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The Divine Comedy by Dante · PDF file Dante – Divine Comedy (Inferno) 4 The Divine Comedy is a masterpiece of subject matter but it is also a masterpiece of Dante's Tuscan dialect

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  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

    Volume 1 – Inferno The opening canzone of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy

    Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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    From Amazon.Com:

    “Seven centuries after Dante Alighieri wrote La Divina Commedia, it remains one of the most spectacularly amazing literary masterpieces in any language of any time.

    The story of a spiritual journey, The Divine Comedy is essentially an allegory which began on Good Friday 1300 (when Dante was thirty-five) and lasted for just seven days. It is also a bitter political polemic, directed against all in authority in Italy at the time, but particularly those in Dante's native Florence, and also serves as a denouncement of the wealth and corruption of the papacy.

    The Divine Comedy embraces the celestial and the terrestrial, the mythological and the historical, the practical and the ethical. It is a discourse on the role of reason in faith and the individual in society.

    The Divine Comedy is a poem in which Dante views himself as a pilgrim, representative of all mankind, who is led on a journey through the various circles of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. It is written in three volumes (Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso), each composed of thirty-three cantos (there is one introductory canto serving as an overview).

    Originally written in Italian, The Divine Comedy uses a rhyming scheme known as terza rima, which was invented by Dante, himself. Many translations attempt to adhere to this rhyming scheme, however this only confines and constrains the translator in his ability to capture the meaning and nuance of the original text. Anyone not able to read The Divine Comedy in its original Italian would be far better off in choosing a blank verse translation.

    Dante's first guide is the poet, Virgil, who leads him through Hell and Purgatory. As Dante and Virgil descend through the ever-deepening circles, they speak with the damned, who are being punished according to their sins on earth.

    Some of these denizens of Hell are mythological, some are historical and some are Florentines who were Dante's contemporaries.

    Within Inferno, the condemned sinners are referred to as "shades." Virgil, himself, is first introduced as a shade. Although this can be confusing to some readers, the confusion can be easily cleared up once we realize Dante is employing the image of shades because, in his eyes, dead souls have grown faint through the absence of God's light.

    Once Dante begins to work his way upwards, towards Paradise, Virgil, who is, himself, a resident in limbo, must take his leave and Dante finds his guide to be Beatrice (Bice Portinari, a woman Dante met and fell in love with in 1274 and who died in 1290). It is Beatrice who leads Dante on to Paradiso and his final vision of God.

    The name, The Divine Comedy, is derived from two words, comus and oda, which, in their literal translation mean, "rustic song." Dante, in a letter to a Ghibellinline Captain in Verona, said he was attempting to separate his work from a pure tragedy (that which begins in tranquility and ends in sadness, e.g., Romeo and Juliet), from a comedy, which can begin in sadness but, by its very nature, ends in love, joy or perfection. The term, "divine" was suggested to Dante by Giovanni Boccaccio as a way of representing the content of the poem and the beauty that it holds.

    The Divine Comedy is, without a doubt, one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature. In a literal sense, it is Dante's own depiction of the state of souls after death, but allegorically, it is so much more. On this deeper level, the poem investigates mankind's eternal search for salvation in which he must first descend to the depths of hell before rising to the heights of Paradise.

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    The Divine Comedy is a masterpiece of subject matter but it is also a masterpiece of Dante's Tuscan dialect (which eventually became the literary language of the whole of Italy). Those lucky enough to read it in the original Italian will find the language gorgeous beyond compare; a limpid and ethereal Italian that remains so fresh and invigorating it could have been written yesterday.

    The Divine Comedy is not the easiest work in literature, either to read or to understand. But, for those who are prepared to make the effort, the rewards are far greater than could ever have been anticipated”

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    Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Volume 1 This is all of Longfellow's Dante translation of Inferno minus the illustrations. It includes the arguments prefixed to the Cantos by the Rev. Henry Frances Carey, M,.A., in his well-known version, and also his chronological view of the age of Dante under the title of What was happening in the World while Dante Lived. If you find any correctable errors please notify me. My email addresses for now are [email protected] and [email protected] David Reed

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    Editorial Note A lady who knew Italy and the Italian people well, some thirty years ago, once remarked to the writer that Longfellow must have lived in every city in that county for almost all the educated Italians "talk as if they owned him." And they have certainly a right to a sense of possessing him, to be proud of him, and to be grateful to him, for the work which he did for the spread of the knowledge of Italian Literature in the article in the tenth volume on Dante as a Translator. * * * * * The three volumes of "The Divine Comedy" were printed for private purposes, as will be described later, in 1865-1866 and 1877, but they were not actually given to the public until the year last named. Naturally enough, ever since Longfellow's first visit to Europe (1826-1829), and no doubt from an earlier date still, he had been interested in Dante's great work, but though the period of the incubation of his translation was a long one, the actual time engaged in it, was as he himself informs us, exactly two years. The basis of the work with its copious, information and illuminating notes, expositions and illustrations was his courses of Lecture on Dante given in many places during many years; in these Lecture it was his early custom to read in translation, the whole or parts of the poem chosen for his subject, with his notes, expositions and illustrations interspersed.__With what infinite pains and conscientious care the work was done, and how thoroughly he was penetrated with the thought and expression of the poet, his Diaries, his Life and his Letters abundantly show, and the work as it stands is a Masterpiece of scholarly and sympathetic rendering, interpretation and exposition. When at last the task of translating, revising and re-revision, weighing and re-weighing, criticizing and re-criticizing every phrase, every possible interpretation, and every allusion was done,--first in the seclusion of his own study, and then with the sympathetic aid of his friends, Charles Eliot Norton, James Russell Lowell and others, the work was sent tot he printer in 1864. Ten copies of "The Inferno" were privately printed in 1865 in time for one of them to be sent to Florence for the celebration of the six hundredth anniversary of Dante's birth. The seconds volume was printed in the following year in like manner and the third in the year after. In that year (1867), as

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    we have already said, the whole work was given to the public as it is now presented in this edition and substantially as it appeared in the privately printed copies. So thoroughly has Longfellow done the work of elucidating his version of the text of Dante, that there is absolutely nothing left for other commentators to do.--Every biblical and every classical allusion is annotated and referenced, every side light that can possibly be needed is thrown upon the work all through; and his "footlights of the great comedy" as he himself called his notes and illustrations are illuminating it for all time. We have however added to his notes the arguments prefixed to the Cantos by the Rev. Henry Frances Carey, M,.A., in his well-known version, and also his chronological view of the age of Dante under the title of What was happening in the World while Dante Lived. Charles Welsh Often have I seen at some cathedral door A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat, Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor Kneel to repeat his paternoster o'ver; Far off the noises of the world retreat; The loud vociferations of the street become an undistinguishable roar. So, as I enter her from day to day, And leave my burden at this minster gate, Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray, The tumult of the time disconsolate To inarticulate murmurs dies away, While the eternal ages watch and wait. 1 1 This and the following sonnets were originally printed in the volume entitled "Voices of the Night." How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers! This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers, And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers! But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves

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