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Leave me not here all comfortless,' I said
'And if our further progress be forbidden,
Let us with speed retrace our steps together.'
But the good Master who had led me thither
Made answer thus; 'Thy fear dismiss, for none
Can stay our onward course : 'tis will'd by Heaven.
Attend me here, and be thy weary spirit
By the sweet influence of hope sustain'd
And cheer'd, for in this nether world I ne'er
Will leave thee.' Thus he went ; and I remain'd
In doubt, by the sweet sire abandon'd there,
With yea and nay contending in my brain.
I could not hear the words he spake ; but they
Had not been long in conference, before
Each one ran back to try the chance of fight.
Then did those adversaries close the door
In the face of my lord, who stay'd without,
And back to me return'd with slacken'd pace—
His eyes upon the ground, his brow bereft
Of all its confidence, while thus with sighs
He spake ; 'Who hath to me denied the house
Of woe ?' Then to me turning; 'Be not thou
Dismay'd at my distress, for we shall win,
Whate'er defences are prepared within.
This insolence of theirs is nothing new ;
'Twas shown before at the less secret gate, 125
Which yet remains unbarr'd. 'Twas there thou saw'st
The unearthly scroll; already nigh at hand
'Twixt us and it across the steep comes down,
Passing the circles without escort, One
Whose might will open yet the doleful land.” 13o
Dante, alarmed at the language in which his Guide, after expressing his confidence in their ultimate triumph over the devils, suggested for a moment the opposite alternative, enquires whether the spirits in Limbo ever descended into the lower circles of Hell. To this Virgil replies that he had himself been made to descend to the very lowest depth by Erictho, the Thessalian sorceress. The conversation is here interrupted by the apparition of the Furies. A terrific sound—as of a rushing mighty wind—announces the advent of the Angel, who opens the gate of the City. Within they find a wide territory, overspread with burning tombs, containing the Heresiarchs and their followers.
That hue which coward fear upon my cheek
Then traced, when I beheld my Guide return,
His own unwonted pallor soon repress'd.
Moveless he stood as one intent to hear ;
For sight was powerless to conduct him far 5
Thro' the dense mist and thro' the dusky air.
“Nathless it shall be ours to win this fight,'
He thus began ; 'if not . . . . our help is sure.
Ah me! why tarries yet that other one ?'
I noticed how he cover'd o'er the doubt
At first express'd, and that his after-thought
Was different from that which went before.
Yet none the less my fear was strengthen'd by
His interrupted speech, wherein perhaps
I found a ghastlier import than he meant.
'Into this deep of the Abyss descends
Any from the first sphere, wherein is found
No pain beyond the loss of hope ?' I this
Inquiry made, and he then made response ;
'It seldom comes to pass that one of us
Maketh this journey whereon we are bound.
'Tis true that once before I was conjured
... Down here by that fierce Erito, who call'd
The shades back to their bodies. I had been
But short time of the flesh despoil'd, when she
Made me to pass thro' yonder wall, to raise
A spirit from the sphere where Judas lies.
That is the lowest place, and most obscure,
And furthest from the heaven that circleth all. 2
I know the road; therefore rest thou secure.
This lake, which breathes the baleful stench around,
Girds with its sullen flow the doleful city,
Where none can enter without wrath.' And more
Than this he spake, which I could not retain,
Because mine eyes were now drawn wholly towards
The blazing summit of the tower, whereon
Appear'd uplifted suddenly the three
Infernal Furies, smear'd with blood, who seem'd
Women in shape and gesture—girded round
With hydras all of greenest hue, and curl'd
About their angry brows with cerasts horn'd
And serpents thick entwined.—And he, who knew
Full well the ministers of her who sways
The realm of everlasting wailings, said
To me; 'Behold the fell Erinnyes |
Here on the left hand is Megaera: there
Wailing upon the right Alecto drear :
Midst is Tisiphone.' And then he ceased.
Their talons rent their breasts ; and with their palms
They smote each other, and exclaim'd so loud,
That I in terror to the Poet clung.