Under the lead of this law, theory, or assumption, discoveries have been made that deeply and practically interest the most abject mortal who anywhere swings a hoe or shoulders a hod, as well as the lords of the land. For example, it has been ascertained that heat is converted into motion, or motion into heat, according to a fixed or constant ratio or equivalent. To be more particular, the heat which will raise the temperature of a pound of water one degree of Fahrenheit's scale, when converted into mechanical motion, is equivalent to the force which a weight of seven hundred and seventy-two pounds would exert by falling one foot. This is a wonderfully small quantity of heat to balance so heavy a blow, but the careful experiments of Mr. Joule of Manchester, the discoverer, confirmed by Regnault, Thomson, Rankine, Clausius, Mayer, Rennie, and others, have, we believe, satisfied scientific men that it is not far from the correct measure. Were the same, or a far less amount of heat, concentrated on a minute chip of steel struck off by collision with a flint, it would be visible to the eye as a spark, and show us how motion is converted into light as well as heat.
It is not our vocation to dive into the infinities, either upward or downward, in search, on the one hand, of the ultimate atoms of the rarest ether, by whose vibrations the luminous waves run through space at the rate of more than ten millions of miles a minute, or, on the other, of the nebulous systems, worlds in the gristle, so far off that the light just now arriving from them tells only how they looked two hundred thousand years ago. All we have to say is, that, if we do not now absolutely know, we do reasonably suspect, that heat and light are mere mechanical motions, alike in nature and interconvertible in fact. The luminiference seems to behave itself, not like infinitely small bullets projected from Sharpe's rifles of proportionately small bore, as was once supposed, but rather after the manner of the sound-waves, which we know travel through the air from the sonorous body to the ear. They have also a resemblance, not so close, to the waves which run in all directions along the surface of a pond of water from the point where a stone falls into it. These three classes of waves, differing so immensely in magnitude and velocity, all agree in this,—that it is the wave that travels, and not the fluid or medium. The rapidity of the luminous wave is about nine hundred million times that of the sound-wave; hence we may suppose that the ether in which it moves is about as many times rarer or lighter than air, and the retina of the eye which it impresses as many times more delicate and sensitive than the drum of the ear. It can hardly be unreasonable to suppose that a fluid so rare as this luminiferous ether will readily interflow the particles of all other matter, gaseous, liquid, or solid, and that in such abundance that its vibrations or agitations may be propagated through them. Yet even the rarest gases must considerably obstruct and modify the vibratory waves, while liquids and solids, according to their density and structural arrangement of atoms, must do it far more. The luminiferous ether, in which all systems are immersed, kept hereabout in an incessant quiver through its complete and perhaps three-fold gamut of vibrations by the sun, strikes the arial ocean of the earth about an average of five hundred million millions of blows per second, for each of the seven colors, or luminous notes, not to speak of the achromatic vibrations, whose effects are other than vision or visionary. The arial ocean is such open-work, that these infinitesimal billows are not much, though somewhat, broken by it; but when they reach the terraqueous globe itself, they dash into foam which goes whirling and eddying down into solids and liquids, among their wild caverns of ultra-microscopic littleness, and this foam or whirl-storm of ethereal substance is heat, if we are not much mistaken. According to its intensity, it expands by its own mere motion all grosser material.
The quantity of this ethereal foam, yeast, whirlwind, hubbub, or whatever else you please to call it, which is got up or given up by the combustion of three pounds of good bituminous coal, according to Mr. Joule's experiments, is more than equivalent to a day's labor of a powerful horse. With our best stationary steam-engines, at present, we get a day's horse-power from not less than twenty-four pounds of coal. At this rate, the whole supply of mineral coal in the world, as it may be roughly estimated, is equivalent only to the labor of one thousand millions of horses for fifteen hundred years. With the average performance of our present engines, it would support that amount of horse-power for only one thousand years. But could we obtain the full mechanical duty of the fuel by our engines, it would be equal to the work of a thousand millions of horses for sixteen thousand years, or of about fifteen times as many men for the same time. This would materially postpone the exhaustion of the coal, at which one so naturally shudders,—to say nothing of the saving of having to dig but one eighth as much of the mineral to produce the same effect. Hence some of the interest that attaches to this discovery of Mr. Joule, which has given a new impulse to the labor of inventors in pushing the steam-engine towards perfection.
But if the whole available mechanical power, laid in store in the coal mines, in addition to all the unimproved wind and water power, should seem to any one insufficient to work out this world's manifest destiny, the doctrine of the essential unity or conservation of force is not exhausted of consolation. All the coal of which we have spoken is but the result of the action of sun-light in past ages, decomposing carbonic acid in the vegetative process. The combustion of the carbon reproduces a force exactly equivalent to that of the sun-light which was absorbed or consumed in its vegetative separation. Supposing the whole estimated stock of coal in the world to be consumed at once, it would cover the entire globe with a stratum of carbonic acid about seventy-two feet deep. And if all the energy of sun-light which this globe receives or encounters in a year were to be devoted to its decomposition, according to Pouillet's estimate of the strength of sunshine,—and he probably knows, if any one does,— deducting all that would be wasted on rock or water, there would be enough to complete the task in a year or two. A marvellous growth of forest, that would be! But the coal is not to be burned up at once. When we get our steam-engines in motion to the amount of two or three thousand millions of horse-power, and are running off the coal at the rate of one tenth of one per cent per annum, the simple and inevitable consequence will be that the wood will be growing enough faster to keep good the general stock of fuel. Doubtless the forests are now limited in their growth and stunted from their ante-Saurian stature, not so much for want of soil, moisture, or sunshine as for want of carbonic acid in the air, to be decomposed by the foliage, the great deposition of coal in the primitive periods having exhausted the supply. Our present havoc of wood only changes the locality of wood-lots, and our present consumption of coal, rapid enough to exhaust the entire supply in about seventy-seven thousand years, is sure to increase the aggregate cordage of the forests. By the time we have brought our locomotive steam-cultivators to such perfection as to plough up and pulverize the great central deserts, we may see trees flourish where it would have been useless to plant the seed before we had converted so much of the earth's entrails into smoke.
There was a time, before we had harnessed the powers of Nature to found, forge, spin, weave, print, and drudge for us generally, that in every civilized country the strong-headed men used their strong-handed brethren as machines. Only he could be very knowing who owned many scribes, or he very rich who owned many hewers of wood and drawers of water. With our prodigious development of mechanical inventions, iron and coal, our mighty steam-driven machinery for making machines, the time for chattelizing men, or depending mainly on animal power of any sort for the production of wealth, has passed by. Abrogate the golden rule, if you will, and establish the creed of caste,—let the strongest of human races have full license to enslave the weakest, and let it have the pick of soil and staples,— still, if you do not abolish the ground rules of arithmetic, and the fact that a pound of carbon costs less than a pound of corn, and must cost less for at least a thousand years to come, chattelism of man will cease in another generation, and the next century will not dawn on a human slave. At present, a pound of carbon does not cost so much as a pound of corn in any part of the United States, and in no place visited by steam-transportation does it cost one fifth as much. We are already able to get as much work out of a pound of carbon as can be got from a pound of corn fed to the faithfullest slave in the world. Mr. Joule has shown us that there is really in a pound of carbon more than twice as much work as there is in a pound of corn. The human corn-consuming machine comes nearer getting the whole mechanical duty or equivalent out of his fuel than our present steam-engine does, but the former is all he ever will be, while the latter is an infant and growing.
We shall doubtless soon see engines that will get the work of two slaves out of the coal that just balances one slave's food in the scales. Our iron-boned, coal-eating slave, with the advantage of that peculiar and almost infinitely applicable mechanical element, the wheel, may be made to go anywhere and do any sort of work, and, as we have seen, he will do it for one tenth of the cost of any brute or human slave.
But will not our artificial slave be more liable to insurrection? Everybody admits that he already accomplishes incalculable drudgery in the huge mill, on the ocean, and on the iron highway. But almost everybody looks upon him as a sleeping volcano, which must sooner or later flare up into irresistible wrath and do frightful mischief. Underwriters shake their prudent heads at him. Coroners' inquests, sitting solemnly over his frequent desolations, find only that some of his ways are past finding out. Can such a creature be domesticated so as to serve profitably and comfortably on by-roads as well as high-roads, on farms, in gardens, in kitchens, in mines, in private workshops, in all sorts of places where steady, uncomplaining toil is wanted? Can we ever trust him as we trust ourselves, or our humble friends, the horse and the ox? The law of the conservation of force, now so nearly developed, will perhaps throw some light on this inquiry.
