Hell's dunnest gloom, or night unlustrous, dark, Of every planes 'reft, and pall'd in clouds, Did never spread before the sight a veil In thickness like that fog, nor to the sense So palpable and gross. Ent'ring its shade, Mine eye endured not with unclosed lids; Which marking, near me drew the faithful guide, Offering me his shoulder for a stay. As the blind man behind his leader walks, Lest he should err, or stumble unawares On what might harm him, or perhaps destroy, I journey'd through that bitter air and foul, Still list'ning to my escort's warning voice, "Look that from me thou part not." Straight I heard Voices, and each one seem'd to pray for peace, And for compassion, to the Lamb of God That taketh sins away. Their prelude still Was "Agnus Dei," and through all the choir, One voice, one measure ran, that perfect seem'd The concord of their song. "Are these I hear Spirits, O master?" I exclaim'd; and he: "Thou aim'st aright: these loose the bonds of wrath." "Now who art thou, that through our smoke dost cleave? And speak'st of us, as thou thyself e'en yet Dividest time by calends?" So one voice Bespake me; whence my master said: "Reply; And ask, if upward hence the passage lead." "O being! who dost make thee pure, to stand Beautiful once more in thy Maker's sight! Along with me: and thou shalt hear and wonder." Thus I, whereto the spirit answering spake: "Long as 't is lawful for me, shall my steps Follow on thine; and since the cloudy smoke Forbids the seeing, hearing in its stead Shall keep us join'd." I then forthwith began "Yet in my mortal swathing, I ascend To higher regions, and am hither come Through the fearful agony of hell. And, if so largely God hath doled his grace, That, clean beside all modern precedent, He wills me to behold his kingly state, From me conceal not who thou wast, ere death Had loos'd thee; but instruct me: and instruct If rightly to the pass I tend; thy words The way directing as a safe escort." "I was of Lombardy, and Marco call'd: Not inexperienc'd of the world, that worth I still affected, from which all have turn'd The nerveless bow aside. Thy course tends right Unto the summit:" and, replying thus, He added, "I beseech thee pray for me, When thou shalt come aloft." And I to him: "Accept my faith for pledge I will perform What thou requirest. Yet one doubt remains, That wrings me sorely, if I solve it not, Singly before it urg'd me, doubled now By thine opinion, when I couple that With one elsewhere declar'd, each strength'ning other. The world indeed is even so forlorn Of all good as thou speak'st it and so swarms With every evil. Yet, beseech thee, point The cause out to me, that myself may see, And unto others show it: for in heaven One places it, and one on earth below." Then heaving forth a deep and audible sigh, "Brother!" he thus began, "the world is blind; And thou in truth com'st from it. Ye, who live, Do so each cause refer to heav'n above, E'en as its motion of necessity Drew with it all that moves. If this were so, Free choice in you were none; nor justice would There should be joy for virtue, woe for ill. Your movements have their primal bent from heaven; Not all; yet said I all; what then ensues? Light have ye still to follow evil or good, And of the will free power, which, if it stand Firm and unwearied in Heav'n's first assay, Conquers at last, so it be cherish'd well, Triumphant over all. To mightier force, To better nature subject, ye abide Free, not constrain'd by that, which forms in you The reasoning mind uninfluenc'd of the stars. If then the present race of mankind err, Seek in yourselves the cause, and find it there. Herein thou shalt confess me no false spy. "Forth from his plastic hand, who charm'd beholds Her image ere she yet exist, the soul Comes like a babe, that wantons sportively Weeping and laughing in its wayward moods, As artless and as ignorant of aught, Save that her Maker being one who dwells With gladness ever, willingly she turns To whate'er yields her joy. Of some slight good The flavour soon she tastes; and, snar'd by that, With fondness she pursues it, if no guide Recall, no rein direct her wand'ring course. Hence it behov'd, the law should be a curb; A sovereign hence behov'd, whose piercing view Might mark at least the fortress and main tower Of the true city. Laws indeed there are: But who is he observes them? None; not he, Who goes before, the shepherd of the flock, Who chews the cud but doth not cleave the hoof. Therefore the multitude, who see their guide Strike at the very good they covet most, Feed there and look no further. Thus the cause Is not corrupted nature in yourselves, But ill-conducting, that hath turn'd the world To evil. Rome, that turn'd it unto good, Was wont to boast two suns, whose several beams Cast light on either way, the world's and God's. One since hath quench'd the other; and the sword Is grafted on the crook; and so conjoin'd Each must perforce decline to worse, unaw'd By fear of other. If thou doubt me, mark The blade: each herb is judg'd of by its seed. That land, through which Adice and the Po Their waters roll, was once the residence Of courtesy and velour, ere the day, That frown'd on Frederick; now secure may pass Those limits, whosoe'er hath left, for shame, To talk with good men, or come near their haunts. Three aged ones are still found there, in whom The old time chides the new: these deem it long Ere God restore them to a better world: The good Gherardo, of Palazzo he Conrad, and Guido of Castello, nam'd In Gallic phrase more fitly the plain Lombard. On this at last conclude. The church of Rome, Mixing two governments that ill assort, Hath miss'd her footing, fall'n into the mire, And there herself and burden much defil'd." "O Marco!" I replied, shine arguments Convince me: and the cause I now discern Why of the heritage no portion came To Levi's offspring. But resolve me this Who that Gherardo is, that as thou sayst Is left a sample of the perish'd race, And for rebuke to this untoward age?" "Either thy words," said he, "deceive; or else Are meant to try me; that thou, speaking Tuscan, Appear'st not to have heard of good Gherado; The sole addition that, by which I know him; Unless I borrow'd from his daughter Gaia Another name to grace him. God be with you. I bear you company no more. Behold The dawn with white ray glimm'ring through the mist. I must away—the angel comes—ere he Appear." He said, and would not hear me more.
Call to remembrance, reader, if thou e'er Hast, on a mountain top, been ta'en by cloud, Through which thou saw'st no better, than the mole Doth through opacous membrane; then, whene'er The wat'ry vapours dense began to melt Into thin air, how faintly the sun's sphere Seem'd wading through them; so thy nimble thought May image, how at first I re-beheld The sun, that bedward now his couch o'erhung. Thus with my leader's feet still equaling pace From forth that cloud I came, when now expir'd The parting beams from off the nether shores. O quick and forgetive power! that sometimes dost So rob us of ourselves, we take no mark Though round about us thousand trumpets clang! What moves thee, if the senses stir not? Light Kindled in heav'n, spontaneous, self-inform'd, Or likelier gliding down with swift illapse By will divine. Portray'd before me came The traces of her dire impiety, Whose form was chang'd into the bird, that most Delights itself in song: and here my mind Was inwardly so wrapt, it gave no place To aught that ask'd admittance from without. Next shower'd into my fantasy a shape As of one crucified, whose visage spake Fell rancour, malice deep, wherein he died; And round him Ahasuerus the great king, Esther his bride, and Mordecai the just, Blameless in word and deed. As of itself That unsubstantial coinage of the brain Burst, like a bubble, Which the water fails That fed it; in my vision straight uprose A damsel weeping loud, and cried, "O queen! O mother! wherefore has intemperate ire Driv'n thee to loath thy being? Not to lose Lavinia, desp'rate thou hast slain thyself. Now hast thou lost me. I am she, whose tears Mourn, ere I fall, a mother's timeless end." E'en as a sleep breaks off, if suddenly New radiance strike upon the closed lids, The broken slumber quivering ere it dies; Thus from before me sunk that imagery Vanishing, soon as on my face there struck The light, outshining far our earthly beam. As round I turn'd me to survey what place I had arriv'd at, "Here ye mount," exclaim'd A voice, that other purpose left me none, Save will so eager to behold who spake, I could not choose but gaze. As 'fore the sun, That weighs our vision down, and veils his form In light transcendent, thus my virtue fail'd Unequal. "This is Spirit from above, Who marshals us our upward way, unsought; And in his own light shrouds him;. As a man Doth for himself, so now is done for us. For whoso waits imploring, yet sees need Of his prompt aidance, sets himself prepar'd For blunt denial, ere the suit be made. Refuse we not to lend a ready foot At such inviting: haste we to ascend, Before it darken: for we may not then, Till morn again return." So spake my guide; And to one ladder both address'd our steps; And the first stair approaching, I perceiv'd Near me as 'twere the waving of a wing, That fann'd my face and whisper'd: "Blessed they The peacemakers: they know not evil wrath." Now to such height above our heads were rais'd The last beams, follow'd close by hooded night, That many a star on all sides through the gloom Shone out. "Why partest from me, O my strength?" So with myself I commun'd; for I felt My o'ertoil'd sinews slacken. We had reach'd The summit, and were fix'd like to a bark Arriv'd at land. And waiting a short space, If aught should meet mine ear in that new round, Then to my guide I turn'd, and said: "Lov'd sire! Declare what guilt is on this circle purg'd. If our feet rest, no need thy speech should pause." He thus to me: "The love of good, whate'er Wanted of just proportion, here fulfils. Here plies afresh the oar, that loiter'd ill. But that thou mayst yet clearlier understand, Give ear unto my words, and thou shalt cull Some fruit may please thee well, from this delay. "Creator, nor created being, ne'er, My son," he thus began, "was without love, Or natural, or the free spirit's growth. Thou hast not that to learn. The natural still Is without error; but the other swerves, If on ill object bent, or through excess Of vigour, or defect. While e'er it seeks The primal blessings, or with measure due Th' inferior, no delight, that flows from it, Partakes of ill. But let it warp to evil, Or with more ardour than behooves, or less. Pursue the good, the thing created then Works 'gainst its Maker. Hence thou must infer That love is germin of each virtue in ye, And of each act no less, that merits pain. Now since it may not be, but love intend The welfare mainly of the thing it loves, All from self-hatred are secure; and since No being can be thought t' exist apart And independent of the first, a bar Of equal force restrains from hating that. "Grant the distinction just; and it remains The' evil must be another's, which is lov'd. Three ways such love is gender'd in your clay. There is who hopes (his neighbour's worth deprest,) Preeminence himself, and coverts hence For his own greatness that another fall. There is who so much fears the loss of power, Fame, favour, glory (should his fellow mount Above him), and so sickens at the thought, He loves their opposite: and there is he, Whom wrong or insult seems to gall and shame That he doth thirst for vengeance, and such needs Must doat on other's evil. Here beneath This threefold love is mourn'd. Of th' other sort Be now instructed, that which follows good But with disorder'd and irregular course. "All indistinctly apprehend a bliss On which the soul may rest, the hearts of all Yearn after it, and to that wished bourn All therefore strive to tend. If ye behold Or seek it with a love remiss and lax, This cornice after just repenting lays Its penal torment on ye. Other good There is, where man finds not his happiness: It is not true fruition, not that blest Essence, of every good the branch and root. The love too lavishly bestow'd on this, Along three circles over us, is mourn'd. Account of that division tripartite Expect not, fitter for thine own research.
