Friday, August 19, 2011

Seged, lord of Ethopia

August 19 [1826]—This morning wrote none, excepting extracts, etc., being under the necessity of reading and collating a great deal, which lasted till one o'clock or thereabouts, when Dr. and Mrs. Brewster and their young people came to spend a day of happiness at the lake. We were met there by Captain and Mrs. Hamilton and a full party. Since the days of Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia, these days of appointed sport and happiness have seldom answered; but we came off indifferently well.

Walter Scott’s journal musings for August 19, 1826 reference an Ethopian named Seged, constructed by Samuel Johnson, and published in his Rambler (204 & 205).  Seged enjoyed some lakeside comfort as well, as he planned a ten day vacation: ‘…Seged then ordered the house of pleasure, built in an island of the lake of Dambea, to be prepared for his reception. ``I will retire,'' says he, ``for ten days from tumult and care, from counsels and decrees. Long quiet is not the lot of the governours of nations, but a cessation of ten days cannot be denied me. This short interval of happiness may surely be secured from the interruption of fear or perplexity, sorrow or disappointment. I will exclude all trouble from my abode, and remove from my thoughts whatever may confuse the harmony of the concert, or abate the sweetness of the banquet. I will fill the whole capacity of my soul with enjoyment, and try what it is to live without a wish unsatisfied.''…’

Scott’s reverie ended better than Seged’s:

‘…On the eighth morning Seged was awakened early by an unusual hurry in the apartments, and inquiring the cause, was told that the princess Balkis was seized with sickness. He rose, and calling the physicians, found that they had little hope of her recovery. Here was an end of jollity: all his thoughts were now upon his daughter, whose eyes he closed on the tenth day. 

Such were the days which Seged of Ethiopia had appropriated to a short respiration from the fatigues of war and the cares of government. This narrative he has bequeathed to future generations, that no man hereafter may presume to say, ``This day shall be a day of happiness.''

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