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experiment, suddenly arrested the arm of the professor, just at the moment that the bucket was in its zenith, which immediately decended with astonishing precision upon the philosophic head of the instructor of youth. A hollow sound, and a red-hot hiss, attended the contact; but the theory was in the amplest manner illustrated, for the unfortunate bucket perished in the conflict; but the blazing countenance of Professor Von Poddingcoft emerged from amidst the waters, glowing fiercer than ever with unutterable indignation, whereby the students were marvelously edified, and departed considerably wiser than before.
It is a mortifying circumstance, which greatly perplexes many a painstaking philosopher, that nature often refuses to second his most profound and elaborate efforts ; so that after having invented one of the most ingenious and natural theories imaginable, she will have the perverseness to act directly in the teeth of his system, and flatly contradict his most favorite positions. This is a manifest and unmerited grievance, since it throws the censure of the vulgar and unlearned entirely upon the philosopher; whereas the fault is not to be ascribed to his theory, which is unquestionably correct, but to the waywardness of dame nature, who, with the proverbial fickleness of her sex, is continually indulging in coquetries and caprices, and seems really to take pleasure in violating all philosophic rules, and jilting the most learned and indefatigable of her adorers. Thus it happened with respect to the foregoing satisfactory explanation of the motion of our planet; it appears that the centrifugal force has long since ceased to operate, while its antagonist remains in undiminished potency: the world, therefore, according to the theory as it originally stood, ought in strict propriety to tumble into the sun ; philosophers were convinced that it would do so, and awaited in anxious impatience the ful
illment of their prognostics. But the untoward planet pertinaciously continued her course, notwithstanding that she had reason, philosophy, and a whole university of learned professors opposed to her conduct. The philosophers took this in very ill part, and it is thought they would never have pardoned the slight and affront which they conceived put upon them by the world, had not a good-natured professor kindly officiated as a mediator between the parties, and effected a reconciliation.
Finding the world would not accommodate itself to the theory he wisely determined to accommodate the theory to the world : he therefore informed his brother philosophers, that the circular motion of the earth round the sun was no sooner engendered by the conflicting impulses above described, than it became a regular revolution, independent of the causes which gave it origin. His learned brethren readily joined in the opinion, being heartily glad of any explanation that would decently extricate them from their embarrassment and ever since that memorable era the world has been left to take her own course, and to revolve around the sun in such orbit as she thinks proper.
COSMOGONY, OR CREATION
OF THE WORLD; WITH A MOL
TITUDE OF EXCELLENT THEORIES, BY WHICH THE CREA
TION OF A WORLD IS SHOWN TO BE NO SUCH DIFFICULT
MATTER AS COMMON FOLK WOULD IMAGINE.
Having thus briefly introduced my reader to the world, and given him some idea of its form and situation, he will naturally be curious to know from whence it came, and how it was created. And, indeed, the clearing up of these points is absolutely essential to my history, inasmuch as if this world had not been formed, it is more than probable, that this renowned island on which is situated the city of New York, would never have had an existence. The regular course of my history, therefore, requires that I should proceed to notice the cosmogony or formation of this our globe.
And now I give my readers fair warning, that I am about to plunge, for a chapter or two, into as complete a labyrinth as ever historian was perplexed withal : therefore, I advise them to take fast hold of my skirts, and keep close at my heels, venturing neither to the right hand nor to the left, lest they get bemired in a slough of unintelligible learning, or have their brains knocked out by some of those hard Greek names which will be flying about in all directions. But should any of them be too indolent
or chicken-hearted to accompany me in this perilous undertaking, they had better take a short cut round, and wait for me at the beginning of some smoother chapter.
Of the creation of the world, we have a thousand contradictory accounts; and though a very satisfactory one is furnished us by divine revelation, yet every philosopher feels himself in honor bound to furnish us with a better. As an impartial historian, I consider it my duty to notice their several theories, by which mankind have been so exceedingly edified and instructed.
Thus it was the opinion of certain ancient sages, that the earth and the whole system of the universe was the Deity himself ;* doctrine most strenuously maintained by Zenophanes and the whole tribe of Eleatics, as also by Strabo and the sect of peripatetic philosophers. Pythagoras likewise inculcated the famous nuinerical system of the monad, dyad, and triad, and by means of his sacred quaternary elucidated the formation of the world, the arcana of nature, and the principles both of music and morals.T Other sages adhered to the mathematical system of squares and triangles; the cube, the pyramid, and the sphere; the tetrahedron, the octahedron, the icosahedron, and the dodecahodron. While others advocated the great elementary theory, which refers the construction of our globe and all that it contains, to the combinations of four material elements, air, earth, fire, and water ; with the assistance of a fifth, an immaterial and vivifying principle.
Nor must I omit to mention the great atomic system taught
Aristot. ap. Cic. lib. i. cap. 3. † Aristot. Metaph lib. i. c. 5. Idem. de Cælo. I. iii. c. 1. Rousseau mem. Bur Musique ancien. p. 39. Plutarch de Plac. Philos. lib. i. cap. 3.,
I Tim. Locr. ap. Plato. t iii. p. 90
by old Moschus, before the siege of Troy; revived by Democritus of laughing memory; improved by Epicurus, that king of good fellows, and modernized by the fanciful Descartes. But I decline inquiring, whether the atoms, of which the earth is said to be composed, are eternal or recent; whether they are animate or inanimate; whether, agreeably to the opinion of the atheists they were fortuitously aggregated, or, as the theists maintain, were arranged by a supreme intelligence.* Whether, in fact, the earth be an insensate clod, or whether it be animated by a soul;f which opinion was strenuously maintained by a host of philosophers, at the head of whom stands the great Plato, that temperate sage, who threw the cold water of philosophy on the form of sexual intercourse, and inculcated the doctrine of Platonic love—an exquisitely refined intercourse, but much better adapted to the ideal inhabitants of his imaginary island of Atlantis than to the sturdy race, composed of rebellious flesh and blood, which populates the little matter of fact island we inhabit.
Beside these systems, we have, moreover, the poetical theogony of old Hesiod, who generated the whole universe in the regular mode of procreation, and the plausible opinion of others, that the earth was hatched from the great egg of night, which floated in chaos, and was cracked by the horns of the celestial bull. To illustrate this last doctrine, Burnet in his theory of the earth, † has favored us with an accurate drawing and description, both of the form and texture of this mundane egg; which is
* Aristot. Nat. Auscult. 1. ii. cap. 6. Aristoph. Metaph. lib. i. cap. 3. Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. i. cap. 10. Justin Mart. orat. ad gent. p. 20.
+ Mosheim in Cudw. lib. i. cap. 4. Tim. de anim. mund. ap. Plat. lib. wi. Mem. de l'Acad. des Belles-Lettr. t. xxxii. p. 19, et al.
Book i. ch. 5.