« PreviousContinue »
cause all appeared to him really happy. Wher- does not think the lot of his neighbour better ever he went he met gaiety and kindness, and than his own." heard the song of joy or the laugh of careless. “I am pleased to think," said the Prince, ness. He began to believe that the world over- “ that my birth has given me at least one adó flowed with universal plenty, and that nothing vantage over others, by enabling me to deterwas withheld either from want or merit; that mine for myself. I have here the world before every hand showered liberality, and every heart me; I will review it at leisure ; surely happimelted with benevolence: “and who then," says ness is somewhere to be found.” he, “will be suffered to be wretched ?"
Imlac permitted the pleasing delusion, and was unwilling to crush the hope of inexperience:
CHAP. XVII. till one day, having sat a while silent, “ I know not,” said the Prince, “what can be the reason that I am more unhappy than any of our friends. The Prince associates with young Men of Spirit I see them perpetually and unalterably cheerful,
and Gaiety. but feel my own mind restless and uneasy. I am unsatisfied with those pleasures which I see Rasselas rose next day, and resolved to bemost to court. I live in the crowds of jollity, gin his experiments upon life. “ Youth,” cried not so much to enjoy company as to shun my- he, “is the time of gladness: I will join myself self, and am only loud and merry to conceal my to the young men, whose only business is to grasadness.”
tify their desires, and whose time is all spent in “Every man,” said Imlac, “may, by exami- a succession of enjoyments.” ning his own mind, guess what passes in the To such societies he was readily admitted; but minds of others : when you feel that your own a few days brought him back weary and disgustgaiety is counterfeit, it may justly lead you to ed. Their mirth was without images, their laughsuspect that of your companions not to be sin- ter without motive; their pleasures were gross cere. Envy is commonly reciprocal. We are and sensual, in which the mind had no part ; long before we are convinced that happiness is their conduct was at once wild and mean: they never to be found, and each believes it possess- laughed at order and at law, but the frown of ed by others, to keep alive the hope of obtaining power dejected, and the eye of wisdom abashed it for himself. In the assembly, where you pass them. ed the last night, there appeared such spright. The Prince soon concluded, that he should ne. liness of air, and volatility of fancy, as might ver be happy in a course of life of which he was have suited beings of a higher order, formed to ashamed. He thought it unsuitable to a reainhabit serener regions, inaccessible to care or sonable being to act without a plan, and to be sorrow : yet, believe me, Prince, there was not sad or cheerful only by chance. “Happiness," one who did not dread the moment when soli- said he, “must be something solid and permatude should deliver him to the tyranny of re- nent, without fear and without uncertainty.” -flection."
But his young companions had gained so much “ This," said the Prince, “ may be true of of his regard by their frankness and courtesy, others, since it is true of me; yet, whatever be that he could not leave them without warning the general infelicity of man, one condition is and remonstrance. “My friends," said he, “ I more happy than another, and wisdom surely have seriously considered our manners and our directs us to take the least evil in the choice of prospects, and find that we have mistaken our life.”
own interest. The first years of man must make « The causes of good and evil,” answered Im- provision for the last. He that never thinks, nelac, “ are so various and uncertain, so often en- ver can be wise. Perpetual levity must end in tangled with each other, so diversified by vari- ignorance; and intemperance, though it may fire ous relations, and so much subject to accidents the spirits for an hour, will make life short or which cannot be foreseen, that he who would miserable. Let us consider that youth is of no fix his condition upon incontestable reasons of long duration, and that in mature age, when the preference, must live and die inquiring and de- enchantments of fancy shall cease, and phantoms liberating."
of delight dance no more about us, we shall have “But surely,” said Rasselas, “ the wise men, no comforts but the esteem of wise men, and the to whom we listen with reverence and wonder, means of doing good. Let us, therefore, stop, chose that mode of life for themselves which they while to stop is in our power: let us live as men thought most likely to make them happy.” who are some time to grow old, and to whom it
- Very few," said the poet, “ live by choice. will be the most dreadful of all evils to count Every inan is placed in his present condition by their past years by follies, and to be reminded causes which acted without his foresight, and of their former luxuriance of health only by the with which he did not always willingly co-ope- maladies which riot has produced.” rate; and therefore you will rarely meet one who They stared a while in silence one upon ano
ther, and, at last, drove him away by a general Rasselas put a purse of gold into his hand, which chorus of continued laughter.
