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passengers no sooner trod upon, but they fell through them into the tide, and immediately disappeared. These hidden pit-falls were set very thick at the entrance of the bridge, so
that throngs of people no sooner broke through the cloud, 80 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 85 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 pre
sented. My heart was filled with a deep melancholy to 90 see several dropping unexpectedly in the midst of mirth and
jollity, and catching at everything 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 95 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 object, I observed some with
scymetars in their hands, who ran to and fro upon the 100 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 on this melancholy prospect, told me I had dwelt long enough upon it. “Take 105 thine eyes off the bridge,' said he, “and tell me if thou yet
seest anything 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 115 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 120 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 125 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 130 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, 135 passing among the trees, lying down by the sides of 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.
140 “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 145 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, 150 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 155 relishes and perfections of those who are settled in them;
every island is a paradise accommodated to its respective inhabitants. Are not these, O Mirzah, habitations worth contending for? Does life appear miserable that gives thee
opportunities of earning such a reward ? Is death to be feared 160 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, 165 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 me 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 170 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."
Memorable Couplets from his Poems
(From Essay on Criticism)
'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold;
We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow;
(From Essay on Man) Hope springs eternal in the human breast : Man never is, but always to be blest.
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
Order is Heaven's first law; and this confessed,
(From The Seasons)