THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS
VOL. I—JANUARY, 1858.—NO. III.
NOTES ON DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE.
If building many houses could teach us to build them well, surely we ought to excel in this matter. Never was there such a house-building people. In other countries the laws interfere,—or customs, traditions, and circumstances as strong as laws; either capital is wanting, or the possession of land, or there are already houses enough. If a man inherit a house, he is not likely to build another,— nor if he inherit nothing but a place in an inevitable line of lifelong hand-to-mouth toil. In such countries houses are built wholesale by capitalists, and only by a small minority for themselves.
And where the man inherits no house, he at least inherits the traditional pattern of one, or the nature of the soil decides the main points; as you cannot build of brick where there is no clay, nor of wood where there are no forests. But here every man builds a house for himself, and every one freely according to his whims. Many materials are nearly equally cheap, and all styles and ways of building equally open to us; at least the general appearance of most should be known to us, for we have tried nearly all. Our public opinion is singularly impartial and cosmopolitan, or perhaps we should rather say knowing and unscrupulous. All that is demanded of a house is, that it should be of an "improved style," or at least "something different." Nothing will excuse it, if old-fashioned,— and hardly anything condemn it, if it have novelty enough.
And this latitude is not confined to the owner's scheme of his house, but extends also to the executive department. In other countries, however extravagant your fancy, you are brought within some bounds when you come to carry it out; for the architect and the builder have been trained to certain rules and forms, and these will enter into all they do. But here every man is an architect who can handle a T-square, and every man a builder who can use a plane or a trowel; and the chances are that the owner thinks he can do all as well as either of them. For if every man in England thinks he can write a leading article, much more every Yankee thinks he can build a house. Never was such freedom from the rule of tradition. A fair field and no favor; whatever that can accomplish we shall have.
The result, it must be confessed, is not gratifying. For if you sometimes find a man who is satisfied with his own house, yet his neighbors sneer at it, and he at his neighbors' houses. And even with himself it does not usually wear well. The common case is that even he accepts it as a confessed failure, or at best a compromise. And if he does not confess the failure, (for association, pride, use-and-wont reconcile one to much), the house confesses it. For what else but self-confessed failures are these thin wooden or cheap brick walls, temporarily disguised as massive stone,—this roof, leaking from the snow-bank retained by the Gothic parapet, or the insufficient slope which the "Italian style" demands?
There is no lack of endeavor to make the house look well. People will sacrifice almost anything to that. They will strive their chambers into the roof,—they will have windows where they do not want them, or leave them out where they do,—in our tropical summers they will endure the glare and heat of the sun, rather than that blinds should interfere with the moulded window-caps, or with the style generally,—they will break up the outline with useless and expensive irregularity,—they will have brackets that support nothing, and balconies and look-outs upon which no one ever steps after the carpenter leaves them,—all for the sake of pleasing the eye. And all this without any real and lasting success,—with a success, indeed, that seems often in an inverse ratio to the effort. If a man have a pig-stye to build, or a log-house in the woods, he may hit upon an agreeable outline; but let him set out freely and with all deliberation to build something that shall be beautiful, and he fails.
Not that the failure is peculiar at all to us. In Europe there may, perhaps, be less bad taste,—though I am not sure of that; but there, and everywhere, I think, the memorable houses, among those of recent date, are not those carefully elaborated for effect,—the premeditated irregularity of the English Gothic, the trig regularity of the French Pseudo-Classic, or the studied rusticity of Germany,— but such as seem to have grown of themselves out of the place where they stand,—Swiss chlets, Mexican or Manila plantation-houses, Italian farm-houses, built, nobody knows when or by whom, and built without any thought of attracting attention. And here I think we get a hint as to the reason of their success. For a house is not a monument, that it should seek to draw attention to itself,—but the dwelling-place of men upon the earth; and it must show itself to be wholly secondary to its purpose.
We have had a good deal of exhortation lately, now getting rather wearisome, about avoiding pretence in architecture, and that we should let things show for what they are. The avoidance of pretence should begin farther back. If the house is all pretence, we shall not help it by "frankness of treatment" in details.
The house is the sign of man's entering into possession of the earth. A houseless savage, living on wild game and accidental fruits, is an alien in nature, or a minor not yet come to his estate. As soon as he begins to cultivate the soil he builds him a house,—no longer a hut or a cave but the work of his own hands, and as permanent as his tenure of the cultivated field. If that is to descend to his children, the house must be so built as to endure accordingly. It is the material expression of the status of the family,—such people in such a place. Hence the two-fold requirement of fitness for its use and of harmony with its surroundings. A log-house is the appropriate dwelling of the lumberer in the woods; but transplant it to a suburban lawn and it becomes an absurdity, and a double absurdity. It is not in harmony with the place, nor fit for the use of the citizen. Nothing more satisfactory in their place than the old English parish-churches; but transfer one of them from its natural atmosphere and surroundings to the midst of one of our raw villages or bustling cities, exposed to the sudden and violent changes of our climate,—the open timber roof admitting the heat and the cold, and the stone walls bedewed with condensed moisture,—and after the first pleasant impression of the moment is over, there is left only a painful feeling of mimicry, not to be removed by any precision of copying, nor by the feeble attempts at ivy in the corners.
This is all evident enough, and in principle generally admitted; but we dodge the application of the principle, because we are not ready to admit to ourselves, what history, apart from any reasoning, would show us, that those importations are failures, and that not accidentally in these particular cases, leaving the hope of better success for the next trial, but necessarily, and because they are importations.
All good architecture must be the gradual growth of its country and its age,—the accumulation of men's experience, adding and leaving out from generation to generation. The air of permanence and stability that we admire in it must be gained by a slow and solid growth. It is the product, not of any one man's skill, but of a nation's; and its type, accordingly, must be gradually formed.
But in this, as in everything else, there must be an aim, and one persisted in, else no experience is gained. A mere succession of generations will do nothing, if for each of them the whole problem is changed. The man of to-day cannot profit by his father's experience in the building of his house, if his culture, his habits, his associates, are different from his father's,—much less if they have changed since his own youth, and are changing from year to year. He will not imitate, he will not forbear to alter. On such shifting sands no enduring structure is possible, but only a tent for the night.
We talk of the laws of architecture; but the fundamental law of all, and one that is sure to be obeyed, is, that the dwelling shall typify man's appropriation of the earth and its products,—what we call property. A man's house is naturally just as fixed a quantity as the kind and the amount of his possessions, and no more so. The style of it, depending on the inherited ideas of the class to which he belongs, will be as formed and as fixed as that class. Then where there is no fixed class, and where the property of every man is constantly varying, our quantity will be just so variable, and the true type of our architecture will be the tent,—of the frame-and-clapboard variety suited to the climate.
For good architecture, then, we need castes in society, and fixed ways of living. We see the effect in the old parsonages in England, where from year to year have dwelt men of the same class, education, income, tastes, and circumstances generally, and so bringing from generation to generation nearly the same requirements, with the unessential changes brought in from time to time by new wants or individual fancies, here and there putting out a bay-window or adding a wing, but always in the spirit of the original building, and the whole getting each year more weather-stained and ivy-grown, and so toned into more complete harmony with the landscape, yet still living and expansive.
It may be said that the result is here a partly accidental one, and not a matter of art. But domestic architecture is only half-way a fine art. It does not aim at a beauty of the monumental kind, as a statue, a triumphal arch, or even a temple does. Its primary aim is shelter, to house man in nature,—and it forms, as it were, the connecting link between him and the outward world. Its results, therefore, are partly the free artistic production, and partly retain unmodified their material character. In the image carved by the sculptor, the stone or wood used derive little of their effect from the original material; the important character is that imparted to them by his skill. Still more the canvas and pigments of the painter. But in architecture the wood and stone still fulfil the offices of covering, connecting, and supporting, as they did in the tree and the quarry, and their physical properties play an essential part in the work. The house, therefore, is a work of art only half emancipated from nature, and must depend on nature for much of its beauty also. It must not be isolated, as something merely to be looked at, apart from its position and its material use.
The common mistake in our houses is, that they are designed, as inexperienced persons choose their paper-hangings, to be something of themselves, and not as mere background, as they should be. Thus it is that people seek to beautify their houses by ornamenting them, as a vulgar person sticks himself over with jewelry. A man's house is only a wider kind of dress; and as we do not call a man well-dressed when we are forced to see his dress before we see him, so a house cannot be satisfactory when it isolates itself from its inmates and from the landscape. In such houses, the more effort the worse they are; they may cheat us for the moment, but the oftener we see them the less we like them. Does not the uncomfortable sensation with which fine houses so often oppress us arise from the vague feeling that the owner has built himself out of his house, and his house out of the landscape?
