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at twilight, in the church-yard of Richmond, England. Shortly afterward, 'he died and was buried,' in the flower of his manhood.
• McTHini it ii good to be ban: if thou wilt, let us build three uberntclet; one for tbe«, one :f, and one for Elms.' The Bible.
Methixks it is good to be here:
Nor Elias nor Moses appear;
Shall we build to Ambition? Ah no!
For see, they would pin him below,
To Beauty? Ah no ! — she forgets
Nor knows the foul worm, that he frets
Shall we build to the purple of Pride, —
Alas! they are all laid aside;
Unto Riches? Alas!—'tis in vain;
Their wealth is all squandered again;
To the pleasures that Mirth can afford?
Ah! here is a plentiful board;
Shall we build to Affection and Love?
Or flown with the spirit above;
Unto Sorrow? TTie dead cannot grieve;
Which compassion itself could relieve;
Unto Death, to whom monarchs must bow?
And here there are trophies enow;
The first tabernacle to Hope we will build,
The second to Faith, which insures it fulfilled,
Some one of our countrymen has written: 'I never shun a graveyard. The thoughtful melancholy it inspires, is grateful rather than displeasing to me.' Here we differ. I do shun it; and I hope a good Providence will keep me out of one for a long time. I desire not a freehold in any such premises. I like the liberal air — the golden sunshine — the excursive thought; and I pray Heaven to detain me long from that ancient receptacle, where my kinsmen are inurned. Give me the vital principle below the sun; and though I cannot be astonishingly useful to my fellow beings, or carve my name, just now, high on the records of fame, I can at least enjoy the luxury of fancy, feeding, and respiration, — to say nothing of the pleasing employment of dreaming — which is in itself worth a dukedom — and the rapture of eye-sight. I love not your sackloth misanthrope, whose whole life is darkened by the fear of its inevitable close, and embittered in the mazes of metaphysics.
Speaking of metaphysics, reminds me of Bob Edwards. Reader, thou art already acquainted with Bob — thou hast had a touch of his quality in the potato line, and hast borne him company in sundry expeditions from the sacred groves of Academus ; thou hast seen, that, by deeds of valiant daring, he had built up for himself a fame which extended far beyond the terrestrial limits that were allowed us for the exercise of our corporeal functions, by the individual who instructed the youthful creatures of our imaginations in the use of fire-arms — or, in the language of the immortal poet,
'Taught our young ideas how to shoot.'
He was the plague of the farmers —the glory of the jollifiers — the terror of the mothers, and the passion of the daughters — 'all over the world, for thirty miles round.'
He was an uncommon youth, was Bob— Oh, quite so!
Bob had a philosophical turn of mind, and was looked up to by his satellites with unspeakable reverence. By tacit consent, he was vested with an appellate jurisdiction in the little commonwealth. He sat in judgment upon all questions of law or equity, arising between its juvenile members. He delivered his opinion like the Oracle of Delphos, and his decrees were final.
It was winter — the length of the evenings were remarkable for the time of year — the frigidity of the circumambient atmosphere was— very considerable. A thought smote Bob.
He called his associates together — he made a speech — in which, with all the alternate fire and pathos of his Heaven-born eloquence, he described the trying position in which the severity of the weather had placed them. He spoke of the physical enjoyments of the human race as empty vanities, which an all-wise Providence, for his own good purpose, had qualified with pains and penalties. He adverted, in melting terms, to the uncommon scarcity of game, by which, for a time, they were debarred from the dignified and soul-ennobling pursuit of hunting foxes. He went on to observe, that the improvement of the intellectual faculties was one of the first duties of man; and after enlarging with great talent upon this incontrovertible position, he proposed to his auditors that they should organize a society for the discussion of subjects involving questions of abstract science. (By the way, there are plenty of such discussions and societies now-a-days, of which cui bono should be the motto, but whereof I would not for a ton of gold be supposed to speak lightly. Oh, by no means !) He proceeded to explain his views at length, and his purpose having been received with a unanimous approval, the constitution was signed, the officers were elected, and Bob was placed in the Presidential chair of
THE METAPHYSICAL SOCIETY.
And now, reader, Bob was in his glory. Many were the discussions held by that erudite body, and numerous were the elucidations of the scientific mysteries which had baffled the mightiest intellects of past ages. I do especially remember me of one discussion, in which our venerated President himself largely participated. It was deemed of much interest to the cause of learning, that the debates of the Society should be preserved on record; wherefore, the office of Grand Stenographer had been instituted, into which responsible station I had been sworn, with great solemnity, a short time previous to the period to which I refer.
