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not catch a single word from which they could vided his hours by a succession of amusements, judge whether he continued, or not, in the opi- he found the conviction of his authority over nion of his preternatural commission. They of- the skies fade gradually from his mind, and beten contrived to bring him to an open declara- gan to trust less to an opinion which he never tion ; but he easily eluded all their attacks, and, could prove to others, and which he now found on which side soever they pressed him, escaped subject to variation, from causes in which reason from them to some other topic.
had no part. “If I am accidentally left alone As their familiarity increased, they invited for a few hours,” said he, “my inveterate perhim often to the house of Imlac, where they suasion rushes upon my soul, and my thoughts distinguished him by extraordinary respect. He are chained down by some irresistible violence; began gradually to delight in sublunary pleasures. but they are soon disentangled by the Prince's He came early, and departed late ; laboured to conversation, and instantaneously released at recommend himself by assiduity and compli- the entrance of Pekuah. I am like a man haance, excited their curiosity after new arts, that bitually afraid of spectres, who is set at ease by they might still want his assistance; and when a lamp, and wonders at the dread which harassthey made any excursion of pleasure or inquiry, ed him in the dark, yet, if his lamp be extinentreated to attend them.
guished, feels again the terrors which he knows By long experience of his integrity and wis- that when it is light he shall feel no more. But dom, the Prince and his sister were convinced I am sometimes afraid, lest I indulge my quiet that he might be trusted without danger : and, by criminal negligence, and voluntarily' forget lest he should draw any false hopes from the ci- the great charge with which I am intrusted. If vilities which he received, discovered to him I favour myself in a known error, or am detertheir condition, with the motives of their jour- mined by my own ease in a doubtful question ney, and required his opinion on the choice of of this importance, how dreadful is my crime!" life.
“No disease of the imagination,” answered “ Of the various conditions which the world Imlac, “is so difficult of cure, as that which is spreads before you, which you shall prefer," complicated with the dread of guilt ; fancy and said the sage, “I am not able to instruct you. I conscience then act interchangeably upon us, can only tell that I have chosen wrong. Í have and so often shift their places, that the illusions passed my time in study without experience; in of one are not distinguished from the dictates of the attainment of sciences which can, for the most the other. If fancy presents images not moral part, be but remotely useful to mankind. I or religious, the mind drives them away when have purchased knowledge at the expence of all they give it pain ; but when melancholy notions the common comforts of life: I have missed the take the form of duty, they lay hold on the faendearing elegance of female friendship, and culties without opposition, because we are afraid the happy commerce of domestic tenderness. If I to exclude or banish them. For this reason the have obtained any prerogatives above other stu- superstitious are often melancholy, and the dents, they have been accompanied with fear, melancholy almost always superstitious. disquiet, and scrupulosity ; but even of these “But do not let the suggestions of timidity prerogatives, whatever they were, I have, since overpower your better reason : the danger of my thoughts have been diversified by more in- neglect can be but as the probability of the obtercourse with the world, begun to question the ligation, which, when you consider it with freereality. When I have been for a few days lost dom, you find very little, and that little growin pleasing dissipation, I am always tempted to ing every day less. Open your heart to the inthink that my inquiries have ended in error, fluence of the light, which, from time to time, and that I have suffered much, and suffered it breaks in upon you : when scruples importune in vain."
you, which you, in your lucid moments, know Imlac was delighted to find that the sage's to be vain, do not stand to parley, but fly to understanding was breaking through its mists, business, or to Pekuah ; and keep this thought and resolved to detain him from the planets till always prevalent, that you are only one atom of he should forget his task of ruling them, and the mass of humanity, and have neither such reason should recover its original influence. virtue nor vice as that you should be singled out
From this time the astronomer was received for supernatural favours or afflictions." into familiar friendship, and partook of all their projects and pleasures: his respect kept him attentive, and the activity of Rasselas did not
CHAP. XLVII. leave much time unengaged. Something was always to be done: the day was spent in making The Prince enters, and brings a new Topic. observations, which furnished talk for the evening, and the evening was closed with a scheme “All this,” said the astronomer, “I have for the morrow.
