Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsGlaucus; Or The Wonders Of The Shore - Part 1
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Glaucus; Or The Wonders Of The Shore - Part 1 Post by :Zuess Category :Nonfictions Author :Charles Kingsley Date :May 2012 Read :2646

Click below to download : Glaucus; Or The Wonders Of The Shore - Part 1 (Format : PDF)

Glaucus; Or The Wonders Of The Shore - Part 1

You are going down, perhaps, by railway, to pass your usual six weeks at some watering-place along the coast, and as you roll along think more than once, and that not over-cheerfully, of what you shall do when you get there. You are half-tired, half-ashamed, of making one more in the ignoble army of idlers, who saunter about the cliffs, and sands, and quays; to whom every wharf is but a "wharf of Lethe," by which they rot "dull as the oozy weed." You foreknow your doom by sad experience. A great deal of dressing, a lounge in the club-room, a stare out of the window with the telescope, an attempt to take a bad sketch, a walk up one parade and down another, interminable reading of the silliest of novels, over which you fall asleep on a bench in the sun, and probably have your umbrella stolen; a purposeless fine-weather sail in a yacht, accompanied by many ineffectual attempts to catch a mackerel, and the consumption of many cigars; while your boys deafen your ears, and endanger your personal safety, by blazing away at innocent gulls and willocks, who go off to die slowly; a sport which you feel to be wanton, and cowardly, and cruel, and yet cannot find in your heart to stop, because "the lads have nothing else to do, and at all events it keeps them out of the billiard-room;" and after all, and worst of all, at night a soulless RECHAUFFE of third-rate London frivolity: this is the life-in-death in which thousands spend the golden weeks of summer, and in which you confess with a sigh that you are going to spend them.

Now I will not be so rude as to apply to you the old hymn-distich about one who

" - finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do:"

but does it not seem to you, that there must surely be many a thing worth looking at earnestly, and thinking over earnestly, in a world like this, about the making of the least part whereof God has employed ages and ages, further back than wisdom can guess or imagination picture, and upholds that least part every moment by laws and forces so complex and so wonderful, that science, when it tries to fathom them, can only learn how little it can learn? And does it not seem to you that six weeks' rest, free from the cares of town business and the whirlwind of town pleasure, could not be better spent than in examining those wonders a little, instead of wandering up and down like the many, still wrapt up each in his little world of vanity and self-interest, unconscious of what and where they really are, as they gaze lazily around at earth and sea and sky, and have

"No speculation in those eyes
Which they do glare withal"?

Why not, then, try to discover a few of the Wonders of the Shore? For wonders there are there around you at every step, stranger than ever opium-eater dreamed, and yet to be seen at no greater expense than a very little time and trouble.

Perhaps you smile, in answer, at the notion of becoming a "Naturalist:" and yet you cannot deny that there must be a fascination in the study of Natural History, though what it is is as yet unknown to you. Your daughters, perhaps, have been seized with the prevailing "Pteridomania," and are collecting and buying ferns, with Ward's cases wherein to keep them (for which you have to pay), and wrangling over unpronounceable names of species (which seem to he different in each new Fern-book that they buy), till the Pteridomania seems to you somewhat of a bore: and yet you cannot deny that they find an enjoyment in it, and are more active, more cheerful, more self-forgetful over it, than they would have been over novels and gossip, crochet and Berlin-wool. At least you will confess that the abomination of "Fancy-work" - that standing cloak for dreamy idleness (not to mention the injury which it does to poor starving needlewomen) - has all but vanished from your drawing-room since the "Lady-ferns" and "Venus's hair" appeared; and that you could not help yourself looking now and then at the said "Venus's hair," and agreeing that Nature's real beauties were somewhat superior to the ghastly woollen caricatures which they had superseded.

You cannot deny, I say, that there is a fascination in this same Natural History. For do not you, the London merchant, recollect how but last summer your douce and portly head-clerk was seized by two keepers in the act of wandering in Epping Forest at dead of night, with a dark lantern, a jar of strange sweet compound, and innumerable pocketfuls of pill-boxes; and found it very difficult to make either his captors or you believe that he was neither going to burn wheat-ricks, nor poison pheasants, but was simply "sugaring the trees for moths," as a blameless entomologist? And when, in self-justification, he took you to his house in Islington, and showed you the glazed and corked drawers full of delicate insects, which had evidently cost him in the collecting the spare hours of many busy years, and many a pound, too, out of his small salary, were you not a little puzzled to make out what spell there could be in those "useless" moths, to draw out of his warm bed, twenty miles down the Eastern Counties Railway, and into the damp forest like a deer-stealer, a sober white-headed Tim Linkinwater like him, your very best man of business, given to the reading of Scotch political economy, and gifted with peculiarly clear notions on the currency question?

