페이지 이미지

feeble streams of the present rivers have opened for themselves diminutive channels. That these accumulations were effected at once by vast oceanic torrents, and not by the gradual influence of rain and land floods, appears, Mr. P observes, from the alluvial strata not being mixed or blended together, but frequently disposed according to their specific gravity. The vast fragments of rock which are found scattered over plains and mountains, in so many parts of the earth at great distances from their native mountains, lead as forcibly to the same inference.

"Such are the enormous rocks which formerly constituted the pride of Abury, and are still admired at Stonehenge. Similar bowlder stones, in point of size and bluntness of their edges, I remarked in Spain, on the summits of the highest hills near Cordova, some of mountain limestone, some of silicious grit, and some of granite, all promiscuously scattered on the same plot of ground. This could not have been effected either by land floods or by the detritus of incessant rain, through endless generations. The same may be said of the alluvial strata, mentioned in my Spanish Travels, as being deposited on the high mountains near Guadix, between Granada and Carthagena, in which appear promiscuously, gravel and quartz schist, lime-stone, and flint, all rounded at the edges." (P. 237.)

The prodigious masses which lie on Mount Jura, and certainly descended from the Alps, though the Lake of Geneva lies in the way to intercept their course, and which so much interested Saussure and Deluc, is the most surprising phenomenon of this kind.

One of the most important observations which relates to these deposits is the following:

"In all the alluvial districts here particularly noticed, it appears, that only one bed of vegetable earth is to be seen. Consequently these strata have not been produced by land floods, at different and at distant periods. They direct our attention to one epoch, and most distinctly give us a measure, by which to estimate the time which has elapsed since either the elevation of our present continents, or the depression of the surrounding seas." (P. 236.)

We are assured, that the incursion of the ocean over the habitable surface of the earth took place at a time since it was actually inhabited by land animals, by the organic remains which the alluvions contain; and this remark leads us to our author's disquisition on the interesting subject of extraneous fossils, with which we shall close our observations on his work.

Mr. Townsend is the first who has given as any extensive account of the organic remains, in connexion with the strata to which they belong; and in this respect he has rendered so acceptable a service to the public, that his work would claim a degree of consideration on this merit alone. This connexion


constitutes the chief interest of the study of these remains; and it should be the object of all those who follow this pursuit, to illustrate it by every fact of which they become possessed. We have no room here to analyse our author's observations on this subject, and can only notice, in general, that they coincide with the sagacious remark of the Professor of Freyberg, who first traced a progressive series in the animal creation. The oldest class of rocks contains no vestiges of organized beings, and this fact is sufficient to silence the assertion of Hutton, that the world exhibits no traces of a beginning. Lithophytes and shells occur in the oldest secondary rocks, and more complicated beings gradually make their appearance. All these, however, and indeed all the organic remains occurring in strata which have never been disturbed and disintegrated, may be termed indigenous. It is plain, that the creatures of which they are the spoils lived and died on the places where they are here traced. The shells are found deposited according to families, and confined in a great measure each to its own stratum; and a similar remark applies to other animal remains of this department. It is not so with those of alluvial ground. These are assembled from all parts of the earth, and are thrown together in promiscuous heaps. In the same beds are found shells and corals only known in the Pacific Ocean, and the bones of elephants and rhinoceroses.

"They seem (says Mr. Townsend) to have been transported from dis→ tant climates, and to have been deposited in a tumultuous manner by some grand convulsion, which blended and buried terrene and submarine productions ancient and recent, in one common grave."

"The direction in which they have been conveyed, appears to have been from S. E. to N. W. Hence, where we have an opportunity of making distinctions respecting their natural habitations, as in the Asiatic and African elephants, it is remarkable that the former, and not the latter, are to be found fossil in the North of Europe."

"Should the latter have been transported from their native seats by the same convulsion, it is probable that their reliques have been deposited in the Atlantic Ocean." (P. 255.)

We regret that our limits will not allow of our extracting more from this essay on organic remains, which is highly interesting. The productions of M. Cuvier, who was assisted by all the facilities which the despotic power of France insured for her scientific men, contain more information concerning the relics of the more perfect orders of animals; but, with respect to that admirable series which belongs to the rock formations, properly so called, and by which the creation is to be traced, as it were, from its beginning, we must refer exclusively to the work of Mr. Townsend.

In perusing this work, we have frequently found reason to re

[blocks in formation]

gret, that the author has not adopted, in his geological descriptions, the more precise nomenclature of the Wernerian School; which, in spite of all the clamour raised against its dissonance by a set of dilettanti, has gradually made its way into general use, and is not likely to lose the prevalence obtained by its now undisputed merits. Our author's geological descriptions are so well drawn, that they are intelligible, though expressed with the more vague terminology of the older naturalists; but we could point out passages, which would be much more perspicuous if he had adopted one more accurate.

It is no disparagement to so extensive a work to say, that it contains errors. We must confess, however, that a remark made by Mr. Townsend on the celebrated tradition of the Terra Atlantidis has surprised us. He is inclined to believe that such a country formerly existed, because the supposition explains the existence of monkeys, crocodiles, and other animals of warm climates in the new world, which may have passed across it from Africa. This certainly is more probable than Pennant's conjecture, that all the animals in question passed the frozen north, and have since undergone a change of constitution; but both these conjectures are confuted by the stubborn fact, that none of the American animals of warm climates are found in Africa or Asia; and it appears certain that the new world had its appropriate creation.