often thought; but my reason has been so long The sage confessed to Imlac, that since he subjugated by an uncontrolable and overwhelmhad mingled in the gay tumults of life, and di- ing idea, that it durst not confide in its owu de
cisions. I now see how fatally I betrayed my lives well in a monastery. But, perhaps, every quiet, by suffering chimeras to prey upon me in one is not able to stem the temptations of public secret ; but melancholy shrinks from communi- life ; and, if he cannot conquer, he may properly cation, and I never found a man before to whom retreat. Some have little power to do good, and I could impart my troubles, though I had been have likewise little strength to resist evil. Many certain of relief. I rejoice to find my own sen- are weary of their conflicts with adversity, and timents confirmed by yours, who are not easily, are willing to eject those passions which have deceived, and can have no motive or purpose tolong busied them in vain. And many are disdeceive. I hope that time and variety will dis- missed by age and diseases from the more labosipate the gloom that has so long surrounded rious duties of society. In monasteries the weak me, and the latter part of my days will be spent and timorous may be happily sheltered, the in peace.”
weary may repose, and the penitent may medi“ Your learning and virtue," said Imlac, Those retreats of prayer and contempla“may justly give you hopes."
tion have something so congenial to the mind of Rasselas then entered, with the Princess and man, that, perhaps, there is scarcely one that Pekuah, and inquired whether they had contri- does not purpose to close his life in pious abved any new diversion for the next day. “Such,” straction, with a few associates serious as himsaid Nekayah," is the state of life, that none are self.” happy but by the anticipation of change; the “ Such,” said Pekuah, “ has often been my change itself
is nothing ; when we have made it, wish; and I have heard the Princess declare, the next wish is to change again. The world is that she should not willingly die in a crowd.” not yet exhausted ; let me see something to- “ The liberty of using harmless pleasures," morrow which I never saw before."
proceeded Imlac, “will not be disputed ; but it “ Variety,” said Rasselas, “ is so necessary to is still to be examined what pleasures are harmcontent, that even the Happy Valley disgusted less. The evil of any pleasure that Nekayah me by the recurrence of its luxuries; yet I could can image, is not in the act itself, but in its connot forbear to reproach myself with impatience, sequences. Pleasure, in itself harmless, may when I saw the monks of St Anthony support, become mischievous, by endearing to us a state without complaint, a life, not of uniform de- which we know to be transient and probatory, light, but uniform hardship."
and withdrawing our thoughts from that, of “ Those men,” answered Imlac, “ are less which every hour brings us nearer to the beginwretched in their silent convent than the Abys- ning, and of which no length of time will bring sinian princes in their prison of pleasures. What- us to the end. Mortification is not virtuous in ever is done by the monks is incited by an ade- itself, nor has any other use, but that it disenquate and reasonable motive. Their labour sup- gages us from the allurements of sense. In the plies them with necessaries ; it therefore cannot state of future perfection, to which we all asbe omitted, and is certainly rewarded. Their pire, there will be pleasure without danger, and devotion prepares them for another state, and security without restraint.” reminds them of its approach, while it fits The Princess was silent; and Rasselas, turning them for it. Their time is regularly distributed ; to the astronomer, asked him whether he could one duty succeeds another; so that they are not not delay her retreat, by shewing her something left open to the distraction of unguided choice, which she had not seen before. nor lost in the shades of listless inactivity. There “ Your curiosity," said the sage, “ has been is a certain task to be performed at an appropri- so general, and your pursuit of knowledge so ated hour; and their toils are cheerful, because vigorous, that novelties are not now very easily they consider them as acts of piety, by which to be found : but what you can no longer prothey are always advancing towards endless feli- cure from the living may be given by the dead. city.'
