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faster than the air can recede from the presó sure.”
“But the exercise of swimming,” said the prince, " is very laborious; the strongest limbs, are soon wearied: I am afraid the act of flying 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 be necessary but to move forwards, which the gentlest impulse will effect. You, sir, whose curiosity is so extensive, will easily conceive with what pleasure 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 pendant spectator to see the moving scene of land and ocean, cities and desarts! 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 passage; 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 descént."
« 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 continuity of the bat's wings most casily accommodated to the human form. Upon this model I shall begin my task to-morrow, and in a year expect to tower into the air beyond the malice and pursuit of man. But I will work only on this condition, that the art shall not be divulged, and that you shall not require me to make wings for any but oura selves.”
“ Why,” said Rasselas, “ should you envy others so great an advantage? All skill ought to be exerted for universal good: every man has owed much to others, and ought to repay the kindness that he has received.” “ If men were all virtuous," returned the arts ist, “ I should with great alacrity teach them all to fly. But what would be the security of the good, if the bad could at pleasure invade them from the sky? against an army sailing through the clouds, neither walls, nor mountains, por seas could afford any security. A flight of northern savagès might hover in the wind, and light at once with irresistible violence upon the capital of a fruitful region that was rolling under them. Even this valley, the retreat of princes, the abode of happiness, might be violated by the sudden descent of some of the naked nations that swarm on the coast of the southern seas.”
The prince promised secrecy, and waited for the performance, not wholly hopeless of success. He visited the work from time to time, observed its progress, and remarked many ingenious contrivances to facilitate motion, and unite levity with strength. The art. ist was every day more certain that he should leave vultures and eagles behind him, and the contagion of his confidence seized upon the prince.
In a year the wings were finished, and, on a morning appointed, the maker appeared furnished for flight on a little promontory; he waved his pinions awhile to gather air, then leaped from his stand, and in an instant dropped into the lake. His wings, which were of no use in the air, sustained him in the water, and the prince drew him to land, half dead with terror and vexation.
The Prince finds a Man of Learning.
THE prince was not much afflicted by this disaster, having suffered himself to hope for a happier event, only because he had no other means of escape in view. He still persisted in his design to leave the happy valley by the first opportunity.
His imagination was now at a stand; he had no prospect of entering into the world; and notwithstanding all his endeavours to support himself, discontent by degrees preyed upon him, and he began again to lose his thoughts in sadness, when the rainy season, which in these countries is periodical, made it inconvenient to wander in the woods.
The rain continued longer and with more violence than had been eyer known: the clouds broke on the surrounding mountains, and the torrents streamed into the plain on every side, till the cavern was too narrow to discharge the water. The lake overflowed its banks, and all the level of the valley was covered with the inundation, The eminence on which the palace was built, and some other spots of rising ground, were all that the eye could now discover. The herds and flocks left the pastures, and both the wild beasts and the tame retreated to the mountains.
This inundation confined all the princes to domestic amusements, and the attention of Rasselas was particularly seized by a poem, which Imlac rehearsed, upon the various conditions of humanity. He commanded the poet to attend him in his apartment, and recite his verses a second time; then entering into fainiliar talk, he thought himself happy in having found a man who knew the world so well, and could so skilfully paint the scenes of life. He asked a thousand questions about things, to which, though common to other mortals, his confinement from childhood had kept him a stranger. The poet pitied his ignorance and loved his curiosity, and entertained him from day to day with novelty and instruction, so that the prince regretted the necessity of sleep, and longed till the morning should renew his pleasure.
As they were sitting together, the prince commanded Imlac te relate kis history, and to tell by what accident he was forced, or by what motive induced to close his life in the happy valley. As he was going to begin his narrative, Rasselas was called to a concert, and obliged to restrain his curiosity till the evening.