Rubrica a cura di Sinclair de Courcy Williams
In the middle of this life of ours: if this person really was ‘in the middle’ of his life, we might be tempted to ask ourselves (chiederci), ‘Well, okay – so how old was he, in fact?’ There is no clear answer to that question of course, because, until (fino a) the moment when we die we cannot calculate exactly when the middle of our life has arrived. However, Dante probably referred (ha fatto riferimento) to the 90th Psalm (Salmo 90), which tells us this: ‘The days of our years are three score years and ten.’ A score is an old way of saying 20. Three score years and ten is 20 X 3 = 60; and then 60 + 10 (and ten) = 70. Therefore, if your life has a span (durata) of 70 years, it follows that when you are in the middle, you will be thirty five. Calculating in this way, we can imagine that the man in the wood is 35 years old!
However, Dante complicates the situation in another book that he wrote, called Il Convivio (The Banquet).There he explains, at a certain point, that a person’s life is like an arch (arcata): it goes up first and then it goes down. All well and good (tutto chiaro), but the problem is this: where do we slot in (inserire, infilare) the keystone (chiave di volta) of the arch? Dante gives his answer to that question, too: for really perfect ones the keystone in the arch of life comes when they are thirty five!
So, right. This man in the wood is thirty five years old – he is, we imagine, a perfect one and he is in the fullness of his powers (la pienezza dei suoi poteri), at the very acme (proprio al culmine) of his life. And what is he doing? Something extremely important probably, something vital and enduring (duraturo). His life’s work (il lavoro della vita) – something that will bring him glory and honour.
Well, no! Not really. Not at all, in fact (non per niente).
He is lost, that’s all (è perso, ecco tutto). Lost, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a dark wood. And he doesn’t even know (non sa nemmeno) how he ended up in there (come è finito lì dentro) or where he is going.