Among the wonders of this country are the Ca• Do you think,” said Nekayah, “ that the tacombs, or the ancient repositories, in which monastic rule is a more holy and less imperfect the bodies of the earliest generations were lodged, state than any other ? May not he equally hope and where, by the virtue of the gums which emfor future happiness who converses openly with balmed them, they yet remain without corrupmankind, who succours the distressed by his tion.” charity, instructs the ignorant by his learning, “I know not,” said Rasselas, “what pleasure and contributes by his industry to the general the sight of the Catacombs can afford; but, since system of life ; even though he should omit some nothing else is offered, I am resolved to view of the mortifications which are practised in the them, and shall place this with many other cloister, and allow himself such harmless de- things which I have done, because I would do lights, as his condition may place within his something." reach ?”
They hired a guard of horsemen, and the next This,” said Imlac, “is a question, which day visited the Catacombs. When they were has long divided the wise, and perplexed the · about to descend into the sepulchral caves, “Pegood. I am afraid to decide on either part. He kuah," said the Princess, “ we are now again that lives well in the world is better than he that invading the habitations of the dead; I know
that you will stay behind ; let me find you safe Matter can differ from matter only in form, denwhen I return.” -"No, I will not be left," an- sity, bulk, motion, and direction of motion. To swered Pekuah I will go down between you which of these, however varied or combined, and the Prince.”
can consciousness be annexed ? To be round or They then all descended, and roved with won- square, to be solid or fluid, to be great or little, der through the labyrinth of subterraneous pas- to be moved slowly or swiftly, one way or anosages, where the bodies were laid in rows on ther, are modes of material existence, all equally either side.
alien from the nature of cogitation. If matter be once without thought, it can only be made
to think by some new modification ; but all the CHAP. XLVIII.
modification which it can admit are equally un
connected with cogitative powers." Imlac discourses on the Nature of the Soul.
“ But the materialists,” said the astronomer,
"urge, that matter may havequalities with which “ What reason,” said the Prince, “ can be we are unacquainted. given, why the Egyptians should thus expen- “He who will determine,” returned Imlac, sively preserve those carcases, which some na- against that which he knows, because there tions consume with fire, others lay to mingle may be something which he knows not; he that with the earth, and all agree to remove from can set hypothetical possibility against acknowtheir sight as soon as decent rites can be per- ledged certainty, is not to be admitted among formed ”
reasonable beings. All that we know of matter “ The original of ancient customs,” said Im- is, that matter is inert, senseless, and lifeless ; lac, " is commonly unknown; for the practice and if this conviction cannot be opposed but by often continues when the cause has ceased : and referring us to something that we know not, we concerning superstitious ceremonies, it is vain to have all the evidence that human intellect can conjecture ; for what reason did not dictate rea- admit. If that which is known may be overson cannot explain. I have long believed that ruled by that which is unknown, no being, not the practice of embalming arose only from ten- omniscient, can arrive at certainty." derness to the remains of relations or friends; “ Yet let us not,” said the astronomer, too and to this opinion I am more inclined, because arrogantly limit the Creator's power.” it seems impossible that this care should have “It is no limitation of Omnipotence,” replied been general ; had all the dead been embalmed, the poet, “ to suppose that one thing is not contheir repositories must in time have been more sistent with another, that the same proposition spacious than the dwellings of the living. I sup- cannot be at once true and false, that the same pose only the rich or honourable were secured number cannot be even and odd, that cogitation from corruption, and the rest left to the course cannot be conferred on that which is created inof nature.
capable of cogitation." “But it is commonly supposed that the Egyp- « I know not,” said Nekayah, “ any great tians believed the soul to live as long as the use of this question. Does that immateriality, body continued undissolved, and therefore tried which, in my opinion, you have sufficiently this method of eluding death.”.
