Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine,  7 (1858–59), 230–32.

Collision with the Comet

Edgar A Poe


Short Fiction


Astronomy, Eschatology, Religion, Superstition, Progress, Gas Chemistry

    Describes a conversation between Charmion, a figure who has already 'passed through the Night into the Grave', and Eiros, who was 'still an inhabitant on the earth' before it was destroyed by a comet. Eiros describes how the 'calamity' had been 'entirely unanticipated' because it had been felt that comets were too tenuous to cause the 'fiery destruction' of the earth. (230) Goes on to describe how people gradually came to terms with astronomers' predictions that earth would make contact with a comet. Notes how the 'wise were freely permitted to rule the reason and the fancy of the crowd' and reassured them the comet would not injure the earth. On the other hand, 'Theologists [...] dwelt upon the biblical prophecies'. Once reason, however, had 'hurled superstition from her throne' it became accepted that the comet was not the fiery object which would bring the earth's destruction. The 'learned' discussed the minor effects of the comet on the geological, vegetable, and magnetic features of the globe. As the comet drew closer, however, the 'people' were struck with fear and felt the comet 'oppressed us with a hideous novelty of emotion'. (231) On first coming into contact with the earth, the comet was judged to have created a 'wild luxuriance of foliage', but shortly afterwards the comet's nucleus was thought to have turned the atmosphere into pure oxygen—an effect that was believed to cause a 'combustion irresistible' and a 'fulfilment' of the 'terrible details' of the 'Holy Book'. As the nucleus approached, a 'furious delirium possessed all men', and later, after a 'pervading sound, as if from the mouth of HIM', the 'whole incumbent mass of ether in which we existed' burst at once into a species of intense flame'. (232)

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