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Mellonta Tauta

TO THE EDITORS OF THE LADY'S BOOK:

I have the honor of sending you, for your magazine, an article which
I hope you will be able to comprehend rather more distinctly than I
do myself. It is a translation, by my friend, Martin Van Buren Mavis,
(sometimes called the "Poughkeepsie Seer") of an odd-looking MS.
which I found, about a year ago, tightly corked up in a jug floating
in the Mare Tenebrarum -- a sea well described by the Nubian
geographer, but seldom visited now-a-days, except for the
transcendentalists and divers for crotchets.

Truly yours,

EDGAR A. POE

{this paragraph not in the volume--ED}

ON BOARD BALLOON "SKYLARK"

April, 1, 2848

NOW, my dear friend -- now, for your sins, you are to suffer the
infliction of a long gossiping letter. I tell you distinctly that I
am going to punish you for all your impertinences by being as
tedious, as discursive, as incoherent and as unsatisfactory as
possible. Besides, here I am, cooped up in a dirty balloon, with some
one or two hundred of the canaille, all bound on a pleasure
excursion, (what a funny idea some people have of pleasure!) and I
have no prospect of touching terra firma for a month at least. Nobody
to talk to. Nothing to do. When one has nothing to do, then is the
time to correspond with ones friends. You perceive, then, why it is
that I write you this letter -- it is on account of my ennui and your
sins.

Get ready your spectacles and make up your mind to be annoyed. I mean
to write at you every day during this odious voyage.

Heigho! when will any Invention visit the human pericranium? Are we
forever to be doomed to the thousand inconveniences of the balloon?
Will nobody contrive a more expeditious mode of progress? The
jog-trot movement, to my thinking, is little less than positive
torture. Upon my word we have not made more than a hundred miles the
hour since leaving home! The very birds beat us -- at least some of
them. I assure you that I do not exaggerate at all. Our motion, no
doubt, seems slower than it actually is -- this on account of our
having no objects about us by which to estimate our velocity, and on
account of our going with the wind. To be sure, whenever we meet a
balloon we have a chance of perceiving our rate, and then, I admit,
things do not appear so very bad. Accustomed as I am to this mode of
travelling, I cannot get over a kind of giddiness whenever a balloon
passes us in a current directly overhead. It always seems to me like
an immense bird of prey about to pounce upon us and carry us off in
its claws. One went over us this morning about sunrise, and so nearly
overhead that its drag-rope actually brushed the network suspending
our car, and caused us very serious apprehension. Our captain said
that if the material of the bag had been the trumpery varnished
"silk" of five hundred or a thousand years ago, we should inevitably
have been damaged. This silk, as he explained it to me, was a fabric
composed of the entrails of a species of earth-worm. The worm was
carefully fed on mulberries -- kind of fruit resembling a water-melon
-- and, when sufficiently fat, was crushed in a mill. The paste thus
arising was called papyrus in its primary state, and went through a
variety of processes until it finally became "silk." Singular to
relate, it was once much admired as an article of female dress!
Balloons were also very generally constructed from it. A better kind
of material, it appears, was subsequently found in the down
surrounding the seed-vessels of a plant vulgarly called euphorbium,
and at that time botanically termed milk-weed. This latter kind of
silk was designated as silk-buckingham, on account of its superior
durability, and was usually prepared for use by being varnished with
a solution of gum caoutchouc -- a substance which in some respects
must have resembled the gutta percha now in common use. This
caoutchouc was occasionally called Indian rubber or rubber of twist,
and was no doubt one of the numerous fungi. Never tell me again that
I am not at heart an antiquarian.

