THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
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VOL. VI.–JULY, 1860.–NO. XXXIII.
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A GLANCE AT THE SCIENCE.
The purpose of this article is to present, in a brief andsimple manner, the leading principles on which the science ofMeteorology is founded,–rather, however, in the spirit of aninquirer than of a teacher. For, notwithstanding the rapidprogress it has made within the last thirty years, it is farfrom having the authority of an exact science; many of itsphenomena are as yet inexplicable, and many differences ofopinion among the learned remain unreconciled on points at firstsight apparently easy to be settled.
Meteorology has advanced very far beyond its original limits.Spherical vapor and atmospheric space give but a faint idea of itsrange. We find it a leading science in Physics, and having intimaterelations with heat, light, electricity, magnetism, winds, water,vegetation, geological changes, optical effects, pneumatics,geography,–and with climate, controlling the pursuits andaffecting the character of the human race. It is so intimatelyblended, indeed, with the other matters here named, as scarcely tohave any positive boundary of its own; and its vista seems everlengthening, as we proceed.
Without dwelling upon the numerous consequences which flow frommeteorological influences, let us see what is properly included underthe subject of Meteorology. And first, of the Atmosphere.
This is a gaseous, vapor-bearing, elastic fluid, surrounding theearth. Its volume is estimated at 1/29th, and its weight at about43/1000ths, that of the globe. It is composed of 21 parts in weightof Oxygen and 77 of Nitrogen, with a little Carbonic Acid,Aqueous Vapor, and a trace of Carburetted Hydrogen. There arenumerous well-known calculations of the proportions of the variousconstituents of the atmosphere, which we owe to Priestley, Dalton,Black, Cavendish, Liebig, and others; but that given by ProfessorAnsted is sufficiently simple and intelligible. In 10 volumes orparts of it, he gives to
Oxygen, the great supporter of life 2.100Nitrogen, (not condensible under 50atmospheres, and not respirable orcombustible,) 7.750Aqueous Vapor .l42Carbonic Acid .004Carburetted Hydrogen .004______10.000
and he adds a trace of Ammoniacal Vapor. It is _usual_ to state theproportions of air as being 1 Oxygen to 4 Nitrogen.
It is a curious fact, that, while there are six varieties of compoundsof nitrogen and oxygen, but one of these is fitted to sustain life,and that is our atmosphere.
It is well enough to note, that, when we use the word volume ormeasure, in speaking of the atmosphere or any gaseous body, we adoptthe theory of Gay-Lussac, who discovered that gases unite with eachother in definite proportions whenever they enter into combination.This theory led to important results; for by knowing the elements of acompound gas, we easily determine its specific gravity.
It has been attempted to apply the principle to organic bodies;but it has not yet been carried to a full and satisfactoryconclusion. It may be noticed, too, that Dalton affirmed thatsimple substances unite with each other in definite weightsto form compound substances, thus supporting the idea ofLussac. These discoveries were made about the same time,Dalton having the credit of originating them. Various modificationsof the principle have been from time to time presented to publicattention.
Whether the constituents of the atmosphere are chemically ormechanically combined,–one of the things about which the learned arenot fully agreed,–it is found to be chemically the same in itsconstituents, all over the world, whether collected on mountains or onplains, on the sea or on the land, whether obtained by aeronauts milesabove the earth or by miners in their deepest excavations. On thetheory of its mechanical combination, however, as by volume, and thateach constituent acts freely for itself and according to its own laws,important speculations (conclusions, indeed) have arisen, both asregards temperature and climatic differences. It should be observed,that volume, as we have used the word, is the apparent space occupied,and differs from mass, which is the _effective_ space occupied, or thereal bulk of matter, while density is the relation of mass to volume,or the quotient resulting from the division of the one by the other.Those empty spaces which render the volume larger than the mass aretechnically called its pores.
Has the composition of the atmosphere changed in the lapse of years?On this point both French and German philosophers have largelyspeculated. It is computed that it contains about two millions ofcubic geographical miles of oxygen, and that 12,500 cubic geographicalmiles of carbonic acid have been breathed out into the air orotherwise given out in the course of five thousand years. Theinference, then, should be, that the latter exists in the air in theproportion of 1 to 160, whereas we find but 4 parts in 10,000. Dumasand Bossingault decided that no change had taken place, verifyingtheir conclusion by experiments founded on observations for more thanthirty-five years. No _chemical_ combination of oxygen and nitrogenhas ever been detected in the atmosphere, and it is presumed none willbe.
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The atmosphere possesses, as may be readily imagined, many importantcharacteristics. One of these is Weight.
This is demonstrated by simple, yet decisive experiments. Thediscovery of the _fact_ is attributed to the illustrious Galileo, butto modern science we owe all the certainty, variety, and elegance ofthe demonstration. A vessel containing a quantity of air is weighed;the air is exhausted from it and it is weighed again. An accuratescale will then detect the difference of weight. A cubic foot of airweighs 1.2 oz. Hence a column of air of one inch in diameter and amile in height weighs 44 oz.
The atmosphere is supposed to have an elevation of from 45 to 50miles, but its weight diminishes in proportion to its height. Thewhole pressure at the surface of the earth is estimated to be 15 lbs.to the square inch; a person of ordinary size is consequently pressedupon by a weight of from 13 to 14 tons. Happily for us, the pressurefrom without is counteracted by the pressure from within.
The weight of the air is of great importance in the economy of Nature,since it prevents the excessive evaporation of the waters upon theearth’s surface, and limits its extent by unalterable laws. Waterboils at a certain temperature when at the earth’s surface, where theweight of the atmosphere is greatest, but at different temperatures atdifferent elevations from the surface. At the level of the sea itboils at 212 deg.. On the high plains of Quito, 8,724 feet above the sea,it boils at 194 deg., and an egg cannot be cooked there in an open vessel.At Potosi the boiling-point is still lower, being 188 deg., and thebarometrical column stands at 18 deg.. Indeed, the experiment is oftenexhibited at our chemical lectures, of a flask containing a smallquantity of water, which, exhausted of air, is made to boil by theordinary heat of the hand.
Fahrenheit proposed to ascertain the height of mountains by thisprinciple, and a simple apparatus was contrived for the purpose, whichis now in successful use. The late Professor Forbes of Edinburgh,whose untimely death the friends of science have had so much reason todeplore, ascertained that the temperature of boiling water variedarithmetically with the height, and at the rate of one degree of thethermometric scale for every 549.05 feet. Multiplying the differenceof the boiling-point by this number of feet, we have the elevation.The weight of the atmosphere, as indicated by the barometer, is also ameans for ascertaining the height of mountains or of plains; butcorrection must be made for the effects of expansion or contraction,and for capillarity, or the attraction between the mercury and theglass tube, at least whenever great exactness is required. Tables forthe convenience of calculation are given in several scientific works,and particularly in a paper of Professor Forbes, Ed. Trans. Vol. 15.Briefly, however, we may state, that between 0 deg. and 32 deg., 34thousandths of an inch must be allowed for depression or contraction,and between 32 deg. and 52 deg. 33 thousandths. The weight of the atmosphereis not only affected by rarefaction, but by currents of air, whichgive it a sudden density or rarity. Those who have ascended mountainshave experienced both these changes.
A common experiment to prove the weight of air is that of theMagdeburg Hemispheres, a simple contrivance of Otto Guericke, amerchant of that city. It is a part of every complete philosophicalapparatus. It consists of brass caps, which, when joined together, fittightly and become a globe. The air within being exhausted, it will befound difficult to separate them. If the superficies be 100 squareinches and the height of the mercury be 30 inches, the atmosphere willpress on these hemispheres with a weight of 1,475 lbs, requiring theefforts of seven or eight powerful men to tear them asunder. One ofthese instruments, of the diameter of a German ell, required thestrength of 24 horses to separate it. The experiment was publicly madein 1650 at the Imperial Diet at Rendsborg, in the presence of theEmperor Ferdinand III. and a large number of princes and nobles, muchto their astonishment.
As compared with water, the air (the barometer indicating 30 deg., and thethermometer 55 deg.) is 833 times lighter.
It is this weight of the atmosphere which counterbalances that of acolumn of mercury 29 inches in height, and a column of water 32 to 34feet in height.
The old quaint notion of Nature’s abhorring a vacuum was found to bepractically only an assertion that the air had weight. The ordinarypump, commonly called the suction-pump, is constructed on thisprinciple. The weight of the atmosphere at the level of the sea isfound to be the same all over the world.
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We find the atmosphere with another characteristic,–Elasticity.
However it may be compressed, air returns, on liberation, to itsoriginal volume, and while thus perfectly elastic it is also the mostcompressible of bodies. This elasticity arises from the repulsiveforce of its particles, and is always equal to the compressive forcewhich it balances. A glass vessel full of air, placed under a receiverand then exhausted by the air-pump, will burst into atoms. Water, onthe other hand, is almost the reverse. Twenty cubic inches, introducedinto a cannon whose sides are three inches thick, cannot be compressedinto nineteen inches without bursting it. This non-elastic property ofwater, with another, that of communicating, when under the action ofany force, an equal pressure in all directions, led to the inventionof the hydraulic press.
The elasticity of the air enables fishes to rise and sink in water,through the action of the air-bladder.
The sudden compression of air liberates its latent heat, and producesfire. On this principle the pneumatic tinder-box is constructed.
Brockhaus says that air has as yet been compressed only intoone-eighth of its original bulk.
For every degree of heat between the freezing-point and the boiling-point,32 deg. and 212 deg., the expansion of air is about 1/490th part, so thatany invention which seeks to use rarefied air as a motive powermust employ a very intense degree of heat, enough to fuse many kindsof metals.
To the celebrated Mr. Boyle and to Henry Cavendish, both of GreatBritain, we are indebted for most of what we know of this particularproperty of the air.
