Globalization Poverty Development Sustainability
It seems to me that imagination and reasoning have reached magnificent heights with some writers, especially poets. Among them, I strongly believe, the highest ever was Edgar Allan Poe. With Baudelaire I state that "le poete est souverainement intelligent, qu'il est l'intelligence par excellence, -et que l'imagination est la plus scientifique des facultes, parce que seule elle comprend l'analogie universelle...". One of those poets was Edgar Allan Poe. I reproduce here "The Works of Edgar Allan Poe" as a gesture against what Baudelaire called "la ferocite de l'hypocrisie bourgeoise", and what I personally call mediocrity, imbecility, and comprehensive intellectual dishonesty, all of which is presented as "realistic thinking". And, as we know, contemporary development studies are full of  "realistic thinking". So, let us learn something from Edgar Allan Poe!.  (Róbinson Rojas)
The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe V. 1
Volume 1 of the Raven Edition  #6 in our series by Edgar Allan Poe

VOLUME II  Contents
The Purloined Letter
The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherezade
A Descent into the Maelström
Von Kempelen and his Discovery
Mesmeric Revelation
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
The Black Cat
The Fall of the House of Usher
Silence -- a Fable
The Masque of the Red Death
The Cask of Amontillado
The Imp of the Perverse
The Island of the Fay
The Assignation
The Pit and the Pendulum
The Premature Burial
The Domain of Arnheim
Landor's Cottage
William Wilson
The Tell-Tale Heart
Eleonora                                       BACK TO MAIN INDEX
                     Truth is stranger than fiction.
                              OLD SAYING.
HAVING had occasion, lately, in the course of some Oriental
investigations, to consult the Tellmenow Isitsoornot, a work which
(like the Zohar of Simeon Jochaides) is scarcely known at all, even
in Europe; and which has never been quoted, to my knowledge, by any
American -- if we except, perhaps, the author of the "Curiosities of
American Literature"; -- having had occasion, I say, to turn over
some pages of the first -- mentioned very remarkable work, I was not
a little astonished to discover that the literary world has hitherto
been strangely in error respecting the fate of the vizier's daughter,
Scheherazade, as that fate is depicted in the "Arabian Nights"; and
that the denouement there given, if not altogether inaccurate, as far
as it goes, is at least to blame in not having gone very much
For full information on this interesting topic, I must refer the
inquisitive reader to the "Isitsoornot" itself, but in the meantime,
I shall be pardoned for giving a summary of what I there discovered.
It will be remembered, that, in the usual version of the tales, a
certain monarch having good cause to be jealous of his queen, not
only puts her to death, but makes a vow, by his beard and the
prophet, to espouse each night the most beautiful maiden in his
dominions, and the next morning to deliver her up to the executioner.
Having fulfilled this vow for many years to the letter, and with a
religious punctuality and method that conferred great credit upon him
as a man of devout feeling and excellent sense, he was interrupted
one afternoon (no doubt at his prayers) by a visit from his grand
vizier, to whose daughter, it appears, there had occurred an idea.
Her name was Scheherazade, and her idea was, that she would either
redeem the land from the depopulating tax upon its beauty, or perish,
after the approved fashion of all heroines, in the attempt.
Accordingly, and although we do not find it to be leap-year (which
makes the sacrifice more meritorious), she deputes her father, the
grand vizier, to make an offer to the king of her hand. This hand the
king eagerly accepts -- (he had intended to take it at all events,
and had put off the matter from day to day, only through fear of the
vizier), -- but, in accepting it now, he gives all parties very
distinctly to understand, that, grand vizier or no grand vizier, he
has not the slightest design of giving up one iota of his vow or of
his privileges. When, therefore, the fair Scheherazade insisted upon
marrying the king, and did actually marry him despite her father's
excellent advice not to do any thing of the kind -- when she would
and did marry him, I say, will I, nill I, it was with her beautiful
black eyes as thoroughly open as the nature of the case would allow.
It seems, however, that this politic damsel (who had been reading
Machiavelli, beyond doubt), had a very ingenious little plot in her
mind. On the night of the wedding, she contrived, upon I forget what
specious pretence, to have her sister occupy a couch sufficiently
near that of the royal pair to admit of easy conversation from bed to
bed; and, a little before cock-crowing, she took care to awaken the
good monarch, her husband (who bore her none the worse will because
he intended to wring her neck on the morrow), -- she managed to
awaken him, I say, (although on account of a capital conscience and
an easy digestion, he slept well) by the profound interest of a story
(about a rat and a black cat, I think) which she was narrating (all
in an undertone, of course) to her sister. When the day broke, it so
happened that this history was not altogether finished, and that
Scheherazade, in the nature of things could not finish it just then,
since it was high time for her to get up and be bowstrung -- a thing
very little more pleasant than hanging, only a trifle more genteel.