Talking of drag-ropes -- our own, it seems, has this moment knocked a
man overboard from one of the small magnetic propellers that swarm in
ocean below us -- a boat of about six thousand tons, and, from all
accounts, shamefully crowded. These diminutive barques should be
prohibited from carrying more than a definite number of passengers.
The man, of course, was not permitted to get on board again, and was
soon out of sight, he and his life-preserver. I rejoice, my dear
friend, that we live in an age so enlightened that no such a thing as
an individual is supposed to exist. It is the mass for which the true
Humanity cares. By-the-by, talking of Humanity, do you know that our
immortal Wiggins is not so original in his views of the Social
Condition and so forth, as his contemporaries are inclined to
suppose? Pundit assures me that the same ideas were put nearly in the
same way, about a thousand years ago, by an Irish philosopher called
Furrier, on account of his keeping a retail shop for cat peltries and
other furs. Pundit knows, you know; there can be no mistake about it.
How very wonderfully do we see verified every day, the profound
observation of the Hindoo Aries Tottle (as quoted by Pundit) -- "Thus
must we say that, not once or twice, or a few times, but with almost
infinite repetitions, the same opinions come round in a circle among
men."

April 2. -- Spoke to-day the magnetic cutter in charge of the middle
section of floating telegraph wires. I learn that when this species
of telegraph was first put into operation by Horse, it was considered
quite impossible to convey the wires over sea, but now we are at a
loss to comprehend where the difficulty lay! So wags the world.
Tempora mutantur -- excuse me for quoting the Etruscan. What would we
do without the Atalantic telegraph? (Pundit says Atlantic was the
ancient adjective.) We lay to a few minutes to ask the cutter some
questions, and learned, among other glorious news, that civil war is
raging in Africa, while the plague is doing its good work beautifully
both in Yurope and Ayesher. Is it not truly remarkable that, before
the magnificent light shed upon philosophy by Humanity, the world was
accustomed to regard War and Pestilence as calamities? Do you know
that prayers were actually offered up in the ancient temples to the
end that these evils (!) might not be visited upon mankind? Is it not
really difficult to comprehend upon what principle of interest our
forefathers acted? Were they so blind as not to perceive that the
destruction of a myriad of individuals is only so much positive
advantage to the mass!

April 3. -- It is really a very fine amusement to ascend the
rope-ladder leading to the summit of the balloon-bag, and thence
survey the surrounding world. From the car below you know the
prospect is not so comprehensive -- you can see little vertically.
But seated here (where I write this) in the luxuriously-cushioned
open piazza of the summit, one can see everything that is going on in
all directions. Just now there is quite a crowd of balloons in sight,
and they present a very animated appearance, while the air is
resonant with the hum of so many millions of human voices. I have
heard it asserted that when Yellow or (Pundit will have it) Violet,
who is supposed to have been the first aeronaut, maintained the
practicability of traversing the atmosphere in all directions, by
merely ascending or descending until a favorable current was
attained, he was scarcely hearkened to at all by his contemporaries,
who looked upon him as merely an ingenious sort of madman, because
the philosophers (?) of the day declared the thing impossible. Really
now it does seem to me quite unaccountable how any thing so obviously
feasible could have escaped the sagacity of the ancient savans. But
in all ages the great obstacles to advancement in Art have been
opposed by the so-called men of science. To be sure, our men of
science are not quite so bigoted as those of old: -- oh, I have
something so queer to tell you on this topic. Do you know that it is
not more than a thousand years ago since the metaphysicians consented
to relieve the people of the singular fancy that there existed but
two possible roads for the attainment of Truth! Believe it if you
can! It appears that long, long ago, in the night of Time, there
lived a Turkish philosopher (or Hindoo possibly) called Aries Tottle.
This person introduced, or at all events propagated what was termed
the deductive or a priori mode of investigation. He started with what
he maintained to be axioms or "self-evident truths," and thence
proceeded "logically" to results. His greatest disciples were one
Neuclid, and one Cant. Well, Aries Tottle flourished supreme until
advent of one Hog, surnamed the "Ettrick Shepherd," who preached an
entirely different system, which he called the a posteriori or
inductive. His plan referred altogether to Sensation. He proceeded by
observing, analyzing, and classifying facts-instantiae naturae, as
they were affectedly called -- into general laws. Aries Tottle's
mode, in a word, was based on noumena; Hog's on phenomena. Well, so
great was the admiration excited by this latter system that, at its
first introduction, Aries Tottle fell into disrepute; but finally he
recovered ground and was permitted to divide the realm of Truth with
his more modern rival. The savans now maintained the Aristotelian and
Baconian roads were the sole possible avenues to knowledge.
"Baconian," you must know, was an adjective invented as equivalent to
Hog-ian and more euphonious and dignified.

