« PoprzedniaDalej »
them, when frozen; hence the earth is crumbled and prepared for receiving the seed in spring.
In North America, the river Niagara tumbles down a precipice nearly fifty yards in height, and the quantity of water constantly falling is so great, that the foam or spray may be seen hovering, like a cloud, over the spot at the distance of fifty miles; in winter, the appearance of the waterfall is truly wonderful, the ice collects at the bottom in hills, and huge icicles, like the pillars of a large building, hang from the top of the fall, reaching nearly to the
Nothing, in fact, can be conceived more wonderful and striking than the effects of frost. To behold the liquid surface of the lake changed into a firm marble-like pavement; to see the rapid river arrested in the midst of its course; the headlong cascade, "whose idle torrents only seem to roar," converted into a cluster of bright pillars of the strangest forms; or to view the intricate, varied, and beautiful feathery frosting that forms on our windows during a winter's night; and all these effects produced by a rapid, silent, invisible power, cannot but strongly interest the observer.
Some of these appearances, indeed, are so familiar to us, that we cease to regard them; but it is only their being common that causes them to be overlooked, as is evident from the surprise and admiration which they excite in persons, who, having been born and brought up in the WestIndies, or other hot climates, shew the greatest surprise and pleasure upon the first sight of these appearances.
In the year 1739 there occurred the most severe winter ever known in these Countries. The cold was so intense, that the Thames in London, and the Liffey in Dublin, were frozen completely over, so that crouds of people walked with safety on the ice; fires were made, and joints of meat roasted for the people; so hard was the frost, that oaks of great size were split by it, the sap being turned to ice; beer and ale, and even wine, were frozen in the cellars into a hard mass of ice. In the year 1814 the winter was nearly as severe.
The cold in the more northern Countries is, however, far beyond what we experience here; in Russia, the rivers are covered with ice for five months of the year, and this is often three feet in thickness, so as to bear heavy laden carriages with safety.
The Empress Anne of Russia caused a palace to be built of ice: huge square blocks of solid ice were hewn, and being placed upon each other in regular courses, as of masonry, water was poured upon each course, which immediately froze hard, and cemented the whole together like mortar. Thus the walls were formed; the edifice was fifty-two feet long, sixteen feet broad, and twenty feet high; the walls were three feet thick. There were tables, chairs, and other furniture, cut out of solid ice. In front of the palace, there were pyramids, statues, and even some cannon, all made of of ice; one of the cannon was loaded with gunpowder and fired off. At night, this palace was brilliantly lighted up with candles, and it had a beautiful appearance, being clear and shining, as if made of glass.
The Russians have a curious mode of preserving meat in winter; as soon as the cold weather comes on, they kill their sheep and oxen, and having cut up the carcases, expose the joints to the severe cold of the season; the meat is immediately frozen hard, and, being packed in snow, it will keep sweet and good the whole winter. When they want to use it, they plunge it into cold water, whereby it is thawed and rendered soft.
In the seas far to the north, there is still a more dreadful degree of cold; the ocean itself is frozen, and in parts it never thaws. Huge masses of ice collect together, forming immense floating islands and tracts, beyond which no ship can penetrate; it sometimes happens, that the vessel is surrounded by these fields of ice; and the unfortunate crew, having no means of escape, perish by the severity of the cold.
Snow is the water of the clouds frozen.
On a close examination, it is found to be composed of icy darts or stars, united to each other, as all crystals of water are, whether they compose ice, snow, or hoar frost. Its whiteness is owing to the small particles into which it is divided. Ice, when pounded, becomes equally white. Snow is useful, by covering the plants, and protecting them from the severity of the frost; for it keeps them very dry, and, at a certain depth under the snow, the cold continues always of the same moderate kind. It is, however, a very fatal enemy to shrubs that grow in a southern exposure, for the heat of the sun at noon partially melts the snow, which, by the cold of the following night is converted into a mass of ice, and thus destroys the most nourishing
and hardy plants; and it has frequently been found, by experience, in severe winters, that those vegetables, which have been exposed to the rays of the sun, have been almost totally cut off, while those under a north shelter have sustained no injury.
The beauty of a country all clothed in new fallen snow is very striking.
The cherish'd fields
Put on their winter robe of purist white,
'Tis brightness all; save where the new snow melts Along the mazy current, Low the woods
Bow their hoar heads; and ere the languid sun,
Hail-stones are drops of rain suddenly frozen, so as to preserve their figure. They often fall in the warmer seasons of the year, as at all times the upper parts of the atinosphere are very cold.
Hoar-frost is dew, or mist, frozen. It adheres to every object on which it falls, and produces figures of incomparable beauty and elegance. Every twig and blade of grass is beset by it with innumerable glit