The teacher ended, and his high discourse Concluding, earnest in my looks inquir'd If I appear'd content; and I, whom still Unsated thirst to hear him urg'd, was mute, Mute outwardly, yet inwardly I said: "Perchance my too much questioning offends But he, true father, mark'd the secret wish By diffidence restrain'd, and speaking, gave Me boldness thus to speak: "Master, my Sight Gathers so lively virtue from thy beams, That all, thy words convey, distinct is seen. Wherefore I pray thee, father, whom this heart Holds dearest! thou wouldst deign by proof t' unfold That love, from which as from their source thou bring'st All good deeds and their opposite." He then: "To what I now disclose be thy clear ken Directed, and thou plainly shalt behold How much those blind have err'd, who make themselves The guides of men. The soul, created apt To love, moves versatile which way soe'er Aught pleasing prompts her, soon as she is wak'd By pleasure into act. Of substance true Your apprehension forms its counterfeit, And in you the ideal shape presenting Attracts the soul's regard. If she, thus drawn, incline toward it, love is that inclining, And a new nature knit by pleasure in ye. Then as the fire points up, and mounting seeks His birth-place and his lasting seat, e'en thus Enters the captive soul into desire, Which is a spiritual motion, that ne'er rests Before enjoyment of the thing it loves. Enough to show thee, how the truth from those Is hidden, who aver all love a thing Praise-worthy in itself: although perhaps Its substance seem still good. Yet if the wax Be good, it follows not th' impression must." "What love is," I return'd, "thy words, O guide! And my own docile mind, reveal. Yet thence New doubts have sprung. For from without if love Be offer'd to us, and the spirit knows No other footing, tend she right or wrong, Is no desert of hers." He answering thus: "What reason here discovers I have power To show thee: that which lies beyond, expect From Beatrice, faith not reason's task. Spirit, substantial form, with matter join'd Not in confusion mix'd, hath in itself Specific virtue of that union born, Which is not felt except it work, nor prov'd But through effect, as vegetable life By the green leaf. From whence his intellect Deduced its primal notices of things, Man therefore knows not, or his appetites Their first affections; such in you, as zeal In bees to gather honey; at the first, Volition, meriting nor blame nor praise. But o'er each lower faculty supreme, That as she list are summon'd to her bar, Ye have that virtue in you, whose just voice Uttereth counsel, and whose word should keep The threshold of assent. Here is the source, Whence cause of merit in you is deriv'd, E'en as the affections good or ill she takes, Or severs, winnow'd as the chaff. Those men Who reas'ning went to depth profoundest, mark'd That innate freedom, and were thence induc'd To leave their moral teaching to the world. Grant then, that from necessity arise All love that glows within you; to dismiss Or harbour it, the pow'r is in yourselves. Remember, Beatrice, in her style, Denominates free choice by eminence The noble virtue, if in talk with thee She touch upon that theme." The moon, well nigh To midnight hour belated, made the stars Appear to wink and fade; and her broad disk Seem'd like a crag on fire, as up the vault That course she journey'd, which the sun then warms, When they of Rome behold him at his set. Betwixt Sardinia and the Corsic isle. And now the weight, that hung upon my thought, Was lighten'd by the aid of that clear spirit, Who raiseth Andes above Mantua's name. I therefore, when my questions had obtain'd Solution plain and ample, stood as one Musing in dreary slumber; but not long Slumber'd; for suddenly a multitude, The steep already turning, from behind, Rush'd on. With fury and like random rout, As echoing on their shores at midnight heard Ismenus and Asopus, for his Thebes If Bacchus' help were needed; so came these Tumultuous, curving each his rapid step, By eagerness impell'd of holy love. Soon they o'ertook us; with such swiftness mov'd The mighty crowd. Two spirits at their head Cried weeping; "Blessed Mary sought with haste The hilly region. Caesar to subdue Ilerda, darted in Marseilles his sting, And flew to Spain."—"Oh tarry not: away;" The others shouted; "let not time be lost Through slackness of affection. Hearty zeal To serve reanimates celestial grace." "O ye, in whom intenser fervency Haply supplies, where lukewarm erst ye fail'd, Slow or neglectful, to absolve your part Of good and virtuous, this man, who yet lives, (Credit my tale, though strange) desires t' ascend, So morning rise to light us. Therefore say Which hand leads nearest to the rifted rock?" So spake my guide, to whom a shade return'd: "Come after us, and thou shalt find the cleft. We may not linger: such resistless will Speeds our unwearied course. Vouchsafe us then Thy pardon, if our duty seem to thee Discourteous rudeness. In Verona I Was abbot of San Zeno, when the hand Of Barbarossa grasp'd Imperial sway, That name, ne'er utter'd without tears in Milan. And there is he, hath one foot in his grave, Who for that monastery ere long shall weep, Ruing his power misus'd: for that his son, Of body ill compact, and worse in mind, And born in evil, he hath set in place Of its true pastor." Whether more he spake, Or here was mute, I know not: he had sped E'en now so far beyond us. Yet thus much I heard, and in rememb'rance treasur'd it. He then, who never fail'd me at my need, Cried, "Hither turn. Lo! two with sharp remorse Chiding their sin!" In rear of all the troop These shouted: "First they died, to whom the sea Open'd, or ever Jordan saw his heirs: And they, who with Aeneas to the end Endur'd not suffering, for their portion chose Life without glory." Soon as they had fled Past reach of sight, new thought within me rose By others follow'd fast, and each unlike Its fellow: till led on from thought to thought, And pleasur'd with the fleeting train, mine eye Was clos'd, and meditation chang'd to dream.
It was the hour, when of diurnal heat No reliques chafe the cold beams of the moon, O'erpower'd by earth, or planetary sway Of Saturn; and the geomancer sees His Greater Fortune up the east ascend, Where gray dawn checkers first the shadowy cone; When 'fore me in my dream a woman's shape There came, with lips that stammer'd, eyes aslant, Distorted feet, hands maim'd, and colour pale. I look'd upon her; and as sunshine cheers Limbs numb'd by nightly cold, e'en thus my look Unloos'd her tongue, next in brief space her form Decrepit rais'd erect, and faded face With love's own hue illum'd. Recov'ring speech She forthwith warbling such a strain began, That I, how loth soe'er, could scarce have held Attention from the song. "I," thus she sang, "I am the Siren, she, whom mariners On the wide sea are wilder'd when they hear: Such fulness of delight the list'ner feels. I from his course Ulysses by my lay Enchanted drew. Whoe'er frequents me once Parts seldom; so I charm him, and his heart Contented knows no void." Or ere her mouth Was clos'd, to shame her at her side appear'd A dame of semblance holy. With stern voice She utter'd; "Say, O Virgil, who is this?" Which hearing, he approach'd, with eyes still bent Toward that goodly presence: th' other seiz'd her, And, her robes tearing, open'd her before, And show'd the belly to me, whence a smell, Exhaling loathsome, wak'd me. Round I turn'd Mine eyes, and thus the teacher: "At the least Three times my voice hath call'd thee. Rise, begone. Let us the opening find where thou mayst pass." I straightway rose. Now day, pour'd down from high, Fill'd all the circuits of the sacred mount; And, as we journey'd, on our shoulder smote The early ray. I follow'd, stooping low My forehead, as a man, o'ercharg'd with thought, Who bends him to the likeness of an arch, That midway spans the flood; when thus I heard, "Come, enter here," in tone so soft and mild, As never met the ear on mortal strand. With swan-like wings dispread and pointing up, Who thus had spoken marshal'd us along, Where each side of the solid masonry The sloping, walls retir'd; then mov'd his plumes, And fanning us, affirm'd that those, who mourn, Are blessed, for that comfort shall be theirs. "What aileth thee, that still thou look'st to earth?" Began my leader; while th' angelic shape A little over us his station took. "New vision," I replied, "hath rais'd in me 8urmisings strange and anxious doubts, whereon My soul intent allows no other thought Or room or entrance.—"Hast thou seen," said he, "That old enchantress, her, whose wiles alone The spirits o'er us weep for? Hast thou seen How man may free him of her bonds? Enough. Let thy heels spurn the earth, and thy rais'd ken Fix on the lure, which heav'n's eternal King Whirls in the rolling spheres." As on his feet The falcon first looks down, then to the sky Turns, and forth stretches eager for the food, That woos him thither; so the call I heard, So onward, far as the dividing rock Gave way, I journey'd, till the plain was reach'd. On the fifth circle when I stood at large, A race appear'd before me, on the ground All downward lying prone and weeping sore. "My soul hath cleaved to the dust," I heard With sighs so deep, they well nigh choak'd the words. "O ye elect of God, whose penal woes Both hope and justice mitigate, direct Tow'rds the steep rising our uncertain way." "If ye approach secure from this our doom, Prostration—and would urge your course with speed, See that ye still to rightward keep the brink." So them the bard besought; and such the words, Beyond us some short space, in answer came. I noted what remain'd yet hidden from them: Thence to my liege's eyes mine eyes I bent, And he, forthwith interpreting their suit, Beckon'd his glad assent. Free then to act, As pleas'd me, I drew near, and took my stand O'er that shade, whose words I late had mark'd. And, "Spirit!" I said, "in whom repentant tears Mature that blessed hour, when thou with God Shalt find acceptance, for a while suspend For me that mightier care. Say who thou wast, Why thus ye grovel on your bellies prone, And if in aught ye wish my service there, Whence living I am come." He answering spake "The cause why Heav'n our back toward his cope Reverses, shalt thou know: but me know first The successor of Peter, and the name And title of my lineage from that stream, That' twixt Chiaveri and Siestri draws His limpid waters through the lowly glen. A month and little more by proof I learnt, With what a weight that robe of sov'reignty Upon his shoulder rests, who from the mire Would guard it: that each other fardel seems But feathers in the balance. Late, alas! Was my conversion: but when I became Rome's pastor, I discern'd at once the dream And cozenage of life, saw that the heart Rested not there, and yet no prouder height Lur'd on the climber: wherefore, of that life No more enamour'd, in my bosom love Of purer being kindled. For till then I was a soul in misery, alienate From God, and covetous of all earthly things; Now, as thou seest, here punish'd for my doting. Such cleansing from the taint of avarice Do spirits converted need. This mount inflicts No direr penalty. E'en as our eyes Fasten'd below, nor e'er to loftier clime Were lifted, thus hath justice level'd us Here on the earth. As avarice quench'd our love Of good, without which is no working, thus Here justice holds us prison'd, hand and foot Chain'd down and bound, while heaven's just Lord shall please. So long to tarry motionless outstretch'd." My knees I stoop'd, and would have spoke; but he, Ere my beginning, by his ear perceiv'd I did him reverence; and "What cause," said he, "Hath bow'd thee thus!"—" Compunction," I rejoin'd. "And inward awe of your high dignity." "Up," he exclaim'd, "brother! upon thy feet Arise: err not: thy fellow servant I, (Thine and all others') of one Sovran Power. If thou hast ever mark'd those holy sounds Of gospel truth, 'nor shall be given ill marriage,' Thou mayst discern the reasons of my speech. Go thy ways now; and linger here no more. Thy tarrying is a let unto the tears, With which I hasten that whereof thou spak'st. I have on earth a kinswoman; her name Alagia, worthy in herself, so ill Example of our house corrupt her not: And she is all remaineth of me there."