Now, my dear friend, I do assure you, most positively, that I
represent this matter fairly, on the soundest authority and you can
easily understand how a notion so absurd on its very face must have
operated to retard the progress of all true knowledge -- which makes
its advances almost invariably by intuitive bounds. The ancient idea
confined investigations to crawling; and for hundreds of years so
great was the infatuation about Hog especially, that a virtual end
was put to all thinking, properly so called. No man dared utter a
truth to which he felt himself indebted to his Soul alone. It
mattered not whether the truth was even demonstrably a truth, for the
bullet-headed savans of the time regarded only the road by which he
had attained it. They would not even look at the end. "Let us see the
means," they cried, "the means!" If, upon investigation of the means,
it was found to come under neither the category Aries (that is to say
Ram) nor under the category Hog, why then the savans went no farther,
but pronounced the "theorist" a fool, and would have nothing to do
with him or his truth.

Now, it cannot be maintained, even, that by the crawling system the
greatest amount of truth would be attained in any long series of
ages, for the repression of imagination was an evil not to be
compensated for by any superior certainty in the ancient modes of
investigation. The error of these Jurmains, these Vrinch, these
Inglitch, and these Amriccans (the latter, by the way, were our own
immediate progenitors), was an error quite analogous with that of the
wiseacre who fancies that he must necessarily see an object the
better the more closely he holds it to his eyes. These people blinded
themselves by details. When they proceeded Hoggishly, their "facts"
were by no means always facts -- a matter of little consequence had
it not been for assuming that they were facts and must be facts
because they appeared to be such. When they proceeded on the path of
the Ram, their course was scarcely as straight as a ram's horn, for
they never had an axiom which was an axiom at all. They must have
been very blind not to see this, even in their own day; for even in
their own day many of the long "established" axioms had been
rejected. For example -- "Ex nihilo nihil fit"; "a body cannot act
where it is not"; "there cannot exist antipodes"; "darkness cannot
come out of light" -- all these, and a dozen other similar
propositions, formerly admitted without hesitation as axioms, were,
even at the period of which I speak, seen to be untenable. How absurd
in these people, then, to persist in putting faith in "axioms" as
immutable bases of Truth! But even out of the mouths of their
soundest reasoners it is easy to demonstrate the futility, the
impalpability of their axioms in general. Who was the soundest of
their logicians? Let me see! I will go and ask Pundit and be back in
a minute.... Ah, here we have it! Here is a book written nearly a
thousand years ago and lately translated from the Inglitch -- which,
by the way, appears to have been the rudiment of the Amriccan. Pundit
says it is decidedly the cleverest ancient work on its topic, Logic.
The author (who was much thought of in his day) was one Miller, or
Mill; and we find it recorded of him, as a point of some importance,
that he had a mill-horse called Bentham. But let us glance at the
treatise!

Ah! -- "Ability or inability to conceive," says Mr. Mill, very
properly, "is in no case to be received as a criterion of axiomatic
truth." What modern in his senses would ever think of disputing this
truism? The only wonder with us must be, how it happened that Mr.
Mill conceived it necessary even to hint at any thing so obvious. So
far good -- but let us turn over another paper. What have we here? --
"Contradictories cannot both be true -- that is, cannot co-exist in
nature." Here Mr. Mill means, for example, that a tree must be either
a tree or not a tree -- that it cannot be at the same time a tree and
not a tree. Very well; but I ask him why. His reply is this -- and
never pretends to be any thing else than this -- "Because it is
impossible to conceive that contradictories can both be true." But
this is no answer at all, by his own showing, for has he not just
admitted as a truism that "ability or inability to conceive is in no
case to be received as a criterion of axiomatic truth."

