1265-1321 Dante Alighieri.

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The Divine Comedy


Dante Alighieri

A line-for-line translation

in the rime-form of

the original, by

Melville Best Anderson

Yonkers-on-Hudson, New York





Copyright, 1921, by World Book Company

Copyright in Great Britain

All rights reserved



As to the form and phrasing of this translation, a few
explanations seem desirable. This is a line-for-line
translation retaining the original rime-form, terza
rima, or triple rime. In using the expression "line-for-
line translation," it is not meant to imply that every
line will be found in the translation in the exact place
where it is found in the original. The substance of
every sentence or paragraph presents itself to the
translator as material to be freely rehandled in accord-
ance with the exigencies of the rime and the require-
ments of English idiom. It will be found that the
number of lines in every canto of the translation
corresponds to that of the original. In conformity with
the genius of our language and the practice of our poets,
the Italian hendecasyllabic line is rendered by the
normal English line of ten syllables. As almost every
Italian word ends with a vowel sound, the feminine or
double rime, involving a line of eleven syllables, is
normal in that language. To what issue the attempt to
transplant the Italian eleven-syllable line into English
leads, has been shown by the experiment of Lee-Hamil-
ton with the Inferno. Like other poets of our tongue, I
have introduced the eleven-syllable lines here and
there, sometimes in considerable numbers, with a view
to special expressiveness.

With respect to the choice of the English triple rime,
I will frankly admit that the late Professor Charles
Eliot Norton very strongly, although very kindly,
advised me against it. Certainly there was little to
encourage one in the results attained by those who had
previously attempted to render the Poem in this form.
To argue that because no one had succeeded with terza
rima in English, failure was necessarily a foregone con-
clusion, seemed to me a plain begging of the question.



iv Introduction

There was encouragement in the fact that Rossetti
had succeeded beautifully in his translations of the
minor poems in the original rime-forms, and that he,
as well as Byron, had nobly rendered in triple rime the
story of Francesca. In fact, the arguments against the
attempt to translate Dante in the corresponding Eng-
lish meter were much on a plane with those raised
against the attempts at the conquest of the Poles and
of the Air. Twenty-one years ago, when I began this
delightful labor, those conquests were still to make.

Twenty-one years is doubtless a long period to look
forward to. Looking back, however, the time seems
only too short, and I do not regret one hour of it.
Should a friendly critic perchance admonish me that
I ought to have tarried longer in Jericho, I should be
inclined to agree with him. Parsons, a true poet, is
said to have given a very much longer time to his
brilliant experiment, leaving it after all only hah* done.
Of the shortcomings of the present version I am, of
course, more painfully aware than any one else can be.
But I do think that in certain passages I have justified
the choice of the triple rime as the form in which the
translator can come nearest to the spirit and power of
the great original. There were moments when I felt
near the Master, when he seemed to take the pen
out of my hand and show me how the lines should read
in English. Moments of happy, stimulating illusion,
such as come to the translator as the supreme reward
of fidelity!

To judge by much recent comment, Dante seems to
be popularly known as the poet of the Inferno. In
fact, persons who ought to know better have fallen
into the loose habit of referring to the Divine Comedy
as "Dante's Inferno." The Inferno has perhaps a
hundred readers, where the Purgatorio has a score and
the Paradiso one or two. Yet the two latter Cantiche

Introduction v

contain passages transcending in beauty and in moral
significance anything in the Inferno. And to speak of
my translation, inasmuch as I naturally gained in
mastery of my difficult instrument as I proceeded, I
believe my rendering of the Paradiso to be both tech-
nically and poetically superior to my rendering of the
Inferno. I should be sorry, therefore, if any disap-
pointed reader should lay down my version without
looking at some of the later cantos. If the Divine
Comedy be regarded as the Poet's spiritual autobiogra-
phy, surely the Inferno must be essentially preliminary.
The true center of the Poem, so considered, is found in
the thirtieth and thirty-first cantos of Purgatorio.

