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Now if, instead of the ashea of wood, the reader take some of the ashea, or "oxide," of iron collected at a smith's forge, he will find that water dissolves no portion of them, supposing them to be free from admixture with every other substance; whence it appears that, if the Creator had so willed it that iron should be our fuel, we should have been met with another impediment. At present the substances employed by us as fuel are so constituted, that they shall minister to some further use; that they shall aid us in some manufacture, or fertilize our gardens and fields; that they shall, for the most part, be capable of solution by rains and floods, and not inconvenience us by their accumulation. Circumstances arc very different with the ashes of iron. Once generated, they are, so to speak, permanent. They can not dissolve, or melt away. They confer no benefit in any shape; neither fertilizing our ground, nor yielding us valuable results. How different is it with ordinary combustibles! As regards them, God has so arranged matters that the act of burning, instead of merely serving to evolve heat, shall be attended with all manner of secondary benefits. In the first place, the extent of burning power is so regulated that it never (under the guidance of prudent people) becomes unmanageable; in the second place, the results of combustion are products not only useful to man, but endowed with such natures that they can not accumulate in unmanageable quantities. The materials of a billet of wood, consumed to-day, may, to-morrow, form a part of a living tree or animal—a portion, it may be, of ourselves! The world's economy is so arranged that no element concerned in the ordinary process of combustion ever lies idle. As a prudent merchant never locks up his capital in a strong box, but keeps it continually moving— buying here, selling there, that his riches may increase—so, in the economy of combustion, do we find it with the elements concerned. If iron had been our combustible, then, once burned, it would have lain idle so far as relates to the ordinary scheme of the world's economy. It admits of comparison to money lying idle in a strong box; whereas, with wood, coal, and all ordinary combustibles, the production of ashes, so far from being a final operation, is only a middle stage toward thousands of new developments. Thus flowers will to-morrow spring up, and blossoms shoot forth, and animals grow, nourished directly or indirectly by the ashes of to-day!
Perhaps iron, the instance of extraordinary combustion chosen for our theme, may have begotten ideas of this function which the reader did not before possess; but it is so far from being the only material that we might have chosen for this purpose, that even at random we might have glanced our eye over the elements of nature, and shown that the few materials designed for us by the Almighty as sources of heat are really the only ones that could be employed; and, although man by availing himself of scientific aids can succeed in developing results which in the ordinary course of nature do not take place, yet, for some reason or other, they are totally unadapted to the
necessities of man's existence. All metals are combustible; two so exceedingly combustible, that they take fire when thrown into water, or upon ice. Others there are which bum immediately on coming into contact with the air; but no metal will serve the ordinary purposes of fuel for man. Some, like iron, yield ashes, which, though not poisonous, would in process of timi; convert the world's surface iftto a barren heap of cinders; others yield as the result of their combustion substances so terribly poisonous, that did no other bar to their use exist, this circumstance would be sufficient. Of the latter kind is arsenic. Zinc is another metal which bums with remarkable facility, and, like iron, its ashes weigh heavier than the metal bumed. The combustion of zinc may be very easily accomplished without the aid of any apparatus whatever. The reader has only to send to the first zinc plate worker resident in his neighborhood for some zinc shavings, or small strips of that metal resembling the paper clippings wherewith grates are omamented in summer, and he may readily satisfy himself as to the combustibility of zinc. Shavings of this metal can be lighted in the flame of a candle with the readiness of ordinary paper, and they will continue to bum until all are gone, nothing but a white powder remaining. One very important circumstance relative to this instance of combustion remains to be mentioned. Although zinc in the condition of very fine shavings readily takes fire and bums, yet zinc in thick pieces will not; and this remark equally applies to several other metals. Lead, which apparently is one of the most incombustible substances in nature, admits of being reduced to so fine a powder that it takes fire immediately on coming into contact with the atmosphere.
THE LOST ISLAND.
