Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

Who shall assign a limit to the discoveries of future ages? Who can prescribe to science her boundaries, or restrain the active and insatiable curiosity of man, within the circle of his present acquirements? We may guess with plausibility what we cannot anticipate with confidence. The day may yet be coming, when our instruments of observation shall be inconceivably more powerful. They may ascertain still more decisive points of resemblance. They may resolve the same question by the evidence of sense, which is now so abundantly convincing by the evidence of analogy. They may lay open to us the unquestionable vestiges of art, and industry, and intelligence.

We may see summer throwing its green mantle over these mighty tracts, and we may see them naked and colorless, after the flush of vegetation has disappeared. In the progress of years, or of centuries, we may trace the hand of cultivation spreading a new aspect over some portion of a planetary surface. Perhaps some large city, the metropolis of a mighty empire, may expand into a visible spot by the powers of some future telescope. Perhaps the glass of some observer, in a distant age, may enable him to construct a map of another world, and to lay down the surface of it in all its minute and topical varieties.

But there is no end to conjecture, and to the men of other times we leave the full assurance of what we can assert with the highest probability, that yon planetary orbs are so many worlds, that they teem with life, and that the mighty Being, who presides in high authority over this scene of grandeur and astonishment, has there planted worshippers of his glory

LESSON XII.

Mountains.Howitt.

There is a charm connected with mountains so powerful, that the merest mention of them, the merest sketch of their magnificent features kindles the imagination, and carries the spirit at once into the bosom of their enchanted regions.

How the mind is filled with their vast solitude! how the inward eye is fixed oh their silent, their sublime, their everlasting peaks! How our heart bounds to the music of their solitary cries—to the tinkle of their gushing rills, to the sound of their cataracts.

How inspiriting are the odors that breathe from the upland turf, from the rock-hung flower, from the hoary and solemn pine; how beautiful are those lights and shadows thrown abroad, and that fine, transparent haze which is diffused over the valleys and lower slopes as over a vast, inimitable picture.

Whoever has not seen the rich and russet hues of distant slopes and eminences, the livid gashes of ravines and precipices, the white glittering line of falling waters, and the cloud tumultuously whirling round the lofty summit; and then stood panting on that summit, and beheld the clouds alternately gather and break over a thousand giant peaks and ridges of every varied hue,—but all silent as images of eternity; and cast his gaze over lakes and forests, and smoking towns, and wide lands to the very ocean, in all their gleaming and reposing beauty, knows nothing of the treasures of pictorial wealth which his own country possesses.

When we let loose the imagination,and give it free charter to range through the glorious ridges of continental mountains, through Alps, Apennines or Andes, how is it possessed and absorbed by all the awful magnificence of their scenery and character! The sky-ward and inaccessible pinnacles, the

Palaces where nature thrones
Sublimity in icy halls!

the dark Alpine forests, the savage rocks and precipices, the fearful and unfathomable chasms filled with the sound of ever-precipitating waters; the cloud, the silence, the avalanche, the cavernous gloom, the terrible visitations of heaven's concentrated lightning, darkness and thunder; or the sweeter features of living, rushing streams, spicy odors of flower and shrub, fresh spirit-elating breezes sounding through the dark pine grove; the ever-varying lights and shadows, and aerial hues; the wide prospects, and, above all, the simple inhabitants!

We delight to think of the people of mountainous regions; we please our imaginations with their picturesque and quiet abodes; with their peaceful secluded lives, striking and unvarying costumes, and primitive manners.

We involuntarily give to the mountaineer heroic and elevated qualities. He lives amongst noble objects, and must imbibe some of their nobility; he lives amongst the elements of poetry, and must be poetical; but, more than all, he lives within the barriers, the strong-holds, the very last refuge which Nature herself has reared to preserve alive liberty in the earth, to preserve to man his highest hopes, his noblest emotions, his dearest treasures, his faith, his freedom, his hearth, and home.

How glorious do those mountain-ridges appear, when we look upon them as the unconquerable abodes of free hearts; as the stern, heaven-built walls from which the few, the feeble, the persecuted, the despised, the helpless child, the delicate woman, have from age to age, in their last perils, in all their weaknesses and emergencies, when power and cruelty were ready to swallow them up, looked down, and beheld the million waves of despotism break at their feet:—have seen the rage of murderous armies, and tyrants, the blasting spirit of ambition, fanaticism, and crushing domination recoil from their bases in despair.

LESSON XIII.

Mountains.—Concluded.

