The Hermit (1786)

“The Hermit; an Oriental Tale,” signed “M. Hays” in The Universal Magazine 78 (April 1786), 204-09 (part 1); May (1786), 234-38 (part 2).

 

 

The Hermit; an Oriental Tale. 

By M. Hays.

 

All passions in excess are crimes –

Submit thy fate to Heaven’s indulgent care,

Tho’ all seems lost, ’tis impious to despair;

The tracts of Providence like rivers wind,

Here run before us – there retreat behind;

And tho’ immerg’d 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, falls into the Caspian sea) grew an ancient and beautiful forest, whose ground was enameled with a profusion of flowers, enriched with all the glowing and variegated tints of Nature. Birds of various-coloured plumage sung harmoniously on the branches of lofty cedars, stately palms, and trees that bore a perpetual succession of blossoms and fruit. The melody of their notes, the aromatic odours wasted from the blossoms, the delicious coolness of the shade, and the dashing of distant water-falls adding to the beauty of the scene, constituted the place a perfect paradise below. In the center of the grove, beneath a tuft of citron and orange trees, was a mossy cave, hewn out by he hand of Nature, yet so completely formed, that the Sultan of the East need not disdain to repose there. It was the habitation of Zeibriel the Hermit, revered and beloved for his benevolence and wisdom, and venerated for his age. A beard of snowy white reached his girdle; majesty, tempered with benignity, beamed from his eyes; eloquence, and soft persuasion, flowed form his lips, sweet as the honey of Hybla. The shepherds that dwelt on the adjacent plains quitted their rural sports and occupations to attend to his precepts. He taught them justice and equity, tempered with mercy; sobriety, temperance, and philanthropy, he made familiar themes to them. He led them in the mysterious paths of religion, initiated them in the sublime sciences of philosophy and astronomy, enlightened their understandings, expanded their ideas, traquillized their tempers, and amended their hearts. 

         But above all he inculcated on them the danger of irregular and impetuous emotions: The strongest passions (said he) often accompany the finest genius, and the most amiable mind. A lively and glowing imagination, a refined and acute sensibility, gives force and energy to those sensations, which, divested of the colourings of fancy, and contemplated through the cool medium of philosophy and reason, would quickly subside, and leave the calm soul astonished at the tumult which, excited by the senses, if not timely checked, might have overwhelmed, with a fatal and resistless power, its temporal and eternal peace. My children (pursued the reverend Sage) beware of the first approaches of those insidious and fascinating sentiments which flatter while they destroy: they influence by pleasing 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 with impetuous force the cottage, with its terrified inhabitants: the shepherd, with his innocent flock; and sweeps, with unrelenting fury, the teeming harvest of the coming year, so ardent and unbounded passion debilitates the understanding, obscures the divine intelligence which irradiates the souls of the [205] sons of men; enervates that fortitude and self-possession which is the glory of a rational being, and bears down, with destructive force, 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 harmonize and ennoble the human mind; that placid and affecting tenderness, which, being consistent with order, and having virtue for its object, calls forth new graces, and elevates the soul, which cherishes it, to more heroic goodness; that general and social philanthropy, which is an emanation of the divine perfections, and which embraces as brethren the whole human species, however diversified by sentiment, mode, or complexion; and that graceful benevolence which extends its pity 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 relation, yet, to the attentive mind, the recital of my errors may convey a lesson not 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 f Death to render an account of his actions at that high and awful tribunal, before which the greatest earthly potentates must appear, just as I had attained my nineteenth year. A few hours before he expired, he sent for me into his 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 that 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 has 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 wise ad virtuous maxims which it has been the study of my life to implant in thy young and ductile mind. I leave thee wealth sufficient not only to gratify every rational and lawful 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, and where snares and death lurk beneath the smile of the deceitful parasite, who flatters but to destroy.