Boiler explosions have a sort of family resemblance to the freaks of lightning or the thunderbolt. Indeed, so striking is the similarity, that people have been prone to think, that, previously to an explosion, the steam in the boiler must have become in some inexplicable way charged with electricity like a thunder-cloud, and that the discharge must have occasioned the catastrophe. It is needless to say to those who understand a Leyden jar, that nothing of the sort takes place. The friction of the watery globules, carried along by the steam in blowing off, is found to disturb the electrical equilibrium, as any other friction does; but the circumstances in the case of a boiler are always so favorable to its restoration, that an electrical thunderbolt cannot possibly be raised there that would damage a gnat. Yet a boiler explosion may, after all, depend on the same immediate cause as the mechanical effect which is frequently noticed after an electrical discharge in a thunder-storm. Let us hypothetically analyze what takes place in a thunder-storm. For the sake of illustration, and nothing more, we will suppose the existence, throughout all otherwise void space, of three interflowing ethers, the atoms of each of which are, in regard to each other, repellant, negative, or the reverse of ponderable, and that these ethers differ in a series by vast intervals as to size and distance of atoms, that each neither repels nor attracts the other, that only the rarest is everywhere, and that the denser ones, while self-repellant, have affinities, more or less, which draw them from the interplanetary spaces towards the ponderable masses. Let the rarest of these ethers be that whose vibrations cause the phenomena of light,—the next denser that which, either by vibration or translatory motion, causes the electrical phenomena,— and the most dense of the three that which by its motions, of whatever sort, causes the phenomena of heat. The solar impulse propagated through the luminiferous ether towards any mass encounters in its neighborhood the electrical and calorific ethers, and sets them into motions which may be communicated from one to the other, but which are communicated to ponderable matter, or result in mechanical action, only or chiefly by the impulse of the denser or calorific ether. When the sun shines on land and water, as we have already said, there is a violent ethereal commotion in the interstices of the superficial matter, which we will now suppose to be that of the calorific ether; and by virtue of this motion, together with whatever affinities this ether may be supposed to have for ponderable matter, we may account for evaporation, and the production of those vast arial currents by which the evaporated water is diffused. In the production of arial currents, heat is converted into force, and hence vapor is converted into watery globules mechanically suspended on clouds, which, by their friction, sweep the electrical ether into excessive condensation in the great Leyden-jar arrangement of the sky. Whatever it may be that gives relief to this condensation, the relief itself consists in motion, either translatory or vibratory, of the electrical ether or ethers. As this motion, if it be such, often takes place through gases, liquids, and solids, without any sensible mechanical effect, and at other times is contemporary with phenomena of intense heat, we may, till otherwise informed, suppose, that, whenever it produces a mechanical effect, it is by so impinging on the calorific ether as to produce the motion of heat, which is instantly thereafter converted into mechanical force. It is not so much the greatness of the amount of this mechanical force which gives it its peculiar destructiveness, as the inequality of its strain; not so much the quantity of matter projected, as the velocity of the blow. One may have his brains blown out by a bullet of air as well as one of lead, if the air only blows hard enough and to one point. Whatever its material, the edge of the thunder-axe is almost infinitely sharp, and its blow is as destructive as it is timeless. But it is always heat, not electrical discharge, which only sometimes causes heat, that strikes the blow.
Now in the case of a steam-boiler, when the water, having been reduced too low, is allowed suddenly to foam up on the overheated crown-sheet of the furnace, there must be just that sudden or instantaneous conversion of heat into force which may take place when the current of the electrical discharge passes through the gnarled fibres of an oak. The boiler and the oak are blown to shivers in equally quick time. The only difference seems to be, that in one case electricity stood immediately, in point of time, behind the heat, and in the other it stood away back beyond the crocodiles, playing its rle more genially in the growth of the monster forests whose remains we are now digging from the bowels of the earth as coal. In the normal action of a steam-boiler, the steam-generating surfaces being all under water, however unequally the fire may act in different localities, the water, by its rapid circulation, if not by its heat-absorbing power, diffuses the heat and constantly equalizes the strain resulting from its conversion into mechanical force. The increase of pressure takes place gradually and evenly, and may easily be kept far within safe limits. It is quite otherwise when the conductivity of the boiler-plate is not aided and controlled by the distributiveness of the water, as it is not whenever the plate is in contact with the fire on one side without being also in contact with the water on the other. Everybody knows that boilers explode under such circumstances, but everybody does not know why.
A cylinder of plate-iron will withstand a gradually applied, evenly distributed, and constant pressure, one thousandth part of which, acting at one spot, as a blow, would rend its way through, or establish a crack. This slight rent, giving partial relief to the sudden but comparatively small force that causes it, would be nothing very serious in itself,—no more so than a rent produced by the hydraulic press,—if the whole force, equal, perhaps, to that of a thousand wild horses imprisoned within, did not take instant advantage of it to enlarge the breach and blow the whole structure to fragments, or, in other words, if it did not permit nearly the whole of the accumulated heat in the boiler to be at once converted into mechanical motion. For example, a boiler whose ordinary working pressure is one hundred pounds to the square inch, which may give an aggregate on the whole surface of five millions of pounds, would not give way, perhaps, if that pressure were gradually and evenly increased to thirty millions. But if the water is allowed to get so low that some part of the plate exposed to the fire is no longer covered with it, that part will directly become far hotter than the water or the mass of the steam,—dry steam having no more power to carry away the excess of heat than so much air. After that, when the water rises again, the first wave or wallop that strikes the overheated plate absorbs the excess of heat, and its conversion into steam of higher pressure than that already existing is so sudden that it may be regarded as instantaneous. It is to be remembered that for every pound of water raised one degree, or heat to that amount absorbed in generating steam, a force of seven hundred and seventy-two pounds is created. In this case a new or additional force is created, which, acting in all directions from one point, first takes effect on the line which joins that point with the nearest opposite point in the wall of the boiler. If it is not like smiting with the edge of a ponderous battle-axe, it is at least as dangerous as a cannon ball shot along that line. If the local heat so suddenly absorbed be but enough to raise ten pounds of water ten degrees, it is equivalent to the force acquired by seventy-seven thousand two hundred pounds falling through a foot, or of a cannon-ball of one hundred pounds flying at the rate of more than a mile per second. If by any miracle the boiler should stand this shock or series of shocks, the pressure becomes equalized, and the overheated plate having parted with its excess of heat, safety is restored. But if cohesion is anywhere overcome by the sudden blow, the wild horses stampede in all directions. The boiler, minus the water and boiler-head perhaps, goes through ceiling, roof, and brick walls, as if they were cobwebs, and, surrounded with fragments of men and things, is seen descending like a comet through the neighboring air.
To get rid of this liability to have a Thor-hammer or thunderbolt generated in the stomach of a steam-engine, at any moment when the vigilance of the engineer happens to be at fault, something is going to be done. No safety-valve or fusible plug is adequate. The boiler cannot be all safety-valve. The trouble is, the hammer is not more likely to strike the first of its terrible series of blows on the valve than anywhere else. A safety-valve, in good order, is a sovereign precaution against the excess of an equally distributed strain, but it is not an adequate protection against a shock or unequal strain. The old-fashioned gaugecocks, which are by no means to be dispensed with, reveal the state of the water in the boiler to the watchful engineer about as surely as the stethoscope reveals to the doctor the condition of his patient's lungs. A surer and more convenient indication is the tubular glass gauge, on the fountain principle, which in its best form is both trustworthy and durable. No well-informed proprietor suffers his boiler to be without one; but it is not a cure for carelessness. It is only a window for the vigilant eye to look through, not the eye itself. Steam-boilers will have to be constructed so that when the subsidence of the water fails to check itself by enlarging the supply, it shall, before the point of danger is reached, infallibly check the combustion, let off the steam, and blow a whistle or ring a bell, which the proprietor may, if he pleases, regard as the official death-knell of the careless engineer. Human vigilance must not be superseded, but fortified,—as in the case of the watchman watched by the tell-tale clock. The steam-creature must be so constituted as to refuse to work itself down to the zone where alone unequal strains are possible; it must cry out in horror and strike work. Mechanically the solution of the problem is easy, and the enhancement in cost of construction will be nothing, compared to the risk of loss from these explosions. With this guard against the deficiency of water, steam-power will become the safest, as it is the most manageable, of all forces that have hitherto been subsidized by the civilized man.