It is puzzling, truly. I shall be very glad if these pages help you somewhat toward solving the puzzle.

We shall agree at least that the study of Natural History has become now-a-days an honourable one. A Cromarty stonemason was till lately - God rest his noble soul! - the most important man in the City of Edinburgh, by dint of a work on fossil fishes; and the successful investigator of the minutest animals takes place unquestioned among men of genius, and, like the philosopher of old Greece, is considered, by virtue of his science, fit company for dukes and princes. Nay, the study is now more than honourable; it is (what to many readers will be a far higher recommendation) even fashionable. Every well-educated person is eager to know something at least of the wonderful organic forms which surround him in every sunbeam and every pebble; and books of Natural History are finding their way more and more into drawing-rooms and school-rooms, and exciting greater thirst for a knowledge which, even twenty years ago, was considered superfluous for all but the professional student.

What a change from the temper of two generations since, when the naturalist was looked on as a harmless enthusiast, who went "bug- hunting," simply because he had not spirit to follow a fox! There are those alive who can recollect an amiable man being literally bullied out of the New Forest, because he dared to make a collection (at this moment, we believe, in some unknown abyss of that great Avernus, the British Museum) of fossil shells from those very Hordwell Cliffs, for exploring which there is now established a society of subscribers and correspondents. They can remember, too, when, on the first appearance of Bewick's "British Birds," the excellent sportsman who brought it down to the Forest was asked, Why on earth he had bought a book about "cock sparrows"? and had to justify himself again and again, simply by lending the book to his brother sportsmen, to convince them that there were rather more than a dozen sorts of birds (as they then held) indigenous to Hampshire. But the book, perhaps, which turned the tide in favour of Natural History, among the higher classes at least, in the south of England, was White's "History of Selborne." A Hampshire gentleman and sportsman, whom everybody knew, had taken the trouble to write a book about the birds and the weeds in his own parish, and the every-day things which went on under his eyes, and everyone else's. And all gentlemen, from the Weald of Kent to the Vale of Blackmore, shrugged their shoulders mysteriously, and said, "Poor fellow!" till they opened the book itself, and discovered to their surprise that it read like any novel. And then came a burst of confused, but honest admiration; from the young squire's "Bless me! who would have thought that there were so many wonderful things to be seen in one's own park!" to the old squire's more morally valuable "Bless me! why, I have seen that and that a hundred times, and never thought till now how wonderful they were!"

There were great excuses, though, of old, for the contempt in which the naturalist was held; great excuses for the pitying tone of banter with which the Spectator talks of "the ingenious" Don Saltero (as no doubt the Neapolitan gentleman talked of Ferrante Imperato the apothecary, and his museum); great excuses for Voltaire, when he classes the collection of butterflies among the other "bizarreries de l'esprit humain." For, in the last generation, the needs of the world were different. It had no time for butterflies and fossils. While Buonaparte was hovering on the Boulogne coast, the pursuits and the education which were needed were such as would raise up men to fight him; so the coarse, fierce, hard-handed training of our grandfathers came when it was wanted, and did the work which was required of it, else we had not been here now. Let us be thankful that we have had leisure for science; and show now in war that our science has at least not unmanned us.

