"Hear ye not the hum
Of mighty workings?"
"Hear ye not the hum
|TABLE OF CONTENTS.|
1 - The Power of Nature:-
Nature vis maxima - The greatest force is that of nature.
- Legal Maxim.
Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.
- From Francis Bacon's Novum Organum.
Who dares to name His name,
Or belief in Him proclaim,
Veiled in mystery as He is, the All-enfolder?
Gleams across the mind His light,
Feels the lifted soul His might,
Dare it then deny His reign, the All-upholder?'
- From John Tyndall's Fragments .
2 - Nature: Its Profuseness, Imperturbability and Patience:-
"... always has her pockets full of seeds, and holes in all her pockets ... I don't know anything sweeter than this leaking in of Nature through all the cracks in the walls and floors of cities. You heap up a million tons of hewn rocks on a square mile or two of earth which was green once. The trees look down from the hillsides and ask each other, as they stand on tiptoe, - 'What are these people about?' And the small herbs at their feet look up and whisper back, - 'We will go and see.' So the small herbs pack themselves up in the least possible bundles, and wait until the wind steals to them at night and whispers, - 'Come with me.' Then they go softly with it into the great city, - one to a cleft in the pavement, one to a spout on the roof, one to a seam in the marbles over a rich gentleman's bones, and one to the grave without a stone where nothing but a man is buried, - and there they grow looking down on the generations of men from mouldy roofs, looking up from between the less-trodden pavements, looking out through iron cemetery-railings. Listen to them, when there is only a light breath stirring, and you will hear then saying to each other, - 'Wait awhile!' The words run along the telegraph of those narrow green lines that border the roads leading from the city, until they reach the slope of the hills, and the trees repeat in low murmurs to each other, - 'Wait awhile!' By-and-by the flow of life in the streets ebbs, and the old leafy inhabitants - the smaller tribes always front - saunter in, one by one, very careless seemingly, but very tenacious, until they swarm so that the great stones gape from each other with the crowding of their roots, and the feldspar begins to be picked out of the granite to find them food. At last the trees take up their solemn line of march, and never rest until they have encamped in the market-place. Wait long enough and you will find an old doting oak hugging a huge worn block in its yellow underground arms; that was the cornerstone of the State-House. Oh, so patient she is, this imperturbable Nature!" (Oliver Wendell Holmes.)
"Nature ... is as grand and graceful in her smallest as in her hugest forms. ... Have you eyes to see? Then lie down on the grass, and look near enough to see something more of what is to be seen; and you will find tropic jungles in every square foot of turf; ... Above my head every fir-needle is breathing - breathing forever; currents unnumbered circulate in every bough, quickened by some undiscovered miracle; around me every fir-stem is distilling strange juices, which no laboratory of man can make; ..." (Charles Kingsley, 1819-1875.)
"Natural processes come to us in a mixed manner, and to the uninstructed mind are a mass of unintelligible confusion. Suppose half a dozen of the best musical performers to be placed in the same room, each playing his own instrument to perfection, but no two playing the same tune; though each individual instrument might be a source of perfect music, still the mixture of all would produce mere noise. Thus it is with the processes of Nature. Here mechanical and molecular laws intermingle and create apparent confusion. Their mixture constitutes what may be called the noise of natural laws, and it is the vocation of the man of science to resolve this noise into its components, and thus to detect the "music" in which the foundations of Nature are laid.
The necessity of this detachment of one force from all other forces is nowhere more strikingly exhibited than in the phenomena of crystallization. Here, for example, is a solution of common sulphate of soda or Glauber salt. Looking into it mentally, we see the molecules of that liquid, like disciplined squadrons under a governing eye, arranging themselves into battalions, gathering round distinct centres, and forming themselves into solid masses, which after a time assume the visible shape of the crystal now held in my hand." (Tyndall)
3 - Trees:-
"No, my friends, I shall speak of trees as we see them, love them, adore them in the fields, where they are alive, holding their green sun-shades over our heads, talking to us with their hundred thousand whispering tongues, looking down on us with that sweet meekness which belongs to huge, but unlimited organisms, - which one sees in the brown eyes of oxen, but most in the patient posture, the outstretched arms, and the heavy-drooping robes of these vast beings endowed with life, but not with soul, - which outgrow us and outlive us, but stand helpless, - poor things! - while Nature dresses an undresses them, like so many full-sized, but underwitted children." (Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.)
4 - Go to the Woods and Hills:-
Great things are done when men and mountains meet; This is not done by jostling in the street.
- William Blake.
He ... who would study nature in its wildness and variety must plunge into the forest, must explore the glen, must stem the torrent and scale the precipice.
- Washington Irving.
If thou art worn and hard beset
With sorrows, that thou wouldst forget,
If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep
Thy heart from fainting, and thou from sleep,
Go to the woods and hills! No tears
Dim the sweet look that nature wears.
5 - Nature, the Great Artist, has produces the Butterfly:-
Joseph Conrad, in his novel, Lord Jim, tells of how his hero met a certain Mr. Stein. Stein lived on a tropical island somewhere in the south Pacific and was a wealthy and respected merchant. But, he was much more than that; he was a man who studied nature, and in particular, as an entomologist, studied bugs.
"He owned a small fleet of schooners and native craft, and dealt in island produce on a large scale. For the rest he lived solitary, but not misanthropic, with his books and his collection, classing and arranging specimens, corresponding with entomologists in Europe, writing up a descriptive catalogue of his treasures. Such was the history of the man whom I had come to consult upon Jim's case without any definite hope. Simply to hear what he would have to say would have been a relief. I was very anxious, but I respected the intense, almost passionate, absorption with which he looked at a butterfly, as though on the bronze sheen of these frail wings, in the white tracings, in the gorgeous markings, he could see other things, an image of something as perishable and defying destruction as these delicate and lifeless tissues displaying a splendour unmarred by death.
"'Marvellous!' he repeated, looking up at me. 'Look! The beauty - but that is nothing - look at the accuracy, the harmony. And so fragile! And so strong! And so exact! This is Nature - the balance of colossal forces. Every star is so - and every blade of grass stands so - and the mighty Kosmos in perfect equilibrium produces - this. This wonder; this masterpiece of Nature - the great artist.'"
[Essays, First Series]
[Essays, Second Series]
[Essays, Third Series]
[Essays, Fourth Series]