But there is one more improvement worth mentioning. We do great injustice to our steam-slaves by the slovenly and unphilosophical way in which we feed them. We take no hints from animal economy or the laws of dietetics.
Our creature has no regular meals, especially if he is one of the fast kind; but a grimy nurse stands by, and, opening his mouth every few minutes, crams in a few spoonfuls of the black pudding. The natural consequence is more or less indigestion and inequality of strength. We have not yet taken full advantage of the laws of combustion, or adapted our apparatus to the peculiarities of the best and cheapest fuel. Nature manages more wisely in her machinery. Combustion, the union of fuel with oxygen, ceases for want of air as well as for want of fuel. In the case of fuels compounded of carbon and hydrogen, if the air be withheld when the mass is in rapid combustion, the heat will cause a portion of the fuel to pass off by distillation, unconsumed, and this portion will be lost. But from the best anthracite, which is nearly pure carbon concentrated, if oxygen be entirely excluded, not much can distil away with any degree of heat. The combustion of this fuel, therefore, admits of very easy and economical regulation, by simply regulating the supply of air. When the air is admitted at all, it should be admitted above as well as below the fuel, so that the carbonic oxyde that is generated in the mass may be burned, or converted into carbonic acid, over the top. Why, then, should not the iron horse, before leaving his stable, take a meal of anthracite sufficient to last him fifty or one hundred miles? Let him swallow a ton at once, if he need it. Before starting, let the temperature of the mass in the furnace be got up to the point where the combustion will go on with sufficient rapidity for the required speed by simply supplying air, which should also be fed as hot as possible. This done, the engineer throughout the trip will have perfect control of his force by means of the steam-blast and air-openings. There will be no smoke nuisance, the combustion being complete so far as it takes place at all. There will be no need of loading the furnace with firebrick to equalize the heat,—the mass of incandescent fuel serving that purpose; and no waste or inequality will occur from opening the door to throw in a cold collation.
What are we going to make? First, we are going to finish up, and carry out into all desirable species, our great idea of an iron slave, the illustrious Man Friday of our modern civilization. Whether we put water, air, or ether into his aorta, as the medium of converting heat into force, we shall at last have a safe subject, available for all sorts of drudgery, that will do the work of a man without eating more than half as much weight of coal as a man eats of bread and meat. Next, carrying into all departments of human industry, in its perfect development, this new creature, which has already, as a mere infant, made so stupendous a change in some of them, we shall make the human millions all masters, from being nearly all slaves. We shall make both idleness and poverty nearly impossible. Human labor, as a general thing, is a positive pleasure only when the hand and brain work in concert. Hence, the more you increase well-devised and efficient machinery, which requires and rewards intelligent oversight and skilful direction, the more you increase the love of labor. We have already manufacturing communities so well supplied with tasks for brains and hands, that everybody works, or would do so but for Circe and her seductive hollow-ware. We are beginning to push machinery into agriculture, where it will have still greater scope. With the means we now have, in the enormously increased production of iron, our almost omnipresent and omnipotent machine-shops, our railroads leading everywhere, another century, or perhaps half of it, will see every arable rood of the earth and every rood that can be made arable, ploughed, sowed, and the crops harvested by iron horses, iron oxen, or iron men, under the free and intelligent supervision of people who know how to feed, drive, doctor, and make the most of them.
One island, which would hardly be missed from the map of the world, so small that its rivers all fall into the sea mere brooks, with not more than one-thirteenth as much coal as we have in the United States, and perhaps not one-hundredth as much iron ore, by the use of steam-driven machinery produces as much iron and perhaps weaves as much cloth yearly as all the rest of the world. If it does not the latter, it would do it, if it could find enough of the raw material and paying customers. But agriculture, which supplies the raw material, though it is the first and most universal form of human labor, lags behind the world's present manufacturing power. One cause of the late, and perhaps of the previous commercial revulsion, was this disproportion. The more rapid enlargement of manufacturing industry, multiplied in power by its machinery, caused the raw material to rise in price and the manufactured article to fall, till the operations could not be supported from the profits at the same time that contracts were fulfilled with capitalists. Manufactures must pause till agriculture overtakes. Steam-machinery applied to agriculture is the only thing that can correct this disproportion, and this is what we are going to make. The world is not to be much longer dependent for its cotton on the compulsory labor of the Dark Ages, nor for its flax and corn on blistered free hands or overworked cattle. The laborer, in either section of our country, will be transformed into an ingenious gentleman or lady, comfortably mounted on a migratory steam-cultivator to direct its gigantic energies,—or, at least, occasionally so occupied. Under this system, it must be plain enough, to all persons prophetically inclined, that the Northern valleys will greatly multiply their products, while the Southern cotton-fields will whiten with heavier crops than human chattelism ever produced, and the mountains of both latitudes, now hardly notched with civilization, will roll down the wool of sheep in clouds.
Finally, with important and fruitful mechanical ideas which the world did not have twenty years ago, with machinery which no one could have believed possible one hundred years ago, and which has, since that time, quintupled the power of every free laborer in Christendom, we are going to make man what his Creator designed him to be,—always and everywhere a sub-creator. By the press we are making the knowledge of the past the knowledge of the present, the knowledge of one the knowledge of all. By the telegraph the senses of sight and hearing are to be extended around the globe. If we do not make ships to navigate the air, for ourselves, our wives, and our little ones, it will not be because we cannot, but because, being lords of land and sea, with power to traverse either with all desirable speed, we are too wise to waste force either in beating the air for buoyancy, battling with gravity like birds, on the one hand, or in paddling huge balloons against the wind, on the other. The steam-driven wheel leaves us no occasion to envy even that ubiquitous denizen of the universe, the flying-fish. We have in it the most economical means of self-transportation, as well as of mechanical production. It only remains to make the most of it. This, to be sure, will not be achieved without infinite labor and innumerable failures. The mechanical genius of the race is like the polypus anxiously stretching its tentacles in every direction, and though frustrated thousands of times, it grasps something at last.
One of the most significant structures in the world, by the way, is the United States Patent Office at Washington. No other building in that novel city means a hundredth part as much, or shows so clearly what the world's most cunning thoughts and hands are chiefly engaged with. Not that the Patent Office contains so many miracles of mechanical success; rather the contrary. Take a just appraisal of its treasures, and you will regard it rather as the chief tomb in the Pre la Chaise of human hopes. What multitudes of long-nursed and dearly-cherished inventions there repose in a common grave, useful only as warnings to future inventors! One great moral of the survey is, that inventive talent is shamefully wasted among us, for want of proper scientific direction and suitable encouragement. The mind that comprehends general principles in all their relations, and sees what needs to be done and what is possible and profitable to be done, is of necessity not the one to arrange in detail the means of doing. The man of science and the mechanical inventor are distinct persons, speaking of either in his best estate; and the maximum success of machinery depends on their acting together with a better understanding than they have hitherto had. It were less difficult than invidious to point to living examples of the want of cooperation and co-appreciation between our knowing and our doing men; but, for the sake of illustrating our idea, we will run the risk of quoting a minute from the proceedings of one of our scientific societies, premising that we know nothing more of the parties than we learn from the minute itself,—to wit, that one is, or was, an ingenious mechanic, and the other a promoter of science.
"Dr. Patterson gave an account of an automaton speaking-machine which Mr. Franklin Peale and himself had recently inspected. The machine was made to resemble as nearly as possible, in every respect, the human vocal organs; and was susceptible of varied movements by means of keys. Dr. Patterson was much struck by the distinctness with which the figure could enunciate various letters and words. The difficult combination three was well pronounced,—the th less perfectly, but astonishingly well. It also enumerated diphthongs, and numerous difficult combinations of sounds. Sixteen keys were sufficient to produce all the sounds. In enunciating the simple sounds, the movements of the mouth could be seen. The parts were made of gum elastic. The figure was made to say, with a peculiar intonation, but surprising distinctness, 'Mr. Patterson, I am glad to see you.' It sang, 'God save Victoria,' and 'Hail Columbia,'—the words and air combined. Dr. Patterson had determined to visit the maker of the machine, Mr. Faber, in private, in order to obtain further interesting information; but, on the following day, Dr. P. was distressed to learn, that, in a fit of excitement, he had destroyed every particle of a figure which had taken him seventeen years to construct."
