Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

To fresh and green before thee, and with which the whole face of the ocean appears fpotted as far as thou canft fee, are more in number than the fands on the fea-fhore; there are myriads of islands behind thofe which thou here discovereft, reaching further than thine eye, or even thine imagination, can extend itself. These are the maniions of good men after death, who, according to the degree and kinds of virtue in which they excelled, are diftributed among thefe feveral islands, which abound with pleasures of different kinds and degrees, fuitable to the relifhes and perfections of those who are fettled in them; every island is a paradife accommodated to its refpective inhabitants. Are not thefe, O Mirza, habitations worth contending for? Does life appear miferable, that gives thee opportunities of earning fuch a reward? Is death to be feared, that will convey thee to fo happy an existence ? Think not man was made in vain, who has fuch an eternity reserved for him. I gazed with inexpreflible pleafure on thefe happy islands. At length, faid I, Shew me now, I beseech thee, the fecrets that lie hid under thofe dark clouds, which cover the ocean on the other fide of the rock of adamant. The genius making me no anfwer, I turned about to addrefs myself to him a fecond time, but I found that he had left me: I then turned again to the vifion which I had been fo long contemplating; but instead of the rolling tide, the arched bridge, and the happy iflands; I faw nothing but the long hollow valley of Bagdat, with oxen, fheep, and camels, grazing upon the fides of it.

Spectator.

2. The Voyage of Life; an Allegory. Life,' fays Seneca, is a voyage, in the progrefs of which we are perpetually changing our fcenes: we firft leave childhood behind us, then youth, then the years of ripened manhood, then the better or more pleafing part of old age.'-The perufal of this paffage having excited in me a train of reflections on the ftate of man, the inceffant fluctuation of his wifhes, the gradual change of his difpofition to all external objects, and the thoughtleffnefs with which he floats along the ftream of time, I funk into a lumber amidst my meditations, and, on a fudden, found my ears filled with the tumult of labour, the fhouts of alacrity, the frieks of alarm, the whistle of winds, and the dash of waters.

my curiofity; but foon recovering myself fo far as to enquire whither we were going, and what was the caufe of fuch clamour and confufion; I was told that they were launching out into the ocean of Life; that we had already paffed the ftreights of infancy, in which multitudes had perished, fome by the weakness and fragility of their veffels, and more by the folly, perverfenefs, or negligence of thofe who undertook to fteer them; and that we were now on the main fea, abandoned to the winds and billows, without any other means of fecurity than the care of the pilot, whom it was always in our power to chufe, among great numbers that offered their direction and affiftance.

I then looked round with anxious eagernefs; and, first turning my eyes behind me, faw a ftream flowing through flowery islands, which every one that failed along feemed to behold with pleasure; but no fooner touched, than the current, which, though not noify or turbulent, was yet irrefiitible, bore him away. Beyond thefe iflands, all was darkness; nor could any of the paffengers defcribe the fhore at which he first embarked.

Before me, and on either fide, was an expanfe of waters violently agitated, and covered with fo thick a mifit, that the most perfpicacious eyes could fee but a little way. it

appeared to be full of rocks and whirlpools, for many funk unexpectedly while they were courting the gale with full fails, and infulting thole whom they had left behind. So numerous, indeed, were the dangers, and fo thick the darkness, that no caution could confer fecurity. Yet there were many, who, by falfe intelligence, betrayed their followers into whirlpools, or by violence pushed thofe whom they found in their way against the rocks.

The current was invariable and infurmountable; but though it was impoffible to fail against it, or to return to the place that was once paffed, yet it was not fo violent as to allow no opportunities for dexterity or courage, fince, though none could retreat back from danger, yet they might often avoid it by oblique direction.