The king's curiosity, however, prevailing, I am sorry to say, even
over his sound religious principles, induced him for this once to
postpone the fulfilment of his vow until next morning, for the
purpose and with the hope of hearing that night how it fared in the
end with the black cat (a black cat, I think it was) and the rat.
The night having arrived, however, the lady Scheherazade not only put
the finishing stroke to the black cat and the rat (the rat was blue)
but before she well knew what she was about, found herself deep in
the intricacies of a narration, having reference (if I am not
altogether mistaken) to a pink horse (with green wings) that went, in
a violent manner, by clockwork, and was wound up with an indigo key.
With this history the king was even more profoundly interested than
with the other -- and, as the day broke before its conclusion
(notwithstanding all the queen's endeavors to get through with it in
time for the bowstringing), there was again no resource but to
postpone that ceremony as before, for twenty-four hours. The next
night there happened a similar accident with a similar result; and
then the next -- and then again the next; so that, in the end, the
good monarch, having been unavoidably deprived of all opportunity to
keep his vow during a period of no less than one thousand and one
nights, either forgets it altogether by the expiration of this time,
or gets himself absolved of it in the regular way, or (what is more
probable) breaks it outright, as well as the head of his father
confessor. At all events, Scheherazade, who, being lineally descended
from Eve, fell heir, perhaps, to the whole seven baskets of talk,
which the latter lady, we all know, picked up from under the trees in
the garden of Eden-Scheherazade, I say, finally triumphed, and the
tariff upon beauty was repealed.
Now, this conclusion (which is that of the story as we have it upon
record) is, no doubt, excessively proper and pleasant -- but alas!
like a great many pleasant things, is more pleasant than true, and I
am indebted altogether to the "Isitsoornot" for the means of
correcting the error. "Le mieux," says a French proverb, "est
l'ennemi du bien," and, in mentioning that Scheherazade had inherited
the seven baskets of talk, I should have added that she put them out
at compound interest until they amounted to seventy-seven.
"My dear sister," said she, on the thousand-and-second night, (I
quote the language of the "Isitsoornot" at this point, verbatim) "my
dear sister," said she, "now that all this little difficulty about
the bowstring has blown over, and that this odious tax is so happily
repealed, I feel that I have been guilty of great indiscretion in
withholding from you and the king (who I am sorry to say, snores -- a
thing no gentleman would do) the full conclusion of Sinbad the
sailor. This person went through numerous other and more interesting
adventures than those which I related; but the truth is, I felt
sleepy on the particular night of their narration, and so was seduced
into cutting them short -- a grievous piece of misconduct, for which
I only trust that Allah will forgive me. But even yet it is not too
late to remedy my great neglect -- and as soon as I have given the
king a pinch or two in order to wake him up so far that he may stop
making that horrible noise, I will forthwith entertain you (and him
if he pleases) with the sequel of this very remarkable story.
Hereupon the sister of Scheherazade, as I have it from the
"Isitsoornot," expressed no very particular intensity of
gratification; but the king, having been sufficiently pinched, at
length ceased snoring, and finally said, "hum!" and then "hoo!" when
the queen, understanding these words (which are no doubt Arabic) to
signify that he was all attention, and would do his best not to snore
any more -- the queen, I say, having arranged these matters to her
satisfaction, re-entered thus, at once, into the history of Sinbad
the sailor:
"'At length, in my old age, [these are the words of Sinbad himself,
as retailed by Scheherazade] -- 'at length, in my old age, and after
enjoying many years of tranquillity at home, I became once more
possessed of a desire of visiting foreign countries; and one day,
without acquainting any of my family with my design, I packed up some
bundles of such merchandise as was most precious and least bulky,
and, engaged a porter to carry them, went with him down to the
sea-shore, to await the arrival of any chance vessel that might
convey me out of the kingdom into some region which I had not as yet
"'Having deposited the packages upon the sands, we sat down beneath
some trees, and looked out into the ocean in the hope of perceiving a
ship, but during several hours we saw none whatever. At length I
fancied that I could hear a singular buzzing or humming sound; and
the porter, after listening awhile, declared that he also could
distinguish it. Presently it grew louder, and then still louder, so
that we could have no doubt that the object which caused it was
approaching us. At length, on the edge of the horizon, we discovered
a black speck, which rapidly increased in size until we made it out
to be a vast monster, swimming with a great part of its body above
the surface of the sea. It came toward us with inconceivable
swiftness, throwing up huge waves of foam around its breast, and
illuminating all that part of the sea through which it passed, with a
long line of fire that extended far off into the distance.
