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And why should such, within himself he cried,
While hence they walk, the pilgrim’s bosom wrought
Lost and confounded with the various shows.
Now night’s dim shades again involve the sky,
Again they search, and find a lodging nigh.
The soil improved around, the mansion neat,
It seem’d to speak its master’s turn of mind,
Then bless the mansion, and the master greet:
To him who gives us all, I yield a part;
From him you come, for him accept it here,
A frank and sober, more than costly cheer.
He spoke, and bid the welcome table spread;
When the grave household round his hall repair,
At length the world, renew’d by calm repose,
Was strong for toil; the dappled morn arose;
Before the pilgrims part, the younger crept
Near the closed cradle where an infant slept,
And writhed his neck: the landlord’s little pride,
O strange return! grew black, and gasp’d, and died.
Horrour of horrours! what, his only son!
How look’d our Hermit when the fact was done!
Not hell, though hell’s black jaws in sunder part,
And breathe blue fire, could more assault his heart. Confused, and struck with silence at the deed,
He flies, but, trembling, fails to fly with speed.
His steps the youth pursues: the country lay
Perplex’d with roads, a servant show’d the way:
A river cross’d the path; the passage o’er
Was nice to find; the servant trod before;
Long arms Of oaks an open bridge supplied,
And deep the waves, beneath the bending, glide.
The youth, who seem’d to watch a time to sin,
Approach’d the careless guide, and thrust him in;
Plunging he falls, and rising lifts his head,
Then flashing turns, and sinks among the dead.
But scarce his speech began, When the strange partner seem’d no longer man: His youthful face grew more serenely sweet;
His robe turn’d white, and flow’d upon his feet;
And wings, whose colours glitter’d on the day,
And moves in all the majesty of light.
Though loud at first the pilgrim’s passion grew,
But silence here the beauteous angel broke,
Thy prayer, thy praise, thy life, to vice unknown,