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chinery may help to accomplish it. The steam-car may carry truth and light over drifted deserts and frozen mountains. The march of opinion, aided by circumstances, may penetrate to lands that never knew the commerce of Phænicia or the wisdom of Athens where Alexander never ventured with his hosts, and where Cæsar turned back his eagles. This is the main point — not universal progress, but human progress
not progress every where, but progress somewhere. Grant but that, and all humanity becomes hope
-grant but the capacity, and the doctrine is practicable - let the law be in operation only at one point, still it is a law, and as such is to be heeded and acted upon.
Old nations may die, but new nations shall spring up. Let the principle be at work, and no one can limit the result. It may take a longer sweep of ages than have yet passed over mankind, to bring all nations to the same point of advancement. Some nations, now here and now there, may always be in advance of others; yet if the others advance also, the great law will be in operation, and no people shall have lived or died in vain. Into the deepest sepulchres of the old and the past a new life shall be kindled, showing that they have not waited so long for nothing. Dim Meroe will shout freedom from beyond the fountains of the Nile, and the stony lips of the Sphinx shall preach the gospel.
On the Nature of Thunder-Storms.
When, in a day calm and serene, we look upwards to and around the region of the sky, the eye encounters no obstacle in its survey, and freely penetrates the depths of space to the remotest limits of its range.
No terrestrial element dims the transparency of the pure ether, no veil hides the face of the god of day; and the tremulous ray of the minutest and most distant star finds an easy path across the unfathomable void. The blue vault which inwraps us alone indicates the diffusion of attenuated matter ; but its cool and spotless, azure, like the breast of the dove, imbosoms only innocence and peace.
Even the sounds of the material and the busy world are thrown back in subdued murmurs from the sky; and in this general repose of nature, and throughout “the abyss where sparkle distant worlds," the sharpest scrutiny can descry no element of change or of mischief. While the verdant earth, indeed, remains firm beneath his feet, man anticipates no descending danger, and the upturned eye looks but for blessings from above,
This pure and peaceful character of the firmament we contemplate is but the normal condition which marks the rest and equilibrium of the elements. Unseen and unfelt, there encompasses our globe a girdle of air, as translucent as empty space, and so thin and impalpable, that we neither feel its pressure nor experience its resistance. Even when we inhale it, and live by its inhalation, we are not sensible that we have drawn into our system any thing that is material. Yet is this invisible and almost intangible element instinct with mysterious properties, and charged with superhuman powers. The green and fermenting earth projects into it its noxious exhalations; the decaying structures of organic life let loose their poisonous ingredients; and even living beings, while appropriating its finer elements, ungratefully return the adulterated residue into the ethereal granary. Thus does the pabulum of life become a polluted and deleterious compound. The noble organizations of living nature languish under its perilous inspiration; while disease and pestilence either decimate the people, or pursue their epidemic round, demanding at every stage their hecatomb of victims.
When the earth, revolving round its axis, has received
from the sun its daily measure of light and of heat, different zones on its surface and different portions of its mass the aqueous expanse, the sandy desert, the rankly-luxuriant jungle, the rocky mountain crest — all give out their hoarded caloric in unequal and commingling streams. The homogeneity and equilibrium of the elastic medium is thus speedily destroyed; the cold and dense air rushes into the more heated and rarefied regions; and the whole atmosphere around us becomes agitated with coinciding or conflicting currents. Here the zephyr breathes its softest murmurs, awakening the Eolian lyre to its most plaintive strains, and scarcely turning the twittering aspen leaf on its stalk; there the gale sweeps along, howling amidst the darkened forests, bending the majestic pines in its path, and hurrying the freighted bark to its port; and yonder the tornado cuts its way through the mightiest forests, making sport of the dwellings and strongholds of man, and dashing to the bottom of the deep the proudest of his floating bulwarks.
But while the heated air thus sweeps, in gale or in tempest, over the waters of the ocean, or rests in peace on its glassy breast, it carries upwards, by its ascending currents, the aqueous vapors it has exhaled. The denser element reflects in all directions the light that falls upon it, and, diffused in mists, or accumulated in clouds, the atmosphere teems with opaque masses, which conceal the azure vault, and obstruct even the fiercest rays of a meridian sun. Here they float in majestic dignity, the aërial leviathans of the sky, veiling and unveiling the luminary which gave them birth. There they marshal their rounded fleeces, or arrange their woolly ringlets, or extend their tapering locks, now shining like the new-fallen snow, now flushed with the red of the setting sun, but ever in pleasing harmony with the blue expanse which they adorn, and the purple landscape which they crown.
Over this lovely portrait of aërial nature the curtain of night falls, and rises but to exhibit scenes of varied terror and desolation. While the solar heat is converting into vapor the water and moisture of the earth, electricity is freely disengaged during the process. The clouds which this vapor forms exhibit different electrical conditions, though the electricity of the atmosphere, when serene, is invariably the same. Hence the descent of clouds towards the earth, their mutual approach, the force of atmospheric currents, and the ever-varying agencies of heat and cold, convert the aërial envelope of our globe into a complex electrical apparatus, spontaneously exhibiting, in a variety of forms, the play and the conflict of its antagonist powers. As St. Elmo's fire, the slightly liberated electricity tips the yardarms and mast-tops of ships with its brilliant star, its ball of fire, or its lambent flame. At the close of a sultry day, and above level plains, the opposite electricities of the earth and the air effect their reunion in noiseless flashes of lightning, — illuminating, as it were, in far-spread sheets, the whole circuit of the horizon and the entire canopy of its clouds. At other times, the same elements light up the Arctic constellations with their restless wildfires -- now diffusing their phosphoric flame, and flitting around in fitful gleams, as if keeping time to the music of the spheres- and now shooting up their auroral columns, advancing, retreating, and contending, as if in mimicry of mortal strife.
But these various displays of the power of electricity, however much they may startle ignorance and alarm superstition, are always unattended with danger, and form a striking contrast with the full development of its unbridled and unbalanced fury. When, after a long drought, the moisture of an overloaded atmosphere is accumulated in massive clouds, animated by opposite electricities, and driven by antagonist currents, the reunited elements compress, as it 'were, in their fiery embrace, their tenements of sponge ; and cataracts of rain, and showers of hail, and volleys of stony meteors, are thrown down upon the earth, desolating its valleys with floods, and crushing its vegetation by their fall. Even in our temperate zone, but especially under the raging heats of a tropical sun, this ferment and explosion of the elements is more terrific still. As if launched from an omnipotent arm, the red lightning-bolt cuts its way to the earth, now transfixing man and beast in its course; now rending the smitten oak with its wedges of livid fire; now shivering or consuming the storm-tossed vessel; now shattering cloud-capped towers and gorgeous dwellings — nor even sparing the holy sanctuary, the hallowed dome, or the consecrated spire. And no sooner has the bolt crushed its victim, and the forked messenger secured his prey, than the peals of its rattling artillery rebound from cloud to cloud, and from hill to hill, as if the God of nature were pronouncing the perdition of ungodly men, and as if the heavens, “ waxed old as a garment,” were about to be wrapped up in the fervent heat of the elements. During this rehearsal of the day which is to come as a thief in the night,” heaven seems to be in fierce conflict with earth man the sufferer, and God the avenger. The warrior turns pale; the priest stands appalled at his altar; the prince trembles on his throne. Even dumb life, sharing the perils of its tyrant, is stricken with fear. The war-horse shakes under his rider ; the eagle cowers in his cleft of rock; the sea-bird screams in its fight; and universal life travails with one common dread of the Giant Arm which thus wields the omnipotence of the elements.