Hence it is mostly the novices that build the fine houses. A man of sense, I think, will generally build his second house plainer than his first. Not that he desires, perhaps, any the less what he desired before, but he is more alive to the difficulties and to the cost, and takes refuge in the safety of a lower scale. His experience has taught him that where he succeeded best he was really farthest from the end he sought. The fine house requires that its accessories should be in kind. All things within and without, the approach, the grounds, the furniture, must be brought up to the same pitch, and kept there. And when all is done, it is not done, but forever demands retouching. What is got in this kind cannot be paid for with money, nor finished once for all, but is a never-sated absorbent of time, thought, life. And it attacks the owner, too; he must conform, in his dress, his equipage, and his habits generally; he must be as fine as his house. The nicer his taste the more any incongruity will offend him, and the greater the danger of his becoming more or less an appendage to his house.
Much of that chronic ailment of our society, the "trials of housekeeping," is traceable to this source. This is a complicated trouble, and probably other causes have their share in it. But we cannot fail to recognize in these seemingly accidental obstructions a stern, but beneficent adjustment of our circumstances to enforce a simplicity which we should else neglect. One cannot greatly deprecate the terrors of high rents and long bills, and the sufferings from clumsy and careless domestics, if they help to keep down senseless profusion and display.
Our problem is, in truth, one of greater difficulty than at first appears. For we are each of us striving to do, by the skill and forethought of one man, what naturally accomplishes itself in a succession of generations and with the aid of circumstances. It is from our freedom that the trouble arises. Were our society composed of few classes, widely and permanently distinct, a fitting style for each would naturally arise and become established and perfected. There would be fewer occasions for new houses, and the new house would be less novel in style, and so two difficulties would be overcome. For novelty of style is a drawback to effect, as tending to isolate the house; and a new house is always at a disadvantage. Nature, in any case, is slow to adopt our handiwork into the landscape; sometimes the assimilation is so difficult that it must be ruined for its original purpose before it will be accepted. Sooner or later, indeed, it will be accepted. For though most of our buildings seem even in decay to resist the harmonizing hand of Nature, and to grow only ghastly and not venerable in dilapidation, yet leave them long enough and what of beauty was possible to them will appear, though it be only a crumbling heap of bricks where the chimney stood, or the grassy slope where the cellar-wall has fallen in.
It is for this reason that persons of taste have taken pains to face their houses with weather-stained and lichen-crusted stone, or invent proper names for them, in imitation of the English manor-houses. But Nature is jealous of this helping, and neither the lichens nor the names will stick, for the reason that they never grew there. They cannot be naturalized without naturalizing their conditions. The gray ancestral houses of England are the beautiful symbols of the permanence of family and of caste. They are the embodiments of traditional institutions and culture. When we speak of the House of Stanley or of Howard, the expression is not wholly figurative. We do not mean simply the men and women of these families, but the whole complex of this manifold environment which has descended to them and in the midst of which they have grown up,—no more to be separated from it than the polyp from the coral stem. All this is centralized and has its expression in the House.
Now as these conditions are not our conditions, the attempt to build fine houses is an attempt to import an effect where the cause has not existed. Our position is that of a perpetually shifting population,—the mass shifting and the individuals shifting, in place, circumstances, requirements. The movement is inevitable, and, whether desirable or not, we must conform to it. So we naturally build cheaply and slightly, that the house be not an incumbrance rather than a furtherance to our life. It is agreeable to the feelings to be well rooted and established, and the results in outward appearance are agreeable. But it is not desirable to be so niched into the rock, that a change of fortune, or even a change in the direction of a town-road, shall leave us high and dry, like the fossils of the Norwegian cliffs, but rather, like the shell-fish of our beaches, free to travel up and down with the tide.
The imitating of foreign examples comes from no real, heart-felt demand, but only from a fancied or simulated demand,—from tradition, association; at second-hand in one shape or another. It is at bottom something of the same flunkeyism that in a more exaggerated form assumes heraldic bearings and puts its servants into livery.
It may well reconcile us to our deprivation to remember at what cost these things we admire are established and kept up. The imagination is pleased with this stability; but it is bought too dear, if progress is to be sacrificed to it, if the freedom and the true lives of the members are to be merged in the family, and if they are to be the stones of which the house is built. It is not desirable to be adscriptus glebes, whether the bonds be physical or only moral ones. We may well be content to have our limits free, even though our architecture suffer for it. It is better that houses should belong to men, and not men to houses.
But whether we are content or not, it is evident that all hope of improvement lies in the tendency, somewhat noticeable of late, to the abnegation of exotic styles and graces. We have survived the Parthenon pattern, and there seems to be a prospect that we shall outlive the Gothic cottage. Even the Anglo-Italian bracketed villa has seen its palmiest days apparently, and exhausted most of its variations. We are in an extremely chaotic state just now; but there seems to be an inclination towards more rational ways, at least in the plans and general arrangement of houses.
Of course mere negation cannot carry us far. We sometimes hear it said that it is as easy for a house to look well as to look ill, and those who say this seem to think that the failure is due solely to want of due consideration of the problem on the part of our builders, and that we have but to leave out their blunders to get at a satisfactory result. But if we look at the facts of the case, we find the builders have some reason on their side.
Nothing can be more unsightly than the stalky, staring houses of our villages, with their plain gable-roofs, of a pitch neither high enough nor low enough for beauty, and disfigured, moreover, by mere excrescences of attic windows, and over the whole structure the awkward angularity, and the look of barren, mindless conformity and uniformity in the general outlines, and the meagre, frittered effect inherent in the material. But when we come to build, we find that the blockheads who invented this style, or no-style, have got at the cheapest way of supplying the first imperative demands of the people for whom they build,—namely, to be walled in and roofed weather-tight, and with a decent neatness, but without much care that the house should be solid and enduring,—for it cannot well be so flimsy as not to outlast the owner's needs. He does not look to it as the habitation of his children,—hardly as his own for his lifetime,—but as a present shelter, easily and quickly got ready, and as easily plucked up and carried off again. The common-law of England looks upon a house as real estate, as part of the soil; but with us it is hardly a fixture.
Surely nothing can be more simple and common-sense than an ordinary New England house, but at the same time nothing can be uglier. The outline, the material, the color and texture of the surface are at all points opposed to breadth of effect or harmony with the surroundings. There is neither mass nor elegance; there are no lines of union with the ground; the meagre monotony of the lines of shingles and clapboards making subdivisions too small to be impressive, and too large to be overlooked,—and finally, the paint, of which the outside really consists, thrusting forward its chalky blankness, as it were a standing defiance of all possibility of assimilation,—all combine to form something that shall forever remain a blot in the landscape.
Evidently it is not merely a more common-sense treatment that we want; for here is sufficient simplicity, but a simplicity barren of all satisfaction. And singularly enough, it seems, with all its meagreness, to pass easily into an ostentatious display. In these houses there is no thought of "architecture"; that is considered as something quite apart, and not essential to the well-building of the house. But for this very reason matters are not much changed when the owner determines to spend something for looks. The house remains at bottom the same rude mass, with the "architecture" tacked on. It is not that the owner has any deeper or different sentiment towards his dwelling, but merely that he has a desire to make a flourish before the eyes of beholders. There is no heartfelt interest in all this on his part; it gives him no pleasure; how, then, should it please the spectator?
The case is the same, whether it be the coarse ornamentation of the cheap cottage, or the work of the fashionable architect; we feel that the decoration is superficial and may be dispensed with, and then, however skillful, it becomes superfluous. The more elaborate the worse, for attention is the more drawn to the failure.
What is wanted for any real progress is not so much a greater skill in our house-builders, as more thoughtful consideration on the part of the house-owners of what truly interests them in the house. We do not stop to examine what really weighs with us, but on some fancied necessity hasten to do superfluous things. What is it that we really care for in the building of our houses? Is it not, that, like dress, or manners, they should facilitate, and not impede the business of life? We do not wish to be compelled to think of them by themselves either as good or bad, but to get rid of any obstruction from them. They are to be lived in, not looked at; and their beauty must grow as naturally from their use as the flower from its stem, so that it shall not be possible to say where the one ends and the other begins. Not that beauty will come of itself; there must be the feeling to be satisfied before any satisfaction will come. But we shall not help it by pretending the feeling, nor by trying to persuade others or ourselves that we are pleased with what has been pleasing to other nations and under other circumstances. Our poverty, if poverty it be, is not disgraceful, until we attempt to conceal it by our affectation of foreign airs and graces.
