Page images
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But tell us, if thou knowest, why such a shudder

Erewhile the mountain gave, and why together

All seemed to cry, as far as its moist feet?”
In asking he so hit the very eye

Of my desire, that merely with the hope

My thirst became the less unsatisfied.
Naught is there,” he began, “ that without order

May the religion of the mountain feel,

Nor aught that may be foreign to its custom. Free is it here from every permutation ;

What from itself heaven in itself receiveth

Can be of this the cause, and naught beside ; Because that neither rain, nor hail, nor snow,

Nor dew, nor hoar-frost any higher falls

Than the short, little stairway of three steps. Dense clouds do not appear, nor rarefied,

Nor coruscation, nor the daughter of Thaumas,

That often upon earth her region shifts ;
No arid vapour any farther rises

Than to the top of the three steps I spake of,

Whereon the Vicar of Peter has his feet.
Lower down perchance it trembles less or more,

But, for the wind that in the earth is hidden

I know not how, up here it never trembled.
It trembles here, whenever any soul

Feels itself pure, so that it soars, or moves

To mount aloft, and such a cry attends it.
Of purity the will alone gives proof,

Which, being wholly free to change its convent,

Takes by surprise the soul, and helps it fly.
First it wills well ; but the desire permits not,

Which divine justice with the self-same will

There was to sin, upon the torment sets.
And I, who have been lying in this pain

Five hundred years and more, but just now felt

A free volition for a better seat.
Therefore thou heardst the earthquake, and the pious

Spirits along the mountain rendering praise

Unto the Lord, that soon he speed them upwards.” So said he to him ; and since we enjoy

As much in drinking as the thirst is great,

I could not say how much it did me good.
And the wise Leader: “Now I see the net

That snares you here, and how ye are set free,
Why the earth quakes, and wherefore ye rejoice.

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

Now who thou wast be pleased that I may know;

And why so many centuries thou hast here

Been lying, let me gather from thy words.” " In days when the good Titus, with the aid

Of the supremest King, avenged the wounds

Whence issued forth the blood by Judas sold,
Under the name that most endures and honours,

Was I on earth,” that spirit made reply,

“Greatly renowned, but not with faith as yet. My vocal spirit was so sweet, that Rome

Me, a Thoulousian, drew unto herself,

Where I deserved to deck my brows with myrtle,
Statius the people name me still on earth;

I sang of Thebes, and then of great Achilles ;

But on the way fell with my second burden. The seeds unto my ardour were the sparks

Of that celestial flame which heated me,

Whereby more than a thousand have been fired; Of the Æneid speak I, which to me

A mother was, and was my nurse in song ;

Without this weighed I not a drachma's weight. And to have lived upon the earth what time

Virgilius lived, I would accept one sun

More than I must ere issuing from my ban.” These words towards me made Virgilius turn

With looks that in their silence said, "Be silent !”

But yet the power that wills cannot do all things; For tears and laughter are such pursuivants

Unto the passion from which each springs forth,

In the most truthful least the will they follow. I only smiled, as one who gives the wink;

Whereat the shade was silent, and it gazed

Into mine eyes, where most expression dwells; And, “As thou well mayst consummate a labour

So great," it said, "why did thy face just now

Display to me the lightning of a smile ?" Now am I caught on this side and on that ;

One keeps me silent, one to speak conjures me,

Wherefore I sigh, and I am understood. Speak," said my Master, "and be not afraid

Of speaking, but speak out, and say to him

What he demands with such solicitude."
Vhence I : “ Thou peradventure marvellest,

O antique spirit, at the smile I gave;
But I will have more wonder seize upon thee,

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

This one, who guides on high these eyes of mine,

Is that Virgilius, from whom thou didst learn

To sing aloud of men and of the Gods. If other cause thou to my smile imputedst,

Abandon it as false, and trust it was

Those words which thou hast spoken concerning him." Already he was stooping to embrace

My Teacher's feet; but he said to him : “ Brother,

Do not; for shade thou art, and shade beholdest." And he uprising : “ Now canst thou the sum

Of love which warms me to thee comprehend,

When this our vanity I disremember, Treating a shadow as substantial thing."