Now I do not complain of these ancients so much because their logic
is, by their own showing, utterly baseless, worthless and fantastic
altogether, as because of their pompous and imbecile proscription of
all other roads of Truth, of all other means for its attainment than
the two preposterous paths -- the one of creeping and the one of
crawling -- to which they have dared to confine the Soul that loves
nothing so well as to soar.

By the by, my dear friend, do you not think it would have puzzled
these ancient dogmaticians to have determined by which of their two
roads it was that the most important and most sublime of all their
truths was, in effect, attained? I mean the truth of Gravitation.
Newton owed it to Kepler. Kepler admitted that his three laws were
guessed at -- these three laws of all laws which led the great
Inglitch mathematician to his principle, the basis of all physical
principle -- to go behind which we must enter the Kingdom of
Metaphysics. Kepler guessed -- that is to say imagined. He was
essentially a "theorist" -- that word now of so much sanctity,
formerly an epithet of contempt. Would it not have puzzled these old
moles too, to have explained by which of the two "roads" a
cryptographist unriddles a cryptograph of more than usual secrecy, or
by which of the two roads Champollion directed mankind to those
enduring and almost innumerable truths which resulted from his
deciphering the Hieroglyphics.

One word more on this topic and I will be done boring you. Is it not
passing strange that, with their eternal prattling about roads to
Truth, these bigoted people missed what we now so clearly perceive to
be the great highway -- that of Consistency? Does it not seem
singular how they should have failed to deduce from the works of God
the vital fact that a perfect consistency must be an absolute truth!
How plain has been our progress since the late announcement of this
proposition! Investigation has been taken out of the hands of the
ground-moles and given, as a task, to the true and only true
thinkers, the men of ardent imagination. These latter theorize. Can
you not fancy the shout of scorn with which my words would be
received by our progenitors were it possible for them to be now
looking over my shoulder? These men, I say, theorize; and their
theories are simply corrected, reduced, systematized -- cleared,
little by little, of their dross of inconsistency -- until, finally,
a perfect consistency stands apparent which even the most stolid
admit, because it is a consistency, to be an absolute and an
unquestionable truth.

April 4. -- The new gas is doing wonders, in conjunction with the new
improvement with gutta percha. How very safe, commodious, manageable,
and in every respect convenient are our modern balloons! Here is an
immense one approaching us at the rate of at least a hundred and
fifty miles an hour. It seems to be crowded with people -- perhaps
there are three or four hundred passengers -- and yet it soars to an
elevation of nearly a mile, looking down upon poor us with sovereign
contempt. Still a hundred or even two hundred miles an hour is slow
travelling after all. Do you remember our flight on the railroad
across the Kanadaw continent? -- fully three hundred miles the hour
-- that was travelling. Nothing to be seen though -- nothing to be
done but flirt, feast and dance in the magnificent saloons. Do you
remember what an odd sensation was experienced when, by chance, we
caught a glimpse of external objects while the cars were in full
flight? Every thing seemed unique -- in one mass. For my part, I
cannot say but that I preferred the travelling by the slow train of a
hundred miles the hour. Here we were permitted to have glass windows
-- even to have them open -- and something like a distinct view of
the country was attainable.... Pundit says that the route for the
great Kanadaw railroad must have been in some measure marked out
about nine hundred years ago! In fact, he goes so far as to assert
that actual traces of a road are still discernible -- traces
referable to a period quite as remote as that mentioned. The track,
it appears was double only; ours, you know, has twelve paths; and
three or four new ones are in preparation. The ancient rails were
very slight, and placed so close together as to be, according to
modern notions, quite frivolous, if not dangerous in the extreme. The
present width of track -- fifty feet -- is considered, indeed,
scarcely secure enough. For my part, I make no doubt that a track of
some sort must have existed in very remote times, as Pundit asserts;
for nothing can be clearer, to my mind, than that, at some period --
not less than seven centuries ago, certainly -- the Northern and
Southern Kanadaw continents were united; the Kanawdians, then, would
have been driven, by necessity, to a great railroad across the
continent.

