Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

increased, and they rise to a terrible height, assuming the most curious shapes. At last they are driven from one bay to another, or they advance into the sea and float ahout in Davis's Streight, till by moving southwards they are dissolved in more temperate latitudes. I do not mean to say that all ice-mountains in Davis's Streight have their origin in Greenland, for some of ihem probably come from more distant regions ; but I think it most probable that the greatest part of this sort of ice has been detached from the western coast, and from the eastern coast of Greenland, which they call Old Greenland.”

THE PITCH LAKE IN TRINIDAD. “ BEING desirous,” says Dr. Nugent, • to visit the celebrated Lake of Pitch, previously to my departure from the Island of Trinidad, I embarked with that intention in the month of October, 1807, in a small ves. sel at Port Spain. After a pleasant sail of about thirty miles down the gulf of Paria, we arrived at the point la Braye, so called by the French from its characteristic feature. It is a considerable head land, about eighty feet above the level of the sea, and perhaps two miles long and two broad. We landed on the southern side of the point, at the plantation of Mr. Vessigny: as the boat drew near the shore, I was struck with the appearance of a rocky bluff or small promontory of a reddish brown colour, very different from the pitch which I had expected to find on the whole shore. Upon examining this spot, I found it composed of a substance corresponding to the porcelain jasper of mineralogists, generally of a red colour, where it had been exposed to the weather, but of light slate blue in the exterior : it is a very hard stone with a conchoidal fracture, some degree of lustre, and is perfectly opake, even at the edges : in some places, from the action of the air, it was of a reddish or yellowish brown, and an earthy appearance, I wished to have devoted more time to the investigation of what in the language of the Wernerian school is termed the geognostic relations of this spot, but my companions were anxious to proceed. We ascended the hill, which was entirely composed of this rock, to the plantation where we procured a negro guide, who conducted us through a wood about three quarters of a mile. We now perceived a strong sulphureous and pitchy smell, like

that of burning coal, and soon after had a view of the ' lake, which at first sight appeared to he an expanse of still water, frequently interrupted by clumps of dwarf trees, or islets of rushes and shrubs : bnt on a nearer approach, we found it in reality to be an extensive plain of mineral pitch, with frequent crevices and chasms filled with water. The singularity of the scene was altogether so great, that it was some time before I could recover from my surprise so as to investigate it minutely. The surface of the lake is of the colour of ashes, and at this season was not polished or smooth so as to be slippery; the hardness or consistence was such as to bear any weight, and it was not adhesive, though it partially received the impression · of the foot; it bore us without any tremulous motion whatever, and several head of cattle were browsing on it in perfect security. In the dry season, however, the surface is much more yielding, and must be in a state of fluidity, as is shown by pieces of recent wood and other substances being enyeloped in it. Even large branches of trees, which were a foot above the level, had in some way become enveloped in the bituminous matter. The interstices or chasms are very numerous, ramifying and joining in every direction, and in the wet season being filled with water, present the only obstacle to walking over the surface; these cavities are generally deep in proportion to their width, some being only a few inches in depth, others several feet, and many almost unfathomable; the water in them is good and uncontaminated by the pitch ; the people of the neighbourhood derive their supply from this source, and refresh themselves by bathing in it: fish are caught in it, and particnlarly a very good species of mullet. The arrangement of the chasms is very singular, the sides, which of course are formed of the pitch, are invariably shelving from the surface, so as nearly to meet at the bottom, but then they bulge out towards each other with a considerable degree of convexity. This may be supposed to arise from the tendency in the pitch slowly to cool whenever sof. tened by the intensity of the sun's rays. These crevices are known oceasionally to close up entirely, and we saw many marks or seams from this cause. How these crevices originate it may not be so easy to explain. One of our party suggested, that the whole mass of pitch might be supported by the water, which made its way tbrough accidental rents, but in the solid state it is of greater specific gravity than water, for several bits thrown into the pools immediately sunk.

