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Keeping still southward, along what was once the range of the Andes, I reached the southern extremity of the Western Continent. The Pata gonian bluffs had disappeared ; Terra del Fuego had sunk its frowning rocks; and the once terrible sea, where so many stout ships had foundered in the vexed waves, was now as calm as a summer lake. With a vague consciousness of the silent shrinking and condensing of the earth, of the continual shortening of the days, a listless retracing of my steps northward, and I stood once more on the North American shore of the Atlantic.
The ocean had dwindled to the width of a ferry, and before me, almost within a stone's throw, lay England and the European land. Going forward upon the glassy sea, with no need now of chart or compass, I reached the Old World. (I have forgotten to mention before the condensation of the atmosphere, which circumstance had for some time impeded my progress; and now it was with difficulty that I could push my way through it. The 'sensation was something like that of walking against a stormy wind. The effort of breathing so condensed a gas was quite evident upon my respiratory organs also.) I was in England. But where were London and the vast cities of the Thames? I was in Austria. Where was cannon-girt Vienna?' I was in Russia. Where were the gorgeous cities of the Cossack Empire! Farther eastward, I reached what were once the wide plains of Bactriana, near which I knew had been the Garden of Eden. Here had been the cradle of the human race. 'Here,' I exclaimed, “it is fit that the Last Man should find his grave.' My journeying on earth was ended. I wandered no more; but there, in dogged indifference, awaited my fate. At this period, another phenomenon, which I have not alluded to, began to grow upon my perception. I refer to the rotation of the earth on its axis. I had been slightly sensible of this for some days, but now it seemed to increase in an accelerated ratio. The sun did not now rise majestically as usual, but shot quickly up in the east, hurried its flight across the heavens, and plunged into the west; it was so with the planets and stars.
I have said I was in a state of dogged indifference. This is only partially true. At times I was wrapped in most blessed visions, from which I awoke to keenest agony; and again I fell into a deep insensibility. Now there was charming music in the air; strains sweet as ever Eden heard. Anon, it was full of faces; beautiful faces; known and remembered faces of those I had loved and cherished. How they smile on me! how they pity me with their gentle eyes! AŅd there are the grave, immortal faces of the great of all ages, sad as we see them in pictures. How the wonderful gathering increases ! It stretches away illimitably; the whole sky is filled. Hands beckon me: I hear voices. Yet the crowd increases; they press upon me; they jostle me. I start up! There is only the dull sky and the hard earth, shrinking, shrinking!
Or, I dream of green fields, and trees in full leaf, and cool streams flowing by pleasant banks, and the blue sky over all. I am ill; ill at home. The room is shaded, that the light shall not disturb me. I hear light footsteps on the carpeted foor. A form bends over me, and a face that I passionately loved in boyhood, that I learned to regard with a truer and deeper affection when manhood came. She bends still lower to part away the hair from my feverish forehead, and a soft curl touches my cheek. How the vision maddens me when I awake! Awake to what?
The earth had diminished to a very small compass. The sun did not now rise and set, but was fixed overhead; and the fact was past doubt that the earth was whirling on its axis with increased rapidity, and I with it, round and round, describing a circle continually lessening. From this time, recollection is confused. I remember that the rotation of the earth was accelerated every hour, every moment. In my rapid whirling, the sun seemed no longer a globe, but a band of flame encircling the sky, and the stars slender threads of parallel light. The centrifugal form was evidently, in relation to myself, overcoming the centripetal ; my hold on the earth was loosened, and the next instant I was hurled - shot like a rocket - afar into space. With what a delicious, delirious sensation I sank down, down ; or rather, to drop the word down as not applicable to space, I floated onward. I was free! The untamed Tartar was not more so. The gray eagle never knew so bold and daring a flight. My spirits rose in unbounded exhilaration, as if I had tasted the elixir of life. The heaviness of earthy clods was no longer about my feet, but I moved in the pure ether like a spirit.