April 5. -- I am almost devoured by ennui. Pundit is the only
conversible person on board; and he, poor soul! can speak of nothing
but antiquities. He has been occupied all the day in the attempt to
convince me that the ancient Amriccans governed themselves! -- did
ever anybody hear of such an absurdity? -- that they existed in a
sort of every-man-for-himself confederacy, after the fashion of the
"prairie dogs" that we read of in fable. He says that they started
with the queerest idea conceivable, viz: that all men are born free
and equal -- this in the very teeth of the laws of gradation so
visibly impressed upon all things both in the moral and physical
universe. Every man "voted," as they called it -- that is to say
meddled with public affairs -- until at length, it was discovered
that what is everybody's business is nobody's, and that the
"Republic" (so the absurd thing was called) was without a government
at all. It is related, however, that the first circumstance which
disturbed, very particularly, the self-complacency of the
philosophers who constructed this "Republic," was the startling
discovery that universal suffrage gave opportunity for fraudulent
schemes, by means of which any desired number of votes might at any
time be polled, without the possibility of prevention or even
detection, by any party which should be merely villainous enough not
to be ashamed of the fraud. A little reflection upon this discovery
sufficed to render evident the consequences, which were that
rascality must predominate -- in a word, that a republican government
could never be any thing but a rascally one. While the philosophers,
however, were busied in blushing at their stupidity in not having
foreseen these inevitable evils, and intent upon the invention of new
theories, the matter was put to an abrupt issue by a fellow of the
name of Mob, who took every thing into his own hands and set up a
despotism, in comparison with which those of the fabulous Zeros and
Hellofagabaluses were respectable and delectable. This Mob (a
foreigner, by-the-by), is said to have been the most odious of all
men that ever encumbered the earth. He was a giant in stature --
insolent, rapacious, filthy, had the gall of a bullock with the heart
of a hyena and the brains of a peacock. He died, at length, by dint
of his own energies, which exhausted him. Nevertheless, he had his
uses, as every thing has, however vile, and taught mankind a lesson
which to this day it is in no danger of forgetting -- never to run
directly contrary to the natural analogies. As for Republicanism, no
analogy could be found for it upon the face of the earth -- unless we
except the case of the "prairie dogs," an exception which seems to
demonstrate, if anything, that democracy is a very admirable form of
government -- for dogs.

