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Spirit of a winter's night;
When the soundless earth is muffled,
To banish even from the sky.
Sit thee there, and send abroad,
Fancy, high-commission'd:-send her!
And thou shalt quaff it :-thou shalt hear
Rustle of the reaped corn;
Sweet birds antheming the morn:
And, in the same moment-hark!
"Tis the early April lark,
Or the rooks, with busy caw,
Sapphire queen of the mid May:
When the hen-bird's wing doth rest
Then the hurry and alarm
When the bee-hive casts its swarm;
While the autumn breezes sing.
We must never forget that it is principles, not phenomena* the interpretation, not the mere knowledge of facts—which are the objects of inquiry to the natural philosopher. As truth is single and consistent with itself, a principle may be as completely and plainly elucidated by the most familiar and simple fact, as by the most imposing and uncommon phenomenon.
And this is in fact one of the great sources of delight which the study of natural science imparts to its votaries. A mind which has once imbibed a taste for scientific inquiry, and has learnt the habit of applying its principles readily to the cases which occur, has within itself an inexhaustible source of pure and exciting contemplations. One would think that Shakspeare had such a mind in view when he describes a contemplative man as finding all nature eloquent,-the very trees, the brooks, the stones, reading to him lessons of deep and serious import. Accustomed to trace the operation of general causes in the exemplification of general laws, in circumstances where the uninformed and uninquiring eye perceives neither novelty nor beauty, he walks in the midst of wonders; every object which falls in his way elucidates some principle, affords some instruction, and impresses him with the sense of harmony and order. Nor is it a mere passive pleasure which is thus communicated. A thousand questions are continually arising in his mind, a thousand subjects of inquiry presenting themselves, which keep his faculties in constant exercise, and his thoughts perpetually on the wing, so that lassitude is excluded from his life, and that craving after artificial excitement and dissipation of mind which leads so many into frivolous, unworthy, and destructive pursuits, is altogether eradicated from his bosom.
*General observations drawn from particulars are the jewels of knowledge, comprehending great store in a little room.
LOCKE. Conduct of the Understanding.
There is something in the contemplation of general laws which powerfully induces and persuades us to merge individual feeling, and to commit ourselves unreservedly to their disposal; while the observation of the calm energetic regularity of Nature, the immense scale of her operations, and the certainty with which her ends are attained, tends, irresistibly, to tranquillise and reassure the mind,* and renders it less accessible to repining and turbulent emotions. And this it does, not by debasing our nature into weak compliances, but by fitting us as from an inward spring with a sense of nobleness and power, which enables us to rise superior to them, by showing us our strength and innate dignity, and by calling upon us for the exercise of those powers and faculties by which we are susceptible of the comprehension of so much greatness, and which form, as it were, a link between ourselves and the best and noblest benefactors of our species, with whom we hold communion in thoughts, and participate in discoveries, which have raised them above their fellow mortals, and brought them nearer to their Creator.
SIR JOHN HERSCHEL. Discourse on the Study of
THEY meddle no otherwise with divine things, than only as the power and the wisdom and goodness of the Creator is displayed in the admirable order and workmanship of the creatures. It cannot be denied but it lies in the natural philosopher's hands best to advance that part of divinity, which though it fills not the mind with such tender and powerful contemplations, as that which shows us man's redemption by a Mediator, yet it is by no means to be passed by unregarded, but is an excellent ground to establish the other. This is a religion which is confirmed by the unanimous agreement of all sorts of worships, and may serve in respect to Christianity as Solomon's Porch to
* God never wrought a miracle to confute atheism, because his ordinary works confute it. 'Tis true that a little natural philosophy inclines men to atheism, but depth in philosophy brings them about to religion. For while the mind looks upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes go no farther; but when it beholds the chain of them collected and linked together, it must needs have recourse to providence and a deity.
True physics rise so high as to become a kind of theology.
the Temple: into the one the heathens themselves did also
THOUGH there be no truth which a man may more evidently make out to himself than the existence of a God, yet he that shall content himself with things as he finds them in this world, as they minister to his pleasures and passions; and not make inquiry a little farther into their causes, ends, and admirable contrivances, and pursue the thoughts thereof with diligence and attention, may live long without any notion of such a being.
LOCKE. On Education.
Low under them, with slow and staggering pace,
That earthlings oft her deem'd a deity.
By Nature led, those bodies fair and great,
Which faint not in their course, nor change their state,
Unintermix'd, which no disorder prove,
Though aye and contrary they always move,
The organs of thy providence divine,
THERE is nothing of all the works of nature so inconsiderable, so remote, or so fully known, but by being made to reflect on other things it will at once enlighten them and show itself the clearer. Such is the dependence amongst all the orders of creatures; the inanimate, the sensitive, the rational, the natural, the artificial; that the apprehension of one of them is a good step towards the understanding of the rest. And this is the highest pitch of human reason; to follow all the links of this chain till all their secrets are open to our minds; and their works advanced or imitated by our hands. This is truly to command the world; to rank all the varieties and degrees of things so orderly, one upon another, that standing on the top of them we may perfectly behold all that are below, and make them all serviceable to man's life. And to this happiness there can be nothing else added, but that we make a second advantage of this rising ground, thereby to look the nearer into heaven, an
ambition which, though it was punished in the old world by an universal confusion, when it was managed with impiety and insolence, yet, when it is carried on by that humility and innocence which can never be separated from true knowledge, when it is designed not to brave the Creator of all things, but to admire Him the more, must needs be the utmost perfection of human nature. SPRAT. History of the Royal Society.
Of mighty Nature, if 'twas ever meant
WORDSWORTH. The Excursion, Book IV.
'TIS Night, when Meditation bids us feel
Ah, happy years! once more who would not be a boy?
Thus bending o'er the vessel's laving side,
To gaze on Dian's wave-reflected sphere,
The soul forgets her schemes of hope and pride,
A thought, and claims the homage of a tear;
To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fell,