MAYA, THE PRINCESS.
The sea floated its foam-caps upon the gray shore, and murmured its inarticulate love-stories all day to the dumb rocks above; the blue sky was bordered with saffron sunrises, pink sunsets, silver moon-fringes, or spangled with careless stars; the air was full of south-winds that had fluttered the hearts of a thousand roses and a million violets with long, deep kisses, and then flung the delicate odors abroad to tell their exploits, and set the butterflies mad with jealousy, and the bees crazy with avarice. And all this bloom was upon the country of Larrirepense, when Queen Lura's little daughter came to life in the Topaz Palace that stood on Sunrise Hills, and was King Joconde's summer pavilion.
Now there was no searching far and wide for godfathers, godmothers, and a name, as there is when the princesses of this world are born: for, in the first place, Larrirepense was a country of pious heathen, and full of fairies; the people worshipped an Idea, and invited the fairy folk to all their parties, as we who are proper here invite the clergy; only the fairy folk did not get behind the door, or leave the room, when dancing commenced.
And the reason why this princess was born to a name, as well as to a kingdom, was, that, long ago, the people who kept records in Larrirepense were much troubled by the ladies of that land never growing old: they staid at thirty for ten years; at forty, for twenty; and all died before fifty, which made much confusion in dates,— especially when some women were called upon to tell traditions, the only sort of history endured in that kingdom; because it was against the law to write either lies or romances, though you might hear and tell them, if you would, and some people would; although to call a man a historian there was the same thing as to say, "You lie!" here.
But as I was saying, this evergreen way into which the women fell caused much trouble, and the Twelve Sages made a law that for six hundred years every female child born in any month of the seventy-two hundred following should be named by the name ordained for that month; and then they made a long list, containing seventy-two hundred names of women, and locked it up in the box of Great Designs, which stood always under the king's throne; and thenceforward, at the beginning of every month, the Twelve Sages unlocked the box, consulted the paper, and sent a herald through the town to proclaim the girl-name for that month. So this saved a world of trouble; for if some wrinkled old maid should say, "And that happened long ago, some time before I was born," all her gossips laughed, and cried out, "Ho! ho! there's a historian! do we not all know you were a born Allia, ten years before that date?"—and then the old maid was put to shame.
Now it happened well for Queen Lura's lovely daughter, that on her birth-month was written the gracious name of Maya, for it seemed well to fit her grace and delicacy, while but few in that country knew its sad Oriental depth, or that it had any meaning at all.
It was all one flush of dawn upon Sunrise Hills, when the maids-of-honor, in curls and white frocks, began to strew the great Hall of Amethyst with geranium leaves, and arrange light tripods of gold for the fairies, who were that day gathered from all Larrirepense to see and gift the new princess. The Queen had written notes to them on spicy magnolia-petals, and now the head-nurse and the grand-equerry wheeled her couch of state into the Hall of Amethyst, that she might receive the tender wishes of the good fairies, while yet the sweet languor of her motherhood kept her from the fresh wind and bright dew out of doors.
The couch of state was fashioned like a great rose of crimson velvet; only where there should have been the gold anthers of the flower lay the lovely Queen, wrapped in a mantle of canary-birds' down, and nested on one arm slept the Child of the Kingdom, Maya. Presently a cloud of honey-bees swept through the wide windows, and settling upon the ceiling began a murmurous song, when, one by one, the flower-fairies entered, and flitting to their tripods, each garlanded with her own blossom, awaited the coming of their Head,—the Fairy Cordis.
As the Queen perceived their delay, a sudden pang crossed her pale and tranquil brow.
"Ah!" said she, to the nurse-in-chief, Mrs. Lita, "my poor baby, Maya! What have I done? I have neglected to ask the Fairy Anima, and now she will come in anger, and give my child an evil gift, unless Cordis hastens!"
"Do not fear, Madam!" said Mrs. Lita, "your nerves are weak,—take a little cordial."
So she gave the Queen a red glass full of honeybell whiskey; but she called it a fine name, like Rose-dew, or Tears-of-Flax, and then Queen Lura drank it down nicely;—so much depends on names, even in Larrirepense!
But as Mrs. Lita set away the glass, the bees upon the ceiling began to buzz in a most angry manner, and rally about the queen-bee; the south-wind cried round the palace corner; and a strange light, like the sun shining when it rains, threw a lurid glow over the graceful fairy forms. Then the door of the hall flung open, and a beautiful, wrathful shape crossed the threshold;—it was the Fairy Anima. Where she gathered the gauzes that made her rainbow vest, or the water-diamonds that gemmed her night-black hair, or the sun-fringed cloud of purple that was her robe, no fay or mortal knew; but they knew well the power of her presence, and grew pale at her anger.
With swift feet she neared the couch of state, but her steps lingered as she saw within those crimson leaves the delicate, fear-pale face of the Queen, and her sleeping child.
"Always rose-folded!" she murmured, "and I tread the winds abroad! A fair bud, and I am but a stately stem! You were foolish and frail, Queen Lura, that you sent me no word of your harvest-time; now I come angry. Show me the child!"
Mrs. Lita, with awed steps, drew near, and lifted the baby in her arms, and the child's soft hazel eyes looked with grave innocence at Anima. Truly, the Princess was a lovely piece of nature: her hair, like fine silk, fell in dark, yet gilded tresses from her snow-white brow; her eyes were thoughtless, tender, serene; her lips red as the heart of a peach; her skin so fair that it seemed stained with violets where the blue veins crept lovingly beneath; and her dimpled cheeks were flushed with sleep like the sunset sky.
Anima looked at the baby.—"Ah! too much, too much!" said she. "Queen Lura, a butterfly can eat honey only; let us have a higher life for the Princess of Larrirepense. Maya, I give thee for a birth-gift another crown. Receive the Spark!"
Queen Lura shrieked; but Anima stretching out her wand, a snake of black diamonds, with a blood-red head, touched the child's eyes, and from the serpent's rapid tongue a spark of fire darted into either eye, and sunk deeper and deeper,—for two tears flowed above, and hung on Maya's silky lashes, as she looked with a preternatural expression of reproach at the Fairy.
Now all was confusion. Queen Lura tried to faint,—she knew it was proper,—and the grand-equerry rang all the palace bells in a row. Anima gave no glance at the little Princess, who still sat upright in Mrs. Lita's petrified arms, but went proudly from the hall alone.
The flower-fairies dropped their wands with one sonorous clang upon the floor, and with bitter sighs and wringing hands flitted one after another to the portal, bewailing, as they went, their wasted gifts and powers.
"Why should I give her beauty?" cried the Fairy Rose; "all eyes will be dazzled with the Spark; who will know on what form it shines?"
So the red rose dropped and died.
"Why should I bring her innocence?" said the Fairy Lily; "the Spark will burn all evil from her, thought and deed!"
Then the white lily dropped and died.
"Is there any use to her in grace?" wept the Fairy Eglantine; "the Spark will melt away all mortal grossness, till she is light and graceful as the clouds above."
And the eglantine wreaths dropped and died.
"She will never want humility," said the Fairy Violet; "for she will find too soon that the Spark is a curse as well as a crown!"
So the violet dropped and died.
Then the Sun-dew denied her pity; the blue Forget-me not, constancy; the Iris, pride; the Butter-cup, gold; the Passion-flower, love; the Amaranth, hope: all because the Spark should gift her with every one of these, and burn the gift in deeply. So they all dropped and died; and she could never know the flowers of life,—only its fires.
But in the end of all this flight came a ray of consolation, like the star that heralds dawn, springing upward on the skirt of night's blackest hour. The raging bees that had swarmed upon the golden chandelier returned to the ceiling and their song; the scattered flowers revived and scented the air: for the Fairy Cordis came,—too late, but welcome; her face bright with flushes of vivid, but uncertain rose,—her deep gray eyes brimming with motherhood, a sister's fondness, and the ardor of a child. The tenderest garden-spider-webs made her a robe, full of little common blue-eyed flowers, and in her gold-brown hair rested a light circle of such blooms as beguile the winter days of the poor and the desolate, and put forth their sweetest buds by the garret window, or the bedside of a sick man.
