« AnteriorContinuar »
LIFE AND DEATH.
In the last number of our Magazine, while speaking on this subject, we stated that, one great characteristic of the living body was, the property it possessed of resisting within certain limits, great degrees of temperature and moisture, which begin to resolve it into its primitive elements the moment it is dead; and we instanced numerous cases, to prove that it was capable of bearing without injury very high degrees of heat. We shall now proceed to show, that by the same power, it is likewise capable of resisting to a considerable extent intense degrees of cold.* In climates and seasons when the thermometer indicates a degree of cold, much below Zero, the temperature of the animal body, remains almost unchanged, and all the functions of life go on without impediment or injury. Some of the lower animals may even be frozen and rendered quite torpid, without the loss of life. To prove the truth of this assertion, Mr. John Hunter instituted a number of interesting experiments, on the power of different animals, in resisting the agency of cold. Two carps were gradually frozen, by the aid of a freezing mixture, but they did not recover. It was with the greatest difficulty that he succeeded in freezing a dormouse, such were its powers of evolving heat, and the non-conducting quality of its integuments; and it was not until the hair had been wetted that life was destroyed, this also did not recover. When a toad was exposed to a similar cold mixture, the water froze round the animal so as to enclose it, but without destroying life; yet, though not frozen, it hardly ever recovered the use of its limbs. The conclusion which Mr. Hunter drew from these experiments was,
“that an animal must be deprived of life before it can be frozen.”—On the other hand it is asserted by many philosophers that spiders, frozen so hard as to bound from the floor like peas, may be revived by being brought to the fire.—Leeches, snails, grubs, and frogs have been frozen to a certain degree by artificial cold, and revived. Other experiments have also proved that frogs would revive, even if the heart was frozen, but not if the brain congealed, after which they could not be effected by any restorative, not even by the galvanic action. Captain Franklin in his northern expedition, repeatedly saw fish, especially carp, recover after having been congealed by cold into a solid mass of ice; and one carp recovered so far, as to leap about with much vigour, after it had been frozen for thirty-six hours. However true these facts may be, with regard to the lower animals, one fact with regard to the human subject is certain, viz: that death must take place before it can be frozen. Quitting the animal and turning our attention to the vegetable kingdom, we shall find that, in what ever climate man himself has been able to live, or into which his curiosity has led him to penetrate, there, wherever he has been able to trace a vestige of animal being, plants have equally been found flourishing in vigour, and adorned with beauty.
• We are aware that we are here not speaking philosophically. In reality there is no such thing as cold, the substances which appear so to us being only possessed of so small a degree of heat as to convey a feeling the reverse of that which we experience from moderate warmth. The word cold is only used to render our remarks intelligible to the general reader.
Other classes of facts, indicate a controlling power, equally characteristic of the living body seeds endowed with vitality remain unchanged under circumstances, in which they would certainly be destroyed, or, more properly speaking, be resolved into their primitive elements, were they destitute of the principles of vitality.—They remain buried for many thousand years, deep in the bowels of the earth, yet when they are accidental thrown up to the surface, and they fall into a soil that is favourable to their developement, they exhibit at once all those properties which had for ages lain latent, and spring into life, with all the activity and vigour of a seed formed under our own eye. As a proof of this statement, we may mention a fact which has long been known to scientific men, viz. that in the neighbourhood of quarries, new plants are continually making their appearance, which had never before been observed to grow near such places. Seeds pass uninjured even through the digestive organs of animals, exposed with impunity to the most powerful solvent of all animal and vegetable matter, gastric juice.-And what is truly remarkable, irresistible as the action of that wonderful fluid is upon all dead vegetable and animal substance, it has no perceptible influence whatever upon any of these substances, as long as they retain their vitality. No living being when in the stomach of an animal, is acted upon by its gastric juice, until the vitality of the being is destroyed. Hence worms are capable of living for an indefinite period in the stomach of animals, and are exposed with impunity to their gastric juice; nor is there any mode of destroying them, but that of introducing into the stomachs of the animal some substance which kills these creatures, and then they may easily be expelled. The walls of the stomach during life are in constant contact with its own gastric juice, without receiving any injury from it; but it sometimes happens after death, that this Auid corrodes and eats through the very organ that formed it. The egg like most other living beings, maintains a temperature considerably above that of the surrounding medium ; by a delicate thermometer, its vitality, that is, its freshness, may be always ascertained ; and, as long as it is alive, it resists putrefaction under degrees of heat and moisture, which cause it to run rapidly into the putrefactive process as soon as it is dead
In our next paper, we shall proceed to consider the curious property of Hybernation.
