Page images
PDF
EPUB

times: now, in general, the crimson light I allude to occurs in every alternate dilatation, but sometimes only in every third, and at other times quite irregularly: moreover, it lasts longer sometimes than at others, and scarcely ever exceeds two seconds of time at once.

I have formerly published accounts of this phenomenon in the Journals, and have ascribed it to some sort of change in the star itself, or to a revolution round its axis, whereby different coloured portions of the sphere are presented to us: but this explanation vanishes on a moment's reflection; and I am inclined to ascribe it to some atmospherical cause. I have sometimes thought that the upper portions of the atmosphere might have some undulatory motion, and that the alternating colour might be produced by its refractive powers : for the atmosphere, in this case, acting as an imperfect prism, might present different colours, according to the varying inclinations of its wavy surface. I have thought, too, that portions of the aqueous atmosphere, possessing different refractive powers, might be transmitted downwards in dew, or that there might be some other unknown motion in the real air, which might cause the appearance. Antares, Betalgeus, Aldebaran, and other red stars, show this change of colours very strongly, particularly the former ; while Sirius, and the white stars, scarcely present any alternation of colour. This may in either case be owing to the different composition of their light, which would materially influence the refracted spectrum. Collateral experiments, and the mere appearance of stars in chromatic telescopes, tend to prove that the light of different celestial bodies is differently composed.

“Some interesting observations on the Dispersive Power of the Atmosphere, published a few years ago by Mr. Stephen Lee, contain an account of the composition of the light of some of the principal stars; and no one can reflect on the influence which all the above varieties must have on Tables of Refraction, without at once seeing the utility of multiplying and correcting observations on it.

“Additional observations are still wanting to explain the cause of these phenomena; but I shall still be excused, I trust, in the absence of more matured and extended observations, for this imperfect attempt to excite the attention of philosophers to facts which seem calculated to produce an important influence

of our most useful astronomical calculations."

Hartwell, Sussex, Nov. 18, 1822.

To those who vainly imagine that all creatures were made for the use of man, and the whole universe for the use

on many

of the inhabitants of this small earth, the author of Time's Telescope recommends the following lines :

On the Starry Heavens.
And canst thou think, poor worm! these orbs of light,
In size immense, in number infinite,
Were made for thee alone — to twinkle in thy sight?
Presumptuous mortal! can thy nerves descry
How far from thee they roll, from thee how high!
With all thy boasted knowledge, canst thou see
Their various beauty, order, harmony?
If not, then sure they were not made for thee.

January 17. St. Anthony. St. Milgirthe, V.

Sol in Aquario. -- Rom. Cal. St. Anthony, the Patriarch of Monks, was born at Coma, near Heracleopolis, in Aegypt, in the year 251; and living the austere and abstemious life of a recluse, he arrived at the great age of 105 years, and is said to have died Jan. 17, 356. St. Anthony was particularly solicitous about animals, to which a whimsical picture, by Salvator Rosa, represents him as preåching. His whole life affords an excellent example to the mendicant Friar and benevolent Jesuit, and passes a fatal censure on the lazy beneficed parson and idle sinecurist.

From bis practices, perhaps, arose the custom of blessings passed on animals still practised at Rome. He regarded all God's creatures as worthy of protection ; an opinion which lost ground in Europe after the Reformation, of which Spenser's Catalogue of hateful Animals affords a sort of proof:

Even all the nation of unfortunate

And fatal birds about them flocked were,
Such as by nature men abhorre and hate,
The ill faced Owle, deaths dreadful messengere ;
The hoarse Nightraven, trump of dolefull drere;
The leather winged Bat, dayes enemy;
The ruefull Strich still waiting on the bere;
The Whistler shrill, that whoso hears doth die;

The bellish Harpies, prophets of sad destiny.
The Harpy has been supposed by some to be the Mada-
gascar Bat. Even Milton has spoken of the Raven of the
Night as a bird of evil omen :

How sweetly did they float upon the wings
Of Silence, through the empty vaulted Night,

At every fall soothing the Raven down ! - Comas. Besides giving a fictitious character to real birds and animals, the supernaturality and disposition to mysticize in mankind has peopled the elements with numerous creatures

wholly imaginary, whom they have mingled with those which have a real existence. Thus Spenser :

Most ugly shapes and ugly aspects,

Such as Dame Nature's self mote fear to see,
Or shame that ever should so foul defects
From her most cunning hand escaped be,
All dreadful portraits of deformity :
Springheaded' Hydras and seashouldering Whales,
Great Whirlepooles which all fishes make to flee,

Bright Scolopendras arm'd with silver scales,
Mighty Monoceros with immeasured tayles.
The dreadful fish that hath deserved the name

Of Death, and like himn looks in dreadful hue;
The grisly Wasserman that makes his game
The Nying ship with swiftness to pursue;
The horrible sea Satyre that doth shew
His fearful face in time of greatest storme;
Huge Ziffius, whom mariners eschew

No less than rocks as mariners inform,

And greedy Rosmarines with visages deform. St. Anthony and the early Catholics regarded no beasts, birds, nor fish as hateful. In Time's Telescope for 1822 is the following curious account of the Benediction of Beasts at Rome : -" The · Benediction of Beasts' is annually performed at Rome, on the above day, in a little church dedicated to him near Santa Maria Maggiore. It lasts for some days; for not only every Roman from the Pope to the Peasant, who has a horse, a mule, or an ass, sends his cattle to be blessed at St. Anthony's shrine, but all the English go with their job horses and favourite dogs; and for the small offering of a couple of paoli, get them sprinkled, sanctified, and placed under the protection of this Saint.” And in the same work for 1823 is a very entertaining account of the manner of passing this day at Madrid, when Mules and other useful animals receive a blessing in St. Anthony's church. Superstitions, of which the ceremonies of life are made up, acquire claims to be respected when they tend to foster good feelings.

