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When I am in the presence of my Lord,
I will rehearse thy praise before the throne."
Ceasèd she then, and I took up the word; 75
'O sovran Lady, by whose aid alone
This thy commandment pleaseth me so well,
That were it done forthwith 'twere all too late: 80
No need thy purpose more to unfold—but tell
The reason why thou dost not hesitate
"Seeing thou would'st into these depths presume, 85
I will in brief unfold," she answer made,
'Tis meet to hold only those things in dread
I am so framed by God—unto whose name
The Lunar sphere of the Ptolemaic system.
The 'hopeless desire' of the spirits in Limbo. Canto iv. 42
A saint7 there is above, so piteously
Bewails this hindrance8 in her gentle breast, 9$
Ev'n Heaven is moved, and changed the stern decree.
Lucia, foe to every cruel deed,10 100
Bestirr'd herself, and came unto the place
'O Beatrice,11 in whom Heaven's special grace
Hearest thou not his piteous agony ?
Loseth its glory 1' Child of earth was never
More swift to follow gain or loss to fly 1 to
Than I hearing those words from realms for ever
Blissful descended thro' the ample sky,
7 St. Mary the Virgin, or Divine Clemency.
8 The forlorn condition of the Poet.
9 St. Lucy, or Illuminating Grace.
10 This obviously refers, not to the 'stern decree' of v. 96, which is changed already, but to the 'hindrance' of v. 95. "Theology.
Here ending her discourse, she bent on mine I
Her glowing eyes weeping, that I was made
And so to thee I came, and brought thee aid
Why then, oh why let cowardice retard
Seeing how those three blessed ones are fain
And my words bid thee hope such good to attain?'
As flowerets, by the chilling breath of even
So did I with my spirit's drooping cheer, 130
Till with fresh fervour all my bosom glow'd:
'O she was very piteous, who bestow'd
So doth thy precious speech my fear allay,
Now let us go, for we have both one will.
Thou art my guide, my lord and master thou.' 140
So said I: then he onward moved, until We reach'd the woody path that leads below.
The inscription over the gate of Hell. Dante and his Guide pass into a region of unchanging darkness, peopled with those neutral spirits—a vast multitude—who in their life-time had neither incurred infamy nor merited praise. Here they view the souls of the lost gathering towards the river Acheron, and pressing with eagerness into Charon's bark.
Thro' me you go to Acheron's doleful river,
Thro' me you go to realms of endless pain,
Thro' me you go among the lost for ever. Eternal Justice did my being ordain:
Power, Wisdom, Love, supreme primeval Trine, 5
Ere yet the perishable world began, The lofty fabric rear'd with art divine.
With things eternal I endure eterne.
O ye who enter, every hope resign ,