Imogen: A Pastoral Romance From the Ancient : Book 3
(1756 - 1836) ~ Respected Anarchist Philosopher and Sociologist of the Enlightenment Era : His most famous work, An Inquiry concerning Political Justice, appeared in 1793, inspired to some extent by the political turbulence and fundamental restructuring of governmental institutions underway in France. Godwin's belief is that governments are fundamentally inimical to the integrity of the human beings living under their strictures... (From : University of Pennsylvania Bio.)
• "Anarchy and darkness will be the original appearance. But light shall spring out of the noon of night; harmony and order shall succeed the chaos." (From : "Instructions to a Statesman," by William Godwin.)
• "Courts are so encumbered and hedged in with ceremony, that the members of them are always prone to imagine that the form is more essential and indispensable, than the substance." (From : "Instructions to a Statesman," by William Godwin.)
• "Fickleness and instability, your lordship will please to observe, are of the very essence of a real statesman." (From : "Instructions to a Statesman," by William Godwin.)
The fatigue which Imogen had undergone in the preceding day, prepared her to rest during the night with more tranquility than could otherwise have been expected. The scenes to which she had successively been witness, and the objects that now surrounded her, were too novel and extraordinary in their character, to allow much room for the severity of reflection, and the coolness of meditation. Her frame was tired with the various exercises in which she had engaged; her mind was hurried and perplexed without knowing upon what to fix, or in what manner to account for the events that had befallen her: she therefore sunk presently into a sweet and profound sleep; and while every thing seemed preparing for her destruction, while a thousand enchantments were essayed, and a thousand schemes revolved in the busy mind of Roderic, she remained composed and un-apprehensive. Innocence was the sevenfold shield that protected her from harm; her eyes were closed in darkness, and a smile of placid benignity played upon the lovely features of her countenance.
Roderic in the mean time had retired to his chamber. His mind was turbid and unquiet. So restless are the waves of the ocean before the coming tempest. They assume a darker hue, and reflect a more cloudy heaven. They roll this way and that in a continual motion, and yet without any direction, till the loud and hoarseechoing wind determines their course and carries them in mountains to the sounding shore. The mind of the victim was all quiet and unruffled; such is the kindly influence of conscious truth. The mind of the ravisher exhibited nothing but uneasiness and confusion; such are the boons which vise bestows upon her misjudging votaries.
The conqueror, doubly misled by fierce and unruly passions and by his inauspicious commerce with the goblins of the abyss, retired not immediately to his couch, but walked up and down his apartments, with a hasty and irregular step. "Thanks to my favorable stars," exclaimed he, "I am triumphant! What power can resist me? Where is the being that shall dare to say, that one wish of my heart shall go unfulfilled? Well then, I have got the fair the charming she into my power. She is shut up in a palace, unseen by every human eye, to which no human foot ever found its way but at my bidding. She is closed round with spells and enchantment I can by a word deprive her every limb of motion. If I but wave this wand, the leaden God of sleep shall sink her in a moment in the arms of forgetfulness, whatever were before her anxieties and her wakeful terrors. In what manner then shall I, thus absolute and uncontrolled in all I bid exist, proceed? Shall I press the unwilling beauty to my bosom, and riot in her hoard of charms, without waiting like meaner mortals to sue for the consent of her will? There is something noble, royal, and independent, in the thought. Beauty never appears so attractive as from behind a veil of tears. Oh, how I enjoy infancy [sic] the anger that shall flush her lovely cheek! Perhaps she will even kneel to me to deprecate that which an education of prejudices has taught her to consider as the worst of evils. Yes, my lovely maid, I will raise thee. Do not turn from me those scornful indignant eyes. I will be thy best friend. I will not hurt a hair of thy head. Oh, when her spotless bosom pants with disdain, how sweet to beat the little chiders, and by a friendly violence, which true and comprehensive wisdom cannot stigmatize, to teach her what is the true value of beauty, and for what purpose such enchanting forms as hers were sent to dwell below!"
