Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

ralists of former times, a subject of strange speculation. Spenser alludes to the vulgar idea of their formation, when he speaks of, The fine nets which oft wo woven see of scorched dew! Robert Hooke, one of the earliest Fellows of the Royal Society, and an eminent philosopher, gravely conjectures respecting gossamer, that ''tis not unlikely but that those great white clouds, that appear all the summer time, may be of the same substance! In France, where these webs are called Fils de la Vierge, it has been imagined that they are formed of the cottony envelope of the eggs of the vine coccus.

Messrs. Kirby and Spence, in whose work on Entomology' these opinions are enumerated, give the following natural account of this phenomenon. * These webs(at least many of them) are air-balloons, and the aëronauts are not

Lovers who may bestride the gossamer
That idles in the wanton summer air,

And yet not fall but spiders, who, long before Montgolfier, nay, ever since the creation, have been in the habit of sailing through the fields of ether in these air-light chariots ! This seems to have been suspected long ago by Henry Moore, who says,

As light and thin as cobwebs that do fly
In the blew air, caused by the autumnal sun,
That boils the dew that on the earth doth lie,
May seem this whitish rug then is the scum;

Unless that wiser men make't the field-spider's loom. Where he also alludes to the old opinion of scorched dew. But the first naturalists who made this discovery appear to have been Dr. Hulse and Dr. Martin Lister - the former first observing that spiders shoot their webs into the air ; and the latter, besides this, that they are carried upon them in that element. This last gentleman, in fine serene weather in September, had noticed these webs falling from the heavens, and in them discovered more than

once a spider, which he named the bird. On another occasion, whilst he was watching the proceedings of a common spider, the animal suddenly...darted forth a long thread, and, vaulting from the place on which it stood, was carried upwards to a considerable height. Numerous observations afterwards confirmed this extraordinary fact; and he further discovered, that, while they fly in this manner, they pull in their long thread with their fore-feet, so as to form it into a ball-or, as we may call it, air-balloon-of flake. The height to which spiders will thus ascend he affirms is prodigious. One day in the autumn, when the air was full of webs, he mounted to the top of the highest steeple of York Minster, from whence he could discern the floating webs still very high above him. Some spiders that fell and were entangled upon the pinnacles he took. They were of a kind that never enter houses, and therefore could not be supposed to have taken their flight from the steeple.'

There are several questions connected with the formation of gossamer, which still remain open for the researches of naturalists. Whether the terzi restrial and aërial gossamer be formed by the same animal, though highly probable, is yet undecided. The purpose for which these nets are spread over the surface of the fields, is not less a matter of doubt. The present writers adopt the opinion that the meshes are intended as bridges, by which the little animal may pass with facility from straw to straw, or from clod to clod; and that they also serve to collect the dew, which spiders drink with avidity. We think that they have too easily doubted that they are chiefly designed to catch the flies when they rise in the morning from the surface of the earth. What, again, is the purpose of the lofty excursions of spiders into the upper regions of the atmosphere? It appears scarcely rational to doubt that these are predatory yoyages, and that spiders sail among the clouds of

gnats, and the swarms of flies, wbich sport in the more elevated strata, the exuvie of these animals being frequently found in these filmy balloons, when descending to the ground'.

To the INSECT of the GOSSAMER.
Small, viewless aëronaut, that by the line
Of Gossamer suspended, in mid air
Float'st on a sun-beam-Living atom, where
Ends thy breeze-guided voyage? With what design
In æther dost thou launch thy form minute,
Mocking the eye? Alas! before the veil
Of denser clouds shall hide thee, the pursuit
Of the keen Swift may end thy fairy sail!
Thus on the golden thread that Fancy weaves
Buoyant, as Hope's illusive flattery breathes,
The young and visionary Poet leaves
Life's dull realities, while sevenfold wreaths
Of rainbow light around his head revolve.
Ah! soon at Sorrow's touch the radiant dreams dissolve.