It is quite probable that the world lost very little by the destruction of this curious figure, whatever the nature or cause of the "excitement" that led to it. All we have to say is, that it does lose much, when the genius that can create such things is not set upon the right tasks, and encouraged to success by the "high consideration" of scientific men, who alone of all the world can appreciate the difficulties it has to contend with. It is by setting the right mechanical problems before the men who can make dumb matter talk, that we are to bring about the resurrection of the black Titan who has lain buried under the mountains for thousands of millenniums, and constitute him the efficient sub-gardener of the world's Paradise Regained.
* * * * *
We who by shipwreck only find the shores Of divine wisdom can but kneel at first, Can but exult to feel beneath our feet, That long stretched vainly down the yielding deeps, The shock and sustenance of solid earth: Inland afar we see what temples gleam Through immemorial stems of sacred groves, And we conjecture shining shapes therein; Yet for a space 'tis good to wonder here Among the shells and seaweed of the beach.
THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST-TABLE.
EVERY MAN HIS OWN BOSWELL.
[Spring has come. You will find some verses to that effect at the end of these notes. If you are an impatient reader, skip to them at once. In reading aloud, omit, if you please, the sixth and seventh verses. These are parenthetical and digressive, and, unless your audience is of superior intelligence, will confuse them. Many people can ride on horse-back who find it hard to get on and to get off without assistance. One has to dismount from an idea, and get into the saddle again, at every parenthesis.]
——The old gentleman who sits opposite, finding that spring had fairly come, mounted a white hat one day, and walked into the street. It seems to have been a premature or otherwise exceptionable exhibition, not unlike that commemorated by the late Mr. Bayley. When the old gentleman came home, he looked very red in the face, and complained that he had been "made sport of." By sympathizing questions, I learned from him that a boy had called him "old daddy," and asked him when he had his hat whitewashed.
This incident led me to make some observations at table the next morning, which I here repeat for the benefit of the readers of this record.
——The hat is the vulnerable point of the artificial integument. I learned this in early boyhood. I was once equipped in a hat of Leghorn straw, having a brim of much wider dimensions than were usual at that time, and sent to school in that portion of my native town which lies nearest to this metropolis. On my way I was met by a "Port-chuck," as we used to call the young gentlemen of that locality, and the following dialogue ensued.
The Port-chuck. Hullo, You-sir, did you know there was g-on-to be a race to-morrah?
Myself. No. Who's g-on-to run, 'n'wher's't g-on-to be?
The Port-chuck. Squire Mico and Doctor Williams, round the brim o' your hat.
These two much-respected gentlemen being the oldest inhabitants at that time, and the alleged race-course being out of the question, the Port-chuck also winking and thrusting his tongue into his cheek, I perceived that I had been trifled with, and the effect has been to make me sensitive and observant respecting this article of dress ever since. Here is an axiom or two relating to it.
A hat which has been popped, or exploded by being sat down upon, is never itself again afterwards.
It is a favorite illusion of sanguine natures to believe the contrary.
Shabby gentility has nothing so characteristic as its hat. There is always an unnatural calmness about its nap, and an unwholesome gloss, suggestive of a wet brush.
The last effort of decayed fortune is expended in smoothing its dilapidated castor. The hat is the ultimum moriens of "respectability."
——The old gentleman took all these remarks and maxims very pleasantly, saying, however, that he had forgotten most of his French, except the word for potatoes,—pummies de tare.—Ultimum moriens, I told him, is old Italian, and signifies last thing to die. With this explanation he was well contented, and looked quite calm when I saw him afterwards in the entry with a black hat on his head and the white one in his hand.
——I think myself fortunate in having the Poet and the Professor for my intimates. We are so much together, that we no doubt think and talk a good deal alike; yet our points of view are in many respects individual and peculiar. You know me well enough by this time. I have not talked with you so long for nothing, and therefore I don't think it necessary to draw my own portrait. But let me say a word or two about my friends.
The Professor considers himself, and I consider him, a very useful and worthy kind of drudge. I think he has a pride in his small technicalities. I know that he has a great idea of fidelity; and though I suspect he laughs a little inwardly at times at the grand airs "Science" puts on, as she stands marking time, but not getting on, while the trumpets are blowing and the big drums beating,—yet I am sure he has a liking for his specialty, and a respect for its cultivators.
But I'll tell you what the Professor said to the Poet the other day.— My boy, said he, I can work a great deal cheaper than you, because I keep all my goods in the lower story. You have to hoist yours into the upper chambers of the brain, and let them down again to your customers. I take mine in at the level of the ground, and send them off from my doorstep almost without lifting. I tell you, the higher a man has to carry the raw material of thought before he works it up, the more it costs him in blood, nerve, and muscle. Coleridge knew all this very well when he advised every literary man to have a profession.
——Sometimes I like to talk with one of them, and sometimes with the other. After a while I get tired of both. When a fit of intellectual disgust comes over me, I will tell you what I have found admirable as a diversion, in addition to boating and other amusements which I have spoken of,—that is, working at my carpenter's-bench. Some mechanical employment is the greatest possible relief, after the purely intellectual faculties begin to tire. When I was quarantined once at Marseilles, I got to work immediately at carving a wooden wonder of loose rings on a stick, and got so interested in it, that, when we were set loose, I "regained my freedom with a sigh," because my toy was unfinished.
There are long seasons when I talk only with the Professor, and others when I give myself wholly up to the Poet. Now that my winter's work is over, and spring is with us, I feel naturally drawn to the Poet's company. I don't know anybody more alive to life than he is. The passion of poetry seizes on him every spring, he says,— yet oftentimes he complains, that, when he feels most, he can sing least.
Then a fit of despondency comes over him.—I feel ashamed, sometimes,— said he, the other day,—to think how far my worst songs fall below my best. It sometimes seems to me, as I know it does to others who have told me so, that they ought to be all best,—if not in actual execution, at least in plan and motive. I am grateful—he continued— for all such criticisms. A man is always pleased to have his most serious efforts praised, and the highest aspect of his nature get the most sunshine.
Yet I am sure, that, in the nature of things, many minds must change their key now and then, on penalty of getting out of tune or losing their voices. You know, I suppose,—he said,—what is meant by complementary colors? You know the effect, too, that the prolonged impression of any one color has on the retina. If you close your eyes after looking steadily at a red object, you see a green image.
It is so with many minds,—I will not say with all. After looking at one aspect of external nature, or of any form of beauty or truth, when they turn away, the complementary aspect of the same object stamps itself irresistibly and automatically upon the mind. Shall they give expression to this secondary mental state, or not?
When I contemplate—said my friend, the Poet—the infinite largeness of comprehension belonging to the Central Intelligence, how remote the creative conception is from all scholastic and ethical formulae, I am led to think that a healthy mind ought to change its mood from time to time, and come down from its noblest condition,—never, of course, to degrade itself by dwelling upon what is itself debasing, but to let its lower faculties have a chance to air and exercise themselves. After the first and second floor have been out in the bright street dressed in all their splendors, shall not our humble friends in the basement have their holiday, and the cotton velvet and the thin-skinned jewelry—simple adornments, but befitting the station of those who wear them—show themselves to the crowd, who think them beautiful, as they ought to, though the people up stairs know that they are cheap and perishable?
——I don't know that I may not bring the Poet here, some day or other, and let him speak for himself. Still I think I can tell you what he says quite as well as he could do it.—Oh,—he said to me, one day,—I am but a hand-organ man,—say rather, a hand-organ. Life turns the winch, and fancy or accident pulls out the stops. I come under your windows, some fine spring morning, and play you one of my adagio movements, and some of you say,—This is good,—play us so always. But, dear friends, if I did not change the stop sometimes, the machine would wear out in one part and rust in another. How easily this or that tune flows!—you say,—there must be no end of just such melodies in him,—I will open the poor machine for you one moment, and you shall look.—Ah! Every note marks where a spur of steel has been driven in. It is easy to grind out the song, but to plant these bristling points which make it was the painful task of time.
