« PreviousContinue »
fall by the answer ye shall receive. Only this I must tell yon, that none of you must go above a haran," that is with them a mile and a half, " from (he walls of the city without special leave." We answered, after we had looked awhile one upon another, admiring this gracious and parent-like usage; "that we could not tell what to say: for we wanted words to express our thanks; and his noble free offers left us nothing to ask. It seemed to us, that we had before us a picture of our salvation in heaTen: for we that were awhile since in the jaws of death, were now brought into a place where we found nothing but consolations. For the commandment laid upon us, we would not fail to obey it, though it waa impossible but our hearts should be inflamed to tread farther upon this happy and holy ground." We added; "that our tongues should first cleave to the roofs of our mouths, ere we should forget either his reverend person, or this whole nation in our prayers." We also most humbly besought him to accept of us as his true servants, by as just a right as ever men on earth were bounden, laying and presenting both our persons and all we had at his feet. He said; "he was a priest, and looked for a priest's reward; which was our brotherly love, and the good of our souls and bodies." So he went from us, not without tears of tenderness in his eyes; and left us also confused with joy and kindness, saying amongst ourselves, " that we were come into a land of angels, which did appear to us daily, and prevent us with comforts which we thought not of, much less expected."
The next day, about ten of the clock, the governor tame to as again, and after salutations said familiarly, that he was come to visit us; and called for a chair, and sat him down: and we being some ten of us, the rest were of the meaner sort, or else gone abroad, sat down with him. And when we were set, he began thus: "We of this island of Bensalem," for so they call it in their language, " have this; mat by means of our solitary situation, and of the laws of secrecy which we have for our travellers, and our rare admission of strangers; we know well most part of the habitable world, and are ourselves unknown. Therefore because he that knoweth least « fittest to ask questions, it is more reason for the entertainment of the time, that ye ask me questions, than that I ask you." We answered; "That we humbly thanked him that he would give us leave so 'odo: and that we conceived by the taste we had already, that there was no worldly thing on earth more worthy to be known than the state of that bappy land. But above all," we said, " since that we were met from the several ends of the world, and hoped assuredly that we should meet one day in Ihe kingdom of heaven, for that we were both parts Christians, we desired to know, in respect that land was so remote, and so divided by vast and unknown 6e;is, from the land where our Saviour walked on earth, who was the apostle of that nation, and bow it was converted to the faith?" It appeared in Tiis face that he took great contentment in this °«r question: he said, " Ye knit my heart to you, by asking this question in the first place; for it
showeth that you ' first seek the kingdom of heaven;' and I shall gladly and briefly satisfy your demand.
"About twenty years after the ascension of our Saviour, it came to pass, that there was seen by the people of Renfusa, a city upon the eastern coast of our island, within night, the night was cloudy and calm, as it might be some mile into the sea, a great pillar of light; not sharp, but in form of a column or cylinder rising from the sea, a great way up towards heaven: and on the top of it was seen a large cross of light, more bright and resplendent than the body of the pillar. Upon which so strange a spectacle, the people of the city gathered apace together upon the sands to wonder; and so after put themselves into a number of small boats, to go nearer to this marvellous sight. But when the boats were come within about sixty yards of the pillar, they found themselves all bound, and could go no farther, yet so as they might move to go about, but might not approach nearer: so as the boats stood all as in a theatre, beholding this light as a heavenly sign. It so fell out, that there was in one of the boats one of the wise men of the society of Solomon's house, which house or college, my good brethren, is the very eye of this kingdom; who having awhile attentively and devoutly viewed and contemplated this pillar and cross, fell down upon his face; and then raising himself up upon his knees, and lifting up his hands to heaven, made his prayers in this manner:
"'Lord God of heaven and earth; thou hast vouchsafed of thy grace, to those of our order, to know thy works of creation, and the secrets of them; and to discern, as far as appertained to the generations of men, between divine miracles, works of nature, works of art, and impostures and illusions of all sorts. I do here acknowledge and testify before this people, that the thing which we now see before our eyes, is thy finger, and a true miracle; and forasmuch as we learn in our books, that thou never workest miracles, but to a divine and excellent end, for the laws of nature are thine own laws, and thou exceedest them not but upon great cause, we most humbly beseech thee to prosper this great sign, and to give us the interpretation and use of it in mercy; which thou dost in some part secretly promise by sending it unto us.'
