“Not of myself I come; a Dame from heaven
Descending, had besought me in my charge
To bring. But since thy will implies, that more
Our true condition I unfold at large,
Mine is not to deny thee thy request.
This mortal ne’er hath seen the farthest gloom.
But erring by his folly had approach’d
So near, that little space was left to turn.
Then, as before I told, I was dispatch’d
To work his rescue, and no way remain’d
Save this which I have ta’en. I have display’d
Before him all the regions of the bad;
And purpose now those spirits to display,
That under thy command are purg’d from sin.
How I have brought him would be long to say.
From high descends the virtue, by whose aid
I to thy sight and hearing him have led.
Now may our coming please thee. In the search
Of liberty he journeys: that how dear
They know, who for her sake have life refus’d.
Thou knowest, to whom death for her was sweet
In Utica, where thou didst leave those weeds,
That in the last great day will shine so bright.
For us the’ eternal edicts are unmov’d:
He breathes, and I am free of Minos’ power,
Abiding in that circle where the eyes
Of thy chaste Marcia beam, who still in look
Prays thee, O hallow’d spirit! to own her shine.
Then by her love we’ implore thee, let us pass
Through thy sev’n regions; for which best thanks
I for thy favour will to her return,
If mention there below thou not disdain.”
“Marcia so pleasing in my sight was found,”
He then to him rejoin’d, “while I was there,
That all she ask’d me I was fain to grant.
Now that beyond the’ accursed stream she dwells,
She may no longer move me, by that law,
Which was ordain’d me, when I issued thence.
Not so, if Dame from heaven, as thou sayst,
Moves and directs thee; then no flattery needs.
Enough for me that in her name thou ask.
Go therefore now: and with a slender reed
See that thou duly gird him, and his face
Lave, till all sordid stain thou wipe from thence.
For not with eye, by any cloud obscur’d,
Would it be seemly before him to come,
Who stands the foremost minister in heaven.
This islet all around, there far beneath,
Where the wave beats it, on the oozy bed
Produces store of reeds. No other plant,
Cover’d with leaves, or harden’d in its stalk,
There lives, not bending to the water’s sway.
After, this way return not; but the sun
Will show you, that now rises, where to take
The mountain in its easiest ascent.”
He disappear’d; and I myself uprais’d
Speechless, and to my guide retiring close,
Toward him turn’d mine eyes. He thus began;
“My son! observant thou my steps pursue.
We must retreat to rearward, for that way
The champain to its low extreme declines.”
The dawn had chas’d the matin hour of prime,
Which deaf before it, so that from afar
I spy’d the trembling of the ocean stream.