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how many immortal souls are estimated at head-quarters equal to that value, we have not learned.
These more accurate modes of computing longitude, simple as they are, have been of more recent introduction into our naval service than is generally supposed. As late as the year 1817 we remember to have heard it mentioned, as an affair of congratulation, that a certain frigate about to sail for Europe contained one officer acquainted with the method of taking a lunar observation, and he used to shut himself up in his room to work out the calculation. If we are not mistaken, there was a general order issued that none, on pain of the captain's displeasure, should, upon any account, interrupt him while engaged in that arduous duty. One of the advantages of the new arrangement by which midshipmen are compelled to undergo an examination before their promotion, is the attention they now find it necessary to devote to this subject. The officers who commanded our vessels during the late war, were inferior to none then or now in existence, in the discipline or sailing of their ships, or their management in battle. But the ignorance of some of them, touching the science of navigation, (an ignorance attributable to their defective education in that respect,) on some occasions has produced results that, but for good fortune, would have been more serious than ridiculous. A frigate, some years after the peace, sailed for the other hemisphere (we do not mean to be particular), intending to touch first at an island which shall be nameless. She sailed entirely by dead reckoning. The Gulf Stream, which in some parts runs two miles in the hour, was not considered worth notice in the calculation, and with a few other trifles was wholly neglected in the log. The commander on a certain day, when according to the best of his knowledge and belief he was fully three days' sail at sea, was startled by an announcement from the mast head of land. At first he refused to believe the fact, and threatened to punish the lookout for his carelessness, but the confirmation came in time to save him. Fortunately for the island, the ship came in sight by daylight. Had it occurred of a dark night, the unfortunate inhabitants would have been fairly run down before the unconscious ship's crew had found their mistake. In a subsequent part of her cruise, the same frigate was bound for a port, which, according to the calculation of her officers, formed upon the same accurate premises, was sixty miles to windward. The wind, as head winds are apt to be, was very strong, and after twenty-four hours' hard work the ship had made but eighteen miles. By this time a midshipman, who, to the amazement of the crew, had made a lunar observation, found that the official calculation, though right as to the distance from the port, contained a slight error in regard
to its bearing from the ship, inasmuch as, instead of sixty miles to windward, it was that far to leeward. Feeling more confidence in the moon than the dead reckoning, he ventured to advise, since sailing before the wind was much more expeditious, and in this instance more direct withal, for the haven where they would be, that the ship should be put right about. It was not, however, until another day's unprofitable beating had wearied the general patience, and a second observation had confirmed the first, that the experiment was tried, and in six hours the ship was in port.
Still more ludicrous miscalculations have arisen from mistakes in the allowance for the variation of the compass. It is known that the needle rarely points due north, but in some places has a permanent variation of one or two degrees to the east or west of that point. If the variation at a given place should be one degree east, a navigator wishing to sail due north, would steer one degree west of the magnetic pole. One would think this plain enough; and yet it has actually occurred, under those circumstances, that commanders of vessels have made the allowance on the wrong side, until suddenly finding themselves off a lee shore, have become convinced of an error, which even then they were not perhaps able to detect. Our navy, it is notorious, contains officers whose path has been but sparingly on the "mountain wave." We have heard of an incident connected with one of these personages, who had risen to the command of a vessel, and was just making seaward upon, to him, a voyage of discovery. Sirius was in the southwest, just lifting himself in all his glory from above the deep, when a mischievous midshipman, who had seen more service than his commander, affecting a laudable desire for information, pointed to the star, and enquired what light it was. The captain looked all round the horizon, as if in hope of finding some mark by which to frame a reply, and then, lifting up his arms with a ludicrous air of abandonment, exclaimed, "Heaven knows, I don't." We remember ourselves having wasted a precious half hour in a vain effort to convince another gentleman who had attained some rank in the service, that the great bear was not the Pleiades, or as he was pleased to call them the "Peleads." Of course, having sailed by them upon the trackless deep, and found his haven under their auspices, he knew better than we did, and retained his opinion, in despite of our benevolent efforts for his instruction.
Let it not be supposed for a moment that, by these incidents, we desire to do injustice to our gallant and victorious navy. They all occurred some years since, and even then formed exceptions to the general rule. We have only adduced them to show, that officers may attain the command of ships, and
yet remain deficient in some of the most important articles of their professional education. With the exception of the one who mistook a fixed star for a light-house, the gentlemen to whom we have alluded were, in all respects save one, good seamen; and our friend whose acquaintance with the Pleiades was so doubtful, had done the country service. If these things occurred when our navy was small, and our officers were kept in almost constant service, they may much more readily occur now, that a large portion of their time is spent on shore. It is therefore peculiarly necessary that their want of actual experience should be supplied, as far as books can teach it, by a complete acquaintance with the theory of their profession.
