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Chapter 2 The Descent. Dante's Protest and Virgil's Appeal. Th_ntercession of the Three Ladies Benedight.

  • Day was departing, and the embrowned air
  • Released the animals that are on earth
  • From their fatigues; and I the only one
  • Made myself ready to sustain the war,
  • Both of the way and likewise of the woe,
  • Which memory that errs not shall retrace.
  • O Muses, O high genius, now assist me!
  • O memory, that didst write down what I saw,
  • Here thy nobility shall be manifest!
  • And I began: "Poet, who guidest me,
  • Regard my manhood, if it be sufficient,
  • Ere to the arduous pass thou dost confide me.
  • Thou sayest, that of Silvius the parent,
  • While yet corruptible, unto the world
  • Immortal went, and was there bodily.
  • But if the adversary of all evil
  • Was courteous, thinking of the high effect
  • That issue would from him, and who, and what,
  • To men of intellect unmeet it seems not;
  • For he was of great Rome, and of her empire
  • In the empyreal heaven as father chosen;
  • The which and what, wishing to speak the truth,
  • Were stablished as the holy place, wherein
  • Sits the successor of the greatest Peter.
  • Upon this journey, whence thou givest him vaunt,
  • Things did he hear, which the occasion were
  • Both of his victory and the papal mantle.
  • Thither went afterwards the Chosen Vessel,
  • To bring back comfort thence unto that Faith,
  • Which of salvation's way is the beginning.
  • But I, why thither come, or who concedes it?
  • I not Aeneas am, I am not Paul,
  • Nor I, nor others, think me worthy of it.
  • Therefore, if I resign myself to come,
  • I fear the coming may be ill-advised;
  • Thou'rt wise, and knowest better than I speak."
  • And as he is, who unwills what he willed,
  • And by new thoughts doth his intention change,
  • So that from his design he quite withdraws,
  • Such I became, upon that dark hillside,
  • Because, in thinking, I consumed the emprise,
  • Which was so very prompt in the beginning.
  • "If I have well thy language understood,"
  • Replied that shade of the Magnanimous,
  • "Thy soul attainted is with cowardice,
  • Which many times a man encumbers so,
  • It turns him back from honoured enterprise,
  • As false sight doth a beast, when he is shy.
  • That thou mayst free thee from this apprehension,
  • I'll tell thee why I came, and what I heard
  • At the first moment when I grieved for thee.
  • Among those was I who are in suspense,
  • And a fair, saintly Lady called to me
  • In such wise, I besought her to command me.
  • Her eyes where shining brighter than the Star;
  • And she began to say, gentle and low,
  • With voice angelical, in her own language:
  • 'O spirit courteous of Mantua,
  • Of whom the fame still in the world endures,
  • And shall endure, long-lasting as the world;
  • A friend of mine, and not the friend of fortune,
  • Upon the desert slope is so impeded
  • Upon his way, that he has turned through terror,
  • And may, I fear, already be so lost,
  • That I too late have risen to his succour,
  • From that which I have heard of him in Heaven.
  • Bestir thee now, and with thy speech ornate,
  • And with what needful is for his release,
  • Assist him so, that I may be consoled.
  • Beatrice am I, who do bid thee go;
  • I come from there, where I would fain return;
  • Love moved me, which compelleth me to speak.
  • When I shall be in presence of my Lord,
  • Full often will I praise thee unto him.'
  • Then paused she, and thereafter I began:
  • 'O Lady of virtue, thou alone through whom
  • The human race exceedeth all contained
  • Within the heaven that has the lesser circles,
  • So grateful unto me is thy commandment,
  • To obey, if 'twere already done, were late;
  • No farther need'st thou ope to me thy wish.
  • But the cause tell me why thou dost not shun
  • The here descending down into this centre,
  • From the vast place thou burnest to return to.'
  • 'Since thou wouldst fain so inwardly discern,
  • Briefly will I relate,' she answered me,
  • 'Why I am not afraid to enter here.
  • Of those things only should one be afraid
  • Which have the power of doing others harm;
  • Of the rest, no; because they are not fearful.
  • God in his mercy such created me
  • That misery of yours attains me not,
  • Nor any flame assails me of this burning.
  • A gentle Lady is in Heaven, who grieves
  • At this impediment, to which I send thee,
  • So that stern judgment there above is broken.
  • In her entreaty she besought Lucia,
  • And said, "Thy faithful one now stands in need
  • Of thee, and unto thee I recommend him."
  • Lucia, foe of all that cruel is,
  • Hastened away, and came unto the place
  • Where I was sitting with the ancient Rachel.
  • "Beatrice" said she, "the true praise of God,
  • Why succourest thou not him, who loved thee so,
  • For thee he issued from the vulgar herd?
  • Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint?
  • Dost thou not see the death that combats him
  • Beside that flood, where ocean has no vaunt?"
  • Never were persons in the world so swift
  • To work their weal and to escape their woe,
  • As I, after such words as these were uttered,
  • Came hither downward from my blessed seat,
  • Confiding in thy dignified discourse,
  • Which honours thee, and those who've listened to it.'
  • After she thus had spoken unto me,
  • Weeping, her shining eyes she turned away;
  • Whereby she made me swifter in my coming;
  • And unto thee I came, as she desired;
  • I have delivered thee from that wild beast,
  • Which barred the beautiful mountain's short ascent.
  • What is it, then? Why, why dost thou delay?
  • Why is such baseness bedded in thy heart?
  • Daring and hardihood why hast thou not,
  • Seeing that three such Ladies benedight
  • Are caring for thee in the court of Heaven,
  • And so much good my speech doth promise thee?"
  • Even as the flowerets, by nocturnal chill,
  • Bowed down and closed, when the sun whitens them,
  • Uplift themselves all open on their stems;
  • Such I became with my exhausted strength,
  • And such good courage to my heart there coursed,
  • That I began, like an intrepid person:
  • "O she compassionate, who succoured me,
  • And courteous thou, who hast obeyed so soon
  • The words of truth which she addressed to thee!
  • Thou hast my heart so with desire disposed
  • To the adventure, with these words of thine,
  • That to my first intent I have returned.
  • Now go, for one sole will is in us both,
  • Thou Leader, and thou Lord, and Master thou."
  • Thus said I to him; and when he had moved,
  • I entered on the deep and savage way.