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PIECES IN PROSE.
Religion the foundation of content.
An Allegory. OMAR, the hermit of the mountain Aubukabis, which rises on the east of Mecca, and overlooks the city, found, evening, a man fitting pensive and alone. within a few paces of his cell. Omar regarded him with attention, and per. ceived that his looks were wild and haggard, and that his body was feeble and emaciated. The man also seemed to gaze stedfastly on Omar ; but such was the abstraction of bis mind, that his eye did not immediately take cognizance, of its object. In the moment of recollection, he started as from a dream: he covered his face in confusion, and bowed himself to the ground. “Son of affliction," said Omar, “ who art thou, and what is thy distress ?” “ My name,” replied the stranger, “is Haffan, and I am a native of this city. The angel of adversity has laid his hand upon me, and the wretch whom thine eye compassionates, thou canst not deliver." "To deliver thee," said Omar, " belongs to Him, only, from whom we should receive with humility both good and evil ; yet hide not thy life from me ; for the burden which I cannot remove, I may at least enable thee to sustain.” Haffan fixed his eyes upon the ground, and remained some time filent ; then fetching a deep figh, he looked up at the hermit, and thus complied with his requeft.
“ It is now six years since our mighty lord, the caliph Almalic, whose memory be blesfed, first came privately to worship in the temple of the holy city. The blefling which he petitioned of the prophet, as the prophet's vicegerent, he was diligent to dispense. In the intervals of his devotion, therefore, he went about the city relieving distress, and restraining oppression : the widow smiled under his protection, and the weakness of age and infancy was sustained by his bounty. I, who dreaded no evil but fickness, and expected no good beyond the reward of my labour, was singing at my work, when Almalic entered my dwelling. He looked round with a smile of complacency; perceiving that though it was mean, it was neat ; and though I was poor, I appear. ed to be content. As his habit was that of a pilgrim, I hastened to receive him with such hospitality as was in my power ; and my cheerfulness was rather increafed than reItrained by his presence. After he had accepted some coffee, he asked me many questions ; and though by my answers I always endeavoured to excite him to mirth, yet I perceived that he grew thoughtful, and eyed me with a placid but fixed attention. I suspected that he had some knowledge of me, and therefore inquired his country and his name. “ Hassan,” said he, “I have raised thy cu. riosity, and it shall be satisfied : he who now talks with thee, is Almalic, the fovereign of the faithful, whose feat is the throne of Medina, and whose commiffion is from above." These words ftruck me dumb with astonishment, though I had fome doubt of their truth : but Almalic throwing back his garment, discovered the peculiarity of his velt, and put the royal fignet upon his finger. I then started up, and was about to proftrate myself before him, but he prevented
“ Hassan," said he, “ forbear : thou art greater than l; and from thee I have at once derived humility and wis. dom." I answered, “ Mock not thy servant, who is but a worm before thee : life and death are in thy hand, and happiness and misery are the daughters of thy will. “ Haffan," he replied, “I can no otherwise give life and happiness, than by not taking them away. Thou art thyself beyond the reach of my bounty ; and possessed of felicity which I can neither communicate nor obtain. My influence over others fills my bofom with perpetual folicitude and anxiety ; and yet my influence over others extends only to their vices, whether I would reward or punish. By the bow-ftring, I can repress violence and fraud; and by the delegation of
power, I can transfer the insatiable wishes of avarice and ambition from one object to another ; but with respect to virtue, I am impotent; if I could reward it, I would revard it in thee. Thou art content, and halt therefore neither avarice nor ambition. To exalt thee would destroy the fimplicity of thy life, and diminish that happiness which I have no power either to increase or to continue.”-He then rose up, and commanding me not to disclose his fecret, departed.
* As soon as I recovered from the confufion and altonishment in which the caliph left me, I began to regret that my behaviour had intercepted his bounty; and accused that cheerfulness of folly, which was the concomitant of poverty and labour. I now repined at the obscurity of my ftation, which my former insensibility had perpetuated. I neglected my labour, because I despised the reward; I spent the day in idleness, forming romantic projects to recover the advantages which I had loft ; and at night, instead of losing myfelf in that sweet and refreshing sleep, from which I used to rife with new health, cheerfulness, and vigour, I dreamed of splendid habits and a numerous retinue, of gardens, palaces, feasting, and pleasures ; and waked only to regret the illufions that had vanished. My health was at length impaired by the inquietude of my mind ; I sold all my moveables for fublistence ; and reserved only a mattress, upon which I sometimes lay from one night to another.
