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- Divine Comedy - 6/27 -
And to all knowledge indiscernible. Forever they shall meet in this rude shock: These from the tomb with clenched grasp shall rise, Those with close-shaven locks. That ill they gave, And ill they kept, hath of the beauteous world Depriv'd, and set them at this strife, which needs No labour'd phrase of mine to set if off. Now may'st thou see, my son! how brief, how vain, The goods committed into fortune's hands, For which the human race keep such a coil! Not all the gold, that is beneath the moon, Or ever hath been, of these toil-worn souls Might purchase rest for one." I thus rejoin'd:
"My guide! of thee this also would I learn; This fortune, that thou speak'st of, what it is, Whose talons grasp the blessings of the world?"
He thus: "O beings blind! what ignorance Besets you? Now my judgment hear and mark. He, whose transcendent wisdom passes all, The heavens creating, gave them ruling powers To guide them, so that each part shines to each, Their light in equal distribution pour'd. By similar appointment he ordain'd Over the world's bright images to rule. Superintendence of a guiding hand And general minister, which at due time May change the empty vantages of life From race to race, from one to other's blood, Beyond prevention of man's wisest care: Wherefore one nation rises into sway, Another languishes, e'en as her will Decrees, from us conceal'd, as in the grass The serpent train. Against her nought avails Your utmost wisdom. She with foresight plans, Judges, and carries on her reign, as theirs The other powers divine. Her changes know Nore intermission: by necessity She is made swift, so frequent come who claim Succession in her favours. This is she, So execrated e'en by those, whose debt To her is rather praise; they wrongfully With blame requite her, and with evil word; But she is blessed, and for that recks not: Amidst the other primal beings glad Rolls on her sphere, and in her bliss exults. Now on our way pass we, to heavier woe Descending: for each star is falling now, That mounted at our entrance, and forbids Too long our tarrying." We the circle cross'd To the next steep, arriving at a well, That boiling pours itself down to a foss Sluic'd from its source. Far murkier was the wave Than sablest grain: and we in company Of the' inky waters, journeying by their side, Enter'd, though by a different track, beneath. Into a lake, the Stygian nam'd, expands The dismal stream, when it hath reach'd the foot Of the grey wither'd cliffs. Intent I stood To gaze, and in the marish sunk descried A miry tribe, all naked, and with looks Betok'ning rage. They with their hands alone Struck not, but with the head, the breast, the feet, Cutting each other piecemeal with their fangs.
The good instructor spake; "Now seest thou, son! The souls of those, whom anger overcame. This too for certain know, that underneath The water dwells a multitude, whose sighs Into these bubbles make the surface heave, As thine eye tells thee wheresoe'er it turn." Fix'd in the slime they say: "Sad once were we In the sweet air made gladsome by the sun, Carrying a foul and lazy mist within: Now in these murky settlings are we sad." Such dolorous strain they gurgle in their throats. But word distinct can utter none." Our route Thus compass'd we, a segment widely stretch'd Between the dry embankment, and the core Of the loath'd pool, turning meanwhile our eyes Downward on those who gulp'd its muddy lees; Nor stopp'd, till to a tower's low base we came.
MY theme pursuing, I relate that ere We reach'd the lofty turret's base, our eyes Its height ascended, where two cressets hung We mark'd, and from afar another light Return the signal, so remote, that scarce The eye could catch its beam. I turning round To the deep source of knowledge, thus inquir'd: "Say what this means? and what that other light In answer set? what agency doth this?"
"There on the filthy waters," he replied, "E'en now what next awaits us mayst thou see, If the marsh-gender'd fog conceal it not."
Never was arrow from the cord dismiss'd, That ran its way so nimbly through the air, As a small bark, that through the waves I spied Toward us coming, under the sole sway Of one that ferried it, who cried aloud: "Art thou arriv'd, fell spirit?"--"Phlegyas, Phlegyas, This time thou criest in vain," my lord replied; "No longer shalt thou have us, but while o'er The slimy pool we pass." As one who hears Of some great wrong he hath sustain'd, whereat Inly he pines; so Phlegyas inly pin'd In his fierce ire. My guide descending stepp'd Into the skiff, and bade me enter next Close at his side; nor till my entrance seem'd The vessel freighted. Soon as both embark'd, Cutting the waves, goes on the ancient prow, More deeply than with others it is wont.
While we our course o'er the dead channel held. One drench'd in mire before me came, and said; "Who art thou, that thou comest ere thine hour?"
I answer'd: "Though I come, I tarry not; But who art thou, that art become so foul?"
"One, as thou seest, who mourn:" he straight replied.
To which I thus: "In mourning and in woe, Curs'd spirit! tarry thou.g I know thee well, E'en thus in filth disguis'd." Then stretch'd he forth Hands to the bark; whereof my teacher sage Aware, thrusting him back: "Away! down there;
"To the' other dogs!" then, with his arms my neck Encircling, kiss'd my cheek, and spake: "O soul Justly disdainful! blest was she in whom Thou was conceiv'd! He in the world was one For arrogance noted; to his memory No virtue lends its lustre; even so Here is his shadow furious. There above How many now hold themselves mighty kings Who here like swine shall wallow in the mire, Leaving behind them horrible dispraise!"
I then: "Master! him fain would I behold Whelm'd in these dregs, before we quit the lake."
He thus: "Or ever to thy view the shore Be offer'd, satisfied shall be that wish, Which well deserves completion." Scarce his words Were ended, when I saw the miry tribes Set on him with such violence, that yet For that render I thanks to God and praise "To Filippo Argenti:" cried they all: And on himself the moody Florentine Turn'd his avenging fangs. Him here we left, Nor speak I of him more. But on mine ear Sudden a sound of lamentation smote, Whereat mine eye unbarr'd I sent abroad.
And thus the good instructor: "Now, my son! Draws near the city, that of Dis is nam'd, With its grave denizens, a mighty throng."
I thus: "The minarets already, Sir! There certes in the valley I descry, Gleaming vermilion, as if they from fire Had issu'd." He replied: "Eternal fire, That inward burns, shows them with ruddy flame Illum'd; as in this nether hell thou seest."
We came within the fosses deep, that moat This region comfortless. The walls appear'd As they were fram'd of iron. We had made Wide circuit, ere a place we reach'd, where loud The mariner cried vehement: "Go forth! The' entrance is here!" Upon the gates I spied More than a thousand, who of old from heaven Were hurl'd. With ireful gestures, "Who is this," They cried, "that without death first felt, goes through The regions of the dead?" My sapient guide Made sign that he for secret parley wish'd; Whereat their angry scorn abating, thus They spake: "Come thou alone; and let him go Who hath so hardily enter'd this realm. Alone return he by his witless way; If well he know it, let him prove. For thee, Here shalt thou tarry, who through clime so dark Hast been his escort." Now bethink thee, reader! What cheer was mine at sound of those curs'd words. I did believe I never should return.
"O my lov'd guide! who more than seven times Security hast render'd me, and drawn From peril deep, whereto I stood expos'd, Desert me not," I cried, "in this extreme. And if our onward going be denied,
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