IT was generally believed by the inhabitants of Zamia that they were descended from Doric ancestors, who had originally left the shores of the Peloponnesus, and peopled their island. Beyond this vague and uncertain tradition their knowledge on the subject did not extend. Certain it is, that the emigrants must have forsaken their home at a most remote time, when Barbarism reigned supreme even over that favored land of Science and Art.
The period of which I write was in the seven hundred and fiftieth year of the Christian era. Then, among all the fifteen thousand inhabitants of Zamia, there was but little trace of the intellectuality of the Grecian race, or of that superior personal beauty for which it was renowned. Civilization had not crossed the rocky barriers of this island state, and through the darkness that pervaded its moral atmosphere, it does not appear that a single spark of Christianity ever forced its way.
It seems, however, that public worship was confined to one Omnipotent God. That stupendous fabric of Pantheism, which Athenian ingenuity had reared, was not recognized here. At least no record remains whereby we can infer that the people of Zamia knelt at any other shrine than that of the Olympian Zeus
The island was not unknown to ancient historians and geographers, for Herodotus mentions it as having once been a penal settlement, or rather, a place of exile for parties convicted of light and unimportant offenses. Its name is probably a corruption of Zyfua—a term used by the Greeks to signify punishment, in a general as well as in a particular sense.
Be this as it may, the island subsequently known as Zamia lay some eighteen leagues distant from the southern coast of Messenia. From the north it (looked upon the Ionian, and from the south upon the Mediterranean Sea; and, of an oblong shape, contained about one hundred and four square miles. It was an extremely fertile and beautiful island, producing wine and oil in abundance, but more especially famed for the purity of the marble discovered in its quarries.
Polybius, who wrote three hundred years after Herodotus, alludes briefly to its existence. He ignores the fact of its ever having been a place of banishment, and calls it a very flourishing Greek colony.
But we must come down to Strabo for more tangible and reliable information. That celebrated geographer, after describing the locality and general appearance of Zamia, proceeds to say: "The city, which is situated almost in the centre of the island, and which contains probably some ten thousand inhabitants, glories in the renowned and ancient name of Argos. It is surrounded by a'massive wall, built of huge polygonal shaped stones, fitted one into the other. The buildings consist of low wooden huts, and the streets are straggling and irregular. In their midst, on a slight elevation, in humble imitation of the Athenian Acropolis, stands the Temple of Zeus. Of Doric architecture, simple and majestic in its style, and perfect in its proportions, it is the admiration of all, and looks a fitting sanctuary for the god of gods—a worthy tribute to his omnipotence."
The same writer adds that the laws against foreigners, or even against those who harbored foreigners of another faith, were very stringent, and this perhaps will account, as well for the absence of all friendly communication between the island and the rest of the world, as for the degeneracy of its inhabitants.
Such was Zamia, her people, and her capital, as described by the ancients. I take up the thread of their history seven hundred years after Strabo wrote.
During this long lapse of time nothing is known of the island. Satisfied we must be that the intellectual, the moral, and the physical decline among its inhabitants was unparalleled in the annals of nations. Tho population had not increased, nor was it diminished, but the race seemed to have dwindled into a deformed and stunted species, upon whose countenances Nature had branded her curse.
The appearance of tho city was still almost tho same as Strabo has described it. Of a circuVol. IX.—No. 63.—T T
lar shape, it was surrounded by the same impregnable walls—specimens of which may be seen to this day in parts of the Peloponnesus. Low, miserable-looking houses were grouped round the Acropolis, which rose in the centreits surface forming a largo level square, at the eastern extremity of which stood the Temple of Zeus. Now, the stately edifice looked gray and hoary with antiquity, for it had - successfully battled with the storms of a thousand winters. Marble columns—the order of their architecture distinguished by the thickness and rapid diminution of the shaft, and by the massiveness and simplicity of the capital—surrounded the entire structure. They supported a plain architrave and a frieze ornamented with triglyphs. In the vacant spaces between the triglyphs, there were sculptures in high relief, representing the gods and ancient heroes in various mythological designs. These sculptures were bold but rude, bearing traces of the earlier schools of Grecian art, and were devoid of that grace and ideal beauty which had long ere this been attained in all their splendid perfection.
