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THE INFERNO.-CANTO I.
In the mid pathway of our earthly travel,
Encompassed by a wood obscure I found me,
Where I no road could find, no clue unravel. Ah me, how savage was that wood around me,
I scarce can say, so tangled and unbroken,
That ev'n its memory in new fear hath bound me. So bitter, that it seemed death’s very token;
But to relate the good which there I learned,
All else that did befall me shall be spoken. How I came thither, might not be discerned,
To such o'erpowering slumber was I given,
When from the path direct my steps I turned. But when I to a mountain's foot had striven,
At last the limit of that valley shewing,
Which with such deadly fear my heart had riven, I looked on high, and saw its shoulders glowing
Already with that planet's rays invested
Which guides all men aright wherever going. Then was the fear within me somewhat rested
That swayed the currents of my heart's recesses,
Throughout that night with so much woe infested. And like as one, whom laboured breath oppresses,
Forth from the dangerous tide to land ascended,
Turns and surveys the scene of his distresses ; So then my mind, its flutterings yet unended,
Turned back to gaze upon the pass up-slanting,
Where yet no living man his way had wended. Thus to my weary limbs some respite granting,
Across the desert strand again I bore me,
Always my hinder foot securely planting.
Behold a leopard, quick and nimble-paced,
With gaily spotted skin, appeared before me; Nor moved away, but aye against me faced ;
And hindered so my path with gesture warning,
That oft I turned, and near my steps retraced. It was the time of scarce unfolded morning;
Up rose the sun, with that same constellation
Which circled him, when Love divine adorning The universe, gave those fair lights creation ;
So that the hour of day, the season's sweetness,
Gave me good cause to cherish expectation
Had not a lion suddenly appearing
He came against me, so it seemed, uprearing
His head aloft, with hungry rage unsated,
One whom the very air methought was fearing. And then a wolf, with thousand longings freighted,
As in her leanness unto me she seemed,
Who many lands ere now hath devastated.
Poured heaviness upon me in such measure
That I no more to climb the summit dreamed. And like to one who gains with anxious pleasure,
Then saddens o'er in all his thoughts, and waileth
When the time comes for him to lose his treasure; So me that beast continually assaileth,
Driving me down by ever-shortening stages
To where the sun his light in silence veileth. But lo, another sight my mind engages
While yet I bank to that low depth's perdition,
Of one whose voice seemed faint from lapse of ages. Him when I saw from my abased position,
Across the desert, Pity me,' I cried,
"Whoe'er thou beest, man or apparition.' But he, ‘Not man; man was I, ere I died,
And Mantua was my parents' habitation,
Who to the Lombard race were both allied. Born late in Julius' time, my life's duration
At Rome with good Augustus' empire dated,
What time false lying gods enslaved my nation. A poet then I was, and celebrated
Anchises' pious son, who sailed hither
When that proud Troy bad sunk to ruin fated. But thou, unhappy, art returning whither?
Where such woe vexed thee? lo the mountain blessed,
Sole source and cause of joy: why climb not thither?' "And art thou Virgil, thou that fount possessed
Of such rich streams of eloquence o’erflowing ?'
I asked with brow of bashfulness confessed. "O of all bards the pride and splendour glowing,
Let my long study and great love avail me,
Which moved me on thy works such care bestowing. Thou art my master, thou my guide; O bail me
As thy true pupil, who from thee have taken
The beauteous style, whose glory doth not fail me.
Help me against her, help, renowned master,
"Then thou another road shouldst seek the faster,'
He answered, my tears and sorrow viewing,
If thou wouldst rid thee well of this disaster. For this same beast, the cause of thy undoing,
Alloweth none to pass, whoe'er endeavour,
But hindereth all, ev'n unto death pursuing. Of nature so perverse and fell, that never
Is her most ravenous desire abated,
But after gorging hungereth more than ever. Many the beasts with whom she has been mated,
And more shall yet be, till the greyhound speedeth
Who with sore pain shall slay the monster hated. He neither lands nor filthy lucre heedeth,
Love, wisdom, righteousness his sole ambition,
When either Feltro rule to him concedeth. He shall exalt fallen Italy's condition,
For whom to death Camilla, virgin glorious,
Euryalus, Nisus, Turnus made submission.
Till in Hell's deep she shall again be hidden
Whence envy loosed her first. A road laborious Now doth await thee, who by me art bidden
To follow for thy good; by me convoyed
Thou mayst behold the eternal place unchidden, And hear the cries of ceaseless unalloyed
Despair, wherewith the spirits long tormented
Invoke the second death, to be destroyed. And thou shalt visit those who stand contented
In fire, because they hope how late soever
To reach the choirs with lasting bliss prevented : Whereunto to ascend shouldst thou endeavour.