6 The lake, (I call it so because I think the common name appropriate enough) contains many islets covered with long grass and shrubs, which are the haunts of birds of most exquisite plumage, as the pools are of snipe and plover. Alligators are said to abound here, but it was not our lot to encounter any of these animals. It is not easy to state precisely the extent of this great collection of pitch; the live between it and the neighbouring soil is not always well defined, and indeed it appears to form the substratum of the surrounding tract of land. We may say, however, that it is bounded on the north and west sides by the sea, on the south by the rocky eminence of porcelain jasper, before mentioned, and on the east by the usual argillaceous soil of the country: the main body may perhaps be estimated at three miles in circumference; the depth cannot be ascertained, and no subjacent rock or soil can be discovered. Where the bitumen is slightly covered by soil, there are plantations of cassava, plantains, and pineapples, the last of which grow with luxuriance, and attain to great perfection.

" There are three or four French, and one English sugar estates in the immediate neighbourhood; our opinion of the soil did not, however, coincide with that of Mr. Anderson, who, in the account he gave some years ago, thought it very fertile. It is worthy of remark, that the main body of the pitch, which may properly be called the lake, is situate higher than the adjoining land, and that you descend by a gentle slope to the sea, where the pitch is much contaminated by the sand of the beach.

" During the dry season, as I have before remarked, this pitch is much softened, so that different bodies

have been known slowly to sink in it; if a quantity be cut out, the cavity left will shortly be filled up: and I have heard it related, that when the Spaniards undertook formerly to prepare the pitch for economical purposes, and had imprudently erected their cauldrons on the very lake, they completely sunk in the course of a night, so as to defeat their intentions. Numberless proots are given of its being at times in this softened state; the negro houses of the vicinage, for instance, built by driving posts in the earth, frequently are twisted or sunk on one side. In many places it seems to have actually overflown like lava, and presents the wrinkled appearance which a sluggish substance would exhibit in motion.

“ This substance is generally thought to be the asphaltum of naturalists: in different spots, however, it presents different appearances. In some parts it is black, with a splintery conchoidal fracture, of considerable specific gravity, with little, or no lustre, resembling particular kinds of coal; and so hard as to require a severe blow of the hammer to detach or break it : in other parts, it is so much softer, as to allow one to cut out a piece in any form with a spade or hatchet, and in the interior is vesicular and oily; this is the character of by far the greater portion of the whole mass; in one place, it bubbles up in a perfect Auid state, so that you may take it up in a cup, and I am informed, that in one of the neighbouring plantations there is a spot where it is of a bright colour, shining, transparent, and brittle, like bottle-glass or resin. The odour in all these instances is strong, and like that of a combination of pitch and sulphur.”

FOR THE POCKET MAGAZINE,

ESSAY ON LOVE.

Amor vincit omnia.-VIRG. METAPHYSICIANS have rightly observed, that it is next to an impossibility to assign names for every division, modification and composition of the pas

sions: and that if it were practicable, it would be at. terly useless. Adam was assisted by divine inspiration, when he gave names to the orders of the auimal creation: it would require as great a miracle, and as nice an infusion of superior intellect, to distinguish, classify, and designate the shadowy tribes of mind..

But this is no apology for the abuse of language, and no barrier to the improvement of our modes of expression. It will not justify that violent and absurd perversion of terms, by which the names for our appetites are given to our prejudices, and the oral mark of the immutable principles of our nature is bestowed on frivolous whims or transient caprices.

Of this order is the substitution of love for like, and other terms of similar import. This abuse is not only found in the mouths of our fair marauders on our mother tongue, but it has established itself in our language; it has crept into our best authors; it has weakened the force of a strong term ; and made it mean every thing and nothing:

It is curious to consider all the uses, which four poor letters are often put to in the course of a volume. They will often personify more ideas than a comedian does characters, in the course of his theatrical engagements; and like him, they must fail in the majority of their parts. Art cannot make the same symbol represent two different things, with equal facility in both; and nature cannot form a man, who shall comport himself happily, as a hero or a fóp, a monarch or a buffoon.

Let us behold some of the applications of the word love, in its abuses which may be remedied, and in its other uses, which are too old, and too respectable, to he susceptible of alteration or reformation. ,

Many of the first may be a pologized for, by calling them personifications. Thus a poet may be in love with his name, or with fame. But when the ideal object of devotion is unsexed, the excuse vanishes, and the detriment to language remains.

But what shall we say of that tongue, which is so poor in epithets, that the affections of a drunkard for his bottle, of'a rake for a prostitute, and a Christian for his God, are signified by the same name? Some of

« AnteriorContinuar »