Page images

Here plies afresh the oar, that loiter'd ill.
But that thou mayst yet clearlier understand,
Give ear unto my words; and thou shalt cull
Some fruit may please thee well, from this delay.

“Creator, nor created being, e'er,
My son,” he thus began, was without love,
Or natural, or the free spirit's growth,
Thou hast not that to learn. The natural still
Is without error: but the other swerves,
If on ill object bent, or through excess
Of vigour, or defect. While e'er it seeks
The primal blessings, or with measure due
The inferior, no delight, that flows from it,
Partakes of ill. But let it warp to evil,
Or with more ardour than behoves, or less,
Pursue the good; the thing created then
Works 'gainst its Maker. Hence thou must infer
That love is germin of each virtue in ye,
And of each act no less, that merits pain.
Now since it may not be, but love intend
The welfare mainly of the thing it loves,
All from self-hatred are secure; and since
No being can be thought to exist apart,
And independent of the first, a bar
Of equal force restrains from hating that.

“Grant the distinction just; and it remains The evil must be another's, which is loved. Three ways such love is gender'd in your clay. There is who hopes (his neighbour's worth deprest) Pre-eminence himself; and covets hence, For his own greatness, that another fall. There is? who so much fears the loss of power, Fame, favour, glory, (should his fellow mount Above him,) and so sickens at the thought, He loves their opposite: and there is he,

Whom wrong or insult seems to gall and shame, 8" The primal blessings." Spir which it exists. We can therefore itual good.

rejoice only in the evil which be4“ The inferior.” Temporal good. falls others," 6" Now."

“It is impossible for 8“ There is.” The proud. any being, either to hate itself, or to 7" There is.” The envious. hate the First Cause of all, by 8“ There is he." The resentful.


That he doth thirst for vengeance; and such needs
Must dote on other's evil. Here beneath,
This threefold love is mourn'd. Of the other sort
Be now instructed; that which follows good,
But with disorder'd and irregular course.

“All indistinctly apprehend a bliss,
On which the soul may rest; the hearts of all
Yearn after it; and to that wished bourn
All therefore strive to tend. If ye behold,
Or seek it, with a love remiss and lax;
This cornice, after just repenting, lays
Its penal torment on ye. Other good
There is, where man finds not his happiness:
It is not true fruition; not that blest
Essence, of every good the branch and root.
The love too lavishly bestow'd on this,
Along three circles over us, is mourn'd.
Account of that division tripartite
Expect not, fitter for thine own research.”


ARGUMENT.–Virgil discourses further concerning the nature of love. Then a multitude of spirits rush by; two of whom, in van of the rest, record instances of zeal and fervent affection, and another, who was Abbot of San Zeno in Verona, declares himself to Virgil and Dante; and lastly follow other spirits, shouting forth memorable examples of the sin for which they suffer. The Poet, pursuing his meditations, falls into a dreamy slumber.

NHE teacher ended, and his high discourse

Concluding, earnest in my looks inquired

If I appear'd content; and I, whom still
Unsated thirst to hear him urged, was mute,
Mute outwardly, yet inwardly I said:
Perchance my too much questioning offends."
But he, true father, mark'd the secret wish
By diffidence restrain'd; and, speaking, gave
Me boldness thus to speak: “Master ! my sight
Gathers so lively virtue from thy beams,
That all, thy words convey, distinct is seen.

Wherefore I pray thee, father, whom this heart
Holds dearest, thou wouldst deign by proof ť unfold
That love, from which, as from their source, thou bring'st
All good deeds and their opposite.” He then:
“ To what I now disclose be thy clear ken
Directed; and thou plainly shalt behold
How much those blind have err’d, who make themselves
The guides of men. The soul, created apt
To love, moves versatile which way soe'er
Aught pleasing prompts her, soon as she is waked
By pleasure into act. Of substance true
Your apprehension forms its counterfeit;
And, in you the ideal shape presenting,
Attracts the soul's regard. If she, thus drawn,
Incline toward it; love is that inclining,
And a new nature knit by pleasure in ye.
Then, as the fire points up, and mounting seeks
His birth-place and his lasting seat, e'en thus
Enters the captive soul into desire,
Which is a spiritual motion, that ne'er rests
Before enjoyment of the thing it loves.
Enough to show thee, how the truth from those
Is hidden, who aver all love a thing
Praiseworthy in itself; although perhaps
Its matter seem still good. Yet if the wax
Be good, it follows not the impression must.”

