Journeys to the Moon and Sun
Art Hazelwood has created this series of prints based on the book Journeys to the Moon and Sun by Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655).
Cyrano was the true life inspiration for the romantic figure of Edmond de Rostand's nineteenth-century play. He was a satirist, swordsmen, poet, and philosopher who indeed had a prodigious appendage.
This translation from the original French, based on the 1662 edition, was made by Timothy Hampton, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.
Cyrano was the true life inspiration for the romantic figure of Edmond de Rostand's nineteenth-century play. He was a satirist, swordsmen, poet, and philosopher who indeed had a prodigious appendage.
This translation from the original French, based on the 1662 edition, was made by Timothy Hampton, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.
Cyrano de Bergerac
The Moon was full, the sky was clear, and the evening bell had rung nine o'clock, as four of my friends and I were returning to the city from a house near Paris. Along the way our laughter and conversation focused on the diverse thoughts induced by the great bowl of saffron above. Our eyes were drowned in this great star: one of us took it to be a window leading to heaven, through which one might glimpse the glory of the blessed; another protested that it was the surface on which the goddess Diana sets up a rack for drying the clothes of Apollo; yet a third exclaimed that it might well be the Sun, which having put aside his rays in the evening, was watching through a hole to see what was happening in the world when he was no longer around. "As for me," I said, "who wish to add my enthusiasm to your own, without dabbling in poignant fantasies like yours, stirring up the hour to make it go faster, I believe that the Moon is a world like ours-a world for which ours serves as the moon." For this, the company rewarded me with a burst of laughter.
Fired By Secret Knowledge, Cyrano Attempts To Reach The Moon By Riding On Bottles Of Dew
"Thus, perhaps," I said, "at this very moment someone on the Moon is laughing at someone else who maintains that our globe is a world." And although I reminded them that this opinion had been held by Pythagoras, Epicurus, Democritus, and, in our own time, Copernicus and Kepler, I only succeeded in provoking them to further laughter.
The audacity of this notion stuck sideways in my mind, driven in by its very contradictions. Finally it became lodged so deeply in me that, during the rest of the journey, I felt pregnant with a thousand definitions of the Moon, none of which I could bring to light. At last, having shored up my crazy notion with a number of serious explanations, I found that I had almost persuaded myself of it. But listen, Reader, to the miracle or accident from Providence or Fortune which confirmed my belief.
I had returned to my residence and had just entered my room in order to rest up a bit from the walk when I found on my table an open book which I had not left there. It was the works of the philosopher Cardano. And even though I had no intention of reading it, my glance fell, as if under compulsion, precisely on one of the stories told by this philosopher. He writes that, while studying one evening by candlelight, he saw pass through the closed doors of his room two old men, both very tall, who, in response to his questions, indicated that they were inhabitants of the Moon. Having said this, they disappeared. I was so surprised, not only that the book had moved across the room by itself, but also by the timing of the occurrence and its having opened to one particular passage, that I took this entire sequence of incidents as an inspiration from God, telling me to inform men that the Moon is a world.
"What?," said I to myself. "After having spoken about this thing on this very day, it happens that a book, perhaps the only one in the world on this topic, flies from my shelf onto my table and seems to become capable of reason so as open itself to the very place telling of such a marvelous adventure and giving my fantasy matter for reflection and my will a plan of action!. . .Without a doubt," I continued, "the two old men who appeared to this great philosopher are the same two who have moved my book and opened it to this very page, to save them from having to make another speech like the one they delivered to him."
"But," I added, "Will I ever be able to clear away my doubts unless I go there myself?"
"And why not?" I answered myself immediately. "After all, in olden days Prometheus went to the heavens to steal fire."
These waves of feverish thought soon gave way to the hope that such a trip might be successfully undertaken. In order to come up with a plan I shut myself away in an isolated house in the country. After having dreamed at length of various different ways of reaching my goal, here is how I undertook to reach the heavens.
