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The vision of hell. By Dante Alighieri. Translated by Rev. Henry Francis Cary, M.A. and illustrated with the seventy-five designs of Gustave Dore.

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IN the midway of this our mortal life,I found me in a gloomy wood, astrayGone from the path direct: and e'en to tellIt were no easy task, how savage wildThat forest, how robust and rough its growth,Which to remember only, my dismayRenews, in bitterness not far from death.Yet to discourse of what there good befell,All else will I relate discover'd there.How first I enter'd it I scarce can say,Such sleepy dullness in that instant weigh'dMy senses down, when the true path I left,But when a mountain's foot I reach'd, where clos'dThe valley, that had pierc'd my heart with dread,I look'd aloft, and saw his shoulders broadAlready vested with that planet's beam,Who leads all wanderers safe through every way.Then was a little respite to the fear,That in my heart's recesses deep had lain,All of that night, so pitifully pass'd:And as a man, with difficult short breath,Forespent with toiling, 'scap'd from sea to shore,Turns to the perilous wide waste, and standsAt gaze; e'en so my spirit, that yet fail'dStruggling with terror, turn'd to view the straits,That none hath pass'd and liv'd.  My weary frameAfter short pause recomforted, againI journey'd on over that lonely steep,The hinder foot still firmer.  Scarce the ascentBegan, when, lo! a panther, nimble, light,And cover'd with a speckled skin, appear'd,Nor, when it saw me, vanish'd, rather stroveTo check my onward going; that ofttimesWith purpose to retrace my steps I turn'd.The hour was morning's prime, and on his wayAloft the sun ascended with those stars,That with him rose, when Love divine first mov'dThose its fair works: so that with joyous hopeAll things conspir'd to fill me, the gay skinOf that swift animal, the matin dawnAnd the sweet season.  Soon that joy was chas'd,And by new dread succeeded, when in viewA lion came, 'gainst me, as it appear'd,With his head held aloft and hunger-mad,That e'en the air was fear-struck.  A she-wolfWas at his heels, who in her leanness seem'dFull of all wants, and many a land hath madeDisconsolate ere now.  She with such fearO'erwhelmed me, at the sight of her appall'd,That of the height all hope I lost.  As one,Who with his gain elated, sees the timeWhen all unwares is gone, he inwardlyMourns with heart-griping anguish; such was I,Haunted by that fell beast, never at peace,Who coming o'er against me, by degreesImpell'd me where the sun in silence rests.While to the lower space with backward stepI fell, my ken discern'd the form one of one,Whose voice seem'd faint through long disuse of speech.When him in that great desert I espied,"Have mercy on me!"  cried I out aloud,"Spirit! or living man! what e'er thou be!"He answer'd: "Now not man, man once I was,And born of Lombard parents, Mantuana bothBy country, when the power of Julius yetWas scarcely firm.  At Rome my life was pastBeneath the mild Augustus, in the timeOf fabled deities and false.  A bardWas I, and made Anchises' upright sonThe subject of my song, who came from Troy,When the flames prey'd on Ilium's haughty towers....