Next shower’d into my fantasy a shape
As of one crucified, whose visage spake
Fell rancour, malice deep, wherein he died;
And round him Ahasuerus the great king,
Esther his bride, and Mordecai the just,
Blameless in word and deed. As of itself
That unsubstantial coinage of the brain
Burst, like a bubble, Which the water fails
That fed it; in my vision straight uprose
A damsel weeping loud, and cried, “O queen!
O mother! wherefore has intemperate ire
Driv’n thee to loath thy being? Not to lose
Lavinia, desp’rate thou hast slain thyself.
Now hast thou lost me. I am she, whose tears
Mourn, ere I fall, a mother’s timeless end.”
E’en as a sleep breaks off, if suddenly
New radiance strike upon the closed lids,
The broken slumber quivering ere it dies;
Thus from before me sunk that imagery
Vanishing, soon as on my face there struck
The light, outshining far our earthly beam.
As round I turn’d me to survey what place
I had arriv’d at, “Here ye mount,” exclaim’d
A voice, that other purpose left me none,
Save will so eager to behold who spake,
I could not choose but gaze. As ’fore the sun,
That weighs our vision down, and veils his form
In light transcendent, thus my virtue fail’d
Unequal. “This is Spirit from above,
Who marshals us our upward way, unsought;
And in his own light shrouds him. As a man
Doth for himself, so now is done for us.
For whoso waits imploring, yet sees need
Of his prompt aidance, sets himself prepar’d
For blunt denial, ere the suit be made.
Refuse we not to lend a ready foot
At such inviting: haste we to ascend,
Before it darken: for we may not then,
Till morn again return.” So spake my guide;
And to one ladder both address’d our steps;
And the first stair approaching, I perceiv’d
Near me as ’twere the waving of a wing,
That fann’d my face and whisper’d: “Blessed they
The peacemakers: they know not evil wrath.”
Now to such height above our heads were rais’d
The last beams, follow’d close by hooded night,
That many a star on all sides through the gloom
Shone out. “Why partest from me, O my strength?”
So with myself I commun’d; for I felt
My o’ertoil’d sinews slacken. We had reach’d
The summit, and were fix’d like to a bark
Arriv’d at land. And waiting a short space,
If aught should meet mine ear in that new round,
Then to my guide I turn’d, and said: “Lov’d sire!
Declare what guilt is on this circle purg’d.
If our feet rest, no need thy speech should pause.”
He thus to me: “The love of good, whate’er
Wanted of just proportion, here fulfils.
Here plies afresh the oar, that loiter’d ill.
But that thou mayst yet clearlier understand,
Give ear unto my words, and thou shalt cull
Some fruit may please thee well, from this delay.