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bearing upon antarctic problems can be indicated in a few words. It is well known that the present floras of different portions of the earth offer such peculiarities, both in the plants wbich they possess in common and in those which they differ in, that, after having paid a tribute to different hypotheses, naturalists came to look for the origin of the present floras of Europe, America, and Asia in the rich vegetation which covered the arctic and sub-arctic zone during the tertiary period. The thousands of specimens of tertiary vegetation which have been unearthed from the peat bogs of Greenland, Spitzbergen, New Siberia, and so on, leave not the slightest doubt about the north polar archipelagoes having been covered during the miocene period with trees and herbaceous plants, which must be considered as the ancestors of the plants now covering Europe, America, and Asia. We find the flowers and the fruits of these trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants in the peat bogs of the far north, and we unearth the very insects which fertilised the flowers. From this flora, which was repulsed to the warmer zones during the glacial period, and afterwards partially reconquered its former abodes after glaciation was over, all our present floras of the northern hemisphere originate.
So much may be taken as granted. But a series of recent researches have brought naturalists to inquire whether there was not, during the tertiary age, an expansion of land in the antarctic zone as well; whether what is now a dreary desert of ice, amidst which high volcanoes only give sign of life, did not also enjoy a warm climate, and was not the land wherefrom the present vegetation of the southern extremities of our continents has originated. This very difficult question, which Darwin was inclined to answer in the affirmative, is now the subject of an animated controversy among naturalists; but it is evident that it will receive no definite solution so long as we remain completely in the dark as to what the antarctic continent was during the tertiary age.
Some time ago the prospects of finding traces of tree vegetation in these frozen regions were extremely small. Hooker saw no traces of vegetation on the barren rocks of Victoria Land, and we now learn from Borchgrevink that the discovery of one single lichen on Cape Adare already filled his heart with joy.40 However, on the other estremity of the antarctic continent, Graham Land seems not always to bave had the same barren aspects as it has now. No sooner had Captain Larsen set his foot on Seymour Island (at the northern extremity of Graham Land) than he was struck with the amount of petrified wood which was scattered about ; and it appears from the specimens of fossil coniferous wood and shells he has brought home, that both probably belong to the lower tertiary period." This discovery alone is sufficient to raise the best hopes as to the possibility of finding the cue to the floras of the southern hemisphere in the icy deserts of the antarctic continent; and if such discovery is really made, it will settle at once a grave problem which naturalists might discuss for years without coming to any definite solution.
40 It must be remembered that in arctic regions the want of a proper soil is perhaps a greater obstacle for the development of vegetation than the rough climate. Wherever a protected pook, where some loam could have been formed, was found, even on the east Greenland coast (which is also protected by an ice girdle like Victoria Land), vegetation by no means poor was discovered. The same will probably be found on the antarctic continent.
We thus have three important problems, in geodesy, earth magnetism, and geographical distribution of plants and animals, which cannot be solved otherwise than by an exploration of the lands situated within the antarctic circle; and several problems of less importance might be mentioned in addition. But we need not further dwell upon the scientific aspects of antarctic exploration (which are sure to be fully discussed by the end of this month at the Geographical Congress), the more so as there is one more remark to be made. Those who have followed the development of arctic exploration for the last thirty years, since it took a thoroughly scientific character in the Swedish expeditions to Spitzbergen, must have been struck by the deep influence which these expeditions have exercised in Scandinavian lands upon the growth of science and the development of taste for science altogether in wide circles. Swedish and Norwegian science (which by no means receives in West Europe the attention it really deserves) may be considered without exaggeration as a daughter of the Spitzbergen expeditions and of Nordenskjöld's journeys in search of the north-eastern passage. The names of Swedish and Norwegian scientific men which are well known at the present time to every student of science are all names long since familiar to the readers of arctic literature; they appeared for years past, either among the members of those expeditions, or among persons who took part in the scientific discussion of their results. Quite a phalanx of men of science has grown out of these expeditions. And at the same time a general interest in, and a remarkable taste for, scientific research have been widely spread in the two countries. The admirable popular account of the Spitzbergen expeditions and their scientific work, written by Chydenius, was read far and wide in Sweden and Norway: it was--we know it--a most popular book among the whalers and seal hunters; and they have read it with profit, as may be seen from the services they have rendered in the discovery of the north-eastern passage. Before the year 1870, all Russian geographers were persuaded that the Kara Sea, which lies between Novaya Zemlya and the Siberian coast, on the way to the Siberian rivers, was quite impracticable on account of the ice with which it is stocked. It was known to us as “the ice cellar.' But that
" The shells bear a close resemblance to species known to occur in the lower ter. tiary beds of Britain, as well as to other species of about the same age found in Patagonia (Murray, l.c. p. 11, note).
year a Norwegian whaler, Captain Johannesen, peeped into the Kara Sea, and, finding the entrance free, he steered straight forward and cruised in the ice cellar without incumbrance. Next year half a dozen small Norwegian schooners rushed into the newly-opened sea ; and, as their captains were already aware of the importance of arctic exploration, in consequence of the wide interest in that sort of research which was spread by the Spitzbergen expeditions, Mohn, Nordenskjöld, and Petermann found no difficulty in instructing them in what had to be done. In one summer the Kara Sea, which had not been navigated for the last three hundred years, was explored in all directions : soundings and surface temperature measurements were taken ; the wintering place of Barents, at the northern extremity of Novaya Zemlya, which had not been revisited since the sixteenth century, was reached; and one or two seal hunters dashed eastwards, saw an open sea, and proved the possibility of easily reaching the Obi. The north-eastern passage was rediscovered, and Nordenskjöld at once found support in his country for reaching twice the mouth of the Yenisei, and finally for circumnavigating Asia. Never, in any other country of the world, did science, spirit of adventure, and commercial pursuits so admirably well go hand in hand. In no other country would that have been possible, not even in Scandinavian lands before the Spitzbergen expeditions took place.