I filled some vials with dew and attached them to my body. Since dew is attracted by the heat of the Sun, I soon found myself above the highest clouds. But the Sun's attraction raised me rather too quickly and instead of drawing near to the Moon, as I had hoped, I seemed to have moved farther away from it. So, I broke a number of the vials until I could feel that my own weight was overcoming the Sun's attraction and I began to sink back toward the Earth. My impression was not mistaken, for a short time later I fell to the ground. Counting from the time I had taken off, I surmised that it must be about midnight. Nevertheless, I could see that the sun was, in fact, at its highest point above the horizon, and that it was, therefore, midday. You can imagine how surprised I was. Indeed, I was so astonished that, knowing no other reason for what had come to pass, I had the insolence to assume that God looked favorably on my daring, and had once more stopped the Sun in the heavens, in order to provide light for my heroic enterprise.
His Flight Abandoned, Cyrano Returns To An Unfamiliar Part Of France
My surprise was even greater when I found that I did not recognize the country where I had landed. It seemed to me that, having gone straight up, I should have come back down at the same place I had left. Despite my attire, I made my way toward a cottage where I noticed some smoke coming from the chimney. When I was no further away from it than the distance of a pistol shot, I found myself surrounded by a large group of savages. They seemed surprised to meet me. For I was the first person, or so I believe, whom they had ever seen who was dressed entirely in bottles. And to confuse even more any interpretations they might find for explaining my garments, they could see that as I walked I barely touched the ground. They had no way of knowing that at my tiniest movement the heat of the midday sun lifted me and my dew up off of the ground, and, even though very few of my vials were still intact, I might well have been taken back up into the heavens right before their eyes.
I wanted to approach them; but as if fear had turned them into birds, they disappeared, in a moment, into the forest nearby. Still I was able to grab one of them, whose legs had doubtless betrayed his heart. I asked him, with some difficulty (I was out of breath), how far we were from Paris, how long the French have been going about naked, and why they were fleeing me with such terror. The man to whom I spoke was an olive skinned old man who immediately threw himself at my knees and, putting his hands together behind his head, opened his mouth and closed his eyes. He babbled for quite a while, but I was unable to see that he was actually saying anything. I took his language for the hoarse gurgling of a mute.
A bit later there appeared a company of soldiers, with their drum beating, and two men broke off from the rest to approach me. When they were close enough to me to be heard, I asked them where I was.
"You are in France," they answered. "But who in the Devil put you in such a state? And how is it that we don't know you? Have the ships arrived? Are you going to report to the Governor? And why have you split up your brandy among so many different bottles?"
I replied that the Devil had not put me in such a state; that they didn't know me, since they could not be acquainted with everyone; that I did not know that ships sailed on the Seine; that I had no opinions to share with Monsieur de Montbazon; and that I was not loaded down with brandy.
"Oh ho!" they said, taking me by the arm. "Are you playing smart with us? The Governor will know you all right!"
With these words they led me back to the main body of their troop. And I learned from them that though I was in France, I was not in Europe. I was in New France. I was introduced to Monsieur de Montmagny, the viceroy of that territory. He asked me for my region of origin, my name, and my estate. And after I had answered him satisfactorily and told him of the pleasant success of my journey, either because he believed me or because he pretended to believe me he was so good as to offer me a room in his own apartment. I was happy indeed to meet a man capable of lofty opinions, who showed no surprise when I told him that the Earth must have turned while I was in the sky. For having begun my ascent two leagues from Paris, I had come down in an almost perpendicular line in Canada.
In Canada, Cyrano Renews His Attempts To Reach The Moon
As soon as the Moon had risen, I would leave my room, dreaming, as I walked through the forest, of the success and conduct of my enterprise. Finally, on Midsummer's Night, as a council was being held in the fort to determine whether to aid the savages of the country against the Iroquois, I went out alone, to the top of a little mountain that lay behind our habitations. This is what I did: With the aid of a machine which I had built, and which I imagined capable of lifting me as high as I wanted, I threw myself into the air from the top of a rock. But because I had not taken all of the proper precautions I landed roughly in the valley. Completely scraped as I was, I returned to my room, without, however, losing heart. I took some marrow from a cow bone, and greased my body from head to toe, for I was grievously scraped up. And after having taken new heart with the help of some brandy, I went back to find my machine. However I could not locate it, since some soldiers who had been sent into the forest for firewood to light the scaffolding erected for Midsummer's Night had come across the machine and had taken it back to the fort. After some speculation as to what it might be, they noticed that it was powered with a spring. This gave them the idea that they might attach it to some rockets. Once the rockets were fired, the speed of their flight, combined with the spring mechanism which moved the wings, would give the entire apparatus the appearance of a great fiery dragon.
