페이지 이미지

formerly at least, the Persians and Arabs possessed both learning and civilization; and M. Galland, whose opinion is corroborated by that of D'Herbelot, contends for the same honour for the Turks. From the commencement of their empire, they have, he asserts, been addicted to the study of laws and religion; and though, in respect to the latter, they are still in darkness and error, this is rather to be attributed to a lack of grace than of learning. Great lawyers, historians, and poets, have sprung up and acquired fame in Turkey; and, in the opinion of Galland, the study of poetry bespeaks very great refinement of manners. We profess not to be in the least behind M. Galland in our admiration of poetry; but reflecting that Homer flourished in a barbarous age, that the Romans had their Ennius and we our Chaucer, long before either possessed learning or refinement, we can by no means consent to conclude the Turks a polished people, because they possess five hundred and ninety poets in their language.

To return to the ' Bibliotheqne Orienfale,' the learning, industry, and taste displayed in the collection of the materials, must excite the admiration of every reader; but undoubtedly their order and arrangement are exceedingly defective. Much allowance should certainly be made, on account of the circumstances under which the work was originally published, the author dying before it went through the press; it does not appear, however, that D Herbelot meant to give it any other shape than that it now wears, and therefore be is liable to the censure which criticism must always inflict on a slovenly, confused manner. The alphabetical plan is exceedingly faulty in itself, when applied to matters of history; for, besides occasioning endless repetition, and accounts contradictory, because copied, at wide intervals, from different writers, it breaks that up into scraps and fragments, which should, if possible, be seen in the strictest continuity. With the partiality of an editor and a friend, M. Galland endeavours, in his preliminary discourse, to exculpate the alphabetical order from the charge of begetting confusion; and, as aset-off against its inconveniences, if it should, at last, be found to have any, observes that it allows an author to introduce much interesting information into his work, which could not otherwise be inserted in it. Allow the entire truth of the latter position, and that helps nothing to remove the accusation of contusion and repetition made against the alphabetical order arrangement. In fact, it must be given up, as regards history; and the practice of modern compilers, who in their Encyclopaedias, condense all they have to say of a country into one article, altogether preferred to it. On one or two occasions, we have hinted this before; and if any of the learned Orientalists, who now shed a lustre on the literature of France, should ever undertake a new octavo edition of the ' Bibliotheque Orientate,' we hope it will occur to him that a great number of the historical articles 1 equire to be re-written and melted into one; and that, in numerous others, there are contradictions to be removed, and gross faults lo be corrected.

The additions made to the edition before us,* by Father Visdelou, are much less to our taste than the work itself; they are more connected, certainly, but they are dull and awkward, and little calculated, in our opinion, to interest the general reader. We cannot say the same of the collection of proverbs, sayings, repartees, anecdotes, &c., of the Orientals, translated by our favourite Galland; it is in the same naive style as the ' Mille et une Nuits,' and exceedingly well calculated to convey a true notion of the spirit of the Eastern nations.

With all the defects we have ventured to point out, D'Herbelot is a charming writer, and his work one of the most valuable of all compilations. In the perusal of each separate article, the reader will often forget the want of that connection which chiefly recommends historical composition; and in those articles purely biographical, will find very little to reprehend. In fact, the 'Bibliotheque Orientale' is a work without which it is almost impossible to acquire an extensive knowledge of the history, laws, or manners of the East.


Godlike Liberty.

Who denies that life and love, Gifts of heaven, should cherished be f

Vet prize we still those gifts above,

Godlike Liberty!

Life is like a branching tree,
Valued for the fruit it gives:
Who plucks not from it Liberty,

Tell me why he lives?

Of the glorious gifts of art
Brightest is the glittering sword,
Waving round the patriot heart,

Spurning earthly lord.

Music's voice is sweetest then
When it shrills to hero's name,
Giving back those sounds again

That kindle •Freedom"'* flame.

Bion 12


Of all the departments of natural history, geology affords the most ample field for speculation; and it is probably to this cause, no less than to its connection with the interests of landed proprietors in mining districts, that it is indebted for its present high popularity among us. The imagination of the poet roves scarcely with more freedom than that of the geologist through the regions of fancy; and facts would, doubtless, be as readily set at nought by the man of science as by the licensed purveyor of fiction, were it not for the occasional collision of opinion, which compels a return to the evidences furnished by Nature, in the productions daily before him, and limits him, for a while, to the soberness of reality. To become acquainted with the structure of the earth on which we live, and to endeavour to derive from that structure, rather than from any other testimony, a knowledge of the mode in which it was originally formed, is indeed a question, the solution of which well deserves to occupy the faculties of a rational being. Such an inquiry must, however, be conducted on philosophical principles, based on facts unperverted and unstrained, and assuming to know and to prove no more than is fairly deducible from them.

