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The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast, was the
sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo.
These filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror, when
I was carried on board. I was immediately handled, and tossed up to see if I
were sound, by some of the crew; and I was now persuaded that I had gotten
into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me. Their
complexions, too, differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the
language they spoke (which was very different from any I had ever heard),
united to confirm me in this belief. Indeed, such were the horrors of my views
and fears at the moment, that, if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I
would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with
that of the meanest slave in my own country. When I looked round the ship too,
and saw a large furnace of copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of
every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing
dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate; and, quite overpowered
with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted. When I
recovered a little, I found some black people about me, who I believed were
some of those who had brought me on board, and had been receiving their pay;
they talked to me in order to cheer me, but all in vain. I asked them if we were
not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces, and long
hair. They told me I was not, and one of the crew brought me a small portion of
spirituous liquor in a wine glass; but, being afraid of him, I would not take it out

FROM THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO

2

The Americans McDougal Littell Inc.
of his hand. One of the blacks, therefore, took it from him and gave it to me,
and I took a little down my palate, which, instead of reviving me, as they
thought it would, threw me into the greatest consternation at the strange feeling
it produced, having never tasted any such liquor before. Soon after this, the
blacks who brought me on board went off, and left me abandoned to despair.
I now saw myself deprived of all chance of returning to my native country, or
even the least glimpse of hope of gaining the shore, which I now considered as
friendly; and I even wished for my former slavery in preference to my present
situation, which was filled with horrors of every kind, still heightened by my
ignorance of what I was to undergo. I was not long suffered to indulge my grief;
I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in
my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life; so that, with the
loathsomeness of the stench, and crying together, I became so sick and low that
I was not able to eat, nor I had the least desire to taste anything. I now wished
for the last friend, death, to relieve me; but soon, to my grief, two of the white
men offered me eatables; and, on my refusing to eat, one of them held me fast
by the hands, and laid me across, I think, the windlass, and tied my feet, while
the other flogged me severely. I had never experienced anything of this kind
before, and, although not being used to the water, I naturally feared the
element the first time I saw it, yet, nevertheless, could I have got over the
nettings, I would have jumped over the side, but I could not; and besides, the
crew used to watch us very closely who were not chained down to the decks,
lest we should leap into the water; and I have seen some of these poor African
prisoners most severely cut, for attempting to do so, and hourly whipped for
not eating. This indeed was often the case with myself. In a little time after,
amongst the poor chained men, I found some of my own nation, which in a
small degree gave ease to my mind. I inquired of these what was to be done
with us? They gave me to understand, we were to be carried to these white
people’s country to work for them. I then was a little revived, and thought, if it
were no worse than working, my situation was not so desperate; but still I
feared I should be put to death, the white people looked and acted, as I
thought, in so savage a manner; for I had never seen among any people such
instances of brutal cruelty; and this not only shown towards us blacks, but also
to some of the whites themselves. One white man in particular I saw, when we
were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near
the foremast, that he died in consequence of it; and they tossed him over the
side as they would have done a brute. This made me fear these people the
more; and I expected nothing less than to be treated in the same manner. I
could not help expressing my fears and apprehensions to some of my
countrymen; I asked them if these people had no country, but lived in this
hollow place (the ship)? They told me they did not, but came from a distant
one. “Then,” said I, “how comes it in all our country we never heard of them?”
They told me because they lived so very far off. I then asked where were their

FROM THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO

3

The Americans McDougal Littell Inc.
women? had they any like themselves? I was told they had. “And why,” said I,
“do we not see them?” They answered, because they were left behind. I asked
how the vessel could go? They told me they could not tell; but that there was
cloth put upon the masts by the help of the ropes I saw, and then the vessel
went on; and the white men had some spell or magic they put in the water
when they liked, in order to stop the vessel. I was exceedingly amazed at this
account, and really thought they were spirits. I therefore wished much to be
from amongst them, for I expected they would sacrifice me; but my wishes
were in vain—for we were so quartered that it was impossible for any of us to
make our escape. ...
At last, when the ship we were in, had got in all her cargo, they made ready
with many fearful noises, and we were all put under deck, so that we could not
see how they managed the vessel. But this disappointment was the least of my
sorrow. The stench of the hold while we were on the coast was so intolerably
loathsome, that it was dangerous to remain there for any time, and some of us
had been permitted to stay on the deck for the fresh air; but now that the whole
ship’s cargo were confined together, it became absolutely pestilential. The
closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the
ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself,
almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon
became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought
on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died. ...This wretched situation
was again aggravated by the galling of the chains. ...The shrieks of the women,
and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost
inconceivable. Happily perhaps, for myself, I was soon reduced so low here
that it was thought necessary to keep me almost always on deck; and from my
extreme youth I was not put in fetters. In this situation I expected every hour to
share the fate of my companions, some of whom were almost daily brought
upon deck at the point of death, which I began to hope would soon put an end
to my miseries. ...
One day they had taken a number of fishes; and when they had killed and
satisfied themselves with as many as they thought fit, to our astonishment who
were on deck, rather than give any of them to us to eat, as we expected, they
tossed the remaining fish into the sea again, although we begged and prayed for
some as well as we could, but in vain; and some of my countrymen, being
pressed by hunger, took an opportunity, when they thought no one saw them,
of trying to get a little privately; but they were discovered, and the attempt
procured them some very severe floggings. One day, when we had a smooth sea
and moderate wind, two of my wearied countrymen who were chained
together (I was near them at the time), preferring death to such a life of misery,
somehow made through the nettings and jumped into the sea; immediately,
another quite dejected fellow, who, on account of his illness, was suffered to be
out of irons, also followed their example; and I believe many more would very

