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continued. At this time, although the moon was down, yet its absence produced little change in the general illumination ; the landscape appeared still as if enlightened by the moon, and it was easy to discern the time of night by a watch, from the light of the aurora."
On the preceding page, is a view of the Aurora as witnessed by the French philosophers in the year 1838–9, at Borekop, bay of Alten, coast of W. Finmark, lat. 700 N. It presented the form of a scroll with folds overlapping, and waving like a flag agitated by the wind. Its brightness varied very suddenly, and the colors changed from bright red at the base, to green in the middle portions, and yellow at the top. The brightness would diminish, and colors fade, sometimes suddenly, and sometimes by slow degrees. After this, the fragments would be gathered, and the folds reproduced; the beams seemed to converge at the zenith which was doubtless, the effect of perspective.
But it is in the Arctic regions that this phenomenon is witnessed in its greatest splendor, and presenting a variety of the most beautiful tints. In that cold region, clouds seldom obscure the sky, nothing in the form of fog or mist veils the deep blue of the
173 lieavens, every star blazes forth like a diamond, and a thousand icy pinnacles throw back their light, accompanied with magnificent prismatic displays. The bold hunters who penetrate the arctic circle in the pursuit of the silver fox and the sable, witness its grandest exhibitions. The whole sky is lighted up with the bright coruscations, and it is said that a rushing sound, like that of winds sweeping over a distant forest is heard. The inhabitants of the Shetland islands call the streamers merry dancers.
The appearance of the aurora, and the emotions it excites, are thus beautifully described by Whittier:
A light is troubling Heaven! A strange, dull glow.
Hangs like a half-quench'd veil of fire between
The blue sky and the earth ; and the shorn stars
Gleam faint and sickly through it. Day hath left
No token of its parting, and the blush
With which it welcom'd the embrace of Night,
Has faded from the blue cheek of the West; .
Yet from the solemn darkness of the North,
“Stretch'd o'er the empty place” by God's own hand,
Trembles and waves that curtain of pale fire,
Tinging with baleful and unnatural hues
The winter snows beneath. It is as if
Nature's last curse--the fearful plague of fire,
Were working in the elements, and the skies
Even as a scroll consuming.
Lo, a change !
The fiery wonder sinks, and all along
The dim horizon of the clouded North
A dark, deep crimson, rests a sea of blood,
Untroubled by a wave. And over all
Bendeth a luminous arch of pale, pure white,
Clearly contrasted with the blue above,
And the dark red beneath it. Glorious !
How like a pathway of the Shining Ones,
The pure and beautiful intelligences
Who minister in Heaven, and offer up
Their praise as incense; - or like that which rosa
Before the pilgrim Prophet, when the tread
Of the most holy angels brighten'd it,
And in his dream the haunted sleeper saw
The ascending and descending of the blest !
And yet another change! O'er half the sky
A long, bright flame is trembling like the sword
Of the great angel at the guarded gate
Of Paradise, when all the holy streams
And beautiful bowers of Eden land blush'd red
Beneath its awful waving, and the eyes
Of the lone outcasts quailed before its glare,
As from the immediate questioning of God.
And men are gazing to these “ signs in Heaven”
With most unwonted earnestness; and fair
And beautiful brows are redd’ning in the light
Of this strange vision of the upper air :
Even as the dwellers of Jerusalem,
Beleaguer'd by the Roman - when the skies
Of Palestine were thronged with fiery shapes,
And from Antonia's tower the mailed Jew
Saw his own image pictured in the air
Contending with the heathen; and the priest
Beside the temple's altar veiled his face
From that fire-written language of the sky.
Oh, God of mystery ! these fires are thine !
Thy breath hath kindled them, and there they burn,
Amid the permanent glory of Thy heavens,
That earliest revelation, written out
In starry language, visible to all,
Lifting unto Thyself the heavy eyes
Of the down looking spirits of the earth !
The Indian leaning on his hunting bow,
Where the ice mountains hem the frozen pole,
And the hoar architect of Winter piles
With tireless hand his snowy pyramids,
Looks upward in deep awe - while all around
The eternal ices kindle with the hues
Which tremble on their gleaming pinnacles,
And sharp, cold ridges of enduring frost,
And points his child to the Great Spirit's fire.
Alas! for us who boast of deeper lore,
If, in the maze of our vague theories,
Our speculations, and our restless aim
To search the secret, and familiarise
The awful things of nature, we forget
Toowo Thy presence in Thy mysteries !