It was, however, not very common to fteer with much care or prudence; for, by fome univerfal infatuation, every man appeared to think himself safe, though he faw his conforts every moment finking round him; and no fooner had the waves closed over them, than their fate and their mifMy aftonishinent for a time repreffed conduct were forgotten; the voyage was

B 2

purfued

purfued with the fame jocund confidence; every man congratulated himself upon the foundness of his veffel, and believed himfelf able to ftem the whirlpool in which his friend was swallowed, or glide over the rocks on which he was dashed: nor was it often obferved that the fight of a wreck made any man change his courfe; if he turned afide for a moment, he foon forgot the rudder, and left himself again to the difpofal of chance.

This negligence did not proceed from indifference, or from wearinefs of their prefent condition; for not one of those who thus rufhed upon deftruction failed, when he was finking, to call loudly upon his affociates for that help which could not now be given him and many fpent their laft moments in cautioning others against the folly by which they were intercepted in the midft of their courfe. Their benevolence was fometimes praised, but their admonitions were unregarded.

The veffels in which we had embarked, being confeffedly unequal to the turbulence of the ftream of life, were vifibly impaired in the course of the voyage, fo that every paffenger was certain, that how long foever he might, by favourable accidents, or by inceffant vigilance, be preferved, he muft fink at last.

This neceffity of perishing might have been expected to fadden the gay, and intimidate the daring, at least to keep the melancholy and timorous in perpetual torments, and hinder them from any enjoyment of the varieties and gratifications which nature offered them as the folace of their labours; yet in effect none feemed lefs to expect deftruction than thofe to whom it was most dreadful; they all had the art of concealing their danger from themselves; and those who knew their inability to bear the fight of the terrors that embarraffed their way, took care never to look forward, but found fome amusement of the prefent moment, and generally entertained themselves by playing with Hope, who was the conftant affociate of the voyage of Life.

Yet all that Hope ventured to promife, even to those whom the favoured moft, was, not that they should efcape, but that they should fink laft; and with this promife every one was fatisficd, though he laughed at the reft for feeming to believe it. Hope, indeed, apparently mocked the credulity of her companions; for, in proportion as their vessels grew leaky, the

redoubled her affurances of fafety; and none were more busy in making provisions for a long voyage, than they whom all but themfelves faw likely to perish foon by irreparable decay.

In the midst of the current of Life, was the gulph of Intemperance, a dreadful whirlpool, interfperfed with rocks, of which the pointed crags were concealed under water, and the tops covered with herbage, on which Eafe fpreads couches of repofe; and with fhades, where Pleafure warbled the fong of invitation. Within fight of thefe rocks, all who failed on the ocean of Life must neceffarily pass. Reason indeed was always at hand to steer the paffengers through a narrow outlet, by which they might efcape; but very few could, by her entreaties or remonstrances, be induced to put the rudder into her hand, without ftipulating that the fhould approach fo near unto the rocks of Pleasure, that they might folace themselves with a short enjoyment of that delicious region, after which they always determined to pursue their courfe without any other deviation.

Reafon was too often prevailed upon fo far by thefe promifes, as to venture her charge within the eddy of the gulph of In temperance, where, indeed, the circumvolution was weak, but yet interrupted the courfe of the veffel, and drew it, by infenfible rotations, towards the centre. She then repented her temerity, and with all her force endeavoured to retreat; but the draught of the gulph was generally too ftrong to be overcome; and the paffenger, having danced in circles with a pleafing and giddy velocity, was at last overwhelmed and loft. Thofe few whom Reason was able to extricate, generally fuffered fo many fhocks upon the points which fhot out from the rocks of Pleasure, that they were unable to continue their course with the fame ftrength and facility as before, but floated along timorously and feebly, endangered by every breeze, and shattered by every ruffe of the water, till they funk, by flow degrees, after long struggles, and innumerable expedients, always repining at their own folly, and warning others againft the first approach of the gulph of Intemperance.

There were artists who profeffed to repair the breaches and stop the leaks of the veffels which had been shattered on the rocks of Pleasure. Many appeared to have great confidence in their skill, and fome, indeed, were preserved by it from

Linking.