Doric columns ornamented the interior as well as the exterior of the Temple, which, after the usual manner, was divided into vestibule and cella. In the centre stood a colossal statue of the immortal Jove. The same coarseness was displayed in the formation of the figure that has been noticed in the sculptures on the frieze without. But still, it was a grand piece of workmanship—a noble specimen of ancient art. It did not lack majesty, and the sensualism stamped upon its features only gave a life, a truth, a reality to the image of Heathendom's greatest god.
From the scanty information afforded us, we must infer that the history, the people, even the name of Zamia were almost unknown to the world beyond; and this, together with its appalling fate, shrouded as it is in mystery, have caused its existence to bo doubted, or altogether disbelieved to-day.
According to modern computation of time, it was the 6th of June, in the year of Christ seven hundred and fifty.
That morning the rising sun crimsoned the Mediterranean. As he ascended, he shone like a ball of liquid fire through a dusky atmosphere. Heat—an oppressive, suffocating heat—hung broodingly over land and water. There was no ripple on the waves—there was no motion among the leaves—there was no trembling on the tenderest blossom. Some secret influence weighed down and crippled the powers of body and soul —an undefined foreboding of evil darkened men's minds.
People rose wearily from a sleepless, unrefreshing rest, and commenced their preparations for the observance of tho Festival. For this was the day of Hilaskeia. Propitiatory sacrifices were to be offered to avert tho anger of offended omnipotence.
They pressed forward to the square of the Acropolis, where the rite* of their unholy faith were to be celebrated. Tlicy looked eagerly to tha ceremonies of the day, as to something that would rouse them from their languor. They seemed to revel prospectively in bloodshed, which would appease the wrath of their god. Never were they so determined, or so prepared, to carry out to the very last extreme their hell-begotten orgies.
-The fate of that people was even then forever sealed. Their doom was at hand. They might have read it in the face of high Heaven—in the face of inanimate nature. There was the stillness before a tempest in the air; while the sun's sullen, sultry redness told of impending destruction. They seemed to feel this—such an unusual, such a profound silence reigned throughout tho multitude.
It was yet early, but the hour had come. Men, women, and children from all parts of the island flocked to the city. Old men, tottering on the precipice of death, seemed to have spent their feeble energies in leaving their homes— never again to return. Infants in their mothers' arms were rudely jostled in the throng. Every hearth had been left deserted, and the whole population of the island had relinquished for the nonce the protection of Penates, to do homage at the shrine of mightier gods.
An altar had been raised in front of the Temple, for the most important part of the day's ceremonies were to be performed in open air. With the exception of a space kept vacant round this altar, the whole summit of the Acropolis was now thronged. The people stood silent in expectation; and the city, gloomy and deserted, encircled them. Beyond, fields and vineyards stretched away on every side toward the sea, glimpses of which might be occasionally caught in the distance. To the east—immediately without and overlooking the city—rose a cone-like hill, called Olympus, after the god they were taught to worship. A fair picture! but far, far better, if, an inhospitable rock, this island had never drawn the wanderer to its shores.
Clear the way for the priests and priestesses of Zeus—the god of gods!
They come from tho Temple—these priests and priestesses of Zeus—in long and stately procession, and the people press forward eagerly at their approach. It has been rumored that on this day human victims are to be offered up, and the curiosity of the multitude knows no bounds. They even venture within the sacred precincts of the altar itself.
A difference will be noticed between the sacrificial rites of the people of Zamia and those of ether Hellenic tribes. Let it be said to the everlasting honor of the Greeks, that, unlike most heathen nations, they seldom offored up human victims to their gods, though they have been accused of the crime by some of the early Christian writers. In later ages only, when the country had relapsed into a semi-barbarous state, and the ancient glory of Hellas had departed, if at all. can this guilt be laid at their door. The sole authenticated instance we have of such an in
human practice, is that recorded by Plutarch, where Themistocles is said to have offered up some captives, in order to procure the assistance of the gods in the war with Persia. There is another, on the authority of Homer, who asserts that Achilles sacrificed twelve Trojan captives at the funeral of Patroclus. But this should be received with caution.
