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who, proud of their office, wave their banners in a thousand capricious curves, yet so that they always remain unfurled, and every now and again, hurl them into the air, catching them with wonderful agility,— and the Captains with a grave and solemn air, befitting the dignity of their position—in short, all this wealth of costume, all this varied luxury of dress and of arms, carries even the most matter-of-fact beholder many centuries backwards on the stream of time, to the days of embattled castles with moats and drawbridges,, and of jousts and tourneys. Certainly our modern dress, when placed side by side with that of the Middle Ages, looks mean and common indeed.
As the Contrade defile past the balcony, where sit the judges of the course, they stop to salute them, to wave their banners, and to throw them into the air. Last comes the "Caroccio," or sacred war car of the Republic, the pride of the ancestors of those who now surround it, in defence of which the flower of the youth of Siena bled and died on many a hard-fought field. It is adorned with the standard which waved at the famous battle of Monte Aperto, and with the banners of all the Contrade of Siena. The representatives of the Contrade, nearly 200 in all, now range themselves on tiers of seats, appropriately raised at the foot of the Palazzo Pubblico; and a wonderful picture the old palace makes, with the graceful Mangia tower rising beside it,—its windows alive with gay and happy faces, and at its base a perfect parterre of bright colours, formed by the representatives of the Contrade. The roll of drums ceases, the manycoloured banners are no longer waved, the music is hushed, and there only remains the murmur of the agitated and expectant crowd. The show having finished, the business of the day now begins. The horses that are to compete are ridden bare-backed. However humble their ordinary employment, they seem now affected' by the general enthusiasm around them and are eager for the start. Hark! the roll of a drum, the report of a gun, the rope falls, and the ten horses are off in a wild gallop. The partisans of the respective Contrade are in a state of great excitement, and cheer their champions on with frantic cries. The horse of the "Lupo" (wolf) is a little ahead of any of the others; but that of the "Torre" (tower) presses him hard, although the rider of the latter had been thrown and slightly hurt at the trial race in the morning. There is a sharp struggle between the two riders with their leather thongs, the horses all the time at full gallop, and then the horse of the "Torre" shoots ahead, passes the starting-point for the third time, and wins. The Contrada of the Torre is that which surrounds the Mangia Tower and the Palazza Pubblico, and great is the delight of its inhabitants. A woman begins to ring the bell of the chapel of the Piazza. The victorious rider receives the prize from the hands of the judges, and the flag with the date, glorious for him and for his Contrada, worked upon it. It is difficult to say whether man or horse is the hero of the hour: both are greeted with transports of joy, and are even fondly embraced by both men and women. They are then led in triumph into a church, where a priest intones the "Te Dcum," amid the "Evvivas'" of the people, for the Italians see nothing irreverent in this strange proceeding.
Ahout a fortnight after the Palio, the conquering Contrada gives a dinner to the representatives of all the other Contrade. This year it took place in a narrow street at one side of the Palazzo Pubblico, right down the middle of which tables were placed. On either side the houses were brilliantly illuminated with tapers and Chinese lanterns of many colours, and, of its kind, nothing could be more picturesque. This dinner takes place at 9 P.m., and lasts far into the night. The narrow old street, with its lofty houses lighted from basement to garret, with here a triumphal arch of evergreens, and there a transparency of the arms of the Contrada; the interested, but most orderly, citizens of Siena, with their wives and children, assisting at the banquet by walking down one side of the tables and up the other; the narrow streak of soft blue Italian sky between the housetops on either side, illuminated by a full clear moon which, being in the zenith, looked down upon the festivity; altogether formed a really charming tableau.
I am assured that there is little drunkenness, and not much betting on these occasions. Certainly I, personally, saw no drunkenness, nor did I hear any bets made. This is, however, strictly negative evidence, and one would expect a great deal of betting in a country where in every town, little and great, there is an office for the sale of tickets in the Government and Municipal Lotteries, institutions f6r national demoralization worthy only of the darkest of dark ages. Be this as it may, I never beheld a gentler or more well-behaved crowd, and the great Piazza was quickly emptied by means of the eleven streets or passages which open into it.
St. Catherine speaks of the sangue dolce of her beloved Sicnese; and there is a feeling in the city that it is not consistent with this trait of their character that the riders at the Palio should be allowed to strike one another with their whips, a clear survival from the old days when the "Elmora" always counted its victims slain, and boxing and bull-fighting were the order of the day.
Samuel James Cappek.
THE LIMITS OF SCIENCE.
IN his lately-published work upon Ants, Bees, and "Wasps, Sir John Lubbock observes:—" It is, I think, generally assumed not only that the world really exists as we see it, but that it appears to other animals pretty much as it does to us. A little consideration is, however, sufficient to show that this is very far from being certain or even probable" (p. 182). In fact, he has established, by elaborate and careful observations, that animal organs of sense have a different range and arc differently affected by external causes than the corresponding organs in human beings. He has proved, for instance, that while ants are wholly insensible to sounds which strike the human ear as being extremely loud, they appear to be furnished with organs of hearing so delicate as to be sensitive to those rapid vibrations which are inaudible to ua. Now it appears to inc that this observation of Sir John Lubbock is a very suggestive one, and has an important bearing upon the question as to how far the human mind, which derives all its information about external Nature by means of instruments of observation confessedly coarse, imperfect, and faulty, can venture, with any hope of success, upon the task which modern science has set before it, as the ultimate aim and object of its researches and discoveries—the task of unravelling and explaining all the secrets of the universe. In plain words. Is there not a definite boundary, set on this side and on that, beyond which the utmost powers of the human intellect, by their very nature, cannot pass? Is there not an unattainable to which the speculations of the human imagination cannot reach? Are there not problems too abstruse for human reason to comprehend, too refined for human ingenuity to solve?
gfc I hope to be able to show, in the course of this article, that the answer to these queries must be in the affirmative.
