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distinguished with favour, and I resigned my
“Hast thou here found happiness at last?" said Rasselas. "Tell me without reserve; art thou content with thy condition? or, dost thou wish to be again wandering and inquiring? All the inhabitants of this valley celebrate their lot, and at the annual visit of the emperor, invite others to partake of their felicity.”
“Great prince," said Imlac, “I shall speak the truth; I know not one of all your attendants who does not lament the hour when he entered this retreat. I am less unhappy than the rest, because I have a mind replete with images, which I can vary and combine at pleasure. I can amuse my solitude by the renovation of the knowledge which begins to fade from iny memory, and by recollection of the accidents of my past life. Yet all this ends in the sorrowful consideration, that my acquirements are now useless, and that none of my pleasures can be again enjoyed. The rest, whose minds have no impression but of the present moment, are either corroded by
of perpetual vacancy.”
“What passions can infest those," said the , prince, “who have no rivals? We are in a place where impotence precludes malice, and where, all envy is repressed by community of enjoyments.”
“ There may be community," said Imlac,
of matcrial possessions, butthere can never be community of love or of esteem. It must happen that one will please more than anoth'er; he that knows himself despised will always be envious; and still more envious and malevolent, if he is condemned to live in the presence of those who despise him. The invitations, by which they allure others to a state which they feel to be wretched, proceed from the natural malignity of hopeless mise. ry. They are weary of themselves, and of each other, and expect to find relief in new companions. They envy the liberty which their folly has forfeited, and would gladly see all mankind imprisoned like themselves.
“From this crime, however, I am wholly free. No man can say that he is wretched by my persuasion. I look with pity on the crowds who are annually soliciting admission to captivity, and wish that it were lawful for me to warn them of their danger.”
“My dear Imlac," said the prince, “I will open to thee my whole heart. I have long meditated an escape from the happy valley. I have examined the mountains on every side, but find myself insuperably barred : teach me the way to break my prison ! thou shalt be the companion of my flight, the guide of my rambles, the partner of my fortune, and my sole director in the choice of life.”
“Sir," answered the poet, “your escape will be difficult, and, perhaps, you may soon re:
pent your curiosity. The world, which you figure to yourself smooth and quiet as the lake in the valley, you will find a sea foaming with tempests, and boiling with whirlpools : you will be sometimes overwhelmed by the waves of violence, and sometimes dashed against the rocks of treachery. Amidst wrongs and frauds, competitions and anxieties, you will wish a thousand times for these seats of quiet, and willingly quit hope to be free from fear.”
“ Do not seek to deter me from my purpose,'' said the prince: “ I am impatient to see what thou hast seen: and, since thou art thyself weary of the valley, it is evident, that thy former state was better than this. Whatever be the consequence of my experiment, I am resolved to judge with mine own eyes of the various conditions of men, and then to make deliberately my choice of life.”
“I am afraid," said Imlac, "you are hindered by stronger restraints than my persuasions; yet if your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill.”
Rasselas discovers the Means of Escape.
THE prince now dismissed his favourite to rest, but the narrative of wonders and novelties filled his mind with perturbation. He revolved all that he had heard, and prepared innumerable questions for the morning.
Much of his uneasiness was now removed. He had a friend to whom he could impart his thoughts, and whose experience could assist him in his designs. His heart was no longer condemned to swell with silent vexation. He thought that even the happy valley might be endured with such a companion, and that if they could range the world together, he should Irave nothing further to desire., . In a few days the water was discharged, and the ground dried. The prince and Imlac then walked out together to converse without the notice of the rest. The prince, whose thoughts were always on the wing, as he passed by the gate, said, with a countenance of sorrow, “Why art thou so strong, and why is man so weak?”
“Man is not weak,” answered his companion; “knowledge is more than equivalent to force. The master of mechanics laughs at strength; I can burst the gate, but cannot do
it secretly. Some other expedient must be tried.”
As they were walking on the side of the mountain, they observed that the conies, which the rain had driven from their burrows, had taken shelter among the bushes, and formed holes behind them, tending upwards in an oblique line. “It has been the opinion of antiquity," said Imlac, “ that human reason borrowed many arts from the instinctofanimals; let us, therefore, not think ourselves degraded by learning from the coney. We may escape by piercing the mountain in the same direction. We will begin where the summit hangs over the middle part, and labour upwards till we shall issue up beyond the prominence.”.
The eyes of the prince, when he heard this proposal, sparkled with joy. The execution was easy, and the success certain.
No time was now lost. They hastened early in the morning to choose a place proper for their mine. They clambered with great fatigue among crags and brambles, and returned without having discovered any part that favoured their design. The second and the third day were spent in the same manner, and with the same frustration. But, on the fourth, they found a small cavern, concealed by a thicket, where they resolved to make their experiment.
Imlac procured instruments proper to hew stone and remove earth, and they fell to their