Along the side, where barrier none arose
Around the little vale, a serpent lay,
Such haply as gave Eve the bitter food.
Between the grass and flowers, the evil snake
Came on, reverting oft his lifted head;
And, as a beast that smoothes its polish’d coat,
Licking his hack. I saw not, nor can tell,
How those celestial falcons from their seat
Mov’d, but in motion each one well descried,
Hearing the air cut by their verdant plumes.
The serpent fled; and to their stations back
The angels up return’d with equal flight.
The Spirit (who to Nino, when he call’d,
Had come), from viewing me with fixed ken,
Through all that conflict, loosen’d not his sight.
“So may the lamp, which leads thee up on high,
Find, in thy destin’d lot, of wax so much,
As may suffice thee to the enamel’s height.”
It thus began: “If any certain news
Of Valdimagra and the neighbour part
Thou know’st, tell me, who once was mighty there
They call’d me Conrad Malaspina, not
That old one, but from him I sprang. The love
I bore my people is now here refin’d.”
“In your dominions,” I answer’d,
“ne’er was I.
But through all Europe where do those men dwell,
To whom their glory is not manifest?
The fame, that honours your illustrious house,
Proclaims the nobles and proclaims the land;
So that he knows it who was never there.
I swear to you, so may my upward route
Prosper! your honour’d nation not impairs
The value of her coffer and her sword.
Nature and use give her such privilege,
That while the world is twisted from his course
By a bad head, she only walks aright,
And has the evil way in scorn.” He then:
“Now pass thee on: sev’n times the tired sun
Revisits not the couch, which with four feet
The forked Aries covers, ere that kind
Opinion shall be nail’d into thy brain
With stronger nails than other’s speech can drive,
If the sure course of judgment be not stay’d.”
Now the fair consort of Tithonus old,
Arisen from her mate’s beloved arms,
Look’d palely o’er the eastern cliff: her brow,
Lucent with jewels, glitter’d, set in sign
Of that chill animal, who with his train
Smites fearful nations: and where then we were,
Two steps of her ascent the night had past,
And now the third was closing up its wing,
When I, who had so much of Adam with me,
Sank down upon the grass, o’ercome with sleep,
There where all five were seated. In that hour,
When near the dawn the swallow her sad lay,
Rememb’ring haply ancient grief, renews,
And with our minds more wand’rers from the flesh,
And less by thought restrain’d are, as ’t were, full
Of holy divination in their dreams,
Then in a vision did I seem to view
A golden-feather’d eagle in the sky,
With open wings, and hov’ring for descent,