It is the delightful hour when all Nature pauses in the tranquil calm of the silent night. The Sun has cast his farewell gleams upon the weary Earth. All sound is hushed. And soon the stars will shine out one by one in the bosom of the somber firmament. Opposite to the sunset, in the east, the Full Moon rises slowly, as it were calling our thoughts toward the mysteries of eternity, while her limpid night spreads over space like a dew from Heaven.
In the odorous woods, the trees are silhouetted strangely upon the sky, seeming to stretch their knotted arms toward this celestial beauty. On the river, smooth as a mirror, wherein the pale Phœbe reflects her splendor, the maidens go to seek the floating image of their future spouse. And in response to their prayers, she rends the veil of cloud that hides her from their eyes, and pours the reflection of her gentle beams upon the sleeping waters.
From all time the Moon has had the privilege of charming the gaze, and attracting the particular attention of mortals. What thoughts have not been wafted to her pale, yet luminous disk? Orb of mystery and of solitude, brooding over our silent nights, this celestial luminary is at once sad and splendid in her glacial purity, and her limpid rays provoke a reverie full of charm and melancholy. Mute witness of terrestrial destinies, her nocturnal flame watches over our planet, following it in its course as a faithful satellite.
The human eye first uplifted to the Heavens was struck, above all, with the brilliancy of this solitary globe, straying among the stars. The Moon first suggested an easy division of time into months and weeks, and the first astronomical observations were limited to the study of her phases.
Daughter of the Earth, the Moon was born at the limits of the terrestrial nebula, when our world was still no more than a vast gaseous sphere, and was detached from her at some critical period of colossal solar tide. Separating with regret from her cradle, but attached to the Earth by indissoluble ties of attraction, she rotates round us in a month, from west to east, and this movement keeps her back a little each day in relation to the stars. If we watch, evening by evening, beginning from the new moon, we shall observe that she is each night a little farther to the left, or east, than on the preceding evening. This revolution of the Moon around our planet produces the phases, and gives the measure of our months.