Atlantic Monthly Vol. 6, No. 33, July, 1860
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Joshua Hutchinson, Judith B. Glad and PG Distributed
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
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VOL. VI.--JULY, 1860.--NO. XXXIII.
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A GLANCE AT THE SCIENCE.
The purpose of this article is to present, in a brief and
simple manner, the leading principles on which the science of
Meteorology is founded,--rather, however, in the spirit of an
inquirer than of a teacher. For, notwithstanding the rapid
progress it has made within the last thirty years, it is far
from having the authority of an exact science; many of its
phenomena are as yet inexplicable, and many differences of
opinion among the learned remain unreconciled on points at first
sight apparently easy to be settled.
Meteorology has advanced very far beyond its original limits.
Spherical vapor and atmospheric space give but a faint idea of its
range. We find it a leading science in Physics, and having intimate
relations with heat, light, electricity, magnetism, winds, water,
vegetation, geological changes, optical effects, pneumatics,
geography,--and with climate, controlling the pursuits and
affecting the character of the human race. It is so intimately
blended, indeed, with the other matters here named, as scarcely to
have any positive boundary of its own; and its vista seems ever
lengthening, as we proceed.
Without dwelling upon the numerous consequences which flow from
meteorological influences, let us see what is properly included under
the subject of Meteorology. And first, of the Atmosphere.
This is a gaseous, vapor-bearing, elastic fluid, surrounding the
earth. Its volume is estimated at 1/29th, and its weight at about
43/1000ths, that of the globe. It is composed of 21 parts in weight
of Oxygen and 77 of Nitrogen, with a little Carbonic Acid,
Aqueous Vapor, and a trace of Carburetted Hydrogen. There are
numerous well-known calculations of the proportions of the various
constituents of the atmosphere, which we owe to Priestley, Dalton,
Black, Cavendish, Liebig, and others; but that given by Professor
Ansted is sufficiently simple and intelligible. In 10 volumes or
parts of it, he gives to
Oxygen, the great supporter of life 2.100
Nitrogen, (not condensible under 50
atmospheres, and not respirable or
Aqueous Vapor .l42
Carbonic Acid .004
Carburetted Hydrogen .004
and he adds a trace of Ammoniacal Vapor. It is _usual_ to state the
proportions of air as being 1 Oxygen to 4 Nitrogen.
It is a curious fact, that, while there are six varieties of compounds
of nitrogen and oxygen, but one of these is fitted to sustain life,
and that is our atmosphere.
It is well enough to note, that, when we use the word volume or
measure, in speaking of the atmosphere or any gaseous body, we adopt
the theory of Gay-Lussac, who discovered that gases unite with each
other in definite proportions whenever they enter into combination.
This theory led to important results; for by knowing the elements of a
compound gas, we easily determine its specific gravity.
It has been attempted to apply the principle to organic bodies;
but it has not yet been carried to a full and satisfactory
conclusion. It may be noticed, too, that Dalton affirmed that
simple substances unite with each other in definite weights
to form compound substances, thus supporting the idea of
Lussac. These discoveries were made about the same time,
Dalton having the credit of originating them. Various modifications
of the principle have been from time to time presented to public
Whether the constituents of the atmosphere are chemically or
mechanically combined,--one of the things about which the learned are
not fully agreed,--it is found to be chemically the same in its
constituents, all over the world, whether collected on mountains or on
plains, on the sea or on the land, whether obtained by aeronauts miles
above the earth or by miners in their deepest excavations. On the
theory of its mechanical combination, however, as by volume, and that
each constituent acts freely for itself and according to its own laws,
important speculations (conclusions, indeed) have arisen, both as
regards temperature and climatic differences. It should be observed,
that volume, as we have used the word, is the apparent space occupied,
and differs from mass, which is the _effective_ space occupied, or the
real bulk of matter, while density is the relation of mass to volume,
or the quotient resulting from the division of the one by the other.
Those empty spaces which render the volume larger than the mass are
technically called its pores.
Has the composition of the atmosphere changed in the lapse of years?
On this point both French and German philosophers have largely
speculated. It is computed that it contains about two millions of
cubic geographical miles of oxygen, and that 12,500 cubic geographical
miles of carbonic acid have been breathed out into the air or
otherwise given out in the course of five thousand years. The
inference, then, should be, that the latter exists in the air in the
proportion of 1 to 160, whereas we find but 4 parts in 10,000. Dumas
and Bossingault decided that no change had taken place, verifying
their conclusion by experiments founded on observations for more than
thirty-five years. No _chemical_ combination of oxygen and nitrogen
has ever been detected in the atmosphere, and it is presumed none will
* * * * *
The atmosphere possesses, as may be readily imagined, many important
characteristics. One of these is Weight.
This is demonstrated by simple, yet decisive experiments. The
discovery of the _fact_ is attributed to the illustrious Galileo, but
to modern science we owe all the certainty, variety, and elegance of
the demonstration. A vessel containing a quantity of air is weighed;
the air is exhausted from it and it is weighed again. An accurate
scale will then detect the difference of weight. A cubic foot of air
weighs 1.2 oz. Hence a column of air of one inch in diameter and a
mile in height weighs 44 oz.
The atmosphere is supposed to have an elevation of from 45 to 50
miles, but its weight diminishes in proportion to its height. The
whole pressure at the surface of the earth is estimated to be 15 lbs.
to the square inch; a person of ordinary size is consequently pressed
upon by a weight of from 13 to 14 tons. Happily for us, the pressure
from without is counteracted by the pressure from within.
The weight of the air is of great importance in the economy of Nature,
since it prevents the excessive evaporation of the waters upon the
earth's surface, and limits its extent by unalterable laws. Water
boils at a certain temperature when at the earth's surface, where the
weight of the atmosphere is greatest, but at different temperatures at
different elevations from the surface. At the level of the sea it
boils at 212 deg.. On the high plains of Quito, 8,724 feet above the sea,
it boils at 194 deg., and an egg cannot be cooked there in an open vessel.
At Potosi the boiling-point is still lower, being 188 deg., and the
barometrical column stands at 18 deg.. Indeed, the experiment is often
exhibited at our chemical lectures, of a flask containing a small
quantity of water, which, exhausted of air, is made to boil by the
ordinary heat of the hand.
Fahrenheit proposed to ascertain the height of mountains by this
principle, and a simple apparatus was contrived for the purpose, which
is now in successful use. The late Professor Forbes of Edinburgh,
whose untimely death the friends of science have had so much reason to
deplore, ascertained that the temperature of boiling water varied
arithmetically with the height, and at the rate of one degree of the
thermometric scale for every 549.05 feet. Multiplying the difference
of the boiling-point by this number of feet, we have the elevation.
The weight of the atmosphere, as indicated by the barometer, is also a
means for ascertaining the height of mountains or of plains; but
correction must be made for the effects of expansion or contraction,
and for capillarity, or the attraction between the mercury and the
glass tube, at least whenever great exactness is required. Tables for
the convenience of calculation are given in several scientific works,
and particularly in a paper of Professor Forbes, Ed. Trans. Vol. 15.
Briefly, however, we may state, that between 0 deg. and 32 deg., 34
thousandths of an inch must be allowed for depression or contraction,
and between 32 deg. and 52 deg. 33 thousandths. The weight of the atmosphere
is not only affected by rarefaction, but by currents of air, which
give it a sudden density or rarity. Those who have ascended mountains
have experienced both these changes.
A common experiment to prove the weight of air is that of the
Magdeburg Hemispheres, a simple contrivance of Otto Guericke, a
merchant of that city. It is a part of every complete philosophical
apparatus. It consists of brass caps, which, when joined together, fit
tightly and become a globe. The air within being exhausted, it will be
found difficult to separate them. If the superficies be 100 square
inches and the height of the mercury be 30 inches, the atmosphere will
press on these hemispheres with a weight of 1,475 lbs, requiring the
efforts of seven or eight powerful men to tear them asunder. One of
these instruments, of the diameter of a German ell, required the
strength of 24 horses to separate it. The experiment was publicly made
in 1650 at the Imperial Diet at Rendsborg, in the presence of the
Emperor Ferdinand III. and a large number of princes and nobles, much
to their astonishment.
As compared with water, the air (the barometer indicating 30 deg., and the
thermometer 55 deg.) is 833 times lighter.
It is this weight of the atmosphere which counterbalances that of a
column of mercury 29 inches in height, and a column of water 32 to 34
feet in height.
The old quaint notion of Nature's abhorring a vacuum was found to be
practically only an assertion that the air had weight. The ordinary
pump, commonly called the suction-pump, is constructed on this
principle. The weight of the atmosphere at the level of the sea is
found to be the same all over the world.
* * * * *
We find the atmosphere with another characteristic,--Elasticity.
However it may be compressed, air returns, on liberation, to its
original volume, and while thus perfectly elastic it is also the most
compressible of bodies. This elasticity arises from the repulsive
force of its particles, and is always equal to the compressive force
which it balances. A glass vessel full of air, placed under a receiver
and then exhausted by the air-pump, will burst into atoms. Water, on
the other hand, is almost the reverse. Twenty cubic inches, introduced
into a cannon whose sides are three inches thick, cannot be compressed
into nineteen inches without bursting it. This non-elastic property of
water, with another, that of communicating, when under the action of
any force, an equal pressure in all directions, led to the invention
of the hydraulic press.
The elasticity of the air enables fishes to rise and sink in water,
through the action of the air-bladder.
The sudden compression of air liberates its latent heat, and produces
fire. On this principle the pneumatic tinder-box is constructed.
Brockhaus says that air has as yet been compressed only into
one-eighth of its original bulk.
For every degree of heat between the freezing-point and the boiling-point,
32 deg. and 212 deg., the expansion of air is about 1/490th part, so that
any invention which seeks to use rarefied air as a motive power
must employ a very intense degree of heat, enough to fuse many kinds
To the celebrated Mr. Boyle and to Henry Cavendish, both of Great
Britain, we are indebted for most of what we know of this particular
property of the air.
