No. XVIII.

 

  The Hermit.

An Oriental Tale

 

All passions in excess are crimes — 

Submit thy fate to heaven’s indulgent care, 

Though all seems lost, ’tis impious to despair:

The tracts of providence like rivers wind,

Here run before us — there retreat behind;

And though immerged in earth from human eyes, 

Again break forth, and more conspicuous rise. 

 

Near the Northern boundaries of Persia, on the banks of the river Aras (which rising in the mountains of Ararat [220] falls into the Caspian sea) grew an ancient and beautiful forest, whole friendly shade shielding the earth from the scorching rays of the sun, preserved beneath a never-fading verdure: aromatic shrubs breathing odoriferous odours, and flowers painting with all the glowing and variegated tints of nature, were scattered in wild profusion amid trees bending the golden fruit of summer. Birds of various coloured plumaged mingled their notes with the sound of a distant cataract that soothed the pensive ear with faint and hollow murmurs. The palm, the cypress, the olive, and the plane-tree united their branches, and cheared the eye with their diversified foliage, contrasted with the distant prospect of craggy and cloud-capt mountains. Nature seemed to have combined in the favoured spot all that the imagination can conceive of beautiful sublime. A mossy cavern embosomed in a thicket of citron and myrtle, afforded every convenient and desirable accommodation, but little assistance from art, and had long been venerated as the [221] residence of the Hermit Zeibriel, respected and beloved for his wisdom and virtue, and reverenced for his age. A beard of snowy white reached his girdle, majesty softened with benignity beamed from his eyes, and from his lips flowed persuasive eloquence, sweet as the honey of Hybla. The neighbouring youth quitted their sports and occupations to attend to his precepts: he taught them equity and justice, tempered with mercy; sobriety, temperance, benevolence, and moderation. He inculcated on their minds the sublime duties of religion, and conducted them through the paths of science, enlightened their understandings, expanded their ideas, tranquilized their tempers, and amended their hearts. 

            Frequently as they hung on his accents with filial reverence and relight, he would endeavor to moderate the ardor of youth, by painting with all the energy of truth and affection the danger of suffering the heart to be misled by impetuous and irregular feelings: on such occasions he spoke with a peculiar and affecting fervor, his voice [222] would seem smothered with signs, his whole frame disordered with an unusual agitation, and he evidently appeared to suffer while he struggled to address them with composure, and do subdue the emotions of his soul. The strongest passions (my children, said he) too often accompany superior talents, and endanger the most amiable and elevated minds: refined sensibility, and a glowing imagination give energy to those sensations, which divested of the colouring of fancy, and contemplated through the cool medium of reason, would quickly subside, and leave the calm soul astonished at the tumult excited by the senses, which if not timely checked, might have overwhelmed with resistless power its temporal and eternal peace. Beware then of the first approaches of those insidious sentiments which flatter while they destroy; they influence by gentle and almost imperceptible degrees, and the whole soul is affected ere you are aware. Like the poison of the asp concealed under a thicket of roses, death lurks beneath the intoxicating fragrance. As an overwhelming torrent carries away [223] with impetuous force the hamlet with its terrified inhabitants, the shepherd with his innocent flock; and sweeps with unrelenting fury the teeming harvest of the coming year; so vehement and irregular passion debilitates the understanding, obscures the divine irradiations of reason, enervates that fortitude and self-possession which are the glory of a human being, and bears down with destructive violence all the faculties of the mind, and the virtues of the heart which oppose its progress. 

            But these fierce and uncontroulable emotions are finely contrasted by those gentle and amiable affections, which ennoble the mind, and meliorate the heart; that placid and affecting tenderness, which being consistent with order, and having virtue for its basis, calls forth new graces, and elevates the soul that cherishes it to more heroic goodness: that general social philanthropy which is an emanation of the divine perfections, and which embraces as brethren the whole human species, however diversified by opinion, mode, or [224] complexion: and the graceful humanity which extends sympathy and protection, not merely to the rational, but the whole animal creation, proportioning its kindness to the distress of the object which solicits its aid. 

