Imágenes de páginas

plaisance through the whole court; and the emperor intagined, that he had at last found the secret of obtaining an interval of felicity. But as he was roving in this careless assembly with equal carelessness, he overheard one of his courtiers in a close arbour murmuring alone : “What merit has Seged above us, that we should thus fear and obey him? a inan, whom, whatever he may have formerly performed, his luxury now shows to have the same weakness with our. selves." This charge affected him the more, as it was uttered by one whom he had always observed among the most abject of his flatterers. At first bis indignation prompted him to severity ; but reflecting, that what was spoken without intention to be heard, was to be considered as only thought, and was perhaps but the sudden burst of casual and temporary vexation, he invented some decent pretence to send him away, that his retreat might not be tainted with the breath of envy; and after the struggle of deliberation was past, and all desire of revenge utterly suppressed, page. ed the evening not only with tranquillity, but triumph, though none but himself was conscious of the victory.

The remembrance of this clemency cheered the beginning of the seventh day, and nothing happened to disturb the pleasure of Seged, till looking on the tree that shaded him, he recollected, that under a tree of the same kind he had passed the night after his defeat in the kingdom of Goiama. The reflection on his loss, his dishonour, and the miseries which his subjects suffered from the invader, filled him with sadness. At last he shook off the weight of sorrow, and began to solace himself with his usual pleasures, when his tranquillity was again disturbed by jealousies which the late contest for the prizes had produced, and which, having tried to pacify them by persuasion, he was forced to silence by command.

On the eighth morning, Seged was awakened early by an unusual hurry in the apartments; and inquiring the cause, he was told that the Princess Balkis was seized with sick pess. He rose, and calling the physicians, found that they had little hope of her recovery. Here was an end of jollity : al his thoughts were now apon bis daughter ; whose eyes he closed on the tenth day.

Such were the days which Seged of Ethiopia had appropriated to a short respiration from the fatigues of war, and the cares of government. This narrative he han bequeathed

N 2


to future generations, that no man hereafter may presume te say, “ This day shall be a day of happiness.”



The Vision of Theodore, the hermit of Teneriffe, found in

his cell.*

Son of perseverance, whoever thou art, whose curiosity has led thee hither, read and be wise. He that now calls upon thee is Theodore, the hermit of Teneriffe, who, in the fifty-seventh year of his retreat, left this instruction to mankind, lest his solitary hours should be spent in vain.

I was once what thou art now, a groveller on the earth, and a gazer at the sky ; I trafficked and heaped wealth together, I loved and was favoured, I wore the robe of honour, and heard the music of adulation; I was ambitious, and rose to greatness; I was unhappy, and retired. I sought for some time what I at length found here, a place where all real wants might be easily supplied ; and where I might not be under the necessity of purchasing the assistance of men, by the toleration of their follies. Here I saw fruits, and herbs, and water ; and here determined to wait the hand of death, which I hope, when at last it comes, will fall lightly upon me. ✓ Forty-eight years had I now passed in forgetfulness of all mortal cares, and without any inclination to wander farther than the necessity of procuring sustenance required: but as I stood one day beholding the rock that overhangs my cell, I found in myself a desire to climb it; and when I was on its top, was in the same manner determined to scale the next, till by degrees I conceived a wish to view the summit of the mountain, at the foot of which I had so long resided. This motion of my thoughts I endeavoured to suppress, not because it appeared criminal, but because it was new; and all ohange, not evidently for the better, alarms a mind taught by experience to distrust itself. I was often afraid that my heart was deceiving me ; that my impatience of confinement rose from some eartbly passion ; and that my ardour to sur

* Dr. Anderson, in bis judicious and well written life of Dr. Johnson, says, “ This is a most beautiful allegory of human life, under the figuro of ascending the Mountain of Existence. Johnson thought it the best of his writings."

vey the works of nature, was only a hidden longing to mingle once again in the scenes of life. I therefore endeavoured to settle my thoughts into their former state ; but found their distraction every day greater. I was always reproaching myself with the want of happiness within my reach ; and at last began to question whether it was not laziness, rather than caution, that restrained me from climbing to the summit of Teneriffe.

I rose therefore before the day, and began my journey up the steep of the mountain ; but I had not advanced far, old as I was, and burdened with provisions, when the day began to shine upon me; the declivities grew more precipitous, and the sand slided from beneath my feet : at last, fainting with labour, I arrived at a small plain almost enclosed by rocks, and open only to the east. I sat down to rest a while, in full persuasion that when I had recovered my strength, I should proceed on my design: but when once I had tasted ease, I found many reasons against disturbing it. The branches spread a shade orer my head, and the gales of spring wafted odours to my bosom. .

