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The Prince meditates his Escape.
E now found that it would be very difficult to ef. fect that which it was very easy to suppose effected. When he looked round about him, he saw himself confined by the bars of nature which had never yet been broken, and by the gate, through which none that once had passed it were ever able to return. He was now impatient as an eagle in a grate. He passed week after week in clambering the mountains, to see if there was any aperture which the bushes might conceal, but found all the summits inaccessible by their prominence. The iron gate he despaired to open; for it was not only secured with all the power of art, but was always watched by successive sentinels, and was by its position exposed to the perpetual observation of all the inhabitants.
He then examined the cavern through which the waters of the lake were discharged; and looking down at a time when the sun shone strongly upon its mouth, he discovered it to be full of broken rocks, which, though they permitted the stream to flow through many narrow passages, would stop any body of solid bulk. He returned discouraged and dejected; but, having now known the blessing of hope, resolved never to despair.
In these fruitless researches he spent ten months. The time, however, passed cheerfully away: in the
morning he rose with new hope, in the evening ap. plauded his own diligence, and in the night slept sound after his fatigue. He met a thousand amusements which beguiled his labour, and diversified his thoughts. He discerned the various instincts of animals, and properties of plants, and found the place replete with wonders, of which he proposed to solace himself with the contemplation, if he should never be able to accomplish his flight; rejoicing that his endeavours, though yet unsuccessful, had supplied him with a source of inexhaustible inquiry.
But his original curiosity was not yet abated; he resolved to obtain some knowledge of the ways of
His wish still continued, but his hope grew less. He ceased to survey any longer the walls of his prison, and spared to search by new toils for interstices which he knew could not be found, yet determined to keep his design always in view, and lay hold on any expedient that time should offer.
À Dissertation on the Art of Flying.
AMONG the artists that had been allured into the happy valley, to labour for the accommodation and pleasure of its inhabitants, was a man eminent for his
knowledge of the mechanic powers, who had contrived many engines both of use and recreation. By a wheel, which the stream turued, he forced the water into a tower, whence it was distributed to all the apartments of the palace. He erected a pavilion in the garden, around which he kept the air always cool by artificial showers. One of the groves, appropriated to the ladies, was ventilated by fans, to which the rivulets that ran through it gave a constant motion; and instruments of soft music were placed at proper distances, of which some played by the impulse of the wind, and some by the power of the stream.
This artist was sometimes visited by Rasselas, who was pleased with every kind of knowledge, imagining that the time would come when all his acquisitions should be of use to him in the open world. He came one day to amuse liimself in his usual manner, and found the master busy in building a sailing chariot: he saw that the design was practicable upon a level surface, and with expressions of great esteem solicited its completion. The workman was pleased to find himself so much regarded by the prince, and resolved to gain yet higher honours. Sir," said he, - you have seen but a small part of what the mechanic sciences can perform. I have been long of opinion, that, instead of tlie tardy conveyance of ships and chariots, man might use the swifter migration of wings; that the fields of air are open to knowledge, and that only ignorance and idleness need crawl upon the ground.”
This hint rekindled the prince's desire of passing the mountains ; having seen what the mechanist had
already performed, he was willing to fancy that he could do more; yet resolved to inquire farther before he suffered hope to afflict him by disappointment. “ I am afraid,” said he to the artist, “ that your imagination prevails over your skill, and that you now tell me rather what you wish than what you know. Every animal has his element assigned him ; the birds have the air, and man and beasts the earth.” “So," replied the mechanist, “ fishes have the water, in which yet beasts can swim by nature, and man by art. He that can swim needs not despair to fly : to swim is to fly in a grosser Auid, and to fly is to swim in a subtler. We are only to proportion our power of resistance to the different density of matter through which we are to pass. You will be necessarily upborne by the air, if you can renew any impulse upon it, faster than the air can recede from the pressure.”
“ But the exercise of swimming,” said the prince, « is very laborious ; the strongest limbs are soon wearied; I am afraid the act of Aying will be yet more violent, and wings will be of no great use, unless we can fly further than we can swim."
“ The labour of rising from the ground,” said the artist, will be great, as we see it in the heavier domestic fowls; but, as we mount higher, the earth's attraction, and the body's gravity, will be gradually diminished, till we shall arrive at a region where the man will float in the air without any tendency to fall : no care will then be necessary,
but to move forward, which the gentlest impulse will effect. You, Sir, whose curiosity is so extensive, will easily conceive with what plea
sure a philosopher, furnished with wings, and hovering in the sky, would see the earth, and all its inhabitants, rolling beneath him, and presenting to him successively, by its diurnal motion, all the countries within the same parallel. How must it amuse the pendent spectator to see the moving scene of land and ocean, cities and deserts ! To survey with equal security the marts of trade, and the fields of battle: mountains infested by barbarians, and fruitful regions gladdened by plenty, and lulled by peace! How easily shall we then trace the Nile through all his passages, pass over to distant regions, and examine the face of nature from one extremity of the earth to the other!”
“ All this,” said the prince,“ is much to be desired, but I am afraid that no man will be able to breathe in these regions of speculation and tranquillity. I have been told, that respiration is difficult upon lofty mountains, yet from these precipices, though so high as to produce great tenuity of air, it is very easy to fall : therefore I suspect, that from any height, where life can be supported, there may be danger of too quick descent."
“Nothing,” replied the artist,“ will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome. If you will favour my project, I will try the first flight at my own hazard. I have considered the structure of all volant animals, and find the folding continuity of the bat's wings most easily accommodated to the human form. Upon this model I shall begin my task tomorrow, and in a year expect to tower into the air beyond the malice and pursuit of man. But I will work