G. T. F.
Let minstrels sing impassioned lays of love,
Oh! what misery beyond the power of utterance doth the heart endure, when in retracing the events of a life, Memory recalls every circumstance we would fain forget, wandering over the past with slow and deliberate step, opening afresh the wounds that time had nearly healed, and re-asserting her shadowy reign with a despotism that seems prophetic! Thus as my thoughts recur to the varied events which have happened to me in the brief career allotted to me on earth; when I remember the miseries unnumbered which I have endured; the crimes many and deep that I have committed—then
Memory, like a drop that night and day
Falls cold and ceaseless, wears my heart away." I recall, too, the happy days of childhood, those joyous hours of innocence and mirth, when amidst the companions of my youthful pastimes, I sported the gayest of the gay-pure in heart and buoyant in spirit—the remembrance of those days appears to me but as the recollect of a bright but distant and indistinct dream,
“ sparkling with all the truth And innocence once mine, and leads me back In mouruful mockery o'er the shining track of my young life, and points out every ray
Of hope and peace I've lost upon the way;". but the years of want and woe, of wretchedness and misery which have succeeded are ever present to my imagination in all their sad reality ; and now that the world and all its vanities are receding from my view, and eternity opening before me, remorse like an avenging fiend racks my heart with tortures that it were vain for me to attempt to describe. But this is no time to indulge in such thoughts. Grateful for your kindness and sympathy, I have resolved to reveal to you the secrets of my life, and painful as this self-imposed task will be-heart-rending as must be the retrospect, I will not shrink from the fulfilment.
My father died ere I had completed my second year, and consequently before I was capable of feeling the severity or knowing the extent of my loss. His property which was considerable devolved by regular bequest to my mother, and was sufficient to allow us to live in comparative luxury. As I was the only child and sole relict of him whom through many years of alternate suffering and prosperity my mother had loved with all the ardour of woman's affection, it may naturally be suspected that I became an over-indulged and spoiled child-but such was not the fact-it is true that to my devoted and adoring mother I was every thing that was dear on earth-she entertained scarcely a hope or wish beyond my welfare and happinessbut she knew that to permit me to follow my own unguided will was not the most politic or effective mode to work out the great object of her heart, nor the right way to discharge a mother's duty. Under her tender and anxious care I was instructed in the various branches of superior education and accomplishment, and in such knowledge as was considered to be necessary and beneficial to my future welfare ; the seeds of morality and religion were implanted in my heart-would that they had taken root and brought forth the good fruit in season. Then it was that I enjoyed true pleasure-my spirits were light and buoyant as the wave-my laughter came from the heart, and was the true index of its feelings-my step was free and unrestrained-joy shone in my eyes, and every thing that breathed around me seemed to my ardent nature to teem with happiness and truth. Those were days of unalloyed ht which alas! have “ fleeted with the vision that's gone by," and left naught but the happy remembrance of the past to contrast with the bitterness of the present. Would that I could recall them to existence—they are the green spots in “ memory's waste"—the oasis in the desart of my life. But to proceed: years rolled on, and I continued to live with my mother in retirement and seclusion. When, however, I had attained my eighteenth year, I received an invitation to pass a few weeks with an aunt who resided in London, and my ever-anxious mother, deeming this a fit opportunity for me to gain a little insight of the world, readily consented. Much as I rejoiced at the prospect of pleasure which was thus opening to my imaginative view, still when the period for my departure arrived, there came over me a heaviness of heart; I felt keenly the pang of parting from my beloved mother-it was the first separation, and although there was the prospect of only a brief absence, I felt a sad and indescribable foreboding that it might be the last time she would ever press me to her fond and devoted heart, as she then did in all the excess of maternal affection.
It would be wearying you to no purpose to repeat the round of pleasurable pastimes and excesses into which I was hurried, or to describe the sensations created by the novelties which hourly presented themselves to my ardent and over-excited imagination. Lost in delight I dreamt not of future ill, or that any interruption could occur to disturb the fascinating influence that controlled me—but, alas, I was too soon to feel how each season of our existence contradicts the character of