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Young Ganymede, from his associates 'reft,
Was snatch'd aloft to the high consistory.
“Perhaps,” thought I within me," here alone
He strikes his quarry, and elsewhere disdains
To pounce upon the prey.” Therewith, it seem'd,
A little wheeling in his aëry tour,
Terrible as the lightning, rush'd he down,
And snatch'd me upward even to the fire.
There both, I thought, the eagle and myself
Did burn; and so intense the imagined flames,
That needs my sleep was broken off. As erst
Achilles shook himself, and round him 'roll'd
His waken'd eyeballs, wondering where he was,
Whenas his mother had from Chiron filed
To Scyros, with him sleeping in her arms;
There whence the Greeks did after sunder him;
E’en thus I shook me, soon as from my face
The slumber parted, turning deadly pale,
Like one ice-struck with dread. Sole at my side
My comfort stood: and the bright sun was now
More than two hours aloft: and to the sea
My looks were turn'd. “Fear not," my master cried,
“ Assured we are at happy point. Thy strength
Shrink not, but rise dilated. Thou art come
To Purgatory now. Lo! there the cliff
That circling bounds it. Lo! the entrance there,
Where it doth seem disparted. Ere the dawn
Usher'd the day-light, when thy wearied soul
Slept in thee, o'er the flowery vale beneath
A lady came, and thus bespake me: “I
Am Lucia. Suffer me to take this man,
Who slumbers. Easier so his way shall speed.'
Sordello and the other gentle shapes
Tarrying, she bare thee up: and, as day shone,
This summit reach'd: and I pursued her steps.
Here did she place thee. First, her lovely eyes
That open entrance show'd me; then at once
She vanish'd with thy sleep." Like one, whose doubts
Are chased by certainty, and terror turn'd
To comfort on discovery of the truth,
Such was the change in me: and as my guide
Beheld me fearless, up along the cliff
He moved, and I behind him, toward the height.
Reader! thou markest how my theme doth rise;
Nor wonder therefore, if more artfully
I prop the structure. Nearer now we drew,
Arrived whence, in that part, where first a breach
As of a wall appear'd, I could descry
A portal, and three steps beneath, that led
For inlet there, of different colour each;
And one who watch'd, but spake not yet a word.
As more and more mine eye did stretch its view,
I mark'd him seated on the highest step,
In visage such, as past my power to bear.
Grasp'd in his hand, a naked sword glanced back
The rays so toward me, that I oft in vain
My sight directed. “ Speak, from whence ye stand;"
He cried: “What would ye? Where is your escort?
Take heed your coming upward harm ye not.”
“A heavenly dame, not skilless of these things,” Replied the instructor, “ told us, even now, 'Pass that way: here the gate is.'”-“ And may she, Befriending, prosper your ascent,” resumed The courteous keeper of the gate: “ Come then Before our steps." We straightway thither came.
The lowest stair was marble white, so smooth And polish'd, that therein my mirror'd form Distinct I saw. The next of hue more dark Than sablest grain, a rough and singed block, Crack'd lengthwise and across. The third, that lay Massy above, seem'd porphyry, that Alamed Red as the life-blood spouting from a vein. On this God's angel either foot sustain'd, Upon the threshold seated, which appear'd A rock of diamond. Up the trinal steps My leader cheerly drew me. “Ask," said he, “With humble heart, that he unbar the bolt.” 5 The white step suggests the con- porphyry, the fervor with which ho science of the penitent reflecting his resolves on the future pursuit of offenses; the burnt and cracked one, his contrition on their account; the
Piously at his holy feet devolved
I cast me, praying him for pity's sake
That he would open to me; but first fell
Thrice on my bosom prostrate. Seven times
The letter, that denotes the inward stain,
He, on my forehead, with the blunted point
Of his drawn sword, inscribed. And “Look,” he cried,
“When enter'd, that thou wash these scars away.”
Ashes, or earth ta'en dry out of the ground,
Were of one colour with the robe he wore.