Moreover, Natural History, if not fifty years ago, certainly a hundred years ago, was hardly worthy of men of practical common sense. After, indeed, Linne, by his invention of generic and specific names, had made classification possible, and by his own enormous labours had shown how much could be done when once a method was established, the science has grown rapidly enough. But before him little or nothing had been put into form definite enough to allure those who (as the many always will) prefer to profit by others' discoveries, than to discover for themselves; and Natural History was attractive only to a few earnest seekers, who found too much trouble in disencumbering their own minds of the dreams of bygone generations (whether facts, like cockatrices, basilisks, and krakens, the breeding of bees out of a dead ox, and of geese from barnacles; or theories, like those of elements, the VIS PLASTRIX in Nature, animal spirits, and the other musty heirlooms of Aristotleism and Neo-platonism), to try to make a science popular, which as yet was not even a science at all. Honour to them, nevertheless. Honour to Ray and his illustrious contemporaries in Holland and France. Honour to Seba and Aldrovandus; to Pomet, with his "Historie of Drugges;" even to the ingenious Don Saltero, and his tavern-museum in Cheyne Walk. Where all was chaos, every man was useful who could contribute a single spot of organized standing ground in the shape of a fact or a specimen. But it is a question whether Natural History would have ever attained its present honours, had not Geology arisen, to connect every other branch of Natural History with problems as vast and awful as they are captivating to the imagination. Nay, the very opposition with which Geology met was of as great benefit to the sister sciences as to itself. For, when questions belonging to the most sacred hereditary beliefs of Christendom were supposed to be affected by the verification of a fossil shell, or the proving that the Maestricht "homo diluvii testis" was, after all, a monstrous eft, it became necessary to work upon Conchology, Botany, and Comparative Anatomy, with a care and a reverence, a caution and a severe induction, which had been never before applied to them; and thus gradually, in the last half-century, the whole choir of cosmical sciences have acquired a soundness, severity, and fulness, which render them, as mere intellectual exercises, as valuable to a manly mind as Mathematics and Metaphysics.

But how very lately have they attained that firm and honourable standing ground! It is a question whether, even twenty years ago, Geology, as it then stood, was worth troubling one's head about, so little had been really proved. And heavy and uphill was the work, even within the last fifteen years, of those who stedfastly set themselves to the task of proving and of asserting at all risks, that the Maker of the coal seam and the diluvial cave could not be a "Deus quidam deceptor," and that the facts which the rock and the silt revealed were sacred, not to be warped or trifled with for the sake of any cowardly and hasty notion that they contradicted His other messages. When a few more years are past, Buckland and Sedgwick, Murchison and Lyell, Delabêche and Phillips, Forbes and Jamieson, and the group of brave men who accompanied and followed them, will be looked back to as moral benefactors of their race; and almost as martyrs, also, when it is remembered how much misunderstanding, obloquy, and plausible folly they had to endure from well-meaning fanatics like Fairholme or Granville Penn, and the respectable mob at their heels who tried (as is the fashion in such cases) to make a hollow compromise between fact and the Bible, by twisting facts just enough to make them fit the fancied meaning of the Bible, and the Bible just enough to make it fit the fancied meaning of the facts. But there were a few who would have no compromise; who laboured on with a noble recklessness, determined to speak the thing which they had seen, and neither more nor less, sure that God could take better care than they of His own everlasting truth. And now they have conquered: the facts which were twenty years ago denounced as contrary to Revelation, are at last accepted not merely as consonant with, but as corroborative thereof; and sound practical geologists - like Hugh Miller, in his "Footprints of the Creator," and Professor Sedgwick, in the invaluable notes to his "Discourse on the Studies of Cambridge" - have wielded in defence of Christianity the very science which was faithlessly and cowardly expected to subvert it.

But if you seek, reader, rather for pleasure than for wisdom, you can find it in such studies, pure and undefiled.

Happy, truly, is the naturalist. He has no time for melancholy dreams. The earth becomes to him transparent; everywhere he sees significancies, harmonies, laws, chains of cause and effect endlessly interlinked, which draw him out of the narrow sphere of self-interest and self-pleasing, into a pure and wholesome region of solemn joy and wonder. He goes up some Snowdon valley; to him it is a solemn spot (though unnoticed by his companions), where the stag's-horn clubmoss ceases to straggle across the turf, and the tufted alpine clubmoss takes its place: for he is now in a new world; a region whose climate is eternally influenced by some fresh law (after which he vainly guesses with a sigh at his own ignorance), which renders life impossible to one species, possible to another. And it is a still more solemn thought to him, that it was not always so; that aeons and ages back, that rock which he passed a thousand feet below was fringed, not as now with fern and blue bugle, and white bramble-flowers, but perhaps with the alp- rose and the "gemsen-kraut" of Mont Blanc, at least with Alpine Saxifrages which have now retreated a thousand feet up the mountain side, and with the blue Snow-Gentian, and the Canadian Sedum, which have all but vanished out of the British Isles. And what is it which tells him that strange story? Yon smooth and rounded surface of rock, polished, remark, across the strata and against the grain; and furrowed here and there, as if by iron talons, with long parallel scratches. It was the crawling of a glacier which polished that rock-face; the stones fallen from Snowdon peak into the half-liquid lake of ice above, which ploughed those furrows. AEons and aeons ago, before the time when Adam first

