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The Spirit then descended : The restless coursers pawed the ungenial soil, Snuffed the gross air, and then, their errand done, Unfurled their pinions to the winds of heaven
The body and the soul united then.
And the bright beaming stars
NOTES ON QUEEN MAB.
Note 1, p. 13.
Rolled through the black concave. BEYOND our atmosphere, the sun would appear a rayless orb of fire in the midst of a black concave. The equal diffusion of its light on earth is owing to the refraction of the rays by the atmosphere, and their reflection from other bodies. Light consists either of vibrations propagated through a subtile medium, or of numerous minute particles repelled in all directions from the luminous body. Its velocity greatly exceeds that of any substance with which we are acquainted : observations on the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites have demonstrated that light takes up no more than 8' 7" in passing from the sun to the earth, a distance of 95,000,000 miles. — Some idea may be gained of the immense distance of the fixed stars, when it is computed that many years would elapse before light could reach this earth froin the nearest of them; yet in one year light travels 5,422,400,000,000 miles, which is a distance 5,707,600 times greater than that of the sun from the earth.
Note 2, p. 13.
Innumerable systems rolled. The plurality of worlds, – the indefinite immensity of the universe, is a most awful subject of contemplation. He who rightly feels its mystery and grandeur is in no danger of seduction from the falsehoods of religious systems, or of deifying the principle of the universe. It is impossible to believe that the Spirit that pervades this infinite machine begat a son upon the body of a Jewish woman, or is angered at the consequences of that necessity which is a synonyme of itself. All that miserable tale of the Devil, and Eve, and an Intercessor, with the childish mummeries of the God of the Jews, is irreconcilable with the knowledge of the stars. The works of his fingers have borne witness against him.
The nearest of the fixed stars is inconceivably distant from the earth, and they are probably proportionably distant from each other. By a calculation of the velocity of light, Sirius is supposed to be at least 54,224,000,000,000 miles from the earth.* That which appears only like a thin and silvery cloud, streaking the heaven, is in effect composed of innumerable clusters of suns, each shining with its own light, and illuminating numbers of planets that revolve around them. Millions and millions of suns are ranged around us, all attended by innumerable worlds, yet calm, regular, and harmonious, all keeping the paths of immutable necessity.
Note 3, p. 39.
The tyrant's throne. To employ murder as a means of justice, is an idea which a man of an enlightened mind will not dwell upon with pleasure. To march forth in rank and file, and all the pomp of streamers and trumpets, for the purpose of shooting at our fellow-men as a mark ; to inflict upon them all the variety of wound and anguish; to leave them weltering in their blood; to wander over the field of desolation, and count the number of the dying and the dead, are employments which in thesis we may maintain to be necessary, but which no good man will contemplate with gratulation and delight. A battle we suppose is won :- thus truth is established, thus the cause of justice is confirmed! It surely requires no common sagacity to discern the connection between this immense heap of calamities and the assertion of truth or the maintenance of justice.
* See Nicholson's Encyclopædia, art. Light.
Kings, and ministers of state, the real authors of the calamity, sit unmolested in their cabinet, while those against whom the fury of the storm is directed are, for the most part, persons who have been trapanned into the service, or who are dragged unwillingly from their peaceful homes into the field of battle. A soldier is a man whose business it is to kill those who never offended him, and who are the innocent martyrs of other men's iniquities. Whatever may become of the abstract question of the justifiableness of war, it seems impossible that the soldier should not be a depraved and unnatural being.
To these more serious and momentous considerations it may be proper to add a recollection of the ridiculousness of the military character. Its first constituent is obedience; & soldier is, of all description of men, the most completely a inachine; yet his profession inevitably teaches him something of dogmatism, swaggering, and self-consequence: he is like the puppet of a showman, who, at the very time he is made to strut and swell, and display the farcical airs, we perfectly know cannot assume the most insignificant gesture, advance either to the right or to the left, but as he is moved by his exhibitor. Godwin's Inquirer, Essay V.
I will here subjoin a little poem, so strongly expressive of my abhorrence of despotism and falsehood, that I fear lest it never again may be depictured so vividly. This opportunity is perhaps the only one that ever will occur of rescuing it from oblivion.
FALSEHOOD AND VICE ;
WHILST monarchs laughed upon their thrones
Red with mankind's unheeded gore,
And war's mad fiends the scene environ
Mingling with shrieks a drunken roar, There Vice and Falsehood took their stand, High raised above th' unhappy land.
Brother! arise from the dainty fare
Which thousands have toiled and bled to bestow; A finer feast for thy hungry ear
Is the news that I bring of human woe.
And, secret one! what hast thou done,
To compare, in thy tumid pride, with me? I, whose career, through the blasted year,
Has been tracked by despair and agony.
What have I done? - I have torn the robe
From baby Truth's unsheltered form, And round the desolated globe
Borne safely the bewildering charm: My tyrant-slaves to a dungeon-floor
Have bound the fearless innocent, And streams of fertilizing gore
Flow from her bosom's hideous rent, Which this unfailing dagger gave.
I dread that blood! — No more- this day
Is ours, though her eternal ray
And know that, had I disdained co toil,