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CANTO XXI

ARGUMENT.-The two Poets are overtaken by the spirit of Statius, who, being cleansed, is on his way to Paradise, and who explains the cause of the mountain shaking, and of the hymn; his joy at beholding Virgil.

THE natural thirst, ne'er quench'd but from the well?

Whereof the woman of Samaria craved,

Excited; haste, along the cumber'd path,
After my guide, impell’d; and pity moved
My bosom for the 'vengeful doom though just.
When lo! even as Luke' relates, that Christ
Appear'd unto the two upon their way,
New-risen from His vaulted grave; to us
A shade appear'd, and after us approach'd,
Contemplating the crowd beneath its feet.
We were not ware of it; so first it spake,
Saying, “ God give you peace, my brethren!" then
Sudden we turn'd: and Virgil such salute,
As fitted that kind greeting, gave; and cried :
“Peace in the blessed council be thy lot,
Awarded by that righteous court which me
To everlasting banishment exiles.”

“How!” he exclaim'd, nor from his speed meanwhile Desisting; “If that ye be spirits whom God Vouchsafes not room above; who up the height Has been thus far your guide ?” To whom the bard: “If thou observe the tokens,which this man, Traced by the finger of the Angel, bears; 'Tis plain that in the kingdom of the just He needs must share. But sithence she," whose wheel Spins day and night, for him not yet had drawn That yarn, which on the fatal distaff piled, Clotho apportions to each wight that breathes;

1 “ The well.” “The woman saith unto_him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not."'-John, iv. 15.

2“ Luke." Chapter xxiv. 13. _

8“ The tokens." The letter P for Peccata, sins, inscribed upon his

forehead by the Angel, in order to his being cleared of them in his pas sage through Purgatory to Paradise.

“ She." Lachesis, one of the three fates.

His soul, that sister is to mine and thine,
Not of herself could mount; for not like ours
Her ken: whence I, from forth the ample gulf
Of Hell, was ta'en, to lead him, and will lead
Far as my lore avails. But, if thou know,
Instruct us for what cause, the mount erewhile
Thus shook, and trembled: wherefore all at once
Seem'd shouting, even from his wave-wash'd foot.”
That questioning so tallied with my wish,
The thirst did feel abatement of its edge
E’en from expectance. He forthwith replied:
“In its devotion, nought irregular
This mount can witness, or by punctual rule
Unsanction'd; here from every change exempt,
Other than that, which Heaven in itself
Doth of itself receive, no influence
Can reach us. Tempest none, shower, hail, or snow,
Hoar frost, or dewy moistness higher falls
Than that brief scale of threefold steps: thick clouds,
Nor scudding rack, are ever seen: swift glance
Ne'er lightens; nor Thaumantian Iris gleams,
That yonder often shifts on each side Heaven.
Vapour adust doth never mount above
The highest of the trinal stairs, whereon
Peter's vicegerent stands. Lower perchance,
With various motion rock'd, trembles the soil:
But here, through wind in earth's deep hollow pent,
I know not how, yet never trembled: then
Trembles, when any spirit feels itself
So purified, that it may rise, or move
For rising; and such loud acclaim ensues.
Purification, by the will alone,
Is proved, that free to change society
Seizes the soul rejoicing in her will.
Desire of bliss is present from the first;
But strong propension hinders, to that wish
By the just ordinance of Heaven opposed;
Propension now as eager to fulfil
The allotted torment, as erewhile to sin.
And I, who in this punishment had lain

Five hundred years and more, but now have felt
Free wish for happier clime. Therefore thou felt'st
The mountain tremble; and the spirits devout
Heard'st, over all his limits, utter praise
To that liege Lord, whom I entreat their joy
To hasten.” Thus he spake : and, since the draught
Is grateful ever as the thirst is keen,
No words may speak my fulness of content.

