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Religion the Foundation of Content.
OMAR, the hermit of the mountain Au” bukabis, which rises on the east of Mecca, and overlooks the city, found one evening, a man sitting pensive and alone, within a few paces of his cell; whose looks were wild and haggard, and his body feeble and emaciated. Son of affliction, said Omar, who art thou, and what is thy distress! My name, replied the stranger, is Hassan, and I am a native of this city: the angel of adversity has laid his hand upon me, and the wretch whom Thine eye compassionates, thou canst not deliver.- To deliver thee, said Omar, belongs to Him only, from whom we should receive with humility both good and evil; yet bide not thy life from me : for the burden which I cannot remove, I may at least enable thee to sustain. Hassan fixed his eyes upon the ground, and remained some time silent; then, fetching a deep sigh, he looked up at the hermit, and thus complied with his request :
It is now six years since our mighty lord the caliph Almalic (whose memory be blessed!) first came privately to worship in the temple of the holy city, The blessing which he petitioned of the prophet, as the prophet's vicegerent he was diligent to dispense: in the intervals of his devotion, therefore, he went about the city, relieving distress and restrain.
ing oppression. I, who dreaded no evil but sickness, and expected no good beyond the reward of my labour, was singing at my work, when Almalic entered ny dwelling. He looked round with a smile of complacency; perceiving, that though it was mean, it was near, and though I was poor, I appeared to be contented. As his habit was that of a pil. grin, 1 bastened 10 receive hini with such hospitality as was in my power: and my dheerfulness was rather increased than restrain. ed by his presence,
After he had accepted some coffee, he asked me many questions; and though by my answers I always endeavoured lo excite him to mirth, yei I perceived that he grew thoughtful, and eyed me with a placid but fixed attention. I suspected that he had some knowledge of me, and therefore enquired his coupiry and bis name, Hassan, said he, I have raised iny curiosity, and it shall be satisfied: he wlio now talks with thee, is Almalic, the surereign of the faithful, whose seat is the throne of Medina, and whose con). mission is from above. These words 'struck me dumb with astonislıment. I started up, and was about to prostrate myself before him, but he prevented me. Ilassan, said he, forg bear : thou art greater than I, and from thee I have at once derived humility and wisdoin, I answered, mock not thy servant, who is
but as a worm before thee; life and death are in thy hand, and happiness and misery are the daughters of thy will. Hassan, he replied, I can no otherwise give life or happiness, than by not taking them away; thou art thyself beyond the reach of my bounty, and possessed of felicity which I can neither communicate nor obtain. Thou art content, and hast, therefore, neither avarice nor ambition : to exalt thee, would destroy the simplicity of thy life, and diminish that happiness which I have no power either to increase or to continue.
He then rose, and commandling me not to disclose his secret, departed.
As soon as I recovered from the eonfusion and astonishment in which the caliph · left me, I began to regret that my behaviour had in. tercepted his bounty; and accused as folly that cheerfulness, which was the concomitant of poverty and labour. I now repined at the obscurity of my station : I neglected my labour, I spent the day in idleness; and at night, instead of losing myself in that sweet and Jefreshing sleep, from which I used to rise with new health, cheerfulness, and vigour. I dreamed of splendid habits and a numerous retinue of gardens, palaces, eunuchs and women, and waked only to regret the illusions that had vanished. My health was at length impaired by the inquietude of my mind; I sold all my moveables for subsist. ence; and reserved only a matrass, upon which I sometimes lay from one night to another.
In the first moon of the following year, the caliph came again to Mecca, with the same secrecy and for the same purposes. He found me, not singing at my work, ruddy with health, vivid with cheerfulness bùt pale and dejected, sitting on the ground, and chewing opium. He entered with a kind of joyful impatience in his countenance; which, the moment he beheld me, was changed to a mixture of wonder and pity. I was confound. ed at his presence; and throwing myself at his feet, t laid my hand upon my head and was speechless. Hassan, said he, what canst thou have lost, whose health was the labour of thine own hand ; and what can have made thee sad, the spring of whose joy was in thy own bosom? What evil hath befallen thee? Speak, and if I can remove it, thou art happy.
I was now encouraged to look up, and I replied, Let my lord forgive the presumption of his servant, who rather than utter a falsehood would be dumb for ever. I am become wretched by the loss of that which I never possessed : thou hast raised wishes, which indeed I am not worthy thou shouldst satisfy; but why should it be thought that he whe was happy in obscurity and indigence, would not have been rendered more happy by emis nence and wealth?
When I had finished this speech, Almalio stood somc moments in suspense, and I coptinued prostrate before him. Hassan, said he, I perceive that I mistook thy charaoter ; I now discover avarice and anibition in thy heart, which lay torpid only because their objects were too remote to rouse them. I cannot, therefore, invest thee with authority, because I would not subject any people to oppression; and because I would not be compelled to punish thee for crimes, which I first enabled thee to commit. But as I have taken from thee that which I cannot restore, I will at least gratify the wishes that I excited, lest thy heart accuse me of injustice, and thou continue still a stranger to thyself. Arise, therefore, and follow me.--I sprung from the ground, as it were with the wings of an eagle; I kissed the hem of his garment in an ecstacy of gratitude and joy; and when I went ont of my house, my heart leapęd, as if I had escaped from the den of a lion.
I followed Almalic to the caravansera in which he lodged ; and after he had fufilled his vows, he took me with him to Medina. He gave me an apartment in the seraglio; ) attended
by his own servants ; my provisions were sent from his own table; I received, every week, a sum from