelling in the Towne, as wee came up the River, with whom I spake, drunke two or three bottles of Aqua vitæ and had much familiar conference, who had lived in that place many yeares, howbeit hee was a lame man; after we returned downe the River, and made stay at the Towne we found him nothing so merrily inclined, as he was at our going up: whereupon demanding among some of the rest the reason, they told us, hee was to be put out of his kingdome; enquiring wherefore, they replied, there was another to come who had more right then hee, for sayd they, this was the Kings sonne, but begotten of a base woman, such as I described their concubines to be: howbeit the King left behinde him a sonne, who was right borne, but very young, which childe being now come to yeares, craves his rightfull inheritance, and the King of Bursall, under whom they hold, they could not deny, but had taken order to send him forward, so as he was lookd for every day, and indeed, the second day after I was gone from the Towne, he came thither, bringing abundance of people with him, to whom the people of the Town resorted, leaving the old King, to whom notwithstanding the yong King sent, willing him to depart, and goe away with his wives and family before he came, or if he found him there, hee should suffer death, which at the first he refused to doe, saying he would enclose himselfe in his dwelling, and die ther: but upon better advice, when he saw himselfe quite forsaken, he passed himselfe and wives crosse the River, and left the Towne to this yong Commander, who after his entrance our pinnace riding there, and being ready to come away, he sent for the Factor, to whom after some familiar conference, hee sayd, this towne and kingdome hath been lost, but hereafter you shall see it found againe, promising at all occasions his friendly assistance.
But before I leave them, it were necessary I should acquaint you, what manner of ceremony doth passe betwixt them and us as we meet together; the King is commonly sitting on his mat, laid on the ground, which in our entrance he observeth, not offring to rise; and in regard he hath nothing but his Gregories on his head, which are fast and cannot stirre, We do not use to moove our hats, or uncover our heads when we come to him, but drawing neare, somewhat bending our bodies, wee lay our hands upon our breasts, which he also performs to us, and when we come neare, he holding foorth his hand, we first take hold on the upper part of one anothers hand, next on the lower part, and the third time ioyne palmes, and with a full hand shaking one another, downe wee sit by him, and after some small parlee concerning the cause of our coming, wherein the kings part is performed in state, whatsoever he speakes being related over by another: out goes our bottle of Aqua vitæ which must not be wanting, and a botle of Sacke too, it is so much the better, & calling for a small gourd to drinke in, which is their richest Plate; I first beginne, and drinking off a cup, present both the cup and bottle unto the king, the botle he delivers presently to some one of principall regard with him, who by his appoyntment, after the king hath first drunke, and he himselfe not failing of his next turne, distributes it to the whole attendance, who for the most part stand round by the wall of the house, one after another taking his cup, and then to the king againe. In their drinking I observe one thing, that in regard of the goodnesse ofr the strangenesse of the liquor, when he receiveth the first cup, before hee drinke himselfe, with the same liquor, he wets one of his principal Gregories: The king many times calling for a cup, breakes the square, otherwise they never leave untill the bottle is out, and so all the bottles we bring, wherein we have one priviledge, for after we have tasted the first cup, which must be of every botle to secure them of danger; we need not unles we please, take any more, but shaking of our heads, when they offer a cup, it stands for a faire refusall, and so passeth to another; neither doe they suffer their women publiquely to drinke amongst them, except some especially respected, who may someties have a cup, but even divide it among themselves, so long as the bottle will run, and their brains hold out, which being the true and proper element, they delight in, I will heere in their hearts desires leave them, and proceed to a more civill; I am sure soberer sort of people.
1. The proverb, in one of its many variations:
Two women in one house, Two cats and one mouse, Two dogs to one bone, Will not agree long.
James Eason welcomes comments and corrections on this page.