Les Étoiles Qui Filent
Astronomy, Extra-Terrestrial Life, Gravity, Animal Behaviour, Railways, Transport, Commerce, Charlatanry, Crime, Morality, Government, Politics
A commentary on the recent appearance of the Leonid meteor shower. It begins with a series of questions and speculations on the characteristics of the planets, each of which is blended with references to classical mythology and topical news. It ponders the characteristics of the populations of Mars and Venus, asking whether they are belligerent and amorous respectively. Asks whether Mercury is a 'region / Of a financiering race, / Where the Peto's name is Legion, / And carries no disgrace' (an allusion to the role of Peto, Brassey and Betts in the bankruptcy of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company and the company's subsequent failure to redeem its debentures), and whether Jupiter is a planet of 'Dukes' and 'six-toady moons for train'. Similarly wonders whether Saturn is the habitat for the 'gay' and 'saturnine' or a 'celestial Botany Bay'. Asks that if 'science makes no blunder' about life on the 'stars' (i.e. planets), then can it 'tell what life's enlisted' on the meteors that recently showed themselves. Noting the evanescence of these celestial objects, suggests that they might be the habitat of 'reputations, / As quickly spawned as spoiled' or the 'trails, / Of Lions of the season / That to Lethe take their tails', or a 'store-house / Of pledges unredeemed', thus giving hope to the wrongly robbed debenture holders of the 'London, Chatham, Dover' railway. Concludes by suggesting that the meteors might also be signs of a parliamentary 'storm' over 'projects of Reform' or 'the homes of good intentions, / For the paving-works below'.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
Printed from Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: An Electronic Index, v. 4.0, The Digital Humanities Institute <http://www.sciper.org> [accessed ]