In a secluded valley, enclosed by mountains on every side, the Abissinian prince, Rasselas, dwells in the kingdom of Amhara. This valley, with a lake at the lowest point, collects all the world's diversities, and contains all the blessings of nature, but excludes all evil. Telling nothing but the miseries of public life, Sages continuously instruct the practice of every art to the Abissinian sons and daughters. Rasselas, a man of twenty-six years, delights himself in solitary walks and silent meditations to free himself from other's pastimes. Needing something to help him pursue happiness, he turns to the miseries of the world. The terrifying length of life that nature intends scares him, but he comes to realize that he can accomplish so much in many years. In his later years, he meets Imlac, an artist who has eminent knowledge of mechanical designs, and captivates his ideas and creativity. To escape the valley, Imlac and Rasselas invent a set of wings. However, the wings are of no use, and Imlac falls into the lake, half dead with disappointment. Although Rasselas is still determined to leave the valley, he is soon seized by a poem, which Imlac rehearses. The poem tells of the various conditions of humanity which interest Rasselas, and he later asks Imlac to tell his life history. Imlac, the son of a wealthy merchant, is very intelligent and eager to learn. He delights in knowledge and finds pleasure in inventions. Needing to expand his horizons, Imlac yearns for new adventure and leaves his father by entering a ship bound for Surat. Traveling to Agra, Persia, and Arabia, Imlac finds that poetry is considered the highest learning. Therefore, the poet must be aquatinted with all the modes of his life.