Mrs. Lita nearly dropped the baby, in her great relief of mind; but Cordis caught it, and looked at its brilliant face with tears.
"Ah, Head of the Fairies, help me!" murmured Queen Lura, extending her arms toward Cordis; for she had kept one eye open wide enough to see what would happen while she fainted away.
"All I can, I will," said the kindly fairy, speaking in the same key that a lark sings in. So she sat down upon a white velvet mushroom and fell to thinking, while Maya, the Princess, looked at her from the rose where she lay, and the Queen, having pushed her down robe safely out of the way, leaned her head on her hand, and very properly cried as much as six tears.
Soon, like a sunbeam, Cordis looked up. "I can give the Princess a counter-charm, Queen Lura," said she,—"but it is not sure. Look you! she will have a lonely life,—for the Spark burns, as well as shines, and the only way to mend that matter is to give the fire better fuel than herself. For some long years yet, she must keep herself in peace and the shade; but when she is a woman, and the Spark can no more be hidden,—since to be a woman is to have power and pain,— then let her veil herself, and with a staff and scrip go abroad into the world, for her time is come. Now in this kingdom of Larrirepense there stand many houses, all empty, but swept and garnished, and a fire laid ready on the hearth for the hand of the Coming to kindle. But sometimes, nay, often, this fire is a cheat: for there be men who carve the semblance of it in stone, and are so content to have the chill for the blaze all their lives; and on some hearths the logs are green wood, set up before their time; and on some they are but ashes, for the fire has burned and died, and left the ghostly shape of boughs behind; and sometimes, again, they are but icicles clothed in bark, to save the shame of the possessor. But there are some hearths laid with dry and goodly timber; and if the Princess Maya does not fail, but chooses a real and honest heap of wood, and kindles it from the Spark within her, then will she have a most perfect life; for the fire that consumes her shall leave its evil work, and make the light and warmth of a household, and rescue her forever from the accursed crown of the Spark. But I grieve to tell you, yet one of my name cannot lie—if the Princess mistake the false for the true, if she flashes her fire upon stone, or ice, or embers, either the Spark will recoil and burn her to ashes, or it will die where she placed it and turn her to stone, or—worst fate of all, yet likeliest to befall the tenderest and best—it will reenter her at her lips, and turn her whole nature to the bitterness of gall, so that neither food shall refresh her, sleep rest her, water quench her thirst, nor fire warm her body. Is it worth the trial? or shall she live and burn slowly to her death, with the unquenchable fire of the Spark?"
"Ah! let her, at the least, try for that perfect life," said Queen Lura.
Then the Fairy Cordis drew from her delicate finger a ring of twisted gold, in which was set an opal wrought into the shape of a heart, and in it palpitated, like throbbing blood, one scarlet flash of flame.
"Let her keep this always on her hand," said Cordis. "It will serve to test the truth of the fire she strives to kindle; for if it be not true wood, this heart will grow cold, the throb cease, the glow become dim. The talisman may, will, save her, unless in the madness of joy she forget to ask its aid, or the Spark flashing upon its surface seems to create anew the fire within, and thus deceives her."
So the Fairy put the ring upon Queen Lura's hand, and kissed Maya's fair brow, already shaded with sleep. The bees upon the ceiling followed her, dropping honey as they went; the maids-of-honor wheeled away the couch of state; the castle-maids swept up the fading leaves and blossoms, drew the tulip-tree curtains down, fastened the great door with a sandal-wood bar, sprinkled the corridors with rosewater; and by moonrise, when the nightingales sung loud from the laurel thickets, all the country slept,—even Maya; but the Spark burned bright, and she dreamed.
So the night came on, and many another night, and many a new day,— till Maya, grown a girl, looked onward to the life before her with strange foreboding, for still the Spark burned.
Hitherto it had been but a glad light on all things, except men and women; for into their souls the Spark looked too far, and Maya's open brow was shadowed deeply and often with sorrows not her own, and her heart ached many a day for pains she could not or dared not relieve; but if she were left alone, the illumination of the Spark filled everything about her with glory. The sky's rapturous blue, the vivid tints of grass and leaves, the dismaying splendor of blood-red roses, the milky strawberry-flower, the brilliant whiteness of the lily, the turquoise eyes of water-plants,—all these gave her a pleasure intense as pain; and the songs of the winds, the love-whispers of June midnights, the gathering roar of autumn tempests, the rattle of thunder, the breathless and lurid pause before a tropic storm,—all these the Spark enhanced and vivified; till, seeing how blest in herself and the company of Nature the Child of the Kingdom grew, Queen Lura deliberated silently and long whether she should return the gift of the Fairy Cordis, and let Maya live so tranquil and ignorant forever, or whether she should awaken her from her dreams, and set her on her way through the world.
But now the Princess Maya began to grow pale and listless. Her eyes shone brighter than ever, but she was consumed with a feverish longing to see new and strange things. On her knees, and weeping, she implored her mother to release her from the court routine, and let her wander in the woods and watch the village children play.
So Queen Lura, having now another little daughter, named Maddala, who was just like all other children, and a great comfort to her mother, was the more inclined to grant Maya's prayer. She therefore told Maya all that was before her, and having put upon her tiny finger the fairy-ring, bade the tiring-woman take off her velvet robe, and the gold circlet in her hair, and clothe her in a russet suit of serge, with a gray kirtle and hood. King Joconde was gone to the wars. Queen Lura cried a little, the Princess Maddala laughed, and Maya went out alone,—not lonely, for the Spark burned high and clear, and showed all the legends written on the world everywhere, and Maya read them as she went.
Out on the wide plain she passed many little houses; but through all their low casements the red gleam of a fire shone, and on the door-steps clustered happy children, or a peasant bride with warm blushes on her cheek sat spinning, or a young mother with pensive eyes lulled her baby to its twilight sleep and sheltered it with still prayers.
One of these kindly cottages harbored Maya for the night; and then her way at dawn lay through a vast forest, where the dim tree-trunks stretched far away till they grew undefined as a gray cloud, and only here and there the sunshine strewed its elf-gold on ferns and mosses, feathery and soft as strange plumage and costly velvet. Sometimes a little brook with bubbling laughter crept across her path and slid over the black rocks, gurgling and dimpling in the shadow or sparkling in the sun, while fish, red and gold-speckled, swam noiseless as dreams, and darting water-spiders, poised a moment on the surface, cast a glittering diamond reflection on the yellow sand beneath.
The way grew long, and Maya weary. The new leaves of opalescent tint shed odors of faint and passionate sweetness; the birds sang love-songs that smote the sense like a caress; a warm wind yearned and complained in the pine boughs far above her; yet her heart grew heavy, and her eyes dim; she was sick for home;—not for the palace and the court; not for her mother and Maddala; but for home;—she knew her exile, and wept to return.
That night, and for many nights, she slept in the forest; and when at length she came out upon the plain beyond, she was pale and wan, her dark eyes drooped, her slender figure was bowed and languid, and only the mark upon her brow, where the coronet had fretted its whiteness, betrayed that Maya was a princess born.
And now dwellings began to dot the country: brown cottages, with clinging vines; villas, arial and cloud-tinted, with pointed roofs and capricious windows; huts, in which some poor wretch from his bed of straw looked out upon the wasteful luxury of his neighbor, and, loathing his bitter crust and turbid water, saw feasts spread in the open air, where tropic fruits and beaded wine mocked his feverish thirst; and palaces of stainless marble, rising tower upon tower, and turret over turret, like the pearly heaps of cloud before a storm, while the wind swept from their gilded lattices bursts of festal music, the chorus that receives a bride, or the triumphal notes of a warrior's return.
All these Maya passed by, for no door was open, and no fireless hearth revealed; but before night dropped her starry veil, she had travelled to a mansion whose door was set wide, and, within, a cold hearth was piled with boughs of oak and beech. The opal upon Maya's finger grew dim, but she moved toward the unlit wood, and at her approach the false pretence betrayed itself; the ice glared before her, and chilled her to the soul, as its shroud of bark fell off. She fled over the threshold, and the house-spirit laughed with bitter mirth; but the Spark was safe.
