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Love framed with Mirth a gay fantastic round
And he, amid his frolic play,
CLXXXVIII. — THE ELOQUENCE OF SCIENCE. 1. EXTENT OF THE UNIVERSE. — It may give some idea of the extent of the universe to know the length of time required for light which travels one hundred and ninety-two thousand miles a second, to come from different celestial objects to this earth. From the moon, it comes in one and a quarter seconds; from the sun, in eight minutes; from Jupiter, in fifty-two minutes; U'rănus, in two hours; from a star of the first magnitude, three to twelve years; from a star of the fifth magnitude, sixty-six years; from a star of the twelfth magnitude, four thousand years. Light which left a star of the twelfth magnitude when the Israelites left Egypt has not yet reached the earth. Our entire solar system itself travels at the rate of thirty-five thousand miles an hour among the fixed stars.
2. The ATMOSPHERE. — The atmosphere rises above us with its cathedral dome, arching towards the heaven, of which it is the most familiar synonyme El and symbol. It floats around us like that grand object which the apostle John saw in his vision, “a sea of glass like unto crystal.” So massive is it that, when it begins to stir, it tosses about great ships like playthings, and sweeps cities and forests like snow-flakes to destruction before it. And yet it is so moʻbile, that we have lived years in it before we can be persuaded that it exists at all, and the great bulk of mankind never realize the truth that they are bathed in an ocean of air. Its weight is so enormous that iron shivers before it like glass; yet a soap-bubble sails through it with impunity, and the tiniest insect waves it aside with its wing.
It ministers lavishly to all the senses. We touch it not, but it touches us. Its warm south winds bring back color to the pale face of the invalid; its cool west winds refresh the fevered brow, and make the blood mantle in our cheeks; even its northern blasts brace into new vigor the hardened children of our rugged clime. The eye is indebted to it for all the magnificence af sunrise, the full brightness of midday, the chastening radiance of the gloaming, El and the clouds that cradle near the setting sun. But for it the rainbow would want its “ triumphal arch,'
and the winds would not send their fleecy messengers on errands round the heavens. —Quarterly Review.
3. THE STEAM-ENGINE. — It has become a thir e stupendous alike for its force and its flexibility, — for the prodigious power which it can exert, and the ease and precision and ductility with which it can be varied, distributed, and applied. The trunk of an elephant, that can pick up a pin or rend an oak, is as nothing to it. It can engrave a seal, and crush masses of ob'durate metal before it; draw out, without breaking, a thread as fine as gossamer, and lift up a ship of war like a bauble in the air. It can embroider muslin and forge anchors; cut steel into rib. ands, and impel loaded vessels against the fury of the winds and waves. It has increased indefinitely the mass of human comforts and enjoyments, and rendered cheap and accessible all over the world the materials of wealth and prosperity. It has armed the feeble hand of man, in short, with a power to which no limits can be assigned; completed the dominion of mind over the most refractory qualities of matter; and laid a sure foundation for all those future miracles of mechanic power which are to aid and reward the labors of after generations. — Lord Jeffrey.
4. IGNORANCE OF GREAT PHYSICAL TRUTHS. — How few men really believe that they so'journ on a whirling globe, and that each day and year of life is measured by its revolution, regulating the labor and repose of every race of beings! How few believe that the great luminary of the firmament, whose restless activity they daily witness, is an immovable star, controlling, by its solid mass, the primary planets which compose our system, and forming the gnomone of the great dial which measures the thread of lite, the těnure of empires, and the great cy'cle of the world's change! How few believe that each of the millions of stars — those atoms of light which the telescope I can hardly descry — are the centre of a planetary system that may equal, if not surpass, our own!
5. LIFE.— Of all miracles the most wonderful is that of life the common, daily life which we carry with us, and which every. where surrounds us. The sun and stars, the blue firmament, day and night, the tides, and seasons, are as nothing compared with it. Life, the soul of the world, but for which creation were not! It is life which is the grand glory of the world; it was, indeed, the consummation of creative power, at which the morning stars sang together for joy. Is not the sun glorious, because there are living eyes to be gladdened by his beams? Is not the fresh air delicious, because there are living creatures to inhale and enjoy it ? Are not odors fragrant, and sounds sweet, and colors gorgeous, because there is the living sensation to
appreciate them? Without life, what were they all ? What were a Creator himself, without life, intelligence understand. ing, to know and to adore Him, and to trace His finter in the works that He hath made ? Boundless var.ety and perpetual change are exhibited in the living beings around us. Take the class of insects alone : of these, not fewer than one bundred million distinct species are already known and described; and every day is adding to the catalogue.
