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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 in compassion toward me, bade 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 any 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 farther 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 among them. I could see persons dressed in glorious habits, with garlands upon their heads, passing among the trees, 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 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 farther 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? Does life appear miserable, that gives the opportunities of earning such a reward? Is death to be feared, that will convey thee to so happy an existence? Think not man was made in vain, who has such an eternity reserved for him.” I gazed with inexpressible pleasure on these happy islands. At length said I: “Show me now, I beseech thee, the secrets that lie hid under those dark clouds which cover the ocean on the other side of the rock of adamant.” The genius making me no answer, I turned about to address myself to him a second time, but I found that he had left me. I then turned again to the vision which I had been so long contemplating, but, instead of the rolling tide, the arched bridge, and the happy islands, I saw nothing but the long, hollow valley of Bagdat, with oxen, sheep, and camels grazing upon the sides of it.
WHO PIPPA' WAS
forced by her poverty to wear ragged clothes and to go about hatless and barefoot; yet her beauty and her natural grace were so rare that, on meeting her, you would soon forget how torn and faded was her dress, in wondering what it was that drew you to her with such kindly admiration. As you looked more closely you would find that not a little of the charm of her appearance lay in the rich olive brown of her cheeks and in the luster of her black hair that waved back lightly from her intelligent face. But almost surely you would dis
1. This character was created by the poet Robert Browning for the leading part in his drama Pippa Passes, published in 1841. Doubtless you will sometime wish to study the entire poem, for it is one of the most thoroughly poetic and thought-stimulating of literary productions; but now perhaps you will be interested in scarcely more than the story contained in the little play and in the character of the principal person in that story. Hence the extracts that are quoted are taken mostly from the parts in which Pippa speaks or sings, and these passages are bound together by an outline of the omitted portions.
2. Asolo, in northeastern Italy. The city and the surrounding country are famous for the production of great quantities of silk.