As I sat thus, forming alternately excuses for delay, and resolutions to go forward, an irresistible heaviness suddenly surprised me. I laid my head upon the bank, and resigned myself to sleep ; when methought I heard the sound as of the flight of eagles, and a being of more than human dignity stood before me. While I was deliberating how to address him, he took me by the hand with an air of kindness, and asked me solemnly, but without severity, “ Theodore, whither art thou going ?” I am climbing, answered I, to the top of the mountain, to enjoy a more extensive prospect of the works of nature. “ Attend first,” said he, “ to the prospect which this place affords, and what thou dost not understand I will explain. I am one of the benevolent beings who watch over the 'children of the dust, to preserve them from those evils which will not ultimately terminate in good, and which they do not, by their own faults, bring upon themselves. Look 'round therefore without fear : observe, contemplate, and be instructed.” .

Encouraged by this assurance, I looked and beheld a mountain higher than Teneriffe, to the summit of which the human eye could never reach. When I had tired myself with gazing upon its height, I turned my eyes toward its foot, which I could easily discover, but was amazed to find at without foundation, and placed inconceivably in emptiness · and darkness. Thus I stood terrified and confused ; above

were tracts inscrutable, and below was total vacuity. But my protector, with a voice of admonition, cried out, “ Theodore, be not affrighted, but raise thy eyes again : the Mountain of Existence is before thee ; survey it and be wise.” : I then looked with more deliberate attention, and observ. ed the bottom of the mountain to be of a gentle rise, and overspread with flowers; the middle to be more steep, embarrassed with crags, and interrupted by precipices, over which hung branches loaded with fruits, and among which were scattered palaces and bowers. The tracts which my eye could reach nearest the top, were generally barren; but there were among the elefts of the rocks a few hardy evergreens, which, though they did not give much pleasure to the sight or smell, yet seemed to cheer the labour and facilitate the steps of those who were clambering among them. · Then, beginning to examine more minutely the different parts, I observed at a great distance a multitude of bath sexes, issuing into view from the bottom of the mountain. Their first actions I could not accurately discern ; but, as they every moment approached nearer, I found that they amused themselves with gathering flowers, under the superintendence of a modest virgin in a white robe, who seemed got over solicitous to confine them to any settled place or certain track; for she knew that the whole ground was smooth and solid, and that they could not easily be hurt or bewildered. When, as it often happened, they placked a thistle for a flower, Innocence, so was she called, would smile at the mistake. Happy, said I, are they who are 'under go gentle a government, and yet are safe. But I had no opportunity to dwell long on the consideration of their felicity; for I found that Innocence continued her attendance but a little way, and seemed to consider only the flowery bottom of the mountain as her proper province. Those whom she abandoned scarcely knew that they were left, be. fore they perceived themselves in the hands of Education, a nymph more severe in her aspect, and imperious in her ermmands, who confined them to certain paths, in their opis nion too narrow and too rough. These they were continue ally solicited to leave, by Appetite, whom Education could never fright away, though she sometimes awed her to such timidity, tbat the effects of her presence were scarcely per

ceptible. Some went back to the first part of the mountain, and seemed desirous of continuing busied in plucking flowers, but were no longer guarded by Innocence; and such as Education could not force back, proceeded up the mountain by some miry road, in which they were seldom seen, and scarcely ever regarded.

As Education led her troop up the mountain, nothing was nore observable than that she was frequently giving them cautions to beware of Habits ; and was calling out to one or another, at every step, that a Habit was ensnaring them; that they would be under the dominion of Habit before they perceived their danger; and that those whom a Habit should once subdue, had little hope of regaining their liberty.

Of this caution, so frequently repeated, I was very solicitous to know the reason, when my protector directed my regard to a troop of pygmies, which appeared to walk silently before those that were climbing the mountain, and each to smooth the way before her follower. I found that I had missed the notice of them before, both because they were so minute as not easily to be discerned, and because they grew every moment nearer in their colour to the objects with which they were surrounded. As the followers of Education did not appear to be sensible of the presence of these dangerous associotes, or, ridiculing their diminutive size, did not think it possible that human beings should ever be brought into subjection by enemies so feeble, they generally heard her precepts of vigilance with wonder : and, when they thought her eye withdrawn, treated them with contempt. Nor could I myself think her cautions so necessary as her frequent inculcations seemed to suppose, till I observed that each of these petty beings held secretly a chain in her hand, with which she prepared to bind those whom she found within her power. Yet these Habits, under the eye of Education, went quietly forward, and seemed very little to increase in bulk or strength; for though they were always willing to join with Appetite, yet when Education kept them apart from her, they would very punctually obey command, and make the narrow roads in which they were confined easier and smoother

It was observable, that their stature was never at a stand, but continually growing or decreasing, yet not always in the same proportions ; nor could I forbear to express my admi. ration, when I saw in how much less time they generally gained than lost bulk. Though they grew slowly in the roqu

« AnteriorContinuar »