“Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, ché la diritta via era smarrita.” (Midway in life’s journey I strayed from the path and became lost in a dark wood.)
And so begins Dante Alighieri’s 14th century magnum opus, The Divine Comedy, which includes the books Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, telling of his travels through the depths of Hell and the mountain of Purgatory to discover the bliss of the Heavenly realms.
I attempted to review Inferno after my second read of it, yet never was able to put my thoughts together. This time I was determined but without much more inspiration, however I believe I discovered why this poem is so difficult to review. In essence, it is not only a poem; it is a story, it is history; it’s a science; it is a theological treatise, it is a creation. As in the other two books, there are so many allusions and so many connections that Dante interweaves into them that, as modern readers, we become a little lost in a dark wood. It’s like looking at a puzzle and having to see all the pieces individually before you can see the whole. Without a knowledge of Italian, we can struggle; without a knowledge of medieval scientific theory, we can struggle, without a knowledge of Catholicism we can struggle. But in spite of some of these challenges in this magnificent work, we can still see some of the pictures that Dante painted for us with bold strokes of artistic creativity.