With respect to the marginal notes, I wish to say that
they of course make no claim to anything like com-
pleteness, being intended only as an unobtrusive run-
ning commentary to help the reader to slip through, or
over, certain perplexing passages, so encouraging him
to achieve the rather unusual feat of reading the whole
Divine Comedy through at a few sittings. It is believed
that this can be comfortably accomplished in the long
winter evenings of a single week. I once read my
translation of the whole Inferno to a friend at a single
unbroken sitting.

To the longer notes which have been appended to
certain cantos, I wish here to add the two following.
The first is with respect to the pronoun of direct
address. This is throughout the time-honored pronoun
of the second person, "thou," with its corresponding
forms. By this Dante and Virgil address each other;
by this Dante addresses so great a personage as the
Lady Matilda. This ordinary use of "thou" sets in
marked relief the occasional exceptional use of "you"
as the singular pronoun of direct address. The use of
"you" is intended as a mark of the ceremonious respect
due to royalty or superior rank. This is emphasized

vi Introduction

by the Poet in the opening lines of Paradiso xvi.
His use of "you" in that place in addressing his great
ancestor is a sign of family pride, causing Beatrice to
smile at the Poet's weakness. In Purgatorio xxxi, after
Beatrice has assumed the remote and impersonal
attitude of the judge, he uses this form hi addressing
her. He uses it out of reverence to Pope Adrian in
Purgatorio xix. In the Inferno the Poet so addresses
Farinata, the elder Cavalcanti, and Brunetto Latini,
but not Pope Nicholas III. Wherever "thou (thy)" and
"you (your)" are used in close connection, the reader
may properly infer that different persons are thus
referred to. For example, in Inferno xix, line 102,
"thou" refers to Pope Nicholas, while in the next line
but one "your" refers to the whole class to which he

The other note is with reference to the first line of
the Invocation to the Muses, in the seventh line of the
first canto of Purgatorio :

"Here let dead poesy arise again."

The commentators generally understand the words
"dead poesy" to refer to the spiritual death which has
been the subject of the Poem hitherto. But as our
Poet teaches us to look in his verses for various phases
of meaning (compare the famous letter to Can Grande),
the question properly arises whether beside the allegor-
ical, or moral, or anagogical meaning, there is not a
meaning which, being on the surface, is not seen, for
the very reason that we are searching for something
deeper. That there is such an unnoted but rather
obvious meaning is patent, as soon as one thinks of it.
In the thirty-third canto of the Inferno, Poesy is cer-
tainly alive, passionately and powerfully alive in the
highest degree. In the final canto, however, there is an
intentional lowering of the temperature. Poesy seems

Introduction vii

benumbed with the chill of Cocytus. Dante cannot,
like Milton, make his Satan a lofty and heroic figure.
He is no Baudelaire to suffuse the flowers of evil with
sickly grace and unwholesome sentiment. It is a pic-
ture of unredeemed ugliness, without the dramatic
quality and the charm of imagery and allusion that
make us fairly hold our breath while witnessing the
horrible transformations in Inferno xxiv and xxv.
Even at the very end of the canto the description of
the ascent is studiously plain. Done with Hell and
glad to banish it from our minds, we hasten forward
to the world of light:

"Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new."


Of special interest to the student of Dante are the
handsome armorial shields of Florence and of her
Patrician families. Drawings, in which colors are con-
ventipnally indicated by the arrangement of the lines,
are here given of the arms of the Cavalcanti and of the
Portinari; also of the Gianfigliazzi, the first jof the four
coats distinctly described in Inferno x\ii. Of still
greater interest are the two colored plates of the old
and the new shield of the Commune of Florence,
referred to at the end of Paradiso xvi. The old emblem,
the lily argent on a shield gules, was retained by the
Ghibellines, while the Guelfs in, the middle of the cen-
tury (1251) reversed the colors. These plates serve also
as an illustration of the important and sublime passage
in Paradiso xviii, where we are told how the bird-like
spirits formed the mystic constellated Eagle from the
M of the- word TEKRAM. Now the fleur-de-lis of
Florence might very we*ll have served an ancient manu-
script illuminator % as a highly ornate initial letter M.
Regarding it as such, the reader will easily imagine the