"When he had made this prayer, he presently found the boat he was in movable and unbound; whereas all the rest remained still fast; and taking that for an assurance of leave to approach, he caused the boat to be softly and with silence rowed towards the pillar. But ere he came near it, the pillar and cross of light brake up, and cast itself abroad, as it were into a firmament of many stars; which also vanished soon after, and there was nothing left to be seen but a small ark or chest of cedar, dry, and not wet at all with water, though it swam. And in the fore-end of it which was towards him, grew a small green branch of palm; and when the wise man had taken it with all reverence into his boat, it opened of itself, and there were found in it a book and a letter; both written in fine parchment, and wrapped in sindons of linen. The book contained Jill the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, according as you have them, for we know well what the churches with you receive, and the Apocalypse itself: and some other books of the New Testament, which were not at that time wriu ten, were nevertheless in the book: and for the letter it was in these words:
"'I Bartholomew, a servant of the Highest, and apostle of Jesus Christ, was warned by an angel that appeared to me in a vision of glory, that I should commit this ark to the floods of the sea. Therefore I do testify and declare, unto that people where God shall ordain this ark to come to land, that in the same day is come unto them salvation, and peace, and good-will, from the Father, and from the Lord Jesus.'
"There was also in both these writings, as well the book as the letter, wrought a great miracle, conform to that of the apostles in the original gift of tongues. For there being at that time in this land, Hebrews, Persians, and Indians, besides the natives, every one read upon the book and letter, as if they had been written in his own language. And thus was this land saved from infidelity, as the remain of the old world was from water, by an ark, through the apostolical and miraculous evangelism of St. Bartholomew." And here he paused, and a messenger came and called him from us. So this was all that passed in that conference.
The next day the same governor came again to us immediately after dinner, and excused himself, saying; "that the day before he was called from us somewhat abruptly, but now he would make us amends, and spend time with us, if we held his company and conference agreeable." We answered, "that we held it so agreeable and pleasing to us, as we forgot both dangers past and fears to come, for the time we heard him speak; and that we thought an hour spent with him, was worth years of our former life." He bowed himself a little to us, and after we were set again, he said; "Well, the questions are on your part." One of our number said, after a little pause; "that there was a matter we were no less desirous to know, than fearful to ask, lest we might presume too far. But encouraged by his rare humanity towards us, that could scarce think ourselves strangers, being his vowed and professed servants, we would take the hardiness to propound it: humbly beseeching him if he thought it not fit to be answered, that he would pardon it, though he rejected it." We said; "we well observed those his words, which he formerly spake, that this happy island where we now stood, was known to few, and yet knew most of the nations of the world; which we found to be true, considering they had the languages of Europe, and knew much of our state and business; and yet we in Europe, notwithstanding all the remote discoveries and navigations of this last age, never heard any of the least inkling or glimpse of this island. This we found wonderful strange; for that all nations have interknowledge one of another, either by voyage into foreign parts, or by strangers that come to them:
and though the traveller into a foreign country doth commonly know more by the eye, than he that stayeth at home can by relation of the traveller; yet both ways suffice to make a mutual knowledge, in some degree, on both parts. But for this island, we never heard tell of any ship of theirs, that had been seen to arrive upon any shore of Europe; no, nor of either the East or West Indies, nor yet of any ship of any other part of the world, that had made return from them. And yet the marvel rested not in this. For the situation of it, as his lordship said, in the secret conclave of such a vast sea might cause it. But then, that they should have knowledge of the languages, books, affairs of those that lie at such a distance from them, it was a thing we could not tell what to make of; for that it seemed to us a condition and propriety of divine powers and beings, to be hidden and unseen to others, and yet to have others open, and as in a light to them." At this speech the governor gave a gracious smile, and said; "that we did well to ask pardon for this question we now asked; for that it imported, as if we thought this land a land of magicians, that sent forth spirits of the air into all parts, to bring them news and intelligence of other countries." It was answered by us all, in all possible humbleness, but yet with a countenance taking knowledge that we knew that he spake it but merrily, " That we were apt enough to think there was something supernatural in this island, but yet rather as angelical than magical. But to let his lordship know truly, what it was that made us tender and doubtful to ask this question, it was not any such conceit, but because we remembered, he had given a touch in his former speech, that this land had laws of secrecy touching strangers." To this he said; "You remember it aright; and therefore in that I shall say to you, I must reserve some particulars, which it is not lawful for me to reveal; but there will be enough left to give you satisfaction.