C. SMITH. Among the flowers which are still usually in blow, in this month, is the holy-oak, Michaelmas daisy, stocks, nasturtian, marigold, mignionette, lavender, wall-flower, red hips, china rose, virginia stock, heart's ease, laurustinus, rocket, St. John's wort, periwinkle, &c. But, chiefly the dahlia, a flower not much in cultivation till of late years, exhibits its majestic and brilliant splendour of stars above its dark green stalks and leaves. The hedges are now ornamented with the wreaths and festoons of the scarlet berries of the black briony; and now and then, that last 'pale promise of the waning year, the wild rose, meets the eye.

The principal harvest of apples is about the beginning of this month; and the counties of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Somersetshire, and Devonshire, are busily employed in the making of cider

* Eclectic Review, vol. XX, pp. 126, 127; Kirby and Spence's Entomology, vol. ii, p. 335. See also T.T. for 1817, p. 298.

and perry. Herefordshire is particularly famous as a cider country. October is the great month for brewing beer, whence the name applied to very strong beer of Old OCTOBER. In this month also is the great potatoe harvest. The corn harvest being over, the stone-pickers go out again.

The sowing of wheat is generally completed in this month: when the weather is too wet for this occupation, the farmer ploughs up the stubble fields for winter fallows. Acorns are sown at this season, and the planting of forest and fruit trees takes place.

Reflections on the Sea.

(Continued from p. 238.] The revolutions produced upon the earth by the sea, form an interesting object of contemplation. It is every day making considerable alterations, either by overflowing its shores in one place, or deserting them in others; by covering over whole tracts of country, that were cultivated and peopled at one time; or by leaving its bed to be appropriated to the purposes of vegetation, and to supply a new theatre for human industry, at another.

In this struggle for dominion between the earth and the sea, the greatest number of our shores seem to defy the whole rage of the waves, both by their height, and the rocky materials of which they are composed, which defend the land, and are only interrupted

here and there, to give an egress to rivers, and to afford to our shipping the conveniencies of bays and harbours. In general, it may be remarked, that wherever the sea is most furious, there the boldest shores, and of the most compact materials, are found to oppose it. There are many shores several hundred feet perpendicular, against which, the sea, when swollen with tides or storms, rises and beats with inconceivable fury.

Hence, therefore, we may conceive how the violence of the sea, and the boldness of the shore,

Z

may be said to have made each other. When the sea meets no obstacles, it swells its waters with a gentle intumescence, till all its power is destroyed, by wanting depth to aid its motion. But when its progress is checked in the midst, by the prominence of rocks, or the abrupt elevation of the land, it dashes with all the force of its depth against the obstacle, and forms, by its repeated violence, the abruptness of the shore which confines the impetuosity. Where the sea is extremely deep, or very much agitated by tempests, it is no small obstacle that can confine its rage; and for this reason we see the boldest shores projected against the deepest waters; all smaller impediments having long before been surmounted and washed away. Perhaps, of all the shores in the world, there is not one so high as that on the west of St. Kilda, which is 600 fathoms perpendicular above the surface of the sea. Here, also, the sea is deep and stormy; so that it requires great force in the shore to oppose its violonce. In many parts of the world, and particularly in the East Indies, the shores, though not high above water, are generally very deep, and, consequently, the waves roll against the land with great weight and irregularity. This rising of the waves against the shore is called the surf of the sea, and, in shipwrecks, is generally fatal to such as attempt to swim on shore. In this case, no dexterity in the swimmer, no float he can use, neither swimming girdle nor cork jacket, will save him: the weight of the superincumbent waves breaks upon him at once, and crushes him with certain ruin. Some few of the natives, however, have the art of swimming, and of navigating their little boats near these shores, where an European is sure of immediate destruction.

In places where the force of the sea is less violent, or its tides less rapid, the shores are generally seen to descend with a more gradual declivity. Over

« AnteriorContinuar »