A Voyage to the Moon, by Cyrano de Bergerac,

Chapter ii.

Of how the Author set out, and where he first arrived.

After these sudden starts of Imagination, which may be termed, perhaps, the Ravings of a violent Feaver, I began to conceive some hopes of succeeding in so fair a Voyage: Insomuch that to take my measures aright, I shut my self up in a solitary Country-house; where having flattered my fancy with some means, proportionated to my design, at length I set out for Heaven in this manner.

I planted my self in the middle of a great many Glasses full of Dew, tied fast about me; 6 upon which the Sun so violently darted his Rays, that the Heat, which attracted them, as it does the thickest Clouds, carried me up so high, that at length I found my self above the middle Region of the Air. But seeing that Attraction hurried me up with so much rapidity that instead of drawing near the Moon, as I intended, she seem’d to me to be more distant than at my first setting out; I broke several of my Vials, until I found my weight exceed the force of the Attraction, and that I began to descend again towards the Earth. I was not mistaken in my opinion, for some time after I fell to the ground again; and to reckon from the hour that I set out at, it must then have been about midnight. Nevertheless I found the Sun to be in the Meridian, and that it was Noon. I leave it to you to judge, in what Amazement I was; The truth is, I was so strangely surprised, that not knowing what to think of that Miracle, I had the insolence to imagine that in favour of my Boldness God had once more nailed the Sun to the Firmament, to light so generous 7 an Enterprise. That which encreased my Astonishment was, That I knew not the Country where I was; it seemed to me, that having mounted straight up, I should have fallen down again in the same place I parted from.

However, in the Equipage I was in, I directed my course towards a kind of Cottage, where I perceived some smoke; and I was not above a Pistol-shot from it, when I saw my self environed by a great number of People, stark naked: They seemed to be exceedingly surprised at the sight of me; for I was the first, (as I think) that they had ever seen clad in Bottles Nay, and to baffle all the Interpretations that they could put upon that Equipage, they perceived that I hardly touched the ground as I walked; for, indeed, they understood not that upon the least agitation I gave my Body the Heat of the beams of the Noon — Sun raised me up with my Dew; and that if I had had Vials enough about me, it would possibly have carried me up into the Air in their view. I had a mind to have spoken to them; but as if Fear had changed them into Birds, immediately I lost sight of them in an adjoyning Forest. However, I catched hold of one, whose Legs had, without doubt, betrayed his Heart. I asked him, but with a great deal of pain, (for I was quite choked) how far they reckoned from thence to Paris? How long Men had gone naked in France? and why they fled from me in so great Consternation? The Man I spoke to was an old tawny Fellow, who presently fell at my Feet, and with lifted-up Hands joyned behind his Head, opened his Mouth and shut his Eyes: He mumbled a long while between his Teeth, but I could not distinguish an articulate Word; so that I took his Language for the maffling 8 noise of a Dumb-man.

Some time after, I saw a Company of Souldiers marching, with Drums beating; and I perceived Two detached from the rest, to come and take speech of me. When they were come within hearing, I asked them, Where I was? “You are in France” answered they: “But what Devil hath put you into that Dress? And how comes it that we know you not? Is the Fleet then arrived? Are you going to carry the News of it to the Governor? And why have you divided your Brandy into so many Bottles?” To all this I made answer, That the Devil had not put me into that Dress: That they knew me not; because they could not know all Men: That I knew, nothing of the Seine’s carrying Ships to Paris: That I had no news for the Marshal de l’Hospital; 9 and that I was not loaded with Brandy. “Ho, ho,” said they to me, taking me by the Arm, “you are a merry Fellow indeed; come, the Governor will make a shift to know you, no doubt on’t.”

They led me to their Company, where I learnt that I was in reality in France, but that it was in New–France: So that some time after, I was presented before the Governor, who asked me my Country, my Name and Quality; and after that I had satisfied him in all Points, and told him the pleasant Success of my Voyage, whether he believed it, or only pretended to do so, he had the goodness to order me a Chamber in his Apartment. I was very happy, in meeting with a Man capable of lofty Opinions, and who was not at all surprised when I told him that the Earth must needs have turned during my Elevation; seeing that having begun to mount about Two Leagues from Paris, I was fallen, as it were, by a perpendicular Line in Canada.

6 Cf. M. Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, act III., scene xi.: “One way was to stand naked in the sunshine, in a harness thickly studded with glass phials, each filled with morning dew. The sun in drawing up the dew, you see, could not have helped drawing me up too!” (Miss Gertrude Hall’ s translation.)

7 Generous = noble. Cf. Lord Burleigh, Precepts to his Son: “Let her not be poor, how generous soever; for a man can buy nothing in the market with gentility.”

8 Stammering, mumbling; a North of England word.

9 Paul Lacroix, the editor of the French edition of Cyrano’s works, not understanding this phrase, has ingeniously invented the interpretation of “quarantine officer” for it. Not only have the words never had this meaning, but they are evidently a proper name. And in fact Francois de l’Hospital, Marechal de France, was Governor of Paris in 1649, the year when the Voyage to the Moon was probably written. Cyrano, thinking he has fallen in France, near Paris, and being asked if he carries news of the fleet to the Governor, naturally answers that he knows nothing of ships going to Paris, and that he carries no news to the Marechal de l’ Hospital.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53