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ger*, who was employed to translate it from the original Dutch, by the author, Mr. Foersch, who, we are informed, is at present abroad, in the capacity of surgeon on board an English vesse).
This account, we muft allow, appears so marvellous, that even the Credulous might be staggered. The readers of this narrative will probably think of the celebrated Pfalmanazar, and his equally fainous History of the Illand of Formosa. But this narrative certainly merits attention and belief. The degree of credibility which is due to the several circumstances rests with Mr. Foersch, With regard to the principal parts of the relation, there can be no doubt. The existence of the tree, and the noxious powers of its gums and vapours, are certain. For the story of the thirteen concubines, however, we sculd not choose to be responsible.
Travellers and naturalists have mentioned trees of the fame destructive nature in other places, and particularly, if we are not mistaken, in fome parts of South America. This very Bohon-Upas is mentioned by the learned Kemptfer, but its situation, its nature, and its destructive qualities, haye never been fo clearly, so fully, or so philosophically described, as by the author of the fol lowing description,
'It may probably be asked, why no efforts have been made to destroy fo dreadful a tree?-more dreadful
, indeed, in its effects, than the union of plague, pestilence, and famine. The reasons are obvious. No man could venture to remain near it for so long a space of time as would be requisite to cut down a tree of such magnitude; nor could materials to set it on fire be carried to the place without alınost certain destruction. But of all the arguments, the most forcible probably is, that the Emperor derives a very considerable revenue from the sale of the gum which is dittilled from the Bohon-Upas. The axri facra fames! the rage for poffeffing riches, iş too powerful to be withstood, even in the most cultivated
the most polished nations! What then can be expected from an inhabitant of Java, and that man an Emperor! Who, like Achilles,
jura neget sibi nata, nihil non arroget armes.!" DESCRIPTION OF THE POISON-TREE, IN THE ISLAND OF JAVA,
BY NP. FOERSCH. . TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL DUTCII, BY MR. HEYDINGER. HIS destructive tree is called in the service of the Dutch East India
the Malavan language, BOHON- Company. During my residence there UPAs, and has been described by na- I received several different accounts of turalists. But their accounts have been the Bohon-Upas, and the violent effects) so cinctured with the marvellons, that of its poison. They ail then seemed the whole narration has been fupposed incredible to me, but raised iny cuto be an ingenious fiction by the ge- riofity in so high a dece, that I nerality of readers. Nor is this in the resolved to inveltigate this subject least degree furprising, when the cir- thoroughly, and to trust only to my cumstances which we shall faithfully own objervations. In consequence of relate in this description are confidered. this refolution, I applied to the Go
I must acknowledge, that I long vernor-General, Mr. Petrus Albertus doubted the exiftence of this tree, until van der Parra, for a pass to travel a strieter enquiry convinced me of through the country. My requelt was my error,
I shall now only relate granted, and having procured every fimple, unadorned facts, of which I information, I set out on my expedihave been an eye-witness. My readers tion. I had procured a recommendation 'may depend upon the fidelity of this from an old Malayan prieft to another account. In the year 1774, I was prieft, who lives on the nearest inhas Aacioned at Batavia, as a surgeon in bitable spot to the tree, which is about
fifteen * Formerly a German bookfeier near Temple-B.ua
fifteen or fixteen miles diftant. The Emperor, which is generally of a letter proved of great service to me in trifling nature, and commonly granted. my undertaking, as that priest is ap- They are then provided with a filver pointed by the Emperor to reside there, or tortoiselhell box, in which they in order to prepare for eternity the are to put the poisonous gum, and are souls of those who for different crimes properly inttructed how to proceed are fentenced to approach the tree, and while they are upon their dangerous to procure the poison.