* * * * *
Density, or closeness, is another quality of the atmosphere. It has
been found to be 770 times less than that of water, and 770 cubic
inches of air weigh as much as a cubic inch of water. It is in direct
ratio with its elasticity, and there are tables by which it may be
determined at different altitudes. At the surface of the earth, this
density is indicated as 1; at 2-1/2 miles, as 1/2; at 5 miles, as 1/4;
and so on, the difference being in a geometrical progression.
As we proceed in the consideration of our general subject, we shall
find, under the appropriate heads, that density is not without
material influence on reflection and refraction, on transparency and
the transmission of light, the presence or absence of moisture, and
the amount of heat at the earth's surface,--and we might add, on
health, and the increase or diminution of the vital energies.
* * * * *
Temperature is another branch of our subject, and one involving a
series of subordinate topics on which volumes have been written, and
to which are still devoted the labors of the most learned men of our
day. In this place, merely an out-line can be attempted.
Temperature is the degree of heat or cold in the particles of all
bodies, which is perceptible by sensation, and is measurable by their
expansion or contraction. It is the key to the theory of the winds, of
rain, of aerial and oceanic currents, of vegetation and climate with
all their multifarious and important differences. While the inclined
position of the earth on its axis and its movement in its elliptical
orbit influence the general amount of heat, it is rather to the
consequences of these in detail that we are called when we speak of
temperature. If the sun shone on a uniformly level surface, everywhere
of the same conducting and radiating power, there would be but little
difficulty in tracing the monotonous effects of temperature.
The reformer Luther, as eccentric as he was learned and sincere, is
reported to have said, that, if he had been consulted at the Creation,
he would have placed the sun directly over the centre of the world and
kept it there, to give unchanging and uniform light and heat! It is
certainly much better that he was not consulted. In that case, every
parallel of latitude would have been isothermal, or of equal mean
annual temperature. The seasons would have been invariable in
character. Some portions of the earth would have been scorched to
crispness, others locked up in never-changing ice.
Vegetation, instead of being universal, would have been confined to a
narrow zone; and the whole human race would have been driven together
into one limited habitable space, to interfere with, incommode, and
destroy each other. The arrangement is best as it is.
We find very important modifications of temperature, occasioned not
only by astronomical influences, but by local causes and geographical
characteristics. For while, as a general rule, the nearer we approach
the equator, the warmer we shall be, yet temperature is greatly
affected by mountains, seas, currents of air or water, by radiation,
by forests, and by vegetation. It is found, in fact, that the lines of
temperature, (the happy conception of Humboldt,) when they are traced
upon the map, are anything but true zones or circles.
The line of the greatest mean warmth is not coincident with the
equator, but falls to the north of it. This line at 160 deg. W. Long, from
Greenwich is 4 deg. below the geographical equator; at 80 deg. it is about 6 deg.
north, sweeping along the coast of New Granada; at 20 deg. it comes down
and touches the equator; at 40 deg. E. Long., it crosses the Red Sea about
16 deg. north of the equator, and at 120 deg. it falls at Borneo, several
degrees below it;--and the points of the greatest heat, in this line,
are in Abyssinia, nearer the tropic of Cancer than to the equator. On
the other hand, the greatest mean cold points, according to the
opinions of Humboldt, Sir David Brewster, and others, do not coincide,
as would seem natural, with the geographical poles, but they are both
to be found in the northern hemisphere, in Latitude 80 deg., 95 deg.E. Long.
and 100 deg. W. Long. from Greenwich. The western is ascertained to be
4-1/2 deg. colder than the eastern or Siberian. If this be the fact,--but
it is not positively admitted,--an open sea at the pole may be
considered as probable, on the ground of its having a higher mean
temperature than is found at 80 deg.. Kaemptz places one of these cold
points at the north of Barrow's Straits,--the other near Cape Taimur,
in Siberia. Burghaus, in his Atlas, transfers the American cold pole
to 78 deg. N. Lat. It is perhaps too early to determine rigorously the
true temperature of these points.
A noticeable fact also is this,--that places in the same latitude
rarely receive the same amount of heat. Quebec, in British America,
and Drontheim, in Norway, enjoy about the same quantity, while the
former is in 47 deg. and the latter in 68 deg. N. Lat. The mean winter
temperature of Pekin, 39 deg. 45' N. Lat., is 5 deg. below the freezing-point;
while at Naples, which is north of Pekin, it seldom, if ever, goes
below it, and Paris, 500 miles farther north, has a mean winter
temperature of 6 deg. above the freezing-point. The city of New York,
about 11 deg. south of London, has a winter temperature of much greater
severity. The mean temperature of the State of New York, as determined
by a long series of observations, is 44 deg. 31'.
The mean temperature of countries is found to be very stable, and but
very small variations have been detected in modern times. But that
there have been important climatic changes, since the Christian era,
cannot be doubted, unless we doubt history. Not many centuries ago, it
was a common thing for all the British rivers to freeze up during the
winter, and to remain so for several months. If space permitted, an
interesting statement could he made of the changes which have taken
place in vegetation in Greenland, and throughout certain northern
parts of Europe,--also in Palestine, Greece, and other southern
countries,--while we know that the earth's inclination upon its axis
has been unchanged.
Mrs. Somerville remarks, that, though the temperature of any one place
may be subject to very great variations, yet it never differs from the
mean state more than a few degrees.
Without this atmospheric covering of ours, it is considered that the
temperature of the earth at its surface would be the same as that of
the celestial spaces, supposed to be at least 76 deg. below zero, or
_possibly_, says Humboldt, 1400 deg. below! Human life, without our
atmosphere, could not exist for a single moment.
It is computed, that, if the annual heat received by the earth on its
surface could be equally distributed over it, it would melt, in the
course of a year, a stratum of ice 46 feet thick, though it covered
the whole globe, and as a consequence the amount of unradiated heat
would render it uninhabitable.
The relative position of the sun affects temperature, rather than its
distance. In winter the earth is three millions of miles nearer the
sun than in summer, but the oblique rays of the former season reach us
in less quantity than the more direct The distribution of land and
water, the nature of the soil, the indentation of bays, the elevation
of land above the sea-level, insularity, etc., all, as we have already
suggested, have a modifying influence on temperature.
The atmosphere possesses also a reflecting and refracting power,
arising from its varying density, and, perhaps, in the latter case,
somewhat from its lenticular outline.
But for this property we should have no twilight. The sun, instead of
sending up his beams while 18 deg. below the visible horizon, would come
upon us out of an intense darkness, pass over our sky a brazen
inglorious orb, and set in an instant amid unwelcome night.
Reflection is the rebound of the rays of light or heat from an
opposing surface at the same angle as that at which they fall upon it.
These are called angles of incidence and reflection, and are equal.
Refraction is the bending of a ray passing obliquely from a rarer into
a denser medium. This may be observed when a rod is placed slantingly
in a vessel of clear water; the part immersed will appear bent or
broken. This is ordinary refraction. Terrestrial refraction is the
same thing, occurring whenever there is a difference of density in the
The atmosphere absorbs some portion of the light which it receives. It
is not all reflected or refracted or even penetrative.
Objects seen under various degrees of light, either convected or
retarded by different media, appear near or distant, distinct or
confused. Thus, we are often surprised at the apparent nearness and
brightness of an opposite shore or neighboring island, in some
conditions of the air, while at other times they seem distant and lie
in shadowy obscurity.
The looming up of a vessel on the water is another common instance of
the principle of refraction.
It has been noticed by almost every one, that, during the warm and
moist nights of summer, the moon, as she rises above the horizon,
appears much larger than when at the zenith. So the setting sun is
seen of apparently increased size. Sir John Herschel asserts that the
appearance is an illusion, and so do some others. Professor Carey
says, that, if we look through a paper tube at the moon when on the
horizon, the paper being folded so as to make the aperture of its
exact size, and then look again at it when it reaches the zenith, we
shall find there is no difference.
On the other hand, an experiment is offered by a German Professor, of
the name of Milo, of this kind: If we look through a tube so
constructed as to have one side filled with spirits of wine and the
other with common air, the half of the object seen through the former
will be found to appear much larger to the eye than the other half
seen through the latter.
It is laid down, that, where extraordinary refraction takes place
laterally or vertically, the visual angle of the spectator is
singularly enlarged, and objects are magnified, as if seen through a
telescope. Dr. Scoresby, a celebrated meteorologist and navigator,
mentions some curious instances of the effects of refraction seen by
him in the Arctic Ocean.
Many remarkable phenomena attend this state of the atmosphere, known
as the Fata Morgana of Sicily, the Mirage of the Desert, the Spectre
of the Brocken, and the more common exhibitions of halos, coronae, and
mock suns. The Mountain House at Catskill has repeatedly been seen
brightly pictured on the clouds below. Rainbows are also due to this
condition of the atmosphere.
We might occupy the remainder of the space allowed us by enlarging on
various topics which belong to this part of our subject. The twilight
gray, the hues of the evening and morning sky, the peculiarity of the
red rays of light, the scintillation of stars, their flashing changes
of colors, are all meteorological in their character, as well as
strikingly beautiful and interesting.
* * * * *
Polarity of light is another of the wonders of which Meteorology takes
cognizance. The celebrated Malus, in 1808, while looking at the light
of the setting sun shining upon the windows of the Luxembourg, was led
to the discovery that a beam of light which was reflected at a certain
angle from transparent and opaque bodies, or by transmission through
several plates of uncrystallized bodies, or of bodies crystallized and
possessing the property of double refraction, changed its character,
so as to have sides, to revolve around poles peculiar to itself, and
to be incapable of a second reflection. The angle of polarity was
found to be 54 deg..
