Erasmus Darwin.

The Botanic Garden. Part II. Containing the Loves of the Plants. a Poem. With Philosophical Notes online

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its seeds from the ravages of birds; for there is another trefoil, the
trifolium globosum, or globular woolly-headed trefoil, which has a
curious manner of concealing its seeds; the lower florets only have
corols and are fertile; the upper ones wither into a kind of wool, and,
forming a bead, completely conceal the fertile calyxes. Lin. Spec. Plant,
a Reichard.]

Her tender mind, with meek Religion fraught,
Drank all-resigned Affliction's bitter draught;
395 Alive and listening to the whisper'd groan
Of others' woes, unconscious of her own! -
One smiling boy, her last sweet hope, she warms
Hushed on her bosom, circled in her arms, -
Daughter of woe! ere morn, in vain caress'd,
400 Clung the cold Babe upon thy milkless breast,
With feeble cries thy last sad aid required,
Stretch'd its stiff limbs, and on thy lap expired! -
- Long with wide eye-lids on her Child she gazed,
And long to heaven their tearless orbs she raised;
405 Then with quick foot and throbbing heart she found
Where Chartreuse open'd deep his holy ground;

[_Where Chartreuse_. l. 406. During the plague in London, 1665, one pit
to receive the dead was dug in the Charter-house, 40 feet long, 16 feet
wide, and about 20 feet deep; and in two weeks received 1114 bodies.
During this dreadful calamity there were instances of mothers carrying
their own children to those public graves, and of people delirious, or in
despair from the loss of their friends, who threw themselves alive into
these pits. Journal of the Plague-year in 1665, printed for E. Nutt,

Bore her last treasure through the midnight gloom,
And kneeling dropp'd it in the mighty tomb;
"I follow next!" the frantic mourner said,
410 And living plunged amid the festering dead.

Where vast Ontario rolls his brineless tides,
And feeds the trackless forests on his sides,
Fair CASSIA trembling hears the howling woods,
And trusts her tawny children to the floods. -

[_Rolls his brineless tide._ l. 411. Some philosophers have believed
that the continent of America was not raised out of the great ocean at
so early a period of time as the other continents. One reason for this
opinion was, because the great lakes, perhaps nearly as large as the
Mediterranean Sea, consist of fresh water. And as the sea-salt seems to
have its origin from the destruction of vegetable and animal bodies,
washed down by rains, and carried by rivers into lakes or seas; it
would seem that this source of sea-salt had not so long existed in that
country. There is, however, a more satisfactory way of explaining this
circumstance; which is, that the American lakes lie above the level of
the ocean, and are hence perpetually desalited by the rivers which run
through them; which is not the case with the Mediterranean, into which a
current from the main ocean perpetually passes.]

[_Caffia._ l. 413. Ten males, one female. The seeds are black, the
stamens gold-colour. This is one of the American fruits, which are
annually thrown on the coasts of Norway; and are frequently in so recent
a state as to vegetate, when properly taken care of, the fruit of the
anacardium, cashew-nut; of cucurbita lagenaria, bottlegourd; of the
mimosa scandens, cocoons; of the piscidia erythrina, logwood-tree; and
cocoa-nuts are enumerated by Dr. Tonning. (Amæn. Acad. 149.) amongst
these emigrant seeds. The fact is truly wonderful, and cannot be
accounted for but by the existence of under currents in the depths of the
ocean; or from vortexes of water passing from one country to another
through caverns of the earth.

Sir Hans Sloane has given an account of four kinds of seeds, which are
frequently thrown by the sea upon the coasts of the islands of the
northern parts of Scotland. Phil. Trans. abridged, Vol. III. p. 540.
which seeds are natives of the West Indies, and seem to be brought
thither by the gulf-stream described below. One of these is called, by
Sir H. Sloane, Phaseolus maximus perennis, which is often also thrown
on the coast of Kerry in Ireland; another is called, in Jamaica,
Horse-eye-bean; and a third is called Niker in Jamaica. He adds, that
the Lenticula marina, or Sargosso, grows on the rocks about Jamaica, is
carried by the winds and current towards the coast of Florida, and thence
into the North-American ocean, where it lies very thick on the surface of
the sea.

