Dante’s calling

IN THE MIDDLE of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it re-creates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there. . . . [After the poet Virgil tells Dante that he is summoned to travel through hell, purgatory, and heaven, Dante protests his unworthiness for the calling, but ultimately decides to undertake it after seeing a vision of his beloved, Beatrice.] “Why should I go there? Who allows it? I am not Aeneas: I am not Paul. Neither I, nor others, think me worthy of it. So, if I resign myself to going, I fear that going there may prove foolish: you know, and understand, better than I can say.”. . . I rose from weakened courage: and so fine an ardour coursed through my heart, that I began to speak, like one who is freed: . . . “You have filled my heart with such desire, by what you have said, to go forward, that I have turned back to my first purpose.”. . .  So I spoke to him, and he going on, I entered on the steep, tree-shadowed way. (Dante, Divine Comedy: Inferno, translated by A. S. Kline © 2000.)

By Dante Allighieri

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #110 in 2014]

Dante was a medieval poet.
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