And now it is certainly not a simple coincidence that the first steps towards the exploration of the antarctic seas and continent have also been made by Norwegian and Swedish whalers. In fact, one cannot read Larsen's journal, simple as it is, nor witness Borchgrevink's enthusiasm, and Svend Föyn's enterprise, in manning the • Antarctic,' without realising that a whole atmosphere of interest in arctic matters and taste for them was created on the Scandinavian peninsula by the scientific exploration of the arctic regions—an interest which, so far as the last few years' experience goes, seems not yet to exist among Scotch whalers.
For science, antarctic exploration will prove invaluable. As to society at large, it has all to win if the spirit of enterprise is directed towards regions where there are no natives to conquer, but where there is very much to endure for a disinterested purpose, and so immensely much to be learned about the physical life of the globe under all its aspects.
HOW TO OBTAIN
A SCHOOL OF ENGLISH OPERA
The child who cried for the moon, which it saw in a pail of water, was as silly and as unreasonable as those musicians who clamour for State aid towards the creation of a National School of English Opera. To sit down deliberately and sketch out what had best be done, and how the funds would be most aptly administered, is but useless waste of time, and is moreover culpable, in so far as it distracts the attention of those interested from the real question which they have to face, and deludes them with a dream and a shadow. The Government has never subsidised
opera, and on no conceivable ground could be called upon to do so.
The case is
different from that of an educational institution, for instance. The latter turns out its pupils year after year, and does solid practical work. The interests of young people have to be looked to who for certain reasons are unable to procure the training which their abilities deserve, and the State may most appropriately be asked to assist towards this object, as it undertakes the education of the very poor in free schools. But what resemblance have the young pupils of an institution with the full-grown men who write operas? These latter have been before the world some years, are experienced in the ways of making a living, and have probably pursued profitably enough the various branches of musical work, with the sole exception of writing successful operas. In this department they fail egregiously; and it is precisely where they fail that the State is asked to spend money in encouraging their failures. The idea is indeed preposterous, and we wonder it can be seriously entertained by any.
In times like the present, when opera is so emphatically a marketable article, we are amazed at the outcry of its supposititious partisans, who write and speak as if it were bolted and barred out of England. Plenty of operas have been welcomed in London of late years, though mostly French or Italian ones. There is plainly a market for opera, and a very considerable one. Why do not English composers supply it? We shall be told that the public taste is set on French pieces, and that the French musicians have it all their own way. The public however, would quite as soon listen to English pieces as to French ones, if they only found them as amusing.
But unfortunately their experiences have been far from reassuring in this respect. With the exception of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's operas, which so entirely answer the requirements of the world, every English opera, written by what we may call an earnest 'composer, is nearly invariably found to be stiff, stagey, dull, unreal, heavy and ineffective. Compared with any of the frothy products of the French boards which are so sedulously adapted and served up to the musical public, the English manufacture is a very uninteresting commodity, and would hardly be accepted by any discreet manager on the probability of a long run resulting.
The fault of this failing does not lie with the music, hardly ever. Although English music is certainly heavier than French, yet we are a more sober people than our Gallic neighbours, and this slight touch of gravity suits our tastes. Even the most unremitting frequenters of French adaptations will confess to one that there is a Aimsiness about the melodies not entirely to their liking. If the music were composed in as light a vein by an Englishman, there would be the necessary tincture of seriousness that would completely content the audience. The music, therefore, is as a rule satisfactory enough. The failing lies with the libretto. French composers are singularly favoured in this respect. If they secure the collaboration of some well-known dramatist, the success of their opera is assured them. But even without going so far, any ordinary literary man among them is fitted by his nationality and experience to write a good libretto. The French are persistent theatre-goers; they have an inborn genius for style and point; they dislike prosing; they know what is required to please. Good librettos are as common as good plays in France. But they are terribly rare here. Is it that English composers are blind, or indifferent, or hasty, or reckless? Or is it that librettos are as scarce as tenors, and that they must simply take what they can get ? Whatever be the reason, certain it is that an English composer will seriously set to work on a libretto that has not the remotest chance of succeeding, and will only discover his error when the verdict of the public has been given against him.
Instances of this are, unfortunately, too familiar. We recollect an opera being written on the theme of a young man killing his father, and, after his mother had drowned herself in consequence of his goings-on, acknowledging himself to be a parricide at the end of the fourth act. This opera failed to take. Some of the finest music that was ever penned by an Englishman was wedded to a libretto the point of which was the procession of a party of pilgrims from one town to another. We saw them start at the beginning of the piece. At the conclusion of the first act they had got some distance on their way. By the middle of the second act they had got still