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man; but rarely, if at all, inflict corporal punishment : such a thing as a jail or prison is not known among them. The Burman rulers scarcely interfere with their affairs, except so far as regards taxes.
Those Karens who inhabit the tract of country bordering on the kingdom of Siam have always remained a distinct government, (if government it may be called,) having never been subdued either by the Burmans or Siamese, though frequent attempts to gain this end have been made by both those governments. These are called wild Karens. No one as yet has been among them to preach the Gospel, but numbers who have obtained religious tracts among their Karen neighbours in the neighbourhood of Tavoy have carried them home as a kind of sacred charm, cut them in pieces, and distributed them among their relatives and friends, all being desirous of getting a word or line of the book of God, although quite unacquainted with letters.
In respect to domestic economy the Karens are more civilized than most nations of the East. This is the case, particularly in regard to their females, who hold the same rank in society which females do in civilized countries. They are exceedingly hospitable, not only to persons of their own race, but to strangers. They build their houses a considerable distance from the ground, in order to secure them from wild beasts ; and in each house, bcsides the inner apartments for sleeping, cooking, &c. they have a large open room in which they spin, weave, &c and accommodate visitors. They cultivate fields and gardens, which not only furnish nearly all the food they require for themselves, but an overplus for market; this they sell to the Burmans in exchange for farming utensils, earthen-ware, &c.
In their morals they are far superior to the Burmans, excepting (as is the case, alas ! in many civilized nations) a great proneness to intemperance in spirituous liquors. They have a strict regard to truth and integrity in their dealings, and disallow polygamy.
The Karens, properly speaking, have no religion of their own; but many of them, from their intercourse with Burmans, Talings, and Siamese, have embraced the religion of Boodh. They have however a tradition that in ancient times God gave them his word written on leather (or parchment), but the family to whom it was committed laid it carelessly on a shelf when they went out, when a fowl scratched it down, then a dog carried it out of doors, where a swine got hold of it, and quite destroyed it: in consequence of this they use the bones or other parts of these animals as oracles to this day ; but their tradition states farther, that in after times their sacred books should be restored to them by the white foreigners. In cases of illness or misfortune they propitiate evil
spirits, in which case some of the animals above-mentioned, particularly the fowl, becomes the victim.
It is a remarkable fact, with regard to the tradition before referred to, that though surrounded by different nations (the Burmese, the Siamese, the Chinese, and others), who deny the existence of a first cause, the Karens have preserved a very correct knowledge of the creation and fall of man. This is contained in a number of couplets familiar to the oldest and most respectable of the people, of which we have been favoured by Mr. Wade with the following translation :
“ In ancient times God created the world ;
Which he gave to the white men, with a charge
He sent to the people of every clime." Mr. Wade has made numerous inquiries, in order to ascertain if the above verses were an original tradition, or had been introduced by some foreign Missionaries ; and has been led to the conclusion that the former is the case.
He has asked many very old men residing in different provinces, who were fully acquainted with the verses, as to their origin; and has been by all assured that they and their fathers, as far as they knew, received them from their ancestors by tradition from time immemorial.
The derivation of their language is unknown. There is indeed among them a small tribe who have a spurious language, evidently derived from the Taling ; but though many of their words are undoubtedly of Burman, Taling, or Siamese origin, yet in some respects the genius of the true Karen language is quite diverse from any of these, particularly in its having no final consonants, every syllable ending with a vowel sound. Through this peculiarity, the language is exceedingly harmonious and admirably adapted to poetry: When Mr. and Mrs. Wade, a short time since, were on a visit to their head chief near Mergui, to converse with him on Christianity, they were much interested by the singing of several young women whom he had invited, among others, to meet them on their arrival. Though the chief himself could readily understand Burman, in which alone at that time Mr. and Mrs. Wade could converse, yet the young women referred to were quite ignorant of this language. When however they were requested by Mr. and Mrs. Wade to give them a specimen of poetry in the Karen language, the latter were agreeably surprised by their almost immediately chaunting a hymn, evidently composed on the spur of the moment, of which the following appropriate sentiments, as translated by the chief, formed the first verse and chorus.