"You shall understand, that which perhaps yon will scarce think credible, that about three thousand years ago, or somewhat more, the navigation of the world, especially for remote voyages, was greater than at this day. Do not think with yourselves, that I know not how much it is increased with you within these six-score years: I know it well; and yet I say greater then than now: whether it was. that the example of the ark, that saved the remnant of men from the universal deluge, gave men confidence to adventure upon the waters, or what it was, but such is the truth. The Phoenicians, and especially the Tyrians, had great fleets. So had the Carthaginians their colony, which is yet farthest west. Toward the east, the shipping of Egypt, and of Palestine, was likewise great. China also, and the great Atlantis, that you call America, which have now but junk6 and canoes, abounded then in tall ships. This island, as appeareth by faithful registers of those times, had then fifteen hundred strong ships of great content. Of all this there is with you sparing memory, or none ; but we have large knowledge thereof.
"At that time, this land was known and frequented by the ships and vessels of all the nations before named. And, as it Cometh to pass, they had many times men of other countries, that were no sailors, that came with them; as Persians, Chaldeans, Arabians, so as almost all nations of might and fame resorted hither; of whom we have some stirps and little tritie with vis at this day. And for our own ships, they went sundry voyages, as well to your Straits, which you call the pillars of Hercules, as to other parts in the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas; as to Peguin, which is the same with Cambaline, and Quinzy, upon the Oriental seas, as far as to the borders of the East Tartary.
"At the same time, and an age after, or more, the inhabitants of the great Atlantis did flourish. For though the narration and description which is made by a great man with you, that the descendants of Kcptune planted there; and of the magnificent temple, palace, city, and hill; and the manifold streams of goodly navigable rivers, which, as so many chains, environed the same site and temple; and the several degrees of ascent, whereby men did climb up to the same, as if it had been a scala coeli; be all poetical and fabulous: yet so much is true, that the said country of Atlantis, as well that of Pern, then Coya, as that of Mexico, then named Tvrambcl, were mighty and proud kingdoms, in arms, shipping, and riches: so mighty, as at one time, or at least within the space often years, they both made two great expeditions, they of Tyrambel, through the Atlantic to the Mediterranean sea; and they of Cora, through the South sea upon this our island: and for the former of these, which was into Europe, the same author amongst you, as it seemeth, had some relation from the Egyptian priest whom he citeth. For assuredly, such a thing there was. But whether it were the ancient Athenians that had the glory of the repulse and resistance of those forces, I can say nothing: but certain it is, there never came back either ship, or man, from that voyage. Neither had the other voyage of those of Coya upon us had better fortune, if they had not met with enemies of greater clemency. For the king of this island, by name Altabin, a wise man, and a great warrior; knowing well both his own strength, and that of his enemies; handled the matter so, as he cut off their land-forces from their ships, and entoiled both their nary and their camp, with a greater power than theirs, both by sea and land; and compelled them to render themselves without striking stroke: and 'Iter they were at his mercy, contenting himself only with their oath, that they should no more bear arms against him, dismissed them all in safety. But the divine revenge overtook not long after those proud enterprises. For within less than the space °f one hundred years, the great Atlantis was utterly lost and destroyed: not by a great earthquake, as your man saith, for that whole tract is little subject to earthquakes, but by a particular deluge or inundation: those countries having, at this day, far greater rivers, and far higher mountains, to pour down waters, than any part of the old world. But it is true, that the same inundation was not deep; not past forty foot, in most places, from the ground:
so that although it destroyed man and beast generally, yet some few wild inhabitants of the woods escaped. Birds also were saved by flying to the high trees and woods. For as for men, although they had buildings in many places higher than the depth of the water; yet that inundation, though it were shallow, had a long continuance; whereby they of the vale, that were not drowned, perished for want of food, and other things necessary. So as marvel you not at the thin population of America, nor at the rudeness and ignorance of the people; for you must account your inhabitants of America as a young people; younger a thousand years, at the least, than the rest of the world; for that there was so much time between the universal flood and their particular inundation. For the poor remnant of human seed, which remained in their mountains, peopled the country again slowly, by little and little; and being simple and savage people, not like Noah and his sons, which was the chief family of the earth, they were not able to leave letters, arts, and civility to their posterity, and having likewise in their mountainous habitations been used, in respect of the extreme cold of those regions, to clothe themselves with the skins of tigers, bears, and great hairy goats, that they have in those parts: when after they came down into the valley, and found the intolerable heats which are there, and knew no means of lighter apparel, they were forced to begin the custom of going naked, which continueth at this day. Only they take great pride and delight in the feathers of birds; and this also they took from those their ancestors of the mountains, who were invited unto it by the infinite flights of birds, that came up to the high grounds, while the waters stood below. So you see, by this main accident of time, we lost our traffic with the Americans, with whom, of all others, in regard they lay nearest to us, we had most commerce. As for the other parts of the world, it is most manifest, that in the ages following, whether it were in respect of wars, or by a natural revolution of time, navigation did every where greatly decay; and especially far voyages, the rather by the use of galleys, and such vessels as could hardly brook the ocean, were altogether left and omitted. So then, that part of intercourse which could be from other nations to sail to us, you see how it hath long since ceased; except it were by some rare accident, as this of yours. But now of the cessation of that other part of intercourse, which might be by our sailing to other nations, I must yield you some other cause. For I cannot say, if I shall say truly, but our shipping, for number, strength, mariners, pilots, and all things that appertain to navigation, is as great as ever: and therefore why we should sit at home, I shall now give you an account by itself: and it will draw nearer to give you satisfaction to your principal question.
"There reigned in this island, about nineteen hundred years ago, a king whose memory of all others we most adore; not superstitiously, but as a divine instrument, though a mortal man; his name was Solomona: and we esteem him as the lawgiver of our nation. This king had a large heart, inscrutable for good, and was wholly bent to make his kingdom and people happy. He therefore taking into consideration, how sufficient and substantive this land was to maintain itself without any aid at all of the foreigner, being five thousand six hundred miles in circuit, and of rare fertility of soil, in the greatest part thereof; and finding also the shipping of this country might be plentifully set on work, both by fishing and by transportations from port to port, and likewise by sailing unto some small islands that are not far from us, and are under the crown and laws of this state; and recalling into his memory the happy and flourishing estate wherein this land then was; so as it might be a thousand ways altered to the worse, but scarce any one way to the better; thought nothing wanted to his noble and heroical intentions, but only, as far as human foresight might reach, to give perpetuity to that, which was in his time so happily established. Therefore amongst his other fundamental laws of this kingdom, he did ordain the interdicts and prohibitions, which we have, touching entrance of strangers; which at that time, though it was after the calamity of America, was frequent j doubting novelties, and commixture of manners. It is true, the like law, against the admission of strangers without licence, is an ancient law in the kingdom of China, and yet continued in use: but there it is a poor thing; and hath made them a curious, ignorant, fearful, foolish nation. But our lawgiver made his law of another temper. For first, he hath preserved all points of humanity, in taking order, and making provision for the relief of strangers distressed, whereof you have tasted." At which speech, as reason was, we all rose up and bowed ourselves. He went on. "That king also, still desiring to join humanity and policy together; and thinking it against humanity to detain strangers here against their wills; and against policy that they should return, and discover their knowledge of this estate, he took this course : he did ordain, that of the strangers that should be permitted to land, as many, at all times, might depart as would; but as many as would stay, should have very good conditions, and means to live, from the state. Wherein he saw so far, that now in so many ages since the prohibition, we have memory, not of one ship that ever returned, and but of thirteen persons only, at several times, that chose to return