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Richer found that the pendulum which beat seconds at Paris in latitude 48° 50′ needed to be shortened more than a line, to make it beat seconds at Cayenne in latitude 4° 59′. This results partly from the rotation, partly from the figure of the earth, in connection with the great law or fact of gravitation. It is, indeed, no very difficult task to compare any linear extension with the second's pendulum in a given latitude; and if easiness of comparison be the only subject of investigation, the pendulum is perhaps the best standard. But it must still be remembered that it is a local standard only. It is inapplicable, excepting in the parallel of latitude in which the observation has been made.
What the French have done on this subject is well known. They have taken a ten millionth part of the quadrant of the meridian, as their unit for the measurement of linear extension; consequently their standard is equally applicable in every degree of latitude between the equator and the pole. We may remark, that, on another occasion, Professor Playfair, speaking of the proceedings of the French philosophers in this business, says, "the method they have porsued does infinite credit to their skill and accuracy; and as it is perfectly free from all the peculiarities that would adapt it more to one country than to another, we have no doubt that it will in time be universally received among all civilized nations *." This is worthy of the liberal mind of the distinguished philosopher from whom it proceeded.
It is, no doubt, easier to observe the length of the second's pendulum in a given place, than to measure the quadrant of the meridian. On this grand operation immense labour has expended; but the most satisfac
Report of weights and measures by a committee of the Highland Society p. 59. January 1817.
tory results have at length been obtained. Ingenious and meritorious individuals have exerted themselves to measure a degree of the meridian; and the names of Riccioli, Picard, and Snellius, hold a distinguished place in the list.
In 1735, La Condamine, Bouquer, and Godin, set out from France to measure a degree of the meridian near the equator; and, at St Domingo, they were joined by Juan and Ulloa from Spain. These philosophers, by their science, courage, and perseverance, shewed themselves equal to the arduous enterprize. About the same time a degree of the meridian was measured in Lapland. Many others have lent their aid to this great work; and it has at last been brought to a satisfactory degree of precision by Mechain and De Lambre.
These vast labours were undertaken in order to ascertain exactly the figure of the earth; and the accomplishment of this object has happily furnished us with the noblest, standard for the measurement of linear extension: a standard, compared with which, the pendulum ought to hold a secondary place only.
The pendulum has not been neglected by the French philosophers. At the national observatory at Paris, the most exact experiments have been made upon it, by Borda, Cassini, and Mechain. As a standard, it has easiness of comparison to recommend it; but, compared with the quadrant of the meridian, it is marked by a puny locality, which gives it a mean and diminotive appearance. Besides, are we to imagine, that these abstract points are altogether without moral influence? If the length of the pendulum beating seconds in the capital of a particular country, be assumed as the unit for the measure of linear extension, does not this give an air of nationality to the standard, which has a tendency to separate man from man, to cherish a malignant rivalry among nations,
nations, to contract and deteriorate the best feelings of the human heart, and to shed a baneful influence over the dearest interests of our race. If the pendulum be any where adopted, we trust it will be the seconds pendulum, at 45°, or some degree of latitude which may be considered as a mean of the whole between the equator and the pole, and equally applicable in all nations.
In the quadrant of the meridian there is a grandeur that imposes on the imagination, and enlarges and im
To measure the quadrant of the meridian is an arduous task-but the work is performed. It exhibits an invariable quantity in nature which may always be discovered by those who have science and industry equal to the undertaking. The pendulum may furnish a good subsidiary standard.
Shall the quadrant of the meridian be rejected, because it was adopted by Frenchmen and republicans? The time was when our calendar remain ed unrectified, because the reforma tion of it had originated with the See of Rome: but we trust that those days of hallucination are past, and that we are no longer to be either the dupes, the tools, or the victims of such degrading puerilities.
It is certainly time that our weights and measures should be reformed: in their present state they could have done no honour to the 12th century. But unless the reformation be conducted on sound principles of universal application, and be rational and consistent in its details, we had better abide a little longer by our old unit, the barleycorn; for we shall have all the inconveniences of innovation, without the advantages of improve
tion tables, and judicious regulations, would greatly diminish the trouble, and the obvious advantages would soon reconcile all to the change.
