Read A SEAPORT IN THE MOON of Prose Fancies (Second Series), free online book, by Richard Le Gallienne, on ReadCentral.com.

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 there.