Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, by Samuel Johnson

Chapter XLI

The Astronomer Discovers the Cause of His Uneasiness.

“At last the time came when the secret burst his reserve. We were sitting together last night in the turret of his house watching the immersion of a satellite of Jupiter. A sudden tempest clouded the sky and disappointed our observation. We sat awhile silent in the dark, and then he addressed himself to me in these words: ‘Imlac, I have long considered thy friendship as the greatest blessing of my life. Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. I have found in thee all the qualities requisite for trust — benevolence, experience, and fortitude. I have long discharged an office which I must soon quit at the call of Nature, and shall rejoice in the hour of imbecility and pain to devolve it upon thee.’

“I thought myself honoured by this testimony, and protested that whatever could conduce to his happiness would add likewise to mine.

“‘Hear, Imlac, what thou wilt not without difficulty credit. I have possessed for five years the regulation of the weather and the distribution of the seasons. The sun has listened to my dictates, and passed from tropic to tropic by my direction; the clouds at my call have poured their waters, and the Nile has overflowed at my command. I have restrained the rage of the dog-star, and mitigated the fervours of the crab. The winds alone, of all the elemental powers, have hitherto refused my authority, and multitudes have perished by equinoctial tempests which I found myself unable to prohibit or restrain. I have administered this great office with exact justice, and made to the different nations of the earth an impartial dividend of rain and sunshine. What must have been the misery of half the globe if I had limited the clouds to particular regions, or confined the sun to either side of the equator?’”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38