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illeopardi text integral passage complete quotation of the sources comedies works historical literary works in prose and in verses

Translated by Charles Edwardes

EARTH -- Dear Moon, I know that you can speak and answer questions like a human being, for I have heard so from many of the poets. Besides, our children say you have really a mouth, nose, and eyes like every one else, and that they see them with their own eyes, which at their time of life ought to be very sharp. As for me, no doubt you know that I am a person; indeed, when I was young, I had a number of children; so you will not be surprised to hear me speak. And the reason, my fine Moon, why I have never uttered a word to you before, although I have been your neighbour for I don't know how many centuries, is that I have been so occupied as to have no time for gossip. But now my business is so trifling that it can look after itself. I don't know what to do, and am ready to die of ennui. So in future, I hope we may often have some talk 'together; arid, I should like to know all about your affairs, if it does not inconvenience you to recount them to me.

MOON -- Be easy on that score. May the Fates never trouble me more than you are likely to! Talk as much as you please, and although, as I believe you know, I am partial to silence, I will willingly listen and reply, to oblige you.

EARTH -- Do you hear the delightful sound made by the heavenly bodies in motion?

MOON -- To tell you the truth, I hear nothing.

EARTH -- Nor do I; save only the whistling of the wind, which blows from my poles to the equator, and from the equator to the poles, and which is far from musical. But Pythagoras asserts that the celestial spheres make an incredibly sweet harmony, and that you take part in the concert, and are the eighth chord of this universal lyre. As for me, I am so deafened by my own noise that I hear nothing.

MOON -- I also am doubtless deafened, since I hear no more than you. But it is news to me that I am a chord.

EARTH -- Now let us change the subject. Tell me; are you really inhabited, as thousands of ancient and modern philosophers affirm from Orpheus to De Lalande? In spite of all my efforts to prolong these horns of mine, which men call mountains and hills, and from the summits of which I look at you in silence, I have failed to discern a single one of your inhabitants. Yet I am told that a certain David Fabricius, whose eyes were keener than those of Lynceus, at one time observed your people extending their linen to be dried by the sun.

MOON -- I know nothing about your horns. I will admit that I am inhabited.

EARTH -- What colour are your men?

MOON -- What men?

EARTH -- Those that you contain. Did you not say you were inhabited?

MOON -- Yes, what then?

EARTH -- Does it not follow that all your inhabitants are animals?

MOON -- Neither animals nor men, though I am really in ignorance as to the nature of either the one or the other. As for the men you speak of, I have not an idea what you mean.

EARTH -- Then what sort of creatures are yours?

MOON -- They are of very many different kinds, as unknown to you, as yours are to me.

EARTH -- This is so strange that if you yourself had not informed me of it, I would never have believed it. Were you ever conquered by any of your inhabitants?

MOON -- Not that I know of. But how? And for what reason?

EARTH -- Through ambition and jealousy; by means of diplomacy and arms.

MOON -- I do not know what you mean by arms, ambition, and diplomacy. Indeed, I understand nothing of what you say.

EARTH -- But surely if you do not understand the meaning of arms, you know something of war; because, not long ago, a certain doctor discovered through a telescope, which is an instrument for seeing a long distance, that you possessed a fine fortress with proper bastions. Now this is certain proof that your races are at any rate accustomed to sieges and mural battles.

MOON -- Pardon me, Mother Earth, if I reply to you a little more at length than would be expected from one so subjugated as it seems I am. But in truth, you appear to me more than vain to imagine that everything in the world is conformable to your things; as if Nature had no other intention than to copy you exactly in each of her creations. I tell you I am inhabited, and you jump to the conclusion that my inhabitants are men. I assert that they are not, and whilst admitting that they may be another race of beings, you endow them with qualities and customs similar to those of your people. You also speak to me about the telescope of a certain doctor. But it seems to me the sight of these telescopes is about as good as that of your children, who discover that I have eyes, a mouth, and a nose, all of which I am ignorant of possessing.

EARTH -- Then it is not true that your provinces are intersected by fine long roads, and that you are cultivated; which things are clearly discernible with a telescope from Germany (1).

MOON -- I do not know whether I am cultivated, and I have never observed my roads.

EARTH -- Dear Moon, you must know that I am of a coarse composition, and very simple-minded. No wonder therefore that men easily deceive me. But I can assure you that if your own inhabitants do not care to conquer you, you are by no means free from such danger; for at different times many people down here have thought of subduing you, and have even made great preparations for doing so. Some have tried to reach you by going to my highest places, standing on tiptoe, and stretching out their arms. Besides, they have made a careful study of your surface, and drawn out maps of your countries. They also know the heights of your mountains, and even their names. I warn you of these things out of pure good-will, so that you may be prepared for any emergency. Now, permit me to ask you another question or two. Are you much disturbed by the dogs that bay at you? What do you think of those people who show you another moon in a well? Are you masculine or feminine? (2) because anciently there was a difference of opinion. Is it true that the Arcadians came into the world before you? (3) Are your women, or whatever I should call them, oviparous, and did one of their eggs fall down to us, once upon a time? (4) Are you perforated like a bead, as a modern philosopher believes? (5) Are you made of green cheese, as some English say? Is it true that Mahomet one fine night cut you in two like a water melon, and that a good piece of your body fell into his cloak? Why do you like to stay on the tops of minarets? What do you think of the feast of Bairam?

