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Were in this guise tormented. But far more
Than from that gnawing, was the foremost pang'a
By the fierce rending, whence ofttimes the back
Was stript of all its skin. “That upper spirit,
Who hath worse punishment,” so spake my guide,
“ Is Judas, he that hath his head within
And plies the feet without. Of th' other two,
Whose heads are under, from the murky jaw
Who hangs, is Brutus : lo! how he doth writhe
And speaks not! Th' other Cassius, that appears
So large of limb. But night now re-ascends,
And it is time for parting. All is seen.”
I clipp'd him round the neck, for so he bade;
And noting time and place, he, when the wings
Enough were op'd, caught fast the shaggy sides,
And down from pile to pile descending stepp'd
Between the thick fell and the jagged ice.
Soon as he reach'd the point, whereat the thigh
Upon the swelling of the haunches turns,
My leader there with pain and struggling hard
Turn'd round his head, where his feet stood before,
And grappled at the fell, as one who mounts,
That into hell methought we turn'd again.
“Expect that by such stairs as these,” thus spake
The teacher, panting like a man forespent,
“We must depart from evil so extreme.”
Then at a rocky opening issued forth,
And plac'd me on a brink to sit, next join'd
With wary step my side.
I rais'd mine eyes,
Believing that I Lucifer should see
Where he was lately left, but saw him now
With legs held upward. Let the grosser sort,
Who see not what the point was I had pass’d,
Bethink them if sore toil oppress'd me then.
Arise,” my master cried, “ upon thy feet.
The way is long, and much uncouth the road;
And now within one hour and half of noon
The sun returns. It was no palace-hall
Lofty and luminous wherein we stood,
But natural dungeon where ill footing was
And scant supply of light. “Ere from th' abyss
I sep’rate,” thus when risen I began,
My guide! vouchsafe few words to set me free 95
From error's thraldom. Where is now the ice?
Ilow standeth he in posture thus revers’d ?
And how from eve to morn in space so brief
Hath the sun made his transit?” He in few
Thus answering spake: “ Thou deemest thou art still 100
On th' other side the centre, where I grasp'd
Th' abhorred worm, that boreth through the world.
Thou wast on th’ other side, so long as I
Descended; when I turn'd, thou didst o’erpass
That point, to which from ev'ry part is dragg'd 105
All heavy substance. Thou art now arriv'd
Under the hemisphere opposed to that,
Which the great continent doth overspread,
And underneath whose canopy expir'd
The Man, that was born sinless, and so liv’d.
Thy feet are planted on the smallest sphere,
Whose other aspect is Judecca. Morn
Here rises, when there evening sets: and he,
Whose shaggy pile was scal'd, yet standeth fix'd,
As at the first. On this part he fell down
From heav'n; and th' earth, here prominent before,
Through fear of him did veil her with the sea,
And to our hemisphere retir'd. Perchance
To shun him was the vacant space left here
By what of firm land on this side appears,
That sprang aloof.” There is a place beneath,
From Belzebub as distant, as extends
The vaulted tomb, discover'd not by sight,
But by the sound of brooklet, that descends
This way along the hollow of a rock,
Which, as it winds with no precipitous course,
The wave hath eaten. By that hidden way
My guide and I did enter, to return
To the fair world : and heedless of repose
We climb’d, he first, I following his steps,
Till on our view the beautiful lights of heav'n
Dawn'd through a circular opening in the cave:
Thence issuing we again beheld the stars
O’Er better waves to speed her rapid course
The light bark of my genius lifts the sail,
Well pleas’d to leave so cruel sea behind;
And of that second region will I sing,
In which the human spirit from sinful blot
Is purg'd, and for ascent to Heaven prepares.
Here, O ye hallow'd Nine! for in your train
I follow, here the deaden'd strain revive;
Nor let Calliope refuse to sound
A somewhat higher song, of that loud tone,
Which when the wretched birds of chattering note
Had heard, they of forgiveness lost all hope.