I don't like to say it,—he continued,—but poets commonly have no larger stock of tunes than hand-organs; and when you hear them piping up under your window, you know pretty well what to expect. The more stops, the better. Do let them all be pulled out in their turn!
So spoke my friend, the Poet, and read me one of his stateliest songs, and after it a gay chanson, and then a string of epigrams. All true,— he said,—all flowers of his soul; only one with the corolla spread, and another with its disk half opened, and the third with the heart-leaves covered up and only a petal or two showing its tip through the calyx. The water-lily is the type of the poet's soul,— he told me.
——What do you think, Sir,—said the divinity-student,—opens the souls of poets most fully?
Why, there must be the internal force and the external stimulus. Neither is enough by itself. A rose will not flower in the dark, and a fern will not flower anywhere.
What do I think is the true sunshine that opens the poet's corolla?— I don't like to say. They spoil a good many, I am afraid; or at least they shine on a good many that never come to anything.
Who are they?—said the schoolmistress.
Women. Their love first inspires the poet, and their praise is his best reward.
The schoolmistress reddened a little, but looked pleased.—Did I really think so?—I do think so; I never feel safe until I have pleased them; I don't think they are the first to see one's defects, but they are the first to catch the color and fragrance of a true poem. Fit the same intellect to a man and it is a bow-string,—to a woman and it is a harp-string. She is vibratile and resonant all over, so she stirs with slighter musical tremblings of the air about her.— Ah, me!—said my friend, the Poet, to me, the other day,—what color would it not have given to my thoughts, and what thrice-washed whiteness to my words, had I been fed on women's praises! I should have grown like Marvell's fawn,—
"Lilies without; roses within!"
But then,—he added,—we all think, if so and so, we should have been this or that, as you were saying, the other day, in those rhymes of yours.
——I don't think there are many poets in the sense of creators; but of those sensitive natures which reflect themselves naturally in soft and melodious words, pleading for sympathy with their joys and sorrows, every literature is full. Nature carves with her own hands the brain which holds the creative imagination, but she casts the over-sensitive creatures in scores from the same mould.
There are two kinds of poets, just as there are two kinds of blondes. [Movement of curiosity among our ladies at table.—Please to tell us about those blondes, said the schoolmistress.] Why, there are blondes who are such simply by deficiency of coloring matter,— negative or washed blondes, arrested by Nature on the way to become albinesses. There are others that are shot through with golden light, with tawny or fulvous tinges in various degree,— positive or stained blondes, dipped in yellow sunbeams, and as unlike in their mode of being to the others as an orange is unlike a snowball. The albino-style carries with it a wide pupil and a sensitive retina. The other, or the leonine blonde, has an opaline fire in her clear eye, which the brunette can hardly match with her quick, glittering glances.
Just so we have the great sun-kindled, constructive imaginations, and a far more numerous class of poets who have a certain kind of moonlight genius given them to compensate for their imperfection of nature. Their want of mental coloring-matter makes them sensitive to those impressions which stronger minds neglect or never feel at all. Many of them die young, and all of them are tinged with melancholy. There is no more beautiful illustration of the principle of compensation which marks the Divine benevolence than the fact that some of the holiest lives and some of the sweetest songs are the growth of the infirmity which unfits its subject for the rougher duties of life. When one reads the life of Cowper, or of Keats, or of Lucretia and Margaret Davidson,—of so many gentle, sweet natures, born to weakness, and mostly dying before their time,—one cannot help thinking that the human race dies out singing, like the swan in the old story. The French poet, Gilbert, who died at the Htel Dieu, at the age of twenty-nine,—(killed by a key in his throat, which he had swallowed when delirious in consequence of a fall,)—this poor fellow was a very good example of the poet by excess of sensibility. I found, the other day, that some of my literary friends had never heard of him, though I suppose few educated Frenchmen do not know the lines which he wrote, a week before his death, upon a mean bed in the great hospital of Paris.
"Au banquet de la vie, infortun convive, J'apparus un jour, et je meurs; Je meurs, et sur ma tombe, o lentement j'arrive, Nul ne viendra verser des pleurs."
At life's gay banquet placed, a poor unhappy guest, One day I pass, then disappear; I die, and on the tomb where I at length shall rest No friend shall come to shed a tear.
You remember the same thing in other words somewhere in Kirke White's poems. It is the burden of the plaintive songs of all these sweet albino-poets. "I shall die and be forgotten, and the world will go on just as if I had never been;—and yet how I have loved! how I have longed! how I have aspired!" And so singing, their eyes grow brighter and brighter, and their features thinner and thinner, until at last the veil of flesh is threadbare, and, still singing, they drop it and pass onward.
——Our brains are seventy-year clocks. The Angel of Life winds them up once for all, then closes the case, and gives the key into the hand of the Angel of the Resurrection.
Tic-tac! tic-tac! go the wheels of thought; our will cannot stop them; they cannot stop themselves; sleep cannot still them; madness only makes them go faster; death alone can break into the case, and, seizing the ever-swinging pendulum, which we call the heart, silence at last the clicking of the terrible escapement we have carried so long beneath our wrinkled foreheads.
If we could only get at them, as we lie on our pillows and count the dead beats of thought after thought and image after image jarring through the overtired organ! Will nobody block those wheels, uncouple that pinion, cut the string that holds those weights, blow up the infernal machine with gunpowder? What a passion comes over us sometimes for silence and rest!—that this dreadful mechanism, unwinding the endless tapestry of time, embroidered with spectral figures of life and death, could have but one brief holiday! Who can wonder that men swing themselves off from beams in hempen lassos?— that they jump off from parapets into the swift and gurgling waters beneath?—that they take counsel of the grim friend who has but to utter his one peremptory monosyllable and the restless machine is shivered as a vase that is dashed upon a marble floor? Under that building which we pass every day there are strong dungeons, where neither hook, nor bar, nor bed-cord, nor drinking-vessel from which a sharp fragment may be shattered, shall by any chance be seen. There is nothing for it, when the brain is on fire with the whirling of its wheels, but to spring against the stone wall and silence them with one crash. Ah, they remembered that, the kind city fathers,— and the walls are nicely padded, so that one can take such exercise as he likes without damaging himself on the very plain and serviceable upholstery. If anybody would only contrive some kind of a lever that one could thrust in among the works of this horrid automaton and check them, or alter their rate of going, what would the world give for the discovery?
——From half a dime to a dime, according to the style of the place and the quality of the liquor,—said the young fellow whom they call John.
You speak trivially, but not unwisely,—I said. Unless the will maintain a certain control over these movements, which it cannot stop, but can to some extent regulate, men are very apt to try to get at the machine by some indirect system of leverage or other. They clap on the breaks by means of opium; they change the maddening monotony of the rhythm by means of fermented liquors. It is because the brain is locked up and we cannot touch its movement directly, that we thrust these coarse tools in through any crevice by which they may reach the interior, and so alter its rate of going for a while, and at last spoil the machine.
Men who exercise chiefly those faculties of the mind which work independently of the will,—poets and artists, for instance, who follow their imagination in their creative moments, instead of keeping it in hand as your logicians and practical men do with their reasoning faculty,—such men are too apt to call in the mechanical appliances to help them govern their intellects.
——He means they get drunk,—said the young fellow already alluded to by name.
Do you think men of true genius are apt to indulge in the use of inebriating fluids?—said the divinity-student.
If you think you are strong enough to bear what I am going to say,— I replied,—I will talk to you about this. But mind, now, these are the things that some foolish people call dangerous subjects,—as if these vices which burrow into people's souls, as the Guinea-worm burrows into the naked feet of West-Indian slaves, would be more mischievous when seen than out of sight. Now the true way to deal with these obstinate animals, which are a dozen feet long, some of them, and no bigger than a horse-hair, is to get a piece of silk round their heads, and pull them out very cautiously. If you only break them off, they grow worse than ever, and sometimes kill the person that has the misfortune of harboring one of them. Whence it is plain that the first thing to do is to find out where the head lies.
