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minded of the fate of Hesperus, who, journeying up Mount Atlas to observe the motions of the planets, and never returning, was fabled to have been transformed into the star of evening. When the eye glances over the group forming Cassiopeia, we think of that splendid star which was seen in its arena in 1572, with a size and brilliancy equal to Jupiter, and which gradually disappeared in eighteen months, having, during that period, been an object of astonishment and terror to every part of Europe. As we watch in the middle of August for the emersion of the Dog-star from the rays of the sun, we reflect that from the rising of this, the largest and the brightest of the stars, the Egyptians and Ethiopians calculated the beginning of their year. When Arcturus ascends in the hemisphere, we listen in imagination to the lyre of Iopas, singing the causes of the sun's eclipses, the varied motions of the moon, whence proceed showers and meteors, whence the rainy Hyades, and whence the bright Arcturus. While we contemplate an eclipse, we behold in it an image of the gigantic yet ruined form of the lost archangel,
Standing like a tower !" As we mark the rising of a comet, the imagination wings into the infinite regions of space, or we dwell on the mortal combats with which the world has been desolated—on Cambyses in Ethiopia ; Alexander in India; Brennus in Greece ; Attila in Italy; Odin in Scandinavia ; Cortez in Mexico-all, to the astonished nations they invaded, seemed like comets, which
" From their horrid hair
Shake pestilence and war!" What were the awful raptures of a Galileo, a Descartes, a Copernicus, or a Newton, no one but those conscious of a flight as soaring are capable of con
ceiving. But from the feebler impulse of an humbler mind, I am persuaded, my Lelius, that they assimilated in a much higher degree than ourselves with the Eternal mind. I have ever felt an intense delight in the cultivation of astronomical sci. ence; but I am ready to confess that, after ventu. ring into the ocean of infinity, I desisted for some time out of pure cowardice. Satellites, planets, and · suns hanging on their centres in the arched void of heaven by a single law; and systems, connected to each other by the revolution of comets, all floating in the boundless inane, were too overpowering, too mystic and magnificent for a mental ray so limited as mine.* Passing the bounds of place and time (flammantia mænia mundi), I could glance from earth to heaven, and give to the various orbs their various appellations, and calculate their courses. But when I began to perceive that the work of creation is always going on; that the alteration of one system produces the germination of another; that though light travels with almost incredible swiftness, there exist bodies which, from the immensity of their distance, have not yet visited the eye of the astrono. mer; when I began to perceive that even were it possible to transport myself to the most distant of those orbs which are unmeasured suns to immeasurable systems, I should still only be standing in the vestibule of Nature, imagination ceased to have power to soar, feeling became painful, and the faculty of thought, by too great extension, seemed lost, and scattered into nothing.
Some one inquiring of Anaxagoras for what he *“The progress of astronomy," says Laplace,“ has been the constant triumph of philosophy over the illusions of the senses." In some studies the imagination can supply what is wanting to perfection : in astronomy, imagination is in itself nothing : it is, as it were, less than nothing. Thuse stars which are observed to roll round other stars, must be suns rolling round suns; for were they merely as planets are to our sun, it is evident they could not be seen at all.
was made, he replied, “ To contemplate the stars." All great poets, too, have turned their eyes with ad. miration to the heavens. Hence we have so many astronomical allusions in Scripture, in Homer, Hé. siod, Theocritus, Virgil, Horace, Lucan, and Silius Italicus ; Tasso, Shakspeare, and Spenser.
Proclus declares that the heavens subsist terrestrially, and the earth celestially; thereby implying that the earth and stars are of the same nature. In the hymns of Orpheus, too, the same sentiment is implied, and who in this connexion is not reminded of that fine passage in Akenside ?
