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been detailed only in one English work,* appears to us to throw a remarkable light on the subject, and to confirm, if not establish, the opinion of Sir Humphry Davy, that meteoric stones have their origin in our own atmosphere.
When electricity passes in the form of a spark from one metallic body to another, it carries along with it, in a state of ignition and fusion, the metallic particles, themselves extremely attenuated and subdivided. If the spark passes from a polished ball of gold to a ball of polished silver, a reciprocal transport of the two metals takes place. The vapour, as it were, of the gold passes to the silver ball, and the vapour of the silver to the gold ball; and these metals show their existence in metallic spots or films so exceedingly thin, that after a certain time they are volatilized and disappear. The evaporation of mercury and metals in a state of fusion has been long known; but it is not generally known that metallic bodies evaporate during the ordinary changes of temperature. When we consider, therefore, the great changes of temperature which are taking place on the surface of our globe, and the constant passage of electricity from the earth to the clouds, we can readily conceive how iron, sulphur, and all the other ingredients of meteoric stones, may be carried up into the higher regions of our atmosphere, and exist there in a state of extreme subdivision. Fusinieri has found, by numerous and accurate observations, that lightning carries along with it iron, sulphur, and carbon, and deposits them upon the bodies which it strikes; and that it again carries along with it from these bodies fresh materials of transport. It is well known that iron, manganese, nitrous salts, and organic substances, are found in rain water. Hailstones too have been found, according to Fusinieri and others, with a nucleus of sulphuret of iron; and the existence of dry and ferruginous vapours in our atmosphere may be inferred also from the colouring matters in snow and rain. When we connect these facts, therefore, with the existence of magnetic currents around our globe, it is not difficult to understand how meteoric stones may be formed in the atmosphere during the prevalence of thunder-storms, and precipitated in a state of ignition and fusion by the electrical forces with which it is then agitated,
We have thus endeavoured to make our readers acquainted with the merits of Mrs Somerville's work; and have ventured to offer some suggestions which may perhaps deserve her consideration. Although the manner in which the work is executed would
* Art. ELECTRICITY, by Sir David Brewster, in the Encylopædia Britannica, seventh edition, vol. viii., p. 585, 620.
justify us in expressing a wish that Mrs Somerville would undertake a series of separate treatises on the Physical Sciences, yet we feel some reluctance in making such a demand upon one whose intellectual capacities are fitted for higher labours. Mrs Somerville's great mathematical acquirements, her correct and profound knowledge of the principles of physical science, and the talent for original enquiry which she has already evinced in her paper on the magnetism of the violet rays, induce us to urge her to original investigation in some of the more elegant departments of science. The fame of scientific authorship is but a poor compensation for its toils; and the fleeting celebrity of writing the best book upon a science which is undergoing continual change, and demanding new expositors, cannot gratify a mind like hers. To acquire a deep and extensive knowledge of the phenomena and laws of the material world, is doubtless a subject of just congratulation: to succeed in imparting that knowledge to others, must be a source of pure and unalloyed pleasure. But a mind of original power cannot inscribe its efforts within a sphere so limited and humble. Its aspirations must be after objects less common in their attainment, and after pursuits more lofty in their aim. To discover new phenomena-to trace new relations to establish new laws, these are the achievements which are imperishable— the trophies which alone can subdue the excitement of reason, and allay the fervour of ambition.
ART. IX.-Poems; chiefly Religious. By the Rev. H. F. LYTE, A.M. 12mo. London: 1833. ·
THE HE sun seems during the day to have the heavens to himself, but the stars are there all the while, as many and as rejoicing as during the night. It is the presence of the sun which will not let us see them. So, our minor poets, the twinkling stars, the miscellanies o'er,' become visible indeed only after the great luminaries of poetry are set. Yet they do not come forward on the field of light as successors or rivals. Their modest beauty affects to be nothing, for the most part, but the reflection of the very brightness by which, while it was present, they were obscured. It is agreed on all hands, that the bigger lights are infinitely the most glorious. Still, many persons (more than are willing always to own it) feel that the secondary ones have a charm and value peculiarly their own.
It is, perhaps, paying Mr Lyte no great compliment to say,
that the state of our poetical horizon, from one cause or another, is dim and dusky enough, at the present moment, to bring him fairly within our ken. We have long known him to be an exemplary clergyman, resident at Brixham, the fisher village of Torbay. It was not, however, without some apprehension, as well as curiosity, that we approached Poems; chiefly Religious,' dedicated to Lord Farnham. Sounds, in which the chant of Watts's hymns was mingled with the shriller notes of the drum ecclesiastic, appeared to be floating towards us. We have been agreeably undeceived. Religion forms the atmosphere, rather than the substance of his poems; and we are happy to find, that his alarms, ecclesiastical or civil, have not penetrated into the Muses' bower. Our welcome of Mr Lyte cannot begin more appropriately than by the expression of our wonder how it happens, that the Church of England, abounding in literature, in leisure, and, above all, in the liberal latitude which its flock allows their shepherds, should not have contributed from among its clergy a larger proportion of names to the roll of English poets. The clergy of no other Christian communion have enjoyed any thing like equal advantages.
