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The Discontent of Rasselas in the happy Valley.
Here the sons and daughters of Abissinia lived only to know the soft vicissitudes of pleasure and repose, attended by all that were skilful to delight, and gratified with whatever the senses can enjoy. They wandered in gardens of fragrance, and slept in the fortresses of security. Every art was practised to make them pleased with their own condition. The sages who instructed them, told them of nothing but the miseries of public life, and described all beyond the mountains as regions of calamity, where discord was always raging, and where man preyed upon man. To heighten their opinion of their own felicity, they were daily entertained with songs, the subject of which was the happy valley. Their appetites were excited by frequent enumerations of different enjoyments, and revelry and merriment were the business of every hour, from the dawn of morning to the close of the evening
These methods were generally successful; few of the princes had ever wished to enlarge their bounds, but passed their lives in full conviction that they had all within their reach that art or nature could bestow, and pitied those whom nature had excluded from this seat of tranquillity, as the sport of chance and the slaves of misery
Thus they rose in the morning and lay down at night, pleased with each other and with themselves, all but Rasselas, who, in the twenty-sixth year of his age, began to withdraw himself from the pastimes and assemblies, and to delight in solitary walks and silent meditation. He often sat before tables covered with luxury, and forgot to taste the dainties that were placed before him : he rose abruptly in the midst of the song, and hastily retired beyond the sound of music. His attendants observed the change, and endeavoured' to renew his love of pleasure: he neglected their officiousness, repulsed their invitations, and spent day after day on the banks of rivulets sheltered with trees, where he sometimes listened to the birds in the branches, sometimes observed the fish playing in the stream, and anon cast his eyes upon the pastures and mountains filled with animals, of which some were biting the herbage, and some sleeping among the bushes. This singularity of his humour made him much observed. One of the sages, in whose conversation he had formerly delighted, followed him secretly, in hope of discovering the cause of his disquiet. Rasselas, who knew not that any one was near him, having for some time fixed his eyes upon the goats that were brousing among the rocks, began to compare their condition with his own.
“What,” said he, “ makes the difference between man, and all the rest of the animal creation? Every beast that strays beside me has the same corporeal necessities with myself; he is hungry and crops the grass, he is thirsty and drinks the stream, his thirst and hun
ger are appeased: he is satisfied and sleeps : he rises again and is hungry; he is again fed and is at rest. I am hungry and thirsty like him, but when thirst and hunger cease, I am not at rest ; I am, like him, pained with want, but am not, like him, satisfied with fulness. The intermediate hours are tedious and gloomy : I long again to be hungry that I may again quicken the attention. The birds peck the berries or the corn, and fly away, to the groves, where they sit in seeming happiness on the branches, and waste their lives in tuning one unvaried series of sounds. I likewise can 'call the latanist and the singer, but the sounds that pleased me yesterday weary me to-day, and will grow yet more wearisome to-morrow. I can discover in me no power of perception which is not glutted with its proper pleasure, yet I do not feel myself delighted. Man surely has some latent sense for which this place affords no gratification, or he has some desires, distinct from sense, which must be satisfied before he can be happy.”
After this he lifted up his head, and, seeing the moon rising, walked towards the palace. As he passed through the fields, and saw the animals around him, “ Ye," said he,“ are happy, and need not envy me that walk thus among you, burthened with myself; nor do I, ye gentle beings, envy your felicity; for it is not the felicity of man. I have many distresses from which ye are free; I fear pain when I do not feel it : I sometimes shrink at evils recollected, and sometimes start at evils anticipated : surely the equity of Provi
dence has balanced peculiar sufferings with peculiar enjoyments."
With observations like these the prince amused himself as he returned, uttering them with a plaintive voice, yet with a look that discovered him to feel some complacence in his own perspicacity, and to receive some solace of the miseries of life, from consciousness of the delicacy with which he felt, and the eloquence with which he bewailed them. He mingled cheerfully in the diversions of the evening, and all rejoiced to find that his heart was lightened.
The Wants of him that wants nothing.
On the next day his old instructor, imagining that he had now made himself acquainted with his disease of mind, was in hope of curing it by counsel, and officiously sought an opportunity of conference, which the prince, having long considered him as one whose intellects were exhausted, was not very willing to afford ; Why,”
,” said he,“ does this man thus intrude upon me; shall I never be suffered to forget these lectures which pleased only while they were new, and to become new again, must be forgotten?" He then walked into the wood, and composed himself to his usual
“ I fly
meditations ; when, before his thoughts had taken any settled form, he perceived his pursuer at his side, and was at first prompted by his impatience to go hastily away ; but being unwilling to offend a man whom he had once reverenced and still loved, he invited him to sit down with him on the bank.
The old man, thus encouraged, began to lament the change which had been lately observed in the prince, and to inquire why he so often retired from the pleasures of the palace, to loneliness and silence. from pleasure,” said the prince,“ pleasure has ceased to please: I am lonely because I am miserable, and am unwilling to cloud with my presence the happiness of others.”—“ You, Sir," said the sage,
are the first who has complained of misery in the happy valley. I hope to convince you that your complaints have no real cause. You are here in full possession of all the emperor of Abissinia can bestow; here is neither labour to be endured nor danger to be dreaded, yet here is all that labour or danger can procure or purchase. Look round and tell me which of your wants is without supply: if you want nothing, how are you unhappy?” “ That I want nothing," said the prince,
or that I know not what I want, is the cause of my complaint; if I had any known want, I should have a certain wish: that wish would excite endeavour, and I should not then repine to see the sun move so slowly towards the western mountains, or lament when the day breaks and sleep will no longer hide me from myself. When I see the kids and the lambs chasing one