We are unable, however, to realize events that might or might not have occurred at so remote a period, and turn with a sickening shudder to the atrocities of more modern times.
They come from the Temple—these priests and priestesses of Jupiter—arrayed in all the gorgeous drapery of their office. Their purple clothing hangs loosely about them—their feet are bare—and their heads arc encircled with wreaths and garlands.
Robed in white, and decorated with evergreens, the victims are now brought forward. A cord has been passed round the waist of either, and by it they are led unresisting along. There is a strange contrast in their appearance—one, an old man, bent down by the weight of years—the other, a girl on the threshold of womanhoodFairer far than the maidens of this island, she comes from a distant land. The name of her home is unknown—or, if known, would sound harsh and unfamiliar to these southern ears. Father and daughter, they are to die—to die a martyr's death. They look calm and self-possessed—they do not seem to fear, for with them the bitterness of death has passed. It is said that they belong to a hostile faith—that they are called Christians. They speak little, but what they do say is not understood, for it is in a foreign tongue. Whence they come, or by what disastrous fate their lot has been cast npon this island, none know, and none care to inquire. It is sufficient for the people to leam that a fitting sacrifice will this day be offered up to propitiate the Celestial Jove.
The procession has passed on. Priests and priestesses are now grouped round the altar. They have besprinkled the people with holy water. Prayers and incantations have been muttered—the cups have been crowned with the purest wine—the libations of drink are concluded, and all is ready for the sacrifice
The old man is to die first. He is laid upon the altar—his head bent back, and his throat turned upward, ready to receive tho blow. He makes no sign of resistance. It is a breathless moment of suspense for the crowd. The officiating priest has raised the knife—it descends— and from the gaping wound inflicted the blood comes rushing out and crimsons the altar. Tho limbs of the victim are fearfully convulsed in the agonies of death.
Yet look! He rears himself up with a last superhuman effort, and stands- upon the altar. The priests shrink back in affright, for the old man's eyes glare wildly, and his arms are thrown aloft in a menacing attitude. His lips move as though about to speak—it seems as if some fearful imprecation was struggling for utterance. But the blood comes oozing and bubbling forth, and the power of speech passes away.
It was but a momentary spasm—a precursor of death. A film is over his eyes now, and he gropes with his arms, like a man stricken with blindness, seeking for some familiar object on which to lay his hands.
Now he sinks down, and makes once more a faint, wavering, uncertain motion to rise. It is in vain, for the tide of life is on the ebb; and, as it trembles on that mysterious turning-point between Time and Eternity, a murmur, and then a loud prolonged shout of triumph from the assembled spectators announce that the sacrifice is complete!
Hark! The voices of the multitude are hushed, but the echoes have taken up the shout. Hark! a distant roar, like the sound of many waters. What can it mean! they mutter one to another.
But stay. There is another victim. A desire for blood has been roused, and the eager eyes of the crowd are still expectant—their appetites have not been glutted yet.
The sacrifice! The sacrifice! It occupies all their thoughts. They can think of nothing else. In their frenzied excitement they know not that wrath has gone out from the presence of a greater God than him whom they have been wont to worship. A dry scorching wind has sprung up —a strange unaccountable wind, that carries with it no life, no health, no animation to exhausted nature. It increases, but they heed it not. The sun grows dim and sickly, but they see it not. Their voices are raised in a frantic shout, as the last victim is brought forth, and, in her white garments, is laid upon the altar. Again the uplifted knife—again the fierce unrelenting countenance of the murderer—again the calm, resigned, and deathlike countenance of the unresisting victim pass away like some hideous dream. There is heard a shriek of untold agony—there is seen a quivering of the body as the knife enters the flesh—a gasping, a struggling—a fearful spasmodic struggling—and then the triumphant shout of the multitude proclaims the presence of Death!
But loud, loud, loud over that shout—Hark! again the roar of waters!
