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companied by the roar of the elements, that so appals us, that we involuntarily turn away from the stupendous sight.
In the storms on land, trees are the grand instruments which augment the mighty roar. Their yells, mixed up with the blast, send forth the most terrific harmonies. They who have traversed the black forests in Germany can have some idea of the horrid din of those domains. The common people hide themselves from the Spirit of the woods, little reflecting that it is the lashing winds against the giant trunks of the forest, which cause the dreadful howlings they hear! Sir Thomas Lauder has given us some idea of these effects, in the hurricanes of Scotland, 1829, when he describes the flood of Moray. "There was something inexpressibly fearful and sub'lime in the roar of the torrents which filled the valley, and the fitful gusts of the north wind that groaned among the woods. The tall ornamental 'trees, one by one, had begun to yield: the noise was "a distinct combination of two kinds of sound; one, a uniform continued roar; the other, like rapid discharges of many cannons at once. The first proceeded from the violence of the water; the other, which was heard through it, and as it were muffled 'by it, came from the enormous stones which the
stream was hurling over its rocky bed. Above all 'this, was heard the fiend-like shriek of the wind, yelling, as if the demon of desolation had been riding upon its blast. The whole scene had an air of unreality about it, that bewildered the senses. ' It was like some of those wild dramatic exhibitions, 'where Nature's operations are outheroded by the mechanist of a theatre, where mountains are thrown
down by artificial storms. Never did the unsub'stantiality of all earthly things come so perfectly 'home to my conviction. The hand of God appeared 'to be at work, and I felt that, had he only pronounced his dread fiat millions of such worlds as
that we inhabit would cease to exist !! It is only in situations like these,* where the sounds are reflected by surrounding hills, that we can at all feel the sublimity of a storm. In the polar regions, where no traces of vegetation appear upon that glassy surface, there is a complete absence of sound: as on the highest point of the Alps, a 'solemn silence reigns.' But as the avalanches descend, their thunders roll through the vallies in awful grandeur.
Perhaps of all noises which are augmented by continued reverberations, none are more appalling than the experiment of rolling a portion of rock into Heldon Hole, in Derbyshire. To stand on the brink of this fathomless gulph, and to hear the thundering mass fall from cavern to cavern, wakening the frightful echoes in the vast chambers below, fills the mind with terror and dismay. This noise, more terrible than the whirlpool of Charybdis, is, in some degree, imitated by Haydn, in a chorus in Judah, at the words, “The Lord devoureth them all.' The
* The scene lay in an amphitheatre of rocks and mountains.
sounds, sinking into an abyss of harmony, are penned with an effect, worthy of the great Beethoven himself.
HITHERTO we have spoken of sounds as a source of pleasure and delight; but they often prove a source of terror and alarm, especially among the uneducated, when they spring from causes unseen and unknown. In the days of superstition, they were at all times used by the priests, as a ready means of aiding their impostures in enslaving the people. The Delphic Oracle was a contrivance for this purpose;* a piece of machinery, founded upon acoustic
* The oracles were first delivered by the priestess, Pythia, after inhaling a natural fume which issued from a cavity in the earth, over which the temple of Delphos was erected. She sat upon a tripod, or three-legged stool, so that she could inhale the intoxicating vapor through a tube, which threw her into such paroxysms of extasy, that she was believed by all present to be inspired. Pausanias says, that
her eyes suddenly sparkled, and her hair stood on end, and a shivering • ran all over her body. In this convulsive state she spoke the oracles often with loud howlings and cries, which were taken down by the priests. Plutarch mentions one of the priestesses who was thrown into such an excessive fury, that not only those who consulted the oracle, but also the priests that conducted her to the sacred tripod, and attended her during the inspiration, were terrified and forsook the temple; and so violent was the fit, that she continued for some time in
principles, similar to that of the invisible girl. Mrs. Elwood reports, that in the ruins of Pompeii, a secret recess still remains where the priests concealed themselves, when they delivered the oracles to the people.
The statue of Memnon probably was one of the most early contrivances of this kind. Strabo says,
it uttered a melodious sound at sun-rise and sunset,' the cause of which puzzled all the travellers of his time. But the Egyptians were the most wise and acute people on earth; and were, no doubt, acquainted with the acoustic principle. At this day, a wind arises in Egypt, called the Camseen, at sunrise and sun-set; which, passing through a concealed labyrinth in the statue, would produce the humming sound attributed to the god.* It was in this country that the lyre had its origin. According to the ancients, Apollo found a dead tortoise on the banks
agonizing tortures, and at last died. These effects so closely resemble those witnessed in persons who have inhaled the nitrous oxide gas, that there can be little doubt that this vapor was something of the same kind. This gas was discovered by Dr. Beddoes, about thirty years ago. A friend of the writer was visiting him at the time, and was present at the first experiments. The doctor was the first person who ventured to inhale it, and it had such an effect upon him after having taken a copious draught, that he jumped over the table, and would have darted out of the window, had not his assistant, (afterwards Sir Humphry Davy,) laid hold of him. After these mad fits had been sufficiently exhibited in the temple of Delphos, they were abandoned, for the wiser scheme of secretly conveying more cunning words through statues of stone!
• The pedestal is covered over with the names of those who have heard this extraordinary sound.
of the Nile : nothing remained in the interior of the shell, but the dried sinews that were stretched across. These were vibrated by the wind passing through the shell, and caused the sound which struck the ear of the god. For a thousand years afterwards, the shell of a tortoise was deemed to be an essential part of the lyre. Afterwards, the twang of his sister Diana's bow suggested an instrument of a larger kind, and the primitive lyre now assumes the form of David's harp.
Sailors are a most superstitious race, and have a secret dread of remarkable sounds heard at sea. At the Land's End, it is not uncommon to hear a mysterious sound off the coast previous to a storm, which fishermen are not willing to attribute to natural causes, but believe it to come from the Spirit of the deep. This effect is obviously occasioned by the coming storm, whistling through the crevices of the rocks that stand in the sea, and which skirt the Cornish coast. So much do the people consider this as ominous of shipwreck, that no one can be persuaded to venture out to sea while this warning voice is heard. In the northern seas our sailors are alarmed by a singular musical effect, which is now well understood to proceed from the whale inhaling his breath. Similar sounds probably may be uttered by other monsters of the deep, upon which the ancients fallaciously founded their notions of seanymphs and sirens. The peasantry may be classed with the sailors;