Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

I could send rain on the southern mountains, and raise the Nile to an inundation, In the hurry of my imagination I commanded rain to fall, and by comparing the time of my command with that of the inundation, I found that the clouds had listened to my lips.”

“ Might not some other cause, said I, produce this concurrence ? the Nile does not always rise on the same day.”

“ Do not believe, said he with impatience, that such objections could escape me: I reasoned long against my own conviction, and laboured against truth with the utmost obstinacy. I sometimes fufpected myself of madness, and should not have dared to impart this secret but to a man like you, capable of distinguishing the wonderful from the impossible, and the incredible from the false.”

Why, Sir, said I, do you call that incredible, which you know, or think you know, to be true?”

“ Because, said he, I cannot prove it by any external evidence; and I know too well the laws of demonftration to think that my conviction ought to influence another, who cannot, like me, be conscious of its force. I, therefore, shall not attempt to gain credit by disputation. It is sufficient that I feel this power, that I have long possessed, and every day exerted it. But the life of man is short, the infirmities of age increase upon me, and the time will soon come, when the regulator of the year must mingle with the dust. The care of appointing a successor has long disturbed me; the night and the day have been spent in comparisons of all the characters which have come to my knowledge, and I have yet found none so worthy as thyself,

14

СНАР.

XLII.

THE ASTRONOMER LEAVES THILAC HIS DIRECTIONS,

"HEAR, therefore, what I shall impart with at

tention, such as the welfare of a world requires. If the task of a king be considered as difficult, who has the care only of a few millions, to whom he cannot do much good or harm, what must be the anxiety of him, on whom depends the action of the elements, and the great gifts of light and heat!-Hear me therefore with attention.

“ I have diligently considered the position of the earth and fun, and formed innumerable schemes in which I changed their situation. I have sometimes turned aside the axis of the earth, and sometimes varied the ecliptick of the sun : but I have found it imposible to make a disposition by which the world may be advantage; what one region gains, a'rother lotes by an imaginable alteration, even without considering the distant parts of the folir filter with which we are unacquainted. Do not therefore, in thy administration of the year, inciulçre the pride by innovation; do not please thyself with thinking that thou canst make thyself renowned to all future ages, liy disordering the feafons. The memory of mischiat is no desirable fame. Much less will it become thee to let kindness or interi it prevail. Never rob other countries of rain io pour it on thine own. For us the Nile is fufi, cient."

" I promised, that when I pofleffed the power, I would use it with inflexible integrity; and he dismissed me, pressing my hand.” My heart, said he, will be now at rest, and my benevolence will no more destroy my quiet; I have found a man of wisdom and virtue, to whom I can cheerfully bequeath the inheritance of the sun.”

The prince heard this narration with very serious regard; but the princess smiled, and Pekuah convulsed herself with laughter. “ Ladies, said Imlac, to mock the heaviest of human affictions is neither charitable nor wise. Few can attain this man's knowledge, and few practise his virtues ; but all may suffer his calamity. Of the uncertainties of our present state, the most dreadful and alarming is the uncertain continuance of reason.”

The princess was recollected, and the favourite was abalhed. Raselas, more deeply affected, inquired of Imlac, whether he thought such maladies of the mind frequent, and how they were contracted?

CHA P. XLIII.

THE DANGEROUS PREVALENCE OF IMAGINATION.

“Disorders of intellect, answered Imlac, hap

pen much more often than superficial ob. servers will easily believe. Perhaps, if we speak with rigorous exactness, no human mind is in its right state. There is no man whose imagination does not sometimes predominate over his reason, who can regulate his attention wholly by his will, and whose ideas will come and go at his command. No man will be found in whose mind airy notions do pot sometimes tyrannize, and force him to hope or fear beyond the limits of sober probability. All power of fancy over reason is a degree of insanity; but while this power is such as we can control and repress, it is not visible to others, nor confidered as any depravation of the mental faculties: it is not pronounced madness but when it becomes ungovernable, and apparently influences speech or action.

fear

• To indulge the power of fiction, and fend imagination out upon the wing, is often the sport of those who delight too much in fiient speculation, When we are alone we are not always busy; the labour of excogitation is too violent to last long; the ardour of inquiry will sometimes give way to idleness or faciety. He who has nothing external that can divert him, must find pleasure in his own thoughts, and must conceive himself what he is not; for who is pleased with what he is? He then expatiates in boundless futurity, and culls from all imaginable conditions that which for the present moment he should most desire, ainuses his desires with impossible enjoyments, and confers upon his pride unattainable dominion. The mind dances from scene to scene, unites all pleasures in all combinations, and riots in delights, which nature and fortune, with all their bounty, cannot bestow.

“ In time, some particular train of ideas fixes the attention, all other intellectual gratifications are rejected, the mind, in weariness or leisure, recurs constantly to the favourite conception, and feasts on the luscious falsehood, whenever she is offended with the bitterness of truth. By degrees the reign of fancy is confirmed; the grows first imperious,

and

and in time despotick. Then fictions begin to operate as realities, false opinions falten upon the mind, and life paffes in dreams of rapture or of anguish.

“ This, Sir, is one of the dangers of solitude, which the hermit has confessed not always to promote goodness, and the aftronomer's misery has proved to be not always propitious to wisdom.

“ I will no more, said the favourite, imagine myfelf the queen of Abissinia. I have often spent the hours, which the princess gave to my own disposal, in adjusting ceremonies and regulating the court ; I have repressed the pride of the powerful, and granted the petitions of the poor; I have built new palaces in more happy situations, planted groves upon the tops of mountains, and have exulted in the beneficence of royalty, till, when the princess entered, I had almost forgotten to bow down before her.”

" And I, said the princess, will not allow myself any more to play the shepherdess in my waking dreams. I have often foothed my thoughts with the quiet and innocence of pastoral employments, till I have in my chamber heard the winds whistle, and the sheep bleat: sometimes freed the lamb entangled in the thicket, and sometimes with my crook encountered the wolf. I have a dress like that of the village maids, which I put on to help my imagination, and a pipe on which I play softly, and suppose myself followed by my focks.”

“ I will confess, said the prince, an indulgence of fantastick delight more dangerous than yours. I have frequently endeavoured to image the pof

fibility

« ElőzőTovább »