"'As the thing drew near we saw it very distinctly. Its length was
equal to that of three of the loftiest trees that grow, and it was as
wide as the great hall of audience in your palace, O most sublime and
munificent of the Caliphs. Its body, which was unlike that of
ordinary fishes, was as solid as a rock, and of a jetty blackness
throughout all that portion of it which floated above the water, with
the exception of a narrow blood-red streak that completely begirdled
it. The belly, which floated beneath the surface, and of which we
could get only a glimpse now and then as the monster rose and fell
with the billows, was entirely covered with metallic scales, of a
color like that of the moon in misty weather. The back was flat and
nearly white, and from it there extended upwards of six spines, about
half the length of the whole body.
"'The horrible creature had no mouth that we could perceive, but, as
if to make up for this deficiency, it was provided with at least four
score of eyes, that protruded from their sockets like those of the
green dragon-fly, and were arranged all around the body in two rows,
one above the other, and parallel to the blood-red streak, which
seemed to answer the purpose of an eyebrow. Two or three of these
dreadful eyes were much larger than the others, and had the
appearance of solid gold.
"'Although this beast approached us, as I have before said, with the
greatest rapidity, it must have been moved altogether by necromancy-
for it had neither fins like a fish nor web-feet like a duck, nor
wings like the seashell which is blown along in the manner of a
vessel; nor yet did it writhe itself forward as do the eels. Its head
and its tail were shaped precisely alike, only, not far from the
latter, were two small holes that served for nostrils, and through
which the monster puffed out its thick breath with prodigious
violence, and with a shrieking, disagreeable noise.
"'Our terror at beholding this hideous thing was very great, but it
was even surpassed by our astonishment, when upon getting a nearer
look, we perceived upon the creature's back a vast number of animals
about the size and shape of men, and altogether much resembling them,
except that they wore no garments (as men do), being supplied (by
nature, no doubt) with an ugly uncomfortable covering, a good deal
like cloth, but fitting so tight to the skin, as to render the poor
wretches laughably awkward, and put them apparently to severe pain.
On the very tips of their heads were certain square-looking boxes,
which, at first sight, I thought might have been intended to answer
as turbans, but I soon discovered that they were excessively heavy
and solid, and I therefore concluded they were contrivances designed,
by their great weight, to keep the heads of the animals steady and
safe upon their shoulders. Around the necks of the creatures were
fastened black collars, (badges of servitude, no doubt,) such as we
keep on our dogs, only much wider and infinitely stiffer, so that it
was quite impossible for these poor victims to move their heads in
any direction without moving the body at the same time; and thus they
were doomed to perpetual contemplation of their noses -- a view
puggish and snubby in a wonderful, if not positively in an awful
"'When the monster had nearly reached the shore where we stood, it
suddenly pushed out one of its eyes to a great extent, and emitted
from it a terrible flash of fire, accompanied by a dense cloud of
smoke, and a noise that I can compare to nothing but thunder. As the
smoke cleared away, we saw one of the odd man-animals standing near
the head of the large beast with a trumpet in his hand, through which
(putting it to his mouth) he presently addressed us in loud, harsh,
and disagreeable accents, that, perhaps, we should have mistaken for
language, had they not come altogether through the nose.
"'Being thus evidently spoken to, I was at a loss how to reply, as I
could in no manner understand what was said; and in this difficulty I
turned to the porter, who was near swooning through affright, and
demanded of him his opinion as to what species of monster it was,
what it wanted, and what kind of creatures those were that so swarmed
upon its back. To this the porter replied, as well as he could for
trepidation, that he had once before heard of this sea-beast; that it
was a cruel demon, with bowels of sulphur and blood of fire, created
by evil genii as the means of inflicting misery upon mankind; that
the things upon its back were vermin, such as sometimes infest cats
and dogs, only a little larger and more savage; and that these vermin
had their uses, however evil -- for, through the torture they caused
the beast by their nibbling and stingings, it was goaded into that
degree of wrath which was requisite to make it roar and commit ill,
and so fulfil the vengeful and malicious designs of the wicked genii.
"This account determined me to take to my heels, and, without once
even looking behind me, I ran at full speed up into the hills, while
the porter ran equally fast, although nearly in an opposite
direction, so that, by these means, he finally made his escape with
my bundles, of which I have no doubt he took excellent care --
although this is a point I cannot determine, as I do not remember
that I ever beheld him again.
"'For myself, I was so hotly pursued by a swarm of the men-vermin
(who had come to the shore in boats) that I was very soon overtaken,
bound hand and foot, and conveyed to the beast, which immediately
swam out again into the middle of the sea.
"'I now bitterly repented my folly in quitting a comfortable home to
peril my life in such adventures as this; but regret being useless, I
made the best of my condition, and exerted myself to secure the
goodwill of the man-animal that owned the trumpet, and who appeared
to exercise authority over his fellows. I succeeded so well in this
endeavor that, in a few days, the creature bestowed upon me various
tokens of his favor, and in the end even went to the trouble of
teaching me the rudiments of what it was vain enough to denominate
its language; so that, at length, I was enabled to converse with it
readily, and came to make it comprehend the ardent desire I had of
seeing the world.