Thus spoke the ravisher, and as he spoke he assumed, although alone, a firmer stride and a more haughty crest. Upon the instant however his ears were saluted with a low and continual sound, that became, by just degrees, stronger and more strong. The walls of his palace shook; a sudden and supernatural light gleamed along his apartment, and a specter stood before him. Roderic lifted up his eyes, and immediately recognized the features of that goblin, who from the hour of his birth, had declared himself his adversary. He had been repeatedly used to the visits of this malicious spirit, who delighted to subvert all his schemes, and to baffle his deepest projects. This was the only misfortune, the sovereign of the hills had ever known; this was the only instance in which he had at any time been taught what it was to have his power controlled and his nod un-obeyed. He had often sought, by means of the confederacy he held with other spirits of the infernal regions, to restrain his enemy, or by punishment and suffering to make him rue his opposition. But the goblin he had to encounter, though not the most potent, was of all the rest the most crafty in his wiles, and the most abundant in expedients. As many times as his fellows had by the instigation of Roderic undertaken to encounter him, so often had they in the end been eluded and defeated. The contest was now given up, and the goblin was at liberty to haunt and threaten his impotent adversary as much as he pleased.
"Roderic," cried he, with a harsh and unpleasant accent, "I am come to humble the haughtiness of thy triumph, and to pull down thy aspiring thoughts. Impotent and rancorous mortal! Know, that innocence is defended with too strong a shield for thee to pierce! Boast not thyself of the immensity of thy walls, and put no confidence in the subtlety of thy enchantments. Before the mightiness that waits on innocence, they are not less impotent than the liquid wax, or the crumbling ruin. Learn, oh presumptuous mortal, that sacred and unyielding chastity is invulnerable to all the violence of men, and all the stratagems of goblins. I would not name to thee so salutary an advice as to dismiss thy innocent and unsuspicious prize, did not I know thee too obstinate and headstrong to listen to the voice of wisdom. Essay then thy base and low-minded temptations, thy corrupt and sophistical reasoning, to tarnish the unsullied purity of her mind, and it is well. If by such a wretch as thee she can be seduced from the obedience of virtue and the Gods, then let her fall. She were then a victim worthy of thee. But if thou essayest the means of tyranny and force, the attempt will be fatal to thee. I will in that case enjoy my vengeance; I will triumph in thy desolation. In the hour then of action and enterprise, remember me!"
With these words the specter vanished from his sight. Roderic was inflamed with anger and disgust; but he had none, upon whom to wreak his revenge His heart boiled with the impotence of malice. "What," cried he, "am I to be bounded and hedged in, in all my exploits? Am I to be curbed and thwarted in every wish of my heart? This, this was nearest to me. This was the first pursuit of my life in which my whole heart was engaged; the first time I ever felt a passion that deserved the name of love. But be it so: I was born with wild and impetuous passions only to have them frustrated; I was endowed with supernatural powers, and inherited all my mother's skill, only to be the more signally disappointed. Still however I will not shrink, I will not yield an inch to my adversary. I am bid, it seems, to tempt her, and endeavor to stain the purity of her mind. Yes, I will tempt her. It is not for an artless and uninstructed shepherdess to defeat my wiles and baffle all my incitements. I will dazzle her senses with all the attractions that the globe of earth has to boast. I will wind me into her secret heart. Thou damned, unpropitious goblin, who seekest to oppose thyself to my happiness, I will but, by thy warning, gain a completer triumph! I will subdue her will. She shall crown my wishes with ripe, consenting beauty. Long shall she remain the empress of my heart, and partner of my bed. In her I will hope to find those simple, artless, and engaging charms, which in vain I have often sought in the band of females, that reside beneath my roof, and wait upon my nod."