he received with a mixture of joy and wonder. The consciousness that his sentiments were “I have found,” said the Prince, at his rejust, and his intention kind, was scarcely suffin turn to Imlac, “a man who can teach all that cient to support him against the horror of deri, is necessary to be known ; who, from the unsion. But he recovered his tranquillity, and pur shaken throne of rational fortitude, looks down sued his search.
on the scenes of life changing beneath him. He speaks, and attention watches his lips. He rea
sons, and conviction closes his periods. This CHAP. XVIII.
man shall be my future guide; I will learn his
doctrines, and imitate his life.” The Prince finds a wise and happy Man. “Be not too hasty,” said Imlac, “ to trust, or
to admire, the teachers of morality; they disAs he was one day walking in the street, he course like angels, but they live like men.” saw a spacious building, which all were, by the Rasselas, who could not conceive how any open doors, invited to enter ; he followed the man could reason so forcibly without feeling the stream of people, and found it a hall or school cogency of his own arguments, paid his visit in of declamation, in which professors read lectures a few days, and was denied admission. He had to their auditory. He fixed his eye upon a sage now learned the power of money, and made his raised above the rest, who discoursed with great way by a piece of gold to the inner apartment, energy on the government of the passions. His where he found the philosopher in a room half look was venerable, his action graceful, his proa darkened, with his eyes misty, and his face pale. nunciation clear, and his diction elegant. He “Sir," said he, “ you are come at a time when showed, with great strength of sentiment, and all human friendship is useless; what I suffer variety of illustration, that human nature is de- cannot be remedied, what I have lost cannot be graded and debased, when the lower faculties supplied. My daughter, my only daughter, from predominate over the higher ; that when fancy, whose tenderness I expected all the comforts of the parent of passion, usurps the dominion of my age, died last night of a fever. My views, the mind, nothing ensues but the natural effect my purposes, my hopes, are at an end. I am of unlawful government, perturbation and con- now a lonely being, disunited from society.", fusion; that she betrays the fortresses of the “Sir," said the Prince, “ mortality is an event intellect to rebels, and excites her children to by which a wise man can never be surprised ; sedition against their lawful sovereign. He com- we know that death is always near, and it should pared reason to the sun, of which the light is therefore always be expected.”_“Young man," constant, uniform, and lasting; and fancy to a answered the philosopher, “ you speak like one meteor, of bright but transitory lustre, irre- that has never felt the pangs of separation.”— gular in its motion, and delusive in its direc- “ Have you then forgot the precepts,” said Rastion.
selas, “which you so powerfully enforced ? Has He then communicated the various precepts wisdom no strength to arm the heart against cagiven from time to time for the conquest of pas- lamity ? Consider that external things are natusion, and displayed the happiness of those who rally variable, but truth and reason are always the had obtained the important victory, after which saine."-" What comfort," said the mourner, man is no longer the slave of fear, nor the fool's can truth and reason afford me of what of hope ; is no more emaciated by envy, in effect are they now, but to tell me, that my daughflamed by anger, emasculated by tenderness, or ter will not be restored ?" depressed by grief ; but walks on calmly through The Prince, whose humanity would not suffer the tumults or privacies of life, as the sun pur- him to insult misery with reproof, went away, sues alike his course through the calm or the convinced of the emptiness of rhetorical sounds, stormy sky.
and the inefficacy of polished periods and stuHe enumerated many examples of heroes im- died sentences. moveable by pain or pleasure, who looked with indifference on those modes or accidents to which the vulgar give the names of good and evil. He
CHAP. XIX. exhorted his hearers to lay aside their prejudices, and arm themselves against the shafts of
A Glimpse of Pastoral Life. malice or misfortune, by invulnerable patience ; concluding, that this state only was happiness, He was still eager upon the same inquiry; and that this happiness was in every one's power. and having heard of a hermit, that lived near the
Rasselas listened to him with the veneration lowest cataract of the Nile, and filled the whole due to the instructions of a superior being, and, country with the fame of his sanctity, resolved waiting for him at the door, humbly implored to visit his retreat, and inquire whether that fethe liberty of visiting so great a master of true licity, which public life could not afford, was to wisdom. The lecturer hesitated a moment, when be found in solitude ; and whether a man, whose
age and virtue made him venerable, could teach lighted with such unexpected accommodations, any peculiar art of shunning evils, or enduring and entertained each other with conjecturing them.
