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this system we turn to Lord Rosse’s great conch or spiral one, these indications become at once more decided, and more perplexing and mysterious. Here, also, we find two great and strongly marked nuclei, associated by intervening zones of orbs. But the connecting bond is no longer, as in the former case, a parallel and homogeneous zone; it is made up of an interrupted and complicated succession of deep or crowded, and shallow or thinly peopled patches of orbs. These deeper and more crowded portions seem at first to suggest the idea of minor and independent aggregations in progress there; of a breaking up of the associating bands or convolutions into local systems, which may be destined ultimately to flow in upon and coalesce with the great nuclei, or to subsist as isolated and independent schemes. One very remarkable feature in this singular* firmament appears to corroborate these suggestions. The parts of the connecting zone immediately contiguous to the principal nuclei, present themselves as almost perfectly homogeneous and unbroken; as if there the great nearness and preponderance of the central force had coerced and restrained the tendency to local aggregation; and the curdling and breaking up of these bands increase as we remove from these mightier centres. We have elsewhere still stronger manifestations of this procession of firmamental disruption and local consolidation. There are systems whose whole surface appears mottled and curdled; a mere congeries of isolated patches, loosely held together by the orbs which at present thinly people the voids between, but which may yet be gathered up to
the aggregating masses they adjoin, and leave darkness and silence in the spaces which now they occupy. Nay, in the system which lies most open to our search, and with which are bound up our most immediate present interests—in our own home-firmament—these indications are so distinct and decided, that they have been held, from the time of Herschel downward, to show a process of disruption certainly in progress before us. In the remoter portions of the milky way—in the nearer we might more easily confound appearance with reality-and especially on its extreme confines, where the central and aggregating force is weakest to coerce and restrain, these manifestations of disruption and local systematising are abundant and strongly marked. Patches crowded and crowding present themselves, environed by corresponding vacancies; and though in the case of almost all of these there is a connexion with its fellows still by lines of continuous star-dust, and though thus the general aspect is of a glorious network, more than of perfect isolation, yet does the begun detachment seem surely to predicate the consummated separation.
* Not, however, a solitary in its strangeness of wild and glorious majesty. We are informed by Mr. Nichol that Lord Rosse has noted as exact a double of it, as it was so long supposed to be of our own astral system.
We fully agree with Professor Nichol, that all these appearances distinctly intimate to us great processes of change as going on among these infinitudes;'* but we do not at all share with him in the feelings of astonishment and awe with which he seems to regard these announcements. They bring no strange tale to us; shock no preconception; disturb no belief. They but fall in with and confirm the intuitions of the immortal spirit—that change, or, as we frequently term it, decay and dissolution, is the appointed lot of physical creation: of its humblest form; of its glorious aggregate. They but make sensible the preknown identity, as to essential characteristic of origin, nature, and subsistence, of the sun and the snow-flake, the firmament and the flower. They but identify the createdness of each. And long ago most of us at our mother's knee have learned words which, more clearly than all these dim and far intimations, confirmed to us the truthfulness of these intuitions, and taught us, alike in the heavens above and in the earth beneath, to look for change, and amid its hurrying and distracting whirl to lay hold by faith of a changeless God: “These shall perish, but thou * remainest; yea, all of them shall wax old as doth a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and of thy years there is no end.'
As intimating to us, with regard to these mightiest known physical accumulations, the predominance of change over them and their constituent orbs, these appearances intimate no new and unexpected thing. Do they bring to us any intimation of the nature of that change, or of its next great resting-place of phase? We need not warn our readers that it is vain to look for sensible manifestations of its advancing. The slowness of its
* We regret to see a writer who might be an eloquent and impressive one, failing to do justice to himself in this respect by his very liberal and very unconsidered use of such words as inconceivable, infinite, eternal. They meet us on almost every page. We find them applied to things which are not only quite measurable, but which bave been measured ; and to epochs which, even in the estimation of Mr. Nichol, our immortal lifetime is destined to see expire. We even hear of many infinitudes, and of more than one eternity. And it is only after some experience of his style, that we become wise to know these are with him mere figures of rhetoric, designed simply to render impressive some fact or speculation, before which the writer desires us to stand amazed and confounded. Their great frequency, however, deprives them of all such power; and at last for infinite we mentally substitute greater than earth, and for eternal, longer than the earthly lifetime of man. We beg to assure Professor Nichol that, at least for many and we believe for all, he will approve himself neither a less correct thinker, nor a less impressive writer, if he restrict the words infinite and eternal to Him whose alone they are,—to whom alone they can pertain-His incommunicable attribute, alone in virtue of the possession of which man dares acknowledge Him as God.
