« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
families in Albany; but which prevails without exception in Communipaw, Bergen, Flat-Bush, and all our uncontaminated Dutch villages.
At these primitive tea-parties the utmost propriety and dignity of deportment prevailed. No flirting nor coquetting-no gambling of old ladies, nor hoyden chattering and romping of young onesno self-satisfied struttings of wealthy gentlemen, with their brains in their pockets; nor amusing conceits, and monkey divertisements of smart young gentlemen with no brains at all. On the contrary, the young ladies seated themselves demurely in their rush-bottomed chairs, and knit their own woollen stockings; nor ever opened their lips, excepting to say yah Mynheer, or yah ya Vrouw, to any question that was asked them; behaving; in all things, like decent well educated damsels. As to the gentlemen, each of them tranquilly smoked his pipe, and seemed lost in contemplation of the blue and white tiles, with which the fire-places were decorated; wherein sundry passages of Scripture were piously portrayed: Tobit and his dog figured to great advantage; Haman swung conspicuously on his gibbet: and Jonah appeared most manfully bouncing out of the whale, like harlequin through a barrel of fire.
The parties broke up without noise and without confusion. They were carried home by their own carriages, that is to say, by the vehicles nature had provided them, excepting such of the wealthy as could afford to keep a wagon. The gentlemen gallantly attended their fair ones to their respective abodes, and took leave of them with a hearty smack at the door: which, as it was an established piece of etiquette, done in perfect simplicity and honesty of heart, occasioned no scandal at that time, nor should it the present--if our great grandfathers approved of the custom, it would argue a great want of reverence in their descendants to say a word against it.
Or Creation of the World; with a multitude of excel
lent Theories, by which the Creation of a World is shown to be no such difficult Matter as common Folks would imagine.
Having thus briefly introduced my reader into 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 by divine revelation, yet every philosopher feels himself in honour bound to furnish us with a better. As an impartial historian, I con
sider 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;* a 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 numerical 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 dodecahedron.f 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 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 animated or inanimate; whether, agreeably to the opinions of Atheists, they were fortuitously aggregated; or, as the Theists maintain, were arranged by a supreme intelligence. Whether, in fact, the
* Aristot. ар. .
Cic. lib. i. cap. 3. † Aristot. Metaph. lib. i. cap. 5. Idem. de Cælo, 1. iii. c. 1. Rousseau, Mem. sur Musique Ancien. p. 39. Plutarch de Plac. Philos. lib. i. cap. 3.
# Tim. Locr. ap. Plato t. iii. p. 90.
|| Aristot. Nat. Auscult. I. ii. cap. 6. Aristoph. Metaph. lib. i. cap. 3. Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. i. cap. 10. Justin Mart. Orat. ad Gent. p. 20.
earth be an insensate clod, or whether it be animated by a soul ;* 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-and 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.
Besides 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,t has favoured us with an accurate drawing and description both of the form and texture of this mundane egg; which is found to bear a near resemblance to that of a goose. Such of my readers as take a proper interest in the origin of this our planet will be pleased to learn, that the most profound sages of antiquity, among the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, and Latins, have alternately assisted at the hatching of this strange bird; and that their cacklings have been caught and continued, in different tones and inflections, from philosopher to philosopher, unto the present day.
But while briefly noticing long celebrated systems of ancient sages, let me not pass over, with neglect, those of other philosophers; which, though less universal than renowned, have equal claims to attention, and equal chance for correctness. Thus it is re
* Mosheim in Cudw. lib. i. cap. 4. Tim. de Anim. Mund. ap. Plat. lib. iii. Mem. de l'Acad. des Belles Lettres, t, xxxii. p. 19 et al.
+ Book, i ch. 5.
corded by the Brahmins, in the pages of their inspired Shastah, that the angel Bistnoo transformed himself into a great boar, plunged into the watery abyss, and brought up the earth on his tusks. Then issued from him a mighty tortoise, and a mighty snake; and Bistnoo placed the snake erect upon the back of the tortoise, and he placed the earth upon the head of the snake.* The
negro philosophers of Congo affirm, that the world was made by the hands of angels, excepting their own country, which the supreme being constructed himself, that it might be supremely excellent.' And he took great pains with the inhabitants, and made them very black and beautiful; and when he had finished the first man, he was well pleased with him, and smoothed him over the face, and hence his nose, and the nose of all his descendants, became flat.
The Mohawk philosophers tell us, that a pregnant woman fell down from heaven, and that a tortoise took her upon its back, because every place was covered with water; and, that the woman, sitting upon the tortoise, paddled with her hands in the water, and raked up the earth, whence it finally happened that the earth became higher than the water.
But I forbear to quote a number more of these ancient and outlandish philosophers, whose deplorable ignorance, in despite of all their erudition, compelled them to write in languages, which but few of my readers can understand; and I shall proceed briefly to notice a few more intelligible and fashionable theories of their modern successors.
And first I shall mention the great Buffon, who conjectures that this globe was originally a globe of liquid fire, scintillated from the body of the sun, by the percussion of a comet, as a spark is generated
Holwell, Gent. Philosophy. † Johnannes Megapolensis, jun. , , Account of Maquaas or Mo hawk Indians. 1644.