what, or who, he could be, that in those rude Imlac and the Princess agreed to accompany and unfrequented regions had leisure and art him; and, after the necessary preparations, they for such harmless luxury. began their journey. Their way lay through As they advanced they heard the sound of the fields, where shepherds tended their flocks, music, and saw youths and virgins dancing in and the lambs were playing upon the pasture, the grove; and, going still farther, beheld a « This," said the poet, " is the life which has stately palace built upon a hill, surrounded with been often celebrated for its innocence and quiet; woods. The laws of eastern hospitality allowed let us pass the heat of the day among the shep- them to enter, and the master welcomed them herds' tents, and know whether all our searches like a man liberal and wealthy. are not to terminate in pastoral simplicity." He was skilful enough in appearances soon
The proposal pleased them, and they induced to discern that they were no common guests, the shepherds, by small presents and familiar and spread his table with magnificence. The questions, to tell their opinion of their own state: eloquence of Imlac caught his attention, and they were so rude and ignorant, so little able to the lofty courtesy of the Princess excited his recompare the good with the evil of their occupa, spect. When they offered to depart he entreated tion, and so indistinct in their narratives and de- their stay, and was the next day more unwillscriptions, that yery little could be learned from ing to dismiss them than before. They were them. But it was evident that their hearts were easily persuaded to stop, and civility grew up cankered with discontent; and they considered in time to freedom and confidence. themselves as condemned to labour for the luxury The Prince now saw all the domestics cheerof the rich, and looked up with stupid malevo- ful, and all the face of nature smiling round the lence toward those that were placed above them. place, and could not forbear to hope that he
The Princess pronounced with vehemence, should find here what he was seeking ; but that she would never suffer these envious sa- when he was congratulating the master upon vages to be her companions, and that she should his possessions, he answered with a sigh,-"My not soon be desirous of seeing any more speci- condition has, indeed, the appearance of happimens of rustic happiness; but could not believe ness, but appearances are delusive. My prospethat all the accounts of primeval pleasures were rity puts my life in danger; the Bassa of Egypt fabulous, and was in doubt whether life had any is my enemy, incensed only by my wealth and thing that could be justly preferred to the placid popularity. I have been hitherto protected gratification of fields and woods. She hoped that against him by the princes of the country ; but the time would come, when, with a few virtu- as the favour of the great is uncertain, I know ous and elegant companions, she should gather not how soon my defenders may be persuaded flowers planted by her own hands, fondle the to share the plunder with the Bassa. I have lambs of her own ewe, and listen without care, sent my treasures into a distant country, and, among brooks and breezes, to one of her maid upon the first alarm, am prepared to follow ens reading in the shade.
them. Then will my enemies riot in my man
sion, and enjoy the gardens which I have plantCHAP. XX.
They all joined in lamenting his danger, and
deprecating his exile; and the Princess was so · The Danger of Prosperity.
much disturbed with the tumult of grief and
indignation, that she retired to her apartment. On the next day they continued their jour. They continued with their kind inviter a few ney, till the heat compelled them to look round days longer, and then went to find the hermit. for shelter. At a small distance they saw a thick wood, which they no sooner entered than they perceived that they were approaching the
CHAP. XXI. habitations of men. The shrubs were diligently cut away to open walks where the shades were · The Happiness of Solitude. The Hermits darkest; the boughs of opposite trees were ar
History. tificially interwoven, seats of flowery turf were raised in vacant spaces, and a rivulet, that wan They came on the third day, by the directoned along the side of a winding path, had its tion of the peasants, to the hermit's cell: It was banks sometimes opened into small basins, and a cavern in the side of a mountain, overshadowits stream sometimes obstructed by little mounds ed with palm trees : at such a distance from the of stone, heaped together to increase its mur- cataract, that nothing more was heard than a murs.
