Page images


So he appeared ; and then bowed down his brow,

And with humility returned towards him,

And, where inferiors embrace, embraced him. “O glory of the Latians, thou,” he said,

“ Through whom our language showed what it could do,

O pride eternal of the place I came from, What merit or what grace to me reveals thee?

If I to hear thy words be worthy, tell me

If thou dost come from Hell, and from what cloister.” 6. Through all the circles of the doleful realm.”

Responded he, “ have I come hitherward ;

Heaven's power impelled me, and with that I come. I by not doing, not by doing, lost

The sight of that high sun which thou desirest,

And which too late by me was recognized. A place there is below not sad with torments,

But darkness only, where the lamentations

Have not the sound of wailing, but are sighs. There dwell I with the little innocents

Snatched by the teeth of Death, or ever they

Were from our human sinfulness exempt. There dwell I among those who the three saintly

Virtues did not put on, and without vice

The others knew and followed all of them. But if thou know and can, some indication

Give us by which we may the sooner come

Where Purgatory has its right beginning.”
He answered : “No fixed place has been assigned us;

'Tis lawful for me to go up and round;

So far as I can go, as guide I join thee. But see already how the day declines,

And to go up by night we are not able ;

Therefore 'tis well to think of some fair sojourn. Souls are there on the right hand here withdrawn;

If thou permit me I will lead thee to them,

And thou shalt know them not without delight.” “How is this?” was the answer ; “ should one wish

To mount by night would he prevented be

By others? or mayhap would not have power ? " And on the ground the good Sordello drew

His finger, saying, “See, this line alone

Thou couldst not pass after the sun is gone;
Not that aught else would hindrance give, however,

To going up, save the nocturnal darkness ;
This with the want of power the will perplexes.



We might indeed therewith return below,

And, wandering, walk the hill-side round about,

While the horizon holds the day imprisoned.” Thereon my Lord, as if in wonder, said :

“Do thou conduct us thither, where thou sayest

That we can take delight in tarrying.” Little had we withdrawn us from that place,

When I perceived the mount was hollowed out

In fashion as the valleys here are hollowed. “ Thitherward,” said that shade, “will we repair,

Where of itself the hill-side makes a lap,

And there for the new day will we await.” 'Twixt hill and plain there was a winding path

Which led us to the margin of that dell,

Where dies the border more than half away. Gold and fine silver, and scarlet and pearl-white,

The Indian wood resplendent and serene,

Fresh emerald the moment it is broken, By herbage and by flowers within that hollow

Planted, each one in colour would be vanquished,

As by its greater vanquished is the less. Nor in that place had nature painted only,

But of the sweetness of a thousand odours

Made there a mingled fragrance and unknown. Salve Regina,on the green and flowers

There seated, singing, spirits I beheld,

Which were not visible outside the valley. “Before the scanty sun now seeks his nest,"

Began the Mantuan who had led us thither,

“ Among them do not wish me to conduct you. Better from off this ledge the acts and faces

Of all of them will you discriminate,

Than in the plain below received among them. He who sits highest, and the semblance bears

Of having what he should have done neglected,

And to the others' song moves not his lips, Rudolph the Emperor was, who had the power

To heal the wounds that Italy have slain,

So that through others slowly she revives. The other, who in look doth comfort him,

Governed the region where the water springs,

The Moldau bears the Elbe, and Elbe the sea.
His name was Ottocar; and in swaddling-clothes

Far better he than bearded Winceslaus
His son, who feeds in luxury and ease.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]




And the small-nosed, who close in council seems

With him that has an aspect so benign,

Died fleeing and disflowering the lily; Look there, how he is beating at his breast !

Behold the other one, who for his cheek

Sighing has made of his own palm a bed; Father and father-in-law of France's Pest

Are they, and know his vicious life and lewd,

And hence proceeds the grief that so doth pierce them. He who appears so stalwart, and chimes in,

Singing, with that one of the manly nose,

The cord of every valour wore begirt; And if as King had after him remained

The stripling who in rear of him is sitting,

Well had the valour passed from vase to vase, Which cannot of the other heirs be said.