"Embraced his Eve in happy hour,
And every bird in Eden burst
In carol, every bud in flower,"

those marks were there; the records of the "Age of ice;" slight, truly; to be effaced by the next farmer who needs to build a wall; but unmistakeable, boundless in significance, like Crusoe's one savage footprint on the sea-shore; and the naturalist acknowledges the finger-mark of God, and wonders, and worships.

Happy, especially, is the sportsman who is also a naturalist: for as he roves in pursuit of his game, over hills or up the beds of streams where no one but a sportsman ever thinks of going, he will be certain to see things noteworthy, which the mere naturalist would never find, simply because he could never guess that they were there to be found. I do not speak merely of the rare birds which may be shot, the curious facts as to the habits of fish which may be observed, great as these pleasures are. I speak of the scenery, the weather, the geological formation of the country, its vegetation, and the living habits of its denizens. A sportsman, out in all weathers, and often dependent for success on his knowledge of "what the sky is going to do," has opportunities for becoming a meteorologist which no one beside but a sailor possesses; and one has often longed for a scientific gamekeeper or huntsman, who, by discovering a law for the mysterious and seemingly capricious phenomena of "scent," might perhaps throw light on a hundred dark passages of hygrometry. The fisherman, too, - what an inexhaustible treasury of wonder lies at his feet, in the subaqueous world of the commonest mountain burn! All the laws which mould a world are there busy, if he but knew it, fattening his trout for him, and making them rise to the fly, by strange electric influences, at one hour rather than at another. Many a good geognostic lesson, too, both as to the nature of a country's rocks, and as to the laws by which strata are deposited, may an observing man learn as he wades up the bed of a trout- stream; not to mention the strange forms and habits of the tribes of water-insects. Moreover, no good fisherman but knows, to his sorrow, that there are plenty of minutes, ay, hours, in each day's fishing in which he would be right glad of any employment better than trying to

"Call spirits from the vasty deep,"

who will not

"Come when you do call for them."

What to do, then? You are sitting, perhaps, in your coracle, upon some mountain tarn, waiting for a wind, and waiting in vain.

"Keine luft an keine seite,
Todes-stille f rchterlich;"

as G”the has it -

"Und der schiffer sieht bek mmert
Glatte fl„che rings umher."

You paddle to the shore on the side whence the wind ought to come, if it had any spirit in it; tie the coracle to a stone, light your cigar, lie down on your back upon the grass, grumble, and finally fall asleep. In the meanwhile, probably, the breeze has come on, and there has been half-an-hour's lively fishing curl; and you wake just in time to see the last ripple of it sneaking off at the other side of the lake, leaving all as dead-calm as before.

Now how much better, instead of falling asleep, to have walked quietly round the lake side, and asked of your own brains and of Nature the question, "How did this lake come here? What does it mean?"

It is a hole in the earth. True, but how was the hole made? There must have been huge forces at work to form such a chasm. Probably the mountain was actually opened from within by an earthquake; and when the strata fell together again, the portion at either end of the chasm, being perhaps crushed together with greater force, remained higher than the centre, and so the water lodged between them. Perhaps it was formed thus. You will at least agree that its formation must have been a grand sight enough, and one during which a spectator would have had some difficulty in keeping his footing.

And when you learn that this convulsion probably took plus at the bottom of an ocean hundreds of thousands of years ago, you have at least a few thoughts over which to ruminate, which will make you at once too busy to grumble, and ashamed to grumble.

Yet, after all, I hardly think the lake was formed in this way, and suspect that it may have been dry for ages after it emerged from the primeval waves, and Snowdonia was a palm-fringed island in a tropic sea. Let us look the place over more fully.