Ill strives the will, 'gainst will more wise that strives His pleasure therefore to mine own preferr'd, I drew the sponge yet thirsty from the wave. Onward I mov'd: he also onward mov'd, Who led me, coasting still, wherever place Along the rock was vacant, as a man Walks near the battlements on narrow wall. For those on th' other part, who drop by drop Wring out their all-infecting malady, Too closely press the verge. Accurst be thou! Inveterate wolf! whose gorge ingluts more prey, Than every beast beside, yet is not fill'd! So bottomless thy maw! —Ye spheres of heaven! To whom there are, as seems, who attribute All change in mortal state, when is the day Of his appearing, for whom fate reserves To chase her hence? —With wary steps and slow We pass'd; and I attentive to the shades, Whom piteously I heard lament and wail; And, 'midst the wailing, one before us heard Cry out "O blessed Virgin!" as a dame In the sharp pangs of childbed; and "How poor Thou wast," it added, "witness that low roof Where thou didst lay thy sacred burden down. O good Fabricius! thou didst virtue choose With poverty, before great wealth with vice." The words so pleas'd me, that desire to know The spirit, from whose lip they seem'd to come, Did draw me onward. Yet it spake the gift Of Nicholas, which on the maidens he Bounteous bestow'd, to save their youthful prime Unblemish'd. "Spirit! who dost speak of deeds So worthy, tell me who thou was," I said, "And why thou dost with single voice renew Memorial of such praise. That boon vouchsaf'd Haply shall meet reward; if I return To finish the Short pilgrimage of life, Still speeding to its close on restless wing." "I," answer'd he, "will tell thee, not for hell, Which thence I look for; but that in thyself Grace so exceeding shines, before thy time Of mortal dissolution. I was root Of that ill plant, whose shade such poison sheds O'er all the Christian land, that seldom thence Good fruit is gather'd. Vengeance soon should come, Had Ghent and Douay, Lille and Bruges power; And vengeance I of heav'n's great Judge implore. Hugh Capet was I high: from me descend The Philips and the Louis, of whom France Newly is govern'd; born of one, who ply'd The slaughterer's trade at Paris. When the race Of ancient kings had vanish'd (all save one Wrapt up in sable weeds) within my gripe I found the reins of empire, and such powers Of new acquirement, with full store of friends, That soon the widow'd circlet of the crown Was girt upon the temples of my son, He, from whose bones th' anointed race begins. Till the great dower of Provence had remov'd The stains, that yet obscur'd our lowly blood, Its sway indeed was narrow, but howe'er It wrought no evil: there, with force and lies, Began its rapine; after, for amends, Poitou it seiz'd, Navarre and Gascony. To Italy came Charles, and for amends Young Conradine an innocent victim slew, And sent th' angelic teacher back to heav'n, Still for amends. I see the time at hand, That forth from France invites another Charles To make himself and kindred better known. Unarm'd he issues, saving with that lance, Which the arch-traitor tilted with; and that He carries with so home a thrust, as rives The bowels of poor Florence. No increase Of territory hence, but sin and shame Shall be his guerdon, and so much the more As he more lightly deems of such foul wrong. I see the other, who a prisoner late Had steps on shore, exposing to the mart His daughter, whom he bargains for, as do The Corsairs for their slaves. O avarice! What canst thou more, who hast subdued our blood So wholly to thyself, they feel no care Of their own flesh? To hide with direr guilt Past ill and future, lo! the flower-de-luce Enters Alagna! in his Vicar Christ Himself a captive, and his mockery Acted again! Lo! to his holy lip The vinegar and gall once more applied! And he 'twixt living robbers doom'd to bleed! Lo! the new Pilate, of whose cruelty Such violence cannot fill the measure up, With no degree to sanction, pushes on Into the temple his yet eager sails! "O sovran Master! when shall I rejoice To see the vengeance, which thy wrath well-pleas'd In secret silence broods?—While daylight lasts, So long what thou didst hear of her, sole spouse Of the Great Spirit, and on which thou turn'dst To me for comment, is the general theme Of all our prayers: but when it darkens, then A different strain we utter, then record Pygmalion, whom his gluttonous thirst of gold Made traitor, robber, parricide: the woes Of Midas, which his greedy wish ensued, Mark'd for derision to all future times: And the fond Achan, how he stole the prey, That yet he seems by Joshua's ire pursued. Sapphira with her husband next, we blame; And praise the forefeet, that with furious ramp Spurn'd Heliodorus. All the mountain round Rings with the infamy of Thracia's king, Who slew his Phrygian charge: and last a shout Ascends: "Declare, O Crassus! for thou know'st, The flavour of thy gold." The voice of each Now high now low, as each his impulse prompts, Is led through many a pitch, acute or grave. Therefore, not singly, I erewhile rehears'd That blessedness we tell of in the day: But near me none beside his accent rais'd." From him we now had parted, and essay'd With utmost efforts to surmount the way, When I did feel, as nodding to its fall, The mountain tremble; whence an icy chill Seiz'd on me, as on one to death convey'd. So shook not Delos, when Latona there Couch'd to bring forth the twin-born eyes of heaven. Forthwith from every side a shout arose So vehement, that suddenly my guide Drew near, and cried: "Doubt not, while I conduct thee." "Glory!" all shouted (such the sounds mine ear Gather'd from those, who near me swell'd the sounds) "Glory in the highest be to God." We stood Immovably suspended, like to those, The shepherds, who first heard in Bethlehem's field That song: till ceas'd the trembling, and the song Was ended: then our hallow'd path resum'd, Eying the prostrate shadows, who renew'd Their custom'd mourning. Never in my breast Did ignorance so struggle with desire Of knowledge, if my memory do not err, As in that moment; nor through haste dar'd I To question, nor myself could aught discern, So on I far'd in thoughtfulness and dread.
The natural thirst, ne'er quench'd but from the well, Whereof the woman of Samaria crav'd, Excited: haste along the cumber'd path, After my guide, impell'd; and pity mov'd My bosom for the 'vengeful deed, though just. When lo! even as Luke relates, that Christ Appear'd unto the two upon their way, New-risen from his vaulted grave; to us A shade appear'd, and after us approach'd, Contemplating the crowd beneath its feet. We were not ware of it; so first it spake, Saying, "God give you peace, my brethren!" then Sudden we turn'd: and Virgil such salute, As fitted that kind greeting, gave, and cried: "Peace in the blessed council be thy lot Awarded by that righteous court, which me To everlasting banishment exiles!" "How!" he exclaim'd, nor from his speed meanwhile Desisting, "If that ye be spirits, whom God Vouchsafes not room above, who up the height Has been thus far your guide?" To whom the bard: "If thou observe the tokens, which this man Trac'd by the finger of the angel bears, 'Tis plain that in the kingdom of the just He needs must share. But sithence she, whose wheel Spins day and night, for him not yet had drawn That yarn, which, on the fatal distaff pil'd, Clotho apportions to each wight that breathes, His soul, that sister is to mine and thine, Not of herself could mount, for not like ours Her ken: whence I, from forth the ample gulf Of hell was ta'en, to lead him, and will lead Far as my lore avails. But, if thou know, Instruct us for what cause, the mount erewhile Thus shook and trembled: wherefore all at once Seem'd shouting, even from his wave-wash'd foot." That questioning so tallied with my wish, The thirst did feel abatement of its edge E'en from expectance. He forthwith replied, "In its devotion nought irregular This mount can witness, or by punctual rule Unsanction'd; here from every change exempt. Other than that, which heaven in itself Doth of itself receive, no influence Can reach us. Tempest none, shower, hail or snow, Hoar frost or dewy moistness, higher falls Than that brief scale of threefold steps: thick clouds Nor scudding rack are ever seen: swift glance Ne'er lightens, nor Thaumantian Iris gleams, That yonder often shift on each side heav'n. Vapour adust doth never mount above The highest of the trinal stairs, whereon Peter's vicegerent stands. Lower perchance, With various motion rock'd, trembles the soil: But here, through wind in earth's deep hollow pent, I know not how, yet never trembled: then Trembles, when any spirit feels itself So purified, that it may rise, or move For rising, and such loud acclaim ensues. Purification by the will alone Is prov'd, that free to change society Seizes the soul rejoicing in her will. Desire of bliss is present from the first; But strong propension hinders, to that wish By the just ordinance of heav'n oppos'd; Propension now as eager to fulfil Th' allotted torment, as erewhile to sin. And I who in this punishment had lain Five hundred years and more, but now have felt Free wish for happier clime. Therefore thou felt'st The mountain tremble, and the spirits devout Heard'st, over all his limits, utter praise To that liege Lord, whom I entreat their joy To hasten." Thus he spake: and since the draught Is grateful ever as the thirst is keen, No words may speak my fullness of content. "Now," said the instructor sage, "I see the net That takes ye here, and how the toils are loos'd, Why rocks the mountain and why ye rejoice. Vouchsafe, that from thy lips I next may learn, Who on the earth thou wast, and wherefore here So many an age wert prostrate." —"In that time, When the good Titus, with Heav'n's King to help, Aveng'd those piteous gashes, whence the blood By Judas sold did issue, with the name Most lasting and most honour'd there was I Abundantly renown'd," the shade reply'd, "Not yet with faith endued. So passing sweet My vocal Spirit, from Tolosa, Rome To herself drew me, where I merited A myrtle garland to inwreathe my brow. Statius they name me still. Of Thebes I sang, And next of great Achilles: but i' th' way Fell with the second burthen. Of my flame Those sparkles were the seeds, which I deriv'd From the bright fountain of celestial fire That feeds unnumber'd lamps, the song I mean Which sounds Aeneas' wand'rings: that the breast I hung at, that the nurse, from whom my veins Drank inspiration: whose authority Was ever sacred with me. To have liv'd Coeval with the Mantuan, I would bide The revolution of another sun Beyond my stated years in banishment." The Mantuan, when he heard him, turn'd to me, And holding silence: by his countenance Enjoin'd me silence but the power which wills, Bears not supreme control: laughter and tears Follow so closely on the passion prompts them, They wait not for the motions of the will In natures most sincere. I did but smile, As one who winks; and thereupon the shade Broke off, and peer'd into mine eyes, where best Our looks interpret. "So to good event Mayst thou conduct such great emprize," he cried, "Say, why across thy visage beam'd, but now, The lightning of a smile!" On either part Now am I straiten'd; one conjures me speak, Th' other to silence binds me: whence a sigh I utter, and the sigh is heard. "Speak on; " The teacher cried; "and do not fear to speak, But tell him what so earnestly he asks." Whereon I thus: "Perchance, O ancient spirit! Thou marvel'st at my smiling. There is room For yet more wonder. He who guides my ken On high, he is that Mantuan, led by whom Thou didst presume of men arid gods to sing. If other cause thou deem'dst for which I smil'd, Leave it as not the true one; and believe Those words, thou spak'st of him, indeed the cause." Now down he bent t' embrace my teacher's feet; But he forbade him: "Brother! do it not: Thou art a shadow, and behold'st a shade." He rising answer'd thus: "Now hast thou prov'd The force and ardour of the love I bear thee, When I forget we are but things of air, And as a substance treat an empty shade."