FROM THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO

4

The Americans McDougal Littell Inc.
soon have done the same, if they had not been prevented by the ship’s crew,
who were instantly alarmed. ...
We were not many days in the merchant’s custody, before we were sold after
their usual manner, which is this: On a signal given (as the beat of a drum), the
buyers rush at once into the yard where the slaves are confined, and make
choice of that parcel they like best. The noise and clamor with which this is
attended, and the eagerness visible in the countenances of the buyers, serve not
a little to increase the apprehension of terrified Africans, who may well be
supposed to consider them as the ministers of that destruction to which they
think themselves devoted. In this manner, without scruple, are relations and
friends separated, most of them never to see each other again. I remember, in
the vessel in which I was brought over, in the men’s apartment, there were
several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very
moving on this occasion, to see and hear their cries at parting. O ye nominal
Christians! might not an African ask you—Learned you this from your God,
who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? Is
it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends, to toil for your
luxury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your
avarice? Are the dearest friends and relations now rendered more dear by their
separation from their kindred, still to be parted from each other, and thus
prevented from cheering the gloom of slavery, with the small comfort of being
together, and mingling their sufferings and sorrows? Why are parents to lose
their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely, this is a
new refinement in cruelty, which . ...thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh
horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery.


النص الأصلي

The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast, was the
sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo.
These filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror, when
I was carried on board. I was immediately handled, and tossed up to see if I
were sound, by some of the crew; and I was now persuaded that I had gotten
into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me. Their
complexions, too, differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the
language they spoke (which was very different from any I had ever heard),
united to confirm me in this belief. Indeed, such were the horrors of my views
and fears at the moment, that, if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I
would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with
that of the meanest slave in my own country. When I looked round the ship too,
and saw a large furnace of copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of
every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing
dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate; and, quite overpowered
with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted. When I
recovered a little, I found some black people about me, who I believed were
some of those who had brought me on board, and had been receiving their pay;
they talked to me in order to cheer me, but all in vain. I asked them if we were
not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces, and long
hair. They told me I was not, and one of the crew brought me a small portion of
spirituous liquor in a wine glass; but, being afraid of him, I would not take it out


FROM THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO


2


The Americans © McDougal Littell Inc.
of his hand. One of the blacks, therefore, took it from him and gave it to me,
and I took a little down my palate, which, instead of reviving me, as they
thought it would, threw me into the greatest consternation at the strange feeling
it produced, having never tasted any such liquor before. Soon after this, the
blacks who brought me on board went off, and left me abandoned to despair.
I now saw myself deprived of all chance of returning to my native country, or
even the least glimpse of hope of gaining the shore, which I now considered as
friendly; and I even wished for my former slavery in preference to my present
situation, which was filled with horrors of every kind, still heightened by my
ignorance of what I was to undergo. I was not long suffered to indulge my grief;
I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in
my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life; so that, with the
loathsomeness of the stench, and crying together, I became so sick and low that
I was not able to eat, nor I had the least desire to taste anything. I now wished
for the last friend, death, to relieve me; but soon, to my grief, two of the white
men offered me eatables; and, on my refusing to eat, one of them held me fast
by the hands, and laid me across, I think, the windlass, and tied my feet, while
the other flogged me severely. I had never experienced anything of this kind
before, and, although not being used to the water, I naturally feared the
element the first time I saw it, yet, nevertheless, could I have got over the
nettings, I would have jumped over the side, but I could not; and besides, the
crew used to watch us very closely who were not chained down to the decks,
lest we should leap into the water; and I have seen some of these poor African
prisoners most severely cut, for attempting to do so, and hourly whipped for
not eating. This indeed was often the case with myself. In a little time after,
amongst the poor chained men, I found some of my own nation, which in a
small degree gave ease to my mind. I inquired of these what was to be done
with us? They gave me to understand, we were to be carried to these white
people’s country to work for them. I then was a little revived, and thought, if it
were no worse than working, my situation was not so desperate; but still I
feared I should be put to death, the white people looked and acted, as I
thought, in so savage a manner; for I had never seen among any people such
instances of brutal cruelty; and this not only shown towards us blacks, but also
to some of the whites themselves. One white man in particular I saw, when we
were permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near
the foremast, that he died in consequence of it; and they tossed him over the
side as they would have done a brute. This made me fear these people the
more; and I expected nothing less than to be treated in the same manner. I
could not help expressing my fears and apprehensions to some of my
countrymen; I asked them if these people had no country, but lived in this
hollow place (the ship)? They told me they did not, but came from a distant
one. “Then,” said I, “how comes it in all our country we never heard of them?”
They told me because they lived so very far off. I then asked where were their


