« AnteriorContinuar »
the Hill of Science. On the top is the temple of Truth, whose head is above the clouds, and a veil of pure light covers her face. Observe the progress of her votaries: be silent and attentive.”
After I had noticed a variety of objects, I turned my eye towards the multitudes who were climbing the steep ascent; and observed amongst them a youth of a lively look, a piercing eye, and something fiery and irregular in all his motions. His name was Genius. He darted like an eagle up the mountain; and left his companions gazing after him with envy and admiration: but his progress was unequal, and interrupted by a thousand caprices. When Pleasure warbled in the valley, he mingled in her train. When Pride beckoned towards the precipice, he ventured to the tottering edge. He delighted in devious and untried paths; and made so many excursions from the road that his feebler companions often outstripped him. I observed that the muses beheld him with partiality; but Truth often frowned, and turned aside her face. While Genius was thus wasting his strength in eccentric flights, I saw a person of very different appearance named Application. He crept along with a slow and unremitting pace, his eyes fixed on the top of the mountain, patiently removing every stone that obstructed his way, till he saw most of those below him, who had at first derided his slow and toilsome progress. Indeed, there were few who ascended the hill with equal and uninterrupted steadiness; for, besides the difficulties of the way, they were continually solicited to turn aside, by a numerous crowd of appetites, passions, and pleasures, whose importunity, when once complied with, they became less and less able to resist; and though they often returned to the path, the asperities of the road were more severely felt; the hill appeared more steep and rugged; the fruits which were wholesome and refreshing, seemed harsh and ill
tasted; their sight grew dim; and their feet tript at every little obstruction.
I saw, with some surprise, that the muses, whose business was to cheer and encourage those who were toiling up the ascent, would often sing in the bowers of Pleasure, and accompany those who were enticed away at the call of the Passions. They accompanied them, however, but a little way; and always forsook them when they lost sight of the hill. The tyrants then doubled their chains upon the unhappy captives; and led them away, without resistance, to the cells of Ignorance, or the mansions of Misery. Amongst the innumerable seducers, who were endeavouring to draw away the votaries of Truth from the path of Science, there was one, so little formidable in her appearance, and so gentle and languid in her attempts, that I should scarcely have taken notice of her, but for the numbers she had imperceptibly loaded with her chains. Indolence, (for so she was called,) far from proceeding to open hostilities, did not attempt to turn their feet out of the path, but contented herself with retarding their progress: and the purpose she could not force them to abandon, she persuaded them to delay. Her touch had a power like that of the torpedo, which withered the strength of those who came within its influence. Her unhappy captives still turned their faces towards the temple, and always hoped to arrive there; but the ground seemed to slide from beneath their feet, and they found themselves at the bottom, before they suspected they had changed their place. The placid serenity, which at first appeared in their countenance, changed by degrees into a melancholy languor, which was tinged with deeper and deeper gloom, as they glided down the stream of Insignificance; a dark and sluggish water, which is curled by no breeze, and enlivened by no murmur, till it falls into a dead sea, where startled passengers are awakened by the shock, and the next moment buried in the gulf of Oblivion.
Of all the unhappy deserters from the paths of Science, none seemed less able to return than the followers of Indolence. The captives of Appetite and Passion would often seize the moment when their tyrants were languid or asleep, to escape from their enchantment; but the dominion of Indolence was constant and unremitted; and seldom resisted, till resistance was in vain.
After contemplating these things, I turned my eyes towards the top of the mountain, where the air was always pure and exhilarating, the path shaded with laurels and other ever-greens, and the effulgence which beamed from the face of Science seemed to shed a glory round her votaries. Happy, said I, are they who are permitted to ascend the mountain!-But while I was pronouncing this exclamation with uncommon ardour I saw, standing beside me, a form of diviner features, and a more benign radiance. "Happier," said she," are they whom virtue conducts to the mansions of Content!" " What," said I, "does virtue then reside in the vale?" "I am found," said she, "in the vale, and I illuminate the mountain. I cheer the cottager at his toil, and inspire the sage at his meditation. I mingle in the crowd of cities, and bless the hermit in his cell. I have a temple in every heart that owns my influence; and to him that wishes for me, I am already present. Science may raise thee to eminence; but I alone can guide thee to felicity!"-While Virtue was thus speaking, I stretched out my arms towards her, with a vehemence which broke my slumber. The chill dews were falling around me, and the shades of evening stretched over the landI hastened homeward; and resigned the night to silence and meditation.
The journey of a day; a picture of human life.
OBIDAH, the son of Abensina, left the caravansera early in the morning, and pursued his journey through the plains of Indostan. He was fresh and vigorous with rest; he was animated with hope; he was incited by desire; he walked swiftly forward over the valleys, and saw the hills gradually rising before him. As he passed along, his ears were delighted with the morning song of the bird of paradise; he was fanned by the last flutters of the sinking breeze, and sprinkled with dew by groves of spices. He sometimes contemplated the towering height of the oak, monarch of the hills; and sometimes caught the gentle fragrance of the primrose, eldest daughter of the spring: all his senses were gratified, and all care was banished from his heart.
Thus he went on till the sun approached his meridian, and the increased heat preyed upon his strength ; he then looked round about him for some more commodious path. He saw, on his right hand, a grove that seemed to wave its shades as a sign of invitation ; he entered it, and found the coolness and verdure irresistibly pleasant. He did not, however, forget whither he was travelling; but found a narrow way, bordered with flowers, which appeared to have the same direction with the main road; and was pleased, that, by this happy experiment, he had found means to unite pleasure with business, and to gain the rewards of diligence without suffering its fatigues. He, therefore, still continued to walk for a time, without the least remission of his ardour, except that he was sometimes tempted to stop by the music of the birds, which the heat had assembled in the shade; and sometimes amused himself with plucking the flowers that covered the D
banks on either side, or the fruits that hung upon the branches. At last, 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 consider whether it were longer safe to forsake the known and common track; but remembering that the heat was now in its greatest violence, and that the plain was dusty and uneven, he resolved to pursue the new path, which he supposed only to make a few meanders, in compliance with the varieties of the ground, and to end at last in the common road.
Having thus calmed his solicitude, he renewed his pace, though he suspected that he was not gaining ground. This uneasiness of his mind inclined him to lay hold on every new object, and give way to every sensation that might sooth or divert him. He listened to every echo; he mounted every hill for a fresh prospect: he turned aside to every cascade; and pleased himself with tracing the course of a gentle river that rolled among the trees, and watered a large region. with innumerable circumvolutions. In these amusements, the hours passed away unaccounted; his de-. viations had perplexed his memory, and he knew not towards what point to travel. He stood pensive and confused, afraid to go forward lest he should go wrong, yet conscious that the time of loitering was now past. While he was thus tortured with uncertainty, the sky was overspread with clouds; the day vanished from before him; and a sudden tempest gathered round his head. He was now roused by his danger to a quick and painful remembrance of his folly; he now saw how happiness is lost when ease is consulted; he la mented the unmanly impatience that prompted him to seek shelter in the grove; and despised the petty cu riosity 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.