Concerning the Mountains of the Earth, their greatness and irregular Form, their Situation, Causes, and Origin.
WE have been in the hollows of the Earth, and the Chambers of the Deep, amongst the damps and steams of those lower Regions; let us now go air our selves on the tops of the Mountains, where we shall have a more free and large Horizon, and quite another face of things will present it self to our observation.
The greatest objects of Nature are, methinks, the most pleasing to behold; and next to the great Concave of the Heavens, and those boundless Regions where the Stars inhabit, there is nothing that I look upon with more pleasure than the, wide Sea and the Mountains of the Earth. There is something august and stately in the Air of these things, that inspires the mind with great thoughts and passions; We do naturally, upon such occasions, think of God and his greatness: and whatsoever hath but the shadow and appearance of INFINITE, as all things have
that are too big for our comprehension, they fill and over-bear the mind with their Excess, and cast it into a pleasing kind of stupor and admiration.
And yet these Mountains we are speaking of, to confess the truth, are nothing but great ruines; but such as show a certain magnificence in Nature; as from old Temples and broken Amphitheaters of the Romans we collect the greatness of that people. But the grandeur of a Nation is less sensible to those that never see the remains and monuments they have left, and those who never see the mountainous parts of the Earth, scarce ever reflect upon the causes of them, or what power in Nature could be sufficient to produce them. The truth is, the generality of people have not sence and curiosity enough to raise a question concerning these things, or concerning the Original of them. You may tell them that Mountains grow out of the Earth like Fuzz-balls, or that there are Monsters under ground that throw up Mountains as Moles do Mole-hills; they will scarce raise one objection against your doctrine; or if you would appear more Learned, tell them that the Earth is a great Animal, and these are Wens that grow upon its body. This would pass current for Philosophy; so much is the World drown’d in stupidity and sensual pleasures, and so little inquisitive into the works of God and Nature.
There is nothing doth more awaken our thoughts or excite our minds to enquire into the causes of such things, than the actual view of them; as I have had experience my self when it was my fortune to cross the Alps and Appennine Mountains; for the sight of those wild, vast and indigested heaps of Stones and Earth, did so deeply strike my fancy, that I was not easie till I could give my self some tolerable account how that confusion came in Nature. ’Tis true, the height of Mountains compar’d with the Diameter of the Earth is not considerable, but the extent of them and the ground they stand upon, bears a considerable proportion to the surface of the Earth; and if from Europe we may take our measures for the rest, I easily believe, that the Mountains do at least take up the tenth part of the dry land. The Geographers are not very careful to describe or note in their Charts, the multitude or situation of Mountains; They mark the bounds of Countries, the site of Cities and Towns, and the course of Rivers, because these are things of chief use to civil affairs and commerce, and that they design to serve, and not Philosophy or Natural History. But Cluverius in his description of Ancient Germany, Switzerland and Italy, hath given Maps of those Countries more approaching to the natural face of them, and we have drawn (at the end of this Chapter) such a Map of either Hemisphere, without marking Countries or Towns, or any such artificial things; distinguishing only Land and Sea, Islands and Continents, Mountains and not Mountains; and ’tis very useful to imagine the Earth in this manner, and to look often upon such bare draughts as shew us Nature undrest; for then we are best able to judge what her true shapes and proportions are.
’Tis certain that we naturally imagine the surface of the Earth much more regular than it is; for unless we be in some Mountainous parts, there seldom occur any great inequalities within so much compass of ground as we can, at once, reach with our Eye; and to conceive the rest, we multiply the same Idea,
and extend it to those parts of the Earth that we do not see; and so fancy the whole Globe much more smooth and uniform than it is. But suppose a man was carri’d asleep out of a Plain Country, amongst the Alps, and left there upon the top of one of the highest Mountains, when he wak’d and look’d about him, he would think himself in an inchanted Country, or carri’d into another World; Every thing would appear to him so different to what he had ever seen or imagin’d before. To see on every hand of him a multitude of vast bodies thrown together in confusion, as those Mountains are; Rocks standing naked round about him; and the hollow Valleys gaping under him; and at his feet it may be, an heap of frozen Snow in the midst of Summer. He would hear the thunder come from below, and see the black Clouds hanging beneath him; Upon such a prospect, it would not be easie to him to perswade himself that he was still upon the same Earth; but if he did, he would be convinc’d, at least, that there are some Regions of it strangely rude, and ruine-like, and very different from what he had ever thought of before. But the inhabitants of these wild places are even with us; for those that live amongst the Alps and the great Mountains, think that all the rest of the Earth is like their Country, all broken into Mountains, and Valleys, and Precipices; They never see other, and most people think of nothing but what they have seen at one time or another.
