Abbildungen der Seite

at rather an inconvenient distance from the house. On inquiring into the reason, his friend informed him that it had been selected by the divining-rod, and was but seven or eight feet deep; a circumstance somewhat rare, and a triumphant witness to the powers of the rod. It had been discovered by a respectable man, a regular professor of the art. The curiosity of the visitor was excited, and on learning that the rod marked perfectly well in the hands of one of the farmer's sons, he obtained leave to try some experiments with him. The boy was about twelve years of age, and was by no means disinclined to the task, being not a little proud of his supposed gifts. Divining-rods were prepared from every shrub and tree in the forest, and the grass-plot in which the new well was situated, was selected as the scene of trial, because there the discoverer of the spring had already traced out three distinct veins of water. After the visitor had endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to make the rod exhibit its singular movement in his own hands, he directed the boy to try whether it would take any notice of a swift brook which ran on one side of the enclosure. The boy, after repeated trials in various ways, declared himself sensible of some motion in the rod, but thought the attraction of the brook far inferior to that of a hidden vein of water. The three veins of water formerly indicated, were next traced by the boy over the space of an acre, and their whole course marked behind him on the light turf with a stick. During the process, the young diviner was repeatedly asked, if he was sure he was going on correctly, and constantly answered in the affirmative. This done,' says the writer, 'I blindfolded him so that he could not see, took him lightly by the elbow, and led him away from the furrow marking the vein of water on which the new well had been sunk. After a few steps, I turned with him, requesting him to hold up the rod for discovery. I guided him back, but he chose the time of every step. The rod began to turn, and when, having finished its circuit, it turned perpendicular to the earth, he stopped. “Do you mean that the rod points exactly to the vein of water ?”



“ Yes," he replied. And indeed it did : with his eyes he could not have pointed it out more correctly.

"This was demonstration. Conviction could neither be resisted nor avoided. The sight of the new well had prepossessed me in favour of the divining-rod. The experiment with the lad had been conducted fairly, and its result was irresistibly conclusive. It must convince every one; and to obtain a collection of facts which would put the question at rest for ever, I continued the experiment.' But, alas ! for the reputation of the divining-rod. The blindfolded boy was led from one place to another, and failed incessantly to discover the traces of his latelydiscovered springs. The rod pointed often enough, and every time it did so, the place was marked; but though the experiment was persisted in till the whole grass-plot became figured with black spots, the courses of the original three veins were never once lighted upon. This speedily settled the matter in the mind of the boy's companion. The illusion of the fountains, and of all attraction under ground, vanished at once. The motion of the rod remained still a mystery, but it must be accounted for in some other way. In all my experiments with diviners since, continues the writer, 'I have found them very shy of a blinder. No diviner has proved so traitorous to his own self-respect as to test the skill of the rod by depriving it of the light of his own eyes. One whose age and respectability obliged me to pay him deference, was pleased with the suggestion of trying the rod over running water above ground. Across a neighbouring stream, a huge tree had been prostrated, its capacious trunk serving as a firm pathway over the swift waters. On this the good man crossed the brook, holding the divining-rod properly in his hands. As he came over the water, the point of the rod began to turn, but did not reach the end of its motion until he had fairly crossed the stream, and stepped on the opposite bank.

In repeating the experiment, his own motions and those of the rod were better timed together. His conclusion, carefully drawn, was, that the rod was affected by running-water

above ground, but not so much as by water under ground. He held the rod with peculiar spirit, and an air of determination. Hoping to catch his lively manner, I took a rod, as I stood on the bank of the rivulet, and tried my own hands again. I moved neither hand nor foot, but the rod commenced its action; neither could I restrain it. He who has held the Leyden jar in one hand, while, for the first time in his life, he received its electric charge with the other, will recognise the sensation which communicated itself to the heart, when I felt the limbs of that rod crawling round, and saw the point turning down, in spite of every effort my clenched hands could make to restrain it. To my great satisfaction, without moving from the spot, I found the bark start and wring off from the limbs of the rod in the contest, just as the diviner often shews, to convince himself and his employer of the discovered fountain. It was manifest that the force moving the divining-rod is unconsciously applied by the hands of the diviner, and that the great art in holding the rod consists in holding it spiritedly. A smooth bark and a moist hand appeared to have a substantial connection with divining, and from that day till this, the rod has never failed to move in my hands, nor in the hands of those I instruct.

