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till bending over the ocean in their turns, they discovered what they supposed at first to be a new heaven, peopled with beings of their own species. But when they perceived further, that no sooner had any one of their company touched the horizon than he instantly disappeared, they then recognized themselves, in their individual forms, reflected beneath, according to their places and configurations above, from seeing others, whom they previously knew, reflected in like manner.
By an attentive, but mournful self-examination in that mirror, they slowly learned humility; but every one learned it only for himself, none believing what others insinuated respecting their own inferiority, till they reached the western slope, from whence they could identify their true visages in the nether element. Nor was this very surprising; stars being only visible points, without any distinction of limbs, each was all eye; and though he could see others most correctly, he could neither see himself nor any part of himself, till he came to reflection. The comet, however, having a long train of brightness, streaming sun-ward, could review that, and did review it with ineffable self-complacence. Indeed, after all pretensions to precedence, he was at length acknowledged king of the hemisphere, if not by the universal assent, by the silent envy of all his rivals.
But the object which attracted most attention, and astonishment too, was a slender thread of light, that could scarcely be discerned through the blush of evening, and vanished soon after night-fall, as if ashamed to appear in so scanty a form, like an unfinished work of creation. It was the moon, the first new moon. Timidly, she looked around upon the glittering multitude that crowded the dark serenity of space, and filled it with life and beauty. Minute, indeed, they seemed to her, but perfect in symmetry, and formed to shine forever; while she was unshapen, incomplete, and evanescent. In her humility, she was glad to hide herself from their keen glances in the friendly bosom of the ocean, wishing for immediate extinction.
When she was gone, the stars looked one at another with inquisitive surprise, as much as to say, “ What a figure !” It was so evident that they all thought alike, and thought contemptuously of the apparition, (though at first they almost doubted whether they should not be frightened,) that they soon began to
talk freely concerning her; of course, not with audible accents, but in the language of intelligent sparkles, in which stars are accustomed to converse with telegraphic precision from one end of heaven to the other, and which no dialect on earth so nearly resembles, as the language of the eyes,—the only one, probably, that has survived in its purity, not only the confusion of Babel, but the revolutions of all ages. Her crooked form and her shyness, were ridiculed and censured from pole to pole. For what purpose such a monster could have been created, not the wisest could conjecture; yet, to tell the truth, every one, though glad to be countenanced in the affectation of scorn by the rest, had secret misgivings concerning the stranger, and envied the delicate brilliancy of her light.
All the gay company, however, quickly returned to the admiration of themselves, and the inspection of each other. Thus, the first night passed away. But, when the east began to dawn, consternation seized the whole army of celestials, each feeling himself fainting into invisibility, and—as he feared—into nothingness, whilst his neighbors were, one after another, totally disappearing. At length the sun arose, and filled the heavens, and clothed the earth with his glory. How he spent that day, belongs not to this history ; but it is elsewhere recorded, that, for the first time from eternity, the lark, on the wings of the morning, sprang up to salute him; the eagle, at noon, looked undazzled on his splendor; and, when he went down beyond the deep, the leviathan was sporting amid the multitude of waves.
THE SAME ,-CONCLUDED. In the evening, the vanished constellations again gradually awoke, and, on opening their eyes, were so rejoiced at meeting together,—not one being wanting of last night's levee,—that they were in the highest good humor with themselves and one another. Decked in all their beams, and darting their benignest influence, they exchanged smiles and endearments, and made vows of affection, eternal and unchangeable; while, from this nether orb the song of the nightingale arose out of darkness, and charmed
even the stars in their courses, being the first sound, except the roar of the ocean, that they had ever heard. “ The music of the spheres” may be traced to the rapture of that hour.
The little, gleaming horn was again discerned, leaning backward over the western hills. This companionless luminary, they thought—but they must be mistaken—it could not be and yet they were afraid that it was so appeared somewhat stronger than on the former occasion. But the moon, still only venturing to glance at this scene of magnificence, escaped beneath the horizon, leaving the comet in proud possession of the sky.
On the third evening, the moon was so obviously increased in size and splendor, and stood so much higher in the firmament than at first, though she still hastened out of sight, that she was the sole subject of conversation on both sides of the galaxy, till the breeze that awakened newly-created man from his first slumber in paradise, warned the stars to retire; and the sun, with a pomp never witnessed in our degenerate days, ushered in the great Sabbath of creation, when“ the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.”