“ The Lord his messengers doth send,
Must leave the place to make them room. The first endeavour for the salvation of the Karens as a people was made by the late Rev. Mr. Boardman, who in April, 1828, proceeded from Moulmein to Tavoy, taking with him a young man, a Karen, whose mind had been impressed with the truth of the Christian religion, but was not yet baptized. On the first of May, soon after his arrival, a number of Karens, residing in a village three days' journey from Tavoy, called upon him, and mani
fested a deep interest in the subject of religion. It appeared that more than 11 years ago, a Moosulman, in the habit of religious ascetic, visited one of the Karen villages several times, and preached to the people that they must abstain from certain meats, such as pork, fowls, &c. must practise certain ceremonies, and worship a book which he left with them. He also told them there was one living and true God. About half of the villagers, who were perhaps thirty in all, believed the teacher, and espoused his religion. When he had gone, one of the villagers more devoted than the rest, and possessing a more retentive memory, became teacher to his brethren ; and although he cannot read a word in the ook which they so much venerate, and knows not even in what language it is written, he is their living oracle and defender of their faith. On account of their devotedness to this new religion, it appeared that the poor villagers have suffered much persecution from their Burman neighbours and oppressors, and their lives have been put in jeopardy ; so that the teacher has ventured out only once into the city since he has embraced it. The persons who related the story said, that as the English were now masters of the country, the Burmans would not offer them any violence, and accordingly they promised to request him to bring his book out for Mr. B. to examine.
The deputation invited Mr. Boardman to visit them, which he promised to do after the rains. He gave them a Burman tract, which some of the people at the village it appeared could read, and invited the old teacher to visit him, with the sacred but unknown book which for 12 years had been the object of their worship
On the 15th of the same month the messengers from the old teacher arrived. They were all his relatives, and the best instructed among his people. One of them read Burmese well, but the rest spoke it so imperfectly, as to need the aid of an interpreter when conversing on religious subjects. After exhibiting their present (14 ducks' eggs) they delivered to Mr. B. the following message : “ The Karen teacher has sent us to say that he is very ill, and cannot visit the English teacher at present : after the close of the rains he will come and bring his book to be examined. He desires that his relative (one of the messengers) may be allowed to remain with the English teacher two or three years to learn the western languages, that he may become a skilful expounder of the divine law. He has received the tract which the English teacher sent, and on hearing it read, he believed it heartily, and wept over it. With his son, who understands Burman, he goes from house to house, and causes it to be read to the people. Several others also believe. It would afford great joy if the English teacher, or one of the Christians with him, could come out and explain the Christian Scriptures ; many would believe.”
The deputation stayed with Mr. Boardman three days, during which he gave them full instruction in the principles of Christianity, and then renewed his former promise to visit them after the rains. On their departure they travelled from village to village, exhibiting and reading to their countrymen the tract which they had received, and thus influenced the minds of many in favour of the Gospel.
The old teacher himself, with several of his followers, soon afterwards paid Mr. B. a visit, bringing with him the venerated book ; and we feel persuaded that we shall gratify our readers by extracting the following graphic account of the interview.
“ According to the Missionary's advice, a company of Karens, after three days' journey, visited the Mission house. The two most interesting persons among them were a chief, of much native talent, and a soldier, who had received the venerated book from a Moosulman Jogee. The chief panted for knowledge, and while the bright fire of his rude intellect Aashed through the darkness which enveloped his untutored soul, he ex. claimed, 'Give us books ! give us books in our own language! Then all the Karens will learn to read. We want to know the true God. We have been lying in total darkness. The Karens' mind is like his native jungle.' The old sorcerer stood up before the Missionary, while at his feet was a pitched basket of reeds, containing the sacred deposit, wrapped in many successive folds of muslin. Shew me the book,' said the Missionary ; - I will tell you whether it be good or bad. All was silence as death, while the venerable old man uncovered the precious volume, and presented it with the most profound solemnity.-Lo, it was an old English prayer book!
It is a good book,' said the Missionary ; 'it teaches that there is a God in heaven, whom alone we should worship. You have been ignorantly worshipping the book : I will teach you to worship the God whom the book reveals." The eye of every Karen beamed with joy. They tarried two days, listening to religious instruction with the deepest interest. On leaving, the conjuror resumed his Jogee dress and fantastic airs. He was informed, that if he would be a disciple of Christ, he must lay aside all his former habits and airs. “ If,' said he, this dress is not pleasing to God, I am ready to send it afloat in yonder river. He instantly divested himself, put on his common dress, and resigned his cudgel, which had been for years the badge of his authority. At their departure, they exclaimed, We will no longer worship any but the true God, and Jesus Christ his son !'
For 12 months, while the health of Mr. and Mrs. Boardman allowed them to remain at Tavoy, they were almost constantly visited by parties of this interesting race, who drank in the religious instruction their teachers communicated with uncommon eagerness. The latter also visited them in their own villages, In the end, a number were turned to God, and a wide spread spirit of inquiry was excited among their countrymen.
In this state of things, the health of Mr. and Mrs. Boardman failed, and while the Karens were finding their way to them from