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eternity. What is the reason , said I, that the tide I see rises out of a thick mist at one end , and again loses itself in a thick mist at the other ? What thou seest, said he , is that portion of eternity which is called time, measured out by the sun, and reaching from the beginning of the world to its consummation. Examine now, said he, this sea that is bounded with darkness at both ends, and tell me what thou discoverest in it ? I see a bridge, said I, standing in the midst of the tide. The bridge thou seest , said he , is human life; consider it attentively. Upon a more leisurely survey of it, I found that it consisted of three-score and ten entire arches, with several broken arches , which, added to those that were entire, made up the number about an hundred. As I was counting the arches, the genius told me that this bridge consisted at first of a thousand arches; but that a great flood swept away the rest, and left the bridge in the ruinous condition I now beheld it : but tell me further , said he, what thou discoverest on it ? I see multitudes of people passing over it, said I, and a black cloud hanging on each end of it.» As I looked more attentively, I saw several of passengers
dropping through the bridge, into the great tide that flowed underneath it; and upon further examination perceived that there were innumerable trap-doors that lay concealed in the bridge, which the passengers no sooner trod upon, but they fell through them into the tide , and immediately disappeared. These hidden pit-falls were set very thick at the entrance of the bridge ; so that throngs of people no sooner broke through the cloud than many of them fell into them. They grew thinner towards the middle , but multiplied and lay closer together towards the end of the arches that were entire.
There were indeed some persons, but their number was very small, that continued a kind of hobbling march on the broken arches, but fell through one after another , being quite tired and spent with so long a walk.
I passed some time in the contemplation of this wonderful structure, and the great variety of objects which it presented. My heart was filled with a deep melancholy to see several dropping unexpectedly in the midst of mirth and jollity , and catching at every thing that stood by them to save themselves. Some were looking up towards the heavens in a thoughtful posture, and in the midst of a speculation stumbled and fell out of sight. Multitudes were very busy in the pursuit of bubbles that glittered in their eyes and danced before them ; but often when they thought themselves within the reach of them, their footing failed, and down they sunk. In this confusion of objects I observed some with scimetars in their hands, who ran to and fro upon the bridge , thrusting several persons on trap-doors which did not seem to lie in their way, and which they might have escaped, had they not been thus forced upon them. - The genius seeing me indulge myself in this melancholy prospect, told me I had dwelt long enough upon it ; « Take thine eyes off the bridge , said he , and tell me if thou seest any thing thou dost not comprehend. Upon looking up , What mean, said I, those great flights of birds that are perpetually hovering about the bridge , and settling upon it from time to time? I see yultures , harpies , ravens , cormorants, and among many other feathered creatures , several little winged boys, that perch in great numbers upon the middle arches. These , said the genius , are envy , avarice, super
stition, despair, love , with the like cares
and passions that infest human life. » : . I here fetched a deep sigh, « Alas, said I, man was made in vain! how is he given away to misery and mortality ! tortured in life, and swallowed up in death! » The genius being moved with compassion towards me, bid me quit so uncomfortable a prospect. « Look no more, said he, on man in the first stage of his existence, in his setting out for eternity ; but cast thine eye on that thick mist into which the tide bears the several generations of mortals that fall into it.» I directed my sight as I was ordered, and(whether or no the good genius strength'ened it with any supernatural force, or dissipated part of the mist that was before too thick for the eye to penetrate ) I saw the valley opening at the farther end , and spreading forth into an immense ocean , that had a huge rock of adamant running through the midst of it; and dividing it into two equal parts. The clouds still rested on one half thereof, insomuch that I could discover nothing in it : 'but the other appeared to me a vast ocean planted with innumerable islands, that were covered with fruits and flowers', and interwoven with a thousand little shining seas that ran among them. I could see persons dressed in glorious habits with garlands upon their heads , passing among the trees , lying down by the sides of fountains , or resting on beds of flowers; and could hear a confused harmony of singing birds , falling waters , human voices, and musical instruments. Gladness grew in me upon the discovery of so delightful a scene. I wished for the wings of an eagle that I might fly away to those happy seats; but the genius told me there was no passage to them , except through the gates of death that I saw opening every moment upon the bridge. « The islands, said he , that lie so fresh and green before thee, and with which the whole face of the ocean appears spotted as far as thou canst see , are more in number than the sand on the sea-shore ; there are myriads of islands behind those which thou here discoverest, reaching further than thine eye, or even thine imagination can extend itself. These are the mansions of good men after death, who according to the degree and kinds of virtue in which they excelled, are distributed among these several islands, which abound with pleasures of different kinds