Thus a rapid current passes from the gulf of Florida to the N.E.
along the coast of North-America, known to seamen by the name of the
GULF-STREAM. A chart of this was published by Dr. Francklin in 1768, from
the information principally of Capt. Folger. This was confirmed by the
ingenious experiments of Dr. Blagden, published in 1781, who found that
the water of the Gulf-stream was from six to eleven degrees warmer
than the water of the sea through which it ran; which must have been
occasioned by its being brought from a hotter climate. He ascribes the
origin of this current to the power of the trade-winds, which, blowing
always in the same direction, carry the waters of the Atlantic ocean to
the westward, till they are stopped by the opposing continent on the west
of the Gulf of Mexico, and are thus accumulated there, and run down the
Gulf of Florida. Philos. Trans. V. 71, p. 335. Governor Pownal has given
an elegant map of this Gulf-stream, tracing it from the Gulf of Florida
northward as far as Cape Sable in Nova Scotia, and then across the
Atlantic ocean to the coast of Africa between the Canary-islands and
Senegal, increasing in breadth, as it runs, till it occupies five or six
degrees of latitude. The Governor likewise ascribes this current to the
force of the trade-winds _protruding_ the waters westward, till they are
opposed by the continent, and accumulated in the Gulf of Mexico. He very
ingeniously observes, that a great eddy must be produced in the Atlantic
ocean between this Gulf-stream and the westerly current protruded by the
tropical winds, and in this eddy are found the immense fields of floating
vegetables, called Saragosa weeds, and Gulf-weeds, and some light woods,
which circulate in these vast eddies, or are occasionally driven out of
them by the winds. Hydraulic and Nautical Observations by Governor
Pownal, 1787. Other currents are mentioned by the Governor in this
ingenious work, as those in the Indian Sea, northward of the line, which
are ascribed to the influence of the Monsoons. It is probable, that in
process of time the narrow tract of land on the west of the Gulf of
Mexico may be worn away by this elevation of water dashing against it, by
which this immense current would cease to exist, and a wonderful change
take place in the Gulf of Mexico and West Indian islands, by the
subsiding of the sea, which might probably lay all those islands int
one, or join them to the continent.]

415 Cinctured with gold while _ten_ fond brothers stand,
And guard the beauty on her native land,

Soft breathes the gale, the current gently moves,
And bears to Norway's coasts her infant-loves.
- So the sad mother at the noon of night
420 From bloody Memphis stole her silent flight;
Wrapp'd her dear babe beneath her folded vest,
And clasp'd the treasure to her throbbing breast,
With soothing whispers hushed its feeble cry,
Pressed the soft kiss, and breathed the secret sigh. -
425 - With dauntless step she seeks the winding shore,
Hears unappall'd the glimmering torrents roar;
With Paper-flags a floating cradle weaves,
And hides the smiling boy in Lotus-leaves;
Gives her white bosom to his eager lips,
430 The salt tears mingling with the milk he sips;
Waits on the reed-crown'd brink with pious guile,
And trusts the scaly monsters of the Nile. -

- Erewhile majestic from his lone abode,
Embassador of Heaven, the Prophet trod;
435 Wrench'd the red Scourge from proud Oppression's hands,
And broke, curst Slavery! thy iron bands.

Hark! heard ye not that piercing cry,
Which shook the waves and rent the sky! -

E'en now, e'en now, on yonder Western shores
440 Weeps pale Despair, and writhing Anguish roars:
E'en now in Afric's groves with hideous yell
Fierce SLAVERY stalks, and slips the dogs of hell;
From vale to vale the gathering cries rebound,
And sable nations tremble at the sound! -
445 - YE BANDS OF SENATORS! whose suffrage sways
Britannia's realms, whom either Ind obeys;
Who right the injured, and reward the brave,
Stretch your strong arm, for ye have power to save!
Throned in the vaulted heart, his dread resort,
450 Inexorable CONSCIENCE holds his court;
With still small voice the plots of Guilt alarms,
Bares his mask'd brow, his lifted hand disarms;
But, wrapp'd in night with terrors all his own,
He speaks in thunder, when the deed is done.
455 _Hear him_ ye Senates! hear this truth sublime,

No radiant pearl, which crested Fortune wears,
No gem, that twinkling hangs from Beauty's ears,
Not the bright stars, which Night's blue arch adorn,
460 Nor rising suns that gild the vernal morn,
Shine with such lustre as the tear, that breaks
For other's woe down Virtue's manly cheeks."

