« AnteriorContinua »
My daughter fair, on All-Saint's eve,
Invoking all the pow'rs of Hell,
In bloodiest fight to guard me well.
In full moon-light, on All-Saint's night ; She called on Hell with shudd'ring tone,
Her spindle glows with fiendish light. And now her loom the maiden plies,
With trembling hand the thread she throws, In ghastly haste the shuttle flies,
The web of Hell full quickly grows.
And plate and mail each warrior bore;
The only garb their monarch wore.
His bloody sabre sweeps around,
And arrows from his breast rebound.
* Hold, tyrant, hold! and face thy doom ; The work of Hell no more shall save
Thy pow'r is naught, thine hour is come !"
They meet, they part, they meet again
The sparks fly out from dinted brands; Their very life-blood runs like rain,
And darkly stains the trampled sands.
The maiden came that field to see,
“ Where is my noble father, where ?" — She found him in his agony,
And wildly shriek'd and tore her hair. “ Art thou my child ? Ah! heartless maid,
The cursed robe was falsely wove,
Or hath thy soul e'er learned to love ?"' “ Father, I callid the pow'rs of Hell
But one lies bleeding at thy feet-
And thus I spun thy winding sheet."
A FEW WORDS ON MESMERISM.
BY WALTER K. KELLY. Be not alarmed, discreet reader, at the title of this paper. I am a plain man, content, for all ordinary purposes of life, with the five senses Nature has bestowed upon me, as I am willing that you should also be. I shall not expect of you that you should smell with your epigastrium, or taste with your thumb; and the only clair-voyance I demand of you is that of an observant eye, and an unprejudiced mind.
There is a very numerous body of persons throughout all Europe, including our own tight little island, who are ardently engaged in a course of research, to which they give the name of Mesmerism,- an ill-omened name; but of this more anon. The subject of their pursuits appeals strongly to that very cogent principle of our common nature, the love of the marvellous: the wonders of the old Rosicrucians hardly surpassed those of the Mesmerists of the present day : but the latter, unlike the former, surround the approaches to their mysteries with no initiatory horrors; they throw their portals open to all who will enter with the passport of faith-the only title requisite to qualify the aspirant for admission to every grade of Mesmerism. Proceeding upon so liberal a system of recruiting, the body has naturally enough gathered to itself a very motley assemblage of members. In its ranks are numbered representatives of every existing order of intellect, of moral endowment and mental acquirement, from the lowest to the highest degree; and as there is no enforced subordination among them, but each individual is at liberty to propound his own opinions without consulting the rest, there is really no little difficulty in ascertaining what are the precise average views of the general body. The Mesmerists are a vast fiery army, without discipline or leaders; or rather they resemble an illassorted pack of hounds without huntsman or whipper-in, all eager for the chace, but every whelp amongst them thinking himself as well entitled as the oldest and staunchest of the pack to run upon his own favourite scent, and to give tongue as loudly as his betters. The din is consequently infernal, and the result almost nugatory. It is plain we shall never have a good run till half the pack are hanged, the rest brought well under the lash, and fair play given to the few really good hounds among them.
The Mesmerists have justly incurred much ridicule by their fantastic credulity, and the illogical medley they make of observed facts, with the crudities of their own speculations and conjectures. Let the public laugh at their follies, they are fair game and plenteous withal; but there let its laughter stop-let it be wise in its mirth. Whilst we freely abandon the errors and vagaries of the Mesmerists to the wholesome corrective of that public opinion, which, as the judicious Ranke says, “ generally evinces a just sense of wants and shortcomings, though it may not be gifted with the knowledge of a remedy;" still we enter our strong protest against the absurdities of their indiscriminate revilers, The Mesmerists report to us certain novel and most curious facts, which they tell us they have over and over again observed, -results of experiments they are ready to repeat in presence of friends and foes,
yet, because some of their statements appear at variance with common sense, because their theories are Alimsy and vicious, we are forsooth to conclude that no one order of facts, no individual fact, related on their testimony is worthy; not to say of credence, but even of rational investigation. This is in reality equivalent to maintaining that every observer, whatever be his previous mental training, and however partial and inadequate his experience, is competent correctly to generalize upon new and startling phenomena, to assign them their true place in the order of nature, and aptly to embody them in terms of a language formed and grown to unbending maturity before the existence of the phenomena was surmised. We would have the powers of nature limited by those of her interpreters, instead of labouring with hearty good will to gather what knowledge we can of the former from the imperfect utterance of the latter. As well might we say that the celestial bodies had never rolled in their orbits during the ages when their motions were accounted for upon the false principles of Ptolemy's system, or that venesection had never arrested the violence of a fever during the reign of the humoral pathology, when the operation was resorted to for the express purpose of removing “a peccant humour.” As well might we say that, among all their wild and profitless fantasies, the old alchemists had never lighted on one valuable chemical fact; or that to suck an egg or work a pump were in former days unachievable exploits, because they were supposed possible only on the principle of nature's horror of a vacuum.
Let us briefly advert to some of the phenomena reported by the Mesmerists, avoiding those which are announced in language savouring of preconceived hypotheses, and noticing chiefly such as appear capable of some degree of elucidation by the aid of natural analogies.
1. They tell us, then, that by means of certain manipulations-say, by holding the fore and middle fingers steadily pointed at a patient's eyes, and close to them, or by moving them gently up and down before them- they can sooner or later succeed in casting the patient into a state resembling sleep, or rather into a state more like that of the somnambulist than the ordinary slumber of health.
II. In this induced state the patient is very often insensible to many kinds of impressions, whereas his susceptibility to others is much exalted. Pinches, blows, and wounds, do not rouse him, nor does any motion of his limbs or body indicate that he feels them. On the other hand, he very commonly manifests great sensitiveness to cold, wincing when a piece of metal is brought near his skin, &c. The eyes are usually closed, or, if open, are insensible to surrounding objects. The faculty of hearing is sometimes suspended, but often the patient can be made to converse and return answers to the questions addressed to him. Occasionally his language on some subjects is superior both in. matter and manner to any he can command in his ordinary state. Sometimes he sings, and then even better, it may be, than he could when fully awake. He seldom retains any consciousness, on awakening, of anything that has occurred to him during the mesmeric fit.
III. When in the mesmeric state, the patient's muscles may be made to contract by passes inade over them with the hand, with or without contact; though more rapidly, perhaps, in the latter way. In
this manner the patient may be made to assume strange and difficult attitudes, and to persevere in them much longer than could the most practised athlete. By operating, for instance, on the extensor muscles, the limbs may be rigidly straightened, or bent to the utmost limit by acting on the flexors. Now and then the patient is observed to evince a decided preference for the vicinity of the person who has mesmerized him; he expresses uneasiness at his departure and pleasure at his return; the mesmerizer's touch is grateful to him, while that of other persons is highly disagreeable; he winces at it, and says something cold has touched him.
Here are some of the facts alleged by the Mesmerists, divested of all theoretical colouring. The publicity of the experiments by which it is sought to establish them--the length of time during which the belief in them has been entertained by a great number of persons, on the whole not below the average standard of intellect and knowledgeand the pertinacity with which they have been upheld, in defiance of scoffs, and taunts, and personal inconvenience,-assuredly constitute for them a strong claim to dispassionate inquiry. This they have never received from the scientific world of England. How are they treated by the public in general ? Either they are gaped at in ignorant wonder, or they are looked down on in derision from some misty à priori eminence, and their existence declared impossible by the very nature of things. What! are we, then, become such giants in the knowledge of nature, that we may cast aside the old garments of the Baconian philosophy as unfitted to our grander proportions? Have we so fully mastered the whole range of physical science, that our seraphic intuition needs no aid from the dull routine of observation ? Out upon such coxcomb pedantry! All the history of science is full of examples that should teach us more humility. Take one example. From age to age men have stood up over the whole surface of the known world, declaring that they had seen with their bodily eyes stones falling from the sky, accompanied by fiery explosions, and burying themselves deep in the earth by the impetus of their fall. “ Ignorant rabble !” cried the learned, “ this is another of your tales, like locutus bos. Hearken to us jurisconsults of Nature, who know all her secrets, and can define all her powers, to the infinitesimal fraction of a hair's breadth-hearken to us, and we will prove to you that the thing you tell us of is impossible. You have been the subjects of an optical delusion; or you are mad or drunk; or you are lying varlets." But in spite of the learned, and all their exquisite reasons," these plaguy meteoric stones kept on falling from time to time; the clodpoles, unawed by doctors or academies, continued to believe their own simple eyes as before; and, O shame to science ! time proved that they were right.
We have distributed into three groups the phenomena cited above. On referring to the second of these, the reader will perceive that it contains no particular (unless perhaps the increased sensibility to cold) which has not been repeatedly noticed in well authenticated cases of spontaneous somnambulism. In fact, the whole paragraph might be taken as a brief summary of the leading characteristics of that strange condition. Here, then, is at once an answer to those who will see nothing but fraud in the insensibility to wounds and bruises apparently evinced by mesmerized persons. The argument of such objectors, if it mean anything, must mean this:-“ We have seen the individual before us showing in the waking state no signs of more callousness of skin than other people : you have played certain tricks before him; and he is now in a state apparently of sleep, but which, for all we know, may be feigned. In this state he pretends to be insensible to many painful impressions ; pretends, we say, for all experience tells us that nothing but apoplexy, or some equally forniidable disordered condition of the brain, could make the skin of a living man as insensible as the leather of his boot. We can understand how the influence of a narcotic drug should produce some such effect, and very possibly this appliance may have more to do with the present case than you and your confederate care to let us know : but, once for all, we re-assert, that no cause not perilous to life can, with the suddenness affected in this case, render the sentient nerves utterly dead to pain. Half the pinchings and prickings inflicted on that Spartan knave would waken a bear from his hibernation.” Thus argues the objector, unconscious that Nature has, without the co-operation of any mesmerist, refuted his assertions; that she has by her own mysterious processes placed many individuals in the condition he avers is impossible. The aërolite has fallen while the sciolist was proving by Barbara and Celarent that the thing could not be.
Thus the main question of the truth or falsehood of Mesmerism becomes much narrowed in compass. The condition of the mesmerized is the same in many respects as that of persons affected with spontaneous somnambulism: it is, therefore, per se, a possible condition. All that remains to be asked is, can it be produced by artificial means ?
Try. If you will not, why, then, the next best thing you can do is to give over talking on the subject altogether; otherwise you are in great peril of uttering much nonsense.
The mesmeric state, we have said, corresponds to a considerable extent with that of spontaneous somnambulism. It would be highly interesting, were this analogy followed out experimentally to its full extent, and all the coincidences and discrepancies between the two clearly ascertained. Let it be proved, for instance, whether or not the muscles of the somnambulist are obedient to the motions of the operator's hand, as mentioned above at III. Should this prove to be the case, it strikes us it would go far to explode the Mesmerist's gratuitous hypothesis of a peculiar Auid emanating from animal bodies, and producing the phenomena of animal magnetism or mesmerism. We shall not, however, enlarge on this hint, lest we fall into the vice with which we think the Mesmerists are chargeable, of making theory precede and colour facts, instead of being, as it ought, simply their general expression.
What a jubilation do cavillers sometimes raise, when they have succeeded in baffling the skill of a mesmeric operator, by placing before him some sturdy fellow, so very wide awake, that the poor professor sinks down in sheer exhaustion, before he can minister to him the sleep he dispenses to others. It is all a cheat! is their cry. He succeeds, no doubt, when he practises on his own trained subject; but why does