Imatges de pÓgina

climbed to the top of the mountain thirty times, and had been disappointed, but he persevered, and was at length highly gratified. The sun rose about four o'clock in a serene sky, free from clouds, and its rays passed without obstruction, over another mountain, called the Heinschoe. About a quarter past five he looked round to see if the sky was clear, and if there was any chance of his witnessing what he so ardently wished, when suddenly he saw the Achtermanshoe, a human figure of monstrous size turned towards him, and glaring at him. While gazing on this gigantic spectre with wonder mixed with an irrepressible feeling of awe and apprehension, a sudden gust of wind nearly carried off his own hat, and he clapped his hand to his head to detain it, when to his great delight the colossal spectre did the same. He then changed his body into a variety of attitudes, all which the figure exactly imitated, but at length suddenly vanished without any apparent cause, and again as suddenly appeared. He called the landlord of the inn, who had accompanied him, to stand beside him, and in a little time two correspondent figures, of dilated size, appeared on the opposite mountain. They saluted them in various ways by different movements of their bodies, all which the giants returned with perfect politeness, and then vanished. A traveller now joined Mr. Hawe and the innkeeper, and they kept steadily looking for their aerial friends, when they suddenly appeared again three in number, who all performed exactly the same movements as their correspondent spectators. Having continued thus for some time, appearing and disap

pearing alternately, sometimes faintly, and sometimes more distinct, they at length faded away not again to return. They proved, however, that the preternatural spectre, which had so long filled the country with awe and terror, was no unreal being, still less an existence whose appearance suspended the ordinary laws of God and Nature; that, on the contrary, it was the simple production of a common cause, exhibited in an unusual manner, but as regular an effect, and as easy to be accounted for, as the reflection of a face in a looking glass.

This constitution of the atmosphere, and its capability of dilating objects, and altering their position by reflection and refraction, will easily account for many phenomena which have been considered miraculous and preternatural in early ages, by the ignorant; and in our own, by the weak and superstitious. Such was probably the origin of the crosses seen by Constantine and Constantius in the first ages of Christianity, and such was that of the cross which appeared in the sky in France, to which so many bore attestation. A large cross of wood, painted red, had been erected beside the church, as a part of the ceremony they were performing. In the winter, when the air is most frequently condensed by cold, and its different strata of various degrees of tenacity, on a clear evening after rain, when particles of humidity, still floating in the air gives it greater power of reflection and refraction, when the sun was setting, and his horizontal beams found most favourable to produce meteoric phenomena, the spectrum of this wooden cross was cast on the concave surface of some atmos

pheric mirror, and so reflected back to the eyes of the spectators from an opposite place, retaining exactly the same shape and proportions, but dilated in size, and changed in position; and it was moreover tinged with red, the very colour was the reflected image. continued till the sun horizon, as to afford no more light to illumine the object, and the image ceased when the rays were no longer distinctly reflected.

of the object of which it This delusive appearance was so far sunk below the



MANY of the prodigies recorded by the ancients, admit of a natural explanation; and an attentive examination will show that a small number of causes, which may be discerned and developed, will serve for the explanation of nearly the whole of them. There are two reasons for our believing accounts of prodigies :

1. The number and agreement of these accounts, and the confidence to which the observers and witnesses are entitled.

2. The possibility of dissipating what is wonderful, by ascertaining any one of the principal causes which might have given to a natural fact a tinge of the marvellous.

Now, as regards the first reason, the ancients have recorded various occurrences: for instance, a shower of quicksilver at Rome is mentioned by Dion Cassius, in the year 197 of our era, and a similar event is related under the reign of Aurelian. If we attend to phenomena taking place in our time, such as a shower of blood, tremendous hail stones weighing

a pound each, and containing a stone within them ; showers of frogs, and other almost unaccountable occurrences, we must consign them to, "the annals in which science has inserted the facts, she has recognized as such, without as yet pretending to explain


Respecting the second reason, the deceptive appearance which nature sometimes assumes, the exaggeration, almost unavoidable, by partially informed observers, of the details of a phenomenon, or its duration; improper, ill-understood, or badly translated expressions, figurative language, and a practical style; erroneous explanations of emblematical representations; apologues and allegories adopted as real facts. Such are the causes, which, singly or together, have frequently swollen with prodigious fictions the page of history; and it is by carefully removing this envelope, that elucidations must be sought of what has hitherto been improperly and disdainfully rejected. A few examples will illustrate these several positions.

The river Adonis being impregnated, during certain seasons, with volumes of dust raised from the red soil of that part of Mount Libanus near which it flows, gave rise to the fable of the periodical effusion of the blood of Adonis. There is a rock near the Island of Corfu, which bears the resemblance of a ship under sail the ancients adapted the story to the phenomenon, and recognised in it the Phenician ship, in which Ulysses returned to his country, converted into stone by Neptune, for having carried away the slayer of his son Polyphemus. A more ex


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