I searched long to find my machine and finally came across it in the middle of the main square of Quebec, just as they were setting fire to it. The pain at seeing my own creation placed in such a great peril overwhelmed me to such an extent that I ran over and seized the arm of the soldier who was lighting the fire. I grabbed the torch from his hands and leapt angrily into the machine in order to break up the system of rockets which adorned it. However I arrived too late, for as soon as I had both feet inside the machine I was taken up into the clouds.
The awful terror which overtook me did not so completely stun the faculties of my soul that I have failed since to remember everything that occurred during this instant. Thus I can tell you that they had set up rockets, linked together in casings in rows of six. The flame overtook the first row which then set off the one above it, and so on. The peril caused by the explosion decreased as the flame moved away from me and failed to ignite the entire bonfire. Yet just as I had resigned myself to leaving my head on the top of some mountain, I felt that, though I was not being shaken I was nonetheless rising. My machine suddenly took its leave of me and I watched it fall back to Earth.
This extraordinary occurrence filled me with such an uncommon joy that, ecstatic at having been saved from certain danger I had the impudence to philosophize on what had happened. As I was looking about with my eyes and my mind for the cause of this miracle, I noticed that my skin was swollen and still slick from the bone marrow which I had daubed on it to protect the scrapes I had endured upon my first fall. I recalled that when the Moon is waning it sucks the marrow out of the bones of animals. It was the Moon which was drinking the marrow which I had smeared over myself. And the nearer I drew to it, the stronger became the attraction, such that not even the clouds between me and the Moon could decrease its strength.
Imprisoned By The King And Queen Of The Moon, Cyrano Is Placed In A Cage With A Spaniard, With Whom It Is Hoped He Will Mate
Truly, this little Spaniard had a fine mind. We could only speak at night, since great crowds came to watch us from six o'clock in the morning until night fall. Some of them threw rocks at us; others threw nuts or grass. No one talked of anything except the new beasts belonging to the king. We were fed every day and the king and queen themselves took pleasure in feeling my belly to see if it was expanding. For they were very eager to have an entire family of little animals like us. I don't know if it was because I was more attentive than was my male to their grimaces and sounds, but I learned to understand their language and even to speak it a bit. Immediately the news flew throughout the kingdom that there had been found two savage men, smaller than others because of the bad food that solitude had forced upon us, and who, because of a deficiency in the semen of their fathers, had never grown their front legs long enough to use them for walking.
This belief eventually took root by being circulated from mouth to mouth-even without the help of the priests of the country who opposed it by saying that it was a terrible impiety to believe that not only beasts but monsters might be of their species. "It seems more probable," said some of the less vehement among them, "that our own domestic animals might participate in the privilege of humanity-and thus of immortality-since they are born in our country, than would be the case for some monstrous beast born who knows where on the Moon. Moreover, consider the obvious difference between us and them. We walk on four legs because God did not want to entrust such a precious vessel to a less firm foundation. He feared that something bad might befall mankind. This is why He himself took the trouble to place us on four pillars, so that we might not fall. But He did not deign to become involved in the construction of brutes such as these. He abandoned them to the caprices of Nature, which, not fearing the loss of such a minimal thing, only placed them on two paws."
"Even birds," they went on, "have not been so badly treated as these beasts. For at least they have been given feathers to supplement the weakness of their feet, so that they might leap into the air when we chase them from our territory. By contrast, Nature, which removed two feet from these monsters, made it certain that they could not even escape our police."
"Furthermore, look at how they have their heads turned toward the heavens. This is the disadvantage which God has inflicted on all things that He has put in this position. For their suppliant posture is evidence that they search the heavens in order to complain to their Creator, and to ask Him if they can pick up what we leave behind. The rest of us have our heads bent downward, in order to contemplate the goods of which we are masters, as if nothing in Heaven could envy us our condition."
