“Go now,” he cried: “lo! he,
whose guilt is most,
Passes before my vision, dragg’d at heels
Of an infuriate beast. Toward the vale,
Where guilt hath no redemption, on it speeds,
Each step increasing swiftness on the last;
Until a blow it strikes, that leaveth him
A corse most vilely shatter’d. No long space
Those wheels have yet to roll” (therewith his eyes
Look’d up to heav’n) “ere thou shalt plainly see
That which my words may not more plainly tell.
I quit thee: time is precious here: I lose
Too much, thus measuring my pace with shine.”
As from a troop of well-rank’d chivalry
One knight, more enterprising than the rest,
Pricks forth at gallop, eager to display
His prowess in the first encounter prov’d
So parted he from us with lengthen’d strides,
And left me on the way with those twain spirits,
Who were such mighty marshals of the world.
When he beyond us had so fled mine eyes
No nearer reach’d him, than my thought his words,
The branches of another fruit, thick hung,
And blooming fresh, appear’d. E’en as our steps
Turn’d thither, not far off it rose to view.
Beneath it were a multitude, that rais’d
Their hands, and shouted forth I know not What
Unto the boughs; like greedy and fond brats,
That beg, and answer none obtain from him,
Of whom they beg; but more to draw them on,
He at arm’s length the object of their wish
Above them holds aloft, and hides it not.
At length, as undeceiv’d they went their way: And we approach the tree, who vows and tears Sue to in vain, the mighty tree. “Pass on, And come not near. Stands higher up the wood, Whereof Eve tasted, and from it was ta’en ’this plant.” Such sounds from midst the thickets came. Whence I, with either bard, close to the side That rose, pass’d forth beyond. “Remember,” next We heard, “those noblest creatures of the clouds, How they their twofold bosoms overgorg’d Oppos’d in fight to Theseus: call to mind The Hebrews, how effeminate they stoop’d To ease their thirst; whence Gideon’s ranks were thinn’d, As he to Midian march’d adown the hills.”
Thus near one border coasting, still we heard
The sins of gluttony, with woe erewhile
Reguerdon’d. Then along the lonely path,
Once more at large, full thousand paces on
We travel’d, each contemplative and mute.
“Why pensive journey thus ye three alone?”
Thus suddenly a voice exclaim’d: whereat
I shook, as doth a scar’d and paltry beast;
Then rais’d my head to look from whence it came.
Was ne’er, in furnace, glass, or metal seen
So bright and glowing red, as was the shape
I now beheld. “If ye desire to mount,”
He cried, “here must ye turn. This way he goes,
Who goes in quest of peace.” His countenance
Had dazzled me; and to my guides I fac’d
Backward, like one who walks, as sound directs.