"A Story." by Jane Taylor (1783-1824)
THERE once was a man who contrived a balloon,
To carry him whither?–why, up to the moon.
One fine starlight night he set sail for the sky,
And joyfully bid our poor planet good-by.
He mounted aloft with incredible speed,
And saw the green earth every moment recede.
"Farewell," he exclaimed, "to thy pride and conceit,
Oppression and injury, fraud and deceit;
Thy flagrant abuses, thy luxury too,
And all thy gay pageants, for ever adieu.
Thy festivals, spectacles, learning and lore;
My share in thy pleasures I gladly restore:
Thy kings and thy nobles, lords, ladies, and squires,
And all the poor world in its dotage admires.
From its factions and parties and politics free,
The statesmen and heroes are nothing to me:
Bonaparte in his cage, on Helena's wild shore,
And all his devices, to me are no more.
Farewell to thy valleys, in verdure arrayed;
Farewell to thy merchandise, traffic and trade;
Thy wide-swelling rivers that roll to the seas;
Thy dark waving forests, that sigh to the breeze:
From Britain to China, or Ganges' wide stream,
All fades from my sight like a vanishing dream."
He spoke, and with pleasure soon darted his eyes on
The moon, just appearing above the horizon;
And sitting upright with his hand in his pocket,
Shot up the dark sky into space, like a rocket.
But the swiftness with which his light vehicle sped,
Brought on such a giddiness into his head,
That he lay a long time in his boat without knowing
How long he had been or which way he was going.
At length he aroused from his stupor, when lo!
The beautiful planet was shining below!
Already so near was he come, as to see
Its mountains and valleys, as plain as could be.
With feelings no language could well represent,
He quickly prepared his machine for descent.
A fine open plain, much resembling, he said,
Some spots in old England, before him was spread,
Whose smoothness and verdure his presence invited;
And there, all amazement, our traveller alighted.
What thrillings of rapture what tears of delight,
Now melted this signally fortunate wight:
And thus he expressed his astonishment soon
"Dear me, what a wonder to be in the moon!"
'T was now early morning, the firmament clear;
For there the sun rises, the same as down here.
He took out his pocket-book, therefore, and wrote
Whatever he saw that was worthy of note.
For instance, the soil appeared sandy and loose;
The pasture much finer than we can produce.
He picked up a stone, which he wished he could hand
To some learned geologists down in our land.
A blue little weed next attracted our writer,
Not very unlike to our hare-bell, but brighter,
And looked, as he said, most decidedly lunar:
–He wished he had come on this enterprise sooner.
But still he was far more impatient to trace
What sort of inhabitants lived in the place.
Perhaps they were dragons, or horrible things,
Like fishes with feathers, or serpents with wings.
Thus deeply engaged in conjectural thought,
His eye by an object was suddenly caught;
To which, on advancing, he found, you must know,
'T was just such a mile-stone as ours are below;
And he read, all amazed, in plain English this line–
"Twelve miles to old Sarum, to Andover nine."
In short, the whole wonder at once to explain,
The man had alighted on Salisbury Plain.