"'Washish squashish squeak, Sinbad, hey-diddle diddle, grunt unt
grumble, hiss, fiss, whiss,' said he to me, one day after dinner- but
I beg a thousand pardons, I had forgotten that your majesty is not
conversant with the dialect of the Cock-neighs (so the man-animals
were called; I presume because their language formed the connecting
link between that of the horse and that of the rooster). With your
permission, I will translate. 'Washish squashish,' and so forth: --
that is to say, 'I am happy to find, my dear Sinbad, that you are
really a very excellent fellow; we are now about doing a thing which
is called circumnavigating the globe; and since you are so desirous
of seeing the world, I will strain a point and give you a free
passage upon back of the beast.'"
When the Lady Scheherazade had proceeded thus far, relates the
"Isitsoornot," the king turned over from his left side to his right,
and said:
"It is, in fact, very surprising, my dear queen, that you omitted,
hitherto, these latter adventures of Sinbad. Do you know I think them
exceedingly entertaining and strange?"
The king having thus expressed himself, we are told, the fair
Scheherazade resumed her history in the following words:
"Sinbad went on in this manner with his narrative to the caliph- 'I
thanked the man-animal for its kindness, and soon found myself very
much at home on the beast, which swam at a prodigious rate through
the ocean; although the surface of the latter is, in that part of the
world, by no means flat, but round like a pomegranate, so that we
went -- so to say -- either up hill or down hill all the time.'
"That I think, was very singular," interrupted the king.
"Nevertheless, it is quite true," replied Scheherazade.
"I have my doubts," rejoined the king; "but, pray, be so good as to
go on with the story."
"I will," said the queen. "'The beast,' continued Sinbad to the
caliph, 'swam, as I have related, up hill and down hill until, at
length, we arrived at an island, many hundreds of miles in
circumference, but which, nevertheless, had been built in the middle
of the sea by a colony of little things like caterpillars'" {*1}
"Hum!" said the king.
"'Leaving this island,' said Sinbad -- (for Scheherazade, it must be
understood, took no notice of her husband's ill-mannered ejaculation)
'leaving this island, we came to another where the forests were of
solid stone, and so hard that they shivered to pieces the
finest-tempered axes with which we endeavoured to cut them down."'
"Hum!" said the king, again; but Scheherazade, paying him no
attention, continued in the language of Sinbad.
"'Passing beyond this last island, we reached a country where there
was a cave that ran to the distance of thirty or forty miles within
the bowels of the earth, and that contained a greater number of far
more spacious and more magnificent palaces than are to be found in
all Damascus and Bagdad. From the roofs of these palaces there hung
myriads of gems, liked diamonds, but larger than men; and in among
the streets of towers and pyramids and temples, there flowed immense
rivers as black as ebony, and swarming with fish that had no eyes.'"
"Hum!" said the king. "'We then swam into a region of the sea where
we found a lofty mountain, down whose sides there streamed torrents
of melted metal, some of which were twelve miles wide and sixty miles
long {*4}; while from an abyss on the summit, issued so vast a
quantity of ashes that the sun was entirely blotted out from the
heavens, and it became darker than the darkest midnight; so that when
we were even at the distance of a hundred and fifty miles from the
mountain, it was impossible to see the whitest object, however close
we held it to our eyes.'" {*5}
"Hum!" said the king.
"'After quitting this coast, the beast continued his voyage until we
met with a land in which the nature of things seemed reversed -- for
we here saw a great lake, at the bottom of which, more than a hundred
feet beneath the surface of the water, there flourished in full leaf
a forest of tall and luxuriant trees.'" {*6}
"Hoo!" said the king.
"Some hundred miles farther on brought us to a climate where the
atmosphere was so dense as to sustain iron or steel, just as our own
does feather.'" {*7)
"Fiddle de dee," said the king.
"Proceeding still in the same direction, we presently arrived at the
most magnificent region in the whole world. Through it there
meandered a glorious river for several thousands of miles. This river
was of unspeakable depth, and of a transparency richer than that of
amber. It was from three to six miles in width; and its banks which
arose on either side to twelve hundred feet in perpendicular height,
were crowned with ever-blossoming trees and perpetual sweet-scented
flowers, that made the whole territory one gorgeous garden; but the
name of this luxuriant land was the Kingdom of Horror, and to enter
it was inevitable death'" {*8}
"Humph!" said the king.
"'We left this kingdom in great haste, and, after some days, came to
another, where we were astonished to perceive myriads of monstrous
animals with horns resembling scythes upon their heads. These hideous
beasts dig for themselves vast caverns in the soil, of a funnel
shape, and line the sides of them with, rocks, so disposed one upon
the other that they fall instantly, when trodden upon by other
animals, thus precipitating them into the monster's dens, where their
blood is immediately sucked, and their carcasses afterwards hurled
contemptuously out to an immense distance from "the caverns of
death."'" {*9}
"Pooh!" said the king.
