« PreviousContinue »
Our two philosphers were ready to embark on the atmosphere of Saturn, with a very fine set of mathematical instruments, when the mistress of the Saturnian, who had heard of it, came in tears to remonstrate. She was a pretty little brunette, only about six hun. dred and sixty toises high, but who compensated by many charms the smallness of her stature, *Ah! cruel man!' she cried, ' after having kept you at a distance, fifteen hundred years ; when at last I am beginning to yield; when I have scarcely passed a hundred years in your arms; you desert me, to make a journey with a giant from another world! Begone! You are nothing but an explorer, and never were a lover!
If you were a true Saturnian, you would be faithful. Where are you going? What do you wish? Our five moons are more stationary than you ; our ring does not change so often. There is the end of it! I will never love any body else!' The philosopher embraced her, wept with her, philosopher as he was, and the lady, after a fainting fit, went to console herself with a country fop.
Meanwhile our two adventurers set forth. They leaped at first upon the ring, which they found tolerably flat, as an illustrious inhabitant of our little globe has sagaciously conjectured; thence they went from moon to moon. A comet was passing close by the last one; they jumped aboard, with their domestics and their instruments. When they had travelled about an hundred and fifty millions of leagues, they fell in with the satellites of Jupiter. They proceeded to Jupiter itself, and remained there a year, during which they learned some five secrets, which remained suppressed, without the help of noble inquisitors, who have found certain propositions troublesome; but I have read the manuscript, in the library of the illustrious archbishop of
-, who allowed me to examine his books, with a generosity and kindness which cannot be sufficiently commended.
But to return to our travellers. Departing from Jupiter, they traversed a space of about one hundred millions of leagues, and coasted alongside the planet Mars, which as every one knows is five times smaller than our globe. They saw two moons attendant on that planet, which have escaped the search of our astronomers. I am aware that P. Castel wrote, and with much pleasantry, against the existence of these two moons ; but I appeal to those who reason by analogy. These good philosophers know how difficult it must be for Mars, so far from the sun, to get along without at least two moons. Be this as it may, our gentlemen found her so small, that they feared there would not be room enough to lie down, and they continued their route, like two travellers who disdain some miserable village inn, and push on to the next town. But the Sirian and his companion soon regretted it. They proceeded a long time, and found nothing. At last they perceived a slight glimmering. It was the Earth. It seemed contemptible, to men who had come from Jupiter. Still, lest they should repent again, they resolved to disembark. They passed over the tail of the comet, and finding an Aurora Borealis all ready, they
went aboard, and arrived on the earth's surface, at the northern shore of the Baltic Sea, July fifth, seventeen hundred thirty-seven, new style.
RELATES WHAT HAPPENED ON THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH.
After some repose, they ate for their breakfast two mountains, which their servants had cooked for them in good style : they then resolved to reconnoitre the country where they were. They proceeded at first from North to South. The ordinary steps of the Sirian and his attendants were about thirty thousand royal feet; the Saturnian dwarf followed panting at a distance. It was necessary for him to take about a dozen steps while the other made one stride. Figure to yourself, (if we may be allowed such comparisons,) a very small muff-dog following a captain in the King of Prussia's Guards.
As these strangers walked very fast, they had made the circuit of the world in thirty-six hours. The sun, to be sure, or rather the earth, makes a similar journey in one day; but we must suppose one travels much more at his ease when he turns on his axis, than when he walks on his feet. They returned, therefore, to the place whence they set out, after having seen that puddle, almost imperceptible to them, called the Mediterranean, and that other little pond, which, under the name of the great ocean, surrounds the mole-hill. They did all they could, going and returning, up and down, to determine whether this globe were inhabited or not. They stooped, they lay down, they fumbled every where : but their eyes and their hands not being proportioned to the little animals who grovel here, they received not the slightest sensation which could make them suspect that we and our brethren, fellow-citizens of this globe, have the honor to exist.
