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The Poet and the Alchymist.
AUTHORS of modern date are wealthy fellows;-
The rhimes and novels which cajole us,
But from the waters of Pactolus.
Before this golden age of writers,
Of odes and poems to be twisted
For patrons who have heavy purses.-
All ticketed from A to Izzard;
And though unflatter'd by the dimmest
To find the art of changing metals,
Our starving Poet took occasion
Or laudatory dedication,
For twenty pounds, the secret art,
Which should procure, without the pain
Of metals, chymistry, and fire,
What he so long had sought in vain,
money paid, our bard was hurried
Who, somewhat sublimized and flurried,
Crow'd, caper'd, giggled, seem'd to spurn his
And cried, as he secured the door,
And carefully put to the shutter, "Now, now, the secret I implore;
For God's sake, speak, discover, utter !" With grave and solemn look, the poet Cried" List Oh, list for thus I shew it :
Let this plain truth those ingrates strike,
Who still, though bless'd, new blessings crave,
The Astronomicul Alderman.
THE pedant or scholastikos became
'Or Mr. Miller's, commonly call'd Joe.
Not much excelling in his spelling,
When ridicule he meant to brave,
Said he was more PH. than N.
Meaning thereby, more phool than nave, Though they who knew our cunning Thraso, Pronounced it flattery to say so.—
His civic brethren to express
His "double double toil and trouble,"
And bustling noisy emptiness,
Had christen'd him Sir Hubble Bubble.
This wight ventripotent was dining
That tomb omnivorous-his paunch,
Inflicting many a horrid gash,
Of such supreme beatitude
"Sir," he exclaim'd between his bumpers,
Copernicus and Tycho Brahe,
And all those chaps have had their day,
They've written monstrous lies, Sir,-thumpers !—
The earth stands still-it stands to reason.
Round as a globe?-stuff-humbug-fable!
PROJECTS AND PROJECTORS.
THERE are few persons who are more obnoxious to general ridicule than Projectors. The world seems ever well disposed to enjoy a broad grin at the schemes, and a hearty laugh at the failures, of those who, having the sphere of their vision extended a few yards farther from their nasal organ than their prosing, plodding consociates, are enterprising enough to venture beyond the pale of tangibilities, and seek honour and renown in the boundless field of unachieved discovery."That is impossible," is a favourite phrase of the vulgar. Such folks have a microcosm of their own, which they people with realities, collected from the narrow circle of individual observation; and whether its limits are confined to a yard, or extend to a mile, they hold all without its circle to be fiction; like the islanders of whom we read, who deem their petty spot of earth to comprise the universe, and all beyond it to be sky and ocean. And yet, let me ask these sappers and miners of aërial' castles,-Whose hobby-horses have done so much service to mankind? Where would have been our gas-lights and steamengines; our navigable canals and iron railways; our machines and inventions, the magic potency of which gives wings to the winds and impetus to the waves,-binds the elements in subjection, and places the powers of nature at the disposal of man;-had that glorious spirit of research, which animates the bosoms of the speculative, been quenched by the sarcasms of ignorance? ...... The comforts, the conveniences, the elegances of life-all that gives zest to enjoyment, and charins to existence, are attributable to that spirit, which, in despite of the clamours of prejudice, and the sneers of the knowing, marches onwards with unconquerable perseverance, in full conviction of triumphant success. But for such minds, the world would have remained in its primitive barbarism: science would never have exceeded its nonage; knowledge, confined by the leaden gravity of ignorance, would never have emerged from its prison-house; the arts of civilized life would have yet been undiscovered; and that "god-like spring of action," the human intellect, would for aye have grovelled beneath the iron sway of bigotry and superstition. Out upon the heartless merriment that would crush by its ridicule the longings after hidden knowledge, which lead to such glorious results! Had man ever been content with "things as they are," plodding the same dull road with incurious satisfaction, Time would have grown grey in ignorance: deaf, blind, and stupid, he would never have raised his eyes to Heaven, to discover the glorious phenomena of the stars, nor directed them to Earth, to develope the latent treasures concealed in her bosom; the caves of ocean would have yet been unfathomed, the mysteries of the deep unexplored; and each petty aborigine, in quiescent barbarism, would have formed no wish for intercourse beyond his own paltry community. Man would have felt no care for aught but "meat, clothes, and fire :" thus remaining a fit companion for the brutes by which he was surrounded; and holding all in common with them but the profitless prerogative of speech.
