A new free-verse translation of one of the world’s greatest literary masterpieces, with full and contemporary scholarly notes.
Dante was the first poet since ancient Rome to achieve full mastery of a spoken language as a supple medium for conveying complex thought and emotion; and his achievement remains unsurpassed. His style is direct and simple, propelled by vivid imagery and sounding emotional depths. Only a verse translation can attempt to capture some of these effects in English. The present translation sails as close as possible to the wind of Dante’s actual words while remaining recognizable as contemporary English poetry. Playing it straight, the translation achieves a kind of transparency that allows Dante’s stories of passion, violent crime and rollicking satire to make their visual and emotional impact.
The intense drama and poetry of the Inferno can be experienced directly in this translation, but a more detailed appreciation of what Dante is doing requires access to scholarly materials that explain at a minimum who Dante meets in hell and why they are there. The extensive notes provided with this translation, intended for students and the general reader, provide that aid but also illuminate the structure of Dante’s hell and offer parallels from the philosophy, science, theology and art of the Middle Ages as context for Dante’s world view and its relation to classical antiquity.