Was umpire soon between them, but in vain
To lift themselves they strove, so fast were glued
Their pennons. Barbariccia, as the rest,
That chance lamenting, four in flight dispatch’d
From the’ other coast, with all their weapons arm’d.
They, to their post on each side speedily
Descending, stretch’d their hooks toward the fiends,
Who flounder’d, inly burning from their scars:
And we departing left them to that broil.
In silence and in solitude we went,
One first, the other following his steps,
As minor friars journeying on their road.
The present fray had turn’d my thoughts to muse
Upon old Aesop’s fable, where he told
What fate unto the mouse and frog befell.
For language hath not sounds more like in sense,
Than are these chances, if the origin
And end of each be heedfully compar’d.
And as one thought bursts from another forth,
So afterward from that another sprang,
Which added doubly to my former fear.
For thus I reason’d: “These through us have been
So foil’d, with loss and mock’ry so complete,
As needs must sting them sore. If anger then
Be to their evil will conjoin’d, more fell
They shall pursue us, than the savage hound
Snatches the leveret, panting ’twixt his jaws.”
Already I perceiv’d my hair stand all
On end with terror, and look’d eager back.
“Teacher,” I thus began, “if speedily
Thyself and me thou hide not, much I dread
Those evil talons. Even now behind
They urge us: quick imagination works
So forcibly, that I already feel them.’’
He answer’d: “Were I form’d of leaded glass,
I should not sooner draw unto myself
Thy outward image, than I now imprint
That from within. This moment came thy thoughts
Presented before mine, with similar act
And count’nance similar, so that from both
I one design have fram’d. If the right coast
Incline so much, that we may thence descend
Into the other chasm, we shall escape
Secure from this imagined pursuit.”
He had not spoke his purpose to the end,
When I from far beheld them with spread wings
Approach to take us. Suddenly my guide
Caught me, ev’n as a mother that from sleep
Is by the noise arous’d, and near her sees
The climbing fires, who snatches up her babe
And flies ne’er pausing, careful more of him
Than of herself, that but a single vest
Clings round her limbs. Down from the jutting beach
Supine he cast him, to that pendent rock,
Which closes on one part the other chasm.
Never ran water with such hurrying pace
Adown the tube to turn a landmill’s wheel,
When nearest it approaches to the spokes,
As then along that edge my master ran,
Carrying me in his bosom, as a child,
Not a companion. Scarcely had his feet