FROM THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO


3


The Americans © McDougal Littell Inc.
women? had they any like themselves? I was told they had. “And why,” said I,
“do we not see them?” They answered, because they were left behind. I asked
how the vessel could go? They told me they could not tell; but that there was
cloth put upon the masts by the help of the ropes I saw, and then the vessel
went on; and the white men had some spell or magic they put in the water
when they liked, in order to stop the vessel. I was exceedingly amazed at this
account, and really thought they were spirits. I therefore wished much to be
from amongst them, for I expected they would sacrifice me; but my wishes
were in vain—for we were so quartered that it was impossible for any of us to
make our escape. ...
At last, when the ship we were in, had got in all her cargo, they made ready
with many fearful noises, and we were all put under deck, so that we could not
see how they managed the vessel. But this disappointment was the least of my
sorrow. The stench of the hold while we were on the coast was so intolerably
loathsome, that it was dangerous to remain there for any time, and some of us
had been permitted to stay on the deck for the fresh air; but now that the whole
ship’s cargo were confined together, it became absolutely pestilential. The
closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the
ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself,
almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon
became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought
on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died. ...This wretched situation
was again aggravated by the galling of the chains. ...The shrieks of the women,
and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost
inconceivable. Happily perhaps, for myself, I was soon reduced so low here
that it was thought necessary to keep me almost always on deck; and from my
extreme youth I was not put in fetters. In this situation I expected every hour to
share the fate of my companions, some of whom were almost daily brought
upon deck at the point of death, which I began to hope would soon put an end
to my miseries. ...
One day they had taken a number of fishes; and when they had killed and
satisfied themselves with as many as they thought fit, to our astonishment who
were on deck, rather than give any of them to us to eat, as we expected, they
tossed the remaining fish into the sea again, although we begged and prayed for
some as well as we could, but in vain; and some of my countrymen, being
pressed by hunger, took an opportunity, when they thought no one saw them,
of trying to get a little privately; but they were discovered, and the attempt
procured them some very severe floggings. One day, when we had a smooth sea
and moderate wind, two of my wearied countrymen who were chained
together (I was near them at the time), preferring death to such a life of misery,
somehow made through the nettings and jumped into the sea; immediately,
another quite dejected fellow, who, on account of his illness, was suffered to be
out of irons, also followed their example; and I believe many more would very


FROM THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO


4


The Americans © McDougal Littell Inc.
soon have done the same, if they had not been prevented by the ship’s crew,
who were instantly alarmed. ...
We were not many days in the merchant’s custody, before we were sold after
their usual manner, which is this: On a signal given (as the beat of a drum), the
buyers rush at once into the yard where the slaves are confined, and make
choice of that parcel they like best. The noise and clamor with which this is
attended, and the eagerness visible in the countenances of the buyers, serve not
a little to increase the apprehension of terrified Africans, who may well be
supposed to consider them as the ministers of that destruction to which they
think themselves devoted. In this manner, without scruple, are relations and
friends separated, most of them never to see each other again. I remember, in
the vessel in which I was brought over, in the men’s apartment, there were
several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very
moving on this occasion, to see and hear their cries at parting. O ye nominal
Christians! might not an African ask you—Learned you this from your God,
who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? Is
it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends, to toil for your
luxury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your
avarice? Are the dearest friends and relations now rendered more dear by their
separation from their kindred, still to be parted from each other, and thus
prevented from cheering the gloom of slavery, with the small comfort of being
together, and mingling their sufferings and sorrows? Why are parents to lose
their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely, this is a
new refinement in cruelty, which . ...thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh
horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery.

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