From that point, everything that I saw seemed splendid, and the rest wonderful. These were the stars that we never see from this place, and whose greatness we never suspect, and from all these stars, the smallest one, which is furthest from heaven and nearest to the Earth, was shining with foreign light. The spheres of the stars easily dwarfed the magnitude of the Earth. Now the Earth itself seemed small to me, so small that I became scornful of our great empire, which now seemed to cover but a small point.
When I looked upon it more intently, Africanus said: “Why and how long will you continue to fix your mind upon the ground? Do you not see this holy place where you have come? Everything is connected to nine circles, or rather spheres, of which one, the furthest, is heaven, which embraces all else; the highest god himself protects and secures the rest of the spheres, which are fixed within, a perpetual rolling course of stars. Beneath it are seven of these spheres, which move in the opposite direction to heaven; one of these spheres is that which is called Saturn on Earth. Then is that light which is fortune and health to mankind, which is called Jupiter, then the red and foreboding, that which is called Mars. Below it, and almost in the middle between heaven and earth, lies the Sun, the leader, ruler, and moderator of the rest of the lights, the conscious mind of the universe, which shines with such intensity it fills everything with his light. His companions follow, one the orbit of Venus, the other the orbit of Mercury, and in the lowest sphere, the Moon turns and burns with solar rays. But below the Moon, there is now nothing but mortals, doomed to decay—except for their spirits, given to humankind as a gift of the gods. Above the moon, however, everything is eternal. For this—the central and ninth sphere, the ground—does not move; it is the lowest, and everything with weight is drawn to it by their own force.”
When I was looking around, astounded to comprehend what I beheld, I asked, “What, what is this that fills my ears, such a sweet sound?”
“This,” he said, “is produced by motion of those spheres, which are separated with unequal, but fixed distance, by the smooth blending of various harmonies with high and low sounds; for no such movement can be aroused in silence, and nature makes it so that one extreme produces a deep tone, and the other extreme, a high tone. From that source, the highest star-bringing course of the skies, which has a faster rotation, moves with sharp and excited sound. The lowest sound, however, is from here, the lunar and weakest course; for the Earth, the ninth sphere, remains fixed and always in its position in the middle of the universe. The other eight courses, two of which have the same force, produce seven distinct sounds—and this number is the key to almost everything. Learned men, having copied these songs with learned instruments, reveal to themselves a return to this place, just as others who, with excellent talent, cultivate divine studies in their human life. Human ears, overwhelmed by this sound, are deafened; nor is there any sense duller in you than hearing. Just as where the Nile rushes along from the highest mountains to this place, called the Cataracts, where a community lives and loses their sense of hearing due to the magnitude of the sound. This truly is such a symphony of the heavens, produced from the quickest celestial rotations, that human ears cannot capture it; just as you cannot look directly at the sun and your sight is blinded by its rays.”
I, admiring this, was still bringing my eyes back to the earth again and again.
Ex quo omnia mihi contemplanti praeclara cetera et mirabilia videbantur. erant autem eae stellae, quas numquam ex hoc loco vidimus, et eae magnitudines omnium, quas esse numquam suspicati sumus, ex quibus erat ea minima, quae ultima a caelo, citima terris luce lucebat aliena. stellarum autem globi terrae magnitudinem facile vincebant. iam ipsa terra ita mihi parva visa est, ut me imperii nostri, quo quasi punctum eius attingimus, paeniteret.
Quam cum magis intuerer, Quaeso, inquit Africanus, quousque humi defixa tua mens erit? nonne aspicis, quae in templa veneris? novem tibi orbibus vel potius globis conexa sunt omnia, quorum unus est caelestis, extumus, qui reliquos omnes complectitur, summus ipse deus arcens et continens ceteros; in quo sunt infixi illi, qui volvuntur, stellarum cursus sempiterni; cui subiecti sunt septem, qui versantur retro contrario motu atque caelum; ex quibus unum globum possidet illa, quam in terris Saturniam nominant. deinde est hominum generi prosperus et salutaris ille fulgor, qui dicitur Iovis; tum rutilus horribilisque terris, quem Martium dicitis; deinde subter mediam fere regionem sol obtinet, dux et princeps et moderator luminum reliquorum, mens mundi et temperatio, tanta magnitudine, ut cuncta sua luce lustret et compleat. hunc ut comites consequuntur Veneris alter, alter Mercurii cursus, in infimoque orbe luna radiis solis accensa convertitur. infra autem iam nihil est nisi mortale et caducum praeter animos munere deorum hominum generi datos, supra lunam sunt aeterna omnia. nam ea, quae est media et nona, tellus, neque movetur et infima est, et in eam feruntur omnia nutu suo pondera.
Quae cum intuerer stupens, ut me recepi, Quid? hic, inquam, quis est, qui conplet aures meas tantus et tam dulcis sonus?
Hic est, inquit, ille, qui intervallis disiunctus inparibus, sed tamen pro rata parte ratione distinctis inpulsu et motu ipsorum orbium efficitur et acuta cum gravibus temperans varios aequabiliter concentus efficit; nec enim silentio tanti motus incitari possunt, et natura fert, ut extrema ex altera parte graviter, ex altera autem acute sonent. quam ob causam summus ille caeli stellifer cursus, cuius conversio est concitatior, acuto et excitato movetur sono, gravissimo autem hic lunaris atque infimus; nam terra nona inmobilis manens una sede semper haeret complexa medium mundi locum. illi autem octo cursus, in quibus eadem vis est duorum, septem efficiunt distinctos intervallis sonos, qui numerus rerum omnium fere nodus est; quod docti homines nervis imitati atque cantibus aperuerunt sibi reditum in hunc locum, sicut alii, qui praestantibus ingeniis in vita humana divina studia coluerunt. hoc sonitu oppletae aures hominum obsurduerunt; nec est ullus hebetior sensus in vobis, sicut, ubi Nilus ad illa, quae Catadupa nominantur, praecipitat ex altissimis montibus, ea gens, quae illum locum adcolit, propter magnitudinem sonitus sensu audiendi caret. hic vero tantus est totius mundi incitatissima conversione sonitus, ut eum aures hominum capere non possint, sicut intueri solem adversum nequitis, eiusque radiis acies vestra sensusque vincitur.
Haec ego admirans referebam tamen oculos ad terram identidem.