“What love is,” I return'd, “thy words, O guide!
And my own docile mind, reveal. Yet thence
New doubts have sprung. For, from without, if love
Be offered to us, and the spirit knows
No other footing; tend she right or wrong,
Is no desert of hers.” He answering thus:
“What reason here discovers, I have power
To show thee: that which lies beyond, expect
From Beatrice, faith not reason's task.
Spirit, substantial form, with matter join'd,
Not in confusion mix'd, hath in itself
Specific virtue of that union born,
Which is not felt except it work, nor proved
But through effect, as vegetable life

By the green leaf. From whence his intellect
Deduced its primal notices of things,
Man therefore knows not, or his appetites
Their first affections; such in you, as zeal
In bees to gather honey; at the first,
Volition, meriting nor blame nor praise.
But o'er each lower faculty supreme,
That, as she list, are summon’d to her bar,
Ye have that virtue in you, whose just voice
Uttereth counsel, and whose word should keep
The threshold of assent. Here is the source,
Whence cause of merit in you is derived;
E'en as the affections, good or ill, she takes,
Or severs, winnow'd as the chaff. Those men,
Who, reasoning, went to depth profoundest, mark'd
That innate freedom; and were thence induced
To leave their moral teaching to the world.
Grant then, that from necessity arise
All love that glows within you; to dismiss
Or harbour it, the power is in yourselves.
Remember, Beatrice, in her style,
Denominates free choice by eminence
The noble virtue; if in talk with thee
She touch upon that theme.” The moon, well nigh
To midnight hour belated, made the stars
Appear to wink and fade; and her broad disk
Seem'd like a crag on fire, as up the vault®
That course she journey'd, which the sun then warms
When they of Rome behold him at his set
Betwixt Sardinia and the Corsic isle.
And now the weight, that hung upon my thought,
Was lighten'd by the aid of that clear spirit,
Who raiseth Andes* above Mantua's name.
I therefore, when my questions had obtain'd


1 " That virtue." Reason.

2“ Those men.” The great moral philosophers among the heathen.

3"Up the vault.” The moon passed with a motion opposite to that of the heavens, through the constellation of the Scorpion, in which the sun is, when to those who

are :Rome he appears to set between the isles of Corsica and Sardinia.

4"Andęs.” Andes, now Pietola, made more famous than Mantua, near which it is situated, by having been the birthplace of Virgil.

[ocr errors]

Solution plain and ample, stood as one
Musing in dreamy slumber; but not long
Slumber'd; for suddenly a multitude,
The steep already turning from behind,
Rush'd on. With fury and like random rout,
As echoing on their shores at midnight heard
Ismenus and Asopus, for his Thebes
If Bacchus' help were needed; so came these
Tumultuous, curving each his rapid step,
By eagerness impellid of holy love.

Soon they o'ertook us; with such swiftness moved
The mighty crowd. Two spirits at their head
Cried, weeping, "Blessed Mary sought with haste
The hilly region. Cæsar,' to subdue
Ilerda, darted in Marseilles his sting,
And flew to Spain.”—“Oh, tarry not: away!”
The others shouted; "let not time be lost
Through slackness of affection. Hearty zeal
To serve reanimates celestial grace.”

“O ye! in whom intenser fervency
Haply supplies, where lukewarm erst ye fail'd,
Slow or neglectful, to absolve your part
Of good and virtuous; this man, who yet lives,
(Credit my tale, though strange,) desires to ascend,
So morning rise to light us. Therefore say
Which hand leads nearest to the rifted rock.”

So spake my guide; to whom a shade return'd:
“ Come after us, and thou shalt find the cleft.
We may not linger: such resistless will
Speeds our unwearied course. Vouchsafe us then
Thy pardon, if our duty seem to thee
Discourteous rudeness. In Verona I
Was Abbots of San Zeno, when the hand
Of Barbarossa grasp'd imperial sway,

6“ Ismenus and Asopus." Rivers near Thebes.

6“ And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; and entered into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elisabeth."-Luke i. 39.

7 Cæsar left Brutus to complete

the siege of Marseilles, and hastened on to the attack of Afranius and Petreius, the generals of Pompey, at Ilerda (Lerida) in Spain.

8 Alberto, Abbot of San Zeno in Verona, when Frederick I was Emperor, by whom Milan was besieged and reduced to ashes, in 1162.

« PreviousContinue »