What is it? Far from the sea, what means this sound of waves, rushing and rising riotously one over the other! I can hear them froth, and foam, and surge, and break, as though I were tossed about in their very midst!
Thus they looked inquiringly, but spoke not. Some charm seemed to have paralyzed their tongues now. The excitement of the sacrifice was over, and they stood spell-bound.
The priests paused, and were unable to perform the concluding rights of the ceremony. They retreated in dismay to the Temple, and left the yet bleeding body of their victim upon the high altar.
Only one hour had elapsed since noon, and yet it grew dark and darker. There was a great confusion, and a hurrying to and fro in the throng. The entire mass seemed swayed by some mysterious agency. People strove to separate them
selves from the multitude, and get without the city, for they wanted breathing room. Wild rumors too, began to pass from mouth to moulh, foreshadowing, at first indefinitely, some great misfortune. And then, amidst the increasing darkness, faces paled to a ghastly pallor, as, simultaneously from a thousand voices, a loud cry is suddenly rung out, "The sea has broken through its barriers and is bursting over the island. The sea! Tho sea is upon us!"
Increased darkness, and a fierce, feverish wind, that comes hissing through the atmosphere with the scorching air of a furnace. Loud, and louder still—like earthquake shocks—the noise of contending elements breaks upon the car.
Come, come to the top of yon hill without the eastern gate of the city, whither the more courageous are flocking, and learn somewhat of this awful catastrophe. Along the streets you meet groups of terror-stricken citizens, hastening they scarcely know whither. They know not where to tum for safety. They endeavor, but in vain, to shake off the stifling feeling of suffocation with which they are oppressed. On reaching the summit of the hill masses of human beings may be discerned around its base groping their way in the pitchy blackness. The roar here is terrific. Beyond, and around in every direction—but at uncertain distances—a dim, shadowy, phosphoric light may be seen dancing madly about. It comes from the water. The waves have encircled yon. They are whirling round, and round, and round in a vortex, and you feel that they draw nearer at evory sweep. They rise, moreover, at times, to a towering height, and you fancy that each succeeding one is destined to fling its huge body over the city, and bury all beneath its weight. But no such hasty and merciful annihilation is at hand.
The vast multitude know now that they are in the midst of a maclstrom—a mighty maclstrom— that must sooner or later ingulf their island and themselves. They arc stupefied—partly with terror, and partly with astonishment—unable to comprehend this mysterious convulsion of nature.
Anon strange illuminations—for they are more prolonged than ordinary lightnings—are seen to flash across the face of heaven, and open up a seeno unparalleled in its sublimity. Turn toward the city—the central point of attraction. Its small, insignificant houses can scarcely be discerned; but, gloomily and grandly, the#Temple rises up from their midst. The lightning plays around the sculptured summits of its pillars, and makes them stand ont boldly against the trebly blackened sky beyond. It only wears an appearance of unaltered, majestic serenity; it only stands unchanged amidst the surrounding wreck.
Above, the sky has assumed a wild and fearful aspect. The clouds arc riven and torn into shreds. for it seems as if the very winds are opposed one against the other in deadly strife. And the infuriated waters, rising higher and higher, drawing nearer and nearer, are leveling hills, filling up valleys, hurling down huts, and destroying Tillages in their progress. Darkness again shuts oat this fearful sight, and the terrified people flock back to the city. Its streets are once more thronged, and the King of Terrors stalks about stamping his image upon every face.
Helpless and mute they instinctively hasten toward the Temple of Zeus. The place where erst the sacred rites were celebrated is once more filled—filled with peoplo in whom a great change has been wrought. But an hour since their eyes were glutted with the revolting sight of human sacrifice, and, with their senses reeling under the excitement, they shouted in impious triumph. Now, in the thick darkness, they are unconsciously treading on the very spot where the crime has been perpetrated, and arc trampling on the body of their victim. Now the sound of human voices is either hushed, or, when heard, is almost unnatural in its accents of terror and despair.
All those who had fled in the direction of their homes, at the first moment of alarm, are forced to return. On every side the waters had encompassed them, and the spray, that fell in showers over the city, told of a fast approaching destruction. The outskirts of the city have already been swept away.