Here ceased the MUSE, and dropp'd her tuneful shell,
Tumultuous woes her panting bosom swell,
465 O'er her flush'd cheek her gauzy veil she throws,
Folds her white arms, and bends her laurel'd brows;
For human guilt awhile the Goddess sighs,
And human sorrows dim celestial eyes.


_Bookseller_. Poetry has been called a sister-art both to Painting and to
Music; I wish to know, what are the particulars of their relationship?

_Poet_. It has been already observed, that the principal part of the
language of poetry consists of those words, which are expressive of the
ideas, which we originally receive by the organ of sight; and in this it
nearly indeed resembles painting; which can express itself in no other
way, but by exciting the ideas or sensations belonging to the sense of
vision. But besides this essential similitude in the language of the
poetic pen and pencil, these two sisters resemble each other, if I may
so say, in many of their habits and manners. The painter, to produce a
strong effect, makes a few parts of his picture large, distinct, and
luminous, and keeps the remainder in shadow, or even beneath its natural
size and colour, to give eminence to the principal figure. This is
similar to the common manner of poetic composition, where the subordinate
characters are kept down, to elevate and give consequence to the hero or
heroine of the piece.

In the south aile of the cathedral church at Lichfield, there is an
antient monument of a recumbent figure; the head and neck of which lie
on a roll of matting in a kind of niche or cavern in the wall; and about
five feet distant horizontally in another opening or cavern in the wall
are seen the feet and ankles, with some folds of garment, lying also on
a matt; and though the intermediate space is a solid stone-wall, yet the
imagination supplies the deficiency, and the whole figure seems to exist
before our eyes. Does not this resemble one of the arts both of the
painter and the poet? The former often shows a muscular arm amidst a
group of figures, or an impassioned face; and, hiding the remainder of
the body behind other objects, leaves the imagination to compleat it. The
latter, describing a single feature or attitude in picturesque words,
produces before the mind an image of the whole.

I remember seeing a print, in which was represented a shrivelled hand
stretched through an iron grate, in the stone floor of a prison-yard, to
reach at a mess of porrage, which affected me with more horrid ideas of
the distress of the prisoner in the dungeon below, than could have
been perhaps produced by an exhibition of the whole person. And in the
following beautiful scenery from the Midsummer-night's dream, (in which I
have taken the liberty to alter the place of a comma), the description of
the swimming step and prominent belly bring the whole figure before our
eyes with the distinctness of reality.

When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive,
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;
Which she with pretty and with swimming gate,
Following her womb, (then rich with my young squire),
Would imitate, and sail upon the land.

There is a third sister-feature, which belongs both to the pictorial and
poetic art; and that is the making sentiments and passions visible, as
it were, to the spectator; this is done in both arts by describing or
portraying the effects or changes which those sentiments or passions
produce upon the body. At the end of the unaltered play of Lear, there
is a beautiful example of poetic painting; the old King is introduced as
dying from grief for the loss of Cordelia; at this crisis, Shakespear,
conceiving the robe of the king to be held together by a clasp,
represents him as only saying to an attendant courtier in a faint voice,
"Pray, Sir, undo this button, - thank you, Sir," and dies. Thus by the
art of the poet, the oppression at the bosom of the dying King is made
visible, not described in words.

_B_. What are the features, in which these Sister-arts do not resemble
each other?

_P_. The ingenious Bishop Berkeley, in his Treatise on Vision, a work of
great ability, has evinced, that the colours, which we see, are only a
language suggesting to our minds the ideas of solidity and extension,
which we had before received by the sense of touch. Thus when we view the
trunk of a tree, our eye can only acquaint us with the colours or shades;
and from the previous experience of the sense of touch, these suggest to
us the cylindrical form, with the prominent or depressed wrinkles on
it. From hence it appears, that there is the strictest analogy between
colours and sounds; as they are both but languages, which do not
represent their correspondent ideas, but only suggest them to the mind
from the habits or associations of previous experience. It is therefore
reasonable to conclude, that the more artificial arrangements of these
two languages by the poet and the painter bear a similar analogy.

