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in the shortest possible time, since that is the shortest of all lines that can be drawn between two points. Undoubtedly it is the shortest ; notwithstanding which, however, the body would be longer in traversing it, than in moving through a cycloid. If a body were to move through a space of fifty or a hundred yards, by its weight and some other force acting together, the way
it must take to do this in the shortest possible time, is by moving in a cycloid. It is supposed that birds which build in the rocks possess an instinctive knowledge of this fact, and drop or fly down from height to height in this course. There is certainly a general resemblance between the curved path they describe on such occasions, and the cycloid, but it would be difficult to establish the fact by experiment.
Karn-breh hill rises a little to the south-west of Redruth in Cornwall, to an elevation of 697 feet. Its principal interest is derived from the speculations of the antiquary, Doctor Borlase, who regarded it as having been once the grand centre of druidical worship; and he asserts, in his Antiquities of Cornwall, that, at this very time, the remains of those monuments which were peculiar to that priesthood may be discovered, such as, rock-basins, circles, rock-idols, cromlechs, harns, caves, religious enclosures, logan stones, a gorseddau, or place of elevation, whence the druids pronounced their decrees, and the traces of a grove of oaks. This is all very ingenious and imposing, and may be easily believed by those who have either not visited the spot, or, having visited it, not viewed the
objects with geological eyes. There is no ground whatever for considering the druidical monuments of Dr. Borlase as the works of man; on the contrary, they are evidently the results of the operation of time and the elements, the usual agents employed by nature in the decomposition of mountain masses : but the age of antiquarian illusion is past; the light of geological science has dispelled the phantoms created by the wizard fancy, just as the rising sun dissolves the mystic forms which the most common object assumes in twilight, when viewed through the medium of credulity and superstition. The “ rock-basins ” of antiquaries are rounded cavities on the surface of rocks, and are occasionally as spheroidal internally, as if they had been actually formed by a turninglathe. It was this artificial appearance which first suggested the hypothesis concerning their origin, and induced the antiquary to regard them as pools of lustration. It may, however, be remarked, in the first place, that supposing them to have been the works of the druids, these priests must have been indefatigable artists, for there is scarcely a block of granite on which one or more of such pools are not visible, although some are, undoubtedly, much more complete and imposing than others. We shall introduce to the readers an account of these rock-basins in the words of their great defender, and we think that he will be amused with the ingenuity and confidence with which the antiquary dwells upon every appearance, and bends the facts to suit his favourite theory. « Since no author has mentioned, and attempted to explain these monuments, let us see what light and assistance their shape and structure, exposition, number, and place, considered together with the customs and known rites of antiquity may afford us in this untroden path. Of these basins there are two sorts; some have lips or channels to them, others have none; and, therefore, as those lips are manifestly the works of design, not of accident, those that have so material a difference must needs have been intended for a different use, and yet both these sorts seem to be the works of the same people, for there is a multitude of these basins which have no lips or outlets, as well as those which have, to be seen on Karn-brê hill, and elsewhere, on contiguous rocks. Their shape is not uniform; some are quite irregular, some oval, and some are exactly circular. Their openings do not converge in the top as a jar or hogshead, but rather spread and widen, as if to ex. pose the hollow as much as possible to the skies. Some have little falls into a larger basin, which receives their tribute, and detains it, having no outlet. Other large ones intermixed with little ones have passages from one to another, and by successive falls uniting, transmit what they receive into one common basin, which has a drain to it, that serves itself and all the basins above it.
“ The lips do not all point in the same direction, some tending to the south, some to the west, others to the north, and others again to the intermediate points of the compass, by which it seems as if the makers had been determined in this particular, not by any mystical veneration for one region of the heavens more than another, but by the shape and inclination of the rock, and for the most easy and convenient outlet.” We must here beg the reader to pause. The above remark is really too valuable to be suffered to pass without some notice. And so the absence of all design and arrangement is adduced as a proof of their artificial
origin! What would Dr. Borlase have said, had all these lips been found to point in the same direction? But to proceed:
“ The size of rock-basins is as different as their shape, they are formed from six feet to a few inches in diameter. Many uses may suggest themselves to the imaginations of the curious from the description of these new, and hitherto scarce-mentioned monuments; in order, therefore, to obviate some prepossessions, and prevent the mind from resting so far on groundless suppositions as may make it more difficult to embrace the truth, I shall first consider what, in all probability, cannot have been the design of them.”
. The doctor then proceeds to show that they could never have been intended for evaporating salt; nor for pounding tin ore, nor for receiving obelisks, or stone deities, nor for altars; and then suggests that they could be no other than vessels most ingeniously contrived for holding holy-water for the rites of washing and purification. “If,” adds the learned antiquary, “ fitness can decide the use, and where history is deficient, it is all reason that it should, we shall not long be at a loss. They are mostly placed above the reach of cattle, frequently above the inspection of man; nay, the stones which have these basins on them, do not touch the common ground, but stand on other stones. — Wherefore? but that the water might neither be really defiled by the former, nor incur the imaginary impurity, which touching the ground, according to the druid opinion, gave to every thing that was holy.” We do not know what ideas the druids entertained with respect to the purity of water, but we have seen water in some of these pools, so impregnated with the excrement of sea-birds, that we must have been as thirsty as Tantalus, before we could have been induced to cool our tongues with it.
“ But,” adds Dr. Borlase," there are some basins which have no lip or channel ; and, therefore, as they could not contribute
of their water to the common store, they must have been appropriated to another use; and since these are found in the same places with the others abovementioned which have outlets or mouths to them, they must have been subservient to the same system of superstition, though in a different method.
“ These basins are sometimes found near twenty feet high from the common surface; and, therefore, being so withdrawn from vulgar eyes, so elevated from the ground, which was supposed, as I said before, to defile all, they had likely a proportionably greater degree of reverence, and their waters accounted more holy, and more efficacious."
We shall not trouble the reader with any farther quotations from this learned antiquary; except in concluding the history, after the fashion of melo-dramatists, with a splendid scene, in which, with the author's assistance, we shall bring all the performers on the stage, dressed in appropriate costume, and surrounded by all the pomp of druidical worship.
“ From these basins," says Dr. Borlase, "on solemn occasions, the officiating druid, standing on an eminence, sanctified the congregation with a more than ordinarily precious lustration before he expounded to them, or prayed for them, or gave forth his decisions. This water he drank, or purified his hands in, before it touched any other vessel, and was consequently accounted more sacred