"Thanks be to God for mountains! " is often the exclamation of my heart, as I trace the History of the World. From age to age, they have been the last friends of man. In a thousand extremities they have saved him. What great hearts have throbbed in their defiles from the days of Leonidas to those of Andreas Hofer! What lofty souls, what tender hearts, what poor and persecuted creatures have they sheltered in their stony bosoms, from the weapons and tortures of their fellow men.

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold'

was the burning exclamation of Milton's agonized and indignant spirit, as he beheld those sacred bulwarks of freedom for once violated by the disturbing demons of the earth; and the sound of his fiery and lamenting appeal to Heaven, will be echoed in every generous soul to the end of time.

Thanks be to God for mountains! The variety, which they impart to the glorious bosom of our planet, were no small advantage; the beauty which they spread out to our vision in their woods and waters; their crags and slopes, their clouds and atmospheric hues, were a splendid gift; the sublimity which they pour into our deepest souls from their majestic aspects; the poetry which breathes from their streams, and dells, and airy heights, were a proud heritage to imaginative minds; but what are all these when the thought comes, that without mountains, the spirit of man must have bowed to the brutal and the base, and probably have sunk to the monotonous level of the unvaried plain.

When I turn my eyes upon the map of the world, and behold how wonderfully the countries, where our faith was nurtured, where our liberties were generated, where our philosophy and literature, the fountains of our intellectual grace and beauty, sprang up, were as distinctly walled out by God's hand, with mountain ramparts from the eruptions and interruptions of barbarism, as if at the especial prayer of the early fathers of man's destinies, I am lost in an exulting admiration.

Look at the bold barriers of Palestine! see how the infant liberties of Greece, were sheltered from the vast tribes of the uncivilized north by the heights of Hasmus and Rhodope! behold how the Alps describe their magnificent crescent, inclining their opposite extremities to the Adriatic and Tyrrhine Seas, locking up Italy from the Gallic and Teutonic hordes, till the power and spirit of Rome had reached their maturity, and she had opened the wide forest of Europe to the light, spread far her laws and language, and planted the seeds of many mighty nations!

Thanks to God for mountains! Their colossal firmness seems almost to break the current of time itself; the Geologist in them searches for traces of the earlier world, and it is there too that man, resisting the revolutions of lower regions, retains through innumerable years his habits and his rights.

While a multitude of changes has remoulded the people of Europe, while languages and laws and dynasties, and creeds, have passed over it like shadows over the landscape, the children of the Celt and the Goth, who fled to the mountains a thousand years ago, are found there now, and show us in face and figure, in language and garb, what their fathers were; show us a fine contrast with the modern tribes dwelling below and around them; and show us, moreover, how adverse is the spirit of the mountain to mutability, and that there the fiery heart of Freedom is found forever.

LESSON XIV.

." The Ocean.Dhummond.

Perhaps no scene, or situation, is so intensely gratifying *o the naturalist as the shore of the ocean. The productions of the latter element are innumerable, and the majesty of the mighty waters lends an interest unknown to an inland landscape.

The loneliness too of the sea-shore is much cheered by the constant changes arising from the ebb and flow of the tide, and the undulations of the water's surface, sometimes rolling like mountains, and again scarcely murmuring on ♦he beach. As you gather there

Each flower of the rock and each gem of the billow, you may feel with the poet, that there aro joys in solitude, and that there are pleasures to be found in the investigation of nature of the most powerful and pleasing influence.

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods;
There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society where none intrudes,
By tiie deep sea, and music in its roar.

But nothing can be more beautiful than a view of the bottom of the ocean, during a calm, even round our own shores, but particularly in tropical climates, especially when it consists alternately of beds of sand and masses of rock.

The water is frequently so clear and undisturbed, that, at great depths, the minutest objects are visibj*; groves of coral are seen expanding their variously-colored clumps, some rigid and immovable, and others waving gracefully their flexile branches. Shells of every form and hue glide slowly along the stones, or cling to the coral boughs like fruit; crabs and other marine animals pursue their preys in the crannies of the rocks, and sea-plants spread their limber leaves in gay and gaudy irregularity, while the most beautiful fishes are on every side sporting around.

The floor is of sand, like the mountain-drift,

And the pearl-shells spangle the flinty snow;
From coral rocks the sea-plants lift

Their boughs, where the tides and billows flow;
The water is calm and still below,

For the winds and waves are absent there;
And the sands are bright as the stars that glow

In the motionless fields of the upper air •

^*

« AnteriorContinuar »