Every day at my cell I heard priests telling stories such as these. So successful were they in directing the conscience of the people that it was decreed that I should be treated as nothing more than a feathered parrot. Their proof of this point was that like a bird I only had two legs. Thus was I put in a cage, on the express order of the Privy Council.
Every day the queen's bird keeper came and whistled at me, as we do to starlings. I was happy in that my feed box never lacked for victuals. Moreover, from listening to the nonsense with which those who came to watch me used to burden my ears I learned to speak like them. When I was accomplished enough in their idiom to express most of my thoughts, I came out with some of them. And already people spoke of nothing more than the gentility of my wise sayings. The general respect for my mind came to the attention of the clergy, which felt compelled to publish a mandate by which everyone was forbidden from believing that I possessed reason-along with an express command to all people of any estate or quality to believe that everything I might say or do that seemed intelligent was merely the effect of instinct.
Nevertheless, the question of how to define me divided the city into two factions. The party which took my side began to increase daily in numbers. Finally, in the face of the threat of excommunication (raised by the prophets to terrify the people) my supporters demanded a meeting of the Estates General, in order to resolve this religious controversy.
While Speaking With A Heretic, Cyrano Gets An Unexpected Ride Back To Earth
"And how," he said, "could God, the immovable, be moved against us for not having known Him when He himself denied us access to Him? But by your faith, my little animal, if belief in God was so necessary, that is, if eternity depended upon it, wouldn't God himself have infused us with light as bright as the Sun which hides itself from no one? For if we pretend that He wanted to come among men like children playing hide and seek-'Hey, there He is!'-that is, by sometimes masking himself and sometimes unmasking himself, hiding himself from some while revealing himself to others, this is to invent a God who is either stupid or malicious, especially given that it is through my mind that I have known Him, it is He that is weak and not I, since He could have given me organs or a soul that would not mistake Him. And if, on the contrary, He had given me a mind incapable of understanding, it would not have been my fault but his, since He could very well have given me a mind bright enough to know Him."
These diabolical and ridiculous opinions made me shiver throughout my body. I began to look more carefully at this man and I was surprised to see that his face had something terrifying about it that I hadn't yet noticed. His eyes were little and deep-set, his skin was dark, his mouth immense, his jaw covered with hair, his nails black. "O God," I immediately said to myself, this miserable fellow is lost after this life and he may even be the Antichrist of whom so much is said in our world."
Nonetheless, I did not reveal these thoughts to my companion because of my respect for his intelligence and the fact that some of the favorable gifts that Nature had bestowed upon him at birth had inspired in me a certain friendliness toward him. Yet I could not keep myself from bursting out with warnings about the bad end he was facing. But he, in answer to my anger, cried, "Yes, by death itself. . ." I do not know what he was going to say, for at that very moment someone knocked at the door of our room and there entered a giant black man, covered with hair. He came in and, seizing the blasphemer by the body, threw him out through the chimney.
My own pity for the fate of this unhappy fellow drove me to grab him in order to pull him from the claws of the Ethiopian. But he was so strong that he threw us both out together, and, in a moment, we were in the sky. It was no longer love for my neighbor that compelled me to hang on tight, but fear of falling. After having risen into the sky for I know not how many days, with no idea what would become of me, I noticed that we were drawing near to our world. Already I could distinguish Asia from Europe and Europe from Africa. As we fell further, I could no longer see beyond Italy, when my heart told me that, without a doubt, the Devil would take my host to Hell, body and soul. For this reason we were passing our own Earth, since Hell lies at its center. Yet I soon forgot this reflection and everything that had overtaken me since the time that the Devil had become our means of transport. This was because of the terror inspired in me by the sight of a mountain on fire, which we nearly touched. The vision of this burning spectacle led me to cry out, "Jesus Mary." Scarcely had I finished the last syllable of these words than I found myself stretched out among the bushes on the top of a little hill with two or three shepherds around me, reciting litanies and speaking in Italian. "Oh," I cried. "God be praised! Finally I have found Christians on the Moon. Please tell me, friends, which province of your world I am in now." "In Italy," they answered. "What," I interrupted. "Is there an Italy in the world of the Moon too?" So little had I reflected on what had happened that I had not even noticed yet that they spoke Italian to me, and that I answered them back in the same language.