Imogen, though considerably indisposed by the fatigue and terrors of the preceding day, shook off however that placid and refreshing sleep which had weighed down her eyelids, long before Roderic deserted the couch of luxury. Two of the female attendants belonging to the castle had slept in the same apartment with her, and soon, perceiving her in motion, followed her example, and officiously pressed around her. One of them took up a part of the garb of the fair shepherdess, and offered to assist her in adjusting it. "I thank you," cried Imogen, with the utmost simplicity, "for your good-nature; but I am pretty well now; and every body dresses herself that is not sick." The in-artificial decorations of her person were quickly adjusted. The delicate proportion of her limbs was hid beneath a russet mantle; her fair and flowing tresses were disposed in a braid round her head, and she took her straw hat in her hand. "Well," said she, "I am obliged to you for your favors. I dare say it was best for me, though at the time I thought otherwise. For my head ached very much, and I was so weak It was wrong for me to think of going any farther. Ah, but then, what have my poor father and mother done all the while? Have not they missed their Imogen, and wondered what was become of her, and been quite sad and forlorn for fear she should have come to any harm? Well, I do not know whether I was not right too. For their ease was of more consequence than mine. I cannot tell. However I will not now keep them in pain. So good morning to you, my dear kind friends!" And saying this she was tripping away. But as she drew towards the door, one of the attendants, with a gentle force, took hold of her hand. "Do not go yet, sweet Imogen," cried she. "We want a little more of your company. We have done you all the service in our power, and you have not paid us for it. We will not ask any thing hard and unreasonable of you.
Only comply with us in this one thing, to stay with us a few hours, and let us know a little better the worth of that amiable female we have endeavored to oblige." "Indeed, indeed," replied Imogen, "I cannot. I am not used to be obstinate; and you are so kind and fair spoken, that it goes to my heart to refuse you. But I would not for the world keep my dear, good Edith in a moment's suspense. But since you are so desirous of being acquainted with me, repair as soon and as often as you please to my father's cot, that lies on the right hand side of the valley, about a mile from the sea, and just beside the pretty brawling brook of Towey. There I will treat you with the nicest apples and the richest cream. And I would treat you with better, if I knew of any thing better, that I might thank you for your goodness. Farewell!" added she, and affectionately pressed the hand that was still untwined with hers.
"No, Imogen, no, you must not leave us thus. Though we would have done thousand times more than we have for your own sake, who are so simple and so good, it is yet fit that you should know, that we are not mistresses here, and that all we have done has been by the orders of the lord of this rich mansion. He will not therefore forgive us, if we suffer you to depart before he has seen you, and expressed for you that kindness which induced him to take you under his protection." "Heavens!" replied the shepherdess "this is all ceremony and folly, and therefore cannot be of so much consequence as the peace of my father, and the consolation of my mother. Tell him, that I thank him, and that my father shall thank him too, if he will come to our hut. Tell him that I am sorry for my foolish weakness, that gave him so much trouble, and made me be so needlessly frightened, when we came to a place where I have met with nothing but kindness; but I could not help it. And so that is enough; for if my Edwin had been in his place, and had seen a stranger shepherdess in the distress that I was, he would surely have done as much.
"Say so to your lord, as you call him, for I would not seem ungrateful. But yet I will thank you a great deal more than I do him. For what did he do for me? He took me, and hurried me away, and paid no attention to my tears and expostulations. Well, but I need not have been alarmed. So it seems. But I did not like his looks; they were not kind and good-natured, but fierce and frightful. And so as soon as he had brought me here, much against my will, he went away and left me. So much the better. And then you came and took care of me, and he desired you to do so. That was well enough. But I am more obliged to you for your kindness and assiduity, than I am to him only for thinking of it. And then to tell you the truth, but I ought not to say so to you who are his friends, there is something about him, I cannot tell what, that does not please me at all. He looks discontented, and fierce, as if there was no such thing as soothing and managing him. But why do I say all this? Pray now let me go, let me go to my dear, dear mother."
"Sweet Imogen," replied the attendant, who seemed to take the lead in the circle, "how lovely and amiable are you even in your resentments! They are not with you a morose and gloomy sullenest brooding over imaginary wrongs, and collecting venom and malice from every corner to the heart. In your breast anger itself takes a milder form, and is gentle, generous and gay. Yet why, my Imogen, should you harbor any anger against your protector?
