Downwards his forehead, and in troubled mood
Broke off his speech. Meanwhile we had arriv’d
Far as the mountain’s foot, and there the rock
Found of so steep ascent, that nimblest steps
To climb it had been vain. The most remote
Most wild untrodden path, in all the tract
’Twixt Lerice and Turbia were to this
A ladder easy’ and open of access.
“Who knows on which hand now the steep declines?”
My master said and paus’d, “so that he may
Ascend, who journeys without aid of wine?”
And while with looks directed to the ground
The meaning of the pathway he explor’d,
And I gaz’d upward round the stony height,
Of spirits, that toward us mov’d their steps,
Yet moving seem’d not, they so slow approach’d.
I thus my guide address’d: “Upraise
Lo that way some, of whom thou may’st obtain
Counsel, if of thyself thou find’st it not!”
Straightway he look’d, and with free speech
“Let us tend thither: they but softly come.
And thou be firm in hope, my son belov’d.”
Now was that people distant far in space
A thousand paces behind ours, as much
As at a throw the nervous arm could fling,
When all drew backward on the messy crags
Of the steep bank, and firmly stood unmov’d
As one who walks in doubt might stand to look.
“O spirits perfect! O already chosen!”
Virgil to them began, “by that blest peace,
Which, as I deem, is for you all prepar’d,
Instruct us where the mountain low declines,
So that attempt to mount it be not vain.
For who knows most, him loss of time most grieves.”
As sheep, that step from forth their fold, by one,
Or pairs, or three at once; meanwhile the rest
Stand fearfully, bending the eye and nose
To ground, and what the foremost does, that do
The others, gath’ring round her, if she stops,
Simple and quiet, nor the cause discern;
So saw I moving to advance the first,
Who of that fortunate crew were at the head,
Of modest mien and graceful in their gait.
When they before me had beheld the light
From my right side fall broken on the ground,
So that the shadow reach’d the cave, they stopp’d
And somewhat back retir’d: the same did all,
Who follow’d, though unweeting of the cause.
“Unask’d of you, yet freely I confess,
This is a human body which ye see.
That the sun’s light is broken on the ground,
Marvel not: but believe, that not without
Virtue deriv’d from Heaven, we to climb
Over this wall aspire.” So them bespake
My master; and that virtuous tribe rejoin’d;
“Turn, and before you there the entrance lies,”
Making a signal to us with bent hands.
Then of them one began. “Whoe’er
Who journey’st thus this way, thy visage turn,
Think if me elsewhere thou hast ever seen.”