These Alps we are speaking of are the greatest range of Mountains in Europe; and ’tis prodigious to see and to consider of what extent these heaps of Stones and Rubbish are; one way they overspread Savoy and Dauphiné, and reach through France to the Pyrenean Mountains, and so to the Ocean. The other way they run along the skirts of Germany, through Stiria, Pannonia, and Dalmatia, as far as Thrace and the Black Sea. Then backwards they cover Switzerland and the parts adjacent; and that branch of them which we call the Appennines, strikes through Italy, and is, as it were, the back-bone of that Country. This must needs be a large space of ground which they stand upon; Yet ’tis not this part of Europe only that is laden with Mountains, the Northern part is as rough and rude in the face of the Country, as in the manners of the people; Bohemia, Silesia, Denmark, Norway, Sweedland, Lapland, and Iseland, and all the coasts of the Baltick Sea, are full of Clifts, and Rocks, and Crags of Mountains: Besides the Riphean Mountains in Muscovy, which the Inhabitants there use to call the Stone girdle, and believe that it girds the Earth round about.
Nor are the other parts of our Continent more free from Mountains than Europe, nor other parts of the Earth than our Continent: They are in the New World as well as the Old; and if they could discover two or three New Worlds or Continents more, they would still find them there. Neither is there any Original Island upon the Earth, but is either all a Rock, or hath Rocks and Mountains in it. And all the dry Land, and every Continent, is but a kind of Mountain: though that Mountain hath a multitude of lesser ones, and Valleys, and Plains, and Lakes, and Marshes, and all variety of grounds.
In America, the Andes, or a ridge of Mountains so call’d, are reported to be higher than any we have, reaching above a thousand Leagues in length, and twenty in breadth, where they are the narrowest. In Africk the Mountain Atlas,
that for its height was said to bear the Heavens on its back, runs all along from the Western Sea to the borders of Ægypt, parallel with the Mediterranean. There also are the Mountains of the Moon, and many more whereof we have but an imperfect account, as neither indeed of that Country in the remote and inner parts of it. Asia is better known, and the Mountains thereof better describ'd: Taurus, which is the principal, was adjudg’d by the ancient Geographers the greatest in the World. It divides Asia into two parts, which have their denomination from it: And there is an Anti-Taurus the greater and the less, which accordingly divide Armenia into greater and less. Then the Cruciform Mountains of Imaus, the famous Caucasus, the long Chains of Tartary and China, and the Rocky and Mountainous Arabia. If one could at once have a prospect of all these together, one would be easily satisfied, that the Globe of the Earth is a more rude and indigested Body than ’tis commonly imagin’d; If one could see, I say, all the Kingdoms and Regions of the Earth at one view, how they lie in broken heaps; The Sea hath overwhelm’d one half of them, and what remains are but the taller parts of a ruine. Look upon those great ranges of Mountains in Europe or in Asia, whereof we have given a short survey, in what confusion do they lie? They have neither form nor beauty, nor shape, nor order, no more than the Clouds in the Air. Then how barren, how desolate, how naked are they? how they stand neglected by Nature? neither the Rains can soften them, nor the Dews from Heaven make them fruitful.
