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gives out a kind of phosphorescent light; we see this on receiving a sudden blow, and it may be witnessed by gradually pressing the eye backwards with the finger, by which means the minute threads or nerves which compose the retina are compressed. This may be observed in a state of health, but in illness, as in headache, or nervous affections, this phosphorescence becomes very apparent, and is often produced by the mere pressure of the blood vessels in the head. When we consider how very easy it is even in a healthy state of the body to imagine in the glowing embers, as we sit around the fire in the gloaming of a winter's eve, various distinct forms appearing and disappearing, and even the defined features of persons with whom we are acquainted; it is easy to conceive, that by the exercise the same power, the din objects of the darkened chamber of the invalid, and these varied lights floating before the eye, may be converted into the many fantastic, and sometimes terrific figures which so often haunt the couch of illness.
We will now turn our attention to some of those phenomena sometimes observed in external nature, which although they are to be explained by known optical laws, do not come under the class we have hitherto considered of extraordinary appearances caused by the illusion of our senses. The Mirage of the African desert is a phenomenon which has excited much wonder and astonishment. Travellers in passing over these vast tracts of sand often perceive before them extensive lakes of water, with the waves apparently rippling from the effects of a light breeze. Sometimes trees will appear growing on the banks, or forming small islands in the centre of the water. Scorched beneath an almost vertical sun, they press forward to inhale the cool air which there seems to waft the branches of the trees from side to side; but when they arrive at the delusive spot, they find the lying vision exchanged for no other reality but sands more dry and barren than those they have already traversed ; and many a wretch with just strength enough to crawl to the apparent situation of these lakes, but unable to regain the caravan, has miserably perished. These delusive appearances are so similar to realobjects, that the guides who
accompany the caravans find it impossible to persuade the travellers to the contrary. They are caused by the refraction of the atmosphere, aided by the heat of the sand and other local ciccumstances. A similar appearance may be observed over the boiler of a steain-carriage, or over a large furnace. The heat causes a gradual variation of density in the atmosphere, which then acts as though it were a concave lens throwing distant objects out of their true positions, and the heated air, rising, appears to set the whole of the objects seen through it in motion. When we look at a distant green field over the boiler of a steam-boat, it has precisely the appearance of a pool of water agitated by the wind; and this curious property of the air may be more easily tested by
heating a poker to redness, and observing along its edge a pin placed upright on a table at some distance; the pin will appear deflected or bent in the middle nearly to a right angle. A similar appearance to the Mirage has been often observed at sea. When not a vessel has been discernable upon the ocean, images of ships have been seen apparently sailing in the air ; and Capt. ; Scoresby relates, that on one occasion he beheld a vessel in the air, which was so distinct, that he could make it out as his father's : ship, which he found by comparing notes afterwards, was at that time 30 miles distant, and actually hid by the convexity of the earth. These appearances have received the name of LOOMING, and they may easily be explained. If we place a concave lens against the window of an apartment, and retire some distance from it, we shall find that objects will be perceptible through the lens which we cannot perceive through the plain glass of the window. This is caused by rays of light from the outward objects falling upon the lens, and then being so much refracted, as to impinge upon the eye of the spectator, who is otherwise without the range of the rays which proceed direct from the objects. A glass prism might be employed instead of the lens, and with a similar effect. Now it is easy to suppose that the and the cool sea, or other local circumstances, might create such a variation in the density of the strata of air, as to produce a species of aerial prism; for as the heat will rarefy, and the cold condense the air, of course an optical instrument (if we may so call it,) would be formed analogous to the glass prism used in the experiment. The Fata MORGANA, or the appearance sometimes observed in the straits of Messina, where the houses and buildings of the the town are seen floating in the atmosphere, is a phenomena closely allied to the preceding.
The limits of our little work will not allow us to extend our observations to a great length, and we can only therefore observe, that the Magic Lantern, and various combinations of mirrors, (particularly concave mirrors,) may be made productive of much amusement by the extraordinary effects which they are capable of producing; no department of optics being more worthy of the title of magical, than the illusions which may be effected by these instruments.
In our introductory paper on this subject we laid down a certain plan for our proceeding, and we proposed, after explaining a few chemical and optical phenomena, which might be considered of a supernatural character, to detail some cases where aural illusions and mechanical contrivances have been employed to impose upon superstitious and easily duped individuals; but the laws of acoustics must be so well known to our readers, that we should doubtless incur their censure, were we to occupy their time by the relation or explanation of illusions effected by that
science ; and with respect to mechanical contrivances, it is a subject which, were we once to attempt a detail, would go on lengthening and extending until we should find it impossible to break off. We must therefore advise those of our readers who take an interest in such matters, to consult works which are not confined with regard to space, and which have the benefit of copious illustrations, in both of wbich we are deficient. Among these, none will be found more interesting than Sir David Brewster's Letters on Natural Magic, published in the Family Library; but to those who wish to extend their enquiries into the constitution and action of the mind with respect to Spectral Appearances, &c. we would recommend the perusal of Mr. Hibbert's Work on Apparitions, and Sir W. Scott's Essay on Demonology, both highly instructive, amusing, and talented productions.
