Imágenes de páginas

tation. Mountains rise, to diversify the prospect, and give a current to the stream. Seas extend from one continent to the other, replenished with animals, that may be turned to human support; and also serving to enrich the earth with a sufficiency of vapourBreezes fly along the surface of the fields, to promote health and vegetation. The coolness of the evening invites to rest; and the freshness of the morning renews for labour.

Such are the delights of the habitation that has been as. signed to man : without any one of these, he must have been wretched ; and none of these could his own industry have supplied. But while, on the one hand, many of his wants are thus kindly furnished, there are, on the other, numberless inconveniences to excite his industry. This habitation, though provided with all the conveniences of air, pasturage, and water, is but a desert place, without human cultivation. The lowest animal finds more conveniences in the wilds of nature, than hc who boasts himself their lord. The whirlwind, the inundation, and all the asperities of the air, are peculiarly terrible to man, who knows their consequences, and, at a distance, dreads their approach. The earth itself, where haman art has not pervaded, puts on a frightful, gloomy appearance. The forests are dark and tangled ; the meadows are overgrown with rank weeds; and the brooks stray-without a determined channel. Nature, that has been kind to every lower order of beings, seems to have been neglectful with regard to him: to the savage uncontriving man, the earth is an abode of desolation, where his shelter is insufficient, and his food precarious.

A world thus furnished with advantages on one side, and inconveniences on the other, is the proper abode of reason, and the fittest to exercise the industry of a free and a thinking creature. These evils, which art can remedy, and prescience guard against, are a proper call for the exertion of his faculties ; and they tend still more to assimilate him to his Creator. God beholds, with pleasure, that being which he has made, converting the wretchedness of his natural situation into a theatre of triumph; bringing all the beadlong tribes of nature into subjection to his will ; and producing that order and uniformity upon earth, of which his own heavenly fabric is so bright an example.



An eruption of mount Vesuvius.

In the year 1717, in the middle of April, with much diffculty I reached the top of mount Vesuvius, in which I saw a vast aperture full of smoke, that hindered me from seeing its depth and figure. I heard within that horrid gulph, extraordinary sounds, which seemed to proceed from the bowels of the mountain : and, at intervals, a noise like that of thunder or cannon, with a clattering like the falling of tiles from the tops of houses into the streets. Sometimes, as the wind changed, the smoke grew thinner. discovering a very ruddy flame, and the circumference of the crater streaked with red and several shades of yellow. After an hour's stay, the smoke being moved by the wind, we had short and partial prospects of the great hollow ; in the flat bottom of which I could discern two furnaces almost contiguous : that on the left, seeming about three yards over, glowing with ruddy flame, and throwing up red hot stones, with a hideous noise, which, as they fell back, caused the clattering already taken notice of. May 8, in the morning, I ascended the top of Vesuvius a second time, and found a different face of things. The smoke ascending upright, afforded a full prospect of the crater, which, as far as I could judge, was about a mile in circumference, and a hundred yards deep. Since my last visit, a conical mount had been formed in the middle of the bottom. This was made by the stones, thrown up and fallen back again into the crater. In this new hill remained the two furnaces already mentioned. The one was seen to throw up every three or four minutes, with a dreadful sound, a vast number of red hot stones, at least three hundred feet higher than my head; but as there was no wind, they fell perpendicularly back from whence they had been discharged. The other was filled with red hot liquid matter, like that in the furnace of a glass-house ; raging and working like the waves of the sea, with a short abrupt noise. This matter sometimes boiled over, and ran down the side of the conical hill, appearing at first red hot, but changing colour as it hardened and cooled. Had the wind set towards us, we should have been in no small danger of being stifled by the sulphurous smoke, or killed by the masses of melted minerals that were shot from the bottom.

as the wind was favourable, I had an opportunity of sur

veying this amazing scene for above an hour and a half to. gether. On the fifth of June, after a horrid noise, the mountain was seen at Naples to work over; and about three days after, its thunders were so renewed, that not only the windows in the city, but all the houses shook. From that time, it continued to overflow, and sometimes at night ex. hibited columns of fire shooting upward from its summit. On the tenth, when all was thought to be over, the mountain again renewed its terrors, roaring and raging most violently. One cannot form a juster idea of the noise, in the most violent fits of it, than by imagining a mixed sound, made up of the raging of a tempest, the murmur of a troubled sea, and the roaring of thunder and artillery, all confused together. Though we teard this at the distance of twelve miles, yet it was very terrible. We resolved to approach nearer to the mountain ; and, accordingly, three or four of us entered a boat, and were set ashore at a little town, situated at the foot of the mountain. From thence we rode about four or five miles, before we came to the torrent of fire that was descending from the side of the volcano ; and here the roaring grew exceedingly loud and terrible. I observed a mixture of colours in the cloud, above the crater, green, yellow, red, blue.

