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Having now described all the creations of human ingenuity, reproductions, in fact, of Nature by the agency of art, it cannot but recur to us, with a feeling of admiration, that there is hardly any process which is not perfected through the intervention of fire. Submit to its action some sandy soil, and in one place it will yield glass, in another silver, in another minium, and in others, again, lead and its several varieties, pigments, and numerous medicaments. It is through the agency of fire that stones1 are melted into copper; by fire that iron is produced, and subdued to our purposes; by fire that gold is purified; by fire, too, that the stone is calcined, which is to hold together the walls of our houses.

Some materials, again, are all the better for being repeatedly submitted to the action of fire; and the same substance will yield one product at the first fusion, another at the second, and another at the third.2 Charcoal, when it has passed through fire and has been quenched, only begins to assume its active properties; and, when it might be supposed to have been reduced to annihilation, it is then that it has its greatest energies. An element this, of immense, of boundless3 power, and, as to which, it is a matter of doubt whether it does not create even more than it destroys!

1 See B. xxxiv. c. 2.

2 See B. xxxiv. c. 47.

3 "Improba" seems to be used here in much the same sense in which Virgil has said "Labor improbus"—"Unremitting labour."

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