from Hell: Canto 1
Good Friday, 1300; Dante, thirty-five years old, finds himself lost in a dark wood, wondering how he strayed from the straight way. He spends a fearful night. Dawn lights on a hill toward which he heads, encouraged by the sun’s light. He finds his way barred by various wild animals: the leopard of lust, the lion of pride, the she-wolf of avarice. Retreating, he is met by the spirit of Vergil who explains that there is no way past the she-wolf – though one is destined to come to drive her back to Hell. He offers to conduct Dante another way to safety through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Dante agrees to go.
Along the journey of our life half way,
I found myself again in a dark wood
Wherein the straight road no longer lay.
How hard it is to tell, make understood
What a wild place it was, so dense, adverse
That fear returns in thinking on that wood.
It is so bitter death is hardly worse.
But, for the good it was my chance to gain,
The other things I saw there I’ll rehearse.
– Yet still I cannot readily explain
How I had entered it, so near to sleep
I was, on losing that true way and plain.
But, when I trod the rising of a steep,
Toward the ending of that fearful vale
Whose terror pierced into my heart so deep,
I looked and saw the shoulder I’d to scale
Arrayed already in that planet’s light
Which leads men straight on every road they trail.
And then my fear lulled somewhat from its height
That on my heart’s sea gathered more and more
Where I so piteously had passed the night.
As one who has escaped from sea to shore
With panting breath turns round to catch the sight
Again of all the dangerous waves that roar,
Exactly so, my mind, though still in flight,
Turned itself round to see that defile where
None had passed through alive before this night.
Möge diese Macht mit Euch sein