Page images
PDF

(When we some thousand steps, I say, had past,)
As at a throw the nervous arm could fling;
When all drew backward on the massy crags
Of the steep bank, and firmly stood unmoved,
As one, who walks in doubt, might stand to look.
“O spirits perfect! O already chosen l’”
Virgil to them began: “by that blest peace,
Which, as I deem, is for you all prepared,
Instruct us where the mountain low declines,
So that attempt to mount it be not vain.
For who knows most, him loss of time most grieves.”
As sheep, that step from forth their fold, by one,
Or pairs, or three at once; meanwhile the rest
Stand fearfully, bending the eye and nose
To ground, and what the foremost does, that do
The others, gathering round her if she stops,
Simple and quiet, nor the cause discern;
So saw I moving to advance the first,
Who of that fortunate crew were at the head,
Of modest mien, and graceful in their gait.
When they before me had beheld the light
From my right side fall broken on the ground,
So that the shadow reach'd the cave; they stopp'd,
And somewhat back retired: the same did all
Who follow'd, though unweeting of the cause.
“Unask'd of you, yet freely I confess,
This is a human body which ye see.
That the sun's light is broken on the ground,
Marvel not: but believe, that not without
Virtue derived from Heaven, we to climb
Over this wall aspire.” So them bespake
My master; and that virtuous tribe rejoin'd:
“Turn, and before you there the entrance lies; ”
Making a signal to us with bent hands.
Then of them one began. “Whoe'er thou art,
Who journey'st thus this way, thy visage turn;
Think if me elsewhere thou hast ever seen.”
I toward him turn'd, and with fix'd eye beheld.
Comely and fair, and gentle of aspect
He seem’d, but on one brow a gash was mark'd.

Costmy fair daind Sicilia her, if

When humbly I disclaim'd to have beheld
Him ever: “Now behold!” he said, and show'd
High on his breast a wound: then smiling spake.

"I am Manfredi, grandson to the Queen
Costanza:* whence I pray thee, when return'd,
To my fair daughter go, the parent glad
Of Aragonia and Sicilia's pride;
And of the truth inform her, if of me
Aught else be told. When by two mortal blows
My frame was shatter'd, I betook myself
Weeping to Him, who of free will forgives.
My sins were horrible: but so wide arms
Hath goodness infinite, that it receives
All who turn to it. Had this text divine
Been of Cosenza's shepherd better scann'd,
Who then by Clement® on my hunt was set,
Yet at the bridge's head my bones had lain,
Near Benevento, by the heavy mole
Protected; but the rain now drenches them,
And the wind drives, out of the kingdom's bounds,
Far as the stream of Verde," where, with lights
Extinguish’d, he removed them from their bed.
Yet by their curse we are not so destroy'd, .
But that the eternal Love may turn, while hope
Retains her verdant blossom. True it is,
That such one as in contumacy dies

3“ Manfredi.” King of Naples and Sicily, and the natural son of Frederick II. He was lively and agreeable in his manners, delighted in poetry, music, and dancing, was luxurious and ambitious, void of_religion, and in his philosophy an Epicurean. He fell in the battle with Charles of Anjou in 1265, alluded to in Canto xxviii of “Hell,” ver. 13, or rather in that of Benevento. The successes of Charles were so rapid. ly followed up that our author, exact as he generally is, might not have thought it necessary to distinguish them in point of time. “Dying excommunicated, King Charles did not allow of his being buried in sacred ground, but he was interred near the bridge of Benevento; and on his grave there was cast a stone by every one of the army, whence there

was formed a great mound of stones. But some have said, that afterward, by command of the Pope, the Bishop of Cosenza took up his body and sent it out of the kingdom, because it was the land of the Church; and that it was buried by the river Verde, on the borders of the kingdom and of Campagna.”

See “ Paradise," Canto iii. 121. 5 Costanza, the daughter of Manfredi, and wife of Peter III, King of Arragon, by whom she was mother to Frederick, King of Sicily, and James, King of Arragon. With the latter of these she was at Rome, 1296.

8“ Clement.” Pope Clement IV.

7“ The stream of Verde.” A river near Ascoli, that falls into the Tronto. The “ extinguished lights" formed part of the ceremony at the interment of one excommunicated.

Against the holy Church, though he repent,
Must wander thirty-fold for all the time
In his presumption past: if such decree
Be not by prayers of good men shorter made.
Look therefore if thou canst advance my bliss;
Revealing to my good Costanza, how
Thou hast beheld me, and beside, the terms
Laid on me of that interdict; for here
By means of those below much profit comes."

CANTO IV ARGUMENT.—Dante and Virgil ascend the mountain of Purgatory, by a steep and narrow path pent in on each side by rock, till they reach a part of it that opens into a ledge or cornice. There seating themselves, and turning to the east, Dante wonders at seeing the sun on their left, the cause of which is explained to him by Virgil; and while they continue their discourse, a voice addresses them, at which they turn, and find several spirits behind the rock, and amongst the rest one named Belacqua, who had been known to our Poet on earth, and who tells that he is doomed to linger there on account of his having delayed his repentance to the last.