         My father (said Zeibriel) was proceeding in this discourse, when the dread messenger of death put a period to his existence, and left me lost 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 the hilarity of hope. 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 return 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 and caresses, and instigated [206] by the prevalence of their example, the virtuous precepts I had imbibed by education became every day less influential. As the stone which rolls down the declivity acquires greater force and velocity the nearer it approaches the vale, so the mind which once deviates from the paths of rectitude, sinks, by rapid degrees, from dissipation to error, from error to vice, and at length perpetrates, without remorse, crimes which it once shuddered at the idea of. 

         Yet was I not so hardened in insensibility as to reflect without remorse on the licentiousness of my conduct. Pleasures, riotous and intoxicating, were succeeded by moments of satiety and disgust. I found my health affected, my fortune impoverished, and my peace destroyed, without any other compensation than a few hours of fallacious and deceitful enjoyment, which left my spirits depressed in proportion as they had been elated, and afforded not any satisfaction suited to a rational and immortal mind. These reflections received additional force from a disappointment I had recently suffered in my addresses to a young beauty, the daughter of the virtuous Myrza, by whom I had been rejected, (notwithstanding my rank and fortune rendered an alliance with me advantageous) on the account of my immoralities. In vain I endeavoured to erase the idea of this amiable maid from my heart! 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 insipid, and the pleasures they pressed me to participate with them excited in my mind sensations of languor and disgust: yet, enervated by voluptuousness and indolence, I found myself incapable of resisting the importunities of those associates who had acquired by habit an unbounded influence over me; and I saw my substance daily decreasing without retrenching my expences, or a forming any plans for the regulation of my conduct.

         But I was roused 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 councils, and contagious example, had reduced me. Obliged to deliver up the shattered remnant of my fortunes, avoided by those who had basked in the sunshine of my prosperity, I wandered into the desart [sic] a wretched outcast from society, and rolled myself in the sand in an agony of grief; but the cruel and severe passions by which my agitated mind was rent, exhausted themselves by their violence, and the dread stillness of despair succeeded. My senses were benumbed, and a total insensibility overpowered every faulty, when methought a sudden ray of light shone around me, and I felt myself roused by the touch of a celestial messenger, who stood before me with a countenance in which severity and heavenly compassion were blended. Zeibriel (said he) I am commissioned by the Most High to speak unto thee words of correction and consolation. Thou hast mistaken the end of thy being, and has sought for happiness in those gratifications which the animal creation partake in common with thee, instead of elevating thy mind to those higher and more exquisite sources of felicity which alone deserve the attention of an intelligent soul; but thy vices and thy errors have carried with them their own punishment. Pleasure has produced satiety; reveling, lassitude; and prodigality has been followed with its certain attendant, poverty. Thy mind is lacerated by disappointment and remorse; and they health debilitated by luxury and excess. Humbled in the dust, thou art necessitated to adore that Providence whose just and wise dispensations have allotted to vice and folly, even in this lower world, (where his eternal distributions are but commencing) a recompence dependent on, and springing [207] from the same source with those errors which justly incur the divine displeasure. Repent, and amend thy conduct; or tremble at the vengeance which awaits thee: the trial is at hand: be firm; and engrave on the tablets of they soul this certain truth, That the offspring of vice and folly are misery and death, and that felicity is the child of truth and order.

         The celestial messenger here ceased, and ascended to the third heaven. A ray of divine consolation seemed to enlighten my soul as he withdrew. Those turbulent passions which agitated my mind as the southern whirlwind sweeps the sandy desert, subsided; tears of penitence and contrition flowed from my eyes, and, prostrate on the earth, I adored the judgments of the Most High, and deprecated his wrath. As the burning sands of Lybia imbibe the refreshing dews of heaven, so did my heart expand to welcome the new sensations of piety and peace. Calm and resigned, 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 slave whom I knew to be 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 answer, but followed him 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 magnificence: Revenge thyself on a man by whom thou hast been treated with contempt, and possess the beauteous Almerine, whom thou hast long secretly loved.

         My heart trembled with tumultuous expectation (as he spoke), and I felt a glow of exultation suffuse my cheek; but a sudden recollection checked the rising emotion, 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, hose daughter and effects he meant to seize with rapacious and sacrilegious 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 on me, and endeavoured to plunge it in my heart. Thou shalt not said he (in a furious tone) by they cowardice and pusillanimity, disappoint my just vengeance, and live to betray the secret I have been so weak as to entrust thee with. His violence three him off his guard; I wrested the dagger from his hand, and, incensed by his perfidy and villainy, 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 which I have related, and implored the royal clemency.

         Selim the Magnificent, who then swayed the scepter of Persia, (ordering me to be detained in an apartment of the palace), commissioned his officers to enquire 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 [208] sentence which an earthly judge would have inflicted.

         The destruction of this unhappy criminal hung heavy upon my soul, and I withdrew myself again rom the haunts of men, and retired into the gloomy recesses of a forest; when Myrza, filled with gratitude for the services I had 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 which I enjoy. Thou 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 for 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 gave vent to my overcharged heart, and relieved me from sensations of 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 virtuous Myrza mingled his tears with min, and, with the soothings of parental blandishment, calmed the elevation of my spirits, and inspired me with that serene and affecting felicity, which, like the rays of the solar luminary 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 they dispensations, and though in an hour of weakness the frailty of Nature obscures, for a 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 narration.


    [End of Part I]

 

         The daughter of Myrza received me with the most engaging sensibility. Her father presented me to her as a man whom 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. All 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 reciprocity of affection – those interesting and delicate attentions – that lively and vivifying fire which animates the virtuous and truly enamoured heart, to the sordid desire of the sensualist, who, degraded to the level of animal creation, quenches that divine ray of intelligence which is the only source of exquisite and permanent satisfaction. 

         Those attainments which are alone worthy the pursuit of rational reflecting 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 soft affection, the serene consciousness of a well-ordered conduct, the passions regulated, the reason rectified, the temper tranquilized, (if to such happy dispositions, O son of mortality! Thou canst ever attain) are comprised the whole of human bliss.

         In a few weeks (resumed the Sage) I became the husband of Almerine; but the hilarity and festivity which presided at our nuptials received, some days after their celebration, a most sensible alloy from the death of the worthy Myrza, who expired suddenly, while his heart was dilating [235] with pleasure at the felicity of his children. My amiable 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 effusions of filial regret, and restored her gentle mind to its wonted tranquility. 

         Supremely happy in the possession of each other, we quitted the city of Ispahan, and retired to a sweet recess in a neighbouring village, where, in the conversation of my lovely bride, the culture of some lands belonging to my estate, and the acquisition of scientific and literary knowledge, my life glided on in an halcyon serenity. The birth of a son, two years after our marriage, added to our enjoyments the 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 expression of which language is unequal. This flattering and deceitful calm was the prelude of a storm, the remembrance of which congeals my freezing 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 bid her adieu, an unusual damp hung upon my spirits, and a universal tremor shook my nerves. With the utmost difficulty I at last 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

