網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

reign, gives the day to festivity, and the night to peace. At length, Seged, reflect and be wife. What is the gift of conquest but fafety? Why are riches collected but to pur-, chafe happiness?"

Seged then ordered the house of pleasure, built in an is-. land of the lake Dambea, to be prepared for his reception. " I will retire,” says he, “ for ten days from tumult and care, from councils and decrees. Ling quiet is not the lot of the governors of nations, but a ceffation of ten days cannot be denied me. This thort interval of happiness may surely be fecured from the interruption of fear or perplexie ty, sorrow or disappointment. I will exclude all trouble from my abode, and remove from my thoughts whatever may confuse the harmony of the concert, or abate the sweetness of the banquet. I will fill the whole capacity of my-foul with enjoyment, and try what-it is to live without a wish unsatisfied."

In a few days the orders were performed, and Seged ha'ted to the palace of Dambea, which stood in an island cultivated only for pleasure, planted with every flower that spreads its colours to the fun, and every shrub that sheds fragrance in the air. In one part of this extensive garden were open walks for excursions in the morning ; in another, thick groves, and silent arbours, and bubbling fountains for repofe at noon. All that could solace the tense, or flatter: the fancy ; all that industry could extort from nature, or Wealth furnih to art; all that conquest could seize, or be. neficence attract, was collected together, and every perception of delight was excited and gratified.

Into this delicious region Seged fummoned all the perfons of his court, who seemed eminently qualified to receive or communicate pleasure. His call was readily obeyed ; the young, the fair, the vivacious, and the witty, were all in halte to be fated with felicity. They failed jocund over the lake, which seemed to smooth its surface before them; their passage was cheered with music, and their hearts dilated with expectation.

Seged landing here with his band of pleasure, determined from that hour to break of all acquaintance with dir. content ; to give his heart for ten days to ease and jollity; and then to fall back to the common state of man, and fuf. fer bis life to be diversified, as before, with joy and forrow.

He immediately entered his chamber, to consider where he shou het begin his circle of happiness. He had all the ar

tists of delight before him, but knew not whom to call, fince he could not enjoy one, but by delaying the performance of another ; he chose and rejected, he resolved and changed his resolution, till his faculties were haraffed, and his thoughts confused; then returned to the apartment where his presence was expected, with languid eyes, and clouded countenance, and spread the infection of uneafiness over the whole assembly He observed their deprel. fion, and was offended; for he found his vexation increased by those whom he expected to diffipate and relieve it. te retired again to his private chamber, and fought for confolation in his own mind; one thought Alowed in upon another; a long fucceffion of images seized his attention; the moments crept imperceptibly away through the gloom of pensiveness, till, having recovered his tranquillity, he lifted up his head, and saw the lake brightened by the setting sun. “Such,” faid Seged, fighing, “is the longest day of human existence ; before we have learned to use it, we find it at an end."

The regret which he felt for the loss of so great a part of his firlt day, took from him all difpofition to enjoy the evening; and, after having endeavoured, for the sake of his attendants, to force an air of gaiety, and excite that mirth which he could not share, he resolved to refer his hopes to the next morning; and lay down to partake with the flaves of labour and poverty the blessings of sleep.

He rose early the second morning, and resolved now to be happy. He therefore fixed upon the gate of the palace an edict, importing, that whoever, during nine days, should appear in the presence of the king, with dejected countenance, or utter any expression of discontent or forrow, should be driven forever from the palace of Dambea.

This edict was immediately made known in every cham. ber of the court, and bower of the gardens. Mirth was frighted away, and they who were before dancing in the lawns, or singing in the shades, were at once engaged in the care of regulating their looks, that Seged might find his will punctually obeyed, and see none among them liable to banishment.

Seged now met every face settled in a smile ; but a smile that betrayed folicitude, timidity and constraint. He accofted his favourites with familiarity, and softness; but they durft not speak without premeditation, left they should be convicted of discontent or sorrow. He proposed diver

[ocr errors]

fons, to which no objection was made, because objection would have implied uneasiness ; but they were regarded with indifference by the courtiers, who had no other desire than to signalize themselves by clamorous exultation. He offered various topics of conversation, but obtained only forced jests, and laborious laughter; and, after many attempts to animate his train to confidence and alacrity, was obliged to confess to himself the impotence of command, and resign another day to grief and disappointment.

He at lalt relieved his companions from their terrors, and shut himself up in his chamber, to ascertain, by different measures, the felicity of the succeeding days. length he threw himself on the bed, and closed his eyes ; but imagined in his sleep, that his palace and gardens were overwhelmed by an inundation, and waked with all the terrors of a man struggling in the water. He composed himself again to relt, but was frighted by an imaginary irruption into his kingdom; and striving, as is usual in dreams, without ability to move, fancied himself betrayed to his enemies, and again started up with horror and indignation.

