Conversations about worlds plurality

Bernard de Fontenelle
- 1686 -

How the Earth is a planet which revolves on its axis and round the Sun

An evening, after supper, we went and walked in the park. A delicious coolness refreshed us from the warm day we had borne. The Moon had risen since an hour and its rays, which came among the branches of the trees, pleasantly mixed their white with all that green which seemed black. No cloud that could hide or darken any star; they were all of a pure and shining gold, to which gave relief the blue fund in which they were suspended. Such sight let me dream and perhaps without the marquise I would have dreamed for a long time; but the presence of a so agreeable lady didn't allow me to abandon myself to the Moon and the stars.

"Don't you find", I told her, "that not even the day is so beautiful as a beautiful night?"

"Yes", she answered, "day's beauty is a blonde beauty, that is brighter, but night's beauty is a brown beauty, more touching."

"You are very generous to give this advantage to the brown, you who are not so. However it is true that the day is the most beautiful thing in nature, and that the heroins of the novels, who are the most beautiful women in imagination, are almost always blondes."

"Beauty is nothing" she replied, "if it doesn't strike. Confess that the day would have never dipped you in the sweet dream in which I have seen you on the point of slipping a while ago, seeing this beautiful night."

"I admit", I answered, "but a blonde like you would make me dream better than the most beautiful night of the world, with all its brown beauty."

"Even if this was truth" she replied, "I would not satisfy. I would like that also the day, since the blondes share its interests, had the same effect. Why do the lovers, who know how to judge what is touching, always turn only to the night, in all the songs and elegies I know?"

"But it is just that the night has their thanks", I said.

"But it also has all their complaints", she added. "The day doesn't attract their confidences; does it depend on what?"

"It is because", I answered, "it doesn't apparently inspire nothing sad and impassioned. During the night it seems that everything is resting. We thought that the stars move more silently than the Sun, that the objects the sky shows are sweeter, that the sight can be detained more comfortably; we finally dream better, because we suppose to be the only dreaming person in the whole nature. Perhaps the sight the day offers is too much uniform, after all there is only a Sun and a blue vault, but maybe the sight of all these stars which are confusedly disseminated and disposed in thousand different figures, favors the dream and a certain disorder of thoughts in which one gladly falls."

"I have always felt what you are telling me", she said, "I love the stars and I very nearly scold the Sun for hiding them to our sight."

"Ah"! I exclaimed, "I cannot forgive it because it makes me lose the sight of all those worlds."

"What do you call all those worlds"? she asked turning towards me.

"Excuse me", I answered. "You have provoked my folly and my imagination has immediately taken flight."

"What is your folly"? she asked.

"Alas!" I replied, "I am sorry to confess, but I think that every star could be a world. However I would not be able to swear that this is true, but I consider true, because I like to believe. It is an idea which is pleasantly entered my spirit. In my opinion, a certain delight is necessary not only to the truths."

"Well", she said, "since your folly is so pleasant, transmit it to me too; I am prepared to believe everything you want, provided that I draw some delight."

"Ah! Milady", I immediately answered, "it is not a delight like that you would have assisting to a comedy of Molière; such pleasure is in some angle of the reason, and makes only the spirit laugh."

"Do you believe, then", she replied, "that I am not able to feel any pleasure which is exclusively in the reason? I'll prove you the contrary: speak me of your stars."

"No", I exclaimed, "I don't want to be reproached for having spoken of philosophy in a wood, at ten o'clock in the evening, to the most agreeable person that I know. You have to look for your philosophers elsewhere."

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