Page:Eureka; a prose poem (1848).djvu/46

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EUREKA.

satisfaction of some intellectual grovellers, afforded. This proof arose collaterally and incidentally (as nearly all important truths have arisen) out of an attempt to ascertain the mean density of the Earth. In the famous Maskelyne, Cavendish and Bailly experiments for this purpose, the attraction of the mass of a mountain was seen, felt, measured, and found to be mathematically consistent with the immortal theory of the British astronomer.

But in spite of this confirmation of that which needed none—in spite of the so-called corroboration of the "theory" by the so-called "ocular and physical proof"—in spite of the character of this corroboration—the ideas which even really philosophical men cannot help imbibing of gravity—and, especially, the ideas of it which ordinary men get and contentedly maintain, are seen to have been derived, for the most part, from a consideration of the principle as they find it developed—merely in the planet upon which they stand.

Now, to what does so partial a consideration tend—to what species of error does it give rise? On the Earth we see and feel, only that gravity impels all bodies towards the centre of the Earth. No man in the common walks of life could be made to see or to feel anything else—could be made to perceive that anything, anywhere, has a perpetual, gravitating tendency in any other direction than to the centre of the Earth; yet (with an exception hereafter to be specified) it is a fact that every earthly thing (not to speak now of every heavenly thing) has a tendency not only to the Earth's centre but in every conceivable direction besides.