From underneath that vestment forth he drew
Two keys,” of metal twain: the one was gold,
Its fellow silver. With the pallid first,
And next the burnish'd, he so ply'd the gate,
As to content me well. “Whenever one
Faileth of these, that in the key-hole straight
It turn not, to this alley then expect
Access in vain.” Such were the words he spake.
“ One is more precious: 8 but the other needs
Skill and sagacity, large share of each,
Ere its good task to disengage the knot
Be worthily perform’d. From Peter these
I hold, of him instructed that I err
Rather in opening, than in keeping fast;
So but the suppliant at my feet implore.”
Then of that hallow'd gate he thrust the door,
Exclaiming, “Enter, but this warning hear:
He forth again departs who looks behind.”
As in the hinges of that sacred ward
The swivels turn'd, sonorous metal strong,
Harsh was the grating; nor so surlily
Roar'd the Tarpeian, when by force bereft
To leanness doom'd. Attentively I turn'd,
Listening the thunder that first issued forth;
And “We praise thee, O God," methought I heard,
In accents blended with sweet melody.
The strains came o'er mine ear, e'en as the sound
Of choral voices, that in solemn chant
With organo mingle, and now high and clear
Come swelling, now float indistinct away.
ARGUMENT.-Being admitted at the gate of Purgatory, our Poets ascend a winding path up the rock, till they reach an open and level space that extends each way round the mountain. On the side that rises, and which is of white marble, are seen artfully engraven many stories of humility, which whilst they are contemplating, there approach the souls of those who expiate the sin of pride, and who are bent down beneath the weight of heavy stones.
CHEN we had passed the threshold of the gate,
(Which the soul's ill affection doth disuse,
Making the crooked seem the straighter path,)
I heard its closing sound. Had mine eyes turn'd,
For that offence what plea might have avail'd ?
We mounted up the riven rock, that wound
On either side alternate, as the wave
Flies and advances. “Here some little art
Behoves us,” said my leader, “that our steps
Observe the varying flexure of the path."
Thus we so slowly sped, that with cleft orb
The moon once more o'erhangs her watery couch,
Ere we that strait have threaded. But when free,
We came, and open, where the mount above
One solid mass, retires; I spent with toil,
And both uncertain of the way, we stood,
Upon a plain more lonesome than the roads
That traverse desert wilds. From whence the brink
Borders upon vacuity, to foot
Of the steep bank that rises still, the space
Had measured thrice the stature of a man:
And, distant as mine eye could wing its flight,
To leftward now and now to right despatch'd,
That cornice equal in extent appear'd.
Not yet our feet had on that summit moved,
When I discover'd that the bank, around,
Whose proud uprising all ascent denied,
Was marble white; and so exactly wrought
With quaintest sculpture, that not there alone
Had Polycletus, but e'en nature's self
Been shamed. The Angel (who came down to earth
With tidings of the peace so many years
Wept for in vain, that oped the heavenly gates
From their long interdict) before us seem'd,
In a sweet act, so sculptured to the life,
He look'd no silent image. One had sworn
He had said “Hail !” for she was imaged there,
By whom the key did open to God's love;
And in her act as sensibly imprest
That word, “ Behold the handmaid of the Lord,”
As figure seal'd on wax. “Fix not thy mind
On one place only,” said the guide beloved,
Who had me near him on that part where lies
The heart of man. My sight forthwith I turn'd,
And mark'd, behind the Virgin Mother's form,
Upon that side where he that moved me stood,
Another story graven on the rock.
I past athwart the bard, and drew me near,
That it might stand more aptly for my view.
There, in the self-same marble, were engraved
The cart and kine, drawing the sacred ark,
That from unbidden office awes mankind.
Before it came much people; and the whole
Parted in seven quires. One sense cried "Nay,"
Another, “ Yes, they sing." Like doubt arose
Betwixt the eye and smell, from the curl'd fume
Of incense breathing up the well-wrought toil.
Preceding the blest vessel, onward came
With light dance leaping, girt in humble guise,