The Discovery of a World in the Moone/Chapter 8

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Proposition 7.

That those spots and brighter parts which by our sight may be distinguished in the Moone, doe shew the difference betwixt the Sea and Land in that other World.

FOr the cleare proofe of this proposition, I shall first reckon up and refute the opinions of others concerning the matter and forme of those spots, and then shew the greater probability of this present assertion, and how agreeable it is to that truth, which is most commonly received; as for the opinions of other concerning these, they have beene very many, I will only reckon up those which are common and remarkeable.

Some there are that thinke those spots doe not arise from any deformity of the parts, but a deceit of the eye, which cannot at such a distance discerne an equall light in that planet, but these do but onely say it, and shew not any reason for the proofe of their opinion: Others think[1] that there be some bodies betwixt the Sunne and Moone, which keeping off the lights in some parts, doe by their shadow produce these spots which wee there discerne.

Others would have them to be the figure of the mountaines here below represented there as in a looking-glasse. But none of those fancies can bee true, because the spots are stil the same, & not varied according to the difference of places, and besides, Cardan thinks[2] it is impossible that any image should be conveyed so farre as there to be represented unto us at such a distance, but tis commonly related of Pythagoras, that he by writing, what he pleased in a glasse, by the reflexiõ of the same species, would make those letters to appeare in the circle of the Moone, where they should be legible by any other, who might at that time be some miles distant from him.[3] Agrippa affirmes this to be possible, and the way of performing it not unknowne to himselfe, with some others in his time. It may be that our Bishop did by the like meanes performe those strange conclusions which hee professes in his Nuncius inanimatus, where hee pretends that hee can informe his friends of what he pleases, though they be an hundred miles distant, forte etiam, vel milliare millesimum, they are his owne words, and, perhaps, a thousand, and all this in a minutes space, or little more, quicker than the Sunne can move.

Now, what conveyance there should be for so speedy a passage, I cannot conceive, unlesse it be carried with the light, then which wee know not any thing quicker; but of this onely by the way; however, whether those images can be represented so or not, yet certaine it is, those spots are not such representations. Some thinke that when God had at first created too much earth to make a perfect globe, not knowing well where to bestow the rest, he placed it in the Moone, which ever since hath so darkened it in some parts, but the impiety of this is sufficient confutation, since it so much detracts from the divine power and wisedome.

The [4]Stoicks held that planet to be mixed of fire and aire, and in their opinion, the variety of its composition, caused her spots: Anaxagoras thought all the starres to be of an earthly nature, mixed with some fire, and as for the Sunne, hee affirmed it to be nothing else but a fiery stone; for which later opinion, the Athenians sentenc’d him to death;[5] those zealous Idolaters counting it a great blasphemy, to make their God a stone, whereas not withstanding, they were so senslesse in their adoration of Idolls, as to make a stone their God, this Anaxagoras affirmed the Moone to be more terrestriall then the other, but of a greater purity then any thing here below, and the spots hee thought were nothing else, but some cloudy parts, intermingled with the light which belonged to that Planet, but I have above destroyed the supposition on which this fancy is grounded: Pliny[6] thinkes they arise from some drossie stuffe, mixed with that moysture which the Moone attracts unto her selfe, but hee was of their opinion, who thought the starres were nourished by some earthly vapours, which you may commonly see refuted in the Commentators on the bookes, de Cœlo.

Vitellio and Reinoldus[7] affirme the spots to be the thicker parts of the Moone, into which the Sunne cannot infuse much light, and this (say they) is the reason, why in the Sunnes eclipses, the spots and brighter parts are still in some measure distinguished, because the Sunne beames are not able so well to penetrate through those thicker, as they may through the thinner parts of the Planet. Of this opinion also was Cæsar la Galla, whose words are these,[8] "The Moone doth there appeare clearest, where shee is transpicuous, not onely through the superficies, but the substance also, and there she seemes spotted, where her body is most opacous." The ground of this his assertion was, because hee thought the Moone did receive and bestow her light by illumination onely, and not at all by reflexion, but this, together with the supposed penetration of the Sunne beames, and the perspicuity of the Moones body I have above answered and refuted.