Now we had left the angel, who had turn'd To the sixth circle our ascending step, One gash from off my forehead raz'd: while they, Whose wishes tend to justice, shouted forth: "Blessed!" and ended with, "I thirst:" and I, More nimble than along the other straits, So journey'd, that, without the sense of toil, I follow'd upward the swift-footed shades; When Virgil thus began: "Let its pure flame From virtue flow, and love can never fail To warm another's bosom' so the light Shine manifestly forth. Hence from that hour, When 'mongst us in the purlieus of the deep, Came down the spirit of Aquinum's hard, Who told of thine affection, my good will Hath been for thee of quality as strong As ever link'd itself to one not seen. Therefore these stairs will now seem short to me. But tell me: and if too secure I loose The rein with a friend's license, as a friend Forgive me, and speak now as with a friend: How chanc'd it covetous desire could find Place in that bosom, 'midst such ample store Of wisdom, as thy zeal had treasur'd there?" First somewhat mov'd to laughter by his words, Statius replied: "Each syllable of thine Is a dear pledge of love. Things oft appear That minister false matters to our doubts, When their true causes are remov'd from sight. Thy question doth assure me, thou believ'st I was on earth a covetous man, perhaps Because thou found'st me in that circle plac'd. Know then I was too wide of avarice: And e'en for that excess, thousands of moons Have wax'd and wan'd upon my sufferings. And were it not that I with heedful care Noted where thou exclaim'st as if in ire With human nature, 'Why, thou cursed thirst Of gold! dost not with juster measure guide The appetite of mortals?' I had met The fierce encounter of the voluble rock. Then was I ware that with too ample wing The hands may haste to lavishment, and turn'd, As from my other evil, so from this In penitence. How many from their grave Shall with shorn locks arise, who living, aye And at life's last extreme, of this offence, Through ignorance, did not repent. And know, The fault which lies direct from any sin In level opposition, here With that Wastes its green rankness on one common heap. Therefore if I have been with those, who wail Their avarice, to cleanse me, through reverse Of their transgression, such hath been my lot." To whom the sovran of the pastoral song: "While thou didst sing that cruel warfare wag'd By the twin sorrow of Jocasta's womb, From thy discourse with Clio there, it seems As faith had not been shine: without the which Good deeds suffice not. And if so, what sun Rose on thee, or what candle pierc'd the dark That thou didst after see to hoist the sail, And follow, where the fisherman had led?" He answering thus: "By thee conducted first, I enter'd the Parnassian grots, and quaff'd Of the clear spring; illumin'd first by thee Open'd mine eyes to God. Thou didst, as one, Who, journeying through the darkness, hears a light Behind, that profits not himself, but makes His followers wise, when thou exclaimedst, 'Lo! A renovated world! Justice return'd! Times of primeval innocence restor'd! And a new race descended from above!' Poet and Christian both to thee I owed. That thou mayst mark more clearly what I trace, My hand shall stretch forth to inform the lines With livelier colouring. Soon o'er all the world, By messengers from heav'n, the true belief Teem'd now prolific, and that word of thine Accordant, to the new instructors chim'd. Induc'd by which agreement, I was wont Resort to them; and soon their sanctity So won upon me, that, Domitian's rage Pursuing them, I mix'd my tears with theirs, And, while on earth I stay'd, still succour'd them; And their most righteous customs made me scorn All sects besides. Before I led the Greeks In tuneful fiction, to the streams of Thebes, I was baptiz'd; but secretly, through fear, Remain'd a Christian, and conform'd long time To Pagan rites. Five centuries and more, T for that lukewarmness was fain to pace Round the fourth circle. Thou then, who hast rais'd The covering, which did hide such blessing from me, Whilst much of this ascent is yet to climb, Say, if thou know, where our old Terence bides, Caecilius, Plautus, Varro: if condemn'd They dwell, and in what province of the deep." "These," said my guide, "with Persius and myself, And others many more, are with that Greek, Of mortals, the most cherish'd by the Nine, In the first ward of darkness. There ofttimes We of that mount hold converse, on whose top For aye our nurses live. We have the bard Of Pella, and the Teian, Agatho, Simonides, and many a Grecian else Ingarlanded with laurel. Of thy train Antigone is there, Deiphile, Argia, and as sorrowful as erst Ismene, and who show'd Langia's wave: Deidamia with her sisters there, And blind Tiresias' daughter, and the bride Sea-born of Peleus." Either poet now Was silent, and no longer by th' ascent Or the steep walls obstructed, round them cast Inquiring eyes. Four handmaids of the day Had finish'd now their office, and the fifth Was at the chariot-beam, directing still Its balmy point aloof, when thus my guide: "Methinks, it well behooves us to the brink Bend the right shoulder' circuiting the mount, As we have ever us'd." So custom there Was usher to the road, the which we chose Less doubtful, as that worthy shade complied. They on before me went; I sole pursued, List'ning their speech, that to my thoughts convey'd Mysterious lessons of sweet poesy. But soon they ceas'd; for midway of the road A tree we found, with goodly fruitage hung, And pleasant to the smell: and as a fir Upward from bough to bough less ample spreads, So downward this less ample spread, that none. Methinks, aloft may climb. Upon the side, That clos'd our path, a liquid crystal fell From the steep rock, and through the sprays above Stream'd showering. With associate step the bards Drew near the plant; and from amidst the leaves A voice was heard: "Ye shall be chary of me;" And after added: "Mary took more thought For joy and honour of the nuptial feast, Than for herself who answers now for you. The women of old Rome were satisfied With water for their beverage. Daniel fed On pulse, and wisdom gain'd. The primal age Was beautiful as gold; and hunger then Made acorns tasteful, thirst each rivulet Run nectar. Honey and locusts were the food, Whereon the Baptist in the wilderness Fed, and that eminence of glory reach'd And greatness, which the' Evangelist records."
On the green leaf mine eyes were fix'd, like his Who throws away his days in idle chase Of the diminutive, when thus I heard The more than father warn me: "Son! our time Asks thriftier using. Linger not: away." Thereat my face and steps at once I turn'd Toward the sages, by whose converse cheer'd I journey'd on, and felt no toil: and lo! A sound of weeping and a song: "My lips, O Lord!" and these so mingled, it gave birth To pleasure and to pain. "O Sire, belov'd! Say what is this I hear?" Thus I inquir'd. "Spirits," said he, "who as they go, perchance, Their debt of duty pay." As on their road The thoughtful pilgrims, overtaking some Not known unto them, turn to them, and look, But stay not; thus, approaching from behind With speedier motion, eyed us, as they pass'd, A crowd of spirits, silent and devout. The eyes of each were dark and hollow: pale Their visage, and so lean withal, the bones Stood staring thro' the skin. I do not think Thus dry and meagre Erisicthon show'd, When pinc'ed by sharp-set famine to the quick. "Lo!" to myself I mus'd, "the race, who lost Jerusalem, when Mary with dire beak Prey'd on her child." The sockets seem'd as rings, From which the gems were drops. Who reads the name Of man upon his forehead, there the M Had trac'd most plainly. Who would deem, that scent Of water and an apple, could have prov'd Powerful to generate such pining want, Not knowing how it wrought? While now I stood Wond'ring what thus could waste them (for the cause Of their gaunt hollowness and scaly rind Appear'd not) lo! a spirit turn'd his eyes In their deep-sunken cell, and fasten'd then On me, then cried with vehemence aloud: "What grace is this vouchsaf'd me?" By his looks I ne'er had recogniz'd him: but the voice Brought to my knowledge what his cheer conceal'd. Remembrance of his alter'd lineaments Was kindled from that spark; and I agniz'd The visage of Forese. "Ah! respect This wan and leprous wither'd skin," thus he Suppliant implor'd, "this macerated flesh. Speak to me truly of thyself. And who Are those twain spirits, that escort thee there? Be it not said thou Scorn'st to talk with me." "That face of thine," I answer'd him, "which dead I once bewail'd, disposes me not less For weeping, when I see It thus transform'd. Say then, by Heav'n, what blasts ye thus? The whilst I wonder, ask not Speech from me: unapt Is he to speak, whom other will employs. He thus: "The water and tee plant we pass'd, Virtue possesses, by th' eternal will Infus'd, the which so pines me. Every spirit, Whose song bewails his gluttony indulg'd Too grossly, here in hunger and in thirst Is purified. The odour, which the fruit, And spray, that showers upon the verdure, breathe, Inflames us with desire to feed and drink. Nor once alone encompassing our route We come to add fresh fuel to the pain: Pain, said I? solace rather: for that will To the tree leads us, by which Christ was led To call Elias, joyful when he paid Our ransom from his vein." I answering thus: "Forese! from that day, in which the world For better life thou changedst, not five years Have circled. If the power of sinning more Were first concluded in thee, ere thou knew'st That kindly grief, which re-espouses us To God, how hither art thou come so soon? I thought to find thee lower, there, where time Is recompense for time." He straight replied: "To drink up the sweet wormwood of affliction I have been brought thus early by the tears Stream'd down my Nella's cheeks. Her prayers devout, Her sighs have drawn me from the coast, where oft Expectance lingers, and have set me free From th' other circles. In the sight of God So much the dearer is my widow priz'd, She whom I lov'd so fondly, as she ranks More singly eminent for virtuous deeds. The tract most barb'rous of Sardinia's isle, Hath dames more chaste and modester by far Than that wherein I left her. O sweet brother! What wouldst thou have me say? A time to come Stands full within my view, to which this hour Shall not be counted of an ancient date, When from the pulpit shall be loudly warn'd Th' unblushing dames of Florence, lest they bare Unkerchief'd bosoms to the common gaze. What savage women hath the world e'er seen, What Saracens, for whom there needed scourge Of spiritual or other discipline, To force them walk with cov'ring on their limbs! But did they see, the shameless ones, that Heav'n Wafts on swift wing toward them, while I speak, Their mouths were op'd for howling: they shall taste Of Borrow (unless foresight cheat me here) Or ere the cheek of him be cloth'd with down Who is now rock'd with lullaby asleep. Ah! now, my brother, hide thyself no more, Thou seest how not I alone but all Gaze, where thou veil'st the intercepted sun." Whence I replied: "If thou recall to mind What we were once together, even yet Remembrance of those days may grieve thee sore. That I forsook that life, was due to him Who there precedes me, some few evenings past, When she was round, who shines with sister lamp To his, that glisters yonder," and I show'd The sun. "Tis he, who through profoundest night Of he true dead has brought me, with this flesh As true, that follows. From that gloom the aid Of his sure comfort drew me on to climb, And climbing wind along this mountain-steep, Which rectifies in you whate'er the world Made crooked and deprav'd I have his word, That he will bear me company as far As till I come where Beatrice dwells: But there must leave me. Virgil is that spirit, Who thus hath promis'd," and I pointed to him; "The other is that shade, for whom so late Your realm, as he arose, exulting shook Through every pendent cliff and rocky bound."
