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The Poets had noticed two beacon lights at the top of the tower. These denoted the arrival of two souls. There was also a third light on the other side of the lake. This announced the approach of the Ferryman. A boat arrives in charge of Phlegyas, who in his life-time had burnt the temple of Apollo, and whose function it now was to convey the souls of heretics into the fiery City of Dis. On the passage Dante encounters, and converses with, Philippo Argenti, a Florentine, who had been noted for his brutal and ferocious temper. Passing within the moats which surround the territory of Dis, they find the gate thronged with devils, who resist their entrance. Excluded by the devils, they await the advent of aid from above.
My theme pursuing, I relate that some
Time ere we gain'd the lofty turret's base
Our eyes roved upward towards the summit, where
We saw two little streams of light extend, -
To which a third made answer from afar— 5
So far that it was scarce discernible.
Then turning to that other sea, wherein
All wisdom lay, I said; 'What meaneth this
What answereth yon flamelet ? and who are they
That tend it ?' He replied; 'Over the dun IO
Waters already may'st thou note what comes
Apace, if the lake-fumes conceal it not.’
Ne'er leapt the winged arrow from the string
Or ran its course more swiftly thro' the air
Than I descried a little vessel there I5
Shoot o'er the leaden waves to where we stood,
Under the guidance of a single pilot,
Who cried aloud, ‘Ho art thou come—damn'd spirit !'
To whom the Master spake ; 'Phlegyas Phlegyas .
In vain thou criest thus—this time: thou wilt 2O
Not have us save in passing o'er the lake.'
As one who hears of some great wrong that hath
Been done to him, then chafes resentfully;
So was't with Phlegyas in his gather'd wrath.
Thereon my Guide went down into the boat, 25
And then he made me enter after him,
Nor, till I was within it, seem'd it fraught.
Scarce had the Guide and I made entrance, when
The ancient craft went ploughing thro' the water
More deeply than with others it was wont. 3O
While thus we sped across the stagnant pool,
One cover'd o'er with slime arose, and said
To me; 'Why comest thou before the time ?'
And I replied; 'I come, but not to stay:
But who art thou made thus deform 1" and he ;
'Thou seëst I am one of those in pain.'
I answer'd swift; 'With wailing and with tears,
Accursed spirit ! may'st thou e'er remain :
Then towards the bark he stretch'd out both his hands; 4o
Whereat the Master caught and thrust him back,
Saying, “Away there with the other hounds !' And then around my neck his arms he flung,
And kiss'd my cheek, and said; 'Disdainful soul |
Thrice blessed was the womb that compass'd thee.
He was full fraught with pride in the fair world,
With naught of grace to deck his memory;
Thus is his spirit rack'd with furious rage.
How many, that once held themselves on high,
Wallow like swine impure, view'd thro' all time
With hate, and scorn, and shameful ignominy!'
Then I ; 'Master, it would rejoice my soul
To see him soused within this bestial slush,
Ere we alight from off the pool.' And he
Responded thus; 'Or ere the other shore
Comes within prospect, thou shalt have thy wish.
'Tis meet thou should'st have joy of this desire.'
After a while I saw so fierce a rush
Made at him by his fellows in the mire,
That still I bless and praise my God. They all
Cried with one voice; 'At Philip Argentine !'"
The fierce Florentine spirit in his wrath
Turn'd round, and with his talons rent his flesh.
Here left we him that I no more can tell :
But to mine ears loud cries of anguish borne
Made me bend forward opening wide mine eyes.
When the good Master thus ; 'Here, O my son,
The city which is called Dis draws near,
With its dread citizens, a numerous throng.'
And I; “O Master, in the valley there
Clearly I can discern its minarets
Vermilion-hued, as tho' with circling fire
Impaled.' And he replied; 'The eternal flame,
That glows within, imparts this ruddy hue,
As thou beholdest in this nether hell.'
We pass'd within the deep wide moats, with which
That melancholy land is compass'd round,
The walls thereof seem'd built of gleaming steel.
Not without first wide circuit made we came
Unto a place where with loud voice the pilot
'Out with you !' cried to us, the gate is here.'
More than a thousand thronging there I saw—
Spirits rain'd down from heaven—who were saying
Wrathfully; 'Who is this that comes within
The region of the dead by death unslain o'
Whereat the experienced Master made a sign
Of wish to speak with them apart: and then
They bated somewhat of their huge disdain,
And said ; 'Come thou alone: let him depart,
Who thus hath dared to enter this domain.
On his fool's road let him return alone,
If so he can : but thou shalt here remain—
Thou who hast borne him thro' this land of gloom.'
Think, reader, how my courage falter'd then,
Hearing the sound of those accursed words:
I thought that I should ne'er return again.
'O my beloved Guide, who more than seven
Times hast restored my safety, and hast led
My steps thro' perils dire that round me lay,