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The regions of the deal ?” My sapient guide
Made sign that he for secret parley wish'd ;
Whereat their angry scorn abating, thus
They spake: “Come thou alone ; and let him go,
Who hath so hardily enter'd this realm.
Alone return he by his witless way;
If well he know it, let him prove. For thee,
IIere shalt thou tarry, who through climc so dark
llast been liis escort." Now bethink thee, reader !
What cheer was mine at sound of those curst words.
I did believe I never should return.
“O my loved guide! who more than seven tiines 1
Security last render'd me, and drawn
From peril deep, whereto I stood exposed,
Desert me not,” I cried, “in this extreme.
And, if our onward going be denied,
Together trace ve back our steps with speed.”
My liege, who thither haul conducted me,
Replied : “Fear not: for of our passage none
IIath power to disappoint us, by such high
Authority permitted. But do thou
Expect me liere ; meanwhile, thy wearied spirit
Comfort, and feed with kindly hope, assured
I will not leave thee in this lower world."
This said, departs the sire benevolent,
And quits me. Hesitating I remain
At war, 'twixt will and will not, in my thoughts.
I could not hear what terms lie offer'd then,
But they conferr'd not long, for all at once
Pellmeli 3 rush'd back within. Closed were the gates,
By those our adversaries, on the breast
of my liege lord: excluded, he return'd
To me with tardy steps. Upon the ground
His eyes were bent, and from his brow erased
All confidence, while thus in sighs he spake : 1 Seven times.] The commentators, says Venturi, perplex themselves with the inquiry what seven perils these were from which Dante had been delivered by Virgil. Reckoning the beasts in the first Canto as one of them, and adding Charon, Minos, Cerberus, Plutus, Phlegyas, and Filippo Argenti, as so many others, we shall have the number ; and if this be not satisfactory, we may suppose a determinate to have been put for an indeterminate number.
2 At war, 'twix, will and will not.] Che si, e nò nel capo mi tenzona. Thus our Poet in his cighth Canzone:
('l' il sì, e'l nò tututto in vostra mano
lla posto amore. And Boccaccio, Ninf. Fiesol. st. 233 : 11 si c il nò nel capo gli contende.
The words I have adopted as a translation arc Shakspeare's, Measure for Measure, act ii. sc. 1. 3 Pellmell.). A pruova.
" Certatim.” “A l'envi.” I had before translatel "To trial ;” and have to thank Mr. Carlyle for detecting the error.
“Who hath denied me these abodes of woe ?"
Then thus to me : “That I am anger'd, think
No ground of terror: in this trial I
Shall vanquish, use what arts they may within
For hindrance. This their insolence, not new,
Erewhile at gate less secret they display d,
Which still is without bolt; upon its arch
Thou saw'st the deadly scroll : and even now,
On this side of its entrance, down the steep,
Passing the circles, unescorted, comes
One whose strong might can open us this land.”
Argument. After some hindrances, and having seen the hellish furies and other monsters,
the Poet, by the help of an angel, enters the city of Dis, wherein he discovers that the heretics are punished in tombs burning with intense fire: and he, together with Virgil, passes onwards between the sepulchres and the walls of the city.
The hue, which coward dread on my pale cheeks
Imprinted when I saw my guide turn back,
Chased that from his which newly they had worn,
And inwardly restrain'd it. Hc, as one
Who listens, stood attentive : for his eye
Not far could lead him through the savle air,
And the thick-gathering cloud. “It yet behores
We win this fight ;” thus he began : "if not,
Such aid to us is offer'd. -Oh ! how long
Me seems it, ere the promised help arrive.”
I noted, how the sequel of his words
Cloked their beginning ; for the last he spake
Agreed not with the first. But not the less
My fear was at his saying ; sith I drew
To import worse, perchance, than that he held,
1 This their insolence, not new.] Virgil assures our Poet, that these evil spirits had formerly shown the same insolence when our Saviour descended into hell. They attempted to prevent him from entering at the gate, over which Dante had read the fatal inscription. “That gate which,” says the Roman poet, "an angel had just passed, by whose aid we shall overcome this oppo. sition, and gain admittance into the city."
2 The hue.) Virgil, perceiving that Dante was pale with fear, restrained those outward tokens of displeasure which his own countenance had betrayedl.
His mutilated speech. “Doth ever any
Into this rueful concave's extreme depth
Descend, out of the first degree, whose pain
Is deprivation merely of sweet hope ?""
Thus I inquiring. “Rarely," he replied,
“It chances, that among us any makes
This journey, which I wend. Erewhile, 'tis true,
Once came I here beneath, conjured by fell
Erictho, sorceress, who compelld the shades
Back to their bodies. No long space my flesh
Was naked of me, when within these walls
She made me enter, to draw forth a spirit
From out of Judas circle. Lowest place
Is that of all, obscurest, and removed
Farthest from heaven's all-circling orb. The road
Full well I know : thou therefore rest secure.
That lake, the noisome stench exhaling, round
The city of grief encompasses, which now
We may not enter without rage." Yet more
He added : but I hold it not in mind,
For that mine eye toward the lofty tower
Had drawn me wholly, to its burning top;
Where, in an instant, 1 beheld uprisen
At once three hellish furies staind with blood :
In limb and motion feminine they seem'd;
Around them greenest hydras twisting roll'd
Their volumes ; adders and cerastes 3 crept
Instead of hair, and their fierce temples bound.
He, knowing well the miserable hags 1 Erictho.] Erictho, a Thessalian sorceress, according to Lucan, Pharsal. lib. 6, was employed by Sextus, son of Pompey the Great, to conjure up a spirit, who should inform him of the issue of the civil wars between his father and Cæsar.
