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these words : Imlac, I have long considered thy friendship as the greatest blessing of my life. Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. I have found in thee all the qualities requisite for trust, benevolence, experience, and fortitude. I have long discharged an office which I must soon quit at the call of nature, and shall rejoice in the hour of imbecility and pain to devolve it upon thee.'
“ I thought myself honoured by this testimony, and protested that whatever could conduce to his happiness would add likewise to mine."
Hear Imlac, what thou wilt not without difficulty credit. I have possessed for five years the regulation of weather, and the distribution of the seasons : the sun has listened to my dictates, and passed from tropic to tropic by my direction : the clouds at my call, have poured their waters, and the Nile has overflowed at my command : I have restrained the rage of the dogstar, and mitigated the fervours of the crab. The winds alone, of all the elemental powers, have hitherto refused my authority, and multitudes have perished by equinoctial tempests which I found myself unable to prohibit or restrain. I have administered this great office with exact justice, and made to the different nations of the earth an impartial dividend of rain and sunshine. What must have been the misery of half the globe, if I had limited the clouds to particular regions, or confined the sun to either side of the equator?
The opinion of the Astronomer is explained and justified.
SUPPOSE he discovered in me, through the obscurity of the room, some tokens of amazement and doubt, for, after a short pause, he proceeded thus :
* Not to be easily credited will neither surprise nor offend me: for I am probably the first of human beings to whom this trust has been imparted. Nor do I know whether to deem this distinction a reward or punishment; since I have possessed it I have been far less happy than before, and nothing but the consciousness of good intention could have enabled me to support unremitted vigilance.'
“ How long, Sir," said I,“ has this great office been in your hands ?”
• About ten years ago,' said he, 'my daily observations of the changes of the sky led me to consider, whether, if I had the power of the seasons, I could confer greater plenty upon the inhabitants of the earth. This contemplation fastened on my mind, and I sat days and nights in imaginary dominion, pouring upon this country the showers of fertility, and seconding every fall of rain with a due proportion of sunshine. I had yet only the will to do good, and did not imagine that I should ever have the power.
One day as I was looking on the fields withering with heat, I felt in my mind a sudden wish that 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 suspected myself of madness, and should not have dared to impart this secret but to a man like you, capable of dis. tinguishing 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 demonstration, 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 crédit 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 cares of appointing a successor have long disturbed me: the night and the day have been spent in comparisons of all the characters which have come
within my knowledge, and I have yet found none so worthy as thyself.
The Astronomer leaves Imlac his directions,
• Hear, therefore, what I shall impart with attention, 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 actions 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 sun, and formed innumerable schemes, in which I changed their situation. I have sometimes turned aside the axis of the earth, and sometimes varied the ecliptic of the sun : but I have found it impossible to make a disposition by which the world may be advantaged; what one region gains, another loses by an imaginable alteration, even without considering the distant part of the solar system with which we are unacquainted. Do not, therefore, in thy administration of the year, indulge thy pride by innovation ; do not please thyself with thinking that thou
canst make thyself renowned to all future ages, by disordering the seasons. The memory of mischief is no desirable fame.' Much less will it become thee to let kindness or interest prevail. Never rob other countries of rain to pour it on thine own. For us the Nile is sufficient.'
“ I promised that when I possessed 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 afflictions 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 uncertainty of our present state, the most dreadful and alarming is the uncertain continuance of reason.”
The Princess was recollected, and the favourite was abashed. Rasselas, more deeply affected, inquired of Imlac, whether he thought-such maladies of the mind frequent, and how they were contracted.