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 Canto XXV
      Virgil and Statius resolve some doubts that have arisen in the mind of
 Dante from what he had just seen. They all arrive on the seventh and last
 cornice, where the sin of incontinence is purged in fire; and the spirits of
 those suffering therein are heard to record illustrious instances of chastity.
 It was an hour, when he who climbs, had need
 To walk uncrippled: for the sun[1] had now
 To Taurus the meridian circle left,
 And to the Scorpion left the night. As one,
 That makes no pause, but presses on his road,
 Whate'er betide him, if some urgent need
 Impel; so enter'd we upon our way,
 One before other; for, but singly, none
 That steep and narrow scale admits to climb.
 [1: "The sun." The sun had passed the meridian two hours, and that
 meridian was now occupied by the constellation of Taurus, to which as the
 Scorpion is opposite, the latter constellation was co sequently at the
 meridian of night.]
 E'en as the young stork lifteth up his wing
 Through wish to fly, yet ventures not to quit
 The nest, and drops it; so in me desire
 Of questioning my guide arose, and fell,
 Arriving even to the act that marks
 A man prepared for speech. Him all our haste
 Restrain'd not; but thus spake the sire beloved:
 "Fear not to speed the shaft, that on thy lip
 Stands trembling for its flight." Encouraged thus,
 I straight began: "How there can leanness come,
 Where is no want of nourishment to feed?"
 "If thou," he answer'd, hadst remember'd thee,
 How Meleager[2] with the wasting brand
 Wasted alike, by equal fires consumed;
 This would not trouble thee: and hadst thou thought,
 How in the mirror[3] your reflected form
 With mimic motion vibrates; what now seems
 Hard, had appear'd no harder than the pulp
 Of summer - fruit mature. But that thy will
 In certainty may find its full repose,
 Lo Statius here! on him I call, and pray
 That he would now be healer of thy wound."
 [2: Virgil reminds Dante that, as Meleager was wasted away by the
 decree of the fates, and not through want of blood; so by the divine
 appointment, there may be leanness where there is no need of nourishment.]
 [3: As the reflection of a form in a mirror is modified with the
 modification of the form itself; so the soul, separated from the earthly body,
 impresses the ghost of that body with its own affections.]
 "If, in thy presence, I unfold to him
 The secrets of Heaven's vengeance, let me plead
 Thine own injunction to exculpate me."
 So Statius answer'd, and forthwith began:
 "Attend my words, O son, and in thy mind
 Receive them; so shall they be light to clear
 The doubt thou offer'st. Blood, concocted well,
 Which by the thirsty veins is ne'er imbibed,
 And rests as food superfluous, to be ta'en
 From the replenish'd table, in the heart
 Derives effectual virtue, that informs
 The several human limbs, as being that
 Which passes through the veins itself to make them.
 Yet more concocted it descends, where shame
 Forbids to mention: and from thence distils
 In natural vessel on another's blood.
 There each unite together; one disposed
 To endure, to act the other, through that power
 Derived from whence it came; and being met,
 It' gins to work, coagulating first;
 Then vivifies what its own substance made
 Consist. With animation now indued,
 The active virtue (differing from a plant
 No further, than that this is on the way,
 And at its limit that) continues yet
 To operate, that now it moves, and feels,
 As sea - sponge clinging to the rock: and there
 Assumes the organic powers its seed convey'd.
 This is the moment, son! at which the virtue,
 That from the generating heart proceeds,
 Is pliant and expansive; for each limb
 Is in the heart by forgetful nature plann'd.
 How babe of animal becomes, remains
 For thy considering. At this point, more wise,
 Than thou, has err'd, making the soul disjoin'd
 From passive intellect, because he saw
 No organ for the latter's use assign'd.
 "Open thy bosom to the truth that comes.
 Know, soon as in the embryo, to the brain
 Articulation is complete, then turns
 The primal Mover with a smile of joy
 On such great work of nature; and imbreathes
 New spirit replete with virtue, that what here
 Active it finds, to its own substance draws;
 And forms an individual soul, that lives,
 And feels, and bends reflective on itself.
 And that thou less may'st marvel at the word,
 Mark the sun's heat; how that to wine doth change,
 Mix'd with the moisture filter'd through the vine.
 "When Lachesis hath spun the thread,[4] the soul
 Takes with her both the human and divine,
 Memory, intelligence, and will, in act
 Far keener than before; the other powers
 Inactive all and mute. No pause allow'd,
 In wondrous sort self - moving, to one strand
 Of those, where the departed roam, she falls:
 Here learns her destined path. Soon as the place
 Receives her, round the plastic virtue beams,
 Distinct as in the living limbs before:
 And as the air, when saturate with showers,
 [4: "When Lachesis hath spun the thread." When a man's life on earth
 is at an end.]
 The casual beam refracting, decks itself
 With many a hue; so here the ambient air
 Weareth that form, which influence of the soul
 Imprints on it: and like the flame, that where
 The fire moves, thither follows; so, henceforth,
 The new form on the spirit follows still:
 Hence hath it semblance, and is shadow call'd,
 With each sense, even to the sight, indued:
 Hence speech is ours, hence laughter, tears, and sighs,
 Which thou mayst oft have witness'd on the mount.
 The obedient shadow fails not to present
 Whatever varying passion moves within us.
 And this the cause of what thou marvel'st at."
 Now the last flexure of our way we reach'd;
 And to the right hand turning, other care
 Awaits us. Here the rocky precipice
 Hurls forth redundant flames; and from the rim
 A blast up - blown, with forcible rebuff
 Driveth them back, sequester'd from its bound.
 Behoved us, one by one, along the side,
 That border'd on the void, to pass; and I
 Fear'd on one hand the fire, on the other fear'd
 Headlong to fall: when thus the instructor warn'd:
 "Strict rein must in this place direct the eyes.
 A little swerving and the way is lost."
 Then from the bosom of the burning mass,
 "O God of mercy!"[5] heard I sung, and felt
 No less desire to turn. And when I saw
 Spirits along the flame proceeding, I
 Between their footsteps and mine own was fain
 To share by turns my view. At the hymn's close
 They shouted loud, "I do not know a man;"[6]
 Then in low voice again took up the strain;
 Which once more ended, "To the wood," they cried,
 "Ran Dian, and drave forth Callisto stung
 With Cytherea's poison"; then return'd
 Unto their song; then many a pair extoll'd,
 [5: "Summae Deus clementiae." The beginning of the hymn sung on the
 Sabbath at matins, as in the ancient breviaries; in the modern it is "summae
 parens clementiae."]
 [6: Luke, i. 34.]
 Who lived in virtue chastely and the bands
 Of wedded love. Nor from that task, I ween,
 Surcease they; whilesoe'er the scorching fire
 Enclasps them. Of such skill appliance needs,
 To medicine the wound that healeth last.