You see the lake is nearly circular; on the side where we stand the pebbly beach is not six feet above the water, and slopes away steeply into the valley behind us, while before us it shelves gradually into the lake; forty yards out, as you know, there is not ten feet water; and then a steep bank, the edge whereof we and the big trout know well, sinks suddenly to unknown depths. On the opposite side, that flat-topped wall of rock towers up shoreless into the sky, seven hundred feet perpendicular; the deepest water of all we know is at its very foot. Right and left, two shoulders of down slope into the lake. Now turn round and look down the gorge. Remark that this pebble bank on which we stand reaches some fifty yards downward: you see the loose stones peeping out everywhere. We may fairly suppose that we stand on a dam of loose stones, a hundred feet deep.

But why loose stones? - and if so, what matter? and what wonder? There are rocks cropping out everywhere down the hill-side.

Because if you will take up one of these stones and crack it across, you will see that it is not of the same stuff as those said rocks. Step into the next field and see. That rock is the common Snowdon slate, which we see everywhere. The two shoulders of down, right and left, are slate, too; you can see that at a glance. But the stones of the pebble bank are a close-grained, yellow-spotted rock. They are Syenite; and (you may believe me or not, as you will) they were once upon a time in the condition of a hasty pudding heated to some 800 degrees of Fahrenheit, and in that condition shoved their way up somewhere or other through these slates. But where? whence on earth did these Syenite pebbles come? Let us walk round to the cliff on the opposite side and see. It is worth while; for even if my guess be wrong, there is good spinning with a brass minnow round the angles of the rocks.

Now see. Between the cliff-foot and the sloping down is a crack, ending in a gully; the nearer side is of slate, and the further side, the cliff itself, is - why, the whole cliff is composed of the very same stone as the pebble ridge.

Now, my good friend, how did these pebbles get three hundred yards across the lake? Hundreds of tons, some of them three feet long: who carried them across? The old Cymry were not likely to amuse themselves by making such a breakwater up here in No-man's-land, two thousand feet above the sea: but somebody or something must have carried them; for stones do not fly, nor swim either.

Shot out of a volcano? As you seem determined to have a prodigy, it may as well be a sufficiently huge one.

Well - these stones lie altogether; and a volcano would have hardly made so compact a shot, not being in the habit of using Eley's wire cartridges. Our next hope of a solution lies in John Jones, who carried up the coracle. Hail him, and ask him what is on the top of that cliff . . . So, "Plainshe and pogshe, and another Llyn." Very good. Now, does it not strike you that this whole cliff has a remarkably smooth and plastered look, like a hare's run up an earthbank? And do you not see that it is polished thus only over the lake? that as soon as the cliff abuts on the downs right and left, it forms pinnacles, caves, broken angular boulders? Syenite usually does so in our damp climate, from the "weathering" effect of frost and rain: why has it not done so over the lake? On that part something (giants perhaps) has been scrambling up or down on a very large scale, and so rubbed off every corner which was inclined to come away, till the solid core of the rock was bared. And may not those mysterious giants have had a hand in carrying the stones across the lake? . . . Really, I am not altogether jesting. Think a while what agent could possibly have produced either one or both of these effects?

There is but one; and that, if you have been an Alpine traveller - much more if you have been a Chamois hunter - you have seen many a time (whether you knew it or not) at the very same work.

Ice? Yes; ice; Hrymir the frost-giant, and no one else. And if you will look at the facts, you will see how ice may have done it. Our friend John Jones's report of plains and bogs and a lake above makes it quite possible that in the "Ice age" (Glacial Epoch, as the big-word-mongers call it) there was above that cliff a great neve, or snowfield, such as you have seen often in the Alps at the head of each glacier. Over the face of this cliff a glacier has crawled down from that neve, polishing the face of the rock in its descent: but the snow, having no large and deep outlet, has not slid down in a sufficient stream to reach the vale below, and form a glacier of the first order; and has therefore stopped short on the other side of the lake, as a glacier of the second order, which ends in an ice-cliff hanging high up on the mountain side, and kept from further progress by daily melting. If you have ever gone up the Mer de Glace to the Tacul, you saw a magnificent specimen of this sort on your right hand, just opposite the Tacul, in the Glacier de Trelaporte, which comes down from the Aiguille de Charmoz.

