Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here: Inferno by Dante

Fortunately for me, Amateur Reader set me on the path of a great translation in order to read Dante’s Inferno along with Richard and friends. This copy of mine, translated by John Ciardi, is written in beautiful poetry; each stanza of three lines ends in rhyme:
They are mixed here with that despicable corps
of angels who were neither for God nor Satan,
but only for themselves. The Creator
scourged them from Hevean for its perfect beauty,
and Hell will not receive them since the wicked
might feel some glory over them.” And I
“Master, what gnaws at them so hideously
their lamentation stuns the very air?”
“They have no hope of death,” he answsered me,
“and in their blind and unattaining state
their miserable lives have sunk so low
that they must envy every other fate.” (Canto III, 35-45)
It’s hard to imagine that a work written over six centures ago can have such bearing on our lives today. And yet, it’s easy to imagine people who are “neither for God nor Satan, but only for themselves.” It’s easy to find myself in at least one of those who suffer within the seven circles of Hell.
I enjoyed finding mention in Inferno of things which I’ve encountered before (“Abandon all hope ye who enter here” above the gate), the river Styx (as in one of my favorite rock groups in college) and the three-headed dog (where did you get that idea, Ms. Rowling?).
At the same, time I found this book a bit tedious, a tad over my head. There were allusions to people I’ve never heard of before separated by a few lines from the famous (Cleopatra). There were references to Bible verses (the prophecy of Daniel where the man has a golden head and feet of clay) which had totally different interpreations in Dante’s hands.
Still, I’m glad to have finally tucked Inferno under my literary belt. It is ever the quest, ever the hope of the Christian, to find his place with his Creator no matter how arduous, or circuitous, the journey.

15 thoughts on “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here: Inferno by Dante

  1. Bellezza -Wasn't your copy footnoted to high heaven? The one I read was and it explained all those things.It's a complex read but well worth it.Now, did you read all three parts or just one? Personally, I've only read the Inferno. I should fix that.cjh


  2. Bermuda Onion, I think the impetus for reading this came from the shared read that Richard hosted. I'm not sure I would have ventured into it myself, alone. ;)CJ, there were tons of footnotes, but they were at the end of each little section. Sometimes they're helpful, sometimes not; I get bogged down in reading too much background information and feel like I'm losing the cadence of the poem. (Now there's a light word for an epic work!) I've only read Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise are for August and September respectively. It's good to have a break in between. Amy, I've never taken the time to delve into it either, and what does that imply about my liberal arts eduction that I've never read it? Hmm….Shelley, I can see how you might want to wait after Paradise Lost. For a few years, at least.


  3. My version has loads of footnotes also. They do become a distraction.But they helped to understand the political climate of the day, and how Dante used his poem to poke fun at his enemies.Do you think you'll make it through all 3 books? (I got halfway through Purgatorio, and swiveled away).


  4. Good question, ds. It's a little heavier than I'm in the mood for right now, but I like how the readings are spaced over three months. Maybe by the time August comes around I'll be ready for Purgatory. The poem, I mean. 😉


  5. I took a whole class on this in college so I had a ton of notes to fall back on. Unfortunately, the class ended about halfway through Purgatorio and I couldn't fit part two into my schedule. Needless to say, knowing full well how dense this work is, I am VERY nervous about tackling Paradiso on my own! But it looks like you pulled it off, so that gives me hope.I thought of Styx the rock band too. It's amazing how much of our culture comes from Graeco-Roman antiquity.


  6. In a way, making a connection to Styx is such a trite thing to do with this work, and yet I kept on being surprised about things that popped up from my literary (or worldy) experience in this ancient poem.Thanks for visiting me, it's nice to meet you. I'm sure your class would have been fascinating. I didn't take enough literature in college to suit me as my schedule was full of courses for my double in major in education and psychology. I would have loved about four more majors, though. 😉


  7. Bellezza, glad you found a nice Dante translation but sorry you found parts of Inferno tedious (I do think it's a wise idea on your part NOT to get bogged down looking up every reference you're not all that familiar with; you can always go back and read the notes later if the poem/story grabs you enough). Anyway, hope Purgatorio turns out to be easier sledding for you after your break from Inferno. And I like the point you make about The Divine Comedy being a quest since it does have a significant element of adventure about it. In the meantime, thanks again for reading along with the group!


  8. Perhaps 'tedious' was an incorrect word; I should have said I didn't feel like I was grasping all I needed in his writing. Overwhelming, is that a better word? At any rate, I'm glad you encouraged me to open the pages of this classic with your shared read; I'm getting a lot from the posts I've read including yours and E.L. Fay's. Just like I did with the Perec you hosted.


  9. It helps to read it in a shared read! I love having the thoughts of others to build my understanding and appreciation. That would be great if you would join in, too.


  10. (I thought I had left a comment on this post before, but I guess I made that up)I absolutely agree with you that the Inferno was a bit over my head at times. Even though my edition had footnotes I mostly read them after each Canto and thought on them a little while, but at times I wanted to just continue reading the poetry and skip trying to understand every remark.


  11. I just love this: "It is ever the quest, ever the hope of the Christian, to find his place with his Creator no matter how arduous, or circuitous, the journey."I really really enjoyed reading this.. the commentary really helped too.


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