The dwarf, who sometimes decided somewhat hastily, declared at first that there was nobody on the earth : his first reason was, that he had seen no one. Micromegas politely suggested that that was not very good reasoning ; 'for,' said he, with your little eyes, you do not see certain stars of the fiftieth magnitude, which I perceive very distinctly : do you rashly conclude, therefore, that there are no such
• But,' said the dwarf, 'I have felt for beings carefully.'
. But,' rejoined the dwarf, “this globe is so ill-constructed, it is so irregular, and of a shape which appears to me so ridiculous ! Every thing here seems in a state of chaos. Do you see these little brooks, not one of which follows a strait line; these ponds, which are neither round, nor square, nor oval, nor of any regular shape ; all these little pointed grains with which this globe is bristling, and
* The King of Prussia, father of Frederick the Great, the friend of Voltaire, was at great pains and expense to procure from the four quarters of the globe men of seven feet high and upward, to form a regiment of guards. - TRANSLATOR. VOL. XVI.
which have scorched my feet: (these were our mountains !) Do you observe, beside, the form of the entire globe ? - how flat it is at the poles ; how it turns round the sun, in left-handed style, in such a way that the polar regions are necessarily uncultivated ? In fact, what makes me think there is nobody here, is, that it appears to me no man of common sense would stay here !'
‘Oh, well,' rejoined Micromegas, perhaps they are not people of much sense who live here; but still, there is some appearance that it is not made for nothing. Every thing here appears to you irregular, you say, because every thing is so exact in Saturn and Jupiter. Perhaps it is for that very reason that there is here a little confusion. Have not I told you that in my travels I have always observed variety ?'
The Saturnian replied to all these reasons; and the dispute would never have ended, had not Micromegas, by good fortune, growing warm in discourse, broken the string of his diamond necklace. The diamonds fell: they were of good quality, though somewhat irregular, the heaviest of which weighed four hundred pounds, and the smallest fifty. The dwarf gathered up some of them; and he perceived, by bringing them near his eyes, that these diamonds, from the manner in which they were cut, were excellent microscopes. He took, therefore, a small microscope, of an hundred and sixty feet focal distance, which he applied to the pupil of his eye: Micromegas selected one of two thousand five hundred feet. They were capital; but at first they saw nothing by their assistance : it was necessary repeatedly to adjust them.
At length, the inhabitant of Saturn saw an almost invisible something moving under water in the Baltic sea. It was a whale. He took it up very adroitly, with his little finger, and placing it upon his thumb-nail, showed it to the Sirian, who laughed a second time at the excessive smallness of the inhabitants of our globe. The Saturnian, convinced that our world was inhabited, imagined that it was only by whales; and as he was a great reasoner, he wished to discover whence the motion of so small an atom ; if it had ideas, will, and freedom of action.
Micromegas, though a philosopher, stumbled at this. He examined the animal very patiently, and the result of the inquiry was, that he had no reason to think that a soul was lodged there. The two travellers inclined then to believe that there was nothing rational in our habitation ; when, by the help of a microscope, they perceived something larger than a whale floating in the Baltic sea. It is well known that at that very time a party of philosophers were returning from the polar circle, under which they had been making observations; the result of which no one has yet ascertained. The gazettes inform us that their vessel went, ashore on the coast of the Baltic, and that they saved their lives with great difficulty: but in this world we never know the whole of a secret.
I shall now proceed to disclose the whole affair, with great ingenuousness, exactly as it oceurred, without introducing any circumstance of my own; no small effort for a historian, it will be allowed by every body.
DISCOVERIES AND REASONINGS OF
THE TWO ADVENTURERS.
MICROMEGAS very softly extended his hand toward the place where the object appeared, and put forth two fingers; then drawing them back, for fear he might be deceived; then opening and closing them; he very skilfully seized the vessel which carried these gentlemen, and placed it upon his thumb-nail, without pressure, lest he should crush it. • That's an animal very different from the first,' said the Saturnian dwarf. The Sirian placed the supposed animal in the hollow of his hand. The passengers and crew, who supposed themselves whirled away by a hurricane, and thought themselves on a species of rock, were all in confusion. The sailors, taking up the wine-casks, threw them on the hand of Micromegas, and flung them. selves after; the geometers took their quadrants, their sextants, and the Lapland girls, and came down on the fingers of the Sirian. They made so many movements, that at last he felt something move, which tickled his fingers. It was an iron-shod staff, which they sunk a foot deep in his fore-finger. He judged by this slightly piercing sensation, that something had come out of the little animal that he held; but he suspected nothing more at first. The microscope, which scarcely discovered to him a whale and a ship, had no power on a being so imperceptible as men.