viii Introduction

medial point of the letter to be developed, as the Poet
describes, into the head and neck of an Eagle. In fact,
the resemblance to the heraldic Eagle is striking. The
Emblem may also be taken as an illustration of that
passage in Purgatorio xxiii in which is recorded the
quaint fancy that God stamped the word OMO (homo)
on the face of man.

Inasmuch as my brief marginal notes pass with-
out comment hundreds of names and allusions about
which the reader may be curious, it is my pleasant
duty to refer to a few of the abundant helps to the
study of the Poet which exist in English. In the way
of general criticism it happens that we have two essays
worthy of the lofty subject, one by the English Dean,
R. W. Church (Macmillan), and one by the American
poet-critic, J. R. Lowell (Houghton Mifflin). In the
whole wide field of Dante criticism, I have found
nothing quite equal in their way to these two essays,
which admirably supplement each other. Of the
somewhat abundant comment that has recently arisen
hi connection with the commemorations of the Poet in
this anniversary year, the most noteworthy essay that
I have chanced to see is that of the eminent Italian
thinker, Benedetto Croce, in the Yale Review (October,

Of editions of the Poet, the one published in the
series of "Temple Classics" will be found on the whole
most useful to the beginner. This contains a transla-
tion, facing the text, together with brief notes, useful
maps, diagrams, tables, and pictures. The translation
of the Inferno is the excellent one by John Carlyle. The
other translations are less commendable, and the
notes are too often wanting in urbanity.

In the way of a prose translation of the complete
Poem, there is nothing quite equal to that by Charles
Eliot Norton; and a whole library of information is

Introduction ix

packed into his terse notes, which are the fruit of life-
long study (Houghton Mifflin).

The notes to Longfellow's blank-verse translation
are of a different character and are even more interest-
ing. The progress of Dante studies, which has been very
great during the past half century, has made many of
Longfellow's interpretations obsolete. But as a body
of literary parallels, Longfellow's notes should be in
the hands of every reader (Houghton Mifflin).

The best edition of the text, with notes and argu-
ments in English, is that by Professor C. H. Grandgent
(Heath), who has made scholarly use of the works of
the most recent Italian writers and investigators.

Fuller comment is given by H. F. Tozer, whose notes
are published separately in three volumes by the Claren-
don Press.

In the way of a handbook of historical and bio-
graphical information, there is nothing on the whole
so good as the compact "Primer of Dante" by E. G.
Gardner (Dent). It contains an analytic account of
all the Poet's works, together with tables and dia-
grams and other information of value. Inexpensive
and handy, it is the one book which I recommend to
the reader as almost indispensable.

Perhaps the most important single book of reference
for the student of Dante is the "Dictionary of Proper
Names 7 ' by Paget Toynbee (Clarendon Press). This
work contains some account of every one of the hun-
dreds of persons introduced or referred to in the course
of Dante's poems. Mr. Toynbee, who is now the most
eminent living English t)ante scholar, has had in hand
for many yars a general Dictionary to the language of
Dante, a work unhappily not yet completed.

It would give me deep pleasure to record here the
names of friends who have helped me with advice and
sympathy. As I have mentioned Professor Norton, it

x Introduction

would be ungracious not to add that, although believing
me to be just another "Childe Roland" at the Dark
Tower, he gave me unstinted assistance, as his notes
on the manuscript of some of my earlier cantos bear
witness. As I think of other and nearer friends, who
encouraged my first crude attempts and who are now
with Dante and Beatrice, I recall the pathetic words of

"Sic horen nicht die folgenden Gesange,
Die Seelen, denen ich die ersten sang."