I have given this short account of the Mountains of the Earth, to help to remove that prejudice we are apt to have, or that conceit, That the present Earth is regularly form’d. And to this purpose I do not doubt but that it would be of very good use to have natural Maps of the Earth, as we noted before, as well as civil; and done with the same care and judgment. Our common Maps I call Civil, which note the distinction of Countries and of Cities, and represent the Artificial Earth as inhabited and cultivated: But natural Maps leave out all that, and represent the Earth as it would be if there was not an Inhabitant upon it, nor ever had been; the Skeleton of the Earth, as I may so say, with the site of all its parts. Methinks also every Prince should have such a Draught of his own Country and Dominions, to see how the ground lies in the several parts of them, which highest, which lowest; what respect they have to one another, and to the Sea; how the Rivers flow, and why; how the Mountains stand, how the Heaths, and how the Marches are plac’d. Such a Map or Survey would be useful both in time of War and Peace, and many good observations might be made by it, not only as to Natural History and Philosophy, but also in order to the perfect improvement of a Countrey. But to return to our Mountains.
As this Survey of the multitude and greatness of them may help to rectifie our mistakes about the form of the Earth, so before we proceed to examine their causes, it will be good to observe farther, that these Mountains are plac’d in no order one with another, that can either respect use or beauty; And if you consider them singly, they do not consist of any proportion of parts that is referrable to any design, or that hath the least footsteps of Art or Counsel. There is nothing in Nature more shapeless and ill-figur’d than an old Rock or a Mountain, and all
that variety that is among them, is but the various modes of irregularity; so as you cannot make a better character of them, in short, than to say they are of all forms and figures, except regular. Then if you could go within these Mountains, (for they are generally hollow,) you would find all things there more rude, if possible, than without: And lastly, if you look upon an heap of them together, or a Mountainous Country, they are the greatest examples of confusion that we know in Nature; no Tempest or Earthquake puts things into more disorder. ’Tis true, they cannot look so ill now as they did at first; a ruine that is fresh looks much worse than afterwards, when the Earth grows discolour’d and skin’d over. But I fancy if we had seen the Mountains when they were new-born and raw, when the Earth was fresh broken, and the waters of the Deluge newly retied, the fractions and confusions of them would have appear’d very gastly and frightful.
After this general Survey of the Mountains of the Earth and their properties, let us now reflect upon the causes of them. There is a double pleasure in Philosophy, first that of Admiration, whilst we contemplate things that are great and wonderful, and do not yet understand their Causes; for though admiration proceed from ignorance, yet there is a certain charm and sweetness in that passion. Then the second pleasure is greater and more intellectual, which is that of distinct knowledge and comprehension, when we come to have the Key that unlocks those secrets, and see the methods wherein those things come to pass that we admir’d before; The reasons why the World is so or so, and from what causes Nature, or any part of Nature, came into such a state; and this we are now to enquire after as to the Mountains of the Earth, what their original was, how and when the Earth came into this strange frame and structure? In the beginning of our World, when the Earth rise from a Chaos, ’twas impossible it should come immediately into this Mountainous form; because a mass that is fluid, as a Chaos is, cannot lie in any other figure than what is regular; for the constant laws of Nature do certainly bring all Liquors into that form: And a Chaos is not call’d so from any confusion or brokenness in the form of it, but from a confusion and mixture of all sorts of ingredients in the composition of it. So we have already produc’d, in the precedent Chapters, a double argument that the Earth was not originally in this form, both becaute it rise from a Chaos, which could not of it self, or by any immediate concretion, settle into a form of this nature, as hath been shown in the Fourth and Fifth Chapters; as also because if it had been originally made thus, it could never have undergone a Deluge, as hath been prov’d in the Second and Third Chapters. If this be then a secondary and succedaneous form, the great question is from what causes it arises.
