Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rocket propulsion: 1668

You may make Figures of what shape your fancy best pleaseth: the body must be made of light wicker rods, and in the midst of the body let there be placed an axel-tree, having two Wheels coming into the water, yet so as they may not be seen: these Wheels must be made hollow, to contain a quantity of sand or water: the use of it is to keep the body of your Figure upright, and able to sink it so far into the water as is needful, and likewise to make it swim more steady: note that these Wheels must be lose, and the axel-tree fast: in the midst of the axel-tree place three or four Rockets one by another, with their mouths all one way: yet so provided that there may be such a distance between each Rocket, that there may come a vent from the tayl of the first to the mouth of the second, and from the second to the third. And to the end that may continue the longer in motion, you may place divers lights about the Body, to make it more beautiful; every of which lights extinguishing shall give a report, and so conclude.
--From A Rich Cabinet--

If you were watching a fireworks display in 1668 you might be sitting on a boat, or on the shore of a river. Rocket-propelled mermaids and whales would float by, covered in lights that made loud noises as they went out. Someone would have built a small castle, from the door of which a dragon would emerge, spitting flames. Then Neptune, riding on a sea-horse would fight him. There would be fountains of fire, and other such wonders, but there also would be a real story and a clear demonstration of art involved.

With our high-flying fireworks displays of today, that's something we hardly ever see. I can only imagine what it must have been like, because I've never seen a fireworks display that sounds half as good as one of theirs. Fireworks just seem kind of boring to me, and compared to what used to be done with them, they are.

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