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ever, with great reserve. We ought to be infinitely circumspect in pronouncing on the moral or intellectual dispositions of nations from which we are separated by the multiplied obstacles which result from a difference in language and a difference of manners and customs. A philosophical observer finds what has been printed in the centre of Europe on the national character of the French, Italians, and Germans, inaccurate. How, then, should a traveller, after merely landing in an island, or remaining only a short time in a distant country, arrogate to himself the right of deciding on the different faculties of the soul, on the preponderance of reason, wit, or imagination among nations? The music and dancing of the natives partake of this want of gaiety which characterises them. M. Bonpland and myself observed the same thing in all South America. Their songs are terrific and melancholic. The Indian women show more vivacity than the men; but they share the usual misfortunes of the servitude to which the sex is condemned among nations where civilization is in its infancy. The women take no share in the dancing; but they remain present to offer fermented draughts to the dancers, prepared by their own hands. The Mexicans have preserved a particular relish for painting, and for the art of carving in wood, or stone. We are astonished at what they are able to execute with a bad knife on the hardest wood. They are particularly fond of painting images and carving statues of saints. They have been servilely imitating, for these three hundred years, the models which the Europeans imported with them at the conquest. This imitation is derived from a religious principle of a very remote origin. In Mexico, as in Hindostan, it was not allowable in the faithful to change the figure of their idols in the smallest degree. Whatever made a part of the Aztec or Hindoo ritual was subjected to immutable laws. For this reason we shall form a very imperfect judgment of the state of the arts and the natural taste of these nations, if we merely consider the monstrous figures under which they represent their divinities. The christian images have preserved in Mexico a part of that stiffness and that harshness of feature which characterize the hieroglyphical pictures of the age of Montezuma. Many Indian children educated in the college of the capital, or instructed at the academy of painting founded by the king, have no doubt distinguished themselves; but it is much less by their genius than their application. Without ever leav
and metaphysical disposition, and who are so much disposed to give metaphysical superiority a precedence over all the other human faculties, feel, when they find that, most probably, their future rivals are not to spring up in any of the rival colleges of the south, or even in any of the great German universities, but among the beardless tribes of the Mexican mountains, and the banks of the Qrinocol Trans.
ing the beaten track, they display great aptitude in the exercise of the arts of imitation; and they display a much greater still for the purely mechanical arts. This aptitude cannot fail of becoming some day very valuable, when the manufactures shall take their flight to a country where a regenerating government remains yet to be created. The Mexican Indians have preserved the same taste for flowers which Cortez found in his time. A nosegay was the most valuable treat which could be made to the ambassadors who visited the court of Montezuma. This monarch and his predecessors had collected a great number of rare plants in the gardens of Istapalapan. The famous hand-tree, the cheirostemon*, described by M. Cervantes, of which for a long time only a single individual was known of very high antiquity, appears to indicate that the kings of Toluca cultiwated also trees strangers to that part of Mexico. Cortez, in his letters to the emperor Charles the Fifth, frequently boasts of the industry which the Mexicans displayed in gardening; and he complains that they did not send him the seeds of ornamental flowers and useful plants which he demanded for his friends of Seville and Madrid. The taste for flowers undoubtedly indicates a relish for the beautiful; and we are astonished at finding it in a nation in which a sanguinary worship and the frequency of sacrifices appeared to have extinguished whatever related to the sensibility of the soul, and kindness of affection. In the great market-place of Mexico the native sells no peaches, nor ananas, nor roots, nor polque (the fermented juice of the agave), without having his shop ornamented with flowers, which are every day renewed. The Indian merchant appears seated in an intrenchment of verdure. A hedge of a metre * in height, formed of fresh herbs, particularly of gramina with delicate leaves, surrounds like a semicircular wall the fruits offered to public sale. The bottom, of a smooth green, is divided by garlands of flowers which run parallel to one another. Small nosegays placed symmetrically between the festoons give this inclosure the appearance of a carpet strewn with flowers. The European who delights in studying the customs of the lower people, cannot help being s ruck with he care and elegance the natives display in distributing the fruits which they sell in small cages of very light wood. The sapotilles (achras), the mammea, pears, and raisins, occupy the bottom, while the
* M.Bonpland has given a drawing of it in our Plantes Equinoriales, vol. i. p. 75. pl. 24. For some little time past, roots of the Arbol de las manitas have been in the gardens of Montpellier and Paris. The cheirestemon is as remarkable for the form of its corolla as the Mexican gyrocarpus which we have introduced into the European gardens, and of which the celebrated Jacquin could not discover the flower, is for the form of its fruits.
top is ornamented with odoriferous flowers. This art of entwining fruits and flowers had its origin, perhaps, in that happy period when, long before the introduction of inhuman rites, the first inhabitants of Anahuac, like the Peruvians, offered up to the great spirit Teo l the first fruits of their harvest. These scattered features, characteristic of the natives of Mexico, belong to the Indian peasant, whose civilization, as we have already stated, is somewhat akin to that of the Chinese and Japanese. I am able only to pourtray still more imperfectly the manners of the pastoral Indians, whom the Spaniards include under the denomination of Indios Bravos, and of whom I have merely seen a few individuals, brought to the capital as prisoners of war. The Mecos (a tribe of the Chichimecs), the Apaches, the Lipans, are hordes of hunters, who, in their incursions, for the most part nocturnal, infest the frontiers of New Biscay, Sonora, and New Mexico. These savages, as well as those of South America, display more nobility of mind and more force of character than the agricultural Indians. Some tribes of them possess even languages of which the mechanism proves an ancient civilization. They experience great difficulty in learning our European idioms, while they express themselves in their own with great facility. These very Indian chiefs, whose solemn taciturnity astonishes the observer, hold discourses for hours when any great interest VOL. I. Y