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mon boundaries of nations. Frequently the language spoken by the dwellers on one side of a mountain is unintelligible to the inhabitants of the other slope. And not only the language, but the moral, social, and political condition of man is influenced by the bold and picturesque scenery of mountain peaks,

"That wear their caps of snow In very presence of the regal sun."

5. Mountains on land, like mountains in the sea whose tops we call islands when they appear above the water, are seldom found detached or insulated. Sometimes, though rarely, they exist in aggregated groups, extending from a common centre and not externally connected; but most commonly they are in ranges or mountain chains, traversing extensive regions.

6. The great mountain ranges generally follow the direction of the continents, and it is to this circumstance that all large countries owe their peculiarities of climate and productions. "Suppose," said Guyot, "the Andes, transferred to the eastern coast of South America, hindered the trade-winds from bearing the vapors of the ocean into the interior of the continent, the plains of the Amazon and of Paraguay would be nothing but a desert."

7. When mountain chains occur near coasts, it has been observed that their slope is steeper toward the ocean than toward the interior. It has also been remarked that the mountains of the Eastern continent have their long slopes toward the north, and the steep or short slopes toward the south. In the Western continent the long slopes are toward the east, and the short slopes toward the west. The highest peak in the world, as far as ascertained, is Mount Everest, one of the Himalayas, which is 29,000 feet in altitude. Chimborazo, the most elevated point ever reached by man, is 19,700 feet in height. Mount St. Elias, which is 17,860 feet in height, is the highest point in North America.

8. The Alps, famous in the records of military achievements as having been crossed by the armies of Hannibal and Napoleon, and pre-eminent for the picturesque grandeur of their scenery, are the most celebrated of all mountain elevations, and the highest in Europe. Mount Blanc, the loftiest peak, is an enormous mass of granite, reaching the height of 15,750 feet, the ascent to which is rendered exceedingly dif ficult by the surrounding walls of ice, fearful precipices, and the everlasting snows by which it is covered; yet its sum

mit has often been reached by adventurous tourists and men of science. The thoughts very naturally suggested to a contemplative mind by a view of these "proud monuments of God" are very happily expressed in the following lines:








Proud monuments of God! sublime ye stand
Among the wonders of his mighty hand:
With summits soaring in the upper sky,

Where the broad day looks down with burning eye;
Where gorgeous clouds in solemn pomp repose,
Flinging rich shadows on eternal snows:
Piles of triumphant dust, ye stand alone,
And hold, in kingly state, a peerless throne!

Like olden conquerors, on high ye rear
The regal ensign and the glittering spear:
Round icy spires the mists, in wreaths unrolled,
Float ever near, in purple or in gold;
And voiceful torrents, sternly rolling there,
Fill with wild music the unpillared air:

What garden, or what hall on earth beneath,
Thrills to such tones as o'er the mountains breathe?
There, through long ages past, those summits shone
When morning radiance on their state was thrown;
There, when the summer day's career was done,
Played the last glory of the sinking sun;
There, sprinkling lustre o'er the cataract's shade,
The chastened moon her glittering rainbow made;
And, blent with pictured stars, her lustre lay,
Where to still vales the free streams leaped away.
Where are the thronging hosts of other days,
Whose banners floated o'er the Alpine ways;
Who, through their high defiles, to battle wound,
While deadly ordnance stirred the heights around?
Gone; like the dream that melts at early morn,
When the lark's anthem through the sky is borne:
Gone; like the wrecks that sink in ocean's spray,
And chill Oblivion murmurs, Where are they?
Yet "Alps on Alps" still rise; the lofty home
Of storms and eagles, where their pinions roam;

Still round their peaks the magic colors lie,

Of morn and eve, imprinted on the sky;

And still, while kings and thrones shall fade and fall,

And empty crowns lie dim upon the pall—

Still shall their glaciers flash; their torrents roar;
Till kingdoms fail, and nations rise no more.

14. Great as the elevations of mountains seem to us, they are small compared with the globe itself. A grain of sand on a twelve-inch globe would represent a mountain relatively much higher than the loftiest of the Himalayas. And so small a portion of the globe is the sum of all the mountains, that its diameter would be but slightly increased if they were leveled to their bases, and spread over its surface.

