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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.
Dante was born in Florence, Italy. The exact date of his birth is unknown, although it is generally believed to be around 1265. This can be deduced from autobiographic allusions in the Divine Comedy. Its first section, the Inferno, begins, "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita" ("Midway upon the journey of our life"), implying that Dante was around 35 years old, since the average lifespan according to the Bible (Psalm 89:10, Vulgate) is 70 years; and since his imaginary travel to the nether world took place in 1300, he was most probably born around 1265. Some verses of the Paradiso section of the Divine Comedy also provide a possible clue that he was born under the sign of Gemini: "As I revolved with the eternal twins, I saw revealed, from hills to river outlets, the threshing-floor that makes us so ferocious" (XXII 151