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When Love Divine those glorious worlds along 40
Their orbits first impell'd. The sweet spring-tide,
Were cause of hope that from that speckled hide
That onward came right in my path with head
And a She-wolf, 9 whose leanness seem'd to be
Full fraught with all inordinate desire, 50
And many a soul had fill'd with misery,
Wrought in my spirit such confusion dire—
And like as one that kindleth with the glow 55
Of gain—and then, to mar his full delight,
So by that beast was I dishearten'd quite,
That still with stealthy tread approaching nigh
Downward involved me in the shades of night. 60
7 The hour of the day, and the season of the year, induced the hope that the Leopard would prove harmless. This animal is said to retire to its den at sun-rise in the spring. Allegorically, envy is subdued by the tranquillizing influence of the morning, and by love inspired by the season.
Thus hurrying down the shelter'd ground to reach
Before my wearied eyes appeared one
Who thro' long silence seem'd bereft of speech.10 When I descried him in the desert lone,
'Have pity on me!' I cried out, 'whate'er 65
Thou art, or living man, or shade undone.'
Terrestrial air I drew—Italian-born
Of Lombard ancestors in Mantua fair, When mightiest Julius did the world adorn: 70
I lived at Rome 'neath good Augustus' sway,
When mankind groan'd in bondage all forlorn Of lying gods. 'Twas I who sang the lay
Of just Anchises' son, who came from Troy,
When Ilium's proud towers in ashes lay. 75
Why lingerest thou where grovelling cares annoy 1
What hinders thee to scale the beauteous mountain,
Which is the source and giver of all joy?' 'Art thou then Virgil, that perennial fountain,
Whence welleth out of speech so large a rivet 1' 80
I answer'd all abash'd. 'O light and glory
8 Pride. 9 Avarice.
10 This line is said to refer to the neglect of classical literature in Italy during the dark ages.
Of other bards! now may the long endeavour
My Master and my chief Inspirer!—thou 85
Alone, for 'twas from thee I won the fair
Yon wolf, that made me turn, still hovering there
'Meet is it thou another pilgrimage
Should'st make,' he answer'd, when he saw my tears, 'Would'st thou escape this desert, and the rage
Of yonder beast.11 For whosoe'er appears
Upon the slope of this delightful hill, 95
Hindering his upward course she rends and tears
And slays outright:—nor gluts her ravenous will,
With many a bestial creature she doth wed, 100
And shall with more till that Greyhound arise,12
11 Contemplation, and not action, was the vocation of the Poet. It was indirectly—by means of his poem—that he was to benefit his country and mankind.
15 Comparing this passage with Parad. xvii. 76—90, and especially Not of the earth or earthly vanities,
But wisdom, virtue, love his food shall be:
'Twixt either Feltro13 his dominion lies. 105
Deliverer of down-fallen Italy,14
For whom died brave Camilla, virgin pure,
Turnus, Euryalus, and Nisus—he
Back to the mouth of Hell yon wolf shall chase, 1 to
Whence Envy-born she sprang.—Now, pondering, clear My mind discerns that thou thro' Heaven's grace
Wilt follow me thy Guide ordain'd to bear
Thee hence into an everlasting place, Where thou wilt hear the shriekings of despair, 115
And see the ancient spirits rack'd with pain—
Each one a second death invoking there.
'Questi non ciberà terra nè peltro' with the lines
'Parran faville della sua virtute In non curar d' argento, nè d' affanni,' it seems probable that the Veltro, or Greyhound, is intended to denote Can Grande della Scala, who is unquestionably the person referred to in the above passage from the Paradiso. Can Grande was one of Dante's chief friends in exile. He was called 'catulus Veronae.' Other references to him are traced in Purg. xx. 13; xxxiii. 40.
13 Feltro, in the Marca Trivigiana, and Montefeltro, in Romagna. 14 ' Umile Italia.' So interpreted by Buti. Cary and others think
And thou shalt see those others, who are fain
In fire to purge them, hopeful in the end
Among the Blessed entrance to obtain. 120
Unto whose glory if thou would'st ascend,
Another soul15 must come worthier than I:
Thither with her may'st thou thy footsteps wend. For that dread Emperor, who reigns on high,
Suffers me not—for that I did rebel 125
Against His law16—within the empyreal sky To lead thee. There in lofty citadel
Enthronèd He the universe doth sway.
Oh, blest are they with Him elect to dwell!' Outspake I then, and said; 'Poet, I pray 13°
Thee by that Holy One thou did'st not know,
That I from this and greater evil may
that the expression was suggested by Virgil's
'Cum procul obscuros colles, humilemque videmus
JEn. III. 522.
15 Beatrice, the daughter of Folco Portinari, whom Dante met for the first time in A.D. 1274, when he was nine years old. He describes this meeting and its effect upon him at the opening of ' La vita nuova.'
16 Dante's words, 'ribellante alla sua legge,' must be taken to mean simply—as Signor Bianchi remarks—' alieno dalla sua legge o non seguace di essa.' Otherwise the passage is directly at variance with the statement in Canto iv., that the spirits in Limbo, of whom Virgil was one, had not 'sinned.' See Cant. iv, 34, &c.