expedition. Among other particulars, The Bohon-Upas is situated in the they are always told to attend to the island of Java, about twenty-seven direction of the winds; as they are to leagues from Batavia, fourteen from go towards the tree before the wind, Soura-Charta, the seat of the Emperor, so that the effluvia from the tree are and between eighteen and twenty always blown from them. They are leagues from Tiukjne, the present reti- told, likewise, to travel with the utmost dence of the Sultan of Java. It is sure dispatch, as that is the only method of rounded on all sides by a circle of high insuring a safe return. They are alterhills and mountains, and the country wards fent to the house of the oid round it, to the distance of ten or priett, to which place they are comtwelve miles from the tree, is intirely monly attended by their friends and barren. Not a tree, not a shrub, nor relations. Here they generally remain even the least plant or grass is to be some days, in expectation of a favourafeen. I have made the tour all around ble breeze. During that time, the this dangerous spot, at about eighteen ecclefiaftic prepares them for their future miles distant from the center, and I fate by prayers and admonitions. found the aspect of the country on all When the hour of their departure fides equally dreary. The eafielt ascent arrives, the priest puts them on a long of the hills, is from that part where the leather cap with two glasies before their old ecclefiaftic dwells. From his house eyes, which comes down as far as their the criminals are sent for the poison, breast, and also provides them with a into which the points of all warlike pair of leather gloves. They are then instruments are dipped. It is of high conducted by the priest, and their value, and produces a considerable re- friencis and relations, about two miles venue to the Emperor.
on their journey. Here the priest re
peats his initructions, and tells them ACCOUNT OF THE MANNER
where they are to look for the tree. WHICH THE POISON IS PROCURED.
He thews them a hill, which they are THE Poison which is procured from told to ascend; and that on the other this tree, is a gum that issues out be- fide they will find a rivulet, which tween the bark and the tree itself, like they are to follow, and which will the camphor. Malefactors, who fortheir conduct them directly to the Upas. crimes are sentenced to die, are the They now take leave of each other, oniy persons who fetch the poison; and amidit prayers for their success, and this is the only chance they have the delinquents hasten away. of saving their lives. After fentence The worthy old ecclefiaftic has af. is pronounced upon them by the judge, fared me, that during his retidence they are asked in court, whether they there, for upwards of thirty years, he will die by the hands of the execu- had disnited above seven hundred tioner, or whether they will go to the criminals in the manner which I have Upas tree for a box of poison? They described; and that scarcely two out commonly prefer the latter propofal, of twenty have returned. He thewed as there is not only some chance of me a catalogue of all the unhappy preserving their lives, but also a cer- sufferers, with the date of twir de. tainty, in case of their safe return, parture from his house annexed, and a that a provision will be made for them list of the offences for which they had in future, by the Emperor. They are been condemned. To which also permitted to ask a favour from the added the naines of those who had LOND. Mac. Dec. 1783.
returned in fafety. I afterwards faw of the great prophet to punish the fins another list of these culprits, at the of mankind, and, therefore, to die of gaol-keeper's at Scura Charta, and found the poison of the Upas is generally that they perfectly corresponded with considered among them as an honouraeach other, and with the different in- ble death. For that reason I also obformations which I afterwards obtained. served, that the delinquents, who were
I was present at some of those me going to the tree, were generally drefled lancholy ceremonies, and defired dif- in their best apparel. ferent delinquents to bring with them This, however, is certain, though it some pieces of the wood, or a small may appear incredible, that from tiiteen branch, or some leaves of this won- to eighteen miles round this tree, not derful tree. I have also given them only no human creature can exist; but silk cords, defiring them to measure its that, in that space of ground, no living thickness. I never could procure inore animal of any kind has ever been dirthan two dry leaves, that were picked covered. I have also been assured by up by one of them on his return; and several persons of veracity, that there all I could learn from hiin concerning are no hh in the waters, nor has any the tree itself, was, that it stood on the rat, inouise, or any other rermin been border of a rivulet, as described by the feen there: and when any birds fiy old prieit; that it was of a uniddling so near this tree, that the efluvia fize, that five or fix young trees of the reaches them, they fall a facrifice to the fame kind stood clofe by it; but that effects of the poison. This circumno other shrub or plant could be seen fance has been ascertained by different near it; and that the ground was of a delinquents, who, in their retura, have brownish fand, full of stones, almost seen the birds drop down, and have impracticable for travelling, and co- picked them up dead, and brought vered with dead bodies. After many them to the old ecclefiaftic. conversations with the old Malayani I will here mention an instance pricit, i queitioned hiin about the firit which proves this a fact beyond all difcovery, and asked his opinion of doubt, and which liappened during my this dangerous tree, upon which he stay at Java. gave me the following answer in his In the year 1775 a rebellion broke own language:
out among the fubjects of the Malay, Diraim kita ponine Alcoran Baron a fovereign prince, whofe dignity is Suda tulis touloe Scratus an Soeda ;lang nearly equal to that of the Emperor. orang Soeda Dergal dilenna orang jahat They refused to pay a duty imposed di Soeda main Same Die punje finatang upon them by their fovereign, whom pigidoe kita pegi Som prambuange." they openly opposed. The Malay
Which may be thus tranilated: seni a body of a thoufand troops to
“ We are told in our New Alcoran, disperse the rebels, and to drive them, that, above an hundred years ago, the with their families, out of his domicountry around the tree vas inhabited nions. Thus four hundred families, by a people strongly addicted in this coniitting of above fixteen hundred iins of Sodom and Gomorrht. Aber fouls, were obliged to leave thcir native the great prophet Vahomet deter country. Neither the Emperor nor mined not to suffer them to lead tuch the Sultan would give them protection, decettable lives any longer, he applied not only because they were rebels, but to God to punish them; upon which also through fear of displeating their God caufed this tree to grow ont of the neighbour, the Nattay. In this diearth, which destroyed them all, and firessful situation, they had no other rendered the country for ever uninha- resource than to repair to the uncultibitable."
vated parts round the Lpas, and reSuch was the Malayan's opinion. quested permison of the Emperor 10 I shall nut attempt a comment, but settle there. Their request was grantnuit obferve, that all the Malayans ed, on condition of their fixing their consider this tree as an holy iritrument abode not more than twelve or fourteen
miles from the tree, in order not to mountains. It is also frequently difdeprive the inhabitants already settled ficult to determine from what part of there at a greater distance of their cul- the globe the wind really comes, as tivated lands. With this they were it is divided by various obitructions in obliged to comply: but the confe- irs parlage, which easily change the quence was, that in less than two direction of the wind, and often to. months their number was reduced to tally destroy its effects. about three hundred. The chiefs of 1, therefore, impute the distant efthose who remained returned to the fects of the poison, in a great measure, Massay, informed him of their losses, to the constant gentle winds in those and intreated his pardon, which in- parts, which have not power enough duced him to receive them again as his to disperse the poisonous particles. If subjects, thinking them fufficiently high winds were more frequent and punished for their misconduct. I have durable there, they would certainly seen and converted with several of those weaken very much, and even destroy who survived, foon after their return. the obnoxious efluvia of the poison; They all had the appearance of persons but without them, the air remains intainted with an infectious disorder; fected and pregnant, with thele poithey looked pale and weak, and from sonous vapours. the account which they gave of the I am the more convinced of this, as loss of their comrades, of the symptoms the worthy ecclesaitic allured me that and circumstances which attended their a dead calm is always attended with diflolution, such as convulsions, and the greates danger, as there is a conother signs of a violent death, I was tinuai perfpiration illuing from the felly convinced that they fell victims tree, which is seen to rise and spread to she poison.
in the air, like the putrid iteam of a This violent effect of the poifon, at marthy cavern. so great a distance from the tree, cer
EXPIRIMENTS tainly appears surprising, and almost incredible; and especially when we
GUM OF THE UPAS-Tree. conlider, that it is poflible for delin- IN the year 1776, in the month of quents who approach the tree, to return February, I was present at the execualive. My wonder, however, in a great tion of thirteen of the Emperor's conmeasure, ceased, after I had made the cubines, at Syura-Charta, who were following observations:
convicted of intidelity to the EmpeI have said before, that malefactors ror's bed. It was in the forenoon, are inttructed to go to the tree with the about eleven o'clock, when the fair wind, and to retum against the wind. criminals were led into an open space When the wind continues to blow within the walls of the Emperor's pafrom the same quarter while the de- lace. There the judge patlcd sentence linquent travels thirty, or fix and upon them, by which they were doomthirty miles, if he be of a good con
ed to fufter death by a lancet poisoned ftitution he certainly fervives. But with Upas. After this, the Alcoran what proves the most destructive is,
was presented to them, and they were, that there is no dependance on the according to the law of their great wind in that part of the world for any prophet Mahomet, to acknowledge length of time. There are no regular and to affirm by oath, that the charges land winds; and the sea wind is not brought againit tiem, together with perceived there at all, the situation of the sentence and their punishment, the tree being at too great a distance, were fair and equitable. This they and surrounded by high mountains and did, by laying their right hand upon uncultivated forelts. Besides, the wind the Alcoran, their left hands upon there never blows a fresh regular gale, their breast, and their eyes lifted tobut is commonly merely a current of wards heaven; the Judge then held light, foft breezes, which pafs through the Alcoran to their lips, and they the different openings of the adjoining Killed it.