That this great measure can be accomplished without difficulty and temporary inconveniences, it were vain to imagine. But accurate equaliza
P.S. At present, I say nothing of the combination of Time and Extension, in order to find an unit of linear
proves the heart. It banishes petty On the Poetry of SCOTT and BYRON. localities from the mind.
From the French.
(Bibliotheque Universelle, Geneve. 1816.)
WE must distinguish two men of
genius who shine at present in the career of poetry; and we cannot do better than borrow the expressions of an anonymous author who needs only wish it, to secure a great literary reputation. "Two distinguished poets divide, says he, at this moment, the admiration of the public, and have raised, almost to enthusiasm, the admiration of the art which they cultivate. Both are full of imagination, both possess copiousness and facility; both disdain to subject themselves to any rules which are not imposed by the feelings of beauty; in other respects they have no resemblance to each other. One, (Lord Byron) spreads over his works a gloomy character. He has travelled through the East, and delights to contrast the bounties of nature, in the beautiful countries of Greece and Asia, with the ravages of despotism. In the same manner, when painting men, he delights to represent the features of primitive grandeur, shining in a soul laid waste, and even dried up, by the most tempestuous passions. He is a thinker as well as a poet, and is as remarkable for the harmony of his verses, as for the depth of thought.There is much originality, energy, and
ing trivial graces. Such is the character of this genius of the north, whose boldness always imposes on the imagination, while his art seduces it.
and even splendour, in his talent; but there is something dismal in this splendour, and his works leave a feeling of sadness behind them.
The other poet, to whom Scotland has given birth, Walter Scott, gives, en the contrary, the most rapid and agreeable movement to the imagination. He is at once a bard and a minstrel. He traces the picture of feudal manners, and animates it with the most vivid colours. All lives, all moves in his poems. He gives a striking air of truth to the most eccentric details, and renders familiar to us the customs most foreign to our own. We have before our eyes all his personages, their costumes, their horses, their banners, their hunts, their battles; and the ground from which this croud of brilliant figures comes out, is always that rude nature, those mists, those firs, those cascades, those rocks, those savage lakes, which
From the Same.
forms the character, rude, but yet View of the Present State of Poetry beautiful, of the frozen climates. The talent of Walter Scott is eminently picturesque, and if he can abstain from dilating it in negligent compositions, he will deserve to be called the Ariosto of the North.
The astonishing fecundity of this poet, always worthy of himself, contributes to force the homage of ad miration. Four great poems have issued from his pen in the course of a few years; and the public ascribe to him romances to which he has not put his name. After those beautiful works, the Last Minstrel, which seemed to exhaust this branch of poetry, his Lady of the Lake came to charm England. Lastly, his Lord of the Isles, without having so lively an interest, is not beneath his great talents; there is always fertility of invention, close narrative, enchanting details, lively and brilliant colouring above all, that energetic touch, that impetuosity of the poet, who pushes his Pegasus through the air, aiming always at great effects, and disdain
It would be difficult to find a French translator for Walter Scott. We must regret that the enjoyment of such wealth should be denied to us; the obstacles appear insurmountable; language, manners, history, local colouring, taste, and national prejudices, are all foreign to the French reader. If, as is sometimes said, it be worth learning Spanish to read Cervantes, who can be translated, it is doubtless worth learning English to read Walter Scott, who cannot; but it would be also necessary to study Scotland and its history, and to familiarize ourgelves with the scenes which he describes.