Every attempter at a new discovery, however apparently or really absurd, is, in a degree, the benefactor of his species. Had the an
cients been incited to search after the Philosopher's Stone, or the Infallible Elixir, our knowledge of chemistry, on which we now pride ourselves, would centuries back have been discovered,' and the aggregate of universal amelioration, arising from the extension of knowledge, astonishingly augmented. Time has evinced the achievement of apparent impossibilities. The Marquis of Worcester was laughed at for his Century of Inventions, yet every day furnishes fresh proof of their feasibility. Who is there that does not remember the jokes and sarcasms levelled at Winsor, when he first promulgated his scheme of lighting London with gas? Yet who that indulged in thus ridiculing what he could not comprehend, does not blush at the recollection? Time, I repeat, has proved, and is ever proving, that what appears physically impossible to the narrow capacity of the million, receives that complexion merely from their ignorance of principles. It is daily controverting all our prejudices, and driving us from one strong hold of scepticism to another; reconciling apparent contradictions, compassing assumed impossibilities; and evincing the presumption of our judgment. Apparent absurdities have been so often converted into absolute matters of fact, that we should hesitate now at discouraging the well-known projects of the academicians of Lagoda, were they put forth with becoming solemnity in the form of a " Proposal." Extracting sun-beams from cucumbers, may not be altogether visionary; and as to converting saw-dust into deal-boards, an American paper, not many months ago, trumpeted forth its absolute accomplishment. Another of these Laputan speculations has also been realized, -the substitution of the spider for the silkworm. In the early part of the last century, Bon, a native of Languedoc, succeeded in weaving a pair of silk stockings and a pair of gloves from spiders' threads; and Reaumur, who was deputed by the Royal Academy of Paris to inquire into the matter, confirmed the possibility by actual experiment; though he deemed it scarcely worth the trouble, because Messieurs Spiders, being averse to association, fell to and devoured each other; so that, out of two hundred in a cell, in a little time one or two only would be found alive: added to which, two hundred and eighty of them would only equal the product of one silkworm; and it would require 663,555 spiders to produce a pound of silk.
Flesh and blood have been proved incombustible, since the challenge of the anti-pyrist to bake himself in an oven with a shoulder of mutton; men have walked on the water, and sailed in the air; and Astley's Antipodeans have shewn us, that to strut about with the head downwards is no longer a miracle. Who would ever think of "teaching the young idea how to shoot," by military manoeuvres; and of drilling the human mind into the mysteries of learning by mechanical motions? Yet we see nothing wonderful in all this, now it is achieved; though, had such a project been broached in the reign of our British Solomon, the projector would have had a fair chance of being roasted for a wizard.
Though we are grown wise enough to ridicule the working of wonders by any other than natural means; though we have discarded magic and witchcraft, with all their trumpery, from our creed; there is no reason for doubting the possibility of achieving, by the operations of nature, all they were ever said to have achieved; and thus, although
I am convinced that no inhabitant of the other world, in pity to my wants, would pay me a visit to point out hidden treasure; and I can scarcely expect the luck of that Duke of Burgundy, who, whenever he dreamt of concealed riches, was sure to find them; I yet know that fortunes have been made as suddenly by the natural course of events. The lottery, for instance, though the game be a desperate one, and the chances of gaining frightfully remote, has raised many to sudden and unexpected opulence; and this is doubtless a safer and perhaps a surer method of conjuring up riches, than pulling an old house about your ears in search of buried coin, at the bidding of a spectre who appears in a vision, as was lately achieved by a notable dreamer. I should have little faith, too, in a voyage to the moon performed by magic or on the back of Mahomet's donkey; but I know that Bishop Wilkins, of theoretical notoriety, has very learnedly and scientifically evinced that such a scheme is practicable. Like a true philosopher, he has honestly stated every difficulty, and then overcome it by logical and mathematical reasoning. He proves that if a man can by any artifice or invention raise himself twenty miles above the ground, there is little doubt of his being able to reach the planet, although it is nearly 180,000 miles from the earth, because, beyond that height, the regions of air may be traversed as easily as walking on the ground! for nihil grave est in suo loco: there is no gravity in an object, when it is so far removed from the sphere to which it belongs as to be out of the reach of its influence. That he can raise himself to this attitude, he manifests by a variety of inventions, but he shortens the journey at once by proposing the plan of a brother bishop, who conceiving that swallows, cuckoos, and nightingales, take periodical voyages to the moon, thinks it would be no difficult matter to construct a machine, by which those birds might be made to convey a man thither outright at the beginning of winter, and return with him at the end of the spring! The trifling obstacles of eating, drinking, and sleeping, he readily overcomes. to the first, he thinks it possible that a man may live upon air; thus assenting to an old Platonic theory, that there is in some part of the universe a place where men may be nourished by the air they breathe ; and none more likely than the fields of ether, where they may gorge on chameleon diet to repletion. For sleeping, what pillow so soft as a cloud? "Can we desire," he asks, a softer bed than the air, where we may repose ourselves firmly and safely as in our chambers?" Here then is a well-digested plan, learnedly argued, scientifically proved, and seriously set forth; clearly shewing, that a voyage to the moon, so far from being a subject for ridicule, is a demonstrable fact. The erudite projector does not cajole his readers by promising to spirit them thither on a broomstick, or on the back of an enchanted horse. He neither has recourse to the Clavigero of Don Quixote, nor the wooden steed of the Arabian Nights; but satisfactorily proves, by geometrical, astronomical, and mathematical calculation, that the thing is practicable to whoever chooses to attempt it. Strange! that no one has yet been sufficiently enterprising to undertake so useful a journey! That neither the spirit of discovery nor of avarice, which has incited men to tempt the dangerous deep," dive into the bowels of the earth, and explore perilous and unhealthy regions, has glowed with sufficient fervour in the bosoms of the daring, to inspirit them to such an achievement!