Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/784

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760
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tions could be recognized by their superior lustre, but yet were almost lost amid myriads of stars unseen by the inhabitants of earth. Nearly overhead shone the Pleiades, closely girt round by hundreds of lesser lights. From them toward Aldebaran and the clustering Hyades, and onward to the belted Orion, streams and convolutions of stars, interwoven as in fantastic garlands, marked the presence of that mysterious branch-like extension of the Milky-Way which the observer on earth can, with unaided vision, trace no farther than the winged foot of Perseus. High overhead, and toward the north, the Milky-Way shone resplendent, like a vast inclined arch, full 'thick inlaid with patines of bright gold.' Instead of that faint, cloud-like zone known to terrestrial astronomers, the galaxy presented itself as an infinitely complicated star-region—

'With isles of light and silvery streams,

And gloomy griefs of mystic shade.'

"On all sides, this mighty star-belt spread its outlying bands of stars, far away on the one hand toward Lyra and Boötes, where on earth we see no traces of milky lustre, and on the other toward the Twins and the clustering glories of Cancer the—'dark constellation' of the ancients, but full of telescopic splendors. Most marvellous, too, appeared the great dark gap which lies between the Milky-Way and Taurus; here, in the very heart of the richest region of the heavens—with Orion and the Hyades and Pleiades blazing on one side, and on the other the splendid stream laving the feet of the Twins—there lay a deep, black gulf which seemed like an opening through our star-system into starless depths beyond.

Yet, though the sky was thus aglow with starlight, though stars far fainter than the least we see on the clearest and darkest night were shining in countless myriads, an orb was above the horizon whose light would pale the lustre of our brightest stars. This orb occupied a space on the heavens more than twelve times larger than is occupied by the full moon as we see her. Its light, unlike the moon's, was tinted with beautiful and well-marked colors. . . .

"The globe which thus adorned the lunar sky, and illuminated the lunar lands with a light far exceeding that of the full moon, was our earth, The scene was not unlike that shown to Satan when Uriel—

'One of the seven

Who in God's presence, nearest to the throne,
Stand ready at command"—

pointing earthward from his station amid the splendor of the sun, said to the arch-fiend:

'Look down-ward on that globe whose hither side

"With light from hence, though but reflected, shines:
That place is earth, the seat of man; that light
His day, which else, as th' other hemisphere,
Night would invade.'