No long space my flesh Was naked of me.) Quæ corpus complexa animæ tam fortis inane. Ovid, Met. lib. 13. fab. 2.
Dante appears to have fallen into an anachronism. Virgil's death did not happen till long after this period. But Lombardi shows, in opposition to the other commentators, that the anachronism is only apparent. Erictho might well have survived the battle of Pharsalia long enough to be employed in her magical practices at the time of Virgil's decease. 3 Adders and cerastes.]
Vipereum crinem vittis innexa cruentis. Virg. Æn. lib. 6. 281.
-spinâque vagi torquente cerasta
et torrida dipsas
Et gravis in geminum vergens caput amphisbæna.
Lucan, Pharsal. lib. 9. 719. So Milton : Scorpion and asp, and amphisbæna dire,
Cerastes horn'd, hydrus and elops drear,
P. L. b. 10. 524.
Who tend the queen of endless woe, thus spake :
“Mark thou each dire Erynnis. To the left,
This is Megæra ; on the right hand, she
Who wails, Alecto ; and Tisiphone
'th' midst." This said, in silence he remain'd.
Their breast they each one clawing tore ; themselves
Smote with their palms, and such thrill clamour raised,
That to the bard I clung, suspicion-bound.
“Hasten Medusa : so to adamant
Him shall we change;" all looking down exclaim’d:
“E'en when by Theseus' might assaild, we took
No ill revenge.” “Turn thyself round, and keep
Thy countenance hid ; for if the Gorgon dire
Be shown, and thou shouldst view it, thy return
Upwards would be for ever lost.” This said,
Himself, my gentle master, turn’d me round;
Nor trusted he my hands, but with his own
He also hid me. Ye of intellect
Sound and entire, mark well the lore 1 concealu
Under close texture of the mystic strain.
And now there came o'er the perturbed waves
Loud-crashing, terrible, a sound that made
Either shore tremble, as if of a wind 2
Impetuous, from conflicting vapours sprung,
That 'gainst some forest driving all his might,
Plucks off the branches, beats them down, and hurls
Afar ;3 then, onward passing, proudly sweeps
His whirlwind rage, while beasts and shepherds fly.
Mine eyes he loosed, and spake : “And now direct
Thy visual nerve along that ancient foam,
There, thickest where the smoke ascends.” As frogs 1 The lore.] The Poet probably intends to call the reader's attention to the allegorical and mystic sense of the present Canto, and not, as Venturi supposes, to that of the whole work. Landinc supposes this hidden meaning to be, that in the case of those vices which proceed from incontinence and intemperance, reason, which is figured under the person of Virgil, with the ordinary grace of God, may be a sufficient safeguard; but that in the instance of more heinous crimes, such as those we shall hereafter see punished, a special grace, represented by the angel, is requisite for our defence. ? A wind.] Imitated by Berni :
Com' un gruppo di vento in la marina
L'onde, e le navi sottosopra caccia,
Ed in terra con furia repentina
Gli arbori abbatte, sveglie, sfronda e straccia.
Smarriti fuggon i lavoratori
E per le selve le fiere e' pastori. Orl. Inn. lib. 1. c. ii, st. 6. 3 Afar.) “Porta i fiori,” “ carries away the blossoms,” is the common read. ing. " Porta fuori,” which is the right reading, adopted by Lombardi in his edition from the Nidobeatina, for which he claims it exclusively, I had also seen in Landino's edition of 1484, and adopted from thence, long before it was my chance to meet with Lombardi.
Before their toe the serpent, through the wave
Ply swiftly all, till at the ground each one
Lies on a heap; more than a thousand spirits
Destroy'd, so saw I fleeing before one
Who pass'd with unwet feet the Stygian sound.
He, from his face removing the gross air,
Oft his left hand forth stretch'd, and seem'd alone
By that annoyance wearied. I perceived
That he was sent from heaven ; and to my guide
Turn'd me, who signal made, that I should stand
Quiet, and bend to him. Ah me! how full
Of noble anger scem'd he. To the gate
He came, and with his wand 1 touch'd it, whereat
Open without impediment it flew.
""Outcasts of heaven! O abject race, and scorn'd !”
Began he, on the horrid grunsel standing,
“Whence doth this wild excess of insolence
Lodge in you ? wlierefore kick you 'gainst that will
Ne'er frustrate of its end, and which so oft
Hath laid on you enforcement of your pangs?
What profits, at the fates to butt the horn?
Your Cerberus, if ye remember, hence
Bears still, peeld of their hair, his throat and maw."
This said, he turn'd back o'er the filthy way,
And syllable to us spake none; but wore
The semblance of a man by other care
Beset, and keenly prest, than thought of him
Who in his presence stands. Then we our steps
Toward that territory moved, secure
After the hallow'd words. We, unopposed,
There enter'd ; and, my mind cager to learn
What state a fortress like to that might hold,
I, soon as enter'd, throw mine eye around,
And see, on every part, wide-stretching space,
Replete with bitter pain and torment ill.
Ås where Rhone stagnates on the plains of Arles, 1 With his wand.]
She with her rod did softly smite the raile,
Which straight flew ope. Spenser, F. Q. b. 4. c. iii. st. 46. ? Your Cerberus.] Cerberus is feigned to have been dragged by Hercules, bound with a threefold chain, of which, says the angel, he still bears the marks. Lombardi blames the other interpreters for having supposed that the angel attributes this exploit to Hercules, a fabulous hero, rather than to our Saviour. It would seem as if the good father had forgotten that Cerberus is himself no less a creature of the imagination than the hero who encountered him,
3 The plains of Aries.] In Provence. See Ariosto, Orl. Fur, c. xxxix. st. 72:
Fu da ogni parte in quest'ultima guerra
(Benche la cosa non fu ugual divisa,