« AnteriorContinuar »
SON of Perseverance, whoever thou art, whose curiosity has led thee hither, read and be wise. He that now calls upon thee is Theodore, the hermit of Tene. riffe, who in the fifty seventh year of his retreat left this instruction to mankind, lest his solitary hours should be
spent in vain.
I was once what thou art now, a groveler on the earth, and a gazer at the sky; I trafficed and heaped wealth together ; I loved and was favoured, I wore the robe of honour and heard the music of adulation ; I was ambitious, and rose to greatness ; I was unhappy, and retired. I sought for some time what I at length found here, a place where real wants might be easily supplied, and where I might not be under the necessity of purs chasing the assistance of men by the toleration of their
follies. Here I saw fruits and herbs and water, aná here determined to wait the hand of death, which I hope, when at last it comes, will fall lightly upon me.
Forty eight years had I now passed in forgetfulness of all mortal cares, and without any inclination to wander farther than the necessity of procuring sustenance required ; but as I stood one day beholding the rock that overhangs my cell, I found in myself a desire to climb it ; and when I was on its top, was in the same manner determined to scale the next, till by degrees I conceived a wish to view the summit of the mountain, at the foot of which I had so long resided. This motion of my thoughts I endeavoured to suppress,. not because it appeared criminal, but because it was new ; and all change, not evidently for the better, alarms a mind taught by experience to distrust itself. I was often afraid that my heart was deceiving me, that
my impatience of confinement rose from some earthly passion, and that my ardour to survey the works of nature was only a hidden longing to mingle. once again in the scenes of life. I therefore endeavoured to settle my thoughts into their former state, but found their distraction every day greater. I was always reproaching myself with the want of happiness within my reach, and at last began to question whether it was not laziness rather than caution that restrained me from climbing to the summit of Teneriffe.
I rose therefore before the day, and began my journey up the steep of the mountain ; but I had not advanced far, old as I was and burdened with provisions, When the day began to shine upon me ; the declivities grew more precipitous, and the sand slided from beneath my feet ; at last, fainting with labour, I arrived at a small plain almost enclosed by rocks, and open only to the east. I sat down to rest a while, in full persuasion, that when I had recovered my strength I should proceed on my design ; but when once I had tasted ease, I found many reasons against disturbing it. The branches spread a shade over my head, and the gales of spring wafted odours to my bosom.
As I sat thus, forming alternately excuses for delay, and resolutions to go forward, an irresistible heaviness suddenly surprised me; I laid my head upon the bank, and resigned myself to sleep ; when, methought I heard the sound as of the flight of eagles, and a being of more than human dignity stood before me. While I was deliberating how to address him, he took me by the hand with an air of kindness, and asked me solemnly but without severity, “ Theodore, whither art thou going “I am climbing," answered I, “ to the top of the moun: tain, to enjoy a more extensive prospect of the works of nature.” 6 Attend first,” said he, “to the prospect which this place affords, and what thou dost not understand I will explain. I am one of the benevolent beings who watch over the children of the dust, to preserve them from those evils which will not ultimately terminate in good, and which they do not, by their own faults, bring upon themselves. Look round therefore without fear ; observe, contemplate, and be instructed.".
Encouraged by this assurance, I looked and beheld a mountain higher than 'Teneriffe, to the summit of which the human eye could never reach ; when I had tired myself with gazing upon its height, I turned my eyes towards its foot, which I could easily discover, but was amazed to find it without foundation, and placed inconceivably in emptiness and darkness. Thus I stood terrified and confused ; above were tracts inscrutable, and below was total vacuity. But my protector, with a voice of admonition, cried out, Theodore, be not affrighted, but raise thy eyes again ; the Mountain of Existence is before thee, survey it and be wise.
I then looked with more deliberate attention, and observed the bottom of the mountain to be a gentle rise, and overspread with flowers ; the middle to be more steep, embarrassed with crags, and interrupted by preci. pices, over which hung branches loaded with fruits, and among which were scattered palaces and bowers. The tracts which my eye could reach nearest the top were generally barren ; but there were among the clefts of the rocks a few hardy evergreens, which though they did not give much pleasure to the sight or smell, yet seemed to cheer the labour and facilitate the steps of those who were clambering among them.
Then, beginning to examine more minutely the different parts, I observed at a great distance a multitude of both sexes issuing into view from the bottom of the mountain. Their first actions I could not accurately discern ; but, as they every moment approached nearer, I found that they amused themselves with gathering
flowers under the superintendence of a modest virgin in a white robe, who seemed not over solicitous to confine them to any settled place or certain track ; for she knew that the whole ground was smooth and solid, and that they could not easily be hurt or bewildered. When, as it often happened, they plucked a thistle for a flower, Innocence, so was she called, would smile at the mistake. Happy, said I, are they who are under so gentle a government, and yet are safe. But I had no opportunity to dwell long on the consideration of their felicity ; for I found that Innocence continued her attendance but a little way, and seemed to consider only the flowery bottom of the mountain as her proper province. Those whom she abandoned scarcely knew that they were left, before they perceived themselves in the hands of Education, a nymph more severe in her aspect and imperious in her commands, who confined them to certain paths, in their opinion too narrow and too rough. These they were continually solicited to leave, by Appetite, whom Education could never fright away, though she sometimes awed her to such timidity, that the effects of her presence were scarcely perceptible. Some went back to the first part of the mountain, and seemed desirous of continuing busied in plucking flowers, but were no longer guarded by Innocence ; and such as Educa. tion could not force back, proceeded up the mountain by some miry road, in which they were seldom seen, and scarcely ever regarded.
As Education led her troop up the mountain, nothing was more observable than that she was frequently giving