« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
which shall be mentioned afterwards. He thus rejoices in the planeness and uniformity of the world he has just created, and quite chuckles over the facility with which, by its means, he can explain the deluge.
“ In this smooth earth were the first scenes of the world, and the first generations of mankind; it had the beauty of youth and blooming nature, fresh and fruitful, and not a wrinkle, scar, or fracture in all its body; no rocks nor mountains, no hollow caves, nor gaping channels, but even and uniform all over. And the smoothness of the earth made the face of the heavens so too; the air was calm and serene; none of those tumultuary motions and conflicts of vapours, which the mountains and the winds cause in ours. 'Twas suited to a golden age, and to the first innocency of nature.
“All this you'll say is well, we are got into a pleasant world indeed, but what's this to the purpose? What appearance of a deluge here, where there is not so much as a sea, nor halt so much water as we have in this earth? Or what appearance of mountains or caverns, or other irregularities of the earth, where all is level and united; so that instead of loosing the knot, this ties it the harder. You pretend to show us how the deluge was made, and you lock up all the waters within the womb of the earth, and set bars and doors, and a wall of impenetrable strength and thickness, to keep them there. And you pretend to show us the original of rocks and mountains, and caverns of the earth, and bring us to a wide and endless plain, smooth as the calm sea.
“ This is all true, and yet we are not so far from the sight and discovery of those things as you imagine, draw but the curtain, and these scenes will
appear, or something very like them.”
He soon draws the curtain, and shews a sublime scene. The iode in which the deluge took place, is thus described :
" When the exterior earth was broke, and fell into the abyss, a good part of it was covered with water by the mere depth of the abyss it fell into, and those parts of it that were higher than the abyss was deep, and consequently would stand above it in a calm water, were notwithstanding reached and overtopped by the waves, during the agitation and violent commotion of the abyss. For it is not imaginable what the commotion of the abyss would be upon this dissolution of the earth, nor to what height its waves would be thrown when those prodigious fragments were tumbled down into it. Suppuse a stone of ten thousand weight taken up into the air a mile or iwo, and then let fall into the middle of the ocean, I do not believe but that the dashing of the water upon that impression, would rise as high as a mountain. But suppose a mighty rock, or heap of rocks, to fall from that height, or a great island, or a great continent, these would expel the waters out of their places, with such a force and violence, as to fling them among the highest clouds.
“ It is incredible to what height sometimes great stones and cinders will be thrown, at the eruptions of fiery mountains; and the
pressure of a great mass of earth falling into the abyss, though it be a force of another kind, could not but impel the water with so much strength, as would carry it up to a great height in the air; and to the top of any thing that lay in its way, any eminency, or high fragment whatsoever : and then rolling back again, it would
down with it whatsoever it rushed upon, woods, buildings, living creatures, and carry them all headlong into the great gulf. Sometimes a mass of water would be quite struck off and separate from the rest, and tossed through the air like a flying river ; but the common motion of the waves was to climb up the hills, or inclined fragments, and then return into the vallies and deeps again, with a perpetual fluctuation going and coming, ascending and descending, till the violence of them being spent by degrees, they settled at last in the places allotted for them; where bounds are set that they cannot pass over,
that they return not again to cover the earth.
“ Neither is it to be wondered, that the great tumult of the waters, and the extremity of the deluge, lasted for some months; for besides, that the first shock and commotion of the abyss was extremely violent, from the general fall of the earth, there were ever and anon some secondary ruins, or some parts of the great ruin, that were not well settled, broke again, and made new commotions : and it was a considerable time before the great fragments that fell, and their lesser dependencies, could be so adjusted and fitted, as to rest in a firm and immoveable posture: for the props and stays whereby they leaned one upon another, or upon the bottom of the abyss, often failed, either by the incumbent weight, or the violent impulses of the water against them; and so renewed, or continued the disorder and confusion of the abyss. Besides, we are to observe, that these great fragments falling hollow, they enclosed and bore down with them under their concave surface a great deal of air; and while the water compassed these fragments, and overflowed them, the air could not readily get out of those prisons, but by degrees, as the earth and water above would give way; so as this would also hinder the settlement of the abyss, and the retiring of the water into those subterraneous channels, for some time. But at length, when this air had found a vent, and left its place to the water, and the ruins, both primary and secondary, were settled and fixed, then the waters of the abyss began to settle too, and the dry land to appear; first, the tops of the mountains, then the high grounds, then the plains, and the rest of the earth. And this gradual subsidency of the abyss (which Moses also hath particularly noted) and discovery of the several parts of the earth, would also take up a considerable time.