There was likewise a ruddy dismal light if the air, over that tract where the burning river flowed. These circumstances, set off and augmented by the horror of the night, formed a scene the most uncommon and astonishing I ever saw; which still increased as we approached the burning river.

A vast torrent of liquid fire rolled from the top, down the side of the mountain, and with irresistible fury bore down and consumed vines, olives, and houses ; and divided into different channels, according to the inequalities of the mountain. The largest stream seemed at least half a mile broad, and five miles long. I walked before my companions so far up the mountain, along the side of the river of fire, that I was obliged to retire in great haste, the sulphurous steam having surprised me, and almost taken away my breath. During our return, which was about three o'clock in the morning, the roaring of the mountain was heard all the way, while we observed it throwing up huge spouts of fire and burning stones, which falling, resembled the stars in a rocket. Sometimes I observed two or three distinct columns of flame, and sometimes one only that was large enough to fill the whole crater. These burning columns, and fiery stones, seemed to be shot a thousand feet perpen

dicular above the summit of the volcano. In this manner the mountain continued raging for six or eight days after. On the eighteenth of the same month the whole appearance ended, and Vesuvius remained perfectly quiet, without any visible smoke or flame.



Description of the preparations made by Xerxes, the Persian

monarch, for invading Greece.

In the opening of spring, Xerxes directed his march towards the Hellespont, where his fleet lay in all their pomp, expecting his arrival. When he came to this place, he was desirous of taking a survey of all his forces, which formed an army that was never equalled either before or since. It was composed of the most powerful nations of the East, and of people scarcely known to posterity, except by name. The remotest India contributed its supplies,

while the coldest tracts of Scythia sent their assistance." Medes, Persians, Bactrians, Lydians, Assyrians, Hyrcanians, and many other nations of various forms, complexions, languages, dresses, and arms, united in this grand expedition. The land army, which he brought out of Asia, consisted of seventeen hundred thousand foot, and four-score thousand horse. Three hundred thousand more that were added upon crossing the Hellespont, made his land forces all together amount to above two millions of men. His fleet, when it set out from Asia, consisted of twelve hundred and seven vessels, each carrying two hundred men. The Europeans augmented his fleet with a hundred and twenty vessels, each of which carried two hundred men. Besides these, there were two thousand smaller vessels fitted for carrying provisions and stores. The men contained in these, with the former, amounted to six hundred thousand, so that the whole army might be said to amount to two millions and a half; which, with the women, slaves, and suttlers, always accompanying a Persian army, might make the whole above five millions of souls : a number, if rightly conducted, capable of overturning the greatest monarchy; but which, commanded by presumption and ignorance, served only to obstruct and em; barrass each other.

dred years

ces the

Lord of so many and such various subjects, Xerxes found a pleasure in reviewing his forces; and was desirous of beholding a naval engagement, of which he had not hitherto been a spectator. To this end a throne was erected for him upon an eminence; and in that situation beholding the earth covered with his troops, and the sea crowded with his vessels, he felt a secret joy diffuse itself through his frame, from the consciousness of his own superior power. But all the workings of this monarch's mind were in the extreme : a sudden sadness soon took place of his pleasure ; and dissolving in a shower of tears, he gave himself up to a reflection, that not one of so many thousands would be alive a hun

after. Artabanus, the king's uncle, who was much disposed to moralize on occurrences, took this occasion to discourse with him upon the shortness and miseries of human life. Finding this more distant subject attended to, he spoke closely to the present occasion ; insinuated his doubts of the success of the expedition ; urged the many inconvenien


had to suffer, if not from the enemy, at least from their own numbers. He alleged, that plagues, famine, and confusion, were the necessary attendants of such ungovernable multitudes ; and that empty fame was the only reward of success. But it was now too late to turn this young monarch from his purpose.

Xerxes informed his monitor, that great actions were always attended with proportionable danger: and that if his predecessors had observed such scrupulous and timorous rules of conduct, the Persian empire would never have attained to its present height of glory.

Xerxes, in the mean time, had given orders to build a bridge of boats across the Hellespont, for transporting his army into Europe. This narrow strait, which now goes by the name of the Dardanelles, is nearly an English mile over. But soon after the completion of this work, a violent storm arising, the whole was broken and destroyed, and the labour was to be undertaken anew. The fury of Xerxes upon this disappointment, was attended with equal extravagance and cruelty. His vengeance knew no bounds. The workmen who had undertaken the task, had their heads struck off by his order ; and that the sea itself might also know its duty, he ordered it to be lashed as a delinquent, and a pair of fetters to be thrown into it, to curb its future irregularities. Thus having given vent to his absurd resentment, two

« AnteriorContinuar »