« PreviousContinue »
after a course of nearly two thousand miles, could either be discharged into lakes or evaporated by the sun. At Sego, the Niger was equal to the Thames at London; and as from that town to Wangara is not less than fourteen hundred miles, the quantity of water which this strean rolls alung, cannot be estimaled as inferior to that of the Ganges. Leaving out however the improbable circumstance of so vast a body of water being contined in the interior without any outlet to the ocean, it might naturally be expected that some notices of that African Caspian would have reached the western coast; it is nevertheless a faci, that the existence of such an inland sea is not mentioned by any an. cient writer, and it is besides quite unknown at the present day. Mr. Jackson indeed states, we know not well on what authority, that “ fifteen journiey to the coast of Tombuctoo, there is an immense lake called the Bahar Soudan, or Sea of Soudan;"' but this statement is much too general, and, when examined into, liable to so many objections, that it cannot be employed as decis sive of the question at issue. It is sufficient to observe on this bead, that Bahar signifies a river as well as a sea; and the Bahar Soudan, of course, may mean nothing more than an extended part of the Niger.
Another hypothesis respecting this celebrated river, is, that it terminates in the Nile, or, in fact, is itself the principal branch of the Nile-the Babar el Abiud, or White River. This opinion is held by Hornemann, Jackson, and several other travellers but, as is very properly observed by the biographer of Park, of all the hypotheses on this subject, that which supposes it to be a branch of the Nile, is the least consistent with acknowledged facts. It is indeed rather a loose conjecture than an opinion deduced from probable reasoning; smice nothing appears to be alledged in its support, except the mere circunistance of the course of the river being in a direction towards the Nile, and a few vague notions of some of the African natives, which are une worthy of the smallest attention. It must likewise occur to every one as an insuperable objection to this view of the matter, that the Niger, after leaving the mountainous district where it has its source, and running about two thousand miles, must again ascend to the high ground whence the Nile proceeds; for if the rivers join at all, it must be in the hilly region south and west of Abyssivia, and even before the Nile has lowered its level by means of the great cataracts,
The third hypothesis relative to the Niger, is that of Mr. Park bimself, adopted from Mr. Maxwell, an intelligent African trader, and a man of some learning and much observation. It is that the Niger terminates in the river Congo, or, in other words, that the Niger and the Congo are the same river. In
the memoir drawn up for Lord Camden, Mr. Park states, at some lengtlı, the reasons wbich induced him to hold this opinion, They are as follows:
The total ignorance of all the inhabitants of North Africa respecting the termination of that river. If the Niger ended any where in North Africa, it is difficult to conceive how the inhabite ants should be so totally ignorant of it ; and why they should so generally describe it as running to the Nile, to the end of the world, and in fact to a country with which they are not acquainted.
" 2dly. In Mr. Hornemann's Journal, the Niger is described as flowing eastwards into Bornow, where it takes the name of Zad. The breadth of the Zad was given him for one mile, and he was told that it flowed through the Egyptian Nile to the land of the Hea. thens. The course here given is directly towards the Congo. Zad is the name of the Congo at its mouth, and it is the name of the Congo for at least six hundred and fifty miles inland.
“ 3dly. The river of Dar Kulla, mentioned by Mr. Browne, is generally supposed to be the Niger; or at least to have a communication with that river. Now, this is exactly the course the Niger ought to take in order to join the Congo.
4thly. The quantity of water discharged into the Atlantic by the Congo, cannot be accounted for on any other known principle, but that it is the termination of the Niger. If the Congo derived its waters entirely from the south side of the mountains, which are supposed to form the Belt of Africa, one would naturally suppose, that when the rains were confined to the north side of the moun: tains, the Congo, like the other rivers of Africa, would be greatly diminished in size, and that its waters would become pure.
On the contrary, the waters of the Congo are at all times thick and muddy, The breadth of the river, when at its lowest, is one mile, its depth is fifiy fathoms, and its velocity six miles per hour.
5thly. The annual flood of the Congo commences before any rains have fallen south of the equator, and agree correctly with the floods of the Niger, calculating the water to have flowed from Bam. barra at the rate of three miles
hour.” Of all these grounds upon which the Niger is identified with the Congo, the two deserving of most attention are, tirst, the vast magnitude of the latter ; and, secondly, the circumstance that it swells considerably before any rain has fallen to the south of the equator; and more particularly, because this swelling takes place within a limited time after the Niger is known to be in Hood. The Congo is stated to be ten miles broad near its mouth, and the niass of water which it throws into the Atlantic, is said to freshen it to the distance of twenty leagues. All this goes to prove, that the river in question must take its rise far in the interior, and also that its source must be traced towards the
north; confirming, without doubt, by a very striking coincidence, the opinions of Maxwell and Park, that the Congo and the Niger are the same stream. But neither is this hypothesis without its difficulties. There is a great chain of mountains, which, it is said, crosses the whole breadth of Africa, and this chain intervenes between the Niger and the Congo; forming, it may be presumed, an insuperable bar to the junction of their waters. Of the existence of these mountains, there seems to be little doubt; and, like all mountain-ranges of the first order, they may be supposed to rise upon a very elevated table-land; in which case it appears altogether inconceivable, how the Niger, after descending more than a thousand miles along the level plain of Nigritia, should force a passage upwards to the base of this rocky barrier, and finally penetrate into the vallies of the south.
