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The Divine Comedy by Dante, Illustrated, Hell, Volume 08

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IN silence and in solitude we went,One first, the other following his steps,As minor friars journeying on their road.The present fray had turn'd my thoughts to museUpon old Aesop's fable, where he toldWhat fate unto the mouse and frog befell.For language hath not sounds more like in sense,Than are these chances, if the originAnd end of each be heedfully compar'd.And as one thought bursts from another forth,So afterward from that another sprang,Which added doubly to my former fear.For thus I reason'd: "These through us have beenSo foil'd, with loss and mock'ry so complete,As needs must sting them sore.  If anger thenBe to their evil will conjoin'd, more fellThey shall pursue us, than the savage houndSnatches the leveret, panting 'twixt his jaws."Already I perceiv'd my hair stand allOn end with terror, and look'd eager back."Teacher," I thus began, "if speedilyThyself and me thou hide not, much I dreadThose evil talons.  Even now behindThey urge us: quick imagination worksSo forcibly, that I already feel them."He answer'd: "Were I form'd of leaded glass,I should not sooner draw unto myselfThy outward image, than I now imprintThat from within.  This moment came thy thoughtsPresented before mine, with similar actAnd count'nance similar, so that from bothI one design have fram'd.  If the right coastIncline so much, that we may thence descendInto the other chasm, we shall escapeSecure from this imagined pursuit."He had not spoke his purpose to the end,When I from far beheld them with spread wingsApproach to take us.  Suddenly my guideCaught me, ev'n as a mother that from sleepIs by the noise arous'd, and near her seesThe climbing fires, who snatches up her babeAnd flies ne'er pausing, careful more of himThan of herself, that but a single vestClings round her limbs.  Down from the jutting beachSupine he cast him, to that pendent rock,Which closes on one part the other chasm.Never ran water with such hurrying paceAdown the tube to turn a landmill's wheel,When nearest it approaches to the spokes,As then along that edge my master ran,Carrying me in his bosom, as a child,Not a companion.  Scarcely had his feetReach'd to the lowest of the bed beneath,When over us the steep they reach'd; but fearIn him was none; for that high Providence,Which plac'd them ministers of the fifth foss,Power of departing thence took from them all.There in the depth we saw a painted tribe,Who pac'd with tardy steps around, and wept,Faint in appearance and o'ercome with toil.Caps had they on, with hoods, that fell low downBefore their eyes, in fashion like to thoseWorn by the monks in Cologne.  Their outsideWas overlaid with gold, dazzling to view,But leaden all within, and of such weight,That Frederick's compar'd to these were straw.Oh, everlasting wearisome attire!We yet once more with them together turn'dTo leftward, on their dismal moan intent.But by the weight oppress'd, so slowly cameThe fainting people, that our companyWas chang'd at every movement of the step....