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The Prince associates with Young Men of Spirit and
rose next day, and resolved to begin his experiments upon life. “ Youth,” cried he, “ is the time of gladness: I will join myself to the young men, whose only business is to gratify their desires, and whose time is all spent in a succession of enjoyments.”
To such societies he was readily admitted, but a few days brought him back weary and disgusted. Their mirth was without images, their laughter without motive; their pleasures were gross and sensual, in which the mind had no part: their conduct was at once wild and mean: they laughed at order and at law, but the frown of power dejected, and the eye of wisdom abashed them.
The prince soon concluded, that he should never be happy in a course of life of which he was ashamed. He thought it unsuitable to a reasonable being to act without a plan, and to be sad or cheerful only by chance. Happiness," said he,“ must be something solid and permanent, without fear and without uncertainty.”
But his young companions had gained so much of his regard by their firankness and courtesy, that he could not leave them without warning and remonstrance. “ My friends," said he, “ I have seriously
considered our manners and our prospects, and find that we have mistaken our own interest. The first years of man must make provision for the last. He that never thinks never can be wise. Perpetual levity must end in ignorance ; and intemperance, though it
may fire the spirits for an hour, will make life short or miserable. Let us consider that youth is of no long duration, and that in mature age, when the enchantments of fancy shall cease, and phantoms of delight dance no more about us, we shall have no com forts but the esteem of wise men, and the means of doing good. Let us, therefore, stop, while to stop is in our power: let us live as men who are sometime to grow old, and to whom it will be the most dreadful of all evils to count their past years by follies, and to be reminded of their former luxuriance of health only by the maladies which riot has produced.”
They stared awhile in silence one upon another, and, at last, drove him away by a general chorus of conti, nued laughter.
The consciousness that his sentiments were just, and his intention kind, was scarcely sufficient to supa port him against the horror of derision. But he reco. vered his tranquillity, and pursued his searchia
The Prince finds a wise and happy Man.
As he was one day walking in the street, he saw a spacious building which all were, by the open doors, invited to enter; he followed the stream of people, and found it a hall or school of declamation, in which professors read lectures to their auditory. He fixed his eye upon a sage raised above the rest, who discoursed with great energy on the government of the passions. His look was venerable, his action graceful, his pronunciation clear, and his diction elegant. He shewed, with great strength of sentiment, and variety of illustration, that human nature is degraded and debased, when the lower faculties predominate over the higher; that when fancy, the parent of passion, usurps the dominion of the mind, nothing ensues but the natural effect of unlawful government, perturbation and confusion; that she betrays the fortresses of the intellect to rebels, and excites her children to sedition against their lawful sovereign. He compared reason to the sun, of which the light is constant, uniform, and lasting: and fancy to a meteor, of bright but transitory lustre, irregular in its motion, and delusive in its direction.
He then communicated the various precepts given from time to time for the conquest of passion, and displayed the happiness of those who had obtained the important victory, after which man is no longer the
slave of fear, nor the fool of hope; is no more emaciated by envy, inflamed by anger, emasculated by tenderness, or depressed by grief; but walks on calmly through the tumults or privacies of life, as the sun pursues alike his course throngh the calm or the stormy sky.
He enumerated many examples of heroes immoveable by pain or pleasure, who looked with indifference on those modes or accidents to which the vulgar give the names of good and evil. He exhorted his hearers to lay aside their prejudices, and arm themselves against the shafts of malice or misfortune, by invul. nerable patience: concluding that this state only was happiness, and that this happiness was in every one's power.
Rasselas listened to him with the veneration due to the instructions of a superior being, and, waiting for him at the door, humbly implored the liberty of visiting so great a master of true wisdom. The lecturer hesitated a moment, when Rasselas put a purse of gold into his hand, which he received with a mixture of joy and wonder. “ I have found,” said the prince, at his return to
a man who can teach all that is necessary to be known; who, from the unshaken throne of rational fortitude, looks down on the scenes of life changing beneath him. He speaks, and attention watches his lips. He reasons, and conviction closes his periods. This man shall be my future guide: I will learn his doctrines, and imitate his life.”
“ Be not too hasty,” said Imlac, “ to trust, or to admire, the teachers of morality: they discourse like angels, but they live like men.”
Rasselas, who could not conceive how any man could reason so forcibly without feeling the cogency of his own arguments, paid his visit in a few days, and was denied admission. He had now learned the power of money, and made his way by a piece of gold to the inner apartment, where he found the philosopher in a room half darkened, with his eyes misty, and his face pale.“ Sir,” said he, " you are come at a time when all human friendship is useless ; what I suffer cannot be remedied, what I have lost cannot be supplied. My daughter, my only daughter, from whose tenderness I expected all the comforts of my age, died last night of a fever. My views, my purposes, my hopes are at an end : I am now a lonely being, disunited from society.”.
“ Sir," said the prince,“ mortality is an event by which a wise man can never be surprised: we know that death is always near, and it should therefore always be expected.”—“ Young man,” answered the philosopher,“ you speak like one that has never felt the pangs of separation.” “ Have you then forgot the precepts,” said Rasselas, “ which you so powerfully enforced? Has wisdom no strength to arm the heart against calamity? Consider that external things are naturally variable, but truth and reason are always the
“ What comfort,” said the mourner, truth and reason afford me?-of what effect are they