This explains our pebble-ridge. The stones which the glacier rubbed off the cliff beneath it it carried forward, slowly but surely, till they saw the light again in the face of the ice-cliff, and dropped out of it under the melting of the summer sun, to form a huge dam across the ravine; till, the "Ice age" past, a more genial climate succeeded, and neve and glacier melted away: but the "moraine" of stones did not, and remains to this day, as the dam which keeps up the waters of the lake.

There is my explanation. If you can find a better, do: but remember always that it must include an answer to - "How did the stones get across the lake?"

Now, reader, we have had no abstruse science here, no long words, not even a microscope or a book: and yet we, as two plain sportsmen, have gone back, or been led back by fact and common sense, into the most awful and sublime depths, into an epos of the destruction and re-creation of a former world.

This is but a single instance; I might give hundreds. This one, nevertheless, may have some effect in awakening you to the boundless world of wonders which is all around you, and make you ask yourself seriously, "What branch of Natural History shall I begin to investigate, if it be but for a few weeks, this summer?"

To which I answer, Try "the Wonders of the Shore." There are along every sea-beach more strange things to be seen, and those to be seen easily, than in any other field of observation which you will find in these islands. And on the shore only will you have the enjoyment of finding new species, of adding your mite to the treasures of science.

For not only the English ferns, but the natural history of all our land species, are now well-nigh exhausted. Our home botanists and ornithologists are spending their time now, perforce, in verifying a few obscure species, and bemoaning themselves, like Alexander, that there are no more worlds left to conquer. For the geologist, indeed, and the entomologist, especially in the remoter districts, much remains to be done, but only at a heavy outlay of time, labour, and study; and the dilettante (and it is for dilettanti, like myself, that I principally write) must be content to tread in the tracks of greater men who have preceded him, and accept at second or third hand their foregone conclusions.

But this is most unsatisfactory; for in giving up discovery, one gives up one of the highest enjoyments of Natural History. There is a mysterious delight in the discovery of a new species, akin to that of seeing for the first time, in their native haunts, plants or animals of which one has till then only read. Some, surely, who read these pages have experienced that latter delight; and, though they might find it hard to define whence the pleasure arose, know well that it was a solid pleasure, the memory of which they would not give up for hard cash. Some, surely, can recollect, at their first sight of the Alpine Soldanella, the Rhododendron, or the black Orchis, growing upon the edge of the eternal snow, a thrill of emotion not unmixed with awe; a sense that they were, as it were, brought face to face with the creatures of another world; that Nature was independent of them, not merely they of her; that trees were not merely made to build their houses, or herbs to feed their cattle, as they looked on those wild gardens amid the wreaths of the untrodden snow, which had lifted their gay flowers to the sun year after year since the foundation of the world, taking no heed of man, and all the coil which he keeps in the valleys far below.

And even, to take a simpler instance, there are those who will excuse, or even approve of, a writer for saying that, among the memories of a month's eventful tour, those which stand out as beacon-points, those round which all the others group themselves, are the first wolf-track by the road-side in the Kyllwald; the first sight of the blue and green Roller-birds, walking behind the plough like rooks in the tobacco-fields of Wittlich; the first ball of Olivine scraped out of the volcanic slag-heaps of the Dreisser- Weiher; the first pair of the Lesser Bustard flushed upon the downs of the Mosel-kopf; the first sight of the cloud of white Ephemerae, fluttering in the dusk like a summer snowstorm between us and the black cliffs of the Rheinstein, while the broad Rhine beneath flashed blood-red in the blaze of the lightning and the fires of the Mausenthurm - a lurid Acheron above which seemed to hover ten thousand unburied ghosts; and last, but not least, on the lip of the vast Mosel-kopf crater - just above the point where the weight of the fiery lake has burst the side of the great slag-cup, and rushed forth between two cliffs of clink-stone across the downs, in a clanging stream of fire, damming up rivulets, and blasting its path through forests, far away toward the valley of the Moselle - the sight of an object for which was forgotten for the moment that battle-field of the Titans at our feet, and the glorious panorama, Hundsruck and Taunus, Siebengebirge and Ardennes, and all the crater peaks around; and which was - smile not, reader - our first yellow foxglove.

But what is even this to the delight of finding a new species? - of rescuing (as it seems to you) one more thought of the Divine mind from Hela, and the realms of the unknown, unclassified, uncomprehended? As it seems to you: though in reality it only seems so, in a world wherein not a sparrow falls to the ground unnoticed by our Father who is in heaven.

