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him, he applied it to his lips, and began to play upon it. The sound of it was exceeding sweet, and wrought into a variety of tunes that were inexpressibly melodious, and altogether different from any thing I had ever heard. They put me in mind of those heavenly airs that are played to the departed souls of good men upon their first arrival in Paradise, to wear out the impressions of the last agonies, and qualify them for the pleasures of that happy place. My heart melted away in secret raptures.
I had been often told that the rock before me was the haunt of a Genius, and that several had been entertained with music who had passed by it; but never heard that the musician had before made himself visible. When he had raised my thoughts, by those transporting airs which he played, to taste the pleasures of his conversation, as I looked upon him like one astonished, he beckoned to me, and by the waving of his hand directed me to approach the place where he sat.
I drew near with that reverence which is due to a superior nature; and, as my heart was entirely subdued by the captivating strains I had heard, I fell down at his feet and wept. The Genius smiled upon me with a look of compassion and affability that familiarized him to my imagination, and at once dispelled all the fears and apprehensions with which I approached him. He lifted me from the ground, and, taking me by the hand,
Mirza,” said he, “I have heard thee in thy soliloquies : follow me.”
He then led me to the highest pinnacle of the rock, and placing me on the top of it, “ Cast thy eyes eastward,” said he, “and tell me what thou seest."
“I see,” said I, “a huge valley, and a prodigious tide of water rolling through it."
“The valley that thou seest," said he, “is the Vale of Misery, and the tide of water that thou seest is part of the great tide of 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 thus 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."
“That 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 the
passengers dropping through the bridge into the great tide that flowed underneath it; and, upon further examination, perceived 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 pitfalls were set very thick at the entrance of the bridge; so that throngs of people no sooner broke through the cloud but 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 cimeters in their hands, and others with pill-boxes, 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 yet 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 vultures, 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, Superstition, 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 strengthened it with a 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 further 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 of it 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
I could see persons dressed in glorious habits with garlands upon their heads, passing among the trees, lying down by the sides of the 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 that 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 sands 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 and degrees, suitable to the relishes and perfections of those who are settled in them. Every island is a Paradise accommodated to its respective inhabitants. Are not these, O Mirza, habitations worth contending for?