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To the enthusiast in the picturesque, nature nowhere presents an aspect of such varied beauty as amid these combinations of hill and water and glade. That monotony which characterizes a wide expanse of unbroken plain, even when clothed in a mantle of uniform hue, and that unrelieved sense of awe and loneliness which a mountain range, without this soothing accompaniment, is apt to suggest, are, alike, absent here. All that is most sublime is softened by all that is most beautiful; and all that is most beautiful is elevated by all that is most sublime. The pervading and perpetual presence of water clothes the earth in its richest robe of verdure; and there is a spirit of life and motion over all, which prevents that feeling of oppression and melancholy with which man finds himself bowed down in the immediate presence of nature, in her mightier agencies. The air is full of soothing sounds, poured from a thousand natural sources, the ripple of the mimic wave upon the mimic beach; the murmur of the cascade; the roaring of the cataract; the sighing of the breeze, or the rushing of the blast among the rocking woods; all blend into one wild, but enchanting harmony, ―repeated by a thousand voices from hill and grove and glade, that it might well suggest a mythology like that of the Greeks of old, and lead the imagination to people every cliff and stream and tree with a dryad or a faun.
Battle of Blenheim.
Ir was a summer's evening,
Was sitting in the sun,
Roll something large and round,
In playing there had found;
Old Kaspar took it from the boy,
And then the old man shook his head,
'Tis some poor fellow's skull, said he,
I find them in the garden, for
The ploughshare turns them out;
Young Peterkin he cries,
With wonder-waiting eyes;
THE beams of the moon contain little of the red or the heating rays; and it is well known how very efficient moonlight is in the performing those operations which are more immediately performed by the rays towards the de-oxydizing end of the spectrum. Every housewife knows how nicely her linen is whitened if she can leave it out during the moonlight; and many know that muslins which the sun would render yellow or brown, can be preserved as white as snow if dried by the light of the moon. Every farmer, too, that takes notice (and surely the most unobserving farmers watch the progress of their crops), must have observed how very rapidly the moonlight, not merely whitens, but actually matures and ripens his corn. In that respect, one fine moonlight night is equal to at least two days of sunshine; and that circumstance, while it lets us see that moonlight has other qualities besides poetical beauty, tells us, that Nature is a WHOLE, and that the parts which we would suppose to be the most distant and unconnected, yet co-operate with each other in the most perfect and wonderful manner.
In consequence of that obliquity in the earth's path round the sun, which gives summer and winter alternately to the two hemispheres, and a regular succession of the four seasons to all the temperate latitudes, and in consequence of an additional obliquity in the moon's path round the earth, the full moon rises just at sunset for about a week together. That takes place during the harvest; its mean season being about the twenty-second of September, and the middle never more than fifteen days sooner or later than that. That is called the harvest moon, and though in the early districts, where there is plenty of solar action to ripen the crops, it be not much heeded, it is very beneficial in the cold districts; and as the obliquity to which it is owing, increases as the latitude increases, the harvest moon continues for the greatest number of nights in the cold climates. Thus we see how far the influence of what we would deem a simple cause extends in the operations of nature, and how well that which our ignorance is apt to regard as a disadvantage, works for our good. Indeed, there is not an object or an occurrence in nature which has not its use, if we would but look for it; and it is just because we are ignorant of the uses of little things, that we fail in the execution of great ones.
It is in the perceiving of these connexions which appear remote and unexpected, that men who combine science and observation together have so much the advantage of mere men of science or mere surface observers. One would not at first suppose that the study of the mere motions of the earth and moon, and the fact that the light of the moon is a secondary or reflected light, had anything to do with the whitening of linen, or the ripening of
corn: and yet the two are as closely connected as if they were parts of one single process. That should teach us not to pass any one thing or occurrence unobserved, or any one observation without reflecting on it; because there is knowledge in them all; and, at a time when we may have no means of obtaining it, we may be greatly at a loss for that very knowledge which we pass over unheeded.
There is another circumstance connected with moonlight which is worthy of notice, and that is, that where there is least sunshine there is most moonlight. The full moon is not always directly opposite to the sun, but sometimes a little higher and sometimes a little lower than the point opposite, but directly opposite is the average place of the full moon; and thus the full moon is, on the average, just as long above the horizon and shining, as the sun is below it and set; and if the sun is high at noon, the moon is low at midnight; also, if the mid-day sun is low, the midnight moon is correspondingly high. The influence, or action of the light, both of the sun and the moon, is in proportion to the length of time that they shine, and also to their height above the horizon; and thus, during winter, there is the greatest duration as well as the greatest strength of moonlight; and always as one goes into a higher latitude, the winter full moons shine longer and more brightly. The Lapland moon is an object far more beautiful than they who live in more genial climates and have the atmosphere loaded with vapour can easily imagine. The intense frost there sends down every particle of water in a state of finely powdered snow, each little piece as hard and bright as rock crystal; and the strong power of crystallization so holds the particles of those little pieces together, that even when there is a glimmer of mid-day sun, that produces no vapour. The winter sky is in consequence perfectly pure, dry, and transparent. No sapphire can rival the depth of its blue; every star blazes like a diamond; and the light of the moon, of which every particle is sent down through the pure air, well deserves Milton's epithet of "peerless." It is so bright and silvery, and so gratifying, without being the least painful to the eye, that it is probably the most glorious sight in nature. But it can be seen only at some distance from the unfrozen sea, and the collected habitations of men, as there is always some action in the atmosphere at such places.
Moonlight is not the only instance that we have of cold light; for the first beginnings of flame, in substances that are easily kindled, and also the last glimmers of smouldering fires, are cold and blue as compared with the light of vigorous combustion. That may be seen in the lighting of a common match, the flame of the easily burned sulphur on which is cold and blue in comparison with the flame after it has reached the splinter of wood. Phosphorus, and also those substances which give out light that are called phosphorescent, are also cold and blue. One of the most remarkable of these is the IGNIS FATUUS, or "Lanthorn Jack," which floats over marshy places, and, in all probability,