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* Au milieu d'exile, et de l'adversité,
Ainsi l'adorateur du grand astre du monde,
Le suit sous son nuage, et l'adore toujours.' . The work immediately before us makes very high pretensions to a scientific character, and seems, in some sort, to be ushered into the world under the patronage of the Nation. al Institute. It was suggested by M. Darcet, and contains an invocation to the spirit of M. Delambre; while the explanatory notes are, for the most part, from the hand of M. Cuvier, one of the secretaries of the Institute, or of other men of letters, apparently, of the same establishinent. In briefly analysing its merit, we shall pay some attention, first, to the preliminary discourse by which it is introduced to the public; secondly, to the general seope and execution of the poem itself, as a metrical composition; and lastly, to the li. terary and scientific character of the whole, as a summary of modern philosophy.
In his preliminary discourse our author modestly commences with bespeaking the reader's favourable regards to descriptive poetry in general, and with a doubt whether his powers be equal to his undertaking. He proceeds to a comparison of the respective defects and beauties of the two most celebrated descriptive poets of ancient times, Lucretius and Virgil; gives, on various accounts, the palm to the latter, and professes to follow him as his chief model, especially in the skilful inode with which he introduces his episodes to enrich what would otherwise be a jejune and repulsive subject. He passes on to the praise of Buffon, whom he states to have accomplished for France in prose, what Lucretius accomplished for Rome in verse. He expresses some objection, nevertheless, to the figurative and poetic style with which the pages of M. Buffon are adorned, yet thinks it excusable in prose writers of a certain character, and especially in such as Buffon and Fenelon. He concludes with a tribute of gratitude to M. Darcet, who first proposed to him the present undertaking, arranged his plan, and afforded him much of the assistance he stood in need of.
In glancing over this prefatory discourse, we cannot avoid entering our protest against the dictum here brought forward for the most successful introduction of occasional episodes. “ Upon this kind of ornament,” says M. Delille, may I be permitted a few novel ideas. It is an old observation, that the episode ought to be strictly connected with the principal subject. Yet this rule ought not to be taken rigo.
* In glancur protest introduction
rously; and, if it be necessary that they should adhere to the chief design of the work, it is by no means so that the leading idea of every episode should be in direct relation to the foundation of the subject. On the contrary, the more these accessory ornaments are foreign to it, the more they throw into the composition both novelty and variety, the leading charms in every work of imagination.” pp. 23-25. In other words, the wider our illustrations wander from the point in discus: sion, the more effectually we shall inform and illuminate the reader's mind.
In weighing the comparative merits of Lucretius and Virgil, we are not at all surprised that our author should have jeaned with palpable partiality to the latter. It would have been an act of ingratitude if lie had not done so. But we are greatly astonished at his having fallen into the vulgar error, of conceiving Lucretius to have been deterred from attacking the popular mythology of his country by a dread of the consequences of such a conduct. “It is worthy of remark,” he observes, "that Lucretius did not dare to attack the foundation of the Roman religion : fain would he, indeed, have quashed the thunder of Jupiter, have broken: the spear of Minerva, have snatched the trident from Neptune, the cestus from Venus, froin Cupid his quiver, and their scourges from the Furies; he has contented himself with combating the existence of Scyllas, of Centaurs, and Chimæras, and of all such fantastic beings, the brood of superstition and of poetry. His very exordium opens with an invocation to Venus, whom he supplicates to obtain from Mars a pacification of the world.”
Why a distinction is here made between Jupiter, Minerva,, Neptune, Venus, and the Furies, on the one hand, and the Scyllas, Centaurs, and Chimæras, on the other; and why the latter are regarded exclusively as the brood of superstition and poetry, we know not. We do not pretend indeed to be very deeply versed in the theology of Epicurus and his disciples : we know it, however, to be the common opinion that they were all atheists, while, nevertheless, it cannot be denied ihat, the most recondite commentators and expositors of their doctrines bave, concurrently, affirmed and attempt. ed to prove, that they admitted the existence of a supreme, controuling, eternal Intelligence; and only opposed, on account of their extravagance and absurdity, the popular mys thologies of the times. Such was the opinion of Diogenes Laertius in the third century of the Christian era, of Gassendi and Du Rondelle in the seventeeth, and such is the opinion still maintained by our own countrynian, Mr. Good, ju the present day.* Upon this subject, however, we will
* See Ecl. Ker, Vol. II. p. 607,
not enter: but we cannot avoid observing, that Lucretius, so far from not daring to oppose the imaginary deities worshipped in his own era, (as is here directly asserted,) resolutely, pointedly, argumentatively, and throughout almost the whole of his poem, controverts their existence, and is ever anxious to prove that this is one of the chief objects his poem is de. signed to inculcate. Can any thing be more decisive than the following, ii, 651.
Terra quidem vero caret omni tempore sensu ;
Meanwhile the EARTH sensation never knows;
.• Be BACCHUS wine, its vulgar source forgot, ... * And een this mass of senseless EARTH define ,' ... 'PARENT, OF Gods; no harm ensues, but mark, *** 'Tis fiction all by vital facts disprov'd.. . . Good.
In enumerating the Furies, as a tribe whose existence the Roman bard never dared to oppose, the learned Abbé is equally unfortunate: we have only to turn to iii, 1022 for the following lines.
Cerberus et FURIÆ, jam vero, et lucis egestas,
The FURIES, CERBERUS, and Hell itself
• Tremendous fires, live not, nor can they live.' : Good. It is true that Lucretius opens his poem with an invócation to Venus, the mythological mother of the Roman state ; but with what propriety can M. Delille object this poetic license, (for after all it is no more) who has himself opened the poem with an'invocation to Apollo. .
