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To the Editor of the Student. In the October number of your magazine, a writer on Biblical Interpretation closes a paper written with some ingenuity, and much candour and modesty, with the following words :-“We will readily submit to an unfavourable judgment on the merits of the rather novel explanation which we offer, should the acuteness of some critical student, one who may be ' nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri, pronounce it inadmissible.”
Now, though I have not the vanity to consider myself a critical student, I must yet declare that I think the interpretation put upon the verse in Eccles., rendered in the common version, “and the grasshopper shall be a burden,” totally inadmissible. The writer referred to, states the well known fact, that both the Athenians and the Egyptians (from whom the former borrowed the custom) were in the habit of wearing grasshoppers (Téttiyes) in their hair ; but does this prove that the Jews ever made use of a similar adorninent ? And unless this can be proved, the rather fanciful, and in my eyes, rather ludicrous notion, that the burden caused by the grasshopper mentioned in Scripture, is the inconvenience resulting to irritable old age, from an article of adornment and decoration, is most certainly built on a foundation of sand.
It may be said, however, that the Jews derived the practice of wearing these golden ornaments from the Egyptians, when captive in their country; but it is not likely, in the first place, that the Israelites would adopt a badge, which distinguished those whom they regarded with the greatest enmity, as being their cruel task-masters and tyrannical oppressors; nor is it probable, on the other hand, that these lords and masters would suffer their bondsmen, mere captive sojourners in their land, to assume an emblem which they regarded with peculiar pride, as it metaphorically represented them as being earth-born, or as their descendants the Athenians expressed it, Auróxoves, and I'nyeveis: and, therefore, of great antiquity and nobility.
I had never seen Dr. Boothroyd's translation of the passage in question, till I met with it in the pages of The Student; and, as I am not a Hebrew scholar, I am not competent to judge of its accuracy or incorrectness. But, I must confess, that it appears to me very plausible :-" And the locust shall be a burden to itself.” The note also, which is subjoined, seems to me to have taken the right view of the metaphor :-“An old man is compared to a locust, on account of his emaciated frame and its bending posture; and how true is it, that in this state a man is a burden to himself.” I entirely differ from the writer of Fragments of Biblical Interpretation, when he says, “Such a metaphor, however, will not be found to be natural or appropriate.” There is hardly a metaphor, allegory, or simile, in the whole round of poetical literature, which would bear to be carried out and dwelt upon in all its minute features. A few prominent points alone are seized upon by the poet; and in these alone will the metaphor, allegory, or simile, be found correct or just. Thus, in the case now before ts, the “emaciated frame and bending posture” of the locust, or grasshopper, together with its feeble chirp, are taken to express (more powerfully than could be done by simple description) the wasted body of an old
seller near Temple-bar," from the Dutch of Færsch, a surgeon stationed at Batavia.
During his residence there, his curiosity being greatly excited by the various statements he received respecting the Bohun-Upas, as it is termed in the Malay language, he resolved to investigate the subject for himself. Having accordingly procured a pass to travel through the country from the Governor-general, and an introduction to an old priest who resided at the nearest habitable spot to the tree, and prepared for eternity the souls of those malefactors that preferred the attempt of procuring the poison, to the certainty of a public execution, he made the tour all around the dangerous spot, at about eighteen miles distant from the centre, and found the land entirely barren on all sides, not even the least plant or grass to be seen. He states that each criminal was sent to the house of the old ecclesiastic, and furnished with a box for the poison, a long leather-cap, and a pair of leather-gloves, and instructions were given him to travel with the utmost dispatch, and always before the wind. During thirty years, the priest assured Forsch that he had dismissed upwards of seven hundred criminals, but that scarcely two out of twenty returned. When questioned about the origin of the tree, he replied :-“ We are told in our new Alcoran that above a hundred years ago, the country around the tree was inhabited by a people strongly addicted to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah ; when the great prophet Mahomet determined not to suffer them to lead such detestable lives any longer, he applied to God to punish them; upon which God caused this tree to grow out of the earth, which destroyed them all, and rendered the country for ever uninhabitable."
Færsch also states, that in consequence of a rebellion in 1755, four hundred families were compelled to settle in the uncultivated vicinity of the tree; but their number, in less than two months, was reduced to about three hundred, all of whom had the appearance of being tainted with an infectious poison. A description is likewise given of the execution of thirteen fair delinquents, in all of whom life was extinct sixteen minutes after they had been lanced in their breasts by an instrument poisoned with the gum of the Upas. Some hours after death, he observed their bodies full of livid spots, their faces swelled, their colour changed to a kind of blue, their eyes yellow, &c.
This account afforded to Darwin too excellent a subject for poetic embellishment, to render him anxious to investigate its authenticity with any very great degree of severity; his personification of the tree, indeed, in the Loves of the Plants, may be well ranked amongst the most beautiful and striking passages in the whole poem :
“Fierce in dread silence on the blasted heath
Chained at his root, two scion-demons dwell,
And crops the sweet buds of domestic joys!" A short time after the appearance of Færsch's paper, the Batavian Society commissioned two of its members to examine the statements contained therein; and in their report, the falsehood of all the leading circumstances introduced to heighten the interest of the narrative is completely established. The memoirs of MM. Deschamps and Leschenhault, and of Dr. Horsfield, may be likewise adduced in evidence against the Dutchman, and have presented us with valuable information upon which reliance can be placed. Some have supposed that the production of Færsch arose from a confusion of the upas tree with the upas valley of Java, which Mr. Loudon describes as about half a mile in circumference, from thirty to thirty-five feet deep, the bottom quite flat, no vegetation, a few large stones, and the whole covered with the skeletons of human beings, tigers, pigs, deer, peacocks, and all sorts of beasts and birds. He descended to within eighteen feet of the bottom, and then thrust down two dogs, one of which continued to breathe eighteen, and the other seven minutes; a fowl died in one minute and a half, and another which they threw in was dead before it reached the bottom. The result of these experiments is probably due to the escape of carbonic acid from the soil, similar to that which occurs on a smaller scale in the Grotto del Cane, near Naples.