"'Continuing our progress, we perceived a district with vegetables
that grew not upon any soil but in the air. {*10} There were others
that sprang from the substance of other vegetables; {*11} others that
derived their substance from the bodies of living animals; {*12} and
then again, there were others that glowed all over with intense fire;
{*13} others that moved from place to place at pleasure, {*14} and
what was still more wonderful, we discovered flowers that lived and
breathed and moved their limbs at will and had, moreover, the
detestable passion of mankind for enslaving other creatures, and
confining them in horrid and solitary prisons until the fulfillment
of appointed tasks.'" {*15}
"Pshaw!" said the king.
"'Quitting this land, we soon arrived at another in which the bees
and the birds are mathematicians of such genius and erudition, that
they give daily instructions in the science of geometry to the wise
men of the empire. The king of the place having offered a reward for
the solution of two very difficult problems, they were solved upon
the spot -- the one by the bees, and the other by the birds; but the
king keeping their solution a secret, it was only after the most
profound researches and labor, and the writing of an infinity of big
books, during a long series of years, that the men-mathematicians at
length arrived at the identical solutions which had been given upon
the spot by the bees and by the birds.'" {*16}
"Oh my!" said the king.
"'We had scarcely lost sight of this empire when we found ourselves
close upon another, from whose shores there flew over our heads a
flock of fowls a mile in breadth, and two hundred and forty miles
long; so that, although they flew a mile during every minute, it
required no less than four hours for the whole flock to pass over us
-- in which there were several millions of millions of fowl.'" {*17}
"Oh fy!" said the king.
"'No sooner had we got rid of these birds, which occasioned us great
annoyance, than we were terrified by the appearance of a fowl of
another kind, and infinitely larger than even the rocs which I met in
my former voyages; for it was bigger than the biggest of the domes on
your seraglio, oh, most Munificent of Caliphs. This terrible fowl had
no head that we could perceive, but was fashioned entirely of belly,
which was of a prodigious fatness and roundness, of a soft-looking
substance, smooth, shining and striped with various colors. In its
talons, the monster was bearing away to his eyrie in the heavens, a
house from which it had knocked off the roof, and in the interior of
which we distinctly saw human beings, who, beyond doubt, were in a
state of frightful despair at the horrible fate which awaited them.
We shouted with all our might, in the hope of frightening the bird
into letting go of its prey, but it merely gave a snort or puff, as
if of rage and then let fall upon our heads a heavy sack which proved
to be filled with sand!'"
"Stuff!" said the king.
"'It was just after this adventure that we encountered a continent of
immense extent and prodigious solidity, but which, nevertheless, was
supported entirely upon the back of a sky-blue cow that had no fewer
than four hundred horns.'" {*18}
"That, now, I believe," said the king, "because I have read something
of the kind before, in a book."
"'We passed immediately beneath this continent, (swimming in between
the legs of the cow, and, after some hours, found ourselves in a
wonderful country indeed, which, I was informed by the man-animal,
was his own native land, inhabited by things of his own species. This
elevated the man-animal very much in my esteem, and in fact, I now
began to feel ashamed of the contemptuous familiarity with which I
had treated him; for I found that the man-animals in general were a
nation of the most powerful magicians, who lived with worms in their
brain, {*19} which, no doubt, served to stimulate them by their
painful writhings and wrigglings to the most miraculous efforts of
"Nonsense!" said the king.
"'Among the magicians, were domesticated several animals of very
singular kinds; for example, there was a huge horse whose bones were
iron and whose blood was boiling water. In place of corn, he had
black stones for his usual food; and yet, in spite of so hard a diet,
he was so strong and swift that he would drag a load more weighty
than the grandest temple in this city, at a rate surpassing that of
the flight of most birds.'" {*20}
"Twattle!" said the king.
"'I saw, also, among these people a hen without feathers, but bigger
than a camel; instead of flesh and bone she had iron and brick; her
blood, like that of the horse, (to whom, in fact, she was nearly
related,) was boiling water; and like him she ate nothing but wood or
black stones. This hen brought forth very frequently, a hundred
chickens in the day; and, after birth, they took up their residence
for several weeks within the stomach of their mother.'" {*21}
"Fa! lal!" said the king.
"'One of this nation of mighty conjurors created a man out of brass
and wood, and leather, and endowed him with such ingenuity that he
would have beaten at chess, all the race of mankind with the
exception of the great Caliph, Haroun Alraschid. {*22} Another of
these magi constructed (of like material) a creature that put to
shame even the genius of him who made it; for so great were its
reasoning powers that, in a second, it performed calculations of so
vast an extent that they would have required the united labor of
fifty thousand fleshy men for a year. (*23} But a still more
wonderful conjuror fashioned for himself a mighty thing that was
neither man nor beast, but which had brains of lead, intermixed with
a black matter like pitch, and fingers that it employed with such
incredible speed and dexterity that it would have had no trouble in
writing out twenty thousand copies of the Koran in an hour, and this
with so exquisite a precision, that in all the copies there should
not be found one to vary from another by the breadth of the finest
hair. This thing was of prodigious strength, so that it erected or
overthrew the mightiest empires at a breath; but its powers were
exercised equally for evil and for good.'"