But in one circumstance the Pen and the Pencil differ widely from each
other, and that is the quantity of Time which they can include in their
respective representations. The former can unravel a long series of
events, which may constitute the history of days or years; while the
latter can exhibit only the actions of a moment. The Poet is happier in
describing successive scenes; the Painter in representing stationary
ones: both have their advantages.

Where the passions are introduced, as the Poet, on one hand, has the
power gradually to prepare the mind of his reader by previous climacteric
circumstances; the Painter, on the other hand, can throw stronger
illumination and distinctness on the principal moment or catastrophe of
the action; besides the advantage he has in using an universal language,
which can be _read_ in an instant of time. Thus where a great number of
figures are all seen together, supporting or contrasting each other, and
contributing to explain or aggrandize the principal effect, we view
a picture with agreeable surprize, and contemplate it with unceasing
admiration. In the representation of the sacrifice of Jephtha's Daughter,
a print done from a painting of Ant. Coypel, at one glance of the eye
we read all the interesting passages of the last act of a well-written
tragedy; so much poetry is there condensed into a moment of time.

_B._ Will you now oblige me with an account of the relationship between
Poetry, and her other sister, Music? _P_. In the poetry of our language
I don't think we are to look for any thing analogous to the notes of the
gamut; for, except perhaps in a few exclamations or interrogations, we
are at liberty to raise or sink our voice an octave or two at pleasure,
without altering the sense of the words. Hence, if either poetry or prose
be read in melodious tones of voice, as is done in recitativo, or in
chaunting, it must depend on the speaker, not on the writer: for though
words may be selected which are less harsh than others, that is, which
have fewer sudden stops or abrupt consonants amongst the vowels, or
with fewer sibilant letters, yet this does not constitute melody, which
consists of agreeable successions of notes referrable to the gamut; or
harmony, which consists of agreeable combinations of them. If the Chinese
language has many words of similar articulation, which yet signify
different ideas, when spoken in a higher or lower musical note, as some
travellers affirm, it must be capable of much finer effect, in respect to
the audible part of poetry, than any language we are acquainted with.

There is however another affinity, in which poetry and music more nearly
resemble each other than has generally been understood, and that is in
their measure or time. There are but two kinds of time acknowledged in
modern music, which are called _triple time_, and _common time_. The
former of these is divided by bars, each bar containing three crotchets,
or a proportional number of their subdivisions into quavers and
semiquavers. This kind of time is analogous to the measure of our heroic
or iambic verse. Thus the two following couplets are each of them divided
into five bars of _triple time_, each bar consisting of two crotchets and
two quavers; nor can they be divided into bars analogous to _common time_
without the bars interfering with some of the crotchets, so as to divide

_3_ Soft-warbling beaks ¦ in each bright blos ¦ som move,
4 And vo ¦ cal rosebuds thrill ¦ the enchanted grove, ¦

In these lines there is a quaver and a crochet alternately in every bar,
except in the last, in which _the in_ make two semiquavers; the _e_ is
supposed by Grammarians to be cut off, which any one's ear will readily
determine not to be true.

_3_ Life buds or breathes ¦ from Indus to ¦ the poles,
4 And the ¦ vast surface kind ¦ les, as it rolls. ¦

In these lines there is a quaver and a crotchet alternately in the first
bar; a quaver, two crotchets, and a quaver, make the second bar. In the
third bar there is a quaver, a crotchet, and a rest after the crotchet,
that is, after the word _poles_, and two quavers begin the next line. The
fourth bar consists of quavers and crotchets alternately. In the last bar
there is a quaver, and a rest after it, viz. after the word _kindles_;
and then two quavers and a crotchet. You will clearly perceive the truth
of this, if you prick the musical characters above mentioned under the

The _common time_ of musicians is divided into bars, each of which
contains four crotchets, or a proportional number of their subdivision
into quavers and semiquavers. This kind of musical time is analogous to
the dactyle verses of our language, the most popular instances of which
are in Mr. Anstie's Bath-Guide. In this kind of verse the bar does not
begin till after the first or second syllable; and where the verse is
quite complete, and written by a good ear, these first syllables added to
the last complete the bar, exactly in this also corresponding with many
pieces of music;

_2_ Yet ¦ if one may guess by the ¦ size of his calf, Sir,
4 He ¦ weighs about twenty-three ¦ stone and a half, Sir.