The truth is, the pleasure of finding new species is too great; it is morally dangerous; for it brings with it the temptation to look on the thing found as your own possession, all but your own creation; to pride yourself on it, as if God had not known it for ages since; even to squabble jealously for the right of having it named after you, and of being recorded in the Transactions of I- know-not-what Society as its first discoverer:- as if all the angels in heaven had not been admiring it, long before you were born or thought of.

But to be forewarned is to be forearmed; and I seriously counsel you to try if you cannot find something new this summer along the coast to which you are going. There is no reason why you should not be so successful as a friend of mine who, with a very slight smattering of science, and very desultory research, obtained in one winter from the Torbay shores three entirely new species, beside several rare animals which had escaped all naturalists since the lynx-eye of Colonel Montagu discerned them forty years ago.

And do not despise the creatures because they are minute. No doubt we should most of us prefer discovering monstrous apes in the tropical forests of Borneo, or stumbling upon herds of gigantic Ammon sheep amid the rhododendron thickets of the Himalaya: but it cannot be; and "he is a fool," says old Hesiod, "who knows not how much better half is than the whole." Let us be content with what is within our reach. And doubt not that in these tiny creatures are mysteries more than we shall ever fathom.

The zoophytes and microscopic animalcules which people every shore and every drop of water, have been now raised to a rank in the human mind more important, perhaps, than even those gigantic monsters whose models fill the lake at the Crystal Palace. The research which has been bestowed, for the last century, upon these once unnoticed atomies has well repaid itself; for from no branch of physical science has more been learnt of the SCIENTIA SCIENTIARUM, the priceless art of learning; no branch of science has more utterly confounded a wisdom of the wise, shattered to pieces systems and theories, and the idolatry of arbitrary names, and taught man to be silent while his Maker speaks, than this apparent pedantry of zoophytology, in which our old distinctions of "animal," "vegetable," and "mineral" are trembling in the balance, seemingly ready to vanish like their fellows - "the four elements" of fire, earth, air, and water. No branch of science has helped so much to sweep away that sensuous idolatry of mere size, which tempts man to admire and respect objects in proportion to the number of feet or inches which they occupy in space. No branch of science, moreover, has been more humbling to the boasted rapidity and omnipotence of the human reason, or has more taught those who have eyes to see, and hearts to understand, how weak and wayward, staggering and slow, are the steps of our fallen race (rapid and triumphant enough in that broad road of theories which leads to intellectual destruction) whensoever they tread the narrow path of true science, which leads (if I may be allowed to transfer our Lord's great parable from moral to intellectual matters) to Life; to the living and permanent knowledge of living things and of the laws of their existence. Humbling, truly, to one who looks back to the summer of 1754, when good Mr. Ellis, the wise and benevolent West Indian merchant, read before the Royal Society his paper proving the animal nature of corals, and followed it up the year after by that "Essay toward a Natural History of the Corallines, and other like Marine Productions of the British Coasts," which forms the groundwork of all our knowledge on the subject to this day. The chapter in Dr. G. Johnston's "British Zoophytes," p. 407, or the excellent little RESUME thereof in Dr. Landsborough's book on the same subject, is really a saddening one, as one sees how loth were, not merely dreamers like, Marsigli or Bonnet, but sound- headed men like Pallas and Linne, to give up the old sense-bound fancy, that these corals were vegetables, and their polypes some sort of living flowers. Yet, after all, there are excuses for them. Without our improved microscopes, and while the sciences of comparative anatomy and chemistry were yet infantile, it was difficult to believe what was the truth; and for this simple reason: that, as usual, the truth, when discovered, turned out far more startling and prodigious than the dreams which men had hastily substituted for it; more strange than Ovid's old story that the coral was soft under the sea, and hardened by exposure to air; than Marsigli's notion, that the coral-polypes were its flowers; than Dr. Parsons' contemptuous denial, that these complicated forms could be "the operations of little, poor, helpless, jelly-like animals, and not the work of more sure vegetation;" than Baker the microscopist's detailed theory of their being produced by the crystallization of the mineral salts in the sea-water, just as he had seen "the particles of mercury and copper in aquafortis assume tree-like forms, or curious delineations of mosses and minute shrubs on slates and stones, owing to the shooting of salts intermixed with mineral particles:" - one smiles at it now: yet these men were no less sensible than we; and if we know better, it is only because other men, and those few and far between, have laboured amid disbelief, ridicule, and error; needing again and again to retrace their steps, and to unlearn more than they learnt, seeming to go backwards when they were really progressing most: and now we have entered into their labours, and find them, as I have just said, more wondrous than all the poetic dreams of a Bonnet or a Darwin. For who, after all, to take a few broad instances (not to enlarge on the great root-wonder of a number of distinct individuals connected by a common life, and forming a seeming plant invariable in each species), would have dreamed of the "bizarreries" which these very zoophytes present in their classification?

