The wretch appear’d amid all these to say:
“Grant vengeance, sire! for, woe beshrew this heart
My son is murder’d.” He replying seem’d;
“Wait now till I return.” And she,
Made hasty by her grief; “O sire, if thou
Dost not return?”—“Where I am, who then is,
May right thee.”—“What to thee is other’s good,
If thou neglect thy own?”—“Now comfort thee,”
At length he answers. “It beseemeth well
My duty be perform’d, ere I move hence:
So justice wills; and pity bids me stay.”
He, whose ken nothing new surveys, produc’d
That visible speaking, new to us and strange
The like not found on earth. Fondly I gaz’d
Upon those patterns of meek humbleness,
Shapes yet more precious for their artist’s sake,
When “Lo,” the poet whisper’d, “where this way
(But slack their pace), a multitude advance.
These to the lofty steps shall guide us on.”
Mine eyes, though bent on view of novel sights
Their lov’d allurement, were not slow to turn.
Reader! would not that amaz’d thou miss
Of thy good purpose, hearing how just God
Decrees our debts be cancel’d. Ponder not
The form of suff’ring. Think on what succeeds,
Think that at worst beyond the mighty doom
It cannot pass. “Instructor,” I began,
“What I see hither tending, bears no trace
Of human semblance, nor of aught beside
That my foil’d sight can guess.” He answering thus:
“So courb’d to earth, beneath their heavy teems
Of torment stoop they, that mine eye at first
Struggled as thine. But look intently thither,
An disentangle with thy lab’ring view,
What underneath those stones approacheth: now,
E’en now, mayst thou discern the pangs of each.”
Christians and proud! poor and wretched ones!
That feeble in the mind’s eye, lean your trust
Upon unstaid perverseness! now ye not
That we are worms, yet made at last to form
The winged insect, imp’d with angel plumes
That to heaven’s justice unobstructed soars?
Why buoy ye up aloft your unfleg’d souls?
Abortive then and shapeless ye remain,
Like the untimely embryon of a worm!
As, to support incumbent floor or roof,
For corbel is a figure sometimes seen,
That crumples up its knees unto its breast,
With the feign’d posture stirring ruth unfeign’d
In the beholder’s fancy; so I saw
These fashion’d, when I noted well their guise.
Each, as his back was laden, came indeed
Or more or less contract; but it appear’d
As he, who show’d most patience in his look,
Wailing exclaim’d: “I can endure no more.”