THE muse of poetry threatens to
abandon Germany, as it has abandoned all the other countries of Europe. Göthe shines now almost alone upon Parnassus (ut inter stellas una minores.) Though in a very advanced age, he preserves all the vigour of his body and mind; it is he who saw the birth of German poetry; alas! will he witness its funeral? Herder, Wieland, and Schiller, are no more. Werner has plunged so deep into the chaos of mysticism, that his most recent works, such as Die Weihe der Unkraft, (the Apotheosis of Weakness), resemble the reveries of a madman. The Counts of Stollberg write little; Voss, that respectable old man, rests near the term of a glorious, but laborious life. Berlin possesses still La Motte Fouque; Klinger and Tieck form with him a dramatic triumvirate of the second order. The two celebrated dramatic authors Ifland and Kotzebue
Kotzebue are just dead. Among the Lyric poets, we distinguish Kosegaten; his style is energetic-he has something original in imagination and sentiment-but he is not so correct, as that he can be quoted as a classical poet. Among romance writers, none, since the death of the amiable Wagner, can be compared to John-PaulRichter. If his original genius raises him to the first rank among modern poets, he places it happily out of any rank as a model; for in the form of his romances he despises all the rules, and all the limits of this kind of writing.
We may remark among our modern poets two very distinct classes. The one write learnedly,-draw their ideas, their comparisons, all the forms of their style, from natural philosophy: these are so obscure and mystical, that no one can comprehend them. The others write verses in the style of the poets of the 12th and 13th centuries. The first fashion of presenting vague and obscure ideas under mysterious forms-that is to say, of painting mist by mist-is be ginning to be less common, and, it is hoped, will soon disappear. The second style deserves a little more attention. While the French armies were encamped in Germany, and the princes were humbled beneath the yoke of a foreigner, the learned sought all means of rousing the nation, of making them feel their debasement, and the ignominy with which they were covered. They presented the picture of the ancient empire of Germany, compared with its actual condition-they celebrated the middle ages as its most glorious era. In this spirit F. Schlegel gave his "Course of Modern History," at Vienna; in the same intention learned men drew from the dust of archives the poems of the German minstrels (minnesinger). The history of Germany, during the middle ages, was resumed, and studied with that enthu
siasm which the Germans direct to every literary pursuit which appears to them new. Among those who have particularly studied German poetry, and that of the North, during the middle ages, we shall only mention M. Van der Hagen, the principal editor of the Niebelurgen-Lied, and of the book of heroes (Heldenbuch)— the brothers Grimon, who appear to have entirely devoted themselves to this study, and who to much taste unite an immense erudition: Tieck, Busching, and many others, labour in the same spirit.
Without speaking here of the political influence of these new ideas, we shall content ourselves with shewing their effects upon poetry. This study was doubly useful, as familiarizing us with the state of manners in past ages, and giving us juster ideas of the language, the religious ideas, and the literary culture of those ancient times,
but enthusiasm leads us much too far. The Niebelungen-Lied has been placed in the first rank among epic poems; the songs of the minstrels have been more highly extolled than those of Anacreon and Tibullus. All that can be imagined as great or beautiful has been supposed to be found in these poems, merely because it was eagerly sought. Almost all the German poets have attempted to metamorphose themselves into minstrels; they have borrowed their expressions, their turn of thought, their ideas, without perceiving that the peculiar charm of these poems, nature, innocence, the freshness of sentiment, is wanting to themselves. These imitations, compared to their models, are artificial flowers placed by the side of natural; for the vivifying principle of the art, that soul which inspires it, and which assumes, at all times, a peculiar form and character, mocks all imitation.
Within the two last years, there has arisen, as it were, a third class of poets, of whom a word must be said. They
They are those who have sung the two last wars of deliverance, and the military spirit of the age. Their number is so considerable, that we may apply to them what Goldsmith says of the English poets in one of his comedies, "Our poets have not written as our soldiers have fought, but they have done all they could." Yet some of these warlike poets form honourable exceptions: for example, Ch. Korner,(Lyre and Sword,) Runhardt, &c. But, among these songs of war, none is comparable to the beautiful royal song of Clotilde de Vallon Chalys.Perhaps good poets, like good historians, will celebrate successfully the glory of the German arms only when the present time shall be no more; when they shall abandon themselves to the God who inspires them, without being distracted and tormented by little passions.
K.M. Knight of Malta.
K.M.T. St Maria Theresa in Aus
K.N.S. Royal North Star in Sweden.