The active virtue (differing from a plant
No further, than that this is on the way
And at its limit that) continues yet
To operate, that now it moves, and feels,
As sea sponge clinging to the rock: and there
Assumes th’ organic powers its seed convey’d.
’This is the period, son! at which the virtue,
That from the generating heart proceeds,
Is pliant and expansive; for each limb
Is in the heart by forgeful nature plann’d.
How babe of animal becomes, remains
For thy consid’ring. At this point, more wise,
Than thou hast err’d, making the soul disjoin’d
From passive intellect, because he saw
No organ for the latter’s use assign’d.
“Open thy bosom to the truth that comes.
Know soon as in the embryo, to the brain,
Articulation is complete, then turns
The primal Mover with a smile of joy
On such great work of nature, and imbreathes
New spirit replete with virtue, that what here
Active it finds, to its own substance draws,
And forms an individual soul, that lives,
And feels, and bends reflective on itself.
And that thou less mayst marvel at the word,
Mark the sun’s heat, how that to wine doth change,
Mix’d with the moisture filter’d through the vine.
“When Lachesis hath spun the thread, the soul
Takes with her both the human and divine,
Memory, intelligence, and will, in act
Far keener than before, the other powers
Inactive all and mute. No pause allow’d,
In wond’rous sort self-moving, to one strand
Of those, where the departed roam, she falls,
Here learns her destin’d path. Soon as the place
Receives her, round the plastic virtue beams,
Distinct as in the living limbs before:
And as the air, when saturate with showers,
The casual beam refracting, decks itself
With many a hue; so here the ambient air
Weareth that form, which influence of the soul
Imprints on it; and like the flame, that where
The fire moves, thither follows, so henceforth
The new form on the spirit follows still:
Hence hath it semblance, and is shadow call’d,
With each sense even to the sight endued:
Hence speech is ours, hence laughter, tears, and sighs
Which thou mayst oft have witness’d on the mount
Th’ obedient shadow fails not to present
Whatever varying passion moves within us.
And this the cause of what thou marvel’st at.”
Now the last flexure of our way we reach’d,
And to the right hand turning, other care
Awaits us. Here the rocky precipice
Hurls forth redundant flames, and from the rim
A blast upblown, with forcible rebuff
Driveth them back, sequester’d from its bound.
Behoov’d us, one by one, along the side,
That border’d on the void, to pass; and I
Fear’d on one hand the fire, on th’ other fear’d
Headlong to fall: when thus th’ instructor warn’d:
“Strict rein must in this place direct the eyes.
A little swerving and the way is lost.”