Such was the honest and artless dialogue of Imogen. The attendants rather endeavored to beguile the time, by dexterously starting new topics of conversation, upon which Imogen delivered her plain and natural sentiments with the utmost sincerity, than to detain her by open force. At length one of them slipped out, and hastened to acquaint Roderic with the impatience of his prize, and to communicate to him the substance of those artless hints, which, in the hands of so skillful and potent an impostor, might be of the greatest service. Roderic immediately rose But as he was desirous to decorate his person with the nicest skill, in order to make the most favorable impression upon his mistress, he ordered the attendant' with some of her companions, to wait upon Imogen. He commissioned them, if it were necessary, to inform her of the absolute impossibility of her quitting the castle, and to persuade her to walk in the meadows adjoining, that she might observe the riches of their possessor; how fertile were the soil, and how fair and numerous the flocks.
The patience of Imogen, in the mean time, was nearly exhausted. Her simplicity could no longer be duped. Though unused to art, it was impossible for her not at length to perceive the art by which the conversation was lengthened, and her ardent desire to set out for the cottage of her father, eluded. She was just beginning to expostulate upon this ungenerous stratagem, when three or four of those females, whom Roderic had dispatched entered the apartment. "Well," cried Imogen, "you have borne my message to my deliverer, now then let me go." "Our lord," replied the attendant, "is just risen. He will but adjust his apparel, and will immediately pay you those respects in person which he can by no means think of omitting." "Alas, alas," cried the shepherdess, half distressed, "what is the meaning of all this? What is intended by a language so foreign to the homeliness of the shepherd's cot, and the admirable simplicity of pastoral life? I know not what title I have, a poor, unpretending virgin, to the respects of this lord; but surely if they meant me well, they would be less hollow and absurd. Would there not be much more respect, much more civility, in permitting me to follow my own inclinations, without this arbitrary and ungrateful restraint?" "Shepherdess," replied the attendant, "we are not used to dispute the orders of our master. We would oblige you if it were in our power. Impute not therefore to us any thing unfriendly; and as for Roderic, he is too good, and too amiable, not to be able to satisfy you about his conduct the moment he appears." "Your master! and your lord!" replied Imogen, with a tone of displeasure, "I understand not these words. The Gods have made all their rational creatures equal. If they have made one strong and another weak, it is for the purpose of mutual benevolence and assistance, and not for that of despotism and oppression. Of all the shepherds of the valley, there is not one that claims dominion and command over another. There is indeed an obedience due from children to their parents, and from a wife to her husband. But ye cannot be his children; for he is young and blooming. And but one of you can be his wife; so that that cannot be the source of his authority. What a numerous family has this Roderic? Does that I wonder, make him happier than his fellows?"
"Imogen," said one of the train, "will you walk with us along the meadow, by the side of that hazel copse? The morning is delightful, the sun shines with a mild and cheering heat, the lambs frisk along the level green, and the birds, with their little throats, warble each a different strain." The mind of Imogen was highly susceptible to the impression of rural beauties. She had that placid innocence, that sweet serenity of heart, which best prepares us to relish them. Seeing therefore, that she was a prisoner, and that it was in vain to struggle and beat her wing against the wiry enclosure, she submitted. "Ah! unjust, unkind associates!" exclaimed Imogen, "ye can obey the dictates of a man, who has no right to your obedience, and ye can turn a deaf ear to the voice of benevolence and justice! Set me at liberty. This man has no right to see me, and I will not see him. I, that have been used to wander as free as the inmates of the wood, or the winged inhabitants of air, shall I be cooped up in a petty cage, have all my motions dictated, and all my walks circumscribed? Indeed, indeed, I will not. Imogen can never submit to so ignominious a restraint. She will sooner die."
"Why, my lovely maiden," replied the other, "will you think so harshly of our lord? He does not deserve these un-candid constructions; he is all gentleness and goodness. Suspend therefore your impatience for a moment. By and by you may represent to him your uneasiness, and he will grant you all the wishes of your heart. Till then, amiable girl, compose your spirits, and give us cause to believe, that you place that confidence in us, which for the world we would not deserve to forfeit.'
