Imágenes de páginas

for the obscurity under which he attempted to conceal his true convictions; for the memory of what Galileo had not been able to endure was still fresh in the minds of men, and another victim of intolerance had but just made his sufferings known to the world. This was the learned Campanella, one of the noblest martyrs of blind and cruel fanaticism, whose name, however, is but rarely mentioned by the side of his greater fellow-sufferers. Like them denying the truth of the ancient Aristotelian and scholastic philosophy, he insisted upon a plurality of worlds, and especially upon the actual existence of created beings in the moon. What he paid for his stanch adherence to truth, he tells us himself in his Memoirs: "The last time the torture lasted forty hours. Garroted with ropes which cut into my bones, suspended, with my hands tied behind my back, over the sharp point of a post, which tore away the sixth part of my flesh and drew ten pounds of blood, at the end of forty hours I was utterly undone, and they were forced to pause in my torments. Some insulted me, and, to add to my sufferings, they shook the rope by which I was suspended; but others praised my courage in an undertone. When I was at last healed, after six months, by a real miracle, they threw me into a ditch, where I was kept for a long time, accused of heresy, because I maintained that the sun and the moon changed; contrary to Aristotle, who makes the world eternal and unchangeable." From this fearful ditch he writes again, after having been tortured for the seventh time without succumbing: "It is now twelve years that I suffer, and pain pervades all my limbs. I have been martyrized seven times; the ignorant have cursed and ill-treated me. My muscles are torn, my bones broken; my flesh is lacerated, and my blood shed in abundance. I have been given up to the unbounded fury of men, and my food is insufficient and unwholesome. Is not that enough, O God, to let me hope that Thou wilt be my help in trouble?" And yet the noble Italian

endured another torture of thirty-five hours, without allowing a word to escape him; while Galileo recanted, and Descartes was so frightened that he hid his "Treatise on Light" for fear of persecution.

Two great events led, during the same century, to renewed efforts to ascertain the precise nature of the Man in the Moon: the improvements in telescopes, which enabled astronomers to ascertain the very striking nature of the moon's surface, with its mountains, valleys, and lakes, and the discovery of a new continent by Columbus. These encouraging circumstances led to the publication of quite a number of voyages to the moon, of which Goodwin's "Man in the Moon," published in 1638, in London, is probably the most important. The pious Bishop of Llandaff represents a young gentleman from Seville setting out on his travels, and reaching, after many adventures among the antipodes, the island of St. Helena, where he cannot get accustomed to men, because there are none. Having amused himself with the taming of wild geese, which he taught to bear burdens on their broad wings and to carry their master on a simple stick through the air, he escapes, by their assistance, from a wreck, rises to the top of the Peak of Teneriffe, and then sets out on a trip of twelve days through the air. He manages to make friends with the evil spirits hovering about in those regions, who at first try to frighten his team and to keep him from proceeding, but finally change their mind, and even furnish him with the needful provisions. At length, on a Tuesday, the 11th of September, he touched the moon, landing gently on a high mountain. Soon a number of lunar men gathered around him; they were twice as large as he himself, and had an olive-brown complexion and pleasing manners, but the most extraordinary costumes. They differed in rank according to their size, and thus formed three classes of men, of ten, twenty, and thirty feet height respectively. Their language was musical, and of great sweetness. Gonzales

was immediately brought before the local prince, who was subject to a higher dignitary, while finally a king ruled over the whole globe. The Spaniard was much pleased with the Man in the Moon, as he appeared so far; only one feature in their daily life troubled him sorely the air around the moon exercised so little pressure on its surface, that, when a man jumped for joy or for fright, he reached instantly a height of some fifty feet, and could not come down again, being there beyond the sphere of attraction. His friends had to go to work with huge fans to help him down again. Another feature which struck him at first unpleasantly, was the length of the lunar days and nights, which lasted each a fortnight. The Man in the Moon, moreover, slept soundly during this long day, unable as he was to endure the unbroken brillian-. cy of the sun. He awoke only when the earth rose to light his globe during the long night. Fortunately, he was virtuous, knowing neither theft nor falsehood nor murder; and, after a long, happy life, he dried up and disappeared, to the sincere delight of his friends, leaving his body to his family, who kept their ancestors forever with them. The Spaniard, however, soon became homesick, and, as three of his geese had already died, he took leave of the king, who made him many curious presents, and flew off in the presence of an immense crowd of spectators.

This rather amusing than instructive account of the Man in the Moon was soon after followed by a much more serious work, the famous "Discourse concerning a New World and Another Planet," by Bishop Wilkins-a book which obtained the rare distinction of being translated into French and German during the lifetime of the author. While Godwin contented himself with writing a romance in which no regard was had to science or even to probability, Wilkins, on the contrary, treats the question from a scientific and religious point of view. He is, however, as it was natural at his time (1640), still very

careful not to offend the Church or the orthodox believer, and naïvely expresses a hope that, if his views on a plurality of worlds and the motion of the earth should be occasionally erroneous, the learned will pardon him as readily as the ignorant will have overlooked the mistake. This book, especially valuable as manifesting a remarkable mind, free of superstition, and yet cautious in the extreme, treats the question of the Man in the Moon at full length. He firmly believes that the moon must be inhabited by intelligent beings, as God would surely not have created that planet and provided all the means for life, if he had not also filled it with persons able to enjoy these advantages. He does not believe, however, that they are men like ourselves, but different in nature, proportions, and endowments. Perhaps, he says, they are an intermediate class of beings between ourselves and the angels; for the interval between these two is too great not to contain Creatures of which, as yet, we have no knowledge; and God, no doubt, has made them of all kinds, to glorify Himself more fully in the works of His omnipotence and wisdom.