THEN by sensations of delight or pain,

That any of our faculties hath seized,

Entire the soul collects herself, it seems
She is intent upon that power alone;
And thus the error is disproved, which holds
The soul not singly lighted in the breast.
And therefore whenas aught is heard or seen,
That firmly keeps the soul toward it turn'd,
Time passes, and a man perceives it not.
For that, whereby we hearken, is one power;
Another that, which the whole spirit hath:
This is as it were bound, while that is free.

This found I true by proof, hearing that spirit
And wondering; for full fifty steps aloft
The sun had measured, unobserved of me,
When we arrived where all with one accord
The spirits shouted, “Here is what ye ask.”
1 Three hours twenty minutes; fifteen degrees to an hour.

while e spirike power

A larger aperture oft-times is stopt, With forked stake of thorn by villager, When the ripe grape imbrowns, than was the path, By which my guide, and I behind him close, Ascended solitary, when that troop Departing left us. On Sanleo's road Who journeys, or to Noli low descends, Or mounts Bismantua's* height, must use his feet; But here a man had need to fly, I mean With the swift wing and plumes of high desire, Conducted by his aid, who gave me hope, And with light furnish'd to direct my way.

We through the broken rock ascended, close Pent on each side, while underneath the ground Ask'd help of hands and feet. When we arrived Near on the highest ridge of the steep bank, Where the plain level open'd, I exclaim'd, “O Master! say, which way can we proceed.”

He answer'd, “Let no step of thine recede. Behind me gain the mountain, till to us Some practised guide appear.” That eminence Was lofty, that no eye might reach its point; And the side proudly rising, more than line From the mid quadrant to the centre drawn. I, wearied, thus began: “Parent beloved ! Turn and behold how I remain alone, If thou stay not.” “My son!” he straight replied, “ Thus far put forth thy strength; " and to a track Pointed, that, on this side projecting, round Circles the hill. His words so spurr'd me on, That I, behind him, clambering forced myself, Till my feet press’d the circuit plain beneath. There both together seated, turn'd we round To eastward, whence was our ascent: and oft Many beside have with delight look'd back.

First on the nether shores I turn'd mine eyes,

3“ Sanleo.” A fortress on the summit of Montefeltro. The situation is described by Troya, “ Veltro Allegorico," p. 11. It is a con. spicuous object to travellers along

the cornice on the Riviera di Genoa.

3 “ Noli.” In the Genoese terri. tory, between Finale and Savona.

"" Bismantua." A steep moun. tain in the territory of Reggio.

Then raised them to the sun, and wondering mark'd
That from the left it smote us. Soon perceived
That poet sage, how at the car of light
Amazed I stood, where 'twixt us and the north
Its course it enter'd. Whence he thus to me:
“Were Leda's offspring now in company
Of that broad mirror, that high up and low
Imparts his light beneath, thou mightst behold
The ruddy Zodiac nearer to the Bears
Wheel, if its ancient course it not forsook.
How that may be, if thou wouldst think; within
Pondering, imagine Sion with this mount
Placed on the earth, so that to both be one
Horizon, and two hemispheres apart,
Where lies the path' that Phaëton ill knew
To guide his erring chariot: thou wilt see
How of necessity by this, on one,
He passes, while by that on the other side;
If with clear view thine intellect attend."

“Of truth, kind teacher !” I exclaim'd, “ so clear
Aught saw I never, as I now discern,
Where seem'd my ken to fail, that the mid orb®
Of the supernal motion (which in terms
Of art is call’d the Equator, and remains
Still 'twixt the sun and winter) for the cause

Thou hast assign'd, from hence toward the north 6“ Amazed.” He wonders that be- of the Zodiac never changes, nor ing turned to the east he should appears to change, with respect to see the sun on his left, since in all the remainder of the heavens."the regions on this side of the tropic Lombardi. of Cancer it is seen on the right of 7" The path.” The ecliptic. one who turns his face toward the 8“ Thou wilt see.” “ If you coneast; not recollecting that he was sider that this mountain of Purganow antipodal to Europe, from tory, and that of Sion, are antipodal whence he had seen the sun taking to each other, you will perceive that an opposite course.

the sun must rise on opposite sides B “As the constellation of the of the respective eminences. Gemini is nearer the Bears than

O“ That the mid orb.” “ That Aries is, it is certain that if the the equator (which is always sit. sun, instead of being in Aries, had uated between that part where, when been in Gemini, both the sun and the sun is, he causes summer, and that portion of the Zodiac made the other where his absence pro' ruddy' by the sun, would have duces winter) recedes from this been seen to wheel nearer to the mountain toward the north, at the Bears. By the 'ruddy Zodiac' time when the Jews inhabiting must necessarily be understood that Mount Sion saw it depart toward portion of the Zodiac affected or the south.”—Lombardi. made red by the sun; for the whole

6- VOL. XX

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »