« AnteriorContinuar »
by European establishments, at these or other places, from their enemies the Esquimaux.
The polar regions of the globe within the arctic circle offer a wide tield for the researches of a philosophic mind; yet, in point of science, very little is known beyond what is contained in the account of Captain Phipps's voyage to the neighbourhood of Spitzbergen. The natural history, though the best, is still but imperfectly known; the sea and land swarm with animals in these abodes of ice and snow, and multitudes of both yet remain to be discovered and described. It is an important object to obtain more accurate observations on those huge n:ountains of ice which float on the sea; it is no longer a question that the field or fiaked ice is frozen sea-water, though itself perfectly fresh; and it is almost as certain, though doubted by some, that the huge masses which the Dutch call icebergs, are formed on the steep and precipitous shores, from whence those thunderbolts of snow are occasionally hurled into the deep, bearing with them fragments of earth and stones. “I came,' says Foxe, by one piece of ice higher than the rest, whereupon a stone was of the contents of five or six tonne weight, with divers other smaller stones and mud thereon.'
It is a common but we believe an erroneous opinion, that the temperature of our climate has regularly been diminishing, and that it is owing to the ice having permanently fixed itself to the shores of Greenland, which, in consequence, from being once a flourishing colony of Denmark, is now become uninhabitable and unapproachable. We doubt both the fact and the inference. It is not the climate that has altered, but we who feel it more severe as we advance in years; the registers of the absolute degree of temperature, as measured by the thermometer, do not warrant ang such conclusion; and more attempts than one to land on the coast of Greenland must be made, before we can give credit to its being bound
in eternal ice—which is known to shift about with every gale of wind—to be drifted by currents—and to crumble and consume below the surface of the water. We suspect indeed, that the summer heat, which in the latitude 80) Phipps found to be on the average of the month of July at 42° of Fahrenheit, during the whole twentyfour hours, and once, when exposed to the sun, as high as 661°, dissolves fully as much of the ice and snow on the surface of the sea as the preceding winter may have formed.* It appears too, that
* In the Transactions of the Wernerian Society are published several Meteorological Journals of Mr. Scoresby, a whale-fisher of Hull, which, compared with that of Phipps, would seem to sanction the idea of a decreasing temperature, the arerage height of the thermometer, in the months of July in 1811 and 1812, being only about 33°, and very often below the freezing point, though in a lower latitude by three degrees than that in which Captain Phipps observed it; but the fishing vessels penetrate the fields of ice, the open spaces of which are puented by whales; and there can be no doubt this diminished temperature is owing to their being in the midst of an atmosphere chilled by the surrounding ice.
there are times in the depth of winter when the temperature is exceedingly mild; and the intense frosts are undoubtedly moderated by the caloric given out from the Aurora borealis, which in these regions affords not only an admirable compensation for the short absence of the moon, but imparts a considerable degree of warmth to the lower regions of the atmosphere, filling the whole circle of the horizon, and approaching so near the surface of the globe as to be distinctly heurd in varying their colours and positions. • I have frequently,' says Hearne, heard them making a rustling and crackling noise, like the waving of a large flag in a fresh gale of wind.' The electric aura, it is well known, will raise the mercury in the tube of the thermometer, but no experiments have been made to ascertain the degree of heat given out by these henbanes or petty dancers, as Foxe calls them, which must be very considerable; as Button says, 'the stream in the element is like the flame that cometh forth from the mouth of a hot oven. Almost every voyager into Hudson's and Baffin's seas complains of the occasional hot weather, and the great annoyance of mosquitoes on the shores. Duncan, when surrounded with ice, had the thermometer in August at 56° in the shade, and 82° in the sun. Yet the cold in winter is more intense than they have yet been able to measure either by a mercurial or spirit thermometer. It is a well established fact, that on the eastern sides of great continents, the temperature is greatly below that in the same degree of latitude on the western sides : thus, while the whole of Hudson's Bay, the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland, down to 46° may be said to be, in winter, one mass of ice, not a particle of ice was ever seen in the sea on the western side of America, to the southward of 64° or 65o. The delicate humming-bird is not uncommon at Nootka, and was seen by Mackenzie at Peace River, in latitude 54° 24. The cold of Halifax, in latitude 44° 40', is much more intense than that of London in 511°. Pekin, in less than latitude 40°, has generally a constant frost for three months every year; and ice, the thickness of a dollar, is not uncommon at Canton, under the tropics. On the coast of Jesso, in latitude 45° 24', Captain Krusenstern found the ground covered with snow in the middle of May, and vegetation more backward than at Archangel, in latitude 641°, in the middle of April.
Some of our old navigators ascribed the great variation and irregularity of the magnetic needle in Hudson and Baffin's Seas, to the effects of cold ;* and others to the attraction of particular
Foxe observed that the needle near Nottingham Island had lost its powers, which, among other things, he ascribed to the cold air interposed between the needle and the point of its attraction. Ellis conceived the cold to be the cause of the irregular action of the needle, and he says, that the compasses on being brought iuto a wasin place recovered their action and proper direction.
islands. In the northern regions, near Spitzbergen, Phipps observed nothing remarkable in the variation of the needle, but Baffin found it at 5 points, or 56°, ' a thing almost incredible, and almost matchless in all the world besides.' Duncan supposed the needle to be attracted by Charles's Island, as the variation amounted to 63° 51', nearly 6 points; and on the same parallel, when the island was out of sight, only 45° 22'; and he states, that when near Merry and Jones's Islands, in a violent storm of thunder, lightning and heavy rain, the night being very dark and dismal, all the compasses in the ship were running round, and so unsteady, that they could not trust one moment to the course they were steering.
Many other meteorological phenomena peculiar to these regions afford curious matter for investigation; but our geographical knowledge of every part of Hudson's and Baffin's seas is most defective. We need only cast an eye over the different charts made by Arrowsmith, from 1793 to 1811, no two of which are alike large islands being inserted in some and omitted in others—the north-eastern side of the continent is, in one, cut into islands—in another, islands are joined to the continent-here a strait is filled up-there another opened-in short
• Vidi ego quod fuerat quondam solidissima tellus
Esse fretum. Vidi factas ex æquore terras'— These flourishes ad libitum (for not one iota of additional information of the northern parts has been received for the last sixty years) are not very commendable, in a geographical point of view; and in the absence of all knowledge, we should deem it preferable to leave blank (as Purdey has left Baffin's Sea in his General Chart) those coasts and islands which fancy only has created.
Art. IX.-1. Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Cunto III. Svo.
Lord Byron. 8vo. John Murray: London.
E have felt ourselves very much affected by the perusal of
these poems, nor can we suppose that we are singular in our feelings. Other poets have given us their literary productions as the subject of criticism, impersonally as it were, and generally speaking, abstracted from their ordinary habits and feelings; and all, or almost all, might apply to their poetical effusions, though in somewhat a different sense, the l'envoy of Ovid.
Sine me, Liber, ibis in urbem. The work of the poet is indeed before the public, but the character, the habits of the author, the events of his life and the motives of his writing, are known but to the small circle of literary gossips, for whose curiosity no food is too insipid. From such, indeed,
those supposed to be in intimacy with the individual have sometimes undergone an examination which reminds us of the extravagances of Arabella in the Female Quixote, who expected from every lady she met in society a full and interesting history of her life and adventures, and which could only be answered in the words of the Weary Knife-grinder,'— Story! God bless you, I have none to tell, Ma'am !'-The time therefore appeared to be passed when the mere sin of having been dipped in rhyme was supposed to exclude the poet from the usual business and habits of life, and to single him out from the herd as a marked deer expected to make sport by his solitary exertions for escape. Whether this has arisen from the diminished irritability of the rhyming generation, or from the peculiar habits of those who have been distinguished in our time, or from their mental efforts having been early directed to modify and to restrain the excess of their enthusiasm, we do not pretend to conjecture; but it is certain, that for many years past, though the number of our successful poets may be as great as at any period of our literary history, we have heard little comparatively of their eccentricities, their adventures, or their distresses. The wretched Dermody is not worth mentioning as an exception, and the misfortunes of Burns arose from circumstances not much counected with his powerful poetical genius.
