Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

and communicate to me the result of thine observations. Lead wherever you think proper, I shall be your attendant and instructor.” Asem and his companion travelled on in silence for some time, the former being entirely lost in astonishment; but at last recovering his wonted serenity, he could not help observing, that the face of the country bore a near resemblance to that he had left, except that this subterranean world still seemed to retain its primaeval wildneSS. “Here,” cried Asem, “I perceive animals of prey, and others that seem only designed for their subsistence; it is the very same in the world over our heads. But had I been permitted to instruct our Prophet, I would have removed this defect, and formed no voracious or destructive animals, which only prey on the other parts of the creation.” “Your tenderness for inferior animals is, I find, remarkable,” said the Genius, smiling; “but with regard to meaner creatures, this world exactly resembles the other, and indeed for obvious reasons; for the earth can support a more considerable number of animals, by their thus becoming food for each other, than if they had lived entirely on her vegetable productions. So that animals of different natures thus formed, instead of lessening their multitude, subsist in the greatest number possible. But let us hasten on to the inhabited country before us, and see what that offers for instruction.” They soon gained the utmost verge of the forest, and entered the country inhabited by men without vice; and Asem anticipated in idea the rational delight he hoped to experience in such an innocent society. But they had scarcely left the confines of the wood, when they beheld one of the inhabitants flying with hasty steps, and terror in his countenance, from an army of squirrels that closely pursued him. “Heavens !” cried Asem, “why does he fly

What can he fear from animals so contemptible P” He had scarcely spoken when he perceived two dogs pursuing another of the human species, who with equal terror and haste

attempted to avoid them. “This,” cried Asem to his guide,

“is truly surprising; nor can I conceive the reason for so strange an action.” “Every species of animal,” replied the Genius, “has of late grown very powerful in this country; for the inhabitants at first thinking it unjust to use eitherfraud or force in destroying them, they have insensibly increased, and now frequently ravage their harmless frontiers.” “But they should have been destroyed,” cried Asem ; “you see the consequence of such neglect.” “Where is then that tenderness you so lately expressed for subordinate animals?” replied the Genius, smiling; “you seem to have forgot that branch of justice.” “I must acknowledge my mistake,” returned Asem; “I am now convinced that we must be guilty of tyranny and injustice to the brute creation, if we would enjoy the world ourselves. But let us no longer observe the duty of man to these irrational creatures, but survey their connections with one another.” As they walked farther up the country, the more he was surprised to see no vestiges of handsome houses, no cities, nor any mark of elegant design. His conductor perceiving his surprise, observed, that the inhabitants of this new world were perfectly content with their ancient simplicity; each had a house, which, though homely, was sufficient to lodge his little family; they were too good to build houses, which could only increase their own pride, and the envy of the spectator; what they built was for convenience, and not for show. “At least, then,” said Asem, “they have neither architects, painters, nor statuaries, in their society; but these are idle arts, and may be spared. However, before I spend much more time, you should have my thanks for introducing me into the society of some of their wisest men: there is scarcely any pleasure to me equal to a refined conversation; there is nothing of which I am so much enamoured as wisdom.” “Wisdom " replied his instructor, “how ridiculous ! We have no wisdom here, for we have no occasion for it; true wisdom is only a knowledge of our own duty, and the duty of others to us; but of what use is such wisdom here? each intuitively performs what is right in himself, and expects the same from others. If by wisdom you should mean vain curiosity and empty speculation, as such pleasures have their origin in vanity, luxury, or avarice, we are too good to pursue them.” “All this may be right,” says Asem ; but methinks I observe a solitary disposition prevail among the people; each family keeps separately within their own precincts, without society, or without intercourse.” “That indeed is true,” replied the other; “here is no established society; nor should there be any : all societies are made either through fear or friendship; the people we are among are too good to fear each other; and there are no motives to private friendship, where all are equally meritorious.” “Well then,” said the sceptic, “as I am to spend my time here, if I am to have neither the polite arts, nor wisdom, nor friendship, in such a world, I should be glad at least of an easy companion, who may tell me his thoughts, and to whom I may communicate mine.” “And to what purpose should either do this 2" says the Genius: “flattery or curiosity are vicious motives, and never allowed of here; and wisdom is out of the question.” “Still, however,” said Asem, “the inhabitants must be happy; each is contented with his own possessions, nor avariciously endeavours to heap up more than is necessary for his own subsistence; each has therefore leisure for pitying those that stand in need of his compassion.” He had scarcely spoken, when his ears were assaulted with the lamentations of a wretch who sat by the wayside, and in the most deplorable distress seemed gently to murmur at his own misery. Asem immediately ran to his relief, and found him in the last stage of a consumption. “Strange,” cried the son of Adam, “that men who are free from vice should thus suffer so much misery without relief!” “Be not surprised,” said the wretch who was dying, “would it not be the utmost injustice for beings, who have only just sufficient to support themselves, and are content with a bare subsistence, to take it from their own mouths to put it into mine? They never are possessed of a single meal more than is necessary; and what is barely necessary cannot be dispensed with.” “They should have been supplied with more than is necessary,” cried Asem ; “ and yet I contradict my own opinion but a moment before: all is doubt, perplexity, and confusion. Even the want of ingratitude is no virtue here, since they never received a favour. They have, however, another excellence yet behind ; the love of their country is still, I hope, one of their darling virtues.” “Peace, Asem,” replied the Guardian, with a countenance not less severe than beautiful, “nor forfeit all thy pretensions to wisdom; the same selfish motives, by which we prefer our own interest to that of others, induce us to regard our country preferably to that of another. Nothing less than universal benevolence is free from vice, and that you see is practised here.” “Strangel” cries the disappointed pilgrim, in an agony of distress: “what sort of a world am I now introduced to ? There is scarcely a single virtue, but that of temperance, which they practise; and in that they are no way superior to the very brute creation. There is scarcely an amusement which they enjoy; fortitude, liberality, friendship, wisdom, conversation, and love of country, all are virtues entirely unknown here: thus it seems, that to be acquainted with vice is not to know virtue. Take me, O my Genius, back to that very world

which I have despised: a world which has Alla for its contriver is much more wisely formed than that which has been projected by Mahomet. Ingratitude, contempt, and hatred, I can now suffer; for perhaps I have deserved them. When I arraigned the wisdom of Providence, I only showed my own ignorance; henceforth let me keep from vice myself, and pity it in others.” He had scarcely ended, when the Genius, assuming an air of terrible complacency, called all his thunders around him, and vanished in a whirlwind. Asem, astonished at the terror of the scene, looked for his imaginary world; when, casting his eyes around, he perceived himself in the very situation, and in the very place, where he first began to repine and despair; his right foot had been just advanced to take the fatal plunge, nor had it been yet withdrawn; so instantly did Providence strike the series of truths just imprinted on his soul. He now departed from the water-side in tranquillity, and leaving his horrid mansion, travelled to Segestan, his native city; where he diligently applied himself to commerce, and put in practice that wisdom he had learned in solitude. The frugality of a few years soon produced opulence; the number of his domestics increased ; his friends came to him from every part of the city; nor did he receive them with disdain: and a youth of misery was concluded with an old age of elegance, affluence, and ease.

ESSAY XXXII.

A BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR, suppos ED TO BE writt EN BY THE ORDINARY OF NEWGATE.

Man is a most frail being, incapable of directing his steps, unacquainted with what is to happen in this life; and perhaps no man is a more manifest instance of the truth of this

« AnteriorContinuar »