"Ridiculous!" said the king.
"'Among this nation of necromancers there was also one who had in his
veins the blood of the salamanders; for he made no scruple of sitting
down to smoke his chibouc in a red-hot oven until his dinner was
thoroughly roasted upon its floor. {*24} Another had the faculty of
converting the common metals into gold, without even looking at them
during the process. {*25} Another had such a delicacy of touch that
he made a wire so fine as to be invisible. {*26} Another had such
quickness of perception that he counted all the separate motions of
an elastic body, while it was springing backward and forward at the
rate of nine hundred millions of times in a second.'" {*27}
"Absurd!" said the king.
"'Another of these magicians, by means of a fluid that nobody ever
yet saw, could make the corpses of his friends brandish their arms,
kick out their legs, fight, or even get up and dance at his will.
{*28} Another had cultivated his voice to so great an extent that he
could have made himself heard from one end of the world to the other.
{*29} Another had so long an arm that he could sit down in Damascus
and indite a letter at Bagdad -- or indeed at any distance
whatsoever. {*30} Another commanded the lightning to come down to him
out of the heavens, and it came at his call; and served him for a
plaything when it came. Another took two loud sounds and out of them
made a silence. Another constructed a deep darkness out of two
brilliant lights. {*31} Another made ice in a red-hot furnace. {*32}
Another directed the sun to paint his portrait, and the sun did.
{*33} Another took this luminary with the moon and the planets, and
having first weighed them with scrupulous accuracy, probed into their
depths and found out the solidity of the substance of which they were
made. But the whole nation is, indeed, of so surprising a necromantic
ability, that not even their infants, nor their commonest cats and
dogs have any difficulty in seeing objects that do not exist at all,
or that for twenty millions of years before the birth of the nation
itself had been blotted out from the face of creation."' {*34}
Analogous experiments in respect to sound produce analogous results.
"Preposterous!" said the king.
"'The wives and daughters of these incomparably great and wise
magi,'" continued Scheherazade, without being in any manner disturbed
by these frequent and most ungentlemanly interruptions on the part of
her husband -- "'the wives and daughters of these eminent conjurers
are every thing that is accomplished and refined; and would be every
thing that is interesting and beautiful, but for an unhappy fatality
that besets them, and from which not even the miraculous powers of
their husbands and fathers has, hitherto, been adequate to save. Some
fatalities come in certain shapes, and some in others -- but this of
which I speak has come in the shape of a crotchet.'"
"A what?" said the king.
"'A crotchet'" said Scheherazade. "'One of the evil genii, who are
perpetually upon the watch to inflict ill, has put it into the heads
of these accomplished ladies that the thing which we describe as
personal beauty consists altogether in the protuberance of the region
which lies not very far below the small of the back. Perfection of
loveliness, they say, is in the direct ratio of the extent of this
lump. Having been long possessed of this idea, and bolsters being
cheap in that country, the days have long gone by since it was
possible to distinguish a woman from a dromedary-'"
"Stop!" said the king -- "I can't stand that, and I won't. You have
already given me a dreadful headache with your lies. The day, too, I
perceive, is beginning to break. How long have we been married? -- my
conscience is getting to be troublesome again. And then that
dromedary touch -- do you take me for a fool? Upon the whole, you
might as well get up and be throttled."
These words, as I learn from the "Isitsoornot," both grieved and
astonished Scheherazade; but, as she knew the king to be a man of
scrupulous integrity, and quite unlikely to forfeit his word, she
submitted to her fate with a good grace. She derived, however, great
consolation, (during the tightening of the bowstring,) from the
reflection that much of the history remained still untold, and that
the petulance of her brute of a husband had reaped for him a most
righteous reward, in depriving him of many inconceivable adventures.
~~~ End of Text ~~~
Notes --- Scherezade
{*1} The coralites.
{*2} "One of the most remarkable natural curiosities in Texas is a
petrified forest, near the head of Pasigno river. It consists of
several hundred trees, in an erect position, all turned to stone.
Some trees, now growing, are partly petrified. This is a startling
fact for natural philosophers, and must cause them to modify the
existing theory of petrification. -- _Kennedy_.
This account, at first discredited, has since been corroborated by
the discovery of a completely petrified forest, near the head waters
of the Cheyenne, or Chienne river, which has its source in the Black
Hills of the rocky chain.