[ocr errors]

finking, who had received only a fingle blow; but I remarked, that few veffels lafted long which had been much repaired, nor was it found that the artists themselves continued afloat longer than those who had leaft of their affiftance.

The only advantage which, in the voyage of Life, the cautious had above the negligent, was, that they funk later, and more fuddenly; for they paffed forward till they had fometimes feen all thofe in whofe company they had issued from the freights of infancy, perish in the way, and at laft were overfet by a crofs breeze, without the toil of refiftance, or the anguish of expectation. But fuch as had often fallen against the rocks of Pleafure, commonly fubfided by fenfible degrees, contended long with the encroaching waters, and harraffed themselves by labours that fcarce Hope herself could flatter with fuccefs.

As I was looking upon the various fate of the multitude about me, I was fuddenly alarmed with an admonition from fome unknown power, Gaze not idly upon others when thou thyfelf art inking. Whence is this thoughtlefs tranquillity, when thou and they are equally endangered? I looked, and feeing the gulph of Intemperance before me, ftarted and awaked. Rambler.

53. The Journey of a Day, a Picture of

Human Life; the Story of Obidah. Obidah, the fon of Abenfina, left the caravanfera early in the morning, and purfued his journey through the plains of Indoftan. He was fresh and vigorous with reft; he was animated with hope; he was incited by defire; he walked fwiftly forward over the vallies, and faw the hills gradually rifing before him. As he paffed along, his ears were delighted with the morning fong of the bird of paradife, he was fanned by the last Autters of the finking breeze, and fprinkled with dew by groves of fpices; he fometimes contemplated the towering height of the oak, monarch of the hills; and fometimes caught the gentle fragrance of the primrofe, eldest daughter of the fpring all his fenfes were gratified, and all care was banished from the heart.

Thus he went on till the fun approached his meridian, and the increafing heat preyed upon his ftrength; he then looked round about him for fome more commodious path. He saw, on his right hand, a grove that feemed to wave its thades as

a fign of invitation; he entered it, and found the coolnefs and verdure irresistibly pleafant. He did not, however, forget whither he was travelling, but found a narrow way bordered with flowers, which appeared to have the fame direction with the main road, and was pleased that, by this happy experiment, he had found means to unite pleafure with bufinefs, and to gain the rewards of diligence, without fuffering its fatigues. He, therefore, still continued to walk for a time, without the leaft remiflion of his ardour, except that he was fometimes tempted to stop by the mufic of the birds, whom the heat had affembled in the fhade, and fometimes amufed himself with plucking the flowers that covered the banks on either fide, or the fruits that hung upon the branches. At laft the green path began to decline from its first tendency, and to wind among hills and thickets, cooled with fountains, and murmuring with water-falls. Here Obidah paused for a time, and began to confider whether it were longer fafe to forfake the known and common track; but remembering that the heat was now in its greatest violence, and that the plain was duity and uneven, he refolved to purfue the new path, which he fuppofed only to make a few meanders, in compliance with the varieties of the ground, and to end at laft in the common road.

Having thus calmed his folicitude, he renewed his pace, though he fufpected that he was not gaining ground. This uneafinefs of his mind inclined him to lay hold on every new object, and give way to every fenfation that might footh or divert him. He liftened to every echo, he mounted every hill for a fresh prospect, he turned afide to every cafcade, and pleafed himfelf with tracing the course of a gentle river that rolled among the trees, and wa.. tered a large region with innumerable circumvolutions. In thefe amusements the hours paffed away unaccounted, his deviations had perplexed his memory, and he knew not towards what point to travel. He flood penfive and confufed, afraid to go forward left he fhould go wrong, yet confcious that the time of loitering was now paft. While he was thus tortured with uncertainty, the sky was overfpread with clouds, the day vanished from before him, and a fudden tempeft gathered round his head. He was now roufed by his danger, to a quick and painful remembrance of his folly; he now faw how happiness is loft, when cafe is confulted; he lamented the