You go down to any shore after a gale of wind, and pick up a few delicate little sea-ferns. You have two in your hand, which probably look to you, even under a good pocket magnifier, identical or nearly so. (1) But you are told to your surprise, that however like the dead horny polypidoms which you hold may be, the two species of animal which have formed them are at least as far apart in the scale of creation as a quadruped is from a fish. You see in some Musselburgh dredger's boat the phosphorescent sea-pen (unknown in England), a living feather, of the look and consistency of a cock's comb; or the still stranger sea-rush (VIRGULARIA MIRABILIS), a spine a foot long, with hundreds of rosy flowerets arranged in half-rings round it from end to end; and you are told that these are the congeners of the great stony Venus's fan which hangs in seamen's cottages, brought home from the West Indies. And ere you have done wondering, you hear that all three are congeners of the ugly, shapeless, white "dead man's hand," which you may pick up after a storm on any shore. You have a beautiful madrepore or brain-stone on your mantel-piece, brought home from some Pacific coral-reef. You are to believe that its first cousins are the soft, slimy sea-anemones which you see expanding their living flowers in every rock-pool - bags of sea-water, without a trace of bone or stone. You must believe it; for in science, as in higher matters, he who will walk surely, must "walk by faith and not by sight."

These are but a few of the wonders which the classification of marine animals affords; and only drawn from one class of them, though almost as common among every other family of that submarine world whereof Spenser sang -

"Oh, what an endless work have I in hand,
To count the sea's abundant progeny!
Whose fruitful seed far passeth those in land,
And also those which won in th' azure sky,
For much more earth to tell the stars on high,
Albe they endless seem in estimation,
Than to recount the sea's posterity;
So fertile be the flouds in generation,
So huge their numbers, and so numberless their nation."

But these few examples will be sufficient to account both for the slow pace at which the knowledge of sea-animals has progressed, and for the allurement which men of the highest attainments have found, and still find, in it. And when to this we add the marvels which meet us at every step in the anatomy and the reproduction of these creatures, and in the chemical and mechanical functions which they fulfil in the great economy of our planet, we cannot wonder at finding that books which treat of them carry with them a certain charm of romance, and feed the play of fancy, and that love of the marvellous which is inherent in man, at the same time that they lead the reader to more solemn and lofty trains of thought, which can find their full satisfaction only in self-forgetful worship, and that hymn of praise which goes up ever from land and sea, as well as from saints and martyrs and the heavenly host, "O all ye works of the Lord, and ye, too, spirits and souls of the righteous, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever!"

If you like this book please share to your friends :

Glaucus; Or The Wonders Of The Shore - Part 2 Glaucus; Or The Wonders Of The Shore - Part 2

Glaucus; Or The Wonders Of The Shore - Part 2
I have said, that there were excuses for the old contempt of the study of Natural History. I have said, too, it may be hoped, enough to show that contempt to be now ill-founded. But still, there are those who regard it as a mere amusement, and that as a somewhat effeminate one; and think that it can at best help to while away a leisure hour harmlessly, and perhaps usefully, as a substitute for coarser sports, or for the reading of novels. Those, however, who have followed it out, especially on the sea- shore, know better. They

The Gospel Of The Pentateuch: A Set Of Parish Sermons - Sermon 15. Deuteronomy The Gospel Of The Pentateuch: A Set Of Parish Sermons - Sermon 15. Deuteronomy

The Gospel Of The Pentateuch: A Set Of Parish Sermons - Sermon 15. Deuteronomy
SERMON XV. DEUTERONOMY(Third Sunday after Easter.) Deut. iv. 39, 40. Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. Thou shall keep therefore his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever. Learned men have argued much of late as to who wrote the book