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Escape, lead thou me where thou said'st, that so
These eyes may see where Peter sits enshrined
In glory, and those spirits whelm'd in woe.’ I35

Then movèd he, and I held on behind.

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Dante fears that his strength will prove insufficient for the enterprise. 'It was reasonable,' he argues, 'that AEneas and St. Paul, who were respectively concerned in laying and strengthening the foundations of the Roman Empire and the Christian Church, should traverse the unseen world; but what was his claim to so high a privilege?' Virgil revives the confidence of the Poet by relating how he had been visited by Beatrice, and sent by her to rescue him from the wood; and how St. Mary the Virgin and St. Lucy had also intervened on his behalf.

Now day declined, and Night with dusky wing
Descending lull'd to rest the labour-wearied
Creatures of earth, when I alone prepared

Myself to endure heart-piercing agony—
The terrors of the wild tempestuous way— 5

Deep graven on the unerring memory.

Ye sacred nine ! aid my adventurous lay.
Tell, O my mind, that which did there betide me,
And all thy native nobleness display.
I thus broke silence ; 'Poet, that dost guide me,
Weigh well my merit, if it sufficient be,
Ere thou unto this perilous pass confide me.
Thou tell'st how Silvius' great sire, while he
Was yet corruptible, unto the place
Immortal went, and was there sensibly.
Now, that the Enemy of all ill such grace

On him bestow'd, measuring the high effect

That was to ensue therefrom—the power—the race—

Appears not strange to one who can reflect,
For that he was of Rome's imperial sway
The original author in high heaven elect.

Which sway—not for itself alone—to say
The truth—was stablish'd for the holy place,
Where sitteth who succeeds to Peter's throne.

By this descent, made famous in thy story,
He learn'd the sure foundation how to lay

Of his success, and of the Papal glory.”

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* AEneas.

* AEneid vi. 889-894.

Election's vessel 3 did this path essay,
To gather confirmation for that Faith,
Which guideth us into salvation's way. 30
That I the attempt should make—who sanctioneth
I am not Paul, nor Rome's ancestral sage.
Equal who deemeth me the paths of death
To traverse ? On that uncouth pilgrimage
For me to go were a fond task and vain : 35
Wise are thou, knowing all my fears presage.'
And like as one who what he will'd again
Unwills, with new thoughts from his purpose bending,
Which failing fadeth wholly from his brain;
Ev'n so upon that darksome steep ascending 40
My thoughts consumed the enterprise of good,
Embraced so soon, whereon my steps were wending.
'If rightly from thy language I conclude,'
The shade of that great-minded one replied,
'Thy spirit is with cowardice imbued ; 45
Which oft-times leadeth men to turn aside
In gloom of soul from loftiest enterprise,
Like restive beasts with shadows terrified.
That thou may'st purge this film from off thine eyes,
Thou shalt what brought me hither understand, 50
And how I learn'd with thee to sympathise.

Erewhile in Limbo 4 'mid the hero band
The irradiant form of one so fair was given
To my rapt sight that I her swift command
Entreated. Brighter than the star of even
Her eyes were gleaming when she thus began
With angel voice in the sweet speech of heaven ;
"O gentle spirit of the Mantuan,
Whose name on earth with deathless glory blended
Shall live for aye thro' time's remotest span,
My friend, alas! by Fortune unbefriended,
Is so perplex'd on the wild desert way
That he thro' fear his onward course hath ended :
And now perchance hath gone so far astray
That I to rescue him have risen in vain
From what I hear the ethereal people say.
Thou therefore rise, and with the golden strain
Of thy fair speech give timely aid, that so
He may escape and I have rest again.
'Tis I—'tis Beatrice who bids thee go.
I come from where I fain would be restored,

By love impell'd which makes these tears to flow.

3 St. Paul. Acts ix. 15; and 2 Cor. xii. 2.
4 The first circle of Hell, described in Canto iv.

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