January 18. St. Peter's Chair at Rome. St. Prisca,

V. M. St. Wolfred. Time's Telescope for 1823 quotes from an Italian traveller the following account of the LA FESTA DI CATTEDRA, or Commemoration of placing the supposed Chair of St. Peter :-“ At the extremity of the great nave of St. Peter's, behind the altar, and mounted upon a tribune, designed or ornamented by Michael Angelo, stands a sort of throne, composed of precious materials, and supported by four

gigantic figures. A Glory of Seraphim, with groups of Angels, sheds a brilliant light upon its splendours. This throne enshrines the real, plain, wormeaten-wooden Chair, on which St. Peter, the Prince of Apostles, is said to have pontificated; more precious than all the bronze, gold, and gems, with which it is hidden, not only from impious but from holy eyes, and which once only, in the flight of ages, was profaned by mortal inspection. The Festa di Cattedra is one of the very few functions celebrated in St. Peter's. The splendid troops that line its nave, the church and lay dignitaries - abbots, priests, canons, prelates, cardinals, doctors — dragoons and senators, all clad in various and rich vestments, marching in procession - complete, as they proceed up the vast space of this wondrous temple, a spectacle nowhere to be equalled within the pale of European civilization. In the midst of swords and crosiers, of halberds and crucifixes, surrounded by banners, and bending under the glittering tiara of threefold power, appears the aged Pope, borne on a chair of crimson and gold, and environed by slaves (for such they appear), who waft, from plumes of ostrich feathers mounted on ivory wands, a cooling gale, to refresh his exhausted frame, too frail for the weight of such honours. All fall prostrate as he passes up the church to a small chair and throne, temporarily erected beneath the chair of St. Peter. A solemn service is then performed, hosannas arise, and royal votarists and diplomatic devotees parade the church.”

St. Peter is considered to have been the first Catholic Bishop, and from him all the rest of the Legitimate Clergy of the Christian Church have proceeded, constituting what they term her Apostolicity, a very curious illustration of which, in the form of a Tree, has been published by Bishop Milner in his able work, The End of Religious Controversy. St. Peter is said, therefore, metaphorically to keep the Key of Heaven. Hence many churches dedicated to this Saint have the vane on their steeples surmounted with a Key, as St. Peter's in Cornbill, London, and others. In common, a Cock is the figure used for the windvane, and this, according to Du Cange, was originally devised as an emblem of clerical vigilance, the clergy being styled the Cocks of the Almighty, whose office it was to call us to early prayer, &c. See Beckmann's Inventions, article Weathercock.

Lord Byron thus whimsically represents St. Peter with the keys at the Portal of Heaven :

Saint Peter sat by the celestial gate;

His keys were rusty, and the lock was dull,
So little trouble had been given of late;

Not that the place by any means was full,

But since the Gallic era eighty eight,"

The devils had ta'en a longer, stronger pull,
And “a pull altogether," as they say
At sea - which drew most souls another way.
The angels all were singing out of tune,

And hoarse with having little else to do,
Excepting to wind up the sun and moon,

Or curb a runaway young star or two,
Or wild colt of a comet, which too soon

Broke out of bounds o'er the ethereal blue,
Splitting some planet with its playful tail,
As boats are sometimes by a wanton whale.

January 19. SS. Martha, &c. Martyrs. St. Canutus.

St. Walstan.
FIELDFARES Turdi pilares still seen in considerable flocks.

Hard weather is usual at this time.- Between four and five o'clock on Thursday the 19th January, 1809, after the Curlcloud and Wanecloud had appeared, a hard and freezing Shower of Hail and Sleet came with considerable violence from the East, and glazed every thing on which it fell with ice; it encrusted the walls, encased the trees, and the garments of people, and even the plumage of birds; so that many Rooks and other fowls were found lying on the ground stiff with an encasement of ice. Such weather has been aptly described by Philips as occurring oftentimes during a northern winter :

Ere yet the clouds let fall the treasured snow,
Or winds begun through hazy skies to blow,
At evening a keen eastern breeze arose,
And the descending rain unsullied froze.
Soon as the silent shades of night withdrew,
The ruddy Morn disclosed at once to view
The face of Nature in a rich disguise,
And brightened every object to my eyes ;
For, every shrub, and every blade of grass,
And every pointed thorn, seemed wrought in glass;
In pearls and rubies rich the hawthorns show,
While through the ice the crimson berries glow,
The thicksprung reeds the watery marshes yield
Seem polished lances in a hostile field.
The stag in limpid currents, with surprise,
Sees crystal branches on his forehead rise.
The spreading oak, the beech, and tow'ring pine,
Glaz'd over, in the freezing ether shine.
The frighted birds the rattling branches shun,
That wave and glitter in the distant sun.
When, if a sudden gust of wind arise,
The brittle forest into atoms flies;
The cracking wood beneath the tempest bends,
And in a spangled shower the prospect ends.

Philips, Lett. from Copenhagen.

« PreviousContinue »