Just so of all the vices, and particularly of this vice of intemperance. What is the head of it, and where does it lie? For you may depend upon it, there is not one of these vices that has not a head of its own,—an intelligence,—a meaning,—a certain virtue, I was going to say,—but that might, perhaps, sound paradoxical. I have heard an immense number of moral physicians lay down the treatment of moral Guinea-worms, and the vast majority of them would always insist that the creature had no head at all, but was all body and tail. So I have found a very common result of their method to be that the string slipped, or that a piece only of the creature was broken off, and the worm soon grew again, as bad as ever. The truth is, if the Devil could only appear in church by attorney, and make the best statement that the facts would bear him out in doing on behalf of his special virtues, (what we commonly call vices,) the influence of good teachers would be much greater than it is. For the arguments by which the Devil prevails are precisely the ones that the Devil-queller most rarely answers. The way to argue down a vice is not to tell lies about it,—to say that it has no attractions, when everybody knows that it has,—but rather to let it make out its case just as it certainly will in the moment of temptation, and then meet it with the weapons furnished by the Divine armory. Ithuriel did not spit the toad on his spear, you remember, but touched him with it, and the blasted angel took the sad glories of his true shape. If he had shown fight then, the fair spirits would have known how to deal with him.
That all spasmodic cerebral action is an evil is not perfectly clear. Men get fairly intoxicated with music, with poetry, with religious excitement,—oftenest with love. Ninon de l'Enclos said she was so easily excited that her soup intoxicated her, and convalescents have been made tipsy by a beef-steak.
There are forms and stages of alcoholic exaltation, which, in themselves, and without regard to their consequences, might be considered as positive improvements of the persons affected. When the sluggish intellect is roused, the slow speech quickened, the cold nature warmed, the latent sympathy developed, the flagging spirit kindled,—before the trains of thought become confused, or the will perverted, or the muscles relaxed,—just at the moment when the whole human zophyte flowers out like a full-blown rose, and is ripe for the subscription-paper or the contribution box,—it would be hard to say that a man was at that very time, worse, or less to be loved, than when driving a hard bargain with all his meaner wits about him. The difficulty is, that the alcoholic virtues don't wash; but until the water takes their colors out, the tints are very much like those of the true celestial stuff.
[Here I was interrupted by a question which I am very unwilling to report, but have confidence enough in those friends who examine these records to commit to their candor.]
A person at table asked me whether I "went in for rum as a steady drink?"—His manner made the question highly offensive, but I restrained myself, and answered thus:—
Rum I take to be the name which unwashed moralists apply alike to the product distilled from molasses and the noblest juices of the vineyard. Burgundy "in all its sunset glow" is rum. Champagne, "the foaming wine of Eastern France," is rum. Hock, which our friend, the Poet, speaks of as:
"The Rhine's breastmilk, gushing cold and bright, Pale as the moon, and maddening as her light,"
is rum. Sir, I repudiate the loathsome vulgarism as an insult to the first miracle wrought by the Founder of our religion! I address myself to the company.—I believe in temperance, nay, almost in abstinence, as a rule for healthy people. I trust that I practise both. But let me tell you, there are companies of men of genius into which I sometimes go, where the atmosphere of intellect and sentiment is so much more stimulating than alcohol, that, if I thought fit to take wine, it would be to keep me sober.
Among the gentlemen that I have known, few, if any, were ruined by drinking. My few drunken acquaintances were generally ruined before they became drunkards. The habit of drinking is often a vice, no doubt,—sometimes a misfortune,—as when an almost irresistible hereditary propensity exists to indulge in it,—but oftenest of all a punishment.
Empty heads,—heads without ideas in wholesome variety and sufficient number to furnish food for the mental clockwork,— ill-regulated heads, where the faculties are not under the control of the will,—these are the ones that hold the brains which their owners are so apt to tamper with, by introducing the appliances we have been talking about. Now, when a gentleman's brain is empty or ill-regulated, it is, to a great extent, his own fault; and so it is simple retribution, that, while he lies slothfully sleeping or aimlessly dreaming, the fatal habit settles on him like a vampyre, and sucks his blood, fanning him all the while with its hot wings into deeper slumber or idler dreams! I am not such a hard-souled being as to apply this to the neglected poor, who have had no chance to fill their heads with wholesome ideas, and to be taught the lesson of self-government. I trust the tariff of Heaven has an ad valorem scale for them,—and all of us.
But to come back to poets and artists;—if they really are more prone to the abuse of stimulants,—and I fear that this is true,—the reason of it is only too clear. A man abandons himself to a fine frenzy, and the power which flows through him, as I once explained to you, makes him the medium of a great poem or a great picture. The creative action is not voluntary at all, but automatic; we can only put the mind into the proper attitude, and wait for the wind, that blows where it listeth, to breathe over it. Thus the true state of creative genius is allied to reverie, or dreaming. If mind and body were both healthy, and had food enough and fair play, I doubt whether any men would be more temperate than the imaginative classes. But body and mind often flag,—perhaps they are ill-made to begin with, underfed with bread or ideas, over-worked, or abused in some way. The automatic action, by which genius wrought its wonders, fails. There is only one thing which can rouse the machine; not will,—that cannot reach it; nothing but a ruinous agent, which hurries the wheels awhile and soon eats out the heart of the mechanism. The dreaming faculties are always the dangerous ones, because their mode of action can be imitated by artificial excitement; the reasoning ones are safe, because they imply continued voluntary effort.
I think you will find it true, that, before any vice can fasten on a man, body, mind, or moral nature must be debilitated. The mosses and fungi gather on sickly trees, not thriving ones; and the odious parasites which fasten on the human frame choose that which is already enfeebled. Mr. Walker, the hygeian humorist, declared that he had such a healthy skin it was impossible for any impurity to stick to it, and maintained that it was an absurdity to wash a face which was of necessity always clean. I don't know how much fancy there was in this; but there is no fancy in saying that the lassitude of tired-out operatives, and the languor of imaginative natures in their periods of collapse, and the vacuity of minds untrained to labor and discipline, fit the soul and body for the germination of the seeds of intemperance.
Whenever the wandering demon of Drunkenness finds a ship adrift,—no steady wind in its sails, no thoughtful pilot directing its course,— he steps on board, takes the helm, and steers straight for the maelstrom.
——I wonder if you know the terrible smile? [The young fellow whom they call John winked very hard, and made a jocular remark, the sense of which seemed to depend on some double meaning of the word smile. The company was curious to know what I meant.]
There are persons—I said—who no sooner come within sight of you than they begin to smile, with an uncertain movement of the mouth, which conveys the idea that they are thinking about themselves, and thinking, too, that you are thinking they are thinking about themselves,—and so look at you with a wretched mixture of self-consciousness, awkwardness, and attempts to carry off both, which are betrayed by the cowardly behavior of the eye and the tell-tale weakness of the lips that characterize these unfortunate beings.
——Why do you call them unfortunate, Sir?—asked the divinity-student.
Because it is evident that the consciousness of some imbecility or other is at the bottom of this extraordinary expression. I don't think, however, that these persons are commonly fools. I have known a number, and all of them were intelligent. I think nothing conveys the idea of underbreeding more than this self-betraying smile. Yet I think this peculiar habit, as well as that of meaningless blushing, may be fallen into by very good people who meet often, or sit opposite each other at table. A true gentleman's face is infinitely removed from all such paltriness,—calm-eyed, firm-mouthed. I think Titian understood the look of a gentleman as well as anybody that ever lived. The portrait of a young man holding a glove in his hand, in the Gallery of the Louvre, if any of you have seen that collection, will remind you of what I mean.
——Do I think these people know the peculiar look they have?—I cannot say; I hope not; I am afraid they would never forgive me, if they did. The worst of it is, the trick is catching; when one meets one of these fellows, he feels a tendency to the same manifestation. The Professor tells me there is a muscular slip, a dependence of the platysma myoides, which is called the risorius Santorini.
——Say that once more,—exclaimed the young fellow mentioned above.
The Professor says there is a little fleshy slip called Santorini's laughing-muscle. I would have it cut out of my face, if I were born with one of those constitutional grins upon it. Perhaps I am uncharitable in my judgment of those sour-looking people I told you of the other day, and of these smiling folks. It may be that they are born with these looks, as other people are with more generally recognized deformities. Both are bad enough, but I had rather meet three of the scowlers than one of the smilers.