It had been determined to hold a grand debate upon a question of grave importance. The President's proclamation had gone forth, with an imposing aspect. Three gigantic hand-bills were indited by his private secretary. One of these was fastened with ten-penny nails upon the portal of the Interniculum Frumenti, (as the corn-crib was classically denominated;) a second on the vestibulum of the Temple of the Muses, (or, as it was termed by the common people, the Pig-pen,) and the third was emblazoned on the academic Stabulum.
I subjoin a true copy of the document, taken from the records of the Society.
'SOCII 80C1ETAT18 METAPHYSICS.
'Convocabunt in tedibus Academic C ie> dimidium horae post septimum, die
Jovis, vigesimo Januarii.
1 Orationis argumentum est maximi momenti, quia involvit casus scientise, antea nunquam agitatos.
'duamobrem, nos, Prrefectus hujus Societatis eruditae, per hoc mandamus omnibus sociis, fautoribus Metaphysicarum, congregare accurate aedibus ante dictis.
'CluestioquaejproponiturargumenlOjUtsequilur: 'An chimera, bomirinansinraeuo, devorat seenjidas inlentiones?
'In hac re, nusquain aberramini, sub poena sexdeeim caudarum gallorum.
'ROBEBTUS EDWABDUS, PfCCS.'
Such was the manifesto of President Bob; and it may not be improper to annex, for the benefit of the general reader, a true rendition into the vernacular, of the question on which the Metaphysical Society was to exercise its intellectual energies.
This, then, was the subject of discussion: 'Whether a chimera, ruminating in a vacuum, devoureth second intentions.'
The erudite reader cannot fail to perceive the importance of the occasion, and its tendency to create an irrepressible interest in the republic of letters. I pass over the various speculations on the subject, which had agitated the philosophical world previous to the assembling of this august body: and, deeming that the preceding remarks sufficiently introduce the main object, I plunge at once, in mediasres.
On the twentieth day of January, in the year of grace c eight hundred and twenty-six, a grand meeting of fe~
Society of C a was held in the academic buil<
VOL. VII. 9
thirty minutes and seventeen seconds past seven o'clock, post meridiem, the great door of the ante-room was thrown open, and the President, supported on the right by the chief Curator, Jehoiakim Smilax, and on the left by the Censor-general, Eliphalet Flunk, entered the hall, with a dignified step.
The members rose in respectful silence, and the President, acknowledging their salutations with gracious condescension, passed on to his official seat. The attendant officers sat in their respective places, on either side of the Presidential chair, and the Grand Stenographer, John Ollapod, surrounded by the insignia of his station, occupied his accustomed conspicuous position.
The hall, which was of large dimensions, was brilliantly illuminated with five dipt candles, of a superior quality, tastefully arranged in porter bottles, of a sea-green hue. The whole scene presented an imposing aspect, and was calculated to inspire the beholder with feelings of solemnity and awe.
My space will not permit me to extract from the records the whole of the President's address, which followed an unbroken silence of three minutes, one quarter, and some odd seconds. I subjoin only these observations:
'My Brethren: You are assembled to give to a subject which has heretofore confounded the wisdom of man, the infallible test of your deliberations. The eyes of alt Europe are upon you; and you occupy an altitude before both hemispheres, calculated to call forth your undivided energies. Comment from me were useless.
'Now therefore, brethren, invoking the aid of our blessed Minerva to your righteous endeavours, I quaff this smaller, otherwise called cock-tail, to the victory of truth, and the downfall of error.'
He spake — and taking from the custody of the Grand Treasurer, who was in waiting by his side, a tin cup of considerable capability, he transferred the generous fluid contained therein, to the interior of his abdominal regions. His replenished corpus sank gently into the official receptacle, where, after recovering his natural equilibrium, he signified to the brethren his pleasure that the discussion should commence. Whereupon Mr. Elnathan Rummins arose, and and thus addressed the assembly:
'Mr. President: In getting myself up to discourse to this learned body on the affirmative side of the question submitted to our decision, I feel a diffidence commensurate with the stupendousncss of the subject. Yet, having bestowed upon it much studious research and attention, I feel imperiously bound to express it as my decided opinion, that a chimeru, ruminating in a vacuum, does devour second intentions. I will briefly submit my reasons.
■ Firstly, — I will take leave to premise, that after serious and mature deliberation, I have brought my mind to the settled belief that Metaphysics is considerable of a science — that all the ideas we have, are derived from two sources,—viz: sensation and reflection, — and that the latter is the root from which all abstract ideas are generated.