            The few incidents of my life (continued the sage) will afford little variety in the recital; yet to the attentive mind the relation of my errors may convey a lesson not wholly unuseful, or unimportant. “Happy are those who wise by the experience of others, take of the fruit already gathered, lest a serpent lurk under the leaves, and sting them ere they are aware.” I was born in the city of Ispahan: my father who enjoyed an honourable and lucrative post in that splendid and magnificent court, was summoned by the angel of death to render an account of his actions, at the high and awful tribunal before which the greatest earthly potentates must be arraigned, just as I had attained my twentieth year. A few hours before he expired he sent for me into his [225] presence, and endeavoured by a discourse full of piety and resignation to calm the sorrows with which he saw me overwhelmed. Restrain, my son (said he) those expressions of grief which discompose the serenity I have been endeavouring to preserve. In a few hours I shall be beyond the reach of human cares, experiencing those exquisite and celestial delights which our holy prophet had promised to the faithful. My anxieties at this moment arise only from the idea of leaving my beloved Zeibriel at so early a period of life, in a world abounding with temptation and danger. Preserve, my son, engraven on the tablets of thy heart, those virtuous maxims which it has been the study of my life to implant in thy young and flexible mind. I leave thee wealth sufficient, not only to gratify every rational and just desire, but also to administer to the wants of the necessitous, to protect the oppressed and to patronize obscure and neglected merit. When thou hast deposited my remains in the mausoleum of my ancestors, retire from the contagion of a court whose air breathes voluptuousness and vice, [226] and where snares and death are hid beneath the smile of the deceitful parasite. 

            My father (said Zeibriel) was proceeding in his discourse, when the dread messenger of death out a period to his existence, and left me overwhelmed in a stupor of grief, that for some time rendered me incapable of feeling the whole extent of my misfortune: but the lenient hand of time mellowed the acute distress which I felt for the loss of this amiable parent into a tender and melancholy regret, which also subsided by degrees, and my heart began once more to glow with the ardour of youth, and my eyes to sparkle with hope and hilarity. The pleasures and elegancies of a court were too alluring to a youthful mind, to be resigned without a painful effort: the recollection of my father’s injunctions became irksome to me, and I endeavoured to prevent their intrusion by engaging in successive parties of amusement and dissipation. A boundless taste for expence soon drew about me a crowd of vain and licentious companions: prompted by their flattery [227] and caresses, and instigated by the prevalence of their example, the virtuous precepts I had imbibed from education faded from my memory, as the grey mists of the morning vanish before the rising day. The mind, which once deviates from the paths of rectitude, sinks by rapid degrees from indolence to dissipation, from dissipation to vice, and at length perpetrates, without remorse, crimes, which it once shuddered at the idea of, as the stone bounding over the declivity, acquires greater force and velocity, the nearer it approaches the vale. 

            But from this licentious dream I began at length to be roused by the consequences of my depravity. Pleasures, riotous and intoxicating, were succeeded by satiety and lassitude: I found my health impaired, my fortune impoverished, and my peace destroyed, without any other compensation than a few hours of fallacious and deceitful enjoyment, which left my spirits exhausted and depressed, in proportion as they had been elated, and afforded not any satisfaction worthy of a rational and reflecting [228] being. These convictions received additional force from a disappointment I had recently suffered in the pursuit of a young beauty, the daughter of the virtuous Myrza, by whom my address had been rejected (notwithstanding the advantages of my rank and fortune) on account of my immoral profligate character. In vain I endeavoured to obliterate from my remembrance the idea of this amiable virgin! her image was engraven on my soul in indelible characters, and so powerfully revived the virtuous impressions I had received in my earliest years, that my former companions became distasteful to me, their mirth impertinent, and the revelry in which they pressed me to unite with them, now excited in my mind no other sensations than those of horror and disgust: yet enervated by voluptuousness, and I was still incapable of resisting the solicitation of associates, who had acquired by habit an unbounded influence over me, and I saw my substance daily decreasing, without retrenching my expences, or forming any plans for the regulation of my conduct. [229] 

