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-Woe for gifted souls on high!
MONITIONS ON THE FLIGHT OF TIME.
WHATEVER we see on every side reminds us of the lapse of time and the flux of life. The day and night succeed each other, the rotation of seasons diversifies the year, the sun rises, attains the meridian, declines, and sets; and the moon every night changes its form.
The day has been considered as an image of the year, and the year as the representation of life. The morning answers to the spring, and the spring to childhood and youth; the noon corresponds to the summer, and the summer to the strength of manhood.
The evening is an emblem of autumn, and autumn of declining life. The night with its silence and darkness shows the winter, in which all the powers of vegetation are benumbed; and the winter points out the time when life shall cease, with its hopes and pleasures.
He that is carried forward, however swiftly, by a motion equable and easy, perceives not the change of place but by the variation of objects." If the wheel of life, which rolls thus silently along, passed on through undistinguishable uniformity, we should never mark its approaches to the end of the course.
If one hour were like another; if the passage of the sun did not show that the day is wasting ; if the change of seasons did not impress upon us the flight of the year; quantities of duration equal to days and years would glide unobserved.
If the parts of time were not variously coloured, we should never discern their departure, or succession, but should live thoughtless of the past, and careless of the future, without will, and perhaps without power, to compute the periods of life, or to compare the time which is already lost with that which may probably remain.
But the course of time is so visibly marked, that it is observed even by the birds of passage and by nations who have raised their minds very little above animal instinct.
There are human beings whose language does not supply them with words by which they can number five, but I have read of none that have not names for day and night, for summer and winter.
Yet it is certain that these admonitions of nature, however forcible, however importunate, are too often vain ; and that many who mark with such accuracy the course of time, appear to have little sensibility of the decline of life: every man has something to do which he neglects ; every man has faults to conquer which he delays to combat.
So little do we accustom ourselves to consider the effects of time, that things necessary and certain often surprise us like unexpected contingencies. We leave the beauty in her bloom, and after an absence of twenty years, wonder, at our return, to find her faded.
We meet those whom we left children, and can scarcely persuade ourselves to treat them as men.
From this inattention, so general and so mischievous, let it be every man's study to exempt himself. Let him that desires to see others happy make haste
to give while his gift can be enjoyed, and remember that every moment of delay takes away something from the value of his benefaction. - And let him, who purposes his own happiness, reflect, that while he forms his purpose the day rolls on, and the night cometh when no man can work.
No term is more familiar to every body than the term air. But if an uninstructed person were asked what the air was, his first answer would probably be, that it was nothing at all. This hand, he might say, which is now plunged in water, on being drawn out of the water is said to be lifted into the air—which means merely that there is nothing, or only vacancy, around it. In other words, he might say, the air is just the name that is given to the empty space, which is immediately over the surface of the earth.
A little reflection, however, or a question or two more, would probably raise some doubts as to the correctness of this philosophy. If the air be nothing, it might be asked, what is the wind? Or what is it, even when there is no wind, which makes very light substances wave or flutter on being drawn through the air, or when they are merely dropped from the hand, detains them on their way to the ground? Or, to take another illustration from the commonest experience, who is there that has not seen a bladder distended or swollen with the air ? If the air be nothing, how comes a portion of it to present such palpable resistance to pressure, when thus confined ? The truth is, the air in which we walk is as much
a real and substantial part of our world as the earth on which we walk. Empty space would no more do for our bodies to live in, than it would for our feet to tread upon. The atmosphere, that is, the case of air in which the solid globe is enveloped, is composed of matter as well as that solid globe itself. As the one is matter in a solid, so the other is matter in a fluid state. It is merely a thinner fluid than water, which also rests upon and encompasses a great part of the earth; but as fishes exist and can only exist in their ocean of water, so do we exist and can exist only in our ocean of air.
THE VISIBLE FIRMAMENT.
If the sun, at the same distance it now is, were larger, it would light the whole world, but it would consume it with heat. If it were smaller, the earth would be all ice, and could not be inhabited by men. What compass has been stretched from heaven to earth, and taken such measurements? The changes of the sun make the variety of the seasons, which we find so delightful.
The spring checks the cold winds, wakens 'the flowers, and gives the promise of fruits. The summer brings the riches of the harvest. The autumn displays the fruits that spring has promised. Winter, which is the night of the year, treasures up all its riches, only in order that the following spring may bring them forth with new beauty. Thus nature, so variously adorned, presents alternately her beautiful changes, that man may never cease to admire.
Let us look up again at the immense concave above us, where sparkle the countless stars. If it bę solid, who is the architect? Who is it that has fastened in it, at regular distances, such grand and luminous bodies ? Who makes this vaulted skỳ to turn round us so regularly ?
If, on the contrary, the heavens are only immense spaces, filled with Auid bodies, like the air that surrounds us, how is it that so many solid bodies float in it, without interfering one with another? After so many ages that men have been making astronomical observations, they have discovered no derangement in the heavens. Can a fluid body give such a constant and regular order to the substances that float on its bosom? But what is this almost countless multitude of stars for ? God has sown them in the heavens, as a magnificent prince would adorn his garments with precious stones.
COWPER, ON THE RECEIPT OF HIS MOTHER'S
O that those lips had language ! Life has pass'd