Having Published The Account Of His Journey To The Moon, Cyrano Is Taken For A Sorcerer
My pursuers leapt into action and began to patrol the city to find me. Unfortunately, they soon came across my path. When they glimpsed me with their lynx eyes there was no difference between their flight to catch me and my flight from them. I was so closely followed that sometimes my freedom felt upon its neck the breath of the tyrants who sought to oppress it. It seemed as if the air which they breathed out as they ran after me had the effect of pushing me before them. Finally with the help of either Heaven or my own fear I succeeded in getting a four or five block lead on them. At that point they lost my scent and my track and I evaded the sight and clamor of such an importunate hunting party. Whoever has not been through such suffering can scarcely imagine the joy I felt when I saw that I had escaped.
However, since I wanted my salvation to be complete, I resolved to use as best I could the time before they caught up. I rubbed soot on my face and dumped dirt on my hair. I removed my jacket, pulled down my stockings, and threw away my hat. Then, having spread my handkerchief on the ground and weighed it down with four pebbles, I lay with my belly on the street, like those suffering from the plague, and began to groan piteously. No sooner had I taken up my position than I heard the cries of the crowd, even before I felt the sound of their footsteps. But I still had enough judgment to keep my posture in the hope that they might not recognize me. I was not disappointed; for, taking me for a sick man they ran past me quickly, stopping their noses with their hands and dropping an occasional coin onto my handkerchief.
The storm having passed, I duck into an alley, pick up my clothes and abandon myself yet again to Fortune. But I had run so much that Fortune was tired of following me, or at least that is my belief. For she was not accustomed to walking so quickly. After having crossed so many squares and intersections, and cut down so many streets this glorious Goddess allowed me to fall blindly back into the hands of the bowmen who were chasing me. As soon as they captured me they let out with such a furious chorus of cries that I was temporarily deafened. They seemed to think that they had not enough arms to hold me, so they used their teeth-and still seemed uncertain that they had me. One held me by the hair, another by the collar, while the less excited among them went through my pockets. The search was more successful here than it had been in prison, for they found the rest of my gold.
While these charitable doctors were busy curing the dropsy of my purse, a great noise went up and the entire square echoed with the words, "Kill him! Kill him!" At the same moment I saw the flash of sword blades. The men who were dragging me identified them as archers belonging to the King's Judge, who sought to claim the glory of having captured me. "But be careful," they said, squeezing me ever tighter, "not to fall into their hands, for you will be condemned within twenty four hours and the King himself would not save you."
Finally they themselves became so terrified by the racket which was drawing near that they abandoned me and I stood alone in the middle of the street while the approaching aggressors made a butchery of everything in their way. I leave it to you to wonder if I took flight-I who had to fear from both sides. In no time I was far from the confusion. But just as I was wondering which was the way to the stagecoach depot a torrent of people fleeing the melee poured into my street. Unable to resist the crowd, I followed them. I finally reached a small dark door through which I was able to duck, along with some of the other fleeing crowd members. We bolted the door behind us. Then, when we had caught our breath one of the troop said, "Listen friends, we must pass through two more cells and make a stand in the courtyard." These terrifying words struck my ears with such power that I almost fell down dead on the spot. Alas, immediately, but too late, I realized that instead of saving myself in a refuge, as I had believed, I had only succeeded in throwing myself back into prison. So difficult it is to escape the vigilance of one's star. I looked closer at the man who had spoken and recognized in him one of the bowmen who had pursued me for so long. Cold sweat covered my forehead and I went pale, on the verge of fainting. Those who saw me so weak were moved with compassion and asked for some water. They drew near in order to give me assistance, but unfortunately the cursed bowman was one of the most diligent. No sooner had he set eyes on me than he recognized me. He made a sign to his companions and at the same time they all greeted me by saying, "I take you prisoner in the name of the King." There was no need even to move me, since we were already inside the jail.