But I was awakened from this torpor of the soul by the importunity of creditors, whom I was unable to satisfy, which was soon followed by the desertion of those, whose friendship I had been so infatuated as to suppose would be my consolation in that adverse situation, to which their pernicious counsels and contagious example had reduced me. Obliged to deliver up the shattered remnant of my fortunes, and avoided by those who had basked in the sun-shine of my prosperity, I wandered into the desart, a wretched outcast from society, and rolled myself in the sand in frenzied and agonizing sorrow: but the cruel and severe passions by which my agitated mind was torn, exhausted themselves by their violence, and were succeeded by the dread stillness of despair. My senses seemed benumbed, and a total insensibility overpowered every faculty, when methought a sudden radiance shone around me, and I felt myself aroused by the touch of a celestial messenger, who regarded me with a severe aspect, rendered yet more awful by the splendor of etherial beauty. Zeibriel (said he, while his voice [230] shook my soul with guilty terrors) I am commissioned by the Most High, — by Him who dwelleth in light to which none can approach! to speak unto thee words of correction and counsel. Thou hast mistaken the end of thy being, and vainly sought for happiness in those gratifications, which the animal creation partake in common with thee, instead of elevating thy mind to the higher and more exquisite sources of felicity, of which superior and intelligent natures are so gloriously capable. But thy errors, and thy vices have brought with them their attendant miseries: pleasure has been followed by satiety, reveling by lassitude, inebriety by disease, and prodigality by contempt and poverty, thy mind is lacerated by disappointment and remorse, and thy health debilitated by excess and luxury. Humbled in the dust, thou art necessitated to adore that Providence, whose just and wise dispensations have allotted to folly and vice, even in this lower world, (where his moral and eternal distributions are but commencing) a recompense dependent on, and springing from [231] the same source with that criminality, which so justly incurs the divine displeasure. Repent! and reform thy conduct, or tremble at the vengeance which awaits thee: the trial is at hand — be firm! and engrave on the tablet of thy soul these certain truths — That the offspring of vice and folly are infamy and death, and that happiness is the child of truth and order. 

            The messenger of the Omnipotent here ceased, and ascended to the third heaven: the severity which clouded the divine effulgence of his countenance subsided as he withdrew, and his features softened into a heavenly benignity. A ray of mingled fortitude and hope penetrated my bosom: those turbulent passions which agitated my mind, as the southern whirlwind sweeps the sandy desart, were gradually hushed into peace; tears of penitence and resignation flowed from my eyes, and prostrate on the earth, I venerated the judgements of the Almighty, and reverenced his perfections. As the burning sands of Lybia imbibe the refreshing dews of heaven, so did my heart [232] expand to welcome the new sensations of piety and consolation. Serene and calm, I arose, and, wrapped in contemplation, wandered towards the city, unconscious of the path I took; when I was awakened from my reverie by a salve, whom I presently recognized as an attendant of one of my former companions. Zeibriel (said he, accosting me) my master, who sincerely laments thy misfortunes, would speak with thee on business of importance. I made no reply, but suffered him to conduct me to the mansion of his Lord, who waited for me in a private apartment of his palace. I have need of thy services; (said he;) be diligent and discreet, and thou shalt be reinstated in thy former affluence, revenge thyself on a man by whom though hast been treated with contempt, and possess the beauteous Almerine, whom though hast long secretly loved. 

            My heart throbbed with tumultuous expectation, as he spoke, and I felt a glow of exultation suffuse my cheek; but a sudden reflection checked the rising emotion, [233] and fixing my eyes on the ground, I listened in silence to his proposal. But how did my soul shake with horror, when this execrable monster, to gratify an inordinate avarice, and to revenge some fancied indignity, revealed to me a scheme for the assassination of the virtuous Myrza, whose daughter and effects he meant to seize with sacrilegious and rapacious hands; and entreating my concurrence and assistance, (which my forlorn situation gave him no reason to doubt) promised to reward my fidelity and secrecy with the charming Almerine, and an equal share of the spoil. I received this detestable and criminal proposition with the indignation it merited, and was quitting his presence with aversion and disdain, when the vile and cruel traitor drawing a poniard, rushed suddenly upon me, and endeavoured to plunge it in my heart: thou shalt not (said he in a serious tone) by thy cowardice and pusillanimity disappoint my just vengeance, and live to betray the secret I have been so weak as to instruct thee with. His violence threw him off his guard, I wrested the dragger from his hand, and incensed by [234] his villany and perfidy, buried it in his bosom. He groaned, and fell. — I quitted with precipitation a house, in which it was no longer safe for me to remain, and hastening to court, rushed into the presence of my sovereign, and prostrating myself at the foot of the throne, recited the circumstances I have related, and implored the royal clemency.

            Selim the magnificent, who then swayed the sceptre of Persia, (ordering me to be detained in an apartment of the palace,) commissioned his officers to inquire into the truth of the transactions which I had revealed: they found the wretch still living: terrified at the sight of the royal mandate, and that dissolution which he felt approaching, he confessed, without reserve, the crime which he had been about to perpetrate, and resigned himself into the hands of justice. But the angel of death a few hours after summoned him to a tribunal still more awful, and prevented the execution of that sentence which an earthly judge would have inflicted. [235] 

            The destruction of this unhappy criminal hung heavy upon my soul, and I again withdrew myself from the haunts of men, and retired into the gloomy recesses of a forest; when Myrza filled with gratitude for the services I rendered him, sought me in the solitude which I had chosen, and clasping me in his arms, poured out the effusions of his heart in expressions the most animated and grateful. Come (said he) my preserver, and partake with me the blessings I enjoy: though hast now convinced me of the existence of those virtues in thy soul which only lay dormant for a time. Come, and let me present thee to my daughter, who has long sighed in secret on account of the absence of Zeibriel, and who impatiently waits to see him thus gloriously restored to the dignity of virtue, and the esteem of the wise and worthy. 

            A flood of rapture overpowered my senses, as he spoke; the sudden fluctuation of my spirits oppressed every faculty, till a torrent of tears relieved the convulsive struggle, and eased me from sensations of [236] agonizing agitation. Prostrate on the earth, I gave thanks to that adorable being, whose providence had conducted me to happiness through a labyrinth of error and distress. The venerable Myrza mingled his tears with mine, and with soothing and parental tenderness calmed the elevation of my spirits, and inspired me with that serene and affecting felicity — which like the rays of the sun beaming through a fleecy cloud, illumines without dazzling. 

            But alas, my children! how shall I paint to you those scenes, the recollection of which awakens a train of sensations that still too powerfully affect my soul? Pardon me, Almighty disposer of events, if the remembrance of my former happiness yet excites the bitterness of regret, and suspends for a moment those sentiments of resignation and acquiescence which with unwearied attention I have endeavoured to attain! With the deepest humility I acknowledge the wisdom and justice of thy dispensations, and though in the hour of weakness the frailty of nature obscures for a [237] short period the divine emanations of piety and peace, yet quickly shall the cloud be dispersed, and the sublime consolations of the Most High irradiate my benighted spirit. The good Zeibriel here paused, and raising his eyes to heaven, seemed absorbed in contemplation: but after a short and expressive silence, thus resumed his narrative. 

            The daughter of Myrza received me with the most engaging frankness. Her father presented me to her as a man who he had destined to be her husband: with an enchanting sweetness she confessed that she submitted without reluctance to his will. In the society of the adorable Almerine, my days glided on in the most perfect peace. And nobly ingenuous, she endeavoured not to conceal the soft emotions of her heart: I found myself beloved with the most pure and elegant tenderness, and my felicity was unbounded. Ah! how infinitely superior are the delightful sensations that flow from that entire confidence, that reciprocity of affection, those interesting and delicate attentions, [238] that lively and vivifying fire, which animate the virtuous, the sensible, the truly enamoured heart — to the sordid desire of the sensualist, who absorbed in gross selflove, and degraded to the level of the brute creation, is incapable of rising into the higher, more varied, more exquisite satisfactions of reason and intellect, that alone can renew and perpetuate pleasure.