The beam of polarized light was also found to have the peculiar
property of penetrating into the molecules of bodies, illuminating
them and, enabling the eye to determine as to their structure. The
production of beautiful spectres, prismatic colors of gorgeous hues,
and the most remarkable system of rings, has followed the discovery,
and important results are expected from the continuation of the
researches. It has already enabled the astronomer to determine what
heavenly bodies do or do not shine with their own light. The subject
is still under investigation.
* * * * *
Color from light comes also under the notice of the meteorologist. The
received opinion is, that there is no inherent color in any object we
look at, but that it is in the light itself which falls upon and is
reflected from the object. Each object, having a particular reflecting
surface of its own, throws back light at its own angle, absorbing some
rays and dispersing others, while it preserves its own. In this sense
it may be said that the rose has no color,--its hues are only
borrowed. If the idea should be carried out, it would certainly
destroy much of the poetry of color. Thus, in praising the modest
blush which crimsons the cheek of beauty, we should destroy all its
charm, if we attributed it to a sudden change in the reflecting
surface of the epidermis,--a mere mechanical rushing of blood to the
skin, and a corresponding change in its angle of reflection!
Without light, however, there is no color. Agriculturists and chemists
understand this. Plants without light retain their oxygen, which
The theory of color has never been fully agreed upon. Some writers
maintain that the character of its hues depends on the number of
undulations of a ray. Goethe's theory is substantially, that colors
are produced by the thinning or thickening and obstructing of light.
Brewster contends that there are but three primary colors,--red,
yellow, and blue. Wollaston finds four,--red, yellowish green, blue,
and violet. But this, as well as the consideration of the solar
spectrum of Newton, is more the specialty of Optics. The atmospheric
relations of color are more apposite to our purpose.
The color of the clouds, which may be occasionally affected by
electricity, is owing to the state of the atmosphere and its
reflecting and refracting properties.
The color of snow is white because it is composed of an infinite
variety of crystals, which reflect all the colors of light, absorbing
none, and these, uniting before they reach the eye, appear white,
which is the combination of all the colors.
Wind, the atmosphere in action, though not picturesque, is always
wonderful, often terrible and sublime. The origin of wind, its
direction and its force, its influence on the health of man, his
business, his dwelling-place, and the climate where he perpetuates his
race, have attracted the profound attention of the greatest
To the rarefaction of the air at the equator, and the daily revolution
of the earth, is attributed the origin of the Trade-Winds, which blow
from the east or a little to the north of east, north of the equator,
and east or south of east after we are south of the equator. The hot
current of ascending air is replaced by cold winds from the poles.
But why are we not constantly subject to the action of north winds,
which we rarely are? Because of the diurnal motion of the earth, which
at the equator equals one thousand miles an hour, the polar winds in
coming down to the equator do not have any such velocity, because
there is a less comparative diurnal speed in the higher latitudes. The
air at the poles revolves upon itself without moving forward;--at the
equator, the velocity, as we have mentioned, is enormous. If, then,
says Professor Schleiden, we imagine the air from the pole to be
carried to the equator, some time must elapse before it will acquire
the same velocity of motion from west to east which is always found
there. Therefore it would remain behind, the earth gliding, as it
were, from beneath it; or, in other words, it would have the
appearance of an east wind. Lieutenant Maury adopts the same
explanation. It is, indeed, that of Halley, slightly modified.
The warm air, ascending from the equatorial regions, rushes to the
poles to be cooled in turn, sliding over the heavy strata of cold air
The northern trade-wind prevails in the Pacific between 2 deg. and 25 deg. of
N. Latitude; the southern trade, between 10 deg. and 21 deg. of S. Latitude.
In the Atlantic the trades are generally limited by the 8th and 28th
degrees of N. Latitude. The region of calms lies between these trades,
and beyond them are what are styled the Variables. In the former the
seaman finds baffling winds, rain, and storms. Occasionally, from
causes not yet fully explained, north and south periodical winds break
in upon them, such as the Northers which rage in the Gulf of Mexico.
There are many curious facts connected with the Trades, and with the
Monsoons, or trade-winds turned back by continental heat in the East
Indies, the Typhoons, the Siroccos, the Harmattans, land and sea
breezes and hurricanes, the Samiel or Poison Wind, and the Etesian.
The Cyclones, or rotary hurricanes, offer a most inviting field for
observation and study, and are an important branch of our subject. But
we are obliged to omit the consideration of these topics, to be taken
up, possibly, at some other opportunity. The theory of the Cyclones
may be justly considered as original with our countryman, Mr.
Redfield. Colonel Reid, Mr. Piddington, and other learned Englishmen
have adopted it; and so much has been settled through the labors of
these eminent men, that intelligent seamen need fear these storms no
longer. By the aid of maps and sailing-directions they may either
escape them altogether, or boldly take advantage of their outward
sweep, and shorten their passages.
We have yet to ascertain the causes of the many local winds prevailing
both on the ocean and the land, and which do not appear to be
influenced by any such general principle as the Trades or the
The force of air in motion gives us the gentle breeze, the gale, or
the whirlwind. At one hundred miles an hour it prostrates forests. In
the West Indies, thirty-two pound cannon have been torn by it from
their beds, and carried some distance through the air. Tables of the
velocity of winds are familiar to our readers.
Let us next advert to the connection of the atmosphere with Vapor and
Evaporation. The vapor rising from the earth and the sea by
evaporation, promoted by dry air, by wind, by diminished pressure, or
by heat, is borne along in vesicles so rare as to float on the bosom
of the winds, sometimes a grateful shade of clouds, at other times
condensed and gravitating in showers of rain. Thus it enriches the
soil, or cools the air, or reflects back to the earth its radiated
heat. At times the clouds, freighted with moisture, present the most
gorgeous hues, and we have over us a pavilion more magnificent than
any ever constructed by the hand of man. These clouds are not merely
the distilleries of rain, but the reservoirs of snow and hail, and
they are the agents of electric and magnetic storms.
Notwithstanding their variety, clouds are easily classified, and are
now by universal consent distinguished as follows.
In the higher regions of the air we look for the Cirri, the Curl
Clouds. They are light, lie in long ranges, apparently in the
direction of the magnetic pole, and are generally curled up at one
extremity. They are sometimes called Mackerel Clouds. They are
composed of thin white filaments, disposed like woolly hair, feather
crests, or slender net-work. They generally indicate a change of
weather, and a disturbance of the electric condition of the
atmosphere. When they descend into the lower regions of the air, they
arrange themselves in horizontal sheets and lose much of their
original type. The Germans call them Windsbaeume, or wind-trees.
The Cumulus is another form of cloud, which floats along in fleecy
masses, in the days of summer, but dissolves at night. Sometimes it
resembles a great stack or pile of snow, sometimes it has a silvery or
a golden edge, as if we saw a little of the lining. Sometimes they lie
motionless in the distance, and are mistaken by mariners for land.
They rest upon a large base, and are borne along by surface-winds.
Their greatest height is not more than two miles. They carry large
quantities of moisture with them, and, when preceding rain, fall
rapidly into other shapes.
The Stratus, or Fall Cloud, is horizontal in its figure, lies near the
earth, and its length is usually greater than its breadth. It floats
in long bands with rounded or sharpened points, and is seen rising
from rivers or lakes, at first as a fog. In the morning it indicates
fine weather. The Fall Cloud never discharges rain.
This comes only from the Nimbus, which is quite unlike the others. It
puts on a dark gray color, has irregular transparent edges, and
increases rapidly so as to obscure the sky. It appears to absorb the
other clouds, to be a union of their differently electrified
particles, which are attracted to each other, form drops of water, and
descend as rain.
Of the first three forms we have three modifications or varieties. The
Cirro-Cumulus is a congeries of roundish little clouds in close
horizontal position, varying in size and roundness, and often, to use
the words of the poet Bloomfield, appearing as "The beauteous
semblance of a flock at rest."
The Cirro-Stratus is more compact than the Cirrus,--the strata being
inclined or horizontal. It is sometimes seen cutting the moon's disc
with a sharp line. The Cumulo-Stratus, or Twain Cloud, is denser than
the Cumulus, and more ragged in its outlines. It overhangs its base in
folds, and often bears perched on its summit some other form of cloud,
which inosculates itself with it. Sometimes a Cirro-Stratus cloud
comes along and fastens itself to it parasitically. It is one of our
most picturesque forms of clouds.
Within the last two years we have twice observed in the city of New
York, during the summer afternoons, large masses of clouds coming over
from the southwest, and hanging rather low, which could not be well
placed in any of the classes already described, or recognized as such
by meteorologists. They consisted of a great number of hemispherical
forms of large diameter, hanging vertically from a Stratus cloud or
plane above them, and to which they appeared attached. They were
regular in shape, and very distinct; they barely touched each other,
and were of a gray color. They might be compared to a hay-field turned
upside down, with innumerable hay-cocks hanging below it.
Unfortunately, the circumstances under which the spectacle was
observed did not; admit of any resort to the barometer, thermometer,
or anemometer. Should further observations verify these remarks, it
might perhaps be proper to style this variety the Hemispherical.
* * * * *
Dew is another atmospheric product. It is the condensation of the
warmer vapor of the atmosphere, in calm and serene nights, and in the
absence of clouds, by the cold surface of bodies on which it rests. In
some countries it is copious enough to supply the want of rain. The
earth radiates its own acquired heat, grows colder than the
atmosphere, and so condenses it.
What is thermometrically called the dew-point is that degree at which
the moisture present in the atmosphere, on being subjected to a
decrease of temperature, begins to be precipitated or condensed. It is
the same as the point of saturation. Daniell calls it "the constituent
temperature of atmospheric vapor." It is our criterion for
ascertaining how much moisture there is in the air, and at what degree
of heat or cold it would be precipitated. When the air is saturated, a
dry bulb and a wet bulb will read alike.
The dew-point has been a puzzle to most persons. Very few treatises
explain it satisfactorily. The definition just given, though explicit,
is not quite enough. For it will be perceived that an ordinary
subtraction of the degrees of temperature on a wet thermometer, which
had cooled down by evaporation, from the actual temperature indicated
by a dry thermometer, will not give us the dew-point.