The more common and generall opinion[9] is, that the spots are the thinner parts of the Moone, which are lesse able to reflect the beames that they receive from the Sunne, and this is most agreeable to reason, for if the starres are therefore brightest, because they are thicker and more solid then their orbes, then it will follow, that those parts of the Moone which have lesse light, have also lesse thickenesse. It was the providence of nature (say some) that so contrived that planet to have these spots within it, for since that is neerest to those lower bodies which are so full of deformity, 'tis requisite that it should in some measure agree with them, and as in this inferiour world the higher bodies are the most compleat, so also in the heavens perfection is ascended unto by degrees, and the Moone being the lowest, must be the least pure, and therefore Philo the Jew[10] interpreting Iacobs dreame concerning the ladder, doth in an allegory shew, how that in the fabricke of the world, all things grow perfecter as they grow higher, and this is the reason (saith hee) why the Moone doth not consist of any pure simple matter, but is mixed with aire, which shewes so darkely within her body.

But this cannot be a sufficient reason, for though it were true that nature did frame every thing perfecter as it was higher, yet is it as true, that nature frames every thing fully perfect for that office to which shee intends it. Now, had she intended the Moone meerly to reflect the Sunne beames and give light, the spots then had not so much argued her providence, as her unskilfulnesse and imperfection,[11] as if in the haste of her worke shee could not tell how to make that body exactly fit, for that office to which she appointed it.

Tis likely then that she had some other end which moved her to produce this variety, and this in all probability was her intent to make it a fit body for habitation with the same conveniencies of sea and land, as this inferiour world doth partake of. For since the Moone is such a vast, such a solid and opacous body like our earth (as was above proved) why may it not be probable, that those thinner and thicker parts appearing in her, doe shew the difference betwixt the sea and land in that other world; and Galilæus doubts not, but that if our earth were visible at the same distance, there would be the like appearance of it.

As for the forme of those spots, some of the vulgar thinke they represent a man, and the Poets guesse 'tis the boy Endimion, whose company shee loves so well, that shee carries him with her, others will have it onely to be the face of a man as the Moone is usually pictured, but Albertus thinkes rather, that it represents a Lyon with his taile towards the East, and his head the West, and [12]some others have thought it to be very much like a Fox, & certainly 'tis as much like a Lyon as that in the Zodiake, or as Vrsa major is like a Beare.

I should guesse that it represents one of these as well as another, and any thing else as well as any of these, since 'tis but a strong imagination, which fancies such images as schoole-boyes usually doe in the markes of a wall, whereas there is not any such similitude in the spots themselves, which rather like our Sea, in respect of the land, appeares under a rugged and confused figure, and doth not represent any distinct image, so that both in respect of the matter and the forme it may be probable enough, that those spots and brighter parts may shew the distinction betwixt the Sea and Land in that other world.

  1. So Bede in a. de Mund. Constit.
  2. De subtil. lib. 3.
  3. Occulta ad Philos. l. 1. cap. 6.
  4. Plut. de placit. phil. l. 2. c. 25.
  5. Iosephus l. 2. con. App. August. de civit. Dei. l. 18. c. 41.
  6. Nat. Hist. lib. 2. c. 9.
  7. Opt. lib. 9. Comment. in Purb. pag. 164.
  8. Ex qua parte luna est transpicua non solum secundum superficiem, sed etiam secundum substantiam, catenus clara, ex qua autem parte opaca est, eatenus obscura videtur.
    De Phænom. cap. 11.
  9. Albert. mag. de coævis. Q. 4. Art. 21. Colleg. Con.
  10. De Somniis.
  11. Scalig. exercit. 62.
  12. Eusebius Nioremb. Hist. Nat. lib. 8. c. 15.