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The first part of Dante's Divine Comedy (translated by Henry Francis Cary), the "Inferno" (or "Hell") begins on the night before Good Friday in the year 1300, "halfway along our life's path". Dante is thirty-five years old, half of the biblical life expectancy of 70, lost in a dark wood, assailed by beasts he cannot evade, and unable to find the straight way to salvation. Conscious that he is ruining himself and that he is falling into a deep place where the sun is silent, Dante is at last rescued by Virgil, and the two of them begin their journey to the underworld. Each sin's punishment in Inferno is a contrapasso, a symbolic instance of poetic justice. (source: Wikipedia)
IN the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
Gone from the path direct: and e’en to tell
It were no easy task, how savage wild
That forest, how robust and rough its growth,
Which to remember only, my dismay
Renews, in bitterness not far from death.
Yet to discourse of what there good befell,
All else will I relate discover’d there.
How first I enter’d it I scarce can say,
Such sleepy dullness in that instant weigh’d
My senses down, when the true path I left,
But when a mountain’s foot I reach’d, where clos’d
The valley, that had pierc’d my heart with dread,
I look’d aloft, and saw his shoulders broad
Already vested with that planet’s beam,
Who leads all wanderers safe through every way.
Then was a little respite to the fear,
That in my heart’s recesses deep had lain,
All of that night, so pitifully pass’d:
And as a man, with difficult short breath,
Forespent with toiling, 'scap’d from sea to shore,
Turns to the perilous wide waste, and stands
At gaze; e’en so my spirit, that yet fail’d
Struggling with terror, turn’d to view the straits,
That none hath pass’d and liv’d. My weary frame
After short pause recomforted, again
I journey’d on over that lonely steep,
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