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The Legend Of La Brea
by [?]

‘How they throve, and how they fattened,
Hale and happy, safe and strong;
Passed the livelong days in feasting;
Passed the nights in dance and song.

‘Till they cruel grew, and wanton:
Till they killed the colibris.
Then outspake the great Good Spirit,
Who can see through all the trees,

‘Said–“And what have I not sent you,
Wanton Chaymas, many a year?
Lapp, {335a} agouti, {335b} cachicame, {335c}
Quenc {335d} and guazu-pita deer.

‘”Fish I sent you, sent you turtle,
Chip-chip, {335e} conch, flamingo red,
Woodland paui, {335f} horned screamer, {335g}
And blue ramier {335h} overhead.

‘”Plums from balata {335i} and mombin, {335j}
Tania, {335k} manioc, {335l} water-vine; {335m}
Let you fell my slim manacques, {335n}
Tap my sweet moriche wine. {335o}

‘”Sent rich plantains, {336a} food of angels;
Rich ananas, {336b} food of kings;
Grudged you none of all my treasures:
Save these lovely useless things.”

‘But the Chaymas’ ears were deafened;
Blind their eyes, and could not see
How a blissful Indian’s spirit
Lived in every colibri.

‘Lived, forgetting toil and sorrow,
Ever fair and ever new;
Whirring round the dear old woodland,
Feeding on the honey-dew.

‘Till one evening roared the earthquake:
Monkeys howled, and parrots screamed:
And the Guaraons at morning
Gathered here, as men who dreamed.

‘Sunk were gardens, sunk ajoupas;
Hut and hammock, man and hound:
And above the Chayma village
Boiled with pitch the cursed ground.

‘Full, and too full; safe, and too safe;
Negro man, take care, take care.
He that wantons with God’s bounties
Of God’s wrath had best beware.

‘For the saucy, reckless, heartless,
Evil days are sure in store.
You may see the Negro sinking
As the Chayma sank of yore.’

Loudly laughed that stalwart hunter–
‘Eh, what superstitious talk!
Nyam {337} am nyam, an’ maney maney;
Birds am birds, like park am park;
An’ dere’s twenty thousand birdskins
Ardered jes’ now fram New Yark.’

Eversley, 1870.


{A} This myth about the famous Pitch Lake of Trinidad was told almost word for word to a M. Joseph by an aged half-caste Indian who went by the name of Senor Trinidada. The manners and customs which the ballad described, and the cruel and dangerous destruction of the beautiful birds of Trinidad, are facts which may be easily verified by any one who will take the trouble to visit the West Indies.

{331b} A magnificent wood of the Mauritia Fanpalm, on the south shore of the Pitch Lake.

{331c} Humming-birds.

{331d} Maximiliana palms.

{332} Hut of timber and palm-leaves.

{333} From the Eriodendron, or giant silk-cotton.

{334} Spigelia anthelmia, a too-well-known poison-plant.

{335a} Coelogenys Paca.

{335b} Wild cavy.

{335c} Armadillo.

{335d} Peccary hog.

{335e} Trigonia.

{335f} Penelope.

{335g} Palamedea.

{335h} Dove.

{335i} Mimusops.

{335j} Spondias.

{335k} An esculent Arum.

{335l} Jatropha manihot, ‘Cassava.’

{335m} Vitis Caribaea.

{335n} Euterpe, ‘mountain cabbage’ palm.

{335o} Mauritia palm.

{336a} Musa.

{336b} Pine-apple.

{337} Food.