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      Dante wanders through the forest of the terrestrial Paradise, till he is
 stopped by a stream, on the other side of which he beholds a fair lady,
 culling flowers. He speaks to her; and she, in reply, explains to him certain
 things touching the nature of that place, and tells that the water, which
 flows between them, is here called Lethe, and in another place has the name of
 Through that celestial forest, whose thick shade
 With lively greenness the new - springing day
 Attemper'd, eager now to roam, and search
 Its limits round, forthwith I left the bank;
 Along the champain leisurely my way
 Pursuing, o'er the ground, that on all sides
 Delicious odour breathed. A pleasant air,
 That intermitted never, never veer'd,
 Smote on my temples, gently, as a wind
 Of softest influence: at which the sprays,
 Obedient all, lean'd trembling to that part[1]
 Where first the holy mountain casts his shade;
 Yet were not so disorder'd, but that still
 Upon their top the feather'd quiristers
 Applied their wonted art, and with full joy
 Welcomed those hours of prime, and warbled shrill
 Amid the leaves, that to their jocund lays
 Kept tenour; even as from branch to branch,
 Along the piny forests on the shore
 Of Chiassi, rolls the gathering melody,
 When Eolus hath from his cavern loosed
 The dripping south. Already had my steps,
 Though slow, so far into that ancient wood
 Transported me, I could not ken the place
 Where I had enter'd; when, behold! my path
 Was bounded by a rill, which, to the left,
 With little rippling waters bent the grass
 That issued from its brink. On earth no wave
 How clean soe'er, that would not seem to have
 [1: "To that part." The west.]
 Some mixture in itself, compared with this,
 Transpicuous clear; yet darkly on it roll'd,
 Darkly beneath perpetual gloom, which ne'er
 Admits or sun or moon - light there to shine.
 My feet advanced not; but my wondering eyes
 Pass'd onward, o'er the streamlet to survey
 The tender May - bloom, flush'd through many a hue,
 In prodigal variety: and there,
 As object, rising suddenly to view,
 That from our bosom every thought beside
 With the rare marvel chases, I beheld
 A lady[2] all alone, who, singing, went,
 And culling flower from flower, wherewith her way
 Was all o'er painted. "Lady beautiful!
 Thou, who (if looks, that use to speak the heart,
 Art worthy of our trust) with love's own beam
 Dost warm thee," thus to her my speech I framed;
 "Ah! please thee hither toward the streamlet bend
 Thy steps so near, that I may list thy song.
 Beholding thee and this fair place, methinks,
 I call to mind where wander'd and how look'd
 Proserpine, in that season, when her child
 The mother lost, and she the bloomy spring."
 [2: Most of the commentators suppose that this lady, who in the last
 Canto is called Matilda, is the Countess Matilda, who endowed the Holy See
 with the estates called the Patrimony of St. Peter, and died in 1115. But it
 seems more probable that she should be intended for an allegorical personage.]
 As when a lady, turning in the dance,
 Doth foot it featly, and advances scarce
 One step before the other to the ground;
 Over the yellow and vermilion flowers,
 Thus turn'd she at my suit, most maiden - like
 Valing her sober eyes; and came so near,
 That I distinctly caught the dulcet sound.
 Arriving where the limpid waters now
 Laved the greensward, her eyes she deign'd to raise,
 That shot such splendour on me, as I ween
 Ne'er glanced from Cytherea's, when her son
 Had sped his keenest weapon to her heart.
 Upon the opposite bank she stood and smiled;
 As through her graceful fingers shifted still
 The intermingling dyes, which without seed
 That lofty land unbosoms. By the stream
 Three paces only were we sunder'd: yet,
 The Hellespont, where Xerxes pass'd it o'er,
 (A curb for ever to the pride of man,[3])
 Was by Leander not more hateful held
 For floating, with inhospitable wave,
 'Twixt Sestos and Abydos, than by me
 That flood, because it gave no passage thence.
