The Vision Of Mirza
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
MIRZA thus speaks of the strange vision, the Genius revealed to him in the valley of Bagdad : " The Genius then led me to the highest pinnacle of the rock, placing me on the top of itó' 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. The tide of water that thou seest is 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, and reaching from the beginning of the world to its consumption.' ` Ex-amine now,' said he, ` this sea that is bounded with darkness at both ends, and tell me what thou discoverest in it' ` I see a bridge,' said I, ` standing in the midst of the tide.' ` The bridge thou seest,' said he, ` is human life; consider it attentively.' Upon a more leisurely survey of it I found that it consisted of three score and ten entire arches, with several broken arches which, added to those that were entire, made up the number about a hundred. As I counted 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 farther,' said he, ` what thou discoverest on it.' ` 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, perceived there were innumerable trap-doors, that lay concealed in the bridge, which the pasengers no sooner trod upon but they fell through them into the tide, and immediately disappeared. These hidden pitfalls were set very thickly at the entrance of the bridge, so that throngs of people no sooner broke through the cloud but many of them fell into them. They grew thinner toward the middle, but multiplied and lay closer toward 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 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 presented; my heart was filled with a deep melancholy, to 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 toward heaven in a thoughtful posture, and in the midst of a speculation, stumbled and fell out of sight. Multitudes were very busy in 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 sank.
"The Genius seeing me indulge myself on this melancholy prospect, told me I had dwelt long enough upon it. ` Take thine eyes off the bridge,' said he, ` tell me if thou yet seest anything thou dost not comprehend.' Upon looking up, `What mean,' said I, ` those great flights of birds that were 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 perched in great numbers upon the middle arches.'
` These,' said the Genius, ` are Envy, Avarice, Suspicion, Despair, Love, with the like cares and passions that infest human life.'
" I here fetched a deep sigh, ` Alas,' said I, ` man was made in vain ! How is he given away to misery and mortality ! Tortured in life, swallowed up in death!' The Genius, being moved with compassion toward 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 eternity ; but cast thine eyes on that thick mist which 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 for the eye to penetrate) I saw the valley opening at the further 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 nothing in it; but the other appeared to me a vast ocean pointed 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, passing among the trees, lying down by the side 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. I wished for the wings of an eagle that I might fly away to those happy scenes ; but the Genius told me there was no passage to them except through the gates of Death that I saw opening every minute upon the bridge. ` The 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 seashore; there are myriads of islands behind those which thou here discoverest, reaching further than thine eye or even thine imagination can extend itself. These are the mansions of good men after death, who, according to the degrees 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 relishes and perfections of those who are settled in them. Every island is a paradise accommodated to its respective inhabitants. Are not these, O Mirza, habitations worth contending for? Does life appear miserable, that gives the opportunities of earning such a reward? Is death to be feared, 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, the secrets that lie hid under those dark clouds, which cover the ocean on the other side of the rock adamant.' The Genius, making me no answer, I turned 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 long contemplating; but instead of the rolling tide, the arched bridge, the happy islands, there was only the long, hollow valley of Bagdad, with oxen, sheep, and camels grazing upon the sides of it."
Scarcely anywhere in literature do we find a more graphic description of the mystery of time; the uncertainty of life; the agonies which, like vultures, feed upon the human heart, and the beauties of the realm the good possess beyond the gates of Death, than in Addison's Bridge of Mirza.