The novelty of my situation for a time wrapped me in astonishment : alone, unsupported, floating out in that vague, indefinable space I had longed all my life to fathom. I had become as one of the nightly host that used to look down so pityingly on me when on the earth ; a brother to the stars ! To my unobstructed sight, the vast multitude of worlds were visible around, near me, or glimmering in the far, soundless depths. Looking back, I could not distinguish the earth ; but the wild moon yet wandered, widowed, through the heavens. For a time my course seemed in a straight line, and I moved very swiftly. But at length I felt other influences at work upon me. My speed was considerably diminished. I was drawn hither and thither, turned this way and that, I suppose by the conflicting attractions of the sun and stars. Soon these influences also ceased, or rather became harmonized, and I moved on steadily and rapidly. This motion has never changed. From my limited knowledge of astronomy and the position of the heavenly bodies, (quorum pars magna sum,) I think I am in what we used to call “our system,' moving in a vast circle round the sun. I consider my situation a desirable one, unless I should enter a complaint on account of the extreme scarcity of provisions. But men are mere creatures of babit. I have become a planet. I don't know but I am as contented to be a planet as to be shut out from the light of day, and the sight of God's fields and stars, by grates of iron and stony-hearted keepers.
Here the manuscript ends, or rather runs into insane ravings about freedom, and the bliss of the planetary state. Then follow interjections, dashes, blots, and mere disjointed insane sentences, which the present editor can in no wise decipher: nor does he care to.
Such wierd-like music thou hast heard
From panther, fox, and owl,
From the wild wolf's dreadful howl!
And thou hast stood when round thee flashed
The awful lightning's glare,
The hot sulphureous air :
Thy co-mates from their berths,
Bowed their high heads to earth!
How often in the autumn-time,
When the brown nuts appear, The Indian held his harvest-feast,
The corn-feast of the year:
The wigwam-smoke curled blue,
Thy spreading antlers through.
The scene was changed: the battle-shout
From hill to valley rang,
From their dark ambush sprang;
With blood were crimsoned o'er, And the rank earth about thy roots
Smoked hot with human gore!
But o'er the scene where war's fierce tide
Erst rolled ensanguined waves, Thy shadow in the morning-sun
Falls peaceful on the graves
Or age's calm decay,
Of those long passed away!
And when the hoary winter's blast
Drove down its frozen rain,
Lay crisp upon the plain,
Stout limbs - a giant form!
The anger of the storm.
But now no more amidst thy boughs
The blue-bird's song shall gush,
That makes the Orient blush ;
With purple hues the even,
His vesper-bymn to HEAVEN.
Toward the end of the month of December, the porters of the Bidault Express distributed a hundred copies, or thereabout, of an invitation, of which the following is an exact transcript:
Messrs. RODOLPHE and MARCEL request the honor of your company Saturday evening next, (Christmas eve,) to hear a little laughter.
*P. S.-- We have but one life to live.' And enclosed was the following
PROGRAMME OF THE ENTERTAINMENT: ‘Ar seven, doors open. Lively and animated conversation.
‘At eight, the talented authors of the Mountain in Labor, a comedy refused at the Odeon, will enter and walk about.
At eight and a half, Mr. ALEXANDER SCHAUNARD, a distinguished virtuoso, will execute on the piano The Influence of Blue in the Arts: an onomatopæic symphony.
At nine, reading of a Report on the Abolition of Capital Punishment by TRAGEDY.
'At nine and a half, Mr. GUSTAVE COLLINE, hyperphysic philosopher, will open a discussion with Mr. SCHAUNARD, on the Comparative Merits of Philosophy and Metapolitics.* To prevent any collision between the disputants, they will be tied together.
"At ten, Mr. TRISTAN, a literary man, will recount the story of his first love, accompanied on the piano by Mr. SCHAUNARD.
‘At ten and a half, reading of a Report on the Abolition of Capital Punishment by TRAGEDY, (continued.)
‘At eleven, Account of a Cassowary Hunt by an Eastern Prince.t
If metaphysics is what comes after physics, according to etymology, (though in practice I have generally found to be what comes after liquor,) this new science must be what comes after politics. What in the name of every thing awful is that? The deluge is to come after some politicians, according to Prince METTERNICH and Lord MAIDSTONE.
† The structure of this sentence does not make it quite clear whether the Eastern Prince was actually present to relate the Cassowary Hunt, or whether his performance was limited to hunting the animal, and the account of the hunt was to be another person's work. A somewhat similar ambiguity I recollect in a magazine title some years ago: Lines on a Lady Slandered, by Barry Cornwall; which one of our newspapers reprinted so as to cast a grave imputation or the poet, thus: Lines on a Lady, Slandered by Barry Cornwall.