         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, 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, and I fell without motion to the ground. The cries of my faithful attendants recalled me to life. Amidst a torrent of tear 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 fame 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. The traveller 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 agitated mind. I retired to my closet, and throwing myself on a 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 to the city. Tortured with a variety of cruel apprehensions, I wandered round the gardens of the 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 proceeded. Again I listened in breathless attention, and fancied I could distinguish the voice of my Almerine. The blood rushed tumultuously to my heart: I gazed [236] on the walls which opposed my entrance in an agony of despair, and made several ineffectual efforts to scale them. At length, 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 inclosed the gardens of the palace. 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 ardour of hope flushed my cheek, and my bosom throbbed with expectation With extreme difficulty and danger, I at length attained my purpose, and found myself within that inclosure where, should I be discovered, inevitable death would be the reward of my presumption. But the passion which animated my heart rendered me insensible of fear, and armed me with a resolution more than human. With precipitating 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 y the most piercing and heart-rending sighs. Ah, my children, how shall I express to you the strong emotions which agitated my soul, when I beheld reclining on the grass, by the side of a river, that beloved objet, who (torn from me by the hand of violence) I now perhaps gazed on for the last time. The roses were faded from her cheek, and those eyes, compared with whose 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 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, inveloped 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 without motion 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 have I escaped from the officious cares of the women 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 adorable Almerine, never will I leave you. Let us die together. Existence without you, would be an insupportable burthen. This moment, while thus encircling you in my arms. – This moment repays me 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, throwing her arms around me; – they come to tear me from you Ah! Leave me not: Let us die together. – Some women who were not far distant, had been witness to our interview, and instantly alarmed the Sophi, 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, he commanded us to be separated. As the Lybian lioness, when roused [237] by the hunters, (in defence of her young) tears both the horse and rider, and dyes the earth with sanguinary torrents, so, animated by love and despair, I quitted my Almerine, and drawing my scimitar, rushed upon the slaves, who in vain attempted to disarm me, and endeavoured to force my way to the Tyrant, 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 a 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, to the residence of a pious dervise, who drew me out of the waves, and, by the application of some powerful drugs, restored me to life and sensation. In the first anguish of recollection, I rewarded his humanity and tenderness with severe and ungrateful reproaches, tore the bandages from my wounds, execrated the returning light, and obstinately refused the sustenance with which he pressed me to recruit my wasted spirits. But at last, over powered by his humane solicitude, and incited by the prevalence of nature, I consented to live, a glimmering ray of hope still at times beaming 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 intense gloom.

         Recovering my strength by slow degrees, (in the absence of my benefactor) I one day crawled out with a determination to procure some intelligence on 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 them imports thy life and safety, how cruel soever the task, there is a necessity thou shouldest 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 celestial mansions, three days after his unfortunate mother. Thy estates are confiscated – thy friends overwhelmed with sorrow – and thy slaves dispersed on 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 Tyrant, and finish a life of sufferings by a cruel and ignominious death.

         ’Tis well (said I): the measure of my wretchedness is complete, and the power of Omnipotence is displayed in my destruction. Take back, O 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 habit a poniard, which I had concealed; and, raising my eyes to Heaven, with a look in which accusation and supplication were blended, was about to plunge it in my bosom, when the ground shook under me, a flash of lightning 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 [238] 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 sensible objects, and incapable of penetrating beyond the present hour, to whose perception the smallest part of the great general system of Providence is scarcely visible, – shall he presume to rebel against the Highest – murmur at Infinite Power – or direct the Omniscient Intelligence? Didst thou serve Him for naught when He showered upon thee the blessings of prosperity, and thy heart overflowed with felicity and joy? Exhilirated [sic] with delight, and softened by ease, thou wast sinking into the lap of security and pleasure; and, fully satiated with terrestrial enjoyments, aspired not to those purer and more sublime satisfactions which only deserve the supreme attention of an intelligent and immortal mind. Thou hast said in thine heart, Surely integrity and virtue are in vain while the wicked triumph, and the innocent hath no avenger. But attend in silence, and let thy mind imbibe knowledge. The immutable and eternal laws of equity are but commencing in this imperfect state, obscured with errors, and perplexed with intricacies. 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 tranquil equanimity of virtue rises superior to calamity, and from the wholesome soil of adversity extracts the fair blossoms of humanity, resignation, and fortitude. But the period is approaching when this scene, which seems to the superficial observer unworthy of infinite wisdom, 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 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 then withdrew on sounding pinions. 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 illuminated my benighted soul. May the remembrance of my errors guide your devious footsteps through the intricate labyrinth of life; and, when the messenger of death summons me to the blissful abodes of paradise, may I have the satisfaction of knowing, that I have not recorded my history in vain.