" Ere the radiant sun
Then lived th' ALMIGHTY ONE." What life so delightful as that passed in investigating the laws, analogies, and resources of Nature ? and yet many astronomers measure motions, distances, and magnitudes as seamen compute their logs, or architects measure their domes and columnswith no poetry, no enthusiasm ! Far different, however, is it with others, who behold a present Deity in every movement of the vast machine. To them all things present the sublime effects of Divine workmanship; where the splendour of the materials yield to the surpassing power and skill of the architect who moulded them into form and gave them motion.
At Athens Astronomy was persecuted ; at Rome, not only neglected, but almost despised ; at Alexan
cessively persecuted, tolerated, and cultivated, but seldom greatly patronised. To whatever age, however, we direct our view, we behold astronomers removed from ordinary men; less subject to violent passions, less devoted to worldly interests; more
alive to moral beauty, and more sensitive to the splendour and magnificence of elevated actions.
The Stoics, who were ignorant of the power which electricity possesses of giving life, as it were, to the elements of matter, resolved air, earth, fire, and water into each other; and as magnetism is said to have the property of suspending gravitation, 80 they imagined (as Nature delights in circles and ellipses) that there existed a power which controlled the progress of events, and which, after a certain era, caused them to revert into their respective original channels; as water is resolved into vapour by heat, and vapour back into water by cold ; so that every event was supposed to be bound perpetually to recur; the same number and description of plants, insects, birds, and other animals again to animate and adorn the earth ; and the same beings, subject to their prior passions, again to exercise the same virtues and vices, and to be liable to the same calamities and disorders as in their antecedent state.
This opinion was maintained by the Brahmins and Egyptians, and is still entertained by the mod. ern Siamese. Plato and Virgil admitted it, with some modifications. It is implied in Boëthius's Consolation of Philosophy, and is fully described in the Dabistan. The period of revolution is said to close, and another to begin, when all the planets are in conjunction; alternately in the signs Cancer and Capricorn ;* at which times new impulses are
+ The Druids believed in these periodical changes, which were sometimes to arise from the power of fire, and at others from that of water. Cicero entertained a similar belief, as well as Seneca; and Berosus taught, that when all the planets meet in Cancer, the world is changed by a conflagration; when in Capricorn, by a deluge.
Nicias believed that the sun in the space of eleven thousand years had changed his place of setting from east to west, and froin west to east. Sonne have taught, that in 12,960 years the north pole will be viewed as the south pole, and that in 25,920 it will again revert to the north.
supposed to be given, and new circuits to commence. Darwin, in the following passage, seems to have imagined that all the planetary bodies would be drawn into one vortex, and thence emerge after revolutions of certain periods : “Roll on, ye stars, exult in youthful prime, Mark with bright curves the printless steps of time; Near and more near your beamy cars approach, And lessening orbs on lessening orbs encroach. Flowers of the sky! ye too to age must yield, Frail as your silken sisters of the field ! : Star after star from heaven's high arch shall rush, Suns sink on suns, and systems systems crush; Headlong, extinct, to one dark centre fall, And Death, and Night, and Chaos mingle all ! Till o'er the wreck, emerging from the storm, Immortal Nature lifts her changeful form: Mounts from her funeral pyre on wings of flame, And soars and shines another and the same !"
The Jews believe that when the world has attained the age of six thousand years, there will be an eternal Sabbath. * Newton appears to have entertained the idea of a complete period, and the beginning of a new erat so far as to suppose that the
Ptolemy, Tycho, Riccioli, and Cassini believed our system to have a fixed period of career, varying from 24,800 years to 36,000 ; Copernicus to 258,000. It has been calculated, that from the time in which Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars, Ju. piter, and Saturn are next in conjunction, they will be in conjunction again after a period of 280,000 years ; after having made the following revolutions :
Saturn . . . . . . . . 9,516
148,878 Earth . . . . . .
455,122 Mercury .
1,162,577 * This prophecy is received from Elias the Cabalist: two, two thousand years before the law; two under the law; and two immediately under the guidance and protection of the Messiah.
† The Scandinavians believed in the destruction of the world, which they called the “ twilight of the gods," and in the reno