B 3

unmanly

unmanly impatience that prompted him to feek fhelter in the grove, and defpifed the petty curiofity that led him on from trifle to trifle. While he was thus reflecting, the air grew blacker, and a clap of thunder broke his meditation,

He now refolved to do what remained yet in his power; to tread back the ground which he had paffed, and try to find fome iffue where the wood might open into the plain. He proftrated himfelf on the ground, and commended his life to the Lord of nature. He rofe with confidence and tranquillity, and preffed on with his fabre in his hand, for the beafts of the defert were in motion, and on every hand were heard the mingled howls of rage and fear, and ravage and expiration; all the horrors of darkness and folitude furrounded him; the winds roared in the woods, and the torrents tumbled from the hills.

Work'd into fudden rage by wint'ry fhow'rs, Dawn the steep hill the roaring torrent pours; The mountain fhepherd hears the distant noife. Thus forlorn and diftreffed, he wandered through the wild, without knowing whither he was going, or whether he was every moment drawing nearer to fafety or to deftruction. At length, not fear, but labour, began to overcome him; his breath grew fhort, and his knees trembled, and he was on the point of lying down in refignation to his fate, when he beheld through the brambles the glimmer of a taper. He advanced towards the light, and finding that it proceeded from the cottage of a hermit, he called humbly at the door, and obtained admiffion. The old man fet before him fuch provifions as he had collected for himfelf, on which Obidah fed with eagerness and gratitude.

6

When the repaft was over, Tell me,' faid the hermit, by what chance thou haft been brought hither; I have been now twenty years an inhabitant of the wilder nefs, in which I never faw a man before.' Obidah then related the occurrences of his journey, without any concealment or palliation.

Son,' faid the hermit, let the errors and follies, the dangers and efcape of this day, fink deep into thy heart. Remember, my fon, that human life is the journey of a day. We rife in the morning of youth, full of vigour, and full of expectation; we fet forward with fpirit and hope, with gaiety and with diligence, and travel on a while in the ftrait road of piety towards the manfions of rest. In a short time we

remit our fervour, and endeavour to find fome mitigation of our duty, and fome more eafy means of obtaining the fame end. We then relax our vigour, and refolve no longer to be terrified with crimes at a distance, but rely upon our own conftancy, and venture to approach what we refolve never to touch. We thus enter the bowers of eafe, and repofe in the fhades of fecurity. Here the heart foftens, and vigilance fubfides; we are then willing to enquire whether another advance cannot be made, and whether we may not, at leaft, turn our eyes upon the gardens of pleasure. We approach them with fcruple and he fitation; we enter them, but enter timorous and trembling, and always hope to pafs through them without lofing the road of virtue, which we, for a while, keep in our fight, and to which we propofe to return. But temptation fucceeds temptation, and one compliance prepares us for another; we in time lofe the happiness of innocence, and folace our difquiet with fenfual gratifications. By degrees we let fall the remembrance of our original intention, and quit the only adequate object of rational defire. We entangle ourfeives in bufinefs, immerge ourfelves in luxury, and rove through the labyrinths of inconftancy, till the darkness of old age begins to invade us, and disease and anxiety obfruct our way. We then look back upon our lives with horror, with forrow, with repentance; and with, but too often vainly wish, that we had not forfaken the ways of virtue. Happy are they, my fon, who fhall learn from thy example not to defpair, but fhall remember, that though the day is paft, and their ftrength is waited, there yet remains one effort to be made; that reformation is never hopeless, nor fincere endeavours ever unaflifted; that the wanderer may at length return, after all his errors; and that he who implores ftrength and courage from above, thall find danger and difficulty give way before him. Go now, my fon, to thy repofe; commit thyfelf to the care of Omnipotence; and when the morning calls again to toil, begin anew thy journey and thy life.

Rambler.

§ 4. The prefent Life to be confidered only as it may conduce to the Happiness of a future

one.

