Rasselas: Persia → Syria → Palestine


Imlac now felt the enthusiastic fit, and was proceeding to aggrandise his own profession, when then Prince cried out: “Enough! thou hast convinced me that no human being can ever be a poet.  Proceed with thy narration.”

“To be a poet,” said Imlac, “is indeed very difficult.”

“So difficult,” returned the Prince, “that I will at present hear no more of his labours.  Tell me whither you went when you had seen Persia.”

“From Persia,” said the poet, “I travelled through Syria, and for three years resided in Palestine, where I conversed with great numbers of the northern and western nations of Europe, the nations which are now in possession of all power and all knowledge, whose armies are irresistible, and whose fleets command the remotest parts of the globe.  When I compared these men with the natives of our own kingdom and those that surround us, they appeared almost another order of beings.  In their countries it is difficult to wish for anything that may not be obtained; a thousand arts, of which we never heard, are continually labouring for their convenience and pleasure, and whatever their own climate has denied them is supplied by their commerce.”

“By what means,” said the Prince, “are the Europeans thus powerful? or why, since they can so easily visit Asia and Africa for trade or conquest, cannot the Asiatics and Africans invade their coast, plant colonies in their ports, and give laws to their natural princes?  The same wind that carries them back would bring us thither.”

“They are more powerful, sir, than we,” answered Imlac, “because they are wiser; knowledge will always predominate over ignorance, as man governs the other animals.  But why their knowledge is more than ours I know not what reason can be given but the unsearchable will of the Supreme Being.”

from: Rasselas by Samuel Johnson, 1759

IMAGE: kahawa

 

 

 

 

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