On the whole, we have no hesitation in saying, that we consider this volume as a valuable acquisition to the public, both as a work of natural history, and as supporting the authority of the Mosaic records; though perhaps it might have been more generally useful in both points of view, if its arrangement had been more logical and systematic.

ART. III. The Excursion, being a Portion of the Recluse: a Poem. By William Wordsworth. 4to. pp. 423. Longman. It must be avowed, that this poem is as a "sealed book" to no inconsiderable number of readers. To those whose imaginations have been kept continually on the stretch, and whose curiosity has been perpetually stimulated, by wonders of romance; by tales of Gothic chivalry; by donjon, and keep, and battlement, and banner; or by wild mythologies and exotic manners, American, or Indian, or Turkish; the quiet simplicity, the mere mental elevation of "the Recluse," offer little attraction: to those, also, who have habituated themselves to consider an uni

formly raised and artificial diction, sparkling sentiment, and traditionary popular verse, as the essentials of poetry, and who have been familiar in poetical description with such scenes and persons as daily life presents in the crowded town, or the civilized and busy village, the deep reasonings and moral disquisitions of this poem will appear only like metaphysical homilies; the simple dignity of style, and Miltonic rhythm, like the nakedness of prose; the characters unnatural and visionary. For those who are hackneyed in the ways of men, who have engaged in the bustling agitation of political interests, with all their heart-burnings and virulent jealousies, and sleepless tossings of feverish ambition, this poem is composed in far too unworldly a spirit. For those who see nothing in the nature of men and things but a blind mechanism of matter, dabblers in a cold sceptical philosophy, doubters of all truth which they cannot touch and dissect, and bring close under their own mole-sighted optics; whose conception of an immaterial universe resembles that which the blind possess of colours, and the deaf of musical sounds; whose sense of ridicule is their test of truth; who see nothing in the preternatural creations of a Shakspeare, but the walking ghosts of an old woman's fire-side tale; and amidst the daring grandeur of character and imagery which blazes in the Paradise Lost, can dwell only on the substance of devils cut in twain and re-united, or the burlesque of cannon in heaven; the spots of human frailty; the sinkings of towering genius, to which faultless mediocrity never falls; for those, lastly, who can see nothing venerable, or interesting, or awful, or touching; nothing of moral wisdom, nothing of pathos, nothing of poetry, in the page of sacred writ, the oracle of revolving ages, the comfort of affliction; the sole anchor and resting-place for the hope of afterexistence, blissful and incorruptible: for all such the poem of "The Recluse" is a sealed volume. To this poem it is necessary that the reader should bring a portion of the same meditative disposition, innocent tastes, calm affections, reverential feelings, philosophic habits, which characterize the poet himself; for readers of another kind we greatly fear, (and we deeply sympathize in the author's shame and mortification,) that this poem "will never do."

We have usually observed, that they who were most pleased with the "Lyrical Ballads," were men with strong minds, and with a propensity to metaphysical studies; a presumption this, that the simplicity of these ballads was not quite so infantile as has been often asserted; and we have remarked, that such men

* See Edinb. Rev. No. 47.

have been more particularly pleased with those very pieces, which have been quoted in companies as subjects of merriment, and have been shouted down with arrogant scorn by supercilious pretenders to criticism. Touches of nature and philosophy stole, however, into the public mind, in spite of the scoffs, the warnings, and anathemas of these guardians of taste; and as, perhaps, no publication ever produced so great a stirring of the general feeling, such a bristling up of alarmed prejudices, and such a perplexed consciousness of inexplicable delight, none, perhaps, ever made in so short a period so deep and affecting an impression. But the alleged infantilities of style and subject were insisted upon with such persevering acrimony, as to frighten effectually away the timid and self-wondering approbation of a portion of the public. They who had been secretly affected with pleasure grew ashamed of their feelings, and were eager to recant their applause, and to join the safe side of the laughers.

In the course of life most persons must have experienced the mortification of finding their frankness misplaced: have exposed their hearts with a facility of which they have instantly repented have abandoned themselves in easy unsuspiciousness to a child-like freedom of confidence, and have suddenly perceived that they have had the misfortune, neither to be appreciated nor understood by those, on whom, in their unreserved and unguarded openness, they had playfully leaned. In this predicament we think that Mr. Wordsworth has not unfrequently placed himself; he has given his readers credit for too great quickness of apprehension and too liberal a good-nature: he has supposed that they would humour his disposition; fall in with his frame of mind, and understand his intention, when, in fact, they have wanted the first stimulus of curiosity, which would be necessary to induce a persuasion that to endeavour to understand it was worth the trouble. It has never occurred to many of them, that a man, who had shown himself, at least on some occasions, capable of high feelings, rich conceptions, and intelligible harmonies, was not very likely to lisp and drivel with the no-meaning of a moping or tittering idiot; that something might possibly lie deeper than the surface; some touches of original sentiment suggested by the close observation of nature and of man; that, in short, the fault imputed to the poet might probably be the fault of his readers, whose tastes had been pampered with a different aliment, and who were too opinionative or too indifferent even to prepare themselves to listen.

The cause of this indifference, or of this more than in difference, a pre-disposition to dislike; a pre-determination, like that of Sterne towards the mendicant friar, not to bestow a single sous; a resolution not by any means to confess themselves

« 이전계속 »