Dante & Ego-Bashing

I’m not sure how it happened (I believe it was prompted by appreciation of  T. S. Eliot), but seventeen years ago I read John Ciardi’s translation of The Divine Comedy, and boy o boy, did I fall for Dante (as if you couldn’t tell by looking at my links list).

I’ve only ever read the work in translation, and I’ve read many translations, but I’ve always really wanted to read the Commedia as Dante wrote it (or, at least, as it as initially printed). That desire, along with my Italiophilia, led me to attempt learning Italian. I’m doing fine so far, but I’ve a long way to go.

While in the university library the other day, I snapped a copy of La Divina Commedia from a shelf and read Inferno‘s opening stanza in Italian. My thrill at actually understanding the text was short lived, as I realized that I know the opening stanza via translations.

The stanza follows:

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
Midway upon the road of our life
I found myself within a dark wood
for the right way had been missed.

(translation via Wikipedia. I’m unsure which edition they’ve used, but this translation is fairly standard).

By the way, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translated the first American edition of The Divine Comedy. He wrote a number of sonnets while engaged in this task, and he published them in The Atlantic Monthly. You can find them here.

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