« AnteriorContinuar »
5. The genius seeing me indulge myself in this melancholy prospect, told me I had dwelt long enough upon it. Take thine eyes off the bridge, said he, and tell me if thou seest any thing thou dost not comprehend. Upon looking up, what mean, said I, those great flights of birds that are perpetually hovering about the bridge, and settling upon it from time to time? I see vultures, harpies, ravens, cormorants, and, among many other feathered creatures, several little winged boys, that perch in great numbers upon the middle arches. These, said the genius, are envy, avarice, superstition, despair, love, with the like cares and passions that infect human life.
6. I here fetched a deep sigh : alas, said I, man was made in vain ! how is he given away to misery and mortality! tortured in life, and swallowed up in death! The genius being moved with compassion towards me, bid me quit so uncomfortable-a prospect. Look no more, said he, on man in the first stage of bis existence, in setting out for eternity ; but cast thine eye on that thick mist into which the tide bears the several generations of mortals that fall into it. I directed my sight as I was order: ed, and (whether or not the good genius strengthened it with any supernatural force, or dissipated part of the mist that was before too thick for the eye to penetrate,) I saw the valley opening at the farther end, and spreading forth into an immense ocean, that had a huge rock of adamant running through the midst of it, and dividing it into two equal parts.
7. The clouds still rested on one half of it, insomuch that I could discover nothing in it; but the other appeared to me a vast'ocean, planted with innumerable islands, that were covered with fruits and flowers, and interwoven with a thousand little shining seas that ran among them. I could see persons dressed in glorious habits, with garlands upon their heads, passing among the trees, lying down by the sides of fountains, or resting on beds of flowers. Gladness grew in me at the discovery of so delighful a scene. I svished for the wings of an eagle, that I might fly away to those happy seats ; but the genius told me there was no passage to them, except through the gates of death that I saw opening every moment upon the bridge. 8. The ands, said he, that lie so fresh and green
before thee, and with which the whole face of the ocean appears spotted as far as thou canst see, are more in number than the sands on the sea shore. There are myriads of islands behind those which thou bere discoverest, reaching further than thine eye, or even thine imagination, can extend itself. - These are the mansions of good men after death, who, according to the de
gree and kinds of virtue in which they excelled, are distributed among these several islands, which abound with pleasures of different kinds and degrees, suitable to the relishes and per. fections of those who are settled in them : every island is a paradise accommodated to its respective inhabitants.
9. Are not these, O Mirza, habitations worth contending for? Does life appear miserable, that gives thee opportunities of earning such a reward? Is death to be feared, that will convey thee to so happy an existence? Think not man was made in vain, who has such an eternity reserved for him. I gazed with inexpressible pleasure on these happy islands. At length, said I, show me now, I beseech thee, the secrets that lie hid under those dark clouds which cover the ocean on the other side of the rock of adamant. The genius making me no answer, I turned about to address myself to him a second time, but I found that he had left me. I then turned again to the vision which I had been so long contemplating ; but instead of the rolling tide, the arched bridge, and the happy islands, I saw nothing but the long hollow valley of Bagdat, with oxen, sheep, And camels, grazing upon the sides of it.
The Earl of Strafford. 1. The Earl of Strafford defended himself against the accusations of the House of Commons, with all the presence of mind, judgment, and sagacity, that could be expected from innocence and ability. His children were placed beside him as he was thus defending his life, and the cause of his royal master: After he had, in a long and eloquent speech, delivered without premeditation, confuted all the accusations of his enemies, he thus drew to a conclusion. * But, my lords, I have troubled you too long : longer than I should have done, but for the sake of these dear pledges which a saint in heaven has left me.' Upon this he paused; dropped a tear ; looked upon his children, and proceeded ; • What I forfeit for myself is a trifle : that my indiscretions should reach my posterity, wounds me to the heart. Pardon my infirmity. Something I should have added, but I am not able ; and therefore let it pass. And now, my lords, for myself. I have long been taught, that the afflictions of this life are overpaid by that eternal weight of glory which awaits the innocent. And so, my lords, even so, with the utmost tranquillity, I submit myself to your judgment, whether that judgment be life or death: not my will, but thine, O God, be done!'
2. His eloquence and innocence induced those judges to pity, who were the most zealous to condemn him. The king
himself went to the house of lords, and spoke for some time in his defence ; but the spirit of vengeance, which had been chained for eleven years, was now roused; and nothing but his blood could give the people satisfaction. He was condemned by both houses of parliament; and nothing remained but for the king to give his consent to the bill of attainder. But, in the present.commotions, the consent of the king would very easily be dispensed with ; and imminent danger might attend his refusal. Charles, however, who loved Strafford tenderly, hesitated, and seemed reluctant ; trying every expedient to put off so dreadful an office as that of signing the warrant for his execution. While he continued in this agitation of mind, and state of suspense, his doubts were at last silenced by an act of great magnanimity in the condemned lord. He received a letter from that unfortunate nobleman, desiring that his life might be made a sacrifice to obtain reconciliation between the king and his people : adding, that he was prepared to die, and that to a willing mind there could be no injury. This instance of noble generosity was but ill repaid by his master, who complied with his request. He consented to sign the fatal bill by commission : and Strafford was beheaded on Tower hill ; behaving with that composed dignity of resolution, which was expected from his character.