For example,--if a free or dry thermometer indicates 63 deg., and the one
with the wet bulb has by evaporation cooled down to 54 deg., the
difference would be 9 deg.. The dew-point would not be 54 deg., but that
degree to which the mercury would fall in the free thermometer, for
the atmosphere to become saturated with the quantity of moisture then
actually existing in it. It would be 46.8 deg..
This dew-point, which figures so largely in all well-kept
meteorological reports, is the key to many important conditions of the
atmosphere, affecting health, vegetation, and climate.
It is found that the air at different degrees of heat has different
degrees of elasticity, different degrees of tension, and different
degrees of capacity to hold vapor. Dalton, by a series of experiments
with barometer-tubes, into which he introduced air and vapor at
certain temperatures, found what its force was upon the mercurial
column from degree to degree. He also experimentally determined the
ratio of the weight of moisture and of air, the former being five-eights
of the latter,--in other words, how many grains of moisture
additional could be held by the air, advancing from degree to degree
of temperature. This being ascertained, a table of factors was
constructed, in other words, a set of figures contrived, which should,
by a multiplication of the subtracted difference between the range of
the dry bulb and the wet bulb of the thermometers, furnish the amount
of deduction from the former which would indicate the dew-point, or
the point to which the mercury in the dry thermometer must fall to
show how much more moisture the air could hold without its
condensation. These tables of factors have been constructed at the
Greenwich Observatory, and are generally used.
The Hygrometer, invented by Mr. Daniell, gives the dew-point by
It is an error to suppose that dew falls like rain from the air; it
forms on the body which is cooled down below the temperature of the
air. It differs in quantity with the radiating or cooling surface;
that which has absorbed and retained the most heat during the day
radiates the most at night and furnishes the most cold in return.
Hoar-frost, such as we find on our window-panes, or on the grass, is
the moisture of the warm air cooled down and frozen, and is produced
when the cold at the surface is below the freezing-point. What we in
common parlance call the action of frost, and which in this climate is
well known to be very powerful, is not particularly injurious to
Mists are the vapor near the ground rendered visible by the
temperature of the air falling below that of the vapor. When we see
our breath in a cold morning, we see a mist. Where the surface is
comparatively warm and damp, and the air is cooler, we have mists,
which, if dense, are called fogs. These are found plentifully on the
banks of Newfoundland; and with icebergs on the one hand and the Gulf
Stream on the other, we must always expect to have them.
The distribution of rain, which is one of the offices of the clouds,
is another of the more important features of Meteorology. The amount
of water taken up by evaporation into the atmosphere is almost
incredible. It is calculated by Lieutenant Maury that there is
annually taken up in the torrid zone a belt of water three thousand
miles in breadth and sixteen feet deep. Rain occurs regularly and
irregularly in different parts of the earth. In some places it may be
calculated upon to a day; in others it is quite unknown. Latitude and
longitude may indicate the points of distribution, but the causes are
dependent on temperature, winds, locality, and, what may seem a
strange assertion, upon the conduct of man himself. The greatest
quantity falls near the equator, diminishing towards the poles.
Much more falls on islands and coasts than in the interior of
continents,--more in the region of the variables and less in that of
the trades. There are, however, tropical countries of great extent
where rain is scarcely ever seen.
The influence of man upon rain is seen in the progress of
civilization, the destruction of forests, and the drying-up of meres,
swamps, and water-courses.
Forests undoubtedly affect the distribution of rain, and the supplies
of streams and springs. Their cooling influence precipitates the vapor
passing over them, and the ground beneath them not getting heated does
not readily evaporate moisture. Lands, on the contrary, which are
cleared of forests become sooner heated, give off larger quantities of
rarefied air, and the passing clouds are borne away to localities of
greater atmospheric density.
The Canary Islands, when first discovered, were thickly clothed with
forests. Since these have been destroyed, the climate has been dry. In
Fuerteventura the inhabitants are sometimes obliged to flee to other
islands to avoid perishing from thirst. Similar instances occur in the
Cape Verdes. Parts of Egypt, Syria, and Persia, that once were wooded,
are now arid and sterile deserts.
In the temperate zones these results are not so immediately apparent.
It is now much in doubt whether the climate of our country has changed
its character within the last two hundred years. Jefferson and Dr.
Rush both contended that it had. Our oldest inhabitants assert that in
their day our winters began nearly two months earlier than they do
The general laws laid down in relation to rain are these:--
1. It decreases in quantity as we approach the poles.
2. It decreases as we pass from maritime to inland countries.
3. It decreases in the temperate zones on eastern coasts as compared
with western coasts, but within the tropics it is the reverse.
4. More rain falls in mountainous than in level countries.
5. Most rain falls within the tropics.
* * * * *
The rainless regions, not deserts, are parts of Guatemala, the table-land
of Mexico, the Peruvian coast, parts of Morocco, Egypt, Arabia,
The electric character of the air is another subject of interest, and
a leading one in Meteorology. What can be more magnificent, what more
awful, than those storms of lightning and thunder which are witnessed
sometimes even in our own latitudes?
Faraday, who as a chemist and philosophical writer is of the highest
authority, professes to have demonstrated that one single gram of
water contains as much electricity as can be accumulated in eight
hundred thousand Leyden jars, each requiring to charge it thirty turns
of the large machine at the Royal Institution.
It is not intended that this astounding statement should be received
without some grains of allowance; but a very elegant and scientific
writer, who adopts it without hesitation, adds, "We can from this
crystal sphere [of water] evoke heat, light, electricity in enormous
quantities, and beyond these we can see powers or forces for which, in
the poverty of our ideas and our words, we have not names."
Flashes of electricity have been detected, during warm, close weather,
issuing from some species of plants. The Tuberose and African Marigold
have been seen to emit these mimic lightnings. (Goethe is the
authority for this.) To atmospheric electricity we doubtless owe the
coruscations of the Aurora, one of the most beautiful of our meteors.
The usual forms of lightning are the zigzag or forked sharply
defined,--the sheet-lightning, illuminating a whole cloud, which it
seems to open,--heat-lightning, not emanating from any cloud, but
apparently diffused through the air and without report. There are also
fireballs which shoot across the sky, leaving a train often visible
for seconds and minutes. These last, when they project any masses to
the earth, are termed aerolites.
Atmospheric electricity has much to do with the distribution of rain,
the precipitation of vapor, the condition of our nervous system, and,
according to Humboldt, with the circulation of the organic juices.
Atmospheric electricity has heretofore been a great obstacle to the
success of the Magnetic Telegraph, and curiously disturbs its
operation; but there has recently been invented an instrument called a
Mutator, which is connected with the wires, and carries off all the
disturbing influences of the atmosphere without interfering with the
working current. On the other hand, artificially created electricity
has led to important advances in many of the arts and sciences.
Ice is water frozen under a very curious and peculiar law. Hail is the
congelation of drops of rain in irregular forms, always sudden,--by
some attributed to electricity and currents of air violently rarefied
by it, and by others to rain-drops falling through a cold stratum of
air and suddenly congealed. Snow, the ermine of the earth, is the
crystallized moisture of the air, and is in subjection to unchanging
Water contracts as it grows colder, until it falls in temperature to
42 deg.. It then expands till it reaches 32 deg., when it becomes solid,
though its density is actually diminished, and its specific gravity is
reduced to .929, while that of unfrozen water is 1.000. Of course it
is much lighter, and it floats. This admirable arrangement prevents
our rivers being frozen up and our lakes becoming solid. Ice thickens
because it is porous, and allows the heat of the water to pass up and
the cold to descend; but this is happily a slow process, as ice is a
bad conductor. Salt water freezes at the temperature of 7 deg., 25 deg. below
freezing-point. There are many things to be said about ice, whether as
glaciers, or Arctic bergs, or, as it is found sometimes, contrary to
its general law, at the bottom of rivers and ponds, its geological
movements in the transportation of boulders, and as an article of
luxury;--but we are compelled to leave them for the present.
Snow, which, in its crystallization, surpasses the most perfect gems,
is invariably found arranged in determinate angles, to wit, 60 deg., and
its double, 120 deg., and formed of six-sided prisms. More than one
hundred kinds have been described by Dr. Scoresby and others, and all
these are combinations of the six-sided prism. The uses of snow, from
its non-conducting qualities, whether as appreciated by the Esquimaux
as a material for huts, or by the agriculturists of our own climate as
sheltering the seed, are too well known to require any particular
remarks. Strange as it may appear, the proximate cause of the
formation of snow is not yet fully agreed upon by the learned.
The connection between Sound and the atmosphere is an important one.
The air is a conductor of sound, and in some conditions one of the
best. A bell rung in an exhausted receiver gives no sound. In the
Arctic regions ordinary conversations have been distinctly heard for
the distance of a mile and a half.
All that we have thus far said in this article bears directly, in some
form or other, on another of the great features of Meteorology, one of
its great objects, and an unceasing topic,--namely, Climate.
The term Climate, in its general sense, indicates the changes and
condition of the atmosphere, such as we have been considering. It has
something to do with all of them; it is not entirely controlled by
any. Thus, places having the same mean annual temperature often differ
materially in climate. In some (we quote Mrs. Somerville) the winters
are mild and the summers cool, whereas in others the extremes of heat
and cold prevail.
Climates are not found coincident with lines of latitude; they are
quite as often found parallel to lines of longitude. If you connect
the extreme points of the mean annual temperatures by a line passing
round the earth, you have a zone, but never a true circle. The curves
Climate is dependent on temperature, winds, the elevation of land,
soil, ranges of mountains, and proximity of bodies of water; and it is
also the expression, if we may so term it, of the changes in the
atmosphere sensibly affecting our organs. Humboldt refers it to
humidity, temperature, changes in barometric pressure, calmness or
agitation of the air, amount of electric force, and transparency of
When mountains range themselves in lines of latitude across a
continent, they are barriers to civilization, to the mingling of
races, and the union of states. Thus, the Pyrenees have always kept
France and Spain apart, the Alps and the Apennines have secluded
Switzerland from its neighbors. In our own country, Providence has
placed our great mountains on a northern and southern axis; the
slopes, the direction, the prevailing winds, the facilities for
transportation and travel favor no one of our northern, southern, and
western States more than another.