“ Thus a new world appeared, or the earth put on its new form, and became divided into sea and land; and the abyss, which from several ages, even from the beginning of the world, had lain hid in the womb of the earth, was brought to light and discovered; the greatest part of it constituting our present ocean, and the rest filling the lower cavities of the earth: upon the land appeared the mountains and the hills, and the islands in the sea, and the rocks upon the shore. And so the Divine Providence, having prepared Nature for so great a change, at one stroke dissolved the frame of the old world, and made us a new one out of its ruins, which we now inhabit since the deluge.”
In another chapter he dwells upon the subject with still greater sublimity.
“ Thus the flood came to its height; and it is not easy to represent to ourselves this strange scene of things, when the deluge was in its fury and extremity; when the earth was broken and swallowed up in the abyss, whose raging waters rose higher than the mountains, and filled the air with broken waves, with an universal mist, and with thick darkness, so as nature seemed to be in a second chaos; and
this chaos rid the distressed ark, that bore the small remains of mankind. No sea was ever so tumultuous as this, nor is there any thing in present nature to be compared with the disorder of these waters; all the poetry, and all the hyperboles that are used in the description of storms and raging seas, were literally true in this, if not beneath it. The ark was really carried to the tops of the highest mountains, and into the places of the clouds, and thrown down again into the deepest gulphs; and to this very state of the deluge and of the ark, which was a type of the church in this world, David seems to have alluded in the name of the church, (Psal. xlii. 7.) 'Abyss calls upon abyss at the noise of thy cataracts or water-spouts; all thy waves and billows have gone over me.' It was no doubt an extraordinary and miraculous Providence, that could make a vessel so ill manned, live upon such a sea; that kept it from being dashed against the hills, or overwhelmed in the deeps. That abyss which had devoured and swallowed up whole forests of woods, cities, and provinces, nay the whole earth, when it had conquered all, and triumphed over all, could not destroy this single ship. I remember in the story of the Argonautics, (Dion. Argonaut. l. 1. v. 47.) when Jason set out to fetch the golden fleece, the poet saith, all the Gods that day looked down from heaven to view the ship, and the nymphs stood upon the mountain-tops to see the noble youth of Thessaly pulling at the oars; we may with more reason suppose the good angels to have looked down upon this ship of Noah's; and that not out of curiosity, as idle spectators, but with a passionate concern for its safety and deliverance. A ship, whose cargo was no less than a whole world ; that carried the fortune and hopes of all posterity, and if this had perished, the earth, for any thing we know, had been nothing but a desert, a great ruin, a dead heap of rubbish, from the deluge to the conflagration. But death and hell, the grave and destruction, have their bounds."
Our author, of course, attempts to shew that the present appearance of the earth confirms his theory, and indeed that it is the only mode of explaining its irregular surface and confused arrangement. This is very artfully and eloquently attempted in the following passage.
“Orators and philosophers treat nature after a very different manner; those represent her with all her graces and ornaments, and if
there be any thing that is not capable of that, they dissemble it, or
it over slightly. But philosophers view nature with a more impartial eye, and without favour or prejudice give a just and free account, how they find all the parts of the universe, some more, some less perfect. And as to this earth in particular, if I was to describe it as an orator, I would suppose it a beautiful and regular globe; and not only so, but that the whole universe was made for its sake; that it was the darling and favourite of heaven; that the sun shined only to give it light, to ripen its fruit, and make fresh its flowers ; and that the great concave of the firmament, and all the stars in their several orbs, were designed only for a spangled cabinet to keep this jewel in.
This idea I would give of it as an orator; but a philosopher that overheard me, would either think me in jest, or very injudicious; if I took the earth for a body so regular in itself, or so considerable, if compared with the rest of the universe. This, he would say, is to make the great world like one of the heathen temples, a beautiful and magnificent structure, and of the richest materials, yet built only for a little brute idol, a dog, or a crocodile, or some deformed creature, placed in a corner of it.