[ocr errors]


ALREADY was the Angel left behind us,

The Angel who to the sixth round had turned us,

Having erased one mark from off my face; And those who have in justice their desire

Had said to us, Beati,” in their voices,

With“ sitio," and without more ended it. And I, more light than through the other passes,

Went onward so, that without any labour

I followed upward the swift-footed spirits ; When thus Virgilius began : “ The love

Kindled by virtue aye another kindles,

Provided outwardly its flame appear. Hence from the hour that Juvenal descended

Among us into the infernal Limbo,

Who made apparent to me thy affection, My kindliness towards thee was as great

As ever bound one to an unseen person,

So that these stairs will now seem short to mo But tell me, and forgive me as a friend,

If too great confidence let loose the rein,

And as a friend now hold discourse with me; How was it possible within thy breast

For avarice to find place, 'mid so much wisdom

As thou wast filled with by thy diligence ?" These words excited Statius at first

Somewhat to laughter; afterward he ans wered:

Each word of thine is love's dear sign to me.

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

Verily oftentimes do things appear

Which give fallacious matter to our doubts,

Instead of the true causes which are hidden ! Thy question shows me thy belief to be

That I was niggard in the other life,

It may be from the circle where I was; Therefore know thou, that avarice was removed

Too far from me; and this extravagance

Thousands of lunar periods have punished. And were it not that I my thoughts uplifted,

When I the passage heard where thou exclaimest,

As if indignant, unto human nature, 'To what impellest thou not, O cursed hunger

Of gold, the appetite of mortal men ?'

Revolving I should feel the dismal joustings. Then I perceived the hands could spread too wide

Their wings in spending, and repented me

As well of that as of my other sins; How many with shorn hair shall rise again

Because of ignorance, which from this sin

Cuts off repentance living and in death! And know that the transgression which rebuts

By direct opposition any sin

Together with it here its verdure dries. Therefore if I have been among that folk

Which mourns its avarice, to purify me,

For its opposite has this befallen me." “Now when thou sangest the relentless weapons

Of the twofold affliction of Jocasta,"

The singer of the Songs Bucolic said, “ From that which Clio there with thee preludes,

It does not seem that yet had made thee faithful

That faith without which no good works suffice. If this be so, what candles or what sun

Scattered thy darkness so that thou didst trim

Thy sails behind the Fisherman thereafter ? * And he to him: “Thou first directedst me

Towards Parnassus, in its grots to drink,

And first concerning God didst me enlighten. Thou didst as he who walketh in the night,

Who bears his light behind, which helps him not,

But wary makes the persons after him,
When thou didst say: 'The age renews itself,

Justice returns, and man's primeval time,
And a new progeny descends from heaven.'

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

Through thee I Poet was, through thee a Christian ;

But that thou better see what I design,

To colour it will I extend my hand. Already was the world in every part

Pregnant with the true creed, disseminated

By messengers of the eternal kingdom ; And thy assertion, spoken of above,

With the new preachers was in unison ;

Whence I to visit them the custom took. Then they became so holy in my sight,

That, when Domitian persecuted them,

Not without tears of mine were their laments; And all the while that I on earth remained,

Them I befriended, and their upright customs

Made me disparage all the other sects. And ere I led the Greeks unto the rivers

Of Thebes, in poetry, I was baptized,

But out of fear was covertly a Christian, For a long time professing paganism ;

And this lukewarmness caused me the fourth circle

To circuit round more than four centuries. Thou, therefore, who hast raised the covering

That hid from me whatever good I speak of,

While in ascending we have time to spare, Tell me, in what place our friend Terentius,

Cæcilius, Plautus, Varro, if thou knowest;

Tell me if they are damned, and in what alley." These, Persius and myself, and others many,”

Replied my Leader, “ with that Grecian are

Whom more than all the rest the Muses suckled, In the first circle of the prison blind ;

Ofttimes we of the mountain hold discourse

Which has our nurses ever with itself. Euripides is with us, Antiphon,

Simonides, Agatho, and many other

Greeks who of old their brows with laurel decked. There some of thine own people may be seen,

Antigone, Deiphile and Argia,

And there Ismene mournful as of old. There she is seen who pointed out Langia ;

There is Tiresias' daughter, and there Thetis,

And there Deidamia with her sisters."
Silent already were the poets both,

Attent once more in looking round about,
From the ascent and from the walls released;

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »