The natural thirst, which never can be quenched,
save by the water asked for by the lowly
young woman of Samaria as a boon,
was troubling me, while hurry spurred me on
behind my Leader o'er the cumbered path,
and I was grieving for the just revenge.
Then lo, as Luke records for us that Christ,
when risen from the burial cave, appeared
before the two upon the road, a shade
appeared, and came behind us as we watched
the crowd, which lay around us at our feet;
but we perceived him not; hence he spoke first,
and said: "May God, my brethren, give you peace!"
We turned at once, and to this greeting Virgil
replied with that which corresponds to it.
Then he began: "Within the blest assembly
mayst thou be set at peace by that just court
which in eternal exile bindeth me."
"What!" he replied, as quickly on we went,
"If ye are shades whom God deigns not on high,
who guided you so far along His stairs?"
My Teacher then: "If thou regard the marks
which this one bears, and which the Angel draws,
thou 'lt see that with the good he needs must reign.
But whereas she, who spinneth night and day,
had not as yet drawn off for him the flax,
which Clotho lays and packs for every one,
his soul, which sister is to thee and me,
could not, in climbing here, come up alone,
because it seeth not as we. Hence I
out of the ample throat of Hell was drawn,
to show the way to him, and I shall show it,
as far as e'er my school can lead him on.
But tell us, if thou knowest, why the Mountain
shook so just now, and why all seemed to shout
with one accord down to its oozy base?"
Thus by his asking he had threaded so
the needle's eye of my desire, that, merely
with hope, my thirst had come to be less craving.
The former then began: "Nothing exists
which this Mount's sacred government can feel,
that void of order is, or 'gainst its wont.
From every change this place up here is free;
whate'er Heaven's self from its own self receives,
can be the cause of it, and nothing else;
for neither rain, nor hail, nor snow, nor dew,
nor frost falls any higher up than lies
the little stairway of the three short steps;
clouds neither dense or rarefied appear,
nor lightning flashes, nor yet Thaumas' daughter,
who often changes quarter in the world.
Dry vapor goes no higher than the top
of those three steps whereof I spoke to thee,
and on which Peter's vicar hath his feet.
Below, perhaps, it trembles more or less,
but never quakes up here because of wind
concealed, I know not how, inside the earth.
It trembles here whenever any soul
feels pure enough to rise, or starts to climb;
and such a cry as this endorses it.
Of purity the will alone gives proof,
which, seizing on the soul, now wholly free
to change its company, by willing helps it.
It wills this from the first; but that desire
which, 'gainst the will, God's Justice turns toward pain,
as it was once toward sin, allows it not.
And I, who have five hundred years and more
lain in this woe, felt only now within me
a free volition for a better sphere.
That 's why thou didst the earthquake feel, and hear
the pious spirits on this Mountain praise
that Lord, who soon, I pray, will send them up."
He thus addressed us; and, since one in drink
delights, according as his thirst is great,
I could not say how much he did me good.
And my wise Leader: "Now I see the net
which holds you here, and how it opens, why
it trembles here, and why ye all rejoice.
Now who thou wast be pleased to let me know,
and also let thy words include for me
why thou hast lain so many centuries here."
"At that time when, helped by the Most High King,
good Titus took due vengeance for the wounds,
from which came forth the blood by Judas sold,
I was in great renown" that spirit said,
"up yonder with the name which longest lasts,
and honors most, but not as yet with faith.
So sweet my song, that, though a Toulousan,
Rome drew me to herself, where I deserved
to have my temples crowned with myrtle wreath.
Statius they call me still up there; of Thebes
I sang, of great Achilles next; but 'neath
this second load I sank upon the way.
The seeds of my enthusiasm were the sparks,
which warmed me, of that fire divine, wherewith
more than a thousand poets are enflamed;
I mean the Aeneid, which my mother was
and nurse in poetry; and, lacking which,
not by a drachm's weight had I stirred the scales.
And to have lived on earth when Virgil lived,
to one sun's period more would I consent
than what I owe, to issue from my ban."
These words turned Virgil toward me with a look,
which, silently, "Be silent!" said; and yet
the power that wills can not do everything;
for tears and laughter follow so the passion,
from which they each take rise, that least of all
do they obey the will in those most truthful.
I only smiled, like one who winks; whereat
the shade kept still, and looked into my eyes,
wherein expression is most fixed, and said:
"So mayst thou bring unto a happy end
so great a toil, why was it that thy face
showed me just now the flashing of a smile?"
I now am caught on one side and the other;
one asks for silence, the other conjures me
to speak; I therefore sigh, and by my Teacher
am understood. "Be not afraid to talk,"
the latter said to me, "but speak, and tell him
what he so eagerly desires to know."
I therefore said: "Perhaps thou marvellest,
O ancient spirit, at the smile I gave;
but I would have still greater wonder seize thee.
This spirit here, who upward leads mine eyes,
that Virgil is, from whom thou didst of old
derive the strength to sing of men and gods.
If thou hast given my smile some other cause,
leave it as not the true one, and believe
it was the words thyself didst say of him."
Already was he stooping to embrace
my Teacher's feet; but he said: "Brother, no;
for thou, a shade now, dost a shade behold."
Rising, he said: "Thou now canst understand
the sum of love which warmeth me toward thee,
since I forget our disembodied state,
and act with shades as if they solid were."