Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

'Change him to adamant—Medusa!' thus
They all exclaim'd with eyes bent downward; 'so
Shall we revenge the assault which Theseus made.'3

'Turn thee behind, and close thine eyes, for if 55

The Gorgon once appear, and thou behold,
For thee will be no journeying up to light.'

So spake my Guide, nor rested there, but turn'd
Me round himself, nor on my hands relied,
But with his own mine eyelids held fast shut. 60

O ye, that have discerning minds, behold
And meditate the hidden sense involved
Under the covering of the mystic verse.

And now far echoing o'er the troubled waves

Broke the loud crash of a terrific sound 65

That shook both margins of the lake, and seem'd

As if occasion'd by a wind that lashed
Into strong fury by conflicting heat,
Heedless of all restraint the forest cleaves,

The boughs rends down, and strews them all abroad: 70
Wrapt in a cloud of dust it tears along;
The wild beasts and the shepherds fly dismay'd.

3 Theseus aided Pirithous in his attempt to carry off Proserpine.

S

Mine eyes he loosed, and ' Now,' said he, 'direct

The visual nerve athwart the eternal foam,

On this side where the smoke is most intense.' 75

As frogs in presence of the water-snake,

Their foe, fly frighted, shoaling thro' the waves,

Till 'neath the sheltering mould they vanish all; More than a thousand ruin'd spirits there

I saw thus flying before One, who pass'd 80

Across the Stygian pool with feet unwet.
He brush'd the clammy dew from off his face,

His left hand often passing o'er his brow;

Nor gave he other sign of weariness. I could perceive that he was sent from heaven, 85

And moved towards my Guide, who signall'd me

To hold my peace, and do him reverence. Ah me! how full of high disdain he seem'd!

He came up to the gate, which with his wand

He open'd, for no bars could him restrain. 90

'Outcasts of heaven, despisèd people!' thus

Upon the horrid threshold he began;

'Whence harbour ye this insolence within
Your breasts ? Ah ! wherefore kick ye against that will

Which never can be frustrate of its ends, 95

And which has oft before your pains increased 1

F

What boots it thus to wrestle with the fates ?
Your Cerberus —if ye remember—still
Weareth for this his chin and dewlap flay'd.'

Then back upon the filthy road he turn'd, 100

And made no sign to us, but seem'd as one
Whom other and more urgent care corrodes

Than of the work whereon to us he came.

And we our steps moved onward towards the land

In peace after the hallow'd words. Within 105

The gates we pass'd without annoy; and I,
Who had a longing wish to know the state
Within those walls inclosed, soon as I found

Myself within, moved round mine eyes, and lo!

On either hand I saw a spacious plain 110

Tormented all with agonising woe.

Ev'n as at Aries, where the Rhone stays its flow,
Ev'n as at Pola, where Quarnaro bounds
The Italian land, and laves its frontier,

The sepulchres make all the strand to heave 115

In mounds; so did they here on either hand,
Save that the scene was far more dread: for here

There were dispread between the sepulchres
Careering fires, from which accrued such heat
That iron for the founder's use requires 120

None greater: and from beneath their lids—which were
Suspended—issued forth such doleful cries
As witness'd the abode of tortured souls.4

When I thus; 'Master, say, what spirits are these

That buried thus within these vaults disclose 125

Their presence by these lamentable sighs V

And he thereto; 'Here are the Heresiarchs
With their adherents of each sect, and far
More than thou would'st believe the tombs contain.

Like here with like lie sepulchred for ever: 130

And different temperatures are found within.'
He therewith moving towards the right, we pass'd

Between the torments and the lofty walls.

4 The sepulchres referred to in this passage are probably old Roman tombs. The Rhone forms a lake at Aries. Quarnaro is the gulf of that name, which washes the confines of Italy and Croatia.

F t

[ocr errors][merged small]

ARGUMENT.

The Poets traverse the City of Dis. Dante converses with Farinata degli Uberti, the Ghibelline chief; also with Cavalcante Cavalcanti, a Florentine of the Guelf party, whose son, Guido, was his friend.

Thus while we paced along a narrow way

Between the land's wall and the torturing fires, My Master first, and I close following him, 'Virtue supreme, who thro' the unhallow'd spheres

Leadest me as thou wiliest,' I began; 5

'Speak to me, and my longing wish fulfil.
The spirits couch'd within the sepulchres—
Can they be seen? For I perceive that all
The lids are raised, and no one keepeth watch.'
And he replied; 'They all will be fast shut v

When from Jehoshaphat their inmates shall
Return revested with the bodies which

« AnteriorContinuar »