MOON -- You may as well go on. I need not answer such questions, nor depart from my accustomed habit of silence. If you wish to be so frivolous, and can find nothing else to talk to me about except matters incomprehensible to me, your people had better construct another planet to rotate round them, which they can design and populate as they please. You seem unable to talk of anything but men, and dogs, and such things, of which I know as much as of that one great being round which I am told our sun turns.

EARTH -- Truly the more I determine not to touch on personal matters, the less I succeed in my resolution. But for the future I will be more careful. Tell me; do you amuse yourself by drawing up my sea-water, and then letting it fall again?

MOON -- It may be. But if I have done this, or other such things, I am unaware of it. And you, it seems to me, do not consider what you effect here, which is of so much the more importance as your size and strength are greater than mine.

EARTH -- I know nothing of these effects, except that from time to time I deprive you of the sun's light, and myself of yours, and that I illumine you during your nights, as is sometimes evident to me. But I am forgetting one thing, which is the most important of all. I should like to know if Ariosto is correct in saying that everything man loses, such as youth, beauty, health, the vigour and money spent in the pursuit of glory, in the instruction of children, and founding or promoting useful institutions, flies to you; so that you possess all things pertaining to man, except folly, which has never left mankind. If this be true, I reckon you ought to be so full as to have scarcely any space unoccupied, especially since men have recently lost a great many things (such as patriotism, virtue, magnanimity, righteousness), not merely in part, or singly, as in former times, but completely, and without exception. And certainly if you have not got these things, I do not know where else they can be. But supposing you have them, I wish we could come to an agreement whereby you might soon return the lost things to me; for I imagine you must be greatly encumbered, especially with common sense, which I understand crowds you very much. In return for this, I will see that men pay you annually a good sum of money.

MOON -- Men: again! Though folly, as 'you say, has not left your domains, you wish nevertheless to make an utter fool of me, by depriving me of what reason I possess, to supply the deficiency in your people. But I do not know where this reason of yours is, nor whether it can be found in the universe. I know well that it is not here, any more than the other things you mention.

EARTH -- At least, you can tell me if your, inhabitants are acquainted with vices, misdeeds, misfortunes, suffering, and old age; in short, evils? Do you understand these names?

MOON -- Yes, I understand these well enough, and not only the names. I am full of them, instead of the other things.

EARTH -- Which are the more numerous among your people, virtues or vices?

MOON -- Vices, by a long way.

EARTH -- Does pleasure or pain predominate?

MOON -- Pain is infinitely more prevalent. Eartli. And your inhabitants, are they mostly happy or unhappy?

MOON -- So unhappy that I would not exchange my lot with the happiest of them.

EARTH -- It is the same here. I wonder why we differ so much in other things, yet agree in this.

MOON -- I am also like you in shape, I rotate like you, and am illumined by the same sun. It is no more wonderful that we should resemble each other in these things, than that we should possess common failings; because evil is as common to all the planets of the universe, or at least of the solar system, as rotundity, movement, and light. And if you could speak loud enough for Uranus or Saturn, or any other planet, to hear you, and were to ask them if they contained unhappiness, and whether pleasure or pain predominated, each would answer as I have done. I speak from experience, for I have already questioned Venus and Mercury, to whom I am now and then nearer than you. I have also asked certain comets which have passed by me; they all replied to the same effect. I firmly believe even the sun and every star would make the same response.

EARTH -- Still I am very hopeful. In future I trust men will permit me to experience much happiness.

MOON -- Hope as much as you please. I will answer for it you may hope for ever.

EARTH -- Ha! Did you hear that? These men and animals of mine are making an uproar. It is night on the side from which I am speaking to you, and at first they were all asleep. But, thanks to our conversation, they are now wide awake, and very frightened.

MOON -- And here, on the other side, you see it is day.

EARTH -- Yes. Now I do not wish to terrify my people, or interrupt their sleep, which is the best thing they possess; so let us postpone conversation until another opportunity. Adieu, and good-day to you.

MOON -- Adieu. Good-night.


(1) See German newspapers of March 1824, for particulars of the discoveries attributed to Gruithuisen.

(2) See Macrobius, Saturnal: lib. 3. cap. 8; Tertullian, Apolog., cap. 15. The moon was also honoured as the god moon. In the German language moon is masculine.

(3) See Menander, lib. i. cap. 15, in Rhetor, graec. veter.

(4) Athen: lib. 2. ed. Casaub. p. 57.

(5) Antonio di Ulloa. See Carli, Lettere Americane, par. 4. lett. 7. Milan, 1784.

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