Frederick and Jacomo possess the realms,

But none the better heritage possesses. Not oftentimes upriseth through the branches

The probity of man; and this He wills

Who gives it, so that we may ask of Him. Eke to the large-nosed reach my words, no less

Than to the other, Pier, who with him sings;

Whence Provence and Apulia grieve already. The plant is as inferior to its seed,

As more than Beatrice and Margaret

Costanza boasteth of her husband still. Behold the monarch of the simple life,

Harry of England, sitting there alone;

He in his branches has a better issue. He who the lowest on the ground among them

Sits looking upward, is the Marquis William,

For whose sake Alessandria and her war Make Monferrat and Canavese weep.”






'Twas now the hour that turneth back desire

In those who sail the sea, and melts the heart,

The day they've said to their sweet friends farewell,
And the new pilgrim penetrates with love,

If he doth hear from far away a bell
That seemeth to deplore the dying day,


When I began to make of no avail

My hearing, and to watch one of the souls

Uprisen, that begged attention with its hand. It joined and lifted upward both its palms,

Fixing its eyes upon the orient,

As if it said to God, “ Naught else I care for.” " Te lucis anteso devoutly issued

Forth from its mouth, and with such dulcet notes,

It made me issue forth from my own mind. And then the others, sweetly and devoutly,

Accompanied it through all the hymn entire,

Having their eyes on the supernal wheels. Here, Reader, fix thine eyes well on the truth,

For now indeed so subtile is the veil,

Surely to penetrate within is easy. I saw that army of the gentle-born

Thereafterward in silence upward gaze,

As if in expectation, pale and humble;
And from on high come forth and down descend,

I saw two Angels with two flaming swords,

Truncated and deprivëd of their points. Green as the little leaflets just now born

Their garments were, which, by their verdant pinions

Beaten and blown abroad, they trailed behind. One just above us came to take his station,

And one descended to the opposite bank,

So that the people were contained between them. Clearly in them discerned I the blond head ;

But in their faces was the eye bewildered,

As faculty confounded by excess. “From Mary's bosom both of them have come,”

Sordello said, “as guardians of the valley

Against the serpent, that will come anon.” Whereupon I, who knew not by what road,

Turned round about, and closely drew myself,

Utterly frozen, to the faithful shoulders. And once again Sordello : “Now descend we

'Mid the grand shades, and we will speak to them;

Right pleasant will it be for them to see you.” Only three steps I think that I descended,

And was below, and saw one who was looking

Only at me, as if he fain would know me.
Already now the air was growing dark,

But not so that between his eyes and mine
It did not show what it before locked up.

Tow'rds me he moved, and I tow'rds him did move;

Noble Judge Nino! how it me delighted,

When I beheld thee not among the damned ! No greeting fair was left unsaid between us ;

Then asked he: “ How long is it since thou camest

O'er the far waters to the mountain's foot ?' “ Oh !” said I to him, “ through the dismal places

I came this morn; and am in the first life,

Albeit the other, going thus, I gain.” And on the instant my reply was heard,

He and Sordello both shrank back from me,

Like people who are suddenly bewildered. One to Virgilius, and the other turned

To one who sat there, crying, “ Up, Currado!

Come and behold what God in grace has willed !” Then, turned to me: “By that especial grace

Thou owest unto Him, who so conceals

His own first wherefore, that it has no ford, When thou shalt be beyond the waters wide,

Tell my Giovanna that she pray for me,

Where answer to the innocent is made. I do not think her mother loves me more,

Since she has laid aside her wimple white,

Which she, unhappy, needs must wish again. Through her full easily is comprehended

How long in woman lasts the fire of love,

If eye or touch do not relight it often. So fair a hatchment will not make for her

The Viper marshalling the Milanese

A-field, as would have made Gallura's Cock.” In this wise spake he, with the stamp impressed

Upon his aspect of that righteous zeal

Which measurably burneth in the heart. My greedy eyes still wandered up to heaven,

Still to that point where slowest are the stars,

Even as a wheel the nearest to its axle.
And my Conductor: “Son, what dost thou gaze at

Up there?” And I to him : “At those three torches

With which this hither pole is all on fire.” And he to me: “ The four resplendent stars

Thou sawest this morning are down yonder low,

And these have mounted up to where those were."
As he was speaking, to himself Sordello

Drew him, and said, “ Lo there our Adversary!”
And pointed with his finger to look thither.

« PreviousContinue »