Micromégas, by Voltaire

Chapter III.

Voyage of the two inhabitants of Sirius and Saturn.

Our two philosophers were just ready to take off into Saturn’s atmosphere with a very nice provision of mathematical instrument when the ruler of Saturn, who had heard news of the departure, came in tears to remonstrate. She was a pretty, petite brunette who was only 660 fathoms tall, but who compensated for this small size with many other charms.

“Cruelty!” she cried, “after resisting you for 1,500 years, just when I was beginning to come around, when I’d spent hardly a hundred10 years in your arms, you leave me to go on a voyage with a giant from another world; go, you’re only curious, you’ve never been in love: if you were a true Saturnian, you would be faithful. Where are you running off to? What do you want? Our five moons are less errant than you, our ring less inconsistent. It’s over, I will never love anyone ever again.”

The philosopher embraced her, cried with her, philosopher that he was; and the woman, after swooning, went off to console herself with the help of one of the dandies of the country.

Our two explorers left all the same; they alighted first on the ring, which they found to be fairly flat, as conjectured by an illustrious inhabitant of our little sphere11; from there they went easily from moon to moon. A comet passed by the last; they flew onto it with their servants and their instruments. When they had traveled about one hundred fifty million leagues, they met with the satellites of Jupiter. They stopped at Jupiter and stayed for a week, during which time they learned some very wonderful secrets that would have been forthcoming in print if not for the inquisition, which found some of the propositions to be a little harsh. But I have read the manuscript in the library of the illustrious archbishop of. . . ., who with a generosity and goodness that is impossible to praise allowed me to see his books. I promised him a long article in the first edition of Moréri, and I will not forget his children, who give such a great hope of perpetuating the race of their illustrious father.

But let us now return to our travelers. Upon leaving Jupiter they traversed a space of around one hundred million leagues and approached the planet Mars, which, as we know, is five times smaller than our own; they swung by two moons that cater to this planet but have escaped the notice of our astronomers. I know very well that Father Castel will write, perhaps even agreeably enough, against the existence of these two moons; but I rely on those who reason by analogy. These good philosophers know how unlikely it would be for Mars, so far from the sun, to have gotten by with less than two moons. Whatever the case may be, our explorers found it so small that they feared not being able to land on it, and they passed it by like two travelers disdainful of a bad village cabaret, pressing on towards a neighboring city. But the Sirian and his companion soon regretted it. They traveled a long time without finding anything. Finally they perceived a small candle, it was earth; this was a pitiful sight to those who had just left Jupiter. Nevertheless, from fear of further regret, they resolved to touch down. Carried by the tail of a comet, and finding an aurora borealis at the ready, they started towards it, and arrived at Earth on the northern coast of the Baltic sea, July 5, 1737, new style.

10 The 1773 edition is the first that reads “a hundred”; all the earlier editions read: “two hundred.” B.

11 Huygens. See volume XXVI, page 398. B.

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