In Prison, Cyrano's Friends Visit Him And Offer Their Help
Meanwhile, the jailer informed my friends and me that my room was ready. "Let us go and see it," said Cussan. He walked ahead and we followed him. The room was very well appointed. "I won't be needing anything," I said, "except books." Colignac promised to send me some as soon as I gave him a list of what I needed. Once we had looked around we realized, by judging the height of the tower and the depth of the moat around it, that saving me was an enterprise beyond human capacity. Thereupon my friends looked at each other and at me and burst into tears. But as if our sorrow had softened the anger of Heaven, my soul was overcome with a sudden joy. Joy brought me hope, hope brought secret plans by which my reason was so taken that, with a sudden outburst which even seemed ridiculous to me I urged them, "Go away and wait for me in Colignac. I'll be there in three days. And send me all of the mathematical instruments with which I ordinarily work. In one of my boxes you'll also find a number of variously carved crystals. Don't forget to send them to me. In any event, I will write down in one of my notebooks the things I'll need."
They took the list I gave them without understanding my intention, and after this, I sent them away. As soon as they were gone I set about ruminating on the things that I glimpsed in my mind and I was still ruminating the following day when the things I had listed were brought me. One of Colignac's valets informed me that his master had not been seen since the preceding day and that no one knew what had become of him. This didn't trouble me, since it immediately occurred to me that he had perhaps gone to Court to seek for my release. Thus, without a worry, I set to work. For eight days I hammered, planed, glued and finally constructed the machine which I will now describe to you.
It was a great light box which closed perfectly. It was six or so feet high and some three feet square. This box had a hole in the bottom and over the top, which was also open, I placed a hollow vessel of crystal. The vessel was in the shape of a globe but quite ample. Its opening fit perfectly over the hole I had fashioned on the top of the box.
The little chamber was constructed on purpose out of many angles and in the form of an icosahedron, so that, with each facet being both convex and concave, it had the effect of a concave mirror.
Neither the jailer nor his guards ever came up to my rooms without finding me at work on this machine. They were not concerned, however, because there were many mechanical devices in my room, all of which I told them I had invented. Among other things there was a wind clock, an artificial eye with which to see at night, a sphere in which the stars follow the same movement they have in the heavens. All of this persuaded them that the machine on which I was working was a similar curiosity; and, of course the money with which Colignac was greasing their palms helped them move easily through difficult situations.
It was nine o'clock one morning, my jailer had already gone back down and the sky was clouded over when I took the machine out to the top of my tower, to the most exposed part of my balcony. Except for the two openings at either end the rest of it closed up so perfectly that not a single grain of air could enter it, and I had even put in a small board on which I could sit.
With everything set up I closed myself inside and waited for an hour or so, until it pleased Fortune to take charge of my destiny. When the Sun, having shed its clouds, began to shine on my machine, the transparent icosahedron which gathered the Sun's treasured rays through its many surfaces scattered them throughout the tiny cell where I was to sit. And as this splendor began to be weakened by those rays which could not reach me without being fractured many times, the power of this tempered light turned my little reliquary into a tiny purple heaven enameled in gold.
Racing Towards The Sun, Cyrano Leaves The Earth Far Behind.
In ecstasy I was admiring the beauty of this mixed rainbow when all of a sudden I felt my insides being shaken up in the way that one feels shaken when being moved by a pulley. I was going to open the hatch in order to see the cause of this feeling, but as I was putting forth my hand I noticed through the hole in the floor of my box that my tower was already far below me and my little flying castle. By shifting my feet to one side, I was able to get a full view of Toulouse, which was rapidly sinking beneath me.
This extraordinary event astonished me, not because of the quickness of the movement, but because of the way human reason is astonished at the success of a plan the very imagination of which can make us fearful. The rest of it didn?t particularly surprise me, for I had well planned that the vacuum that would pertain in the icosahedron because of the rays of the Sun striking the concave lenses would draw into it a furious abundance of air, by which my box would rise, and that, as I rose, the wind which would rush in through the hole in the box could not rise up to the arc in the top except by a rapid movement that would lift the entire apparatus...
