“When at his glory’s topmost height,”
“Respect of dignity all cast aside,
Freely He fix’d him on Sienna’s plain,
A suitor to redeem his suff’ring friend,
Who languish’d in the prison-house of Charles,
Nor for his sake refus’d through every vein
To tremble. More I will not say; and dark,
I know, my words are, but thy neighbours soon
Shall help thee to a comment on the text.
This is the work, that from these limits freed him.”
With equal pace as oxen in the yoke,
I with that laden spirit journey’d on
Long as the mild instructor suffer’d me;
But when he bade me quit him, and proceed
(For “here,” said he, “behooves with sail and oars
Each man, as best he may, push on his bark"),
Upright, as one dispos’d for speed, I rais’d
My body, still in thought submissive bow’d.
I now my leader’s track not loth pursued;
And each had shown how light we far’d along
When thus he warn’d me: “Bend thine eyesight down:
For thou to ease the way shall find it good
To ruminate the bed beneath thy feet.”
As in memorial of the buried, drawn
Upon earth-level tombs, the sculptur’d form
Of what was once, appears (at sight whereof
Tears often stream forth by remembrance wak’d,
Whose sacred stings the piteous only feel),
So saw I there, but with more curious skill
Of portraiture o’erwrought, whate’er of space
From forth the mountain stretches. On one part
Him I beheld, above all creatures erst
Created noblest, light’ning fall from heaven:
On th’ other side with bolt celestial pierc’d
Briareus: cumb’ring earth he lay through dint
Of mortal ice-stroke. The Thymbraean god
With Mars, I saw, and Pallas, round their sire,
Arm’d still, and gazing on the giant’s limbs
Strewn o’er th’ ethereal field. Nimrod I saw:
At foot of the stupendous work he stood,
As if bewilder’d, looking on the crowd
Leagued in his proud attempt on Sennaar’s plain.
O Niobe! in what a trance of woe
Thee I beheld, upon that highway drawn,
Sev’n sons on either side thee slain! Saul!
How ghastly didst thou look! on thine own sword
Expiring in Gilboa, from that hour
Ne’er visited with rain from heav’n or dew!
O fond Arachne! thee I also saw
Half spider now in anguish crawling up
Th’ unfinish’d web thou weaved’st to thy bane!
O Rehoboam! here thy shape doth seem
Louring no more defiance! but fear-smote
With none to chase him in his chariot whirl’d.
Was shown beside upon the solid floor
How dear Alcmaeon forc’d his mother rate
That ornament in evil hour receiv’d:
How in the temple on Sennacherib fell
His sons, and how a corpse they left him there.
Was shown the scath and cruel mangling made
By Tomyris on Cyrus, when she cried:
“Blood thou didst thirst for, take thy fill of blood!”
Was shown how routed in the battle fled
Th’ Assyrians, Holofernes slain, and e’en
The relics of the carnage. Troy I mark’d
In ashes and in caverns. Oh! how fall’n,
How abject, Ilion, was thy semblance there!