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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,
“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,
Five hundred years and more, but now have felt
“Now," said the instructor sage, “I see the net
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;
The force and ardour of the love I bear thee,
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.