Wherever you penetrate, that life can be sustained, you find living beings to exist; in the depth of the ocean, in the arid desert, or at the icy polar regions. The air everywhere teems with life. The soil which clothes the earth all round is swarm. ing with life, vegetable and animal. Take a drop of water, and examine it with the microscope ;FT lo! it is swarming with living creatures. Within life exists other life, until it recedes before the powers of human vision. The parasiticEl animalcule, - which preys upon or within the body of a larger animal, is itself preyed upon by parasites peculiar to itself. So minute are living animal'cules, that Ehrenberg has computed that not fewer than five hundred million can subsist in a single drop of water; and each of these mõnadse is endowed with its appropriate organs, possesses spontaneous power of motion, enjoys an independent vitality. During how many thousands of years has the vitality of seeds been preserved deep in the earth's bosom! Not less wonderful is the fact stated by Lord Lindsay, who took from the hand of an Egyptian mummy a tuber, which must have been wrapped up more than two thousand years before. It was planted, was rained and dewed upon, the sun shone on it again, and the root grew, and budded, bursting forth and blooming into a beauteous dahlia ! E
6. LIGHT. — Finally, we have star-light, that wonderful messenger that brings us daily intelligence of the continued existence of numberless worlds, the expression of an immaterial essence which no longer obeys the laws of gravitation, and yet manifests itself to our senses by innumerable effects. Even the light of the sun, with the arrival of which upon the earth inanimate nature receives life and motion, we cleave asunder into rays which, without any power of illumination, produce the most important alterations and decompositions in organic nature. We separate from light certain rays which exhibit among themselves a diversity as great as exists among colors. But nowhere do we observe either a beginning or an end. — Liebig:
7. WONDERS OF THE CREATED UNIVERSE. — What mere assertion will make any one believe that in one second of time, in one beat of the pendulum of a clock, a ray of light travels over one hundred
and two thousand miles, and would therefore perform the tour of the world in about the same time that it requires to wink with our eyelids, and in much less than a swift runner occupies in taking a single stride? What mortal can be made to believe, without demonstration, that the sun is almost a million times larger than the earth ? and that, although so remote from us that a cannonball shot directly towards it, and maintaining its full speed, would be twenty years in reaching it, it yet affects the earth by its attraction in an inappreciable instant of time? Who would not ask for demonstration, when told that a gnat's wing, in its ordinary flight, beats many hundred times in a second ; or that there exist animated and regularly-organized beings many thou. sands of whose bodies, laid close together, would not extend an inch ?
But what are these to the astonishing truths which modern optical inquiries have disclosed, which teach us that every point of a medium through which a ray of light passes is affected with a succession of periodical. movements, regularly recurring at equal intervals, no less than five hundred millions of millions of times in a single second! That it is by such movements communicated to the nerves of our eyes that we see; — nay, more, that it is the difference in the frequency of their recurrence which affects us with the sense of the diversity of color! That, for instance, in acquiring the sensation of redness, our eyes are affected four hundred and eighty-two millions of millions of times; of yellowness, five hundred and forty-two millions of mil. lions of times; and of violet, seven hundred and seven millions of millions of times per second! Do not such things sound more like the ravings of madmen than the sober conclusions of people in their waking senses? They are, nevertheless, conclusions to which any one may most certainly arrive, who will only be at the trouble of examining the chain of reasoning by which they have been obtained. — Herschell.
8. ON THE VASTNESS OF THE UNIVERSE. — The aspect of the world, even without any of the peculiar lights which science throws upon it, is fitted to give us an idea of the greatness of the power by which it is directed and governed, far exceeding any notions of power and greatness which are suggested by any other contemplation. The number of human beings who surround us; the various conditions requisite for their life, nutri. tion, well-being, all fulfilled; the way in which these conditions are modified, as we pass in thought to other countries, by cli. mate, temperament, habit; the vast amount of the human population of the globe thus made up, yet man himself but one among almost endless tribes of animals; the forest, the field, the desert, the air, the ocean, all teeming with creatures whose bodily wants are as carefully provided for as his; the sun, the clouds, the winds, all attending, as it were, on these organized beings; a host of beneficent energies, unwearied by time and Succession, pervading every corner of the earth; — this spectacle cannot but give the contemplator a lofty and magnificent conception of the Author of so vast a work, of the Ruler of so wide and rich an empire, of the Provider for so many and varied wants, the Director and Adjuster of such com'plex and jarring interests. — Whewell.
CLXXXIX. — COMMON ERRORS. 1. THERE are a number of proverbial notions, which either square so well with some principle in our self-love, or appeal so forcibly to some of our besetting prejudices, or appear from some other cause so exceedingly plausible, that they are never brought forward without apparently producing conviction, while in sober truth they are either highly questionable or decidedly erroneous.
2. When a man, for instance, says, “ Away with all refinements — I take the broad common-sense view of the question," everybody immediately prepares to listen to him as a kind of ora. cle. Ile may, after that, speak for half an hour in the most vulgar and irrational jargon, without a single reference to the principle of the argument; and if he only takes care not to oflend any of the prepossessions of his hearers, he will bear away the palm from the most acute reasoner.
3. The cause of this is, that when you speak of common sense you speak of a thing which all imperfectly-educated and ignorant people (unfortunately the great majority of common audiences) think they possess by intuition, though it is in reality but a composition of the prejudices of each particular person; and, flattered by their sense being considered as sufficient to give judgment, they are tempted into thinking themselves convinced, and pronounce accordingly.
4. Whenever a man happens to act rather absurdly, or perhaps somewhat reprehensibly, and is conscious of it, you are sure to hear him exclaim, “Well, I acted according to my conscience.” If a man can only convince himself that he was ruled by this secret monitor, he is satisfied, because he has always been told to act according to conscience, and invariably hears conscientious people commended both by friends and