« PreviousContinue »
With feelings of strange tumult and soft pain;
Thou didst annihilate the earth to me!' In our citations, we have marked in italics a few expressions that are objectionable, some on the score of that grammatical excision in which the poets of this day so frequently offend; and other examples might be given from this short poem; viz.
• It tries the thrilling frame to bear
ART. XII. An Elementary Treatise on Astronomy; or an easy
Introduction to a Knowledge of the Heavens; intended for the Use of those who are not much conversant in Mathematical Studies. By the Rev. A. Mylne, A.M., &c. 8vo. pp. 286. gs,
Boards. Baldwin and Co. Of all the mathematical sciences, none is more interesting
to an inquisitive mind than Astronomy; nor is there any with which it is more easy to acquire a general acquaintance. To pursue many of the investigations in physical astronomy, indeed, a profound knowlege of analysis is requisite: but the principles on which such computations are founded are readily comprehended; and, as to the practical part of the science, it involves very few calculations which are not performed with facility by those who have made a little progress in the elementary branches of mathematics, viz. arithmetic, geometry, and trigonometry. Nay, even a very correot idea of the arrangement, constitution, and economy of the solar system may be acquired without any previous mathematical knowlege : yet it is a very prevalent notion that such studies are above the comprehension of a common mind; and many persons are thus deterred from the pursuit of a course of reading which is calculated, perhaps, more than any other, to furnish a constant source of delightful reflection; to expand and dignify the mind; and to call forth our highest admiration of the goodness, power, and omniscience of the Deity. The present treatise is intended to obviate this unfounded prejudice; and, by furnishing an easy and concise elementary treatise of astronomy, to place the attainment of a knowlege
of many of the beautiful and interesting laws which govern the universe, within the reach of those who may not have profoundly cultivated the more abstruse branches of the mathematical sciences. With this view, the chief object of the author has been to train the student to a habit of examining the heavens; and of making such remarks for himself as will enable him to judge of the more accurate observations of others, and to perceive the practicability of arriving at those astonishing results which so frequently overwhelm and confound the untutored mind. As a knowlege of the fixed stars must form the ground-work of all astronomical observations, Mr. M. has begun by directing the attention of his readers particularly to this subject. - In his preface, he very properly observes:
• The usual method of acquiring the names and relative position of the constellations, by means of a celestial globe, is confessedly both awkward and embarrassing. The learner is obliged to conceive himself placed in the centre of the globe, and to reverse completely the position of the stars, as delineated on its external surface. For example, the Little Dog, which in the heavens is seen on the left of Orion, appears, from inspecting the globe, to be on the right of that constellation ; and the Twins, which on the globe appear to the right of the Bull, are actually found to be on the left. This embarrassment is completely removed by the use of the four Planispheres, or maps of the heavens, which accompany this work, as on them the fixed stars are presented in the same form and position which they really occupy in the heavens.' The maps
here mentioned we have examined with some attention, and have found them to be constructed with accuracy: they are also very neatly executed; and they are certainly much better calculated for conveying a knowlege of the names and positions of the constellations, than any globe, whatever may be the accuracy of its construction or the appendages with which it is encumbered.
Mr. Mylne has divided his work into three parts, and each of these into several chapters. Part 1. treats of the apparent motions and phænomena of the heavenly bodies; of the sun and planets; of the moon; of eclipses; of the harvest and horizontal moon; of the precession of thé equinoxes; of the inequality of the sun's motion; of the changes of the scasons; of the equation of time; of the formation of the calendar; of the atmosphere of the sun ; of the zodiacal light; of the new planets Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta; of the libration of the moon, &c. &c. Chapter 3. is wholly dedicated to the subject of comets; and chapter 4. to considerations of the figure of the earth, the principle of the construction of globes and maps, the latitude and longitude of places, geodetic operations, parallax, and refraction.
The second part treats of the real motions of the heavenly bodies; the different systems of the world, viz. the Ptolomaic, the Egyptian, the Tychonic, and the Copernican; the truth of the latter demonstrated by arguments in favour of the diurnal rotation of the earth, and its annual revolution round the sun; the magnitudes, distances, and periodic revolution of the planets; and a tabular view of the planetary system.
Part 3. gives a popular and concise view of the principles of physical astronomy; viz. the laws of Kepler ; the theories before the time of Newton; the discoveries of this celebrated philosopher, and the law of gravitation ; with the application of this law to the explanation of various phænomena; viz, the lunar incqualities, the disturbances of the planets, the figure of the planets, the precession of the equinoxes and the nutation of the earth's axis, the tides, and the attraction of mountains.