The qualifications of man, as an observer of Nature, are limited— first, by his position in the universe; second, by the imperfection of his senses. Let us discuss these points in the order indicated.
The researches of astronomers have shown that the earth which we inhabit is but a mere speck of dust, as it were, in the immensity of the universe. It is one of the smaller planets of the solar system, which is itself but one among countless myriads of similar systems scattered through infinite space. Man himself, too, according to the most recent theories of his origin by those who speak with the greatest show of authority upon the subject, is not, as was once supposed, a being of special endowment, created in the image of God, but a mere natural product of the material world he inhabits; a being gradually developed, through a vast gradation of ascending orders of existence, from those lowest forms of animated substance which are still represented to us by the infusoria and the rhizopods. Now, if the true position of man in the universe be thus indicated, even with modified correctness—if the theories of astronomer and biologist stand on no insecure basis—is it not, on the face of it, preposterous that such a being should dare to imagine that he can discover and know the why and the wherefore, the laws and the causes, of all that he sees around him—that he should aspire to comprehend all the wondrous working of that infinite whole of which he forms such an infinitely insignificant atom? It would scarcely seem more supremely ridiculous were one of Sir J. Lubbock's more intelligent ants, drawing its conclusions from its limited field of experience, to deliver its views upon Physical Geography. The truth, plainly stated, amounts to this:—That man, by no conceivable exertion of his limited faculties, can ever penetrate beyond that minute portion of the universe to which alone he has access, and will only be able to acquire a crude and fragmentary acquaintance with that. Facts he may tabulate, analyze, and classify; he may even, after centuries of guesses and conjectures, at length hit upon certain approximate formulae of relation between groups of observed phenomena, which he proudly labels Laws of Nature. But causes lie outside his cognizance, and he tries to veil his ignorance by the specious use of abstract terms, which, however convenient for practical purposes, are purely fictitious. A few instances will suffice. We are accustomed to find in scientific works a very free use of such terms as mass, matter, space, time, force, energy, &c. It is needless to point out that all these, and many other similar abstract terms, are not objective realities, but merely useful fictions of the human mind. For example, take abstract inert matter: such matter could not be in any way perceived by our senses, for it would, being inert, be devoid of colour, light, heat, electricity, and chemical action, all of which are modes of motion. It would, in fact, be to us non-existent.
Or if we take space, are we quite clear that we have any complete cognition of the meaning of this term? Our conceptions of space are strictly three-dimensional. But mathematically there is no such limitation. By using the methods of Algehraic Geometry an equation in two variables can be shown to represent a plane curve, and an equation in three variables a surface. But then comes a pause. According to the principle of continuity there can be no valid reason why equations, involving any number of variables, should not be similarly capable of translation from Algebra to Geometry. The only assignable reason is, that n-dimensional space is inconceivable to human faculties, where n has a higher value than three. Distinguished mathematicians, such as Rieman, Ilelmholtz, Sylvester, and Clifford,. have carefully examined into this difficult question, with the result that they think it possible that space may not everywhere have the same properties throughout the universe; and Professor Tait endeavours to explain our inability to conceive such properties by the analogy of the sensations of a book-worm in a piece of crumpled paper.* The comparison may be described as rather apt than complimentary. Professor Zollner has gone so far as to imagine that these unknown properties of space may account for the tricks and delusions effected by spiritualists.! Such an explanation has at least this merit, that it cannot be disproved, as is generally the case when we interpret "ignotum per ignotius."
Enough upon this head: let us proceed. Assuming that it is with but a minute superficial portion of the universe that man has power and opportunity of dealing at all, let us next inquire what are the implements by means of which he is enabled to conduct his researches even in this limited sphere of inquiry. It is plain that all perceptions of external things come through the agency of the senses (principally by the sense of seeing), which convey the impressions made upon them by special nerve-conductors to the centre of nervous action, the brain, where by some wondrous process these nerve messages are transmuted into intelligent thoughts and ideas. It it commonly asserted that the human mind is an instrument of marvellous flexibility and power, and is endowed with extraordinary capacities for invention, for discovery, and for research. But surely in connection with the subject under discussion, it is necessary to inquire who make these assertions? An answer is ready at once—all the greatest thinkers and philosophers, and men of learning and science. Yes; but I reply, may not all these learned men, philosophic, scientific, and otherwise, form a kind of gigantic human Mutual Admiration Society? What criterion have these to go by in estimating the
* See Tait, "Recent Advances in Physical Science," p. 5.
t On this read a curious passage iu "A Philosophy of Immortality, ".by Hon. R. Noel, p. 35.