Our journey was not slacken'd by our talk, Nor yet our talk by journeying. Still we spake, And urg'd our travel stoutly, like a ship When the wind sits astern. The shadowy forms, That seem'd things dead and dead again, drew in At their deep-delved orbs rare wonder of me, Perceiving I had life; and I my words Continued, and thus spake; "He journeys up Perhaps more tardily then else he would, For others' sake. But tell me, if thou know'st, Where is Piccarda? Tell me, if I see Any of mark, among this multitude, Who eye me thus."—"My sister (she for whom, 'Twixt beautiful and good I cannot say Which name was fitter ) wears e'en now her crown, And triumphs in Olympus." Saying this, He added: "Since spare diet hath so worn Our semblance out, 't is lawful here to name Each one . This," and his finger then he rais'd, "Is Buonaggiuna,—Buonaggiuna, he Of Lucca: and that face beyond him, pierc'd Unto a leaner fineness than the rest, Had keeping of the church: he was of Tours, And purges by wan abstinence away Bolsena's eels and cups of muscadel." He show'd me many others, one by one, And all, as they were nam'd, seem'd well content; For no dark gesture I discern'd in any. I saw through hunger Ubaldino grind His teeth on emptiness; and Boniface, That wav'd the crozier o'er a num'rous flock. I saw the Marquis, who tad time erewhile To swill at Forli with less drought, yet so Was one ne'er sated. I howe'er, like him, That gazing 'midst a crowd, singles out one, So singled him of Lucca; for methought Was none amongst them took such note of me. Somewhat I heard him whisper of Gentucca: The sound was indistinct, and murmur'd there, Where justice, that so strips them, fix'd her sting. "Spirit!" said I, "it seems as thou wouldst fain Speak with me. Let me hear thee. Mutual wish To converse prompts, which let us both indulge." He, answ'ring, straight began: "Woman is born, Whose brow no wimple shades yet, that shall make My city please thee, blame it as they may. Go then with this forewarning. If aught false My whisper too implied, th' event shall tell But say, if of a truth I see the man Of that new lay th' inventor, which begins With 'Ladies, ye that con the lore of love'." To whom I thus: "Count of me but as one Who am the scribe of love; that, when he breathes, Take up my pen, and, as he dictates, write." "Brother!" said he, "the hind'rance which once held The notary with Guittone and myself, Short of that new and sweeter style I hear, Is now disclos'd. I see how ye your plumes Stretch, as th' inditer guides them; which, no question, Ours did not. He that seeks a grace beyond, Sees not the distance parts one style from other." And, as contented, here he held his peace. Like as the bird, that winter near the Nile, In squared regiment direct their course, Then stretch themselves in file for speedier flight; Thus all the tribe of spirits, as they turn'd Their visage, faster deaf, nimble alike Through leanness and desire. And as a man, Tir'd With the motion of a trotting steed, Slacks pace, and stays behind his company, Till his o'erbreathed lungs keep temperate time; E'en so Forese let that holy crew Proceed, behind them lingering at my side, And saying: "When shall I again behold thee?" "How long my life may last," said I, "I know not; This know, how soon soever I return, My wishes will before me have arriv'd. Sithence the place, where I am set to live, Is, day by day, more scoop'd of all its good, And dismal ruin seems to threaten it." "Go now," he cried: "lo! he, whose guilt is most, Passes before my vision, dragg'd at heels Of an infuriate beast. Toward the vale, Where guilt hath no redemption, on it speeds, Each step increasing swiftness on the last; Until a blow it strikes, that leaveth him A corse most vilely shatter'd. No long space Those wheels have yet to roll" (therewith his eyes Look'd up to heav'n) "ere thou shalt plainly see That which my words may not more plainly tell. I quit thee: time is precious here: I lose Too much, thus measuring my pace with shine." As from a troop of well-rank'd chivalry One knight, more enterprising than the rest, Pricks forth at gallop, eager to display His prowess in the first encounter prov'd So parted he from us with lengthen'd strides, And left me on the way with those twain spirits, Who were such mighty marshals of the world. When he beyond us had so fled mine eyes No nearer reach'd him, than my thought his words, The branches of another fruit, thick hung, And blooming fresh, appear'd. E'en as our steps Turn'd thither, not far off it rose to view. Beneath it were a multitude, that rais'd Their hands, and shouted forth I know not What Unto the boughs; like greedy and fond brats, That beg, and answer none obtain from him, Of whom they beg; but more to draw them on, He at arm's length the object of their wish Above them holds aloft, and hides it not. At length, as undeceiv'd they went their way: And we approach the tree, who vows and tears Sue to in vain, the mighty tree. "Pass on, And come not near. Stands higher up the wood, Whereof Eve tasted, and from it was ta'en 'this plant." Such sounds from midst the thickets came. Whence I, with either bard, close to the side That rose, pass'd forth beyond. "Remember," next We heard, "those noblest creatures of the clouds, How they their twofold bosoms overgorg'd Oppos'd in fight to Theseus: call to mind The Hebrews, how effeminate they stoop'd To ease their thirst; whence Gideon's ranks were thinn'd, As he to Midian march'd adown the hills." Thus near one border coasting, still we heard The sins of gluttony, with woe erewhile Reguerdon'd. Then along the lonely path, Once more at large, full thousand paces on We travel'd, each contemplative and mute. "Why pensive journey thus ye three alone?" Thus suddenly a voice exclaim'd: whereat I shook, as doth a scar'd and paltry beast; Then rais'd my head to look from whence it came. Was ne'er, in furnace, glass, or metal seen So bright and glowing red, as was the shape I now beheld. "If ye desire to mount," He cried, "here must ye turn. This way he goes, Who goes in quest of peace." His countenance Had dazzled me; and to my guides I fac'd Backward, like one who walks, as sound directs. As when, to harbinger the dawn, springs up On freshen'd wing the air of May, and breathes Of fragrance, all impregn'd with herb and flowers, E'en such a wind I felt upon my front Blow gently, and the moving of a wing Perceiv'd, that moving shed ambrosial smell; And then a voice: "Blessed are they, whom grace Doth so illume, that appetite in them Exhaleth no inordinate desire, Still hung'ring as the rule of temperance wills."