evolution must be proportionate to the vastness of the forms it deals with; and if conception falters on the first presentation to it of the immensity of distance and of greatness which pertain to these firmamental majesties, it may well falter, too, in contemplating the probable months of their phases, and years of their changes; or rest content with simple realisation of them as to its present powers and means indefinite. We have seen how Sir W. Herschel endeavoured to overcome, with regard to his nebulæ, whose supposed progression also required these far-extended eras for manifestation, the difficulty which originates in the briefness of man's mortal being, and the impossibility of his overpassing its bounds, in his observation of physical nature, otherwise than through inferences deduced by his judgment from his judgment of its present appearances. He classified the various masses which presented themselves according to the amount of progression they seemed to have undergone; and thus secured, from among the widely varying amounts of that progression, simultaneous sensible representations of the past, present, and future. No such process, however, is possible for us here. He could definitely and certainly fix the abnormal phase of the progression he was investigating, so far as it was still to be found in the heavens. We have no data for determining which of our series among these progressing firmaments represents the past, which the present, and which the future; for that which we deem the most advanced may be the least, and that which deem the least, the most. We have spoken of processes of firmamental disintegration and local aggregation as going on; but we have done so only because it has been customary to consider the recognised appearances as indicating this. & process the converse of this may be actually the one in which these appearances originate. They may really point to an earlier phase of stellar arrangement, the transition from which is still imperfect and still in progress; and these curdlings up, and partial crowding together of orbs, may in reality be the traces of a previous condition of firmamental arrangement, or rather of arrangements out of which the more extended ones are being elaborated. It is as possible, perhaps we might say as probable, that the pre-existing phase of the stellar heavens may have been one wherein small groups of orbs were the generic feature; that the present tendency of change among them is to consolidation of these into mightier schemes, and that the imperfect detachments which still present themselves so frequently in these consolidating schemes, almost invariably toward the confines of the efficiency of the central and consolidating force, are the indicative remains of that earlier arrangement, as that these indicate processes
detachment and isolation now going on, and present before us mightier breaking down into more limited schemes.
But, whatever be the character or the essential direction of the changes thus revealed to us, that change on the loftiest scale, alike as to space and time, is revealed to us as passing over these systems, can hardly admit of doubt. We may even define its general character to be consolidation ; either of lesser schemes into more extended ones, or of portions of greater each into a more compact and united whole. Through what agencies this is being effected, it is vain with our present knowledge to inquire. We have very strong grounds for suspecting, with regard to our solar system, that a resisting ethereal medium is steadfastly, though to us imperceptibly, save in the case of one light denizen of the scheme, inducing a somewhat analogous result: causing the secondary orbs to draw in toward the sun, and compacting the whole into greater unitedness of contiguity and of force. No argument can be urged against assuming the diffusion of this medium throughout all these firmaments: the crepuscular theory of light, indeed, assumes such a diffusion : and none against its operating upon the orbs composing them with an influence analogous to that which it is believed to be exerting here. We refer to it, however, simply as an exemplification of one agency which we almost certainly know to be inducing this phenomenon of consolidation ; not as the agent, the only or probably the most efficient one, through which these far mightier schemes are being led on through their far mightier marches. And we refer to it, too, and to its still and slow yet unresting and unfailing efficacy, for the purpose of warning our readers from firmer standingground, against presuming that the sensible agents employed in effecting changes so majestic upon systems so immense, must be correspondingly complex, incomprehensible, and unmeasured. Were we to seek a fundamental and universal distinction, whereby to separate the doings of the Creator and those of His creature, man, we should select the disproportion by deficiency of effect to cause in those of the last, of cause to effect in those of the first. It is the dripping rains, far more than the storm or the earthquake, which bring the mountain to nought; the silent sun-heat, far more than the brawling winds or hurtling tempest, which raises ocean from her bed to form the waters which be above the firmament;' the worm at the root far oftener than the levin bolt which lays low the pine. And, vast as the range which the change, whose tread is through aggregations of suns, embraces, and mighty as are the units it deals with, the agents which lead it on may be patiently persevering as the dripping rains, quiet as the quiet sun-heat, frail-looking as the worm at the root. They
are the agents, or rather the manifested presence of an infinite and omnipotent Will; and to its infinitude it is of equal account whether the firmament is to be led on, or the rain-drop to be guided from the cloud.
Leaving, however, these scenes of distant and majestic greatness, and of order so vastly related to space and time, and consequently so far from being comprehended by us, that it appears as yet mighty and reckless disorder, we now draw in toward a realm where faith, not alone in the essential order, but in the fulness of man's understanding of its principles and definition of their results, was so implicit, that a small apparent departure from
a its pre-estimated issues led him surely forth into the dark and unknown, and enabled him there to see with the eye of the mind, ere the eye of the body had looked upon it, the instrumental cause of that departure. And in this nearer realm also, modern discovery has been leading man forth toward farther remoteness, and bringing definedly before us greatness of space, epoch, and efficient and operating force, surpassing all we had previously known.
Some sixty-six years ago, the same distinguished astronomer to whom we have had so often to refer, in the course of a general survey of the heavens, observed an orb which was laid down on some of the existing sidereal maps as a star. A few examinations, however, satisfied him that it was a planet; and it was not long before the elements of its orbit were calculated, and its path by theory traced out on the heavens. Since the date of that observation, it has not yet completed an entire revolution; and much relating to itself, its subordinate moons, and many apparent peculiarities characterising both it and them, is still enveloped in uncertainty. Very few save the trained watchers of the stars have seen this distant Uranus; it generally requires instruments of some power to show it even as a faint star point; and of far greater to reveal that disc which first announced to its discoverer its planet-nature; for it lies at a distance from us which, though of small account as compared with the remoteness of even the nearer stars,* is immense to that of the earth from the sun or from its nearest congeners in space; and hence the small portion of sunlight which falls on it,-not sáo that with which we are favoured, -leaves it enveloped beyond all else we know, in the night of the remoter planetary realms. Its path through the heavens, however, has been followed year after year; and year after year discrepancies have been observed between the actual and the calculated path. Again and again the calculations for
* As 19 to 650,000.