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Talking Dante. Episode 6
La Selva – the dismal (tetro, fosco), dangerous wood.
Clearly, it is very difficult to explain what exactly Dante means when he mentions this selva. And yet (nonostante ciò), it is obviously a vital question that we have to try to answer.
For today, I would like to talk about one thing alone. Dante puts it this way (la mette così): ‘mi ritrovai per una selva oscura.’
Now, that verb ritrovarsi can simply mean I found that I was … or I discovered (to my surprise) that I was … or I (suddenly) became aware that I was (ho preso coscienza (tutt’a un tratto) di essere …). In my translation I have tried to recreate (ricreare) something of that idea in the contrast between the verb ‘I found’ and the adjective, ‘that I was lost’ (trovai che ero perso).
And right, that’s okay. Fine. But the prefix ri– in the verb ritrovarsi can also mean again (di nuovo) like the English prefix re– in the verb recreate (ricreare). If you interpret the verb ‘mi ritrovai’ in this second way, it would certainly have a different significance. In that case, we can only understand this: in the first line of his poem Dante found that he was once again (di nuovo) in the dark wood. There is no doubt that the dark wood refers to (si riferisce a) a particular predicament (crisi) or a particular state of mind. At any rate (in ogni caso), it would not be the first time that he had found himself in such a circumstance. That changes a lot of things. First of all it tallies (è coerente) with what he says at the end of that section: that the selva ‘non lasciò mai persona viva (it lets no one out alive).