Page images
PDF

As thy perception is by nature wrought
Up to their pitch.” The blessed Angel, soon
As we had reach'd him, hail'd us with glad voice:
“Here enter on a ladder far less steep
Than ye have yet encounter'd.” We forthwith
Ascending, heard behind us chanted sweet,
“Blessed the merciful,” and “Happy thou,
That conquer'st.” Lonely each, my guide and I,
Pursued our upward way; and as we went,
Some profit from his words I hoped to win,
And thus of him inquiring, framed my speech:
“What meant Romagna's spirit,' when he spake
Of bliss exclusive, with no partner shared ?".

He straight replied: "No wonder, since he knows
What sorrow waits on his own worst defect,
If he chide others, that they less may mourn.
Because ye point your wishes at a mark,
Where, by communion of possessors, part
Is lessen'd, envy bloweth up men's sighs.
No fear of that might touch ye, if the love
Of higher sphere exalted your desire.
For there, by how much more they call it 'ours,'
So much propriety of each in good
Encreases more, and heighten'd charity
Wraps that fair cloister in a brighter flame."

“Now lack I satisfaction more," said I, “Than if thou hadst been silent at the first; And doubt more gathers on my labouring thought. How can it chance, that good distributed, The many, that possess it, makes more rich, Than if 't were shared by few ?” He answering thus : “ Thy mind, reverting still to things of earth, Strikes darkness from true light. The highest Good Unlimited, ineffable, doth so speed To love, as beam to lucid body darts, Giving as much of ardour as it finds. The sempiternal effluence streams abroad, Spreading, wherever charity extends;

1“ Blessed the merciful.” Matt. v. 7.

2 Guido del Duca, of Brettinoro. A multitude, in fury burning, slay 8“ Over this city" Athens The answer of Pisistratus the tye named after Minerva ('Aoun ), in rant to his wife, when she urged consequence of her having produced him to inflict the punishment of a more valuable gift for it in the death on a young man, who, inolive than Neptune had done in the

So that the more aspirants to that bliss
Are multiplied, more good is there to love,
And more is loved; as mirrors, that reflect,
Each unto other, propagated light.
If these my words avail' not to allay
Thy thirsting, Beatrice thou shalt see,
Who of this want, and of all else thou hast,
Shall rid thee to the full. Provide but thou,
That from thy temples may be soon erased,
E’en as the two already, those five scars,
That, when they pain thee worst, then kindliest heal."

“Thou," I had said, "content'st me;" when I saw
The other round was gain'd, and wondering eyes
Did keep me mute. There suddenly I seem'd
By an extatic vision wrapt away;
And in a temple saw, methought, a crowd
Of many persons; and at the entrance stood
A dame, whose sweet demeanour did express
A mother's love, who said, “ Child! why hast thou
Dealt with us thus? Behold thy sire and I
Sorrowing have sought thee;" and so held her peace;
And straight the vision fled. A female next
Appear'd before me, down whose visage coursed
Those waters, that grief forces out from one
By deep resentment stung, who seem'd to say:
“If thou, Pisistratus, be lord indeed
Over this city,' named with such debate
Of adverse gods, and whence each science sparkles,
Avenge thee of those arms, whose bold embrace
Hath clasp'd our daughter;" and to her, meseem'd,
Benign and meek, with visage undisturb’d,
Her sovran spake: “How shall we those requite
Who wish us evil, if we thus condemn
The man that loves us?” After that I saw

flamed with love for his daughter, horse.

had snatched a kiss from her in * " How shall we those requite?” public.

With stones a stripling youth,' and shout amain
“ Destroy, destroy;” and him I saw, who bow'd
Heavy with death unto the ground, yet made
His eyes, unfolded upward, gates to Heaven,
Praying forgiveness of the Almighty Sire,
Amidst that cruel conflict, on his foes,
With looks that win compassion to their aim.

Soon as my spirit, from her airy flight
Returning, sought again the things whose truth
Depends not on her shaping, I observed
She had not roved to falsehood in her dreams.

Meanwhile the leader, who might see I moved
As one who struggles to shake off his sleep,
Exclaim'd: “What ails thee, that thou canst not hold
Thy footing firm; but more than half a league
Hast travel'd with closed eyes and tottering gait,
Like to a man by wine or sleep o'ercharged ?”

“ Beloved father! so thou deign," said I, To listen, I will tell thee what appear'd Before me, when so fail'd my sinking steps."

He thus: “Not if thy countenance were mask'd
With hundred vizards, could a thought of thine,
How small soe'er, elude me. What thou saw'st
Was shown, that freely thou mightst ope thy heart
To the waters of peace, that flow diffused
From their eternal fountain. I not ask'd,
What ails thee? for such cause as he doth, who
Looks only with that eye, which sees no more,
When spiritless the body lies; but ask'd,
To give fresh vigour to thy foot. Such goads,
The slow and loitering need; that they be found
Not wanting, when their hour of watch returns.”

So on we journey'd, through the evening sky
Gazing intent, far onward as our eyes,
With level view, could stretch against the bright
Vespertine ray: and lo! by slow degrees
Gathering, a fog made towards us, dark as night.
There was no room for 'scaping; and that mist
Bereft us, both of sight and the pure air.

0" A stripling youth.” The Protomartyr Stephen,

CANTO XVI

ARGUMENT.-As they proceed through the mist, they hear the voices of spirits praying. Marco Lombardo, one of these, points out to Dante the error of such as impute our actions to necessity; explains to him that man is endued with free will; and shows that much of human depravity results from the undue mixture of spiritual and temporal authority in rulers.

T TELL'S dunnest gloom, or night unlustrous, dark,

Of every planet '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. Entering 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 listening 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
Dividedst 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 'tis 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
Thorough 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 loosed 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's : 1
Not inexperienced 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 urged mé, doubled now
By thine opinion, when I couple that
With one elsewhere declared; each strengthening 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; 1 A Venetian gentleman. "Lom- friend Riccardo da Camino, lord of bardo” both was his surname and Trevigi, who raised a contribution denoted the country, to which he among the nobles of Lombardy; of belonged. G. Villani, lib. vii. cap. which when Marco was informed, he cxx., terms him “ a wise and worthy wrote back with much indignation courtier." Benvenuto da Imola, to Riccardo, that he had rather die says Landino, relates of him, that than remain under obligations to so being imprisoned and not able to many benefactors. Riccardo then pay his ransom, he wrote to his

paid the whole out of his own purse.

« PreviousContinue »