Images de page
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER FIRST.

B

“ NEITHER AFFECTING TO CONCEAL THE SMALLER RILLS BY WHICH THE STREAM WAS FED, NOR TO BRING THEM SO MUCH INTO VIEW, AS TO DEPRIVE THE PRINCIPAL OBJECT OF ITS CONSEQUENCE."-Scott.

[graphic][ocr errors]

A Machine, receiving at distant times 'and from many hands new combinations and improvements, and becoming at last of signal benefit to mankind, may be compared to a rivulet ! swelled in its course by tributary streams, until it rolls along a majestic river, enriching in its progress provinces and kingdoms.

In retracing the current too from where it mingles with the ocean, the pretensions of even ample subsidiary streams are merged in our admiration of the master flood, glorying, as it were, in its expansion. But as we continue to ascend, those waters which, nearer the sea, would have been disregarded as unimportant, begin to rival in magnitude, and divide our attention with the parent stream ; until at length, on our approaching fountains of the river, it appears trickling from the rock, or oozing from among the flowers of the valley. So also, in developing the rise of a machine, a coarse instrument or a toy may

4

EARLY INVENTORS.

be recognised as the germ of that production of mechanical genius, whose power and usefulness have stimulated our curiosity to mark its changes, and to trace its origin. And the same feeling of reverential gratitude, which attached holiness to the spots whence mightyrivers sprung, also clothed with divinity, and raised altars in honour of, the inventors of the saw, the plough, the potter's wheel, and the loom.

To those who are familiar with modern ma. chinery, the construction of these implements may appear to have conferred but slight claim to the reverence in which their authors were held in ancient times. Yet, artless as they seem, their use first raised man above the beasts of the field, and, by incalculably diminishing the sum of human labour, added equally to the power and enjoyment of the bárbarous tribes of those ages to which their discovery is referred. In their rudest form they are nearly all the mechanical aids that were necessary for the wants of nations, of shepherds, and of husbandmen.

For refinements, however, in the formation of even these simple contrivances, or for the invention and use of more complex mechanism, we must look to communities that have made considerable ad. vances in the career of civilisation ; to those regions where men, congregating in large masses, create -numerous artificial wants, and, by this peculiarity in their social position, excite the natural rivalry of individuals to devise expedients to remove them.

Accordingly it is found, that the dense population of some eastern countries had there produced a state of society eminently calculated to call forth the resources of inventive power. From a remote period, the great wealth of the Egyptians

STATUE OF MEMNON.

particularly had generated a taste for luxurious magnificence, which that people early displayed in the erection of colossal and sumptuous buildings. The remains of their vast pyramids, temples, and palaces, evince a skilful practice of numerous devices to abridge and facilitate labour, and to give a permanence, almost eternal, to their gorgeous structures.

It is probable that at an era coeval with the raising of these superb fabrics, some of the properties of elastic vapour were known to and applied by the priesthood in aid of the ceremonial of their religion. The statue of Memnon is recorded to have emitted sounds, * which were ascribed to the interposition of superhuman agency; and this widely promulgated notion directing the steps of devotees to the shrine, added greatly to the sacred fame of the temple, of which, in other respects, this image formed a splendid ornament. When the secrets of the waning faith were revealed by the votaries of a rival belief, the celestial harmony was then said to be produced by vapour, rising from water, concealed in a cavity of the statue, being made to pass through a tube, having a small orifice fashioned in a manner similar to that of the pipe of an organ. As long as the fluid was heated by the rays of the sun, mysterious sounds were heard by the assembled worshippers, which died gradually away as the solar influence was withdrawn from the gigantic idol.t

* Many authors have mentioned these sounds. Strabo affirms that he heard them: Pausanias compares them to those produced by the snapping of the strings of a harp. Philostratus says, that when the sun shone strongly on the statue, sounds proceeded from its mouth similar to those of a stringed instrument. * The explanation in the text is that usually ascribed to

« PrécédentContinuer »