(Those spirits do not hear the present cadence,
Who kindled to the song that first I sang.)

Of the many friends still happily with us to whom I
feel deeply indebted, I cannot forbear to mention here
Mr. Edward Howard Griggs, without whose timely and
active assistance this translation would certainly not
have seen the light of this memorial year.

M. B. A.




I. Proem: Rescue of Dante by Virgil 1

II. Virgil Describes the Appeal of Beatrice . . 5

III. The Dire Inscription and the Dark River . 9

IV. First Circle: Limbo; the Virtuous Pagans . 13
V. Second Circle: Francesca da Rimini .... 18

VI. Third Circle: The Intemperate 22

VII. Fourth Circle: The Parsimonious and the

Prodigal 26

VIII. Fifth Circle: The Wrathful 30

IX. Sixth Circle: The Furies and the Angel . . 34

X. Sixth Circle: Farinata of the Uberti .... 38
XI. Classes of Sins and Distribution of the

Damned 42

XII. Seventh Circle: Ring 1. Those Violent

against Neighbors 46

XIII. Seventh Circle: Ring 2. The Suicidal Wood 50

XIV. Seventh Circle: Ring 3. Defiers of God . . 55
XV. Seventh Circle: Ring 3. Brunetto La tini . . 59

XVI. Seventh Circle: Ring 3. Three Great Citizens

of Florence 63

XVII. Seventh Circle: Ring 3. The Wonderful

Flight Downward 67

XVIII. Eighth Circle: Pouch 1. Panders and Se-
ducers. Pouch 2. Flatterers 71

XIX. Eighth Circle: Pouch 3. Simoniacal Popes . 75
XX. Eighth Circle: Pouch 4. Diviners. Origin of

Mantua 79

XXI. Eighth Circle: Pouch 5. Barrators .... 83
XXII. Eighth Circle: Pouch 5. Comedy of the

Devils 87

XXHI. Eighth Circle: Pouch 6. Hypocrites ... 92

XXIV. Eighth Circle: Pouch 7. Robbers .... 97

XXV. Eighth Circle: Pouch 7. Transformations . 102

XXVI. Eighth Circle: Pouch 8. Ulysses . . . 107
XXVII. Eighth Circle: Pouch 8. Guido da Montefel-

tro and Pope Boniface VIII ...... Ill

XXVIII. Eighth Circle: Pouch 9. Sowers of Discord 115


xii Contents


XXIX. Eighth Circle: Pouch 10. Counterfeiters . 119

XXX. Eighth Circle: Pouch 10. Master Adam of

Brescia and Sinon of Troy 123

XXXI. Descent: The Giants around the Pit ... 128

XXXII. Ninth Circle: Caina; Antenora 133

XXXIII. Count Ugolino; Ptolomea 137

XXXIV. Ninth Circle: Judecca. Passage from Luci-

fer to the Light 142


I. The Dawn of Easter 147

n. The Angel Pilot 151

III. Antepurgatory 155

IV. The Ascent of the Mountain Begun .... 159
V. Tragic Deaths of Three Noble Souls ... 163

VI. Dante the "Stormy Voice" of Italy .... 167

VII. The Negligent Princes 172

VIII. Happy Interview with Departed Shades . . 176

IX. The Symbolic Gate 180

X. The Marvelous Carved Walls 185

XI. The Proud Made Humble 189

XII. The Pictured Floor 193

XIII. Sapia of Siena 197

XIV. Degeneracy of Tuscany and the Romagna . 202
XV. Treasure in Heaven: Visions of Forbearance 207

XVI. Temporal Power of the Clergy 212

XVII. Profitable Discourse: Second Night .... 217

XVIII. Love and Free Will 222

XIX. A Repentant Pope (Adrian V) 227

XX. Hugh Capet 232

XXI. The Poet Statius 237

XXII. The Three Poets Converse as They Walk . 241

XXHI. ForeseDonati 246

XXIV. Cheerful Abstainers from Good Cheer ... 250

XXV. ' The MelitaTTEysloTogy^f the ^Shades ... 255