3 U 2
These ceremonies over, the execu- instrument, I made an incision in the tioner proceeded on his business in the lower muscular part of the belly of one following manner:- Thirteen pofis, of the puppies. Three minutes after each about five feet high, had been it received the wound, the animal bepreviously erected. To these the de- gan to cry out molt piteously, and ran linquents were fastened, and their as fast as possible from one corner of breaits stripped naked. In this situa- the room to the other. So it continued tion they remained a short time in con- during six minutes, when all its ftrength tirual pravers, attended by several being exhaufted, it fell upon the ground, priets, until a fignai was given by the was taken with convulsions, and died in judge to the executioner; on which the eleventh minute. I repeated this the later produced an instrument, much experiment with two other puppies, like the spring lancet used by farriers with a cat and a fowl; and found the for bleeding horses. With this inftru- operation of the poison in all of them ment, it being poisoned with the gum the same, none of these animals surof the Upas, the unhappy wretches vived above thirteen minutes. were lanced in the middle of their I thought it necessary to try also the breasts, and the operation was per- effect of the poison given inwardly, formed upon them all in less than two which I did in the following manner. minutes.
I dissolved a quarter of a giain of the My astonishment was raised to the gum in half an ounce of arrack, and highest degree, when I beheld the sud- made a dog of seven months old drink den effects of that poison, for in about it. In seven minutes a reaching cnfive minutes after they were lanced, sued, and I observed, at the same time, they were taken with a tremor, attend that the animal was delirious, as it ran ed with a subjuttus tentinum, after up and down the room, fell on the which they died in the greatelt ago- ground, and tumbled about; then it nies, crying out to God and Mahomet rose again, cried out very loud, and in for mercy. In fixteen minutes by my about half an hour after was seized watch, which I held in my hand, all with convulsions, and died. I opened the criminals were no more. Some the body, and found the stomach very hours after their death I observed their much inflamed, as the intestines were bodies full of livid spots, much like in some parts, but not so much as the those of the Perechiæ, iheir faces swel- ftomach. There was a small quantity led, their colour changed to a kind of coagulated blood in the stomach, of blue, their eyes looked yellow, &c. but I could discorer no orifice from &c.
which it could have iflued, and, thereAbout a fortnight after this, I had fore, supposed it to have been squeezed an opportunity of seeing fuch another out of the lungs, by the animal's itrainexecution at Samarang. Seven Malay- ing while it was vomiting. ans were executed there with the same From these experiments I have been instrument, and in the fame manner, convinced, that the gum of the Upas and I found the operation of the poi- is the moit dangerous and most violent fon, and the spots in their bodies ex- of all vegetable poisons; and I am apt activ die fame.
to believe that it greatly contributes to These circumstances made me de- the unhealthiness of that island. Nor fircus to try an experiment with some is this the only evil attending it, hunanimals, in order to be convinced of dreds of the natives of Jara, as well as the real efiets of this poison; and as Europeans, are yearly destroyed and I had then two young puppies, I treacherously murdered lvy that poison, thicuclit them the fiteft objecis for my either internally or externally. Every purpose. I accordingly procured with man of quality or fashion has his dagger great difficulty, fome grains of Upas. or other arms poisoned with it; and in i ditto ed half a grain of that gum in times of war the Malayans poison the a small quantity of arrack, and dipped springs and other waters with it; by a lancet into it. With this poisoned this treacherous practice, the Dutch