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And whan that I my lyf sholde forlete,
Wherfor I singe, and singe I moot certeyn
This holy monk, this abbot, him mene I,
The covent eek lay on the pavement
Oyonge Hugh of Lincoln, slayn also
Preye eek for us, we sinful folk unstable,
THE VISION OF MIRZA *
BY JOSEPH ADDISON
No. 159. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1. (1711.)
Omnem, quæ nunc obducta tuenti
When I was at Grand Cairo I picked up several 5
I oriental manuscripts, which I have still by Among others I met with one entitled “The Visions of Mirzah,” which I have read over with great pleasure. I intend to give it to the public when I have no other entertainment for them; and shall begin with the first 10 vision, which I have translated word for word as follows.
“On the fifth day of the moon, which according to the custom of my forefathers I always keep holy, after having washed myself, and offered up my morning devotions, I ascended the high hills of Bagdat, in order to 15 pass the rest of the day in meditation and prayer. As I was here airing myself on the tops of the mountains, I fell into a profound contemplation on the vanity of human life; and passing from one thought to another,
* JOSEPH ADDISON (1672-1719), chief author of The Spectator, in which this story appears under date of September 1, 1711, is best remembered for the urbane essays, criticisms, and stories which appeared in that well-known periodical, and as one of the most eminent of the literary men of the reign of Queen Anne. See also pp. 22-26, 30.
'Surely,' said I, ‘man is but a shadow and life a dream.' Whilst I was thus musing, I cast my eyes towards the summit of a rock that was not far from me, where I dis
covered one in the habit of a shepherd, with a musical 5 instrument in his hand. As I looked upon him he ap
plied 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. 10 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 their last agonies, and qualify them for the pleasures of that happy place. My heart melted
in secret 15 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 20 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 ap
proach the place where he sat. I drew near with that 25 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 30 dispelled all the fears and apprehensions with which I
approached him. He lifted me from the ground, and taking me by the hand, Mirzah,' 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 5 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, 10 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,
ing in the midst of the tide.' 'The bridge thou 15 seest,' said he, ‘is human life; consider it attentively.' Upon a more leisurely survey of it, I found that it consisted of threescore and ten entire arches, with several broken arches, which added to those that were entire, made
the number about an hundred. As I was count- 20 ing 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.'
25 "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, per- 30 ceived 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 pit-falls were set very