Now, reader, of new sport expect to hear!
They each one turn’d his eyes to the’
He first, who was the hardest to persuade.
The spirit of Navarre chose well his time,
Planted his feet on land, and at one leap
Escaping disappointed their resolve.
Them quick resentment stung, but him the most,
Who was the cause of failure; in pursuit
He therefore sped, exclaiming; “Thou art caught.”
But little it avail’d: terror outstripp’d
His following flight: the other plung’d beneath,
And he with upward pinion rais’d his breast:
E’en thus the water-fowl, when she perceives
The falcon near, dives instant down, while he
Enrag’d and spent retires. That mockery
In Calcabrina fury stirr’d, who flew
After him, with desire of strife inflam’d;
And, for the barterer had ’scap’d, so turn’d
His talons on his comrade. O’er the dyke
In grapple close they join’d; but the’ other prov’d
A goshawk able to rend well his foe;
And in the boiling lake both fell. The heat
Was umpire soon between them, but in vain
To lift themselves they strove, so fast were glued
Their pennons. Barbariccia, as the rest,
That chance lamenting, four in flight dispatch’d
From the’ other coast, with all their weapons arm’d.
They, to their post on each side speedily
Descending, stretch’d their hooks toward the fiends,
Who flounder’d, inly burning from their scars:
And we departing left them to that broil.
In silence and in solitude we went,
One first, the other following his steps,
As minor friars journeying on their road.
The present fray had turn’d my thoughts to muse
Upon old Aesop’s fable, where he told
What fate unto the mouse and frog befell.
For language hath not sounds more like in sense,
Than are these chances, if the origin
And end of each be heedfully compar’d.
And as one thought bursts from another forth,
So afterward from that another sprang,
Which added doubly to my former fear.
For thus I reason’d: “These through us have been
So foil’d, with loss and mock’ry so complete,
As needs must sting them sore. If anger then
Be to their evil will conjoin’d, more fell
They shall pursue us, than the savage hound
Snatches the leveret, panting ’twixt his jaws.”
Already I perceiv’d my hair stand all
On end with terror, and look’d eager back.
“Teacher,” I thus began, “if speedily
Thyself and me thou hide not, much I dread
Those evil talons. Even now behind
They urge us: quick imagination works
So forcibly, that I already feel them.”
He answer’d: “Were I form’d
of leaded glass,
I should not sooner draw unto myself
Thy outward image, than I now imprint
That from within. This moment came thy thoughts
Presented before mine, with similar act
And count’nance similar, so that from both
I one design have fram’d. If the right coast
Incline so much, that we may thence descend
Into the other chasm, we shall escape
Secure from this imagined pursuit.”