During this conversation, they passed along a gallery, and, descending by a flight of stairs, proceeded through one corner of a spacious garden into the meadow. The mansion, as we have already said, stood upon a rising ground, which was enclosed on every side by a circle of hills, whose summits seemed to touch the clouds, and were covered with eternal snow. Within this wider circumference was a second formed by an impervious grove of oaks, which, though of no long standing, yet, having been produced by magical art, had appeared from the first in full maturity. Their vast trunks, which three men hand in hand could scarcely span, were marked with many a scar, and their broad branches, waving to the winds, inspired into the pious and the virtuous that religious awe, which is one of the principal lessons of the Druidical religion.
At no great distance, and close on one side to the majestic grove, was a terrace, raised by the hand of art, so elevated, as to overlook the tops of the trees as well as the turrets of the castle, and to afford a complete prospect of all the grounds on this side the precipices. To this terrace the attendants of Imogen led their charge, and from it she surveyed the farms and "ranges of their lord. The view was diversified by a number of little rills, that flowed down from the mountains, and gave fertility and cheerfulness to the fields through which they passed. The enclosures were some of them covered with a fine and rich herbage, whose appearance was bright and verdant, and its surface besprinkled with cowslips, king-cups, and daisies. Others of them were interspersed with sheep that exhibited the face of sleekness and ease, their fleeces large and ponderous, and their wool of the finest and most admirable texture. Elsewhere you might see the cattle grazing. The oxdappled with a thousand spots, which nature seemed to have applied with a ton and playful hand; the cow, whose udders were distended with milk, that appeared to call for the interposition of the maidens to lighten them of their Store; and the lordly and majestic bull. With them was intermingled the horse, whose limbs seemed to be formed for speed and beauty. At a small distance were the stag with branching horns, the timid deer, and the sportive, frisking fawn. Even from the rugged precipices, that seemed intended by nature to lie waste and useless, depended the shaggy goat and the tender kid. Beside all this, Roderic had had communicated to him, by a supernatural afflatus, that wondrous art, as yet unknown in the plains of Albion, of turning up the soil with a share of iron, and scattering it with a small quantity of those grains which are most useful to man, to expect to gather, after a short interval, a forty-fold increase.
Every thing conspired to communicate to the prospect luster and attraction. The birds, with their various song, gave an air of populousness and animation to the grove. By the side of the rivulets were scattered here and there the huts of the shepherd and husbandman. And though these swains were not, like the happy dwellers in the valley, enlivened with freedom, and made careless and gay by conscious innocence; yet were they skillful to give clearness and melody to the slender reed; and the plowman whistled as he drove afield. But that in the landscape which most engrossed the attention and awakened the curiosity of the tender Imogen, was the appearance of the fields of corn. It was in her eye novel, agreeable, and interesting. The harvest was near, and the effect of the object was at its greatest height. The tall and unbending stalk overtopped by far the native herbage of the meadow, and seemed to emulate the hawthorn and the hazel, which, planted in even rows, secured the precious crop from the invasion of the cattle. The ears were embrowned with the continual beams of the sun, and, oppressed with the weight of their grain, bended from the stalk. In a word, the whole presented to the astonished view a rich scene of vegetable gold. Upon this delightful object the shepherdess gazed with an unwearied regard. Respecting it she asked innumerable questions, and made a thousand inquiries; and it almost seemed as if her curiosity would never be satisfied. Such is the power of novelty over the young and inexperienced, and such the influence of the beautiful and transcendent beauties of nature upon the ingenuous and uncorrupted mind. But it was not possible for the shepherdess, interested as she was in the uneasiness, to which she knew that her parents must be a prey, long to banish from her mind the affecting consideration, or to divert her attention to another object, however agreeable, or however fascinating. She had just begun to renew her representations upon this head, when Roderic approached. While he was yet at a distance, he appeared graceful and gay, as the messenger of the God that grasps the lightning in his hand. His stature was above the common size. His limbs were formed with perfect symmetry; the fall of his shoulders was graceful, and the whole contour of his body was regular and pleasing Such was the general effect of his shape, that though his advance was hesitating and respectful, it was impossible to contemplate his person without the ideas being suggested of velocity and swiftness. His presence and air had the appearance of frankness, ingenuousness, and manly confidence. The natural fire and haughtiness of his eye were carefully subdued, and he seemed, at least to a superficial view, the very model of good-nature and disinterested complaisance. His bright and flowing hair parted on his brow, and formed into a thousand ring lets, waved to the zephyrs as he passed along. There was something so delicate and enchanting in his whole figure, as to tempt you to compare it to the unspotted beauty of the hyacinth; at the same time that you rejoiced, that it was not a beauty, frail and transient, as the tender flower, but which promised a manly ripeness and a protracted duration.