gentle uniform murmur, such as composes the • They passed slowly through the wood, de mind to pensive meditation, especially when it
was assisted by the wind whistling among the the harbour, being delighted with the sudden branches. The first rude essay of nature had change of the noise and hurry of war to stillness been so much improved by human labour, that and repose. When the pleasure of novelty went the cave contained several apartments approprie away, I employed my hours in examining the ated to different uses, and often afforded lodging plants which grow in the valley, and the mineto travellers, whom darkness or tempests hap- rals which I collected from the rocks. But that pened to overtake.
inquiry is now grown tasteless and irksome. I The hermit sat on a bench at the door, to en- have been for some time unsettled and distractjoy the coolness of the evening. On one side ed ; my mind is disturbed with a thousand perlay a book with pens and paper, on the other plexities of doubt, and vanities of imagination, mechanical instruments of various kinds. As which hourly prevail upon me, because I have they approached him unregarded, the Princess no opportunities of relaxation or diversion. I observed that he had not the countenance of a am sometimes ashamed to think that I could not man that had found, or could teach, the way to secure myself from vice but by retiring from the happiness.
exercise of virtue, and begin to suspect that I They saluted him with great respect, which was rather impelled by resentment than led by he repaid like a man not unaccustomed to the devotion into solitude. My fancy riots in scenes forms of courts. “My children," said he, “if of folly, and I lament that I have lost so much, you have lost your way, you shall be willingly and have gained so little. In solitude, if I essupplied with such conveniences for the night cape the example of bad men, I want likewise as this cavern will afford. I have all that na- the counsel and conversation of the good. I have ture requires, and you will not expect delicacies been long comparing the evils with the advanin a hermit's cell.”
tages of society, and resolve to return into the They thanked him; and, entering, were plea- world to-morrow. The life of a solitary man sed with the neatness and regularity of the place. will be certainly miserable, but not certainly The hermit set flesh and wine before them, devout." though he fed only upon fruits and water. His They heard his resolution with surprise, but, discourse was cheerful without levity, and pious after a short pause, offered to conduct him to without enthusiasm. He soon gained the esteem Cairo. He dug up a considerable treasure which of his guests, and the Princess repented her hasty he had hid among the rocks, and accompanied censure..
them to the city, on which, as he approached it, At last Imlac began thus: “I do not now he gazed with rapture. 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
CHAP. XXII. young man and maiden in the choice of life.”
«To him that lives well," answered the her The Happiness of a Life led according to mit, “every form of life is good ; nor can I give
Nature. any other rule for choice than to remove all aprarent evil.”
RASSELAS went often to an assembly of learn“He will most certainly remove from evil,” ed men, who met at stated times to unbend their said the Prince, “who shall devote himself to minds, and compare their opinions. Their manthat solitude which you have recommended by ners were somewhat coarse, but their conversayour example."
tion was instructive, and their disputations acute, "I have indeed lived fifteen years in solitude," though sometimes too violent, and often contisaid the hermit, “but have no desire that my nued till neither controvertist remembered upon example should gain any imitators. In my youth what question they began. Some faults were I professed arms, and was raised by degrees to almost general among them: every one was the highest military rank. I have traversed wide pleased to hear the genius or knowledge of ancountries at the head of my troops, and seen other depreciated. many battles and sieges. At last, being disgust- In this assembly Rasselas was relating his ined by the preferment of a younger officer, and terview with the hermit, and the wonder with feeling that my vigour was beginning to decay, which he heard him censure a course of life I resolved to close iny life in peace, having found which he had so deliberately chosen, and so the world full of snares, discord, and misery. I laudably followed. The sentiments of the hearhad once escaped from the pursuit of the enemy ers were various. Some were of opinion, that by the shelter of this cavern, and therefore chose the folly of his choice had been justly punished it for my final residence. I employed artificers to by condemnation to perpetual perseverance. One form it into chambers, and stored it with all of the youngest among them, with great vehethat I was likely to want.