There is scarcely, perhaps, a spectacle on the surface of the globe
more remarkable, either in a geological or picturesque point of view
than that presented by the petrified forest, near Cairo. The
traveller, having passed the tombs of the caliphs, just beyond the
gates of the city, proceeds to the southward, nearly at right angles
to the road across the desert to Suez, and after having travelled
some ten miles up a low barren valley, covered with sand, gravel, and
sea shells, fresh as if the tide had retired but yesterday, crosses a
low range of sandhills, which has for some distance run parallel to
his path. The scene now presented to him is beyond conception
singular and desolate. A mass of fragments of trees, all converted
into stone, and when struck by his horse's hoof ringing like cast
iron, is seen to extend itself for miles and miles around him, in the
form of a decayed and prostrate forest. The wood is of a dark brown
hue, but retains its form in perfection, the pieces being from one to
fifteen feet in length, and from half a foot to three feet in
thickness, strewed so closely together, as far as the eye can reach,
that an Egyptian donkey can scarcely thread its way through amongst
them, and so natural that, were it in Scotland or Ireland, it might
pass without remark for some enormous drained bog, on which the
exhumed trees lay rotting in the sun. The roots and rudiments of the
branches are, in many cases, nearly perfect, and in some the
worm-holes eaten under the bark are readily recognizable. The most
delicate of the sap vessels, and all the finer portions of the centre
of the wood, are perfectly entire, and bear to be examined with the
strongest magnifiers. The whole are so thoroughly silicified as to
scratch glass and are capable of receiving the highest polish.--
_Asiatic Magazine_.
{*3} The Mammoth Cave of Kentucky.
{*4} In Iceland, 1783.
{*5} "During the eruption of Hecla, in 1766, clouds of this kind
produced such a degree of darkness that, at Glaumba, which is more
than fifty leagues from the mountain, people could only find their
way by groping. During the eruption of Vesuvius, in 1794, at Caserta,
four leagues distant, people could only walk by the light of torches.
On the first of May, 1812, a cloud of volcanic ashes and sand, coming
from a volcano in the island of St. Vincent, covered the whole of
Barbadoes, spreading over it so intense a darkness that, at mid-day,
in the open air, one could not perceive the trees or other objects
near him, or even a white handkerchief placed at the distance of six
inches from the eye._" -- Murray, p. 215, Phil. edit._
{*6} In the year 1790, in the Caraccas during an earthquake a portion
of the granite soil sank and left a lake eight hundred yards in
diameter, and from eighty to a hundred feet deep. It was a part of
the forest of Aripao which sank, and the trees remained green for
several months under the water." -- _Murray_, p. 221
{*7} The hardest steel ever manufactured may, under the action of a
blowpipe, be reduced to an impalpable powder, which will float
readily in the atmospheric air.
{*8} The region of the Niger. See Simmona's _Colonial Magazine_ .
{*9} The Myrmeleon-lion-ant. The term "monster" is equally applicable
to small abnormal things and to great, while such epithets as "vast"
are merely comparative. The cavern of the myrmeleon is vast in
comparison with the hole of the common red ant. A grain of silex is
also a "rock."
{*10} The _Epidendron, Flos Aeris,_ of the family of the _Orchideae_,
grows with merely the surface of its roots attached to a tree or
other object, from which it derives no nutriment -- subsisting
altogether upon air.
{*11} The _Parasites,_ such as the wonderful _Rafflesia Arnaldii_.
{*12} _Schouw_ advocates a class of plants that grow upon living
animals -- the _Plantae_ _Epizoae_. Of this class are the _Fuci_ and
_Mr. J. B. Williams, of Salem, Mass._, presented the "National
Institute" with an insect from New Zealand, with the following
description: " '_The Hotte_,a decided caterpillar, or worm, is found
gnawing at the root of the _Rota_ tree, with a plant growing out of
its head. This most peculiar and extraordinary insect travels up both
the _Rota_ and _Ferriri_ trees, and entering into the top, eats its
way, perforating the trunkof the trees until it reaches the root, and
dies, or remains dormant, and the plant propagates out of its head;
the body remains perfect and entire, of a harder substance than when
alive. From this insect the natives make a coloring for tattooing.
{*13} In mines and natural caves we find a species of cryptogamous
_fungus_ that emits an intense phosphorescence.
{*14} The orchis, scabius and valisneria.
{*15} The corolla of this flower (_Aristolochia Clematitis_), which
is tubular, but terminating upwards in a ligulate limb, is inflated
into a globular figure at the base. The tubular part is internally
beset with stiff hairs, pointing downwards. The globular part
contains the pistil, which consists merely of a germen and stigma,
together with the surrounding stamens. But the stamens, being shorter
than the germen, cannot discharge the pollen so as to throw it upon
the stigma, as the flower stands always upright till after
impregnation. And hence, without some additional and peculiar aid,
the pollen must necessarily fan down to the bottom of the flower.
