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the terror of the surrounding villages, and thereby gained for himself everlasting gratitude and fame. St. George, the tutelary saint of England, was only the great dragon-slayer of his day.
We come down a little later in the history of our race, and we find another form of greatness, closely allied to the preceding, beginning to display itself— namely, martial prowess, or, as it was originally and distinctively called, warlike virtue. Hardly are the wild beasts exterminated, than there springs up, as it were from the dragon's blood and teeth, a horde of oppressors, strong, proud men, who declare that their strength shall be the law of justice, and that their might shall rule in the earth-men who wrong the poor, spare not the widow, nor reverence the grey hairs of the aged. These are the sons of Anak and Belial, whose continued and aggravated oppressions at last raise up an indignant band, who, though inferior in muscular strength, are enabled, by the invention of weapons, and by their superior agility and skill, to put themselves on a level with these haughty oppressors, and cope with them in personal combat. They become the guardians of innocence, the avengers of wrong, the giant-quellers of their day-in a word, the great men of their time. In a later age, the institution of chivalry was only the reproduction of the same remedy on the recurrence of the same evil. In both cases the feeble and the friendless were generously protected against outrage by the strong and stout-hearted.
Here we have the germ of military greatness, which, as soon as war was made a business, and bloodshed a pastime, became the greatest curse that ever afflicted our race. From the earliest times down to those in which we live, martial glory has, in every age, continued to dazzle the eyes of the stupid world; and I know not but that even now, after the dear-bought and bitter experience of ten thousand battle-fields, military greatness, in the opinion of the majority of men, stands at the head of all greatness. The fame of the Cæsars, the Attilas, and the Napoleons, the great manslayers, still sheds a blighting and baleful influence over the prospects of humanity, as their bloody victories did over the pleasant fields of an industrious peasantry.*
But let us pass on from these exhibitions of physical greatness to the higher and nobler manifestations of human power. Physical strength man shares in common with the brute; but the "spirit within him is the candle of the Lord," kindled from the great source of light, and "the inspiration of the Almighty hath given him understanding." When, therefore, we would conceive worthily of man, we think of him as an intelligent
See Southey's beautiful little poem on the Battle of Blenheim. "They burned the country all around,
And wasted far and wide,
And many a new-born infant there,
And tender mother died ;
But things like this, you know must be,
being, possessed of vast capacities, comprehending the universe in his ken, and "with large discourse looking before and after." And when we would form an idea of a superior kind of greatness, we think of the giants of intellect, of Aristotle and Bacon, the great lights of philosophy and science, men who have enlarged the domains of thought and carried forward the human race with them; though at the same time they themselves "stride on so far before the rest of the world that they dwindle in the distance."
Of all the various branches of intellectual pursuit, that science which explains the system of the universe, and reveals the mechanism of the heavens, must always take the lead as the most sublime and marvellous; and the foremost and most successful cultivators of this science will always be classed among the greatest of men. What, indeed, can be more astonishing, than that a being like one of us, endowed apparently with no higher or different powers, should be able to obtain so minute and accurate a knowledge of those distant planets, and be as well acquainted with their constitution, elements, and laws, as the geologist, the chemist, the botanist, with the appropriate objects of their sciences? Nothing gives me so exalted an idea of the power of man, and the extent and reach of his capacities, as his ability to calculate, with unerring precision, the distances of those twinkling orbs, to determine their figures, magnitudes, and velocities, to measure their weight, estimate their relative attractions and disturbing forces, delineate their
orbits, register their laws of motion, fix the times of their revolution, and predict the periods of their return. To a common mind, uninstructed in the science, there is nothing that appears so much like divine wisdom. A Galileo, a Kepler, a Newton, seem to him to belong to another race, a higher order of beings. They appear to possess some additional faculties. "What a vast interval, indeed, from the imperfect notions of the Chaldean shepherd and the Phoenician mariner to the 'Celestial Mechanics' of a La Place!"
It is a remarkable fact, that the majority of men, certainly of uneducated men, are utterly incredulous to the statements of astronomical science. "Tell a plain countryman," says Bishop Hall, "that the sun, or some higher or lesser star, is much bigger than his cart wheel, or at least so many scores bigger than the whole earth, he laughs thee to scorn, as affecting admiration with a learned untruth; yet the scholar, by the eye of reason, doth as plainly see and acknowledge this truth, as that his hand is bigger than his pen." Indeed, nothing can be more certain than the doctrines of Astronomy. They rest on impregnable foundations, on the demonstrations of mathematical evidence, than which nothing, except the evidence of consciousness, can be more satisfactory and conclusive.
"Happy," says Gilbert Wakefield, "that man who lays the foundations of his future studies deep in the recesses of geometry, that 'purifier of the soul,' as Plato called it, and in the principles of mathematical
philosophy; compared with whose noble theories make no scruple to declare it) our classical lucubrations are as a glimmering of a taper to the meridian splendors of an equatorial sun. What subject of human contemplation shall compare in grandeur with that which demonstrates the trajectories, the periods, the distances, the dimensions, the velocities and gravitations of the planetary system; states the tides; adjusts the nutation of the earth, and contemplates the invisible comet wandering in his parabolic orb, for successive centuries, in but a corner of boundless space?-which considers that the diameter of the earth's orbit, of one hundred and ninety millions in length, is but an evanescent point at the nearest fixed star to our system;-that the first beam of the sun's light, whose rapidity is inconceivable, may be still traversing the bosom of boundless space? Language sinks beneath contemplations so exalted, and so well calculated to inspire the most awful sentiments of the Great Artificer; of that Wisdom which could contrive this stupendous fabric, that Providence which can support it, and that Power whose hand could launch into their orbits bodies of a magnitude so prodigious." *
It was a science that early engaged the notice of men, and, to its honor be it spoken, it has always exerted a purifying and elevating influence on its votaries. Indeed, how could it be otherwise? Who can look
* Gilbert Wakefield's Memoirs, I. 103.