It was an hour, when he who climbs, had need To walk uncrippled: for the sun had now To Taurus the meridian circle left, And to the Scorpion left the night. As one That makes no pause, but presses on his road, Whate'er betide him, if some urgent need Impel: so enter'd we upon our way, One before other; for, but singly, none That steep and narrow scale admits to climb. E'en as the young stork lifteth up his wing Through wish to fly, yet ventures not to quit The nest, and drops it; so in me desire Of questioning my guide arose, and fell, Arriving even to the act, that marks A man prepar'd for speech. Him all our haste Restrain'd not, but thus spake the sire belov'd: Fear not to speed the shaft, that on thy lip Stands trembling for its flight." Encourag'd thus I straight began: "How there can leanness come, Where is no want of nourishment to feed?" "If thou," he answer'd, "hadst remember'd thee, How Meleager with the wasting brand Wasted alike, by equal fires consm'd, This would not trouble thee: and hadst thou thought, How in the mirror your reflected form With mimic motion vibrates, what now seems Hard, had appear'd no harder than the pulp Of summer fruit mature. But that thy will In certainty may find its full repose, Lo Statius here! on him I call, and pray That he would now be healer of thy wound." "If in thy presence I unfold to him The secrets of heaven's vengeance, let me plead Thine own injunction, to exculpate me." So Statius answer'd, and forthwith began: "Attend my words, O son, and in thy mind Receive them: so shall they be light to clear The doubt thou offer'st. Blood, concocted well, Which by the thirsty veins is ne'er imbib'd, And rests as food superfluous, to be ta'en From the replenish'd table, in the heart Derives effectual virtue, that informs The several human limbs, as being that, Which passes through the veins itself to make them. Yet more concocted it descends, where shame Forbids to mention: and from thence distils In natural vessel on another's blood. Then each unite together, one dispos'd T' endure, to act the other, through meet frame Of its recipient mould: that being reach'd, It 'gins to work, coagulating first; Then vivifies what its own substance caus'd To bear. With animation now indued, The active virtue (differing from a plant No further, than that this is on the way And at its limit that) continues yet To operate, that now it moves, and feels, As sea sponge clinging to the rock: and there Assumes th' organic powers its seed convey'd. 'This is the period, son! at which the virtue, That from the generating heart proceeds, Is pliant and expansive; for each limb Is in the heart by forgeful nature plann'd. How babe of animal becomes, remains For thy consid'ring. At this point, more wise, Than thou hast err'd, making the soul disjoin'd From passive intellect, because he saw No organ for the latter's use assign'd. "Open thy bosom to the truth that comes. Know soon as in the embryo, to the brain, Articulation is complete, then turns The primal Mover with a smile of joy On such great work of nature, and imbreathes New spirit replete with virtue, that what here Active it finds, to its own substance draws, And forms an individual soul, that lives, And feels, and bends reflective on itself. And that thou less mayst marvel at the word, Mark the sun's heat, how that to wine doth change, Mix'd with the moisture filter'd through the vine. "When Lachesis hath spun the thread, the soul Takes with her both the human and divine, Memory, intelligence, and will, in act Far keener than before, the other powers Inactive all and mute. No pause allow'd, In wond'rous sort self-moving, to one strand Of those, where the departed roam, she falls, Here learns her destin'd path. Soon as the place Receives her, round the plastic virtue beams, Distinct as in the living limbs before: And as the air, when saturate with showers, The casual beam refracting, decks itself With many a hue; so here the ambient air Weareth that form, which influence of the soul Imprints on it; and like the flame, that where The fire moves, thither follows, so henceforth The new form on the spirit follows still: Hence hath it semblance, and is shadow call'd, With each sense even to the sight endued: Hence speech is ours, hence laughter, tears, and sighs Which thou mayst oft have witness'd on the mount Th' obedient shadow fails not to present Whatever varying passion moves within us. And this the cause of what thou marvel'st at." Now the last flexure of our way we reach'd, And to the right hand turning, other care Awaits us. Here the rocky precipice Hurls forth redundant flames, and from the rim A blast upblown, with forcible rebuff Driveth them back, sequester'd from its bound. Behoov'd us, one by one, along the side, That border'd on the void, to pass; and I Fear'd on one hand the fire, on th' other fear'd Headlong to fall: when thus th' instructor warn'd: "Strict rein must in this place direct the eyes. A little swerving and the way is lost." Then from the bosom of the burning mass, "O God of mercy!" heard I sung; and felt No less desire to turn. And when I saw Spirits along the flame proceeding, I Between their footsteps and mine own was fain To share by turns my view. At the hymn's close They shouted loud, "I do not know a man;" Then in low voice again took up the strain, Which once more ended, "To the wood," they cried, "Ran Dian, and drave forth Callisto, stung With Cytherea's poison:" then return'd Unto their song; then marry a pair extoll'd, Who liv'd in virtue chastely, and the bands Of wedded love. Nor from that task, I ween, Surcease they; whilesoe'er the scorching fire Enclasps them. Of such skill appliance needs To medicine the wound, that healeth last.
While singly thus along the rim we walk'd, Oft the good master warn'd me: "Look thou well. Avail it that I caution thee." The sun Now all the western clime irradiate chang'd From azure tinct to white; and, as I pass'd, My passing shadow made the umber'd flame Burn ruddier. At so strange a sight I mark'd That many a spirit marvel'd on his way. This bred occasion first to speak of me, "He seems," said they, "no insubstantial frame:" Then to obtain what certainty they might, Stretch'd towards me, careful not to overpass The burning pale. "O thou, who followest The others, haply not more slow than they, But mov'd by rev'rence, answer me, who burn In thirst and fire: nor I alone, but these All for thine answer do more thirst, than doth Indian or Aethiop for the cooling stream. Tell us, how is it that thou mak'st thyself A wall against the sun, as thou not yet Into th' inextricable toils of death Hadst enter'd?" Thus spake one, and I had straight Declar'd me, if attention had not turn'd To new appearance. Meeting these, there came, Midway the burning path, a crowd, on whom Earnestly gazing, from each part I view The shadows all press forward, sev'rally Each snatch a hasty kiss, and then away. E'en so the emmets, 'mid their dusky troops, Peer closely one at other, to spy out Their mutual road perchance, and how they thrive. That friendly greeting parted, ere dispatch Of the first onward step, from either tribe Loud clamour rises: those, who newly come, Shout Sodom and Gomorrah!" these, "The cow Pasiphae enter'd, that the beast she woo'd Might rush unto her luxury." Then as cranes, That part towards the Riphaean mountains fly, Part towards the Lybic sands, these to avoid The ice, and those the sun; so hasteth off One crowd, advances th' other; and resume Their first song weeping, and their several shout. Again drew near my side the very same, Who had erewhile besought me, and their looks Mark'd eagerness to listen. I, who twice Their will had noted, spake: "O spirits secure, Whene'er the time may be, of peaceful end! My limbs, nor crude, nor in mature old age, Have I left yonder: here they bear me, fed With blood, and sinew-strung. That I no more May live in blindness, hence I tend aloft. There is a dame on high, who wind for us This grace, by which my mortal through your realm I bear. But may your utmost wish soon meet Such full fruition, that the orb of heaven, Fullest of love, and of most ample space, Receive you, as ye tell (upon my page Henceforth to stand recorded) who ye are, And what this multitude, that at your backs Have past behind us." As one, mountain-bred, Rugged and clownish, if some city's walls He chance to enter, round him stares agape, Confounded and struck dumb; e'en such appear'd Each spirit. But when rid of that amaze, (Not long the inmate of a noble heart) He, who before had question'd, thus resum'd: "O blessed, who, for death preparing, tak'st Experience of our limits, in thy bark! Their crime, who not with us proceed, was that, For which, as he did triumph, Caesar heard The snout of 'queen,' to taunt him. Hence their cry Of 'Sodom,' as they parted, to rebuke Themselves, and aid the burning by their shame. Our sinning was Hermaphrodite: but we, Because the law of human kind we broke, Following like beasts our vile concupiscence, Hence parting from them, to our own disgrace Record the name of her, by whom the beast In bestial tire was acted. Now our deeds Thou know'st, and how we sinn'd. If thou by name Wouldst haply know us, time permits not now To tell so much, nor can I. Of myself Learn what thou wishest. Guinicelli I, Who having truly sorrow'd ere my last, Already cleanse me." With such pious joy, As the two sons upon their mother gaz'd From sad Lycurgus rescu'd, such my joy (Save that I more represt it) when I heard From his own lips the name of him pronounc'd, Who was a father to me, and to those My betters, who have ever us'd the sweet And pleasant rhymes of love. So nought I heard Nor spake, but long time thoughtfully I went, Gazing on him; and, only for the fire, Approach'd not nearer. When my eyes were fed By looking on him, with such solemn pledge, As forces credence, I devoted me Unto his service wholly. In reply He thus bespake me: "What from thee I hear Is grav'd so deeply on my mind, the waves Of Lethe shall not wash it off, nor make A whit less lively. But as now thy oath Has seal'd the truth, declare what cause impels That love, which both thy looks and speech bewray." "Those dulcet lays," I answer'd, "which, as long As of our tongue the beauty does not fade, Shall make us love the very ink that trac'd them." "Brother!" he cried, and pointed at a shade Before him, "there is one, whose mother speech Doth owe to him a fairer ornament. He in love ditties and the tales of prose Without a rival stands, and lets the fools Talk on, who think the songster of Limoges O'ertops him. Rumour and the popular voice They look to more than truth, and so confirm Opinion, ere by art or reason taught. Thus many of the elder time cried up Guittone, giving him the prize, till truth By strength of numbers vanquish'd. If thou own So ample privilege, as to have gain'd Free entrance to the cloister, whereof Christ Is Abbot of the college, say to him One paternoster for me, far as needs For dwellers in this world, where power to sin No longer tempts us." Haply to make way For one, that follow'd next, when that was said, He vanish'd through the fire, as through the wave A fish, that glances diving to the deep. I, to the spirit he had shown me, drew A little onward, and besought his name, For which my heart, I said, kept gracious room. He frankly thus began: "Thy courtesy So wins on me, I have nor power nor will To hide me. I am Arnault; and with songs, Sorely lamenting for my folly past, Thorough this ford of fire I wade, and see The day, I hope for, smiling in my view. I pray ye by the worth that guides ye up Unto the summit of the scale, in time Remember ye my suff'rings." With such words He disappear'd in the refining flame.