Now came thronging streets, and many an open portal wooed Maya, but wooed in vain. Once, upon the steps of a quaint and picturesque cottage stood an artist, with eyes that flashed heaven's own azure, and lit his waving curls with a gleam of gold. His pleading look tempted the Child of the Kingdom with potent affinities of land and likeness; his fair cottage called her from wall and casement, with the spiritual eyes of ideal faces looking down upon her, forever changeless and forever pure; but when, from purest pity, kindness, and beauty-love, she would have drawn near the hearth, a sigh like the passing of a soul shivered by her, and before its breath the shapely embers fell to dust, the hearth beneath was heaped with ashes, and with tearful lids Maya turned away, and the house-spirit, weeping, closed the door behind her.
Long days and nights passed ere she essayed again; and then, weary and faint with home-woe, she lingered on the steps of a lofty house whose carved door was swung open, whose jasper hearthstone was heaped with goodly logs, and beside it, on the soft flower-strewn skin of a panther, slept a youth beautiful as Adonis, and in his sleep ever murmuring, "Mother!" Maya's heart yearned with a kindred pang. She, too, was orphaned in her soul, and she would gladly have lit the fire upon this lonely hearth, and companioned the solitude of the sleeper; but, alas! the boughs still wore their summer garland, and from each severed end slow tears of dryad-life distilled honeyedly upon the stone beneath. Of such withes and saplings comes no living fire! Maya, smiling, set a kiss upon the boy-sleeper's brow, but the Spark lay quiet, and the house-spirit flung a blooming cherry-bough after its departing guest.
The year was now wellnigh run. The Princess Maya despaired of home. The earth seemed a harsh stepmother, and its children rather stones than clay. A vague sense of some fearful barrier between herself and her kind haunted the woman's soul within her, and the unquenchable flames of the Spark seemed to girdle her with a defence that drove away even friendly ingress. Night and day she wept, oppressed with loneliness. She knew not how to speak the tongues of men, though well she understood their significance. Only little children mated rightly with her divine infancy; only the mute glories of nature satisfied for a moment her brooding soul. The celestial impulses within her beat their wings in futile longing for freedom, and with inexpressible anguish she uttered her griefs aloud, or sung them to such plaintive strains that all who heard wept in sympathy. Yet she had no home.
After many days she came upon a broad, champaign, fertile land, where, on a gentle knoll, among budding orchards, and fields green with winter grains, stood a low, wide-eaved house, with gay parterres and clipped hedges around it, all ordered with artistic harmony, while over chimney and cornice crept wreaths of glossy ivy, every deep green leaf veined with streaks of light, and its graceful sprays clasping and clinging wherever they touched the chiselled stone beneath. Upon the lawn opened a broad, low door, and the southern sun streamed inward, showing the carved panels of the fireplace and its red hearth, where heavy boughs of wood and splinters from the heart of the pine lay ready for the hand of the Coming to kindle. Upon the threshold, plucking out the dead leaves of the ivy, stood one from whose face strength, and beauty, and guile that the guileless knew not, shone sunlike upon Maya; and as she faltered and paused, he spoke a welcome to her in her own language, and held toward her the clasping hand of help. A thrill of mad joy cleft the heart of the Princess, a glow of incarnate summer dyed with rose her cheek and lip, the Spark blazed through her brimming eyes, weariness vanished. "Home! home!" sung her rapt lips; and in the delirious ecstasy of the hour she pressed toward the hearth, laid down her scrip and staff upon the heaped wood, flung herself on the red stone, and, heedless of the opal talisman, flashed outward from her joyful eyes the Spark,—the Crown, the Curse! So a forked tongue of lightning speeds from its rain-fringed cloud, and cleaves the oak to its centre; so the blaze of a meteor rushes through mid-heaven, and—is gone! The Spark lit, quivered, sunk, and flashed again; but the wood lay unlighted beneath it. Maya gasped for breath, and with the long respiration the Spark returned, lit upon her lips, seared them like a hot iron, and entered into her heart,—the blighting canker of her fate, a bitterness in flesh and spirit forevermore.
Writhing with anguish and contempt, she turned away from the wrought stone whose semblance had beguiled her to her mortal loss; and as she passed from the step, another hand lit a consuming blaze beneath her staff and scrip, sending a sword of flame after her to the threshold, and the house-spirit shrieked aloud, "Only stones together strike fire, Maya!"—while from the casement above looked forth two faces, false and fair, with eyes of azure ice, and disdainful smiles, and bound together by a curling serpent, that ringed itself in portentous symbol about their waists.
With star-like eyes, proud lips, and erect head, Maya went out. Her laugh rang loud; her song soared in wild and mocking cadence to the stars; her rigid brow wore scorn like a coronal of flame; and with a scathed nature she trod the streets of the city, mixed with its wondering crowds, made the Spark a blaze and a marvel in all lands,— but hid the opal in her bosom; for its scarlet spot of life-blood had dropped away, and the jewel was broken across.
So the wide world heard of Maya, the Child of the Kingdom, and from land to land men carried the stinging arrows of her wit, or signalled the beacon-fires of her scorn, while seas and shores unknown echoed her mad and rapt music, or answered the veiled agony that derided itself with choruses of laughter, from every mystic whisper of the wave, or roar of falling headlands.
And then she fled away, lest, in the turbulent whirl of life, the Curse should craze, and not slay her. For sleep had vanished with wordless moans and frighted aspect from her pillow,—or if it dared, standing afar off, to cast its pallid shadow there, still there was neither rest nor refreshing in the troubled spell. Nor could the thirst that consumed her quench itself with red wine or crystal water, translucent grapes or the crimson fruits that summer kisses into sweetness with her heats; forever longing, and forever unsated, it parched her lips and burnt her gasping mouth, but there was no draught to allay it. And even so food failed of its office. Kindly hands brought to her, whose queenliness asserted itself to their souls with an innocent loftiness, careless of pomp or insignia, all delicate dates and exquisite viands; but neither the keen and stimulating odors of savory meat, the crisp whiteness of freshest bread, nor the slow-dropping gold of honeycomb could tempt her to eat. The simplest peasant's fare, in measure too scanty for a linnet, sustained her life; but the Curse lit even upon her food, and those lips of fire burned all things in their touch to tasteless ashes.
So she fled away; for the forest was cool and lonely, and even as she learned the lies and treacheries of men, so she longed to leave them behind her and die in bitterness less bitter for its solitude. But Maya fled not from herself: the winds wailed like the crying of despair in her harp-voiced pines; the shining oak-leaves rustled hisses upon her unstrung ear; the timid forest-creatures, who own no rule but patient love and caresses, hid from her defiant step and dazzling eye; and when she knew herself in no wise healed by the ministries of Nature, in the very apathy of desperation she flung herself by the clear fountain that had already fallen upon her lips and cooled them with bitter water, and hiding her head under the broad, fresh leaves of a calla that bent its marble cups above her knitted brow and loosened hair, she lay in deathlike trance, till the Fairy Anima swept her feet with fringed garments, and cast the serpent wand writhing and glittering upon her breast.
"Wake, Maya!" said the organ-tones of the Spark-Bringer; and Maya awoke.
"So! the Spark galls thee?" resumed those deep, bitter-sweet tones; and for answer the Princess Maya held toward her, with accusing eyes, the broken, bloodless opal.
"Cordis's folly!" retorted Anima. "Thou hadst done best without it, Maya; the Spark abides no other fate but shining. Yet there is a little hope for thee. Wilt thou die of the bitter fire, or wilt thou turn beggar-maid? The sleep that charity lends to its couch shall rest thee; the draught a child brings shall slake thy thirst; the food pity offers shall strengthen and renew. But these are not the gifts a Princess receives; she who gathers them must veil the Crown, shroud the Spark, conceal the Curse, and in torn robes, with bare and bleeding feet, beg the crumbs of life from door to door. Wilt thou take up this trade?"
Maya rose up from the leaves of the cool lily, and put aside the veiling masses of her hair.
"I will go!" she whispered, flutelike, for hope beat a living pulse in her brain.
So with scrip and hood she went out of the forest and begged of the world's bounty such life as a beggar-maid may endure.
Long ago the King and Queen died in Larrirepense, and there the Princess Maddala reigns with a goodly Prince beside her, nor cares for her lost sister; but songless, discrowned, desolate, Maya walks the earth.
All ye whose fires burn bright on the hearth, whose dwellings ring with child-laughter, or are hushed with love-whispers and the peace of home, pity the Princess Maya! Give her food and shelter; charm away the bitter flames that consume her life and soul; drop tears and alms together into the little wasted hand that pleads with dumb eloquence for its possessor; and even while ye pity and protect, revere that fretted mark of the Crown that still consecrates to the awful solitude of sorrow Maya, the Child of the Kingdom!
