by Dante Alighieri
"In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood, having lost the straight path."
With the famous words above Dante begins The Inferno, the first section of his Divine Comedy. Rereading this poem reminded me of the greatness of Dante's creation. As T. S. Eliot observed, "Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them, there is no third."("Dante" in Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot) While I would add Proust as a third, whether you agree with Eliot or not, Dante is magnificent in his ability to imagine the breadth and depth of humanity. In the Inferno the details are impressed on the reader through Dante's exceptional visual poetry. Whether the translation maintains the terza rima or not this comes through. Thus the poetry is relatively easy to read even though many of the allusions may escape the average reader. One gains from rereading the opportunity to deepen the understanding of the allusions and the images, the symbols and the subtle nuances of meaning that make this poem great. Further discussion with a group of serious readers adds to one's understanding, especially for a non-Catholic like myself.
I look forward to further reading of Dante, for just as with other great books this one continues to yield new treasures.
The Inferno of Dante, Robert Pinsky, trans. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. 1994