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westerly monsoons. But, if we would view the subject in all its magnitude, let us contemplate with a philosophic eye the haven of any one of the larger sea ports of Europe; filled with vessels from every maritime nation of the world, freighted not only with every thing which the natural wants of man demand, or which the state of society has rendered necessary to his comfort, but with all which the most refined luxury has been able to suggest. “Merchandise,” to use the words of Scripture, “of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots.” But the importance of all the foregoing points of consideration in the history of the relation of the air to human wants is far inferior to that highest and most beneficial of all its relations, the production of the human voice: for from this source arises articulate language; without which medium of communication between man and man, what would become of the most important transactions of the business of life, as well as of its most rational pleasures, the charms of social converse? But the consideration of the mechanism of the human voice is appropriated to a distinct treatise: and the use of language is adapted rather to the moral than to the physical condition of man: and I therefore forbear to dwell on a theme in itself of the highest interest. In dismissing the subject of atmospherical air, I would wish to observe how beautiful an instance its history affords of the multiplicity of beneficial effects, of very different characters, produced by one and the same agent; and often at one and the same moment. Thus while we have seen the air of the atmosphere serving as the reservoir of that mass of water from whence clouds of rain, and consequently springs and rivers are derived, we have also seen that it at the same time prevents, by the effect of its pressure on their surface, the unlimited evaporation and consequent exhaustion of the ocean, and other sources, from whence that mass of water is supplied. And, again, while the agitation of the air contributes to the health of man, by supplying those currents which remove or prevent the accumulation of local impurities, it at the same time facilitates that intercourse between different nations in which the welfare of the whole world is ultimately concerned. And lastly, while in passing from the lungs in the act of expiration it essentially forms the voice, it at the same time removes from the system that noxious principle, the retention of which would be incompatible with life.
ADAPTATION OF MINERALS TO THE PHYSICAL CONDITION OF MAN.
It has been shown in the foregoing chapter, that the constituent parts of the atmosphere are few in number, and of great simplicity in their composition; that some of them usually exist in the state of invisible vapour, and consequently are without sensible form and colour: and that others, as light, and heat, and electricity, are not only without form and colour, but are also of such tenuity as to be incapable of affecting the most delicately constructed balance; in common language, are without weight. We are now entering on a department of nature, which consists of objects characterized by properties very different from those we have been lately considering; remarkable, as a class, for the mathematical precision of their form, the brilliancy and variety of their colour, and for their great weight; most of them being many times heavier than the heaviest element of the atmosphere.
Few mineral substances, however, exist in such a state of purity as to exhibit the simple characters of their individual properties; the class consisting of a great variety of species, which are capable of entering into union with each other, and of which the natural combinations are extremely numerous. But, as might be anticipated from the general analogy of nature, the advantages arising to mankind from this mixture of character are infinitely greater than if the individual minerals had existed in a state of purity, and uncombined with each other. Thus, to take the most familiar, and perhaps the most important instance, almost all natural soils consist principally of mixtures of the three earths called silez, lime, and alumine; none of which, unmixed with either of the other two, or at least with some equivalent substance, would serve the purposes of agriculture.
Again, all the common forms of clay consist principally of various combinations of the two earths called silew and alumine; and although many of those properties which make clay valuable are communicated by the alumine, the silex contributes very considerably towards the general utility of the compound.
SECTION II. Application of Minerals to Architecture and Sculpture.
AMong the earliest arts of civilized life may be justly reckoned the rudiments of architecture: for it may be with truth affirmed that, with very few exceptions, wherever man exists in a state of society, he is found to protect himself from the vicissitudes of the weather, not only by the immediate clothing of his body, but by means of independent habitations; to which, if at no other time, at the close of the day at least, he betakes himself; in order to enjoy that periodical rest which is requisite for the renewed exertion of his bodily powers: and very few are the situations which do not afford convenient materials for the purposes of building. In whatever situation then man may be placed, he will most probably have the means of procuring the comfort of a fixed habitation. Nor is it long before he adds a certain degree of luxury to utility: for wherever the simple architecture of the dwelling is not decorated with some ornamental additions, we may be certain that society exists in a very low state of civilization; so that sculpture, as an artificial refinement, seems to be a natural consequence of architecture. And, perhaps, the superiority attainable by education and habit is not displayed in any of the arts of life so strikingly as in these. From the simple tent of the Bedouin to the majestic ruins of Palmyra, among which it is pitched; or from the rude hut of the modern Acropolis to the awful grandeur of the Parthenon which overshadows it; how infinite are the gradations which mark the progress of these arts! And with respect to statuary, that highest department of the art of sculpture, what emotions is it not capable of raising in the mind, particularly when employed in representing the passions or any of the attributes of man If, for instance, the mind of the savage could be instantaneously elevated to the feeling of correct taste, what would be the sensations of the islander of the southern Pacific, in turning from the view of his hideously-formed and grim idol, to the contemplation of that glory of the Vatican,
The sun in human limbs arrayed, and brow All radiant from his triumph in the fight: — in whose eye And nostril, beautiful disdain, and might, And majesty, flash their full lightnings by, Developing in that one glance the Deity.” I will not here attempt to trace the history of architecture, considered as an art characteristic of civilized society: for in such an attempt our reasoning must often be founded on conjecture instead of facts; than which nothing is more unsatisfactory and irksome to a philosophically contemplative mind. It will be more congenial to the purpose of this treatise to point out the means afforded by nature for the advancement of an art, which in its origin is necessary to some of the chief wants and comforts of individuals; and which is subsequently conducive, by the exercise of the highest faculties of the mind, not only to national utility and glory, but also to national security.t With respect to the inferior animals, the instinctive propensity to construct receptacles for themselves or their offspring is obvious: and if on any ground we may attribute the principle of instinct to man, it seems justifiable on that which we are now considering. Omitting, however, those more remarkable instances of instinct which direct the bee, the ant, the spider, the swallow, or the beaver, in the fabrication of the structures which they put together with such nice art; if we merely consider the simple burrow of the rabbit or the mole, we seem to acquire a strong presumption that man would not be destitute of a similar instinct: and it may reasonably be supposed that, by whatever intellectual power or internal sensation the savage is directed so to adjust the various joints and muscles of his limbs as to balance his body when in danger of falling, by a similar power he is
* Childe Harold, canto iv. stanza 161. f In the construction for instance of military fortifications, and piers, and bridges, &c.