“When she had ended, her bright beaming eyes
Tearful she turn’d aside; whereat I felt
Redoubled zeal to serve thee. As she will’d,
Thus am I come: I sav’d thee from the beast,
Who thy near way across the goodly mount
Prevented. What is this comes o’er thee then?
Why, why dost thou hang back? why in thy breast
Harbour vile fear? why hast not courage there
And noble daring? Since three maids so blest
Thy safety plan, e’en in the court of heaven;
And so much certain good my words forebode.”
As florets, by the frosty air of night
Bent down and clos’d, when day has blanch’d their leaves,
Rise all unfolded on their spiry stems;
So was my fainting vigour new restor’d,
And to my heart such kindly courage ran,
That I as one undaunted soon replied:
“O full of pity she, who undertook
My succour! and thou kind who didst perform
So soon her true behest! With such desire
Thou hast dispos’d me to renew my voyage,
That my first purpose fully is resum’d.
Lead on: one only will is in us both.
Thou art my guide, my master thou, and lord.”
So spake I; and when he had onward mov’d,
I enter’d on the deep and woody way.
“Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric mov’d:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.”
Such characters in colour dim I mark’d
Over a portal’s lofty arch inscrib’d:
Whereat I thus: “Master, these words import
Hard meaning.” He as one prepar’d replied:
“Here thou must all distrust behind thee leave;
Here be vile fear extinguish’d. We are come
Where I have told thee we shall see the souls
To misery doom’d, who intellectual good
Have lost.” And when his hand he had stretch’d forth
To mine, with pleasant looks, whence I was cheer’d,
Into that secret place he led me on.
Here sighs with lamentations and loud moans
Resounded through the air pierc’d by no star,
That e’en I wept at entering. Various tongues,
Horrible languages, outcries of woe,
Accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse,
With hands together smote that swell’d the sounds,
Made up a tumult, that for ever whirls
Round through that air with solid darkness stain’d,
Like to the sand that in the whirlwind flies.
I then, with error yet encompass’d, cried:
“O master! What is this I hear? What race
Are these, who seem so overcome with woe?”
He thus to me: “This miserable fate
Suffer the wretched souls of those, who liv’d