            Those attainments which are most worthy of the pursuit of rational beings are in the power of almost all mankind: in vain we search for happiness in the paths of dissipation and irregularity; fleeting and evanescent, like an unsubstantial pageant, it dissolves at our approach. But in the real solid pleasures of nature and social affection, in the serene consciousness of a well ordered conduct, the passions regulated, the temper tranquillized, the reason rectified (if to such happy dispositions, oh son of mortality and frailty! thou canst ever attain) are comprized the whole of human bliss. [239] 

            In a few weeks (resumed the sage) I became the husband of Almerine: but the festivities of the nuptial celebration received a most sensible alloy from the death of the worthy Myrza, who expired suddenly, while his heart was dilating with pleasure at the felicity of his children. My Almerine bent beneath the weight of this calamity — as the beauteous lily declines its snowy head, surcharged with the dews of the morning: but time, and the tender assiduities of attentive affection calmed by degrees the pious effusions of filial sorrow, and restored her gentle mind to its wonted tranquility. 

            Happy in the possession of each other, we quitted the city of Ispahan, and retired to a rural recess in a neighbouring village, where, in the conversation of my lovely bride, the improvement of the lands belonging to my estate, the acquisition of science, and the study of oriental philosophy, my days glided on like the unruffled stream. The birth of a son two years after our marriage, added to our enjoyments the [240] new and ineffable emotions of parental affection. With eyes swimming in tears of tenderness, and a heart glowing with unutterable transport, alternately I pressed to my bosom the smiling infant, and its lovely mother. But let me draw a veil over sensations to the expressions of which language is unequal! This flattering and deceitful calm was the prelude of a storm, the remembrance of which congeals my blood, and thrills my soul with horror. Some months after the birth of my infant, being necessitated to go a short journey, I took leave of my Almerine with a presage which I could not account for: as I bade her farewel, an unusual damp hung upon my spirits, and an universal tremor shook my nerves: with the utmost difficulty I at length tore myself from her embraces. These cruel anxieties which my reason in vain endeavoured to subdue, increased to so great a degree, that on the third day of my journey, unable to proceed, I determined to return home, and lose my inquietudes in the presence of the beloved object, for whose welfare they were excited. [241] 

            The nearer I approached the mansion, in which I had left all my soul held dear, my agitations became more tumultuous: at length I alighted from my horse, and rushing into the house, was hastening to the apartment of Almerine, when a servant with looks of terror and dismay impeded my progress. In a moment I was surrounded by my domestics, who prostrating themselves at my feet, answered my frantic inquiries with sighs and groans. My wife! my child! I exclaimed in a furious tone — they are no more. — Images of horror crowded on my imagination, my senses swam in confusion, and I fell without motion to the ground. The cries of my faithful attendants recalled me to life: amidst a torrent of tears, they informed me, that on the second day of my absence their beloved mistress had been seized by the hand of power, and conveyed to the Seraglio; the frame of her beauty having reached the ears of Ibrahim, (who had succeeded his father Selim) and whose fierce and licentious conduct had acquired him the surname of the cruel. [242] 

            The traveler who in crossing the desart — hears the howling of the southern blast, and sees the sand whirled in tremendous eddies, approaching to overwhelm him with inevitable destruction, stands not more aghast than I did at this dreadful intelligence. A thousand gloomy schemes of desperation and horror revolved in my perturbed mind: I retired to my closet, and throwing myself on my sopha, remained till the dawning of the day in a state of torpid insensibility. But at length roused to anguish, I arose with precipitation, and disguising myself in the habit of a slave hastened towards the city. Tortured with a variety of cruel apprehensions, I wandered round the gardens of Seraglio, till the lamp of day had almost withdrawn itself, its last rays scarce gilding the summits of the western mountains, when a soft and plaintive murmur reached my attentive ear: I started, and flew towards the place from whence the sound seemed to proceed. Again I listened in breathless attention, and fancied I could distinguish the voice of Almerine. The blood rushed tumultuously to my heart. [243] I gazed on the walls which opposed my entrance in an agony of despair, and made several ineffectual efforts to scale them. At last wearied and exhausted, I threw myself on the earth, and elevating my eyes to heaven, tacitly accused that Being who thus suffered the impious to triumph in the spoils of the innocent and oppressed. How long is life! (I exclaimed) and how transient are its felicities! A gay dream, a moment of intoxication, from which the rude hand of adversity wakes us with an irrecoverable shock. 

