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I was on earth a covetous man; perhaps
Because thou found'st me in that circle placed.
Know then I was too wide of avarice:
And e'en for that excess, thousands of moons
Have wax'd and waned upon my sufferings.
And were it not that I with heedful care
Noted, where thou exclaim'st as if in ire
With human nature, Why, thou cursed thirst
Of gold ! dost not with juster measure guide
The appetite of mortals ?' I had met
The fierce encounter of the voluble rock.
Then was I ware that, with too ample wing,
The hands may haste to lavishment; and turn'd,
As from my other evil, so from this,
In penitence. How many from their grave
Shall with shorn locksarise, who living, ay,
And at life's last extreme, of this offence,
Through ignorance, did not repent! And know,
The fault, which lies direct from any sin
In level opposition, here, with that,
Wastes its green rankness on one common heap.
Therefore, if I have been with those, who wail
Their avarice, to cleanse me; through reverse
Of their transgression, such hath been my lot.”
To whom the sovran of the pastoral song:
“ While thou didst sing that cruel warfare waged
By the twin sorrow of Jocasta's womb8
From thy discourse with Clio there, it seems
As faith had not been thine; without the which,
Good deeds suffice not. And if so, what sun
Rose on thee, or what candle pierced the dark,
That thou didst after see to hoise the sail,
And follow where the fisherman had led?”
He answering thus: “ By thee conducted first,
I enter'd the Parnassian grots, and quaff'd
Of the clear spring : illumined first by thee,
Open'd mine eyes to God. Thou didst, as one
Who, journeying through the darkness, bears a light 9 " With shorn locks." See “Hell," 3" The_twin sorrow_of Jocasta's Canto vii. 58.
Behind, that profits not himself, but makes
His followers wise, when thou exclaimed'st, ‘Lo!
A renovated world, Justice return'd,
Times of primeval innocence restored,
And a new race descended from above.'
Poet and Christian both to thee I owed.
That thou mayst mark more clearly what I trace,
My hand shall stretch forth to inform the lines
With livelier colouring. Soon o'er all the world,
By messengers from Heaven, the true belief
Teem'd now prolific; and that word of thine,
Accordant, to the new instructors chimed.
Induced by which agreement, I was wont
Resort to them; and soon their sanctity
So won upon me, that, Domitian's rage
Pursuing them, I mix'd my tears with theirs;
And, while on earth I stay'd, still succor'd them;
And their most righteous customs made me scorn
All sects besides. Before I led the Greeks,
In tuneful fiction, to the streams of Thebes,
I was baptized; but secretly, through fear,
Remain’d a Christian, and conform'd long time
To Pagan rites. Four centuries and more,
I, for that lukewarmness, was fain to pace
Round the fourth circle. Thou then, who hast raised
The covering which did hide such blessing from me,
Whilst much of this ascent is yet to climb,
Say, if thou know, where our old Terence bides,
Cæcilius, Plautus, Varro: if condemn'd
They dwell, and in what province of the deep.”
“These,” said my guide, “with Persius and myself,
And others many more, are with that Greek,
Of mortals, the most cherish'd by the Nine,
In the first ward of darkness. There oft-times,
We of that mount hold converse, on whose top
For aye our nurses live. We have the bard
Of Pella, and the Teian,' Agatho,
Simonides, and many a Grecian else q" That Greek.” Homer. mm 3 The Teian." Anacreon.
Ingarlanded with laurel. Of thy train,
Antigone is there, Deiphile,
Argia, and as sorrowful as erst
Ismene, and who show'd Langia's wave:
Deïdamia with her sisters there, .
And blind Tiresias' daughter, and the bride
Sea-born of Peleus.” 10 Either poet now
Was silent; and no longer by the ascent
Or the steep walls obstructed, round them cast
Inquiring eyes. Four handmaids of the day
Had finish'd now their office, and the fifth
Was at the chariot-beam, directing still
Its flamy point aloof; when thus my guide:
“Methinks, it well behoves us to the brink
Bend the right shoulder, circuiting the mount,
As we have ever used.” So custom there
Was usher to the road; the which we chose
Less doubtful, as that worthy shade" complied.
They on before me went: I sole pursued,
Listening their speech, that to my thoughts convey'd
Mysterious lessons of sweet poesy.
