« AnteriorContinuar »
If, when this roof shall know thy friend no more,
118. -THE MOUNTAIN OF MISERIES.
ADDISON. It is a celebrated thought of Socrates, that if all the misfortunes of mankind were cast into a public stock, in order to be equally distributed
among the whole species, those who now think themselves the most unhappy, would prefer the share they are already possessed of, before that which would fall to them by such a division. Horace has carried this thought a great deal further, (Sat. i. l. 1, ver. 1,) which implies, that the hardships or misfortunes we lie under are more easy to us than those of any other person would be, in case we could change conditions with him.
As I was ruminating upon these two remarks, and seated in my elbow chair, I insensibly fell asleep; when on a sudden methought there was a proclamation made by Jupiter, that every mortal should bring in his griefs and calamities, and throw them together in a heap. There was a large plain appointed for this purpose. I took my stand in the centre of it, and saw, with a great deal of pleasure, the whole human species marching one after another, and throwing down their several loads, which immediately 'grew up into a prodigious mountain, that seemed to rise above the clouds.
There was a certain lady of a thin airy shape, who was very active in this solemnity. She carried a magnifying glass in one of her hands, and was clothed in a loose flowing robe, embroidered with several figures of fiends and spectres, that discovered themselves in a thousand chimerical shapes, as her garments hovered in the wind. There was something wild and distracted in her looks. Her name was Fancy. She led up every mortal to the appointed place, after having very officiously assisted him in making up his pack, and laying it
upon his shoulders. My heart melted within me to see my fellow creatures groaning under their respective burdens, and to consider that prodigious bulk of human calamities which lay before me.
There were, however, several persons who gave me great diversion. Upon this occasion, I observed one bringing in a fardel, very carefully concealed under an old embroidered cloak, which, upon his throwing it into the heap, I discovered to be poverty. Another, after a great deal of puffing, threw down his luggage, which, upon examining, I found to be his wife.
There were multitudes of lovers, saddled with very whimsical burdens, composed of darts and flames; but, what was very odd, though they sighed as if their hearts would break under these bundles of calamities, they could not persuade themselves to cast them into the heap when they came up to it; but, after a few vain efforts, shook their heads, and marched away as heavy laden as they came. multitudes of old women throw down their wrinkles, and several young ones, who stripped themselves of a tawny skin. There were very great heaps of red noses, large lips, and rusty teeth. The truth of it is, I was surprised to see the greatest part of the mountain made up of bodily deformities. Observing one advancing towards the heap with a larger cargo than ordinary upon his back, I found, upon his near approach, that it was only a natural hump, which he disposed of with great joy of heart among this collection of human miseries. There were likewise, distempers of all sorts; though I could not but observe, that there were many more imaginary than real. One little packet I could not but take notice of, which was a complication of all the dis
eases incident to human nature, and was in the hand of a great many fine people; this was called the spleen. But what most of all surprised me, was a remark I made, that there was not a single vice or folly thrown into the whole heap; at which I was very much astonished, having concluded within myself that every one would take this opportunity of getting rid of his passions, prejudices, and frailties.
I took notice in particular of a very profligate fellow, who, I did not question, came loaden with his crimes; but upon searching into his bundle, I found that, instead of throwing his guilt from him, he had only laid down his memory. He was followed by another worthless rogue, who flung away his modesty instead of his ignorance.
When the whole race of mankind had thus cast their burdens, the phantom which had been so busy on this occasion, seeing me an idle spectator of what passed, approached towards me. I grew uneasy at her presence, when of a sudden she held her magnifying glass full before my eyes. I no sooner saw my face in it, but was startled at the shortness of it, which now appeared to me in its utmost aggravation. The immoderate breadth of the features made me very much out of humour with my own countenance, upon which I threw it from me like a mask. It happened very luckily that one who stood by me had just before thrown down his visage, which it seems was too long for him. It was indeed extended to a most shameful length, I believe the very chin was, modestly speaking, as long as my whole face. We had both of us an opportunity of mending ourselves; and all the contributions being now brought in, every man was at liberty to exchange his misfortunes for those of another person.
I saw with unspeakable pleasure the whole species thus delivered from its sorrows ; though at the same time, as we stood round the heap, and surveyed the several materials of which it was composed, there was scarce a mortal in this vast multitude who did not discover what he thought pleasures and blessings of life, and wondered how the owners of them ever came to look upon them as burdens and grievances.
As we were regarding very attentively this confusion of miseries, this chaos of calamity, Jupiter issued out a second proclamation, that every one was now at liberty to exchange his affliction, and to return to his habitation with any such bundle as should be allotted to him.
Upon this Fancy began again to bestir herself, and parcelling out