in our bottoms. What those few that have returned may have reported abroad I know not: but you must think, whatsoever they have said, could be taken where they came but for a dream. Now for our travelling from hence into parts abroad, our lawgiver thought fit altogether to restrain it. So is it not in China. For the Chinese sail where they will or can; which showeth that their law of keeping out strangers is a law of pusillanimity and fear. But this restraint of ours hath one only exception, which is admirable; preserving the good which cometh by communicating with strangers, and avoiding the hurt; and I will now open it to you. And here I shall seem a little to digress, but you will by and by find it pertinent. Ye shall understand, my dear friends, that amongst the excellent acts of that king, one above
all hath the pre-eminence. It was the erection and institution of an order or society which we call Solomon's House; the noblest foundation, as we think, that ever was upon the earth, and the lanthom of this kingdom. It is dedicated to the study of the works and creatures of God. Some think it beareth the founder's name a little corrupted, as if it should be Solomona's House. But the records write it as it is spoken. So as I take it to be denominate of the king of the Hebrews, which is famous with you, and no stranger to us; for we have some parts of his works, which with you are lost; namely, that Natural History which he wrote of all plants, 'from the cedar of Libanus, to the moss that groweth out of the wall;' and of all things that have life and motion. This maketh me think, that our king finding himself to symbolize in many things with that king of the Hebrews, which lived many years before him, honoured him with the title of this foundation. And I am the rather induced to be of this opinion, for that I find in ancient records this order or society is sometimes called Solomon's House, and sometimes the college of the six days works: whereby I am satisfied, that our excellent king had learned from the Hebrews, that God had created the world, and all that therein is, within six days; and therefore he instituting that house for the finding out the true nature of all things, whereby God might have the more glory in the workmanship of them, and men the more fruit in the use of them, did give it also that second name. But now to come to our present purpose. When the king had forbidden to all his people navigation into any part, that was not under his crown, he made nevertheless this ordinance; that every twelve years there should be set forth, out of this kingdom, two ships appointed to several voyages; that in either of these ships there should be a mission of three of the fellows or brethren of Solomon's House; whose errand was only to give us knowledge of the affairs and state of those countries to which they were designed; and especially of the sciences, arts, manufactures, and inventions of all the world; and withal to bring unto us books, instruments, and patterns in every kind: that the ships, after they had landed the brethren, should return; and that the brethren should stay abroad till the new mission. These ships are not otherwise fraught, than with store of victuals, and good quantity of treasure to remain with the brethren, for the buying of such things, and rewarding of such persons, as they should think fit. Now for me to tell you how the vulgar sort of mariners are contained from being discovered at land; and how they that must be put on shore for any time, colour themselves under the names of other nations; and to what places these voyages have been designed; and what places of rendezvous are appointed for the new missions; and the like circumstances of the practice; I may not do it: neither is it much to your desire. But thus you see we maintain a trade, not for gold, silver, or jewels; nor for silks: nor fur spices; nor any other commodity of matter; but only for God's first creature, which was light: to have light, I say, of the growth of all parts of the world." And when he had said this, he was silent; and so were we all. For indeed we were all astonished to hear so strange things so probably told. And he perceiving that we were willing to say somewhat, but had it not ready, in great courtesylook us off, and descended to ask us questions of our voyage and fortunes, and in the end concluded, that we might do well to think with ourselves, what time of stay we would demand of the state; and bade us not to scant ourselves; for he would procure such time as we desired. Whereupon we all rose up, and presented ourselves to kiss the skirt of his tippet, but he would not suffer us; and so took his leave. But when it came once amongst our people, that the state used to offer conditions to strangers that would stay, we had work enough to get any of our men to look to our ship; and to keep them from going presently to the governor to crave conditions. But with much ado we refrained them, till we might agree what course to take.