The Church of Rome, the splendid patroness of architecture and of sculpture, of painting and of music, apparently could not have done a great deal for poetry, subject to the condition that its patronage was to be confined to poetry of a strictly religious nature. Fears and scruples of different kinds made a distinct encouragement of general poetry quite out of the question. The canon which forbade the amusement of clerical hunting might as well have gone on to forbid that of clerical versifying also; and for the same reason the want of a precedent among the Fathers: Nullum Sanctum invenimus venatorem. Hence, owing to the subordination of the Roman hierarchy, its priesthood (with a few, and not always very creditable exceptions) favoured the art but little, and practised it still less. With them, too, ordination naturally leads to the moral and intellectual evils of a caste. It is almost a sentence of excommunication from the equal intercourse and domestic charities of our breathing world. Set apart, like a holy thing, to minister between the porch and the altar, they can know but little, except as truants or in penance, of the universal and genial sympathies of which the spirit of poetry consists. When that spirit began again, in the chaos of the middle ages, to move 6 upon the face of the waters,' the bards of the convent left nature to wicked minstrels. They made it their own office to teach the mind, as it were, to tell its beads; and seldom got beyond the tranquillizing task of metrical chronicles, leonine verses, and monkish rhymes. The abstraction of an iota of feeling from devotion to sublunary objects, was the sin of substituting the creature
for the Creator; and if genius, always restless and rebellious, would still start at times out of the course, dangerous associations were prevented, by sending it to look for the pleasures of the imagination and the heart in the spiritual romances of legendary saints. If Crabbe had been a Dominican, and had heard in his confessional the tales of the Village or the Borough, the thrilling prose whispered in his ear must probably have died there. The best that could have befallen it would have been to be dried down into cases of conscience, by way of appendix to a volume of casuistical divinity.
The unmusical existence of a Presbyterian minister is a still simpler affair. Not only is his ordinary education more limited and more purely professional, but the prudent considerations concerning the sort of poetry, which alone would be thought becoming in a teacher in our Israel, must end, in all probability, by resolving not to write poetry at all. Poetical enthusiasm cannot be expected to live in the presence of minute distinctions, between a poem in five acts and a poem in twelve books; subject to which, or some such, distinction, the inspiration of Mr Home appears to have been scarcely less heretical in the eyes of the General Assembly than the modern inspiration of Mr Irving. The persecution of the milk-white drama of Douglas' was a tolerable warning. Its author was for a time in a curious dilemma, discountenanced by the managers both of the Theatre and the Church. The Poem from which his brethren shrunk, on account of the perilous example of its theatrical form and spirit, was rejected by Garrick as not sufficiently stirring and dramatic for the stage. In the face of such persecution, à Scotch divine must have the boldness almost of Knox himself to be caught trespassing on Parnassus after any flowers of less questionable purity and simplicity than a snowdrop. If Scott had become a minister of the Kirk, the prieties of the Manse would probably have kept him down to about the level of Logan. We might have had Odes to Cuckoos, perhaps, or monodies upon the Grave,' but certainly no Marmions none, at least, unless as the unacknowledged foundlings of some Great Unknown. It is quite different with an English clergyman. He is already on the verge of holy orders when he can stand, in nine cases out of ten, an infinitely better examination in the fathers of classical mythology, the heathen poets, than in the writings of the Christian fathers, or the later manuals of orthodox belief. He is afterwards also comparatively free. His parishioners, accustomed, without any sense of scandal, to see upon his table a Burn's Justice,' and sometimes a 'Sporting Magazine,' can tolerate in him an open partiality_for Shakspeare and the player poets. They would take more plea
sure, we doubt not, in their rector being made a bishop, for a good volume of original poetry, than for having edited a Greek tragedy, or written a fierce party pamphlet on the politics of the day. This has been the case ever since the Reformation. Satires might be expected to be among the least likely recommendations of this description. But Donne and Hall, the first English satirists, found their enlistment in that hornet service no objection to their advancement to the deanery of St Paul's and the bishopric of Norwich.
The brief fanatical interval of the Commonwealth, when all polite literature, and especially the drama, lay under suspicion, can scarcely be allowed to have been a national exception. The Puritans were not the nation; and the taunts of contemporary controversy are no more evidence even of real personal conviction than they are evidence of truth. His own invocation to his dear child of memory, What needs my Shakspeare for his honoured 'bones?' ought to have prevented Milton (and would in a calmer moment) from insinuating that the piety of the Eikon Basilike was inconsistent with the fact, that William Shakspeare was the closest companion of the solitudes' of the King. He elsewhere expressly states, that if virtue had suffered from the interludes of libidinous and ignorant poetasters,' or the 'trencher fury of rhyming parasites, a nation might, on the other hand, be civilized and adorned by means of festival pastimes, and wise and artful recitations, sweetened with eloquent enticement. "Whether this may be not only in pulpits; but after another 'persuasive manner, at set and solemn panegyries, theatres, porches, or whatever other place or way may win most upon the people, to receive at once both recreation and instruction let them in authority consult.' The polemic of the Commonwealth was too much disposed to forget the poet, and almost the Christian, on an opportunity for sneering at reverend bishops and their young disciples.' But it was the nature of the performances, and not their general lawfulness, which he denounced, where in self-defence he was provoked sarcastically to appeal to the recollections of his youth. What difficulty could there be to prevent him from seeing plays (says he), when in the colleges so many of the young divines, and those in next aptitude to divinity, have been seen so often upon the stage, writhing and unboning 'their clergy-limbs to all the antic and dishonest gestures of Trin'culos, buffoons, and bawds; prostituting the shame of that ministry, which either they had, or were nigh having, to the eyes of ' courtiers and court-ladies, with their grooms and madamoisellaes. "There, while they acted, and over-acted, among other young scholars, I was a spectator; they thought themselves gallant men,