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The Ruins

Part I, Chapter 4
THE EXPOSITION
Thus spoke the Phantom. Confused with this discourse, and my heart agitated with
different reflections, I remained long in silence. At length, taking courage, I thus
addressed him: Oh, Genius of tombs and ruins! Thy presence, thy severity, hath
disordered my senses; but the justice of thy discourse restoreth confidence to my soul.
Pardon my ignorance. Alas, if man is blind, shall his misfortune be also his crime? I may
have mistaken the voice of reason; but never, knowingly, have I rejected its authority.
Ah! if thou readest my heart, thou knowest with what enthusiasm it seeketh truth. Is it not
in its pursuit that thou seest me in this sequestered spot? Alas! I have wandered over the
earth, I have visited cities and countries; and seeing everywhere misery and desolation, a
sense of the evils which afflict my fellow men hath deeply oppressed my soul. I have
said, with a sigh: is man then born but for sorrow and anguish? And I have meditated
upon human misery that I might discover a remedy. I have said, I will separate myself
from the corruption of society; I will retire far from palaces where the mind is depraved
by satiety and from the hovel where it is debased by misery. I will go into the desert and
dwell among ruins; I will interrogate ancient monuments on the wisdom of past ages; I
will invoke from the bosom of the tombs the spirit which once in Asia gave splendor to
states, and glory to nations; I will ask of the ashes of legislators, by what secret causes do
empires rise and fall; from what sources spring the Prosperity and misfortunes of nations,
on what principles can the Peace of Society, and the happiness of man be established?
I ceased, and with submissive look awaited the answer of the Genius.
Peace and happiness, said he, attend those who practice justice! Since thy heart, O mortal,
with sincerity seeketh truth; since thine eyes can still recognize her through the mist of
prejudice, thy prayer shall not be in vain. I will unfold to thy view that truth thou
invokest; I will teach thy reason that knowledge thou seekest; I will reveal to thee the
science of ages and the wisdom of the tombs.
Then approaching and laying his hand on my head, he said:
Rise, mortal, and extricate thy senses from the dust in which thou movest.
Suddenly a celestial flame seemed to dissolve the bands which held us to the earth; and,
like a light vapor, borne on the wings of the Genius, I felt myself wafted to the regions
above. Thence, from the aerial heights, looking down upon the earth, I perceived a scene
altogether new. Under my feet, floating in the void, a globe like that of the moon, but
smaller and less luminous, presented to me one of its phases; and that phase* had the
aspect of a disk varigated with large spots, some white and nebulous, others brown, green
or gray, and while I strained my sight to distinguish what they were, the Genius
exclaimed:
 
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