Observing that the attention of those around her was suddenly diverted from the intreaties she employed, Imogen turned her eye, in order to discover the object that now engaged them. It was immediately met by the graceful and amiable figure we have described. But to Imogen that figure presented no such comeliness and beauty. For a moment indeed, nature prevailed, and she could not avoid gazing, with a degree of complacence, upon an object, to which the Goddess seemed to have lavished all her treasures. But this sensation vanished, almost before it was formed. The mind of the shepherdess was too deeply read in the lessons of virtue, to acknowledge any beauty in that form, which was not animated with truth, and in those features, which were not illuminated with integrity and innocence. Notwithstanding her native simplicity, and the unsuspecting confidence she was inclined to repose in every individual of the human race, yet had the conduct of Roderic, as she had already confessed, displeased her too deeply for her immediately to assume towards him an unembarrassed and soothing carriage. He had seized upon her by violence in a moment of insensibility. He had carried her away without her consent. When she recovered strength enough to expostulate upon this, he endeavored, by ambiguous expressions, to deceive her into an opinion, that he was conducting her to the cottage of her father. Supposing that, for reasons good and wise, he had introduced her into a strange place, she could not be persuaded that those reasons subsisted for detaining her contrary to her inclination. And independently of any individual circumstances, there is a native and inexplicable antipathy between virtue and vise. It is not in the nature of things, it is not within the range of possibility, that they should coalesce and unite where both of them exist in a decided manner, or an eminent degree. It was not the babble of ignorance, it was by an unalterable law of her nature, that Imogen had been displeased with the looks of him, who meant her destruction. The animation that dwells in the features of virtue, is mild and friendly and lambent; but the sparkles that flash from the eye of enterprising guilt, are momentary, and unrelenting, and impetuous. The gentle and the inoffensive instantly feel how uncongenial they are to their dispositions, and start back from them with aversion and horror. Such were in some measure the sensations of Imogen, upon the re-appearance of her betrayer. She turned from him with unfeigned dislike, and was reluctantly kept in the same situation till he ascended the terrace.
As he drew nearer, Roderic seized the hand of the lovely captive. In a tone of blandishment he expostulated with her upon her unkind behavior and unreasonable aversion. With all that sophistry, that ingenious vise knows so well how to employ, he endeavored to evince that his conduct had been regulated by kindness, rectitude and humanity. In the mean time the retinue withdrew to a small distance. Imogen insisted upon not being left wholly alone with her ravisher.
Able to perplex but not to subvert the understanding of his prize, Roderic addressed her with the language of love. Naturally eloquent, all that he now said was accompanied with that ineffable sweetness, and that soft insinuation, that must have shaken the integrity of Imogen, had her heart been less constant, and her bosom less glowed with the enthusiasm of virtue. Her betrayer was conscious to a real, though a degenerate flame, and was not reduced to feign an ardor he did not feel. Recollecting however the pure manners, and the delicate and ingenuous language to which Imogen had been inured among the inhabitants of Clwyd, the subtle sorcerer did not permit an expression to escape him, that could offend the chastest ear, or alarm the most suspicious virtue. His love, ardent as it appeared, seemed to be entirely under the government of the strictest propriety, and the most unfeigned rectitude. He knew that the inspirations of integrity and the lessons of education were not to be eradicated at once; and he attempted not to gain the acquiescence of his captive by gross and unsuitable allurements, unconcealed with the gilding of dexterity and speciousness.