The good Bishop is naturally somewhat troubled by the difficulty of communicating with the moon, but he hopes confidently that the spirit of discovery, which even in his day had produced wonders already, will add more and more, till the way to the distant planet will be as open as the path across the great oceans. As we smile at the blindness of our ancestors, he remarks with admirable candor, so posterity will no doubt smile at our ignorance. He then quotes the Irish, who for ages fancied themselves to be the only inhabitants of this globe, and thought it impossible to cross the sea that separated them from other continents. This is exactly our case, he continues; we know as little of the Man in the Moon as these early Irish knew of their neighbors in France, and as little of the means of reaching his dwelling-place as they knew of sails and ships. He regrets that there is no Drake and no Columbus to

undertake the perilous voyage to the moon; nor even a Dædalus to invent a way through the air. Kepler's boast, that, as soon as the art of flying should be invented, one of his countrymen would be the first to lead a colony to that other world, does not appear to him by any means presumptuous. He thinks of all the necessary precautions. As there are no real castles in the air, the question of food becomes very important, especially since he cannot believe, with the pleasant Jewish writer, Philo, that the harmony of the spheres will be sufficient nourishment for the aërial traveller. How would it do to follow the example of Democritus, and to live for several days on the odor of hot bread? or, better still, to sleep, after the manner of hybernating animals, during the whole trip? He suggests a mechanism like the wings of birds, or the possibility of mounting on the back of colossal birds such as he has heard exist in Madagascar; or, finally, the building of a flying-machine -such as we are building in our day. With charming modesty and great candor he concludes his chapter on the Man in the Moon with the words: "As for me, I dare assert nothing about these Selenites; but I believe that the coming ages will discover more about them."

Among the most fanciful of all the voyages to the moon must be counted the rare work of Cyrano de Bergerac, published in 1649. "The moon was full," he says, "the sky clear, and nine o'clock had. struck, when, returning from a good bowl presented to us by a friend near Paris, we fell to talking about the moon, which filled our eyes with its rays. One of us declared it was an opening in the heavens; another assured us it was the press on which Diana dried Apollo's neckhandkerchief; and a third thought it might be the sun himself, who had laid aside his rays and was looking through a hole to see what the world was doing when he was not there; and I-I said, 'I do not care to tickle time with such absurdities in order to make it pass more swiftly; I

believe the moon to be a world like our own,' They laughed at me. 'Well,' said I, 'perhaps they are laughing just now in the moon also at somebody who thinks the earth is inhabited, and a world like the moon.""

It seems that this accident led the merry Frenchman to speculate long enough on the true nature of the moon to invent, at last, and after many grievous failures, a machine which carried him to our satellite. There he met the Man in the Moon. "After half a mile's walk I met two large animals, one of which stopped before me, while the other ran away quickly. He returned, however, shortly, with seven or eight hundred others, who surrounded me on all sides. When I saw them more distinctly, I found that they had the same form and size as we have. From time to time they raised most terrible howls, excited no doubt by their admiration for my beauty, till I thought I had become a beast myself. At last one of these beast-men took me by the side and threw me on his back, as a wolf seizes and carries away a lamb; and now I saw that, men though they were, they walked on all-fours." He was handed over to a menagerie-keeper, who taught him to make faces, to throw somersets, and to amuse the public. Fortunately, he fell in with the demon of Socrates, who had, for his instruction, assumed the shape of a young man in the moon, and who now taught him to become a philosopher. philosopher. Two things. struck him as most strange in lunar life. One was, that, when he wanted to dine, they showed him into a large dining-room, which was perfectly bare and unfurnished. When he had been stripped of all his clothing, he ordered some soup, and at once the rich fragrance of a superb soup rose to his nostrils. He was on the point of running to the place where he thought the tempting dish was waiting for him, when the waiter stopped him, and informed him that the Man in the Moon did not, like earth-born beings, feed on coarse meats and herbs, but only inhaled the concentrated fragrance of a number

of dishes. His room was then lighted up with bottled rays of the sun, that had been carefully purged of their heat, and his bed proved to be a couch formed of roses. The other remarkable feature was the way in which the Man in the Moon determined the time of the day. When Cyrano asked a passer-by in the street what time it was, the latter, for all answer, opened his mouth, closed his teeth, and turned his face upside down. He learned at last that they made of their teeth a correct dial, so that, when they opened their lips, the shadow of the nose fell upon the precise tooth which showed the hour of the day.

