The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 1

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 34

the question.
Looking at my watch, I found it six o'clock. I was still rapidly
ascending, and my barometer gave a present altitude of three and
three-quarter miles. Immediately beneath me in the ocean, lay a small
black object, slightly oblong in shape, seemingly about the size, and
in every way bearing a great resemblance to one of those childish
toys called a domino. Bringing my telescope to bear upon it, I plainly
discerned it to be a British ninety four-gun ship, close-hauled, and
pitching heavily in the sea with her head to the W.S.W. Besides this
ship, I saw nothing but the ocean and the sky, and the sun, which had
long arisen.

"It is now high time that I should explain to your Excellencies the
object of my perilous voyage. Your Excellencies will bear in mind that
distressed circumstances in Rotterdam had at length driven me to the
resolution of committing suicide. It was not, however, that to life
itself I had any, positive disgust, but that I was harassed beyond
endurance by the adventitious miseries attending my situation. In this
state of mind, wishing to live, yet wearied with life, the treatise at
the stall of the bookseller opened a resource to my imagination. I then
finally made up my mind. I determined to depart, yet live--to leave the
world, yet continue to exist--in short, to drop enigmas, I resolved, let
what would ensue, to force a passage, if I could, to the moon. Now, lest
I should be supposed more of a madman than I actually am, I will detail,
as well as I am able, the considerations which led me to believe that
an achievement of this nature, although without doubt difficult, and
incontestably full of danger, was not absolutely, to a bold spirit,
beyond the confines of the possible.

"The moon's actual distance from the earth was the first thing to be
attended to. Now, the mean or average interval between the centres of
the two planets is 59.9643 of the earth's equatorial radii, or only
about 237,000 miles. I say the mean or average interval. But it must
be borne in mind that the form of the moon's orbit being an ellipse of
eccentricity amounting to no less than 0.05484 of the major semi-axis of
the ellipse itself, and the earth's centre being situated in its focus,
if I could, in any manner, contrive to meet the moon, as it were, in its
perigee, the above mentioned distance would be materially diminished.
But, to say nothing at present of this possibility, it was very certain
that, at all events, from

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"Not hear it?--yes, I hear it, and have heard it.
Page 18