Climate affects vegetation and the distribution of animal life, and
thus greatly modifies commerce.
Whatever of importance is accomplished in those countries where
climate has overpowered a race is best and principally done by the men
of the temperate zones, who carry with them perseverance, courage, and
ability, and maintain their ascendency, true to their type, while they
have their life to live.
But with our own eyes we may perceive how much climate affects
agriculture. The humidity or dryness of soils, their natural or
acquired heat or cold, the prevailing winds, the quantity of rain, the
snows, the dews, all affect the planter of the seed and the tiller of
the ground; they increase or diminish the aggregate of the products of
countries, the value of their imports and exports,--in short, their
material power, their resources, their influence, their very
The climate of our own country is exceedingly variable. The
transitions from heat to cold are very sudden, the range of the
mercury is very great. In the North, we have almost the Arctic
winters; in the South, almost the peculiarities of the tropics. Of the
State of Pennsylvania it has been said, that in this respect it is a
compound of all the countries in the world. Mr. Jefferson and Dr.
Rush, as before observed, insisted that our climate has changed; and
Williams, the historian of Vermont, contends that New England has
deteriorated in its seasons, temperature, harvests, and health, since
its early settlement. Our winds blow from every point of the compass,
but a due north wind is very rare. Our great western lakes have a
large influence on our climate. Some learned men have asserted, that,
if they were land, their area being about ninety-four thousand square
miles, the region would be so cold as to be scarcely inhabitable.
Such is an outline of our subject. The science itself is by no means
systematized. Many things are taken for granted which may yet be
disproved. If, says Humboldt, we perceive a want of connection in the
phenomena of certain sciences, we may anticipate the revelation of new
facts, whose importance will probably be commensurate with the
attention directed to other branches of study. What we want is a
larger class of observers, and not only those who are professional
persons, but those who would commune with Nature, and seek to
invigorate their minds by the acquisition of new ideas, and a recourse
to rich and pure sources of enjoyment.
But more than this. It is a requirement of the present age, says the
same authority, that there should be an equal appreciation of all
branches of mathematical and physical science; for the material wealth
and the growing prosperity of nations are principally based upon a
more enlightened employment of the products and forces of Nature.
Much attention has of late years been paid to this subject. Many
distinguished men in Europe have connected their great reputations
indissolubly with it, and it is absolutely true that more persons are
engaged in a common effort to promote this science than any other of
our time. In Paris there is a large and flourishing society where the
most brilliant of its savans combine their efforts. In London, that
which was established in 1850 has met with remarkable success, and a
most unexpected crowd of supporters. The finest instruments, the most
accurate observations, and entire uniformity of purpose have been the
result. In Germany, equal zeal prevails among its naturalists. There
are more than eight hundred stations throughout the world where
regular observations are made, and upwards of three hundred and sixty
of them are in the United States. The Smithsonian Institution has been
also a wise patron of this science, by its numerous publications, its
lucid directions for observing meteorological changes, and the
bestowal of standard instruments in large numbers to efficient and
well-placed observers. By a recent arrangement, a portion of this work
is to be performed by the Patent Office.
Observation, and accuracy in observation, are the foundation of this
science. The results are compared to the leaves of a book, which will
some day be arranged and bound together in one volume. The instruments
in use are delicate, ingenious, and indispensable. Their history,
uses, and importance would be topic enough for a separate article.
While at the first view Meteorology may appear to occupy but a limited
sphere, upon a closer examination it will be found to embrace almost
all the sciences, and to be commensurate with Nature itself. It is
continually influencing us, by its agencies appealing to our senses,
ministering to our wants, and governing our conduct.
Its influence upon its votaries is equally remarkable; for, as a rule,
they are distinguished among the learned, their characters are in
harmony with their pursuits, and they are recognized everywhere for
disinterestedness, philanthropy, and public and private virtue. While
Mental Philosophy, has made but little progress since the times of
Plato, and the world is but little better for scholastic disputations,
Natural Science has civilized man, elevated his condition, increased
the circle of his exertions, and, by the development of some of its
simplest principles, united the intelligent, the learned, the
enterprising, and the virtuous of all nations into a recognized and a
Once, the Castle of Chalus, crowned
With sullen battlements, stood and frowned
On the sullen plain around it;
But Richard of England came one day,
And the Castle of Chalus passed away
In such a rapid and sure decay
No modern yet has found it.
Who has not heard of the Lion King
Who made the harps of the minstrels ring?
Oh, well they might imagine it
Hard for chivalry's ranks to show
A knight more gallant to face a foe,
With a firmer lance or a heavier blow,
Than Richard I. Plantagenet;
Or gayer withal: for he loved his joke,
As well as he loved, with slashing stroke,
The haughtiest helm to hack at:
Wine or blood he laughingly poured;
'Twas a lightsome word or a heavy sword,
As he found a foe or a festive board,
With a skull or a joke to crack at.
Yet some their candid belief avow,
That, if Richard lived in England now,
And his lot were only a common one,
He ne'er had meddled with kings or states,
But might have been a bruiser of pates
And champion now of the "heavy weights,"--
A first-rate "Fighting Phenomenon."
A vassal bound in peace and war
To Richard I. was Vidomar,--
A noble as proud and needy
As ever before that monarch bowed,
But not so needy and not so proud
As the monarch himself was greedy.
Vicomte was he of the Limousin,
Where stones were thick and crops were thin,
And profits small and slow to come in.
But slow and sure, the father's plan, did
Not suit the son. Sire lived close-handed;
Became, not rich, but very landed.
The only debt that ever he made
Was Nature's debt, and that he paid
About the time of the Third Crusade,--
A time when the fashion was fully set
By Richard of running in tilts and debt,
When plumes were high and prudence low,
And every knight felt bound to "go
The pace," and just like Richard do,
By running his purse and a Paynim through.
Yet do not suppose that Vidomar
Was ever a knight in the Holy War:
For Richard many a Saracen's head
Had lopped before the old Count was dead;
And Richard was home from Palestine,
Home from the dungeon of Tiernstein,
And many a Christian corpse had made,
Ere the time in which the story is laid.
But the fashion he set became so strong,
That Vidomar was hurried along,
And did as many a peer has done
On reaching a title and twenty-one,
And met the fate that will meet a peer
Who lives in state on nothing a year.
Deserted by all, except some Jews,
Holding old post-obits and IOUs,
Who hunted him up and hunted him down,
He left Limoges, the capital town,
For his country castle Chalus,
(As spendthrift lords to Boulogne repair,
To give their estates a chance to air,)
And went to turning fallows;
At least, he ordered it, (much the same,)
And went himself in pursuit of game
Or any rural pleasure,
Till one fine day, as he rode away,
A serf came running behind to say
They'd found a crock of treasure.
No more he thought of hawk or hound,
But spurred to the spot, and there he found,
Beyond his boldest thoughts,
A sum to set him afloat again,--
The leading figure, 'twas very plain,
Was followed by several 0s.
Oh, who can tell of the schemes that flew
Through his head, as the treasure met his view,
And he knew that again his note was good?
He may have felt as a debtor would
Who has dodged a dogging dun,
Or a bank-cashier in his hour of dread
With brokers behind and breakers ahead,
Or a blood with his last "upon the red,"--
And each expecting a run.
What should he do? 'Twas very true
That all of his debts were overdue;
But the "real-whole-souled" must use their gold
To run new scores,--not to pay off old.
That night he lay till the break of day,
The doubtful question solving:
Himself in his bed, and that in his head,
He kept by turns revolving.
That selfsame day, not very far
From the country castle of Vidomar,
The king had been progressing:
A courtly phrase, when the king was out
On a chivalrous bender; any route
As good as another: what about
Were little good in guessing.
That night, as he sat and drank, he frowned,
While courtiers moodily stood around,
All wondering what the journey meant,
Till a scout reported, "Treasure found!"--
With a rap that made the glasses bound,
He swore, "By Arthur's table round,
I'll have another tournament!"
No more, as he sat and drank, he frowned,
Or courtiers moodily stood around,
But all were singing, drinking;
And louder than all the songs he led,
And louder he said, "Ho! pass the red!"
Till he went to bed with a ring in his head
That seemed like gold a-chinking.
'Twere wrong to infer from what you're read
That Richard awoke with an aching head;
For nerves like his resisted
With wonderful ease what we might deem
Enough to stagger a Polypheme,
And his spirits would never more than seem
A trifle too much "assisted."
And yet in the morn no fumes were there,
And his eyes were bright,--almost as a pair
Of eyes that you and I know;
For his head, the best authorities write,
(See the Story of Tuck,) was always right
And sound as ever after a night
Of _"Pellite curas vino!"_
As soon as the light broke into his tent,
Without delay for a herald he sent,
And bade him don his tabard,
And away to the Count to say, "By law
_That gold_ was the king's: unless he saw
The same ere noon, his sword he would draw
And throw away the scabbard."
An hour, for his morning exercise,
He swayed that sword of wondrous size,--
'Twas called his great "persuader";
Then a mace of steel he smote in two,--
A feat which the king would often do,
Since Saladin wondered at that _coup_
When he met our stout crusader.
