Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/853

This page has been validated.
833
AN ANCIENT SCIENTIST.

dated by the writer's own admissions: "They are repeated in remote provinces, among half-wild tribes who hardly (the italics are ours) ever see the negroes. . . . Many of the tortoise myths are told by the Mundurucú Indians, the majority of whom can not speak Portuguese." Mr. Smith also confirms, what has been said above, that these stories are told in Rio by the negroes, and a very suspicious circumstance is the introduction of a lion into one of the stories (p. 551), which, as Mr. Smith remarks, "shows that the narrator had heard of lions, probably from the slaves."

In taking leave of this interesting subject we must reiterate our praise of Mr. Harris's charming volume, and we trust that its scientific side may not be overlooked, but awaken an interest in negro folk-lore which will result in other works as entertaining and valuable as "Uncle Remus."

 

AN ANCIENT SCIENTIST.

READERS of Mrs. Browning will remember in the "Vision of Poets" the description of Lucretius, as one

"Who dropped his plummet down the broad,

Deep universe, and said, 'No God,'

"Finding no bottom. He denied
Divinely the Divine, and died

Chief poet by the Tiber side."

In spite of this high encomium, approved by men of taste in all ages, the subject of this sketch is far less known to fame than many others of much smaller ability either as poets or as philosophers. He is unknown to many, to whom Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, and even Ovid, are household words. And yet, of these four, Virgil alone can contest the palm of supremacy with him. When Tyndall, in his famous Belfast Address, introduced his typical Lucretian as an opponent to Bishop Butler, many well-informed people were driven to their classical dictionaries to discover whom the orator meant.

It is not easy to say what are the causes of this neglect, Lucretius is not only one of the few first-class poets in Latin literature, but he is also one of the most subtile and original thinkers that Rome ever produced. His system shows how far scientific speculation had gone in his day, and what views the most enlightened took in regard to the structure of the universe and the problems of matter and life. His theories are plausible, and sometimes have anticipated modern hypotheses and discoveries. Yet few really know who he was and what his doctrines are. It is to supply this wanting knowledge—to show what
VOL. XVIII.—53