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 Canto II
      After the invocation, which poets are used to prefix to their works, he
 shows that, on a consideration of his own strength, he doubted whether it
 sufficed for the journey proposed to him, but that, being comforted by Virgil,
 he at last took courage, and followed him as his guide and master.
 Now was the day departing, and the air,
 Imbrown'd with shadows, from their toils released
 All animals on earth; and I alone
 Prepared myself the conflict to sustain,
 Both of sad pity, and that perilous road,
 Which my unerring memory shall retrace.
 O Muses! O high genius! now vouchsafe
 Your aid. O mind! that all I saw hast kept
 Safe in a written record, here thy worth
 And eminent endowments come to proof.
 I thus began: "Bard! thou who art my guide,
 Consider well, if virtue be in me
 Sufficient, ere to this high enterprise
 Thou trust me. Thou hast told that Silvius' sire,[1]
 Yet clothed in corruptible flesh, among
 The immortal tribes had entrance, and was there
 Sensibly present. Yet if Heaven's great Lord,
 Almighty foe to ill, such favor show'd
 In contemplation of the high effect,
 Both what and who from him should issue forth,
 It seems in reason's judgment well deserved;
 Sith he of Rome and of Rome's empire wide,
 In Heaven's imperial height was chosen sire:
 Both which, if truth be spoken, were ordain'd
 And stablish'd for the holy place, where sits
 Who to great Peter's sacred chair succeeds.
 He from this journey, in thy song renown'd,
 Learn'd things, that to his victory gave rise
 And to the papal robe. In after - times
 The Chosen Vessel[2] also travel'd there,
 To bring us back assurance in that faith
 Which is the entrance to salvation's way.
 But I, why should I there presume? or who
 Permits it? not Aeneas I, nor Paul.
 [1: "Silvius' sire." Aeneas.]
 [2: "The Chosen Vessel." St. Paul.]
 Myself I deem not worthy, and none else
 Will deem me. I, if on this voyage then
 I venture, fear it will in folly end.
 Thou, who art wise, better my meaning know'st,
 Than I can speak." As one, who unresolves
 What he hath late resolved, and with new thoughts
 Changes his purpose, from his first intent
 Removed; e'en such was I on that dun coast,
 Wasting in thought my enterprise, at first
 So eagerly embraced. "If right thy words
 I scan," replied that shade magnanimous,
 "Thy soul is by vile fear assail'd, which oft
 So overcasts a man, that he recoils
 From noblest resolution, like a beast
 At some false semblance in the twilight gloom.
 That from this terror thou mayst free thyself,
 I will instruct thee why I came, and what
 I heard in that same instant, when for thee
 Grief touch'd me first. I was among the tribe,
 Who rest suspended,[3] when a dame, so blest
 And lovely I besought her to command,
 Call'd me; her eyes were brighter than the star
 Of day; and she, with gentle voice and soft,
 Angelically tuned, her speech address'd:
 'O courteous shade of Mantua! thou whose fame
 Yet lives, and shall live long as nature lasts!
 A friend, not of my fortune but myself,
 On the wide desert in his road has met
 Hindrance so great, that he through fear has turn'd.
 Now much I dread lest he past help have stray'd,
 And I be risen too late for his relief,
 From what in heaven of him I heard. Speed now,
 And by thy eloquent persuasive tongue,
 And by all means for his deliverance meet,
 Assist him. So to me will comfort spring.
 I, who now bid thee on this errand forth,
 Am Beatrice;[4] from a place I come
 Revisited with joy. Love brought me thence,
 Who prompts my speech. When in my Master's sight
 I stand, thy praise to him I oft will tell.'
 [3: The spirits in Limbo, neither admitted to a state of glory nor
 doomed to punishment.]
 [4: "Beatrice." The daughter of Folco Portinari, who is here invested
 with the character of celestial wisdom or theology.]
 "She then was silent, and I thus began:
 'O Lady! by whose influence alone
 Mankind excels whatever is contain'd
 Within that heaven which hath the smallest orb,
 So thy command delights me, that to obey,
 If it were done already, would seem late.
 No need hast thou further to speak thy will:
 Yet tell the reason, why thou art not loth
 To leave that ample space, where to return
 Thou burnest, for this centre here beneath.'
 "She then: 'Since thou so deeply wouldst inquire,
 I will instruct thee briefly why no dread
 Hinders my entrance here. Those things alone
 Are to be fear'd whence evil may proceed;
 None else, for none are terrible beside.
 I am so framed by God, thanks to His grace!
 That any sufferance of your misery
 Touches me not, nor flame of that fierce fire
 Assails me. In high Heaven a blessed Dame[5]
 Resides, who mourns with such effectual grief
 That hindrance, which I send thee to remove,
 That God's stern judgment to her will inclines.'
 To Lucia,[6] calling, her she thus bespake:
 'Now doth thy faithful servant need thy aid,
 And I commend him to thee.' At her word
 Sped Lucia, of all cruelty the foe,
 And coming to the place, where I abode
 Seated with Rachel, her of ancient days,
 She thus address'd me: "Thou true praise of God!
 Beatrice! why is not thy succour lent
 To him, who so much loved thee, as to leave
 For thy sake all the multitude admires?
 Dost thou not hear how pitiful his wail,
 Nor mark the death, which in the torrent flood,
 Swoln mightier than a sea, him struggling holds?"
 [5: "A blessed Dame." The Divine Mercy.]
 [6: "Lucia." The enlightening Grace of Heaven; as it is commonly
 Ne'er among men did any with such speed
 Haste to their profit, flee from their annoy,
 As, when these words were spoken, I came here,
 Down from my blessed seat, trusting the force
 Of thy pure eloquence, which thee, and all
 Who well have mark'd it, into honor brings.'
 "When she had ended, her bright beaming eyes
 Tearful she turn'd aside; whereat I felt
 Redoubled zeal to serve thee. As she will'd,
 Thus am I come: I saved thee from the beast,
 Who thy near way across the goodly mount
 Prevented. What is this comes o'er thee than?
 Why, why dost thou hang back? why in thy breast
 Harbour vile fear? why hast not courage there,
 And noble daring; since three maids,[7] so blest,
 Thy safety plan, e'en in the court of Heaven;
 And so much certain good my words forebode?"
 [7: "Three maids." The Divine Mercy, Lucia and Beatrice.]
 As florets, by the frosty air of night
 Bent down and closed, when day has blanch'd their leaves,
 Rise all unfolded on their spiry stems;
 So was my fainting vigor new restored,
 And to my heart such kindly courage ran,
 That I as one undaunted soon replied:
 "O full of pity she, who undertook
 My succour! and thou kind, who didst perform
 So soon her true behest! With such desire
 Thou hast disposed me to renew my voyage,
 That my first purpose fully is resumed.
 Lead on: one only will is in us both.
 Thou art my guide, my master thou, and lord,"
 So spake I; and when he had onward moved,
 I enter'd on the deep and woody way.