At this lone hour of calm repose,
We hear people complain every day about the decline of the drama, but are apt to overlook the particular in which that decline is most to be perceived. Folks ever had a peculiar partiality for the has been' and to be,' in contradistinction to the “is.' The drama, some years back, was in its “high and palmy state ;" it may possibly, some years to come, redeem its lost character, but every body has agreed that it is, now, very down in the world indeed, and, though elastic enough from natural causes, they are determined to throw the weight of popular opinion upon it, and so keep it down, until the current changes, or the body they malign starts up with a jerk and tosses off the nightmare under which it has been groaning, and which has been so near effecting its strangulation. “ Bad times ! bad times !” were ever the words, bandied from mouth to mouth from the time of Noah downwards, and yet people flourish, grow rich, enjoy themselves, look as if there were nothing the matter, even under circumstances so extraordinary and so infelicitous, One would fancy there must be here something like health in disease, if such a paradoxical position can be appreciated,
“Life in despair; vitality in poison,” or the evil so universally complained of, would be seen and felt, as well as heard of. Let people understand in what the decline of the drama consists before they break out into such loud, and long-winded complaints. We acknowledge, ourselves, that there is a very rapid decline-nay, a very galloping consumption—but we beg to intimate they have not yet found out the seat of the disease, and have been falsely affiliating and attributing it for some time past. Tragedy, some cry, is in a woeful state, forgetting that tragedy is almost out of fashion, and that the fashion is set :-fashion is often preposterous, and this is one of its instances. Comedy, say others, is dead and buried, forgetting that people and things seldom die of themselves, but are sent out of the world either directly or indirectly. Opera, echoes a third party, is, at the present moment, nothing but
“ Vox clamantis in deserto," but they forget that they are themselves among the first to carry themselves out of reach, and leave dulcet tones and elaborate cadences to be
“ Howl'd out, e'en in the desert air
Where hearing does not catch them.” Orpheus sang to rocks, trees, and stones, but our modern professors must warble to things more dignified, though less susceptible to the moving powers of harmony. But he (poor fellow !) had not his bread to get, and could afford to lounge away his time by cool rocks, shady fountains, and murmuring rivers. By the bye, we are always mystified with the term murmuring rivers : we had supposed them to be rather placid than otherwise.
In what is the decline of the drama most apparent ?—in the falling off of melo-dramas. Let not the reader fancy our opinion unadvised :-crying is out of fashion, and, as tragedies are, or ought to be, affecting, they are justly voted a bore. Laughing is just as välgar : everybody lauglis, except those to whom it is now, and who, therefore, laugh on the wrong side of their mouths. Laughing is common: Aldermen laugh, and retired citizens and country bumpkins have the loudest laugh of all. We really think the fashionable world will leave off eating aud drinking by and bye, it has always been so de-cidedly general !
Alas ! alas! for the mutability of human affairs. “Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis ;" things change and we change with them :—the day of melodrama is gone by. That sublime specimen of the decided, original, and romantic—that treasury of excellencies—that concatenation of profundities —that ingenious association of causes and effects—that illustrious and lific magazine of virtuous sentiments, noble principles, wonderful events, mysterious interpositions, startling occurrences, deserved punishments, and well-earned honours. Ís the world blind ? Has it forgotton those lights of other days, those buried dignities, those ancient glories of the earth, those ornaments of literature, and elevated Aights of genius? Does it slumber? Does it sleep? content amidst the dross that is daily proffered to its debased and degraded taste? Has it lived on to the second childishness of age, forgetting the things that delighted its manhood ? Is the rattle and bells now pleasing ? and the sword and diadem thrown aside ? Has it outlived the sunshine of the height of its sense and reason, and does it now survive in the fog of fatuity ? Our objurgations are useless ! our regrets vainer than our objurgations ! Alone are we doomed to mourn the greatness of the former days : alone are we destined to weep for the bright things that have faded into darkness; the voices which have sunk into silence; and the conceptions that found their way to the heart, that made our eyes open, our ears tingle, and our bosoms throb, and that now only survive in records perishable as the matters they commemorate, and in memories the strength and precision of which are declining, hike light clouds in the summer evening sky, from twilight into darkness! We hover around, and lament over, like departed spirits, the prostrate remains of ancient grandeur. But our tears drop unheeded ; our sorrows unseen! Alas ! for the days that shall never return; alas for the degeneracy of modern taste, and the obstinacy of modern prejudice! The voices of the dead only are round us--the living have fled. We sit, like Marius, among the ruins of Carthage !
There is something delightfully sui generis in melo-dramas-something that looks like original, and has intrinsic powers of attraction. They are perfect stage romances ; abbreviations of those singularly fascinating compositions that, by some means or other, find their way into our hands before historical novels. Never was there such a tiresome thing as fact, or any thing that takes fact for its basis : it would be saying something delightfully new to remark, that after we are tired with toying our imagination, we take up with our reason and our judgment. But are we to blame? Imagination is a nymph that takes us tenderly by the hand and smiles in our face ; but Reason is a crusty old beldame that snaps us up when we look about us, and tells us to look only straight before us, saying nothing, that we may’nt be wrong, and nailing our eyes to that straight on that we may run no risk of getting out of the way.