Sweet hue of eastern sapphire, that was spread
O’er the serene aspect of the pure air,
High up as the first circle, to mine eyes
Unwonted joy renew’d, soon as I 'scap'd
Forth from the atmosphere of deadly gloom,
That had mine eyes and bosom fill’d with grief.
The radiant planet, that to love invites,
Made all the orient laugh, and veil'd beneath
The Pisces' light, that in his escort came.
To the right hand I turn'd, and fix'd my mind
On the other pole attentive, where I saw
Four stars ne'er seen before save by the ken
Of our first parents. Heaven of their rays
Seem'd joyous. O. thou northern site, bereft
Indeed, and widow'd, since of these depriv'd !
As from this view I had desisted, straight
Turning a little tow’rds the other pole,
There from whence now the wain had disappear'd, 30
I saw an old man standing by my side
Alone, so worthy of rev’rence in his look,
That ne'er from son to father more was ow'd.
Low down his beard and mix'd with hoary white
Descended, like his locks, which parting fell
Upon his breast in double fold. The beams
Of those four luminaries on his face
So brightly shone, and with such radiance clear
Deck'd it, that I beheld him as the sun.
“Say who are ye, that stemming the blind stream, 40
Forth from th' eternal prison-house have fled ?”
He spoke and moved those venerable plumes.
“Who hath conducted, or with lantern sure
Lights you emerging from the depth of night,
That makes the infernal valley ever black ?
Are the firm statutes of the dread abyss
Broken, or in high heaven new laws ordain'd,
That thus, condemn’d, ye to my caves approach ?
My guide, then laying hold on me, by words
And intimations given with hand and head,
Made my bent knees and eye submissive pay
Due reverence; then thus to him replied.
“Not of myself I come; a Dame from heaven
Descending, him besought me in my charge
To bring. But since thy will implies, that more 55
Our true condition I unfold at large,
Mine is not to deny thee thy request.
This mortal ne'er hath seen the farthest gloom.
But erring by his folly had approach'd
So near, that little space was left to turn.
Then, as before I told, I was dispatch'd
To work his rescue; and no way remain'd
Save this which I have ta’en. I have display'd
Before him all the regions of the bad;
And purpose now those spirits to display,
That under thy command are purg'd from sin.
How I have brought him would be long to say.
From high descends the virtue, by whose aid
I to thy sight and hearing him have led.
Now may our coming please thee. In the search
Of liberty he journeys: that how dear
They know, who for her sake have life refus'd.
Thou knowest, to whom death for her was sweet
In Utica, where thou didst leave those weeds,
That in the last great day will shine so bright.
For us the eternal edicts are unmoy'd:
He breathes, and I am free of Minos' power,
Abiding in that circle where the eyes
Of thy chaste Marcia beam, who still in look
Prays thee, O hallow'd spirit! to own her thine.
Then by her love we' implore thee, let us pass
Through thy sev’n regions; for which best thanks
I for thy favour will to her return,
If mention there below thou not disdain.”
“ Marcia so pleasing in my sight was found,”
He then to him rejoin'd, “while I was there,
That all she ask'd me I was fain to grant.
Now that beyond the accursed stream she dwells,
She may no longer move me, by that law,
Which was ordain'd me, when I issued thence.
Not so, if Dame from heaven, as thou sayst,
Moves and directs thee; then no flattery needs.
Enough for me that in her name thou ask.
Go therefore now: and with a slender reed
See that thou duly gird him, and his face
Lave, till all sordid stain thou wipe from thence.
For not with eye, by any cloud obscurd,
Would it be seemly before him to come,
Who stands the foremost minister in heaven.
This islet all around, there far beneath,
Where the wave beats it, on the oozy bed
Produces store of reeds. No other plant,
Cover'd with leaves, or harden'd in its stalk,
There lives, not bending to the water's sway.
After, this way return not; but the sun
Will show you, that now rises, where to take
The mountain in its easiest ascent."