The following night, the moon took her station still higher, and looked brighter than before. Still, however, she preserved her humility and shame-facedness, till her crescent had exceeded the first quarter. Hitherto she had only grown lovelier, but now she grew prouder at every step of her preferment. Her rays, too, became so intolerably dazzling, that fewer and fewer of the stars could endure her presence, but shrouded themselves in her light as behind a vail. When she verged to maturity, the heavens seemed too small for her ambition. She “rose in clouded majesty,” but the clouds melted at her approach, or spread their rich and rainbow-tinted garments in her path.
She had crossed the comet in her course, and left him as wan as a vapor behind her. On the night of her fullness, she triumphed gloriously in mid heaven, smiled on the earth, and arrayed it in a softer day; for she had repeatedly seen the sun, and though she could not rival him when he was above the horizon, she fondly hoped to make his absence forgotten. Over the ocean she hung, enamored of her own beauty reflected in the abyss. The few stars that still could stand amidst her overpowering effulgence, converged their rays, and shrunk into bluer depths of ether, to gaze at a safe distance upon her. " What more can she be ?” thought these scattered survivors of myriads of extinguished sparklers ; “ as hitherto she has increased every evening, to-morrow she will do the same ; and we must be lost like our brethren, in her all-conquering resplendence.”
The moon herself was not a little puzzled to imagine what might become of her; but vanity readily suggested, that although she had reached her full form, she had not reached her full size; consequently, by a regular nightly expansion of circumference, she would finally cover the whole convexity of the sky, not only to the exclusion of stars, but of the sun himself, since he occupied a superior region of space, and certainly could not shine through her ; till man, and his beautiful companion,woman, looking upward from the bowers of Eden, would see all moon above them, and walk in the light of her countenance forever.
In the midst of this pleasing self-illusion, a film crept upon her, which spread from her utmost verge, athwart her center, till it had completely eclipsed her visage, and made her a blot on the tablet of the heavens. In the progress of this disaster, the stars, which were hid in her pomp, stole forth to witness her humiliation. But their transport and her shame, lasted not long; the shadow retired as gradually as it had advanced, leaving her fairer by contrast than before. Soon afterward, the day broke, and she withdrew, marveling what would next befall her.
Never had the stars been more impatient to resume their places, nor the moon more impatient to rise, than on the following evening. With trembling hope and fear, the planets that came out first after sunset, espied her disk, broad and dark red, emerging from a gulf of clouds in the east. At the first glance, their keen, celestial sight discovered that her western limb was a little contracted, and her orb no longer perfect. She herself was too much elated to suspect any failing, and fondly imagined that she had continued to increase all round, till she had got above the Pacific; but even then, she was only chagrined to perceive, that her image was no larger than it had been last night. There was not a star in the horoscope—no, not the comet himself—durst tell her she was less.
Another day went, and another night came. She rose as usual, a little later. Even while she traveled above the land, she was haunted with the idea, that her luster was rather feebler than it had been; but when she beheld her face in the sea, she could no longer overlook the unwelcome defect. The season was boisterous; the wind rose suddenly, and the waves burst into foam; perhaps the tide, for the first time, was then affected by sympathy with the moon; and what had never happened before, a universal tempest mingled heaven and earth in rain, and lightning, and darkness. She plunged among the thickest of the thunder-clouds, and, in the confusion that hid her disgrace, her exulting rivals were all likewise put out of countenance.
On the next evening, and every evening afterward, the moon came forth later, and less, and dimmer; while on each occasion, more and more of the minor stars, which had formerly vanished from her eye, re-appeared to witness her fading honors and disfigured form. Prosperity had made her vain ; adversity brought her to her mind again, and humility soon compensated the loss of glaring distinction with softer charms, which won the regard which haughtiness had repelled; for when she had worn off her uncouth gibbous aspect, and, through the last quarter, ner profile waned into a hollow shell, she appeared more graceful than ever in the eyes of all heaven. When she was originally seen among them, the stars contemned ner; afterward, as she grew in beauty, they envied, feared, hated, and finally fled from her. As she relapsed into insignificance, they first rejoiced in her decay, and then endured her superiority, because it could not last long; but when they marked how she had wasted away every time they met, compassion succeeded, and, on the last three nights, (like a human fair one, in the latest stages of decline, growing lovelier, and dearer to her friends till the close, she disarmed hostility, conciliated kindness, and secured affection: she was admired, beloved, and unenvied by all.
At length, there came a night when there was no moon. There was silence in heaven all that night. In serene meditation on the changes of the month, the stars pursued their journey from sunset to daybreak. The comet had, likewise, departed into unknown regions. His fading luster had been attributed at first, to the bolder radiance of the moon in her meridian ; but, during her wane, while inferior luminaries