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Then they, the rocky precipices nearing,
There utter shriek and plaint and lamentation,
There they blaspheme the Power divine unfearing. Such was, I learnt, the woe and degradation
To which the carnal sinners' souls are given
Who yield their reason to their inclination. And like as starlings through the wintry heaven
Form on the wing flights full and wide extended,
So those ill spirits up and down are driven, Hither and thither, on that blast suspended :
No comfort have they: every hope is wanting
Even of pain diminished, much less ended. And like as cranes in one long line go chanting
Athwart the sky their melancholy dirges,
So I beheld the shades with moan and panting Borne by the force the woeful tempest urges.
Then I, 'O Master, give me information
Concerning these whom the black air so scourges.' The first of those whose histories' narration
Thou ask'st,' he said, with answer not deferred, · Was empress o'er full
many a tongue and nation. She to such wantonness of vice was spurred,
That liking she made law without restriction,
To take away the blame she had incurred. She is Semiramis; nor is it fiction
That she was Ninus' spouse and his successor,
And ruled where now the Turk has jurisdiction. The next, for love 'gainst her own life transgressor,
Wrought to the dead Sicheus' memory treason;
Cleopatra next, of wanton thoughts possessor.' Helen I through whom so long a season
Of evil rolled; Achilles then, who waged
War to the end for love unchecked by reason. Paris and Tristram next my sight engaged ;
And full a thousand he with finger showed me,
And named, in whom death-working lust had raged. Then I, who on my master's words bestowed me,
Hearing of olden dames and heroes knightly,
Felt lost in the great pity which o'erflowed me. Then I began, 'O Poet, may I rightly
Speak with those two, who go together wailing,
And seem to rise before the wind so lightly?'
Till they come nearer us; then call them hither
Will come.' And when the wind had swept them whither
My voice could reach, I cry, 'O souls distressed,
Come, speak with us, if none forbid it.' Thither As doves, by summons of true love addressed,
With wings firm opened, from their airy wheeling
Fly to the sweet nest with desire impressed ; So from the ranks where bideth Dido, stealing
They came toward us through the air malignant ;
So urgent was my passionate appealing.
Who us dost visit in this dark position,
Who with our blood stained earth ; were not indignant Heaven's King against us, we would make petition
Unto him for the grace which thou desirest,
Who hast had pity of our sad condition. Whate'er to hear or speak of thou aspirest,
That will we hear and speak to thee, while tarries
As now it doth, the blast of vengeance direst. Our land upon its seaward margin carries
The place where I was born, where Po descendeth
There to have quiet with its tributaries. Love, that so quick the tender spirit bendeth,
Seized him for that fair form, which was removed
From me, whereof the manner yet offendeth. Love, that from love excuseth no one loved,
Me with his pleasant looks so fascinated
That as thou seest, it constant still hath proved. Love brought us both unto one death; awaited
By dark Caina is our life-blood's waster.'
Such was the story she to us related.
I bowed my head, in such a posture lowly
That soon, “What thinkest thou ? inquired my Master. And when I answer made, O melancholy !
I said, 'What sweet thoughts, what endearments winning
Did bring them unto this sad step unholy ! And then I turned towards them, thus beginning,
• The woe, Francesca, that thou hast revealed
Moves me to tears of sorrow for thy sinning. But tell me; when sweet sigh to sigh appealed,
At what, and how did love grant recognition
Of your desires, till then in doubt concealed ?'
Than to remember here mid our distresses,
That knows thy guide. But since thy wish so presses
To learn the root whence grew our love exceeding,
I speak, as one who weeps and yet confesses.
Of Lancelot's true love in story famous ;
Alone we were, nor aught of danger heeding.
Full oft, and paleness o'er our faces glided;
But one point only that which overcame us.
His kiss toward the smile for which he longed,
Then he, who ne'er shall be from me divided,
By book and writer, tempters both ensnaring.
That day we read no more.' Ere she prolonged
Wailed so, that I became through pure compassion
All faint, as if death's mark upon me bearing:
(To be continued.)
MUSINGS OVER THE CHRISTIAN YEAR
AND LYRA INNOCENTIUM.
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
The first Sunday after Easter has no less than three poems by Mr. Keble, if we reckon with the others one in the Child's Christian Year, which we believe is really one of his earliest poems. The subject of both this and of that in the Lyra is Faith—both alike being in accordance with the Epistle for the day, with its Victory that overcometh the world, even our Faith ;' and the proclamation of that Faith in the words, “There are Three that bear witness in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One: and there are three that bear witness on earth, the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood.'