* * * * *
This song of mine Is a Song of the Vine, To be sung by the glowing embers Of wayside inns, When the rain begins To darken the drear Novembers.
It is not a song Of the Scuppernong, From warm Carolinian valleys,— Nor the Isabel And the Muscatel That bask in our garden alleys,—
Nor the red Mustang, Whose clusters hang O'er the waves of the Colorado, And the fiery flood Of whose purple blood Has a dash of Spanish bravado.
For richest and best Is the wine of the West, That grows by the Beautiful River; Whose sweet perfume Fills all the room With a benison on the giver.
And as hollow trees Are the haunts of bees Forever going and coming, So this crystal hive Is all alive With a swarming and buzzing and humming.
Very good in their way Are the Verzenay, And the Sillery soft and creamy; But Catawba wine Has a taste more divine, More dulcet, delicious, and dreamy.
There grows no vine By the haunted Rhine, By Danube or Guadalquivir, Nor on island or cape, That bears such a grape As grows by the Beautiful River.
Drugged is their juice For foreign use, When shipped o'er the reeling Atlantic, To rack our brains With the fever pains That have driven the Old World frantic.
To the sewers and sinks With all such drinks, And after them tumble the mixer! For a poison malign Is such Borgia wine, Or at best but a Devil's Elixir.
While pure as a spring Is the wine I sing, And to praise it, one needs but name it; For Catawba wine Has need of no sign, No tavern-bush to proclaim it.
And this Song of the Vine, This greeting of mine, The winds and the birds shall deliver To the Queen of the West, In her garlands dressed, On the banks of the Beautiful River.
* * * * *
THE WINDS AND THE WEATHER.
The Physical Geography of the Sea. By M. F. MAURY. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1857.
Climatology of the United States and of the Temperate Latitudes of the North American Continent. By LORIN BLODGET. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1857.
Proceedings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. 1857.
An eloquent philosopher, depicting the deplorable results that would follow, if some future materialist were "to succeed in displaying to us a mechanical system of the human mind, as comprehensive, intelligible, and satisfactory as the Newtonian mechanism of the heavens," exclaims, "Fallen from their elevation, Art and Science and Virtue would no longer be to man the objects of a genuine and reflective adoration." We are led, in reflecting upon the far more probable success of the meteorologist, to similar forebodings upon the dulness and sameness to which social intercourse will be reduced when the weather philosophers shall succeed in subjecting the changes of the atmosphere to rules and predictions,—when the rain shall fall where it is expected, the wind blow no longer "where it listeth," and wayward man no longer find his counterpart in nature. But we console ourselves by contemplating the difficulties of the problem, and the improbability, that, in our generation at least, we shall be deprived of these subjects of general news and universal interest.
During the last half-century, the progress of experimental philosophy in the direction of the weather, though its results are for the most part of a negative character, has yet been sufficient to excite the apprehensions of the philanthropist. We have unlearned many fables and false theories, and have made great advancement in that knowledge of our ignorance, which is the only true foundation of positive science.
The moon has been deposed from the executive chair, though she still has her supporters and advocates; and an innumerable host of minor causes are found to constitute, upon strictly republican principles, the ruling power of the winds and the rain. That regularity, however complicated, which reason still demands, and expects even from the weather, is not found to be so simple as our rules and signs of the weather indicate; for the operation of these innumerable causes is so complicated, that the repetition of similar phenomena or similar combinations of causes, to any great extent, is the most improbable of events. Perhaps the meteorologist will ultimately find that Nature has succeeded, in what seems, indeed, to be her aim, in completely retracing her steps, and reducing the operation of that simple and regular system of causes, which she brought out of chaos, back to a confusion of detail, from which all law and regularity are obliterated.
Meteorological observations have, however, determined many regular and constant causes and a few regular phenomena. The method pursued in these investigations is, for the most part, the elimination, by general averages, of limited and temporary changes in the elements of the weather, and the determination of those changes which depend upon the constant influences of locality, of season, and of constant or slowly varying causes. These constant influences constitute the climate; and the study of climates is thus the first step towards the solution of the problem of the weather. Climates, in their changes and distribution, are very important elements in the determination of the movements of the weather, and are to the meteorologist what the elements of the planetary orbits are to the astronomer; but, unlike planetary perturbations, the weather makes the most reckless excursions from its averages, and obscures them by a most inconsequent and incalculable fickleness.
Whether mechanical science will hereafter succeed in calculating these perturbations of climate, as we may style the weather, or will find the problem beyond its capacity, it will yet, doubtless, account for much that is now obscure, as observation brings the facts more distinctly to view. We propose to give a brief general survey of the mechanics of the atmosphere in its present state, and to indicate the nature and limits of our knowledge on this subject.
Among the first noticed and most remarkable features of regularity in atmospheric changes are constant, periodic, and prevailing winds. The most remarkable instances of these are the trade-winds of the torrid zone, the monsoons of the Indian Ocean, and the prevailing southwest wind of our northern temperate latitudes. Of these, the trade-winds are the most important to science, as furnishing the key to that general explanation of the winds which was first advanced by the distinguished Halley.
In Halley's celebrated theory, the trade-winds are explained as the effects of the unequal distribution of the sun's heat in different latitudes. The air of the equator, heated more than the northern or southern air, expands more, and overflows, moving in the upper regions of the atmosphere toward the poles; while the lower, colder air on both sides moves toward the equator to preserve equilibrium. Thus an extensive circulation is carried on. The air that moves from the equator in the upper atmosphere, gradually sinking to the surface of the earth, finally ceases to move toward the poles, and returns as an undercurrent to the equator, where it again rises and moves toward the poles.
Now the air of the equator, moving with the earth's rotary motion, has a greater velocity than the earth itself at high northern or southern latitudes, and consequently appears to gain an eastward motion in its progress toward the poles. Without friction, this relative eastward motion would increase as the air moves toward the poles, and diminish at the same rate as the air returns, till at the equator the velocity of the earth and of the air would again be equal; but friction reduces the motion of the returning air to that of the earth, at or near the calms of the tropics; so that the air, passing the tropics, gains a relative westward motion in its further progress through the torrid zone. The southwestward motion thus produced between the tropic of Cancer and the equator is the well-known trade-wind.
Now, according to this theory, the prevailing winds of our temperate latitudes ought to have a southeastward motion as far as the calms of Cancer or "the horse latitudes." Moreover, instead of these calms, there should still be a southward motion. But observation has shown, that though the prevailing lower winds of our latitude move eastward, still their motion is toward the north rather than the south; so that they appear to contradict the theory by which the trade-winds are explained.
To account for these anomalies, Lieut. Maury has invented a very ingenious hypothesis, which is published in his "Physical Geography of the Sea." He supposes that the air, which passes from the equator toward the poles in the upper regions of the atmosphere, is brought down to the surface of the earth beyond the calms of the tropics, and that it thence proceeds with an increasing eastward motion, appearing in our northern hemisphere as the prevailing northeastward winds. Approaching the poles with a spiral motion, the air there rises, according to this hypothesis, in a vortex, and returns toward the equator in the upper atmosphere, gradually acquiring a westward motion; till, returning to the tropics, it is again brought down to the earth, and thence proceeds, with a still increasing westward motion, as the trade-winds. At the equator the air rises again, and, according to Lieut. Maury, crosses to the other side, and proceeds through a similar course in the other hemisphere.
The rising of the air at the equator is supposed to cause the equatorial rains; and the drought of the tropics is also explained by that descent of the air, in these latitudes, which this hypothesis supposes.
Now although this hypothesis explains the phenomena, it has still met with great opposition. The motions which Lieut. Maury supposes can hardly be accounted for without resorting, as is usual in such cases, to electricity or magnetism,—to some occult cause, or some occult operation of a known cause. Moreover, it has been difficult for the mechanical philosopher to understand how the winds manage to cross each other, as Lieut. Maury supposes them to do, at the equator and the tropics, without getting into "entangling alliances." If this hypothesis were advanced, not as a physical explanation of the phenomena, but, like the epicycles and eccentrics of Ptolemy, "to save the appearances," its ingenuity would be greatly to its author's credit; but, like the epicycles and eccentrics, though it represents the phenomena well enough, it contradicts laws of motion, now well known, which ought to be familiar to every physical philosopher. But these speculations of Lieut. Maury will now be superseded by a new theory of atmospheric movements, an account of which was presented by its author, Mr. J. Thompson, at the recent meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. 
