This is one of the chapters from A Traveller’s True Tale by Lucian and translated by Alfred J. Church.
But now I must speak of our departure from Moonland. We had audience of King Endymion and bade farewell to him and his court, and the King gave me two suits of glass and five of bronze, and a whole set of the armor which the Moon Folk make of lupine pods. ‘Tis a pity that I have not these things by me to show as a proof of my truthfulness, but I left them all in the Whale (a matter of which you shall hear hereafter).
The King also sent a thousand Vulture Horsemen to escort us some forty miles or so on our way. So we sailed along past many countries and came to the Morning Star, to which, as I have before related, a colony had been newly sent. Here we landed and furnished our ship with water. Setting sail again, we came into the Zodiac, which is, as you know, the road along which the Sun travels. And indeed we passed the Sun, coming very close to him but not landing, though my people would very willingly have done so, only the wind was against us.
But we saw that the country was very flourishing and rich and well watered and that it abounded with all manner of good things. Here certain of the Cloud Centaurs, who were hired soldiers of King Phaeton, spied us and came flying after us; but when they knew that we had made alliance with the King, departed without doing us any damage. (By this time our Vulture Horsemen had left us, returning to Moonland.)
All that night we sailed and also the day following, and about evening came to a fair town that they call Lantern City. It lies between the Pleiades and the Hyades, being lower by far than the Zodiac. Here we landed, but saw not man, woman or child in the whole place, but only many lanterns, some busy in the streets, and some idling about the harbor, and others talking in the marketplace. Some of these lanterns were small, these I took to be the poor; and a few very bright and easy to be seen, which were the wealthy and noble. And each of them had his own dwelling and his own lantern stand.
Also they had every one of them his proper name, just as we have; and they could speak, for we heard them talking to one another. These Lantern Folk did us no harm; nay, more, they treated us kindly and would have had us sup with them. Nevertheless, we were terribly afraid, and there was not one of us that had the heart to sleep or as much as eat or drink while we tarried in Lantern City. I should say that their Government House is built in the middle of their city and that their Chief Magistrate sits there the whole night through. And ’tis the custom for him to call every one of the Lantern Folk by his name and have him appear before him, that it may be seen that he is alight and well-trimmed. If anyone obeys not this summons, he is condemned to die (you must know that among these folk to be extinguished is to die), for they think of him as of a soldier that leaves his place in the battle.
It so chanced that we were present at the Government House and saw all that happened there, hearing also certain of the Lantern Folk that had been accused to the King pleading before him and showing cause why they had been slow in appearing before him. Among others I saw our own Lantern that we have at home, and I asked him of the welfare of my people at home, to which he answered that all was well with them.
That night we abode in Lantern City; and the next morning, setting sail, came before long to the region of the clouds, among which we saw the famous place Cloud Cuckoo Town. Of this I heard tell, how that it had been founded by one Plausible, a man of Athens, who, seeking his fortune abroad, had established a Commonwealth of Birds. But this had been many years before, for at this time its ruler was King Crow, son of King Blackbird. So indeed I was told, for to the town itself we could not come, though we much desired it, because the wind was not favorable.
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After this, we sailed for three days more, till we could see the ocean very plainly below us. But no land could we espy, only the lands above us in the air, from which we had lately come, and these were by this time bright and shining, as the moon and the stars commonly appear. On the fourth day, half an hour before noon, the wind dropping and dying away, we settled down upon the sea.
I cannot write how glad we were when we touched the water again. Never, I suppose, were men more rejoiced. We made merry together with such things as we had, and in the evening, there being no wind and the sea dead calm, nothing would content us but that we must bathe. But it often happens that they who change their condition very much, as they think, to their advantage, do often in truth change it very much for the worse. And so it was with us, as I shall now proceed to tell you.