The analogy between the Witness in Heaven and Earth, is the subject of the early poem we mentioned.
Our God in glory sits on high ;
Man may not see and live :
For ever doth He give.'
That witness is the Holy Spirit in man's heart, the Water of Baptism, and the cleansing Blood by which the Holy Spirit purifies the soul therein ; and again, it is the all-atoning Blood' which by One Spirit we all drink of in the Cup; and the hymn concludes with an earnest prayer for faith to accept the witness of the three on earth
O never may our sinful hearts
What Thou hast joined divide;
For life, not death, abide.'
From this extremely deep meditation on the 'Inward and Spiritual Grace' seen by faith in the witness on earth, we pass to the Lyra, in which the poet seems at first to be, as it were, seeking for the meetest embodiment or personification of Faith, among those that have been chosen as her emblem in ‘banners bright and fair.'
The Fidelia of his much loved Spenser, and the usual emblem of Faith, as a virgin holding a cross, clouded below but the summit lost in rays of light-come first to mind; and then a figure always dear to him, and a print of which was one of the decorations of his room_Domenichino's St. John-is described :
"A calm Prophet's face, intent
Ere the dread tones be gone and spent.
An Eagle from the deep of space
Is hovering near, and hastes to bring,
A plume of his mysterious wing.
A golden Chalice standing nigh;
What mantles there is life or death-
A serpent from the Cross to faith.'
This verse alludes of course to the dragon in the cup, which to surface observers merely suggests the story of the draught of poison assuming a serpent form at St. John's touch; but to the eye of faith is an allusion to Him of whom the Brazen Serpent was a type, and Who comes, as it were, into the chalice-for life or for death to such as drink thereof.
But the poet looked from the rapt figure of Faith, and the mysterious adoring countenance of John the Divine, to a young child simply saying the Catechism, and therein rehearsing
• His chant of glory undefiled,
The pensive reverence of the boy's countenance—no imaginary picture but thoroughly real and individual, suggests the scenes that each clause calls up in turn :
• The world new framed; the Christ new born;
The mother maid ; the Cross and grave;
The rising Sun on Easter morn;
The fiery tongues sent down to save;
The saints and mourners kneeling round;
The Saviour in His people crowned.' Wonderful is this brief summary of the Creed; and this undoubting vision unfolding itself before the quietly attentive and simple hearted—is, he says, “Faith ;'
• And this is faith; and thus she wins
Her Victory, day by day rehearsed ;
Love's glorious dream shall o'er thee burst.'
The boy's eye closed in attention suggested the Seal but thine eye to pleasant sins.' But that the writer himself had won or preserved that spiritual clearness of eye, which enabled him to realize thus wondrously, in living force, each sentence of our Belief, through the having thus resolutely sealed his own eye in his younger days, is evident from the companion poem. This is one written early in life, thoroughly personal, and bestowed upon this Sunday chiefly because in it was quoted Moses' argument to Korah in the morning First Lesson, on the privileges which as a Kohathite Levite he already enjoyed. To understand the spirit of it, it must be recollected that John Keble's talents had, at a very early age, brought him to the summit of university distinctions, and that he could not fail to be conscious that it was within his power to achieve any earthly distinction that mental exertions could accomplish; but that he deliberately renounced any such career, and, when devoting himself to the sole service of his Master, did so in so entire a manner that his very success, and the fame he could not but obtain, absolutely worked against him, and kept him utterly undistinguished by any external honour. Some sense of what lay within his grasp, if he would turn his talent to the service of the world, rather than that of the Church; some passing sense of regret-some gleam of ambition-would then seem to have passed over him, and to have been repented and confessed in the lines that begin, “First Father of the holy seed '—which opens with an entreaty for pardon, in spite of the possible consequences of the neglect that the poet accuses himself of, to the souls under his care.
He compares himself to a hermit gazing with a moment's longing after the gallant hunters sweeping through the forest; but as often as the temptation came to join the ranks of the votaries of this world, and put forth his hand to reach its distinctions, his better soul responded to the whispering voice,
My servant, let the world alone;
Be tranquil and be blest.' Then applying to himself the remonstrance of Moses, he recites the glorious tasks of the sacred office, first going through those of the