But soon they ceased; for midway of the road
A tree we found, with goodly fruitage hung,
And pleasant to the smell: and as a fir,
Upward from bough to bough, less ample spreads;
So downward this less ample spread; that none,
Methinks, aloft may climb. Upon the side,
That closed our path, a liquid crystal fell
From the steep rock, and through the sprays above
Stream'd showering. With associate step the bards
Drew near the plant; and, from amidst the leaves,
A voice was heard: “Ye shall be chary of me; ”
And after added: “Mary took more thought
For joy and honour of the nuptial feast,
Than for herself, who answers now for you.
9" Tiresias' daughter."
The women of old Rome were satisfied
With water for their beverage. Daniel” fed
On pulse, and wisdom gain'd. The primal age
Was beautiful as gold: and hunger then
Made acorns tasteful; thirst, each rivulet
Run nectar. Honey and locusts were the food,
Whereon the Baptist in the wilderness
Fed, and that eminence of glory reach'd
And greatness, which the Evangelist records."
ARGUMENT. They are overtaken by the spirit of Forese, who had been a friend of our Poet's on earth, and who now inveighs bitterly against the immodest dress of their countrywomen at Florence.
N the green leaf mine eyes were fix'd, like his
Who throws away his days in idle chase
Of the diminutive birds, when thus I heard
The more than father warn me: “Son! our time
Asks thriftier using. Linger not: away!”.
Thereat my face and steps at once I turn'd
Toward the sages, by whose converse cheer'd
I journey'd on, and felt no toil: and lo!
A sound of weeping, and a song: “My lips,
O Lord !” and these so mingled, it gave birth
To pleasure and to pain. “O Sire beloved !
Say what is this I hear.” Thus I inquired.
“Spirits,” said he, “who, as they go, perchance,
Their debt of duty pay.” As on their road
The thoughtful pilgrims, overtaking some
Not known unto them, turn to them, and look,
But stay not; thus, approaching from behind
With speedier motion, eyed us, as they pass'd, 12 “ Daniel.” “ Then said Daniel wine that they should drink: and to Melzar, whom the prince of the gave them pulse. As for these four eunuchs had set over Daniel, Han children, God gave them knowledge aniah, Michael, and Azariah, Prove and skill in all i arning and wisdom: thy servants, I beseech thee, ten and Daniel had understanding in all days; and let them give us pulse to visions and dreams.”—Ibid. 16. 17. eat, and water to drink,' " --Dan. i. 1“ O Lord, open thou my lips; ! II, 12. “Thus Melzar took away and my mouth shall show forth thy the portion of their meat, and the praise."-Psalm li. 15.
A crowd of spirits, silent and devout.
The eyes of each were dark and hollow; pale
Their visage, and so lean withal, the bones
Stood staring through the skin. I do not think
Thus dry and meagre Erisichthon show'd,
When pinch'd by sharp-set famine to the quick.
“Lo!” to myself I mused, “the race, who lost
Jerusalem, when Mary with dire beak
Prey'd on her child.” The sockets seem'd as rings,
From which the gems were dropt. Who reads the name
Of man upon his forehead, there the M
Had traced most plainly. Who would deem, that scent
Of water and an apple could have proved
Powerful to generate such pining want,
Not knowing how it wrought? While now I stood,
Wondering what thus could waste them, (for the cause
Of their gaunt hollowness and scaly rind
Appear'd not,) lo! a spirit turn'd his eyes
In their deep-sunken cells, and fasten'd them
On me, then cried with vehemence aloud:
“What grace is this vouchsafed me?" By his looks
I ne'er had recognized him: but the voice
Brought to my knowledge what his cheer conceal'd.
Remembrance of his alter'd lineaments
Was kindled from that spark; and I agnized
The visage of Forese. “Ah! respect
This wan and leprous-wither'd skin,” thus he
Suppliant implored, “ this macerated flesh.
Speak to me truly of thyself. And who
Are those twain spirits, that escort thee there?
Be it not said thou scorn'st to talk with me.”
“That face of thine," I answer'd him," which dead I once bewail'd, disposes me not less For weeping, when I see it thus transform'd. Say then, by Heaven, what blasts ye thus? The whilst I wonder, ask not speech from me: unapt