But not only has the authenticity of the narrative been called in question, but also its genuineness; and even at the time of its publication, many considered it to be fabricated in a great measure by Heydinger. D'Israeli, however, thinks Forsch himself is as fictitious as his tale, and ascribes the manufacture of both to George Stevens, whose principal delight consisted in a literary hoax.
By botanists the Upas tree, or Antiaris toxicaria (Leschenhault), is considered a member of the order Urticacea, or nettle tribe. It is one of the largest forest trees of Java, attaining the height of from sixty to one hundred feet, and delights in a fertile, and not very elevated soil. Like other trees in its neighbourhood, it is surrounded with vegetation, and it even affords support to numerous climbing plants. Its leaves are oval and alternate, and its inflorescence is monacious, the catkins of the male flowers, according to the simile of Deschamps, resembling the contrayerva, and those of the female, so many budding figs. From incisions in its whitish bark a milky sap exudes, which is mixed with the juice of arum, galanga, onions, garlic, and other plants, and the whole boiled down with a small quantity of black pepper. In order to test whether or not the poison is duly prepared, a single seed of the Guinea-pepper (Capsicum fruticosum) is placed on the fluid in the centre of the bowl ; if it immediately performs a rapid series of movements, the digestion is incomplete ; the same quantity of pepper is therefore added, and the experiment again tried, and this is repeated until the seed of the Capsicum, when dropped on the liquid, remains perfectly still ; the poison is then considered fit for use. Dr. Horsfield details the results of several experiments with the Upas, and found the usual train of symptoms to be — trembling of the extremities, restless
ness, erection of the hair, alvine discharges, fainting, slight spasms, difficulty of breathing, violent vomiting, great agony, repeated convulsions, and death. To dogs it generally proved fatal in an hour; a mouse died in ten minutes, a monkey in seven, a cat in fifteen, and a buffalo in two hours and ten minutes.
The juice has been analysed by Mulder, who found it to contain a pecaliar resin, antiarin, the principle in which its activity resides, and several other ordinary vegetable matters.
As regards the uses to which the tree is applied, besides yielding its celebrated poison, with which the natives imbue both their weapons of war and of the chase, a strong kind of rope, and a coarse stuff is made from its liber, or inner bark, which is somewhat analogous to that of the paper mulberry (Morus papyrifera). This stuff the poorer classes wear at labour in the open fields, and it is said that when they are exposed to rain, it gives rise to such intolerable itching as to render it quite insupportable.
THE IMPORTANCE OF VENTILATION.
THERE can be no question, that a great amount of physical evil resulting from the system of late-hours, must be laid to the account of bad ventilation. The fearful amount of impurity existing in an atmosphere where an enormous quantity of flame has been burning for many hours, places the assertion beyond dispute. We feel it our duty, therefore, to call the attention of employers to a simple but admirable plan for the ventilation of gas-lamps, recently brought before the notice of the Pharmaceutical Society, by Mr. P. Squire. The cost of its adoption cannot be very heavy, and the increased health and comfort it must produce will, we are sure, quite compensate for the original outlay.
“I now,” says Mr. Squire, “come to the form of apparatus which I employ, and which I think is perhaps the most simple and least costly of any that I can recommend for general adoption, taking all its advantages into the account: it consists of an iron gas pipe, 11-inch in diameter, having a diminishing connector as it is called (capable of receiving a 2-inch pipe at one end, and connecting the other with a 14-inch pipe) screwed on to its aperture. This forms the cap to drop over the mouth of the glass chimney. Each of the lights will require one of these capped pipes, and it may approach the glass chimney within one-eighth of an inch, or drop close over it. These are connected with a pipe in the ceiling, which conveys through the joists the products of combustion into the nearest chimney; the pipe is surrounded by a circular tube of sheet iron, about nine inches in diameter, or if there are several lights, six inches may do for each, and they must be flattened, if they cross the joists to get to the chimney, as indeed mine do. This flue of sheet iron commences at the ceiling, passing the whole course of the pipe to the chimney, and answers admirably in carrying off the vitiated and heated air which collects under the ceiling. The iron pipe rising direct from the gaslight to the ceiling, if left naked, radiates a considerable quantity of heat, and this can either be used as a warming agent, or the pipe can be cased with a loose tube of bronze, or better still by ornamental porcelain, or by opaque glass, which will stop half the heat. The heat by this arrangement draws up to the perforated ventilator which covers the opening of the sheet iron flue, and is thus got rid of: the iron gas-tube retains the heat so well, that all the water produced by the combustion of the gas, is carried in the
A, The Pipe conveying beated air to the open air, and finishing in a T piece, B. C, the outer casing of ditto. DDD, Tubes conveying the heated
air between the joists to the chimney. The dotted line represents the outer iron casing for the double ventilation.
This diagram has been kindly furnished by the Pharmaceutical Society.