1 design not here to shock any person's vanity; but I am obliged to beg important people to make one slight reflection with me : it is, that taking the stature of the human race at about five feet, we do not make on the earth's surface a greater figure than would be made on a ball of ten feet in circumference, by an animal about the six hundred millionth part of an inch in height. Figure to yourselves a being who could hold the earth in his hand, and who should have organs in proportion, like ours; and it may very well be that there are a very great number of such beings. Conceive, therefore, I entreat you, what they would think of those battles which two villages have cost us, which we were obliged, after all, to give up!
I know that if some captain of the tall grenadiers should read this history, he may shrug up at least two full feet above the helinets of his troop; but I inform him that at his utmost, he and his men will never be more than infinitely small.
What marvellous skill, then, was necessary for our Sirian philosopher to perceive the atoms of which I have spoken! When Lewenhack and Hartsocker first saw, or thought they saw, the germ from which we are formed, they made nothing near so astonishing a discovery. What pleasure did Micromegas feel, in seeing these little machines move, in examining all their writhings, and following them in all their operations ! Wonderful!' he exclaimed, as with transport he put one of his microscopes into the hands of his companion in travel! "I see them !' they cried, both at once : do you not see those who are carrying burdens, some stooping down, and others rising up??
Thus speaking, their hands trembled, not less with the pleasure of seeing objects so new, than with the fear of losing them. The Saturnian, passing from the excess of distrust to that of credulity, thought he perceived them employed in propagation. Ah !' said he, • I have caught Nature in the act !'* But he was deceived by appearances : a frequent event, with or without the use of microscopes.
DESCRIBES THE INTERCOURSE OF
OUR TRAVELLERS WITH THE MEN.
MICROMEGAs, a better observer than his dwarf, plianly perceived that the mites were talking : he pointed it out to his companion, who, mortified at his mistake in the matter of generation, was unwilling to believe that such creatures could communicate ideas. He had the gift of tongues, as well as the Sirian : he did not hear our atoms speak, and he supposed they did not speak. Beside) how could these imperceptible beings have organs of voice? And what should they have to say ? To speak, one must think, or something like it; but if they think, they must have the equivalent of a soul; but to attribute the equivalent of a soul to that little space, seemed to him absurd.
* But,' said the Sirian, 'you just now thought they were making love : do you imagine they make love without thinking or speaking a word, or at least, without making themselves understood ? Beside
*I dare neither to believe nor to deny,' said the dwarf: 'I have no opinion; we must to try examine these insects. We will reason afterward.'
• Well said,' resumed Micromegas; and immediately drew out a pair of scissors, with which he cut his nails, and with a paring of his thumb-nail he immediately made a kind of large speaking-trumpet, like a vast tunnel, the small end of which he put in his ear. The circumference of the tunnel covered over the vessel and the whole crew : the feeblest voice entered into the spiral fibres of the nail, in such a way that, thanks to his industry, the philosopher above, distinctly heard the buzzing of the insects below.
In a few hours, the Sirian succeeded in distinguishing words, and finally in understanding French. The dwarf did the same, though with more difficulty. The astonishment of the travellers redoubled momently: they heard mites talking tolerably good sense : such a freak of Nature seemed to them inexplicable. You may well believe that the Sirian and his dwarf burned with impatience to engage in conversation with the atoms. The dwarf feared that his voice of thunder, and above all, that of Micromegas, would stun the mites, without being understood by them. It was necessary to diminish its force: they put into their mouths a sort of small tooth-picks, the sharpened extremity of which was held before the vessel. The Sirian held the dwarf upon his knees, and the ship with its crew on
* A happy and amusing expression of Fontenelle, describing certain 'observations in Natural History. -- TRANSLATOR.