Now we were drawing closer; we had reached
the part from which—where first I’d seen a breach,
precisely like a gap that cleaves a wall—

I now made out a gate and, there below it,
three steps—their colors different—leading to it,
and a custodian who had not yet spoken.

As I looked more and more directly at him,
I saw him seated on the upper step—
his face so radiant, I could not bear it;

and in his hand he held a naked sword,
which so reflected rays toward us that I,
time and again, tried to sustain that sight

in vain. “Speak out from there; what are you seeking?”
so he began to speak. “Where is your escort?
Take care lest you be harmed by climbing here.”