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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri | : Books

Full text of ” The inferno ” See other formats Signet lassies. I think [Ciardi’sl version of Dante will be in many respects the best we have seen. His first major work, La Vita Nuova 1was a tribute to Beatrice Portinari, the great love of his life.

Dante’s political activism resulted in his being exiled from Florence, and he eventually settled in Ravenna. John Ciardia distinguished poet and professor, taught at Harvard and Rutgers universities and served as po- etry editor of the Saturday Review. MacAHister taught at Yale and at Brown University before joining the Princeton faculty inwhere he taught the advanced course in the Divine Comedy.

He was chair of the Italian section of the Department of Ro- mance Languages at Princeton, and contributed many arti- cles on Dante to scholarly publications, including the entry on Dante in A Dictionary of Moral Philosophy. Cifelli has taught at colleges and universi- ties for nearly forty years. He has also edited or compiled books of letters, poetry, and bibliography.

He contributes regularly to magazines and journals publishing articles about poetry and literary history, and has also contributed to the American Na- tional Biography, American Writers Beforeand The Encyclopedia of New Jersey.

Penguin Books India Pvt. Penguin Books South Africa Pty. Previously published in a Mentor edition. If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property.

It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the au- thor nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appre- ciated.

It can, however, make recognizably the same “music,” the same air. But it can do so only when it is as faithful to the self-logic of the violin as it is to the self-logic of the piano.

Language too is an instrument, and each language has its own logic. I believe that the process of rendering from lan- guage to language is better conceived as a “transposition” than as a “translation,” for “translation” implies a series of word-for-word equivalents that do not exist across language boundaries any more than piano sounds exist in the violin. The notion of word-for-word equivalents also strikes me as false to the nature of poetry.

Poetry is not made of words but of word-complexes, elaborate structures involving, among other things, denotations, connotations, rhythms, puns, jux- tapositions, and echoes of the tradition in which the poet is writing. It is difficult in prose and impossible in poetry to jug- gle such a complex intact across the barrier of language. What must be saved, even at the expense of making four strings do for eighty-eight keys, is the total feeling of the complex, its gestalt.

The only way I could see of trying to preserve that gestalt was to try for a language as close as possible to Dante’s, which is in essence a sparse, direct, and idiomatic language, distinguishable from prose only in that it transcends every known notion of prose.

I do not imply that Dante’s is the language of common speech. It is a much better thing than IX x Translator’s Note that: One of the main sources of the tone of Dante’s speech is his revolt from the Sicilian School of Elegance. Nothing would be more misleading than to say that Dante’s language is simple. Overwhelmingly, however, it seeks to avoid ele- gance simply for the sake of elegance.

And overwhelmingly it is a spoken tongue.

I have labored therefore for something like idiomatic En- glish in the present rendering. And I have foregone the use of Dante’s triple rhyme because it seemed clear that one render- ing into English might save the rhyme or save the tone of the language, but not both. It requires approximately 1, triple rhymes to render the Inferno and even granted that many of these combinations ciardl be used and re-used, English has no such resources of rhyme. Inevitably the language must be in- verted, distorted, padded, and made unspeakable in order to force the line to come out on that third all-consuming rhyme.


In Italian, where it is only a slight exaggeration to say that everything rhymes with everything else or a variant form of it, the rhyme is no problem: At the same time some rhyme is necessary, I think, to ap- proximate Dante’s way of going, and the three-line stanzas seem absolutely indispensable because the fact that Dante’s thought tends to conclude at the end of each tercet granted a very large number of run-on tercets clearly determines the “pace” of the writing, i. These were my reasons for deciding on the present form.

Moreover, I have not hesitated to use a deficient iinferno when the choice seemed to lie between forcing an exact rhyme and keeping the language more natural. For my interpretation of many difficult passages I have leaned heavily on the Biagi commentaries, and cixrdi more heavily on the Vandelli-Scartazzini. A number of these inter- pretations are at odds lnferno those set forth in some of the more familiar English versions of the Inferno, infwrno, subject to my own error, cisrdi rendering is consistent at all points with Van- delli’s range of arguments.

I have also leaned heavily on the good will and knowledge of a number of scholars. Dudley Fitts read patiently through Translator ‘s Note xi the whole manuscript and made detailed, and usually legible, notes on it. MacAllister not only gave me the benefit of another complete set of detailed notes, but agreed to undertake the historical introduction so important to a good understanding of Dante, and so brilliantly presented here. Professor Giorgio di Santillana gave me inderno and subtle advice mohn many points.

My major regret is that he left for Italy before I could take further advantage of his patience and of his profound understanding of Dante.

I wish to thank also Professor C. Lewis for hours of patient listening, and my sister, Mrs. Fennessey, for typing through many drafts. I think, too, I should acknowledge a debt of borrowed courage to ciarxi other translators of Dante; without their failures I should never have attempted my own. Fame might indeed jihn said not to have awaited its comple- tion, shortly before the author’s death infor the first two parts, including the Inferno here presented, had already in a very few years achieved a reputation tinged with super- natural awe.

Within two decades a half-dozen commentaries had been written, and fifty years later it was accorded the honor of public readings and exposition — an almost unheard-of trib- ute to a work written in the humble vernacular. The six centuries through which the poem has come to us have not lessened its appeal nor obscured its fame.