Now was the sun so station'd, as when first His early radiance quivers on the heights, Where stream'd his Maker's blood, while Libra hangs Above Hesperian Ebro, and new fires Meridian flash on Ganges' yellow tide. So day was sinking, when the' angel of God Appear'd before us. Joy was in his mien. Forth of the flame he stood upon the brink, And with a voice, whose lively clearness far Surpass'd our human, "Blessed are the pure In heart," he Sang: then near him as we came, "Go ye not further, holy spirits!" he cried, "Ere the fire pierce you: enter in; and list Attentive to the song ye hear from thence." I, when I heard his saying, was as one Laid in the grave. My hands together clasp'd, And upward stretching, on the fire I look'd, And busy fancy conjur'd up the forms Erewhile beheld alive consum'd in flames. Th' escorting spirits turn'd with gentle looks Toward me, and the Mantuan spake: "My son, Here torment thou mayst feel, but canst not death. Remember thee, remember thee, if I Safe e'en on Geryon brought thee: now I come More near to God, wilt thou not trust me now? Of this be sure: though in its womb that flame A thousand years contain'd thee, from thy head No hair should perish. If thou doubt my truth, Approach, and with thy hands thy vesture's hem Stretch forth, and for thyself confirm belief. Lay now all fear, O lay all fear aside. Turn hither, and come onward undismay'd." I still, though conscience urg'd' no step advanc'd. When still he saw me fix'd and obstinate, Somewhat disturb'd he cried: "Mark now, my son, From Beatrice thou art by this wall Divided." As at Thisbe's name the eye Of Pyramus was open'd (when life ebb'd Fast from his veins), and took one parting glance, While vermeil dyed the mulberry; thus I turn'd To my sage guide, relenting, when I heard The name, that springs forever in my breast. He shook his forehead; and, "How long," he said, "Linger we now?" then smil'd, as one would smile Upon a child, that eyes the fruit and yields. Into the fire before me then he walk'd; And Statius, who erewhile no little space Had parted us, he pray'd to come behind. I would have cast me into molten glass To cool me, when I enter'd; so intense Rag'd the conflagrant mass. The sire belov'd, To comfort me, as he proceeded, still Of Beatrice talk'd. "Her eyes," saith he, "E'en now I seem to view." From the other side A voice, that sang, did guide us, and the voice Following, with heedful ear, we issued forth, There where the path led upward. "Come," we heard, "Come, blessed of my Father." Such the sounds, That hail'd us from within a light, which shone So radiant, I could not endure the view. "The sun," it added, "hastes: and evening comes. Delay not: ere the western sky is hung With blackness, strive ye for the pass." Our way Upright within the rock arose, and fac'd Such part of heav'n, that from before my steps The beams were shrouded of the sinking sun. Nor many stairs were overpass, when now By fading of the shadow we perceiv'd The sun behind us couch'd: and ere one face Of darkness o'er its measureless expanse Involv'd th' horizon, and the night her lot Held individual, each of us had made A stair his pallet: not that will, but power, Had fail'd us, by the nature of that mount Forbidden further travel. As the goats, That late have skipp'd and wanton'd rapidly Upon the craggy cliffs, ere they had ta'en Their supper on the herb, now silent lie And ruminate beneath the umbrage brown, While noonday rages; and the goatherd leans Upon his staff, and leaning watches them: And as the swain, that lodges out all night In quiet by his flock, lest beast of prey Disperse them; even so all three abode, I as a goat and as the shepherds they, Close pent on either side by shelving rock. A little glimpse of sky was seen above; Yet by that little I beheld the stars In magnitude and rustle shining forth With more than wonted glory. As I lay, Gazing on them, and in that fit of musing, Sleep overcame me, sleep, that bringeth oft Tidings of future hap. About the hour, As I believe, when Venus from the east First lighten'd on the mountain, she whose orb Seems always glowing with the fire of love, A lady young and beautiful, I dream'd, Was passing o'er a lea; and, as she came, Methought I saw her ever and anon Bending to cull the flowers; and thus she sang: "Know ye, whoever of my name would ask, That I am Leah: for my brow to weave A garland, these fair hands unwearied ply. To please me at the crystal mirror, here I deck me. But my sister Rachel, she Before her glass abides the livelong day, Her radiant eyes beholding, charm'd no less, Than I with this delightful task. Her joy In contemplation, as in labour mine." And now as glimm'ring dawn appear'd, that breaks More welcome to the pilgrim still, as he Sojourns less distant on his homeward way, Darkness from all sides fled, and with it fled My slumber; whence I rose and saw my guide Already risen. "That delicious fruit, Which through so many a branch the zealous care Of mortals roams in quest of, shall this day Appease thy hunger." Such the words I heard From Virgil's lip; and never greeting heard So pleasant as the sounds. Within me straight Desire so grew upon desire to mount, Thenceforward at each step I felt the wings Increasing for my flight. When we had run O'er all the ladder to its topmost round, As there we stood, on me the Mantuan fix'd His eyes, and thus he spake: "Both fires, my son, The temporal and eternal, thou hast seen, And art arriv'd, where of itself my ken No further reaches. I with skill and art Thus far have drawn thee. Now thy pleasure take For guide. Thou hast o'ercome the steeper way, O'ercome the straighter. Lo! the sun, that darts His beam upon thy forehead! lo! the herb, The arboreta and flowers, which of itself This land pours forth profuse! Till those bright eyes With gladness come, which, weeping, made me haste To succour thee, thou mayst or seat thee down, Or wander where thou wilt. Expect no more Sanction of warning voice or sign from me, Free of thy own arbitrement to choose, Discreet, judicious. To distrust thy sense Were henceforth error. I invest thee then With crown and mitre, sovereign o'er thyself."
Through that celestial forest, whose thick shade With lively greenness the new-springing day Attemper'd, eager now to roam, and search Its limits round, forthwith I left the bank, Along the champain leisurely my way Pursuing, o'er the ground, that on all sides Delicious odour breath'd. A pleasant air, That intermitted never, never veer'd, Smote on my temples, gently, as a wind Of softest influence: at which the sprays, Obedient all, lean'd trembling to that part Where first the holy mountain casts his shade, Yet were not so disorder'd, but that still Upon their top the feather'd quiristers Applied their wonted art, and with full joy Welcom'd those hours of prime, and warbled shrill Amid the leaves, that to their jocund lays inept tenor; even as from branch to branch, Along the piney forests on the shore Of Chiassi, rolls the gath'ring melody, When Eolus hath from his cavern loos'd The dripping south. Already had my steps, Though slow, so far into that ancient wood Transported me, I could not ken the place Where I had enter'd, when behold! my path Was bounded by a rill, which to the left With little rippling waters bent the grass, That issued from its brink. On earth no wave How clean soe'er, that would not seem to have Some mixture in itself, compar'd with this, Transpicuous, clear; yet darkly on it roll'd, Darkly beneath perpetual gloom, which ne'er Admits or sun or moon light there to shine. My feet advanc'd not; but my wond'ring eyes Pass'd onward, o'er the streamlet, to survey The tender May-bloom, flush'd through many a hue, In prodigal variety: and there, As object, rising suddenly to view, That from our bosom every thought beside With the rare marvel chases, I beheld A lady all alone, who, singing, went, And culling flower from flower, wherewith her way Was all o'er painted. "Lady beautiful! Thou, who (if looks, that use to speak the heart, Are worthy of our trust), with love's own beam Dost warm thee," thus to her my speech I fram'd: "Ah! please thee hither towards the streamlet bend Thy steps so near, that I may list thy song. Beholding thee and this fair place, methinks, I call to mind where wander'd and how look'd Proserpine, in that season, when her child The mother lost, and she the bloomy spring." As when a lady, turning in the dance, Doth foot it featly, and advances scarce One step before the other to the ground; Over the yellow and vermilion flowers Thus turn'd she at my suit, most maiden-like, Valing her sober eyes, and came so near, That I distinctly caught the dulcet sound. Arriving where the limped waters now Lav'd the green sward, her eyes she deign'd to raise, That shot such splendour on me, as I ween Ne'er glanced from Cytherea's, when her son Had sped his keenest weapon to her heart. Upon the opposite bank she stood and smil'd through her graceful fingers shifted still The intermingling dyes, which without seed That lofty land unbosoms. By the stream Three paces only were we sunder'd: yet The Hellespont, where Xerxes pass'd it o'er, (A curb for ever to the pride of man) Was by Leander not more hateful held For floating, with inhospitable wave 'Twixt Sestus and Abydos, than by me That flood, because it gave no passage thence. "Strangers ye come, and haply in this place, That cradled human nature in its birth, Wond'ring, ye not without suspicion view My smiles: but that sweet strain of psalmody, 'Thou, Lord! hast made me glad,' will give ye light, Which may uncloud your minds. And thou, who stand'st The foremost, and didst make thy suit to me, Say if aught else thou wish to hear: for I Came prompt to answer every doubt of thine." She spake; and I replied: "l know not how To reconcile this wave and rustling sound Of forest leaves, with what I late have heard Of opposite report." She answering thus: "I will unfold the cause, whence that proceeds, Which makes thee wonder; and so purge the cloud That hath enwraps thee. The First Good, whose joy Is only in himself, created man For happiness, and gave this goodly place, His pledge and earnest of eternal peace. Favour'd thus highly, through his own defect He fell, and here made short sojourn; he fell, And, for the bitterness of sorrow, chang'd Laughter unblam'd and ever-new delight. That vapours none, exhal'd from earth beneath, Or from the waters (which, wherever heat Attracts them, follow), might ascend thus far To vex man's peaceful state, this mountain rose So high toward the heav'n, nor fears the rage 0f elements contending, from that part Exempted, where the gate his limit bars. Because the circumambient air throughout With its first impulse circles still, unless Aught interpose to cheek or thwart its course; Upon the summit, which on every side To visitation of th' impassive air Is open, doth that motion strike, and makes Beneath its sway th' umbrageous wood resound: And in the shaken plant such power resides, That it impregnates with its efficacy The voyaging breeze, upon whose subtle plume That wafted flies abroad; and th' other land Receiving (as 't is worthy in itself, Or in the clime, that warms it), doth conceive, And from its womb produces many a tree Of various virtue. This when thou hast heard, The marvel ceases, if in yonder earth Some plant without apparent seed be found To fix its fibrous stem. And further learn, That with prolific foison of all seeds, This holy plain is fill'd, and in itself Bears fruit that ne'er was pluck'd on other soil. "The water, thou behold'st, springs not from vein, As stream, that intermittently repairs And spends his pulse of life, but issues forth From fountain, solid, undecaying, sure; And by the will omnific, full supply Feeds whatsoe'er On either side it pours; On this devolv'd with power to take away Remembrance of offence, on that to bring Remembrance back of every good deed done. From whence its name of Lethe on this part; On th' other Eunoe: both of which must first Be tasted ere it work; the last exceeding All flavours else. Albeit thy thirst may now Be well contented, if I here break off, No more revealing: yet a corollary I freely give beside: nor deem my words Less grateful to thee, if they somewhat pass The stretch of promise. They, whose verse of yore The golden age recorded and its bliss, On the Parnassian mountain, of this place Perhaps had dream'd. Here was man guiltless, here Perpetual spring and every fruit, and this The far-fam'd nectar." Turning to the bards, When she had ceas'd, I noted in their looks A smile at her conclusion; then my face Again directed to the lovely dame.
