Fourth lyrical passage. The ship is moving towards Virtue, Knowledge, Right, Reason, Brotherhood, Justice and Love, and is carrying with it man, who will find liberty and unity in the light.
La Fable, i.e. the myth of Aeolus.
Eole. Aeolus was the god of the Winds, which he kept fastened up in a bag.
fausse clef, skeleton key.
fatal, ‘charged with destiny.’
pesanteur. Not ‘weight’ but ‘the force of gravity’.
Nadir is the point in the heavens which would be reached if a line were drawn through the centre of the earth and carried on till it reached the sky. But here it seems to be used loosely for any distant point in the heavens. The meaning is that from a remote distance the round earth, as it came into view beneath the ship, would have the appearance of a dusky comet.
aeroscaphe. A word once proposed, but never widely accepted, as a designation for an airship. It is derived from the Greek aer (air) and skaphe (a vessel).
humaine, i.e. made by man.
moteur, ‘driving power.’
L. 171. i.e. by mathematics and poetry, that is by reason and imagination combined.
Euler was a Swiss geometrician (1707-83) who made great contributions to mathematics and mechanics.
Delos. Tradition says that Delos in the Aegean Sea was once a wandering island, and that Zeus fastened it down that it might be a home for Latona, who was about to give birth to Apollo and Diana.
Leibniz (English Leibnitz), the German mathematician, chemist, and philosopher (1646-1716).
Fulton, the American inventor (1765-1815), who was one of the first mechanicians to construct a steamboat.
Kepler. The German Kepler (1571-1630) was one of the founders of modern astronomy.
These three men are chosen as typical embodiments of the spirit of progress.
Simoun. See note on PLEINE MER.
mistral. In the South of France the north-east wind is so called.
Sous le renversement de l’urne. The urn is the symbol of that ‘Fatalite’ which to Hugo was the dark shadow over human life. Cf. LA TROMPETTE.
Andromeda, Orion, and the Pleiades are well-known constellations. Arcturus is a star of the first magnitude in Bootes.
The Scorpion and the Archer are next each other in the heavens. The lines express in a somewhat bizarre manner the effect of the outpouring of life on the stars.
Aldebaran, a reddish star of the first magnitude in the constellation of Taurus.
Cephee. Cepheus is the name of a constellation, as also is Perseus.
des espaces vermeils. See note on AYMERILLOT.