Now, the aid that nature has furnished in this case, is that of the
_Tiputa Pennicornis_, a small insect, which entering the tube of the
corrolla in quest of honey, descends to the bottom, and rummages
about till it becomes quite covered with pollen; but not being able
to force its way out again, owing to the downward position of the
hairs, which converge to a point like the wires of a mouse-trap, and
being somewhat impatient of its confinement it brushes backwards and
forwards, trying every corner, till, after repeatedly traversing the
stigma, it covers it with pollen sufficient for its impregnation, in
consequence of which the flower soon begins to droop, and the hairs
to shrink to the sides of the tube, effecting an easy passage for the
escape of the insect." --_Rev. P. Keith-System of Physiological
{*16} The bees -- ever since bees were -- have been constructing
their cells with just such sides, in just such number, and at just
such inclinations, as it has been demonstrated (in a problem
involving the profoundest mathematical principles) are the very
sides, in the very number, and at the very angles, which will afford
the creatures the most room that is compatible with the greatest
stability of structure.
During the latter part of the last century, the question arose among
mathematicians--"to determine the best form that can be given to the
sails of a windmill, according to their varying distances from the
revolving vanes , and likewise from the centres of the revoloution."
This is an excessively complex problem, for it is, in other words, to
find the best possible position at an infinity of varied distances
and at an infinity of points on the arm.There were a thousand futile
attempts to answer the queryon the part of the most illustrious
mathematicians, and when at length, an undeniable soloution was
discovered, men found that the wings of a bird had given it with
absoloute precisionrvrt since the first bird had traversed the air.
{*17} He observed a flock of pigeons passing betwixt Frankfort and
the Indian territory, one mile at least in breadth; it took up four
hours in passing, which, at the rate of one mile per minute, gives a
length of 240 miles; and, supposing three pigeons to each square
yard, gives 2,230,272,000 Pigeons. -- "_Travels in Canada and the
United States," by Lieut. F. Hall._
{*18} The earth is upheld by a cow of a blue color, having horns four
hundred in number." -- _Sale's Koran_.
{*19} "The _Entozoa_, or intestinal worms, have repeatedly been
observed in the muscles, and in the cerebral substance of men." --
See Wyatt's Physiology, p. 143.
{*20} On the Great Western Railway, between London and Exeter, a
speed of 71 miles per hour has been attained. A train weighing 90
tons was whirled from Paddington to Didcot (53 miles) in 51 minutes.
{*21} The _Eccalobeion_
{*22} Maelzel's Automaton Chess-player.
{*23} Babbage's Calculating Machine.
{*24} _Chabert_, and since him, a hundred others.
{*25} The Electrotype.
{*26} _Wollaston_ made of platinum for the field of views in a
telescope a wire one eighteen-thousandth part of an inch in
thickness. It could be seen only by means of the microscope.
{*27} Newton demonstrated that the retina beneath the influence of
the violet ray of the spectrum, vibrated 900,000,000 of times in a
{*28} Voltaic pile.
{*29} The Electro Telegraph Printing Apparatus.
{*30} The Electro telegraph transmits intelligence instantaneously-
at least at so far as regards any distance upon the earth.
{*31} Common experiments in Natural Philosophy. If two red rays from
two luminous points be admitted into a dark chamber so as to fall on
a white surface, and differ in their length by 0.0000258 of an inch,
their intensity is doubled. So also if the difference in length be
any whole-number multiple of that fraction. A multiple by 2 1/4, 3
1/4, &c., gives an intensity equal to one ray only; but a multiple by
2 1/2, 3 1/2, &c., gives the result of total darkness. In violet rays
similar effects arise when the difference in length is 0.000157 of an
inch; and with all other rays the results are the same -- the
difference varying with a uniform increase from the violet to the red.
{*32} Place a platina crucible over a spirit lamp, and keep it a red
heat; pour in some sulphuric acid, which, though the most volatile of
bodies at a common temperature, will be found to become completely
fixed in a hot crucible, and not a drop evaporates -- being
surrounded by an atmosphere of its own, it does not, in fact, touch
the sides. A few drops of water are now introduced, when the acid,
immediately coming in contact with the heated sides of the crucible,
flies off in sulphurous acid vapor, and so rapid is its progress,
that the caloric of the water passes off with it, which falls a lump
of ice to the bottom; by taking advantage of the moment before it is
allowed to remelt, it may be turned out a lump of ice from a red-hot
{*33} The Daguerreotype.
{*34) Although light travels 167,000 miles in a second, the distance
of 61 Cygni (the only star whose distance is ascertained) is so
inconceivably great, that its rays would require more than ten years
to reach the earth. For stars beyond this, 20 -- or even 1000 years
-- would be a moderate estimate. Thus, if they had been annihilated
20, or 1000 years ago, we might still see them to-day by the light
which started from their surfaces 20 or 1000 years in the past time.
That many which we see daily are really extinct, is not impossible --
not even improbable.