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The Inferno (1314)
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Midway on our life's journey, I found myself
Therefore I judge it best that you should choose
To hear the cries of despair, and to behold
THROUGH ME YOU ENTER INTO THE CITY OF WOES,
JUSTICE MOVED MY HIGH MAKER, IN POWER DIVINE,
ABANDON HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE.
...we came forth, and once more saw the stars.
There is a certain, rather delicate, aspect of the modern liberal sensibility that rebels against Dante's Inferno. In his account of returning to Columbia to restudy Western Civilization, David Denby is surprised not to like Dante much :
I could not rid myself of the notion that Dante had
entered into complicity with torture. In some
And in his introduction to this translation by Robert Pinsky, John Freccero says that :
In spite of Dante's reputation as the greatest of
Christian poets, there is no sign of Christian
Justice in Hell is meant to be objective, measured
out by a bureaucratic monster in proportion to the
Few of Dante's readers have derived much satisfaction
from the triumph of this somewhat
These sentiments, with which I could not disagree more strongly, reflect the curious point we've reached in Western history. On the one hand, the intelligentsia find torture, capital punishment, virtually any civil rights imposition, to be unacceptable when it comes to actual evil doers, but blithely advocates abortion, euthanasia, and the like, for genuine innocents. Human beings in this world view are judged by their physical condition, rather than by their moral standing. And yet, it is Dante who is adjudged to be brutal.
Personally, I find something comforting in the idea that, in a world where so much evil exists, those who are evil might face eternal perdition. Particularly satisfying is the presence of the great romantic lovers in Hell--Tristan and Iseult, Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, etc.. I've always found disturbing the literature which celebrates love which must perforce be so shallow as these great affairs--it's nice to think of them getting their comeuppance.
As a rule though, it seems likely that readers' reactions to the rather severe treatment of the souls in Hell will track their own political leanings. If you are someone who wishes that justice were objective, you're unlikely to be offended. If you tend to wring your hands in agony at the prospect of someone being held accountable for their actions, you won't feel comfortable with the fate Dante forecasts. In either case, the poem itself is truly great and in Robert Pinsky's translation, it's reasonably easy to follow. You will want to refer to the notes frequently and a study guide of some kind can't hurt. I also recommend the recorded version : hearing it read aloud adds to the experience greatly.
-ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: Your search: "dante alighieri"
-ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : The Divine Comedy
-BIO: Dante Alighieri (Catholic Encyclopaedia)
-BIO: Dante Alighieri: Poet, Spiritual Writer ( James E. Kiefer)
-GATEWAY : ORB ONLINE REFERENCE BOOK FOR MEDIEVAL STUDIES DANTE ALIGHIERI: A Guide to Online Resources
-The World of Dante (virginia.edu)
-JOURNAL: Lectura Dantis Online
-The Clickable Inferno
-Dante's Inferno (David Felfoldi)
-Dante's Inferno: Site Resource Guide
-LINKS: City Honors Dante's Inferno Internet Sites
-For the Hell of It : produced by students studying ENG 251, Survey of World Literature I-Fall 1999 at Thomas Nelson Community College under the direction of Dr. Thomas Long
-LECTURE: Inroduction to The Inferno (W. Stephany, UVM)
-LECTURE: LBST Lecture on Dante (Ian Johnston, 1997, Malaspina)
-LECTURE: Module 15: Dante's Inferno (1) (shepherd.edu)
-ESSAY: The Ambiguity of Evil: An Examination of Dante's Inferno (Matthew C. Steenberg, St. Olafs)
-ESSAY: The Teaching of Ethics through Literature and Dante's Inferno (ANNE BARBEAU GARDINER, Association of Departments of English Bulletin)
-ESSAY : What about Purgatory? : The doctrinal grounding of Dante's mysterious mountain. (Dennis Martin, Christian History, Spring 2001)
-Dante's Inferno - The MUD Version (MUD Commissioned by C. Roberts Stevens at the University of Texas at Austin's Computer Writing and Research Lab)
