National Magazine 1858 – The Drop of Water

National Magazine 1858 - Puddle, Person
A jewel I found in the National Magazine of 1858, vol3. Many thanks to E.L. who wrote this piece of work. Happy reading!

The most familiar things in life exemplify the most important cosmic laws: thus the falling of an apple contains the governing law of the whole universe, and the little drop of dew on the grass is, in fact, the grand plastic force of nature, the force which upholds the mountain and nourishes the forest, which moulds the man and informs the world.

How many of us think of the importance of this drop of water? – “the Chrystal Sphere” – as Dr. Sanders calls it. Yet it was the leading idea embodied in one section of the mythologies of the old, the real meaning of the mother-goddess, found wherever the forces of nature received human form. In time that inlying idea was forgotten ; and the Aphrodite Anadyomene, rising in her sea-shell from the blue AEgean waves, surrounded by nymphs and tritons, and wringing the salt water from her shining tresses, grew to be rather the ideal female loveliness then the incarnation of a philosophic truth : but  the original idea, the archaic Venus, represented the plastic power of nature, as the Sun-Gods – the fathers – represented the originating and life-giving power.  What observation did for the “little drop of water” with the ancients, science has completed with us. We have no longer temples and altars to the mother-goddess ; but we have laboratories, where nature is reduced to here simplest forms and where the great primal laws are evolved from what seems to be complicated mystery. Instead of the ideal Aphrodites of the past, we have positive phenomena ; instead of bewildering mythology , exact science.

“The little drop of water” was worthy the place it held in those old cosmic theories. It is indeed the mighty mother of all living , interchangeable and co-regnant with Demeter, the grand old-mother earth ; for without it the earth would be a heap of sterile dust, void alike of life and for form ; the Himalayas would be reduced to petty mole-hills of crumbling sand ; the primeval forests would fall into a heap of dry, dead, leafless shreds ; the jewels on my lady’s hand would be but imperceptible molecules of opaque grit, and my lady hand itself – that dainty hand, now so fair and soft and white, where the blue veins lace the transparent skin in such a bewitching maze of line and colour – that dainty hand which kings would kneel to kiss, – would be but a desiccated mummified skeleton-mould ; the skeleton itself slowly passing into powder as the precious little drop grew smaller, and then finished.

We should have neither clouds nor sunlight without water,- that is, without our atmosphere, which is of itself watery . We breathe water,- the water held in the air, the minute unseen drops which a sudden chill will condense upon the window-pane or round the iced caraffe, and which, if condensed on even the driest summer day, would form a stratum or more then five inches in depth above the earth.

Water, too, contains what some have assumed to be the very principle of life – ozone, or “oxygen in an allotropic condition,” – that is, electrified oxygen, – being one of its chief constituents. “Through the profound investigations of Professor Faraday ,” says Dr. Sanders, “we are taught that a single grain of water contains as much electricity as could be accumulated in 800,000 Leyden jars, each requiring thirty turns of the large electrical machine of the Royal Institution of Great-Britain to charge it, a quantity of electricity that is equal to that contained in the brightest and most destructive flash of lightening.” The statement appears incredible ; but we neophytes must be humble , and accept with reverence the revelations from the adytum.

“Water, water every where,” groaned the ancient Mariner ; and he was right. Water is every where, seen and unseen, felt and unfelt ; not a breath drawn , not a leaf is put forth, not a shape or rock, or cliff, or mountain is defined against the horizon, not a colour of crimson , of gold, or purple is on the clouds passing across the sky, not a flower-tint, not a sun-ray, not a sparkle from the Koh-i-noor, not a flash of lightning in the storm, not a physical atom, nor an hour of life, can exist without water , – water, the “female principle” of the old mythologies, the “informing” , or “plastic,” power of modern science.

But besides the cosmic results of this precious ” little drop,” what a world is it in itself! What an expanse of life lies between the huge kraken on the one side and the “twilight monads,” the little dusky monas crepusculum, on the other – those vague forms which can hardly be defined even under the most powerful microscope , and which flit about, the field of observation more likely filmy webs than living, sentient, and organic beings! But into the wonders of this unseen world it is beyond our present scope to enter ; our purpose has been simply to indicate the place which water holds in the universe as an agent of nature and as a form of life, and to call attention to its universality even where unsuspected and unseen.

E.L.

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