make up what the inhabitants are deficient in for the watering of the ground? Can one imagine measures better concerted to render all countries fertile and fruitful?
Thus water quenches, not only the thirst of men, but likewise of arid lands: and He who gave us that fluid body has carefully distributed it throughout the earth, like pipes in a garden. The waters fall from the tops of mountains where their reservatories are placed. They gather into rivulets in the bottom of valleys. Rivers run in winding streams through vast tracts of land, the better to water them; and, at last, they precipitate themselves into the sea, in order to make it the centre of commerce for all nations. That ocean, which seems to be placed in the midst of lands, to make an eternal separation between them, is, on the contrary, the common rendezvous of all the people of the earth, who could not go by land from one end of the world to the other without infinite fatigue, tedious journeys, and numberless dangers. It is by that trackless road, across the bottomless deep, that the whole world shakes hands with the new; and that the new supplies the old with so many conveniences and riches. The waters, distributed with so much art, circulate in the earth, just as the blood does in a man’s body. But besides this perpetual circulation of the water, there is besides the flux and reflux of the sea. Let us not inquire into the causes of so mysterious an effect. What is certain is that the tide carries, or brings us back to certain places, at precise hours. Who is it that makes it withdraw, and then come back with so much regularity? A little more or less motion in that fluid mass would disorder all nature; for a little more motion in a tide or flood would drown whole kingdoms. Who is it that knew how to take such exact measures in immense bodies? Who is it that knew so well how to keep a just medium between too much and too little? What hand has set to the sea the unmovable boundary it must respect through the series of all ages by telling it: There, thy proud waves shall come and break? But these waters so fluid become, on a sudden, during the winter, as hard as rocks. The summits of high mountains have, even at all times, ice and snow, which are the springs of rivers, and soaking pasture-grounds render them more fertile. Here waters are sweet to quench the thirst of man; there they are briny, and yield a salt that seasons our meat, and makes it incorruptible. In fine, if I lift up my eyes, I perceive in the clouds that fly above us a sort of hanging seas that serve to temper the air, break the fiery rays of the sun, and water the earth when it is too dry. What hand was able to hang over our heads those great reservatories of waters? What hand takes care never to let them fall but in moderate showers?
SECT. XIV. Of the Air.
After having considered the waters, let us now contemplate another mass yet of far greater extent. Do you see what is called air? It is a body so pure, so subtle, and so transparent, that the rays of the stars, seated at a distance almost infinite from us, pierce quite through it, without difficulty, and in an instant, to light our eyes. Had this fluid body been a little less subtle, it would either have intercepted the day from us, or at most would have left us but a duskish and confused light, just as when the air is filled with thick fogs. We live plunged in abysses of air, as fishes do in abysses of water. As the water, if it were subtilised, would become a kind of air, which would occasion the death of fishes, so the air would deprive us of breath if it should become more humid and thicker. In such a case we should drown in the waves of that thickened air, just as a terrestrial animal drowns in the sea. Who is it that has so nicely purified that air we breathe? If it were thicker it would stifle us; and if it were too subtle it would want that softness which continually feeds the vitals of man. We should be sensible everywhere of what we experience on the top of the highest mountains, where the air is so thin that it yields no sufficient moisture and nourishment for the lungs. But what invisible power raises and lays so suddenly the storms of that great fluid body, of which those of the sea are only consequences? From what treasury come forth the winds that purify the air, cool scorching heats, temper the sharpness of winter, and in an instant change the whole face of heaven? On the wings of those winds the clouds fly from one end of the horizon to the other. It is known that certain winds blow in certain seas, at some stated seasons. They continue a fixed time, and others succeed them, as it were on purpose, to render navigation both commodious and regular: so that if men are but as patient, and as punctual as the winds, they may, with ease, perform the longest voyages.
SECT. XV. Of Fire.
Do you see that fire that seems kindled in the stars, and spreads its light on all sides? Do you see that flame which certain mountains vomit up, and which the earth feeds with sulphur within its entrails? That same fire peaceably lurks in the veins of flints, and expects to break out, till the collision of another body excites it to shock cities and mountains. Man has found the way to kindle it, and apply it to all his uses, both to bend the hardest metals, and to feed with wood, even in the most frozen climes, a flame that serves him instead of the sun, when the sun removes from him. That subtle flame glides and penetrates into all seeds. It is, as it were, the soul of all living things; it consumes all that is impure, and renews what it has purified. Fire lends its force and activity to weak men. It blows up, on a sudden, buildings and rocks. But have we a mind to confine it to a more moderate use? It warms man, and makes all sorts of food fit for his eating. The ancients, in admiration of fire, believed it to be a celestial gift, which man had stolen from the gods.
SECT. XVI. Of Heaven.
It is time to lift up our eyes to heaven. What power has built over our heads so vast and so magnificent an arch? What a stupendous variety of admirable objects is here? It is, no doubt, to present us with a noble spectacle that an Omnipotent Hand has set before our eyes so great and so bright objects. It is in order to raise our admiration of heaven, says Tully, that God made man unlike the rest of animals. He stands upright, and lifts up his head, that he may be employed about the things that were above him. Sometimes we see a duskish azure sky, where the purest fires twinkle. Sometimes we behold, in a temperate heaven, the softest colours mixed with such variety as it is not in the power of painting to imitate. Sometimes we see clouds of all shapes and figures, and of all the brightest colours, which every moment shift that beautiful decoration by the finest accidents and various effects of light. What does the regular succession of day and night denote? For so many ages as are past the sun never failed serving men, who cannot live without it. Many thousand years are elapsed, and the dawn never once missed proclaiming the approach of the day. It always begins precisely at a certain moment and place. The sun, says the holy writ, knows where it shall set every day. By that means it lights, by turns, the two hemispheres, or sides of the earth, and visits all those for whom its beams are designed. The day is the time for society and labour; the night, wrapping up the earth with its shadow, ends, in its turn, all manner of fatigue and alleviates the toil of the day. It suspends and quiets all; and spreads silence and sleep everywhere. By refreshing the bodies it