Journey begins in the Dark Wood of Error.
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
Mi vitro vai per una selva oscura
che la diritta via era smarrita
Midway in our life's journey, I went astray
From the straight road and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood. How shall I say
What wood that was! I never saw so drear,
so rank, so arduous a wilderness!
Its very memory gives a shape to fear.
I - Ciardi translation
As Dante wanders out of this dark dreary
tangled forest, which represents the madness and confusion of the
real world, he sees a little hill lighted by the early morning sun.
He tries to go there but three ferocious beasts suddenly spring
in his path.
A gaudy spotted leopard,
A great raging lion,
symbolizing wrath and violence.
And a gaunt she-wolf,
starving, ravening, wasted, and craving.
She is Avarice; the more she has the more she craves.
"I wavered back and still the beast
forcing herself against me bit by bit
til I slid back into the sunless wood."
Dante swoons in terror.