Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/796

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The sonorous property of rocks is also manifested in the phonoliths or ringing stones, of which several remarkable ones are known. The embassy of the East India Company to China found a rock near the city of Taucham, which gave out a noise like the sound of a trumpet whenever it was rubbed with the finger. Such stones are not uncommon in the department of the Loire, in France; and the basin of a fountain in the court of the Institute of France, in Paris, was observed by Elwart to give the chord of F sharp when struck by the hand.

Plants also afford their peculiar sounds and music. Of this nature were the oracular voices of the oaks at Dordona, a rustling of the trees around the temple of Zeus, which, with the accompanying murmur of the sacred fountain, was held to be prophetic. The rustling of the trees was regarded by the Scandinavians and the Celts as a language of nature, full of significance, of which the Druids were the consecrated interpreters. Possibly the woods, which the priests regarded as holy, had the property of producing real harmonies, like those of the Æolian harp. Such harmonious woods and musical trees are mentioned in many traditions of the olden time and reports of later times. Some soldiers, encamped in a valley in the Black Forest toward the end of the seventeenth century, heard charming sounds in the tops of the fir-trees, accompanied by the rustling of the wind as it blew through the narrow valley. A tradition of a similar music in a wood near Cithas, in the department of the Haute Saône, France, is confirmed by the testimony of an ear-witness, Désiré Monnier, author of "Traditions populaires comparées." The filao, a tree of the island of Bourbon, emits soft, melancholy tones when its slender boughs are shaken by the wind. An avenue of such trees is the source of wonderfully touching harmonies. The reeds and rushes of the island of Sylt, with their supple stems and interlaced roots, give forth, whenever the lightest wind is blowing, tones which are at times like whispers, like a subdued singing, or like a loud whistle. The wind, which in this case causes the root-fibers to be rubbed together and turns the limber stalks upon themselves, exerts a similar action on the innumerable thistles of the Hungarian steppes, where, as on the battle-field of Kapolna, mournful sounds, mingled with the soft soughing of the wind, are heard on still nights. The poets of all ages have sung of these sounds of nature; the literature of all nations abounds in fables and myths concerning them; they possibly suggested the first attempts to make musical instruments; and they have suggested to the great musical composers themes for many of the striking passages of their most successful works.—Die Natur.