-ARTWORK: Robert Rauschenberg's XXXIV Drawings for Dante's Inferno
-Renaissance Dante in Print (1472-1629)(Notre Dame)
-ETEXTS: The Divine Comedy Research Edition (The Electronic Literature Foundation)
-ETEXT: The Divine Comedy (translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) (EveryPoet.com)
-ETEXT: Inferno from The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (c.1320) Translated by Henry F. Cary
-ETEXT: The Inferno From the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri Translated by S. Fowler Wright
-ONLINE STUDY GUIDE: The Inferno by Dante Alighieri (Spark Note by Patrick Gardner)
-Dante's "Clickable" Inferno : selections from Dante Alighieri's Inferno in an "interactive" format. The text used is up to you, the user; choose from Allen Mandelbaum's, Robert Pinsky's, or John Ciardi's translation and notes to Dante's original text
-ARCHIVES: "alighieri" (NY Review of Books)
-ARCHIVES: "dante" (NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW ESSAY : Dante is more than a revered but bygone giant. There has never been so much evidence of his continuing vitality (The Economist)
-REVIEW: of THE DIVINE COMEDY OF DANTE ALIGHIERI A Verse Translation by Allen Mandelbaum (John Ahern, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Purgatorio By DANTE ALIGHIERI. Translated by W. S. MERWIN (DANIEL MENDELSOHN, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW : of Dante: A Life in Works by Robert Hollander (Algis Valiunas, Weekly Standard)
-REVIEW : of Dante by R W B Lewis (Jonathan Bate, booksonline uk)
There's a sequel? Cool!
- Aug-21-2004, 10:12
For someone who appears to have such good press, a heavy weight lifter of literary reviews, why such a light weight attempt to cover one of the principal works of western literature, Dante Alighirei's "The Divine Comedy". "With a small gleam in me eye"(which classical movie am I referring to here?) I might call this a wussy review of a great work. I don't have anyone making claims for my reputation, and I came here humbly, looking for inspiration, and for all the smoke in your references and self-pronouncements,...a pitiful stab at 1/3 of the poem is hardly something to be proud of... At the moment I am in Purgatorio, reading a paper copy of Dante, Doubleday & Co. Inc. 1947, with no translator named! too bad the ethical value of those days failed to reach someone like yourself who, I don't doubt, believes himself to be the spiritual son of Cato the Younger's value system, yes? You, will no doubt, say "No, I don't doubt the valuable contributions of Greek philosophy, even at an early age." But such clever attempts to deflect allusions to your literary fig leaf, a review of the Inferno, and a pitiful one at that. the least I expected from brothersjudd.com would be a thoughtful comparison of The Purgatorio, From the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri Translated by S. Fowler Wright, which I found on the web, and an older translation, similar to one I am reading in paper copy. I would expect a thoughtful discussion of the poetic skill that I am impressed by in Mr. Wright' work and the unnamed, (and thus unfulfilled?) translator of an older version of Dante. I would expect some comment on the Italian original and the translation you have referred to here. ..at least a fig leaf's worth. I would expect something more from you, the spiritual son of the Sons of Liberty, from your pronouncements I wouldn't be surprised if you trace your physical blood ken to Thomas Paine's unmentioned mentor...and even further back to Addison, the British playwright. Yes, the issues of FREEDOM and SECURITY, these themes exist in Dante's work! why? because as you rightly point out, from your massive reading, these are two recurrent themes of the human condition. And they don't only appear in western literature, because they are part of the HUMAN CONDITION they exist in other world literature works....like Murasaki's Tale of Genji, which I read last summer, in translation of course! Take a break from all that nonsense you crowd your brain with and at least cover the foundations of Western human Experience.....Yes, my next letter to you will be my reaction to your review of Paradise Lost. But not until I finish Dante.
- thomas Asada-Grant
- Aug-21-2004, 09:57
i highly recommend robert pinsky's translation, if you have not already procured a copy.
- May-14-2003, 05:49