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Adams, Memoirs of Arii TaimaiIndigenous Histories
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Chapter XIV


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Chapter XIV (continued)

thus: ’Sir, he had passed his time while in England only in the best company, so that all that he had acquired of our manners was genteel’".

One would like to have Omai’s impression of Johnson’s manners, but Omai had no Boswell, and left no memoirs, although he left something as good, for his portrait was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and, no doubt, is valued more highly now than ever Omai was in his native island, even when Cook brought him back there in 1777, loaded with gifts, which were probably soon appropriated by his chiefs or neighbors. A few years afterwards, in 1785, before Omai had wholly passed from memory, the poet Cowper devoted to him a page or two in the first book of "The Task", which bore the odd title of "The Sofa". Whether it was that Cowper’s melancholia caused him to see things as they are, or whether years had brought already a disillusionment that was to make rapid progress in European thought, certainly the lines in the "Sofa" contained more truth if not more poetry than anything which had been said till then on the subject of the South Seas:

"Thee, gentle savage, whom no love of thee

Or thine, but curiosity, perhaps,

Or else vain glory, prompted us to draw

Forth from thy native bowers, to show thee here

With what superior skill we can abuse

The gifts of Providence, and squander life.

. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . .Duly every morn

Thou climbst the mountain top, with eager eye

Exploring far and wide the watery waste

For sight of ship from England. Every speck

Seen in the dim horizon turns thee pale

With conflict of contending hopes and fears.

But comes at last the dull and dusky eve,

And sends thee to thy cabin, well prepared

To dream all night of what the day denied.

Alas! expect it not! We found no bait

To tempt us in thy country. Doing good,

Disinterested good, is not our trade.

We travel far, ’tis true, but not for nought;

And must be bribed to compass earth again

By other hopes and richer fruits than yours".

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© Derived from the revised Paris edition of 1901 page 135, 2004
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