'I am discussing this question, Mr. President, upon the supposition that the doctrine of abstract ideas is fully established. In my mind, it is entirely so, and therefore I shall not argue this disputed point. If my premises are false, my conclusions will collapse, and my learned opponent must benefit by the error.
'What is a chimera, in the modern philosophical sense 1 Sir, we can derive np idea of it from our senses; the faculty of abstraction must be resorted to for a definition; the mind must be withdrawn from the contemplation of external objects, and, wrapping itself in the solitude of its own originality, must frame from its own exclusive resources, an idea of this singular being.
'But notwithstanding this apparent difficulty, there is, in fact, nothing more easy than a description of this idea. My own reflections have led me to the conclusion, that a chimera is an immaterial, incorporeal, intangible, and invisible essence,
having no local habitation, and possessing neither form, extension, nor substance. Thus, I may indulge the pleasing hope, that I have, in a very simple manner, conveyed to the Society a clear apprehension of the nature of this abstraction.
'From this description, it will be perceived, that a chimera possesses no incarnate attributes, but is the emanation of a spiritual essence, and therefore must be eminently endowed with the faculty of thought, or, in other words, of rumination.
'Having thus briefly pointed out the abstract idea of a chimera, and proved its implied powers of rumination, I proceed, secondly, to show that it possesses the undoubted capability of ruminating in a vacuum. To this end, let me very properly show the nature of a vacuum. Little need be said on this subject.
'According to some modern philosophers, there are several species of vacua,—but the vacuum cacervatum is that to which I particularly refer; this is conceived as a space entirely destitute of matter; and, in my apprehension, its existence was successfully urged by those illustrious men who professed the Pythagorean, the Epicurean, and the Corpuscularian philosophy: but as the human mind is composed of discordant principles, the spirit of opposition (for I cannot imagine it to have been any thing else,) induced the advocates of the Cartesian doctrines to deny its existence. They urged, that if there be nothing material in an enclosed space, the walls of the enclosure must be brought into contact; thus insisting upon the principle, that extension is matter. But the Corpuscular authors, with much promptness, refuted the arguments of the Cartesians and Peripatetics, by the existence of various circumstances; and they instanced planetary and cometary motion — the fall of bodies — the vibration of the pendulum — re-refraction and condensation — the divisibility of matter, etc.
'Now permit me to observe, Mr. President, that it is altogether impossible to effect motion, in a plenum. I do not wish to make this position depend for support upon my bare assertion — I am borne out in it by the dictum of Lucretius, — thus: ' Prineipiumquonam cedendi nulla daretres,—nndique matcries qnoniam stipata fuisset.' Although I might well rest here, Mr. President, upon such mighty authority, 1 will nevertheless enter upon the proofs which go to the establishing of this principle.
'first. All motion is in a straight line, or in a curve which returns into itself,— as, for example, the circle and the ellipsis—or in one that does not return into itself, as the parabolic curve. Second — that the moving force must always be greater than the resistance. Now it is perfectly clear from this, that no quantum of force, even though increased ad infinitum, can produce motion, where the resistance is also infinite: consequently, it is not possible that motion can exist, either in a straight line, or in a non-returning curve; because, in either of these cases, the amounts of force and resistance would counterbalance each other, — that is, they would be infinite.
'You will therefore perceive, M r. President, that there remains only the motion of a revolving curve practicable — and this must either be a revolution upon an axis, or an annular motion round a stationary body: now both of these would be impossible in an elliptic curve, and consequently, all motion must be in circles geometrically true; and the bodies thus revolving must either be spheres, spheroids, or cylinders—otherwise the revolution in a plenum would be altogether impracticable. But, Sir, such figures and motions have no existence in nature; yet we know, from the evidence of the senses, that motion, in a non-returning curve, does exist — therefore a vacuum must exist.
'Having now shown that a chimera is a creature of the imagination, and that therefore it does not require the inhalation of atmospheric air to support life, and having shown the nature and existence of the vacuum, it is of course evident that a chimera may ruminate in a vacuum.
'I proceed, in the next place, to demonstrate, that a chimera thus ruminating, does devour second intentions.
At this stage of his speech, Rummins exhibited symptoms of exhaustion, and on motion of Mr. Jeremiah Tompkins, the question was postponed until the next ensuing meeting. Whenever I feel disposed to make my reader bolt a few solids, among his intellectual edibles, I shall fling in a scrap from the ' Society.' I think I can demonstrate thereby, that a great deal of plausible argument can be used, to demonstrate a small amount of fact, mingled with an immensity of error. Metaphysics, now-a-days, cannot be deemed a very clear science. Muddy brains