Viens APOLLON ! dis-moi tes prodiges divers,
Et, comme des beaux jours, sois le dieu des beaux vers.' With Lucretius the ornament is peculiarly appropriate : we wish we could say as much for M. Delille: but one of the worst features that has struck us in the “Trois Règnes de la Nature, (the general scope and execution of which we Row
proceed to investigate) is the perpetual intermixture of the stale, and worn-out, mythology of Greece and Rome, with the facts and phænomena, the moral and religious feelings, of our own day, — our common profession of Christianity..
The poem before us is divided into eight books or cantos :the progressive subject of which will be best perceived by the author's own arguments.
• Book I. Light and fire. Appearance of the genius of Nature, who orders the poet to sing : the poet obeys, and opens with Light. Invocation to Apollo. Eulogy of Delambre. Of the decomposition of the solar rays by Newton's prism. Different effects of light, which gives nature her various colours, Phænomena of light under the pole. The Boreal Aurora applies to Jupiter to obtain the same honours aš her sister: Jupiter assents, and, by the help of the philosopher Mairan, she re- . covers her rights. Theory of fire: its effects in the hands of Nature. Utility of fire in the arts ; advantages man derives from it. Fire considered in the terrible scenes of nature ; Lightning and Thunder ; electricity ; volcanos. · Its effects in the explosion of gun-powder, and of artillery. Picture of a winter fire-side.
II. Air. General notion of the air : its nature; its combinations : its utility; its effect in the reflection of light : its weight. Experiments on the Air-pump. Tribute to Pascal. Elasticity of the air ; its effects. Picture of winds, and of a hurricane. A whole army buried by the wind in the sands of Asia. Sometimes agitates the Sea, at other times conducts the navigator to the end of his voyage, Winds, the cause of summer heat and winter cold. Description of a drought occasioned by the south winų. Of frost occasioned by the north-wind. Exhalations. The plague, and its ravages. via . . i '."
III. Water. Its different effects in the works and scenes of nature. Its properties. A flood. Episode of Musidora surprised by her lover while bathing. Streams, lakes, and rivers. Mineral springs. Utility of water in the mechanic arts. Different combinations of water subjected to the action of fire. Water reduced to ice,' Ice-scenery of winter. Hail. Snow. Death of a woodman overwhelmed by a storm of snow at a distance from his cottage. Instinct of the dogs of St. Bernard in fetching back travellers who have lost their way. : .. .iiind
IV. Earth. Different species of earth discovered and analysed. La. voisier's experiments on the compound nature of water. Different chang) gés of combination of the elements of the earth. The analyses of Che-, mistry; their products and results. Colours of the diamond : of porcelain. · Brilliant effect of glass and crystals. Splendor imparted to vermi. lion, to vases , to carpets, to the stuffs for dress or furniture. View of the earth, its riches, and beauties. Changes and revolutions effected in the globe. Causes thereof assigned. Some races extinct; tennáins of a former world : arts of Europe transported into another hemisphere. Phænomena and various combinations in the Interior of the earth. Foremation of pyrites and other subterraneous substances. The loadstone, and its effects. Wonderful spectacle of subterranean caves and grottos." Sportive works of nature therein. Volcanos, their eruptiorfs and ravagery
· ·V. Mineral Kingdom. Different mineral substances. En:Imeration of the several metals. Phænomena produced by nature in the interior of mines. A proscribed person seeking refuge there from the factions which have set a price upon his head.
.VI. Vegetable Kingdom. Formation of plants. Circulation and effects of Sap. Of grafting, and its effects. Distribution of the sap, and the dif. ferent forms it gives to the vegetable matter Characters and nature of different plants: their colours ; attributes ; varieties. Plants of different climates. Eulogy of Linnæus ; his birth; his passion for botany; his works and his glory adopted by France. Birth and multiplication of plants. Education and habitudes of plants. Flora's clock. Nuptials and loves of plants. Polypi, and the plants which form the intermediate stage betwixt the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Use of plants for the health, nourishment, and gratification of man. Coffee, wine, beer, cider, champagne. Cereal planta. America indicated to Columbus by the plants float. ing upon its waters.
VII. Animal Kingdom. Difference marked by nature between the animal and vegetable kingdoms : what they have in common. General organization of animals. Varieties and forms of animals that inhabit the land and the water. Distinct qualities of different animals. Animal in. stinct Beavers ; elephants; bees. Labours and manners of bees. Of ants. Industry of the spider, of the silk-worm, of various terrestrial and aquatic insects and animals : the means furnished them for self-preservation. Poison of insects and serpents. Serpents deified. Instinct of industry in ani- mals. Instinct of birds of passage, &c.
-- VIII. Loves and caresses of the wood-pigeon. Beauty of the Swan. Domestic Animals. The horse. Variety of animals. Fierceness of the lion; and the eagle. Nests of birds ; their education. Manners, cha's racter, and habitudes of animals. Scale of animals, and Man at the head. Power of man, and his ascendancy over all animated beings. His reason superior to instinct. Excellence of the sentiments that exalt him towards heaven, and associate him with his kind.'
The first idea that occurs to us, upon a perusal of this argument, is the inapplication of the title to the poem. The three kingdoms of nature occupies only the latter half of our author's labours, the preceding half being solely devoted to the four elements. The next feeling that arises in our minds, is, the total want of connexion between the different divisions of the subject, and consequently the frequent recurrence of the same facts and phænomena in different parts of the work. In didactic poetry we are not so fastidious as to expect any very close or necessary connection between the different parts of the matter in discussion; but we err egregiously, if a very little attention might not have led our author to a much neater and compacter arrangement than the present. The actual state of modern physics, had he been sufficiently acquainted with their actual state, would have afforded him abundant assistance in this respect; but it is here that the