XXVI. Dante Meets Two Modern Predecessors . . 259

XXVH. The Will of the Pilgrim of Eternity is Purified 264

XXVIII. Earthly Paradise Crowning the Mountain . 268

XXIX. Mystic Procession of the Church .... 273




XXX. The Reproaches of Beatrice 278

XXXI. Dante's Bitter Confession 285

XXXII. Allegory of the Evil Days of the Church . 290

XXXIII. The Poet Made Pure for the Ascent .... 295


I. Ascent of Dante with Beatrice 301

II. Heaven of the Moon 306

III. Spirits of Women in the Lunar Heaven . . 311

IV. Solution of Perplexing Questions 315

V. Vows and Free Will; Heaven of Mercury . 319

VI. A Philosophy of History 323

VII. Mystery of the Redemption 327

VIII. The Heaven of Venus 332

IX. A Great Lady and a Poet Prophesy .... 337

X. Heaven of the Sun: Starry Garland of Sages 341

XL TKe Canto of St. Francis 346

XII. The Canto of St. Dominic 350

XIII. St. Thomas Aquinas . . . 355

XIV. The Spiritual Body. Cross in Mars .... 359
XV. Men and Manners of Old Florence .... 363

XVI. "Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things" 368

XVII. Dante's Exile and Justification 373

XVHI. Mystic Symbol of Justice in Star of Jove . 377

XIX. The Discourse of the Symbolic Eagle ... 381

XX. The Eagle Continues to Discourse 386

XXI. Heaven of Contemplation 391

XXII. St. Benedict; Dante's Natal Constellation . 395

XXHI. Vision of the Host of the Redeemed ... 400

XXIV. St. Peter Examines Dante Concerning Faith 404

XXV. St. James Examines Him Concerning Hope . 409

XXVI. St. John Examines Him Concerning Love . 413

XXVH. The Ascent to the Crystalline Heaven . . 417

XXVHI. The Heavenly Intelligences 422

XXIX. Creation and Nature of Heavenly Intelligence 426

XXX. The Celestial Rose 431

XXXI. Beatrice Sends St. Bernard to Dante ... 436

XXXH. Order of Places in the Mystic Amphitheater 440

XXXIII. Prayer of St. Bernard. Ultimate Vision . . 445



When half the journey of our life was done
I found me in a darkling wood astray,
Because aside from the straight pathway run.

Ah me, how hard a thing it is to say

What was this thorny wildwood intricate
Whose memory renews the first dismay !

Scarcely in death is bitterness more great:

But as concerns the good discovered there
The other things I saw will I jelate.

How there I entered I am unaware,

So was I at that moment full of sleep
When I abandoned the true thorou^ifare.

But when I reacht the bottom of a steep
Ending the valley which had overcome
My courage, piercing me with fear so deep,

Lifting mine eyes up, I^beheldj^jdome

^Slready^overed with that planet's light
Which along all our pathways leads us home.

Then was a little quieted the fright

That had been lurking in the hearvof me
Throughout the passage of tluTpIFeous night.

And as the panting castaway, if he

^Escape tEe^ waveband on the shore arrive
Turns back and gazes on the perilous sea,

Even so my spirit, still a fugitive,

Turned back to look again upon the/sKore)
That never left one person yet alive.

My weary frame somewhat refresht, once more
Along the solitary slope I plied <^w^ v -
So that the firm foot ever was the lower.