15. Yet, comparatively slight as these elevations are, showing the narrow range, in point of elevation from the sea-level, to which man is confined, they furnish him by far the best opportunities which he has for observing the phenomena of na

ture; and of all mountains, those of the torrid zone are the best adapted for this purpose. The celebrated traveler and naturalist, Humboldt, has the following remarks on this subject:

16. "Among the colossal mountains of Quito and Peru, furrowed by deep ravines, man is enabled to contemplate alike all the families of plants, and all the stars of the firmament. There, at a single glance, the eye surveys majestic palms, humid forests of bambusa, and the varied species of musacea; while above these forms of tropical vegetation appear oaks, medlars, the sweet-brier, and umbelliferous plants, as in our European homes. There, as the traveler turns his eyes to the vault of heaven, a single glance embraces the constellation of the Southern Cross, the Magellanic clouds, and the guiding stars of the constellation of the Bear, as they circle round the arctic pole. There the depths of the earth and the vaults of heaven display all the richness of their forms and the variety of their phenomena. There the different climates are ranged the one above the other, stage by stage, like the vegetable zones, whose succession they limit; and there the observer may readily trace the laws that regulate the diminution of heat, as they stand indelibly inscribed on the rocky walls and abrupt declivities of the Cordilleras."

17. Let these remarks suggest to the reader how much of interest the various aspects of nature present to the observant eye of the philosopher, and how much a knowledge of the laws of nature is calculated to contribute to our intellectual pleasures.


1. THE earth's surface exhibits great variety in aspect, forming mountains, hills, table-lands, plains, and valleys. The most general of these features are what geographers term table-lands or plateaus, and lowlands or plains.

2. In considering the climate, and, consequently, the products of a country, it is necessary to observe its altitude above the ocean level, as well as its distance from the equator. A difference of 350 feet vertically is equal to a difference of 60 miles horizontally in a direction north and south. The mean temperature of a place at an elevation of 350 feet corresponds to the mean temperature of a location 60 miles farther north and on the sea-level. In tropical regions the elevated tablelands have frequently a rich soil and the most genial climate, affording to man a delightful and picturesque abode.

3. Unquestionably the most extensive plateau in the world is the lofty table-land of Central Asia, which is from five thousand to fifteen thousand feet high. Bounded and inter

sected by lofty mountain ranges, having the great Altaian chain on the north, and the Himalayas and Mountains of China on the south and east, it is without a single opening to the sea, and its water system consists of lakes without outlets, the final recipients of many rivers. The largest of these inland lakes or seas are the Caspian and the Aral, in both of which the waters are salt, though less so than those of the


4. While the Eastern continent is remarkable for its tablelands, ours is the land of plains, which form two thirds of the surface of the Western world. South America, with the exception of the long, narrow table-land of the Andes, may be considered one vast plain, divided into three principal portions-the llanos, or low grassy plains of the Orinoco and its tributaries; the selvas, or forest plains, which make the great basin of the Amazon; and the pampas, or level plains of the La Plata. In the wet season the grassy plains of South America are covered with the most luxuriant vegetation, but in the dry months they present the appearance of a wide waste of desolation.

5. North America has its plateau, which extends along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, and includes the tablelands of Utah and Mexico; but the most remarkable feature in its physical conformation is its vast central plain, the largest, not of America only, but of the world. It embraces the basin of the Mississippi and its tributaries, together with the basins of the St. Lawrence and the great lakes, and, stretching away far to the north, it approaches the borders of the Frozen Sea. Nearly all of its northern portion, north of the fiftieth degree of latitude, is a bleak and barren waste, occupied by numerous lakes, and bearing a striking resemblance to northern Asia; but its more southern portion, "the Valley of the Mississippi," not only enjoys a happy climate, but is one of the most fertile regions in the world, capable of sustaining an immense population, and doubtless destined to be the seat of a vast empire. "Who does not see," says Guyot, "that here is the character of America-that here lies the future of the New World; while the countries of mountains and plateaus seem destined to play only a secondary part ?" 6. The accompanying chart of a large portion of North America will give a very correct idea of the physical configuration of the country, showing the comparative elevations of its different parts above the ocean level. Yet the elevations on this chart are 120 times enlarged beyond their true

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insignificant when we compare them with the size of the great itself is drawn, showing that the loftiest mountains are quite relative height as compared with the scale on which the map

globe itself.

called prairies, a word signifying meadows. These natural leys of the Missouri and Mississippi, and also in Texas, are 7. Portions of the great North American plain, in the val

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