Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

very easy to escape from it. Divine Goodness has even so wisely disposed things, that the most dangerous and venomous animals furnish the remedy with the poison. Thus the scorpion's oil is an infallible remedy for its venom. A bee bruised, rubbed, and put on the wound, cures the evil of its sting. The fat of vipers is also an excellent remedy against their bite. Several creatures which appear hurtful are not really so, at least in certain respects. Their poison, and even the organs they make use of to wound others, are absolutely necessary to them. One example may serve for all the rest: the bee often gives pain with its sting, but if it be taken from it, the bee can never be of any use afterwards. It is the same throughout all nature. Every thing that appears hurtful, is, in reality, indispensably necessary. Wherefore, then, has man the presumption to decide what is hurtful or usefal in nature? Who can say it is contrary to the wisdom of God that we should sometimes feel pain! Do not the most disagreeable things often procure us the greatest advantage? In general, it is certain, that natural things are only hurtful by accident; and if we receive harm from them, we may often blame our own imprudence.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Singularities in the Vegetable Kingdom. “The variety of animals is so great, that it appears at

first difficult to find connexion between them and plants. Some beasts live only in water;, others only on land, or in the air: some can live in either or both equally. But it may be said literally, that it is the same in respect to vegetables. There are plants which only live in the ground; others that only grow in water; others that can bear no moisture; others, still, which live equally in land or water; there are even some that live in the air. There is in the island of Japan a tree, which, contrary to the nature of all other plants, which require moisture, cannot bear it. As soon as it is wet it withers, and the only way to save it from dying, is to cut it down to the root, to dry it in the sun, and afterwards plant it in a dry and sandy soil.

It has been discovered, that a sort of mushroom, of moss, and other little plants, swim in the air. The vegetation of the truffle is still more singular : this extraordinary tubercle has neither roots, stalk, leaves, nor blossom, nor either any visible seed: it draws its sustenance through the pores of its bark. But how it is produced, or why, in general, there should be no other herb found where this sort of mushroom grows, and the earth be light and full of crevices, has not yet 'been accounted for. .

There is no plant which can better be compared to the land and water animals, than that sort of membraneous moss, called nostock. It is an irregular body, a little transparent, and of a pale green colour It trembles when touched, and is easily broken. It can only be seen after it has rained; it is then found in several places, but chiefly in uncultivated ground, and along the sides of sandy roads. It is formed almost in a moment; for, when in summer, walking in a garden, not the least trace of it is seen; on a sudden a storm of rain falls, and in an hour after, in the same spot, the whole walk will appear covered with a great quantity of it. For a long time it was supposed that the nostoch fell from the sky; but it is now known to be nothing but a leaf which imbibes a great quantity of water. This leaf, to which no root has been discovered, is in its natural state when well impregnated with water ; but heat, or a high wind, makes the water evaporate in a few hours, and then the leaf contracts, shrinks, and loses its transparency and colour. From this circumstance it appears to grow suddenly, and to be created in a wonderful manner, with the rain; as a fresh shower falling on it, when it has been withered and invisible, revives and makes it again appear.

But there are still more singularities worth observation among the vegetables. The whole atmosphere is filled with millions of invisible plants and seeds. Even seeds of a larger sort are scattered by the wind all over the earth; and as soon as the air has carried them to the places where they can thrive, they become plants; and it requires so little for that purpose, that it is difficult to conceive whence they can draw what is necessary for their growth. There are considerable plants, and even trees, that take root and grow in crevices of rocks, without the least appearance of earth.

Vegetation is sometimes formed inconceivably quick: for example, if the seed of mushrooms or water-cresses be put into wet linen, they become a salad in twenty-four hours. There are plants which appear to have scarcely any life, and yet they continue to exist. We often see willows not only hollow and decayed within, but the outer bark so hurt that there scarcely remains the eighth part of it. These trunks, however, poor as they are, break out again every spring, and shoot into numberiess branches and leaves. How wonderful it is, that the nutritive juice of plants is not only supplied by means of the root, but by the leaves also, which draw it from the air, and in some degree pump it in; and that there should be plants, the branches of which become roots, and the roots branches, according as they are turned in planting them.

The great age to which trees arrive is also well worthy our admiration! There are apple-trees which must be above a thousand years old; and if we calculate in the gross, the fruit which such a tree produces every year, we cannot but admire the fertility of a

pippin, which can singly supply all Europe with trees and fruit of that sort.

But we should never have done, if we were to pursue these reflections so far as they might lead. Every thing is full of wonders! Every thing marks to us a Being of perfection, whose power, wisdom, and unbounded goodness, all join in bestowing upon us continual blessings and enjoyments.

LESSON LXII.

The Loadstone.

The loadstone is the most singular of all minerals in its properties. It is a stone of a dark grey colour, and has the virtue of attracting iron. This virtue is. not equal throughout the whole stone, but resides. chiefly in two of its points, called the poles of the loadstone. When this stone is suspended by a string, and unconfined, it constantly points one of its poles, to the north, and the other to the south, if first put in motion, and then left to itself. This regular direction, which only varies a little in some particular parts of the earth, has given the name of the northern pole to that which points to the north, and the southern to that which points to the south. The two properties of attracting iron, and pointing towards. the north, are communicated to iron by rubbing it. against the loadstone. This discovery introduced the magnetic needle, so indispensably necessary to navigators in long voyages; which proves, that things may become very useful to the world, though at first sight they appear of little importance; and that, in general, the knowledge and study of the magnificent

works of the creation, are of infinite advantage to the human mind.

These virtues in the loadstone prompted the naturalist to examine further into it, with the hope, not only of finding out the cause of such surprising effects, but of discovering new properties in the stone. They were more fortunate in the latter than in the former. It was observed, that the loadstone does not at all times, and in all places, point to the north; but that it sometimes inclines a little to the east, and sometimes to the west, more or less. It was observed, that its attractive powers were equally strong, though bodies were placed between the iron and the stone, which might be supposed to prevent the effect. Glass, fire, water, men, and animals, with every metal, except iron, . give free passage to the magnetic effluvia. It was discovered, that in two loadstones, the two poles of the same name, the two northern and two southern poles, repulsed each other, and seemed to fly one from the other. It was therefore concluded, that the power of attraction might be in the iron as well as in the loadstone, as they seemed to attract each other equally. In order to be convinced of this, one need only hang a loadstone on one end of the beam of a balance, and put an equal weight at the other end, and when the loadstone is balanced, and not in motion, to place a bit of iron under it: the loadstone will be immediately drawn down by the iron, and the other weight will fly up. If their situation is reversed, the loadstone will attract the iron in the same manner.

However singular these things are in the loadstone, there is another circumstance no less worthy of observation; which is, that all the endeavours and all the sagacity of the lovers of wisdom, who have taken such pains to discover the cause of these wonderful effects, have been hitherto fruitless. The loadstone is still a mystery to the human understanding. Let us not then be surprised, that in

« AnteriorContinuar »