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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

An Essay upon the Microscope

By Nathaniel Ames (1708–1764)

[Almanac for 1744.]

ARTIFICER, go make a watch,

In which no seeming imperfection lurks,

Whose wheels with time exact do onward roll,

And one small spring maintains the motion of the whole,

’Tis all an artless homely botch

Compared with the least of Nature’s works.

If through an optic glass

You view a spire of grass

That in the road is trod,

With admiration you may gaze

On veins that branch a thousand ways,

In nice proportion wrought.

Which truly to the assisted eyes are brought,

That he who is not void of common sense

Or filled with daring impudence,

Must own its maker truly to be God.

Pray let your brethren, men,

Use but the optic glass again,

Thy rarest piece to scan;

In thy so well contrived machine,

Those boasted beauties that are seen

After thou hast laid the hammer by,

And done thy best to cheat the naked eye,

We view such large unsightly flaws

Not marked by just proportion’s laws

Which shows thou wert a clumsy fingered man.

Urania’s sons who view the sky,

Erect long tubes to assist the eye;

May we believe the intelligence they give,

They tell us many a star

That we behold is bigger far

Than the small world on which we live.

These massy globes their maker’s skill display,

But the minutest creatures do their part,

The grovelling worm that under foot is trod

And smallest mite proclaims a God:

And butterflies as well as they,

The feathers on whose painted wings

Outdo the ornaments of kings

And all their costly workmanship of art.

Behold! ye whalers who go forth,

Coasting along the icy north

Under the feeble influence of day.

Where huge leviathan does play;

’Gainst whose impenetrable sides the billows roar

Foaming and broke as from some rocky shore;

Tell me, brave lads, tell me when you

The unwieldy tumblings of that watery monarch view,

When all your darts, and strength, and numbers fail,

When with the sportive glances of his tail,

Keen as a knife he cuts in twain,

Or oars, or boats, or men,—

Do not your brethren then,

When any of their crew are slain,

Stand off awhile and gaze,

With wonder and with vast amaze?

This optic glass creates a thought in me,

As wonderful as what you see:

Being not deceived, nor mad, nor frantic,

But with my eyes do really view,

Crossing their wide Atlantic

Of but a drop of vinegar or two,

Ten thousand little fish, and here and there a whale,

Whose bulky size

By far outvies

All other tribes that therein sail,

With more perhaps invisible to sight,

Whose numerous species fall below,

What any glass could ever show;

Small as the beams of light.

At this amazed, Oh! wonderful, said I,

Who made the earth, who rules the sky,

When He his own idea first surveyed,

Before his beauteous works were made,

Then formed the wondrous plan,

And took an atom for a space

To minute down the universe.

Both things inert,

Things animate,

Our rolling world, and every lofty sphere,

The unerring hand divine

In characters immensely fine,

Most truly hath delineated there:

There all his works in true proportion stand.