Founder of Christianity. 1. Never was there on earth any other person of so extraordinary a character as the founder of our religion. In him we uniformly see a mildness, dignity, and composure, and a perfection of wisdom and of goodness, that plainly point him out as a superiour being. But his superiority was all in his own divine mind. He had none of those outward advantages that have distinguished all other lawgivers. He had no influence in the state; he had no wealth ; he aimed at no wordly power. He was the son of a carpenter's wife, and he was himself a carpenter. So poor were his reputed parents, that at the time of his birth, his mother could obtain no better lodging than a stable ; and so poor was he himself, that he often had no lodging at all. 2. That he had no advantages of education,
infer, from the surprise expressed by his neighbours on hearing him speak in the synagogue : “Whence hath this man these things ? What wisdom is this which is given him ? Is not this the carpen. ter, the son of Mary ? Are not his brethren and sisters with us ?
This point, however, we need not insist on; as from no education, that his own or any other country could have afforded, was it
possible for him to derive that supernatural wisdom and power, that sanctity of life, and that purity of doctrine, which so eminently distinguish him. His first adherents were a few fishermen; for whom he was so far from making any provision, that when he sent them out to preach repentance and heal diseases, they were, by his desire, furnished with nothing but one coat, a pair of sandals, and staff.
3. He went about, in great humility and meekness, doing good, teaching wisdom, and glorifying God, for the space of about three years, after the commencement of his ministry ; and then, as he himself had foreseen and foretold, he was publicly crucified. This is the great personage, who at this day gives law to the world. This is he, who has been the author of vir. tue and happiness to millions and millions of the human race. And this is he, whom the wisest and best men that ever lived, have reverenced as a Divine Person, and gloried in, as the De. liverer and Sayiour of mankind.
The Balance of Happiness. An extensive contemplation of human affairs, will lead us to this conclusion, that among the different conditions and ranks of men, the balance of happiness is preserved, in a great measure, equal ; and that the high and the low, the rich and the poor, approach, in point of real enjoyment, much nearer to each other, than is commonly imagined.
2. In the lot of man, mutual compensations, both of pleasure and of pain, universally take place. Providence never intended, that any state here should be either completely happy, or entirely miserable. If the feelings of pleasure are more numerous, and more lively, in the higher departments of life, such also are those of pain. If greatness flatters our vanity, it multiplies our dangers. If opulence increases our gratifications, it increases, in the same proportion, our desires and demands. If the poor are confined to a more narrow circle, yet within that circle lie most of those natural satisfactions, which, after all the refinements of art, are found to be the most genuine and true.
3. In a state, therefore, where there is neither so much to be coveted on the one hand, nor to be dreaded on the other, as at first appears, how submissive ought we to be to the disposal of Providence ! How temperate in our desires and pursuits ! How much more attentive to preserve our virtue, and to improve our minds, than to gain the doubtful and equivocal advantages of worldly prosperity!
The Interview of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, his sister Nekayah,
and Imlac, with the Hermit. 1. They came on the third day, by the direction of the pea. sants, to the hermit's cell : it was a cavern in the side of a mountain, overshadowed with palm-trees. The hermit sat on a bench at the door, to enjoy the coolness of the evening. On one side lay a book with pens and papers, on the other mechanical instruments of various kinds.
2. They saluted him with great respect, which he returned. like a man not unaccustomed to the forms of courts.
My children,' said he, if you have lost your way, you shall be willingly supplied with such conveniences for the night as this cavern will afford. I have all that nature requires, and you will not expect delicacies in a hermit's cell.' They thanked. him; and entering, were pleased with the neatness and regularity of the place. His discourse was cheerfal without levity, and pious without enthusiasm.
3. At last Imlac began thus: 'I do not now wonder that your reputation is so far extended; we have heard at Cairo of
your wisdom, and came hither to implore. your direction for this young man and maiden in the choice of life.
4. 'To him that lives well,' answered the hermit, every form of life is good ; nor can I give any other rule for choice, than to remove from all apparent evil.' • He will remove - most certainly from evil,' said the prince, who shall devote himself to that solitude which you have recommended by your example.'
5. I have indeed lived fifteen years in solitude,” said the hermit, but have no desire that my example should gain any imitators. In my youth I professed arms, and was raised by degrees to the highest military rank. I have traversed wide countries at the head of my troops, and seen many battles and sieges. At last, being disgusted by the preferment of a younger officer, and feeling that my vigour was beginning to decay, I resolved to close my life in peace, having found the world full of snares, discord, and misery. I had once escaped from the pursuit of the enemy by the shelter of this cavern, and therefore chose it for my final residence. I employed artificers to form it into chambers, and stored it with all that I was likely to want.
6. For some time after my retreat, I rejoiced like a tempest-beaten sailor at his entrance into the harbour, being delighted with the sudden change of the noise and hurry of war te stillness and repose. When the pleasure of novelty went away, I employed my hours in examining the plants which grow in the