IN the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
Gone from the path direct: and e'en to tell
It were no easy task, how savage wild
That forest, how robust and rough its growth,
Which to remember only, my dismay
Renews, in bitterness not far from death.
Yet to discourse of what there good befell,
All else will I relate discover'd there.
How first I enter'd it I scarce can say,
Such sleepy dullness in that instant weigh'd
My senses down, when the true path I left,
But when a mountain's foot I reach'd, where clos'd
The valley, that had pierc'd my heart with dread,
I look'd aloft, and saw his shoulders broad
Already vested with that planet's beam,
Who leads all wanderers safe through every way.
The Divine Comedy is divided into three canticles: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Each canticle consists of thirty-three cantos, except the first which has thirty-four, thus the entire poem is made up of one-hundred cantos.The kingdom of damnation is presented as an overturned cone, with its base lying underneath the hemisphere of the land surface and its tip reaching to the center of the earth. It is divided into ten zones: the Ante-Inferno and nine circles in which the souls are punished for their sins, moving from the least to the most grievous. After the first six circles, the seventh is divided into three sub-circles or rounds, the eighth into ten pits, and the ninth into four zones: Caina, Antenora, Ptolomea, and Judecca. museocasadidante . it
In the high-stakes field of translating the great 14th-century Italian poet Dante, for years the stellar prose efforts of John Sinclair (Oxford) and Charles Singleton (Princeton) ruled because they focused on meaning rather than poetic effect. Those efforts were recently bolstered by the unrhymed, unmetered verse of husband-and-wife team Robert and Jean Hollander, who delivered a version rich in sense late last year. The Dorothy Sayers translation for Penguin, which mimicked Dante's original terza rima, was famous for its badness. Poets like Allen Mandelbaum (Bantam) and Robert Pinsky (Noonday) checked in with more poetic efforts in meter, but without trying the impossible task of writing superb poetry in terza rima that also matches Dante's meaning. That task was left for experienced translator and poet Michael Palma (My Name on the Wind: Selected Poems of Diego Valeri). His Inferno has the advantage of a facing Italian text (as does Pinsky) and some explanatory notes. But although Palma has published three collections of his own verse, he simply cannot measure up to a task that defeated such highly gifted translators of Dante into rhyme as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Laurence Binyon. Norton is plugging his work as being in "contemporary American English," but the demands of the form make for some puzzling, clunky passages: "As I walked, one met my eyes with a moment's stare/ and I said at once when I saw him: 'I have not/ always been starved of the sight of that man there.' " The monotony of almost all masculine rhymes is a further sign that English-language poetry may not be possible here, regardless of who descends this time.