Singing, as if enamour'd, she resum'd And clos'd the song, with "Blessed they whose sins Are cover'd." Like the wood-nymphs then, that tripp'd Singly across the sylvan shadows, one Eager to view and one to 'scape the sun, So mov'd she on, against the current, up The verdant rivage. I, her mincing step Observing, with as tardy step pursued. Between us not an hundred paces trod, The bank, on each side bending equally, Gave me to face the orient. Nor our way Far onward brought us, when to me at once She turn'd, and cried: "My brother! look and hearken." And lo! a sudden lustre ran across Through the great forest on all parts, so bright I doubted whether lightning were abroad; But that expiring ever in the spleen, That doth unfold it, and this during still And waxing still in splendor, made me question What it might be: and a sweet melody Ran through the luminous air. Then did I chide With warrantable zeal the hardihood Of our first parent, for that there were earth Stood in obedience to the heav'ns, she only, Woman, the creature of an hour, endur'd not Restraint of any veil: which had she borne Devoutly, joys, ineffable as these, Had from the first, and long time since, been mine. While through that wilderness of primy sweets That never fade, suspense I walk'd, and yet Expectant of beatitude more high, Before us, like a blazing fire, the air Under the green boughs glow'd; and, for a song, Distinct the sound of melody was heard. O ye thrice holy virgins! for your sakes If e'er I suffer'd hunger, cold and watching, Occasion calls on me to crave your bounty. Now through my breast let Helicon his stream Pour copious; and Urania with her choir Arise to aid me: while the verse unfolds Things that do almost mock the grasp of thought. Onward a space, what seem'd seven trees of gold, The intervening distance to mine eye Falsely presented; but when I was come So near them, that no lineament was lost Of those, with which a doubtful object, seen Remotely, plays on the misdeeming sense, Then did the faculty, that ministers Discourse to reason, these for tapers of gold Distinguish, and it th' singing trace the sound "Hosanna." Above, their beauteous garniture Flam'd with more ample lustre, than the moon Through cloudless sky at midnight in her full. I turn'd me full of wonder to my guide; And he did answer with a countenance Charg'd with no less amazement: whence my view Reverted to those lofty things, which came So slowly moving towards us, that the bride Would have outstript them on her bridal day. The lady called aloud: "Why thus yet burns Affection in thee for these living, lights, And dost not look on that which follows them?" I straightway mark'd a tribe behind them walk, As if attendant on their leaders, cloth'd With raiment of such whiteness, as on earth Was never. On my left, the wat'ry gleam Borrow'd, and gave me back, when there I look'd. As in a mirror, my left side portray'd. When I had chosen on the river's edge Such station, that the distance of the stream Alone did separate me; there I stay'd My steps for clearer prospect, and beheld The flames go onward, leaving, as they went, The air behind them painted as with trail Of liveliest pencils! so distinct were mark'd All those sev'n listed colours, whence the sun Maketh his bow, and Cynthia her zone. These streaming gonfalons did flow beyond My vision; and ten paces, as I guess, Parted the outermost. Beneath a sky So beautiful, came foul and-twenty elders, By two and two, with flower-de-luces crown'd. All sang one song: "Blessed be thou among The daughters of Adam! and thy loveliness Blessed for ever!" After that the flowers, And the fresh herblets, on the opposite brink, Were free from that elected race; as light In heav'n doth second light, came after them Four animals, each crown'd with verdurous leaf. With six wings each was plum'd, the plumage full Of eyes, and th' eyes of Argus would be such, Were they endued with life. Reader, more rhymes Will not waste in shadowing forth their form: For other need no straitens, that in this I may not give my bounty room. But read Ezekiel; for he paints them, from the north How he beheld them come by Chebar's flood, In whirlwind, cloud and fire; and even such As thou shalt find them character'd by him, Here were they; save as to the pennons; there, From him departing, John accords with me. The space, surrounded by the four, enclos'd A car triumphal: on two wheels it came Drawn at a Gryphon's neck; and he above Stretch'd either wing uplifted, 'tween the midst And the three listed hues, on each side three; So that the wings did cleave or injure none; And out of sight they rose. The members, far As he was bird, were golden; white the rest With vermeil intervein'd. So beautiful A car in Rome ne'er grac'd Augustus pomp, Or Africanus': e'en the sun's itself Were poor to this, that chariot of the sun Erroneous, which in blazing ruin fell At Tellus' pray'r devout, by the just doom Mysterious of all-seeing Jove. Three nymphs ,k the right wheel, came circling in smooth dance; The one so ruddy, that her form had scarce Been known within a furnace of clear flame: The next did look, as if the flesh and bones Were emerald: snow new-fallen seem'd the third. Now seem'd the white to lead, the ruddy now; And from her song who led, the others took Their treasure, swift or slow. At th' other wheel, A band quaternion, each in purple clad, Advanc'd with festal step, as of them one The rest conducted, one, upon whose front Three eyes were seen. In rear of all this group, Two old men I beheld, dissimilar In raiment, but in port and gesture like, Solid and mainly grave; of whom the one Did show himself some favour'd counsellor Of the great Coan, him, whom nature made To serve the costliest creature of her tribe. His fellow mark'd an opposite intent, Bearing a sword, whose glitterance and keen edge, E'en as I view'd it with the flood between, Appall'd me. Next four others I beheld, Of humble seeming: and, behind them all, One single old man, sleeping, as he came, With a shrewd visage. And these seven, each Like the first troop were habited, hut wore No braid of lilies on their temples wreath'd. Rather with roses and each vermeil flower, A sight, but little distant, might have sworn, That they were all on fire above their brow. Whenas the car was o'er against me, straight. Was heard a thund'ring, at whose voice it seem'd The chosen multitude were stay'd; for there, With the first ensigns, made they solemn halt.
Soon as the polar light, which never knows Setting nor rising, nor the shadowy veil Of other cloud than sin, fair ornament Of the first heav'n, to duty each one there Safely convoying, as that lower doth The steersman to his port, stood firmly fix'd; Forthwith the saintly tribe, who in the van Between the Gryphon and its radiance came, Did turn them to the car, as to their rest: And one, as if commission'd from above, In holy chant thrice shorted forth aloud: "Come, spouse, from Libanus!" and all the rest Took up the song—At the last audit so The blest shall rise, from forth his cavern each Uplifting lightly his new-vested flesh, As, on the sacred litter, at the voice Authoritative of that elder, sprang A hundred ministers and messengers Of life eternal. "Blessed thou! who com'st!" And, "O," they cried, "from full hands scatter ye Unwith'ring lilies;" and, so saying, cast Flowers over head and round them on all sides. I have beheld, ere now, at break of day, The eastern clime all roseate, and the sky Oppos'd, one deep and beautiful serene, And the sun's face so shaded, and with mists Attemper'd at lids rising, that the eye Long while endur'd the sight: thus in a cloud Of flowers, that from those hands angelic rose, And down, within and outside of the car, Fell showering, in white veil with olive wreath'd, A virgin in my view appear'd, beneath Green mantle, rob'd in hue of living flame: And o'er my Spirit, that in former days Within her presence had abode so long, No shudd'ring terror crept. Mine eyes no more Had knowledge of her; yet there mov'd from her A hidden virtue, at whose touch awak'd, The power of ancient love was strong within me. No sooner on my vision streaming, smote The heav'nly influence, which years past, and e'en In childhood, thrill'd me, than towards Virgil I Turn'd me to leftward, panting, like a babe, That flees for refuge to his mother's breast, If aught have terrified or work'd him woe: And would have cried: "There is no dram of blood, That doth not quiver in me. The old flame Throws out clear tokens of reviving fire:" But Virgil had bereav'd us of himself, Virgil, my best-lov'd father; Virgil, he To whom I gave me up for safety: nor, All, our prime mother lost, avail'd to save My undew'd cheeks from blur of soiling tears. "Dante, weep not, that Virgil leaves thee: nay, Weep thou not yet: behooves thee feel the edge Of other sword, and thou shalt weep for that." As to the prow or stern, some admiral Paces the deck, inspiriting his crew, When 'mid the sail-yards all hands ply aloof; Thus on the left side of the car I saw, (Turning me at the sound of mine own name, Which here I am compell'd to register) The virgin station'd, who before appeared Veil'd in that festive shower angelical. Towards me, across the stream, she bent her eyes; Though from her brow the veil descending, bound With foliage of Minerva, suffer'd not That I beheld her clearly; then with act Full royal, still insulting o'er her thrall, Added, as one, who speaking keepeth back The bitterest saying, to conclude the speech: "Observe me well. I am, in sooth, I am Beatrice. What! and hast thou deign'd at last Approach the mountain? knewest not, O man! Thy happiness is whole?" Down fell mine eyes On the clear fount, but there, myself espying, Recoil'd, and sought the greensward: such a weight Of shame was on my forehead. With a mien Of that stern majesty, which doth surround mother's presence to her awe-struck child, She look'd; a flavour of such bitterness Was mingled in her pity. There her words Brake off, and suddenly the angels sang: "In thee, O gracious Lord, my hope hath been:" But went no farther than, "Thou Lord, hast set My feet in ample room." As snow, that lies Amidst the living rafters on the back Of Italy congeal'd when drifted high And closely pil'd by rough Sclavonian blasts, Breathe but the land whereon no shadow falls, And straightway melting it distils away, Like a fire-wasted taper: thus was I, Without a sigh or tear, or ever these Did sing, that with the chiming of heav'n's sphere, Still in their warbling chime: but when the strain Of dulcet symphony, express'd for me Their soft compassion, more than could the words "Virgin, why so consum'st him?" then the ice, Congeal'd about my bosom, turn'd itself To spirit and water, and with anguish forth Gush'd through the lips and eyelids from the heart. Upon the chariot's right edge still she stood, Immovable, and thus address'd her words To those bright semblances with pity touch'd: "Ye in th' eternal day your vigils keep, So that nor night nor slumber, with close stealth, Conveys from you a single step in all The goings on of life: thence with more heed I shape mine answer, for his ear intended, Who there stands weeping, that the sorrow now May equal the transgression. Not alone Through operation of the mighty orbs, That mark each seed to some predestin'd aim, As with aspect or fortunate or ill The constellations meet, but through benign Largess of heav'nly graces, which rain down From such a height, as mocks our vision, this man Was in the freshness of his being, such, So gifted virtually, that in him All better habits wond'rously had thriv'd. The more of kindly strength is in the soil, So much doth evil seed and lack of culture Mar it the more, and make it run to wildness. These looks sometime upheld him; for I show'd My youthful eyes, and led him by their light In upright walking. Soon as I had reach'd The threshold of my second age, and chang'd My mortal for immortal, then he left me, And gave himself to others. When from flesh To spirit I had risen, and increase Of beauty and of virtue circled me, I was less dear to him, and valued less. His steps were turn'd into deceitful ways, Following false images of good, that make No promise perfect. Nor avail'd me aught To sue for inspirations, with the which, I, both in dreams of night, and otherwise, Did call him back; of them so little reck'd him, Such depth he fell, that all device was short Of his preserving, save that he should view The children of perdition. To this end I visited the purlieus of the dead: And one, who hath conducted him thus high, Receiv'd my supplications urg'd with weeping. It were a breaking of God's high decree, If Lethe should be past, and such food tasted Without the cost of some repentant tear."