An Island in the Moon/Chapter I

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An Island in the Moon. Chapter I
by William Blake
Written c. 1784-5. In a Manuscript Fragment

[AN ISLAND IN THE MOON]

[In a Manuscript Fragment]

[PAGE 1]

[Chapter 1]

In the Moon, is a certain Island near by a mighty continent, which small island seems to have some affinity to England, & what is more extraordinary the people are so much alike & their language so much the same that you would think you was among your friends.

In this Island dwells three Philosophers--Suction, the Epicurean, Quid the Cynic, & Sipsop, the Pythagorean. I call them by the names of these sects tho the sects are not ever mentiond there as being quite out of date however the things still remain, and the vanities are the same. the three Philosophers sat together thinking of nothing.

In comes--Etruscan Column the Antiquarian & after an abundance of Enquiries to no purpose sat himself down & described something that nobody listend to so they were employd when Mrs Gimblet came in [tipsy] the corners of her mouth seemd I dont know how, but very odd as if she hoped you had not an ill opinion of her. to be sure we are all poor creatures. well she seated & [listend] seemd to listen with great attention while the Antiquarian seemd to be talking of virtuous cats, but it was not so. she was thinking of the shape of her eyes & mouth & he was thinking, of his eternal fame the three Philosophers at this time were each endeavouring to conceal [the] his laughter, (not at them but) at his own imaginations this was the situation of this improving company, when in a great hurry, Inflammable Gass the Wind finder enterd. they seemd to rise & salute each other Etruscan Column & Inflammable Gass fixd their eyes on each other, their tongues went in question & answer, but their thoughts were otherwise employd

"I don't like his eyes," said Etruscan Column.

"He's a foolish puppy," said Inflammable Gass, smiling on him.

The 3 Philosophers --[Quid] [the Elder] the Cynic smiling, the Epicurean seeming [not] studying the flame of the candle, & the Pythagorean playing with the cat--listen'd with open mouths to the edifying discourses.

"Sir said," the Antiquarian, "I have seen these works, & I do affirm that they are no such thing. They seem to me to be the most wretched, paltry, flimsy Stuff that ever--"

"What d'ye say? What dye say?" said Inflammable Gass. "Why--why I wish I could see you write so."

"Sir," said the Antiquarian, "according to my opinion the author is an errant blockhead."

"Your reason--Your reason?" said Inflammable Gass."Why--why, I think it very abominable to call a man a blockhead that you know nothing of."

"Reason Sir?" said the Antiquarian. "I'll give you an example for your reason As I was walking along the street I saw a <vast> number of swallows on the [top of an house] rails of an old Gothic square they seemd to be going on their passage, as Pliny says as I was looking up, a little outre<accent> fellow pulling me by the sleeve, cries, 'Pray Sir who do all they belong to?' I turnd my self about with [PAGE 2] great contempt. Said I, 'Go along, you fool!' 'Fool!' said he, 'who do you call fool I only askd you a civil question.' [here Etr] I had a great mind to have thrash'd the fellow only he was bigger than I"

Here Etruscan column left off--Inflammable Gass, recollecting himself [said], "Indeed I do not think the man was a fool for he seems to me to have been desirous of enquiring into the works of nature!"

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" said the Pythagorean.

It was re-echo'd by [the] Inflammable Gass to overthrow the argument.

Etruscan Column then star[t]ing up & clenching both his fists was prepared to give a formal answer to the company But Ob[t]use Angle, entering the room having made a gentle bow, proceeded to empty his pockets of a vast number of papers, turned about & sat down wiped his [head] <face> with his pocket handkerchief & shutting his eyes began to scratch his head.

"Well, gentlemen," said he, "what is the cause of strife?

The Cynic answer'd, "They are only quarreling about Voltaire."

"Yes," said the Epicurean, "& having a bit of fun with him."

"And," said the Pythagorean, "endeavoring to incorporate their souls with their bodies,"

Obtuse Angle giving a grin, said, "Voltaire understood nothing of the Mathematics, and a man must be a fool i'faith not to understand the Mathematics."

Inflammable Gass turning round hastily in his chair said, "Mathematics he found out a number of Queries in Philosophy."

Obtuse Angle shutting his eyes & saying that he always understood better when he shut his eyes [It is not of use to make] <said> "In the first place it is of no use for a man to make Queries but to solve them, for a man may be a fool & make Queries but a man must have good sound sense to solve them. a query & an answer are as different as a strait line & a crooked one. secondly--"

"I--I--I--aye! Secondly, Voltaire's a fool," says the Epicurean.

"Pooh," says the Mathematician scratching his head with double violence, "it is not worth Quarreling about."

The Antiquarian here got up--& hemming twice to shew the strength of his Lungs, said, "But my Good Sir, Voltaire was immersed in matter, & seems to have understood very little but what he saw before his eyes, like the Animal upon the Pythagoreans lap always playing with its own tail."

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" said Inflammable Gass, "He was the Glory of France. I have got a bottle of air that would spread a Plague."

Here the Antiquarian shruggd up his shoulders & was silent [talkd for half an hour] while Inflammable Gass talk'd for half an hour.

When Steelyard, the lawgiver, coming in stalking--with an act of parliament in his hand, said that it was a shameful thing that acts of parliament should be in a free state, it had so engrossed his mind that he did not salute the company.

Mrs Gimblet drew her mouth downwards.