 [3: Because Xerxes had been so humbled, when he was compelled to
 repass the Hellespont in one small bark, after having a little before crossed
 with a prodigious army, in the hopes of subduing Greece.]
 "Strangers ye come; and haply in this place,
 That cradled human nature in its birth,
 Wondering, ye not without suspicion view
 My smiles: but that sweet strain of psalmody,
 'Thou, Lord! hast made me glad,'[4] will give ye light,
 Which may uncloud your minds. And thou, who stand'st
 The foremost, and didst make thy suit to me,
 Say if aught else thou wish to hear: for I
 Came prompt to answer every doubt of thine."
 [4: "Thou, Lord! hast made me glad." - Psalm xcii. 4.]
 She spake; and I replied: "I know not how
 To reconcile this wave, and rustling sound
 Of forest leaves, with what I late have heard
 Of opposite report." She answering thus:
 "I will unfold the cause, whence that proceeds,
 Which makes thee wonder; and so purge the cloud
 That hath enwrapt thee. The First Good, whose joy
 Is only in Himself, created man,
 For happiness; and gave this goodly place,
 His pledge and earnest of eternal peace.
 Favour'd thus highly, through his own defect
 He fell; and here made short sojourn; he fell,
 And, for the bitterness of sorrow, changed
 Laughter unblamed and ever - new delight.
 That vapours none, exhaled from earth beneath,
 Or from the waters, (which, wherever heat
 Attracts them, follow), might ascend thus far
 To vex man's peaceful state, this mountain rose
 So high toward the Heaven, nor fears the rage
 Of elements contending; from that part
 Exempted, where the gate his limit bars.
 Because the circumambient air, throughout,
 With its first impulse circles still, unless
 Aught interpose to check or thwart its course;
 Upon the summit, which on every side
 To visitation of the impassive air
 Is open, doth that motion strike, and makes
 Beneath its sway the umbrageous wood resound:
 And in the shaken plant such power resides,
 That it impregnates with its efficacy
 The voyaging breeze, upon whose subtle plume
 That, wafted, flies abroad; and the other land,[5]
 Receiving, (as 'tis worthy in itself,
 Or in the clime, that warms it,) doth conceive;
 And from its womb produces many a tree
 Of various virtue. This when thou hast heard,
 The marvel ceases, if in yonder earth
 Some plant, without apparent seed, be found
 To fix its fibrous stem. And further learn,
 That with prolific foison of all seeds
 This holy plain is fill'd, and in itself
 Bears fruit that ne'er was pluck'd on other soil.
 [5: The continent, inhabited by the living, and separated from
 Purgatory by the ocean, is affected (and that diversely, according to the
 nature of the soil, or the climate) by a virtue, conveyed to it by the winds
 from plants growing in the terrestrial Paradise, which is situated on the
 summit of Purgatory; and this is the cause why some plants are found on earth
 without any apparent seed to produce them.]
 "The water, thou behold'st, springs not from vein,
 Restored by vapour, that the cold converts;
 As stream that intermittently repairs
 And spends his pulse of life; but issues forth
 From fountain, solid, undecaying, sure:
 And, by the Will Omnific, full supply
 Feeds whatsoe'er on either side it pours;
 On this, devolved with power to take away
 Remembrance of offence; on that, to bring
 Remembrance back of every good deed done.
 From whence its name of Lethe on this part;
 On the other, Eunoe: both of which must first
 Be tasted, ere it work; the last exceeding
 All flavours else. Albeit thy thirst may now
 Be well contented, if I here break off,
 No more revealing; yet a corollary
 I freely give beside: nor deem my words
 Less grateful to thee, if they somewhat pass
 The stretch of promise. They, whose verse of yore
 The golden age recorded and its bliss,
 On the Parnassian mountain, of this place
 Perhaps had dream'd. Here was man guiltless; here
 Perpetual spring, and every fruit; and this
 The far - famed nectar." Turning to the bards,
 When she had ceased, I noted in their looks
 A smile at her conclusion; then my face
 Again directed to the lovely dame.