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Density, or closeness, is another quality of the atmosphere. It hasbeen found to be 770 times less than that of water, and 770 cubicinches of air weigh as much as a cubic inch of water. It is in directratio with its elasticity, and there are tables by which it may bedetermined at different altitudes. At the surface of the earth, thisdensity is indicated as 1; at 2-1/2 miles, as 1/2; at 5 miles, as 1/4;and so on, the difference being in a geometrical progression.
As we proceed in the consideration of our general subject, we shallfind, under the appropriate heads, that density is not withoutmaterial influence on reflection and refraction, on transparency andthe transmission of light, the presence or absence of moisture, andthe amount of heat at the earth’s surface,–and we might add, onhealth, and the increase or diminution of the vital energies.
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Temperature is another branch of our subject, and one involving aseries of subordinate topics on which volumes have been written, andto which are still devoted the labors of the most learned men of ourday. In this place, merely an out-line can be attempted.
Temperature is the degree of heat or cold in the particles of allbodies, which is perceptible by sensation, and is measurable by theirexpansion or contraction. It is the key to the theory of the winds, ofrain, of aerial and oceanic currents, of vegetation and climate withall their multifarious and important differences. While the inclinedposition of the earth on its axis and its movement in its ellipticalorbit influence the general amount of heat, it is rather to theconsequences of these in detail that we are called when we speak oftemperature. If the sun shone on a uniformly level surface, everywhereof the same conducting and radiating power, there would be but littledifficulty in tracing the monotonous effects of temperature.
The reformer Luther, as eccentric as he was learned and sincere, isreported to have said, that, if he had been consulted at the Creation,he would have placed the sun directly over the centre of the world andkept it there, to give unchanging and uniform light and heat! It iscertainly much better that he was not consulted. In that case, everyparallel of latitude would have been isothermal, or of equal meanannual temperature. The seasons would have been invariable incharacter. Some portions of the earth would have been scorched tocrispness, others locked up in never-changing ice.
Vegetation, instead of being universal, would have been confined to anarrow zone; and the whole human race would have been driven togetherinto one limited habitable space, to interfere with, incommode, anddestroy each other. The arrangement is best as it is.
We find very important modifications of temperature, occasioned notonly by astronomical influences, but by local causes and geographicalcharacteristics. For while, as a general rule, the nearer we approachthe equator, the warmer we shall be, yet temperature is greatlyaffected by mountains, seas, currents of air or water, by radiation,by forests, and by vegetation. It is found, in fact, that the lines oftemperature, (the happy conception of Humboldt,) when they are tracedupon the map, are anything but true zones or circles.
The line of the greatest mean warmth is not coincident with theequator, but falls to the north of it. This line at 160 deg. W. Long, fromGreenwich is 4 deg. below the geographical equator; at 80 deg. it is about 6 deg.north, sweeping along the coast of New Granada; at 20 deg. it comes downand touches the equator; at 40 deg. E. Long., it crosses the Red Sea about16 deg. north of the equator, and at 120 deg. it falls at Borneo, severaldegrees below it;–and the points of the greatest heat, in this line,are in Abyssinia, nearer the tropic of Cancer than to the equator. Onthe other hand, the greatest mean cold points, according to theopinions of Humboldt, Sir David Brewster, and others, do not coincide,as would seem natural, with the geographical poles, but they are bothto be found in the northern hemisphere, in Latitude 80 deg., 95 deg.E. Long.and 100 deg. W. Long. from Greenwich. The western is ascertained to be4-1/2 deg. colder than the eastern or Siberian. If this be the fact,–butit is not positively admitted,–an open sea at the pole may beconsidered as probable, on the ground of its having a higher meantemperature than is found at 80 deg.. Kaemptz places one of these coldpoints at the north of Barrow’s Straits,–the other near Cape Taimur,in Siberia. Burghaus, in his Atlas, transfers the American cold poleto 78 deg. N. Lat. It is perhaps too early to determine rigorously thetrue temperature of these points.
A noticeable fact also is this,–that places in the same latituderarely receive the same amount of heat. Quebec, in British America,and Drontheim, in Norway, enjoy about the same quantity, while theformer is in 47 deg. and the latter in 68 deg. N. Lat. The mean wintertemperature of Pekin, 39 deg. 45′ N. Lat., is 5 deg. below the freezing-point;while at Naples, which is north of Pekin, it seldom, if ever, goesbelow it, and Paris, 500 miles farther north, has a mean wintertemperature of 6 deg. above the freezing-point. The city of New York,about 11 deg. south of London, has a winter temperature of much greaterseverity. The mean temperature of the State of New York, as determinedby a long series of observations, is 44 deg. 31′.
The mean temperature of countries is found to be very stable, and butvery small variations have been detected in modern times. But thatthere have been important climatic changes, since the Christian era,cannot be doubted, unless we doubt history. Not many centuries ago, itwas a common thing for all the British rivers to freeze up during thewinter, and to remain so for several months. If space permitted, aninteresting statement could he made of the changes which have takenplace in vegetation in Greenland, and throughout certain northernparts of Europe,–also in Palestine, Greece, and other southerncountries,–while we know that the earth’s inclination upon its axishas been unchanged.
Mrs. Somerville remarks, that, though the temperature of any one placemay be subject to very great variations, yet it never differs from themean state more than a few degrees.
Without this atmospheric covering of ours, it is considered that thetemperature of the earth at its surface would be the same as that ofthe celestial spaces, supposed to be at least 76 deg. below zero, or_possibly_, says Humboldt, 1400 deg. below! Human life, without ouratmosphere, could not exist for a single moment.
It is computed, that, if the annual heat received by the earth on itssurface could be equally distributed over it, it would melt, in thecourse of a year, a stratum of ice 46 feet thick, though it coveredthe whole globe, and as a consequence the amount of unradiated heatwould render it uninhabitable.
The relative position of the sun affects temperature, rather than itsdistance. In winter the earth is three millions of miles nearer thesun than in summer, but the oblique rays of the former season reach usin less quantity than the more direct The distribution of land andwater, the nature of the soil, the indentation of bays, the elevationof land above the sea-level, insularity, etc., all, as we have alreadysuggested, have a modifying influence on temperature.
The atmosphere possesses also a reflecting and refracting power,arising from its varying density, and, perhaps, in the latter case,somewhat from its lenticular outline.
But for this property we should have no twilight. The sun, instead ofsending up his beams while 18 deg. below the visible horizon, would comeupon us out of an intense darkness, pass over our sky a brazeninglorious orb, and set in an instant amid unwelcome night.
Reflection is the rebound of the rays of light or heat from anopposing surface at the same angle as that at which they fall upon it.These are called angles of incidence and reflection, and are equal.
Refraction is the bending of a ray passing obliquely from a rarer intoa denser medium. This may be observed when a rod is placed slantinglyin a vessel of clear water; the part immersed will appear bent orbroken. This is ordinary refraction. Terrestrial refraction is thesame thing, occurring whenever there is a difference of density in theaerial strata.
The atmosphere absorbs some portion of the light which it receives. Itis not all reflected or refracted or even penetrative.
Objects seen under various degrees of light, either convected orretarded by different media, appear near or distant, distinct orconfused. Thus, we are often surprised at the apparent nearness andbrightness of an opposite shore or neighboring island, in someconditions of the air, while at other times they seem distant and liein shadowy obscurity.
The looming up of a vessel on the water is another common instance ofthe principle of refraction.
It has been noticed by almost every one, that, during the warm andmoist nights of summer, the moon, as she rises above the horizon,appears much larger than when at the zenith. So the setting sun isseen of apparently increased size. Sir John Herschel asserts that theappearance is an illusion, and so do some others. Professor Careysays, that, if we look through a paper tube at the moon when on thehorizon, the paper being folded so as to make the aperture of itsexact size, and then look again at it when it reaches the zenith, weshall find there is no difference.
On the other hand, an experiment is offered by a German Professor, ofthe name of Milo, of this kind: If we look through a tube soconstructed as to have one side filled with spirits of wine and theother with common air, the half of the object seen through the formerwill be found to appear much larger to the eye than the other halfseen through the latter.
It is laid down, that, where extraordinary refraction takes placelaterally or vertically, the visual angle of the spectator issingularly enlarged, and objects are magnified, as if seen through atelescope. Dr. Scoresby, a celebrated meteorologist and navigator,mentions some curious instances of the effects of refraction seen byhim in the Arctic Ocean.
Many remarkable phenomena attend this state of the atmosphere, knownas the Fata Morgana of Sicily, the Mirage of the Desert, the Spectreof the Brocken, and the more common exhibitions of halos, coronae, andmock suns. The Mountain House at Catskill has repeatedly been seenbrightly pictured on the clouds below. Rainbows are also due to thiscondition of the atmosphere.
We might occupy the remainder of the space allowed us by enlarging onvarious topics which belong to this part of our subject. The twilightgray, the hues of the evening and morning sky, the peculiarity of thered rays of light, the scintillation of stars, their flashing changesof colors, are all meteorological in their character, as well asstrikingly beautiful and interesting.
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Polarity of light is another of the wonders of which Meteorology takescognizance. The celebrated Malus, in 1808, while looking at the lightof the setting sun shining upon the windows of the Luxembourg, was ledto the discovery that a beam of light which was reflected at a certainangle from transparent and opaque bodies, or by transmission throughseveral plates of uncrystallized bodies, or of bodies crystallized andpossessing the property of double refraction, changed its character,so as to have sides, to revolve around poles peculiar to itself, andto be incapable of a second reflection. The angle of polarity wasfound to be 54 deg..
