« PreviousContinue »
scientific spirit,-impatience of so little progress; for it is immediately connected with sighings for the good old times. Much the same spirit is often shown in these days, and elaborate addresses are sometimes written to prove that, after all our boasted progress, Egypt and Greece were the actual sources of existing knowledge. They point to the massy stones of the pyramids; the sublime temples and palaces of the old empires; the occasional utensils of half-transparent glass, and implements of bronze or iron, found among their buried ruins; the fine fabrics and costly Tyrian dyes;—they descant upon the wonderful perfection attained in the fine arts, in poetry and rhetoric, and the profound thought of the ancient philosophers: and then are almost ready to echo, “There is nothing new under the sun.” What is, is what has been.
Those good old times ! 1—Prof. Jas. D. Dana (b. 1813).
NATURE UNSUBDUED.-PART II.
1. But what had those old philosophers, or the whole ancient world, done toward bringing nature under subjection, in obedience to the command, “subdue it?”
They had, it is true, built magnificent temples. But the taste of the architect, or that of the statuary or poet, is simply an emanation from the divine breath within man, and is cultivated by contemplation, and only surface contact with nature.
2. They piled up Cyclopean rocks into walls and pyramids. But the use of the lever and pulley comes also from the workings of mind, and but shallow views of the world. And adding man to man till thousands have worked together, as in one harness, has been a common feat of despots from the time of the Pharaohs onward.
i For Questions and Notes see at the end of Part II.
They educed profound systems of philosophy, showing a depth of thought since unsurpassed. But these again were the results of cogitating mind, acting in its own might-glancing, it may be, at the landscape and the stars in admiration, but centering on man and mind; and often proving to be as erroneous as profound.
They cultivated the intellect, and made progress in political knowledge. But in their attempts to control nature, they brought to bear little beyond mere physical force.
4. Although ancient wisdom treats of air, earth, fire, and water, not one of these so-called elements was, in any proper sense, brought under subjection.
The Air:- Was it subdued, when the old Roman still preferred his banks of oars, and on the land, the wind was trained only to turn a wind-mill, carry off chaff, or work in a bellows?
Was the Earth subdued, when, instead of being forced to pour out in streams its wealth of various ores, but half-a-dozen metals were known? and, instead of being explored and found to be marshalled, for man's command, under sixty or more elements, each with its laws of combination, and all bound to serve the arts, the wisest minds saw only a mass of earth, something to tread upon, and grow grain and grass?
5. Was Fire subdued, when almost its only uses were to warm, and cook, and to bake clay, and few of its other powers were known, besides those of destruction? or Light, when not even its component colours were recognised, and it served simply as a means of sight, in which man shared its use with brutes ?
Was Water subdued, when it was left to run wild along
the water-courses, and its ocean-waves were a terror to all the sailors of the age? when steam was only the ephemeral vapour of a boiling kettle, yet unknown in its might, and unharnessed? when the clouds sent their shafts where they willed ? when the constituents of water —the life-element oxygen and the inflammable hydrogenhad not yet yielded themselves to man as his vassals ?— Prof. Jas. D. Dana (b. 1813).
Questions on the lesson:—What commission did man receive from his Maker at first? What was wrapped up in this commission? How does the lesson prove that subduing nature by man is really obedience to the Divine Will? What is the secret of man's success in subduing nature? What instances of the subjection of nature are referred to? What remark of Solomon is quoted? What is the form which the saine spirit takes in our day? What are some of the achievements of the ancients which are referred to? How is it shown that air-earth—fire—water—were not subdued by the ancients ?
Pronounced on him a benediction. See Genesis i. 28.
As Lord Bacon has said: in his Novum Organum. Bacon's first statement is that man is to be the “minister.” of nature; servant, pupil “of nature.” His business is to interpret "nature,” to translate her language so as to ascertain her meaning. Modern science has made its rapid progress because men have done this.
Cyclopean (Cyclopian) rocks. The Cyclopes were a fabulous race of men, of gigantic stature, having only one eye in the centre of their foreheads, and employed under Etna in fashioning thunderbolts for Jupiter. Walls, towers, and other buildings, formed of immense blocks of solid stone, and belonging to a period before the dawn of history, of which many have been found in the south of Europe, are designated Cyclopean.
1. Hardly the initial step had been taken, through the thousands of years of the earth's existence, to acquire that control of nature which mind should have, and God had ordered. No wonder that nature unsubdued should have proved herself a tyrant. The air, earth, water, fire, had become filled with fancied fiends, which any priest or priestess could evoke; and even the harmless moon, or two approaching or receding planets, or the accidental flight of a thoughtless bird, caused fearful forebodings; and a long-tailed comet made the whole world to shake with terror.
2. Man thus suffered for his disobedience. He was the slave—nature, the feared master. Is this now true of nature? We know that, to a large extent, nature is yet
unsearched and unsubdued. Still, vast progress has been made toward gaining control of her ten thousand agencies. In gathering this knowledge, we have not sought for it among the faded monuments and rolls of the ancients, as we call the inhabitants of the earth's childhood; but have looked to records of vaster antiquity,—the writings of the Infinite God in creation, which are now as fresh with beauty and wisdom as when His finger first mapped out the heavens, or traced the flowers and crystals of the earth. This is the fountain whence we have drawn; and what is the result?
3. How is it with water in these last times? Instead of wasting its powers in gambols down valleys, or in sluggish quiet about "sleepy hollows," it is trained to toil. With as much glee as it ever displayed running and leaping in its free channel, a single stream in America now turns over a million of spindles. 4. Changed to steam, there is terror in its strength
Yet the laws of steam, of its production, condensation, and elasticity, have been so carefully studied, and also the strength and other qualities of the metal used to confine it, as well as the nature and effects of fuel, that if we are careful not to defy established principles, steam is our most willing worker. It turns saw-mills, printing-presses, cotton-gins, -speeds over our roads with indefinite trains of carriages and freight bears away floating mansions, against wind and tide, across the ocean, -cooks, heats, searches out dyes from coarse logwood, and the like,—and applies itself to useful
purposes, one way or another, in almost all the arts. Again, if we will it, and follow nature's laws, water gives up
its oxygen and hydrogen, and thus the chemist secures the means of burning even the diamond; the aëronaut makes wings for his adventurous flight, and the lighthouse