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CHILD of the latter days, thy words have broken
A spell that long has bound these lungs of clay, For since this smoke-dried tongue of mine hath spoken,
Three thousand tedious years have rolled away. Unswathed at length, I “stand at ease” before ye,List then, oh! list, while I unfold my story. Thebes was my birth-place-an unrivalled city,
With many gates, but here I might declare
To blow a poet's fabric into air ;
On grave historians or on him who sung
But heard it read when I was very young ; An old blind minstrel, for a trifling profit, Recited parts—I think the author of it.
All that I know about the town of HOMER
Is, that they scarce would own him in his dayWere glad, too, when he proudly turned a roamer,
Because by this they saved their parish-pay. His townsmen would have been ashamed to flout him, Had they foreseen the fuss since made about him. One blunder I can fairly set at rest, He
says that men were once more big and bony Than now, which is a bouncer at the best;
I'll just refer you to our friend Belzoni,
Three thousand years, with that embalming glue,
My face of all its beauty—there were few Egyptian youths more gay,-behold the sequel, Nay, smile not, you and I may soon be equal! For this lean hand did one day hurl the lance
With mortal aim—this light fantastic toe
This heart hath throbbed at tales of love and woe,
The foot that figured in the bright quadrille,
All bowed at once to death's mysterious will, Who sealed me up where mummies sound are sleeping, In cere-cloth, * and in tolerable keeping. Where cows and monkeys squat in rich brocade,
And well-dressed crocodiles in painted cases, Rats, bats, and owls, and cats in masquerade,
With scarlet flounces and with varnished faces ; Men, birds, brutes, reptiles, fish-all crammed together, With ladies that might pass for well-tanned leather. Where Rameses and Sabacon lie down,
And splendid Psammis in his hide of crust; Princes and heroes, men of high renown,
Who in their day kicked up a mighty dust, Their swarthy Mummies kicked up dust in numbers, When huge Belzoni came to scare their slumbers ! Who'd think these rusty hams of mine were seated
At Dido's table, when the wondrous tale
* i. e., cloth steeped in wax, in order to preserve it.
Of" Juno's hatred"* was so well repeated ?
And ever and anon the Queen turned pale ;
Her patient toil? acuteness of invention?
On blocks gigantic building up her fame!
Temples and obelisks her skill proclaim!
The Pyramid of Cheops, mighty pile !
I will unfold, if thou wilt stay awhile,
But, ah! what's this ?--the shades of bards and kings
I am not to reveal these hidden things.
Story of Asem, the Man-hater.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH. WHERE Taurus lifts its head above the storm, and presents nothing to the sight of the distant traveller, but a prospect of nodding rocks, falling torrents, and all the variety of tremendous nature; on the bleak bosom of this frightful mountain, secluded from society, and detesting the ways of men, lived Asem, the Man-hater.
Asem had spent his youth with men, had shared in their amusements, and had been taught to love his fellow-creatures with the most ardent affection: but, from the tenderness of his disposition,
* i.e., Virgil's Æneid, which begins with narrating the cause of Juno's hatred against the Trojans..
he exhausted all his fortune in relieving the wants of the distressed. The petitioner never sued in vain; the weary traveller never passed his door; he only desisted from doing good when he had no longer the power of relieving.
From a fortune thus spent in benevolence, he expected a grate ful return from those he had formerly relieved ; and made his application with confidence of redress : the ungrateful world soon grew weary of his importunity, for pity is but a short-lived passion. He soon, therefore, began to view mankind in a very different light from that in which he had before beheld them; he perceived a thousand vices he had never before suspected to exist : wherever he turned, ingratitude, dissimulation, and treachery, contributed to increase his detestation of them. Resolved, therefore, to con. tinue no longer in a world which he hated, and which repaid his detestation with contempt, he retired to this region of sterility, in order to brood over his resentment in solitude, and converse with the only honest heart he knew, namely, with his own.