The beam of polarized light was also found to have the peculiarproperty of penetrating into the molecules of bodies, illuminatingthem and, enabling the eye to determine as to their structure. Theproduction of beautiful spectres, prismatic colors of gorgeous hues,and the most remarkable system of rings, has followed the discovery,and important results are expected from the continuation of theresearches. It has already enabled the astronomer to determine whatheavenly bodies do or do not shine with their own light. The subjectis still under investigation.
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Color from light comes also under the notice of the meteorologist. Thereceived opinion is, that there is no inherent color in any object welook at, but that it is in the light itself which falls upon and isreflected from the object. Each object, having a particular reflectingsurface of its own, throws back light at its own angle, absorbing somerays and dispersing others, while it preserves its own. In this senseit may be said that the rose has no color,–its hues are onlyborrowed. If the idea should be carried out, it would certainlydestroy much of the poetry of color. Thus, in praising the modestblush which crimsons the cheek of beauty, we should destroy all itscharm, if we attributed it to a sudden change in the reflectingsurface of the epidermis,–a mere mechanical rushing of blood to theskin, and a corresponding change in its angle of reflection!
Without light, however, there is no color. Agriculturists and chemistsunderstand this. Plants without light retain their oxygen, whichbleaches them.
The theory of color has never been fully agreed upon. Some writersmaintain that the character of its hues depends on the number ofundulations of a ray. Goethe’s theory is substantially, that colorsare produced by the thinning or thickening and obstructing of light.Brewster contends that there are but three primary colors,–red,yellow, and blue. Wollaston finds four,–red, yellowish green, blue,and violet. But this, as well as the consideration of the solarspectrum of Newton, is more the specialty of Optics. The atmosphericrelations of color are more apposite to our purpose.
The color of the clouds, which may be occasionally affected byelectricity, is owing to the state of the atmosphere and itsreflecting and refracting properties.
The color of snow is white because it is composed of an infinitevariety of crystals, which reflect all the colors of light, absorbingnone, and these, uniting before they reach the eye, appear white,which is the combination of all the colors.
Wind, the atmosphere in action, though not picturesque, is alwayswonderful, often terrible and sublime. The origin of wind, itsdirection and its force, its influence on the health of man, hisbusiness, his dwelling-place, and the climate where he perpetuates hisrace, have attracted the profound attention of the greatestphilosophers.
To the rarefaction of the air at the equator, and the daily revolutionof the earth, is attributed the origin of the Trade-Winds, which blowfrom the east or a little to the north of east, north of the equator,and east or south of east after we are south of the equator. The hotcurrent of ascending air is replaced by cold winds from the poles.
But why are we not constantly subject to the action of north winds,which we rarely are? Because of the diurnal motion of the earth, whichat the equator equals one thousand miles an hour, the polar winds incoming down to the equator do not have any such velocity, becausethere is a less comparative diurnal speed in the higher latitudes. Theair at the poles revolves upon itself without moving forward;–at theequator, the velocity, as we have mentioned, is enormous. If, then,says Professor Schleiden, we imagine the air from the pole to becarried to the equator, some time must elapse before it will acquirethe same velocity of motion from west to east which is always foundthere. Therefore it would remain behind, the earth gliding, as itwere, from beneath it; or, in other words, it would have theappearance of an east wind. Lieutenant Maury adopts the sameexplanation. It is, indeed, that of Halley, slightly modified.
The warm air, ascending from the equatorial regions, rushes to thepoles to be cooled in turn, sliding over the heavy strata of cold airbelow.
The northern trade-wind prevails in the Pacific between 2 deg. and 25 deg. ofN. Latitude; the southern trade, between 10 deg. and 21 deg. of S. Latitude.In the Atlantic the trades are generally limited by the 8th and 28thdegrees of N. Latitude. The region of calms lies between these trades,and beyond them are what are styled the Variables. In the former theseaman finds baffling winds, rain, and storms. Occasionally, fromcauses not yet fully explained, north and south periodical winds breakin upon them, such as the Northers which rage in the Gulf of Mexico.
There are many curious facts connected with the Trades, and with theMonsoons, or trade-winds turned back by continental heat in the EastIndies, the Typhoons, the Siroccos, the Harmattans, land and seabreezes and hurricanes, the Samiel or Poison Wind, and the Etesian.The Cyclones, or rotary hurricanes, offer a most inviting field forobservation and study, and are an important branch of our subject. Butwe are obliged to omit the consideration of these topics, to be takenup, possibly, at some other opportunity. The theory of the Cyclonesmay be justly considered as original with our countryman, Mr.Redfield. Colonel Reid, Mr. Piddington, and other learned Englishmenhave adopted it; and so much has been settled through the labors ofthese eminent men, that intelligent seamen need fear these storms nolonger. By the aid of maps and sailing-directions they may eitherescape them altogether, or boldly take advantage of their outwardsweep, and shorten their passages.
We have yet to ascertain the causes of the many local winds prevailingboth on the ocean and the land, and which do not appear to beinfluenced by any such general principle as the Trades or theMonsoons.
The force of air in motion gives us the gentle breeze, the gale, orthe whirlwind. At one hundred miles an hour it prostrates forests. Inthe West Indies, thirty-two pound cannon have been torn by it fromtheir beds, and carried some distance through the air. Tables of thevelocity of winds are familiar to our readers.
Let us next advert to the connection of the atmosphere with Vapor andEvaporation. The vapor rising from the earth and the sea byevaporation, promoted by dry air, by wind, by diminished pressure, orby heat, is borne along in vesicles so rare as to float on the bosomof the winds, sometimes a grateful shade of clouds, at other timescondensed and gravitating in showers of rain. Thus it enriches thesoil, or cools the air, or reflects back to the earth its radiatedheat. At times the clouds, freighted with moisture, present the mostgorgeous hues, and we have over us a pavilion more magnificent thanany ever constructed by the hand of man. These clouds are not merelythe distilleries of rain, but the reservoirs of snow and hail, andthey are the agents of electric and magnetic storms.
Notwithstanding their variety, clouds are easily classified, and arenow by universal consent distinguished as follows.
In the higher regions of the air we look for the Cirri, the CurlClouds. They are light, lie in long ranges, apparently in thedirection of the magnetic pole, and are generally curled up at oneextremity. They are sometimes called Mackerel Clouds. They arecomposed of thin white filaments, disposed like woolly hair, feathercrests, or slender net-work. They generally indicate a change ofweather, and a disturbance of the electric condition of theatmosphere. When they descend into the lower regions of the air, theyarrange themselves in horizontal sheets and lose much of theiroriginal type. The Germans call them Windsbaeume, or wind-trees.
The Cumulus is another form of cloud, which floats along in fleecymasses, in the days of summer, but dissolves at night. Sometimes itresembles a great stack or pile of snow, sometimes it has a silvery ora golden edge, as if we saw a little of the lining. Sometimes they liemotionless in the distance, and are mistaken by mariners for land.They rest upon a large base, and are borne along by surface-winds.Their greatest height is not more than two miles. They carry largequantities of moisture with them, and, when preceding rain, fallrapidly into other shapes.
The Stratus, or Fall Cloud, is horizontal in its figure, lies near theearth, and its length is usually greater than its breadth. It floatsin long bands with rounded or sharpened points, and is seen risingfrom rivers or lakes, at first as a fog. In the morning it indicatesfine weather. The Fall Cloud never discharges rain.
This comes only from the Nimbus, which is quite unlike the others. Itputs on a dark gray color, has irregular transparent edges, andincreases rapidly so as to obscure the sky. It appears to absorb theother clouds, to be a union of their differently electrifiedparticles, which are attracted to each other, form drops of water, anddescend as rain.
Of the first three forms we have three modifications or varieties. TheCirro-Cumulus is a congeries of roundish little clouds in closehorizontal position, varying in size and roundness, and often, to usethe words of the poet Bloomfield, appearing as “The beauteoussemblance of a flock at rest.”
The Cirro-Stratus is more compact than the Cirrus,–the strata beinginclined or horizontal. It is sometimes seen cutting the moon’s discwith a sharp line. The Cumulo-Stratus, or Twain Cloud, is denser thanthe Cumulus, and more ragged in its outlines. It overhangs its base infolds, and often bears perched on its summit some other form of cloud,which inosculates itself with it. Sometimes a Cirro-Stratus cloudcomes along and fastens itself to it parasitically. It is one of ourmost picturesque forms of clouds.
Within the last two years we have twice observed in the city of NewYork, during the summer afternoons, large masses of clouds coming overfrom the southwest, and hanging rather low, which could not be wellplaced in any of the classes already described, or recognized as suchby meteorologists. They consisted of a great number of hemisphericalforms of large diameter, hanging vertically from a Stratus cloud orplane above them, and to which they appeared attached. They wereregular in shape, and very distinct; they barely touched each other,and were of a gray color. They might be compared to a hay-field turnedupside down, with innumerable hay-cocks hanging below it.Unfortunately, the circumstances under which the spectacle wasobserved did not; admit of any resort to the barometer, thermometer,or anemometer. Should further observations verify these remarks, itmight perhaps be proper to style this variety the Hemispherical.
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Dew is another atmospheric product. It is the condensation of thewarmer vapor of the atmosphere, in calm and serene nights, and in theabsence of clouds, by the cold surface of bodies on which it rests. Insome countries it is copious enough to supply the want of rain. Theearth radiates its own acquired heat, grows colder than theatmosphere, and so condenses it.
What is thermometrically called the dew-point is that degree at whichthe moisture present in the atmosphere, on being subjected to adecrease of temperature, begins to be precipitated or condensed. It isthe same as the point of saturation. Daniell calls it “the constituenttemperature of atmospheric vapor.” It is our criterion forascertaining how much moisture there is in the air, and at what degreeof heat or cold it would be precipitated. When the air is saturated, adry bulb and a wet bulb will read alike.