A spirit than me more worthy shall be given
To lead thee, when my way from thine I sever; For that great Emperor who reigns in heaven
Wills not that any reach his palace tower
Through me, who rebel 'gainst his law have striven. In all space rules he; there his seat of power,
His citadel, his throne's exalted station :
Blest whom he chooseth for such mansion's dower !' Then I, 'O poet, hear my supplication
By that great God thou knewest not, in order
To escape this ill, or worse in preparation,
So that I view Saint Peter's gateway hallowed,
And those whose sorrow is their fit rewarder.' Then moved he on, and in his steps I followed.
(To be continued.)
MUSINGS OVER THE CHRISTIAN YEAR
AND LYRA INNOCENTIUM.
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS.
SINGLE stanzas and couplets of this day's 'Pilgrim Song' are among the sweetest and most recurring echoes of the Christian Year, and yet as a connected whole, it is one of the most difficult to follow or understand. Perhaps we had better endeavour to outline, as it were, the under-current of thought.
The first verse is the question of the sufferer in mind or body. "Can wayward despondency be pardoned ! Surely it can, for God has listened to many a prayer since Hagar cried to Him in the wilderness. Surely He will, even as He gave water from the rock at the touch of Moses' Rod.
And here, the wilderness becomes, as usual, the emblem of our lives, and the miseries of wanderers there stand for the sadder and drearier portions of human life, as the streams of water that gushed forth from the rock typify the water of life,' springing forth even in the midst of our sorrows from the Rock of Ages.
The dry unfathomed deep of sand' would then be trying and weary monotony; the terrible sand-storm, when the scorching whirlwinds heap their waves in rude alarm,' would represent the moments of sharper anguish or danger; the delusive mirage, when o'er the horizon's silent line fond hopeless fancies cower,' the vain heart-sick imaginations that vex and tantalize one wearied by monotony; the bitter waters attained with so much toil, moments of keen disappointment.
Yet a blessing is on all these. Even out of disappointment, joy and peace may be brought by the Cross, as the Waters of Mara were sweetened by the Wood.
• Thou wilt be there, and not forsake
To turn the bitter pool
The throbbing brow to cool ;
Our darkness best may rule.'
Then, in contrast to the efforts made in vain to reach the shining mirage lake, or the salt bitter pools of the desert, both mere matters of sight not of faith, is set the sure instinct of the pelican flying securely, led by the Hand of God, to the water out of sight, not fearing to entrust her nest to His charge; and thus reproving thankless màn, who must needs have his blessings in sight, and fears to journey on where he has them not close within his grasp, though he may be certain that they are full before him. And yet more, a Pilgrim has been before us, has endured the same woes, has left His marks to guide us, and
• Where on the sand Thy step appears,
Thy crown in sight is hung.' Then follows a most tender and soothing invocation to that Pilgrim who did sit on Jacob’s well, the weary hour of noon, an invocation which it is hardly possible to refrain from quoting, even though we know it must be in the ears and hearts of all our readers. • Thence we turn to a bright and beautiful meditation of the childless man, who loved and cherished children as the buds of the Church-upon St. Joseph, and his reverent guardianship of the Holy Child and His Mother, regarding the relationship in which that just man' stood to his dread nurse child,' as hallowing the whole connection between all who stand in parental relation, as sponsors, clergy, or nursing friends, to the young. It is so sweet and simple that there is no analyzing it-only by dwelling on it can it be appreciated.
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
The scenery of these verses, which always seems like the first note of spring, coming as they do on one of the coldest and most wintry Sundays in all the year, is taken from the walk to Coln St. Aldwyn’s, a small living held by Mr. Keble's father, about three miles from Fairford, on the banks of the river Coln, which is shaded with willow trees. The photograph of the streamlet' and its trees may be seen in ‘Memorials of the Rev. J. Keble. The island there is not, however, the snowdrop islet of 'Easter Tuesday,' which is on the Test.
It is quite honour enough for the Coln to have suggested the lessons sweet of spring returning,' and perhaps the universal charm of these stanzas is partly owing to their having been the fruit of a scene commonplace to common-place eyes, but such as all may read. Mr. Ruskin has remarked that high poetry seems more apt to spring up amid landscapes of quiet smiling moderate beauty, than in the wilder, more rugged and astonishing splendours men go in search of-adducing Shakespeare as his primary instance; and Milton might also have been mentioned, great part of his youth having been spent in the same kind of scenery as surrounded Fairford. Indeed, we fully believe that tranquil beauty, brooded over and studied in all its aspects by a loving soul, is the meetest school of poetry, and inspires more deep thought than a hurried glance at more striking scenes.
The willows of Coln then, by their brave little red budlets, preparing to open into silver studs, and by-and-by into soft golden palms, long ere the wintry season be over, advancing on every breath of spring, holding back, but unscathed, unblighted by recurring frost and blight, teach their lessons of content,