But is this question, in the large extent which many men of deep science nave given to it, within the grasp of man 1 Are we furnished wilh data on which to found our reasoning, or have we the means of obtaining them? We are not, it is true, exactly in the situation of those minute insects of a day, which, inhabiting the crevices of the bark of the forest oak, Whose limbs a thousand years have worn, may be supposed to theorize on the original production, and on the changes which have taken place in the composition of the mighty mass of matter, to which their existence has been attached. But, with all the advantages that we are enabled to derive from the wisdom of our ancestors, (which, by the bye, seems to be almost entirely, a d we might add, justly, neglected by the geologists of the present day,) and from the researches of our contemporaries, by what means could a knowledge of the ori in of this planet be obtained, without instituting the (to man) impossible comparison of its structure with that of the infinity of bodies which constitute the universal whole, of which it forms so trivial, we had almost said so contemptible, a part. And even supposing that we regard the earth as an isolated body, to be investigated without reference to any other portion of the great system of worlds, to how small an extent have the researches of man, whether prosecuted with a view to profit or to science, laid open to him its internal structure, or placed him in a condition to determine with certainty the elements of which even its surface is composed. In this utter impossibility of connecting our geological investigations in any manner with the system of the universe, and in the equal impossibility of scrutinizing, in a complete and satisfactory manner, the mysteries of the globe which we inhabit, we must be content to forego all general theories, as the mere fictions of a heated imagination, and to apply ourselves to the study of those few facts which are really within our reach, and to the elucidation of some partial views of the changes which this our earth has obviously undergone, in that small portion of its crust which we have it in our power to explore.

That various phenomena, exhibited by the more superficial strata of the Earth, afford ample evidence of certain changes having been effected in it since its original formation, is a proposition in which all coincide; but the moment we proceed to inquire into the causes by which these modifications have been produced, the concord ceases, and, according to the class of geologists which we may chance to consult, the most opposite agents, fire or water, or even a partial combination of these two incompatibles, are successively named to us by the disciples of the different schools. The Neptunian theory, or that which regards water as the general, if not the universal, cause of these changes,is that atpresentmostgenerally adopted; its supporters, however, differ among themselves as to the mode in which their agent has been applied; and are equally in dispute as to the number of applications requisite to account for many partial and anomalous appearances. Thus, while some conceive that the whole of the phenomena may be explained, by a single and gradual subsidence of the waters from the face of the earth, others contend that their disappearance must have been sudden, and almost instantaneous. A third class has maintained, that the waters having receded from a portion of the surface of the primitive globe, a universal deluge was subsequently produced, by the sinking of the land, thus left to a level below that of the seas, which consequently rushed into and filled the newly-formed cavity, leaving dry the bed which they had occupied in the antideluvian ages, and which now forms the habitable portion of the earth's surface. But one or two general deluges are wholly insufficient, in the opinion of others, to explain a number of facts, which, according to this class of geologists, can only be accounted for by repeated inundations. In the chalk basin of Paris, for instance, it is stated that no less than six successive inundations can have taken place; three of which must have been produced by salt, and three by fresh water. Many again,

regarding coal as evidently of vegetable origin, have considered each layer of that useful mineral as the result of a deluge; a supposition which would require no less than one hundred and twenty-two successive inundations to account for the formation of the strata in the neighbourhood of Liege! Speculators of this cast can, in fact, never be at a loss to explain any appearance whatever, by some of those "thousand and one revolutions or catastrophes, which can be so instantaneously produced, by the mere touch of the enchanter's wand," to use the words of a French geologist, M. Patrin, who was himself as bold a theorist as the rest; witness his favourite doctrine, that the diamond is neither more nor less than condensed and concentrated light, and numerous other hallucinations of a character almost as absurd.

It is time, however, that we should take our leave of theory, and come to facts. The most striking evidences of the modifications undergone by the crust of the earth, are furnished by the fossil remains of organized beings, both vegetable and animal. Of the former, it will be sufficient to observe, that but little is yet satisfactorily known. The mere fragments of trees or plants, crushed and mutilated as they are generally found, are quite insufficient to supply the data which are necessary to enable the botanist to determine, with accuracy, whether any of them can, with certainty, be referred to families or groups not now known to exist. The animal remains are differently circumstanced. In the lower departments of animated Nature, the fossil reliquiae of many genera and families are found, which are allowed, by universal consent, to be now entirely extinct. The number of lost species appears to be immense; of shells, for instance, 2776 different sorts have been found fossil; only 64 of which are now known to exist in a living state. As, however, we advance higher in the scale of organization, and approach the more perfect animals, the number of those known to exist in both states increases considerably. But even here, we find an important discrepancy between the geographical positions of the same animal, inhabiting the surface of the earth, and buried beneath it. In the northern parts of Europe and Asia are found the bones of animals, the living analogues of which exist at present in India and in Africa. But by what means have the bones been transported to regions so remote from those to which the animals are now confined? Various are the explanations which have been offered of this anomaly. It has been contended, that the bones have been conveyed from their native country by means of currents; but it seems highly improbable, that the remains of Asiatic, of African, and of European animals should be thus heaped together in one spot. It is, moreover, not merely in strata, evidently deposited from

« 이전계속 »