« PreviousContinue »
use, in the plainest terms ; but Polybius, on the present, as on most other occasions, has veiled his subject in mystery and disguise. That such was his practice is most manifest ; for he is one of the most sensible and judicious authors that eyes writ, and yet he condescends to tell us stories of turning two thousand oxen into an enemy's camp with whisps of straw on fire tied to their horns; of the absolute necessity of a military general understanding astronomy; of the leading some scores of elephants over the Alps, and the like. But as it involves an evident inconsistency to irnagine so sound an author to have given his belief to such gross impossibilities or absurdities ; so the true way for a reader to do justice to himself and to such an author is to endeavour to lift up the veil and draw forth the rational, useful, and instructive statements it conceals. To apply this method to the present subject; one palpable absurdity has already been pointed out in respect of a telescope with two tubes; and it is conceived that a satisfactory explanation has been given above of the author's real meaning on that head; but there is another absurdity in the statement of Polybius in no degree less obvious, in regard to his lighted torches; for what can be more nonsensical than to talk of making signals in the day time with lighted torches, which, like the stars themselves,
would be then perfectly invisible. It is in fact only analagous to the fool's errand of antiquity, recorded in the fable of Diogenes going into a crowded market-place at mid-day, with a lighted lanthorn in his hand, in search of an honest man.
But if instead of the lighted torches of Polybius - we understand elevated staves, billets or planks of wood, which would be in like manner effectual as signals in the day-time, as elevated torches or beacons would in reality be at night, we shall. not only have as plain a statement as that of Vegetius, but the whole details of the telegraph will be unfolded to us in the fullest manner.
It appears from Polybius that in the ancient telegraph, the alphabet was divided into five parts of five letters each; in the modern, the whole alphabet is denoted by the simple or compound use of only nine marks or labels in all. It has been said, that on some very important occasion, our telegraph failed.--Might it not have been owing to the complexity of the latter method ? and might not . the best scheme lie, in a medium, between the complexity of our method, and the simplicity of the ancient? But, however that may be, it seems clear that by our inclosing the nine marks or labels in a large heavy frame and close together, confusion must be likely to arise; whereas, if those marks or labels (however simple or compound) were raised
entirely above a dark frame, and exposed to the open sky with nothing behind them, so as, according to the Greek expression (την φαυσιν ακριβη ποιειν) they must of necessity be more distinctly visible. I take occasion to add, in conclusion, that it results very satisfactorily, from rightly unveiling the statements of Polybius, that the use of the telegraph at sea was as well known in his time, as on land. But (to return from a little digression from my present subject) it may be stated, beyond all doubt, that the telegraph was a machine perfectly well known to the ancients, and as the telescope was a necessary appendage to it and is expressly named by Polybius, it may be safely assumed that that was familiar to them likewise, Its antiquity is, in truth utterly unassignable ; for, as it is agreed that Homer is one of the oldest writers extant, and as I am about to shew that one of his Poems is to be explained, like the pieces contained in the former volumes, by a reference to the characters in the moon, which are undistinguishable but by a telescope; the inference just stated must necessarily follow ; and it must also follow, that the method of writing which is now under proof, if not coeval with it, is without doubt of the highest antiquity.
The tale of Bacchus and the Pirates, which I am about to comment upon, is usually bound up
with Homer's hymns and may be presumed to be of the same date. The prototype of the figure, which, in the tale, is copsidered as the representative of the God Bacchus, will appear (if the north-side of the moon be placed a little downwards from the right hand) formed out of the lower part of Hudibras's figure and looking to the south, as drawn in
As such, he has a handsome jovial face, with which Bacchus is usually represented; his long hair, composed of the dark shadows at the back
Κυανεαι, φαρος δε περι ςιβαροις εχεν ωμοις και
Πορφυρεου, ταχα δ' ανδρες εύσσελμε απο νηος, Ληιςαι, προγενοντο 9οως επι οινοπα ποντον Τυρσυνοι, (τες δηγε κακος μoρoς) οιδε ιδοντες, Νευσαν επ' αλληλες, ταχα δ' εκθορον, αιψα
δ' ελοντες Εισαν επι σφετερης νηος, κεχαρημενοι ητορ. 10 of his head, is encircled by a chaplet like ivy; and his robe may be easily conceived to be formed of the light in the moon behind his shoulders and back; the whole constituting a figure more than human, as well from its comparative size as from a certain sort of dignity about it.
6. Πορφυρεον means here a red, brassy or fiery colour.
6. Άνδρες-is referable to the numerous reseinblances to human faces in the moon
8. Τες δ' ηγε κακος μoρoς-The ship is the same as that drawn in fig. 72, ante; and the axos or com. mander of the ship (presently mentioned) has the same prototype as Ralph in Hudibras, which prototype has been already seen to be frequently likened to the devil or ill luck (xamos Mopos) bis position is at the head of the ship and therefore he is considered as αρχος.
9. Νευσαν ες αλληλες. This alludes to the librations of the moon towards opposite parts,