Even the superstitions of their faith are flung aside. They burst into and fill the sacred edifice, as if it could afford them protection. They cling to the statue of Jove imploring its aid; but, alas! the lightning that plays around that immortal head only betrays an angry scowl upon its face. The majesty but not the mercy of a god is written there The high altar is desecrated, and the rich ornaments of gold, and silver, and sculptured marble are torn from their places to make room for the maddened throng. They became so firmly wedged in, so knit together, that it was impossible for any one man who had entered to return.
Many crowd outside, endeavoring, if it were possible, to touch the Doric pillars of the Temple, in the fancied hope that they might yet be saved.
Can it be credited that all this happened in an age when civilized Europe acknowledged the truth of the Christian's faith, and bowed down before the Christian's only God? Yet so it was.
Loud and louder roared the sea as it swept with terrific rapidity round the doomed city. As the area of the vortex diminished that rapidity increased. Many houses had been carried away, and by the mysterious light emitted from the foam the people could partially sec the fearful destruction going on, and feel, in advance, all the horrors of the death that inevitably awaited them.
It was nearly midnight now, and for long hours they had endured this suspense, this torture, this despair. How many during this time died through fear or by suffocation, or how many fell from the violence of their fellow-sufferers, may never be disclosed. True it is that the weaker sex, the sick, and the aged were trampled down and destroyed, and that the frantic multitude finally turned their hands on each other in foul unearthly murder.
Reason had at last left them to their own mad
dened, unrestrained passions. The sacrifice, the previous excitement of the day, and the fear of impending death, combined to drive them into the wildest insanity. They knew no longer what they did. The scene had become a Pandemonium, not of men, but of infuriated demons.
From this description the writer naturally shrinks, and I only venture to give a few feeble outlines, and leave them to be filled up by the imagination.
A fearful sight is it, at any time, to witness man engaged in combat with his fellow; but how much more fearful was this! Shut up in that heathen temple, unable to extricate themselves, bent only upon murder—Death encircling them without—Death at work within—amidst demoniac yells, rising above the roar of approaching waters—and, brooding over all, a pitchy darkness, occasionally dispersed by flashes of vivid lightning that revealed for a moment the scene of carnage. The combat was all the more terrible because the combatants were unarmed, and the cries of the dying could be distinguished by their prolonged, unearthly, convulsive shrieks. What a spectacle! A multitude maddened with fear—hemmed in by destruction—unable to escape—hoping for nothing, seeking for nothing, desiring nothing but the death of each other—an uncontrolled multitude of frenzied, raving maniacs! It was a tragedy enacted on this earth that rivaled the terrors of a very hell!
I must pause. That last flash of lightning reveals too much horror. It reveals men, women, and children trampled down remorselessly, furiously. It reveals the survivors still struggling faintly, locked inseparably together in a deathly embrace. It reveals the agonized expression of their faces, which bear now but little trace of humanity. It reveals their hands stretched wildly, frantically, but helplessly, upward. Ah! Let darkness come again!
The waters approach nearer—nearer—nearer. As the circle of tho mighty maclstrom decreases, its velocity augments. The city, the last remnant of Zamia, is fast disappearing. Nothing remains but the mass of people thronging in and around the Temple; and that Temple still looms grandly through the mist and darkness. Now the lightning flashes and plays upon its sculptured friezes. It stands alone amidst that wreck, and looks proud, gloomy, defiant, gorgeous, sublime —ay, sublime even as the storm itself! What wonder that they sought its sacred shadow for protection!
The waters approach nearer—nearer—nearer. The waves have at last reached the building, and, sweeping round ils walls, hurry away a thousand victims. Amidst their roar, the cry of human suffering is drowned.
Within, there is a pause, and Murder holds back its bloody hand. The people seemed startled into reason—their storm of passion and frenzy is mysteriously calmed before the approach of Jehovah's mightier wrath. Again the lightning flashes forth, and, illuminating every feature, betrays a ghastly array of countenances with eyes