A trifle for him: he "trained to light,"--
Grown lazy now: but his appetite,
On the whole, was satisfactory,--
As the vanishing viands, warm and cold,
Most amply proved, ere, minus the gold,
The herald returned and trembling told
How the Count had proved refractory:
Had owned it true that his serfs had found
A treasure buried somewhere in the ground,--
Perhaps not strictly a nugget:
Though none but Norman lawyers chose
To count it tort, if the finders "froze"
To treasure-trove,--especially those
Who held the land where they dug it,--
For quits he'd give up half,--down,--cash;
And that, for one who had gone to smash,
Was a liberal restitution:
His neighbor Shent-per-Shent did sue
On a better claim, and put it through,--
Recovered his suit, but not a _sou_
At the tail of an execution.
Coeur gazed around with the ominous glare
Of the lion deprived of the lion's share,--
A look there was no mistaking,--
A look which the courtiers never saw
Without a sudden desire to draw
Away from the sweep of the lion's paw
Before their bones were aching.
He caught the herald,--'twas by the slack
Of garments below and behind his back,--
Then twirled him round for a minute;
And when at last he let him free,
He shied him at a neighboring tree,
A distance of thirty yards and three,
And lodged him handsomely in it:
Then seized his ponderous battle-axe,
And bade his followers mount their hacks,
With a look on his countenance _so_ stern,
So little of fun, so full of fight,
That, when he came in the Count's full sight,
In something of haste and more of fright,
The Count rode out of the postern;
And crowding leagues from his angry liege,
He left his castle to storm or siege,--
His poor beef-eaters to hold out,
Or save themselves as well as they could,
Or be food for crows: what noble should
Waste thought on such? As a noble would,
He prudently smuggled the gold out.
In the feudal days, in the good old times
Of feudal virtues and feudal crimes,
A point of honor they'd make in it,
Though sure in the end their flag must fall,
To show stout fight and never to call
A truce till they saw a hole in the wall
Or a larder without any steak in it.
The fight began. Shouts filled the air,--
"St. George!" "St. Denis!"--as here and there
The shock of the battle shifted;
There were catapult-shots and shots by hand,
Ladders with desperate climbers manned,
Rams and rocks, hot lead, and sand
On the heads of the climbers sifted.
But the sturdy churls would not give way,
Though Richard in person rushed to the fray
With all of his rash proclivity
For knocks; till, despairing of knightly fame
In doughty deeds for a doubtful claim,
The hero of Jaffa changed his game
To a masterly inactivity.
He stretched his lines in a circle round,
And pitched his tent on a rising ground
For general supervision
Of both the hostile camps, while he
Could join with Blondel in minstrel glee,
Or drink, or dice with Marcadee,
And _they_--consume provision.
To starve a garrison day by day
You may not think a chivalrous way
To take a fortification.
The story is dull: by way of relief,
I make a digression, very brief,
And leave the "ins" to swallow their beef,
The "outs" their mortification.
Many there were in Richard's train
More known to fame and of higher degree,
But none that suited his fickle vein
So well as Blondel and Marcadee.
Blondel had grown from a minstrel-boy
To a very romantic troubadour
Whose soul was music, whose song was joy,
Whose only motto was _Vive l'amour!_
In lady's bower, in lordly hall,
From the king himself to the poorest clown,
A joyous welcome he had from all,
And Care in his presence forgot to frown.
Sadly romantic, fantastic and vain,
His heart for his head still made amends;
For he never sang a malicious strain.
And never was known to fail his friends.
Who but he, when the captive king,
By a brother betrayed, was left to rot,
Would have gone disguised to seek and sing,
Till he heard his tale and the tidings brought?
Little the listening sentries dreamed,
As they watched the king and a minstrel play,
That what but an idle rhyming seemed
Would rouse all England another day!
'Twas the timely aid of a friend in need,
And, seldom as Richard felt the power
Of a service past, he remembered the deed
And cherished him ever from that hour:
He made him his bard, with nought to do
But court the ladies and court the Nine,
And every day bring something new
To sing for the revellers over their wine;
With once a year a pipe of Sherry,
A suit of clothes, and a haunch of venison,
To make himself and his fellows merry,--
The salary now of Alfred Tennyson.
Marcadee was a stout Brabancon,
With conscience weak and muscles strong,
Who roamed about from clime to clime,
The side of virtue or yet of crime
Ready to take in a regular way
For any leader and regular pay;
Who trusted steel, and thought it odd
To fear the Devil or honor God.
His _forte_ was not in the field alone,
He was no common fighter,
For in all accomplishments he shone,--
At least, in all the lighter.
To lance or lute alike _au fait_,
With grasp now firm, now light,
He flourished this to knightly lay,
And that to lay a knight.
Ready in fashion to lead the _ton_,
In the battle-field his men,
He danced like a Zephyr, and, harness on,
Could walk his mile in ten.
And Nature gave him such a frame,
His tailor such a fit,
That, whether a head or a heart his aim,
He always made a hit.
Wherever he went, the ladies dear
Would very soon adore him,
And, quite of course, the lords would sneer,--
But never sneer before him!
Perhaps it fared with the ladies worse
Than it fared with their gallants;
For he broke a vow with as slight remorse
As he ever broke a lance.
Thus, tilting here and jilting there,
He fought a foe or he fooled a fair,
But little recking how;
So deadly smooth, so cruel and vain,
He might have made a capital Cain,
Or a splendid dandy now.
In short, if you looked o'er land and sea,
From London to the Niger,
You certainly must have said with me,--
If Richard was lion, Marcadee
Might well have been the tiger.
A month went by. They lay there still,
And chafed with nothing but time to kill,--
A tough old foe. Observe the way
They laid him out, as thus:--One day,--
'Twas after dinner and afternoon,
When the noise was over of knife and fork,
And only was heard an occasional cork
And Blondel idly thrumming a tune,--
King Richard pushed the wine along,
And rapped the table, and cried, "A song!
Dulness I hold a shame, a sin
Against good wine. Come, Blondel, begin!"
Blondel coughed,--was "half afraid,"--
Was "out last night on a serenade,
And caught a cold,"--his "voice was gone,--
And really, just now, his head"--"Go on!"
He bowed, and swept the chords--"Brrrrang"--
With a handful of notes, and thus he sang:--
Life is fleeting,--make it pleasant;
Care for nothing but the present;
For the past we leave behind us,
And the future may not find us.
Though we cannot shun its troubles,
Care and sorrow we may banish;
Though its pleasures are but bubbles,
Catch the bubbles ere they vanish.
There is joy we cannot measure,--
Joy we may not win with treasure.
When the glance of Beauty thrills us',
When her love with rapture fills us,
Let us seize it ere it passes;
Be our motto, "Love is mighty."
Fill, then, fill your brimming glasses!
Fill, and drink to Aphrodite!
Of course they drank with a right good will,
For they never missed a chance "to fill."
And yet a few, I'm sorry to own,
Made side-remarks in an undertone,
Like those we hear, when, nowadays,
Good-natured friends, with seeming praise,
Contrive to damn. In the midst of the hum
They heard a loud and slashing thrum:
'Twas the king: and each his breath drew in
Till you might have heard a falling pin.
Some little excuse, at first, he made,
While over the lute his fingers strayed:--
"You know my way,--as the fancies come,
I improvise."--There was ink on his thumb.
That morning, alone, good hours he spent
In writing despatches never sent.
There is pleasure when bright eyes are glancing
And Beauty is willing; but more
When the war-horse is gallantly prancing
And snuffing the battle afar,--
When the foe, with his banner advancing,
Is sounding the clarion of war.
Where the battle is deadly and gory,
Where foeman 'gainst foeman is pressed,
Where the path is before me to glory,
Is pleasure for me, and the best.
Let me live in proud chivalry's story,
Or die with my lance in its rest!
The plaudits followed him loud and free
As he tossed the lute to Marcadee,
Who caught it featly, bowing low,
And said, "My liege, I may not know
To improvise; but I'll give a song,
The song of our camp,--we've known it long.
It suits not well this tinkle and thrum,
But needs to be heard with a rattling drum.
Ho, there! Tambour!--He knows it well,--
'The Brabancon!'--Now make it tell;
Let your elbows now with a spirit wag
In the outside roll and the double drag."
I'm but a soldier of fortune, you see:
Glory and love,--they are nothing to me:
Glory's soon faded, and love is soon cold:
Give me the solid, reliable gold:
Hurrah for the gold!
Country or king I have none, I am free:
Patriot's quarrel,--'tis harvest for me:
A soldier of fortune, my creed is soon told,--
I'd fight for the Devil, to pocket his gold:
Hurrah for the gold!
He turned to the king, as he finished the verse,
And threw on the table a heavy purse
With a pair of dice; another, I trow,
Still lurked _incog._ for a lucky throw:--
"'Tis mine; 'twas thine. If the king would play,
Perchance he'd find his revenge to-day.
Gambling, I own, is a fault, a sin;
I always repent--unless I win."
_Le jeu est fait._--"Well thrown! eleven!
My purse is gone.--Double-six, by heaven!"
At this unlucky point in the game
A herald was ushered in. He came
With a flag of truce, commissioned to say
The garrison now were willing to lay
The keys of the castle at his feet,
If he'd let them go and let them eat:
They'd done their best; could do no more
Than humbly wait the fortune of war
And Richard's word. It came in tones
That grated harshly:--"D--n the bones
And double-six! Marcadee, you've won.--
Take back my word to each mother's son,
And tell them Richard swore it:
Be the smoke of their den their funeral pall!
By the Holy Tomb, I'll hang them all!
They've hung out so well behind their wall,
They'll hang out well before it."
Then Richard laughed in his hearty way,
Enjoying his joke, as a monarch may;
He laughed till he ached for want of breath:
If it lacked in life, it was full of death:
Like many, believing the next best thing
To a joke with a point is a joke with a sting.
Loud he laughed; but he laughed not long
Ere he leaped to the back of his charger strong,
And bounded forward, axe on high,
Circling the tents with his battle-cry,--
"Away! away! we shall win the day:
In the front of the fight you'll find me:
The first to get in my spurs shall win,--
My boots to the wight behind me!"