——There is another unfortunate way of looking, which is peculiar to that amiable sex we do not like to find fault with. There are some very pretty, but, unhappily, very ill-bred women, who don't understand the law of the road with regard to handsome faces. Nature and custom would, no doubt, agree in conceding to all males the right of at least two distinct looks at every comely female countenance, without any infraction of the rules of courtesy or the sentiment of respect. The first look is necessary to define the person of the individual one meets so as to avoid it in passing. Any unusual attraction detected in a first glance is a sufficient apology for a second,—not a prolonged and impertinent stare, but an appreciating homage of the eyes, such as a stranger may inoffensively yield to a passing image. It is astonishing how morbidly sensitive some vulgar beauties are to the slightest demonstration of this kind. When a lady walks the streets, she leaves her virtuous-indignation countenance at home; she knows well enough that the street is a picture-gallery, where pretty faces framed in pretty bonnets are meant to be seen, and everybody has a right to see them.
——When we observe how the same features and style of person and character descend from generation to generation, we can believe that some inherited weakness may account for these peculiarities. Little snapping-turtles snap—so the great naturalist tells us—before they are out of the egg-shell. I am satisfied, that, much higher up in the scale of life, character is distinctly shown at the age of —2 or —3 months.
——My friend, the Professor, has been full of eggs lately. [This remark excited a burst of hilarity, which I did not allow to interrupt the course of my observations.] He has been reading the great book where he found the fact about the little snapping-turtles mentioned above. Some of the things he has told me have suggested several odd analogies enough.
There are half a dozen men, or so, who carry in their brains the ovarian eggs of the next generation's or century's civilization. These eggs are not ready to be laid in the form of books as yet; some of them are hardly ready to be put into the form of talk. But as rudimentary ideas or inchoate tendencies, there they are; and these are what must form the future. A man's general notions are not good for much, unless he has a crop of these intellectual ovarian eggs in his own brain, or knows them as they exist in the minds of others. One must be in the habit of talking with such persons to get at these rudimentary germs of thought; for their development is necessarily imperfect, and they are moulded on new patterns, which must be long and closely studied. But these are the men to talk with. No fresh truth ever gets into a book.
"——A good many fresh lies get in, anyhow",—said one of the company.
I proceeded in spite of the interruption.—All uttered thought, my friend, the Professor, says, is of the nature of an excretion. Its materials have been taken in, and have acted upon the system, and been reacted on by it; it has circulated and done its office in one mind before it is given out for the benefit of others. It may be milk or venom to other minds; but, in either case, it is something which the producer has had the use of and can part with. A man instinctively tries to get rid of his thought in conversation or in print so soon as it is matured; but it is hard to get at it as it lies imbedded, a mere potentiality, the germ of a germ, in his intellect.
——Where are the brains that are fullest of these ovarian eggs of thought?—I decline mentioning individuals. The producers of thought, who are few, the "jobbers" of thought, who are many, and the retailers of thought, who are numberless, are so mixed up in the popular apprehension, that it would be hopeless to try to separate them before opinion has had time to settle. Follow the course of opinion on the great subjects of human interest for a few generations or centuries, get its parallax, map out a small arc of its movement, see where it tends, and then see who is in advance of it or even with it; the world calls him hard names probably; but if you would find the man of the future, you must look into the folds of his cerebral convolutions.
[The divinity-student looked a little puzzled at this suggestion, as if he did not see exactly where he was to come out, if he computed his arc too nicely. I think it possible it might cut off a few corners of his present belief, as it has cut off martyr-burning and witch-hanging;—but time will show,—time will show, as the old gentleman opposite says.]
——Oh,—here is that copy of verses I told you about.
SPRING HAS COME. Intra Muros.
The sunbeams, lost for half a year, Slant through my pane their morning rays; For dry Northwesters cold and clear, The East blows in its thin blue haze.
And first the snowdrop's bells are seen, Then close against the sheltering wall The tulip's horn of dusky green, The peony's dark unfolding ball.
The golden-chaliced crocus burns; The long narcissus-blades appear; The cone-beaked hyacinth returns, And lights her blue-flamed chandelier.
The willow's whistling lashes, wrung By the wild winds of gusty March, With sallow leaflets lightly strung, Are swaying by the tufted larch.
The elms have robed their slender spray With full-blown flower and embryo leaf; Wide o'er the clasping arch of day Soars like a cloud their hoary chief.
—See the proud tulip's flaunting cup, That flames in glory for an hour,— Behold it withering,—then look up,— How meek the forest-monarch's flower!—
When wake the violets, Winter dies; When sprout the elm-buds, Spring is near; When lilacs blossom, Summer cries, "Bud, little roses! Spring is here!"
The windows blush with fresh bouquets, Cut with the May-dew on their lips; The radish all its bloom displays, Pink; as Aurora's finger-tips.
Nor less the flood of light that showers On beauty's changed corolla-shades,— The walks are gay as bridal bowers With rows of many-petalled maids.
The scarlet shell-fish click and clash In the blue barrow where they slide; The horseman, proud of streak and splash, Creeps homeward from his morning ride.
Here comes the dealer's awkward string, With neck in rope and tail in knot,— Rough colts, with careless country-swing, In lazy walk or slouching trot.
—Wild filly from the mountain-side, Doomed to the close and chafing thills, Lend me thy long, untiring stride To seek with thee thy western hills!
I hear the whispering voice of Spring, The thrush's trill, the cat-bird's cry, Like some poor bird with prisoned wing That sits and sings, but longs to fly.
Oh for one spot of living green,— One little spot where leaves can grow,— To love unblamed, to walk unseen, To dream above, to sleep below!
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THE PRESIDENT'S PROPHECY OF PEACE.
There was joy in the national palace on the eve of May-day. The heart of the Chief of Thirty Millions was full of gladness. It was a high holiday at the capital of the nation. Jubilant processions crowded the streets. The boom of cannon told to the heavens that some great event, full of glory and of blessing, was just happily born into the history of the world. Strains of triumphant music at once expressed and stirred afresh the rapture which the new fruition of a deferred and doubting hope had kindled in myriad breasts. Rejoicing multitudes swarmed before the palace gate, and with congratulatory shouts compelled the presence of the Nation's Head. He stood before them proud and happy, and answered to the transports of their joy with a responsive sympathy. He rejoiced in the prospect of the peace and prosperity with which the occasion of this jubilee was to cheer and bless the land in all its borders. His chosen friends and counsellors surrounded him and echoed his prophecies of good. A kindred homage was next paid to the virtuous artificers of the new-wrought blessing, without whose shaping hands it would have perished before the sight, or taken some dreadful form of mischief and of horror. Their words of cheer and exultation, too, swelled the surging tide of patriotic emotion till it overflowed again. Thus with the thunder of artillery, with the animating sound of drum and trumpet, with the more persuasive music of impassioned words, with shoutings and with revelry, these jocund compeers, from the highest to the lowest, mingled into one by the alchemy of a common joy, chased the hours of that memorable night and gave strange welcome to the morn of May.
What great happiness had just befallen, which should thus transport with joy the chief magistrate of a mighty nation, and send an answering pulse of rapture through all the veins of his capital? The armies of the Republic had surely just returned in triumph from some dubious battle joined with a barbarian invader who threatened to trample all her cherished rights, and the institutions which are their safeguard, under his iron heel. Perhaps the Angel of Mercy had at length set again the seals upon some wide-wasting pestilence which had long been walking in darkness, with Terror going before her and Death following after. Or was it the desolating course of Famine that had been stayed, as it swept, gaunt and hungry, over the land, and consumed its inhabitants from off its face? Peradventure, the prayers of holy men had prevailed, and the heavens which had been as brass were melted, and the earth which had been but ashes revived again, a living altar, crowned afresh with flowers, and prophetic of the thank-offerings of harvests. Or it might be that a great discoverer had added a new world to the domain of human happiness, by some invention which should lighten the toils and multiply the innocent satisfactions of mankind. Or had virtue and intelligence won some signal victory over barbarism and ignorance, and blessed with liberty and knowledge regions long abandoned to despotism and to darkness? These had been, indeed, occasions on which the chief ruler of a great people might fitly lead the anthem of a nation's thanksgiving.