It has been alledged too, that the rise in the Congo is rather late in the season to correspond with the flooding of the Niger in Bambarra, and moreover that the rise is not sufficiently great to warrant the conclusion, that it has been occasioned by the waters of the latter river. The raius in the northern tropic commence in June, and become pretty constant in July, from which datum, and the known current of the river, it has been calculated that the autumnal food in the Congo, upon the supposition that it is fed by the Niger, should take place in August; whereas it does not appear till towards the end of September. The force of this objection is, we think, greatly weakened by the remark of Mr. Maxwell, that, as the Niger is thought to flow through a great number of lakes in the country of Wangara, it will follow that both its rapidity, and the quantity of water carried down in the early part of the season, must be considerably diminished. In truth, if the existence of seventeen or eighteen great lakes, eastward of Tonbuctoo, were clearly ascertained, there would be not only no difficulty in accounting for the delay in the rise of the Congo, and the gradual and almost perennial flood which it exhibits; but, on the contrary, we should consider those facts as approaching very far to prove the identity of the two rivers. The great difficulty respects the Kong mountains, (the Montes Luna of the ancients); and we readily confess that, if they are at all as lofty and contiguous as they have been described by modern travellers, who, by the bye, never saw them, we can discover no possibility of procur.ng a transit for the Niger.
The last opinion which we shall mention respecting the termination of this river, is that of M. Richard, a German geogra. pher, published by him in the “ Ephemerides Geographiques," in 1808. He imagines that the Niger, after reaching Wangara, takes a direction towards the south; and being joined by other rivers from that part of Africa, makes a great turn from thence to the south-west, and pursues its course till it approaches the north-eastern extremity of the gulph of Guinea, when it divides and discharges itself by different channels into the Atlantic; thus forming a great Delta, of which the Rio del Rey constitutes the eastern, and the Rio Formoso, the western branch.
It is enough to say of this hypothesis, that it is almost totally destitute of facts. - „Neither of the branches into which he divides the supposed Niger, has yet been explored; travellers have supplied no notices respecting the country through which they pass, where they separate, what is the extent and appearance of the entire river, or whether, in fact, the Formoso and the Del Rey proceed from a common source. All is pure conjecture; and, besides, the difficulty connected with the Kong mountains is as great in this case as in the former--the only difficulty which we are solicitous to remove.
“ It may be mentioned too,” in the words of our author, “ as an objection to both these hypotheses, that no traces whatever of the Mahometan doctrines or institutions are now to be found on either of the coasts where the Niger is supposed to terminate. In no part of the world has the spirit of enterprise and proselytism, which properly belongs to the Mahometan character, been more strikingly displayed than in the extensive regions of North Africa. Its effects are every where conspicuous, not only in the religious belief of the greater part of the inhabitants, but even, where Mahometanism is not established, in their manners and customs, and in the predominance of the Arabic language, which is almost every where grafted upon the native dialects of Africa. These circumstances, however, are peculiar to North Africa; nothing similar having been remarked on the coast of Guinea, and still less on that of Congo and Angola. Mr. Maxwell also states in a letter to Mr. Park, that he had made enquiries of a great number of negroes who had come down the Congo from great distances; but that he could never hear of any Mahometan priests having visited the countries on the banks of that river. Supposing the Niger really to flow through the centre of Africa, and to discharge itself any where into the Atlantic, it is reasonable to believe that some of the Mahometan colonists would long since have established themselves on the banks of' that river, and penetrated to the shores of the ocean."
Notwithstanding all these objections and difficulties in the vay of identifying the Niger with the Congo, we cannot help entertaining a gleam of hope that the adventurers who lately left this country, will meet on their course the one party from Sansanding downwards, and the other from Angola upwards, on these immense streams. At all events, to end where we began, we are confident that the time is now not far distant, when the
question which we have just stated, as to the outlet or termina, tion of the fornier, will be satisfactorily decided; when the rivers and mountams of Africa will find their proper place in the geographical system and when perhaps peace and science, and the Chistian religion, will, at last, bless her numerous people.
We should not do justice to the able author of Park's Life, who has also contributed two or three valuable appendices to the Journal, did we not express our satisfaction with the manner in which he has performed bis duty. He uniformly writes with modesty and cantour; and, when tit occasions present themselves, he describes with much eloquence and taste.
Art. III. The Poet's Pilgrimage to Waterloo. By Robert
Southey, Esq. 12mo. 10s. 6d. Longman and Co. 1816.
WITH many an other bard noble and simple, illustrious and obscure, military and civil, Mr. Southey also has undertaken to celebrate the baltie of Waterloo Perhaps he felt himself officially called upon to do so; yet for our own part, and with feelings which arise from the unfeigned respect we entertain for bin as a man and as an author, we confess we regret that be should liave thought such an exertion necessary. For it is the common lot of whalever is occasional in jis purpose to be but temporary in its duration; and though there is something in the plan and general character of the poem, which we are now about to examine, which render it in some measure independent of the occasion, wbich has produced it, yet we are by no means certain, that its fate may not be harder than that of those ubich one all their interest to the evanescent feeling of the moment. However short is the existence of poems of this description, yet their authors are not without many sources of consolation; their little ephemera are born without labour, they enjoy if not the length yet the brightness of a summer's day ; and if they will be read very soon by no body; yet they have the satisfaction of being read for the present by every body. With the Poet's Pilgrimage we suspect that the case may be far different. Many will not open it twenty years hence, because the title will prepare them to expect nothing but the stale topics of the present time; and of the multitudes who will eagerly open it now, much the larger part, we fear, will close it with mortification and disappointnient. In a poem, which professes to treat of a great batue recently gained, ihe readers of the day