I recall that in less than an hour I was above the middle region of the sky. I noticed this immediately, since I could see it hail and rain below me. One may well ask where all this wind came from (that is, the wind which made my box rise), in a stratum of the sky with no meteors to cause air movement. But if you will listen carefully, I will answer this objection. I say that the Sun which vigorously struck my concave mirrors connected all of its rays in the center of the vase, forcing out all of the air, and that thus the vase remained empty. Nature, which abhors a vacuum, filled it through the opening in the bottom, and in this way one should not be amazed that in a region above the middle zone, where winds are, I continued nevertheless to rise, for the ether around me became wind because of the furious speed with which it was sucked in to fill up the vacuum, and thus it continued ceaselessly to push my machine.
I was scarcely tormented by hunger, except when I crossed this middle region, for the cold of the climate made me view hunger from afar. I say from afar because of a bottle of brandy which I carried with me, and from which I took occasional gulps, which kept hunger away.
During the rest of my journey I felt no other weakness. To the contrary, the closer I came to the Sun, the stronger I felt. I felt my face become hotter, and I was livelier than usual. My hands seemed colored with an agreeable red, and some unfamiliar joy flowed through my blood which took me right out of myself into a kind of ecstasy.
The sphere of our world now appeared to me as a star more or less the same size as the Moon appears when viewed from Earth. And as I continued to rise it shrank in size, until it became a bluish star, and then nothing, as the luminous point shrank to the size of the last ray of light, until it finally blended into the color of the heavens.
Cyrano Finds The Power Of The Sun To Have A Curious Effect
Some may wonder at the fact that during such a long voyage I was never overcome by sleep. But sleep is nothing more than the product of the soft exhalation of the meats that evaporate from the stomach to the brain, through which Nature feels a need to tie down our souls in order to repair, during the night, all of the vital spirits that the work of the day has consumed. Thus since I didn't eat, I had no need of sleep, and the Sun lent me more essential heat than I lost. Nonetheless as I continued to rise and as I approached the flaming world I felt a certain joy flow into my blood, which rebalanced it and passed into my soul. From time to time I looked up and admired the lively nuances of light which shone into the little crystal dome of my box. I still remember how I directed my eyes into the mouth of the vase when I suddenly felt something heavy flying away from the various parts of my body. A heavy whirlwind of smoke came to suffocate my little lens in shadows, and when I sought to stand up to inspect this blackness in which I was enveloped, I could see neither the vase, nor the mirrors, nor the glass work, nor the cover to my box. I looked down to see what it was that was threatening my little masterpiece, but I could not locate it and could see only the sky all around me. What terrified me even more was to feel, as if the wind had become petrified, some invisible obstacle which was pushing my arms down as I tried to extend them. Suddenly it occurred to me that through my rising I had come up against the firmament which certain philosophers and some astronomers have thought to be solid. I began to fear that I might be caught up by it. Yet the horror which overtook me by the strangeness of this development increased still more at what followed. For as my gaze wandered here and there it fell by chance on my own chest and instead of stopping at the surface of my skin it passed right through me. Then a moment later I realized that I was looking behind myself. As if my body were now nothing more than an organ of sight I felt my flesh, which had lost its opacity, transfer objects directly to my eyes and my eyes brought objects into my flesh. Finally after having bumped myself a thousand times on the arch at the top of my box without having seen it, I concluded that by some secret necessity of light at its source, we had all become transparent. It is not that I couldn?t see the light, since one can see glass, crystal and diamonds, which are all diaphanous, but I imagine that the Sun, in a region very near to it, purges all bodies of their opacity more perfectly than elsewhere, arranging more directly the imperceptible spaces within matter than it does in our world, where its force, after such a long journey, is lessened and can barely lend itself to precious stones. Still, because of the internal equality of their surfaces it bounces off of their various faces, as if through little eyes, so that the green of emeralds or the scarlet of rubies or the violet of amethysts are able to rejuvenate the reflections of this weakened light.