The most learned writer on the subject, on the other hand, is no doubt the French savant Gassendi, who examined the question very thoroughly after having compared the views of all his predecessors. That the stars are themselves animated beings, as the ancients believed; or that they are deities, as others dared assert; or, finally, that each sphere is governed by a special guardian angel-all these theories he rejects as idle conjectures, the result of vague speculation. That, on the other hand, spirits or demons, of unknown form and nature, may live in the moon and from thence influence the affairs of inen, he thinks not impossible. He admits that, to inquire into the fitness of the moon to be the home of beings like ourselves, is a legitimate question, and quotes, in support of this view, the long series of ancient and mediæval authors who have written on this subject. The Man in the Moon, however, he thinks, must necessarily be so small as to escape all possible discovery by our imperfect instruments, and thus the discreet author abandons the investigation.

From that time forward the Man in the Moon became a favorite topic with churchmen and laymen, from Baxter to Chalmers and from Fontenelle to Descartes. We can find room here only for two visitors which he received from among men, the one in a vision, the other in pure imagination. The former visit was paid by the Swedish enthusi

ast, Swedenborg, who gravely assures his readers and followers that he went to the moon on the 22d of September, 1748, and saw and heard what he proceeds to recite. It is well known that he conceived the whole universe to be an immense human body, the several parts of which were represented by the different spheres. Mercury, for instance, represented the memory of immaterial things, and Venus the memory of material things. This is one of the great arcana revealed to him by the angelic spirits. He saw, of course, the Man in the Moon also. His voice came from the abdomen, and resembled distant thunder; the lunar air, being different from ours, had to be forcibly compressed, hence the violence of its eruption. He represents in the Greatest-Man the scutiform cartilage to which the ribs are attached! Otherwise he learned to know him only spiritually; and as beyond his New Jerusalem the pious seer remains incomprehensible to all who are not equally favored with direct inspiration from on high, he does not add much to our knowledge of the other worlds.


The other visitor was no less a personage than an American from New York," under the guise of Sir John Herschel, Astronomer-Royal. Having constructed a monster telescope with a lens of twenty-four feet in diameter, he had, in 1835, discovered a number of strange plants in the moon, then mineral structures, buffaloes and unicorns, pelicans and amphibious creatures of marvellous shape. At last, one fine day, four bands of winged beings were seen to come out of a forest, looking very much like gigantic bats. Here was, at last, the veritable Man in the Moon. He was small, barely four feet high, covered all over with long copper-colored hair, except in the face, and endowed with wings consisting of most delicate membranes, which hung comfortably over the back from the shoulders to the calves. The face, of a yellowish hue, resembled that of the orang-outang. The account was so graphically written, the details so minute and so plausible,

and the absence of Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope so favorable to the hoax, that thousands were taken in, and the pamphlet created a great sensation all over the world. Countless editions were published in all civilized countries; copies of the original drawings were to be seen in all the shopwindows, and, for a few months at least, very lively and amusing discussions were carried on concerning the genuineness of the discovery. The great astronomer was perhaps the last person to become aware of the liberty which had been taken with his name, and is said to have been not a little amused by the controversy that followed. It was about the same time that,

With a heart of furious fancies,

Whereof I am commander,

With a burning spear and a horse of air,
To the

moon wandered Hans Pfaall of Rotterdam, under the guidance of our own Poe, and, in a manner far more ingenious than the above-mentioned moonhoax of Mr. Locke, related what he had seen there of lunar topography, and of the Man in the Moon.

And what, we may well ask, after all these visions, fancies, and hoaxes, what is the truth about the Man in the Moon? Does he exist at all?

We can only say that, the more the earth shrinks in our estimate, the greater becomes the importance of other heavenly bodies. As long as the earth was placed, by the vanity of man, in the centre of the universe, and looked upon as the most important orb in creation, the question how far the little, aged moon might be inhabited, was of little importance. But since astronomy has taught us beyond all doubt that

our earth constitutes but a very secondary feature among the planets, being neither the largest nor the smallest, the nearest nor the most remote, the warmest nor the coldest, and since we find it yet teeming with life and blessed with a special incarnation of the Most High, we cannot but suppose that life, and life similar to our own, must exist in other planets also. We can no longer presume that those magnificent worlds which we see revolving around our sun, and other suns, should not have been endowed by the Creator at least as highly as our little earth; nor can we flatter our vanity with the fancy that our globe is the best possible of worlds. The objections raised against the theory of another race of created beings somewhat like ourselves, living on our satellite, lose every year in weight and importance. Even the absence of an atmosphere around the moon has recently become doubtful, since the famous Italian astronomer, Father Secchi, has discovered a slight atmosphere, through which the peaks of high lunar mountains are seen to penetrate. Doubtless many generations will yet pass away before the inhabitants of our own mother-earth will have positive proofs of the existence of a living Man in the Moon, but the extreme probability of the fact is established beyond all doubt. Actual sight by means of improved instruments, well-ascertained scientific data, and sound philosophical reasoning, all point to the one great fact, that the heavenly bodies may be inhabited, and probably are the abodes of intelligence more or less developed; so that there is no violence done to reason or faith in supposing the actual existence of a Man in the Moon.

« AnteriorContinuar »