Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

I grew weary of looking on barren uniformity, where I could only see again what I had already seen. I then descended into the ship, and doubted for a while whether all my future pleasures would not end like this, in disgust and disappointment. Yet, surely, said I, the ocean and the land are very different ; the only variety of water is rest and motion, but the earth has mountains and vallies, deserts and cities: It is inhabited by men of different customs and contrary opinions; and I may hope to find variety in life, though I should miss it in nature.

6 With this thought I quieted my mind, and amused myself during the voyage, sometimes by learning from the sailors the art of navigation, which I have never practised, and sometimes by forming schemes for my conduct in different situations, in not one of which I have been ever placed.

“ I was almost weary of my naval amusements when we landed safely at Surat. I secured my money, and purchasing some commodities for show, joined myself to a caravan that was passing into the mland country. My companions, for some reason or other, conjecturing that I was rich, and, by my inquires and admiration, finding that I was ignorant, considered me as a novice whom they had a right to cheat, and who was to learn at the usual expense the art of fraud. They exposed me to the theft of sevants, and the exactions

of officers, and saw me plundered upon false pretences, without any advantage to themselves, but that of rejoicing in the superiority of their own knowledge.

“ Stopa moment," said the prince. “Is there such depravity in man, as that he should injure another without benefit to himself? I can easily conceive that all are pleased with superiority; but your ignorance was merely accidental, which being neither your crime nor your folly, could afford them no reason to applaud themselves; and the knowledge which they had, and which you wanted, they might as effectually have shown by warning as bea traying you."

“Pride," said Imlac, “ is seldom delicate, it will please itself with very mean advantages; and envy feels not its own happiness but when it may be compared with the misery of others, They were my enemies, because they grieved to think me rich; and my oppressors, because they delighted to find me weak.”

« Proceed," said the prince: “ I doubt not of the facts which you relate, but imagine that you impute them to mistaken motives."

“In this company," said Imlac, “ I arrived at Agra, the capital of Indoston, the city in which the Great Mogul commonly resides. I applied myself to the language of the country, and in a few months was able to converse with the learned men; some of whom I found morose and reserved, and others easy and communi

D ? . .

[ocr errors]

cative; some were unwilling to teach another what they had with difficulty learned themselves; and some showed that the end of their studies was to gain the dignity of instructing.

“ To the tutor of the young princes I recommended myself so much, that I was presented to the emperor as a man of uncommon knowledge. The emperor asked me many questions concerning my country and my travels; and though I cannot now recollect any thing that he uttered above the power of a common man, he dismised me astonished at his wisdom, and enamoured of his goodness.

“ My credit was now so high, that the merchants with whom I had travelled, applied to me for recommendations to the ladies of the court. I was surprised at their confidence of solicitation, and gently reproached them with their practices on the road. They heard me with cold indifference, and showed no tokens of shame or sorrow.

“ They then urged their request with the offer of a bribe; but what I would not do for kindness, I would not do for money; and rea fused them, not because they had injured me, but because I would not enable them to injure others; for I knew they would have made use of my credit to cheat those who should buy their wares.

“ Having resided at Agra till there was no inore to be learned, I travelled into Persian

where I saw many remains of ancient inagnificence, and observed many new accommodations of life. The Persians are a nation eminently social, and their assemblies afforded me daily opportunities of remarking characters and manners, and of tracing human naa ture through all its variations.

"From Persia I passed into Arabia, where, I saw a nation at once pastoral and warlike; who live without any settled habitation; whose only wealth is their flocks and herds; and who have yet carried on, through all ages, an hereditary war with all mankind, though they neither covet nor envy their possessions.”

CHAP. 10.

Imlac's History continued. A Dissertation

upon poetry. 6 WHEREVER I went, I found that poetry was considered as the highest learning, and regarded with a veneration somewhat approaching to that which man would pay to the angelic nature. And yet it fills me with wonder, that, in almost all countries, the most ancient poets are considered as the best: whether it be that every other kind of knovledge is an acquisition gradually attained, and poetry is a gift conferred at once; or that the first poetry of every nation surprized them as a novelty, and retained the credit by consent which it received by accident at first: or whether, as the province of poetry is to describe nature and passion, which are always the same, the first writers took possession of the most striking objects for description, and the most probable occurrences for fiction, and left nothing to those that followed them, but transcription of the same events, and new combinations of the same images. Whatever be the reason, it is commonly observed, that the early writers are in possession of nature, and their followers of art: that the first excel in strength and invention, and the latter in elegance and refinement.

"I was desirous to add my name to this illustrious fraternity. I rcad all the poets of Persia and Arabia, and was able to repeat by memory the volumes that are suspended in the mosque' of Mecca; but I soon found that no man was ever great by imitation. My desire of excellence impelled me to transfer my attention to nature and to life. Nature was to be my subject, and men to be my auditors: I could never desribe what I had not seen: I could not hope to move those with delight or terror, whose interests and opinions I did not understand.

“Being now resolved to be a poet, I saw every thing with a new purpose; my sphere of attention was suddenly magnificd: no kind,

« ZurückWeiter »