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[113] Then he seems to hesitate again, brings in the Church legend of Trajan brought back to life by the prayers of Gregory the Great that he might be converted; and after an interval of fifty lines tells us how Ripheus was saved—

The other one, through grace that from so deep
A fountain wells that never hath the eye
Of any creature reached its primal wave,
Set all his love below on righteousness;
Wherefore from grace to grace did God unclose
His eye to our redemption yet to be,
Whence he believed therein, and suffered not
From that day forth the stench of Paganism,
And he reproved there for the folk perverse.
Those maidens three, whom at the right-hand wheel1
Thou didst behold, were unto him for baptism
More than a thousand years before baptizing.

If the reader recall a passage already quoted from the Convito,2 he will perhaps think with us that the gate of Dante's Limbo is left ajar even for the ancient philosophers to slip out. The divine judgments are still inscrutable, and the ways of God past finding out, but faith would seem to have led Dante at last to a more merciful solution of his doubt than he had reached when he wrote the De Monarchia. It is always humanizing to see how the most rigid creed is made to bend before the kindlier instincts of the heart. The stern Dante thinks none beyond hope save those who are dead in sin, and have made evil their good. But we are by no means sure that he is not right in insisting rather on the implacable severity of the law than on the possible relenting of the judge. Exact justice is commonly more merciful in the long run than pity, for it tends to

1 Faith, Hope, and Charity. (Purgatorio, XXIX. 121.) Mr. Longfellow has translated the last verse literally. The meaning is, ‘More than a thousand years ere baptism was.’

2 In which the celestial Athens is mentioned.

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