* * * They have reached the moat;
The draw is up, but a wooden float
Is thrust across, and onward they run;
The bank is gained and the barbican won;
The outer gate goes down with a crash;
Through the portcullis they madly dash,
And with shouts of triumph they now assail
The innermost gate. The crushing hail
Of rocks and beams goes through the mass,
Like the summer-hail on the summer-grass;--
They falter, they waver. A stalwart form
Breaks through the ranks, like a bolt in the storm:
'Tis the Lion King!--"How, now, ye knaves!
Do ye look for safety? Find your graves!"--
One blow to the left, one blow to the right,--
Two recreants fall;--no more of flight.
One stride to the front, and, stroke on stroke,
His curtle-axe rends the double oak.
Down shower the missiles;--they fall in vain;
They scatter like drops from the lion's mane.
He is down,--he is up;--that right arm! how
'Tis nerved with the strength of twenty, now!
The barrier yields,--it shivers,--it falls.
"Huzza! Saint George! to the walls! to the walls!
Throw the rate to the moat! cut down! spare not!
No quarter! remember----_Je--su!_ I'm shot!"
On a silken pallet lying, under hangings stiff with gold,
Now is Coeur-de-Lion sighing, weakly sighing, he the bold!
For with riches, power, and glory now forever he must part.
They have told him he is dying. Keen remorse is at his heart
Life is grateful, life is glorious, with the pulses bounding high
In a warrior frame victorious: it were easy so to die.
Yet to die is fearful ever; oh, how fearful, when the sum
Of the past is lengthened murder,--and a fearful world to come!
Where are now the wretched victims of his wrath? The deed is done.
He has conquered. They have suffered. Yonder, blackening in the sun,
From the battlements they're hanging. Little joy it gives to him
Now to see the work of vengeance, when his eye is growing dim!
One was saved,--the daring bowman who the fatal arrow sped;
He was saved, but not for mercy; better numbered with the dead!
Now, relenting, late repenting, Richard turns to Marcadee,
Saying, "Haste, before I waver, bring the captive youth to me."
He is brought, his feet in fetters, heavy shackles on his hands,
And, with eye unflinching, gazing on the king, erect he stands.
He is gazing not in anger, not for insult, not for show;
But his soul, before its leaving, Richard's very soul would know.
Death is certain,--death by torture: death for him can have no sting,
If that arrow did its duty,--if he share it with the king.
Were he trembling or defiant, were he less or more than bold,
Once again to vengeful fury would he rouse the fiend of old
That in Richard's breast is lurking, ready once again to spring.
Dreading now that vengeful spirit, with a wavering voice, the king
Questions impotently, wildly: "Prisoner, tell me, what of ill
Ever I have done to thee or thine, that me thou wouldest kill?"
Higher, prouder still he bears him; o'er his countenance appear,
Flitting quickly, looks of wonder and of scorn: what does he hear?
"And dost thou ask me, man of blood, what evil thou hast done?
Hast thou so soon forgot thy vow to hang each mother's son?
No! oft as thou hast broken vows, I know them to be strong,
Whene'er thy pride or lust or hate has sworn to do a wrong.
But churls should bow to right divine of kings, for good or ill,
And bare their necks to axe or rope, if 'twere thy royal will?
Ah, hadst thou, Richard, yet to learn the very meanest thing
That crawls the earth in self-defence would turn upon a king?
Yet deem not 'twas the hope of life which led me to the deed:
I'd freely lose a thousand lives to make thee, tyrant, bleed!--
Ay! mark me well, canst thou not see somewhat of old Bertrand?
My father good! my brothers dear!--all murdered by thy hand!
Yes, one escaped; he saw thee strike, he saw his kindred die,
And breathed a vow, a burning vow of vengeance;--it was I!
I've lived; but all my life has been a memory of the slain;
I've lived but to revenge them,--and I have not lived in vain!
I read it in thy haggard face, the hour is drawing nigh
When power and wealth can aid thee not,--when, Richard, thou must DIE!
What mean those pale, convulsive lips? What means that shrinking brow?
Ha! Richard of the lion-heart, thou art a coward now!
Now call thy hireling ruffians; bid them bring the cord and rack,
And bid them strain these limbs of mine until the sinews crack;
And bid them tear the quivering flesh, break one by one each bone;--
Thou canst not break my spirit, though thou mayst compel a groan.
I die, as I would live and die, the ever bold and free;
And I shall die with joy, to think I've rid the world of thee."
Swords are starting from their scabbards, grim and hardened warriors wait
Richard's slightest word or gesture that may seal the bowman's fate.
But his memory has been busy with the deeds of other times.
In the eyes of wakened conscience all his glories turn to crimes,
And his crimes to something monstrous; worlds were little now to give
In atonement for the least. He cries, in anguish, "Let him live.
He has reason; never treason more became a traitor bold.
Youth, forgive as I forgive thee! Give him freedom,--give him gold.
Marcadee, be sure, obey me; 'tis the last, the dying hest
Of a monarch who is sinking, sinking fast,--oh, not to rest!
Haply, He above, remembering, may relieve my dark despair
With a ray of hope to light the gloom when I am suffering--there!"
The captain neared the royal bed
And humbly bowed his helmed head,
And laid his hand upon the plate
That sheathed his breast, and said, "Though late
Thy mercy comes, I hold it still
My duty to do thy royal will.
If I should fail to serve thee fair,
May I be doomed to suffer--there!"
I've often met with a fast young friend
More ready to borrow than I to lend;
I've heard smooth men in election-time
Prove every creed, but their own, a crime:
Perhaps, if the fast one wished to borrow,
I've taken his word to pay "to-morrow";
Perhaps, while Smooth explained his creed,
I've thought him the man for the country's need;
Perhaps I'm more of a trusting mood
Than you suppose; but I think I would
Have trusted that man of mail,
If I had been the dying king,
About as far as you could sling
An elephant by the tail!
Good subjects then, as now, no doubt,
When a king was dead, were eager to shout
In time, "God save" the new one!
One trouble was always whom to choose
Amongst the heirs; for it raised the deuse
And ran the subject's neck in a noose,
Unless he chose the true one.
Another difficult task,--to judge
If the coming king would bear a grudge
For some old breach of concord,
And take the earliest chance to send
A trusty line by a trusty friend
To give his compliments at the end
Of a disagreeable strong cord.
And whoever would have must seize his own.
Thus a dying king was left alone,
With a sad neglect of manners;
Ere his breath was out, the courtiers ran,
With fear or zeal for "the coming man,"
In time to escape from under his ban,
Or hurry under his banners.
So Richard was left in a shabby way
To Marcadee, with an abbot to pray
And pother with "consolation,"
Reminding 'twas never too late to search
For mercy, and hinting that Mother Church
Was never known to leave in the lurch
A king with a fat donation.
But the abbot was known to Richard well,
As one who would smoothen the road to hell,
And quite as willing to revel
As preach; and he always preached to "soothe,"
With a mild regard for "the follies of youth,"--
Himself, in epitome, proving the truth
Of the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
This was the will that Richard made:--
"My body at father's feet be laid;
And to Rouen (it loved me most)
My heart I give; and I give my ins-
Ides to the rascally Poitevins;
To the abbot I give my darling--sins;
And I give "--He gave up the ghost.
The abbot looked grave, but never spoke.
The captain laughed, gave the abbot a poke,
And, without ado or lingering,
"Conveyed" the personals, jewels, and gold,
Omitting the formal To Have and to Hold
From the royal finger, before it was cold,
He slipped the royal finger-ring.
There might have been in the eye of the law
A something which lawyers would call a flaw
Of title in such a conversion:
But if weak in the law, he was strong in the hand,
And had the "nine points."--He summoned his band,
And ordered before him the archer Bertrand,
Intending a little diversion.
He called the cutter,--no cutter of clothes,
But such as royalty kept for those
Who happened to need correcting,--
And told him that Richard, before he died,
Desired to have a scalpel applied
To the traitor there. With professional pride,
The cutter began dissecting.
Now Bones was born with a genius to flay:
He might have ranked, had he lived to-day,
As a capital taxidermist:
And yet, as he tugged, they heard him say,
Of all the backs that ever lay
Before him in a professional way,
That was of all backs the firmest.
Kind reader, allow me to drop a veil
In pity; I cannot pursue the tale
In the heartless tone of the last strophe.
'Tis done, and again I'll be the same.
They triumphed not, if they felt no shame:
No muscle quivered, no murmur came,
Until the final catastrophe.
The captain jested a moment, then
He waved his hand and bowed to his men
With a single word, "Disbanded,"
And galloped away with three or four
Stout men-at-arms to the nearest shore,
Where a gallant array not long before
With the king in pride had landed.
He coasted around, went up the Rhine,
So famous then for robbers and wine,
So famous now as a ramble.
The wine and the robbers still are there;
But they rob you now with a bill of fare,
And gentlemen bankers "on the square"
Will clean you out, if you gamble.
He built him a Schloss on--something-Stein,
And became the first of as proud a line
As e'er took toll on the river,
When barons, perched in their castles high,
On the valley would keep a watchful eye,
And pounce on travellers with their cry,
"The Rhine-dues! down! deliver!"
And crack their crowns for any delay
In paying down. And that, by the way,
About as correctly as I know,
Is the origin true of an ancient phrase
So frequently heard in modern days,
When a gentleman quite reluctantly pays,--
I mean, "To come down with the rhino."
A LEGEND OF MARYLAND
"AN OWRE TRUE TALE."
The framework of modern history is, for the most part, constructed
out of the material supplied by national transactions described in
official documents and contemporaneous records. Forms of government
and their organic changes, the succession of those who have
administered them, their legislation, wars, treaties, and the
statistics demonstrating their growth or decline,--these are the
elements that furnish the outlines of history. They are the dry
timbers of a vast old edifice; they impose a dry study upon the
antiquary, and are still more dry to his reader.