This has been the object of Mr. Maury's book. It is strictly practical throughout. There is no attempt at dissertation or flourish. The general principles, are laid down in the fewest possible words. Every thing not directly in point is thrown aside. Having explained the first principles, he proceeds to demonstrate the problems of geometry, on which the more advanced rules depend, and then explains, with a remarkable combination of simplicity and brevity, the best modes of working the necessary problems. It is marvelous how much he has compressed into the small compass of his book. Any one who has found from experience how much more difficult it is to condense than to be diffuse, will be convinced that the author's labour has been much greater than, at first sight, appears to be the case. For the sake of ready reference, each separate principle, or problem, has its number; and whenever, in the subsequent part of the book, a rule depending upon either is referred to, the number is annexed: so that though the student may have forgotten what has gone before, he can readily trace back each conclusion to the axiom on which it has been built, and has no excuse, if he be willing to acquiesce in the truth of any thing, without knowing the steps by which the fact has been demonstrated. If, to the mere beginner, it should be found that the author has compressed too much, that objection cannot apply to the book in the character of a manual for use at sea. The principal novelty in the work is the diagram, on its first page, intended to show by mere inspection the solution of every problem which can occur in right angled plane trigonometry, and of course in loxodromic sailing. If it is not new, we at least have never seen it before, and if, as we believe, the invention of the author, it displays considerable ingenuity. If fitness to the intended end constitute beauty, this diagram is beautiful.
In concluding this notice, we cannot refrain from an expression of the hope that Mr. Maury will be remembered by the department. Promotion, except in his turn, is of course out of
the question. But there are stations and duties, apart from the ordinary business of a midshipman, for which Mr. Maury must be peculiarly fitted, and to which some additional pay is appended. The establishment of a national observatory will, it is believed, soon afford the department this opportunity. In the mean time, it cannot be doubted that it will seize the first occasion to secure, for the country's sake, the services of an officer of our author's scientific attainments, in the duties for which he is so competent, while, at the same time, it will reward merit, and encourage others by the example of its
ART. VI.-AMERICAN LYRIC POETRY.
1. Alnwick Castle, with other Poems. By FITZ GREENE HALLECK. 8vo. pp. 96. New York: George Dearborn. 1836. 2. The Culprit Fay, and other Poems. By JOSEPH RODMAN DRAKE. 8vo. pp. 84. New York: George Dearborn. 1836.
The condition of society in the United States is of such a character as to forbid the hope that writings, purely imaginative, particularly those of a higher and more refined caste, will derive from the public an encouragement sufficient to promote their increase, for many years.
The numberless projects which absorb the faculties of our countrymen, having for their ends objects of utility, and arising from a restless spirit of enterprise, and an unquenchable thirst of gain, are inconsistent with the attainment of that mental discipline which alone can appreciate the sublime and the beautiful, and lead man to the contemplation of things which partake not of the profitable realities of life.
To repress the wanderings of fancy, and to deaden the aspirations of genius, which, under other circumstances, would have been abandoned to their natural inclinations, is the inevitable result of this universal prevalence of utilitarian doctrines; and if in a society thus organised, an individual may sometimes arise, who escapes the contagion that surrounds him, and uninfluenced by the earth-born propensities which govern his fellows, gives way to the impulses of a poetical imagination, it is no contradiction of the general truth, that man's character receives its impress from external circumstances; but is merely an exception, which shows that nature is sometimes too strong to be overcome by the corruptions of example.
The character of every mind is peculiar to itself. As the physical formations of no two individuals bear an exact resemblance to each other, so the moral constitutions of all are in some respects different. Thus the bent of some may lead them to the cultivation of philosophical science, while that of others may direct them to the practice of the mechanic arts; and the state of almost every civilised society is favourable to these pursuits, because they may be applied both to the gratification of literary and luxurious, and the promotion of utilitarian objects.
But the man who is gifted with a vivid imagination; whose every word and thought stamps him a predestined poet, and whose divine inspirations need but the slightest encouragement to confirm the endowments of nature, and effect their full development, is too often forced, by the constitution of society and the influence of circumstances, from the path which his Creator seems to have marked for him.
"Quale i fioretti, dal notturno gelo
Chinati e chiusi, poi che'l sol gl'imbianca,
The excitements of commerce; the gamblings of the stock exchange, and the rage for land speculations, combine themselves into one vast whirlpool, and the money-loving citizens of the republic, "democrats" and "whigs"-" heroes, patriots, and statesmen," are drawn headlong into its vortex.
If, then, the poetical literature of America has not assumed as high a rank in the scale of merit, as that of some nations of the other hemisphere, we have before us sufficient to prove that it is owing to no deficiency of those materials which are necessary to the formation of a true poet, but is the natural effect of the causes we assign for it. These causes will continue to exist so long as the country shall open such vast resources, and hold out such great rewards to the spirit of speculation and enterprise.
Such being the state of society in America, and such the control which it must naturally exercise over the characters and pursuits of her citizens, let us turn for a moment to the early settlement of the country, and observe how the poetry of that day accorded with the simple habits of our ancestors.
It has been said by an eminent writer, that the lyric is the first style of poetry adopted at the commencement of a nation's literature. Experience has taught us the truth of this remark, and the reasons for it are obvious. A first essay at poetical composition is always prompted by the impulses of the heart; never by ambition or the desire of pecuniary gain. The early days of the American colonies offered but little encouragement to the exercise of a dramatic talent, and the majestic pace of