Some have thought that Mountains, and all other irregularities in the Earth, have rise from Earthquakes, and such like causes; others have thought that they came from the universal Deluge; yet not from any dissolution of the Earth that was then, but only from the great agitation of the waters, which broke the ground into this rude and unequal form. Both these causes seem to me very incompetent and insufficient. Earthquakes seldom make Mountains, they often take them away, and sink them down into the Caverns that lie under them; Besides, Earthquakes are not in all Countries and Climates as Mountains are; for, as we have
observ’d more than once, there is neither Island that is original, nor Continent any where in the Earth, in what latitude soever, but hath Mountains and Rocks in it. And lastly, what probability is there, or how is it credible, that those vast tracts of Land which we see fill’d with Mountains both in Europe, Asia and Africa, were rais’d by Earthquakes, or any eruptions from below. In what Age of the World was this done, and why not continued? As for the Deluge, I doubt not but Mountains were made in the time of the general Deluge, that great change and transformation of the Earth happen’d then, but not from such causes as are pretended, that is, the bare rowling and agitation of the waters; For if the Earth was smooth and plain before the Flood, as they seem to suppose as well as we do, the waters could have little or no power over a smooth surface to tear it any way in pieces, no more than they do a meadow or low ground when they lie upon it; for that which makes Torrents and Land-floods violent, is their fall from the Mountains and high Lands, which our Earth is now full of, but if the Rain fell upon even and level ground, it would only sadden and compress it; there is no possibility how it should raise Mountains in it. And if we could imagine an universal Deluge as the Earth is now constituted, it would rather throw down the Hills and Mountains than raise new ones; or by beating down their tops and loose parts, help to fill the Valleys, and bring the Earth nearer to evenness and plainness.
Seeing then there are no hopes of explaining the Origin of Mountains, either from particular Earthquakes, or from the general Deluge, according to the common notion and Explication of it; these not being causes answerable to such vast effects; Let us try our Hypothesis again; which hath made us a Chanel large enough for the Sea, and room for all subterraneous Cavities, and I think will find us materials enough to raise all the Mountains of the Earth. We suppose the great Arch or circumference of the first Earth to have fallen into the Abyss at the Deluge, and seeing that was larger than the surface it fell upon, ’tis absolutely certain, that it could not all fall flat, or lie under the water: Now as all those parts that stood above the water made dry Land, or the present habitable Earth, so such parts of the dry Land as stood higher than the rest, made Hills and Mountains; And this is the first and general account of them, and of all the inequalities of the Earth. But to consider these things a little more particularly; There is a double cause and necessity of Mountains, first this now mention’d, because the exteriour Orb of the Earth was greater than the interiour which it fell upon, and therefore it could not all fall flat; and secondly, because this exteriour Orb did not fall so flat and large as it might, or did not cover all the bottom of the Abyss, as it was very capable to do; but as we shewed before in explaining the Chanel of the Ocean, it left a gaping in the middle, or an Abyss-chanel, as I should call it; and the broader this Abyss-chanel was, the more Mountains there would be upon the dry Land; for there would be more Earth, or more of the falling Orb left, and less room to place it in, and therefore it must stand more in heaps.
In what parts of the Earth these heaps would lie, and in what particular manner, it cannot be expected that we should tell; but all that we have hitherto observ'd
concerning Mountains, how strange soever and otherwise unaccountable, may easily be explain’d, and deduc’d from this original; we shall not wonder at their greatness and vastness, seeing they are the ruines of a broken World; and they would take up more or less of the dry Land, according as the Ocean took up more or less space of our Globe: Then as to their figure and form, whether External or Internal, ’tis just such as answers our expectation, and no more than what the Hypothesis leads us to; For you would easily believe that these heaps would be irregular in all manner of ways, whether consider’d apart, or in their situation to one another. And they would lie commonly in Clusters and in Ridges, for those are two of the most general postures of the parts of a ruine, when they fall inwards. Lastly, we cannot wonder that Mountains should be generally hollow; For great bodies falling together in confusion, or bearing and leaning against one another, must needs make a great many hollownesses in them, and by their unequal Applications empty spaces will be intercepted. We see also from the same reason, why mountainous Countries are subject to Earthquakes; and why Mountains often sink and fall down into the Caverns that lie under them; their joynts and props being decay’d and worn, they become unable to bear their weight. And all these properties you see hang upon one and the same string, and are just consequences from our supposition concerning the dissolution of the first Earth. And there is no surer mark of a good Hypothesis, than when it doth not only hit luckily in one or two particulars, but answers all that it is to be appli’d to, and is adequate to Nature in her whole extent.