But that which makes history the richest of philosophies and the most
genial pursuit of humanity is the spirit that is breathed into it by
the thoughts and feelings of former generations, interpreted in
actions and incidents that disclose the passions, motives, and
ambition of men, and open to us a view of the actual life of our
forefathers. When we can contemplate the people of a past age
employed in their own occupations, observe their habits and manners,
comprehend their policy and their methods of pursuing it, our
imagination is quick to clothe them with the flesh and blood of human
brotherhood and to bring them into full sympathy with our individual
History then becomes a world of living figures,--a theatre that
presents to us a majestic drama, varied by alternate scenes of the
grandest achievements and the most touching episodes of human
In the composing of this drama the author has need to seek his
material in many a tangled thicket as well as in many an open field.
Facts accidentally encountered, which singly have but little
perceptible significance, are sometimes strangely discovered to
illustrate incidents long obscured and incapable of explanation. They
are like the lost links of a chain, which, being found, supply the
means of giving cohesion and completeness to the heretofore useless
fragments. The scholar's experience is full of these reunions of
illustrative incidents gathered from regions far apart in space, and
often in time. The historian's skill is challenged to its highest
task in the effort to draw together those tissues of personal and
local adventure which, at first without seeming or suspected
dependence, prove, when brought into their proper relationship with
each other, to be unerring exponents of events of highest concern.
It is pleasant to fall upon the course of one of these currents of
adventure,--to follow a solitary rivulet of tradition, such as by
chance we now and then find modestly flowing along through the
obscure coverts of time, and to be able to trace its progress to the
confluence of other streams,--and finally to see it grow, by the aid
of these tributaries, to the proportions of an ample river, which
waters the domain of authentic history and bears upon its bosom a
clear testimony to the life and character of a people.
The following legend furnishes a striking and attractive
exemplification of such a growth, in the unfolding of a romantic
passage of Maryland history, of which no annalist has ever given more
than an ambiguous and meagre hint. It refers to a deed of bloodshed,
of which the only trace that was not obliterated from living rumor so
long as a century ago was to be found in a vague and misty relic of
an old memory of the provincial period of the State. The facts by
which I have been enabled to bring it to the full light of an
historical incident, it will be seen in the perusal of this
narrative, have successively, and by most curious process of
development, risen into view through a series of accidental
discoveries, which have all combined, with singular coincidence and
adaptation, to furnish an unquestionable chapter of Maryland history,
altogether worthy of recital for its intrinsic interest, and still
more worthy of preservation for the elements it supplies towards a
correct estimate of the troubles which beset the career and formed
the character and manners of the forefathers of the State.
It is now many years ago,--long before I had reached manhood,--that,
through my intimacy with a friend, then venerable for his years and
most attractive to me by his store of historical knowledge, I became
acquainted with a tradition touching a strange incident that had
reference to a mysterious person connected with a locality on the
Susquehanna River near Havre de Grace. In that day the tradition was
repeated by a few of the oldest inhabitants who dwelt in the region.
I dare say it has now entirely run out of all remembrance amongst
their descendants, and that I am, perhaps, the only individual in the
State who has preserved any traces of the facts to which I allude.
There was, until not long ago, a notable cavern at the foot of a
rocky cliff about a mile below the town of Port Deposit. It was of
small compass, yet sufficiently spacious to furnish some rude shelter
against the weather to one who might seek refuge within its solitary
chamber. It opened upon the river just where a small brook comes
brattling down the bank, along the base of a hill of some magnitude
that yet retains the stately name of Mount Ararat. The visitor of
this cavern might approach it by a boat from the river, or by a
rugged path along the margin of the brook and across the ledges of
the rock. This rough shelter went by the name of Talbot's Cave down
to a very recent period, and would still go by that name, if it were
yet in existence. But it happened, not many years since, that Port
Deposit was awakened to a sudden notion of the value of the granite
of the cliff, and, as commerce is a most ruthless contemner of all
romance, and never hesitates between a speculation of profit and a
speculation of history, Talbot's Cave soon began to figure
conspicuously in the Price Current, and in a very little while
disappeared, like a witch from the stage, in blasts of sulphur fire
and rumbling thunder, under the management of those effective
scene-shifters, the quarrymen. A government contract, more potent than
the necromancy of the famed wizard Michael Scott, lifted this massive
rock from its base, and, flying with it full two hundred miles,
buried it fathoms below the surface of the Atlantic, at the Rip Raps,
near Hampton Roads; and thus it happens that I cannot vouch the
ocular proof of the Cave to certify the legend I am about to relate.
The tradition attached to this spot had nothing but a misty and
spectral outline. It was indefinite in the date, uncertain as to
persons, mysterious as to the event,--just such a tradition as to
whet the edge of one's curiosity and to leave it hopeless of
gratification. I may relate it in a few words.
Once upon a time, somewhere between one and two hundred years ago,
there was a man by the name of Talbot, a kinsman of Lord Baltimore,
who had committed some crime, for which he fled and became an outlaw
and was pursued by the authorities of the Province. To escape these,
he took refuge in the wilderness on the Susquehanna, where he
found this cave, and used it for concealment and defence for some
time,--how long, the tradition does not say. This region was then
inhabited by a fierce tribe of Indians, who are described on Captain John
Smith's map as the "Sasquesahannocks," and who were friendly to the
outlaw and supplied him with provisions. To these details was added
another, which threw an additional interest over the story,--that
Talbot had a pair of beautiful English hawks, such as were most
prized in the sport of falconry, and that these were the companions
of his exile, and were trained by him to pursue and strike the wild
duck that abounded, then as now, on this part of the river; and he
thus found amusement to beguile his solitude, as well as sustenance
in a luxurious article of food, which is yet the pride of gastronomic
science, and the envy of _bons vivants_ throughout this continent.
These hawks my aged friend had often himself seen, in his own boyish
days, sweeping round the cliffs and over the broad expanse of the
Susquehanna. They were easily distinguished, he said, by the
residents of that district, by their peculiar size and plumage, being
of a breed not known to our native ornithology, and both being males.
For many years, it was affirmed,--long after the outlaw had vanished
from the scene,--these gallant old rovers of the river still pursued
their accustomed game, a solitary pair, without kindred or
acquaintance in our woods. They had survived their master,--no one
could tell how long,--but had not abandoned the haunts of his exile.
They still for many a year saw the wilderness beneath their daily
flight giving place to arable fields, and learned to exchange their
wary guard against the Indian's arrow for a sharper watch of the
Anglo-Saxon rifle. Up to the last of their appearance the
country-people spoke of them as Talbot's hawks.
This is a summary of the story, as it was told to me. No inquiry
brought me any addition to these morsels of narrative. Who this
Talbot was,--what was his crime,--how long he lived in this cave, and
at what era,--were questions upon which the oracle of my tradition
Such a story would naturally take hold of the fancy of a lover of
romance, and kindle his zeal for an enterprise to learn something
more about it; and I may reasonably suppose that this short sketch
has already stirred the bosoms of the novel-reading portion, at
least, of my readers with a desire that I should tell them what, in
my later researches, I have found to explain this legend of the Cave.
Even the outline I have given is suggestive of inferences to furnish
quite a plausible chapter of history.
First, it is clear, from the narrative, that Talbot was a gentleman
of rank in the old Province,--for he was kinsman to the Lord
Proprietary; and there is one of the oldest counties of Maryland that
bears the name of his family,--perhaps called so in honor of himself.
Then he kept his hawks, which showed him to be a man of condition,
and fond of the noble sport which figures so gracefully in the annals
Secondly, this hawking carries the period of the story back to the
time of one of the early Lords Baltimore; for falconry was not common
in the eighteenth century: and yet the date could not have been much
earlier than that century, because the hawks had been seen by old
persons of the last generation somewhere about the period of our
Revolution; and this bird does not live much over a hundred years. So
we fix a date not far from sixteen hundred and eighty for Talbot's
sojourn on the river.
Thirdly, the crime for which he was outlawed could scarcely have been
a mean felony, perpetrated for gain, but more likely some act of
passion,--a homicide, probably, provoked by a quarrel, and enacted in
hot blood. This Talbot was too well conditioned for a sordid crime;
and his flight to the wilderness and his abode there would seem to
infer a man of strong purpose and self-reliance.
And, lastly, as he must have had friends and confederates on the
frontier, to aid him in his concealment, and to screen him from the
pursuit of the government officers, and, moreover, had made himself
acceptable to the Indians, to whose power he had committed himself,
we may conclude that he possessed some winning points of character;
and I therefore assume him to have been of a brave, frank, and
generous nature, capable of attracting partisans and enlisting the
sympathies and service of bold men for his personal defence.
So, with the help of a little obvious speculation, founded upon the
circumstantial evidence, we weave the network of quite a natural
story of Talbot; and our meagre tradition takes on the form, and
something of the substance, of an intelligible incident.
At this point I leave the hero of my narrative for a while, in order
that I may open another chapter.
Many years elapsed, during which the tradition remained in this
unsatisfactory state, and I had given up all hope of further
elucidation of it, when an accidental discovery brought me once more
upon the track of inquiry.
There was published in the city of Baltimore, in the year 1808, a
book whose title was certainly as little adapted to awaken the
attention of one in quest of a picturesque legend as a treatise on
Algebra. It was called "The Landholder's Assistant," and was
intended, as its name imported, to assist that lucky portion of
mankind who possessed the soil of Maryland in their pursuit of
knowledge touching the mysteries of patents, warrants, surveys, and
such like learning, necessary to getting land or keeping what they
had. The character and style of this book, in its exterior aspect,
were as unpromising as it's title. It was printed by Messrs. Dobbin &
Murphy, on rather dark paper, in a muddy type,--such as no Mr.
Dobbin nor Mr. Murphy of this day would allow to bear his
imprimatur,--though in 1808, I doubt not, it was considered a very
creditable piece of Baltimore typography. This unpretending volume was
compiled by Chancellor Kilty. It is a very instructive book, containing
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