But his eloquence and his address were equally vain. In spite of the beauty of his person and the urbanity of his manners, the shepherdess received his declarations with coldness and aversion. She assured him of the impossibility of his success, that she felt for him emotions very different from those of partiality, and that her heart was prepossessed for a more amiable swain. With that sweet simplicity, that accompanied all she did, she endeavored to dissuade him from the pursuit of a hopeless and unreasonable passion; she enumerated to him all the sources of enjoyment with which he was surrounded; she intreated him not in the wantonness of opulence to disturb her humble and narrow felicity; and she besought him in the most pathetic and earnest language to dismiss her to freedom, contentment and her parents.
The more she exerted herself to bend his resolution, and the more scope she gave to the unstudied expression of her artless sentiments, the more inextricably was the magician caught, and the more firm and inexorable was his purpose. Perceiving however that he had little to hope from the most skillful detail of the pleas of passion, he turned the attention of the shepherdess to a different topic. "Behold Imogen',' cried he, "the richness of the landscape on our right hand! The spot in my eye is farthest from the castle, and divided from the rest of the prospect with a tall hedge of poplars and alders. It is full of the finest grass, and its soil is rich and luxuriant It is scattered with fleckered cows and dappled fawns. In the hither part of it is a field of the choicest wheat, whose stalks are so rank and pregnant, that the timid hare and the untamed fox can scarcely force themselves a path among them Beside it is an enclosure of barley with strong and pointed spikes; and another of oats, whose grain, uncared, spreads broader to the eye. How beautiful the scene! I will not ask you, fairest of your sex, to give your confidence to Unauthorized words. I will afford the most unquestionable demonstration of the veracity of my declarations. All these, lovely Imogen, shall be yours: yours exclusively, to be disposed of at your pleasure, without the interference or control of any. All my other possessions shall not belong to myself more than to you. You shall be the mistress of my heart, and the associate of my counsels. All my business shall be your gratification, all my pleasure your happiness. Forget then, dearest maiden, the poverty of your former condition, and the connections you formed in an hour of ignorance and obscurity. From this moment let a new era and better prospects commence. Enjoy that wealth, which can no where so well be bestowed and those gratifications, which so obviously belong to that delicate and enchanting form."
The proposal of Roderic called forth more than ever the spirit and the resentment of Imogen. She did not feel herself in the slightest degree attracted by the magnificence of his offers. She knew of no use for superfluous riches. She felt no wants un-supplied, and no wishes ungratified. What motive is there in the whole region of human perceptions, that can excite the contented mind to the pursuit of affluence? "And dost thou think," said the fair one, with a gesture of disdain that made her look ten times more amiable, "to seduce me with baits like these? Know, mistaken man, that I am happy. I spin the finest wool of our flocks, and drain the distended udders of our cows. I superintend the dairies; the butter and the cheese are the produce of my industry. In these employments my time is spent in cheerfulness and pleasure. Surrounded with our little possessions, I am conscious to no deficiency; in the midst of my parents and friends, I desire not to look beyond the narrow circle of the neighboring hills. If you feel those wants, which I do not so much as understand, enjoy your fond mistake. Possess those riches which I will not envy you. Wander from luxury to luxury unquestioned; I shall be sufficiently happy in the narrow gratifications that nature has placed within my reach. The gifts you offer me have no splendor in my eye, and I could not thank you for them though offered with ever so much disinterestedness. The only gift it is in your power to make is liberty. Allow me to partake of that bounty, which nature has bestowed upon the choristers of the grove, to wander where I will. Under a thousand of those privations that would render the child of luxury inconsolable, I would support myself; freedom and independence are the only boons which the whole course of my life has taught me to cherish."
"Your ignorance," rejoined Roderic, "is amiable, though unfortunate. But your merit is too great not to deserve to be informed. Knowledge, my lovely maiden, is always regarded as a desirable acquisition by the prudent and the judicious. To what purpose was a mind so capacious, competent to the greatest improvements, and formed to comprehend subjects of the most extensive compass, or the sublimest reach, bestowed upon us, if it be not employed in the pursuits of science and experience? Your abilities, my Imogen, appear to be of the very first description. How much then will you be to be blamed, if you do not embrace this Opportunity of improvement and instruction? Beauty, though unseen, is not less excellent; and prudence, though un-possessed, is of value inestimable. The poor man may be contented, because he knows not the use of riches; but, in spite of this contentment, it were wise to enlarge our sphere of sensation, and to extend the sources of happiness.