“Now," said the instructor sage, “I see the net
That takes ye here; and how the toils are loosed;
Why rocks the mountain, and why ye rejoice.
Vouchsafe, that from thy lips I next may learn
Who on the earth thou wast; and wherefore here,
So many an age, wert prostrate.”—“In that time,
When the good Titus," with Heaven's King to help,
Avenged those piteous gashes, whence the blood
By Judas sold did issue; with the name
Most lasting and most honor'd, there, was I
Abundantly renown'd,” the shade replied,
“Not yet with faith endued. So passing sweet
My vocal spirit; from Tolosa, Rome
To herself drew me, where I merited
A myrtle garland to inwreathe my brow.
Statius they name me still. Of Thebes I sang,
And next of great Achilles; but i' the way
Fell with the second burden. Of my flame
Those sparkles were the seeds, which I derived
From the bright fountain of celestial fire
That feeds unnumber'd lamps; the song I mean
Which sounds Æneas' wanderings: that the breast
I hung at; that the nurse, from whom my veins
Drank inspiration: whose authority
Was ever sacred with me. To have lived
Coeval with the Mantuan, I would bide
The revolution of another sun
Beyond my stated years in banishment."

6" When the good Titus.” When it was so ordered by the divine Providence that Titus, by the destruction of Jerusalem, should

avenge the death of our Saviour on the Jews.

8 The name.” The name of Poet.

The Mantuan, when he heard him, turn'd to me; And holding silence, by his countenance Enjoin'd me silence: but the power, which wills, Bears not supreme control: laughter and tears Follow so closely on the passion prompts them, They wait not for the motions of the will In natures most sincere. I did but smile, As one who winks; and thereupon the shade Broke off, and peer'd into mine eyes, where best Our looks interpret. “So to good event Mayst thou conduct such great emprise," he cried, “Say, why across thy visage beam'd, but now, The lightning of a smile.” On either part Now am I straiten'd; one conjures me speak, The other to silence binds me: whence a sigh I utter, and the sigh is heard. “Speak on," The teacher cried: "and do not fear to speak; But tell him what so earnestly he asks." Whereon I thus: “Perchance, O ancient spirit! Thou marvel'st at my smiling. There is room For yet more wonder. He, who guides my ken On high, he is that Mantuan, led by whom Thou didst presume of men and gods to sing. If other cause thou deem'dst for which I smiled, Leave it as not the true one: and believe Those words, thou spakest of him, indeed the cause."

Now down he bent to embrace my teacher's feet;
But he forbade him: “ Brother! do it not:
Thou art a shadow, and behold'st a shade."
He, rising, answer'd thus: “Now hast thou proved

The force and ardour of the love I bear thee,
When I forget we are but things of air,
And, as a substance, treat an empty shade."

CANTO XXII

ARGUMENT.-Dante, Virgil, and Statius mount to the sixth cornice, where the sin of gluttony is cleansed, the two Latin Poets discoursing by the way. Turning to the right, they find a tree hung with sweet-smelling fruit, and watered by a shower that issues from the rock. Voices are heard to proceed from among the leaves, recording examples of temperance.

Tow we had left the Angel, who had turn'd

To the sixth circle our ascending step;

One gash from off my forehead razed; while they, Whose wishes tend to justice, shouted forth, “Blessed!” and ended with “I thirst”; and I, More nimble than along the other straits, So journey'd, that, without the sense of toil, I follow'd upwards the swift-footed shades; When Virgil thus began: “Let its pure flame From virtue flow, and love can never fail To warm another's bosom, so the light Shine manifestly forth. Hence, from that hour, When, 'mongst us in the purlieus of the deep, Came down the spirit of Aquinum's bard, Who told of thine affection, my good will Hath been for thee of quality as strong As ever link'd itself to one not seen. Therefore these stairs will now seem short to me. But tell me: and, if too secure, I loose The rein with a friend's licence, as a friend Forgive me, and speak now as with a friend: How chanced it covetous desire could find Place in that bosom, 'midst such ample store Of wisdom, as thy zeal had treasured there?”

First somewhat moved to laughter by his words, Statius replied: "Each syllable of thine Is a dear pledge of love. Things oft appear, That minister false matter to our doubts, When their true causes are removed from sight. Thy question doth assure me, thou believest 1“ Blessed.” “ Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after

righteousness, for they shall be filled.”—Matt. v. 6.

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