The dew-point has been a puzzle to most persons. Very few treatisesexplain it satisfactorily. The definition just given, though explicit,is not quite enough. For it will be perceived that an ordinarysubtraction of the degrees of temperature on a wet thermometer, whichhad cooled down by evaporation, from the actual temperature indicatedby a dry thermometer, will not give us the dew-point.
For example,–if a free or dry thermometer indicates 63 deg., and the onewith the wet bulb has by evaporation cooled down to 54 deg., thedifference would be 9 deg.. The dew-point would not be 54 deg., but thatdegree to which the mercury would fall in the free thermometer, forthe atmosphere to become saturated with the quantity of moisture thenactually existing in it. It would be 46.8 deg..
This dew-point, which figures so largely in all well-keptmeteorological reports, is the key to many important conditions of theatmosphere, affecting health, vegetation, and climate.
It is found that the air at different degrees of heat has differentdegrees of elasticity, different degrees of tension, and differentdegrees of capacity to hold vapor. Dalton, by a series of experimentswith barometer-tubes, into which he introduced air and vapor atcertain temperatures, found what its force was upon the mercurialcolumn from degree to degree. He also experimentally determined theratio of the weight of moisture and of air, the former being five-eightsof the latter,–in other words, how many grains of moistureadditional could be held by the air, advancing from degree to degreeof temperature. This being ascertained, a table of factors wasconstructed, in other words, a set of figures contrived, which should,by a multiplication of the subtracted difference between the range ofthe dry bulb and the wet bulb of the thermometers, furnish the amountof deduction from the former which would indicate the dew-point, orthe point to which the mercury in the dry thermometer must fall toshow how much more moisture the air could hold without itscondensation. These tables of factors have been constructed at theGreenwich Observatory, and are generally used.
The Hygrometer, invented by Mr. Daniell, gives the dew-point byinspection.
It is an error to suppose that dew falls like rain from the air; itforms on the body which is cooled down below the temperature of theair. It differs in quantity with the radiating or cooling surface;that which has absorbed and retained the most heat during the dayradiates the most at night and furnishes the most cold in return.
Hoar-frost, such as we find on our window-panes, or on the grass, isthe moisture of the warm air cooled down and frozen, and is producedwhen the cold at the surface is below the freezing-point. What we incommon parlance call the action of frost, and which in this climate iswell known to be very powerful, is not particularly injurious toorganized bodies.
Mists are the vapor near the ground rendered visible by thetemperature of the air falling below that of the vapor. When we seeour breath in a cold morning, we see a mist. Where the surface iscomparatively warm and damp, and the air is cooler, we have mists,which, if dense, are called fogs. These are found plentifully on thebanks of Newfoundland; and with icebergs on the one hand and the GulfStream on the other, we must always expect to have them.
The distribution of rain, which is one of the offices of the clouds,is another of the more important features of Meteorology. The amountof water taken up by evaporation into the atmosphere is almostincredible. It is calculated by Lieutenant Maury that there isannually taken up in the torrid zone a belt of water three thousandmiles in breadth and sixteen feet deep. Rain occurs regularly andirregularly in different parts of the earth. In some places it may becalculated upon to a day; in others it is quite unknown. Latitude andlongitude may indicate the points of distribution, but the causes aredependent on temperature, winds, locality, and, what may seem astrange assertion, upon the conduct of man himself. The greatestquantity falls near the equator, diminishing towards the poles.Much more falls on islands and coasts than in the interior ofcontinents,–more in the region of the variables and less in that ofthe trades. There are, however, tropical countries of great extentwhere rain is scarcely ever seen.
The influence of man upon rain is seen in the progress ofcivilization, the destruction of forests, and the drying-up of meres,swamps, and water-courses.
Forests undoubtedly affect the distribution of rain, and the suppliesof streams and springs. Their cooling influence precipitates the vaporpassing over them, and the ground beneath them not getting heated doesnot readily evaporate moisture. Lands, on the contrary, which arecleared of forests become sooner heated, give off larger quantities ofrarefied air, and the passing clouds are borne away to localities ofgreater atmospheric density.
The Canary Islands, when first discovered, were thickly clothed withforests. Since these have been destroyed, the climate has been dry. InFuerteventura the inhabitants are sometimes obliged to flee to otherislands to avoid perishing from thirst. Similar instances occur in theCape Verdes. Parts of Egypt, Syria, and Persia, that once were wooded,are now arid and sterile deserts.
In the temperate zones these results are not so immediately apparent.It is now much in doubt whether the climate of our country has changedits character within the last two hundred years. Jefferson and Dr.Rush both contended that it had. Our oldest inhabitants assert that intheir day our winters began nearly two months earlier than they donow.
The general laws laid down in relation to rain are these:–
1. It decreases in quantity as we approach the poles.
2. It decreases as we pass from maritime to inland countries.
3. It decreases in the temperate zones on eastern coasts as comparedwith western coasts, but within the tropics it is the reverse.
4. More rain falls in mountainous than in level countries.
5. Most rain falls within the tropics.
* * * * *
The rainless regions, not deserts, are parts of Guatemala, the table-landof Mexico, the Peruvian coast, parts of Morocco, Egypt, Arabia,Persia, etc.
The electric character of the air is another subject of interest, anda leading one in Meteorology. What can be more magnificent, what moreawful, than those storms of lightning and thunder which are witnessedsometimes even in our own latitudes?
Faraday, who as a chemist and philosophical writer is of the highestauthority, professes to have demonstrated that one single gram ofwater contains as much electricity as can be accumulated in eighthundred thousand Leyden jars, each requiring to charge it thirty turnsof the large machine at the Royal Institution.
It is not intended that this astounding statement should be receivedwithout some grains of allowance; but a very elegant and scientificwriter, who adopts it without hesitation, adds, “We can from thiscrystal sphere [of water] evoke heat, light, electricity in enormousquantities, and beyond these we can see powers or forces for which, inthe poverty of our ideas and our words, we have not names.”
Flashes of electricity have been detected, during warm, close weather,issuing from some species of plants. The Tuberose and African Marigoldhave been seen to emit these mimic lightnings. (Goethe is theauthority for this.) To atmospheric electricity we doubtless owe thecoruscations of the Aurora, one of the most beautiful of our meteors.
The usual forms of lightning are the zigzag or forked sharplydefined,–the sheet-lightning, illuminating a whole cloud, which itseems to open,–heat-lightning, not emanating from any cloud, butapparently diffused through the air and without report. There are alsofireballs which shoot across the sky, leaving a train often visiblefor seconds and minutes. These last, when they project any masses tothe earth, are termed aerolites.
Atmospheric electricity has much to do with the distribution of rain,the precipitation of vapor, the condition of our nervous system, and,according to Humboldt, with the circulation of the organic juices.Atmospheric electricity has heretofore been a great obstacle to thesuccess of the Magnetic Telegraph, and curiously disturbs itsoperation; but there has recently been invented an instrument called aMutator, which is connected with the wires, and carries off all thedisturbing influences of the atmosphere without interfering with theworking current. On the other hand, artificially created electricityhas led to important advances in many of the arts and sciences.
Ice is water frozen under a very curious and peculiar law. Hail is thecongelation of drops of rain in irregular forms, always sudden,–bysome attributed to electricity and currents of air violently rarefiedby it, and by others to rain-drops falling through a cold stratum ofair and suddenly congealed. Snow, the ermine of the earth, is thecrystallized moisture of the air, and is in subjection to unchanginglaws.
Water contracts as it grows colder, until it falls in temperature to42 deg.. It then expands till it reaches 32 deg., when it becomes solid,though its density is actually diminished, and its specific gravity isreduced to .929, while that of unfrozen water is 1.000. Of course itis much lighter, and it floats. This admirable arrangement preventsour rivers being frozen up and our lakes becoming solid. Ice thickensbecause it is porous, and allows the heat of the water to pass up andthe cold to descend; but this is happily a slow process, as ice is abad conductor. Salt water freezes at the temperature of 7 deg., 25 deg. belowfreezing-point. There are many things to be said about ice, whether asglaciers, or Arctic bergs, or, as it is found sometimes, contrary toits general law, at the bottom of rivers and ponds, its geologicalmovements in the transportation of boulders, and as an article ofluxury;–but we are compelled to leave them for the present.
Snow, which, in its crystallization, surpasses the most perfect gems,is invariably found arranged in determinate angles, to wit, 60 deg., andits double, 120 deg., and formed of six-sided prisms. More than onehundred kinds have been described by Dr. Scoresby and others, and allthese are combinations of the six-sided prism. The uses of snow, fromits non-conducting qualities, whether as appreciated by the Esquimauxas a material for huts, or by the agriculturists of our own climate assheltering the seed, are too well known to require any particularremarks. Strange as it may appear, the proximate cause of theformation of snow is not yet fully agreed upon by the learned.
The connection between Sound and the atmosphere is an important one.The air is a conductor of sound, and in some conditions one of thebest. A bell rung in an exhausted receiver gives no sound. In theArctic regions ordinary conversations have been distinctly heard forthe distance of a mile and a half.
All that we have thus far said in this article bears directly, in someform or other, on another of the great features of Meteorology, one ofits great objects, and an unceasing topic,–namely, Climate.
The term Climate, in its general sense, indicates the changes andcondition of the atmosphere, such as we have been considering. It hassomething to do with all of them; it is not entirely controlled byany. Thus, places having the same mean annual temperature often differmaterially in climate. In some (we quote Mrs. Somerville) the wintersare mild and the summers cool, whereas in others the extremes of heatand cold prevail.
Climates are not found coincident with lines of latitude; they arequite as often found parallel to lines of longitude. If you connectthe extreme points of the mean annual temperatures by a line passinground the earth, you have a zone, but never a true circle. The curvesare longitudinal.
Climate is dependent on temperature, winds, the elevation of land,soil, ranges of mountains, and proximity of bodies of water; and it isalso the expression, if we may so term it, of the changes in theatmosphere sensibly affecting our organs. Humboldt refers it tohumidity, temperature, changes in barometric pressure, calmness oragitation of the air, amount of electric force, and transparency ofthe sky.
When mountains range themselves in lines of latitude across acontinent, they are barriers to civilization, to the mingling ofraces, and the union of states. Thus, the Pyrenees have always keptFrance and Spain apart, the Alps and the Apennines have secludedSwitzerland from its neighbors. In our own country, Providence hasplaced our great mountains on a northern and southern axis; theslopes, the direction, the prevailing winds, the facilities fortransportation and travel favor no one of our northern, southern, andwestern States more than another.
Climate affects vegetation and the distribution of animal life, andthus greatly modifies commerce.
Whatever of importance is accomplished in those countries whereclimate has overpowered a race is best and principally done by the menof the temperate zones, who carry with them perseverance, courage, andability, and maintain their ascendency, true to their type, while theyhave their life to live.
But with our own eyes we may perceive how much climate affectsagriculture. The humidity or dryness of soils, their natural oracquired heat or cold, the prevailing winds, the quantity of rain, thesnows, the dews, all affect the planter of the seed and the tiller ofthe ground; they increase or diminish the aggregate of the products ofcountries, the value of their imports and exports,–in short, theirmaterial power, their resources, their influence, their veryexistence.
The climate of our own country is exceedingly variable. Thetransitions from heat to cold are very sudden, the range of themercury is very great. In the North, we have almost the Arcticwinters; in the South, almost the peculiarities of the tropics. Of theState of Pennsylvania it has been said, that in this respect it is acompound of all the countries in the world. Mr. Jefferson and Dr.Rush, as before observed, insisted that our climate has changed; andWilliams, the historian of Vermont, contends that New England hasdeteriorated in its seasons, temperature, harvests, and health, sinceits early settlement. Our winds blow from every point of the compass,but a due north wind is very rare. Our great western lakes have alarge influence on our climate. Some learned men have asserted, that,if they were land, their area being about ninety-four thousand squaremiles, the region would be so cold as to be scarcely inhabitable.
Such is an outline of our subject. The science itself is by no meanssystematized. Many things are taken for granted which may yet bedisproved. If, says Humboldt, we perceive a want of connection in thephenomena of certain sciences, we may anticipate the revelation of newfacts, whose importance will probably be commensurate with theattention directed to other branches of study. What we want is alarger class of observers, and not only those who are professionalpersons, but those who would commune with Nature, and seek toinvigorate their minds by the acquisition of new ideas, and a recourseto rich and pure sources of enjoyment.
But more than this. It is a requirement of the present age, says thesame authority, that there should be an equal appreciation of allbranches of mathematical and physical science; for the material wealthand the growing prosperity of nations are principally based upon amore enlightened employment of the products and forces of Nature.
Much attention has of late years been paid to this subject. Manydistinguished men in Europe have connected their great reputationsindissolubly with it, and it is absolutely true that more persons areengaged in a common effort to promote this science than any other ofour time. In Paris there is a large and flourishing society where themost brilliant of its savans combine their efforts. In London, thatwhich was established in 1850 has met with remarkable success, and amost unexpected crowd of supporters. The finest instruments, the mostaccurate observations, and entire uniformity of purpose have been theresult. In Germany, equal zeal prevails among its naturalists. Thereare more than eight hundred stations throughout the world whereregular observations are made, and upwards of three hundred and sixtyof them are in the United States. The Smithsonian Institution has beenalso a wise patron of this science, by its numerous publications, itslucid directions for observing meteorological changes, and thebestowal of standard instruments in large numbers to efficient andwell-placed observers. By a recent arrangement, a portion of this workis to be performed by the Patent Office.
Observation, and accuracy in observation, are the foundation of thisscience. The results are compared to the leaves of a book, which willsome day be arranged and bound together in one volume. The instrumentsin use are delicate, ingenious, and indispensable. Their history,uses, and importance would be topic enough for a separate article.
While at the first view Meteorology may appear to occupy but a limitedsphere, upon a closer examination it will be found to embrace almostall the sciences, and to be commensurate with Nature itself. It iscontinually influencing us, by its agencies appealing to our senses,ministering to our wants, and governing our conduct.
Its influence upon its votaries is equally remarkable; for, as a rule,they are distinguished among the learned, their characters are inharmony with their pursuits, and they are recognized everywhere fordisinterestedness, philanthropy, and public and private virtue. WhileMental Philosophy, has made but little progress since the times ofPlato, and the world is but little better for scholastic disputations,Natural Science has civilized man, elevated his condition, increasedthe circle of his exertions, and, by the development of some of itssimplest principles, united the intelligent, the learned, theenterprising, and the virtuous of all nations into a recognized and anoble brotherhood.
Once, the Castle of Chalus, crownedWith sullen battlements, stood and frownedOn the sullen plain around it;But Richard of England came one day,And the Castle of Chalus passed awayIn such a rapid and sure decayNo modern yet has found it.
Who has not heard of the Lion KingWho made the harps of the minstrels ring?Oh, well they might imagine itHard for chivalry’s ranks to showA knight more gallant to face a foe,With a firmer lance or a heavier blow,Than Richard I. Plantagenet;
Or gayer withal: for he loved his joke,As well as he loved, with slashing stroke,The haughtiest helm to hack at:Wine or blood he laughingly poured;’Twas a lightsome word or a heavy sword,As he found a foe or a festive board,With a skull or a joke to crack at.
Yet some their candid belief avow,That, if Richard lived in England now,And his lot were only a common one,He ne’er had meddled with kings or states,But might have been a bruiser of patesAnd champion now of the “heavy weights,”–A first-rate “Fighting Phenomenon.”
A vassal bound in peace and warTo Richard I. was Vidomar,–A noble as proud and needyAs ever before that monarch bowed,But not so needy and not so proudAs the monarch himself was greedy.
Vicomte was he of the Limousin,Where stones were thick and crops were thin,And profits small and slow to come in.But slow and sure, the father’s plan, didNot suit the son. Sire lived close-handed;Became, not rich, but very landed.The only debt that ever he madeWas Nature’s debt, and that he paidAbout the time of the Third Crusade,–A time when the fashion was fully setBy Richard of running in tilts and debt,When plumes were high and prudence low,And every knight felt bound to “goThe pace,” and just like Richard do,By running his purse and a Paynim through.Yet do not suppose that VidomarWas ever a knight in the Holy War:For Richard many a Saracen’s headHad lopped before the old Count was dead;And Richard was home from Palestine,Home from the dungeon of Tiernstein,And many a Christian corpse had made,Ere the time in which the story is laid.But the fashion he set became so strong,That Vidomar was hurried along,And did as many a peer has doneOn reaching a title and twenty-one,And met the fate that will meet a peerWho lives in state on nothing a year.Deserted by all, except some Jews,Holding old post-obits and IOUs,Who hunted him up and hunted him down,He left Limoges, the capital town,For his country castle Chalus,(As spendthrift lords to Boulogne repair,To give their estates a chance to air,)And went to turning fallows;At least, he ordered it, (much the same,)And went himself in pursuit of gameOr any rural pleasure,Till one fine day, as he rode away,A serf came running behind to sayThey’d found a crock of treasure.No more he thought of hawk or hound,But spurred to the spot, and there he found,Beyond his boldest thoughts,A sum to set him afloat again,–The leading figure, ’twas very plain,Was followed by several 0s.
Oh, who can tell of the schemes that flewThrough his head, as the treasure met his view,And he knew that again his note was good?He may have felt as a debtor wouldWho has dodged a dogging dun,Or a bank-cashier in his hour of dreadWith brokers behind and breakers ahead,Or a blood with his last “upon the red,”–And each expecting a run.What should he do? ‘Twas very trueThat all of his debts were overdue;But the “real-whole-souled” must use their goldTo run new scores,–not to pay off old.That night he lay till the break of day,The doubtful question solving:Himself in his bed, and that in his head,He kept by turns revolving.
That selfsame day, not very farFrom the country castle of Vidomar,The king had been progressing:A courtly phrase, when the king was outOn a chivalrous bender; any routeAs good as another: what aboutWere little good in guessing.
That night, as he sat and drank, he frowned,While courtiers moodily stood around,All wondering what the journey meant,Till a scout reported, “Treasure found!”–With a rap that made the glasses bound,He swore, “By Arthur’s table round,I’ll have another tournament!”
No more, as he sat and drank, he frowned,Or courtiers moodily stood around,But all were singing, drinking;And louder than all the songs he led,And louder he said, “Ho! pass the red!”Till he went to bed with a ring in his headThat seemed like gold a-chinking.
‘Twere wrong to infer from what you’re readThat Richard awoke with an aching head;For nerves like his resistedWith wonderful ease what we might deemEnough to stagger a Polypheme,And his spirits would never more than seemA trifle too much “assisted.”
And yet in the morn no fumes were there,And his eyes were bright,–almost as a pairOf eyes that you and I know;For his head, the best authorities write,(See the Story of Tuck,) was always rightAnd sound as ever after a nightOf _”Pellite curas vino!”_
As soon as the light broke into his tent,Without delay for a herald he sent,And bade him don his tabard,And away to the Count to say, “By law_That gold_ was the king’s: unless he sawThe same ere noon, his sword he would drawAnd throw away the scabbard.”
An hour, for his morning exercise,He swayed that sword of wondrous size,–‘Twas called his great “persuader”;Then a mace of steel he smote in two,–A feat which the king would often do,Since Saladin wondered at that _coup_When he met our stout crusader.
A trifle for him: he “trained to light,”–Grown lazy now: but his appetite,On the whole, was satisfactory,–As the vanishing viands, warm and cold,Most amply proved, ere, minus the gold,The herald returned and trembling toldHow the Count had proved refractory:
Had owned it true that his serfs had foundA treasure buried somewhere in the ground,–Perhaps not strictly a nugget:Though none but Norman lawyers choseTo count it tort, if the finders “froze”To treasure-trove,–especially thoseWho held the land where they dug it,–
For quits he’d give up half,–down,–cash;And that, for one who had gone to smash,Was a liberal restitution:His neighbor Shent-per-Shent did sueOn a better claim, and put it through,–Recovered his suit, but not a _sou_At the tail of an execution.
Coeur gazed around with the ominous glareOf the lion deprived of the lion’s share,–A look there was no mistaking,–A look which the courtiers never sawWithout a sudden desire to drawAway from the sweep of the lion’s pawBefore their bones were aching.
He caught the herald,–’twas by the slackOf garments below and behind his back,–Then twirled him round for a minute;And when at last he let him free,He shied him at a neighboring tree,A distance of thirty yards and three,And lodged him handsomely in it:
Then seized his ponderous battle-axe,And bade his followers mount their hacks,With a look on his countenance _so_ stern,So little of fun, so full of fight,That, when he came in the Count’s full sight,In something of haste and more of fright,The Count rode out of the postern;
And crowding leagues from his angry liege,He left his castle to storm or siege,–His poor beef-eaters to hold out,Or save themselves as well as they could,Or be food for crows: what noble shouldWaste thought on such? As a noble would,He prudently smuggled the gold out.
In the feudal days, in the good old timesOf feudal virtues and feudal crimes,A point of honor they’d make in it,Though sure in the end their flag must fall,To show stout fight and never to callA truce till they saw a hole in the wallOr a larder without any steak in it.
The fight began. Shouts filled the air,–“St. George!” “St. Denis!”–as here and thereThe shock of the battle shifted;There were catapult-shots and shots by hand,Ladders with desperate climbers manned,Rams and rocks, hot lead, and sandOn the heads of the climbers sifted.
But the sturdy churls would not give way,Though Richard in person rushed to the frayWith all of his rash proclivityFor knocks; till, despairing of knightly fameIn doughty deeds for a doubtful claim,The hero of Jaffa changed his gameTo a masterly inactivity.
He stretched his lines in a circle round,And pitched his tent on a rising groundFor general supervisionOf both the hostile camps, while heCould join with Blondel in minstrel glee,Or drink, or dice with Marcadee,And _they_–consume provision.
To starve a garrison day by dayYou may not think a chivalrous wayTo take a fortification.The story is dull: by way of relief,I make a digression, very brief,And leave the “ins” to swallow their beef,The “outs” their mortification.
Many there were in Richard’s trainMore known to fame and of higher degree,But none that suited his fickle veinSo well as Blondel and Marcadee.Blondel had grown from a minstrel-boyTo a very romantic troubadourWhose soul was music, whose song was joy,Whose only motto was _Vive l’amour!_In lady’s bower, in lordly hall,From the king himself to the poorest clown,A joyous welcome he had from all,And Care in his presence forgot to frown.Sadly romantic, fantastic and vain,His heart for his head still made amends;For he never sang a malicious strain.And never was known to fail his friends.Who but he, when the captive king,By a brother betrayed, was left to rot,Would have gone disguised to seek and sing,Till he heard his tale and the tidings brought?Little the listening sentries dreamed,As they watched the king and a minstrel play,That what but an idle rhyming seemedWould rouse all England another day!’Twas the timely aid of a friend in need,And, seldom as Richard felt the powerOf a service past, he remembered the deedAnd cherished him ever from that hour:He made him his bard, with nought to doBut court the ladies and court the Nine,And every day bring something newTo sing for the revellers over their wine;With once a year a pipe of Sherry,A suit of clothes, and a haunch of venison,To make himself and his fellows merry,–The salary now of Alfred Tennyson.
Marcadee was a stout Brabancon,With conscience weak and muscles strong,Who roamed about from clime to clime,The side of virtue or yet of crimeReady to take in a regular wayFor any leader and regular pay;Who trusted steel, and thought it oddTo fear the Devil or honor God.His _forte_ was not in the field alone,He was no common fighter,For in all accomplishments he shone,–At least, in all the lighter.To lance or lute alike _au fait_,With grasp now firm, now light,He flourished this to knightly lay,And that to lay a knight.Ready in fashion to lead the _ton_,In the battle-field his men,He danced like a Zephyr, and, harness on,Could walk his mile in ten.And Nature gave him such a frame,His tailor such a fit,That, whether a head or a heart his aim,He always made a hit.Wherever he went, the ladies dearWould very soon adore him,And, quite of course, the lords would sneer,–But never sneer before him!Perhaps it fared with the ladies worseThan it fared with their gallants;For he broke a vow with as slight remorseAs he ever broke a lance.Thus, tilting here and jilting there,He fought a foe or he fooled a fair,But little recking how;So deadly smooth, so cruel and vain,He might have made a capital Cain,Or a splendid dandy now.In short, if you looked o’er land and sea,From London to the Niger,You certainly must have said with me,–If Richard was lion, MarcadeeMight well have been the tiger.
A month went by. They lay there still,And chafed with nothing but time to kill,–A tough old foe. Observe the wayThey laid him out, as thus:–One day,–‘Twas after dinner and afternoon,When the noise was over of knife and fork,And only was heard an occasional corkAnd Blondel idly thrumming a tune,–King Richard pushed the wine along,And rapped the table, and cried, “A song!Dulness I hold a shame, a sinAgainst good wine. Come, Blondel, begin!”Blondel coughed,–was “half afraid,”–Was “out last night on a serenade,And caught a cold,”–his “voice was gone,–And really, just now, his head”–“Go on!”He bowed, and swept the chords–“Brrrrang”–With a handful of notes, and thus he sang:–
Life is fleeting,–make it pleasant;Care for nothing but the present;For the past we leave behind us,And the future may not find us.Though we cannot shun its troubles,Care and sorrow we may banish;Though its pleasures are but bubbles,Catch the bubbles ere they vanish.
There is joy we cannot measure,–Joy we may not win with treasure.When the glance of Beauty thrills us’,When her love with rapture fills us,Let us seize it ere it passes;Be our motto, “Love is mighty.”Fill, then, fill your brimming glasses!Fill, and drink to Aphrodite!
Of course they drank with a right good will,For they never missed a chance “to fill.”And yet a few, I’m sorry to own,Made side-remarks in an undertone,Like those we hear, when, nowadays,Good-natured friends, with seeming praise,Contrive to damn. In the midst of the humThey heard a loud and slashing thrum:’Twas the king: and each his breath drew inTill you might have heard a falling pin.Some little excuse, at first, he made,While over the lute his fingers strayed:–“You know my way,–as the fancies come,I improvise.”–There was ink on his thumb.That morning, alone, good hours he spentIn writing despatches never sent.
There is pleasure when bright eyes are glancingAnd Beauty is willing; but moreWhen the war-horse is gallantly prancingAnd snuffing the battle afar,–When the foe, with his banner advancing,Is sounding the clarion of war.
Where the battle is deadly and gory,Where foeman ‘gainst foeman is pressed,Where the path is before me to glory,Is pleasure for me, and the best.Let me live in proud chivalry’s story,Or die with my lance in its rest!
The plaudits followed him loud and freeAs he tossed the lute to Marcadee,Who caught it featly, bowing low,And said, “My liege, I may not knowTo improvise; but I’ll give a song,The song of our camp,–we’ve known it long.It suits not well this tinkle and thrum,But needs to be heard with a rattling drum.Ho, there! Tambour!–He knows it well,–‘The Brabancon!’–Now make it tell;Let your elbows now with a spirit wagIn the outside roll and the double drag.”
I’m but a soldier of fortune, you see:Huzza!Glory and love,–they are nothing to me:Ha, ha!Glory’s soon faded, and love is soon cold:Give me the solid, reliable gold:Hurrah for the gold!
Country or king I have none, I am free:Huzza!Patriot’s quarrel,–’tis harvest for me:Ha, ha!A soldier of fortune, my creed is soon told,–I’d fight for the Devil, to pocket his gold:Hurrah for the gold!
He turned to the king, as he finished the verse,And threw on the table a heavy purseWith a pair of dice; another, I trow,Still lurked _incog._ for a lucky throw:–“‘Tis mine; ’twas thine. If the king would play,Perchance he’d find his revenge to-day.Gambling, I own, is a fault, a sin;I always repent–unless I win.”_Le jeu est fait._–“Well thrown! eleven!My purse is gone.–Double-six, by heaven!”
At this unlucky point in the gameA herald was ushered in. He cameWith a flag of truce, commissioned to sayThe garrison now were willing to layThe keys of the castle at his feet,If he’d let them go and let them eat:They’d done their best; could do no moreThan humbly wait the fortune of warAnd Richard’s word. It came in tonesThat grated harshly:–“D–n the bonesAnd double-six! Marcadee, you’ve won.–Take back my word to each mother’s son,And tell them Richard swore it:Be the smoke of their den their funeral pall!By the Holy Tomb, I’ll hang them all!They’ve hung out so well behind their wall,They’ll hang out well before it.”Then Richard laughed in his hearty way,Enjoying his joke, as a monarch may;He laughed till he ached for want of breath:If it lacked in life, it was full of death:Like many, believing the next best thingTo a joke with a point is a joke with a sting.Loud he laughed; but he laughed not longEre he leaped to the back of his charger strong,And bounded forward, axe on high,Circling the tents with his battle-cry,–“Away! away! we shall win the day:In the front of the fight you’ll find me:The first to get in my spurs shall win,–My boots to the wight behind me!”
