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THE INFERNO.-CANTO I.
In the mid pathway of our earthly travel,
But to relate the good which there I learned,
That swayed the currents of my heart's recesses,
Forth from the dangerous tide to land ascended,
But when I thought to scale the steep slope o'er me,
Up rose the sun, with that same constellation
Brought back again my fear in its completeness.
He came against me, so it seemed, uprearing
One whom the very air methought was fearing.
Who many lands ere now hath devastated.
This with the threats which from her presence streamed
Driving me down by ever-shortening stages
But lo, another sight my mind engages
While yet I sank to that low depth's perdition,
Of one whose voice seemed faint from lapse of ages.
Anchises' pious son, who sailed hither
When that proud Troy had 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?'
"Then thou another road shouldst seek the faster,'
He neither lands nor filthy lucre heedeth,
Love, wisdom, righteousness his sole ambition,
For whom to death Camilla, virgin glorious,
Now doth await thee, who by me art bidden
Despair, wherewith the spirits long tormented
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;
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, That thou wouldst lead me o'er the unseen border 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
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.
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 man, 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,