All of johnn have not, of course, been unanimous in their apprecia- tion: U was the effete mid: Johm that standard the present age should prove truly great, for its interest in the Comedy has rarely been matched. Credit for the nineteenth-centuryjedi sco very of Dante jhon the English- -speaking world belongs to Coleridge, who was ably seconded in this country by Longfellow and Norton. Contemporary Xll Introduction xiii enthusiasm was touched off by T.

Eliot’s Essay on Dante and has grown, in some quarters, to the proportions of a cult. What is this work which has displayed such persistent vi- tality?

John Ciardi – Wikipedia

It is a narrative poem whose greatest strength lies in the fact that it does not so much narrate as dramatize its episodes. Dante had doubtless learned from experience how soporific a long narrative could be. He also firmly believed that the senses were the avenues to the mind and that sight was the most powerful “noblest,” he would have said of these.

Hence his art is predominantly visual. He believed also that the mind must be moved in order to grasp what the senses present to it; therefore he combines sight, sound, hear- ing, smell and touch with fear, pity, anger, horror and johb appropriate emotions to involve his reader to the point of seeming actually to experience his situations and not merely to read about them.

John Ciardi

It is really a three-dimensional art. The Divine Comedy is also an allegory. But it is fortu- nately that special type of allegory wherein every element must first correspond to a literal reality, every episode must exist coherently in itself.

Allegoric interpretation inderno not detract from the story as told but is rather an added signifi- cance which one m ay take or leave. Many readers, indeed, have been thrilled by the Inferno’s power with hardly an awareness of further meanings. Dante represents mankind, he represents the “Noble Soul,” but first and always he is Dante Alighieri, bora in thirteenth-century Florence; Virgil represents human reason, but only after he has been accepted jhon the poet of ancient Rome.

The whole poem purports to be a vision of the three realms of the Catholic otherworld, Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, and a description of “the state of the soul after death”; yet it is peopled with Dante’s contempo- jphn and, particularly in the materialistic realism of the Inferno, it is torn by issues and feuds of the day, political, religious and personal.


It treats of the most universal values — good and evil, man’s responsibility, free will and predesti- nation; yet it is intensely personal and political, for it was written out of the anguish of a man who saw his life blighted by the injustice and corruption of his times.

The Divine Comedy is classically referred to as the epit- ome, the supreme expression of the Middle Ages. If by this is xiv Introduction meant that many typically medieval attitudes are to be found in it, it is true: But if from such a statement one is knferno infer as is frequently done that the poem is a hymn to its times, a celebration and glorification of them, as Virgil’s Aeneid was of Rome, then nothing could be more misleading.

The Comedy is a glorification of the ways of God, but it is also a sharp and great-minded protest at the ways in which men have thwarted the divine plan. To Dante such an idea was totally repug- nant. He gloried in his God-given talent, his well-disciplined faculties, and it seemed inconceivable to him that he and mankind in general should not have been intended to develop to the fullest their specifically human potential.

The whole Comedy is pervaded by his conviction that man should seek earthly immortality by his worthy actions here, as well as prepare to merit the life everlasting. His theory is stated ex- plicitly in his Latin treatiseDe Monarchia: It was Dante’s pride — and the unferno of his misfortune — to have been born in the free commune of Florence, located near the center of the Italian peninsula, during the turbulent thirteenth century.

The Inferno

It is important that iferno remember to think Introduction xv of it, not as an Italian city, but as a sovereign country, a power in the peninsula and of growing importance internationally.

Its control was a prize worth fighting for, ciaddi the Florentines were nothing loth to fight, especially among themselves. Internal jjohn had begun long before, as the weakening of the Empire had left its robber-baron repre- sentatives increasingly vulnerable to attack and eventual sub- jection by the townsfolk. They had become unruly citizens at best in their fortress-like houses, and constituted a higher no- bility whose arrogance stirred the resentment of the lesser nobility, thejnercriants and the artisans.

The history of the re- public for many years is the story or the bloody struggle among these groups, with the gradual triumph of the lower classes as flourishing trade brought them unheard-of prosper- ity.

Early in Dante’s century the struggle acquired color and new ferocity. In the jilting of an Amidei girl was avenged by the murder of the offending member of the Buon- delmonti family, which, according to the chronicler Villani, originated the infamous Guelph-Ghibelline factions. But the lines had already long been drawn on the deeper issues, with the Ghibellines representing the old Imperial aristocracy and the Ifnerno the burghers, who, in international politics, fa- vored the Pope.

In the Ghibellines amassed a formidable army under the leadership of Farinata degli Uberti and overwhelmed the Guelphs at Montaperti, where the Arbia ran red with the blood of the six thousand slain, and sixteen thousand were taken prisoner. The very existence of Florence hung momen- tarily in the balance as the triumphant Ghibellines listened to the urgings of their allies from neighboring Siena that they wipe out the city; only Farinata’s resolute opposition saved it.

Gradually the Guelphs recovered, and in they com- pletely and finally crushed their enemies atjSenevento. Thus ended the worst of this partisan strife from which, as Machi- avelli was to write, “there resulted more murders, banish- xvi Introduction ments and destruction of families than ever in any city known to history.

His whole impressionable childhood was undoubtedly filled with stories of the struggle so recently ended. The fascination it had for him is evident in the Comedy, where it is an important fac- tor in the Inferno and the lower, “material” viardi of the Purgatorio. Our actual knowledge of Dante’s life is disappointingly small, limited to a few documents of record.