"If however you still maintain that lovely perverseness, decide if you please upon your own fate, but let filial piety hinder you from determining too hastily respecting that of your parents and your friends. Consider what a new and unbounded scope will be afforded you, by the participation of my riches, for the exercise of benevolent and generous propensities. Your parents are now declining fast under the weight of years and infirmity. It is in your power to make their bed of down, and to enliven the ground they have yet to traverse with flowers. It is yours to wrest the sheers from the hand of the weary and over-labored antient, and to remove the distaff from the knees of your venerable mother. Think, gentle shepherdess, before it be too late, of the heart-felt pleasures that await the power to do good, when attended with a virtuous inclination. When you wipe away the tear from the cheek of distress, when you light up a smile in the eye of misery, think you, that none of the comfort you administer will flow back in generous and refreshing streams to your own heart? Are these exertions that Imogen ought to contemplate with indifference? Is this a power that Imogen can reject without deliberation?"
Imogen stood for a moment in a sweet and ingenuous state of suspense. She had a native and indefeasible reverence for every thing that had the remotest analogy to virtue, and she could not answer a proposal that came recommended to her by that name with unhesitating promptitude. She was too good and modest to assume an air of decision where she did not feel it; she was too simple and unaffected, to disguise that hesitation to which she was really conscious. "How false and treacherous," exclaimed she, "are your reasonings! Among the virtuous inhabitants of the plain, every one seeks to influence another by motives which are of weight with himself, and utters the sentiments of his own heart. Where have you learned the disingenuous and faithless arts you employ? To what purpose have you cultivated them, and whose good opinion do you flatter yourself they will obtain for you? False, perfidious Roderic! the more I see of you, the more I fear and despise you.
"You would recommend to me your temptations under the color of knowledge. Has knowledge any charms for the debauched and luxurious? You tell me we ought to enlarge our sphere of sensation, and to extend the sources of happiness. Wisdom indeed, and mental improvements are desirable. But the sage Druids have always taught me, that the mind is the nobler part, that the body is to be kept in subjection, and that it is not our business to seek its gratification beyond the bounds of necessity and temperance. If I allowed myself to think that I wanted more than I have, might not the possession of that more extend my desires, till, from humble and bounded, they became insatiable? Were I to dismiss those industrious pursuits by means of which my time now glides so pleasantly, how am I sure that indolence and vacancy would make me happier?
"To succor indeed the necessitous, and particularly my parents and relations, is a consideration of more value. But ah, Roderic! though you talk it so well, I am afraid it is a consideration foreign to your character. For my parents, they are as yet healthful and active; and while they continue so, they wish, no more than myself for repose and indolence. If ever they become incapable of industry, their little flock will still contribute to their support. They are too much respected, for the neighboring shepherds not to watch over it in turn out of pure love. And, I hope, as I will then exert myself with double vigor, that the Gods will bless us, and we shall do very well. As to general distress, heaven is too propitious to us, to permit the inhabitants of the valley to be overwhelmed by it. And I shall always have milk from my flocks, and a cheese from my store, to set before the hungry and necessitous.
"But were these advantages more valuable than they are, it would not be my duty to purchase them so dear. What, shall I desert all the connections it has been the business of my life to form, and that happy state of simplicity I love so much? Shall I shake off the mutual vows I have exchanged with the most amiable and generous of the swains, and join myself to one, whose person I cannot love, and whose character I cannot approve? No, Roderic, enjoy that happiness, if it deserve the name of happiness, that is congenial to your inclination. Forget the worthless and unreasonable passion, you pretend to have conceived, in the multitude of gratifications that are within your reach. Envy not me my straw-defended roof, my little flock, and my faithful shepherd. I will never exchange them for all the temptations that the world can furnish."
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