But how fully or easily soever these things may answer Nature, you will say, it may be, that all this is but an Hypothesis; that is, a kind of fiction or supposition that things were so and so at first, and by the coherence and agreement of the Effects with such a supposition, you would argue and prove that they were really so. This I confess is true, this is the method, and if we would know any thing in Nature further than our senses go, we can know it no otherwise than by an Hypothesis. When things are either too little for our senses, or too remote and inaccessible, we have no way to know the inward Nature, and the causes of their sensible properties, but by reasoning upon an Hypothesis. If you would know, for example, of what parts Water, or any other Liquor consists, they are too little to be discern’d by the Eye, you must therefore take a supposition concerning their invisible figure and form, and if that agrees and gives the reason of all their sensible qualities, you understand the nature of Water. In like manner, if you would know the nature of a Comet, or of what matter the Sun consists, which are things inaccessible to us, you can do this no otherwise than by an Hypothesis; and if that Hypothesis be easie and intelligible, and answers all the Phænomena of those two bodies, you have done as much as a Philosopher or as Humane reason can do. And this is what we have attempted concerning the Earth and concerning the Deluge; We have laid down an Hypothesis that is easie and perspicuous, consisting of a few things, and those very intelligible, and from this we have given an account how the Old World was destroy’d by a Deluge of water, and how the Earth came into this present form; so distinguish’d and interrupted with Sea and Land, Mountains and Valleys, and so broken in the surface and inward parts of it.
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But to speak the Truth, this Theory is something more than a bare Hypothesis; because we are assur’d that the general ground that we go upon is true, namely, that the Earth rise at first from a Chaos; for besides Reason and Antiquity, Scripture it self doth assure as of that; and that one point being granted, we have deduc’d from it all the rest by a direct chain of consequences, which I think cannot be broken easily in part part or link of it. Besides, the great hinge of this Theory upon which all the rest turns, is the distinction we make of the Antediluvian Earth and Heavens from the Post-diluvian, as to their form and constitution.
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[paragraph continues] And it will never be beaten out of my head, but that St. Peter2 Ep. Chap. 3. 5, 6. hath made the same distinction sixteen hundred years since, and to the very same purpose; so that we have sure footing here again, and the Theory riseth above the character of a bare Hypothesis. And whereas an Hypothesis that is clear and proportion’d to Nature in every respect, is accounted morally certain, we must in equity give more than a moral certitude to this Theory. But I mean this only as to the general parts of it; for as to particularities, I look upon them only as problematical, and accordingly I affirm nothing therein but with a power of revocation,
and a liberty to change my opinion when I shall be better inform’d. Neither do I know any Author that hath treated a matter new, remote, and consisting of a multitude of particulars, who would not have had occasion, if he had liv’d to have seen his Hypothesis fully examin’d, to have chang’d his mind and manner of explaining things, in many material instances.
To conclude both this Chapter and this Section, we have here added a Map or Draught of the Earth, according to the Natural face of it, as it would appear from the Moon, if we were a little nearer to her; or as it was at first after the Deluge, before Cities were built, distinctions of Countries made, or any alterations by humane industry. ’Tis chiefly to expose more to view the Mountains of the Earth, and the proportions of Sea and Land, to shew it as it lies in it self, and as a Naturalist ought to conceive and consider it. ’Tis true, there are far more Mountains upon the Earth than what are here represented, for more could not conveniently be plac’d in this narrow Scheme; But the best and most effectual way of representing the body of the Earth as it is by Nature, would be, not in plain Tables, but by a rough Globe, expressing all the considerable inequalities that are upon the Earth. The smooth Globes that we use, do but nourish in us the conceit of the Earth's regularity, and though they may be convenient enough for Geographical purposes, they are not so proper for Natural Science; nothing would be more useful, in this respect, than a rough Globe of the largest dimensions, wherein the Chanel of the Sea should be really hollow, as it is in Nature, with all its unequal depths according to the best soundings, and the shores exprest both according to matter and form, little Rocks standing where there are Rocks, and Sands and Beaches in the places where they are found; And all the Islands planted in the Sea-chanel in a due form, and in their solid dimensions. Then upon the Land should stand all the ranges of Mountains, in the same order or disorder that Nature hath set them there; And the in-land Seas, and great Lakes, or rather the beds they lie in, should be duly represented; as also the vast desarts of Sand as they lie upon the Earth. And this being done with care and due Art, would be a true Epitome or true model of our Earth. Where we should see, besides other instructions, what a rude Lump our World is, which we are so apt to dote upon.