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.