April 6. -- Last night had a fine view of Alpha Lyrae, whose disk,
through our captain's spy-glass, subtends an angle of half a degree,
looking very much as our sun does to the naked eye on a misty day.
Alpha Lyrae, although so very much larger than our sun, by the by,
resembles him closely as regards its spots, its atmosphere, and in
many other particulars. It is only within the last century, Pundit
tells me, that the binary relation existing between these two orbs
began even to be suspected. The evident motion of our system in the
heavens was (strange to say!) referred to an orbit about a prodigious
star in the centre of the galaxy. About this star, or at all events
about a centre of gravity common to all the globes of the Milky Way
and supposed to be near Alcyone in the Pleiades, every one of these
globes was declared to be revolving, our own performing the circuit
in a period of 117,000,000 of years! We, with our present lights, our
vast telescopic improvements, and so forth, of course find it
difficult to comprehend the ground of an idea such as this. Its first
propagator was one Mudler. He was led, we must presume, to this wild
hypothesis by mere analogy in the first instance; but, this being the
case, he should have at least adhered to analogy in its development.
A great central orb was, in fact, suggested; so far Mudler was
consistent. This central orb, however, dynamically, should have been
greater than all its surrounding orbs taken together. The question
might then have been asked -- "Why do we not see it?" -- we,
especially, who occupy the mid region of the cluster -- the very
locality near which, at least, must be situated this inconceivable
central sun. The astronomer, perhaps, at this point, took refuge in
the suggestion of non-luminosity; and here analogy was suddenly let
fall. But even admitting the central orb non-luminous, how did he
manage to explain its failure to be rendered visible by the
incalculable host of glorious suns glaring in all directions about
it? No doubt what he finally maintained was merely a centre of
gravity common to all the revolving orbs -- but here again analogy
must have been let fall. Our system revolves, it is true, about a
common centre of gravity, but it does this in connection with and in
consequence of a material sun whose mass more than counterbalances
the rest of the system. The mathematical circle is a curve composed
of an infinity of straight lines; but this idea of the circle -- this
idea of it which, in regard to all earthly geometry, we consider as
merely the mathematical, in contradistinction from the practical,
idea -- is, in sober fact, the practical conception which alone we
have any right to entertain in respect to those Titanic circles with
which we have to deal, at least in fancy, when we suppose our system,
with its fellows, revolving about a point in the centre of the
galaxy. Let the most vigorous of human imaginations but attempt to
take a single step toward the comprehension of a circuit so
unutterable! I would scarcely be paradoxical to say that a flash of
lightning itself, travelling forever upon the circumference of this
inconceivable circle, would still forever be travelling in a straight
line. That the path of our sun along such a circumference -- that the
direction of our system in such an orbit -- would, to any human
perception, deviate in the slightest degree from a straight line even
in a million of years, is a proposition not to be entertained; and
yet these ancient astronomers were absolutely cajoled, it appears,
into believing that a decisive curvature had become apparent during
the brief period of their astronomical history -- during the mere
point -- during the utter nothingness of two or three thousand years!
How incomprehensible, that considerations such as this did not at
once indicate to them the true state of affairs -- that of the binary
revolution of our sun and Alpha Lyrae around a common centre of
gravity!

April 7. -- Continued last night our astronomical amusements. Had a
fine view of the five Neptunian asteroids, and watched with much
interest the putting up of a huge impost on a couple of lintels in
the new temple at Daphnis in the moon. It was amusing to think that
creatures so diminutive as the lunarians, and bearing so little
resemblance to humanity, yet evinced a mechanical ingenuity so much
superior to our own. One finds it difficult, too, to conceive the
vast masses which these people handle so easily, to be as light as
our own reason tells us they actually are.

April 8. -- Eureka! Pundit is in his glory. A balloon from Kanadaw
spoke us to-day and threw on board several late papers; they contain
some exceedingly curious information relative to Kanawdian or rather
Amriccan antiquities. You know, I presume, that laborers have for
some months been employed in preparing the ground for a new fountain
at Paradise, the Emperor's principal pleasure garden. Paradise, it
appears, has been, literally speaking, an island time out of mind --
that is to say, its northern boundary was always (as far back as any
record extends) a rivulet, or rather a very narrow arm of the sea.
This arm was gradually widened until it attained its present breadth
-- a mile. The whole length of the island is nine miles; the breadth
varies materially. The entire area (so Pundit says) was, about eight
hundred years ago, densely packed with houses, some of them twenty
stories high; land (for some most unaccountable reason) being
considered as especially precious just in this vicinity. The
disastrous earthquake, however, of the year 2050, so totally uprooted
and overwhelmed the town (for it was almost too large to be called a
village) that the most indefatigable of our antiquarians have never
yet been able to obtain from the site any sufficient data (in the
shape of coins, medals or inscriptions) wherewith to build up even
the ghost of a theory concerning the manners, customs, &c., &c., &c.,
of the aboriginal inhabitants. Nearly all that we have hitherto known
of them is, that they were a portion of the Knickerbocker tribe of
savages infesting the continent at its first discovery by Recorder
Riker, a knight of the Golden Fleece. They were by no means
uncivilized, however, but cultivated various arts and even sciences
after a fashion of their own. It is related of them that they were
acute in many respects, but were oddly afflicted with monomania for
building what, in the ancient Amriccan, was denominated "churches" --
a kind of pagoda instituted for the worship of two idols that went by
the names of Wealth and Fashion. In the end, it is said, the island
became, nine tenths of it, church. The women, too, it appears, were
oddly deformed by a natural protuberance of the region just below the
small of the back -- although, most unaccountably, this deformity was
looked upon altogether in the light of a beauty. One or two pictures
of these singular women have in fact, been miraculously preserved.
They look very odd, very -- like something between a turkey-cock and
a dromedary.