It has been, however, reserved for our own time to produce one distinguished example of the Muse having descended upon a bard of a wounded spirit, and lent her lyre to tell, and we trust to soothe, afflictions of no ordinary description, afflictions originating probably in that singular combination of feeling which has been called the poetical temperament, and which has so often saddened the days of those on whom it has been conferred. If ever a man could lay claim to that character in all its strength and all its weakness, with its unbounded range of enjoyment, and its exquisite sensibility of pleasure and of pain, it must certainly be granted to Lord Byron. Nor does it require much time or a deep acquaintance with human nature to discover why these extraordinary powers should in many cases have contributed more to the wretchedness than to the happiness of their possessor.
The imagination all compact,' which the greatest poet who ever lived has assigned as the distinguishing badge of his brethren, is in every case a dangerous gift. It exaggerates, indeed, our expectations, and can often bid its possessor hope, where hope is lost to reason: but the delusive pleasure arising from these visions of imagination, resembles that of a child whose notice is attracted by a fragment of glass to which a sun-beam has given momentary splendour. He hastens to the spot with breathless impatience, and finds the object of his, curiosity and expectation is equally vul
and worthless. Such is the man of quick and exalted powers of imagination. His fancy over-estimates the object of his wishes, and pleasure, fame, dictinction, are alternately pursued, attained, and despised when in his power. Like the enchanted fruit in the palace of a soreerer, the objects of his admiration lose their attraction and value as soon as they are grasped by the adventurer's hand, and all that remains is regret for the time lost in the chase, and astonishment at the hallucination under the influence of which it was undertaken. The disproportion between hope and posses-, sion which is felt by all men, is thus doubled to those whom nature has endowed with the power of gilding a distant prospect by the rays of imagination. These reflexions, though trite and obvious, are in a manner forced from us by the poetry of Lord Byron, by the sentiments of weariness of life and enmity with the world which they so frequently expressmand by the singular analogy which such sentiments hold with incidents of his life so recently before the public. The works before us contain so many direct allusions to the author's personal feelings and private history, that it becomes impossible for us to divide Lord Byron from his poetry, or to offer our criticism upon the continuation of Childe Harold, without reverting to the circumstances in which the commencement of that singular and original work first appeared.
Distinguished by title and descent from an illustrious line of ancestry, Lord Byron shewed, even in his earliest years, that nature had added to those advantages the richest gifts of genius and fancy. His own tale is partly told in two lines of Lara :
Left by his Sire, too young such loss to know,
Lord of himself, that heritage of woe.' His first literary adventure and its fate are well remembered. The poems which he published in his minority had, indeed, those faults of conception and diction which are inseparable from juvenile attempts, and in particular might rather be considered as imitations of what had caught the ear and fancy of the youthful author, than as exhibiting originality of conception and expression. It was like the first essay of the singing bird catching at and imitating the notes of its parent, ere habit and time have given the fullness of tone, confidence, and self-possession which renders assistance unnecessary. Yet though there were many, and those not the worst judges, who discerned in these juvenile productions, a depth of thought and felicity of expression which promised much at a more mature age, the errors did not escape the critical lash; and certain brethren of ours yielded to the opportunity of pouncing upon a titled author, and to that which most readily besets our fraternity, and to which we dare not pronounce ourselves wholly inaccessible, the temptation, namely, of shewing our own wit, and entertaining our