            The branches of a lofty tree overshadowed the spot on which I was sitting, and part of them waved over the wall which enclosed the gardens of the Haram. It occurred to me that by the aid of these boughs I might be enabled to accomplish my desire. What must be those difficulties which the temerity of love will not endeavor to obviate? Again the ardor of hope flushed my cheek, and my bosom throbbed with expectation. With extreme difficulty and danger I at length attained [244] my purpose, and found myself within that enclosure — where should I be discovered, inevitable death would be the reward of my presumption. But the passion which animated my heart, rendered me insensible to dear, and armed me with a resolution more than human. With precipitate steps I penetrated into a recess, from whence seemed to proceed those sounds, which had at first excited my attention; as I drew nearer, the accents of complaint grew more distinct, interrupted by the most piercing and heart-rendering sights. Ah my children! how shall I paint to you the strong emotions, that agitated my soul, when I beheld reclining on the grass, by the side of a river, that beloved object, whom torn from me by the hand of tyranny, I now perhaps gazed on for the last time. The roses were faded from her cheek, and those eyes — compared with the whole lustre the gems of Samarcand had appeared dim, were now suffused with tears, and languid with distress; raising them from the ground, in a tone of the most affecting sorrow — cruel and delusive imagination! (said she) how does thy refined and [245] acute sensations add severe and accumulated woes to a heart already sinking under the wounds of nature and tenderness! Fondly I looked forward to an unclouded prospect: but the day suddenly shut in, enveloped with thick darkness, and the gay dream of delight fled for ever. A thousand conflicting sensations for some moments deprived me of the power of utterance. At length in a voice scarcely articulate — Almerine! (said I) — she started — shrieked — and sunk motionless in my arms. Returning to life and recollection in the same instant, — fly my Zeibriel, (she exclaimed with looks of terror and distraction) fly from this fatal place! But a few minutes I have escaped from the officious cares of the woman appointed to attend me, even now perhaps they are in search of me. Gracious Alla; let me not be witness to the death of him, who is infinitely dearer to me than life itself! Never my loved, my lost Almerine — never will I leave you. — Let us die together — existence without you would be an insupportable burthen: this moment, repays me [246] for all I have suffered! — Let the tyrant condemn me to racks and tortures — in your presence, even death would have new and attractive charms! The sound of approaching feet assailed the ear of the trembling Almerine. They come, (she cried) my Zeibriel, clasping me still closer to her bosom — they come to tear me from you: Ah! leave me not — let us die together! Some women who were not far distant, had been witnesses to our interview, and instantly alarmed the Shah, who now approached the spot (attended by his guards) where I supported in my arms the terrified, and almost lifeless Almerine. 

            In a furious and disdainful accent, the tyrant commanded us to be separated. As the Lybian lioness, when roused by the hunters, in defence of her young — tears both the horse, rider, and dyes the earth with sanguinary torrents; so, animated by love and despair — I quitted my Almerine, and drawing my scimetar, rushed upon the slaves, who in vain attempted to disarm me, and endeavoured to force my way to the Shah, [247] determined to sacrifice him to my just vengeance; but at length exhausted by rage, and overpowered by numbers I fell, covered with wounds. My Almerine rent the air with the most piercing and frantic cries, and was conveyed to the Haram in a state of distraction. The inhuman Ibrahim ordered me to be thrown into the river which ran through the gardens, and emptied itself into the sea, where in a few moments I lost my senses, and was conveyed (as I afterwards learnt) by the rapidity of the stream near the residence of a pious dervise, who drew me out of the waves, and by the application of powerful drugs restored me to life and sensation. In the first anguish of recollection I repayed his humanity and tenderness with severe and ungrateful reproaches, tore the bandages from my wounds, execrated the returning light, and obstinately refused the cordials with which he pressed me to recruit the cordials with which he pressed me to recruit my wasted spirits. But at last overpowered by his humane solicitude, and incited by the prevalence of nature, I confessed to live, a glimmering ray of hope still at times beaming [248] through the despondency, with which my soul was overwhelmed; yet transient and evanescent were its irradiations, as the flame-winged lightning, which gleaming from the East to the West, is succeeded by a thicker and more dreadful gloom. 

