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he stood. So unexpected an object at once checked his purpose: he stopped, contemplated, and fancied he saw something awful and divine in his aspect.
"Son of Adam," cried the Genius, stop thy rash purpose: the Father of the Faithful has seen thy justice, thy integrity, thy miseries, and hath sent me to afford and administer relief. Give me thine hand, and follow, without trembling, wherever I shall lead; in me behold the Genius of Conviction, kept by the great prophet, to turn from their errors those who go astray, not from curiosity, but a rectitude of intention. Follow me, and be wise."
Asem immediately descended upon the lake, and his guide conducted him along the surface of the water; till, coming near the centre of the lake, they both began to sink; the waters closed over their heads; they descended several hundred fathoms, till Asem, just ready to give up his life as inevitably lost, found himself with his celestial guide in another world, at the bottom of the waters, where human foot had never trod before. His astonishment was beyond description, when he saw a sun like that he had left, a serene sky over his head, and blooming verdure under his feet.
"I plainly perceive your amazement," said the Genius; "but suspend it for a while. This world was formed by Alla, at the request, and under the inspection, of our great prophet, who once entertained the same doubts which filled your mind when I found you, and from the consequence of which you were so lately rescued. The rational inhabitants of this world are formed agreeable to your own ideas; they are absolutely without vice. In other respects it resembles your earth, but differs from it in being wholly inhabited by men who never do wrong. If you find this world more agreeable than that you so lately left, you have free permission to spend the remainder of your -days in it; but permit me for some time, to attend
you, that I may silence your doubts, and make you better acquainted with your company and your new habitation."
"A world without vice! Rational beings without immorality!" cried Asem, in a rapture; "I thank thee, O Alla, who has at length heard my petitions; this, this indeed, will produce happiness, extasy, and ease. O for an immortality! to spend it among men who are incapable of ingratitude, injustice, fraud, violence, and a thousand other crimes that render society miserable."
"Cease thine acclamations," replied the Genius. "Look around thee; reflect on every object and action before us, and communicate to me the result of thine observations. Lead wherever you shall think proper; I shall be your attendant and instructor." Asem and his companion travelled on in silence for some time, the former being entirely lost in astonishment; but, at last, recovering his former serenity, he could not help observing, that the face of the country bore a very near resemblance to that he had left, except that this subterránean world still seemed to retain its primæval wildness.
"Here," cried Asem, "I perceive animals of prey, and others that seem only designed for their subsistence; it is the very same in the world over our heads. But, had I been permitted to instruct our prophet, I would have removed this defect, and formed no voracious or destructive animals, which only prey on the other parts of the creation." "Your tenderness for inferior animals is, I find, remarkable," said the Genius, smiling, "but, with regard to meaner creatures, this world exactly resembles the other; and, indeed, for obvious reasons: for the earth can support a more considerable number of animals, by their thus becoming food for each other, than if they had lived entirely on the vegetable productions; so that animals of different natures, thus formed, instead of lessening
their multitude, subsist in the greatest number possible. But let us hasten on to the inhabited country before us, and see what that offers for instruction."
They soon gained the utmost verge of the forest, and entered the country inhabited by men without vice; and Asem anticipated, in idea, the rational delight he hoped to experience in such an innocent society. But they had scarce left the confines of the wood, when they beheld one of the inhabitants flying with hasty steps, and terror in his countenance, from an army of squirrels that closely pursued him. "Heavens!" cried Asem, "why does he fly? What can he fear from animals so contemptible?" He had scarce spoke, when he perceived two dogs pursuing another of the human species, who, with equal terror and haste, attempted to avoid them. "This" cried Asem to his guide," is truly surprising; nor can I conceive the reason for so strange an action." "Every species of animals," replied the Genius, "has of late grown very powerful in this country for the inhabitants, at first, thinking it unjust to use either fraud or force in destroying them, they have insensibly increased, and now frequently ravage their harmless frontiers." "But they should have been destroyed," cried Asem; "you see the consequence of such neglect." "Where is then that tenderness, you so lately expressed for subordinate animals?" replied the Genius, smiling:
you seem to have forgot that branch of justice." must acknowledge my mistake," returned Asem; "I am now convinced that we must be guilty of tyranny and injustice to the brute creation, if we would enjoy the world ourselves. But let us no longer observe the duty of men to these irrational creatures, but survey their connections with one another."
As they walked farther up the country, the more he was surprised to see no vestiges of handsome houses, no cities, nor any mark of elegant design. His conductor perceiving his surprise, observed, that the in
habitants of this new world were perfectly content with their ancient simplicity; each had an house, which, though homely, was sufficient to lodge his little family; they were too good to build houses, which would only increase their own pride, and the envy of the spectator; what they built was for convenience, not for show. At least, then," said Asem, " they have neither architects, painters, or statuaries, in their society; but these are idle arts, and may be spared. However, before I spend much more time here, you should have my thanks for introducing me into the society of some of their wisest men: there is scarce any pleasure to me equal to a refined conversation: there is nothing of which I am so enamoured as wisdom.” "Wisdom!" replied his instructor, "how ridiculous! We have no wisdom here, for we have no occasion for it; true wisdom is only a knowledge of our own duty, and the duty of others to us: but of what use is such wisdom here? Each intuitively performs what is right in himself, and expects the same from others. If, by wisdom, you should mean vain curiosity and empty speculation, as such pleasures have their origin in vanity, luxury, or avarice, we are too good to pursue them." "All this may be right," says Asem, but, methinks, I observe a solitary disposition prevail among the people; each family keeps separately within their own precincts, without society, or without intercourse. "That, indeed, is true," rerlied the other; 'here is no established society; nor should there be any all societies are made either through fear or friendship; the people we are among, are too good to fear each other; and there are no motives to private friendship, where all are equally meritorious." " Well, then," said the sceptic, as I am to spend my time here, if I am to have neither the polite arts, nor wisdom, nor friendship, in such a world, I should be glad, at least, of an easy companion, who may tell me his thoughts, and to whom I may communicate mine.".
"And to what purpose should either do this?" says the Genius: "" flattery or curiosity are vicious motives, and never allowed here; and wisdom is out of the question."
'Still, however," said Asem, "the inhabitants must be happy'; each is contented with his own possessions, nor avariciously endeavours to heap up more than is necessary for his own subsistence; each has, therefore, leisure to pity those that stand in need of his compassion." He had scarce spoken, when his ears were assaulted with the lamentations of a wretch who sat by the way-side, and, in the most deplorable distress, seemed gently to murmur at his own misery. Asem immediately ran to his relief, and found him in the last stage of a consumption. "Strange," cried the son of Adam, "that men who are free from vice should thus suffer so much misery without relief!" "Be not surprised," said the wretch who was dying; "would it not be the utmost injustice for beings, who have only just sufficient to support themselves, and are content with a bare subsistence, to take it from their own mouths to put it into mine? They never are possessed of a single meal more than is necessary; and what is barely necessary, cannot be dispensed with." "They should have been supplied with more than is necessary," cried Asem; " and yet I contradict my own opinion but a moment before: all is doubt, perplexity, and confusion. Even the want of ingratitude is no virtue here, since they never received a favour. They have, however, another excellence, yet behind; the love of their country is still, I hope, one of their darling virtues." "Peace, Asem!" replied the guardian, with a countenance not less severe than beautiful, nor forfeit all thy pretensions to wisdom; the same selfish motives by which we prefer our own interest to that of others, induce us to regard our country preferable to that of another. Nothing less than universal benevolence is free from vice, and that you