* * * They have reached the moat;The draw is up, but a wooden floatIs thrust across, and onward they run;The bank is gained and the barbican won;The outer gate goes down with a crash;Through the portcullis they madly dash,And with shouts of triumph they now assailThe innermost gate. The crushing hailOf rocks and beams goes through the mass,Like the summer-hail on the summer-grass;–They falter, they waver. A stalwart formBreaks through the ranks, like a bolt in the storm:’Tis the Lion King!–“How, now, ye knaves!Do ye look for safety? Find your graves!”–One blow to the left, one blow to the right,–Two recreants fall;–no more of flight.One stride to the front, and, stroke on stroke,His curtle-axe rends the double oak.Down shower the missiles;–they fall in vain;They scatter like drops from the lion’s mane.He is down,–he is up;–that right arm! how’Tis nerved with the strength of twenty, now!The barrier yields,–it shivers,–it falls.”Huzza! Saint George! to the walls! to the walls!Throw the rate to the moat! cut down! spare not!No quarter! remember—-_Je–su!_ I’m shot!”
On a silken pallet lying, under hangings stiff with gold,Now is Coeur-de-Lion sighing, weakly sighing, he the bold!For with riches, power, and glory now forever he must part.They have told him he is dying. Keen remorse is at his heartLife is grateful, life is glorious, with the pulses bounding highIn a warrior frame victorious: it were easy so to die.Yet to die is fearful ever; oh, how fearful, when the sumOf the past is lengthened murder,–and a fearful world to come!Where are now the wretched victims of his wrath? The deed is done.He has conquered. They have suffered. Yonder, blackening in the sun,From the battlements they’re hanging. Little joy it gives to himNow to see the work of vengeance, when his eye is growing dim!One was saved,–the daring bowman who the fatal arrow sped;He was saved, but not for mercy; better numbered with the dead!Now, relenting, late repenting, Richard turns to Marcadee,Saying, “Haste, before I waver, bring the captive youth to me.”He is brought, his feet in fetters, heavy shackles on his hands,And, with eye unflinching, gazing on the king, erect he stands.He is gazing not in anger, not for insult, not for show;But his soul, before its leaving, Richard’s very soul would know.Death is certain,–death by torture: death for him can have no sting,If that arrow did its duty,–if he share it with the king.Were he trembling or defiant, were he less or more than bold,Once again to vengeful fury would he rouse the fiend of oldThat in Richard’s breast is lurking, ready once again to spring.Dreading now that vengeful spirit, with a wavering voice, the kingQuestions impotently, wildly: “Prisoner, tell me, what of illEver I have done to thee or thine, that me thou wouldest kill?”Higher, prouder still he bears him; o’er his countenance appear,Flitting quickly, looks of wonder and of scorn: what does he hear?
“And dost thou ask me, man of blood, what evil thou hast done?Hast thou so soon forgot thy vow to hang each mother’s son?No! oft as thou hast broken vows, I know them to be strong,Whene’er thy pride or lust or hate has sworn to do a wrong.But churls should bow to right divine of kings, for good or ill,And bare their necks to axe or rope, if ’twere thy royal will?Ah, hadst thou, Richard, yet to learn the very meanest thingThat crawls the earth in self-defence would turn upon a king?Yet deem not ’twas the hope of life which led me to the deed:I’d freely lose a thousand lives to make thee, tyrant, bleed!–Ay! mark me well, canst thou not see somewhat of old Bertrand?My father good! my brothers dear!–all murdered by thy hand!Yes, one escaped; he saw thee strike, he saw his kindred die,And breathed a vow, a burning vow of vengeance;–it was I!I’ve lived; but all my life has been a memory of the slain;I’ve lived but to revenge them,–and I have not lived in vain!I read it in thy haggard face, the hour is drawing nighWhen power and wealth can aid thee not,–when, Richard, thou must DIE!What mean those pale, convulsive lips? What means that shrinking brow?Ha! Richard of the lion-heart, thou art a coward now!Now call thy hireling ruffians; bid them bring the cord and rack,And bid them strain these limbs of mine until the sinews crack;And bid them tear the quivering flesh, break one by one each bone;–Thou canst not break my spirit, though thou mayst compel a groan.I die, as I would live and die, the ever bold and free;And I shall die with joy, to think I’ve rid the world of thee.”
Swords are starting from their scabbards, grim and hardened warriors waitRichard’s slightest word or gesture that may seal the bowman’s fate.But his memory has been busy with the deeds of other times.In the eyes of wakened conscience all his glories turn to crimes,And his crimes to something monstrous; worlds were little now to giveIn atonement for the least. He cries, in anguish, “Let him live.He has reason; never treason more became a traitor bold.Youth, forgive as I forgive thee! Give him freedom,–give him gold.Marcadee, be sure, obey me; ’tis the last, the dying hestOf a monarch who is sinking, sinking fast,–oh, not to rest!Haply, He above, remembering, may relieve my dark despairWith a ray of hope to light the gloom when I am suffering–there!”
The captain neared the royal bedAnd humbly bowed his helmed head,And laid his hand upon the plateThat sheathed his breast, and said, “Though lateThy mercy comes, I hold it stillMy duty to do thy royal will.If I should fail to serve thee fair,May I be doomed to suffer–there!”
I’ve often met with a fast young friendMore ready to borrow than I to lend;I’ve heard smooth men in election-timeProve every creed, but their own, a crime:Perhaps, if the fast one wished to borrow,I’ve taken his word to pay “to-morrow”;Perhaps, while Smooth explained his creed,I’ve thought him the man for the country’s need;Perhaps I’m more of a trusting moodThan you suppose; but I think I wouldHave trusted that man of mail,If I had been the dying king,About as far as you could slingAn elephant by the tail!
Good subjects then, as now, no doubt,When a king was dead, were eager to shoutIn time, “God save” the new one!One trouble was always whom to chooseAmongst the heirs; for it raised the deuseAnd ran the subject’s neck in a noose,Unless he chose the true one.
Another difficult task,–to judgeIf the coming king would bear a grudgeFor some old breach of concord,And take the earliest chance to sendA trusty line by a trusty friendTo give his compliments at the endOf a disagreeable strong cord.
And whoever would have must seize his own.Thus a dying king was left alone,With a sad neglect of manners;Ere his breath was out, the courtiers ran,With fear or zeal for “the coming man,”In time to escape from under his ban,Or hurry under his banners.
So Richard was left in a shabby wayTo Marcadee, with an abbot to prayAnd pother with “consolation,”Reminding ’twas never too late to searchFor mercy, and hinting that Mother ChurchWas never known to leave in the lurchA king with a fat donation.But the abbot was known to Richard well,As one who would smoothen the road to hell,And quite as willing to revelAs preach; and he always preached to “soothe,”With a mild regard for “the follies of youth,”–Himself, in epitome, proving the truthOf the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
This was the will that Richard made:–“My body at father’s feet be laid;And to Rouen (it loved me most)My heart I give; and I give my ins-Ides to the rascally Poitevins;To the abbot I give my darling–sins;And I give “–He gave up the ghost.
The abbot looked grave, but never spoke.The captain laughed, gave the abbot a poke,And, without ado or lingering,”Conveyed” the personals, jewels, and gold,Omitting the formal To Have and to HoldFrom the royal finger, before it was cold,He slipped the royal finger-ring.
There might have been in the eye of the lawA something which lawyers would call a flawOf title in such a conversion:But if weak in the law, he was strong in the hand,And had the “nine points.”–He summoned his band,And ordered before him the archer Bertrand,Intending a little diversion.
He called the cutter,–no cutter of clothes,But such as royalty kept for thoseWho happened to need correcting,–And told him that Richard, before he died,Desired to have a scalpel appliedTo the traitor there. With professional pride,The cutter began dissecting.
Now Bones was born with a genius to flay:He might have ranked, had he lived to-day,As a capital taxidermist:And yet, as he tugged, they heard him say,Of all the backs that ever layBefore him in a professional way,That was of all backs the firmest.
Kind reader, allow me to drop a veilIn pity; I cannot pursue the taleIn the heartless tone of the last strophe.’Tis done, and again I’ll be the same.They triumphed not, if they felt no shame:No muscle quivered, no murmur came,Until the final catastrophe.
The captain jested a moment, thenHe waved his hand and bowed to his menWith a single word, “Disbanded,”And galloped away with three or fourStout men-at-arms to the nearest shore,Where a gallant array not long beforeWith the king in pride had landed.
He coasted around, went up the Rhine,So famous then for robbers and wine,So famous now as a ramble.The wine and the robbers still are there;But they rob you now with a bill of fare,And gentlemen bankers “on the square”Will clean you out, if you gamble.
He built him a Schloss on–something-Stein,And became the first of as proud a lineAs e’er took toll on the river,When barons, perched in their castles high,On the valley would keep a watchful eye,And pounce on travellers with their cry,”The Rhine-dues! down! deliver!”
And crack their crowns for any delayIn paying down. And that, by the way,About as correctly as I know,Is the origin true of an ancient phraseSo frequently heard in modern days,When a gentleman quite reluctantly pays,–I mean, “To come down with the rhino.”
A LEGEND OF MARYLAND
“AN OWRE TRUE TALE.”
The framework of modern history is, for the most part, constructedout of the material supplied by national transactions described inofficial documents and contemporaneous records. Forms of governmentand their organic changes, the succession of those who haveadministered them, their legislation, wars, treaties, and thestatistics demonstrating their growth or decline,–these are theelements that furnish the outlines of history. They are the drytimbers of a vast old edifice; they impose a dry study upon theantiquary, and are still more dry to his reader.
