No one is so hopelessly wrong about
the stars as the astronomer, and I trust that you
never pay any attention to his remarks on the moon.
He knows as much about the moon as a coiffeur knows
of the dreams of the fair lady whose beautiful neck
he makes still more beautiful. There is but one
opinion upon the moon namely, our own.
And if you think that science is thus wronged, reflect
a moment upon what science makes of things near at
hand. Love, it says, is merely a play of pistil
and stamen, our most fascinating poetry and art is
‘degeneration,’ and human life, generally
speaking, is sufficiently explained by the ’carbon
compounds’ God-a-mercy! If science
makes such grotesque blunders about radiant matters
right under its nose, how can one think of taking its
opinion upon matters so remote as the stars or
even the moon, which is comparatively near at hand?
Science says that the moon is a dead
world, a cosmic ship littered with the skeletons of
its crew, and from which every rat of vitality has
long since escaped. It is the ghost that rises
from its tomb every night, to haunt its faithless
lover, the world. It is a country of ancient
silver-mines, unworked for centuries. You may
see the gaping mouths of the dark old shafts through
your telescopes. You may even see the rusting
pit tackle, the ruinous engine-houses, and the idle
pick and shovel. Or you may say that it is counterfeit
silver, coined to take in the young fools who love
to gaze upon it. It is, so to speak, a bad half-crown.
As you will! but I am of Endymion’s
belief and no one was ever more intimate
with the moon. For me the moon is a country of
great seaports, whither all the ships of our dreams
come home. From all quarters of the world, every
day of the week, there are ships sailing to the moon.
They are the ships that sail just when and where you
please. You take your passage on that condition.
And it is ridiculous to think for what a trifle the
captain will take you on so long a journey. If
you want to come back, just to take an excursion and
no more, just to take a lighted look at those coasts
of rose and pearl, he will ask no more than a glass
or two of bright wine indeed, when the captain
is very kind, a flower will take you there and back
in no time; if you want to stay whole days there,
but still come back dreamy and strange, you may take
a little dark root and smoke it in a silver pipe,
or you may drink a little phial of poppy-juice, and
thus you shall find the Land of Heart’s Desire;
but if you are wise and would stay in that land for
ever, the terms are even easier a little
powder shaken into a phial of water, a little piece
of lead no bigger than a pea, and a farthing’s-worth
of explosive fire, and thus also you are in the Land
of Heart’s Desire for ever.
I dreamed last night that I stood
on the blustering windy wharf, and the dark ship was
there. It was impatient, like all of us, to leave
the world. Its funnels belched black smoke, its
engines throbbed against the quay like arms that were
eager to strike and be done, and a bell was beating
impatient summons to be gone. The dark captain
stood ready on the bridge, and he looked into each
of our faces as we passed on board. ‘Is
it for the long voyage?’ he said. ‘Yes!
the long voyage,’ I said and his
stern eyes seemed to soften as I answered.
At last we were all aboard, and in
the twinkling of an eye were out of sight of land.
Yet, once afloat, it seemed as though we should never
reach our port in the moon so it seemed
to me as I lay awake in my little cabin, listening
to the patient thud and throb of the great screws,
beating in the ship’s side like a human heart.
Talking with my fellow-voyagers, I
was surprised to find that we were not all volunteers.
Some, in fact, complained pitifully. They had,
they said, been going about their business a day or
two before, and suddenly a mysterious captain had
laid hold of them, and pressed them to sail this unknown
sea. Thus, without a word of warning, they had
been compelled to leave behind them all they held
dear. This, one felt, was a little hard of the
captain; but those of us whose position was exactly
the reverse, who had friends on the other side, all
whose hopes indeed were invested there, were too selfishly
expectant of port to be severe on the captain who
was taking us thither.
There were three friends I had especially
set out to see: two young lovers who had emigrated
to those colonies in the moon just after their marriage,
and there was another. What a surprise it would
be to all three, for I had written no letter to say
I was coming. Indeed, it was just a sudden impulse,
the pistol-flash of a long desire.
I tried to imagine what the town would
be like in which they were now living. I asked
the captain, and he answered with a sad smile that
it would be just exactly as I cared to dream it.
‘Oh, well then,’ I thought,
’I know what it will be like. There shall
be a great restless, tossing estuary, with Atlantic
winds for ever ruffling the sails of busy ships, ships
coming home with laughter, ships leaving home with
sad sea-gull cries of farewell. And the shaggy
tossing water shall be bounded on either bank with
high granite walls, and on one bank shall be a fretted
spire soaring with a jangle of bells, from amid a
tangle of masts, and underneath the bells and the masts
shall go streets rising up from the strand, streets
full of faces, and sweet with the smell of tar and
the sea. O captain! will it be morning or night
when we come to my city? In the morning my city
is like a sea-blown rose, in the night it is bright
as a sailor’s star.
’If it be early morning, what
shall I do? I shall run to the house in which
my friends lie in happy sleep, never to be parted again,
and kiss my hand to their shrouded window; and then
I shall run on and on till the city is behind and
the sweetness of country lanes is about me, and I
shall gather flowers as I run, from sheer wantonness
of joy; and then at last, flushed and breathless,
I shall stand beneath her window. I shall stand
and listen, and I shall hear her breathing right through
the heavy curtains, and the hushed garden and the
sleeping house will bid me keep silence, but I shall
cry a great cry up to the morning star, and say, “No,
I will not keep silence. Mine is the voice she
listens for in her sleep. She will wake again
for no voice but mine. Dear one, awake, the morning
of all mornings has come!"’
As I write, the moon looks down at
me like a Madonna from the great canvas of the sky.
She seems beautiful with the beauty of all the eyes
that have looked up at her, sad with all the tears
of all those eyes; like a silver bowl brimming with
the tears of dead lovers she seems. Yes, there
are seaports in the moon; there are ships to take us