_2_ Master ¦ Mamozet's head was not ¦ finished so soon,
4 For it ¦ took up the barber a ¦ whole afternoon.

In these lines each bar consists of a crotchet, two quavers, another
crotchet, and two more quavers: which are equal to four crotchets, and,
like many bars of _common time_ in music, may be subdivided into two in
beating time without disturbing the measure.

The following verses from Shenftone belong likewise to common time:

2/4 A | river or a sea |
Was to him a dish | of tea,
And a king | dom bread and butter.

The first and second bars consist each of a crotchet, a quaver, a
crotchet, a quaver, a crotchet. The third bar consists of a quaver, two
crotchets, a quaver, a crotchet. The last bar is not complete without
adding the letter A, which begins the first line, and then it consists of
a quaver, a crotchet, a quaver, a crotchet, two quavers.

It must be observed, that the crotchets in triple time are in general
played by musicians slower than those of common time, and hence minuets
are generally pricked in triple time, and country dances generally in
common time. So the verses above related, which are analogous to _triple
time_, are generally read slower than those analogous to _common time_;
and are thence generally used for graver compositions. I suppose all the
different kinds of verses to be found in our odes, which have any measure
at all, might be arranged under one or other of these two musical times;
allowing a note or two sometimes to precede the commencement of the bar,
and occasional rests, as in musical compositions: if this was attended
to by those who set poetry to music, it is probable the sound and sense
would oftener coincide. Whether these musical times can be applied to the
lyric and heroic verses of the Greek and Latin poets, I do not pretend to
determine; certain it is, that the dactyle verse of our language, when
it is ended with a double rhime, much resembles the measure of Homer
and Virgil, except in the length of the lines. B. Then there is no
relationship between the other two of these sister-, Painting and Music?

_P_. There is at least a mathematical relationship, or perhaps I ought
rather to have said a metaphysical relationship between them. Sir Isaac
Newton has observed, that the breadths of the seven primary colours
in the Sun's image refracted by a prism are proportional to the seven
musical notes of the gamut, or to the intervals of the eight sounds
contained in an octave, that is, proportional to the following numbers:

Sol. La. Fa. Sol. La. Mi. Fa. Sol.
Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet,
1 1 1 1 1 1 1
9 16 10 9 16 16 9

Newton's Optics, Book I. part 2. prop. 3 and 6. Dr. Smith, in his
Harmonics, has an explanatory note upon this happy discovery, as he terms
it, of Newton. Sect. 4. Art. 7. From this curious coincidence, it has
been proposed to produce a luminous music, confiding of successions
or combinations of colours, analogous to a tune in respect to the
proportions above mentioned. This might be performed by a strong light,
made by means of Mr. Argand's lamps, passing through coloured glasses,
and falling on a defined part of a wall, with moveable blinds before
them, which might communicate with the keys of a harpsichord; and thus
produce at the same time visible and audible music in unison with each
other. The execution of this idea is said by Mr. Guyot to have been
attempted by Father Cassel without much success. If this should be
again attempted, there is another curious coincidence between sounds and
colours, discovered by Dr. Darwin of Shrewsbury, and explained in a paper
on what he calls Ocular Spectra, in the Philosophical Transactions, Vol.
LXXVI. which might much facilitate the execution of it. In this treatise
the Doctor has demonstrated, that we see certain colours, not only with
greater ease and distinctness, but with relief and pleasure, after having
for some time contemplated other certain colours; as green after red, or
red after green; orange after blue, or blue after orange; yellow after
violet, or violet after yellow. This he shews arises from the _ocular
spectrum_ of the colour last viewed coinciding with the _irritation_ of
the colour now under contemplation. Now as the pleasure we receive
from the sensation of melodious notes, independent of the previous
associations of agreeable ideas with them, must arise from our hearing
some proportions of sounds after others more easily, distinctly, or
agreeably; and as there is a coincidence between the proportions of the
primary colours, and the primary sounds, if they may be so called; he
argues, that the same laws must govern the sensations of both. In this

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Online LibraryErasmus DarwinThe Botanic Garden. Part II. Containing the Loves of the Plants. a Poem. With Philosophical Notes → online text (page 9 of 14)