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System Of The Heavens As Revealed By Lord Rosse’s Telescopes
by [?]

But the lower lip, which is drawn inwards with the curve of a conch shell,–oh what a convolute of cruelty and revenge is there! Cruelty!–to whom? Revenge!–for what? Ask not, whisper not. Look upwards to other mysteries. In the very region of his temples, driving itself downwards into his cruel brain, and breaking the continuity of his diadem, is a horrid chasm, a ravine, a shaft, that many centuries would not traverse; and it is serrated on its posterior wall with a harrow that perhaps is partly hidden. From the anterior wall of this chasm rise, in vertical directions, two processes; one perpendicular, and rigid as a horn, the other streaming forward before some portentous breath. What these could be, seemed doubtful; but now, when further examinations by Sir John Herschel, at the Cape of Good Hope, have filled up the scattered outline with a rich umbrageous growth, one is inclined to regard them as the plumes of a sultan. Dressed he is, therefore, as well as armed. And finally comes Lord Rosse, that glorifies him with the jewellery [Footnote: The jewellery of Stars. And one thing is very remarkable, viz., that not only the stars justify this name of jewellery, as usual, by the life of their splendor, but also, in this case, by their arrangement. No jeweller could have set, or disposed with more art, the magnificent quadrille of stars which is placed immediately below the upright plume. There is also another, a truncated quadrille, wanting only the left hand star (or you might call it a bisected lozenge) placed on the diadem, but obliquely placed as regards the curve of that diadem. Two or three other arrangements are striking, though not equally so, both from their regularity and from their repeating each other, as the forms in a kaleidoscope.] of stars: he is now a vision ‘to dream of, not to tell:’ he is ready for the worship of those that are tormented in sleep: and the stages of his solemn uncovering by astronomy, first by Sir W. Herschel, secondly, by his son, and finally by Lord Rosse, is like the reversing of some heavenly doom, like the raising of the seals that had been sealed by the angel, in the Revelations. But the reader naturally asks, How does all this concern Lord Rosse’s telescope on the one side, or general astronomy on the other? This nebula, he will say, seems a bad kind of fellow by your account; and of course it will not break my heart to hear, that he has had the conceit taken out of him. But in what way can that affect the pretensions of this new instrument; or, if it did, how can the character of the instrument affect the general condition of a science? Besides, is not the science a growth from very ancient times? With great respect for the Earl of Rosse, is it conceivable that he, or any man, by one hour’s working the tackle of his new instrument, can have carried any stunning revolutionary effect into the heart of a section so ancient in our mathematical physics? But the reader is to consider, that the ruins made by Lord Rosse, are in sidereal astronomy, which is almost wholly a growth of modern times; and the particular part of it demolished by the new telescope, is almost exclusively the creation of the two Herschels, father and son. Laplace, it is true, adopted their views; and he transferred them to the particular service of our own planetary system. But he gave to them no new sanction, except what arises from showing that they would account for the appearances, as they present themselves to our experience at this day. That was a negative confirmation; by which I mean, that, had their views failed in the hands of Laplace, then they were proved to be false; but, not failing, they were not therefore proved to be true. It was like proving a gun; if the charge is insufficient, or if, in trying the strength of cast iron, timber, ropes, etc., the strain is not up to the rigor of the demand, you go away with perhaps a favorable impression as to the promises of the article; it has stood a moderate trial; it has stood all the trial that offered, which is always something; but you are still obliged to feel that, when the ultimate test is applied, smash may go the whole concern. Lord Rosse applied an ultimate test; and smash went the whole concern. Really I must have laughed, though all the world had been angry, when the shrieks and yells of expiring systems began to reverberate all the way from the belt of Orion; and positively at the very first broadside delivered from this huge four- decker of a telescope.