A lewd young fellow feeing an aged hermit go by him barefoot, "Father," fays he, you are in a very miferable condition if there is not another world." "True,

fon,"

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

fon," faid the hermit: " but what is thy condition if there is "Man is a creature defigned for two different flates of being, or rather, for two different lives. His firit life is short and tranfient; his fecond, permanent and laiting. The question we are all concerned in is this, In which of thote two lives is it our chief intereft to make ourfelves happy? or, in other words, whether we should endeavour to fecure to ourfelves the pleafures and gratifications of a life which is uncertain and precarious, and, at its utmost length, of a very inconfiderable duration; or to fecure to ourfelves the pleafures of a life that is fixed and fettled, and will never end? Every man, upon the firit hearing of this question, knows very well which fide of it he ought to clafe with, But however right we are in theory, it is plain that, in practice, we adhere to the wrong fide of the question. We make provifions for this life, as though it were never to have an end; and for the other life, as though it were never to have a beginning, Should a fpirit of fuperior rank, who is a franger to human nature, accidentally alight upon the earth, and take a furvey cf its inhabitants, what would his notions of us be? Would not he think, that we are a fpecies of beings made for quite different ends and purposes than what we really are? Mul not he imagine that we were placed in this world to get riches and honours? Would not he think that it was our duty to toil after wealth, and station, and title? Nay, would not he believe we were forbidden poverty by threats of eternal purithment, and enjoined to purfae cur pleafures under pain of damnation? He would certainly imagine, that we were influenced by a fcheme of duties quite oppofite to thure which are indeed prefcribed to us, And truly, according to fuch an imaginaton, he must conclude that we are a fpecies of the most obedient creatures in the univerfe; that we are conftant to our duty; and that we keep a fteady eye on the end for which we were fent hither.

7

of creatures are to exift to all eternity in another life, for which they make no preparations? Nothing can be a greater difgrace to reafon, than that men, who are perfuaded of thefe two different ftates of being, fhould be perpetually employed in providing for a life of threefcore and ten years, and neglecting to make provifion for that which, after many myriads of years, will be ftill new, and ftill beginning; especially when we confider that our endeavours for making ourfelves great, or rich, or honourable, or whatever elfe we place our happiness in, may, after all, prove unfuccefsful; whereas, if we constantly and fincerely endeavour to make ourselves happy in the other life, we are fure that our endeavours will fucceed, and that we shall not be difappointed of our hope.

The following queflion is ftarted by one of the fchoolmen. Suppofing the whole body of the earth were a great ball or mafs of the finest fand, and that a fingle grain or particle of this fand fhould be annihilated every thoufand years: Suppofing then that you had it in your choice to be happy all the while this prodigious mafs of fand was confuming by this flow method till there was not a grain of it left, on condition you were to be miferable for ever after; or fuppofing you might be happy for ever after, on condition you would be miferable till the whole mafs of fand were thus annihilated, at the rate of one fand in a thoufand years: which of these two cafes would you make your choice?

It must be confeffed in this cafe, fo many thoufands of years are to the imagination as a kind of eternity, though in reality they do not bear fo great a proportion to that duration which is to follow them, as an unit does to the greatest number which you can put together in figures, or as one of thofe fands to the fuppofed heap. Reafon therefore tells us, without any manner of hesitation, which would be the better part in this choice. However, as I have before intimated, our reafon might in fuch But how great would be his aftonifh- a cafe be fo overfet by the imagination, as ment, when he learnt that we were beings to difpofe fome perfons to fink under the not defigned to exist in this world above confideration of the great length of the threefcore and ten years; and that the first part of this duration, and of the great greatest part of this bufy fpecies fall fhort distance of that fecond duration which is even of that age! How would he be loft to fucceed it. The mind, I fay, might in horror and admiration, when he fhould give itfelf up to that happiness which is at know that this fet of creatures, who lay out hand, confidering that it is fo very near, all their endeavours for this life, which and that it would laft fo very long. Put fcarce deferves the name of existence; when the choice we actually have before when, I fay, he should know that this fetus is this, whether we will chufe to be

B 4

happy

« VorigeDoorgaan »