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RASSELAS:

A TALE.

BY SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.

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RASSEL A S.

the wing in water. This lake discharged its suCHAP. I.

perfluities by a stream, which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and

fell with dreadful noise from precipice to preci. Description of a Palace in a Valley.

pice, till it was heard no more.

The sides of the mountains were covered with YE, who listen with credulity to the whispers of trees, the banks of the brooks were diversified fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms with Aowers: every blast shook spices from the of hope ; who expect that age will perform the rocks, and every mouth dropped fruits upon the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of ground. All animals that bite the grass, or the present day will be supplied by the morrow; browse the shrubs, whether wild or tame, wanattend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abys- dered in this extensive circuit, secured from sinia.

beasts of prey by the mountains which confined Rasselas was the fourth son of the mighty them. On one part were flocks and herds feedemperor, in whose dominions the father of wa- ing in the pastures, on another all the beasts of ters begins his course; whose bounty pours down chase frisking in the lawns; the sprightly kid the streams of plenty, and scatters over the world was bounding on the rocks, the subtle monkey the harvests of Egypt.

frolicking in the trees, and the solemn elephant According to the custom which has descended reposing in the shade. All the diversities of from age to age among the monarchs of the tor- the world were brought together, the blessings rid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private pa-' of nature were collected, and its evils extracted lace, with the other sons and daughters of Abys- and excluded. sinian royalty, till the order of succession should The valley, wide and fruitful, supplied its incall him to the throne.

habitants with the necessaries of life; and all The place, which the wisdom or policy of an- delights and superfluities were added at the antiquity had destined for the residence of the nual visit which the emperor paid his children, Abyssinian princes, was a spacious valley in the when the iron gate was opened to the sound of kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every side music; and during eight days, every one that by mountains, of which the summits overhang resided in the valley was required to propose the middle part. The only passage by which it whatever might contribute to make seclusion could be entered, was a cavern that passed un- pleasant, to fill up the vacancies of attention, der a rock, of which it had long been disputed and lessen the tediousness of time. Every dea whether it was the work of nature or of human sire was immediately granted. All the artificers industry. The outlet of the cavern was con- of pleasure were called to gladden the festivity; cealed by a thick wood, and the mouth which the musicians exerted the power of harmony, opened into the valley was closed with gates of and the dancers shewed their activity before the iron, forged by the artificers of ancient days, so princes, in hopes that they should pass their massy, that no man, without the help of en- lives in blissful captivity, to which those only gines, could open or shut them.

were admitted whose performance was thought From the mountains on every side, rivulets able to add novelty to luxury. Such was the descended, that filled all the valley with verdure appearance of security and delight which this and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle, retirement afforded, that they to whom it was inhabited by fish of every species, and frequent- new, always desired that it might be perpetual ; ed by every fowl whom nature bas taught to dip and as those, on whom the iron gate had once closed, were never suffered to return, the effect ture had excluded from this seat of tranquillity, of longer experience could not be known. Thus as the sport of chance and the slaves of misery. every year produced new scenes of delight, and Thus they rose in the morning and lay down new competitors for imprisonment.

at night, pleased with each other and with themThe palace stood on an eminence, raised about selves, all but Rasselas, who, in the twenty-sixth thirty paces above the surface of the lake. It year of his age, began to withdraw himself from was divided into many squares, or courts, built the pastimes and assemblies, and to delight in with greater or less magnificence, according to solitary walks and silent meditation. He often the rank of those for whom they were designed. sat before tables covered with luxury, and forThe roofs were turned into arches of massy got to taste the dainties that were placed before stone, joined by a cement that grew harder by him: he rose abruptly in the midst of the song, time; and the building stood from century to and hastily retired beyond the sound of music. century, deriding the solstitial rains and equi- His attendants observed the change, and endeanoctial hurricanes, without need of reparation. voured to renew his love of pleasure ; he ne

This house, which was so large as to be fully glected their officiousness, repulsed their invitaknown to none but some ancient officers, who tions, and spent day after day on the banks of successively inherited the secrets of the place, rivulets sheltered with trees, where he somewas built as if Suspicion herself had dictated times listened to the birds in the branches, somethe plan. To every room there was an open and times observed the fish playing in the stream, secret passage ; every square had a communica- and anon cast his eyes upon the pastures and tion with the rest, either from the upper stories mountains filled with animals, of which some by private galleries, or by subterraneous passages were biting the herbage, and some sleeping from the lower apartments. Many of the co- among the bushes. The singularity of his hulumns had unsuspected cavities, in which a long mour made him much observed. One of the race of monarchs had reposited their treasures. sages, in whose conversation he had formerly They then closed up the opening with marble, delighted, followed him secretly, in hope of diswhich was never to be removed but in the ut- covering the cause of his disquiet. Rasselas, most exigencies of the kingdom; and recorded who knew not that any one was near him, hatheir accumulations in a book, which was itself ving for some time fixed his eyes upon the goats concealed in a tower, not entered but by the that were browsing among the rocks, began to emperor, attended by the prince who stood next compare their condition with his own. in succession.

«'What,” said he, “makes the difference between man and all the rest of the animal crea

tion? Every beast that strays beside me has the CHAP. II.

same corporal necessities with myself: he is hun

gry, and crops the grass ; he is thirsty, and drinks The discontent of Rasselas in the Happy Valley. the stream ; his thirst and hunger are appeased;

he is satisfied, and sleeps : he rises again, and Here the sons and daughters of Abyssinia is hungry, he is again fed, and is at rest. I am lived only to know the soft vicissitudes of plea- hungry and thirsty, like him, but when thirst sure and repose, attended by all that were skil- and hunger cease, I am not at rest; I am, like ful to delight, and gratified, with whatever the him, pained with want,

but am not, like him, senses can enjoy. They wandered in gardens satisfied with fulness. The intermediate hours of fragrance, and slept in the fortresses of secu- are tedious and gloomy: I long again to be hunrity. Every art was practised to make them gry, that I may again quicken the attention. pleased with their own condition. The sages The birds peck the berries or the corn, and fly who instructed them told them of nothing but away to the groves, where they sit in seeming the miseries of public life, and described all be- happiness on the branches, and waste their lives yond the mountains as regions of calamity, where in tuning one unvaried series of sounds. I likediscord was always raging, and where man prey- wise can call the lutanist and the singer; but ed upon man. To heighten their opinion of the sounds that pleased me yesterday weary their own felicity, they were daily entertained me to-day, and will grow yet more wearisome with songs, the subject of which was the Happy to-morrow. I can discover in me no power of Valley. Their appetites were excited by frequent perception which is not glutted with its proper enumerations of different enjoyments, and re- pleasure, yet I do not feel myself delighted. velry' and merriment were the business of every Man surely has some latent sense, for which hour, from the dawn of morning to the close of this place affords no gratification; or he has the evening.

some desires distinct from sense, which must be These methods were generally successful ; few satisfied before he can be happy." of the princes had ever wished to enlarge their After this he lifted up his head, and seeing bounds, but passed their lives in full conviction the moon rising, walked towards the palace. As that they had all within their reach that art or he passed through the fields, and saw the aninature could bestow, and pitied those whom na- mals around him, “ Ye,” said he, " are happy,

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