We took ourselves now for free men, seeing there was no danger of our utter perdition; and lived most joyfully, going abroad and seeing what was to be seen in the city and places adjacent within our tedder; and obtaining acquaintance with many of the city, not of the meanest quality; at whose hands we found such humanity, and such a freedom and desire to take strangers as it were into their bosom, as was enough to make us forget all that was dear to us in our own countries: and continually we met »ith many things, right worthy of observation and relation; as indeed, if there be a mirror in the world worthy to hold men's eyes, it is that country. One day there were two of our company bidden to a feast of the family, as they call it. A most natural, pious, and reverend custom it is, showing that nation to be compounded of all goodness. This is the manner of it. It is granted to any man, that shall live to see thirty persons descended of his body alive together, and all above three years old, to make this feast, which is done at the cost of the state. The father of the family, whom they call the Tirsan, two days before the feast, taketh to him three of such friends as he liketh to choose; and is assisted also by the governor of the city, or place, where the feast is celebrated; and all the persons of the family of both sexes are summoned to-attend him. These two days the Tirsan sitteth in consultation concerning the good estate of the family. There, if there be any discords or suits between any of the family, they are compounded and appeased. There, if any of the family be distressed or decayed, order is taken for their relief, and competent means to live. There, if any be subject to vice, or take ill courses, they are reproved and censured. So likewise direction is given touching marriages, and the course of life which any of them should take, with divers other the like orders and advices. The governor sssisteth, to the end to put in execution, by his public authority, the decrees and orders of the Tirsan, if they should be disobeyed; though that seldom needeth; such reverence and obedience they give to the order of nature. The Tirsan doth also then ever choose one man from amongst his sons, to live
vou I. p
in the house with him: who is called ever after the Son of the Vine. The reason will hereafter appear. On the feast-day, the father, or Tirsan, cometh forth after divine service into a large room where the feast is celebrated; which room hath a half pace at the upper end. Against the wall, in the middle of the half pace, is a chair placed for him, with a table and carpet before it. Over the chair is a state made round or oval, and it is of ivy; an ivy somewhat whiter than ours, like the leaf of a silver asp, but more shining: for it is green all winter. And the state is curiously wrought with silver and silk of divers colours, broiding or binding in the ivy; and is ever of the work of some of the daughters of the family; and veiled over at the top with a fine net of silk and silver. But the substance of it is true ivy; whereof, after it is taken down, the friends of the family are desirous to have some leaf or sprig to keep. The Tirsan cometh forth with all his generation or lineage, the males before him, and the females following him; and if there be a mother, from whose body the whole lineage is descended, there is a traverse placed in a loft above on the right hand of the chair, with a privy door, and a carved window of glass, leaded with gold and blue; where she sitteth, but is not seen. When the Tirsan is come forth, he sitteth down in the chair; and all the lineage place themselves against the wall, both at his back, and upon the return of the half pace, in order of their years, without difference of sex, and stand upon their feet. When he is set, the room being always full of company, but well kept, and without disorder; after some pause there cometh in from the lower end of the room a taratan, which is as much as a herald, and on either side of him two young lads; whereof one carrieth a scroll of their shining yellow parchment; and the other a cluster of grapes of gold, with a long foot or stalk. The herald and children are clothed with mantles of sea-water green sattin; but the herald's mantle is streamed with gold, and hath a train. Then the herald with three curtesies, or rather inclinations, cometh up as far as the half pace; and there first taketh into his hand the scroll. This scroll is the king's charter, containing gift of revenue, and many privileges, exemptions, and points of honour, granted to the father of the family; and is ever styled and directed, " To such an one, our wellbeloved friend and creditor:" which is a title proper only to this case. For they say, the king is debtor to no man, but for propagation of his subjects. The seal set to .the king's charter, is the king's image, imbossed or moulded in gold; and though such charters be expedited of course, and as of right, yet they are varied by discretion, according to the number and dignity of the family. This charter the herald readeth aloud: and while it is read, the father or Tirsan standeth up, supported by two of his sons, Buch as he chooseth. Then the herald mounteth the half pace, and delivereth the charter into his hand: and with that there is an acclamation by all that are present in their language, which is thus much: "Happy are the people of Bensalem." Then the herald taketh into his hand from the other child