Nel mezzo di cammin nel nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
Ahi quanto a dir quel era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura.
Tant'è amara che poco è più morte;
ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai
dirò de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.
No, I don't expect you to be able to read Italian (although it is the most beautiful language in the world and is well worth the effort in learning), the idea here is to just take a second and go over those last words,
Notice anything? Ah, the rhyme scheme. Yes, Dante's famous terza rima invented by our Poet for use in his Commedia. The last word in the first and third line of each three line stanza rhyme. The middle line establishes the rhyme for the next couple. Thus we have ABA BCB CDC etc through the whole poem. This not only "locks" the text of the poem into an impressive whole, it also brings the number three constantly to mind, at least subconsciously, through the entire poem. Three, of course, represents the Trinity, the very nature of God. This impressive feat doesn't work well in any translation, so it is best to, at the beginning, deal with a little of Dante's own words before continuing on the journey. Let's do so now.
|Then he moved on, and I moved close behind him (Inferno, I:136)|
However, as we enter Canto II, Dante, upon seeing the fearsome maw of Hell, has a change of heart (wouldn't you?) Even the presence of his long dead hero isn't enough to form the resolve necessary to take the first steps on this dread journey. Virgil, sensing Dante's weakening resolve, explains to him how he, Virgil, came to the aid of our Pilgrim at the specific request of three heavenly ladies - Beatrice (Dante's chivalric love and the personification of holiness), St. Lucy, and finally Our Lady. With such ladies as these providing protection and prayer for Dante, he decides to walk into Hell, taking his first steps toward his own salvation...
"Let us start, for both our wills, joined now, are one.
You are my guide, you are my lord and teacher."
These were my words to him and, when he moved,
I entered on that deep and rugged road.1____________________
1. Inferno, II: 140-142, Musa