mence, pronounced him an hypocrite. Some " For some time after my retreat, I rejoiced talked of the right of society to the labour of like a tempest-beaten sailor at his entrance into individuals, and considered retirement as a de
sertion of duty. Others readily allowed, that no information which my studies have enabled there was a time when the claims of the public me to afford. To live according to nature, is to were satisfied, and when a man might properly act always with due regard to the fitness arising sequester himself, to review his life, and purify from the relations and qualities of causes and his heart.
effects; to concur with the great and unchangeOne, who appeared more affected with the able scheme of universal felicity; to co-operate narrative than the rest, thought it likely that with the general disposition and tendency of the the hermit would, in a few years, go back to his present system of things." retreat, and perhaps, if shame did not restrain, The Prince soon found that this was one of or death intercept him, return once more from those sages whom he should understand less as he his retreat into the world. “For the hope of heard him longer. He therefore bowed and was happiness,” said he,“ is so strongly impressed, silent; and the philosopher, supposing him sathat the longest experience is not able to efface tisfied, and the rest vanquished, rose up and deit. Of the present state, whatever it be, we parted, with the air of a man that had co-opefeel, and are forced to confess, the misery ; yet, rated with the present system. when the same state is again at a distance, imagination paints it as desirable. But the time will surely come when desire will no longer be
CHAP. XXIII. our. torment, and no man shall be wretched but by his own fault."
The Prince and his Sister divide between them « This,” said a philosopher, who had heard
the World of Observation. him with tokens of great impatience, “ is the present condition of a wise man. The time is RASSELAS returned home full of reflections, already come when none are wretched but by doubting how to direct his future steps. Of the their own fault. Nothing is more idle than to way to happiness he found the learned and siminquire after happiness, which nature has kind- ple equally ignorant; but as he was yet young, ly placed within our reach. The way to be hap- he flattered himself that he had time remaining py, is to live according to nature, in obedience for more experiments and farther inquiries. He to that universal and unalterable law with which communicated to Imlac his observations and his every heart is originally impressed; which is doubts, but was answered by him with new not written on it by precept, but engraven by doubts and remarks that gave him no comfort. destiny ; not instilled by education, but infused He therefore discoursed more frequently and at our nativity. He that lives according to na- freely with his sister, who had yet the same ture will suffer nothing from the delusions of hope with himself, and always assisted him to hope or importunities of desire ; he will receive give some reason why, though he had been hiand reject with equability of temper, and act or therto frustrated, he might succeed at last. suffer as the reason of things shall alternately “We have hitherto,” said she, “known but prescribe. Other men may amuse themselves little of the world; we have never yet been with subtle definitions, or intricate ratiocination. either greator mean. In our own country, though Let them learn to be wise by easier means ; let we had royalty, we had no power; and in this them observe the hind of the forest, and the we have not yet seen the private recesses of dolinnet of the grove ; let them consider the life mestic peace. Imlac favours not our search, lest of animals, whose motions are regulated by in- we should in time find him mistaken. We will stinct ; they obey their guide, and are happy, divide the task between us; you shall try what Let us therefore, at length, cease to dispute, is to be found in the splendour of courts, and I and learn to live; throw away the encumbrance will range the shades of humbler life. Perhaps of precepts, which they who utter them with so command and authority may be the supreme much pride and pomp do not understand, and blessings, as they afford the most opportunities carry with us this simple and intelligible max- of doing good ; or, perhaps, what this world im, ? That deviation from nature is deviation can give may be found in the modest habitafrom happiness.'"
tions of middle fortune-too low for great de. When he had spoken, he looked round him signs, and too high for penury and distress.” with a placid air, and enjoyed the consciousness of his own beneficence. « Sir," said the Prince, with great modesty, “as I, like all the rest of
CHAP. XXIV. mankind, am desirous of felicity, my closest attention has been fixed upon your discourse; I The Prince examines the Happiness of high doubt not the truth of a position which a man
Stations. so learned has so confidently advanced. Let me only know what it is to live according to na- RASSELAS applauded the design, and appear
ed next day with a splendid retinue at the court · "When I find young men so humble and so of the Bassa. He was soon distinguished for his docile," said the philosopher, “ I can deny them magnificence, and admitted as a prince whose