But that which makes history the richest of philosophies and the mostgenial pursuit of humanity is the spirit that is breathed into it bythe thoughts and feelings of former generations, interpreted inactions and incidents that disclose the passions, motives, andambition of men, and open to us a view of the actual life of ourforefathers. When we can contemplate the people of a past ageemployed in their own occupations, observe their habits and manners,comprehend their policy and their methods of pursuing it, ourimagination is quick to clothe them with the flesh and blood of humanbrotherhood and to bring them into full sympathy with our individualnature.
History then becomes a world of living figures,–a theatre thatpresents to us a majestic drama, varied by alternate scenes of thegrandest achievements and the most touching episodes of humanexistence.
In the composing of this drama the author has need to seek hismaterial in many a tangled thicket as well as in many an open field.Facts accidentally encountered, which singly have but littleperceptible significance, are sometimes strangely discovered toillustrate incidents long obscured and incapable of explanation. Theyare like the lost links of a chain, which, being found, supply themeans of giving cohesion and completeness to the heretofore uselessfragments. The scholar’s experience is full of these reunions ofillustrative incidents gathered from regions far apart in space, andoften in time. The historian’s skill is challenged to its highesttask in the effort to draw together those tissues of personal andlocal adventure which, at first without seeming or suspecteddependence, prove, when brought into their proper relationship witheach other, to be unerring exponents of events of highest concern.
It is pleasant to fall upon the course of one of these currents ofadventure,–to follow a solitary rivulet of tradition, such as bychance we now and then find modestly flowing along through theobscure coverts of time, and to be able to trace its progress to theconfluence of other streams,–and finally to see it grow, by the aidof these tributaries, to the proportions of an ample river, whichwaters the domain of authentic history and bears upon its bosom aclear testimony to the life and character of a people.
The following legend furnishes a striking and attractiveexemplification of such a growth, in the unfolding of a romanticpassage of Maryland history, of which no annalist has ever given morethan an ambiguous and meagre hint. It refers to a deed of bloodshed,of which the only trace that was not obliterated from living rumor solong as a century ago was to be found in a vague and misty relic ofan old memory of the provincial period of the State. The facts bywhich I have been enabled to bring it to the full light of anhistorical incident, it will be seen in the perusal of thisnarrative, have successively, and by most curious process ofdevelopment, risen into view through a series of accidentaldiscoveries, which have all combined, with singular coincidence andadaptation, to furnish an unquestionable chapter of Maryland history,altogether worthy of recital for its intrinsic interest, and stillmore worthy of preservation for the elements it supplies towards acorrect estimate of the troubles which beset the career and formedthe character and manners of the forefathers of the State.
It is now many years ago,–long before I had reached manhood,–that,through my intimacy with a friend, then venerable for his years andmost attractive to me by his store of historical knowledge, I becameacquainted with a tradition touching a strange incident that hadreference to a mysterious person connected with a locality on theSusquehanna River near Havre de Grace. In that day the tradition wasrepeated by a few of the oldest inhabitants who dwelt in the region.I dare say it has now entirely run out of all remembrance amongsttheir descendants, and that I am, perhaps, the only individual in theState who has preserved any traces of the facts to which I allude.
There was, until not long ago, a notable cavern at the foot of arocky cliff about a mile below the town of Port Deposit. It was ofsmall compass, yet sufficiently spacious to furnish some rude shelteragainst the weather to one who might seek refuge within its solitarychamber. It opened upon the river just where a small brook comesbrattling down the bank, along the base of a hill of some magnitudethat yet retains the stately name of Mount Ararat. The visitor ofthis cavern might approach it by a boat from the river, or by arugged path along the margin of the brook and across the ledges ofthe rock. This rough shelter went by the name of Talbot’s Cave downto a very recent period, and would still go by that name, if it wereyet in existence. But it happened, not many years since, that PortDeposit was awakened to a sudden notion of the value of the graniteof the cliff, and, as commerce is a most ruthless contemner of allromance, and never hesitates between a speculation of profit and aspeculation of history, Talbot’s Cave soon began to figureconspicuously in the Price Current, and in a very little whiledisappeared, like a witch from the stage, in blasts of sulphur fireand rumbling thunder, under the management of those effectivescene-shifters, the quarrymen. A government contract, more potent thanthe necromancy of the famed wizard Michael Scott, lifted this massiverock from its base, and, flying with it full two hundred miles,buried it fathoms below the surface of the Atlantic, at the Rip Raps,near Hampton Roads; and thus it happens that I cannot vouch theocular proof of the Cave to certify the legend I am about to relate.
The tradition attached to this spot had nothing but a misty andspectral outline. It was indefinite in the date, uncertain as topersons, mysterious as to the event,–just such a tradition as towhet the edge of one’s curiosity and to leave it hopeless ofgratification. I may relate it in a few words.
Once upon a time, somewhere between one and two hundred years ago,there was a man by the name of Talbot, a kinsman of Lord Baltimore,who had committed some crime, for which he fled and became an outlawand was pursued by the authorities of the Province. To escape these,he took refuge in the wilderness on the Susquehanna, where hefound this cave, and used it for concealment and defence for sometime,–how long, the tradition does not say. This region was theninhabited by a fierce tribe of Indians, who are described on Captain JohnSmith’s map as the “Sasquesahannocks,” and who were friendly to theoutlaw and supplied him with provisions. To these details was addedanother, which threw an additional interest over the story,–thatTalbot had a pair of beautiful English hawks, such as were mostprized in the sport of falconry, and that these were the companionsof his exile, and were trained by him to pursue and strike the wildduck that abounded, then as now, on this part of the river; and hethus found amusement to beguile his solitude, as well as sustenancein a luxurious article of food, which is yet the pride of gastronomicscience, and the envy of _bons vivants_ throughout this continent.
These hawks my aged friend had often himself seen, in his own boyishdays, sweeping round the cliffs and over the broad expanse of theSusquehanna. They were easily distinguished, he said, by theresidents of that district, by their peculiar size and plumage, beingof a breed not known to our native ornithology, and both being males.For many years, it was affirmed,–long after the outlaw had vanishedfrom the scene,–these gallant old rovers of the river still pursuedtheir accustomed game, a solitary pair, without kindred oracquaintance in our woods. They had survived their master,–no onecould tell how long,–but had not abandoned the haunts of his exile.They still for many a year saw the wilderness beneath their dailyflight giving place to arable fields, and learned to exchange theirwary guard against the Indian’s arrow for a sharper watch of theAnglo-Saxon rifle. Up to the last of their appearance thecountry-people spoke of them as Talbot’s hawks.
This is a summary of the story, as it was told to me. No inquirybrought me any addition to these morsels of narrative. Who thisTalbot was,–what was his crime,–how long he lived in this cave, andat what era,–were questions upon which the oracle of my traditionwas dumb.
Such a story would naturally take hold of the fancy of a lover ofromance, and kindle his zeal for an enterprise to learn somethingmore about it; and I may reasonably suppose that this short sketchhas already stirred the bosoms of the novel-reading portion, atleast, of my readers with a desire that I should tell them what, inmy later researches, I have found to explain this legend of the Cave.Even the outline I have given is suggestive of inferences to furnishquite a plausible chapter of history.
First, it is clear, from the narrative, that Talbot was a gentlemanof rank in the old Province,–for he was kinsman to the LordProprietary; and there is one of the oldest counties of Maryland thatbears the name of his family,–perhaps called so in honor of himself.Then he kept his hawks, which showed him to be a man of condition,and fond of the noble sport which figures so gracefully in the annalsof Chivalry.
Secondly, this hawking carries the period of the story back to thetime of one of the early Lords Baltimore; for falconry was not commonin the eighteenth century: and yet the date could not have been muchearlier than that century, because the hawks had been seen by oldpersons of the last generation somewhere about the period of ourRevolution; and this bird does not live much over a hundred years. Sowe fix a date not far from sixteen hundred and eighty for Talbot’ssojourn on the river.
Thirdly, the crime for which he was outlawed could scarcely have beena mean felony, perpetrated for gain, but more likely some act ofpassion,–a homicide, probably, provoked by a quarrel, and enacted inhot blood. This Talbot was too well conditioned for a sordid crime;and his flight to the wilderness and his abode there would seem toinfer a man of strong purpose and self-reliance.
And, lastly, as he must have had friends and confederates on thefrontier, to aid him in his concealment, and to screen him from thepursuit of the government officers, and, moreover, had made himselfacceptable to the Indians, to whose power he had committed himself,we may conclude that he possessed some winning points of character;and I therefore assume him to have been of a brave, frank, andgenerous nature, capable of attracting partisans and enlisting thesympathies and service of bold men for his personal defence.
So, with the help of a little obvious speculation, founded upon thecircumstantial evidence, we weave the network of quite a naturalstory of Talbot; and our meagre tradition takes on the form, andsomething of the substance, of an intelligible incident.
At this point I leave the hero of my narrative for a while, in orderthat I may open another chapter.
Many years elapsed, during which the tradition remained in thisunsatisfactory state, and I had given up all hope of furtherelucidation of it, when an accidental discovery brought me once moreupon the track of inquiry.
There was published in the city of Baltimore, in the year 1808, abook whose title was certainly as little adapted to awaken theattention of one in quest of a picturesque legend as a treatise onAlgebra. It was called “The Landholder’s Assistant,” and wasintended, as its name imported, to assist that lucky portion ofmankind who possessed the soil of Maryland in their pursuit ofknowledge touching the mysteries of patents, warrants, surveys, andsuch like learning, necessary to getting land or keeping what theyhad. The character and style of this book, in its exterior aspect,were as unpromising as it’s title. It was printed by Messrs. Dobbin &Murphy, on rather dark paper, in a muddy type,–such as no Mr.Dobbin nor Mr. Murphy of this day would allow to bear hisimprimatur,–though in 1808, I doubt not, it was considered a verycreditable piece of Baltimore typography. This unpretending volume wascompiled by Chancellor Kilty.