One difficulty may bother the reader here. That is to know how I could see myself and not see my seat, since we had both become diaphanous. I respond that doubtless the Sun acts differently on living bodies than it does on inanimate ones, since no part of my body, neither my skin, nor my bones, nor my entrails, although transparent, had lost its natural color. On the contrary, my lungs kept their soft delicacy beneath a reddish hue. My heart was still bright red and balanced easily between the systole and the diastole. My liver seemed to burn in a fiery purple, cooking the air I breathed, and yet maintained the circulation of blood. In short, I saw myself, I touched myself, I felt the same, and yet I was no more.
With The Flying Machine Stranded, Cyrano Ascends By Other Means
While I was considering this metamorphosis my distance from the Sun was growing shorter, though with great slowness, because of the serenity of the ether which became more rarefied the closer I came to the source of the day. For as the ether which makes up this stratum of the sky is spread apart through the great void that it fills, and as this material is consequently very lazy (the void possessing no action) this air could no longer produce anything but a tiny wind, passing through the hole of my box and scarcely capable of holding it up.
I never reflect on the malicious caprices of Fortune, who always so opposed the success of my enterprise, without being surprised that my mind didn't fail me. But listen to this miracle, which future centuries will scarcely believe.
Closed inside my little box, which I had ceased to see, and with my momentum slowed so much that I had trouble not falling over-that is, in a state where everything which surrounds the great machine of the World was no longer able to help me, I found myself in a period of great misfortune. Yet even as we are about to expire we are pushed from within toward those who have given us existence. And thus I lifted my eyes to the Sun, our common father. This ardor, coming from my will, not only kept my body upright, but lifted it toward the thing that it sought to embrace. My body pushed my box, and in this way I continued my journey. As soon as I noticed this I stiffened as much as I could the faculties of my soul and attached my imagination to that thing which attracted me. But with my head bearing the weight of my little cell, the top of which held back the efforts of my will, finally this burden forced me to try to grope my way toward the door, which was, of course, invisible. Happily, I finally found it, opened it, and threw myself out. The natural fear which all animals have when they find themselves supported by nothing drove me to stretch out my arm. Being guided only by Nature, by instinct, which doesn?t reason, I could not stop Fortune from pushing my arm onto the little capital of crystal. Alas, what a thunderous sound it made when the icosahedron broke into pieces. Such a disorder, such a misfortune, such terror are beyond expression. The mirrors attracted no more air, since there was no more vacuum. The air no longer became wind from trying to fill the vacuum and the wind thus stopped pushing my box upward. In short, I saw it fall in fragments through the vast fields of our World. It recovered the opacity it had breathed out earlier, as it fell into the lower regions-even as some souls come back after death to try to rejoin the bodies they have left, sometimes wandering for a hundred years around their sepulchers. I believe that it lost its diaphanous quality in this way, for later I saw it in Poland, in the same condition as it was when I first stepped into it. I know that it fell directly on the equinoctial line, landing in the kingdom of Borneo, that a Portuguese merchant bought it from the islander who found it and that, from hand to hand, it came into the possession of a Polish engineer who now uses it to go flying in.
Thus, suspended in the wave of the heavens, and already frightened by the death that awaited me with my fall, I turned, as I have said, my sad eyes toward the Sun. My glance carried my thought. My gaze, fixed on its globe, traced out a pathway which my will followed in order to carry my body.
The power of my soul to move my body in this way will be understood by anyone who considers the simplest effects of our will. I know, for example, that when I want to leap, my will, supported by my fantasy, having drawn together the entire microcosm of my body, seeks to transport it to the proposed goal. If it occasionally fails to reach that goal this is because of the principles of Nature, which are universal, and weigh on all. Since the power of my will is individual and prey to the senses, and since the impulse to fall toward the center is general for all material, my leap is forced to stop as soon as matter has overcome the insolence of the will that has acted suddenly against it.
I will not speak of the other things that transpired during the rest of my journey, for fear of taking as long to tell as it took to go. All I can say is that at the end of twenty two months I finally landed on the great plains of the Day, on the surface of the Sun.
Translation copyright Timothy Hampton 2004