A cave was his only shelter from the inclemency of the weather; fruits, gathered with difficulty from the mountain's side, his only food; and his drink was fetched with danger and toil from the headlong torrent. In this manner he lived, sequestered from society, passing the hours in meditation, and sometimes exulting that he was able to live independently of his fellow-creatures.
At the foot of the mountain an extensive lake displayed its glassy bosom, reflecting on its broad surface the impending horrors of the mountain. To this capacious mirror he would sometimes descend, and, reclining on its steep banks, cast an eager look on the smooth expanse that lay before him." "How beautiful,” he often cried, “is nature! how lovely, even in her wildest scenes ! How finely contrasted is the level plain that lies beneath me, with yon awful pile that hides its tremendous head in clouds! But the beauty of these scenes is no way comparable with their utility; from hence a hundred rivers are supplied, which distribute health and verdure to the various countries through which they flow. Every part of the universe is beautiful, just, and wise : but man, vile man, is a solecism in nature; the only monster in the creation. Tempests and whirlwinds have their use, but vicious, ungrateful man is a blot in the fair page of universal beauty. Why was I born of that detested species, whose vices are almost a reproach to the wisdom of the divine Creator? Were men entirely free from vice, all would be uniformity, harmony, and order. A world of moral rectitude should be the result of a perfectly moral agent. Why, why then, O Alla! must I be thus confined in darkness, doubt, and despair?”
Just as he uttered the word despair, he was going to plunge into the lake beneath him, at once to satisfy his doubts, and put a period to his anxiety; when he perceived a most majestic being, walking on the surface of the water, and approaching the bank on which he stood. So unexpected an object at once checked his purpose; he stopped, contemplated, and fancied he saw something awful and divine in his aspect.
“Son of Adam,” cried the genius, "stop thy rash purpose ; the father of the faithful has seen thy justice, thy integrity, thy miseries, and hath sent me to afford and administer relief. Give me thine hand, and follow, without trembling, wherever I shall lead; in me behold the genius of conviction, kept by the great prophet, to turn from their errors those who go astray, not from curiosity, but a rectitude of intention. Follow me, and be wise.”
Asem immediately descended upon the lake, and his guide conducted him along the surface of the water, till, coming near the centre of the lake, they both began to sink; the waters closed over their heads; they descended several hundred fathoms, till Asem, just ready to give up his life as inevitably lost, found himself with his celestial guide in another world, at the bottom of the waters, where human foot had never trod before. His astonishment was beyond description, when he saw a sun like that he had left, a serene sky over his head, and blooming verdure under his feet.
“I plainly perceive your amazement,” said the genius ; "but suspend it for a while. This world was formed by Alla, at the request, and under the inspection, of our great prohet; who once entertained the same doubts which filled your mind when I found you, and from the consequence of which you were so lately rescued. The rational inhabitants of this world are formed agreeable to your own ideas ; they are absolutely without vice. In other respects it resembles your earth, but differs from it in being wholly inhabited by men who never do wrong. If you find this world more agreeable than that you so lately left, you have free permission to spend the remainder of your days in it; but permit me, for some time, to attend you, that I may silence your doubts, and make you better acquainted with your company and your new habitation.
“A world without vice! Rational beings without immorality!" cried Asem, in a rapture; I thank thee, O Alla, who hast at length heard my petitions ; this, this indeed will produce happiness, ecstasy, and ease. O for an immortality, to spend it among men who are incapable of ingratitude, injustice, fraud, violence, and a thousand other crimes, that render society miserable!”
“Cease thine acclamations,” replied the genius. Look around thee; reflect on every object and action before us, and communi. cate to me the result of thine observations. Lead wherever you think proper, I shall be your attendant and instructor. Asem and his companion travelled on in silence for some time, the former being entirely lost in astonishment; but, at last recovering his former serenity, he could not help observing, that the face of the country bore a near resemblance to that he had left, except that this subterranean world still seemed to retain its primeval wildness.
“Here,” cried Asem, “I perceive animals of prey, and others that seem only designed for their subsistence; it is the very same in the world above our heads. But had I been permitted to in, struct our prophet I would have removed this defect, and formed