[Footnote 1: A fuller discussion of this theory the author reserved for the Royal Society. The London Athenaeum gives a brief abstract of his paper, in its report of the proceedings of the Association.]
Mr. Thompson's theory takes account of forces, hitherto unnoticed, which are generated by the eastward circulation of the atmosphere in high latitudes. He shows that these forces cause the prevailing northeastward under-current of our latitudes, while above this, yet below the highest northeastward current, the air ought still to move southward according to Halley's theory.
This under-current is not the immediate effect of differences of temperature, but a secondary effect induced by the friction of the earth's surface and the continual deflection of the air's eastward motion from a great circle, (in which the air tends to move,) into the small circle of the latitude, in which the air actually does move. The force of this deflection, measured by the centrifugal force of the air as it circulates around the pole, retards the movement from the equator, and finally wholly suspends it; so that the upper air circulates around in the higher latitudes as water may be made to circulate in a pail; and the air is drawn away from the polar regions as this circulatory motion is communicated to it, and tends to accumulate in the middle latitudes, as the circulating water is heaped up around the sides of the pail. Hence, in the middle latitudes there is a greater weight of air than at the poles, and this tends to press the lower air to higher latitudes. Centrifugal force, however, balances this pressure, so long as the lower air moves with the velocity of the upper strata; but as the friction of the earth retards its motion and diminishes its centrifugal force, it gradually yields to the pressure of the air above it, and moves toward the poles. Near the polar circles it is again retarded by its increasing centrifugal force, and it returns through the middle regions of the atmosphere.
Thus there are two systems of atmospheric circulation in each hemisphere. The principal one extends from the equator to high middle latitudes and partly overlies the other, which extends from the tropical calms to the polar circles. These two circulations move in opposite directions; like two wheels, when one communicates its motion to the other by the contact of their circumferences.
In the middle latitudes the lower current of the principal circulation lies upon the upper current of the secondary circulation, and both move together toward the equator. This principal lower current first touches the earth's surface beyond the tropical calms, and having lost its relative eastward motion and now tending westward, it appears as the trade-wind, very regular and constant; while the upper secondary current returns, without reaching the tropics, as an undercurrent, and in our latitude appears as the prevailing northeastward wind,—a very feeble motion, usually lost in the weather winds and other disturbances, and only appearing distinctly in the general average.
Mr. Thompson illustrates the effect of the friction of the earth's surface on the eastward circulation of the air by a very simple experiment with a pail of water. If we put into the pail grains of any material a little heavier than water, and then give the water a rotatory motion by stirring it, the grains ought, by the centrifugal force imparted to them, to collect around the sides of the pail; but, sinking to the bottom, they do in fact tend to collect at the centre, carried inward by those currents which the friction of the sides and bottom indirectly produces.
Thus Mr. Thompson's beautiful and philosophical theory completes that of Halley, and explains all those apparent anomalies which have hitherto seemed irreconcilable with the only rational account of the trade-winds. The rainless calms of the tropics are explained by this theory without that crossing and interference of winds which Lieut. Maury supposes; for the secondary circulation returns as an under-current toward the poles without reaching the tropics, and the dry lower current of the principal circulation passes over the tropical latitudes, in its gradual descent, before it reaches the earth as the trade-winds.
These trade-winds, absorbing moisture from the sea, precipitate it as they rise again, and produce the constant equatorial rains; and these rains, doubtless, tend much more powerfully than the mere unequal distribution of heat to direct the wind toward the equator; for the fall of rain rapidly diminishes the pressure of the air and disturbs its equilibrium, so that violent winds are frequently observed to blow toward rainy districts. Thus, primarily, the unequal distribution of heat, and, more immediately, the equatorial rains cause the principal circulation of our atmosphere; and this indirectly produces the secondary circulation of Mr. Thompson's theory. Both these regular movements are, however, greatly disturbed, and especially the latter, by winds which are occasioned by local and irregular rains.
In these movements and their causes we have the general outline of our subject, within which we must now sketch the weather. The causes of atmospheric movement, which we have thus far considered, are the unequal distribution of the sun's heat, the absorption and precipitation of moisture, the direct and the inductive action of the earth's rotation and friction. If to these we should add the tidal action of the sun's and moon's attractions, we should perhaps complete the list of vera causae which are certainly known to exert a more or less general influence upon the atmosphere. But this short list is long enough, as we shall soon see.
If the earth were wholly covered with water of a uniform depth, its climates would be distributed with greater regularity, and the perturbations of climate would be comparatively small and regular; though even under such circumstances there would still exist a tendency to discontinuity and complexity of movements from that influence of rain, the peculiar character of which we shall soon consider.
The irregular distribution of land and water, and the peculiar action of each in imparting the heat of the sun to the incumbent air,— the irregular distribution of plains and mountains, and their various effects in different positions and at different altitudes,—the distribution of heat effected by ocean currents,—all these tend to produce permanent derangements of climate and great irregularities in the weather. To these we must add what the astronomer calls disturbing actions of the second order,—effects of the disturbances themselves upon the action of the disturbing agencies,—effects of the irregular winds upon the distribution of heat and rain, and upon the action of lands and seas, mountains and plains. Though such disturbances are comparatively insignificant in the motions of the planets, yet in the weather they are often more important than the primary causes.
The aggregate and permanent effect of all these disturbing causes, primary and secondary, is seen in that irregular distribution of climates, which the tortuous isothermal lines and the mottled raincharts illustrate. The isothermal lines may be regarded as the topographical delineations of that bed of temperatures down which the upper atmosphere flows from the equator toward the poles, till its downward tendency is balanced by the centrifugal force of its eastward motion. This irregular bed shifts from month to month, from day to day, and even from hour to hour; and the lines that are drawn on the maps are only averages for the year or the season.
In the midst of these irregular, but continuous agencies, the rain introduces a peculiar discontinuity, and turns irregularity into discord. We have shown that the rain is an immediate cause of wind; but how is the rain itself produced? For so marked an effect we naturally seek a special cause; but no adequate single cause has ever been discovered. The combination of many conditions, probably, is necessary, such as a peculiar distribution of heat and moisture and atmospheric movements; though the immediate cause of the fall of rain is doubtless the rising, and consequent expansion and cooling, of the saturated air.
The winds that blow hither and thither, vainly striving to restore equilibrium to the atmosphere, burden themselves with the moisture they absorb from the seas; and this moisture absorbs their heat, retards their motion, and slowly modifies the forces which impel them. Now when the saturated air, extending far above the surface of the earth, and carried in its movements still higher, is relieved of an incumbent weight of air, it becomes rarefied, and its temperature and capacity for moisture are simultaneously diminished; its moisture, suddenly precipitated, appears as a cloud, the particles of which collect into rain-drops and fall to the earth. Thus the air suddenly loses much of its weight, and instead of restoring equilibrium to the troubled atmosphere, it introduces a new source of disturbance. Though the weight of the air is diminished by the fall of rain, yet the bulk is increased by the expansive force of the latent heat which the condensed vapors set free. Thus the rainy air expands upwards and flows outwards, and no longer able to balance the pressure of the surrounding air, it is carried still higher by inblowing winds, which rise in turn and continue the process, often extending the storm over vast areas. The force of these movements is measured partly by the force of latent heat set free, and partly by the mechanical power of the rain-fall, a very small fraction of which constitutes the water-power of all our rivers. Such a fruitful source of disturbance, generated by so slight an accident as the upward movement of the saturated air, expanded by its own agency to so great an extent, so sudden and discontinuous in its action, so obscure in its origin, and so distinct in its effects,—such a phenomenon defies the powers of mathematical prediction, and rouses all the winds to sedition.
A storm not only disturbs the lower winds, but its influences reach even to the upper movements. The sudden expansion and rising of the rainy air delay these movements, which afterwards react as violent winds.
The forces stored away by the gradual rise of vapor and its absorption of heat, and then suddenly exhibited in a mechanical form by the effects of rain, afford an illustration of that principle of conservation and economy of power, of which there are so many examples in modern science. No power is ever destroyed. Whether exhibited as heat or mechanical force, in the products and forces of chemical or of vital action, in movement or in altered conditions of motion,—whether changed by the growth of plants into fuel or into food, and converted again to heat by combustion or by vital processes, and brought out as mechanical power in the steam-engine or in the horse,—it is still the same power, and is measured in each of its forms by an invariable standard. It first appears as the heat of the sun, and a portion escapes at once back into space, while the rest passes first through a series of transformations. A part is changed into moving winds or into suspended vapor, and a part into fuel or food. From conditions of motion it is changed into motion; from motion it is changed by friction or resistance into heat, electric force, molecular vibrations, or into new conditions of motion, and passing through its course of changes, it remains embroiled in its permanent effects or escapes into space as heat.
Though mechanical science will probably never be able to predict the beginning or duration of storms, it will yet, doubtless, be able to account for all their general features, and for such distinct local peculiarities as observation may determine. Great advancement has already been made in the determination of prevailing winds and in the study of storms. Two theories have been brought forward upon the general movements of storms; both have been proved, to the entire satisfaction of their advocates, by the storms themselves; and probably both are, with some limitations, true. The first of these theories we have already described. According to it, the winds move inward toward the centre of the storm; according to the other theory, they blow in a circumference around the centre.
Observations upon storms of small extent, such as thunder-storms or tornadoes, show very clearly that the winds blow toward the stormy district. But when observations are made upon the winds within the district of such extensive storms as sometimes visit the United States, the directions of the wind are found to be so various, that the advocates of either theory, making due allowance for local disturbances, can triumphantly refute their adversaries. In such storms there are doubtless many centres or maxima of rain, and whether the wind move around or toward these centres, it would inevitably get confused.
The opinion, that the winds move around the central point or line of the storm, was strenuously maintained by the late Mr. Redfield, whose activity in his favorite pursuit has connected his name inseparably with meteorology. Others have maintained the same opinion, and the rotatory motion of the tropical hurricanes is offered as a principal proof. It is obvious from the causes of motion already considered, that, if the air is carried far, by its tendency toward a rainy district, it will acquire a secondary relative motion from its change of latitude; and this, in our hemisphere, if the air move toward the south, will be westward,—if toward the north, eastward. Hence the motion of the air from both directions toward a stormy district is deflected to the right side of the storm; and this gives rise to that motion from right to left which is observed in the hurricanes of the northern hemisphere.
To suppose, as many do, that regular winds, arising from constant and extensive causes, can come into bodily conflict and preserve their identity and original impetus for days, without immediate and strongly impelling forces to sustain their motion, implies a profound ignorance of mechanical science, and is little better than those ancient superstitions which gave a personal identity to the winds. The momentum of ordinary winds is a feeble force in comparison with those forces of pressure and friction which continually modify it. Hence sudden changes in the direction and intensity of winds must primarily arise from similar changes in these forces. But there are no known forces which change so suddenly, except the pressure and latent heat of suspended vapor; and therefore the fall of rain is the only adequate known cause of those storm-winds which, interpolated among the gentler winds, keep the atmosphere in perpetual commotion.
Storms have, however, certain habits and peculiarities, more or less regular and distinct, which depend upon locality and season. And this is what ought to be expected; for, though the storms themselves are essentially anomalous, yet many of the causes which cooperate to induce them are constant or periodic, while others are subject to but slight perturbations. It is obvious that no more moisture can be precipitated than has been evaporated, and that the winds only gain suddenly by the fall of rain the forces which they have lost at their leisure in the absorption of moisture. Thus the rage of the storm is kept within bounds, and though the exact period at which the winds are set free cannot be determined, yet their force and frequency must be subject to certain limitations. The study of the habits and peculiarities of storms is of the greatest importance to navigation and agriculture, and these arts have already been benefited by the labors of the meteorologist.
The lawlessness of the weather, within certain limitations, though discouraging to the physical philosopher, has yet its bright side for the student of final causes. The uses of the weather and its adaptation to organic life are subjects of untiring interest. The progression of the seasons, varied by differences of latitude, is also diversified and adapted to a fuller development of organic variety by irregularities of climate.
The regular alternations of day and night, summer and winter, dry seasons and wet, are adapted to those alternations of organic functions which belong to the economy of life. The vital forces of plants and of the lower orders of animals have not that self-determining capacity of change which is necessary to the complete development of life; but they persist in their present mode of action, and, when they are not modified by outward changes, reduce life to its simplest phases. Changes of growth are effected by those apparent hardships to which life is subject; and progression in new directions is effected by retrogression in previous modes of growth. The old leaves and branches must fall, the wood must be frost-bitten or dried, the substance of seeds must wither and then decay, the action of leaves must every night be reversed, vines and branches must be shaken by the winds, that the energies and the materials of new forms of life may be rendered active and available.
Some of the outward changes of nature are regular and periodic, while others, without law or method, are apparently adapted by their diversity to draw out the unlimited capacities and varieties of life; so that as inorganic nature approaches a regulated confusion, the more it tends to bring forth that perfect order, of which fragments appear in the incomplete system of actual organic life.
The classification of organic forms presents to the naturalist, not the structure of a regular though incomplete development, but the broken and fragmentary form of a ruin. We may suppose, then, with a recent physiological writer, that the creation of those organic forms which constitute this fragmentary system was effected in the midst of an elemental storm, a regulated confusion, uniting all the external conditions which the highest capacities and the greatest varieties of organized life require for their fullest development; and that as the storm subsided into a simpler, but less genial diversity,—into the weather,—whole orders and genera and species sank with it from the ranks of possible organic forms. The weather, fallen from its high estate, no longer able to develope, much less to create new forms, can only sustain those that are left to its care.
Man finds himself everywhere mirrored in nature. Wayward, inconstant, always seeking rest, always impelled by new evils, the greatest of which he himself creates,—protecting and cherishing or blighting and destroying the fragmentary life of a fallen nature,—incapable himself of creating new capacities, but nourishing in prosperity and quickening in adversity those that are left,—he sees the workings of his own life in the strife of the elements. His powers and activities are related to his spiritual capacities, as inorganic movements are related to an organizing life. The resurrection of his higher nature is like a new creation, secret, sudden, inconsequent. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
* * * * *
AKIN BY MARRIAGE [Continued]
The designs of Mr. Elam Hunt upon the hand of Laura Stebbins have already been mentioned, in a former chapter of this history, as well as the fact that his hopes were encouraged by Mrs. Jaynes who (to make no secret of the matter) had pledged her word to the enamored Elam, that when he should be settled in a parish of his own, Laura should be added to complete the sum of his felicity.
To this agreement Laura herself was not a party; nay, her consent had never been so much as asked; for though Elam knew that marriage by proxy was impossible, and, indeed, would doubtless have preferred to be the bridegroom at his own wedding, he had no objection whatever to a vicarious courtship; for he was not a forward suitor, delighting to prattle of his pains to his fair tormentor, as the way of many is. But touching all the terms and conditions of this contract Laura was informed by Mrs. Jaynes, who, when the other protested with tears and sobs against this disposition of her person without even asking her leave thereto, replied, with a quiet voice and manner, that she had the right to make the promise in Laura's name, and had done so upon due consideration.
This ominous reserve frightened Laura far more than an angry reply would have done; for when her sister spoke with such brief decision, it was a sign that her mind was made up; and Laura knew full well the resolute purpose with which Mrs. Jaynes was wont to pursue any design that she had once formed. She distrusted her own ability to withstand her sister's inflexible will, and felt a secret misgiving, that, in spite of herself, she would by some means be forced or persuaded to yield at last. This very lack of faith in her own power of resistance caused her more distress and terror than all her other fears. Sometimes she almost fancied a spell of enchantment had been put upon her, which would render all her efforts to escape her fate as unavailing as the struggles of a gnat in a spider's web.
A friend in time of trouble is like a staff to one that is lame or weary. But when Laura, in these straits, leaned upon her dearest friend, Cornelia, for aid and comfort, she found but a broken reed; for, instead of words of consolation and encouragement, Cornelia uttered only dismal prophecies that Laura was surely doomed to be the young parson's bride.
"If you only had another lover to run away with, now," said she, "why, then it would be delightful to have your sister act as she does; but, as it is, I'm sure I don't see any way to avoid it."
"Nor I," cried Laura, sinking still deeper in despair. "Oh, dear! what shall I do?"
"In novels, you know," pursued Cornelia, "where there's a cruel, tyrannical father, like your sister, there's always a hero in love with the heroine——"
"I'm sure I wish there was a hero in love with me," said Laura, thinking of her own hero in regimentals. "I'd run away with him," she added, with animation, "if—if both his legs were shot off,"—not considering duly, I dare say, how greatly such a dreadful mutilation, however glorious in itself, would conflict with the rapid locomotion essential to her plan of elopement.