In the firit moon of the following year, the caliph came again to Mecca, with the same fecrefy, and for the same purposes. He was willing once more to see the man, whom be considered as deriving felicity from himself. But he found me, not singing at my work, ruddy with health, vivid with cheerfulness; but pale and dejected, sitting on the ground, and chewing opium, which contributed to substitute the phantoms of imagination for the realities of greatness. He entered with a kind of joyful impatience in his counteDance, which, the moment he beheld me, was changed to a mixture of wonder and pity. I had often wished for another opportunity to address the caliph ; yet I was confounded at his presence, and, throwing myself at his feet, I laid my hand upon my head, and was speechless. “Hassan," said he, "what canst thou have lost, whose wealth was the labour of thine own hand; and what can have made thee fad, the spring of whose joy was in thy own bosom? What evil hath befallen thee? Speak, and if I can remove it, th
art happy." I was now encouraged to look
and I replied, “ Let my lord forgive the presumption of his servant, who rather than utter a falsehood, would be dumb forever. I am become wretched by the loss of that which I never, possessed. Thou hast raised wishes, which indeed I am not worthy thou shouldīt satisfy ; but why should it be thought, that he who was happy in obscurity and indigence would not have been rendered more happy by eminence and wealth.”
“When I had finished this speech, Almalic stood fome moments in suspense, and I continued prostrate before him. « Hassan," said he, “ I perceive, not with indignation but regret, that I mistook thy character. I now discover ava. rice and ambition in thy heart, which lay torpid only because their objects were too remote to rouse them. I cannot, therefore, invest thee with authority, because I would not subject my people to oppreffion ; and because I would not be compelled to punish thee for crimes which I firit enabled thee to commit. But, as I have taken from thee that which I cannot restore, I will, at least, gratify the wishes that I excited, lest thy heart accuse me of injustice, and thou continue still a stranger to thyfelf. Arise, therefore, and follow me.” I sprung from the ground, as it were, with the wings of an eagle; I kissed the hem of his garment in an ecftacy of gratitude and joy ; and when I went out of my house, my heart leaped as if I had escaped from the den of a lion. I followed Almalic to the caravansera in which he lodged ; and after he had fulfilled his vows, he took me with him to Medina. He gave me an partment in the seraglio; I was attended by his own servants ; my provisions were sent from his own table ; I received every week a sum from his treasury, which exceeded the most ro. mantic of my expectations. But I soon discovered, that no dainty was so tasteful, as the food to which labour procur. ed an apperite ; no flumbers so sweet, as those which weari. ness invited ; and no time fo well enjoyed, as that in which diligence is expecting its reward. I remembered these en joyments with regret; and while I was sighing in the midst of fuperfluities which, though they encumbered life, yet I could not give up, they were suddenly taken away.
Alma, lic, in the midit of the glory of his kingdom, and in the full vigour of his life, expired suddenly in the bath : such thou knowelt was the destiny which the Almighty had written upon his head.
“ His fon Aububekir, who succeeded to the throne, was incensed againīt me, by some who regarded me at once with contempt and envy. He suddenly withdrew my penfion, and commanded that I fould be expelled the palace ; a command which my enemies executed with so much rigour, thąt within twelve hours I found myself in the streets of Medina, indigent and friendless, exposed to hunger and derision, with all the habits of luxury, and all the lensibili. ty of pride. O ! let not thy heart despise me, thou whom ex. perience has not taught, that it is misery to lose that which it is not happiness to poffefs. O! that for me this leffon had not been written on the tablets of Providence! I have travelled from Medina to Mecca; bu: I cannot Ay from myself. How different are the tzces in which I have been placed! The remembrance of both is bitter ; for the pleasures of neither can return.” (Haffan, having thus ended his story, smote his hands togecher; and, looking up. ward, burit into tears.
Omar, having waited till this agony was past, went to him, and taking him by the hand, My son,” said he,
more is yet in thy power than Almalic could give, or Aububekir take away. The lesson of thy life the prophet bas in mercy appointed me to explain.
• Thou wast once content with poverty and labour; only because they were become habitual, and ease and affiuence were placed beyond thy hope ; for when ease and af. fuerce approached thee, thou walt content with poverty and labour no: more. That which then became the object, was also the bound of thy hope ; and he, whose utmost hope is disappointed, mult inevitably be wretched. fupreme desire had been the delights of Paradise, and thou had it believed that by the tenor of thy life these delights had been secured, as more could not have been given thee, thou wouldīt not have regretted that less was not offered. The content, which was once enjoyed, was but the lethar. gy of the soul ; and the distrels, which is now suffered, will but quicken it to action, Depart, therefore, and be thankful for all things ; put thy trust in Him, who alone can gratify the wish of reason, and satisfy thy foul with good ; fix thy hope upon that portion, in comparison of which the world is as the drop of the bucket, and the dust of the balance. Return, my son, to thy labour; thy food hall be again tasteful, and thy relt shall be sweet; to thy content also will be added stability, when it depends no