“We must therefore be impartial where the truth requires it, and describe the earth as it is really in itself; and though it be handsome and regular enough to the eye in certain parts of it, single tracks and single regions; yet if we consider the whole surface of it, or the whole exterior region, it is as a broken and confused heap of bodies, placed in no order to one another, nor with any correspondency or regularity of parts: and such a body as the moon appears to us, when it is looked upon with a good glass, rude and ragged; as it is also represented in the modern maps of the moon; such a thing would the earth appear if it was seen from the moon. They are both in my judgement the image or picture of a great ruin, and have the true aspect of a world lying in its rubbish.
“ Our earth is first divided into sea and land, without any regularity in the portions, either of the one or the other; in the sea lie the islands, scattered like limbs torn from the rest of the body; great rocks stand reared up in the waters; the promontories and capes shoot into the sea, and the sinus's and creeks on the other hand run as much into the land ; and these without any order or uniformity. Upon the other part of our globe stand great heaps of earth or stone, which we call mountains; and if these were all placed together, they would take up a very considerable
part of the dry land; in the rest of it are lesser hills, valleys, plains, lakes and marshes, sands and deserts, &c. and these also without any regular disposition. Then the inside of the earth, or inward parts of it, are generally broken or hollow, especially about the mountains and high lands, as also towards the shores of the and
holes and caverns, and strange subterraneous passages, do we see in many countries ? And how many more may we easily imagine, that are unknown and unaccessible to us?
“This is the pourtraiture of our earth, drawn without flattery; and as oddly as it looks, it will not be at all surprising to one that hath considered the foregoing theory."
Burnet was no lover of the picturesque when it stood in the way of his philosophy, but he often betrays his real relish for it by the delight with which he dwells upon its wayward and irregular form. With what joy does he seem to grope his way through the dark recesses of the earth ; its deep caves, and secret passages ; its burrows, channels, clefts, and caverns, that never felt the comfort of one beam of light since the creation. A fret-worked grotto is a hermitage, to his mind, and he seems to think, there are no palaces like the glassy halls of the Nereids and Sea-maids, in the depths of the ocean :
“It would be very pleasant to read good descriptions of these subterraneous places, and of all the strange works of Nature there; how she furnisheth these dark neglected grottos; they have often a little brook runs murmuring through them, and the roof is commonly a kind of petrified earth or icy fret-work; proper enough for such
But I should be pleased especially to view the sea-caves, or those hollow rocks that lie upon the sea, where the waves roll in a great way under ground, and wear the hard rock into as many odd shapes and figures as we see in the clouds. It is pleasant also to see a river, in the middle of its course, throw itself into the mouth of a cave, or an opening of the earth, and run under ground sometimes many miles; still pursuing its way through the dark pipes of the earth, till at last it find an outlet. There are many of these rivers taken notice of in history, in the several parts of the earth, as the Rhone in France, Guadiana in Spain, and several in Greece; Alpheus, Lycus, and Eracinus ; then Niger in Africa, Tigris in Asia, &c. And I believe if we could turn Derwent, or any other river into one of the holes of the Peak, it would grope its way till it found an issue, it may be, in some other country. These subterraneous rivers that emerge again, shew us, that the holes of the earth are longer, and reach farther than we imagine, and if we could see into the ground, as we ride or walk, we should be affrighted to see so often waters or caverns under us.”
“ And thus much in general concerning subterraneous cavities, and concerning the hollow and broken frame of the earth. If I had now magic enough to show you at one view all the inside of the earth, which we have imperfectly described ; if we could go under the roots of the mountains, and into the sides of the broken rocks; or could dive into the earth, with one of those rivers that sink under ground, and follow its course and all its windings till it rise again, or led us to the sea, we should have a much stronger and more effectual idea of the broken form of the earth, than any we can excite by these faint descriptions collected from reason. The Ancients, I remember, used to represent these hollow caves and subterraneous regions, in the nature of a World under-ground, and supposed it inhabited by the Nymphs, especially the Nymphs of the waters and the Sea-Goddesses : So Orpheus sung of old; and, in imitation of him, Virgil