Well, these few details are nearly all that have descended to us
respecting the ancient Knickerbockers. It seems, however, that while
digging in the centre of the emperors garden, (which, you know,
covers the whole island), some of the workmen unearthed a cubical and
evidently chiseled block of granite, weighing several hundred pounds.
It was in good preservation, having received, apparently, little
injury from the convulsion which entombed it. On one of its surfaces
was a marble slab with (only think of it!) an inscription -- a
legible inscription. Pundit is in ecstacies. Upon detaching the slab,
a cavity appeared, containing a leaden box filled with various coins,
a long scroll of names, several documents which appear to resemble
newspapers, with other matters of intense interest to the
antiquarian! There can be no doubt that all these are genuine
Amriccan relics belonging to the tribe called Knickerbocker. The
papers thrown on board our balloon are filled with fac-similes of the
coins, MSS., typography, &c., &c. I copy for your amusement the
Knickerbocker inscription on the marble slab:-

This Corner Stone of a Monument to

The Memory of

GEORGE WASHINGTON

Was Laid With Appropriate Ceremonies

on the

19th Day of October, 1847

The anniversary of the surrender of

Lord Cornwallis

to General Washington at Yorktown

A. D. 1781

Under the Auspices of the

Washington Monument Association of

the city of New York

This, as I give it, is a verbatim translation done by Pundit himself,
so there can be no mistake about it. From the few words thus
preserved, we glean several important items of knowledge, not the
least interesting of which is the fact that a thousand years ago
actual monuments had fallen into disuse -- as was all very proper --
the people contenting themselves, as we do now, with a mere
indication of the design to erect a monument at some future time; a
corner-stone being cautiously laid by itself "solitary and alone"
(excuse me for quoting the great American poet Benton!), as a
guarantee of the magnanimous intention. We ascertain, too, very
distinctly, from this admirable inscription, the how as well as the
where and the what, of the great surrender in question. As to the
where, it was Yorktown (wherever that was), and as to the what, it
was General Cornwallis (no doubt some wealthy dealer in corn). He was
surrendered. The inscription commemorates the surrender of -- what?
why, "of Lord Cornwallis." The only question is what could the
savages wish him surrendered for. But when we remember that these
savages were undoubtedly cannibals, we are led to the conclusion that
they intended him for sausage. As to the how of the surrender, no
language can be more explicit. Lord Cornwallis was surrendered (for
sausage) "under the auspices of the Washington Monument Association"
-- no doubt a charitable institution for the depositing of
corner-stones. -- But, Heaven bless me! what is the matter? Ah, I see
-- the balloon has collapsed, and we shall have a tumble into the
sea. I have, therefore, only time enough to add that, from a hasty
inspection of the fac-similes of newspapers, &c., &c., I find that
the great men in those days among the Amriccans, were one John, a
smith, and one Zacchary, a tailor.

Good-bye, until I see you again. Whether you ever get this letter or
not is point of little importance, as I write altogether for my own
amusement. I shall cork the MS. up in a bottle, however, and throw it
into the sea.

Yours everlastingly,

PUNDITA.

Edgar Allan Poe