+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

because the variation of the distance between
us and the stars is so infinitesimal in amount,
compared with their enormous distance, that
for us they are always little; but with terrestrial
objects, this is not the case. On climbing
the slope of a lofty mountain, our fellow-
creatures, seen on the plain below, soon show
"scarce so big as beetles," then as mites, and
finally become invisible animalcules. We restore
to them a portion of their original size, and
render them visible, by drawing them nearer
to us with the telescope. Thus the telescope
is the microscope of large distant things, while
the microscope is the telescope of small things
in too close approximation for their parts to
be perceptible by our limited organs. It shows
and proves that between their parts there are
intervals which would otherwise escape our
observation and cognisance; that what we
think to be contiguous and continuous, is really
separate and broken up into parts. The
telescope extends our range of vision outwards,
the microscope enables it to plunge deeper

The intervals between the ultimate particles
of bodies will probably ever remain beyond
our ken and measurement, visible only to the
eye of the mind. Some philosophers have
held that the distances which separate the
atoms constituting solid bodies, are as great,
relatively to their actual size, as those from
one fixed star to another. That the atoms of
which everythinggas, liquid, or solidis
made up are not contiguous, and do not
absolutely touch each other, is proved by their
expansion and contraction under heat and cold.
A favoured hypothesis maintains that those
atoms revolve round each other, like the
heavenly bodies, and that their revolutions are
made perceptible to us by the sensations of
warmth or chilliness, as the case may be.

Dr. Tyndall, to explain the heating of a
lump of lead by the blows of a sledge-hammer,
says, " The motion of the mass, as a whole,
is transformed into a motion of the molecules of
the mass. This motion of heat, however,
though intense, is executed within limits too
minute, and the moving particles are too small,
to be visible. Here the imagination must
help us. In the case of solid bodies, while the
force of cohesion still holds the molecules
together, you must conceive a power of
vibration, with certain limits, to be possessed
by the molecules. You must suppose them
oscillating to and fro; and the greater the
amount of heat we impart to the body, or the
greater the amount of mechanical action which
we invest in it by percussion, compression,
or friction, the more rapid will be the
molecular vibration, and the wider the amplitude
of the atomic oscillations." Now, if the vibration
describes a long ellipse, like the dance of a
gnat in the air, it becomes precisely the orbit
of a revolving comet which remains in attendance
on its sun, instead of wandering from
system to system.

If this be trueand Dr. Tyndall adds, "the
molecules have been thought by some, notably
by Sir Humphry Davy, to revolve round each
other, and the communication of heat, by
augmenting their centrifugal force, is supposed to
push them more widely asunder;"—if this be
true, there is a complete analogy between the
smallest and the greatest of created things.
An iron-filing, a drop of oil, a bubble of air,
are galaxies of atoms, obeying the laws of their
mutual attractions and repulsions; while the
stars we call fixed, are only the atoms
composing some great whole whose form and
contour are beyond the scope of our vision.
And thus, whether we look outwardly, to reach
the infinitely great, or inwardly, to penetrate
the infinitely small, the prospect that meets us
is alike, differing only in magnitude. And we
may repeat that both in its mechanical and its
material constitution, the universe is onea

THE waves broke over the harbour light,
The women ran, screaming, along the pier,
The wind like a wild beast howled; the night                                                            Grew darker as, with a shudder of fear,
We saw just then, by the flash and flare
A hissing rocket a moment cast,
A tossing wreck swept almost bare,                                                                        Aye! the cruel end it was coming fast!

A few more blows from the breaking sea,
A few more surges of angry wave,
And a floating spar and a plank would be                                                                All that was left. Was there none to save?
None to struggle with surf and tide,
And the foaming hell of the angry flood,
That raved and raged with a devilish pride,                                                             Howling, as 'twere, for human blood?

'Twas a little brig of St. Nazaire,
That wrestled with Satan at sea that night;
And the steady lighthouse flame fell there
On the women's faces, wan and white;
The children sobbed, and the mothers wept,
Hearing the sailors' screaming cries,
As the torchlight fell on the waves that leapt,
And gleamed on the staring and sorrowing eyes.

And then we could see the savage rush
Of the wolfish waves as they bore along,
And swept o'er the wreck with a ravening crush.
Then the moon shone out from the gloom bygone,
And up in the rigging dark there showed,                                                                Bound to the ropes, five half-drowned men.
And one poor boy, who a spar bestrode
Till a breaker bore him into its den.

No brave man's heart could bear that cry.
As below, on the moonlit level sands,
The women knelt in their agony,
And wrung their tight-clasped pallid hands.
The moon was full, but its tranquil light                                                                    Lent only a terror to the snow,
And a horror and fear to the rolling surge,
And the restless mighty seethe and flow.

Then we English fellows, with cheer and shout,
Ran eagerly down to the further sand,
And dragged the life-boat quickly out
Not one of us lads but bore a hand.
'Twas bedded deep in the silt and snow,
And the drift was round it high and fast;
But we dragged it steadily, though slow,
Till the deeper water was reached at last.