            Recovering my strength by slow degrees, in the absence of my benefactor — I one day crawled out, with a hope of procuring some intelligence of my lost ill-fated Almerine! I had not proceeded far, when I espied walking with a dejected air, a slave whom I had formerly purchased of an Arabian merchant, and who in the days of my prosperity had served me with fidelity and zeal. Having discovered myself to him, I demanded of him with eagerness and impatience the information which my soul languished to hear. Prostrating himself at my feet, and bowing his head in the dust — Let not my Lord (said he) be displeased with his servant, if he feels a reluctance to relate those fatal truths, which if it were possible, he would wish for ever to be suppressed; yet as the knowledge of [249] them imports thy life and safety, how cruel soever the talk, there is a necessity that thou shouldst be informed — that Almerine survived but a few hours the dreadful conflict, in which it was reported thou hadst fallen a victim. — Thy son also was conveyed by the angel of death to the bowers of Paradise three days after his unfortunate mother. — Thy estates are conflicted — thy friends overwhelmed with consternation — and thy slaves dispersed over the face of the earth. Hasten, my Lord, from a country so fatal to thy peace, while thy preservation is yet undiscovered, lest thou again fall into the power of a remorseless tyrant, and finish a life of sufferings by a cruel and ignominious death. 

            It is well! (said I) the measure of my sorrows is filled up, — and the power of Omnipotence is displayed in my destruction. Take back, Oh thou Supreme Arbiter of events! — take back the life which reason and nature both impel me to renounce! With a wild and frantic gesture, I drew from under my vest a poniard which [250] I had concealed, and raising my eyes to heaven, with a look in which accusation and supplication were blended, were about to plunge it in my bosom — when the ground shook under me, — the sun was veiled in clouds — a flash of lightening glanced across my startled sight — followed by a loud and terrific peal of thunder, — and the angel of reproof again stood before me. Rash, and insensate mortal! (said he, in a solemn and severe tone,) that Almighty Being, whose dispensations thou hast presumptuously dared to arraign, deigneth once more, to commission his ministering spirit to speak unto thee words of correction and instruction. Shall the child of mortality, the insect of a day, absorbed in the pursuit of a sensible objects, and incapable of penetrating beyond the present hour, to whose perception the nearest link of the great general chain of Providence is scarcely visible, — shall he presume to rebel against the Highest, — murmur at infinite goodness, — or direct the Omniscient intelligence? Didst thou serve him for nought, when he showered upon [251] thee the blessings of prosperity, and thy heart dilated with joy? Softened by delight, and enervated with ease, thou wast sinking into the lap of security and pleasure, and dissolved in terrestrial enjoyments, aspired not to those purer and more sublime satisfactions which alone are worthy of the supreme attention of an heir of immortality. Thou hast said in thine heart, — surely integrity and virtue are vain, while the wicked triumph, and the innocent hath no avenger. But attend in silence, and let thy mind imbibe knowledge! The immutable and external laws of equity are but commencing in this first and imperfect stage of existence, seemingly perplexed with intricacies, and obscured with errors: yet even here, in the inmost soul, though invisible to mortal eyes, the Almighty is not without his witness. The inquietudes of vice convert the exterior blessings of prosperity into a subtle and deadly poison: while the virtuous with tranquil equanimity rise superior to misfortune, and from the wholesome soil of adversity extract the fair blossoms of wisdom, humanity and resignation. But the [252] period approaches when this scene — which to the superficial beholder seems unworthy of infinite benevolence, — shall appear a system of consummate skill, and every cloud dispersed, shine with a clear and effulgent radiance through the boundless ages of eternity. 

         Depart then, and thus taught by heaven, adore that wisdom which is unsearchable, — confide in that goodness which has twice snatched thee from destruction, — and instructed by the past, let the future evince the sincerity of thy contrition. Diffuse the knowledge which thou hast received, and speak peace and consolation to the children of error, and affliction. 

         The seraph here withdrew, and the sound of his wings was as the rushing of a whirlwind. Humbled and abashed, I quitted the environs of Ispahan, followed by my faithful attendant, and in this sequestered retirement have now spent forty years: during that period a celestial peace has gradually dawned upon my benighted soul. May the [253] remembrance of my errors guide your devious footsteps through the intricate labyrinth of life, and when the messenger of dissolution summons me to the blissful abodes of the faithful, may I have the satisfaction of reflecting, that I have not recorded my history in vain.