“Brother!” he cried, and pointed at a
Before him, “there is one, whose mother speech
Doth owe to him a fairer ornament.
He in love ditties and the tales of prose
Without a rival stands, and lets the fools
Talk on, who think the songster of Limoges
O’ertops him. Rumour and the popular voice
They look to more than truth, and so confirm
Opinion, ere by art or reason taught.
Thus many of the elder time cried up
Guittone, giving him the prize, till truth
By strength of numbers vanquish’d. If thou own
So ample privilege, as to have gain’d
Free entrance to the cloister, whereof Christ
Is Abbot of the college, say to him
One paternoster for me, far as needs
For dwellers in this world, where power to sin
No longer tempts us.” Haply to make way
For one, that follow’d next, when that was said,
He vanish’d through the fire, as through the wave
A fish, that glances diving to the deep.
I, to the spirit he had shown me, drew
A little onward, and besought his name,
For which my heart, I said, kept gracious room.
He frankly thus began: “Thy courtesy
So wins on me, I have nor power nor will
To hide me. I am Arnault; and with songs,
Sorely lamenting for my folly past,
Thorough this ford of fire I wade, and see
The day, I hope for, smiling in my view.
I pray ye by the worth that guides ye up
Unto the summit of the scale, in time
Remember ye my suff’rings.” With such words
He disappear’d in the refining flame.
Now was the sun so station’d, as when first
His early radiance quivers on the heights,
Where stream’d his Maker’s blood, while Libra hangs
Above Hesperian Ebro, and new fires
Meridian flash on Ganges’ yellow tide.
So day was sinking, when the’ angel of God
Appear’d before us. Joy was in his mien.
Forth of the flame he stood upon the brink,
And with a voice, whose lively clearness far
Surpass’d our human, “Blessed are the pure
In heart,” he Sang: then near him as we came,
“Go ye not further, holy spirits!” he cried,
“Ere the fire pierce you: enter in; and list
Attentive to the song ye hear from thence.”
I, when I heard his saying, was as one
Laid in the grave. My hands together clasp’d,
And upward stretching, on the fire I look’d,
And busy fancy conjur’d up the forms
Erewhile beheld alive consum’d in flames.
Th’ escorting spirits turn’d with gentle
Toward me, and the Mantuan spake: “My son,
Here torment thou mayst feel, but canst not death.
Remember thee, remember thee, if I
Safe e’en on Geryon brought thee: now I come
More near to God, wilt thou not trust me now?
Of this be sure: though in its womb that flame
A thousand years contain’d thee, from thy head
No hair should perish. If thou doubt my truth,
Approach, and with thy hands thy vesture’s hem
Stretch forth, and for thyself confirm belief.
Lay now all fear, O lay all fear aside.
Turn hither, and come onward undismay’d.”
I still, though conscience urg’d’ no step advanc’d.