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 Canto XXVII
      An Angel sends them forward through the fire to the last ascent, which
 leads to the terrestrial Paradise, situated on the summit of the mountain.
 They have not proceeded many steps on their way upward, when the fall of night
 hinders them from going further; and our Poet, who has lain down with Virgil
 and Statius to rest, beholds in a dream two females, figuring the active and
 contemplative life. With the return of morning, they reach the height; and
 here Virgil gives Dante full liberty to use his own pleasure and judgment in
 the choice of his way, till he shall meet with Beatrice.
 Now was the sun[1] so station'd as when first
 His early radiance quivers on the heights,
 Where stream'd his Maker's blood; while Libra hangs
 Above Hesperian Ebro; and new fires,
 Meridian, flash on Ganges' yellow tide.
 [1: "The sun," At Jerusalem it was dawn, in Spain midnight, and in
 India noonday, in Purgatory sunset.]
 So day was sinking, when the Angel of God
 Appear'd before us. Joy was in his mien.
 Forth of the flame he stood upon the brink;
 And with a voice, whose lively clearness far
 Surpass'd our human, "Blessed[2] are the pure
 In heart," he sang: then near him as we came,
 "Go ye not further, holy spirits!" he cried,
 "Ere the fire pierce you: enter in; and list
 Attentive to the song ye hear from thence."
 [2: "Blessed." - Matt. v. 8.]
 I, when I heard his saying, was as one
 Laid in the grave. My hands together clasp'd,
 And upward stretching, on the fire I look'd;
 And busy fancy conjured up the forms
 Erewhile beheld alive consumed in flames.
 The escorting spirits turn'd with gentle looks
 Toward me; and the Mantuan spake: "My son,
 Here torment thou mayst feel, but canst not death.
 Remember thee, remember thee, if I
 Safe e'en on Geryon brought thee; now I come
 More near to God, wilt thou not trust me now?
 Of this be sure; though in its womb that flame
 A thousand years contain'd thee, from thy head
 No hair should perish. If thou doubt my truth,
 Approach; and with thy hand thy vesture's hem
 Stretch forth, and for thyself confirm belief.
 Lay now all fear, oh! lay all fear aside.
 Turn hither, and come onward undismay'd."
 I still, though conscience urged, no step advanced.
 When still he saw me fix'd and obstinate.
 Somewhat disturb'd he cried: "Mark now, my son,
 From Beatrice thou art by this wall
 Divided." As at Thisbe's name the eye
 Of Pyramus was open'd, (when life ebb'd
 Fast from his veins), and took one parting glance,
 While vermeil dyed the mulberry; thus I turn'd
 To my sage guide, relenting, when I heard
 The name that springs forever in my breast.
 He shook his forehead; and, "How long," he said,
 "Linger we now?" then smiled, as one would smile
 Upon a child that eyes the fruit and yields.
 Into the fire before me then he walk'd;
 And Statius, who erewhile no little space
 Had parted us, he pray'd to come behind.
 I would have cast me into molten glass
 To cool me, when I enter'd; so intense
 Raged the conflagrant mass. The sire beloved,
 To comfort me, as he proceeded, still
 Of Beatrice talk'd. "Her eyes," saith he,
 "E'en now I seem to view." From the other side
 A voice, that sang, did guide us; and the voice
 Following, with heedful ear, we issued forth,
 There where the path led upward. "Come,"[3] we heard,
 "Come, blessed of my Father." Such the sounds,
 That hail'd us from within a light, which shone
 So radiant, I could not endure the view.
 "The sun," it added, "hastes: and evening comes.
 Delay not: ere the western sky is hung
 With blackness, strive ye for the pass." Our way
 Upright within the rock arose, and faced
 Such part of heaven, that from before my steps
 [3: "Come." - Matt. xxv. 34.]
 The beams were shrouded of the sinking sun.
 Nor many stairs were overpast, when now
 By fading of the shadow we perceived
 The sun behind us couch'd; and ere one face
 Of darkness o'er its measureless expanse
 Involved the horizon, and the night her lot
 Held individual, each of us had made
 A stair his pallet; not that will, but power,
 Had fail'd us, by the nature of that mount
 Forbidden further travel. As the goats,
 That late have skipt and wanton'd rapidly
 Upon the craggy cliffs, ere they had ta'en
 Their supper on the herb, now silent lie
 And ruminate beneath the umbrage brown,
 While noon - day rages; and the goatherd leans
 Upon his staff, and leaning watches them:
 And as the swain, that lodges out all night
 In quiet by his flock, lest beast of prey
 Disperse them: even so all three abode,
 I as a goat, and as the shepherds they,
 Close pent on either side by shelving rock.
 A little glimpse of sky was seen above;
 Yet by that little I beheld the stars,
 In magnitude and lustre shining forth
 With more than wonted glory. As I lay,
 Gazing on them, and in that fit of musing
 Sleep overcame me, sleep, that bringeth oft
 Tidings of future hap. About the hour,
 As I believe, when Venus from the east
 First lighten'd on the mountain, she whose orb
 Seems always glowing with the fire of love,
 A lady young and beautiful, I dream'd,
 Was passing o'er a lea; and, as she came,
 Methought I saw her ever and anon
 Bending to cull the flowers, and thus she sang:
 "Know ye, whoever of my name would ask,
 That I am Leah:[4] for my brow to weave
 [4: Leah, the active life; Rachel, the contemplative; Michael Angelo
 has used these allegorical personages on his monument of Julius II in the
 church of S. Pietro in Vincolo.]
 A garland, these fair hands unwearied ply.
 To please me at the crystal mirror, here
 I deck me. But my sister Rachel, she
 Before her glass abides the livelong day,
 Her radiant eyes beholding, charm'd no less,
 Than I with this delightful task. Her joy
 In contemplation, as in labour mine."
 And now as glimmering dawn appear'd, that breaks
 More welcome to the pilgrim still, as he
 Sojourns less distant on his homeward way,
 Darkness from all sides fled, and with it fled
 My slumber; whence I rose, and saw my guide
 Already risen. "That delicious fruit,
 Which through so many a branch the zealous care
 Of mortals roams in quest of, shall this day
 Appease thy hunger." Such the words I heard
 From Virgil's lip; and never greeting heard,
 So pleasant as the sounds. Within me straight
 Desire so grew upon desire to mount,
 Thenceforward at each step I felt the wings
 Increasing for my flight. When we had run
 O'er all the ladder to its topmost round,
 As there we stood, on me the Mantuan fix'd
 His eyes, and thus he spake: "Both fires, my son,
 The temporal and eternal, thou hast seen;
 And art arrived, where of itself my ken
 No further reaches. I, with skill and art,
 Thus far have drawn thee. Now thy pleasure take
 For guide. Thou hast o'ercome the steeper way,
 O'ercome the straiter. Lo! the sun, that darts
 His beam upon my forehead: lo! the herb,
 The arboreta and flowers, which of itself
 This land pours forth profuse. Till those bright eyes[5]
 With gladness come, which, weeping, made me haste
 To succour thee, thou mayst or seat thee down,
 Or wander where thou wilt. Expect no more
 Sanction of warning voice or sign from me,
 Free of thy own arbitrament to chose,
 Discreet, judicious. To distrust thy sense
 [5: The eyes of Beatrice.]
 Were henceforth error. I invest thee then
 With crown and mitre, sovereign o'er thyself."