proved, necessarily include eternal duration ?" “ Could the wise Egyptians," said Nekayah, “Of immateriality,” said Imlac, “our ideas “think so grossly of the soul? If the soul could are negative, and therefore obscure. Immateonce survive its separation, what could it after- riality seems to imply a natural power of perpewards receive or suffer from the body?”. tual duration, as a consequence of exemption
“ The Egyptians would doubtless think er- from all causes of decay ; whatever perishes is roneously,” said the astronomer, “ in the dark- destroyed by the solution of its contexture, and ness of heathenism, and the first dawn of phi- separation of its parts ; nor can we conceive how losophy. The nature of the soul is still dis- that which has no parts, and therefore admits no puted, amidst all our opportunities of clearer solution, can be naturally corrupted or impaired." knowledge : some yet say, that it may be ma- “ I know not,” said Rasselas, “ how to conterial, who, nevertheless, believe it to be im- ceive any thing without extension; what is exmortal.”
tended must have parts, and you allow that “Some," answered Imlac, “ have indeed said whatever has parts may be destroyed.”. that the soul is material, but I can scarcely be- “ Consider your own conceptions,” replied lieve that any man has thought it, who knew Imlac, “ and the difficulty will be less. You how to think'; for all the conclusions of reason will find substance without extension. An ideal enforce the immateriality of mind, and all the form is no less real than material bulk; yet an notices of sense, and investigations of science, ideal form has no extension. It is no less cerconcur to prove the unconsciousness of matter. tain, when you think on a pyramid, that your
“It was never supposed that cogitation is in- mind possesses the idea of a pyramid, than that herent in matter, or that every particle is a think, the pyramid itself is standing. What space does ing being. Yet if any part of matter be devoid the idea of a pyramid occupy more than the idea of thought, what part can we suppose to think? of a grain of corn ? or how can either idea suffer
laceration? As is the effect, such is the cause; They were confined to their house. The whole as thought, such is the power that thinks, a region being under water, gave them no invitapower impassive and indiscerptible.”
tion to any excursions ; and being well supplied “ But the Being,” said Nekayah, “whom I with materials for talk, they diverted themselves fear to name, the Being which made the soul, with comparisons of the different forms of life can destroy it.”
which they had observed, and with various “ He surely can destroy it," answered Imlac, schemes of happiness which each of them had “since, however unperishable, it receives from formed. a superior nature its power of duration. That Pekuah was never so much charmed with any it will not perish by any inherent cause of de- place as the convent of St Anthony, where the cay, or principle of corruption, may be shown by Arab restored her to the Princess, and wished philosophy; but philosophy can tell no more. only to fill it with pious maidens, and to be made That it will not be annihilated by Him that prioress of the order ; she was weary of expectamade it, we must humbly learn from higher au- tion and disgust, and would gladly be fixed in thority.”
some unvariable state. The whole assembly stood a while silent and The Princess thought, that, of all sublunary collected. “ Let us return,” said Rasselas, things, knowledge was the best. She desired “ from this scene of mortality: How gloomy first to learn all sciences, and then proposed to would be these mansions of the dead to him, who found a college of learned women, in which she did not know that he should never die ; that would preside, that, by conversing with the old, what now acts shall continue its agency, and and educating the young, she might divide her what now thinks shall think on for ever. Those time between the acquisition and communication that lie here stretched before us, the wise and of wisdom, and raise up for the next age models the powerful of ancient times, warn us to re- of prudence and patterns of piety. member the shortness of our present state; they The Prince desired a little kingdom, in which were, perhaps, snatched away while they were he might administer justice in his own person, busy, sike us, in the choice of life.”
and see all the parts of government with his own • To me,” said the Princess, “ the choice of eyes ; but he could never fix the limits of his life is become less important; I hope hereafter dominion, and was always adding to the numto think only on the choice of eternity.” ber of his subjects.
They then hastened out of the caverns, and, Imlac and the astronomer were contented to under the protection of their guard, returned to be driven along the stream of life, without diCairo.
recting their course to any particular port.
Of these wishes that they had formed, they CHAP. XLIX.
well knew that none could be obtained. They
deliberated a while what was to be done, and The Conclusion, in which nothing is concluded. resolved, when the inundation should cease, to
return to Abyssinia. It was now the time of the inundation of the Nile ; a few days after their visit to the Catacombs the river began to rise.
END OF RASSELAS.