Изображения страниц

how the river might not really waste away, as it seemed to be wasting (though inappreciably in long periods of their time). The actual process of restoration, which, to us, seems so simple a matter, could not possibly suggest itself to creatures having their limited knowledge and experience. That the air in which they lived contained the stores from which the river, unlike them in all respects, was constantly nourished, would seem incredible if suggested to them; but, as a matter of fact, the idea would be to them utterly inconceivable. It would not occur to their minds at all. By parity of reasoning, we may well believe that the way in which the energies of suns and planets are continually restored, if (as I believe myself must be the case) they are restored at all, is utterly outside the range of our knowledge and experience. Thus understood as suggesting the kind of way, not the way itself, in which such restoration may be effected, the following strictly unscientific ideas may be regarded as admissible. Men were long deceived in regard to space, they thought this world allimportant in space, whereas now they know it to be the merest point compared with the solar system, this system the merest point compared with the distances separating star from star, and the whole of the system of stars utterly lost in unfathomable depths of space. Men were deceived with regard to time, they thought the duration of this earth represented all time; was, at least, central in time; they know it now to be the merest second compared with the duration of the solar system, the duration of this a mere moment compared with the uncounted aeons of whose progress the star-depths tell us, and even these as nothing compared with the eternities of past and future time amid which they are

lost. May it not well be, then, that, as men have deceived themselves with regard to both space and time, so also have they deceived themselves with regard to the very structure of the universe itself? May it not well be that the solid, liquid, and vaporous forms of matter with which alone we are acquainted are not the only forms of matter which exist? May there not be a higher order of universe, of which the suns and planets of the universe we know of are but as the atoms and molecules? May there not be a lower, or, rather, a rarer, order of universe, as much finer in texture, so to speak, as that imagined higher order is in a sense grosser? But we know that there is a rarer order of universe-the ether of space-which permeates our universe, flowing through the densest solids as the breeze passes through the forest trees. The waste energies of stars and planets are expended in the ether of space. May they not subserve within it important purposes, though we may not be able to conceive how? May they not continually revivify that universe, while, in turn, our universe is continually refreshed and restored by receiving supplies of energies passed on to us from a higher order of universe? And thus, from higher and higher orders of universe, absolutely without end on one side, to lower and lower orders as absolutely without end on the other side, there may be constant interchange of energy, instead of the dying out of any one among these various orders of material universe.

All this, as I have said, is outside science. For science deals with what we know of, what we can observe, analyze, and investigate, while these interchanges of life and energy we can never analyze or test. But thus it is in whatever direction we investigate the universe. On

[ocr errors]

all sides we reach the unknown, the unknowable. We approach in every case the threshold of infinity-infinite space and infinite time, infinite power and infinite variety. In dealing with infinity we are dealing with what is for us absolutely inconceivable, though its existence is absolutely certain.



THE spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,

And spangled Heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.

Th' unweary'd Sun from day to day
Does his Creator's power display;
And publishes, to every land,
The work of an immortal hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The Moon takes up the wondrous tale;
And nightly, to the listening Earth,
Repeats the story of her birth:

Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets, in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though, in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
What though no real voice, nor sound
Amidst their radiant orbs be found:

In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
Forever singing as they shine:
"The hand that made us is divine.'

[ocr errors]



THE perfect Science," as astronomy is sometimes called, is the oldest of the sciences, and its course has been as turbulent as long. In no other science have what appeared to be facts so stubbornly contested every inch of ground with real facts. The earth looked flat. The sun seemed to rise and set. All the hosts of stars sank into the sea at evening, and swam out in the east in the morning. All evidence to disprove these illusions was held in abhorrence until almost our own age was reached.


The primitive man believed that all creation had life, and a will to do good and evil. It was out of this belief that the myths grew up. Then the constellations were marked off, and named after the heroes of the stories, and were incorporated into the literature of the times. Homer, in the Iliad, probably one thousand years before Christ, tells us about a wonderful shield that one of the gods made for the hero Achilles, on which he placed some of the constellations, which may have been about all known to him at that time:

"First fashioned he a shield great and strong, adorning it all over, and set thereto a shining rim, triple, bright-glancing, and therefrom a silver baldrick. Five were the folds of the shield itself; and therein fashioned he much cunning work from his wise heart.

"There wrought he the earth, and the heavens, and the sea,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »