Imágenes de páginas

even a sing.e year


before its motion shall be detected, in ten years its velocity shall be revealed, and in the life time of a single observer its mighty period shall become known.

If human genius is not to be baffled either by dis. tance or time, numbers shall overwhelm it, and the stars shall find their safety in their innumerable millions. This retreat may even fail. The watch-towers of science now cover the whole earth, and the sentinels never sleep. No star or cluster or constellation, can ever set. It escapes the scrutinizing gaze of one astronomer, to meet the equally piercing glance of another. East and west, and north and south, from the watch towers of the four quarters of the globe, peals the solemn mandate, onward!

Here we pause. We have closed the enunciation of the great problem whose discussion and solution lie before us, a problem whose solution has been in progress six thousand years-one which has furnished to man the opportunities of his loftiest triumphs, one which has taxed in every age the most vigorous efforts of human genius, a problem whose successive developments have demonstrated the immortality of mind, and whose sublime results have vindicated the wisdom and have declared the glory of God. You have listened to the enunciation, we now invite you to follow us in the demonstration. And may that Almighty power, which built the heavens, give to me wisdom to reveal, and to you power to grasp the truths and doctrines, wrested by mind from nature in its long strug gle of sixty centuries of toil !


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

To those who have given but little attention to tho science of astronomy, its truths, its predictions, its revelations, are astonishing; and but for their rigorous verification, would be absolutely incredible. When we look out upon the multitude of stars which adorn the nocturnal heavens, scattered in bright profusion in all directions, without law, and regardless of order --when with telescopic aid, thousands are increased to millions, and suns and systems and universes, rise in sublime perspective, as the visual ray sweeps outward to distances which defy the powers of arithmetic to express, how utterly futile does it seem, for the mind to dare, to pierce and penetrate, to number, weigh, measure and circumscribe, these innumerable millions? It is only when we remember, that from the very cradle of our race, strong and powerful minds, have in rapid and continuous succession, bent their energies upon the solution of this grand problem, that we can comprehend, how it is, that light now breaks in upon us, from the very confines of the universe, dimly revealing the mysterious forms, which lie yet half concealed in the unfathomable gulfs of space. When I reflect on the recent triumphs of human genius--when I stand on the shore of that D2


mighty stream of discovery, which has grown broader and deeper, as successive centuries have rolled away, gathering in strength and intensity, until it has embraced the whole universe of God; I am carried backward through thousands of years, following this stream, as it contracts towards its source, till finally its silver thread is lost in the clouds and mists of antiquity. I would fain stand at the very source of discovery, and commune with that unknown god-like mind which first conceived the grand thought, that even these inysterious stars might be read, and that the bright page which was nightly unfolded to the vision of man, needed no interpreter of its solemn beauties, but human genius. There is to my mind, no finer specimen of moral grandeur, than that presented by him who first resolved to read and comprehend the heav

On some lofty peak he stood, in the stillness of the midnight hour, with the listening stars as witnesses of his vows, and there, conscious of his high destiny, and of that of his race, resolves to commence the work of ages. “Here," he exclaims, " is my watch-tower, and yonder bright orbs, are henceforth my solitary companions. Night after night, year after year, will I watch and wait, ponder and reflect, until some ray shall pierce the deep gloom which now wraps the world.”

Thus resolved the unknown founder of the science of the stars. His name and his country are lost forever. What matters this, since his works, his discoveries, have endured for thousands of years and will endure, as long as the moon shall continue to fill her silver horn, and the planets to roll and shine.

Go with me, then, in imagination, and let us stand


beside this primitive observer, at the close of his career of nearly a thousand years, (for we must pass beyond the epoch of the deluge, and seek our first discoveries among those sages, whom, for their virtues, God permitted to count their age, not by years, but by centuries,) and here we shall learn the order in which the secrets of the starry world slowly yielded themselves, to long and persevering scrutiny. And now let me unfold, in plain and simple language, the train of thought, of reasoning and research, which marked this primitive era of astronomical science. It is true that history yields no light, and tradition even fails, but such is the beautiful order in the golden chain of discovery, that the bright links which are known, reveal with certainty, those which are buried in the voiceless past.-If then it were possible to read the records of the founder of astronomy, graven on some column of granite, dug from the earth, whither it had been borne by the fury of the delage, we know now what its hieroglyphics would reveal, with a certainty scarcely less than that which would be given by an actual discovery, such as we have imagined. We are certain that the first discovery ever recorded, as the result of human observation, was on the moon. The sun, the moon, the stars, had long continued to

, cise, and climb the heavens, and slowly sink beneath the western horizon. The spectacle of day and night, was then as now, familiar to every eye; but in gazing there was no observation, and in mute wonder there was no science. When the solitary observer took his post, it was to watch the moon. Her extraordinary phases had long fixed his attention. Whence came

« AnteriorContinuar »