When we consider the variety of subjects that are thus introduced into the compass of a medium octavo volume, it necessarily follows that many of them are treated slightly: but they are given at sufficient length to excite interest in an inquiring mind; which is not only all that can be expected in a work of this nature, but, we imagine, is all that the author intended, and so far we think he has succeeded. regret that the style is not of a more pleasing kind. No scientific subject is better calculated, or gives greater scope, for a display of harmonious sentences than a popular view of astronomy: but we do not recollect that we ever saw less of this kind attempted; indeed, many of the expressions would not have passed unnoticed in familiar conversation, and much less can they be expected to escape censure in such a treatise on the science. This we conceive to be the greatest defect in the present performance.
FOR AUGUST, 1817.
POETRY, &c. Art. 13.
The Persecutor : with other Poems, from the Greek, Latin, Persian, Italian, and other Languages. 8vo. Pp. 125. 6s. 6d. sewed. Longman and Co. 1816.
The Persecutor indeed! — but wliom do our readers suppose the author has persecuted in this extraordinary, or, rather, this very
ordinary poem ? Let them guess, by the following sentence in the advertisement:
• As the early part of the persecutor's life is involved in doubt and obscurity, there was licence for imagination; and it is earnestly hoped, that the incidents introduced are not irreconcilable or unnatural to the character of the misguided and zealous subject of the first poem before his conversion.'
Will it be believed that St. Paul is here designated ? We remark a freedom and a flippancy in this mode of speaking of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, which cannot be suffered to pass without reprehension; and when to the mention of the injudiciousness of the design is added the doggrel of the execution, we have only to make an extract or two to justify our censure, and to commit the · Persecutor' to that oblivion which anxiously awaits it.
• Venturous I sing.-Oh! for thy gifted voice,
Great Priest of Heav'n!
My Muse, mistrustful of her plume, attempts.' What a subject of regret it is that, when an author, just hovering over the abyss of publication, begins to doubt whether he be equal to Milton, he does not dare to proceed a little farther with his hesitation, and gradually advance to a feeling of uncertainty whether his poems be fit for publication ? Alas! such progressive diffidence is not to be expected ; and, consequently, time, talents of an aseful though coarse description, better pursuits, and better prospects, are all thrown away, and another blot is fixed on the page of English literature. When, besides all this, good paper and print are so utterly wasted, what a combination of depressing reflections does it not arouse ? Yet it is in vain to lament, and to reason ;
" tenet insanabile multos
• Down glided Satan,' drest in the reverend weeds of sage Gamaliel,' and conversed for a long hour with Paul. Among other subtle arguments, (for such, we are assured by the author, they are,y the “ Old Serpent” suggested to him the following reasons, so poetically expressed, for opposing Christianity:
' I come, sent by the Council and High Priest.'-
In fisher barks upon the surging main,
Unskill’d, unletter'd, should convulse our state.' Paul calls them, in reply, The pretending Twelve;' - Those zealous servants of the Nazarene;' - and · Mendicants' is their frequent appellation. How barren, stale, flat, and unprofitable is this ! Not a line conveys an old lesson in a novel or interesting shape; not a line sparkles with fancy, or affords amusement in the
absence of instruction. We subjoin a few more aukwardnesses, and retire from this unworthy scene of criticism: • Had Paul not yielded with submiss approach.'
• the newborn babe Was not more
flexile in its milky limbs.' • He
flounders onwards, more and more astray.'
Lay flat, hiding their faces.' So much for the Persecutor.'
The ostentatious list of languages, which appears in the titlepage, and from which the author professes to have made translations, did not give us any very sanguine expectation of his success in that department. This part of the work, however, is somewhat superior to the former; and, indeed, it is scarcely possible to follow in the track of the antients, or of the more classical moderns, and not sometimes to walk well and gracefully. The translations from Italian sonneteers seem to us the best in the volume: but still they deserve no particular notice; and some of the other versions, from Horace especially, are stiff and prosaic to the last degree. The author has tastelessly followed the example of Milton, in a blank-verse translation of a lyric ode, aiming also at an unattainable similarity of measure:
6 Bandusian fountain ! to thy glassy stream,
To-morrow I devote
A victim-kid, whose brow,
Shall shed a crimson flood,
Staining thy gelid waves.'
pp. 224. 5s.6d. Boards. Sherwood and Co. 1817. If our classical readers can imagine a Roman author possessed of so little judgment as to select for the subject of a poem, written after the Æneid of Virgil, the acts of Æneas during the Trojan war, they may then proceed to picture to their fancy the bad taste of the present publication. Here we have the Macbeth of Shakspeare previous to the events which form the basis of our great dramatist's high scene of imagination ; - Macbeth conquering the Danes, in the dullest blank verse! This is enough, surely, for the plan of the work; and the execution of it will best be seen from a quotation or two, however brief, taken out of various parts of the volume. We begin with an extract from the description of the present state of the forest near Glammis, here barbarized into Glamm's, castle.
"Below whose shade the grazing heifer strays,
The nibbling sheep in white, and gather'd flock,