“Take the rod in the diviner's manner, and it is evident that the bent limbs of the rod are equivalent to two boughs tied together at one extremity; and, when bent outwards, they exert a force in opposite directions upon the point at which they are united. Held thus, the forces are equal and opposite, and no motion is produced. Keep the arms steady, but turn the hands on the wrists inward an almost imperceptible degree, and the point of the rod will be constrained to move. If the limbs of the rod be clenched very tightly, so that they cannot turn, the bark will burst and wring off, and the rod will shiver and break under the action of the opposing forces. The greater the effort made in clenching the rod, the shorter is the bend of the limbs, and the greater the amount of opposing forces meeting in one point; and the more unconsciously, also, do the hands incline to turn to their natural position on the wrists. And this gives true ground for the diviner's declaration, that the more powerful his efforts are to restrain the rod, the more powerful are its efforts to move.

This seems to be the true secret of an absurd superstition, prevalent amongst an intelligent community, by which the performer, and those who place confidence in his art, are equally deceived. The practice is followed by so many persons of respectable character, that it would be unjust to attribute fraud to them, and we must conclude that they are themselves in total ignorance of the truth. Any one may convince himself that the writer above quoted is correct in his solution of the mystery of the divining-rod, by simply tying together two large goosequills at the tips, and using them in the same manner as the diviner uses his rod. Two pieces of whalebone will answer the same purpose; and, indeed, the American Journal informs us that a professional gentleman, a most excellent man, and a well-known diviner, not many years deceased, commonly used a fork of whalebone as a divining-rod.

There is another curious circumstance connected with this subject, which is, that the water-hunter not only pretends to determine the site of a fountain by his instrument, but also to discover the depth at which it is to be found. Having ascertained the supposed site of the water, he retires slowly to a little distance, and advances again cautiously towards the spot. The moment the rod begins to move, he stands still and marks the place. He repeats his examination in the same way in every direction around the discovered spring, and makes it appear that the rod is affected on every side within a circle of a certain extent. The diameter of this circle is exactly double the depth of the water. Suppose the depth of the well to be seven, then the diameter of the circle within which the rod is moved, will be fourteen feet; but, strange to say, if the water lies seven-times-seven feet below the surface, then the rod will point within a circle seven times larger; or, in other words, the attraction increases with the distance !

The American writer concludes thus : The pretensions of diviners are worthless. The art of finding fountains and minerals with a succulent twig is a cheat upon those who practise it, an offence to reason and common-sense, an art abhorrent to the laws of nature, and deserving of universal reprobation.'


The merit of the ballad of Auld Robin Gray has been acknowledged by learned and unlearned, high and low.' Sir Walter Scott speaks of it as 'that real pastoral which is worth all the dialogues which Corydon and Phillis have had together, from the days of Theocritus downwards.' Mr Hazlitt says : “ The effect of reading this old ballad is as if all our hopes and fears hung upon the last fibre of the heart, and we felt that giving way. What silence, what loneliness, what leisure for grief and despair !

“My father pressed me sair,

My mother didna speak,
But she looked in my face

Till my heart was like to break.” The irksomeness of the situations, the sense of painful dependence, is excessive ; and yet the sentiment of deeprooted, patient affection triumphs over all, and is the only impression that remains. To these testimonies add the tears of the multitudes who have heard it warbled in succession by a Billington, a Stephens, and a Wilson, and it will appear that scarcely any composition of the last hundred years has been more entirely successful than this.

I had long desired to make a pilgrimage to the scene of the birth and early years of the authoress of this much admired ditty, and an opportunity at length occurred

« ZurückWeiter »