It was now day, and fear was so trongly impressed on his mind, that he could sleep no more.

He rose, but his thoughts were filled with the deluge and invasion ; nor was he able to disengage his attention, or mingle with va. cancy and ease in any amusement. At length his perturbation gave way to reason, and he resolved no longer to be haraffed by visionary miseries ; but before this resolution could be completed, half the day had elapsed. He felt a new conviction of the uncertainty of human schemes, and could not forbear to bewail the weakness of that being, whose quiet was to be interrupted by vapours of the fancy. Having been first disturbed by a dream, he afterwards grieved that a dream could disturb him. He at lalt difcovered that his terrors and grief were equally vain; and that to lose the present in lamenting the past, was voluntarily to protract a melancholy vision. The third day was now declining, and Seged again resolved to be happy on the morrow.

SECTION XII.

History of Seged continued. On the fourth morning Seged rose early, refreshed with sleep, vigorous with health, and eager with expectation. He entered the garden, attended by the princes and ladies of his court ; and seeing nothing about him but airy cheerfulness, began to say to his heart, “ This day shall be a day of pleasure." The fun played upon the water, the birds warbled in the groves, and the gales quivered among the branches. He roved from walk to walk as chance directed him ; and sometimes listened to the songs, sometimes mingled with the dancers, sometimes let loose his imagina. tion in flights of merriment ; and sometimes uttered grave reflections, and fententious maxims, and feasted on the ad. miration with which they were received.

Thus the day rolled on, without any accident of vexation, or intrufion of melancholy thoughts. All that beheld him caught gladness from his looks, and the fight of happiness conferred by himself, filled his heart with satisfaction : but having paffed three hours in this pleasing luxury, he was alarmed on a sudden by a universal scream among the wo. men; and turning back, saw the whole assembly Aying in confusion. A young crocodile had risen out of the lake, and was ranging the garden in wantonness or hunger. Seged beheld him with indignation, as a disturber of his felicity, and chased him back into the lake; but could not persuade his retinue to stay, or free their hearts from the cerror which had seized upon them. The princesses enclosed themselves in the palace, and could yet scarcely believe themselves in safety. Every attention was fixed upon

the late danger and escape, and no mind was any longer at leisure for gay fallies, or careless pratile.

Seged had now no other employment, than to contemplate the innumerable casualties, which lie in ambush on every side to intercept the happiness of man, and break in upon the hour of delight and tranquillity. He had, how. ever, the confolation of thinking, that he had not been now disappointed by his own fault ; and that the accident which had blasted the hopes of the day, might easily be prevented by future caution.

That he might provide for the pleasure of the next morning, he resolved to repeal his penal edi&, fince he had already found, that discontent and melancholy were not to be frighted away by the threats of authority, and that pleasure would only reside where she was exempted from control. He therefore invited all the companions of his retreat to unbounded pleasantry, by propoling prizes for those who should, on the following day, distinguisha them

felves by any festive performances ; the tables of the anti. chamber were covered with gold and pearls ; and robes and garlands decreed the rewards of those who could refine elegance, or heighten pleasure.

At this display of riches every cye immediately sparkled, and every tongue was bufied in celebrating the bounty and magnificence of the emperor But when Seged entered, in hopes of uncommon entertainment from universal emu. lation, he found that any pallion too itrongly agitated puts an end to that tranquillity which is necessary to mirth; and that the mind that is to be moved by the gentle ventilations of gaiety, must be first smoothed by a total calm. Whatever we ardently wish to gain, we must, in the same degree, be afraid to lose ; and fear and pleasure cannot dwell together.

All was now care and solicitude. Nothing was done or fpoken, but with so visible an endeavour at perfection, as always failed to delight, though it sometimes forced admi. ration : and Seged could not but observe with sorrow, that his prizes had more influence than himself. As the even. ing approached, the contest grew more earnest ; and those who were forced to allow themselves excelled, began to discover the malignity of defeat, first by angry glances, and at last by contemptuous murmurs. Seged likewise shared the anxiety of the day ; for considering himself as obliged to distribute, with exact justice, the prizes which had been so zealously sought, he durit never remit his attention, but passed his time upon the rack of doubt, in balancing different kinds of merit, and adjusting the claims of all the competitors.--At last, knowing that no exactness could fatisly those whose hopes he thould disappoint; and thirking, that on a day fet apart for happiness, it would be cruel to oppress any heart with sorrow ; he declared, that all had pleased him alike, and dismissed all with presents of equal value.

Seged foon faw that his caution had not been able to avoid offence. They who had believed themselves secure of the highest prizes, were not pleased to be lepelied with

the crowd ; and though, by the liberality of the king, they received more than his promise had entitled them to expect, they departed unsatisfied, because they were honoured with no distinction, and wanted an opportunity to triumph in the mortification of their opponents “ Behold here,” said Seged, “ the condition of him who places his happiness in

N

« 上一頁繼續 »