But the joy which thus overflowed the hearts of President and people at the metropolis of our politics, and which has sprinkled with its cordial drops kindred spirits scattered far and wide over the land, welled up from no wholesome sources such as these. It was no deliverance from barbarous enemies, from pestilential disease, from meagre famine, that moved those raptures,—no joy at ignorance dissipated, barbarism dispelled, or tyranny put down. The "peace" and the "prosperity," the prophecy of which was so sweet to the souls that took sweet counsel together on that night, were of a kind which only souls tuned to such unison and so subtly trained could fully comprehend and rightly estimate. This gentle peace, thus joyfully presaged, is to be won by the submission of an inchoate State to a form of government subjecting its inhabitants to institutions abhorrent to their souls and fatal to their prosperity, forced upon them at the point of the bowie-knife and the muzzle of the revolver by hordes of sordid barbarians from a hostile soil, their natural and necessary enemies. And the sweet harbinger of this blessed peace, the halcyon which broods over the stormy waves and tells of the calm at hand, is a bribe so cunningly devised that its contrivers firmly believe it will buy up the souls of these much-injured men, and reconcile them to the shame and infamy of trading away their lights and their honor as the boot of a dirty bargain in the land-market. And the "prosperity" which is to wait upon this happy "peace" glows with a like golden promise. It is a prosperity that shall bless Kansas into a Virginia or a North Carolina by virtue of the same means which has crowned the Slave-country with the wealth, the civilization, and the intelligence it has to brag of. It is such a prosperity as ever follows after the footsteps of Slavery,—a prosperity which is to blight the soil, degrade the minds, debauch the morals, impoverish the substance, and subvert the independence of a loathing population, if the joy of the President and his directors is to be made full. Such is the message of peace and good-will which thrilled with prophetic raptures the hearts which flowed together on that happy night, and such the blessed prospects which made the air of Washington vocal with the ecstasies of triumph.
The history of the world is full enough of illustrations of "the Art of making a Great Kingdom a Small One." The art of degrading the imperial idea of a true republic from its just preeminence among the polities of mankind, of quenching the principles of eternal right which are the star-points of its divine crown, of trailing the shining whiteness of its robes in the dust, and making it an object of contempt rather than of adoration, has never been taught more emphatically than in the examples furnished by our own later annals. If Mr. Buchanan and his predecessor had set themselves to work, of good set purpose, to bring republican institutions into derision, and to prove that the American experiment was a dead failure, they could not have proceeded more cunningly with their task. Their aim has been, as it has seemed, to give the lie to all the principles on which it has been assumed that these institutions rest, and to show that their real object is to subject the many to the government of the few, as the manner is of the nations round about. The thin veil of decent falsehood, under which the caution of earlier time had decorously hid this fact, has been torn aside by the rude intrepidity of assurance which long-continued success had fostered. The problem to be solved being to prove the chief axiom of our political science, that the people have a right to self-government and to the choice of their own institutions, to be a lie, it is worked out in the presence of an admiring world, after this fashion.
The old Ordinance—which set limits to Slavery, and which, as it preceded the Constitution, should in honor and equity be taken as a condition precedent to it, and the later pledge of the South, that this contract should be sacredly kept on the other side of a certain parallel of latitude, having both been infamously violated for the sake of extending the domain of Slavery into regions solemnly dedicated to Liberty, the entire energies of the General Government and of the political party it represented were put forth to crystallize this double lie into the institutions of Kansas, and thus take it out of the category of theory and reduce it into that of fact. The reluctance of the inhabitants of the young Territory went for nothing, and provision was soon effectually made to overcome their resistance. Every form of terrorism, to which tyrants all alike instinctively resort to disarm resistance to their will, was launched at the property, the lives, and the happiness of the defenceless settlers. Hordes of barbarians, as we have said before, from every part of the Southern hive, but especially from the savage tribes of the bordering Missouri, poured themselves over the devoted land. Murder, arson, robbery, every outrage that could be offered to man or woman, waited on their footsteps and stalked abroad with them in their forays against Freedom. When the first steps were to be taken towards the organization of a government, they precipitated themselves upon the Territory in fiercer numbers. They made themselves masters of the polling-places; they drove away by violence and threats the peaceable inhabitants and lawful voters, and by open force and unblushing fraud elected themselves or their creatures the lawgivers of the commonwealth about to be created. So outrageous were the crimes of these miscreants at this and subsequent periods, that even the very creatures of Pierce and Buchanan, chosen especially for their supposed fitness to assist in these villanies, turned away, one after another, sickened at the sight of them, and forfeited forever the favor of their masters by shrinking from an unqualified and unhesitating obedience.
The Constitution, contrived by the wretches thus nefariously clothed in the stolen sovereignty of the true inhabitants of Kansas, of course made Slavery an integral part of the institutions of the State. A code of laws was enacted absolutely without parallel in the history of the world for insolent trampling down of rights and for bloody cruelty of penalties,—laws so abominable as even to call down upon them, from his place in the Senate, the emphatic condemnation of so veteran a soldier in the service of Slavery as General Cass, now Mr. Buchanan's Secretary of State. These Territorial laws, thus infamously vile, thus made in defiance of the well-known will of the great majority of the people of Kansas, Mr. Pierce hastened to recognize as the authentic expression of the mind of the people there, and exerted all the moral and all the physical force of the government to maintain them in their authority. Since that magistrate was kicked aside as no longer available for the uses of Slavery, because of the very infamy he had won in its service, Mr. Buchanan, unlessoned by his fate, has adopted his views and carried out his policy.
We do not propose to follow this march of shameful events step by step, nor to speak of them in their exact chronological order, nor yet to specify to which of these magistrates the credit of any one of them belongs, inasmuch as the philosophy and method of the policy of the one and the other are absolutely identical. We have space only to glance at unquestionable facts, and to trace them to their necessary motives. To maintain the supremacy of this usurpation, and the Draconic laws made under it, Mr. Pierce poured in the squadrons of the Republic, to dragoon the rebellious freemen into obedience to what their souls abhorred, and what their reason told them was of no more just binding force upon them than an edict of the Emperor of China. When the actual inhabitants of the Territory had met in Convention and framed a Constitution excluding Slavery, and had adopted it, and the legislature authorized by it met, its members were dispersed by national soldiers, detailed to compel submission to the behests of the Slavemastery of the Government and of the nation. These troops have been kept on foot ever since, to intimidate the people, to assist as special police in the arrest and detention of political prisoners charged with crimes against the Usurpation, and to sustain the Federal governors and judges in carrying out their instructions for the Subjugation of the majority by legal chicane or by military violence.
Such was the genesis of the Lecompton Constitution, and such the nursing it had received at the hands of the paternal government at Washington. In due course of time it was presented to Congress as the charter under which the people of Kansas asked to receive the concession of their right of State government; and the scene of war was forthwith transferred from those distant fields to the chambers of national legislation, under the immediate eye of the chief of the state. This high officer soon dispelled any delusive doubts which, for the purpose of securing his election, he had permitted to be ventilated during the late Presidential campaign, that he would at least see fair play in the struggle between Slavery and Freedom in Kansas. With indecent zeal and unscrupulous partisanship, he concentrated all the energies of his administration, and employed the whole force of the influence and the patronage of the nation, to obtain the indorsement by Congress of the Lecompton Constitution, and thus to compel the people of Kansas to pass under the yoke of their Slaveholding invaders. The true origin and character of that vile fabrication had been made plain to every eye that was willing to see, and the abhorrence in which it was held by nearly the entire population of the Territory put beyond question by more than one trial vote. Yet it was embraced as the test measure of the Administration to prove the unbroken fealty of the President to the Power which is mightier than he. Victory was reckoned upon in advance, as certain and easy. A servile, or rather a commanding majority in the Senate,—nearly half of that body being of the class that rules the rulers,—was ready to do whatever dirty and detestable work was demanded of them. A majority of more than thirty in the House, elected as supporters of the Administration, seemed to make success there also an inevitable necessity. But by reason of the vastly larger proportion of members from the Free States in that body, and their greater nearness to their constituents, these reasonable expectations were disappointed. Men who had taken service in the Democratic ranks, and had been faithful unto that day, refused to obey the word of command when it took this tone and was informed with this purpose. And for a season the plague was stayed, and sanguine hearts trusted that it was stayed forever.