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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 Aood 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
upon 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 pass 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 sea, and among the rocks. How many 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 hath made a description of those regions ; feigning the nymph Cyrene, to send for her son to come down to her, and make her a visit in those shades where mortals were not admitted.
Come lead the youth below, bring him to me,
he wonders and looks round,
Virgil. It is a principal object with our author to prove the world as it at present exists a mere heap of ruins. For this purpose he examines the different parts of its surface with much liveliness and ingenuity, and sometimes ascends into sublimity. Of the ocean, he
says“ That vast and prodigious cavity that runs quite round the globe, and reacheth, for ought we know, from pole to pole, and in many places is unsearchably deep. When I present this great gulph to my imagination, emptied of all its waters, naked and gaping at the sun, stretching its jaws from one end of the earth to another, it appears to me the most ghastly thing in nature.
What hands or instruments could work a trench in the body of the earth of this vastness, and lay mountains and rocks on the side of it, as ramparts to enclose it?”
“ The shores and coasts of the sea are no way equal or uniform, but
go in a line uncertainly crooked and broke; indented and jagged as a thing torn, as you may see in the maps of the coasts and the seacharts; and yet there are innumerable more inequalities than are taken notice of in those draughts; for they only mark the greater promontories and bays; but there are besides those, a multitude of creeks and outlets, necks of land and angles, which break the evenness of the shore in all manner of ways. Then the height and level of the shore is as uncertain as the line of it; it is sometimes high and sometiines low, sometimes spread in sandy plains, as smooth as the sea itself, and of such an equal height with it, that the waves seem to have no bounds, but the mere figure and convexity of the globe ; in other places it is raised into banks and ramparts of earth, and in others it is walled in with rocks; and all this without any order that we can observe, or any other reason than that this is what might be expected in a ruin.
“ As to the depth and soundings of the sea, they are under no rule nor equality, any more than the figures of the shores ; shallows in some places, and gulphs in others; beds of sands sometimes, and sometimes rocks under water ; as navigators have learned by a long and dangerous experience. And though we that are upon dry land, are not much concerned how the rocks and shelves lie in the sea, yet a poor shipwrecked mariner, when he hath run his vessel upon a rock in the middle of the channel, expostulates bitterly with nature, who it was that placed that rock there, and to what purpose ? Was there not room enough, saith he, upon the land, or the shore, to lay your great stones, but they must be thrown into the middle of the sea, as it were in spite to navigation? The best apology that can be made for nature in this case, so far as I know, is to confess, that the whole business of the sea-channel is but a ruin, and in a ruin things tumble uncertainly, and commonly lie in confusion."
Again he speaks finely of the ocean when dried up, a spectre which seems to have haunted his imagination.
“ But if we should suppose the ocean dry, and that we looked down from the top of some high cloud upon the empty shell, how horridly and barbarously would it look ? And with what amazement should we see it under us like an open hell, or a wide bottomless pit? So deep, and hollow, and vast; so broken and confused, so every way deformed and monstrous. This would effectually awaken our imagination, and make us inquire and wonder how such a thing came in nature; from what causes, by what force or engines, could the earth be torn in this prodigious manner? Did they dig the sea with spades, and carry out the moulds in hand-baskets? Where are the entrails laid? And how did they cleave the rocks asunder? If as many pioneers as the army of Xerxes, had been at work ever since the beginning of the world, they could not have made a ditch of this greatness. According to the proportions taken before in the second chapter, the 'cavity or capacity of the sea-channel will amount to no less than 4639090 cubical miles. Nor is it the greatness only, but that wild and multifarious confusion which we see in the parts and fashion of it, that makes it strange and unaccountable; it is another chaos in its kind; who can paint the scenes of it? Gulphs, and precipices, and cataracts; pits within pits, and rocks under rocks, broken mountaips and ragged islands, that look as if they had been countries pulled up by the roots, and planted in
He next proceeds to the mountains ; the chapter on this subject opens solemnly and beautifully.
“We have been in the hollows of the earth, and the chambers of the deep, amongst the damps and steams of those lower regions ; let us now go air ourselves on the tops of the mountains, where we shall