Time: Morning
of Good Friday
of the Jubilee
year, 1300,
Dante being
midway on the
way to three-
score and ten.
Place: the "wan-
dering wood of
this life," where
Dante comes to
himself from
that sleep which
is spiritual


Just what sins And lo ! where but begins the mountainside,
* leopard Tight and very

(nd 'CO vered with a gayly spotted hide.
Pom fe ]&<# NeveFwithdrew she from before my face;
is the type of Nay, rather blockt she so my going on

to* That oft I turned

a// /ora* It was about the moment of the dawn ;


o/ others. Of those Jair stars which were besidejiim

tl he*mo8t W nen took tne y motion first from Love Divine:
frequently stig- So the sweet season and the time of day

SSSTiSU r Caused m ^ to augur aSAhoP eful JJgS.
<Ae allegory here That animal with skin 'bedappled gay :

Yet not so much but that l f elt
To see a lion .intercept my way.

It seemed to me that he toward me made

With head erected and with hunger raving,
So that the very air appeared afraid:

And a she-wolf, made gaunt by every craving

Wherewith methought she heavy-laden went,
And much folk hitherto of joy_bereaving; L *- S -

She brought on me so much discouragement
By terror of her aspect that perforce
I forfeited all hope of the ascent.

And as one, interrupted in his course

OfjwmninJI when his fortune is undone
Is full of perturbation and remorse, /

That trucelessTBeast made me jsuch mafispn,

And coming on against me pace J>v pace (Vv*
Baffled me back where silent is the sun.

While I was falling back to that lowj>lace, / fa&>+-^
A certain person there appearance made,
Whose lengthened silence argued feebleness.

When him I saw in the deserted glade,

"Have pity upon me !" I imploring cried,
"Whate'er thou beest, whether man or shade."


Virgil Rescues Dante

"Not man, a man once was I," he replied,
"My parents both were born at Mantua,
And were of Lombard blood on either side.

Sub Julio was I born, though late the day,
A . under good Augustus lived at Rome
When false and lying deities bore sway .jf~ ^-* )

I was a poet: that just^h^ro^whom

Anchises girecl} I sang, who came from Troy
After the burning of proud Ilium.

But why dost thou return to such annoy,

Wherefore ascend not the delightful Mount,
Beginning and occasion of all joy?"

"Art thou indeed that Virgil, and that fount

Whence pours of eloquence so broad a stream?"
I made reply to him with bashful front.

"O of the other poets light supreme, -*-** - * - -c~
May the long study well avail me now
And the great love that made thy book my theme.

Thou art my Master and my Author thou,

And thou alone art he from whom results *"** *r
The goodly style whereto my honors owe.

Behold the beast that doth my steps repulse:
Come to my help against her, famous sage,
for palpitates my every, vein and pulse."

"Another journey must' thy steps engage,"
When he beheld me weeping, did he say,
"Wouldst from this savage placejnake pilgrimage;

Because this beast whereat thou criest, gives way ^ ^
Never to any comer, but doth sore
Impede and harass^ him until she slay. -J

Malignant is she soJJiaiuieyermore (/*'* * )
The craving of her appetite is fed,
And after food is hungrier than before.

Many are the animals that with her wed,

And there shall yet be more, *mtil the Hound
Shall come and in her misery, strike her dead.

Dante s choice
of Virgil as his
guide is a noble
instance of that
humanity which
is above all
creeds. The Ro-
man poet is
made the type of
human reason
and he therefore
retires, in the
Earthly Para-
dise, in favor of
Beatrice who
typifies u the
good of intel-
lect," i.e. the
knowledge of

4 Inferno

The Hound is to His food shall not be either pelf or ground
^Lnai re ddiv^er, But what is loving, wise, and valorous:

such as Dante at Feltro and_Feltro shall his nation bound. ?

Henr^of Lux** That humble Italy preserves he thus
emburg would For which the maid Camilla bit the dust',

t~ fcW ; Turnus and Nisus and Euryalus.
mind Can And out of every city shall he thrust

S^^L That beast > until he drive her back to Hell

reference is pur- Whence she was first let loose by envious lust.

Wherefore for thee I think and judge it well
Thou follow me, and I will bring about
Thy passage thither where the eternal dwell.

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